Mindset Buster: I Have to be Available for My Clients 24/7

In my last post, I shared a story of a client of mine who felt pressure to check her e-mail all the time and stay tethered to her smart phone in order to be responsive to her clients. It was causing an incredible amount of stress in her life, and when I told her that a 24-hour or 48-hour response time was perfectly acceptable, she responded like a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders.

It was definitely a mindset buster to be able to accept that. I wanted to take that idea and expand on it. Another related mindset buster is the idea that you have to be available to your clients 24/7 in order to be successful. Simply put, that idea is just not sustainable. I want you to be successful in the long term. If you try to be available all the time, every day, you will burn out.

It’s really an issue of boundaries. All of us, deep down in our hearts, really want to bend over backward for our customers. We want to give them great customer service and believe that if we do, our business will grow. Why? Well, when someone does that for me, I feel good. I want to do something to help that business owner. I might want to give them a referral or write a positive online review for them. We’re all sort of hard-wired that way.

I wanted to share with you one of the things I do to manage my time. Every time I take on a new client, I go through the basics on how we’ll work through our weekly coaching calls and what they need to prepare for our meetings.

I also tell them that they are welcomed to reach out in between our sessions in one of three ways. They can e-mail me, text me or Facebook message me, and they can do any of those things at any time. If they have a question at 2 a.m., they can send it. If they have an idea they want to run by me at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, they can text me.

I explain that I will respond to them by the next business day, and I may respond to them sooner. I tell them that it’s my job to hold my boundaries as to when I will look at those communications from my clients. It’s my job to protect my family time and my free time.

The reason I started this process with new clients was that I realized that many of my current customers were sort of afraid to email or text in between coaching sessions because they didn’t want to overstep the relationship. In some cases, they could have used a little extra support or a sounding board but didn’t contact me because they didn’t want to encroach on my family time.

It finally occurred to me that I had not established my own boundaries and that, as a result, my clients were trying to protect me. That was my mistake as a business owner, as a human, to not set boundaries.

I would challenge you to think about that. Have you set good boundaries? Would you be angry if a client called you at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning? Have you communicated your boundaries clearly to your clients so they know what to expect?

1. Establish your boundaries. For example, I have office hours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday and reduced hours in the summer. The do-not-disturb function on my phone blocks all but family emergency calls between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. I do not allow Facebook notifications to come through to my phone or desktop; I log into Facebook when I have time to respond to those messages.

2. Communicate your boundaries to your clients. I tell my clients the channels in which they can reach me and that I promise to respond the next business day. I explain that I might respond earlier if it works out in my schedule, but I will definitely respond by my next office hours.

When you do these two things, setting boundaries and communicating them, your stress levels will immediately go down. You won’t have to worry all the time whether a client has a question, if you have a new order waiting, or whether there’s an issue to respond to. Your clients know you will respond by the next business day, and if you respond sooner, that’s just icing on the cake.

Remember that in many cases, you are putting pressure on yourself to respond 24/7. Don’t do it. Play for the long run. Give yourself a break so you can do a good job and be happy. In the end, happy business owners are successful business owners.

Need help setting boundaries? Not sure how to communicate this with your clients? Get in touch, I’d love to help!

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Mindset Buster: You Don’t Have to Work All the Time to Make Money

Mindset Buster: You Don't Have to Work All the Time to Make Money

Recently, I took the day off to go to local conference. It was a great opportunity for women entrepreneurs to collaborate with teachers, incubators, a few investors and other entrepreneurs. It was fascinating to listen to their mindsets, and for the purposes of this article, it was interesting to see who wasn’t there. Those of us who hold a mindset of having to work all the time don’t attend conferences like that. In fact, we don’t take days off for any reason because we believe we must be working all the time.

Rooted in the Past

Many of us believe that in order to be truly dedicated to our business, especially one that we have started ourselves, that we must sacrifice everything in order to make it successful. We have to give up family, friends, free time and everything else in order to meet our customer’s needs and do all those things that we need to do to succeed.

