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When is the right time to hire a Director of Operations?

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When is the right time to hire a Director of Operations?

Photo Courtesy of Christina @wocintechchat

In my last post, I created a foundation for both the role and function of a Director of Operations (DOO).

I don’t think there is much room to argue that ANY business would benefit from having a DOO on their team. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have some incredible human handling the planning, operations, and management of your business so that you – – can have the space you need to breathe, dream, create, network and promote the heck out of your amazing business?

*I prefer the term FOUNDER when giving myself a title.

So, then the real question becomes not IF but WHEN is the right time to hire a DOO?

That, my friend, is a great question and one we are going to dig into in this post.

However, before I even begin to talk with a fellow business owner about who they want to hire, I like to start by asking them about the work they are currently doing inside their business. I break it down into a four-part matrix and ask the following reflective questions:

1. What are the tasks that ONLY YOU can do?

2. What are the tasks that you have HIGH EXPERTISE in but are not necessarily satisfying?

3. What are the tasks that you have LITTLE EXPERTISE in but are minimally satisfying?

4. What are the tasks that you do that are HIGHLY SATISFYING?

I am a firm believer that in order to feel good about the work we engage in on a daily basis, we need to be “good” at it and it needs to feel satisfying to us. I think the sweet spot is around 80/20. If 80 percent of our work consists of things we are good at and/or enjoy then we can tolerate the other 20 percent without too many complaints. The more the percentage shifts, the less fulfilling our work becomes and the more likely we are to become apathetic, cynical or start searching for something new. 

Now, let’s head back to the questions above…

The tasks listed in #1 need to stay on your plate. Only you can do them, so it’s important to keep that list for yourself. However, I would challenge you to be really honest about whether or not it’s true that you really are the only one that can do them or if you just WANT to be the only one doing them. It’s totally okay if that’s the case, it’s just important to be honest with yourself if you want to grow a healthy team (if you feel like you are struggling to delegate, then you need to connect with my girl Rachelle Nichols and she can help you sort through all of this).

The tasks listed in #2 are up for grabs. Some may stay, some may go depending on the person that is hired.

The tasks listed in #3 are definitely the ones that need to go. It’s time to get these off your plate and hand them over to someone else who is an expert in those areas and enjoys that line of work.

The tasks listed in #4 will probably stay. You may not be an expert, but you like them so they don’t take anything away from you (and probably not your business) for the present moment.

Once you’ve reviewed the tasks from lists #3 and #2, respectively. Then, it’s time to look at what’s on that list to determine who to hire first (or next) in your business.

Now, I don’t know what’s on your list, but if this is the FIRST person you are hiring for your team I almost always suggest you start with a Virtual Assistant, especially of the Executive Admin variety. The most relief that most business owners will immediately find is having someone who can take the routine, recurring tasks off their plate. You would be surprised by how much this space alone creates for you. Even if it’s just a couple of hours a week – that is a couple of hours a week you just gained to focus on the things that will move the needle (ahem, create more revenue) in your business OR will give you a little extra time to take your kids to the park or go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Assuming you already have a VA or for some reason don’t need admin support, then take another look at that list and look for the common themes. Using these themes, begin to craft a description of the person you want to hire, what skills they need to have, and what responsibilities they will have in your business.

Then, sit with this draft for a day or so and see how it would feel to have someone doing these things inside your business. If it feels great, you are on the right track and I would suggest continuing moving forward in this direction. If it doesn’t feel great, I would take a step back and reflect on your vision and the list you made and see if you can identify what you really need to help you move forward before taking active steps toward hiring someone.

If your list feels great and you are already dreaming about what you will do with all that extra time you just gave yourself, then you might be wondering if a DOO is the person you need to hire. Well, let’s take a look at the themes you noted. If your list included words or phrases like…

Systems

Processes

Organization

Management

Team Oversight

Leader

Partner

Right-Hand Person

Other Side of My Brain

Project Manager

Development

Strategy

Dot All My I’s, Cross All My T’s

Hiring

Operations

Planning

Then, a DOO might be the person you need.

However, it’s not just about need and function. Hiring a DOO also requires a budget that can support their role. In general, DOO’s do not directly increase revenue in a business. Rather, they optimize a business so that it is more profitable and so that the revenue-producing team members (namely the owner) have more space to generate sustainable dollars for the business.

