Guest Blog with Margot Zaher: 5 Strategies to Keeping Your Relationship Healthy When Co-Running a Business

About 15 years ago, I used to co-run a business with my ex-husband. Working professionally with my partner was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. We faced many challenges co-running a business, which negatively impacted all aspects of our lives, and most profoundly our personal relationship. 

We had trouble deciding who was really in charge of making which decisions, and because of that we would get into arguments about which course of action we should follow. We would waste countless hours arguing, and worst of all we often felt misunderstood and unappreciated by one other.  

I felt like my “great” ideas were simply dismissed without a true vetting process, and that all of my hard work was not appreciated. I became more and more resentful of the business and how I was being treated, and he became more and more angry at how hard it was to get anything done. Eventually, our personal relationship could no longer withstand the pressure of our unhealthy business relationship and we called it quits. Part of what caused our divorce was undoubtedly the frustrating and fight-filled experiences of running a business together. 

After my marriage ended, I embarked on a journey to learn how to have successful relationships, even if both partners are co-running a business together. While I believe that this remains one of the trickiest undertakings for couples, I’ve discovered over time (through working with couples as a relationship and life coach) that implementing the following strategies can help you successfully co-run your business with your partner, and at the same time ensure the health and longevity of your personal relationship.

Clearly Define Your Roles

When your roles are not clearly defined, misunderstandings and arguments can easily arise. Defining your roles goes beyond determining what specific tasks each of you are responsible for. It includes determining who has the final say in what areas of the business. 

One of the biggest pitfalls is believing that you can easily arrive at a consensus. It’s important for each person to feel empowered in their specific area of the business – be the ruler of their fiefdom so to speak. This will give each of you a sense of ownership, which will increase motivation and inspiration and propel you to greater levels of productivity.

Also, clearly defining roles ensures that tasks will not fall through the cracks because they were not allocated to a specific person – it will also keep you and your partner from arguing about why something fell through the cracks.  

Create Daily No-Business Zones

Your relationship needs space and time to flourish. If you don’t set boundaries with your business, working on your business will encroach on your relationship, and pretty soon all you will be talking about at the dinner table is that day’s business problem that needs solving. Create no-business zones in your life so that you can nourish your relationship with your partner and your family.  For instance, make dinner a no-business zone where you only talk about personal and family things, and take time to truly connect with your partner and hear how they are doing.

Do Weekly Check-Ins

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when co-running a business with your partner is assuming that everything is going great, and that they are happy because they are not complaining.  I recommend creating weekly fifteen minute check-ins with your partner to talk about how both of you are feeling about working together. This will keep resentments from developing and festering, resulting in arguing or unnecessary drama. Here are three questions to ask each other about your working relationship:

  • What is working well?
  • What is frustrating you?
  • What do you think we need to improve?

Some weeks you may have a lot to say to each other, and other weeks you may have very little to say. I recommend that you continue to do the weekly check-ins, even if you feel tempted to skip them. It’s important to make space for feelings and concerns to be expressed, and if you skip a week, you may easily overlook something important that happened that can start to fester in the absence of a heart-to-heart discussion. 

Praise Your Partner

How often do you acknowledge what your partner has done for the business, or the contributions they’ve made in other areas of your life?  Many of us lead hectic lives, especially as business owners, and it is often difficult to remember to take time out to show appreciation and thank our partners for all that they do for us, for the business, for the children, or for the household. 

Taking a few minutes a couple times a week to acknowledge your partner with simple kind words will nurture the very fabric of your relationship. This will help keep the “I’m being taken for granted” feelings at bay.  Words of praise go a long way towards making your partner feel good about themselves, and will also motivate them to do even more for the business and for the collective household. 

When it comes to praise, it’s important that the praise be specific. General praise is not as impactful and may make your partner feel that it’s part of a routine. So, be sure to cite examples of what they have done, and be specific about why they did such a good job. Also, speak from your heart with genuine gratitude so that they can truly feel how much you appreciate them. 

Prioritize Connection Rituals 

When you are running a business with your partner, there are many occasions where it may seem natural to prioritize the businesses success over your connection with your partner. For instance, you may be behind on an important project, so you skip dinner to ensure that the project gets done on time. While this might be necessary from time to time, be careful to not make this a habit. 

It’s important to remember that your relationship with your spouse has the potential to fuel your success, and it needs to be nurtured. Prioritizing connecting with your spouse and spending quality time together outside of the business arena will ensure that your relationship remains strong and fulfilling.  A relationship will wither away without intentional regular connection routines. 

Implementing these strategies are well-worth the small amount of time and effort they require. It’s better to spend time setting up a structure that supports healthy connection and communication with your partner versus wasting time fighting, or worse, allowing your relationship to deteriorate until you have a red alert situation on your hands.

