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Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Moment versus Momentum: Learning to Harness Fleeting Inspiration

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!


this is the signWhile pursuing a career in the uncharted territory of entrepreneurship, I frequently encounter other entrepreneurs along my journey. Some are decades ahead of where I am (and hope to be) and others are merely minutes into their decision to take the leap.

Among this group of individuals, the veteran entrepreneurs always seem to have at least one quality in common regardless of industry or age—they have momentum. For the greener entrepreneurs, I struggle to assess whether they possess this same momentum or whether their inspiration is merely a fleeting moment. The difference in the meaning of these two words – and the effect they have on the success or failure of a dream – is far more profound than two little letters. Rather this “um” holds the inspiration, the drive and the courage to turn a single moment into a momentous career.

Is your dream a mere moment or does it carry momentum?

Among your friends and acquaintances, think about those who you would consider a dreamer or an entrepreneurial spirit. Chances are you have a variety. These people are likely different, each with their own qualities that earn them a spot in this category. Now think about those in this group who have taken a goal or idea and are in the active process of taking it to the next level. Chances are this no longer applies to everyone you originally thought of. Maybe those that don’t fit this description more accurately fit the description of coming up with brilliant and creative ideas one day, but then you never hear or see anything more about it.

This is the truest differentiation I can illustrate for you between moment and momentum. I, too, have contacts that I would consider entrepreneurs at heart, but this doesn’t mean every one of them has become a real life entrepreneur. Instead, there are those who think of innovative ideas all the time, but I’ve learned to not get too excited for they’re just having “a moment.” By the next month or even the next day, the big plan for a life change has already been forgotten as quickly as it was conceived.

How do we harness this moment of inspiration and turn it into momentum?

At the root of this problem are the differing qualities of each individual. Not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur, just like not everyone is meant to be a doctor or a rocket scientist. We all have different strengths and for some, this is taking an idea from conception to completion. For others – this is a weakness. But just like how you were told when you were little that, “you can be anything you want when you grow up,” you CAN become an entrepreneur and find your inner momentum regardless of prior failed attempts. You have at least two options to better harness your moments of inspiration and turn them into something more substantial.

First, you can commit to making a personal effort to stop the bad habits that have led to loss of momentum in the past. This includes procrastination, lack of confidence, fear of hard work or fear of failure. Just as you would commit to quit smoking or lose weight, changing any existing habit takes energy and effort. Pick a single, well-defined goal and create a timeline of specific actions. When I knew I wanted to begin my own business, I defined all the steps I had to take to reach the point of leaving my former job. I knew I needed a functional web site, enough clients to pay the bills and to register myself as an official business with the government. And so I added these to my timeline and was specific in the actions I had to take to achieve them. Every day I would assign myself one immediate thing I could do to further this timeline, whether it was sending an email to a prospective client or creating a blog. These immediate action items prevented me from falling victim to procrastination or overwhelm because they kept me on track and made me feel accomplished each and every day. Over the course of a week and then a month, these actions ultimately came together to achieve my bigger goal. I still use this tactic when I’m in a phase of business growth.

If you’ve tried or are trying to change your habits to become a person of momentum, but it just isn’t picking up as quickly as you’d like – it might be time to consider the second option. You can team up with another person or group of people who will provide complimentary skills to help turn an idea into reality. Not every business is a sole proprietorship and that’s because sometimes working together is the only way to achieve a goal of a certain scope or size.  If you have an idea for a product, but have no knowledge or direction on where to start with manufacturing it; find a partner who can provide expertise and connections in this area. A partner or team will also keep you accountable to your ideas and actions. It’s not so easy to let a dream fade if the dream is shared by many different people.

In talking with even the most successful entrepreneur, I would be shocked to hear that they never once had a failed idea or fleeting inspiration prior to their current business. To find our true calling, we must allow our mind to wander as creatively as it chooses without feeling pressured to turn every idea into reality. But when you do dream up an idea that you can envision changing your world, or the world of many others, you must find a way to harness this inspiration and keep it moving. Sometimes all it takes to turn a moment into momentum is the willingness to change yourself or team up with others…and of course a little “um!”

