Seeking Work/Life Balance? The Family Phone Tree May be the Place to Start

“Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create” ― Jana Kingsford

You are a busy person: you juggle client calls, appointments, and projects on a daily basis, sometimes simultaneously. Similarly, you field random calls and requests from family members that range from rants, venting, or general (unimportant) information. Yes, there is the occasional emergency, but the likelihood of a true emergency tends to be low.

Most often, family calls are predictable, based on plentiful past experience so when their call arrives in the middle of the work day, we’re faced with a few options:

  • Answer immediately because it’s always a joy to speak to this person.
  • Answer immediately because this particular family member rarely calls and it could be critical.
  • Cringe and decide: do we answer knowing the call is a false alarm?
  • Let the call go to voice mail because we’re working in our business.

When was the last time you pressed your way through a company’s phone tree system? These automated recordings are designed to efficiently direct us to the most knowledgeable or helpful person to handle our need. While they are an annoyance, and I’m not convinced this is efficient for us as the caller, there must be some time savings for the business. Following a recent series of distracting calls from various family members, I wondered how this system would work with the family. Would this feature simplify the work/life balance for a business owner wedged in the Sandwich Generation? Here’s how mine would sound:

Hello my dear Family Members. I’m sorry I cannot answer your urgent call at this moment, but I’m involved with clients at this time. Listen to the following options to best serve your needs. Please listen to the full menu as our options change frequently.

  • Mom/Dad, press 1
  • Spouse/partner, press 2
  • Son/Daughter, press 3
  • Sibling, press 4
  • All other family members, press 5

(You will need to personalize your family phone tree for best results.)

Beyond the first level of categories, there would be some similarities. Here is how I would define level 2:

  • Press 1 if you are calling because someone won’t eat their dinner.
  • Press 2 if the family member won’t complete their chores.
  • Press 3 if another family member is annoying you.

You’ll also need to include additional categories for each group:

For your parents (in my case, my mother), I need to include:

  • Press 4 if this is a news flash about April the Giraffe
  • Press 5 if this is regarding the latest political gossip
  • Press 6 if you are worried about something

For your partner/spouse, include:

  • Press 4 if you want to discuss what to have for dinner
  • Press 5 to compare the latest story from our children
  • Press 6 if you want to tell me details about your latest World of Warship battle

For Son/Daughter, include:

  • Press 4 if you are complaining about work
  • Press 5 if you are venting about life in general
  • Press 6 if this is a request for money
  • Press 7 if you are seeking advice which you plan to ignore

For those that receive the rare call from extended family members (cousin, aunt, estranged family member), this signifies something potentially critical, so it’s wise to answer immediately.

Regardless of which direction the person-in-question blunders through the family phone tree, they must record their message, which will then be queued in order of pre-determined urgency. Then on a break, you can address the issues in order of importance.

There are many joys to being a business owner and working from home, but dealing with family members is one of the darker sides of business ownership. It’s best to treat with love, patience, a bit of humor, and the family phone tree. Would such a system improve your quest for work/life balance?

Perhaps there’s an entrepreneur out there who recognizes this need and is building a prototype now!

Kristen Edens

4 Years Strong and 1 Million Cups Continues to Inspire

In 2012, The Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri introduced the first 1 Million Cups program. Their mission was to educate, engage, and connect entrepreneurs with their community and resources. In 2013, St. Louis added the event to their entrepreneurial activities.

An entrepreneur myself, I first attended the event December 2014 and attended their 2nd anniversary in 2015 (read my experience here). Now, 2 years later, I have returned from their 4th anniversary with equal inspiration, motivation, and insight.

Similar to their 2nd anniversary, the St. Louis 1 Million Cups invited past presenters back for a session on what they learned, highs and lows, and advice.

When asked how their original 1MC presentation made a difference, the common reply was the unexpected reach their video provided them, archived on the 1MC site. Secondly, their presentation validated their credibility and presence in the entrepreneurial environments.

