Working at Home Can Negatively Affect Your Sales

If you are like me and you work from home and have kids, the summer can be a really tough time to get work done. AND just because you don’t have kids does not mean you are not affected by the “I work from home” virus. I say it’s a virus because it takes time for the routines, both the good and the bad, to set in and the symptoms of what you do show up. The symptoms of bad habits at home can be costing you clients.

What often happens when we work alone from our home is we find ourselves  doing work that is not for our business, we  feel alone with our work, we  do the same unproductive work over and over, and we sometimes  become  emotionally deflated or physically drained, even when we are not doing anything physical. If you want to make your home office a highly productive space look at adding these 4 items to your work day.

 Do the Hard Work First

The home office can be a very distracting place. If you want to be highly productive, do the work that is highest on your priority list first. If there is something you don’t like to do, then get it out of the way. Do the hard work first. Don’t procrastinate with an excuse that something, “must get done first” especially if you know it can wait. Don’t lie to yourself that your blog must get out when you know a sales call must be made, an invoice delivered, or a contract must be written. Do the work that brings in the money. It is not the sexy work. It is not the most fun work (although I have a few successful friends that would say sales is fun work). It is often tedious and uncomfortable. Do it first and then do the rest.

Get out

Changing your energy will help you stay focused. There has been research that I have read showing that humans can concentrate for a short period of time and be extremely productive. Beyond this time (which is about 90 minutes) we start losing our ability to stay focused. To reset your “focus-meter” you need to get out of the energy you are currently in. Set a 90 minute “productivity timer” and when it goes off, get up. Move away from your desk and physically leave your office. Stretch or do a short amount of exercise. Kelly McGonigal, PhD and author of The Willpower Instinct, suggests taking a ‘green break’ and going outside. It does not have to be for long, as short as 15 minutes, to recharge your “focus-meter” and get you back into your full-powered focus again.

Another way to get out is to take your work to a different location. Try working at a coffee shop or at the library. This is especially helpful on days when your kids won’t leave you alone and you have a deadline.

 Connect with New Minds

Stop working alone all the time. I didn’t realize how important it was to talk to others about what is and isn’t working. This is true for both business work and personal things. When we share what is going on we get feedback from others. We get to hear insights that may be new information for us or known information with a different perspective. It is impossible to make changes in our businesses or our lives without new insights that lead us to new discoveries, routines, actions, and ideas. Get out and have a lunch or coffee every few days or weeks. Attend networking events. Read a blog, new articles about your industry, or a book. Follow or hire an expert/mentor to get insights you did not have before. Join a mastermind group. Go to a Meetup meeting or attend a Google Hangout for a discussion on a topic you love. Don’t get stuck in an old mindset. Always be learning and growing.

Make Your Working Space a True Workplace

Is your office also a place for your entire family? Do the kids feel they have open access to your workplace, even when you are working? You need to set some boundaries for yourself and for your family. If you don’t have a separate room for your office and you need to share the space then when is it your “workplace” and when is it a “home space”? Try to physically block off your work space from the home. If you have a door on your office, then close it when you are working. If you don’t have a door then make a decision when your business is open and put up your office’s “open hours” sign so everyone, including you, knows when the space is an office. Let your kids and your spouse know when they can interrupt you and when it is important that they don’t (e.g. when you are writing or on the phone). Set your 90 minute “productivity timer” outside your office so when it goes off you will have to get up and out of your office and your kids will know you are available for them.

Don’t let your home space stop your productivity. Make your office a true business space. Give yourself time to focus and time to regenerate. Connect with amazing people to grow your business relationships and your mind. And finally, don’t put off the work that makes you money. There are many successful 6-figure and 7-figure businesses that operate out of the owner’s home. This can be you too.

 

 

Long Hours in Business and Children – Making It Work for Everyone!

Long hours and children are always a challenge. They need our time, insight, guidance, and love to handle the work of being a kid. Like all relationships (family, friends, co-workers, partners, affiliates, clients, etc.), to ensure a stable understanding we have to find time to invest in them. I think you get this concept as you know the value of investing time in an event to make it perfect for the attendees and you want to ensure you don’t trade that for important time with your kids. Here are three things I believe can help you.