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Bennis Public Relations Turns 7 Years Old – The Best Gifts Its Given to Me

Bennis Public Relations Turns 7 Years Old – The Best Gifts Its Given to Me

Last month was the seventh anniversary of a pivotal moment in my career. However, July 15 came and went without celebration or even reflection – but for good reason. July 15, 2011 is the day I officially became the fulltime owner of my firm, Bennis Public Relations. This was the day I took a major leap, without so much as looking back, and have since forged ahead with a drive and dedication unlike anything I had applied to my life leading up to this moment.

Now seven years as my own boss, I realized there are still a lot of people in my life, new acquaintances as well as close connections, that don’t know much about what I do or how I’ve grown to this point. For so long I’ve fully embraced the mindset I learned in college which was “There’s no ego in Public Relations. If you want a byline study journalism.” And while I still believe that to be true, I do think it’s important to stop and reflect on some of the joys this journey has brought me.

Ironically, over the last seven “birthdays” my business has had, it’s been me who has really received the gifts. In sharing what they are, I hope I can inspire a few others to take the path less traveled and to also understand what it means to be a true business owner.

Gift 1: I answer to me.

My schedule is my own. It’s on me to manage my time to get everything done on my task list in a given day. I’m responsible for organizing the matrix that is my Google calendar and making sure nothing slips through the cracks – or it’s on me.

While I thoroughly enjoy having no set work hours, no restrictions on where I have to be at any particular time, and not having to report to a set office with higher-ups to answer to, this also comes with certain tradeoffs. I have to balance project delivery for all current clients with finding time for new business development to keep things growing. I have to determine how I want to price and package my services so that they are competitive but also profitable. It requires a beautiful dance to make it all work – and I’m fortunate that after seven years, it’s a dance I’ve learned to do well.

Best of all, and what really defines being a true entrepreneur and business owner, is having complete control over the services I offer, how they’re priced and packaged and the direction I want to take my business. There is no corporate office that determines this for me – no one pushing out new services or products and telling me what to sell, no one changing prices without me having a say, and no one messing with my profit margins – except me.

Gift 2: I can pivot and grow how and when I desire.

Throughout the last seven years, I’ve extensively grown the scope of services I can offer clients. I’m not limited to one niche, or even one industry really! I can help businesses with anything that falls under the broad umbrella of “external communications,” which is fancy speak for “How we communicate with our audiences.”

Additionally, I’ve identified the services that best answer specific problems within a business and can make educated recommendations to clients based upon what they need, and help them eliminate what they do not. I’m not limited to selling a specific set of services to a niche demographic. If I want to branch into something entirely new, I can – and I have.

Gift 3: I’ve learned – and conquered – the real headaches of business ownership.

I commend anyone who takes an entrepreneurial leap and lands in the role of blazing their own trail. However, I want to be clear there there’s a significant difference between building your own business from the ground up and being a part of a franchise or MLM. At age 23 I used what little savings I had to incorporate my business and structure myself for future success – and protection from over-taxation! I spent hours educating myself on the type of business insurances I need to buy and the potential repercussion of copyright laws and other similar issues that could at any point impact my business – even if by an innocent misstep. I had to put policies and procedures in place to protect myself from people walking off with my intellectual property, making late payments – or no payments at all, and breaking contracts without cause.

I’m grateful to say that by planning for the worst, I have avoided many of the headaches and hardships other business owners often experience along their entrepreneurial journey. In a day and age where everyone wants to call themselves a business owner, CEO or #bossbabe, I wonder how many have had to navigate the real challenges of being a true entrepreneur, versus how many just stepped into the role of a sales rep for another company that really calls the shots in that relationship. There’s a difference, and one I’ll admit I’m a bit sensitive toward because of how much sweat equity and risk goes into the former compared to the latter.

Gift 4: I can forge partnerships at my discretion.

Another gift my business has given to me is the ability to structure partnerships with others businesses that has allowed me to really take things to the next level – and without having to compromise my independence or give up any of my profits.

