Running a business can be difficult, time-consuming, tiring, and a never-ending balancing act. On the other hand, it should also be rewarding, enjoyable, challenging and fun. Finding the proper balance is essential as a business owner. Since every business is unique, what works for you may not work for others. However, there are basic ways to help create a healthy balance for yourself and your staff.
My vision for my company was to help my employees achieve work-life balance through flexibility with the workflow schedule and a focus on the importance of personal lives, whether they involve children, pets, hobbies, caring for elderly parents or other personal commitments that are important. That doesn’t mean the service suffers, it means that we’re not all stressed out and worrying about job security when our pet is ill, our family members need help, or a child becomes ill and daycare falls through.
Here are three of the ways we strive to create a healthy work-life balance at MYOB:
#1 Incorporating Flex Schedules
For some individuals, balancing work and personal life might be especially challenging. To assist, we provide flexible work schedules, which boosts productivity, efficiency, and overall employee satisfaction. In most cases, flexible work schedules benefit both the business and the staff.
Flex schedules include split shifts throughout the day or sliding shifts which may start at different times or days. Employees and/or contractors with flexible work schedules have the choice of completing tasks when they are most productive, which may be outside of conventional working hours. Since COVID-19, all staff are now working remotely, which means they can work from home or may use flex space at Innovation Works – as long as they keep in touch. This works through effective communication. For example, we communicate via our Trello workboards online, email, and one-to-one conversations via phone or zoom. Communication within our team has always been important, but remote working has made it critically important.
#2 Cross-training our Staff
I have long believed that cross-training should be viewed as a disaster recovery strategy for a business owner. As I mentioned above, things happen – a contractor goes on vacation, an employee goes on maternity leave, someone has a family emergency, etc. Rather than panic, we have at least one other person trained in at least one area within each facet of our business. With back-up staff for each function on hand at all times, it’s easy to ask someone else to jump in to handle the work when another person is unavailable and not have to worry about spur-of-the-moment training. This is a definite win-win for all involved – the business owner, the staff members, and most importantly, the clients.
#3 Creating and Respecting Boundaries
When employees need to book time off for any reason – mental health, physical health, vacation or otherwise – I believe it is important to respect their time off by not contacting them when they are not working. Respecting this boundary allows employees to fully focus on themselves or loved ones so that when they return, they are ready to be fully invested in their work.
Another way to support staff is by offering an open-door policy for employees to come to you with concerns – especially surrounding health – without judgement. When employees feel comfortable and supported speaking up about any appointments they need to book time off for, or mental and physical health needs, they will experience less stress. Less stress is both important for an employee’s work-life balance and it also contributes to talent retention for your business.
Finally, celebrate and check in with your staff. At MYOB we celebrate our staff’s milestones. For example, a maternity leave is a time for joy for a new parent and is not treated as an inconvenience to the business. When staff are ill, we show we care by checking in with them. We do not do this to find out when they’ll be returning, but because we care about how they are doing. Be genuine in your care for your employees and they will return that care for you and your business.
What does work-life balance mean to you?
We believe that developing a work-life balance has helped us focus on and improve our own health and well-being, in addition to increasing our overall productivity. All staff are encouraged to be mindful of their own health to avoid becoming overly stressed and to prevent burnout. For example, I understand that scheduling a day off for self-care might be needed from time to time.
As a small business owner, you may be so focused on your business that you’re not aware of the stress around you with your staff or how your own stress is affecting your family relationships and personal life. If this sounds like you and you’re seeking more balance in your life by delegating and outsourcing, then we have a suggestion for you. Outsourcing will lighten your load. We bring our team with skill and experience in the areas of bookkeeping, social media management and website design to your business so we can help you mind your own business better! Call or visit us online – we’re here to help!
If you have ever worked in a collaborative environment, like a co-working space or an open-concept office, then you’ll know that these kinds of work environments have their own unique conditions. We are speaking from experience as we share some tips to be productive in your co-working or collaborative space.
One way to stay productive is to stay motivated. Co-working spaces and open-concept workplaces have reportedly resulted in happier employees. When employees make personal connections with their co-workers, or other members of a co-working space, they feel more engaged, motivated, and less isolated. A study in the UK reported that happy people are 12% more productive. (Source) Being in your happy place will help you be more productive.
