A Robust Mother’s Guide to Business
I’ve run businesses and worked from home for 17 years and I know how hard it is to juggle kids, work and the home. My goal is to enable you to benefit from my 17 years experience, to jump ahead a few years in the learning process and to avoid some of my mistakes. I’ll tell you what will save you time and money and increase your business. Some items may be relevant to you, some won’t.
Stop enrolling your kids in so many activities. You’ll run yourself ragged and it takes you away from your business. One sport and one musical activity is enough and if you can get all your kids into one activity at the same time, like Little Athletics or Nippers, even better. One activity gives them a chance to be good at something rather than spreading themselves so thin they are ordinary at everything.
Most business advisors will tell you that you need work/ life balance, you need to separate your work time and your family time but we all know that as business owners and entrepreneurs that is very difficult to do especially in the early years of your business when you are trying to get established. So one thing I used to do when our 3 kids were little was to work between 1 and 4 am. I’m a notoriously bad sleeper and I’m awake at that time anyway so I made the most of it. Now I know there are going to be doctors, psychiatrists etc who will say that’s a terrible thing to do, but I say, ignore them. You have my permission to work whenever you like.
Work When You Can
I have been caught out a few times sending emails to our clients at 3am and I would receive messages back later that day asking what the hell I was doing online at that time? It looked desperate and like the business was out of control so I learnt to save the messages as drafts and send them at 8am when my “official” work day started.
When questioned why I was working in the middle of the night by one client I responded that I couldn’t sleep so I might as well work only to be told that I should relax my jaw. “If you can’t sleep, she lectured, lie there and relax your jaw, you’ll go to sleep in no time.” Thanks for the tip. Good sleepers are smug, always wanting to tell you their sure-fire insomnia cures but I say stop. I don’t want to sleep. That’s my time and whilst I no longer get up and work it’s the time I use to listen to podcasts. There are some fantastic business podcasts’ my favourite at the moment being James Shranko and Taki Moore’s Sales Marketing Profit.
Separate your office from the family
The other problem working at home is separating your work space from the family and I would strongly recommend having an office where you can shut the door, mainly to lock the kids out. You can always go out when you hear them screaming 😉 . Our office has progressed from the dining room to a small sectioned-off area of our double garage to the now fully converted double garage. The sectioned-off office was hideously ugly. For some reason I thought the exposed brick walls of the garage would look so much better painted bright yellow!
Eventually we outgrew the ugly office and had the entire double garage converted (this time professionally) into a beautiful, fully decked out office. My advice is not to spend money on office space until you absolutely have to and to avoid commercial leases whenever possible. Commercial leases are very different from residential leases; they tend to be longer and have little, to no ability to break the lease even if you close the business which means you will continue to pay the commercial lease until the lease expires or you find a new tenant willing to take over the lease.
Keep Costs Down
Your job as a business owner is to keep costs down and until you’ve proven to yourself, your accountant and the tax man that your business is viable don’t waste money on expensive office space or expensive cars. This whole “fake it until you make it” mantra spouted by business coaches only makes you look good on the surface but you’re going to look pretty stupid when the same neighbours who were marvelling at your business acumen when you rocked up in your new Porsche now get to witness the debt collectors coming to repossess the car.
As you expand and employ staff, it’s ok for them to work from home too. My feeling is that as long as they get the work done, to a high standard and via a secure internet connection it doesn’t matter where they do it.
Return on Investment
There are some things you should invest in and some you shouldn’t. For example, a logo is an unnecessary expense when you start your business. I challenge you to think “what will be the return on investment?” every time you go to invest in a new item or service for your business. You have to be able to justify the expense. Think to yourself “how many widgets do I have to sell to cover the cost of this item?” If you pay $400 for a logo and your profit is only $20 on the widget you sell you need to sell 20 widgets just to pay for your logo. If it is not building your business there are ways around each expense if you think creatively. Instead of a logo pick a font and a colour theme and use it consistently across your emails, website etc. Instead of business cards ask if you can share contact details directly into your phones. Think about this: As soon as you hand a person a business card or brochure you have taken away your ability to contact them. You should be asking for their details and if you can send them some more information. The ball is back in your court.
Build it and they will come…does not apply to websites. You can have the prettiest, sexiest website in the world but unless you drive traffic to your site it’s a waste of money. This is where your email list, social media, blog content and SEO comes in. The website is the first step, about 5% of the process. If you don’t know how to drive traffic to your website I recommend the very inexpensive ($40!) 4-week Marketing course by Bigger Vision.
