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A Working Mom’s Guide for Achieving Work-Life Balance

This week’s blog shares the personal perspective of Bennis Inc employee, Danielle Gouger. Danielle is our PR assistant and photographer and balances the unique challenges of life as a working mother. Learn more about Danielle here!


A Working Mom’s Guide for Achieving Work-Life Balance

A Working Mom’s Guide for Achieving Work-Life Balance

As a newly single mom of a four-year-old spunky little girl, I began working from home in January of this year, and I am still learning each and every day how to achieve work-life balance.

Transitioning from my former position as a photography studio manager where I worked almost every weekend, many late evenings, and was always on call to support to my team, I find working from home and setting my hours has enabled me to re-prioritize and find a better work-life balance.

I was afraid, after leaving my photography position, that I would not be able to find a career that I was passionate about that would still allow me to be the mother I wanted to be. I am so thankful and grateful at this time in my life to have landed a job with a local Public Relations company that is led by a working mom now of two little ones, who understands and has worked hard to balance motherhood and entrepreneurship.

This new position offers me the creativity I need to thrive in my career and also the flexibility to work from home so that I can spend more time with my daughter. But it’s important to note it takes organization and time management to make it all work! Here is my guide for achieving work-life balance as a working mom, based upon my personal experience thus far.

Get Focused

Balancing work life and personal life means being effective with the time you have to work. Simply put, I don’t allow for distractions! Concentrating while working from home can sometimes be challenging with all the distractions of wanting to do other things, so it’s important to treat work time as sacred.

After I drop my daughter off at her daycare down the street, I come home, turn my laptop on, pour a second cup of coffee, and get started with my work day with checking my email. Now is the best time for me to get focused and dive right into my workday tasks. Having a great work environment is proven to facilitate productivity, so when working from home, it is important to create and maintain whatever type of environment helps you focus. I have personally found that having a designated office area in my home has helped me to be more focused and separate my work and personal life.

Schedule, Schedule, Schedule!

I’ve always been a planner, but once you have children it is so much more important to plan and keep a schedule, not only for yourself but kids need a routine, too! The most beneficial tool I use in my everyday life, besides my cell phone, is my calendar. Penciling in appointments, meetings and activities, really gives me a realistic view of my time. It’s important to factor in driving distance between places!

Also, you need to allow enough time to settle into an activity. For instance, when I take my daughter to daycare in the morning, it takes us some time to say our goodbyes to make sure we are both comfortable with her acclimating to her day. One final element I like schedule in my day or week is catch up time. This allows for life’s unexpected moments that, even with planning, can and do happen with work and especially when raising a four-year-old!

Prioritize

Watch for patterns in your day. Are you more productive in the morning or the afternoon? This is an important question to ask yourself when prioritizing your day and week.

I personally get more accomplished in the morning. So in my case, I try and tackle harder tasks in the morning as that is when I get my best work done. I also try to maximize my time by breaking down my day into smaller, bite-size tasks. Doing this allows me to get a lot more accomplished and to stay focused on the task at hand.

When it comes to household chores and errands (yes, they’re a necessary evil), I try and write a list for the week and pick two things to accomplish off my list each day. This prevents these responsibilities from piling up over the week and overflowing into my previous “family time” over the weekend.

Finally, as a single mom trying to balance work and life, you can sometimes forget to prioritize yourself. It’s important to take even 20 minutes for yourself each day, whether that’s catching up on a favorite TV show, going for a walk, or simply sitting in peace. Taking that little time for yourself allows you to be more available and present to do everything else you need to do as a working mom.

Close Down for the Night

There is a saying “every day has a new beginning,” so I believe there should be an end to every night. It is important to try and accomplish as much as you can off your daily to-do list to prevent these tasks from flowing into the next day and making tomorrow more overwhelming than it needs to be.

I try to get my workday accomplished by 5 o’clock now, so that once I pick my daughter up for the day I can focus the evening on her. Right before leaving the house, I will once again go through my emails to make sure I haven’t missed anything and then close down for the day. Once I pick her up, we will occasionally run a small errand or I will complete a household chore before supper. Except for Tuesdays; this is a night fully dedicated to her as she goes to her gymnastics class that evening and I love to be there and watch her in her element!

I now make it a priority to sit down with my daughter for dinner, and the rest of the evening we spend quality time together before bath and bedtime. Once my little one is sound asleep, I will give myself some time to read a book or catch up on a favorite show, as I have learned you deserve some “you” time the close the day. We work too hard not to reward ourselves with this! Finally, as important as it is to close down for the night, on Friday’s after I wrap my day up, I try to close down from work for the weekend, and leave what can wait to Monday.

How do you achieve balance as a working mom? Share your personal thoughts by commenting below!

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Posted by on April 18, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Success Versus the Work-Life Balance (Guest Blog by Sam Bessant)

The following blog post is part of the Bennis Blogger Battle. Support Sam by “Liking” this post, leaving a comment and sharing it on your social media! The blog with the most hits, wins.

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In this day and age it is often assumed that one cannot be truly successful at work whilst also being successful in other areas of their life. We hear a lot about work-life balance and in the movies at least, the most successful executives are portrayed as sorely lacking in the social environment. Is this really the case though, and if it is, what can we do about it?