1. You cannot do it alone

If you find you are putting in 17 hours on the day before a conference, that might be OK, but if you are putting in 17 hours a day for weeks before a conference then I would start looking at your support systems. There are many ways to offload work. My 3 favourite are automate, create better systems, and hire someone (or barter services). Let’s just look at hiring.

What are you holding on to that someone else could do quicker, may love to do the work, and may be better at? I have found that people that say they ‘have to’ work for 17 hours are often too afraid to let go of the work because they feel it will not get done properly. This is an issue of systems. Let’s assume you have great systems, so if you say you cannot afford to hire someone then you may not have spent enough time thinking about how you can engage people to help you do the work. Giving someone free access to the conference to take away a few of your tasks is one way that will not require an employee contract. Learn to trade, barter, and delegate are important skills in a manager.

Have other family commit to time with your kids and schedule time to drop in for dinner while your kids are with family. This will help them feel you are committed and love them, even when you are busy.

Get Daycare - Nanny with child playing with toys

Hiring a nanny to bring your kids with you to the worksite is a way many actors find time to be with their kids when they are on the road. I’ve brought a niece or the neighbours daughter to watch my kids when I had to be focused on other work.

Pay your kids to help you with your business. “If you help Mommy get her work done by playing by yourself while I finish this, I will pay you $X”. You can also give them a task to actually get them involved in the business. I remember as a kid collating printing for my girlfriend’s father. We loved being asked and he would pay us so we could go buy an ice cream and still have some money to take home. One of my Mentors pays her kids a percentage of her project profit if they help her get her work done. I hire my kids to shred papers, lick envelopes, wrap gifts, and fill bins.

Put your kids in daycare if they are not already. You cannot run a business from your home and give your kids the attention they need. Those are both full time positions.

2.       You must have great communications

Great communications are important in all your relationship. Let your kids know what you are doing. Let them know exactly how much time you are going to put into it and for how long. Let them know when the event will be over. AND let them know what their reward will be for having to give up time with you. Give them the plan so they can keep track. My daughter loves to look at the calendar. When I am away speaking and traveling, I will call her before bed time and she will look at the calendar to see where I am and when I’m coming home. She will ask me about my day and I will keep answering until she has got enough information to feel she understands and feels included.

3.       Stick to your promises

There will always be exceptions to this, but if that is happening often then obviously you are not making correct assumptions about how to manage your time and you need to stop promising. Call when you are going to be late but better yet, make your promises to your kids as important as your event responsibilities. If I am unsure if I can make it home in time for bedtime or dinner, etc. I let my kids know what I’m doing, why it will take as long as I think it will, what could cost me more time, then I promise a time that I know I will definitely be home, even if it is after they go to bed. Just knowing is better for kids then having no idea at all.

It will not be easy, but planning ahead, getting your kids on board with the plan and sticking to your promises will help you provide the best service possible for your clients and your kids. After all, you’re your kids are the reason you do what you do and you don’t want to treat them any less fair then you would a complete stranger you hope to call client!

3 Tips to Serve and Still Take the Time Off

Are you worried about taking time off over the holidays? Maybe your client will need you. Maybe you will miss the call or email from that prospect you have been courting. Maybe they will be so upset with you that they stop doing business with you.

Maybe, but not likely.

Doing business and/or not doing business over the Christmas Holidays is a challenge for most small business owners.

  • Should I answer my email?
  • Should I close for the week?
  • Can I go without picking up my phone when my best customer calls?

These are all questions we find hard to answer since as a small business, every sale is often crucial to our future existence as a business. What I want to share with you this week are three tips to creating a relationship with your clients and prospects that will give you the balance in your life to close for a day or a week, be with your family, and still keep your best clients.

Work Life Balance

1. Set Your Boundaries:

This is actually true for all year round. Once set, when the holiday comes the expectation is understood. If you are always available then you will always need to be available, so don’t always be available. When we are setting up a relationship we need to let people know what is and is not important to us.