The advice shared remains consistent from 2015 with some extra considerations:

  • Be persistent; stick to your values and your vision
  • Be humble
  • Maintain your focus; life will be easier!
  • Keep getting out there; entrepreneurs spend a lot of time on the phone or their devices. There is great value in meeting others, getting involved, and reaching out.
  • Surround yourself with a dedicated team
  • Be careful who you trust; not everyone will share your values and may sabotage your efforts
  • You know your business best; stick with your vision to avoid straying too far from it.
  • Apply advice with caution; while peers’ advice is well-meaning, it isn’t always the best advice. Remember that you won’t be able to please everyone.
  • If you build it, they will come; while this is the ‘dream’, it isn’t reality. Apply the wisdom above to attract the audience you desire.

When asked what fears they overcame, here are the replies:

Connie Fry of Pony Pizza Company

  • I dealt with a bug infestation in my product. It was devastating but I regrouped and overcame that issue.

Dawn Manske of Made for Freedom

  • I have a fear of failing so it’s the driving force that keeps me moving forward.

Nick Szabo of Get Swizzle

  • Becoming a new parent and startup founder was frightening. I struggled with how to take care of both simultaneously and emerged with extreme time-management skills.

Ali Ahmadi of AirZaar

  • Quitting my corporate job and the financial burden created fear for me. Also a new father, it was my child that got me through the emotional and mental turmoil.

Andrew Glantz of Gift a Meal

  • I feared my youth would be a deterrent; not having enough experience, not being taken seriously, and letting them down troubled me, but instead became the driving force to accomplish my vision.

Rob Rose of SaniTrace

  • I didn’t know anything about the food market or running a business. I taught myself while building and promoting my business.

In the short time since these entrepreneurs presented at 1MC, they have experienced growth personally and professionally. Ari Ahmadi summarized entrepreneurship best:

“Starting a business is miserable. Get up, get out and learn.”

The presenters, the audience, and I agree with his sentiments. We also agree that there is no greater satisfaction than to know we are helping to solve a problem in the world.

What problem will you solve?
Kristen Edens

Looking for Books to Help Your Business Grow?

Gualberto107 freedigitalphotos.netOwning a business means we’re constantly learning and growing. In addition to reading countless blog posts and white papers on building, growing and thriving in a business, there are plenty of books on the subject. Below is a list of the business books I read and a brief summary on each.

Conversations That Win the Complex Sale by Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer

I discovered this book and author at the Business Marketing Association’s annual conference. Tim Riesterer presented and did an excellent job explaining the conversation it takes to make a tough sale. Not only did Tim explain the process with energy and humor, he writes that way, too. I recommend it if you struggle with making that final stretch to paying client.

Defeating an Internet Boogeyman by Mason Duchatschek, Adam Burns & Will Hanke

I’ve known Will Hanke of Red Canoe Media, for several years and we have worked on projects and workshops together. Will and his partners wrote the book to protect individuals from online attacks to their professional and personal lives. At 118 pages, you’ll find plenty of real-life experiences and easy solutions to existing or potential internet problems.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Although I read this book in 2013, I refer to it often. As an introverted business owner, there are more times than not when I must step out of my shy-shell to build my brand and build awareness. Without doing so, my business (and I) would not grow. This book reminds me that there are plenty of introverts out there and the strengths they bring to business.

Create Your Writer Platform by Chuck Sambuchino

I met Chuck at the Missouri Writer’s Guild Spring Conference this year and his book was the title of his presentation. Although written for authors, many of his points can also be applied to growing business relationships. Chuck’s book breaks it down into 240 pages of overwhelming, mind-boggling, how-in-the-world-am-I going-to-do-this instructions on how to build your platform. Lots of great information here, but I finished the book feeling like I was drowning.

Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk

Then Gary’s book comes along. It must be the ‘chuck/chuk’ name, but both authors discuss much of the same information. The difference: Gary makes it sound possible; anyone can do it. However, he does state that it takes A LOT OF WORK. While I’ve felt too intimidated to return to Chuck’s book to implement his ideas, I have referred back to Gary’s book often and started making an outline before I finished reading.

The 45-Second Presentation That Will Change Your Life by Don Failla

This 81-page wonder details the process and potential with network marketing. At the time it was written, online anything did not exist. The beauty of this book is that the process is just as applicable today as it was 30+ years ago. I came away with new ideas and a plan that complements the outline I created with Gary’s book.