To gain some perspective on the subject, I posed the question to a selection of people I know and the answers that came back were as varied as the people that gave them. They ranged from working for a boss who likes you, having free evenings and turning your work mobile off outside of working hours to loving your work so much that it is your life. It was this last answer that really got me thinking as it’s the one which is most ambiguous. On the one hand, your work being your life might be a great thing if it means that your work flexes to fit into everything that you do. On the other side of the fence, is that top executive whose work is their life as there is no life for the work to flex around.

So how do you know if your work / life ratio is actually balanced? Well, the first thing you need to consider is what “balanced” actually means to you. What are your priorities and how much do you enjoy your work? If your main priority in life is to get to the top then you might be happy to spend 3 times as many hours working in comparison to how many you have for socializing per week. However, if you work merely to pay the bills and dislike your job intensely, you may want to flip that ratio on its head.

Essentially, a work life balance is as unique as the person whose work and life are in question. A true balance comes from within, from the feeling of contentedness that comes with happiness. After all, regardless of personal differences and aspirations, we all only live once; so for most of us the aim is to be happy for as much of that life as possible. My advice to you would be to weigh how much of your life is spent happy vs. how much is spent in discontentment. If you fall on the side of happy the majority of the time, you’ve most likely got your work / life balance right and that may be working 20 hours per week or working 60 hours per week. It’s really not about work vs. life, it’s about happiness and how you balance the elements of your life to achieve it.

Sam BessantSam Bessant is 26 and lives in Reading, UK. She currently works the standard office 9-6 whilst trying to finalize the direction she will take to start her own business. Sam’s blog, 20somethingfreak was created to help Sam and others understand what it is to be in your 20s and for Sam to share some of the millions of daydreams she has every day! Please support Sam by “Liking” this post, leaving a comment below and visiting her personal blog: www.20somethingfreak.wordpress.com.

 
 

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The Work-Life Imbalance

Often I come across an article or a quiz asking me to examine my “work-life balance.” It’s a term we should have all encountered by now – whether in a magazine, an HR seminar, even in a casual dinner conversation. To nod your head and affirm, “Of course, I have a great work-life balance,” carries a sense of pride as if you’re really saying “Yeah, I’ve got it all together.” But what defines a work-life balance? Must the parts always be equal to keep the scales from tipping too far in one direction?

We spend the majority of our waking hours working in some capacity. In the best case scenario, only 40 hours of our week is spent in a formal work environment, but what about all of those evening and weekend emails, phone calls and “emergency projects” that cut into the little time we’re already given for “life?” Such tasks sneak extra weight onto the “work” side of the scale and can lead to an imbalance we don’t even know exists.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve taken more notice to how I’ve been chipping away at my free time by choosing to do a several minutes of work-related tasks here and there. Even just a few minutes can turn into hours over the course of a week. For example, I try to finish up my last work project of the day no later than 6pm. But while I enjoy dinner and a little bit of television, my mind is still very much on work. If I hear the chirp of an email – I answer it. And so this persists throughout the evenings and into the weekends. My best estimate is that on average, I burden myself with an additional 7-10 hours of work each week beyond what’s expected or demanded. When all added up, that’s a full day! A day in which I could have taken a road trip, enjoyed the beautiful fall weather or simply decompressed. And while these off-hour emails may help progress work, they put a major halt on life.

Back when I wrote about The Two-Day Truce, I urged everyone to resist the urge to do unnecessary work on the weekends because it only causes the recipients of the emails to feel the pressure to respond. Essentially it takes away from everyone’s weekend. I have gotten better about not being a weekend warrior with work, but I realized an even bigger problem. We’re so trained to work, we do it without even knowing it. Consciously we may feel like we’re living a pretty balanced life, but really our scales are so off kilter they’re nearly falling over altogether.

I couldn’t tell you how many times a day I check my phone for new emails, especially after “work hours.” I’m not sure I would want to know. By proactively checking for emails and refreshing my inbox, I’m looking for work to do instead of enjoying that other component that should fill our time – life. A true Work-Life Balance is so much more than saying you leave your office or close your laptop at 6pm. Chances are we’re very accessible to work during any of the hours in between. But when we’re at work are we this accessible to life? Every week’s schedule is different and there’s no doubt that there will be some weeks that demand an imbalanced share of our time for work. The key is to find the balance not every day or every week, but over the long run.

The Work-Life Balance may not be so much about balance after all. Maybe it’s more about flexibility and our openness to work more when we absolutely have to, but to also seize extra moments of “life” when the opportunity should arise. If you can’t close down by 6pm tonight, don’t sweat it, but plan for some extra relaxing time in your schedule later this weekend to make up for the difference and realign the balance!

What about you. Is your work-life balanced…flexible…or somewhat of both?

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2012 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Finding Balance as a Work at Home Mom

Finding Balance as a Work at Home MomA while back, I used the term “Hybrid Mom” to describe my work-life scenario since my son Holden entered the world in May 2013. Now just over two years since I adjusted to this new (and wonderful) role as a Work at Home Mom (WAHM), I’ve learned quite a few things about maintaining, as well as losing, the balance between personal life and professional life.

Because of some smart and strategic adjustments I made in recent months, I feel like I have been better able to balance my “mompreneur” responsibilities as well as dedicate some time just for myself – which is so very important for an introvert.

In reflecting on what has contributed to this positive change, I pulled together some key pieces of advice I would offer any fellow mom (whether you work at home, from home or outside the home). In fact, it’s not limited to just moms at all! For anyone who is looking to improve their time management, organization and work-life balance, I offer you these tips that have personally made a difference in my life.