It’s important to take a look at your revenue and determine if it can sustain your current business expenses PLUS the fees for a DOO for at least 6 months. In general, it’s best practice for your business operating expenses (including salaries and wages) to average around 30% if you want to have a healthy profit margin. If your DOO’s rate can fit within your 30% for your business then you are probably in good shape. Otherwise, you need to consider waiting a bit longer before adding a DOO to your team.

If your budget does not yet support a DOO but you need operational and admin support, consider a high-level Executive VA or an Operations Manager. They will most likely be able to create the space you need and may even have the potential to grow into a DOO over time as your business grows. Many DOO’s offer strategy sessions or consultation packages to help you create a plan that you can then have your team implement, which is a phenomenal transitional step.

As a certified Director of Operations, I know the value I and my peers bring to the businesses we partner with and work in. However, I also know there is a right time and a wrong time to hire a DOO and I want to help you navigate this decision so that you feel confident hiring the right person for the right role at the right time.

Having specific questions about whether or not a DOO is right for your business right now, feel free to book a call and let’s chat.

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business development entrepreneur

What is operations?

What is operations?

two women in business meeting

A common question I am asked is, “So…what exactly do you do?”

The short answer is that I provide Operations Management to my clients.

Yet, I find that statement usually needs a bit of clarity.I recently posted a poll on LinkedIn and asked the following question:

When you hear the word “operations”, in relation to business, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

I provided the following options as answers: Administration, Organization, Systems & Processes. 86% of those who answered said Systems & Processes. 14% said Administration.

These responses were insightful and so encouraging to me because systems and processes are one of my greatest loves in business and life ❤️ Seriously, there are few things in life that I enjoy more than discovering ways to help myself and others do the things we need to do with greater efficiency and ease.

But, I digress. What I really want to do today is break down this concept of OPERATIONS and look at it from the perspective of both role and function.


Let’s start by digging into the ROLE operations management can have in your businesses.

I am a certified Director of Operations through The Ops Authority with Natalie Gingrich. In order to complete this 6 month certification I learned and practiced the ins and outs of things like Strategic Mapping, Team Management, HR, Project Management, Communication, Launch Management, Organizational Development, Key Performance Indicators and more.

In the corporate space, these skills would translate into the role of a Chief Operating Officer (COO) or Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Setting the titles aside, this would be a C-Suite role working within the same circle as the CEO.

In the online space, these skills translate into the role of Director of Operations (DOO) or Integrator. They can also translate into roles like Marketing Director, Operations Manager, Practice Manager, HR Manager, Project Manager. In most small businesses, the DOO often wears a few hats. For example, the DOO in a small business will usually be the one to take the lead on Project Management within the business or coordinate projects with a hired team (like web design or marketing).

DOO’s can be a fractional contractor (part time ~ 10 hours a week) or a full-time employee. All of that depends on your business structure, budget and needs. A DOO is dedicated to your business but the value is generally not based on hours clocked but in goals and deliverables being met.

Regardless of title, I am hoping that you have picked up on the trend that whomever you bring in to manage the operations in your business is someone whose role includes strategy, leadership and partnership.

This is not someone you bring on to simply dole out tasks to, but someone you trust to support you in running your business and to help make the key decisions that will move you closer to your vision.


Now, let’s take a look at the FUNCTION operations management can have in your business.

Those who answered the poll I mentioned are not wrong. Systems and processes are a key function of operations in a business. The DOO is responsible for analyzing the places in a business that are messy, chaotic and overall not working and work with the CEO and team to create clarity, efficiency and ease.

This is broad, but really includes almost every aspect of your business, including team roles and responsibilities, onboarding, offboarding, data tracking, standard operating procedures, planning and more.

More specifically, the DOO is a partner to the CEO ensuring that the work that is being done is aligned with the business’ mission and values and is moving the business toward the vision and goals with minimal distraction and waste.

In terms of relationships, the DOO is your go-to, the other side of your brain, the one who tells you the good news and the bad news, the one who will devise solutions to the problems the business is facing and will oversee the strategies needed to keep moving forward.

The DOO is a leader who will lead your team (if you have one) and provide the oversight and guidance necessary to ensure that all the things are being executed and implemented on time and with excellence. They will most likely manage your project management tool and follow through to make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.

In essence, the DOO gives you space. Space to breath, create, and dream. The DOO allows you to function more fully in your role as the CEO by taking you out of all the day-to-day and back-end management of your business so that you can truly step into your greatness.