Six books in one year may not sound like much (not counting the fiction books I read), but the information gleaned from these books has been tremendous. Pick up one or two, or all and let me know what you think.

What’s on your reading list? I’d love to hear what you read and what you recommend.

Happy reading—and writing!
Kris the Scribbler

photo credit: Gualberto107 at freedigitalphotos.net

Stepping Out: Breaking the Boundaries of Shyness

I just finished reading the book by Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

In her book, she states that “one-third to one-half of Americans are introverts”. Do those numbers seem low to you? How do we know if someone tends to be introverted if that person practices daily to hide that trait? It isn’t something to be ashamed of, but when it comes to the business world, one must step out every so often to let others know about their business.

As the author goes on to explain, we all exhibit tendencies toward both introversion and extroversion, but some of us display these traits (visibly or not) more often than others. What this means is that there will be times even the most outgoing person will have difficulties presenting himself at one point or another.

When I was 8 or so, I was on a swim team. I loved swimming, I enjoyed training and I even enjoyed the competition. The only thing that held me back was my shyness: I feared standing out in a crowd; I feared being the center of attention.

When it came time to race, I became so nervous I barely heard the starting gun—though I never jumped the gun because that meant more attention on me. I didn’t hear the crowd, or the announcers, or my coach. And I often finished 2nd. Looking back, that’s probably why I was always second: Number One got all the attention and the spotlight; Number Two was soon forgotten.

Sometimes I look at my past and my tendencies toward shyness and wonder why I would pursue my own business when that meant REALLY standing out! Was I crazy? I knew what was required to own and run a business, yet I still pursued it. As Susan Cain mentions in her book, several introverted people pursued their desires despite their shyness and gave us great inventions, works of art or literature. Where would we be without Dr. Suess, Chopin, Albert Einstein, George Orwell, and several others?

In the business world, whether introverted or extroverted, we must stand out, be remembered, be likeable and stick our neck out higher than anyone else. Networking meetings, presentations, and conferences are just a few ways to be visible. Other methods include marketing, communication through online and offline methods, chat groups, webinars, and much more. Just think how terrifying cold calling is for many of us!

If one method is more troublesome for you than others, then turn your attention to another technique for now. For instance, if making a 1-minute presentation at a networking meeting is worse than a root canal for you, then find a local networking group on Linked In and become involved that way. Get known, be visible—online—and once you get to know several local business owners, find a networking group many will be attending and meet them there. It will be like a reunion, still a little awkward, but you’ll already know several attendees and they will know you.

Another technique to try is through your marketing and communications. If getting out and meeting people is a nail-biting experience for you, then give a little extra time to writing content that tells a story that you aren’t quite ready to do on your own. Then post it here, there and everywhere: social media, website, blogs and guest-blogging, newsletters, invoices, and more. As with the Linked in groups, you’ll develop a group of readers and then when you do meet up with your clients, you have something in common to discuss. You’re likely to have ideas for your next blog, newsletter or press release to hint at and develop anticipation for your listener.

Once you finish a meeting and you’ve successfully said hello, listened and chatted with one or two other business owners or clients, head back to your office or home and reward yourself! Chocolate. Beer. A bubble bath. A favorite movie. Blaring your favorite song. Whatever it is—do it! Enjoy and celebrate your success.

After 40-some years battling the shyness bug, you’d think I’d have conquered my fears. I still have my ‘moments’ but I always have chocolate handy! Then I remind myself that I’ve never been attacked or maimed or shunned through all those shy episodes. It took me awhile to realize this and someday I’ll tell the turning-point story. But here is another secret I’ll share: no matter how nervous you are, no one else needs to know. Write it on a piece of paper and hold it in your hand or place it in a pocket. There is no need to fight it but also no need to let it take over. There are many people who need your specialties. Go get them!

What about you? Do you fear cold calling, public speaking, the 1-minute elevator speech? How do you face it? If you’d like to learn some more of my techniques for reaching out or how to write content that speaks louder than you can, send me a note. I’d love to share more ideas.

Peace and plentiful writing!

Kristen McLain