On the outside, this seems like a noble idea. We hear it all the time in the business world. We hear that the customer is always right. We hear that customer satisfaction is paramount. It’s a mantra that every successful business seems to repeat.

Combine that external message with all those lessons we might have learned as a child or as an employee in the corporate world. We were probably rewarded as children by our parents and teachers for working hard. One major component of our performance reviews in a corporation probably had to do with our work ethic.

We’ve probably even played that game where we try to look like we’re working hard or very busy to make a good impression on those people around us. If our parents, teachers, friends, coworkers, bosses or customers see us working all the time, they will believe that we’re hard workers, that we’re successful entrepreneurs, that we’re good people.

The funny thing is that many of us probably left the corporate world to start our own businesses to get away from that pressure to need to be working all the time. We probably understood that time spent didn’t necessarily mean productivity or success. We wanted to work smarter, not longer. And many of us probably went out on own in order to free up time for other priorities in our lives.

So what happened? How did we get back to what we were trying to escape? And how do we break out of the mindset of needing to be working all the time?

A Case Study

I was coaching a client a few weeks ago. As we were talking, she was telling me how completely overwhelmed she felt. In fact, she was in that place where she felt like she had so much work she couldn’t even write it all down.

When things get that bad, it’s easy to throw up our hands and just believe that that’s life. The reality, however, is that it is only a symptom. It’s not the reality itself. It’s a symptom of certain patterns of behavior. It’s a symptom of time management issues. It’s a symptom of prioritization challenges. It’s a symptom of this mindset of needing to work all the time.

With this particular client, I asked her to give me a brain dump of everything she does for a whole week. When I looked at her list, I had no doubt that she was overwhelmed. She was trying to do an incredible amount of things, but the bottom line was that it was her mindset that was the problem.

One Major Mindset Change

Although we came up with several ideas on how to change the mindset for this particular client, I want to share with you particularly helpful idea in this article. We need to change our idea of what is an appropriate response time.

We live in a world of instant gratification. We can eat whatever out-of-season food we want. We can watch whatever program we want. We can read whatever we want. And we can do all of those things whenever we want to do them. We live in a world of instant text messages, and we expect an immediate answer. On the flip side, we often feel pressure to answer text messages and e-mails immediately.

This particular client was having every e-mail, whether it was a sales pitch, a greeting from a friend or a request from a client, sent to her phone. She spent all day being distracted by every single e-mail that came in, which made it very hard to focus on her more important work. I encouraged her to set aside time in the morning and in the evening, scan her e-mails at those two times only, and respond accordingly. I reassured her that a 24-hour to 48-hour response time was reasonable.

If you are in a similar mindset, that one change alone will reduce your stress significantly. Give yourself permission to compartmentalize your e-mail to a set time. And watch your time become more available and more productive. This goes beyond e-mail as well—phone calls, texts, Facebook alerts all can WAIT. Focus on the task at hand and let some of those things sit, you’ll feel better and get so much more done.

Need help getting to the bottom of your “overwhelm”? I can help! Contact me today for a free call to see if coaching with me is the right fit for your needs.

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Success Doesn’t Have to Be Hard, So Don’t Make it Harder!

Mindset makes such a difference. During my work with clients lately, I’ve noticed a mindset out there that success has to be hard. It has to hurt a little. It means that you have to be really busy all the time and sacrifice your health, your time, your children and your marriage in order to achieve success.

Are you hiding this sneaky mindset?

Now I know that most of you reading this are shaking your heads and can see how that idea is a ridiculous one. I know you are smart and savvy enough to know, at an intellectual level, that makes no sense. However, even if you think you agree with me, this article could be aimed at you. Why? Because this mindset is a sneaky one. You might not even realize you are holding this mindset, yet it can be affecting your life in a significant way.

Why am I unhappy?

I have this particular client who is an absolute powerhouse. She owns a fitness studio and has amazing willpower over her body and her health. She manages her time well and successfully manages a growing staff of half a dozen employees and teachers. I enjoy working with her, and over time, we’ve come up with many different ideas to increase her sales or improve her hiring or auditing processes. She is a ninja when it comes to executing her business assignments.