Do you have dinner with your kids every night? Are you a single mom with responsibilities that must be handled at specific times? Do you have other people in your life, like parents or friends that also rely on you? Likely you do and that is why you cannot allow your business to determine when you are available. You must set that boundary and stick to it.

The key is that you do not have to tell people why you are not available, just that you are not available. If you want to say, “I have an important meeting I cannot miss on Monday mornings” because you have to take your mother to the doctor’s every week, then say that. People will understand when you give them the alternative times you are available.

Here are some suggestions:

  • We return calls within 2 hours
  • We are closed on statutory holidays
  • We answer calls between 8am and 5pm EST
  • As stated in our contract, I will be available on Christmas day from 2-4pm EST
  • For immediate support please contact…

Remember, I am not saying there will never be exceptions, I’m saying you can set your boundaries and you will be pleasantly surprised to know that most people will be happy to connect at your available time.

2. Get the Word Out

If you are going to be closed, don’t make your clients guess when, let them know ahead of time. Post it in the most likely places it will be seen. Not everyone will see it ahead of time so make sure it is also in a place they will get the information on the days you are away.

Key – Make sure you add the date of the day you will return or reopen.

  • Put it in your email signature line (e.g. We will be close Dec 25 and 26)
  • Put it on your voicemail message
  • Put it in your Christmas cards
  • Put it on your website
  • Put it on the door or window of your business location
  • Put it in your special mailings, social media profile and/or newsletters

3. Turn it Off

If you are truly going to be unavailable to your clients, make sure you give yourself permission to not work. Shut everything down. Turn off your phone, don’t check your social media or email. If you do then make sure you allot a specific amount of time to be present and engaged in your business and then stop at the time you said you would be done.

This allows you to respect your time and also those in your life you committed to spending time with. If you have someone in your family that cannot come to a meal without looking at their clock or answering their phone, then you know what it is like to be thought of as ‘second fiddle’. It stinks! Be as present in your time off as you are for your time in business and you will enjoy more balance in your life.

Adding More Value

John Maxwell says “if you want to give more value you have to get more value”. He is referring to constant learning and support. You must always be investing in yourself so that you will constantly be increasing your own value. I have recently heard that if you do what you have always done you WILL NOT get what you have always got because the world is changing so fast we must be changing with it.

Related Article

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency! What needs to be consistent?

We must be constantly learning and growing our value for our customers and ourselves. Here are three things I have learned about learning.

Where Do I Learn?

I take every opportunity to learn something new. I am constantly learning.

  • I attend free and paid online seminars and webinars
  • I read about business innovations in the news online
  • I belong to online communities that share information and discuss challenges
  • I read books and magazines (I highly recommend getting Success Magazine)
  • I complete home study programs
  • I listen to books from audible.com in my car or on my phone
  • I attend online meetings with my mastermind
  • I attend networking events
  • I attend speaking events
  • I attend 2 or more conferences a year
  • I attend in-person programs regularly

Who are My Mentors?

I seek out influential people that are doing what I want to do and have systems and processes that make their business run the way I want my business to work. Sometimes I simply follow the person and gain knowledge through their interaction with their clients and sometimes I pay to be a part of their programs so I can learn directly from them. Many of these people I simply become friends with and we mutually create knowledge and learning for each other. Here are a few of the people I admire and model my business growth after.

Follow Kelly O'Neil

  • Kelly O’Neil
  • Kendall Summerhawk
  • Gina Bell
  • Derek Fredrickson
  • John Maxwell
  • Jim Collins
  • Michael E. Gerber
  • Ken Robinson
  • Daniel Pink

PaidDarren Hardy

  • Darren Hardy
  • Fabienne Fredrickson
  • Sydni Craig-Hart
  • Laura Gisborne
  • Lisa Sasevich
  • Sandra Yancy
  • Nan Einarson

FriendsTeresa de Grosbois

  • Teresa de Grosbois
  • Marla Tabaka
  • Lara Veltkemp
  • Mary Morassutti
  • Michelle Peavy
  • Shawne Duperon
  • Charmaine Hammond
  • Mark Rhodes

Plus so many others in each category. I am truly blessed with so many amazing peers to share my learning experience with and with technology I can connect and follow every person that engages me to think differently about my business, my clients, and my life.