My current partnerships expand into the industries of Government Relations, Web Design, Advertising, Media and more. It’s quite a beautiful business model. My partner businesses feed me all their clients who need strategic communication services, I complete the work and charge my fees, and they bundle this into their clients’ total packages. We all get what we want out of the deal, and at really fair rates compared to what big agencies have to charge to cover the overhead of in-house staff.

Gift 5: I don’t have to solicit family or friends to “join” my business.

If you’re a true business owner, not just a sales rep for a larger corporation, your business model should not heavily rely on soliciting family and friends to purchase your services/products or join your business.

When you’re just getting started it may be appropriate or helpful to ask personal contacts to keep you in mind or help spread the word about your business, but that’s not a real business owner’s long-term method for marketing. The growth and development of my business is a lot more strategic than shooting out a bunch of social media posts about “how lucky I am to be my own boss – and it’s a huge missed opportunity if you don’t jump aboard my ship.” Rather, I become a member of networking groups, align myself with industry associations and join boards as a way to gain influence and to get my name out there.

I’m happy to mentor people who come to me for entrepreneurial advice, but I never feel the need to force someone on this journey with me. And because I don’t get a “kickback” for someone starting their own business, my encouragement to a fellow entrepreneur comes with no personal agenda.

Gift 6: I’ve enjoyed 7 years of passive growth.

More to the point of not liking having to hard sell my services, I’m grateful to have not spent a dime on direct marketing or advertising. I simply treat clients well, deliver quality service and most importantly am responsive. Consistency is the best marketing tool you will ever have!

All of my clients have come from word of mouth recommendations and referrals. What I’ve found is this produces highly vetted, highly motivated clients who are ready to get started. This also produces loyal clients. I’m proud to say that my very first client still has me on a monthly retainer.

Passive growth has by no means made me complacent. It’s made me smart. I know that I gain the highest quality leads when I invest in relationships, so that’s where I focus my efforts.

Gift 7: There is no one else that can provide exactly what I do.

Forging friendships with other businesses that could be seen as my “competition” has been one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. These relationships have turned into some of my most lucrative partnerships and source of residual leads. Why would “competition” send me business, you might ask? Because when I put the time into getting to know some of these fellow communication professionals, I quickly learned that we serve very different markets and possess very different strengths.

Furthermore, there’s more than enough business to go around! So much so that I’m grateful to know some other people who can fill in the gaps in a pinch when I have a client who needs something that I don’t have the bandwidth to take on. In my experience, this goodwill has always come back full circle.

And one to grow on…

There’s a quote I stumbled upon early in my entrepreneurial journey, attributed to Frank Ocean that says, “Work hard in silence, let success make the noise.” This puts into words how I’ve always felt about promoting my professional accomplishments. I don’t need to bang my own gong. In fact, I’ve found that many of those who do – such as what likely inundates your newsfeed on social media – are those who are trying to compensate for insecurities about the true success of their business – or whose business model demands it out of necessity.

To that end, I’ve also discovered many people, even those closest to me, don’t fully grasp how far I’ve driven my business in seven years, because I work hard in silence. So to my first baby, the one that made me an entrepreneur, I wanted to give you a little moment to shine and say thank you for the highs and the lows, the risk and reward, and the challenges that turned in triumph. I’m grateful for this journey and to have the experience to truly own my own business!

 

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The Best Business Sense: Go with your gut and defend it!

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 Best Business Sense Go with your gut and defend it!

Being a business owner certainly has its fair share of ups and downs. I’ve been able to anticipate and prepare for most of these like the instability of income, unpredictable work hours and the emotional investment in the business. What I didn’t necessarily anticipate was the amount of unsolicited advice I would receive. I rationalize that this stems from the fact that I’m finally in a position of control and therefore people want to help me make the best decisions possible. While this sounds like a great thing, it becomes a problem for so many business owners when the swirling confusion of mixed advice makes it hard for us to clearly see the best path for our business – which can only be decided by each of us alone.

With almost two years under my belt of dodging and deciphering other people’s opinions about my business strategy, I’ve developed a short list of what I call “Simple Business Truths.” Maybe this is my own version of unsolicited business advice that I risk imposing on others, or maybe it’s the master list us business owners should keep near and dear to our hearts in moments of confusion. Regardless, I find the following to be harmless and helpful advice because it advocates that you ultimately go with your gut and forget what anyone else says. And if you ask me…that’s the best business advice you can (or maybe don’t) ask for!

