Monday, December 20, 2010

Calendar Control

With the holidays approaching, you may be planning to take a vacation from your business to celebrate with your family.  As the New Year begins, you'll have a fresh start to your business.  Hopefully, you have events already planned for next year but it isn't too late to tweak your 2011. 

Here are some tips on how to keep control of your own calendar:
  • Use one calendar for yourself which includes all your business events, personal appointments, family events, and children's activities.  Including everything on one calendar will avoid scheduling business events when you are supposed to be at a recital or making a doctor's appointment when you should be meeting with a customer.

  • You may find it helpful to color code the items on your calendar.  Assign a separate color for each area of your life: business events where you are making money, customer appointments, networking and training opportunities, children's activities, and personal appointments.  This allows you to see at a quick glance what your day, week, and month hold for you. 

  • Identify, in advance, when you are available to work.  If you do vendor events or home parties, decide which nights of the week or which weekends you will work and how many events you plan to do each month to meet financial and personal goals. 

  • When booking appointments with customers, avoid opening your calendar to them or asking when would be a good time for them.  Instead, give them choices.  For example, "Would a Tuesday or Thursday night be better for you?"  After they respond, say, "Would the 11th or the 18th at 7pm work for you?"  You want to fill your calendar consistently and on your terms.  This method will help prevent people from booking appointments too far out or overbooking yourself with too many at one time.

  • Make a resolution to say "no" more often.  If you are one of those people who overbook your calendar with too many activities and find yourself too frazzled or too busy to focus on your priorities, you need to learn to say "no".  For example, my faith, my family, and my business are my top three priorities.  When scheduling activities, most of them should fall into those three categories.  Too many other activities cause additional stress and allow you to lose sight of what is important.  Being pulled in too many directions makes it difficult to give your best in everything you do.
Do you have a great tip to add on how you keep control of your calendar?  Please share by leaving a comment below!

Need more help with time management?  Below are some books on this topic.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Make Time For Business

Each day, each person is given the same 24 hours to spend as they choose.  People's days can look so different, even our own days can vary.  Have you had a day where you accomplished nothing or maybe a day when you were in a groove and managed to accomplish everything on your list plus some?  What is the difference? 

Our businesses can be like cleaning house.  Under normal circumstances, it could take days to dust, vacuum, do laundry, and clean bathrooms, but if you have guests coming, you could accomplish all this in a morning!  A sense of urgency really pushes us to get things done and fast!  How do we translate this to our business in order to get things accomplished efficiently each day?

First, you must know your "why".  Why do you have a business?  Why are you choosing to work?  For many, it is because your family has a need for the money.  Seeing a low dollar amount in your bank account when paying bills should create a sense of urgency for sure!  Or perhaps you are saving for a special vacation, a new car, or some home remodeling.  Make your "why" the motivation that helps you get up in the morning and get busy!

Second, you need to know what has to be done.  Create a "to do" list to keep you focused and complete the tasks in order of priority.  (I prefer to start my list the evening before just before bed.  It takes things off my mind so I sleep better.)  Having a physical list will help you accomplish more each day.  It offers additional accountability, especially if it is visible to other family members.  You have to be your own boss and check in on your productivity daily.  A list will not lie about how much you've actually accomplished in a day.  There is great satisfaction when crossing through an item you completed!  You just might find that the busier you are, the more you get done each day!

Third, there are two approaches for completing tasks.  The first is creating a specific time to work and the second is to work your business in and around other activities throughout the day. 

#1 Utilize "office hours" or a "Focus Hour" to complete your tasks.  Scheduling specific office hours for each day holds you accountable to work your business daily for a specified amount of time.  You can list your office hours on your voicemail or in email communications to create more accountability.  Customers will expect you to be working during those times.  Even if you only work 15 minutes, work every day.  If you take one day off, it may lead to pushing tasks back another day, then another and before you know it, you haven't worked all week.  A routine creates consistency and habits.

#2 Work your business in the "Nooks and Crannies" of your day.  Use a binder or electronic organizational device to keep your To Do List handy with any materials you need to complete the items.  When you get a moment while sitting at the doctors office, waiting in line at the bank teller, or sitting in the pickup line at school, pull the list out and make a few calls or complete a few tasks.

It is easy to get caught up in other activities and fill our schedules with too many non-business activities which leaves little time for working.  I'm sure you've gone online to check your email and quickly spent over an hour on the internet doing other things.  Or you may have been glued to the tv watching shows for hours. Before we know it, we've lost site of our focus.  By creating daily lists and scheduling in work time, you'll make sure the work is done so you time to spend with your families, take care of your household, and relax!

Most moms say their family comes first, which includes providing for them financially.  Working your business a little bit each day is not neglecting your duties as a mom.  You are a role model for life skills such as: work ethic, multi-tasking, prioritizing, and sacrifice.  We want to do it all but we need to choose activities that meet our goals and needs.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Including Children In Our Business

Involving our children in our business teaches responsibility, dedication, hard work, and the entreprenerial spirit!   Here are some tasks children can do to help.
  • Prepare order forms or catalogs by stamping or applying stickers.
  • Organize a mailer by applying labels or stamps and licking envelopes.  Maybe they simply put everything in the mailbox for you!
  • Load materials into boxes and carts or bring them to your car to prepare for an event.  They can help unload too!
  • Stuff hostess or customer folders.
  • File papers.