Wake up early

I’ve always been a morning person (who also prefers afternoon naps), but that doesn’t mean I choose to get up at a crazy hour to get a jump start on my day. I’ve found that unless I have a special project or deadline, waking up just a half hour before the rest of my family is all the time I need to get organized and acclimated with my to-do list.

How do I use this time? It’s a well-rehearsed routine that makes me efficient, focused and energized. I begin with a big glass of water (it wakes me up mentally and physically). I then organize the items I need to make my breakfast and Holden’s breakfast so it flows like an assembly line. Finally, I dedicate the rest of my time to cleaning up my inbox, completing reoccurring tasks and prioritizing the other tasks that must get done today. Then, when the rest of the family begins to stir, I am alert, relaxed and ready to give them my full attention.

Be fully present in each moment

This piece of advice is so critical and one that I have to consciously follow every day. Before I found a good sense of balance between work life and family life, I never felt full present in either scenario. I was either haphazardly checking emails while “pretending” to be engaged with my son. Or I was using his nap time to tackle household chores when really I should be focusing on work tasks during these quiet hours.

Now, on the days when I have the pleasure of having Holden at home, we spend the mornings at the YMCA or at the park where my cell phone remains out of sight. Trust me, I dive right into work tasks as soon as he’s tucked in for his nap, but during those precious moments when his attention is all mine, I try and do a much better job of returning the favor.

On the days when Holden is happily playing at Grandma’s or at daycare, I remain focused and efficient so that I clear as much off my to-do list as I can. This also allows me to be more present when I am with my family. And while I enjoy working from home, rarely do I turn on the TV or surf social media during this undivided work time. I remain present in this moment as well.

Grow your relationship through your hobbies

Each and every day, I like to be active in some way. This can range from a challenging long-distance run to simply checking in with Mother Nature on a walk to the park. I also prioritize spending quality time with my husband to catch up on what is going on in each of our lives. I’m fortunate to have a spouse who shares my love for physical activity as this allows us to do both of these things simultaneously.

Every Sunday we take a family run (Holden gets to cruise along in the jogging stroller) which is when we talk about anything and everything. At the end of 45 minutes or so, we have accomplished a killer workout and caught up on things that have been weighing on our minds and hearts. During the week, we take a walk in evenings and when weather isn’t in our favor, we utilize the YMCA’s free childcare while we engage in some friendly competition in the gym. I’m extremely grateful for this shared hobby for it strengthens us emotionally as much as it does physically.

Ask for help

Out of all the pieces of advice, this one seems to be the hardest for mothers to put into practice – myself included. For 12 months, I balanced caring for Holden fulltime, 7-days a week while steadily growing my Public Relations business. I managed to get everything done in a day, but it was a house of cards waiting to blow over. I was more stressed than I realized and forgot how to relax, unwind and do something for myself.

In September, I finally had the realization that I could ask for help! I found a great in-home day care center that Holden absolutely loves. He started with going just two days a week and now he goes three days a week while my mother-in-law watches him another day. This gives me four dedicated work days! On those days, I feel like a true entrepreneur running her own fulltime business and conducting client meetings. On the one day a week (plus weekends) that Holden is home with me, we fully enjoy our time together far more than when I was striving to “do it all.” Asking for help is something to be proud of, not ashamed. It’s been a huge part of restoring my balance between work and family.

Outsource when you can

Similarly to asking for help, I have learned the value of outsourcing tasks when it makes sense to do so. It’s become my personal policy that when something does not bring me joy, make me money or improve my physical/mental/spiritual health, it’s acceptable to consider outsourcing it (there will be exceptions to the rule, but you get the gist). I cannot describe how happy I was the first time I outsourced cleaning my house. In two hours, my house was cleaner than it has been in my three years of attempting this feat. I used these same two hours to take on some new client work which actually earned more than what I paid to outsource the cleaning. Why did I wait so long to do this?!

My husband and I still keep up with light housekeeping on a regularly basis, but we agree that outsourcing the deep cleaning once a quarter to someone who does a better job, in less time and for less money than what we could is a no-brainer. Additionally, I’m happy to provide this income opportunity to for someone else (who doesn’t despise housework as much as I do).

Clear your slate every night

I don’t let clutter – whether this be actual physical clutter, email clutter or mental clutter – build up beyond the end of the day. Every night before bed, I put away my toddler’s toys, fold the laundry, clean and put away the dishes and clear out my inbox. Inevitable emails will come in after I shut down for the day and there will be new household tasks awaiting me in the morning, but by not letting anything slide over from the day prior, I significantly reduce the stress with the start of the day.

Just like anything in life, if you keep up with the little tasks as they present themselves, you prevent them from piling up into bigger, seemingly unsurmountable tasks later on. This applies to chores, work tasks, errands and of course bills. If it can be done now, do it now.

Always go to bed together

Finally and most importantly, my husband and I try our hardest to “go to bed together” each and every night that we can. There are many nights where my husband, in particular, will need to stay up late to catch up on work, but when I turn in for the night he comes and lays with me until I fall asleep. This still provides us with important bonding time and we have some of our best conversations during these moments. Ending our day together helps keep us on the same page and in touch with each other’s lives.

