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Wednesday
Jul092014

Work-at-Home Mom’s Summer Survival Guide

By Theresa Ceniccola

 I admit it. It’s not easy going to work at home when school’s out and the beach is calling my name. It’s tempting to put off the work and take a three month vacation with my family. But hey – I’ve got clients to serve and bills to pay, just like everyone else. So each day is a new opportunity to find that perfect balance between work and play.

Having worked from home for 20 years, I’ve learned a little bit about how to stay productive and avoid distractions without becoming a work-monger. And because my children have never known anything except a work-at-home mother, they’ve grown up sharing their home with a business. Together, we’ve come up with a fairly decent system for spending the summer in work and play. Here are our favorite tips, and they should work for toddlers to teens and will even be helpful if you’ve got a babysitter or nanny on board:

Seven Home-Based Business Summer Survival Tips

1. Create a Schedule. Yeah, I know…boring! But having a loose schedule will give everyone the structure they need to accomplish what has to be done, and enjoy the long days of nothingness. At the very least, establish regular working hours – even if they fluctuate from week to week.  And do your best to treat those office hours as sacred time without distraction or interruption. This will help you prevent trying to work at the waterpark (not very productive as I have learned from experience).

Bonus tip: I started asking my kids to create their own summer routines a few years ago. I give them parameters like “one hour of reading time,” or “30 minutes of exercise,” and “no more than one hour of screen time.” They have fun and learn a valuable skill by outlining their own daily schedules – and they are far more likely to stick to the routine when they create it themselves.

2. Plan. Discuss. Repeat. Because summer schedules seem to change each week, it’s even more important to hold that weekly planning meeting with your family. Review the schedule for the week and set realistic expectations for office hours, meals, transportation, play dates, etc. If you have a childcare provider, outline the week for her as well. It only takes 20 minutes and gives everyone an opportunity to participate and be heard. Plus, it gives you an idea of what your top priorities will be each week so you can tackle them first!

3. Protect Your Boundaries. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your family is the gift of clearly defined boundaries. Do your kids know when you are “at work” and “at home?” Do they know the rules of when they can or cannot enter your office? Do they know how to behave when you are on the phone? (No matter how old they are!) Do they know WHO to go to when there is a babysitter in the house and mom is in the office? Do YOU know the rules about answering a work related call while playing CandyLand or teaching your teenager to drive? Do YOU respect your children by focusing on them 100% during the time you are not working? Give this area some serious thought and work with your children to create and honor boundaries that work for everyone.  

4. Write a Business Bucket List. You may already have a bucket list of fun things your children want to do this summer. But do you have a bucket list of your business goals for the summer? What are the things that you put off until summer to explore, learn or implement in your business? Are there any road trips or excursions that might be good for your business and fun for your family? Do you have a weeklong beach or mountain retreat planned that would be perfect for writing your book or several blog posts? Are there some things your children can actually help you accomplish this summer? What about your babysitter – can she sort papers or stuff envelopes or do research while the kids are napping? Make a list of business related projects and goals that are perfect for summer.

5. Get More Rest Than You Think You Need. Let’s be real – your summer isn’t filled with lazy days lounging poolside with freshly painted toenails and a frozen margarita. Last time my life looked like that was on my honeymoon! In fact, there are no lazy days of summer. Only fun filled crazy days of summer! We are a family on the go – even when we’re in slow motion. Which means I need to make sure I get a full eight hours of sleep every night – so I can keep up with my kids, my business and my health.

6. Take Advantage of Quiet Mornings. Hear me out on this one – even if you’re not a morning person, you may want to consider setting the alarm an hour earlier and brewing a pot of stronger coffee so you can tackle your biggest work projects in the peace and quiet of early morning. Sleepy teens and tweens will not even come near you at that hour. And, if you’re lucky, the younger ones will be happy to eat breakfast in their pajamas and watch Veggie Tales or go outside and play before it gets too hot. So mom will have a few hours of uninterrupted work time before the day really begins. 

7. Say No to “Opportunities” That Can Wait. It’s a myth that business is slow in the summer. Even in the corporate world where clients are on vacation and it’s difficult to schedule meetings, there is still a LOT of work to be done in the summer. People are taking advantage of lighter schedules to do some planning and creative brainstorming. That’s all great news if you are looking for work. But if you’re trying spend more time with family, then be careful not to take on anything new that will infringe on your personal time. Be especially careful not to accept a project simply because you are afraid the client will never ask you again if you refuse. Trust in your own talent and know that the work will be there when you need it – but your children are only home for a few short weeks this summer.