Collaboration is at an all-time high in an open-concept workspace. When you are in close proximity with other workers who bring a variety of skills to the table, you have a wealth of knowledge surrounding you. Use the human library that is at your fingertips and collaborate!
Are you easily distracted? Set boundaries! Some tenants use a sign on their chair to note that they are unavailable for conversation. Some co-working places have a “headphones” rule; if you have your headphones on, you are sending a message that you are unavailable for chatting. If someone needs to discuss something with you, they should send you a message to schedule a time that works for both of you.
What Are Some of the Other Benefits?
We all seek “work-life balance”. As a freelancer or entrepreneur, this may feel impossible, especially if your work is in your home. Co-working spaces provide an “away” space where work can be completed and your worries about whether you did the dishes or not can be out of mind.
Socialization is another key part of employment for many people. Whether you work for a large company or a small business that has opted for an open concept work environment (like us!), socialization is an important factor in motivation, and overall happiness.
Socializing can also provide an opportunity for networking. We have met so many wonderful people, and clients through our co-working space at Innovation Works. The opportunities to collaborate with other businesses and support them in their business journey have been abundant.
What about privacy? It’s true that in an open-concept space there isn’t a lot of privacy for confidential phone calls or sidebar meetings. However, if you do have something sensitive to discuss, most open-concept layouts plan for that with closed-door conference rooms or “phone booths”. Workplace phone booths are smaller, enclosed spaces where you can make or take more private phone calls without disturbing your coworkers or being overheard.
What About Life Post-COVID-19?
According to a study done by McKinsey & Company, 20-25 percent of jobs could allow staff to work from home 3-5 days a week. The same study suggested that 80% of people surveyed enjoy working from home part of the time. (Source) But what about the other part of the time? This is a great time to consider a flexible co-working space. As cases begin to decrease again, the social aspect of working life is expected to return.
Happier, healthier workers will lead to better productivity. Here, at MYOB, we love being part of the Innovation Works community.
August 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of Mind Your Own Business. It’s not every day that your “baby” turns ten, so I am super excited about it. My team and I are not only celebrating the fact that we have been in business for a decade, but we are also thriving!
Initially, my business model was for a Virtual Assistant. As a sole proprietor, I was responsible for a wide range of office administration services. Before I knew it, I was receiving an increasing number of requests for bookkeeping and website design, prompting me to hire my first employee. The requests kept coming in, so I hired my second employee and continued to grow. As of today, we total nine!
As the years passed, the services my customers need have also evolved and changed. Mind Your Own Business Inc. now offers bookkeeping, social media, and website design. So, how did we get here? I believe there are some lessons worth sharing about my ten-year journey. Prepare yourself for the good, the bad… and the ugly!
Getting started, I feel truly fortunate to have connected with Anderson & Associates whose business connected service providers with companies looking for the services I offered. Inquiries were also brought to my door by word-of-mouth recommendations from friendly, supportive colleagues. My circle began to expand after joining various networking groups, which brought together like-minded entrepreneurs at various stages of their businesses. Being a member of the London Chamber of Commerce also offered opportunities to meet and network with other local business leaders, as well as making possible a fantastic group benefits plan for our employees. Additionally, it was invaluable to work with the Small Business Centre to develop my business plan, which eventually qualified me for government funding to start my company. Next, I commissioned a brilliant graphic artist who helped me develop my logo and branding, which was money well spent.
As a team player, I love having and being part of a team. I absolutely love being a part of the dreams of other entrepreneurs and business leaders as we collaborate and work together to deliver excellent service. Through these past ten years, I have met and worked with so many people who have not only inspired me, but also became friends. Through my volunteer work on fundraising committees, I had the opportunity to meet and work with seasoned executives who mentored me as I progressed along my path.
And I certainly could not have done all of it without the support of my family. I can’t thank my husband enough for his encouragement and assistance along the way. When I needed extra hands on deck ten years ago, my daughter and her (then) boyfriend worked on contract. Today, that boyfriend is my son-in-law and my General Manager, and my daughter is the Social Media Manager.