Between juggling work, family, hobbies, sleep and relaxation, how do you maintain balance in your own life? Share your tips and secrets by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Better Time Management

5 New Year_s Resolutions for Better Time Management

Some of my very first blog posts have focused on the topic of time management. I’m passionate about discovering new ways to efficiently use my time so that I can have the greatest impact on my clients while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The reality is, it will always be a work in progress and sometimes I slide back into old habits that leave me feeling overwhelmed.

For 2018, I want to refresh my time management tools to make this year my most fulfilling one yet, both on the professional and personal sides of life. If you find that you’re already struggling to keep you head above water in these first few weeks of January, I urge you to join me in making five small, but impactful New Year’s resolutions. The common goal of these resolutions is to help you balance your life so you’re doing more of what you love, and being mentally present in the moment to fully enjoy it.

Take this resolution with me! In 2018, I will…

  1. Start my morning with a clear “inbox”

Several years ago (once my kids were finally on good sleep schedules), I began to wake up one hour earlier than the rest of my family. I used this time to wake up, drink a cup of coffee and clear out my inbox. By the time everyone else was waking up, I had handled many small tasks and outlined the tasks I needed to accomplish that day. I could then close my computer and enjoy those morning hours with my family.

By the time my husband and sons were off to their respective locations for the day, I could again open up shop and jump right into my core tasks. I found this single hour in the morning gave me so much more patience and peace of mind to be present with my family. While there may be some mornings I choose to hit snooze, I resolve this year to use this “power hour” at least 3 times per week, or as needed.

  1. Keep an organized to-do list for each day

I have always kept a rolling to-do list of every task on my plate at a given time. However, this year I resolve to take things up a notch and organize this a bit further. I find that by placing my to-do’s on a list on my computer, I no longer carry around the mental weight of trying to remember it all. I also love the satisfaction of deleting something from my to-do list.

This year, I plan to keep a daily to-do list where I can spread out and prioritize my work tasks over the course of the week. In doing so, I know that I merely need to accomplish what is on today’s to-do list to stay on track. One long list can be paralyzing to tackle. Rather, a list that breaks it down by day and order of importance is far more manageable.

  1. Manage other people’s expectations of my time

This is an important one! Typically I try and complete work tasks as quickly as I can for my clients, often giving them same-day service. While this has helped to build up a great book of business, adhering to this standard every single day is neither reasonable nor necessary. Rather, this year I resolve to manage people’s expectations of my time, both professionally and personally. I plan to assign a realistic deadline so everyone is on the same page and so that it works into my workflow without causing undue stress. I anticipate I will often deliver tasks in advance of the deadline, which is all the better for building a good reputation with clients! But having a deadline as my buffer will help me retrain myself that many tasks can wait while I prioritize other things in my day like relaxation and family.

  1. Block schedule my time

Another secret to getting the most out of the hours in my day is to use a block scheduling strategy. On days when I have one out-of-the-home meeting scheduled, I try to schedule a few others as well. There are a few reasons for doing this. First, I know I will already be out and about and professionally dressed (not always the case when working from home!). Second, having just one meeting during the day really breaks my concertation and work flow. If it’s going to get broken anyways, I may as well make it worth it by blocking most of that day out for other meetings.

On the flip side, days when I have no meetings or phone calls scheduled, I am very protective of this time and strategically plan nothing else on such a day. I know I can get into a deep concertation and plow through a lot of work tasks that would typically take me far more time if disrupted by anything else. I love these days just as much as I love my client meeting days. It’s all about balance – and something that I resolve to gain more of in the New Year.

  1. Decline or outsource tasks I don’t have the time or desire to take on

When you spend any part of your career as an entrepreneur, you quickly learn to say yes to any work that comes your way. However, once you’ve built a solid business, you need to remove yourself from the trap of trading your time for tasks that don’t pay your market rate or that you simply down enjoy. While I have gotten better each year, I want to make a conscious effort in 2018 to decline or outsource tasks I don’t have the time or desire to take on. This applies to work tasks as much as it applies to household tasks.

Consider what you time is worth. If you can work an extra hour or two and afford someone else to do something you don’t enjoy, like clean your home, it’s more than break even! Before you start turning down or having someone else take on work for you, get a good grip on your budget and understand your “hourly rate.” Then, gradually transition into letting other people help you get things done. After all, it’s an opportunity to someone else to make a living too!

Have you made a resolution for the New Year? Does it focus on time management or something else? Share what you hope to accomplish in 2018 by leaving a comment below!

 

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How to Create the Job You Want

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Now entering my seventh year of managing my own Public Relations firm in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I’ve learned quite a few things about creating the job you want.

I was fortunate to have the realization early on in my career that my dream job didn’t exist. If I wanted it, I had to create it. So I did. That sounds simple enough, but I will be the first to tell you it was anything but simple or easy. That’s not a reason to continue with a job you dislike, if anything it should be motivation to buckle up for the wild ride of entrepreneurship, if you feel this is your calling.

Maybe you’re ready to take the leap, or maybe you’ve only just begun to wonder what being an entrepreneur could look like for you. No matter where you are on the journey, let me offer you some advice on how to begin creating the job you want.

Confirm it doesn’t already exist

Do your research! Does the job you want already exist? It’s possible your current company or another company offer a role that’s close to exactly what you want, but you just need to work to get there. That’s great! Establish a plan for how you you’re going to move toward this role. There’s no need to take on the added stress and complication of trying to recreate your dream job if it already exists.

