Friday, July 22, 2011

1-on-1: Working from Home

Balancing Work and Family Life

John Assaraf ,Tony Jeary, Nancy Michaels - June 2, 2009

The Experts Up Close
Tony Jeary
is a life coach to top CEOs all over the world and the author of Strategic Acceleration, Succeed at the Speed of Life.

Nancy Michaels is a nationally known business-development coach, author, speaker, consultant to women and minority business owners, and author of Perfecting Your Pitch.

John Assaraf is one of the experts featured in the film and book The Secret, which he helped launch. He is a national expert on achieving financial freedom and living an extraordinary life. He co-authored his most recent book, The Answer.

Q. I run a business, and my spouse expects me to take care of most of the personal errands because my schedule is more flexible. How can I get my spouse to understand that I am working, too?

Tony Jeary: Clarifying expectations for both parties is a must. What’s the big picture in marriage and in all relationships? It’s winning together and winning separately and being clear on both. How each person wins individually and how you win together are vitally important and will have huge impacts on how situations like this are dealt with.

John Assaraf: The best way to do this is to have a set of agreed-upon expectations and goals and a way to value each other’s contribution to the family. Consider hiring a student to do the other lower-paying activities, giving you the freedom to continue doing what you really want. I also suggest a heart-to-heart with your spouse to get on the same playing field and to determine each other’s responsibilities.

Nancy Michaels: Gently try to explain to your spouse that, although you have flexibility in your work schedule, it’s important for you to be focused and productive during working hours so that you can spend your nights and weekends enjoying quality time with your family, instead of attempting to finish work-related projects because you were busy running personal errands during your office hours.

Perhaps make a task list of household chores and items that each of you could do during the week could be listed and distributed so they won’t interfere with your work schedule and productivity. Another option for dual-income families to consider is hiring someone to run these errands on a weekly or bimonthly basis. With a challenging economy, you’re likely to find someone in your area who is happy to run errands for you, helping you save your business and your marriage in good stead.

Q. I have to travel a lot to promote my business. How can I be on the road but stay connected to my spouse and kids?

Tony Jeary: I stay connected through photo sharing and text messaging. In fact, I’m flying back from Australia as I’m answering this question, and the whole time I was gone launching my new book, signing autographs and doing interviews abroad, I was sending e-pictures to my kids and wife (and even to my mom and dad). Today’s PDAs offer some great options. Also, connecting with my kids by text message before they go to bed or when they’re on their way to school just makes good sense. Determine what works for your family, and then keep communication a top priority.

Nancy Michaels: As much as possible, utilizing technology in order to stay connected while on the road is the short answer to your question; however, there are other ways to effectively promote your business while on the road as well. Digital cameras, video cameras with built-in ports to upload video easily, webcams, and Skype all have practical applications for those of us who need to travel due to the demands of our business. Nothing takes the place of face-to-face contact with prospects and clients, but the same is also true for those we are closest to—our family and friends. Think strategically about ways to communicate with prospects and clients through these methods as well. Much can be accomplished through technology at a fraction of the cost to your clients, which is always a welcome cutback. And after an initial contact or introduction is made and a solid track record of great performance established, many corporations and clients are happy to have virtual relationships with their key vendors.

Determine other ways to promote your business virtually—from your home office. After a long and unexpected illness and years of traveling, I decided to operate my business as virtually as possible. Of course, there are some occasions that will prevent you from utilizing technology alone to make the connection with a client, prospect or industry contact, but make the request initially to determine whether or not technology can bridge the gap or substitute for a face-to-face meeting. Often, a conference call where multiple parties can join in is often free and easy for everyone to use from a land line or online. Videoconferencing and webcasts also provide a viable way to reach out and touch someone without having to be physically present.

When you are on the road because of those unavoidable events where you absolutely have to be there (i.e., client pitch meetings, trade shows and conferences where high-level networking can take place, etc.), be mindful of the loved ones you’ve left behind, and be sure to pick up souvenirs and mementos from the respective cities you are visiting upon your return home. If your children know that they’ll receive a thoughtful gift that makes them aware that you miss them when you are away, the stress of traveling will have less of an effect on you as well as on your family.

John Assaraf: I also travel a lot, and I have a camera on my computer, one on my kids’ and one on my wife’s computer. We then use Skype or instant messenger to call and see each other. It’s the next best thing to being there. In addition, do some little projects built around where you are going with your kids so they are involved. This can be a fun experience so that they feel like you are connected to them. Take photos of your travels, send them postcards, and really make them feel like they are with you.

Q. I have always wanted to break away from the corporate grind to start my own business. How do I know if I am ready?

Nancy Michaels: If you’ve got a decent day job—albeit, one that you’d rather not be tied down to in order to start your own business—start to put away some extra income so the pressure will not be enormously great when you first venture out on your own. Ask yourself: Could my current employer possibly be a potential client for me? If so, what projects could they easily outsource that I would most qualify for? Are there other organizations or companies that I could work on a freelance or project basis for as well? Do I have the necessary skills to manage running a small business that go beyond what I do, such as project management, identifying the right resources to deliver the work I promise, etc.? If not, what do I need to work on in order to be most effective? Can I run my business from my home initially? Or do I need overhead expenses, such as rent, employees, etc., in order to get started?

Fortunately, my background was in public relations and marketing. If these are not your strongest areas, you need to get comfortable—or learn to be comfortable in your discomfort—in promoting yourself to your potential target markets and beyond. Be prepared to let everyone you have worked with in the past or currently work with know what your plans are, and ask for referrals. Be aware that you will be in the business of sales and marketing as a small-business owner—like it or not. Identify the key places where you would need to meet with potential buyers of your products or services (professional associations; conferences; trade shows; local networking organizations, such as the local chambers of commerce, etc.) and be sure to leverage your time and resources to grow your list of professional contacts and prospects.

Running your own business provides wonderful opportunities and potentials; however, I often say, “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.” There’s often tremendous risk involved, and your individual or family resources can be substantial. It takes time, courage, and lots of determination and persistence in order to make a run of it. If you have the burning desire and fire in your belly to succeed and take some necessary and sound steps to lessen your risks, there’s no better way to make a living than by doing what you love.