Along with the good times, there are, unfortunately, a lot of tough times. As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Every business owner has at least one horror story to tell. Here is one I will never forget.
I can’t tell you how shocked I was the first time a new client demanded “emergency” service for a 20-hour job. I dropped everything to finish it, but she refused to pay. This lady had been referred by a trusted friend, but after the refusal to pay, I learned that this was a common tactic for this lady, who refused to pay for everything from hair styling to spa services to business services. She was my first client to go to a collection agency, and I was eventually forced to accept only a percentage of the total amount owed. Despite upfront quotes and new client agreements, I have unfortunately had to use the services of this collection agency several more times over the years since some people simply do not pay their bills.
One thing I have learned the hard way over time is that there will always be arrogant and condescending people who have decided that my services are of lower status in comparison to their lofty height of financial success. I keep in mind, however, that being talked down to says more about their character than it does about my services! Great business leaders always recognize, respect, and value their support staff, whether they are in-house or outsourced.
Another tough lesson I have learned is to be wary of the people who call and start a conversation with, “I don’t want to pay you for this call, but as a friend, I thought you could help me brainstorm my marketing ideas because you’re so good at it.” Promises of lunch or some minor reward for my contribution were frequently broken, but one favour turned into expecting another and another and so on. Master manipulators are adept at their games, and sadly they walk among us.
And finally, there’s the ugly. I consider myself an optimist, and always look for the best in people. As such, I strongly wish to keep the “ugly” to a minimum. But when reviewing this first decade of my business, I must acknowledge its presence as well. So here we go.
At the top of my ugly list is firing clients. Sleepless nights are preceded by several drafts of the break-up letter because the original cathartic script cannot be used! However, when a ‘bad client’ exhausts my tolerance and brings toxic negativity into my business or personal life, it becomes necessary – albeit difficult – to break up. It has happened a few times over the past ten years, and in each case, it was the best possible outcome. When doors closed, windows opened, and along with the fresh air, my entire teams’ attitudes were refreshed and renewed in preparation for new clients.
Wrapping It Up (With a Bow!)
So, there you have it – the good, the bad and the ugly! Overall, the decade has brought me more joy than I could have imagined, and I am looking forward to the future.
As I wrap up this part of my celebration, I wish to share my best advice with you. These tips have served me well, and I hope they will be helpful for you, too — whether you are just starting out as a new business owner, or you’ve been in business for over ten years!
Get signed contracts — even though you have integrity, your word is golden, and you think you don’t need them, you do. Handshakes and agreements are lost in the wind when the client won’t pay.
Make sure you have enough – and even extra – cash on hand to get started. Limited cashflow can create a nightmare.
Check references thoroughly before hiring someone.
Keep expenses under control – don’t waste your money on cool “toys”, shiny objects, or coloured paper clips. Don’t be cheap, just mindful.
Build and expand slowly and with a plan so you can stay away from high interest debt as you build your company.
Keep your bookkeeping up-to-date and government filings on time.
Have an excellent accountant to do your taxes and who will properly advise you.
Be consistent with your branding and messaging.
Have a business coach and/or mentor.
Answer your phone, respond to emails, and be available to your customers.
If you have a big ego – park it at the door. It’s a repellent.
“Beneath the rule of men entirely great, The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold The arch-enchanter’s wand — itself a nothing, But taking sorcery from the master-hand To paralyze the Caesars, and to strike The loud earth breathless! Take away the sword, States can be saved without it!”
– Edward Bulwer-Lytton, novelist, and playwright
Have you noticed that nearly everyone has something to say these days—especially online? It’s not your imagination! People have become increasingly emboldened by having the opportunity to use social media as an outlet for their individual voices. Most of the time, people use their social media platforms to share positive, funny, and uplifting messages, whether their own thoughts, or through memes. Unfortunately, on the flip side, we see more than our fair share of negative messages as well. In either case, once something is said on the internet, it can exist indefinitely… there is no going back.