In contrast, your research might confirm that your dream job is something so unique you must forge ahead as an entrepreneur to create it. Knowing that no other job currently out there matches the job you want should give you inspiration and drive to move forward with the career of self-employment, because not doing so would mean compromising your dreams.

Get real about what you want

Okay, so you have a clear understanding of whether the job you want already exists or whether you need to create it. Now it’s time to be honest with yourself about what makes this job so appealing to you. Is it the expected pay, flexible work schedule, power, purpose, fulfillment or something else? If in this process you discover the job you want is really centered on a perceived salary or title, this should be a red flag that maybe your priorities are a bit skewed.

Entering entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, or the mildly committed. To be a successful entrepreneur, you must want it with every fiber of your being. You will never stick with it long term, through the highs and lows, if you’re only in it for the pay or power – those don’t come for many years, if at all. Get real about what you want out of your dream job and check your priorities again and again.

Then, get real about why you want it

Similar to the point above, once you know what it is you want out of the job you’re going to create, take it one step further. Ask yourself “Why do I want it?” If you can’t confidently answer this question, that’s another red flag that maybe you’re not cut out to forge your own career path outside of the corporate box.

While there are no “correct” answers to this question, the following answers are often good indicators that you’re entering entrepreneurship for the right reasons: I want to make a difference; I want to control my own destiny; I want to apply my passion toward a purpose; I want to maintain a better work-life balance. Be crystal clear about what you want out of your dream job and why you want it.

Talk with someone who has already done it

Next, I urge you to talk to someone who has created the job they wanted and have progressed along this career path for five years or more. They are going to be a wealth of knowledge to you as you consider creating the job you want. They can also help assess your business model, motives and drive to help determine if this is the right choice for you at this time in your life. If you find someone who really inspires you, ask them to mentor you on your entrepreneurial journey!

Develop your model

To create the job you want, you need a clear business model for how you’re going to make a profit. Are you selling a product or a service? Who are your target customers? How will you promote your business? What is your expected overhead? How can you minimize this, especially in the first few years? Work to clearly outline your business model, because you’re going to need it for the next critical step.

Test your model

Yes, you have to first test your business model to prove it works. A lot of business opportunities seem great in theory, but what if you’re answering a problem that doesn’t exist? Or what if you’re pricing model sucks? Fully commit to creating the job you want by fist doing a soft launch of your business to test the market. Is your marketing strategy attracting new customers? Can your friends or family offer constructive feedback? First testing your business model, and further refining it before your full rollout will help you present a more professional and polished first impression of your business.

Commit fully

This is the most important step in creating the job you want, and the biggest determination of whether you will fail or succeed. Will you commit fully to your dream? I said it above and I’ll say it again, entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Daily you will experience, setbacks, uncertainties, crises, losses and criticism. If you are anything but fully committed, this will surely have you headed for the hills and back to the corporate world before you complete your first quarter.

Keep in mind that the first five years of running your own business is still its infancy. That seems like a long time, but if you’re in this for the long-haul it will be only a blip of the full history of your career. Don’t allow yourself to give up in those five years; push through. Think of it as a hike up a steep hill. Those first few miles really test your endurance. At times you will think it’s better to turn around before you’ve reached the top. But I promise you, if you can make it five years creating the job you want, you will see some magnificent views along the way and be rewarded with renewed strength and commitment to keep forging ahead, higher and higher.

What’s your dream job? How do you plan to pursue it? Share your personal career goals by leaving a comment.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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How to Professionally Fire a Client

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


How to Professionally Fire a ClientIn an ideal world, we would all become best friends with our clients and enjoy the work we do for them so much that we would wonder why we’re actually being paid. But in reality, some clients push us to the point of resolving that no amount of cash is enough to offset the stress and anxiety they add to our lives.

If you’re forced to make the tough decision of whether or not to cut ties with a client, it’s important to do so with professionalism and class. Even a strained client relationship has the potential to yield future leads and recommendations if you make the effort to leave with a mutual understanding.

Take a look at this list of common “problem clients” and how you can professionally approach each with a breakup line better than “Let’s see other people.”


The offense: Late (or nonexistent) payments

Everyone has a rare moment or two when a payment gets lost in the shuffle or maybe a particularly hectic month that causes you to make a late payment. But for this type of client, it happens all the time! It’s like they pay no attention nor do they care about your payment policy (i.e. net 30 days), yet they still want all their services delivered on time.

What you wish you could say: “I’m wasting way too much time pleading for your payments and acting like I actually believe your endless excuses.”

What you should say: “I enjoy working with you, but you are consistently late with making payments while I continue to meet your project deadlines. Out of respect for my time and for my other clients, I can no longer accommodate this relationship.”

Words of wisdom: After poking and prodding this type of client with reminders about making their payment, you might finally receive a check (sometimes with a nice “forgive me” note) and be tempted to continue the cycle with just “one more chance.” Just keep in mind that this relationship will continue to add stress to your day and steal time from your other clients. If you do feel compelled to stick with them, suggest that they move to quarterly payments (so that you’re only hunting down checks every 3 months) or invest in a system where you can automatically charge their account – businesses do it all the time!


The offense: Wants the moon and the stars on a shoestring budget

In my personal experience, these clients have been among my smallest accounts, yet ate up more of my time than clients paying 10x as much! They are great at micromanaging and wearing you down with negotiations on your pricing and requests for “just one more thing.” While you always want to under-promise and over-deliver for your clients, this business model is simply not sustainable.