Guilty As Charged!

Sometimes the hardest part about finding additional time to learn is creating the space in your life to feel good about learning. I know when my daughter says to me, “Mommy, you are always working” I feel so guilty. I know that I created this business so I could be around when my kids get home from school, so I could walk to school with them (more when they were smaller), so I could be home when they were sick, so I could help with homework. Being available when they need me means I work at times that someone working 9-5 would not be working and it is sometimes perceived as “always working” by my kids .  Creating time to read, listen, and attend can sometimes fill me with a guilt that makes me feel inadequate as a parent. “How can I take more time away from my family?” “How can I be a great leader for my clients if I am not learning and growing?” These two questions are always at odds with each other. There is a balance that must be struck for my own sanity.

In one of my past posts (Why Does Being a Parent Give You an Advantage in Business?) I wrote, “There is so much to know about business that if you started down the learning path before you launched, you’d be in an MBA before you opened your doors and still you would not have enough information.” If you want to add value to your clients experience you need to continue to add value to yourself. Do not stop learning.

 

Working from Home with Kids Around Equals More Support

If you are like me you are working from home because you chose to be more available for your family. I have three kids, 13, 11, and 9 and now they are home for the summer. What a gift I have to actually be able to share their summer memories with them. We live in a beautiful city with 4 public beaches and 20 km of parks along the water front. It is a dream-come-true for me.

So how do I get any work done during the summer when it can be so easy to be distracted by the needs of my kids? Let me share my three favourite strategies for enlisting my kids to help me with my business so I can have time to do things with them and for them during their break.

Get Their Buy-in

Don’t assume just because they are kids they won’t understand about responsibility and commitment. This is your opportunity to teach them what it really means by modelling the way.

  • Talk to them as if you expect them to understand.
  • Ask for their input.
  • They will have lots of questions so don’t hold back on the answers.

Kids love to be taken seriously and allowing them to know that they are a key part to your success gives them great pride in what you are doing. Don’t forget to praise them when they are doing things right (not just when they are causing distractions). You will be surprised how much buy-in I get from my kids as they grow up in my business.

BONUS – I will even hire my kids to shred paper or organize things on my desk to get them completely involved. This is a real win-win-win scenario. They get responsibility and a little money for completing work, I get help and my business gets potential business partners for the future. It may not be my business they get into, but they will certainly think about business as an option when trying to figure out where they fit in life.

Set Boundaries

If you want your time respected by others you first have to know exactly what it is you want them to respect. Let your kids know where you work, when you are working, what work they can interrupt and what work they cannot interrupt.

My work day is set from 8 am to 5 pm. This is not specifically when I work but this is the boundary I’ve set for my kids. If I’m in my office they are not allowed to just barge in and start talking. They have to wait until I acknowledge them. This is important because I spend a lot of time writing and once I’m in the zone it’s easy to get distracted and hard to pick up the thought again.

I also have a simple solution for no interruptions. It is the door on my office. If it is open they can come in and wait to talk to me. If it is closed I am unavailable. I tell them it is the same as Daddy being at work, you can’t just barge in to his office. They get that.

My kids will now police each other around respecting my time and space. I will hear someone giving instructions on what can and cannot be done, as if I was not even in the house, during my focused work time.

BONUS – You need to set focused work times for yourself. You will be most productive if you have several uninterrupted 90-minute times during the day. This way you can give yourself time to renew and open the door to be around your kids often.

Rewards for Them and You

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from one of my favourite mentors, Donna Douglas. First she let me know that “even a 2-year old will scrub a toilet”. The insight in this statement was that my kids will help when asked, and it was true. The second was a strategy she used, which was to pay her kids 1% of her income from her company for their support of her in her business.