In one of our recent blog posts, “Service for the Customer,” we addressed the importance of providing excellent customer service as one way to avoid receiving negative reviews online. However, you will always have at least one disgruntled individual who has no qualms about letting you know how unhappy they are — either on your social media platforms, within your blog comments, online review sites, etc. – nor will they hesitate to make their feelings known to the public.
Along with the opportunity and easy access to do so, each of us has the power to use words, both positive and negative, to express ourselves. So, what’s a business to do? Here are a few ways you can “sharpen your own sword,” so to speak, and make your words – and those of your audience – matter.
Acknowledge ALL comments
Although it’s tempting to simply ignore or delete the negative comments, it could end up being one of the worst things you do as a business. For one thing, it will give an unhappy individual yet another excuse to continue negativity towards your business. Every comment, whether positive, negative, or neutral, should be responded to since doing so helps you better connect with your followers by opening the lines of communication.
For customer service purposes, every negative review provides an opportunity to turn the situation around for a win! It’s not always easy, but it’s important to always be polite and professional when communicating online with your followers. Avoid swear words, even if they’re using them. Be mindful of your loyal customers; if they happen to see you being rude to others, it may affect their opinion of your company as well as their decision to continue doing business with you.
Note: Spam and vulgar or offensive comments are definitely exceptions and should be reported and deleted.
Mistakes can happen in any organization. Quite frequently, brands are called out by their audiences for what may seem to be a minor error, such as a typo or misspelling. However, there are times where a major blunder could occur unintentionally, such as internet controversies, offensive posts, inappropriately timed posts – perhaps due to prescheduling – or engaging in an online argument with an individual that goes sideways.
Regardless of whether the blunder is tiny or gigantic, the first step to take as business owner is to apologize. Even if you disagree with the individual, saying, “We are very sorry,” goes a long way to start the process of resolving or avoiding further conflict. The damage is done, so attempting to cover up or ignore the mistake will only make the situation worse for your business. Instead, immediately accept responsibility and take ownership for your error with a public online apology. When issuing your public apology, make sure you are sincere. Most people can tell the difference between a fake one that translates to an ‘Oops! We got caught!’, and a genuine, heartfelt sentiment. Your audience will appreciate your honesty.
Obtain positive feedback and customer testimonials
One of the most effective ways to reduce impact of a bad comment on your company image is through earning positive reviews, which will far outweigh the negative ones! If you’re not sure how to ask for feedback from your customers, HubSpot offers a few tips to help you get started:
1. Ask the customer in person. 2. Leverage moments of customer happiness. 3. Begin with an open-ended question.
How will you use your words today?
Taking the time to share kind words online, such as a recommendation for a local business or nominating someone for an award, can be powerful and even life-changing for them. This makes the metaphorical pen very mighty indeed. Which takes us back to the famous saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” According to one interpretation, writing is a more powerful tool than violence, and a pen can accomplish far more than a sword. It implies that the power of writing is timeless, whereas the sword’s power is fleeting. Our words have power, so we should always consider using them in a positive way and on a regular basis.
This week, we are back with the second part of our business tips for startups series! In the first part of our series, we went through three key points to think about as you start your new business: finance, marketing plans, and websites. (https://www.myobontario.ca/business-tips-for-start-ups-part-i/) In this article, we’ll go over three more critical aspects for launching a successful startup.
These three additional tips will assist you in making your business a success:
1. SWOT Analysis of competitors
Regardless of the type of business you start, one thing is for certain: there will be competitors. Even if no other business is selling exactly what you intend to sell, there are likely other products or services that your target customers are currently using to meet their needs. To be successful, you must research your competitors and learn as much as you can about what they sell and how they sell it.
Before implementing any new strategy, it is important to evaluate your current position. From there, you can consider where you want to go, how you intend to get there, and what obstacles may arise.
To determine these things, a thoughtful SWOT Analysis of your competitors could be revealing. What is a SWOT Analysis? SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats; a SWOT Analysis is a method for evaluating these four aspects of your competitors.
When it comes to hiring, startups face unique challenges. Finding the right people is a challenge that every business, whether established or new, faces. However, the people you need to hire for your startup will require a specific skill set to advance your business to the next level – yet you may lack the funds to attract the right people through the usual channels used by large corporations. It’s going to be an ongoing balancing act between having confidence in your company’s growth and spending the cash it takes to acquire and retain good talent.