Pretty awesome, right? I’m a DOO and I feel like I’m ready to go hire my own DOO because having someone like this in my business would be so frickin amazing! You with me?

Are you a DOO, what else would you add to the descriptions I provided above?

Are you a business owner who has hired a DOO, I’d love to hear your experience.

Drop your comments below.

Be sure to check back for my next post where I walk you through my framework for determining when it’s the right time to hire a DOO for your business. 

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business development entrepreneur solopreneur

What freedom means to me as an entrepreneur.

What freedom means to me as an entrepreneur.

Today is the 4th of July. The day that marks our freedom and independence as Americans. Yet, the words freedom and independence are actually quite loaded and their meaning varies for the people who make up the fabric of our country.

As I reflect on these two words, I have many thoughts swirling around my end regarding the inequities and inequalities that continue to exist within our borders. I also think about the current divide in our country between those who choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and those who don’t. Divides caused by the tragic downside of living in a country that values personal freedom and independence over consideration of the collective good. These realities are important to note and each could be developed in their own series of posts. But, they are not the focus of this post.

Today, I want to take a moment to reflect and share what the word freedom means to me as an entrepreneur.

Freedom as an entrepreneur means opportunity and impact.

Let me unpack this a little more for you…

Freedom as an entrepreneur means that I have the opportunity to create and build a business of my own choosing that is designed around my dreams, goals, passions and strengths. It means that I have the opportunity to create something out of nothing, take risks, try, fail, learn and grow. It means that if I think I have a shot, I can take it. The opportunity to try – regardless of the outcome – is one of the greatest gifts of entrepreneurism.

Freedom as an entrepreneur means that my end goal is to build a business that makes an impact. To transcend beyond survival – beyond myself – to contribute to the greater good of this world through. Being an entrepreneur allows me to navigate my way through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – finding creative solutions to meet my own needs and giving me the space to continually find meaning and purpose in the work I do. It means that, in the end, I can discover a way to live out my values and build something that has potential to last beyond the brief years I have available to me on this planet. 

In a nutshell. Freedom is not just about me, but also what I can do for the good of others.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

As I ponder this particular 4th of July holiday, recognizing that I have the freedom to think these thoughts and share them publicly without fear of retribution due to the sacrifices of many that have gone before me, I am thankful. Thankful for the opportunity to become an entrepreneur. Thankful for the chance to create meaning for myself. Thankful to the ability to leave an impact of good on the world.

What does freedom mean to you?

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entrepreneur self-care solopreneur Uncategorized

How to Take a Vacation As a Business Owner

How to Take a Vacation As a Business Owner

My husband and I just returned from a week long vacation in Mexico. I did not take my laptop. I did not check messages. I did not do any form of work for the entire week. It was glorious, restful and energizing!

As entrepreneurs, we often struggle to take time away from our business or go on a fully unplugged vacation. Yet, one of the greatest benefits of having our own business is the ability to create our own schedule – which includes how and when we take time off. For me, this is also part of my self-care basket.

Is this an underutilized benefit in your own business? If so, I am going to break down some practical steps to help you prepare to take a vacation, the kind where you don’t check your inbox or Slack and leave your laptop at home.

Some of the reasons I often hear from other entrepreneurs (especially newbies) as to why they aren’t taking time off include:

1. I won’t get paid if I’m not working.

2. I am worried my business will fall apart.

3. My clients expect me to be available.

4. I am afraid of experiencing overwhelm when I return.

Let’s take a closer look at the points above and adjust our mindset around time off as an entrepreneur.

I won’t get paid if I’m not working.

This is true if you are an hourly contractor, which is why I advocate for transitioning clients to a retainer/project based pay model. However, what this means for those who bill by the hour is that you will need to set some money aside to cover the pay that you would normally receive that week (or pay yourself that week). I would take some time to look at your finances and determine what that dollar amount is and what you would need to set aside each week for the next 6 months to cover a week off for yourself. If you are on a retainer, your clients are paying for you and the space you hold for them. There is no need to adjust your retainer for a vacation.

Additionally, I use and love the Profit First model in my business. I pay myself a regular salary each week and set aside enough money so I have at least a 6 weeks of pay saved. This allows me to keep getting paid even if I take a week off for vacation.

I am worried my business will fall apart.

