Let me ask you a question. What is your number one, biggest, baddest challenge as a mompreneur? Don’t think about it too hard. Just go with your gut. Now it might be your first instinct to answer, “Laundry,” right? Or “Checking all the items off the to-do list for today” or “Getting projects completed.” Some days it may even be just getting a shower before we head out the door to pick up the kids as we morph into everyone’s favorite superhero—Super Mom.
Well, what all of these really boil down to is time, right? And as much as most of us would really appreciate about four more hours per day so we can finally get things done, if we’re really, really honest with ourselves, how we manage the time we do have—the same 24 hours everybody else has—is singlehandedly enhancing or sabotaging our productivity. Today we’re going to take a look at some productivity killers.
First let’s do the hard work of self-reflection and identify a couple of the main ways we sabotage our productivity, especially as it relates to our business practices. And remember, I’m talking to myself here too. I know what it is to struggle with these things in my own business. But “knowing is half the battle,” right? So here we go:
- How many times do we try to squish something ginormous and unspecific into a disproportionately tiny period of time? Come on, we all do this, right? “I am going to update my website this weekend.” Oh really? Is that every page? Just what does that involve? Now how qualified are you to even do all that needs done? If you’re like me, maybe you know just enough about coding to be dangerous. Now how plausible is it that you are going to be able to squeeze all of that into your weekend without help? As noble as it may seem to accomplish a huge task with superhuman speed, we thwart even our best efforts when we fail to specify the scope and strategy of a project.
- While we’re on the topic of weekends, what time frame would you say comprises your weekend? Does it start at 5:00 Friday evening with the close of the workday? 10:00 at night, after the kids are tucked into bed and the noise in the house settles down to a dull roar? Does your weekend really not start until after you’ve gotten your beauty sleep, had your coffee and read the paper Saturday morning? And what about all the other things we cram into a typical weekend? Soccer games, birthday parties, dance recitals—not to mention the mountain of laundry we weren’t able to get to during the week. We set ourselves up for self-sabotage when we fail to specify the time frame we have to work with.
Now these are only a couple of productivity killers and truth be told, there are many, but these are two of our biggest challenges, for sure. Start to pay attention as you’re going about your daily routine and begin to take note of the times when you are doing these things. Catch yourself in the act. Being aware of the ways in which we sabotage ourselves is invaluable.
The value of customer loyalty is indeed priceless. And it’s not so much that customer satisfaction in and of itself is worthless but that the difference between the two is HUGE. For mompreneurs, shifting our focus from one to the other can be the deciding factor in whether we are perceived as a kind of Girl Friday, “everything to everybody” type of person or smart, skilled, professionals offering valuable products and services. There is a delicate balance in satisfying our customers and meeting the needs of our business. How do we serve our clients and stay aligned with our strengths, our skills and our style? How do we build customer loyalty without losing ourselves in the process?
Today I want to help you find some ways to build customer satisfaction and customer loyalty by going that extra mile, by delighting your clients but without compromising yourself because I don’t want you to be everything to everybody and I bet you don’t want to be that either. Let’s take a look at how we can do that.
- Are you a people pleaser? You know what I mean by that. I think as moms, this is something we’re pretty used to. We’re used to taking care of everybody in our lives and it can cross over very easily to our business and become kind of a detrimental habit. That’s not your job. You don’t need to do that. There is a difference between providing great customer satisfaction and going the extra mile and actually kind of sacrificing your own wants and needs when it comes to pleasing someone else.
- Just say “no.” I have had countless MomBiz owners admit to me that their first time saying “no” to a client who asked them to do something they didn’t want to do was awkward and scary. Remember when you were first learning how to ride a bicycle? Remember how wobbly and crazy and sometimes painful it was at first? But remember that amazing feeling of freedom that came with the hard work of practice? You will have that feeling of freedom in saying “no” too! I promise! You don’t have to please everyone. You don’t have to do everything your clients ask. Stay true to you.
- Stick to your guns. Your job as a business owner is to plan a business that is successful on your terms and sustainable by your decisions. Your choices drive this business—not your clients. You know those business plans and product funnels we talk about so often? It’s really important for you to create these invaluable tools and then keep them posted in front of you to remind yourself when a client asks you if you can do something else, whether or not an opportunity fits into your plan.
All things considered, your customers know you care about them by how well you stay connected, you listen to them, and you offer amazing products and services. You are building that loyalty that is so critical and you don’t have to lose yourself to please them.