If you need support implementing these strategies or are facing relationship challenges, I would be happy to help.  Get practical tools and proven solutions by using this link to book a no-cost no-obligation 60-minute relationship coaching intro call with me: https://go.oncehub.com/MargotZaher. You can also learn more about me at http://www.Margotzaher.com

Canned Responses – You Can and You Should

by Kelly Sullivan

We love efficiency at Outgrow Your Garage, so if we discover a better way to deliver a quality product that saves time and energy, we are all about it. Luckily for you, we also believe that sharing is caring. So let us indulge you in one of our current favorite energy-saving email features – canned responses.

If you are anything like us, your email inbox might be…well, scary. Whether your week consists of meetings, events, driving, or extra-curricular activities, the end result is the same – 65 unread emails, gathering dust and growing old together. Not only can this add to your stress levels, it also leads to poor client communication, which is never something you want associated with your brand.

Canned responses are predetermined responses to common questions you receive in your day-to-day business operations. While some of the emails you receive may be unique and require a more in-depth response, many business owners find that they can categorize a lot of the email questions they receive into groups that call for standard responses. Instead of retyping the same answer over and over again, you open the standard response, customize it to your needs, and send it off.

Canned responses are easy to set up on most email platforms, including Google, Yahoo and Outlook. Investing a little of your time upfront to create some standard responses will save you many, many hours in the future. Trust us, it’s worth it.

A good way to plan out your canned emails is to think of your client process from start to finish. What kind of emails do you send throughout that process? Here are some examples to get you started. 

Customer Service

Sending less than favorable emails to customers can feel clunky and uncomfortable when you’re always trying to find the nicest way to word things. That’s where having a simple “message received, we’re taking care of it” canned response can make a big difference.

Example:

Hi there,

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Our team is looking into this as we speak. As soon as we know more we will promptly follow up. We appreciate your patience!

Best,

[Your Name]

Reminder Emails

We all have to send those nagging emails about invoices, overdue payments, or having things sent over. Whether you’re sending an appointment reminder or a payment reminder, there are lots of situations in which a canned email response can come in handy here.

Example:

Hi there,

A quick reminder that [overdue payment for such and such, your appointment is scheduled for this time on this day].

Please [confirm your appointment, get back to me] at your earliest convenience.

Best,

[Your Name]

Filtering Bad Leads/Unavailable

Not every email in your inbox is going to lead to business. Oftentimes you’ll find yourself wasting time authoring polite rejections to nice requests. Being nice and positive are instinctual for most, but you can make things easier on yourself by referring to your thoughtful, pre-typed out responses to help unclog your inbox.

Example:

Hi there,

Thank you for considering me for [project]. My schedule is completely full for the next few weeks. What I can do is refer you to [name], who I know does great work in this area. I will include their contact information below. Good luck with your project!

Best regards,

[Your Name]

Do not forget though, the key to making canned emails work properly is personalization. Pull up the canned response, and add the customer’s name, your name, and any other information relevant to the situation. You definitely don’t want to send bland, generic responses to all of your clients. This can come across as disingenuous and lazy. Your communication can be easy to manage and personal at the same time – make your templates sound human and compassionate.

According to Microsoft data, 95% of consumers say that customer service is important for brand loyalty, and more than 60% of consumers report having deserted a brand and switching to a rival company because of poor customer service.

Personalize your canned responses to display your company’s consistency, timeliness, and dedication to customer satisfaction. Customization is an easy last step to ensure you are staying on top of quality client communication, which is imperative for any brand. 

You’re not likely to always convey your very best if you’re in a rush or distracted. If you’re working with a templated standard response, you can say it the best way every time—and be constantly improving it. 

Want more information about client communication or templates? Check out our full online business course catalog, where you will find our full Client Communication course, which includes a more in-depth look at how to build templates for your own business.

Business Time Tracking: The Basics

by Taryn Shaw

Do you have a hard time keeping track of your weekly tasks and how long they take? Do you need to hire but can’t figure out what to effectively take off your plate? Do you need help determining where your operations aren’t as efficient? 

Time tracking allows you to improve your operational efficiency, especially in a service-based business. Gathering reliable data on how long different types of jobs take, how much time you’re spending driving to and from work sites, and how much time you are spending on administrative tasks can help you make better decisions about your pricing structure and time management. 

Let’s take a look at a few of our favorite time tracking apps that not only improve your productivity, but can also be integrated with larger task management platforms such as Trello and Asana. 