What you wish you could say: “You are impossible to please and we’re losing money on you.”

What you should say: “I’ve carefully considered my workload and unfortunately I can no longer accommodate your needs at this time.”

Words of wisdom: The first red flag that you’re dealing with this type of client often occurs as early as contract negotiation. They may try to talk you down on price while refusing to take out any of the services you propose. Use your gut to decide whether to proceed with working with them, but keep in mind that the relationship cannot go on if you are constantly taking a loss each month on their billable hours versus the amount they are actually paying you. It’s not fair to you or to your other clients.


The offense: Verbally abusive

In personal relationships, we are far less likely to accept verbal abuse; yet so often we allow this to go on for far too long in business relationships. This type of client is one that is directly or indirectly demeaning and negative towards you or your staff. They may yell and swear at you, threaten you, or ever so subtly and indirectly put down your work. Whether the verbal abuse is obvious or subliminal, you cannot stay in this relationship.

What you wish you could say: “I dread interacting with you and no amount of money could offset the emotional damage you have caused.”

What you should say: “I strive to provide my clients with the best service possible and unfortunately I am no longer able to do that for you because of the difference in our work cultures and communication styles.”

Words of wisdom: The bottom line is no one ever deserves to be verbally abused and you must end a client relationship immediately if this occurs. I promise you, it never gets better. No amount of money is worth this stress.


The offense: Doesn’t respect time or boundaries

This type of client is toxic because they can really disrupt your work-life balance. They don’t respect your time by expecting you to meet tight deadlines, canceling meetings at the last minute, asking you to start a project and then changing directions or failing to get you the information you need to do your job. They also encroach on boundaries by expecting you to be available in the evenings and on the weekends and to be doing work for them during this time.

What you wish you could say: “You may pay me for my time, but you don’t control all of it. I need time to do other things that simply don’t involve you.”

What you should say: “It’s one of my top priorities to provide adequate time and attention to all of my clients. Due to my current workload, I am unable to commit to the hours you need from me and I cannot continue our partnership.”

Words of wisdom: There will come a time when important projects require you to work late into the evenings or on the weekends. However, this should not be the case for most of this client’s projects. If they insist that all of their work is propriety, where does that leave your other clients on your list? While you may be doing work for your clients, you are still your own boss and must maintain a sense of control over your time by letting go of clients who don’t respect these necessary boundaries.


The offense: Bigger problems are brewing within the business

This client wants you to have the magic solution to fix all of the problems within their business even when this task goes far beyond your area of expertise. For example, the client is asking for a new website, but really this is merely a bandage on a gaping wound of mismanagement, a weak business model and an unhealthy company culture.

What you wish you could say: “You are a mix bag of problems and bad decisions. It would take an entire overhaul of your business to prevent you from inevitable bankruptcy.”

What you should say: “While I would be happy to provide you with services that fall within my area of expertise, it’s come to my attention that you need help in additional areas that would impact the success of my work. At this time, I cannot take on your project until you have first resolved these other important matters.”

Words of wisdom: No one has all the answers – or expects anyone else to. If your client looks to you to be their marketing director as well as their business partner, investor, therapist and cheerleader…don’t walk away, run! Unless they acknowledge a good understanding of these other problems and demonstrate their determination to fix them, this is a toxic relationship that will only bring you both down.

Have you ever had to make the tough decision to fire a client? What was the determining factor and how did you handle it? Share your experiences by commenting below! 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on November 7, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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The Two-Day Truce: Reclaiming Respect for the Weekend

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


The Two-Day Truce Reclaiming Respect for the WeekendI can’t be the only one to confess that my blood pressure raises and eyes dilate when I hear the all too familiar “Ding!” of my phone when a new email comes in. I’m like one of Ivan Pavlov’s dogs, except instead of salivating, I’m overcome with the urge to immediately check my phone and respond instantly with an answer to or acknowledgement of the pending request. This mindset can make for a stressful week, but apply it to the 2-days we’re supposed to allow ourselves for rest and relaxation each weekend and this flirts on the brink of insanity.

As a new business owner, I’m told – this too shall pass. But what if it doesn’t? What if fate should have it that my obsession with instantaneous answers isn’t linked to my young entrepreneurship, but rather the growing trend in technology? Now we’re no longer flirting on the brink of insanity, we’re outright courting it with a fancy dinner and bottle of wine.

I can’t help but fantasize with the idea of living in a 1950’s office environment just for contrast. What was it possibly like to lock the door on your business at 5pm Friday and be unreachable until 9am Monday? Moreover, what was it like to wait around for a written memo to be passed from office to office until an answer was returned hours…or days later? The TV show Mad Men might give us a glimpse into this lifestyle, but we will never truly know what it is like to live it. What some might see as a business-stifling, slow communication process, I see as the key to a work-life balance. With the aid of ever-connecting technology, we have officially become accessible at all hours of the day and so we have trained ourselves, and our peers, to expect immediate responses regardless of weekends, holidays and once in a lifetime occasions like weddings, funerals and even the birth of our own children.

I acknowledge that I’m somewhat at fault for this. I check emails on my phone with the same repetition in which I breathe or blink. And answering emails on the weekend only encourages conversation because I voluntarily make myself accessible. So this weekend it stops. I want that 2-day break; I earned that 2-day break – and so did you. So why do we continue to choose to watch our phones rather than watch a movie with our significant other? Why do we use our weekends to pitch to a potential client when we could be pitching to our son or nephew on a beautiful sunny day?

