It’s been six months since I started my own business and now seems like a good time to reflect on how it’s gone so far. So here’s what I’ve learnt.
You can’t do everything so focus on the important stuff
During my first month I tried to fit in everything. Client work, school drop off, networking events, lunches etc etc. I quickly discovered that it just wasn’t possible. I am in a phase in my life when I’m balancing my family and work which in reality means I have limited hours in the day. Trying to do it all got stressful very quickly and I got to the point where I realised – you know what I only have so much time and energy in each day so what I need right now is to focus. Focus on serving my clients and time with the kids and anything else needs to go on the back burner for another day. I stopped filling up my diary with extra stuff and focused on my main goals and after that it started to get a bit easier.
People really do get the work/kids juggle
One of my biggest concerns initially was that the hours I was working (school hours plus some evenings) would be an issue for clients. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. In part that’s because some of my clients have children of their own and they understand how challenging it can be to balance both. But the main reason it’s a success is because I make sure it is. My clients know I can be relied upon to make sure everything they need is done. They honestly don’t mind if they can hear kids in the background if they call me after school hours or if I’m not at my desk working by exactly 9am. What they care about is great client service that means their business support needs are taken care of; the kind of support that anticipates, manages and organises without them having to think about it. A client said to me after we had been working together for a month or so: I’m sure I’m not your most important client but somehow you manage to make me feel like I am. That’s when I knew I had nailed it.
For the optimum productivity find the work hours that suit you
When I first started out I thought I would maintain 9-5 hours but I’ve realised that actually this doesn’t work for me. I’ve never been a morning person and now that I have the choice it’s become clear to me that I do my most productive work later in the day. If I do something like go for a run in the morning I may not end up starting work until 10am but I get a lot more done. I also often have to work once the kids are in bed but, you know what, it really suits me. Which is a very good thing considering I have a client on a US time zone ! It made me think – should organisations give their employees more choice over working hours to get the most out of them ?
Virtual working does not mean remote working
A recent client testimonial describes the way that despite working virtually it still feels like I am there exactly when needed just as I would be if I was in the same office. That was a great reflection of the fact that virtual working doesn’t have to mean remote working. In fact I am starting to become convinced that virtual working often makes for better relationships. When you work in an office and see the same people everyday it’s easy to become complacent about relationships. The five minute ‘hi’ in the kitchen may end up being all the interaction you get on a daily basis. But working virtually forces you to be in constant contact with people. I speak to most of my clients everyday. Apps like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and WhatsApp make it easier even across different time zones. I don’t feel disconnected and it certainly seems my clients don’t either. We’ve come a long way in terms of organisations being open to flexible working but we’ve still got some way to go until they realise that virtual working does not mean remote working.
So that’s it. The first six months is complete. I’m sure there will be more things for me to learn in the next six months but I’m pretty happy with how things have gone so far.