WORK/LIFE BALANCE. Everyone wants it, but is it
achievable if you run your own business?
This balance has been a hot topic recently, with
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg telling women to
“lean in” to their careers, and new mom and Yahoo!
CEO Marissa Mayer banning employees working
from home. But that conversation is centered
around people who work as employees. Almost no
one addresses how truly challenging work/life
balance is to achieve when you own the company.
You might ask, don’t those who run their own
business have total control over their time? Can’t a
parent take the kids to the dentist at 11 a.m. without
a boss looking over his or her shoulder or wondering
how this will affect promotions?
Sure. Unless there’s a client deadline, it’s the
only time to reach an important prospect or there
isn’t anyone else to watch the store. When you
own your own business, you work whenever you
need to work. It’s a matter of dollars and cents.
Here are some ways to make managing the
tug-of-war between home and business
Rotate priorities. During fall, your work
demands may be heavy and someone else may
have to get dinner on the table. In summer, you
may have more time to make family the priority.
Acknowledge that going to work is also
serving your family. Yes, you may miss the
soccer game, but you’re serving your family by
earning money to put a roof over their heads.
Structure your day and week. A set
work routine helps you and those around you
understand your work life. Have regular business hours, even if you work out of your home.
Don’t neglect yourself. Has it been years
since you exercised? Do you always eat junk food
at your desk? Having balance in your life does not
mean all priorities have equal weight: You might
spend only one hour a week on yourself, but even
that one hour may help you through.
For a small-business owner, finding a balance
between personal life and work life is not like
reaching balance on a scale with equal weights,
but more like balance on a teeter-totter. Sometimes one priority will be up, and the other down.
You never reach true equilibrium, but, hopefully,
you never fall off. And you have some fun. C
newest book is
Approach. Register for
her free business-tips
newsletter at www.
More in archives
On Costco.com, enter “Connection.” At
Online Edition, search “Rhonda Abrams.”
“IF YOU SELL something,
you make a customer today.
But if you help someone,
you can create a customer for
life.” That’s the principle behind
Youtility: creating and giving away
information and assistance that’s so
useful, people would pay for it. It comes
from Costco member Jay Baer, a marketing keynote speaker and president-founder of Convince & Convert, a social
media and content marketing consultancy.
Baer says, “It’s marketing that people actu-
In his book, Youtility: Why Smart Marketing
Is About Help Not Hype (Portfolio/Penguin,
www.youtilitybook.com; not available at
Costco), Baer asserts that smart marketing comes
in three distinct types.
Self-serve information. Fifty-seven percent of
Americans possess a smartphone, and customers
research purchases like never before. Businesses
provide more information online so potential cus-
tomers can determine what to buy from the palms
of their hands. For instance, Holiday World and
Splashin’ Safari, an amusement park in Indiana,
provides five videos and a detailed questions-and-
answers section for every major attraction, even
showing the daily water temperature for the slides.
Radical transparency. Smart marketing is
about building trust, and nothing builds trust like
truth. Businesses that proactively acknowledge that
sometimes they aren’t the best choice create a well of
goodwill that will pay off down the road. McDonald’s
in Canada allows Canadians to ask any question
about McDonald’s food on a special website, including videos that explain how to make Big Mac sauce
at home and why burgers on TV commercials look
different than the burgers in the restaurants.
Real-time relevancy. Being extremely useful
in one situation is far better for your business than
being somewhat useful in all situations. This is
real-time relevancy, being the best possible source
of information or assistance at a particular moment
As an example, Costco provides real-time relevance with the complimentary Costco Concierge
Services technical-support program that will troubleshoot or repair any electronic device purchased
at Costco. C
M aking customers for life
Cool web tool
IN BIG COMPANIES
and small ones,
Inter-net forums are
being used to engage
and serve customers.
founder and CEO of ProBoards
www.proboards.com), a site that
enables people to create free
online forums, says one of the
biggest advantages of providing
customers with access to a dedi-
cated forum is the collaborative
engagement that follows.
Forum members can learn
more about your business
through their interactions and
can become some of your most
staunch and vocal advocates.
Also, these frequent visitors can
be extremely helpful with assisting and influencing other customers, as they have already acquired
a great deal of knowledge about
your products and/or services.
“When a new member comes
to a company’s forum looking for
advice or needing an answer to
a question, [often] other forum
members will be ready and willing to answer,” Clinger explains.
“In this way, the forum enables
[businesses] to provide customer
support 24/7, even when their
offices are closed. This means
a better customer service experience for visitors, without the
need for committing further
Clinger offers these tips for
effective forum use:
• Organize your forum into different categories so that similar
discussions are grouped together.
• Personally welcome new
members to your forum. This will
help build a sense of community.
• Post messages asking for
customer input. They can provide
valuable business intelligence to
help your decision making.
• Promptly reply to customers
and address their needs. Respond
openly and transparently to build
• Post a new message each
day to help build activity.
• Promote your forum using
existing channels, including social
media and your website. C