#truthbomb If your business unravels while you take one week away you have bigger issues in your business than your inability to take a vacation. I am currently a solopreneur and do not have anyone working inside my business. Therefore, when I go on vacation there is no one to cover me. Yet, I still take worry-free vacations multiple times per year and my business is just fine while I am away. Feel free to skip to the bottom if you want to start grabbing my tips for how to keep your business intact while you are away.

My clients expect me to be available.

If this is the case you either a) need different clients OR b) need to create a new set of expectations for your clients AND c) need to set expectations with all new clients that you bring on.

Before I sign any agreements with my new clients, I shared a document with them outlining how I work. This includes my standard time off each year (all holidays, 3 days at Thanksgiving and a week or two between Christmas and New Year) as well as letting them know they can expect me to take another week or so of additional vacation at some point during the year. So, when I add my vacation to my client’s calendars (usually 1-2 months in advance) it isn’t a surprise to them.

I am afraid of experiencing overwhelm when I return.

This is legit for both employee roles and entrepreneurial roles. For the most part, this just requires some pre-planning to set yourself up for success on the back-end of your trip. Block your calendar so that you don’t have any meetings scheduled on your first day back. Make sure your loose ends are tied up before you leave. When you open your inbox, immediately delete all of the emails that are not relevant and then skip to just reading the ones from your clients (all those emails from the lists you subscribe to can wait). Add the new work that came in to your project management tool or to do list. Allowing for a transition/catch-up day once you get back is super helpful. Oh…and don’t work longer hours to make-up for your week away, there is no greater way to lose the benefits of your time off than jumping back in at double time.

Now that we’ve addressed some common concerns, let’s get to the part about HOW to take that vacation you’ve been dreaming about. I’m going to provide you with a simple checklist for how to make this happen in your business, but THE KEY IS PLANNING. The better you plan the easier it will be to step away.

Be mindful of when you take your vacations. If you have a vacation planned already when taking on a new client, let them know on the front-end. If its a client you’ve been working with for awhile, avoid planning vacations during their launches or busy times. It will put both of you at greater ease.

Tell your clients 1-2 months in advance for any vacation you plan that will take you out of their business for one full week or longer. Add these dates to their calendar. 2-4 weeks in advance start reminding them and asking them what they feel they need to have in place while you are away.

Block the time on your calendar so no calls can be scheduled during the time you are away. Also block the day you return so you can have a transition day.

Expect to work a few extra hours the week before your vacation. Anything that can be done in advance, take care of it. Anything that can be scheduled (like social posts), schedule it. Update your calendar to cancel any recurring meetings for the week you are away. If there are tasks that MUST be done while you are away, provide your clients or their team members with clear instructions for how and when to do them (and keep them to a minimum). Set everyone up for a successful time away.

Turn on your autoresponder. Let your autoresponder work for you in your inbox. Let people know how long you will be away, when you will return and when they can expect a response from you.

Schedule a social media post on the platforms you use. Let your people know you are taking a vacay and that you’ll be back in a week or so. Feel free to schedule another post or two for while you are away if social media is a big part of your business. Or not, most people probably won’t even notice or, if they do, it won’t matter to them. This is really about your peace of mind.

Turn off your notifications. Hit snooze on all your work apps. Turn on vacation mode. Set yourself as away. I also move my apps to their own folder on my phone and set it a couple swipe screens back so nothing pops up when I grab my phone or something personal.

Leave your laptop at home. Sure, you may want to watch a move on the plane – bring a different device, book or magazine (I always treat myself to a magazine on vacation). You might have better boundaries than I do, but as long as it’s nearby I am tempted to check-in. Remove the temptation.

Let go. Enjoy your time away. Fully step into and fully trust that the sky will not fall down while you are away.

If you have never taken a vacation since starting your business, ease your way into. Consider starting with an extra long weekend or a 2-3 day trip to see how that goes and build yourself up to a full week or two.

You can do this, in fact, you need to do this.

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business development entrepreneur personal growth self-care

Why Self-Care Needs to be Part of Your Business Plan

Why Self-Care Needs to be Part of Your Business Plan

“Self-care is defined as the daily process of attending to your basic physical and emotional needs, which include the shaping of your daily routine, relationships, and environment, as needed to promote self-care.”-Evelyn Tribole, The Intuitive Eating Workbook

Are you reaching a point of burn-out and utter exhaustion as you strive to run your business with excellence?