Let’s call a truce. Let’s work hard this week so we can designate this weekend for rest and relaxation. But I can’t do it alone. I challenge each of you to limit your emails this weekend to urgent communication only. Ask yourself, “Can it wait until Monday?” And then get out there and enjoy an entire Saturday and Sunday to yourself. Lock your email, just as you would your office door, at 5pm on Friday and open it again Monday at 9am. I promise you that calling a Two Day Truce, won’t result in the demise of your business, but more likely will result in allowing others to also reclaim the respect for their own weekend.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on October 5, 2015 in Business & Success, Life

 

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How to Professionally Fire a Client

How to Professionally Fire a ClientIn an ideal world, we would all become best friends with our clients and enjoy the work we do for them so much that we would wonder why we’re actually being paid. But in reality, some clients push us to the point of resolving that no amount of cash is enough to offset the stress and anxiety they add to our lives.

If you’re forced to make the tough decision of whether or not to cut ties with a client, it’s important to do so with professionalism and class. Even a strained client relationship has the potential to yield future leads and recommendations if you make the effort to leave with a mutual understanding.

Take a look at this list of common “problem clients” and how you can professionally approach each with a breakup line better than “Let’s see other people.”


The offense: Late (or nonexistent) payments

Everyone has a rare moment or two when a payment gets lost in the shuffle or maybe a particularly hectic month that causes you to make a late payment. But for this type of client, it happens all the time! It’s like they pay no attention nor do they care about your payment policy (i.e. net 30 days), yet they still want all their services delivered on time.

What you wish you could say: “I’m wasting way too much time pleading for your payments and acting like I actually believe your endless excuses.”

What you should say: “I enjoy working with you, but you are consistently late with making payments while I continue to meet your project deadlines. Out of respect for my time and for my other clients, I can no longer accommodate this relationship.”

Words of wisdom: After poking and prodding this type of client with reminders about making their payment, you might finally receive a check (sometimes with a nice “forgive me” note) and be tempted to continue the cycle with just “one more chance.” Just keep in mind that this relationship will continue to add stress to your day and steal time from your other clients. If you do feel compelled to stick with them, suggest that they move to quarterly payments (so that you’re only hunting down checks every 3 months) or invest in a system where you can automatically charge their account – businesses do it all the time!


The offense: Wants the moon and the stars on a shoestring budget

In my personal experience, these clients have been among my smallest accounts, yet ate up more of my time than clients paying 10x as much! They are great at micromanaging and wearing you down with negotiations on your pricing and requests for “just one more thing.” While you always want to under-promise and over-deliver for your clients, this business model is simply not sustainable.

What you wish you could say: “You are impossible to please and we’re losing money on you.”

What you should say: “I’ve carefully considered my workload and unfortunately I can no longer accommodate your needs at this time.”

Words of wisdom: The first red flag that you’re dealing with this type of client often occurs as early as contract negotiation. They may try to talk you down on price while refusing to take out any of the services you propose. Use your gut to decide whether to proceed with working with them, but keep in mind that the relationship cannot go on if you are constantly taking a loss each month on their billable hours versus the amount they are actually paying you. It’s not fair to you or to your other clients.


The offense: Verbally abusive

In personal relationships, we are far less likely to accept verbal abuse; yet so often we allow this to go on for far too long in business relationships. This type of client is one that is directly or indirectly demeaning and negative towards you or your staff. They may yell and swear at you, threaten you, or ever so subtly and indirectly put down your work. Whether the verbal abuse is obvious or subliminal, you cannot stay in this relationship.

What you wish you could say: “I dread interacting with you and no amount of money could offset the emotional damage you have caused.”

What you should say: “I strive to provide my clients with the best service possible and unfortunately I am no longer able to do that for you because of the difference in our work cultures and communication styles.”

Words of wisdom: The bottom line is no one ever deserves to be verbally abused and you must end a client relationship immediately if this occurs. I promise you, it never gets better. No amount of money is worth this stress.


The offense: Doesn’t respect time or boundaries

This type of client is toxic because they can really disrupt your work-life balance. They don’t respect your time by expecting you to meet tight deadlines, canceling meetings at the last minute, asking you to start a project and then changing directions or failing to get you the information you need to do your job. They also encroach on boundaries by expecting you to be available in the evenings and on the weekends and to be doing work for them during this time.

What you wish you could say: “You may pay me for my time, but you don’t control all of it. I need time to do other things that simply don’t involve you.”

What you should say: “It’s one of my top priorities to provide adequate time and attention to all of my clients. Due to my current workload, I am unable to commit to the hours you need from me and I cannot continue our partnership.”

Words of wisdom: There will come a time when important projects require you to work late into the evenings or on the weekends. However, this should not be the case for most of this client’s projects. If they insist that all of their work is propriety, where does that leave your other clients on your list? While you may be doing work for your clients, you are still your own boss and must maintain a sense of control over your time by letting go of clients who don’t respect these necessary boundaries.


The offense: Bigger problems are brewing within the business

This client wants you to have the magic solution to fix all of the problems within their business even when this task goes far beyond your area of expertise. For example, the client is asking for a new website, but really this is merely a bandage on a gaping wound of mismanagement, a weak business model and an unhealthy company culture.

What you wish you could say: “You are a mix bag of problems and bad decisions. It would take an entire overhaul of your business to prevent you from inevitable bankruptcy.”