It’s all about the money, Honey. As mompreneurs, money is just one of those things we have to talk about—whether it be earning money, earning enough money, saving money—or perhaps worst of all, this dreaded question of debt. Does it ever make sense for a MomBiz owner to go into debt? Is it ever worth it? Is there such a thing as “justifiable” or even “good” debt? And what kinds of pitfalls should we, as small business owners, watch out for in order to successfully use debt—if we choose to—to grow our businesses? These are some delicate and sometimes controversial questions and while as women and moms and managers of our homes as well as our businesses we know there are rarely if ever one-size-fits-all answers to such issues, let’s equip ourselves with the information we need to make important business and financial decisions that support both our business and ultimately our family’s success.
Financial management experts tend to agree that there are three areas that normally constitute “good” or “justifiable debt.” One such area is a mortgage on your house. This is kind of a given. Most of us don’t purchase our homes outright and need a little bit of a payment plan and financial experts say that this is generally good debt. Why? The asset appreciates over time. A second area of justifiable debt is debt with the purpose of getting or furthering your education. Degrees and certifications geared toward your industry absolutely can be critical to your business because they can open doors for you that you just won’t have access to otherwise. And the third area of acceptable debt? Business startup and development expenses. So there you have it—the experts have cashed in on the subject—but when it comes to mompreneurs I can’t stress enough the importance of evaluation and planning when making that final decision about debt for your business.
There are three main considerations regarding the question of if debt is right and worthwhile for you and your business and if so, how to be smart about making it work for you:
- Consider the timing. As a mompreneur, you’re not just a business owner making decisions based on what looks good on paper. You’re a woman with a family—and high standards for that family—so the decisions you make for your business need to reflect and support those standards in creating a successful lifestyle and business. Do you have a child going off to college? And another who needs braces? Have you been saving for a very big family vacation that has been on the radar for a long time? All of these are considerations when deciding whether or not business debt makes sense for you and your family.
- Consider the consequences. Don’t we say this to our kids all the time? Well, the same is true when making financial decisions. There is risk involved with incurring debt and that risk can impact both your business and your family life—so do your homework and make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.
- Have a plan. We are all familiar with the old adage “Fail to plan and plan to fail.” It’s true! So often as entrepreneurs we learn the hard way—from our mistakes. It doesn’t have to be that way when it comes to this issue of debt. If you consider the timing and the consequences of incurring debt to start-up, grow or develop your business and you do decide that it is a good and worthwhile venture for you, have a plan. Be crystal clear on how you are going to spend that money and be crystal clear on how you will pay it back. With careful consideration and planning we can be confident in our abilities to succeed in both our businesses and families.
Time, Focus and Money – 3 things we never seem to have enough of. So what is the solution?
Here are some tips to get you started on finding more time, focus and money in your life and business today.
One of the questions that I’m asked most often as a business coach comes from those wondering about the challenges of owning a business. Many people want to know what the top challenge is for a mompreneur. The answer, as far as I’m concerned, will always be the same. The biggest challenge to mom business owners comes in finding enough time in a day. No matter how hard we work or how disciplined we are in our strategies, there will never be enough time to do it all. More so than other entrepreneurs, when you put the word “mom” in front of your title, it makes it tricky to manage and priorities your life accordingly.
That’s where a Time Map can come in handy. This is one of the most important things that we teach at the Mom Biz Retreat, and it’s one of the most basic, but it certainly delivers and resonates with most of our attendees. If you feel, like so many of us do, that you’re constantly running out of time, use a Time Map to own your time and how you spend it.
A Time Map is literally going to create boundaries for you in order to help get your daily requirements done. You’ll lay things out and see where you need to make adjustments. Then you can plan according to your prioritized list in order to make sure you’re spending the time you have in the most effective ways. When you use a Time Map, you’re almost guaranteed to find the time you need to do the things you need to do.
Focus on finding new clients. It’s not simple! Finding clientele takes work and effort, but you’re up for the challenge. First, think about who you most want to serve. If you take the time to really think about the people who need the service or product you can provide, you will identify your ideal client. Then, think about what it is that they want. This will help you find the perfect way to reach those people right where they are.
You’re creative! You’re innovative! You can definitely come up with something these people need. Identify a problem and offer them the solution.