Recently she sounded different. When I asked what was going on, she started telling me about some of her family drama. Now, we all have family drama in our lives, whether it be with our own immediate families or with extended family members.

After I listened to her, I reminded her of business success. She had been on such an upward swing. She had reached an amazing level of success with more clients, increased profits, and decreased expenses. She said she knew that, and she knew she should be happy, but she wasn’t.

I started asking her some more questions, and after quite awhile, I finally got her to uncover the cause of her unhappiness. The bottom line was that her business was going so well that it was starting to freak her out. Things were suddenly easier. She was leaving earlier, working in the business less and on the business more. She wasn’t needed as much as she was in her start-up days, and that scared her.

She started telling me about her family. Her father worked in a high-stress job and wasn’t around much. After her father died, her mother worked two jobs in order to provide for her children. She learned from watching her parents that success meant busting your butt, working really hard all the time, and being stressed out. Since she was no longer working so hard, she felt lazy and that trouble was looming around the corner.

As a result of this mindset, she started looking for things to be stressed out about. All the family drama had been there all along, but that when she was focused on her business she didn’t notice. It wasn’t a priority, and it didn’t bother her. However, now that her business was going well, she noticed all these things and allowed them to bother her so she could be stressed about something.

Are you allowing stress in because it’s “supposed” to be there?

Now I want you to think about that. Have you ever focused on a problem where there wasn’t one? Do you have a mindset where things have to be hard? Does stress equal success? Do you believe that success looks only one way?

I want you to sit down with a piece of paper and write down what success looks like to you. What have you learned about success from your parents, your spouse, your friends, your business associates? What have they taught you about success? What instead should success be?

I hate the claim that success looks only one way. That unless you are working 70 or 80 hours per week, you can’t be successful. Unless you grow exponentially and sell your business for millions of dollars, you are not successful. Unless you have sacrificed everything else in your life, you can’t be successful.

I think that’s ridiculous. Yes, I believe in having a solid work ethic. However, I want you to enjoy the fruit of your labor and your hard-earned success. I want you to be able to relax and spend more time with your family. I want you to be happy.

Take some time to bring awareness to it. If you know what your mindset is you can invent a better, new mindset for the future.

Need help sorting out your mindset and expectations? Feeling stuck, but not sure why or how to fix it? It might be time for you to hire a coach! This is what I do with clients day in and day out. Contact me today to find out if I could be the right fit in helping you move forward.

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How to Maximize Your Work Time to be the Most Productive

Have you ever heard the phrase “There must be something in the water”? It is something that is said often when there are a lot of people getting pregnant or having new babies. Well, right now it seems as if that water must be all around me. A lot of my clients are getting ready to have their second or third child and they are wondering how they are going to be more productive with less time. New babies tend to take us into a Bermuda Triangle that makes all of our established schedules and routines mysteriously disappear!

Being Productive vs. Being Busy

It is common that some of my client have confused the idea of being busy with the idea that they are productive. It is possible that you can run at full speed all day and fall into bed exhausted, only to look at your to-do list to realize you didn’t really accomplish much of anything. When you look around and see that being busy is such a norm in our society, you tend to take that as being an acceptable or desirable behavior. Back in my corporate days, I used to work at IBM and productivity strategy was all they ever wanted to discuss. They always wanted to find more ways that we could do more for them in less time.

Finding Fulfillment

When really boiled down, having a goal of being productive is really a goal of feeling fulfilled. It really feels good to check things off on a list that gets you even a little bit closer to goals that you have already established. I used to be one of those people that would write big, long, legal pad to-do lists. However I’ve found that a lot of times, it winds up just being a brain dump that doesn’t usually lend to productivity for me.

Focusing on Your Priorities

If you are going to do a to-do list, let’s start taking a look and noting which tasks on your list are your priorities. Make it a point to write down your top 3 priorities for the day or week. These top 3 should be tasks that will get you closer to accomplishing some goals that you already have in progress. Then, take these tasks and make a point to put them down officially on your calendar. It can also often help to estimate the time it will take you to complete each task, especially if it is a common recurring task.