Their job was to not bother her while she was working, and like I described above, she had boundaries around what that meant to them. It does work. When you say to them, “if I have to stop to help you right now I cannot get my work finished and I won’t get paid”, they know it affects them as well.

BONUS – get them a bank account as soon as possible so you can transfer money directly from your account to theirs. This way they will also learn about saving, credit, and debit early in life. The sooner you introduce them to the tools they will need in business and life the sooner you can start on your succession plan.

They will grow up so fast. If you are as lucky as I am to have this opportunity to really spend time with your kids, then don’t miss out.

Your Story

There are so many other really great strategies, from getting the right support to part-time nannies. Let us know why you love working at home with your kids and your favourite strategy for dealing with your time and theirs effectively.

Why Does Being a Parent Give You an Advantage in Business?

I wanted to reissue this post to add some additional information from John Warrillow. Check the link at the end of the article.

There is a truth to the thought that starting a business is a lot like having children:

  • There is never a perfect time to start
  • There is more to know then expected
  • You cannot guess how it will change your life

In Business, like having children, there is an overwhelming sense of love and satisfaction that comes when you have a business you are passionate about. Unlike having children you will have more control over how it operates when it is mature.

So why is being a parent an advantage to a business owner? Let’s take a look at the three items above that these two life courses have in common.

No Perfect Time to Start

Children

Before I had children, in a time when I knew I was going to have children, I spent a lot of time trying to define (with my husband Brian) how my life needed to be to be able to manage a life with kids. I needed a job with some flexibility. I wanted to be in our own home. I had to be finished my degree. We wanted to have a combined income of a certain level. We wanted to have traveled together. Well, as you can see I had a list.

I’m very good at implementing, so most of my list was complete when my first child was born. What I could not believe was how much time I must have had before children. I mean really, what did I do with all our extra time? I should have been able to finish two degrees.

Business

Before I started my first business I needed to know exactly how I was going to be paid, who was going to work with me, how I could get extra funding, and where my clients would come from. Everything I needed to know about business, or so I thought. There is so much to know about business that if you started down the learning path before you launched, you’d be in an MBA before you opened your doors and still you would not have enough information.

Somehow I was  able to take on an enormous amount of work I did not have before: Work that runs into family time or weekends and yet it still seems to fit into my life.

To completely understand your business you have to be in it – you have to start. Each business has its own personality (Brand) and friends (target market) and family (mentors and peers).

There is More to Know

Children

I could not have guessed I would have had to know so much about child psychology, conflict resolution, mentoring, leadership, delegation, and diplomacy as a parent. Dealing with kids, their friends and their friend’s families, teachers, schools, sports clubs, etc. has been a huge ‘eye opener’ for me.

Business

I could not have guessed I would have had to know so much about human psychology, conflict resolution, mentoring, leadership, delegation, and diplomacy as a business owner. On top of this I also must understand accounting and bookkeeping, sales, marketing, business development, and operations among other skills. I am truly grateful for the learning I received dealing with my children which helped me more quickly become a leader as a business owner.

Change Your Life

Child at desk - poised to take over the businessChildren

As I mentioned, I don’t know what I must have done with all my extra time before I had kids, but I can tell you I love the time I spend with them now. There is humour, growth, development, companionship, maturity, fun, tears, and love. There is a wonderful feeling of belonging, not only to my family but to the community my children tie me to.

Business

Being in business also ties you to a community of peers, supporters, family, mentors, teachers, advisers, partners, affiliates, and clients. There are literally hundreds of opportunities to be connected in business in ways you could not necessarily have foreseen before you started. The more you give to these connections the more you will get back. It can be an extremely gratifying part of your business.

Growing a business is a life lesson. Be excited to learn. Learn from your children to apply to your business and learn from you business to be a better parent and leader. Remember to teach your kids the benefits of being an entrepreneur and model the way so that they will bring that enthusiasm to all they do in life. Who knows, maybe they will take over the business one day.

I wanted to re-issue this post because I just read another article that brings even more credence to this topic. Check out “Do Parents Make Better Startup Founders?” by John Warrillow.