Whether or not you have childcare this summer, I hope these tips will help you stay productive in your home office and enjoy your family time too. When September rolls around, you will skip the neighborhood back-to-school celebration where moms send off the school bus with mimosas in hand. Instead, you’ll be one of those moms at the bus stop in tears because you’re sad to see them go. You’ll be ready to devote more time to business, but you’ll be grateful for the summer fun memories you created. (And if you’re a homeschooling mom, you’ll be all set with new schedules and boundaries that will serve you well all year long!)

What did I forget? Do you have any summer survival tips for working from home? Please share them with us here!

Theresa Ceniccola is The Christian Mompreneur—a Mentor to Moms Who are Running a Business that Supports Faith and Family. As the president and founder of the International Christian Mompreneur Network, she empowers entrepreneurial moms to build profitable businesses with wisdom and grace. Theresa has successfully run a home-based business as a freelance writer and marketing consultant for the past 18 years. She considers herself blessed to make a living doing what she loves and empowering other moms to create businesses that support their values of faith and family. Join the International Christian Mompreneur Network (it's free!) today and you'll receive Theresa's Mompreneur Toolkit featuring the Ten Commandments of a Mompreneur.

 

 

Monday
Jun302014

Ditch Your Elevator Speech Now!

By Jennifer Covello

I’m sure if a seasoned PR person is reading this, they are likely screaming “NO!” at my very bold title. Everyone knows you must have an elevator speech if you are a small business owner. You need to have a quick way to tell people what you do at networking events, conferences, or press interviews.

This is a true statement but…

How many of us have been to endless networking events where we hear something like this:

“My business is about helping people discover their passions and live a healthy, happy life so they can be empowered to make positive changes for themselves and others.”

Huh? So what is it that this person actually does? Are they a weight-loss coach? Are they a life-coach? Are they a web designer? (Ok, not likely a web designer, but you get my point.)

Why is it that when we describe our business we have to come up with this fancy schmancy description of what we do? Why can’t we just tell it like it is? I think I know why.

It may be because you think people won’t accept what you do as important, so you need to make it sound like it is important. The other reason is, you really don’t know what you do, so you describe everything you do in the hopes that the potential customer will figure it out (and simultaneously, help you figure it out too).

Think about the last event you attended. Think about how other women business owners described their business. Did you have to ask them a dozen follow up questions to figure it out or did you get it the first time around?

I can remember oodles of events that I attended where I wasn’t sure if someone was trying to help me lose weight or buy their jewelry line. The result? I walked away confused and more importantly, they didn’t get my business. I figured if they don’t know what line of business they were in, how can they help me?

You may have dozens of business cards in your possession that will back up my statement. How many of these little guys say things like “Life Coach. Jewelry Consultant. Divorce Mediator”? Well, which one are you? And why are you making me work so hard to figure it out?

There’s nothing wrong with having multiple passions, but not all of them are your business. If you are a life coach, but you also sell jewelry, great. There’s no need to put both on a business card and there’s no need to tell people about all of your passions in three minutes or less. Know your customer and describe the one thing you do that will help them in that moment.

You may think you are telling people about all the cool things you do, but in reality, you are confusing them and they will have no faith in anything you are doing. Do I really want to work with someone who isn’t sure if she’s a life coach or a jewelry designer? If they can’t figure out who they are and what their business is, how will they help me figure it out?

So what’s a multi-talented mompreneur to do? Simple.

1. Know your product or service and talk about it like you do.

If you sell hand-made jewelry, say so. If you are a social media expert, declare it. Don’t surround your business description with a bunch of words that mean nothing. People don’t have time to figure stuff out anymore. We live in a Twitter world and people are busy (or lazy and need things spelled out for them, but that’s a post for another time).  Don’t make people work too hard to learn how you can help them. Just tell them.

2. Stop making what you do sound like you’re curing cancer.

Now before you get your feelings hurt and think I’ve insulted you, I know what you do is important to you, but let’s face it. Unless you truly do have a cure for cancer or can solve the education problems in the U.S, you need to tone it down a bit. Tell people what you do and how you’ve helped others, but don’t exaggerate. You’ll come across as fake and you will lose credibility before the words “awaken people’s passions” come out of your mouth.