If to-do lists or brain dumps aren’t really for you, then you should consider utilizing hit lists. Hit lists are a tool you can use to break tasks down by how much time they take you to complete. You will have a 5 minute list, 10 minute list, 1 hour, 2 hours, etc. Then, whenever you find yourself with unexpected time, you have those to refer to and can be productive. Read more about hit lists in my blog Using Hit Lists to Get Stuff Done and as usual if you could use some advice or guidance you are always welcome to contact me.

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Top Three Tips for Summer Success as a Mompreneur

summer success

When it is cold and windy outside, we all find ourselves daydreaming of the warmth and freedom of the summertime, don’t we? Unfortunately, then the summer actually comes around and some of us have mixed feelings about its arrival. Suddenly as wonderful as the warm weather is, we also realize that this means the school year is over and our schedules majorly shift. It’s also not uncommon to go into a programmed “relaxation mode” in the summer. That is wonderful, but with kids home all the time and no routine, how do we do that?!

The summer is a great time to enjoy quality time with family vacations, having the kids home and (sometimes) just some peace and quiet to yourself. A lot of my clients choose to “power down” over the summer time just slow down and not be working as much or as hard as through the rest of the year. This can easily be confused as a lack of motivation and then they start feeling feeling like they’re not accomplishing enough. It is totally normal to struggle with this paradigm shift. So, how can we be strategic with juggling the summertime and being a mompreneur?

This is often my number 1 request for advice from those I am coaching – how to make it through the summer. Summertime is both a blessing and curse – because we get to enjoy our freedom, but we also tend to give up our routine. The lack of structure and routine (especially for bored kids) adds to the stress and chaos of everyday life. When kids get bored they will usually start misbehaving or bugging you because they are in need of stimulation. When the routine changes (or stops altogether) everybody gets on a different body clock or rhythm and it’s easy to fall out of sync. Your little kids are up and ready to play at 5 or 6am while yourself and your teenagers find yourself staying up later than usual.

Trouble easily starts from a lack of clear expectations. Kids are used to a routine during the school year. They are told everyday at school what they will be doing and what to expect during the course of each day. How can you combat all the chaos?

So, I have three tips for you to survive the summer:

  1. Developing a family calendar
  2. Having a family meet daily
  3. Encouraging input and collaboration

Developing a calendar seems like a no-brainer but is also something that a lot of us fail to execute. Moms and dads are always running around knowing who needs to be where, with what, at what time but often the kids are not privy to this information ahead of time. Maybe Mom and Dad have the cell phone calendars linked, but where does this leave the little ones? Kids ages 3 and up can start learning about what to expect and what is coming up on their family calendar. Helping them have clear expectations will help your home run so much smoothly. I love having a big visual calendar and filling in all the events that we know are going to take place. It is important to have your kids contribute to the calendar as well. Let the little ones who are too young to read draw or use stickers to know what is coming. Get your calendar out of your head and get it into a public place for all to see and understand.

Having a family meeting can help everyone be on the same page. No, it doesn’t have to be rigid and formal. Just chat about each week and each day in the morning while Mom is pouring her coffee and the kids are eating their cereal. Look at the calendar and talk about what’s coming up, add anything new things and give a brief overview. Once again, helping to set those expectations. I’m telling you, the best summers we have ever had are when we start each day with a family meeting.

Don’t just get your family members to participate, but get their input and encourage them to really collaborate together on your calendar. Don’t try to simply set a schedule and expect everyone to follow it AND be happy about it. Get your kids and family members to contribute and give back their opinions and feelings about how they would like things to go and help build those expectations. You will be so very happy you did (and they will probably cooperate better, too)!

If you put these into place, you can enjoy a smoother, more relaxing summer. Good luck!

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Be More Productive with Hit Lists

This summer has been a busy one for me. I am coaching more people than ever this summer, spending ample time enjoying my kids, and yet I don’t feel stressed. Summertime is lovely, but also brings with it major schedule changes and priority adjustments. This can easily make us feel like we never get quite as much done as we would like or as we feel like we should.