Not sure, let’s take a quick assessment…

1. Are you tired all the time?

2. Do you experience insomnia?

3. Have you started experiencing physical symptoms (reflux, headaches, gut pain)?

4. Do you have anxious feelings?

5. Have you been sick more frequently?

6. Are you experiencing increased feelings of anger and resentment?

If you answered yes to three or more of these then you may have some of the tell-tale signs of burn-out.

I’m sure that most of you make some sort of plan for your business. Personally, I make an annual plan that I then review quarterly and have projects and tasks that I work through weekly and monthly that align with my goals and vision. This is relatively common. Yet, how often do you include self-care in your business plan? Do you incorporate self-care into the flow of your day, week or month?

I’ve been slowly working my way through the Intuitive Eating Workbook in an effort to shift my mindset as I seek to make peace with both food and my body. Yet, as I go through each exercise in the workbook I realize more and more that intuitive eating is not just about the food. It’s actually about wholeness.

My relationship with food is part of the larger picture of my life. My physical, relationship, emotional, psychological, and spiritual health all inform and influence the role food plays in my life. Intuitive eating is led by principles (I like to consider them as guides). The foundation of these principles are rooted in mindset and self-care.

I am discovering that the more I nourish myself through acts of self-care, the more space I create to honor my hunger and my needs. Yet, I’m realizing that self-care doesn’t just create space for me to practice intuitive eating, it creates space for me to show up and be present in the ways I want to in every area of my life – which includes my business. 

Self-care is not a luxury. It is not selfish. It is simply the pursuit and integration of those things that nourish our minds, bodies, souls and hearts. In fact, the American Psychological Association has stated that it is an ethical imperative essential for psychologists in order to prevent burn-out and maintain wellness. While specific to the demands of mental health professionals, I would venture to say that it would be equally essential for all small business owners to find and maintain a self-care routine and flow.

Like anything else in our business, self-care doesn’t just happen on it’s own. Sometimes the most challenging step is shifting our mindset to acknowledge that our practice of self-care is imperative to the sustainability and growth of our business. Just like the reminder on every flight of the importance of putting our own oxygen mask on before we can help others with theirs. If we are perpetually operating from a place of depletion and exhaustion, then we become limited in what we can share with others. The quality and level of our work can become stunted because we begin to function primarily in survival mode.

When I am not nourishing myself and neglect self-care, I find that I become easily overwhelmed, my clients’ requests can feel like a burden, I’m short-tempered with my husband and it becomes exceedingly difficult to make even minor adjustments when plans need to change. I become unbending and focused only on the end result of what I believe needs to be accomplished.

Sometimes, we reach such a deep place of exhaustion that we need to take a long break in order to rest and recover. But, most of the time, I have found that through awareness and a few small changes we can often recover what has been lost and begin to move from surviving to thriving.

If you are ready to nourish yourself so that you can become a better business owner, here are four paths to help you to get started:

1. Awareness – Acknowledge that you have not been caring for yourself and set aside some time to do a check-in. Personally, I like to check-in first with my body through doing a body scan and then with my emotions to identify the prominent feelings I have been experiencing. Stress often shows up in our emotions and our bodies which is why I like to start here.

As you go through this check-in, simply acknowledge any pains you have and the feelings you’ve identified without judgment. They are neutral and just there to provide insight to you.

2. Preparation – Self-care is personal and looks totally different for everyone. It can also be hugely dependent upon your season of life. However, what I have found is that having a list of self-care activities to choose from, I can easily pick what I need without having to spend a lot of time thinking about it.

In this season of life, I work-at-home with a toddler-sized co-worker. A few self-care for me in this season looks a lot like sleeping on Sundays, ordering from Daily Harvest for when I need a quick, healthful meal, going out and getting a coffee alone, practicing acceptance, set a time for 2:00 PM daily for deep breathing, and simplifying almost all of my daily routines to less than 15 minutes. For the working mamas out there, I have found Whitnee at The Savvy Working mom to be full of practical tips and for encouraging me to stop “shoulding” all over myself.

3. Margin – It has never resonated well with me to have a rigid schedule and routine. There are just too many things out of my control that arise and I don’t want to feel locked into anything. So, I create a plan for each week but I make sure to include plenty of margin so that I can be flexible when needed. This also means that I say no quite a lot. Keeping our calendars from being booked every minute of every day allows us to check and adjust when we needed to and to accommodate for unexpected changes.