Startups are also frequently faced with the decision of whether to hire permanent full-time employees or independent contractors. There are pros and cons to both, so which approach is best for you? This decision is likely to be influenced by your startup’s requirements and available budget. The primary distinction between contractors and employees is that contractors work for themselves, provide their own equipment and have other clients. If you hire your own employee, on the other hand, you are responsible for managing and paying additional overhead costs such as CPP, EI, statutory holidays and vacation pay. Furthermore, there are critical filings and remittances required to be paid to Canada Revenue Agency.
If you’re ready to hire, be sure go over your startup’s budget and priorities to make the best hiring decision for your team!
3. Lining up your professional support team
Hiring professionals to help your startup makes a lot of sense, especially when you are just getting started. Although a support team – which includes, but is not limited to, an accountant, attorney, consultant/coach, and bookkeeper – is not required to launch a startup, having access to their expertise is beneficial in getting your startup set up correctly and supporting continued growth. For example, most new business owners are unfamiliar with the legal and financial matters that must be addressed for their startup to succeed. You can, of course, do research and attempt to learn on your own, but doing so will take valuable time away from your primary responsibilities – starting and growing your business! Plus, having access to qualified professionals you can count on helps you to confidently focus on other elements of your organization.
Are you ready to get started?
Startup owners who wish to be successful must be able to adapt to changing circumstances, keep a healthy balance, and surround themselves with the right people. We hope you find these suggestions helpful, and we wish you luck as you begin your journey down a new path! If you need us, we are here for you – call or contact us and let us know how we can help.
Are you thinking about starting your own business? If so, then you are certainly not alone. According to Fundsquire, a global startup and scale-up funding network, Canada’s startup scene has been growing exponentially in the last few years. In fact, Canada has been ranked as the world’s fourth most influential startup hub, trailing only the United States, Israel, and the United Kingdom. (https://startupstash.com/canada-startups/)
It is important to keep in mind that before you begin purchasing supplies or registering your company, you must devote time and effort to developing a business plan. Taking the first steps toward launching a new business may seem intimidating to you, but fortunately, there are excellent resources to help you with this, such as the London Small Business Centre (https://www.sbcentre.ca/). This not-for-profit organization provides training and support to starting and growing businesses. Plus, they make it simple to find programs, services, resources, and support for all aspects of your business.
So, are you eager to launch your own startup? Here are three tips to consider as you get started:
A budget has numerous components that must be determined before you begin your business. This includes your own financial investment required to get started. Depending on your business, you’ll probably wish to purchase office equipment and furniture, a computer, printer, supplies, etc. One especially important aspect of your budget to keep in mind is your marketing plan expense.
You should plan to open a separate business bank account to avoid mixing your personal and business income and expenses and to keep a clean set of books. Consistent and diligent record-keeping is essential, so start from the beginning with a bookkeeping plan. Canada Revenue Agency’s rules and regulations, including whether to register for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), must be considered as well.
2. Marketing Plan
Marketing your startup is critical to its growth and to distinguishing itself from competitors. Having a marketing plan will help you as you begin identifying potential customers, channels, and the best ways to target the people you wish to serve.
While there is no set template, components of a solid marketing plan may include – but are not limited to – the following:
Networking (Face-to-face or virtual)
Digital marketing: setting up social media accounts (Facbeook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.), social media ads
Radio and/or television advertising
Opening and running a business, even a brick-and-mortar one, without a web presence is no longer feasible. As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, consumers use the internet for everything from researching products and services to finding a store’s location and operating hours. A well-designed professional website can certainly give you an advantage in your industry, while helping you easily and efficiently expand your business.
As you begin envisioning your startup’s website, you’ll need to first determine its primary purpose. Based on this, you will then need to consider whether you need a brochure site, an interactive site, and whether your clients need a secure sign in portal or downloadable forms.
We are here to help!
With skill and experience in the areas of bookkeeping, social media management and website design, our team is dedicated to our clients’ success, whether they’re just starting out or already established. MYOB can help you mind your own business better!
We have three other tips for startups coming up in our next blog post!