I won’t lie, it was a lot harder to get things done when my kids were younger. I still struggle at times to feel like I am really using my time productively. But I’m going to share with you one of my favorite tips to help you be productive—specifically when you weren’t expecting to have any time.

It’s time to make yourself some hit lists.

What are hit lists?

A hit list is a list of things that you do on a routine basis. Sometimes, it’s the kind of stuff that we forget to do when we have a more chaotic schedule than usual (like summertime). If you will implement and use boundaries, hit lists, structures, expectations, and routines, you can get more stuff done. This will let you enjoy getting things done without feeling fragile and stressed. The purpose of a hit list is to give you a visual list of of things you can do when you have spare time that you didn’t expect to have. The neighbor has called and invited your kids over to swim? Great! Now you have 2 free hours, but what the heck do you do?

What goes on hit lists?

When you are compiling your hit lists, I find it most beneficial to break it into categories as well as time frames. Create a hit list for work and another one for your household responsibilities. Consider breaking your work hit list down into categories such as administration, marketing, managing warm leads or customer loyalty, and breaking your household list into individual rooms or outdoor work. You can list things such as going through and purging old clothes that no longer fit, cleaning windows or pulling weeds.

After you have some categories down – consider breaking it down even further into chunks of time. That way when you find yourself with a spare 15 minutes you can go to a hit lists and say “What can I do that will be productive in just 15 minutes? Oh! I could do this 15 minute task under marketing, like respond to all notifications on social media! That won’t take long at all!” What about something in the sales category? You could reach out to a warm lead that you haven’t spoken to in awhile. These hit lists will help you when you have unexpected extra time and you will know that you are using your time productively.

If you are visual person—print out your hit lists with vivid colors and post them somewhere you will see them regularly. Or consider using your phone. I use a notetaking app on my iPhone for my hit lists because my phone is always with me and I never know when I will want to refer to them!

So take some time in the next day or two to put together a couple of basic hit lists. Then when you find a spare minute (waiting for kids at swim lessons, a post-swim surprise nap), you’ll have a list to go to and not waste time trying to figure out what to do. Happy productivity!

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Things to Think About When Setting Your Prices

If there is one question that can keep you up more than any other as an entrepreneur, it is probably the question about how you value what you do or sell. How do you set effective prices?

Trouble can easily be created when you set your prices too high or too low. It can be very challenging to know exactly where you should be pricing—it’s not an exact science—but there still is some science that can help you. Pricing can be especially difficult if you are just starting out in your business or if you are rolling out something new. How do you know whether it’s the right price and if it is going to work for your audience?

There are three key factors to focus on when setting prices:

  1. Your target customer
  2. How much your competitors are charging
  3. Understanding the relationship between quality and price

It can be a very common mistake, especially in the beginning of your business, to underprice everyone else. It is a common misconception that if you are the least expensive, you will get more volume, purchases, or sign ups. This is simply not always the case. If you have less of a reputation than the competition you are undercutting, you risk being perceived by potential customers simply as cheap. You will see that most people are unwilling to purchase from someone who they believe has less value.

As a dear friend of mine always says, be wary of the bottom feeders or the ones who are just looking for the cheapest price. That person will never be loyal to you, they will always move to the lowest price.

Who is your ideal client?

No matter what you are creating, if you take the time to figure out who your ideal client is, that information will serve you well in the long term. Are they an avid shopper? Coupon collector? Are they more price or value sensitive? Customers need to believe that they are getting the best value for their money. It’s hard to drive value when someone cannot come in and touch something physically, so you have to focus on creating your customer experience.

What are your costs?

Something that absolutely everyone should do, but gets skipped all too often is knowing your costs. What costs do you have do you have to run your business, develop your products or services? Hard costs and soft costs should both be factored into your overall price model. Do you have costs for labor, marketing and selling or operating expenses? Literally, keeping the lights on, using your cell phone for your business, mileage on your car and your personal fixed assets. These are all things that are depreciating in value and being used due to you owning your business.