3. If you don’t believe in you, no one else will either.

We can all spot an insecure person a mile away. They stumble over their words. They make little eye contact. If you want my business, you’re going to have to make me believe in you and trust you. I’m not going to invest my hard-earned money in someone who can’t articulate what they do with confidence.

Let’s face it. People are busy and they need your help. Did you hear me? People need your help, your gifts, and your talents. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been blessed with them. Think about it. If you have a passion for making jewelry and this is your business, then speak up! “I make hand-crafted jewelry with precious stones for any occasion.” “I help people overcome their fear of flying.” “I help women understand baseball so they enjoy the game with their family.” (Ok – I know this last one is a bit silly but I just know this is a great business idea for someone, so consider this a freebie!)

In the end, it’s really about knowing who you are and valuing what you do. It’s not about trying to impress other people with all of your talents and skills. It’s not about defending who you are and why you do it. It’s about sharing your gifts with the world to help make people’s lives better.

And isn’t that why you started your business in the first place?

Jennifer Covello is The Purposeful Parent, an award-winning author, blogger, motivational speaker, and creator of Frittabello baby gifts. With her unique perspective on parenting coupled with her sense of humor and vast experience, Jennifer is able to relate to a variety of working women and the daily challenges they face like “SuperMom Syndrome”.

Jennifer has been featured on both radio and TV programs for her insights about her journey from corporate “cubicle dweller” to “mompreneur” and back again. She provides inspiration for all parents to help them succeed at the most important job they will ever have.

Jennifer is a native of Long Island, New York and had a corporate career in IT and Marketing.  She holds a B.S. degree in Management Information Systems from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in Marketing Management from Pace University, New York.

Contact or follow Jennifer at:

Blog: parentingforpurpose.com
Facebook: facebook.com/parentingforpurpose
Twitter:
twitter.com/parent4purpose

Linked In:
linkedin.com/in/jencovello

Tuesday
Jun172014

Poolside Entrepreneurship 

By Chelsea Duggan 

It’s Summer time and you could use some rays. Why not head to the pool with your notebook and pen for some impromptu business fun in the sun? What will you find at your local water park? The answers you’ve been looking for and a sunny smile on your face.

Pack your bag to stay cool and take a calm moment to make a list of the three things you wish you had the answers to for your business. My list includes the following questions: 1) How can I improve sales of current products, 2) How can I best expand my product offerings, and 3) How can I best meet my customers needs? Throw in some sunscreen and snacks plus a few business give-away items – I’ll bring copies of our recent book to share with those I connect with.

Stake out the perfect spot where you can easily strike up conversations with as many potential customers as possible. This isn’t the day for a hard sell so relax a little and enjoy chatting up your neighbor. Get to know them and let them know you. Ideally, you’ll hit it off and be able to ask your questions and get some great insight. Keep it low pressure and don’t be afraid to move on if the conversation isn’t proving fruitful.

Just like you don’t want to forget sunblock there are a few key points to consider in your search for answers. Keep in mind that casual conversations will take their course and that you may not be able to ask all of your questions to a single new friend. Instead, keep the vibe easy and focus on surveying a large population. You may also find that you really connect with someone and you might go off topic and put her in your shoes, asking what she would do in your position. You may open yourself up to possibilities you’ve never considered.

Summer brings plenty of opportunities to make work feel more like play. You can continue to canvas customers at your local coffee hang out, at the forest preserve or at a picnic. As you learn more, let your questions evolve and gain confidence that you can grow and rise to meet your business challenges. Go ahead and mix business with pleasure and have a great Summer.

Chelsea Duggan:: An entrepreneur, parent and advocate for early childhood development through creative education, Chelsea Duggan is the Founder and Director of Milestar Babies. This innovative online resource enables busy parents to have an influential impact on newborn children, up to three years in age. Chelsea's background in education - a passion she shares with her two children, so they themselves can enjoy a lifelong interest in learning - is at the center of Milestar Babies. That commitment to excellence starts with shared moments and teacher-designed lessons, which parents can further customize, so children can discover, synthesize and pursue their own discoveries. Chelsea believes that every child is an amazing individual, who deserves to learn at his or her own pace. This kid-tested, parent-approved philosophy is Chelsea's distinctive concept, complemented by the convenience of the Internet and her dynamic site. A graduate of Northwestern and a member of the Chicago Women Entrepreneurs Network, Chelsea welcomes the opportunity to interact with parents and children throughout the nation and the world.

