Education is an important component of the En Via package. As well as receiving no interest loans, participants have the opportunity to attend workshops on a variety of topics related to small business management and personal development. Previous workshops have included: financial management, marketing design and strategy, computer classes and English courses. The approach of the workshops is to provide the women with practical skills and tools that they can apply to their individual businesses, rather than a set method to imitate. This week a workshop was held on the importance of setting goals and the practicalities involved in making them happen.
Goals are important because they give you, and your business, direction. Setting and accomplishing goals also encourages a sense of personal pride. Having goals also helps to ensure money made goes toward what is important for the women and also sets a great example for their children and family. The group discussed key factors for setting achievable goals.
1. Set a realistic goal
2. Determine the costs of the goal
3. Create a specific timeline – goals can be short-term or long-term.
4. Identify actions necessary to reach goal
Afterward the women were asked to each set six goals- two related to their business, two personal and two for their family and home. Some of the goals set by the women were to purchase a sewing machine, put windows and a door on her home, build a chicken hatch in 2014 or even buy some potted Noches Buenas (Poinsetta) to put in the family courtyard for the holidays. As they are busy women, running business and handling household chores, many wished to spend more time with their children. To begin the discipline of setting goals, each woman established one goal they could accomplish by the end of the week; many elected a goal related to their family, for example, going on a walk with their child.
For some there was initial confusion and discussion between a goal that is abstract compared to specific and time bound e.g. ´make more money´ and ´sell more purses´. This is very general and does not include when or how it will be achieved. Often without setting out steps or sub goals the long-term goal will just stay an idea. In comparison, one woman identified her goal as ´selling an additional 15 more per month over the next 3 months´. She decided to achieve this by taking advantage of the upcoming tourist season. Over the next three months she committed to opening her shop in to the market one hour earlier on weekdays, and also working on Sundays.
To sell ´50 more´ you need to already know how many you are currently selling per month. A case study was given to show the importance of record keeping to track if a goal is being achieved. The example was of a couple that wanted to save money to send their children to school, fix their roof and visit family during the holidays. The couple kept a record of all the household earnings and costs for 2 months. Once, they had a better account for their income, and could clearly see how and where their money was being spent, they could make informed decisions related to business investment and family expenditures, figure out how they could save a little each week towards their goal. This is something we are continually trying to encourage the women to do.
A few women spoke of the barriers to achieving goals. For example, one woman owns a paper store, and her primary clients are students. At the moment the teachers are on strike in Oaxaca, and all of Mexico. Public schools have not held classes for six weeks and this has severely impacted her business. For many of the women business can be affected by external factors, be it tourist seasons, weather, strikes, public holidays or school vacation. They discussed the importance of planning ahead to accommodate times of fluctuation.
One woman also said that at times she felt financially constrained by social obligations. Traditionally, occasions such as birthdays, weddings and baptisms are community events. People are asked to be the padrino or madrino (godparents) of something and must contribute to the day e.g. bringing the chairs or dessert. This custom is known as Guelaguetza, encourages the sharing of resources, distributing the costs to all involved. However, as the size and expectations of events has grown over time, and town population increases, so the number of event and the associated costs. For some, purchasing the appropriately sized cake (sometimes needing to serve 200+ people) is beyond their means or dips into their savings. Many women voiced similar sentiments and were comforted to know others shared the same challenges. One woman volunteered that her partner and herself had made a decision, as a couple, to only attend one event/party per family. She shared that some family members are offended when they didn’t show or refuse to be padrinos, but that it was a strategy they had agreed upon to better manage their household funds.
Writing down your goals and coming up with a plan to achieve them sounds simple enough but few of us actually take the time to do it. The workshop gave the women the opportunity to work through this process together. Motivated by the women I was inspired to reflect on my own goal: to learn Spanish. I came to Mexico with this intention but did not have a plan beyond being here. I have now set myself a three-month goal of being able to clearly and confidently converse in Spanish. I will achieve this by learning five new words daily and attending a weekly intercambio to practice speaking them.
Content by Lara Drieberg
Images by Kim Groves