4. Balance – This goes hand-in-hand with #3. As I said before, I need there to be some flexibility in my schedule. So, I tend to aim for a rhythm in my life that can ebb and flow as needed. We all need space for work, play, and rest. Those don’t always need to be in equal proportions at all times, but they do all need time and attention. I build all three of these into my schedule and routines, but when I notice that one is out of balance, I aim to give it a bit more attention. For example, I can often neglect play, and, as a result causes me to become a bit too serious. When I see this happening, I go play outside with my daughter or play a board and have a beer with my husband in the evening. These simple activities can usually recenter me and bring me back into balance.

In conclusion, in order to show up and be present in our businesses we need to acknowledge our need for self-care and begin to incorporate it into our lives in a way that aligned with who we are and that can be done realistically and consistently within our current season of life.

I’d love to hear in the comments below what your season of life includes right now and what you incorporate into your self-care “basket”. 

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entrepreneur mompreneur solopreneur

Pandemic-Sized Gratitude

Pandemic-Sized Gratitude

I’m going to join the chorus with everyone else this year and just acknowledge that this has been a hard year. However, that is not where I want to camp out. Rather, I want to focus on what I am grateful for during this pandemic season.

First, let me give you a little background about myself. I am a high-achieving, over-achieving, first-born, {mostly} extroverted, Enneagram 3, ENFJ, people-pleasing perfectionist. That’s a mouthful. Even more than that, all of these labels produced in me a kind of drive that has motivated me to work without ceasing but has often left a play-sized void.

The fact that I love to work and find both pleasure and satisfaction in it doesn’t help my cause.

So, you might be wondering what this has looked like in my life. Well, it looks a lot saying yes to everything and everyone regardless of how exhausted, depleted, overwhelmed or overbooked I may be. It means giving 110% when I only actually have 70% left. It means ignoring my inner self to just keep going, going, going like that faithful old Energizer bunny.

I’ve gone to counseling, read all the books, received coaching, and created all kinds of “rules” for my life to help me slow down. Yet, nothing has truly stuck or helped me get out of the “can’t stop, won’t stop” mindset…until I found myself in the midst of a global pandemic.

Sometimes, the only way to truly change is to be forced into kicking and screaming. Just like everyone else, I was not at all excited about cancelling my honeymoon to Mexico and my daughter’s first birthday party (we had rented a pool – she loves swimming). I was sad to cancel all date nights with my husband for the foreseeable future and disappointed that our neighborhood parks would be closed just as my toddler was getting her bearings on navigating the world on two feet. I had big plans and a full calendar – until one day I didn’t.

However, I found that what once filled me with dread – days and days at home with “nothing special” to look forward to – started to become rather enjoyable. I created a slow morning routine with my toddler that allows me to enjoy time with her, reading together and drinking a cup of coffee (I’m still amazed we can pull this off most days). My husband and I watched all 22 Marvel movies. I chatted with my neighbors (from a distance) outside. I was able to focus on building my business to the next level because I wasn’t running in a million directions. I spent time everyday just doing nothing and letting that be okay. I breathed. I played. I enjoyed the scenery.

“Slow living is a curious mix of being prepared and being prepared to let go. Caring more and caring less. Saying yes and saying no. Being present and walking away. Doing the important things and forgetting those that aren’t. Grounded and free. Heavy and light. Organized and flexible. Complex and simple.”

-Brooke McAlary, Slow Your Home

Without having a social calendar there was little to say yes to except myself and my family. Being forced into semi-social isolation for months allowed me to break the biggest, baddest habit of my life and now I can’t imagine going back to my pre-COVID pace of life (my husband – who is the king of relaxation – couldn’t be happier about this version of me).So, on this Thanksgiving, I have some pandemic-sized gratitude for the gift that was given to me – the gift of slowness and simplicity.

I’m not sure when this pandemic will end and I don’t quite know what “normal” will look like on the other side of this. As with most things, I’m sure we’ll all forget a lot because that’s what humans do. But, this is one lesson I won’t forget.

I’m still me. I still have a crazy drive and insane ambition. I still have grand plans and big dreams. Those things aren’t going away. But, hopefully, the way I pursue them will be a little different. Whatever life looks like on the other side of COVID-19 I know that I will be living it with greater simplicity and at a pace that allows me to get off the highway from time to time and enjoy the scenic route.

I’d love to hear about your pandemic sized gratitude. Feel free to comment below.