What you should say: “While I would be happy to provide you with services that fall within my area of expertise, it’s come to my attention that you need help in additional areas that would impact the success of my work. At this time, I cannot take on your project until you have first resolved these other important matters.”

Words of wisdom: No one has all the answers – or expects anyone else to. If your client looks to you to be their marketing director as well as their business partner, investor, therapist and cheerleader…don’t walk away, run! Unless they acknowledge a good understanding of these other problems and demonstrate their determination to fix them, this is a toxic relationship that will only bring you both down.

Have you ever had to make the tough decision to fire a client? What was the determining factor and how did you handle it? Share your experiences by commenting below! 

 
8 Comments

Posted by on August 17, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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5 Lessons My Cat Has Taught Me About Entrepreneurship

pinot life lessons 1If you’ve read enough posts on the Bennis Inc blog, you’ve likely stumbled upon the mention of my Russian Blue cat, Pinot. She has been a key member of my staff since before I made the entrepreneurial leap to take my business fulltime. I’ve kept a sense of humor as to how Miss Pinot “assists” in my business, but let’s be honest, she’s more of a figurehead than a worker bee.

As I approach the fourth anniversary of quitting my 9-5 and pursuing my dream of running my own business, it’s only fitting that I also reflect upon what my snarky mascot has taught me about maintaining a work-life balance, making tough decisions and keeping a sense of humor about it all.

Enjoy these five lessons that my cat has taught me about entrepreneurship!

Know when to spring into action and know when to lay low.

Pinot has two settings: rocket ship and ancient sloth. When there is a task on her to-do list, she tackles it with urgency. Anything else that is not deemed as necessary of her attention, she barely opens an eye. Certainly this is an extreme lesson for any business owner to fully embrace, so let’s water it down a bit.

I apply this Pinot philosophy by jumping on any task I can complete that day. I’ve made a conscious effort to “eat my frogsand clear my bandwidth early and often. In contrast, I’ve also learned to not rush to complete those tasks that are awaiting important details from other people, are not deemed urgent or could potentially cost me time without the guarantee of payment. Thanks to Pinot, I know how to choose when I spring into action or lay low to remain efficient with my time.

Make time to care for yourself daily.

Pinot can often be caught leg in air, in the middle of a very intense bathing routine. She prioritizes the hours she spends grooming her coat and sharpening her claws. While 6+ hours out of anyone’s day is far too much time to devote exclusively to maintaining yourself, there is a lesson to be learned here.

pinot life lessons 2

Thanks to Pinot, I’ve embraced the habit of treating my body to some sort of exercise daily. I also make time for life’s little luxuries like a haircut, trip to the nail salon or browsing a store so long as my other work tasks for the day are complete. It’s my reward for efficiency and my motivation to push through challenging tasks.

Manage your own agenda…unless you really, really need something.

Pinot is like that roommate that you never really run into, yet you know they still live with you because of the random items they leave scattered around. In Pinot’s case, this is mostly litter and fur. Pinot manages her own agenda and rarely comes to me unless she really, really needs something – i.e. food or belly scratches.

I perceive the value of this lesson to be the importance of working independently, yet not being shy about asking for something when you need it. I aim to make my clients’ lives easier by not having to micromanage me. When producing content, I do need their initial input. But all I ask for is simple bullet points or fragments of ideas. From there, I work independently to weave this into a final product they’re proud to share with the media, on their website or with their social networks.

If you’re not getting the attention you need, insert yourself until you can’t be ignored.

To add to the point I just made above, when you do really, really need something from a client in order to do your job, be assertive and follow-up with them until you get the answers you need. Pinot has the skill refined into an art form. Anyone who owns a cat, or has even been around a cat, you know how they insert themselves into your space until you can no longer choose to ignore their presence.

Pinot has laid across my laptop as I type, waved her tail in front of my eyes and tucked herself tight up against my arm so I cannot do anything but breathe without acknowledging her (I think she’s working on a tactic for that breathing part, too). Sometimes what Pinot wants (i.e. treats) I can’t give her or she doesn’t need at that time. I verbally or non-verbally tell her no and she moves on. This is an incredibly valuable lesson in business.

I’ve written about how a no is as good as a yes. As a business owner, we need answers to move forward. Even if that answer is a no, it is still better than no answer at all. With Pinot as inspiration I (more tactfully) follow-up with contacts until I receive an answer and the ability to move forward

Prioritize and capitalize on any opportunity to nap.

If there is one thing cats are good for, it’s napping. I believe the average cat racks up about 17 hours per day of Zzzz’s. That’s no joke! Personally, not only does that much sleep sound terrible, but I’d have no time to accomplish anything else. Instead, this is another Pinot lesson I take with a grain of salt.

I have learned the value of a good power nap in the afternoon when the opportunity presents itself. So often, my energy wanes as my mind is burnt out from the morning’s writing, conference calls and networking meetings. Rather than guzzling caffeine and pushing through the wall, I devote no more than an hour (often less) to shutting down completely. Everyone responds to napping differently, but for me, and many other effective leaders throughout history, a nap breathes a fresh breath of air into the day. I am able to do far more quality work when I awake compared to the unenergized and unfocused work I would have accomplished without napping.

Which one of Pinot’s lessons is your favorite? Share how you will or already do apply this wisdom to your career by commenting below!

 
5 Comments

Posted by on June 8, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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