Simple Business Truths:

1. So long as you can rationally defend your decisions, stick with your gut.

Since becoming a business owner I feel like I’ve become much more in tune to my intuition and have really started to rely upon it. I can’t say I’ve never second-guessed myself, especially in the beginning; however, I’ve now had enough examples to know that I should always go with my gut. My rule of thumb for gauging my intuition is to make sure I can also rationally defend why I feel the way I do. Ever since I was a child, I never liked hearing “because I said so” as a sole reason for why something had to be a certain way – and I don’t allow myself to use this as my backbone for decision making now. So long as you can rationally defend your reasons, stick with them!

2. People who try and tell you what to do are likely just as confused themselves.

Entrepreneurs tend to gather in chats and discussion groups like it’s an AA meeting. This provides a platform for sharing their “must-do’s” and all-knowing advice with fellow entrepreneurs. Whether they mean well or mean to intimidate, entrepreneurs taking other entrepreneurs’ advice can be toxic. Or as I often describe it – it’s the blind leading the blind. Let’s be honest, none of us can ever say with certainty that we know what we’re doing! It’s the road of the unknown for a reason. I caution fellow entrepreneurs on how much advice they take from others. This is a very individual journey and no two business models are the same. The variances between your business and someone else’s can make sharing advice as risky as sharing prescription meds.

3. Don’t fall for the next big trend – this too shall pass.

The entrepreneurial journey is already filled with enough hills and valleys; I don’t see the point in adding even more variables by early adopting the latest and most radical business trends before I can observe them in action for a little while. The entrepreneurs who do, often sacrifice the overall strategy and growth plan specific to their business all for the chance to say “I was first.”  If this is what drives your business decisions, you’ll soon enough be able to say you were first to fail or fold as well. The benefits of most trends are fleeting at best. And if they are worth implementing, they’ll stick around long enough for you to do so. Don’t willingly be the guinea pig!

4. Even a friend’s “best advice” could be unintentional sabotage.

Once you’re an entrepreneur, friends and family want to shower you with well wishes and their best business advice. But just like Grandma’s loving attempt at knitting you a Christmas sweater, even the thoughtful ones can be deceptively dangerous. You can always nod and agree, but before you run and implement such advice take a moment to qualify the person and where their expertise lies.

5. Remember – you built the business, you get first and final say!

When I first transitioned into the life of an entrepreneur, it was quite the mental shift. For a long time I still felt like an employee to someone else and would seek out advice from anyone who would provide it. I absorbed it like a sponge! I’ve since learned better and now remind myself that one of the biggest benefits I have as a business owner is first and final say in what decisions are made. Don’t hand this over to anyone else!

If you could add your own 6th “truth” to this list, what would it be? Comment and share some of the best or worst business advice you’ve ever received!

 

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Fear or Inspiration: The Two Motivators That Makes Us Move

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!


fearWe see it in the news, read it in a magazine or hear it within our networks almost every day. There’s some new start-up that’s growing exponentially and breaking all kinds of projections. They’re on the fast track to becoming the “next big thing.” It’s enough to make any small business owner or entrepreneur want to throw the old adage of “slow and steady wins the race” out the window.  Who wouldn’t want their business to skyrocket to Facebook-like fame? From my own experiences and observations, I’ve found that for any business that’s progressing and expanding at warp speed, there is most commonly one of two causes for this type of growth. The differences between these causes are paramount to the ultimate success – or implosion – of the business.

Most simply defined, the two motivators for momentum are fear and inspiration. For most businesses, it’s easy to pick out which they’re experiencing. The difference can be seen in whether their actions to accommodate this growth are proactive or reactive. Not all speeds of growth are beneficial if it comes at the risk of ruining your business or losing your sanity.  The ultimate goal for any business experiencing a period of growth should be to run like you’re crossing the finish line, not like you’re being chased.