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entrepreneur solopreneur Virtual Assistant

Mastering Your Gmail

Mastering Your Gmail

I remember life before the internet was a thing. I also remember the internet being birthed into existence. The days of sitting in front of my family’s Apple computer screen – listening to the dial tone and waiting for the internet to connect – were exciting times! The world was on the brink of something that would eventually change the way we do just about everything. As a high schooler, I primarily used the internet for IM chats, email and MySpace to chime in with music creators and other angsty teenagers sharing their feelings in the digital space for the first time (Did you know that MySpace is still around?!?! Yeah, I didn’t either. However, it turns out they didn’t save my high school MySpace account. Anyone else have memories like this?

My first email account was sessa7@aol.com (Vanessa is hard for a toddler to say, so Sessa was the nickname my brother coined me with when he was learning to talk.). It turns out AOL.com is also still around. OK…I really need to stop distracting myself with all these trips down my digital memory lane! Anyway, I moved on from AOL and eventually adopted a Yahoo email account, which I still use today for my personal email. At this point, every account I have is associated with this email so the idea of changing feels a bit daunting to me. But, since using Gmail exclusively for my business I’m getting closer and closer to being ready to make the switch and go all in.

Gmail has 1.5 billion users and counting. Not only that, but all Gmail users have access to GSuite which has a host of features that we aren’t going to get into in this particular blog post. I often hear the question from new VA’s (and other small business owners) if using the paid version of Gmail is worth the cost. YES…100% YES! Using the paid account with a customized domain name (I use GoDaddy but there are loads of options most of which are less than $5 your first year) for your business is huge value for $6 per month (if you do a quick internet search so you can also usually find a coupon code for 20% off your first year making it only $4.80 per month). BAM! For less than a fancy beverage from Starbucks you now have a professional email account that gives you room to grow as your business grows.

I’m sure that every one of you reading this has an email account and knows how to send emails like a BOSS. In today’s post we are doing to dig into a few features and add-ons that I have found to really help you master your inbox and maximize your flow.

#1 Templates

Did you know that you can create template emails in your Gmail account. This is a lesser known feature but if you are finding yourself sending the same email more than three times, this feature is AWESOME because it keeps you from having to draft that email over and over again or from having to copy and paste it from a Google Doc. I have a series on my IGTV called #featurefridays where you can check out my video on how to create templates in Gmail. This feature will literally change your life!

#2 Schedule Send

Do you have reminder emails that need to go out, want to send a birthday message, or information that you want to make sure gets sent at a certain time? You can schedule your emails to be sent at your preferred schedule day and/or time. This is also a great feature if you are working through emails after hours but want them to hit your coworkers’ or clients’ inboxes during normal business hours. You simply click on the arrow next to the SEND button and select Schedule send. Once your email is scheduled you can find it in the left side bar of your Gmail account. 

 #3 Send Safely

If you are a #mompreneur or solopreneur like I am, you probably aren’t part of a secure network. Yet, sometimes, you need to send information or documents securely. I use a free program called Send Safely. You can download a Chrome extension and you can also have it overlay in your Gmail account so using this feature is as easy as sending any other email.

#4 Streak

Do you need a way to manage your prospects and emails coming in from your clients but aren’t ready to make the investment in a paid CRM (client relationship manager)? Streak is a great option! Streak overlays in your Gmail account, kind of like a spreadsheet, and can house all of your emails from a particular person, business or organization in one place through creating “boxes” and tagging them. You can also track where your prospects are in their process by creating pipelines. In the pipeline you can add To Do items to automatically add to your Gmail calendar which will remind you when those tasks are due.

You may also want to track if an important email has been received and/or read. Unfortunately, Gmail doesn’t offer read receipts as a built-in feature. Streak allows you to track if an email has been viewed or not and when the last time it was viewed was so you can decide the best way to follow-up.

Streak has a slight learning curve but their support team is really helpful and their tutorials are great! If you happen to have a team working alongside you, Streak also allows team members to view the same boxes for your prospects and clients so you can all be in the know without having to forward and cc all those emails. One of the best features about Streak is that is works entirely in your inbox so you don’t have to leave to go to log into another site to get the information you need

#5 Wisestamp

Looking for a beautiful custom email signature? I use Wisestamp. Wisestamp will integrate with your Gmail account and plug-in your custom signature directly into your account. You can even add an animated closing remark!

Those are my top 5 favorite features for making the most of my Gmail account. I'd love to know what features you use to optimize your Gmail account. Share in the comments below. Maybe I'll even add it to one of my #featurefridays on IGTV!

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