Build an Email List
Build and nurture a high-quality email list. Now you may think a list is not relevant to your type of business but I would say that most businesses, if not all, benefit from keeping in touch regularly with their list: remind people that you exist and that you are there when they are ready to purchase. Devote time to writing content, eBooks and creating videos to keep our clients and prospective clients informed. In the lead up to a purchase it is your job to build trust, educate your audience, explain why you are different and who your ideal client is. If they see themselves in this description then they will get in touch. If they don’t they can unsubscribe and that’s OK. We want a clean list of quality candidates.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Automate your business with Ontraport – Ontraport is like MailChimp on steroids! Ontraport is a complete sales, marketing and promotions software in one. We use Ontraport to manage our database, automate our sales and marketing processes and keep in touch with our mail list/database. You can create landing pages with beautiful templates, use email templates and forms to collect customer information. They also have sales pages and membership capabilities that generally integrate smoothly with WordPress.
We consider our CRM an essential item, a necessary expense, as it facilitates and generates sales and every step of the process is measurable.
Join your local Chamber of Commerce
Join the Chamber of Commerce and the mentor program and get involved. The networking opportunities alone are worth the membership fee. We joined CCIQ Noosa Chamber of Commerce 2 years ago at a total cost of $440 including the mentor program. We connected with 2 different insurance brokers who alone have saved us $12000 in premiums over 2 years. I’m not exaggerating.
Sarah Fisher does Business Insurance and she found us cheaper Professional Indemnity insurance and Ray Bostleman does personal insurance and he helped us reduce our life insurance, income protection insurance etc. We met them at Chamber of Commerce networking events. They’ve benefited our business and we’ve benefited their businesses.
Through the chamber of commerce we’ve met new clients and I’ve been able to suggest Chamber members to friends when they’ve asked for recommendations. The Chamber meetings and networking nights put your business in the minds of other locals so when they need a product or service your local business is the first that comes to mind.
It doesn’t matter how long you have been in business there is still plenty to learn and we benefited enormously from the mentor program. I highly recommend it.
Bringing it Together – A Case Study
How can you promote yourself, without spending much money, build your email list, drive people to your website and have permission to contact people and sell to them in the future? Firstly, you have to think creatively. Let’s take Geoff Powell from Photografica as a case study.
What is one day of the year when everyone wants to be photographed? Melbourne Cup. So, before Melbourne Cup Geoff approaches all the restaurants on Hastings Street at Noosa (his local area) and asks for permission to enter their restaurants to take free photos of the guests, to upload them to Facebook and tag the restaurant so everyone can see how amazing their restaurant looks and how much fun their customers are having.
Geoff has a t-shirt printed ($30) with his Facebook page on the back – notice it is only 1 colour so cheapest way to print. He progressively moves from restaurant to restaurant taking great photos of everyone dressed beautifully. He reminds everyone to like and tag themselves on his Facebook page which means all their contacts get to see Geoff’s photos. To remember his FB address he suggests they take a photo on their phone of his back so if they don’t like his page straight away they can come back to it when they are looking through their photos at a later date. Now Geoff could upload the photos later to FB but Ideally he would have an assistant out on Hastings Street on a laptop swapping SD cards with Geoff, uploading one photo of each person to the Photografica Facebook page with a watermark over the image reminding everyone to go to Geoff’s new landing page provided by ONTRAport that collects visitors email addresses in exchange for more free photos.
People can download their photos free of charge: they receive beautiful photos and Geoff builds his email list, his Facebook following AND he has driven people to his website where they are spending lots of time scrolling through photos which boosts his SEO rankings.
Geoff now uses Ontraport to stay in contact with that list – the majority of them will be Noosa residents with a higher disposable income (because they can afford to eat on Hastings Street on Cup Day); his ideal clients. Geoff’s follow up email could say “Did you like your Cup Day photos? Did you know I take great corporate head shots and make beautiful websites? Drop me a message if you would like a free quote.”
Let’s look at Geoff’s return on investment:
$30 for the shirt
$300 for an assistant
$79 for a month’s access to Ontraport (for up to 1000 contacts)
Let’s throw in $100 for other expenses for a total of $509
The average spend for corporate head shots is about $300. So Geoff needs 2 new clients to cover his costs. Assuming he collects 100 email addresses from this project then I think a 2% conversion rate is do-able.
Here’s a resource page I’ve assembled to share more tips on how to save time and money in your business.
Be smart. Work hard. Work together.