Monday
Jun092014

Vacation is Good for Business

By Terri Fry Brukhartz, PCC, CPCC

I've just returned from a vacation in San Francisco. Boy, did I need it! It can seem difficult to go on vacation, especially if you're a solopreneur. Many small business owners are afraid they won't have a business to return to if they leave.

Several years ago I had a client who was scared half-to-death to leave. After much thought, he finally left for a week, explained to his clients that he would be going, recorded 'vacation' voicemail and email messages, and off he went. His business was not only waiting for him, but nothing bad happened. Now he takes vacations at least annually. He has gone from being a one-man show to a four-person operation. Going on vacation didn't impeed his growth a bit.

His mentality has changed, too. He and I were having lunch recently and he told me that his whole company is considering working out of the country for January since it's generally a slow time. He just thinks it would be really fun to live in another country for a month and they can work remotely, so why not?

I'm not saying that my client's business grew because he went on vacation, but it definitely didn't hurt. Here are three things you and your business will gain by leaving it for a while:

1.    Get Energized. If you've been feeling like your business is running you instead
of the other way around, you need a break. This is the time that you are most likely
to believe a vacation will sink your business; but it's also the time that
you are most likely to benefit. If you're running yourself ragged, you're not
serving your clients or customers as well as you possibly can. Take a break and
get energized – even if it's just for a long weekend.

2.    Gain Perspective. When you return refreshed, relaxed and reinvigorated, you will
also see your business with a fresh pair of eyes. You'll see things that need changing.
You'll have new ideas. You'll also see what you're doing right!

3.    Gain Peace of Mind. This one is awesome. When you leave, you'll have something
you didn't have beforehand. You'll have peace of mind knowing that you can leave
and your business will be waiting for you upon your return. Next time you decide to go,
the decision will be easy.

It's summer. Do yourself and your business a favor. Take a vacation and really enjoy it.
You're business will be waiting for you when you return. Plus, you'll have the confidence
to go away again without worrying so much about it.

Terri Fry Brukhartz, LCSW, CPCC, has been helping business professionals make more money, do what matters and thrive on their successes since 2001. Coach Terri began her career in 1982 working for advertising agency Leo Burnett and the internationally acclaimed TV conglomerate, CBS.  In 1987, Coach Terri started The Fry Group, Inc., a publishers’ representative firm. Clients included Details Magazine, Men's Health, and Harvard Business Review. With her husband, two kids and two dogs in tow, it’s a wonder Coach Terri has enough time to get everything done – much less go on vacation! She resides in Chicago but works by phone with entrepreneurs around the world. Feel free to contact her by e-mail or call 708-386-0500.

Wednesday
Jun042014

Save $20 at Oliver's Labels!

Do your children misplace items? Do you have trouble keeping track of their items that seem to match every other child’s? Oliver’s Labels might be able to help!

How it all began from their founder:  "It all began with a small idea to keep Oliver, my nephew, from losing his stuff. After seeing the overwhelming positive reaction from his teachers and other parents, I realized there was a huge demand for high quality labels. I used my 6 years of experience in the printing industry to develop a label that was both durable and beautiful. The business was born and now our full-colour designs and exclusive Found-it™ tracking system are a few of the things that set Oliver's Labels apart from the competition." - Debbie

Label your shoes, your toys, your clothing, your school supplies, your camp necessities; anything! Oliver’s Labels has a label for just about anything. And they pride themselves on top notch customer service. This is directly from their website:

Customer service policies.We strive to give our customers the best possible experience with Oliver's Labels. After all, the best compliment a customer can give us is a referral. To read more about our customer service policies, click here.  Or, if you have a concern or complaint, don't hesitate to contact us and let us know.  We value your feedback.

Now, through June 10, their camp package is $20 off. This means you can get 20 original labels, 50 mini labels, 14 shoe labels, 30 iron on clothing labels, 35 stick-eez clothing labels and 2 large tags for just $38.99! It’s a fabulous deal that you don’t want to miss! Buy it here!

For more information, contact Renee directly via her Facebook page!