Running Scared

Especially seen in start-ups, where one good viral marketing campaign can create an insatiable consumer demand almost overnight, the momentum of business growth can make you run like you’re being chased. You’re reactionary. There’s no time to create a sensible growth plan when you’re barely able to keep up with the current demands of the business. You’re not running the business, the business is running you – or after you, rather. Sure it’s momentum and to the outside world it appears that you’re making significant progress, but in reality you’re shooting from the hip with every decision. My political experience has provided me with far too many examples of organizations who function out of fear. Jokingly we called it organized chaos, but this reactionary behavior to everything thrown at us resulted in frequent mistakes and missed opportunities. In retrospect, these situations would have greatly benefited from even just an hour or two of critical planning. This small investment of time in the short term would have given us a more proactive plan to turn to in the long term. For any business or organization that appears to be “running scared,” it’s never too late to pump the breaks and replace this fear with strategy.

Running Toward A Goal

In contrast to the first type of motivator – fear, the motivator of inspiration produces quite a different result within a business. To the outside world movement all appears the same, but inside you can clearly tell a business that functions off of a well thought out growth strategy. Unlike running scared, running toward a goal helps you to make even big decisions with less effort. Your strategy – or finish line – helps you to see the obvious answers. You’re calm, confident and collected because your focus is on anticipating the next step not reacting to the last hurdle. The inspired movers are the business owners who are able to appreciate the growth of their business, not come to curse it. Most importantly, when you have inspiration as your motivator, not fear, you are in complete control of the direction of growth. You’re able to pick and choose the opportunities that best align with your goals. When motivated by fear, you’re more likely to take on every opportunity that comes your way regardless of whether it’s the right fit. I once had someone give me the advice, “Pile as much on your plate as you can. You can always take it off later, but you can’t put it back on.” I was hesitant when I first heard this and have since learned that it’s very bad advice. Be strategic with your opportunities and don’t give into the fear that tells you another one may never come your way – with enough talent and inspiration, they always do!

In thinking about your own business – or even your personal life – which type of growth do you most familiarize yourself with? Are you running scared or are you running toward a goal? There’s no questioning the accuracy of the term “growing pains.” Growth means change and change is often uncomfortable. What’s important to remember is that between the two motivators that make us move – fear and inspiration – one drains us while the other fulfills us.  It’s important to seek out the latter to ensure that even during the most uncomfortable periods of growth that require us to stretch our limits, we have a finish line in sight and a strategy to get there feeling like a champion.

 

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A Day in the Life of a Mompreneur

mompreneur 2

For many types of careers, you can quickly gather what a typical work routine might look like. While day to day tasks and interactions will continuously change, more traditional career paths have fairly predictable hours and work locations. Moreover they usually focus on serving one industry or a certain type of clientele.

What I want to share with you, in stark contrast, is the typical day of a mompreneur.

mompreneur.png

More than me choosing the mompreneur career path, it chose me. I began as a solo entrepreneur, prior to marriage and children. When these things eventually came along, I didn’t want to halt growing my business nor did I want to put a pause on personal life. So I buckled up for the wild ride of being a mompreneur – running my own Public Relations firm while raising two young boys, often simultaneously. The result? An utterly chaotic, but flexible, ever-changing, but rewarding lifestyle that suits me well.

How do I get it done in a day? Truly, every day is a different routine. Some days are more work intensive, some are more family intensive. What I’m about to show you is a single snap shot of a recent Monday schedule for me.

4:00am – No, this is NOT part of my normal routine. However my youngest son found his way down to our bedroom and mom duty is 24/7. So I spent the next half hour snuggling, reading, rocking, singing and coercing him back to bed because “the moon is still up…and mommy is TIRED.”

6:00am – Alarm goes off and I slowly transform from zombie to human with a large cup of coffee. I click away on my keyboard to clean up emails that came in over the weekend. I send out a statewide press release for a client and promote my weekly blog post that went live a few minutes ago. I’m wrapping up my last “early morning” work session when…

6:40am – Tiny feet come loudly stomping down the stairs. “Hi Mommy!” smiles my older son. While there is more work to be done, I close my laptop and switch into mom mode. The next hour or so is a whirlwind of making breakfast, making beds, changing two tiny bodies, breaking up fights, packing lunches and finding a moment to brush my teeth.