How much do you need/want to make?

It is also a critical step to define what your revenue target is for the year. From there, you can determine how many of each product or service you need to sell to reach that target, which can in turn shed some light on your pricing structure.

What value do you add?

Always remember your individual value that you bring to the table. Do you add extra services, guarantees or bonuses that your competition do not? What do your customers receive for buying from you instead of someone else? Figure out what your audience will pay for what you are selling, and then consider what you can do to distinguish yourself from the rest. Your pricing will fall into place.

Need help figuring out the answers to these questions? Not sure where to start? Contact me today for one-on-one coaching!

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How to Streamline Your Business Finances & Stress Less

Today’s post was inspired by a conversation I had recently with a fairly new member of my Metro Detroit Mompreneurs group. She had just joined, was still very much in start up phase of her business, and had a lot of great questions about recommendations for bookkeeping, invoicing, and financial organization as a business owner.

I decided that would be a great topic to cover with you! I want to help you set some systems in place for your business financials so you can feel streamlined, supported, and organized for the rest of the year. Established systems will benefit you both now and in the long run with growth or scaling in your business. There is absolutely every reason to invest your time, money, and effort into the organization of your financial wellness as an entrepreneur. This venture could save you incredible messes and headaches in the future.

One of the first and biggest things I always talk to my clients about with their finances seems so basic, and yet is commonly never really planned. You need to know how to properly charge your clients and customers. You need to define how to set value to your services or products and how to best invoice and collect money. For any business, it pays off in spades to nail your pricing early on. This can be hard for service-based businesses or businesses that provide custom, specific products, but is absolutely one of the first steps to streamlining your processes. You should develop a rate card. It’s exactly like what it sounds like it is, just a simple card with your prices for your standard items or services that you have to offer printed on it. This will save you the difficulty and mental energy of having to figure out what to charge every single time. Take the time to really organize your thoughts around what it is that you sell and what you feel is a fair value for that. Do you sell your time, advice, or expertise? Consider arranging packages for a set recurring payment once per month for a retainer for certain number of hours.

Once you have developed your rate card, it is important to decide what types or avenues of payment you would like to accept. I, personally, work entirely from digital transactions. Allowing my clients and customers to use credit cards has saved me time, energy, and quite a bit of stress without having to worry about cash, checks or bank runs.

One of my line items is monthly retainers for coaching and I have a rate card printed that I can show any prospective clients. They can simply look it over, pick level of service and see very clearly the price. My workshop rate card is organized with a rate for each type of workshop (1 hour, 3 hour, all day). I even have a rate card established for my in person speaking engagements depending on whether they are all day requiring travel, a local non profit, or simply a keynote. Save yourself some headache and at least write down some standard pricing or price ranges.

Next, you need to get paid right? I thought so! You’ve got to make payments as easy as possible for yourself and your customers alike. As I said, I personally don’t accept any form of cash or checks, only cards. Even when or if I am somewhere in person and selling my books at that event, I use a card swiper such as Square or Paypal! Low fees for myself and it’s just an easy one click, one swipe, and done process!

Even for live events, I suggest considering a service such as Eventbrite. I used this before when I did Mom Biz Coach Retreats and it was so easy and saved me so much stress. The registration system collects their pertinent contact information for you, allows you to provide information to them about the event, travel recommendations, etc. and then you can simply connect your Paypal and they can pay through a beautiful, integrated gateway.

Invoicing and bookkeeping is the last step and is the main reason I don’t use a pen and paper for anything anymore. That awful, piling, necessary paper trail in business was just too much for me. It was hard for me to keep up with receipts, avoid losing things or making accidental mistakes. So for me and my business, the beauty of accepting all payments online is there is a full online account of each transaction, date, amount, etc. This helps me so very much during tax time!

These are some of my favorite tips and tricks for keeping everything as simple, streamlined, and easy as possible. Did I miss something? What are you using that makes running the finance side of your business easy for you?

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