As business owners, we need to constantly be reaching out to our clientele to find a way to create more sales and revenue. One of the best ways to make more money is to go through your current client base and ask yourself what each person last bought from you. By brainstorming on your client’s needs in the past, you’ll be able to get a good idea about what they may need in the future.
Remember that your current clients are your best source of revenue! They know you and trust you. Find something to sell to those who are already buying from you. Keep in touch so that you’re first on their list when it’s time to make a new purchase.
First of all you need to know which platforms to master. There are so many options with social media!
Next you need to know who you should be engaging with. If you are like most business owners who want to get involved with social media, you are probably uncertain about what you should be tweeting and posting and how to use those posts to attract your ideal clients. We don’t want to waste our time.
Finally you need to know the answer to the burning question we’ve all faced—“How often should I post to get the desired results?”
Here are my tips to help you answer these questions and achieve social media success.
Which platforms should you master?
Most people are on Facebook so let’s start there. A lot of mompreneurs are using Facebook for personal reasons and the same is true with our clients. The statistic is that one in every seven humans is on Facebook. That means that, chances are unless your human is under the age of 11 months, they’re using Facebook. Okay, I’m being a little facetious but you get the idea. It’s going to be pretty hard to argue that your target market is not on Facebook.
The reason I love Facebook so much is because my people are already there. You are already there. Your friends and your prospects and your clients are already there so you may as well “Go where your target audience is”—you may as well figure out the Facebook platform and how to leverage it for your business.
Twitter is another great platform because you can throw such a wide net. With Facebook you have to “friend” somebody and they have to “accept” you. Twitter, you don’t. If somebody looks interesting, you can start following and interacting with them. You have such a low barrier to being able to connect with potential clients that Twitter is a really good tool.
Obviously there are many other platforms so I will just mention a few of them quickly. If you are in any sort of product-based or artistic, creative type business— Pinterest and Instagram are right up your alley. People are consuming visual objects like crazy and they love sharing those things with other people. So if you make custom jewelry, wouldn’t you want to be posting those pictures on Pinterest and Instagram and letting other people share them for you? If you are an expert and you have something to share—for instance, I’m a business coach—so I have a lot of expertise to share to my audience so I love podcasting. I love the fact that I can connect with people with my voice. YouTube —they say that everybody in the whole world searches YouTube faster than they search other networks now. If you teach people how to do something, if you can give tips and you can put that up on a YouTube channel and make it short then let people share it!
“Who should you be engaging with?”
I have a very straightforward answer to this question: You should be engaging with the people most likely to buy from you.
If you are going to get on social media and spend your time building relationships, don’t just do it with other people you like or admire. It’s great to follow your various mentors. I love Seth Godin and Marie Forleo- they are awesome. But me talking to them and trying to engage them isn’t necessarily going to do a whole lot for my business. I’m learning but they don’t talk back to me that much. You know who does talk back to me? The people I help and I talk back to them and they are my priority. Engage with your target audience. Do not spend all your time talking to your friends, your neighbors, and people you know. Look for the opportunity to engage with your target market because that is what you are there for.
What should you be tweeting and posting?
Content marketing is fantastic and all that means is you simply share good stuff—also known as content—that people care about; stuff that is interesting, compelling, helpful to your audience. Try to choose content that helps showcase your expertise and is in line with your audience’s interest. Great content keeps people coming back and helps them get to know you and think of you when they are looking for a solution.
Your goal is to attract your ideal clients. If you don’t know who your ideal client is you need to schedule a coaching session with me because that determines everything. You must understand who your ideal client is so you can envision that person, find them, talk to them and start to understand them. Once you understand them you can see what problems they have. Once you know what problems they have you can create solutions to those problems! And you know what? When people have a problem, they look for a ways to drop money to get rid of it. Whatever that problem is, they want to get rid of it and it’s going to be pretty easy to spend money on it. So if you’re a business owner and you can provide a solution that makes a problem go away they will come to you.
How often should you post to get the desired results in your social media strategy?
How often you should post varies depending on the platform. You can overwhelm people if you post too much. You can underwhelm them and lose them and they’ll never come back if you don’t post enough. In general it is a good idea to post every day. Whether you’re on Facebook or Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, your audience is looking for regular connections with you. On Facebook I’d recommend an average of two to three times a day. On Twitter you can post quite a few more updates daily —up to five or ten times a day or more.
The key to social media success is to be consistent and engage with your fans and followers on a regular basis.