Older children can:
  • Enter information into the computer (customer information, orders, receipts, mileage).
  • Run errands to pick up office supplies or go to the post office.
  • Make customer service calls to inform of delivery status, check on product satisfaction, or to notify about a sale or special.
  • Design and print invitations for parties and events.
  • Wash or clean display products or display items.
  • Be an assistant at home parties or vendor events.  They can help set up your display, pass out materials, answer questions, and take orders.
Children seem to have a way of really pushing our buttons when we are focused on something else, particularly in a time crunch.  One of the best ways to redirect their behavior is to include them in what we are doing.   Assign them a task as needed or create a regular work schedule. 

Do you have little ones that are sad when you have to work, whether it is at home or out for parties, shows, or appointments?  You can make working a positive learning experience by using a reward system.  Pick a specific goal or prize, like a video game or a trip to the movies.  Use a chart or picture divided into sections to track each time you complete a targeted activity associated with work.  This can be time in your office making calls or each time you hold a home party.  You may want to choose an activity that you have a hard time completing with your children around.  Let the child put a sticker on the chart or color in a section of the picture when you successfully complete the activity.  When the chart or picture is complete, the child gets the reward. 

This system creates accountabilty for you and shows the correlation between work and reward for your child.  It gives small children something to be happy about when your attention is on work and not them.  You could also use this to reward positive behavior if the children are good while you complete a task.  I've heard moms say that their children have asked them when they are going to do more home parties so they can fill in their charts to earn their reward.  With older kids, you could make a chart with money earned towards the goal to create a math lesson!

I found an interesting article by Jean Murray entitled "Hire Your Children to Work in Your Small Business - and Save on Taxes."  Check out her article for more information.  If you decide to pay your children for helping you, there are many additional lessons to be learned about earning a paycheck and responsible saving!

 I'd love to hear how your family is involved in your business so I can add them to the list!

"Choose a good reputation over great riches,
for being held in high esteem is better than having silver or gold."
-Proverbs 22:1

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Lasting Impression

Recent customer service experiences both positive and negative have reminded me how important service is.  We all expect and love to be treated well.  Sometimes we are indifferent about average service but when it is memorable, we've been blown away by how poor or fantastic it was.  Three experiences have had me thinking about the quality of the service I provide to others and the impression they are left with when their experience is through.

The first occurred on Black Friday in a popular local department store.  My expectations included long lines with greedy, harried customers.  At checkout, I waited only 5 minutes at most.  The clerk greeted me with a smile, was friendly, and engaged me in conversation.  One of the clothing items I purchased rang up significantly more than the sign displayed on the table.  The clerk immediately called another associate to look up the price, despite the long line behind me.  Someone had placed several pairs of pants on the wrong table.  Without hesitation, the clerk reduced the pants I was purchasing by $8.00.  She exceeded my expectations!

The second involved picking up a phoned in to-go dinner order at a popular local sports bar.  Entering the restaurant, there were no visible employees.  Eventually a server handed me my food and a bill without a spoken word.  She picked up the phone when it rang and proceeded to take another order while simultaneously processing my payment.  She walked away without one word or even a glance in my direction.  Not one employee even saw me sign my slip or walk out the door.   

The third took place at the same department store mentioned above when I needed to return a few items.  An associate overheard me mentioning to a friend that my receipt had been left next to my computer.  While offering us a candy cane, he pointed out that the receipt could be looked up electronically with my credit card.  I was thankful for his intervention as I was prepared to make a subsequent trip.  My relief soured when I met the sales lady behind the desk who appeared annoyed with the task of processing my returns.  An attempt to carry on friendly conversation with her failed.  The reasons for my returns fell on deaf ears, evidenced by three botched attempts to complete the returns.  With the third error she promptly sputtered a curse word without concern for other customers or my two children. 

My intent is to offer these as "learning experiences."  Our standards for how we expect to be served should clearly mirror the same service we provide to others.  How difficult that can be if we're in a foul mood, in a hurry, or have had a terrible day.  Several incidents come to mind where I am regretful in how I responded to someone, failed to do what I said, or provided really poor service in general. 

We may only ever meet a person one time and the impression they are left with matters both personally and professionally.  If they are indifferent or unimpressed, they are unlikely to remember you and will likely do business with the next person they meet instead of you.  A poor experience will usually end any further contact.  An excellent experience will make someone remember you, want to build a relationship with you, refer you to others, and come to you with a need.  Here are some general things we can do to provide amazing service and leave a positive impression.