8:00am – Today I take both boys with me to the YMCA where they’ll hang out in the kids’ room for about 2 hours. It’s free childcare, they burn off some energy and I get some more work and personal time. At this stage in life, my YMCA membership is my ticket to sanity.

8:40am – After getting in some cardio, I take a quick break to knock off a few work tasks before heading into my workout class.

9:00am – Maybe the best hour of my day – I put aside all thoughts of work or kids and focus on re-centering myself with a really good workout.

10:00am – I have ½ hour of child care time remaining that I use to check in on my clients’ social media postings for the day. I also have a standing client phone call every other Monday that takes about 15 minutes. I knock this out and go pick up the kids. It takes us about 15 minutes to make it to the car, but I finally get everyone strapped in safely without forgetting anything. Mom win!

10:30am – We arrive back at home where our live-in Au Pair is now on duty. Karen starts an activity with the boys while I grab a quick shower. I have to step in to address a tantrum, caused by an Oreo cookie, before grabbing my lunch bag, kissing the boys goodbye, explaining (3 or 4 times) where I’m going and when I’ll be home, and then I jump in the car with a deep breath. I made it out of the house before 11am!

11:15am – I drive a quarter mile to Messiah College’s library where I’ve been doing a lot of my work lately. It’s free, comfortable and very close to home. Unfortunately, my home office isn’t an ideal work space when they boys are being watched in our home. Plus, it’s nice to be a new setting for a few hours.

2:30pm – I’m finally caught up on emails and tasks that have come in throughout the morning. I’ve scheduled three client meetings for later this week, booked a great deal on a Mexico vacation for later this year (we’ve earned it!), wrote a new blog post and reviewed my presentation that I’ll give at an educators’ conference in Altoona tomorrow. Coffee break!

3:00pm – I do a phone interview with a client to gain more information for a promotional article I’m writing for them. I wrap up the call and pull together the article quickly, since it’s fresh on my mind. I’m well ahead of my client task list this month, which is good because I have a few additional projects and clients I’ll be taking on later this month that will require extra time. Over the next week, I’ll also spend 3 days on the road presenting to 18 school districts at three different conferences. This is why I work hard to clear my bandwidth as quickly as possible so I can jump on extra opportunities as they present themselves.

4:00pm – I’m in a good spot to put away work for the rest of the day. Most days I head home early to spend some extra time with the boys. Or sometimes I’ll run an errand. Today I need this extra time to catch up some reading for our church group that meets tonight. This is a relaxing way to ease out of the work day.

5:30pm – I get settled back at home while our Au Pair, Karen spends time with the boys outside. I call everyone in for dinner. Before Karen, dinnertime was really stressful with kids wanting to play and mom needing to cook. Having an extra set of hands in the evenings is so helpful – and it allows me to be more present with the boys.

6:15pm – We leave as a family to go to our friends’ house where five couples from our church meet bi-monthly. The kids play with Karen and another sitter downstairs while the adults get some meaningful time to talk and discuss our current book series “Love and Respect.”

8:30pm – We are back home and it’s straight to bed for the boys. It takes a little time for them to wind down, but with enough books, songs, kisses and glasses of water, we close their doors for the night.

9:00pm – For the next hour, my husband and I spend undivided time together. Sometimes this is catching up on our favorite TV show, sometimes it’s sitting on the front porch and talking about the day, other times it’s the necessary evil of taking care of some household tasks or making decisions on things to keep the household running smoothly. No matter how we spend this hour, I’m grateful to spend it together.

10:00pm – No later than 10:00pm, we’re in bed and recharging to run a different, but equally busy schedule tomorrow. Here’s to hoping there’s no 4:00am wake up calls tonight!

Now that’s you’ve seen a glimpse into one of my many different daily routines, does it feel similar to your own or completely different? It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve had a strict 8am-5pm work schedule. Even before kids I remember it not meshing well with my personal work style. I imagine that would only be amplified now. I love the freedom and flexibility of being a mompreneur, but I accept that it comes with unique challenges, constantly changing schedules and a lot of juggling.