I have been working with some other moms at my fifth-grader’s school on a memory book that each of our fifth-graders will take with them when they leave elementary school and move onto middle school. One of the questions the kids are asked for this book is “Who is your hero?”
Who Is Your Hero?
This sort of question always gives me pause, since I am not in the habit myself of thinking of heroes. I had to ask: “Who is my hero?” And for a while, I just couldn’t come up with anything since the term “hero” made me think of putting someone on a pedestal, making them different from me, and making them superior. I wound up with a whole bunch of weird emotions about that term, shook my head, and then forgot about it.
But over the last few weeks, I have been consuming all the information I can about Sheryl Sandberg and her movement and new book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. I’ve watch a smart, ambitious woman put herself in front of the firing squad to stand up for what she believes in–that women deserve an equal shot at success and leadership opportunities, in addition to running a family. And I’ve watched a strong, kind woman respond to all manner of criticism and contempt with grace and self-confidence.
This video clip from CNN.com is a great example of how Sandberg accepts and allows criticism of her views and respects different points of views without losing sight of what matters most to her.
Ambition, Confidence, Leadership
I love what Sheryl is doing to bring discussions of gender in the workforce and the choices about raising a family and being successful in business to the table. I appreciate that she’s using her role as a woman leader in business to speak about a controversial topic that matters. Yes, she has resources that most of us don’t and won’t have that contribute to her success, but that doesn’t make her points less valid. She could simply do her job at Facebook, make a ton of money, and be happy. Instead, she’s choosing to leverage her position to attempt to help working women have better choices.
Bless her heart. If I have to pick a hero, she’d look a lot like Sheryl Sandberg. I’m 42 and she’s 43, so maybe there’s still time for me to be just like her when I grow up. If that doesn’t happen, I hope that one day she knows who I am and how much her message makes a my world a better place.
Special thanks to my little sister, Jessica Axton, for sending this video clip to me this morning. She knows my heart so well.
Where do you go when you’re looking for inspiration for your mompreneur business? Sure, there are some great resources out there that provide general information for entrepreneurs and small businesses. But I know you can’t afford to waste your time looking for advice that doesn’t apply to you.
If you’re a mompreneur and looking for “been there, done that” advice from women who have been down the path you’re on, look no further than this fabulous infographic created by Nicole Orozco of Mompreneur Media Inc. I’m so honored to be included and to see so many of my friends and colleagues on this list!
Whether you need solutions for time management, business growth tips, advice on how to get your product to market, how to balance work life with family life, or the best marketing strategies for your business, these women and their blogs have the answers for you.
Who is missing from this list? If you have a favorite mompreneur blog you turn to for help, support or simply community, I’d love to know. Share her contact info in the comments below. We all benefit as this community grows!
Building and managing a team can be a big stumbling block for many mompreneurs. We start out in business simply selling whatever it is we have to offer, but selling your stuff is just the first step to a thriving business. Once that is reliably taking place, one step to growing your business is learning to delegate. You do that most effectively by getting more talent on your team—talent that can help lift you up and take you beyond what you can do yourself. I’m going to walk you through seven tips to help you as a mompreneur successfully build a powerful team.
Tip #1: Get really clear on your hiring goals
We spend a lot of time and effort creating business plans and an ideal client profile but when it comes to hiring somebody, many times we don’t devote the quality time to sitting down and figuring out who our ideal employee is. Here are some questions you can ask yourself when determining what your ideal team member might look like.
- What do you need to get the job done?
- Do you need better marketing strategies?
- Do you need more people delivering or creating the products you offer?
- Do you need people managing the people who are delivering and making things?
- Do you need more admin support to manage all of that?
- What sort of personalities are you looking for?
Take a look at your own weaknesses. What do you need to find in the people that you hire to help compensate for the weaknesses you have? Take the time to think it through. This is critical. You set the path. Own that and then go find the right people for it.
Tip #2: Go be where the talent is. Once you’ve done tip number one and figured out who it is you want to hire, go hang out with them. Why not start with your own community? Your blog readers, newsletter subscribers, Twitter followers and Facebook friends are a great place to begin your search for the right person.
Beyond your own networks, try sources like LinkedIn. There are tons of job seekers there as well as communities of people who share interests and expertise. Look for industry-specific newsletters or message boards to join. I am subscribed to a bi-weekly PR newsletter here in Michigan that features various job seekers. I can assure you everybody in the PR industry is reading that newsletter. They’re looking for who’s hiring and who’s looking for work. People get matched up all the time. Rather than hoping your ideal employee finds you, save your energy and go be where they are. Hang out. Get engaged.