  • Acknowledge each person you meet.  Flash a genuine smile and offer a greeting.  
  • Show genuine enthusiasm for what you do. Enthusiasm is contagious!  If you love what you do and the products you offer, others will too.
  • Be positive in your thoughts, words, and attitude.  What is in our hearts, controls our thoughts, which is conveyed through our words and actions. 
  • Make each person feel special and important.  Inquire about something personal and related to the present situation to individualize the attention you afford them.
  • Go out of your way to exceed others' expectations.  Do whatever it takes to satisfy your customers, even if it costs you additional time or money.
  • Keep it personal.  A written note or a personal call is much more meaningful than an email.
  • Show gratitude.  I write a written thank you note to each of my hostesses, anyone who lets me tell them about my business opportunity, any customer I couldn't personally thank, and anyone who gives me a referral.  They are important to the success of my business and I want them to know it!
  • Do what you say you are going to do, when you promised it.  Forgetting about people tells them they are unimportant to you.  Failure to follow through is unprofessional.
  • Admit when you make a mistake and apologize.  No one is perfect.  If you "drop the ball," say so and attempt to repair the damage.
  • Be mindful of your phone etiquette.  Allow calls to go to your voicemail if you are unable to provide the caller with your undivided attention.  Also, avoid taking calls when at a business event or in the presence of a customer.  You are not approachable if your attention is elsewhere.
  • Have a professional image.  You could pick out a police officer, football player, or a nun by the uniform they wear and each conveys a particular meaning.  When people look at you, do they see an organized, hard working, professional woman who takes her business seriously?
  • Be aware that people are always watching you, whether you are "working" or not.  Others view your daily interactions, overhear conversations, and see online postings.  Your attitude and actions in your daily life will transfer over to how people see you professionally.

You want to be talked about... in a positive light, of course!  The best thing for business is for people to rave about you and tell others.  Referrals are great for business and the best kind of advertisement for a business.  Make it your business to be "talked about"!

Readers, I want to hear from you!   Share something special you do to provide excellent customer service.

Check out the books I've listed below on this topic.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Balancing Your Day

Ok, so is it really possible or just a myth?   I'm sure I've had some balanced days in my life but after adding two babies to the mix, there have been far fewer.  I'd say that balance is one of the hardest things to achieve in life, never mind business.  There are so many elements that factor in: organization, scheduling, consistency, motivation, etc...  Of course, something unexpected could put a wrench in the whole day!  The idea of balance is very broad and I must admit one of the main reasons I feel we, woman, need support. 

The solution is not to focus on perfection but to adjust each element and work on changing one thing at a time.  Here are some things I've learned and am working to implement in our household and my business.
  • Control your calendar.  Use one calendar to organize all the appointments and activities of each person in your family, as well as your business.
  • Create a schedule.  Include what time you wake up, household chores, meals, children's activities, and office hours.
  • Organize your environment.  This promotes better time management and reduces stress and  distraction.
  • Make a written "To Do" list.  Prioritize it and use it as a visual reminder for the day.
  • Be Consistent.  Continually do the things you need to do without procrastination.
  • Avoid distractions.  Track the amount of time you spend on the phone, online, or in front of the tv.
  • Get Motivated!  Find inspiration from text, a friend, or a group and avoid negative people. 
  • Reward yourself.  Working hard all day (and night) can take its toll.  Care for yourself by allowing some time in your schedule to decompress and relax.
It sure does look simple when it is spelled out on paper.  For me this last year with my twin boys has wreaked havoc on any "balance" we had in our household.  Our attempt to rework a routine that includes balance has brought me back to many of the principles I've been taught again and again.  As we all know, things change quickly and we must learn to continually adjust!

I can't wait to hear your thoughts.  Do you have an element to add?  Which area is the biggest struggle for you?  Over the next few blogs, I'll look at each element individually to share what I've learned about each.  Be sure to check back and offer your special insight on each.  After all, I'm learning too!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Stats To Impress

There are over 15.1 million people involved in direct selling, 90% of those are women and more than half of those women are under the age of 44.  That means there are a lot of moms out there trying to juggle a business with their family!
  • Additional Fast Facts
    • 77% of sellers have been with their company 1+ years
    • 80% of sellers say direct selling meets or exceeds their expectations
    • 85% of sellers report a good, very good or excellent experience with direct selling
    • 74% of US adults have purchased products from a direct seller
    • 15.1 million people in the U.S. are involved in direct selling
    • $29.6 billion in total US sales
    • $114 billion sales worldwide
( facts from
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you
and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

-Jeremiah 29:11

A Balancing Act

The "term" stay-at-home mom can have such a range of meanings these days.  Some mom’s home school their children. Others volunteer for the various activities their family is a part of and end up making that a full-time job. Many, like me, want to be at home with their children but find it mentally and financially necessary to work as well. While the various household tasks and requirements of raising children are a job in itself, the majority of moms I know find many other activities to occupy their time whether they are a paid or volunteer job.

Seven years ago I became an independent distributor for a direct sales company. Over the course of those years my personal situation has changed from being single, to married, and now a stay-at-home mom. While there are many moms involved in direct sales, some of the moms working from home have created their own small businesses or have been given a home office from a corporation.

Moms working from home face a unique set of challenges as they work two jobs simultaneously: raising their children and building a business. Regardless of what our business is, we are all moms working to achieve much of the same goals fighting the same battles. In creating this blog, I wish to unite women in support of one another.