What routine have you found to give you the best work-life balance? Is it something you currently have or want to have? Join in the discussion by leaving a comment below!

 

 

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Oh the Places You’ll…Work!

the places you'll work

It’s a Dr. Seuss book that has become the standard gift to give someone for graduation, “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” I have my own copy stored somewhere. I truly haven’t thought much about this book since my own college graduation, but recently the words in that title have never been truer of my professional life.

Sure, since starting my own PR firm nearly seven years ago, I suppose I have gotten to go to a lot of new places. But that’s not what made me think of this book. Rather, if Dr. Seuss were to write a book about my life these last few weeks it would be called “Oh the Places You’ll…Work!”

I have always enjoyed that my career allows me to work from virtually anywhere. Most often I’m comfortable in my home office, or I’d get out to park or coffee shop to enjoy a change in scenery. However, since hiring our au pair, both of my young sons are in or around our home during the day. The convenience of this is awesome, but there’s definitely the drawback that they can and will find me – often at the most inopportune times.

Lately, I’ve had to ditch my home office and seek out workspace away from the home. What I’ve discovered is a treasure trove of free work spaces all throughout my town. What felt like a minor inconvenience, has opened my eyes to some pretty creative ways entrepreneurs – or moms who simply want to drink a cup of coffee in peace – can set up “shop” just about anywhere. Here are my favorites thus far!

College campuses – I’m fortunate to live within walking distance to a small private college, Messiah College. While I’ve walked this campus for years, I’ve never really stepped foot inside their buildings. Once I did, I found a handful of perfect co-working spaces. A college or university is a prime spot for pop-up offices. They have free wifi, plenty of quiet areas, ample outlets, and open desks/tables/chairs to suit your needs. In Messiah’s library, there are even glassed in private work spaces that are first come first serve! Usually there’s a café or coffee shop nearby too. So this has become my favorite virtual office as of late.

The gym – Sounds weird, but it’s efficient! Our local YMCA has free wifi, coffee and a comfortable lounge area in the entrance. In an effort to get out of the house as quickly as possible in the morning, I head to the gym. I usually have a few hours to kill before my preferred workout class, so I’ll pop open my laptop, drink a cup of coffee and start my day. Then I can enjoy a workout knowing my email is under control and I have a handle on my to-do list for the day.

Co-working spaces – As you might have picked up from the theme of this article, I’m just really against paying for office space. A lot of our local co-working spaces come with a monthly fee; however, I’ve learned where in other cities this is offered for free. I often find myself in State College, Pennsylvania for both work and social obligations. Here, they have an incubator/accelerators space called Launch Box. This is a free resource for students and entrepreneurs to work, get mentored and learn from other entrepreneurs. All around it’s just a fun environment! As a bonus, it’s located right down town so grabbing a quick lunch while working is very convenient.

Coffee shops – This is a pretty standard go-to work space for many entrepreneurs. I’ll usually go to a coffee shop if I have a meeting scheduled there. I’ll arrive a little early and get in some extra work time before taking the meeting. I don’t use coffee shops as my regular workspace because they tend to get loud and crowded. Also places like Panera will cut off your wifi after so many hours. All that being said, coffee shops make great workspace options while you’re on the road and unfamiliar with other options in the area.

Libraries – Libraries make for okay workspaces. I suppose it depends upon your local library. This is a great option if you really need to dig deep into a project and require silence. Libraries don’t work so well when you need to take phone calls throughout the day – or you’re like me and tend to be a loud snacker.

Client’s office – I have several clients who graciously offer me unlimited use of their office space. This is ideal when I’ll already be in the area and need some workspace in between meetings. It’s a great way to get regular facetime with your client as well. For me, I get to enjoy working a day or so a week from a very nice office space right across the street from Pennsylvania’s Capitol building. I can take meetings in the conference room or meet up with a friend for lunch. I bill this as my “social” day – which one day a week is usually enough for me!

Outside – I’ve been able to find some really nice outdoor work spaces too. They key is to find shade otherwise it becomes extremely tedious to find your mouse on a screen that has a glare from the sun. It can also get hot and uncomfortable! I like working outside for an hour or so and then heading indoors. It’s a great way to add some variety to your day and get a dose of energy during those sleepy afternoon hours.