Tip #3: Make yourself knowable, relatable and accessible. If you want to attract great talent, great employees, great team members, letting people get to know a little bit about you through your blog, website and social media profiles is so helpful. It speaks a lot for your company if you demonstrate a professional image with a personal side. We want to have great relationships with people we work with. It’s important to put your best foot forward as a business and as a human. So put some personality out there!
Tip #4: Deliver a great product to the people that work with you. Don’t sell them on a promise you can’t deliver. When we’re hiring people on our MomBiz team, we make it clear that we respect that they are moms. We set expectations but we don’t expect our team to work around the clock. We ask them what their office hours are and we stay in line with that because that’s part of our culture. We also clearly communicate our expectations about when things need to be done and how to handle deadlines. We believe in leading the way in work-life balance. We believe in showing mompreneurs how to do that. So rather than making grandiose promises that you can’t deliver, make sure you offer something that you can deliver.
Tip #5: Learn about the people you want to hire. If you get referrals, you check people out on LinkedIn but you also need to do your research and find out what the rest of them is like. They’re going to present a business image as a job seeker but what else do they do? Do they have six children? Are they into cooking, extreme sports, hiking, blogging? Go study that. That’s cool stuff. It shows they have ambition. It shows they have drive. A person’s passions help complete them as a total person and you may find some great bits of talent you hadn’t even thought you needed while presenting them an opportunity to really shine.
Tip #6: Trust your gut. You’re a mom. You have instincts. If somebody looks great on paper but there’s just no chemistry when you’re talking with them, stick with that. Trust your gut.
Speaking of building teams, we are hiring over at MomBiz.com! We’re looking for a Director of Sponsorships to help attract the right brands to help us offer more to our mom entrepreneur community. Think that might be you? The details on this work-at-home job opportunity are right here.
What? Organizing and decorating tips on my blog? Definitely not my forte. When you need to know how to create a powerful space where you can work from home, I leave those tips to the experts. If you’ve been longing for a home office to call your own, read the guest post below by Courtney Davis of the design and styling firm Kelly + Olive. Courtney truly gets the lifestyle of a mompreneur who is juggling her roles as wife, mom, family manager and business owner.
It’s a classic story: You and your partner buy a house with plenty of space to grow into. At first, you’ve got a guest room, a dedicated office, and oodles of space in that unfinished basement. It seems that you’ll never run out of space. Then your first child is born. That guest room and office somehow combine, but the revolving door of guests (who are sleeping in your office) is beginning to keep you away from your work! And when the next baby comes along? Each baby gets their own room, and the basement becomes part guestroom, part playroom. Your office becomes the kitchen table, the floor of the playroom, your bed…or worse, it’s non-existent.
Now, you heard Lara: To run a successful business you MUST have a dedicated home office! It’s crucial. What she didn’t tell you is where the heck you’re going to put it. Here are some ideas you may not have thought of.
Next to the Bed
Decorators like us love to put a little writing desk in a bedroom in place of one of the nightstands. It performs the same functions (holding a lamp, a glass of water, and all your nighttime necessities) but keeps the matchy-matchy look of bedroom sets at bay. You can even tuck a simple filing cabinet underneath for extra storage. If you’re able to keep things from spreading out all over the room, this is a great option.
In a Closet
Giving up a closet may sound terrifying, but if you can pare down enough this makes an amazing workspace. In my home, we took the doors off and used one of them to create a desk by placing it on top of two simple shelving units from a big box store. The shelf above my head still stores my husband’s sweaters, but the rest of the space is all mine. And, when I’m done, I close a curtain and it’s like it was never there.
In your favorite Reading Chair
The most compact of micro-offices, this involves two important pieces of multitasking furniture. A file storage ottoman, and an end table with drawers big enough to stash a laptop. Double your filing space by using a stylish filing cabinet as the end table, and you, my friend, are in business.
Those are our top three tips for creating a stylish home office in an unconventional space. We hope this helps you create that little haven you need to run a successful business! For more decorating ideas, come visit us at Kelly + Olive!
So we’re curious…Where do you work at home? Do you have a designated workspace for your mombiz? Do you feel like a home office is necessary for you to get things done, or is working on the couch just fine with you? Tell us in the comments below.