And some pretty unusual spaces…

While these are not my “typical” nor preferred workspaces, it’s fun to reflect on some of the outrageous places I’ve been able to accomplish work. Luckily having small children has given me the ability to focus through just about anything, which is what makes this possible! Some of my unusual office spaces include: golf course, casino, carwash, grocery store, mechanic, doctor’s office, airplane, train, car, bus (pretty much every type of transportation), bar, beach and many more I can’t remember!

Do you benefit from having a virtual work environment? Share some of the best places you’ve found to work remotely outside a traditional office or home office!

 

 

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Good, Cheap, Fast: The dilemma of providing ideal service

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!


service

Just a few days ago I was in a local mechanic’s shop and amidst the shelves stacked high with dusty papers and some foreign-looking objects that were likely common knowledge auto parts, there was a simple sign hung on the window that looked into the garage. It read, “We offer three kinds of service: Good – Cheap – Fast. You can pick any two.” After my initial amusement from envisioning an old crotchety man pleased with himself as he hung this sign in his shop, I realized that is the dilemma every business owner faces when trying to offer ideal customer service. For a laundry list of reasons, my business is very different from this mechanic’s. But when it comes to customer service, this sign accurately summarizes us both.

If it’s fast and good, it won’t be cheap. “Rush” projects are common in almost every industry. From the mechanic to the Public Relations professional, sometimes some things just cannot wait. Because a rush project can save a client from a terrible inconvenience, loss of potential business or increase their revenue, I certainly accommodate them whenever possible. In fact, one of my main reasons for keeping ahead of my planned projects is to allow for the occasional rush project. Allow me to say what most other business owners think; we keep this open time for rush projects because they’re a great source of unexpected and well-paying work. People are willing to pay more to prevent a bad situation – and thus, the dilemma of rush service. A bad business owner takes advantage of this opportunity to gauge a client in a vulnerable situation (i.e. obscene rush shipping charges or overtime wages), while a good business owner charges just enough more to compensate them for the extra hours of work and the opportunity-cost of pushing their scheduled projects to the side.

If it’s good and cheap, it won’t be fast. For clients who want the highest quality of service at the best price possible, the key is to be flexible with your deadlines and to start well ahead of when you need something done. The best example I can give here is my experience with mass mailings and the postal system. If I have a large enough mailing, I can benefit from pre-sorted postage rates which are half that of a regular stamp. This is a huge cost savings when your list is in the thousands! However, the big caveat here is that you must give yourself ample lead time for the mailing to process and hit mailboxes—I’m talking about a month. The postal service offers this discount rate, but it can take up to 25 business days to be delivered, as opposed to the standard 2-3. If you want something done good and cheap, you must be more flexible on the time frame in which you wish to have it completed. A long lead time (and ample patience) can save you a lot of money in the long run if you can plan ahead for it.

If it’s fast and cheap, it won’t be good. This combination of service is the one that most good business owners would prefer to avoid entirely. When it’s all said and done, neither the customer nor the business will be happy with a final product that was done quickly and cheaply. I know this is one of the rare instances where I might need to step away from a project if I think it will poorly reflect upon me or my business. Certainly I offer every client my best services at the fairest rates; it’s only when I’m stretched beyond reason that it becomes a problem. The two other options above prove why fast and cheap service won’t be the best quality. A business either needs to charge more for a rush project that pushes all other projects to the side or needs more time and flexibility from a client to do the best work on a tight budget.

Can we ever have all three? If you’re talking in extremes, I’d say the answer is no. An award-winning web site design done in three days for under $500 is either a scam or poor business management. In the real world, one of these three factors (time, quality or cost) would need to give. In less extreme examples, I have personally benefited from rush projects, done completely to my standard and for a fair price. The key is relationships. Once you build a good relationship with a business owner or contractor, you can work with them to achieve a good balance of all three.

As for me and the mechanic, I paid well under what the dealership would have charged me, fulfilled my inspection for the year and had my car back in just a few hours. So regardless of what that sign hanging in his window said, I think I just might have gotten away with getting a little bit of all three!

 

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