Toggl Track

Toggl Track is a user-friendly time tracking platform that helps freelancers, microbusinesses, and larger teams track where the time goes. Each timesheet is tracked in real time with one click, and you can tag specific projects or client names to each task. When you have a clear report of what was done, when it was done, and the time it took, it makes it easy to accurately bill your clients. Toggl Track has a 30 day free trial to determine if it’s the right platform for you and your business. After 30 days, you can choose between several different plans. (Available as an app for iPhone and Android. It works offline by saving the time offline and when you return online, the times will be synchronized automatically. It also has browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox).

Pros: 

  • User friendly
  • Free plan is a great option for startups with less than 5 employees
  • 100+ integrations (meaning it is compatible with over 100 apps and browser extensions such as Asana, Evernote, Google Calendar, Outlook email, Slack, Xero, etc.)

Cons: 

  • Can be pricey for small businesses
  • No invoicing or scheduling features

Hubstaff

Hubstaff is a seamless time tracking app that uses GPS location to automatically clock you in and out of geofenced job sites, which are virtual geographic boundaries defined by GPS or RFID technology that enables software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area. This app works from anywhere with the push of a button to start and stop tasks. Hubstaff understands the problems that service-based industries face with employees forgetting to clock in and out of job sites, determining how much time in a day is spent driving, and it has the ability to accurately pay employees and invoice clients. Hubstaff offers a free 14 day trial, and there are many plans to choose from once your trial period is up.

(Available as an app for iPhone and Android. Hubstaff works without internet connection – it will store your time and activity data locally while you’re offline and then upload it to the server once a connection is available. It also has a browser extension for Chrome).

Pros:

  • Saves time with mobile reports and automatic employee clock in/out times
  • Alerts you if you’re about to go over budget for a project
  • Over 30 integrations
  • Accessible anywhere

Cons:

  • Continuously using GPS location will dramatically decrease phone battery life
  • Poses an ethical concern of tracking employees
  • Need to purchase the most expensive plan to receive deluxe benefits, such as geofenced time tracking, having more than one user, expense & budget tracking, or the ability to generate invoices and payroll via the app

Forest

Forest is an intuitive timer app that boosts productivity by keeping you on track at the office, studying, or while hanging with friends. The way this app works is by “planting a seed” in the Forest whenever you need to get work done. You choose the amount of time you want to set aside for said task, and the seed will gradually grow into a tree during the timer period. 

In a world where we have become addicted to scrolling without even realizing we are doing it, it’s easy to procrastinate or allow the distractions of social media to interrupt your work flow. If you find yourself using your phone for non-focus related purposes, the app will notify you that your tree will wither away and die – an incentive to return to the timer app to get back on track with your tasks. 

Forest partners with tree-planting organization Trees for the Future, so the more trees you successfully grow in your forest, the more coins you earn to spend in the real world to plant trees! When you spend these virtual coins in the app, the Forest team donates to Trees for the Future and creates planting orders. To this day, Forest has planted 1,386,261 trees around the globe. 

The app is a one-time purchase of $3.99, but that seems like a small price to pay for a fun way to stay focused, improve yourself, and help our planet at the same time! (Available as an app for iPhone and Android. Forest works offline and has a browser extension for Chrome). 

Pros:

  • Builds healthy time management habits while breaking the aimless scrolling habit
  • Plants real trees

Cons:

  • Due to budget constraints, the number of real trees each user can plant is limited to 5, though they are introducing limited time events that will allow users to plant more real trees.
  • May not be as effective for large companies who need to integrate payroll and scheduling

Every business will have different priorities. Take into account what you need out of a time tracking software, as well as what your budget will allow. The free versions of certain platforms are often more than enough for new businesses, but as you grow you will need your time tracking app to expand with you. Remember, it is your business, and you get to make the decisions.

Women in the Spotlight: Heather Van Gilder

by Jessi Burg

Today’s blog brings the spotlight onto Heather Van Gilder, master boot fitter at Boulder Orthotics. Her mission? Helping people with their feet by getting them properly aligned, so that they can continue to enjoy the activities they love. For those of you who are very active, or work in the trades and spend all day on your feet, keep reading – it is important to pay more attention to your feet, and know that it’s something worth spending the money on!

JB: Why feet? 

HVG: My background is in ski boot fitting, but I am also a board certified pedorthist – which is someone who gets referrals from doctors about people who need help with foot support/are tired of their feet hurting. 

JB: What is the process like?

HVG: The process goes something like this:

First, we need to figure out what kind of appointment is necessary. I have them fill out an intake form before they come in, and have them bring their footwear so that I can see what needs to be replaced and why. I recommend a brand of shoe, and then mold their feet in a seated position to ensure a perfect fit. I have a lab in the back of the store where I can make the orthotics on the spot, so at the end of a two hour appointment, the customer leaves with custom orthotics. The goal is 90% comfort, and I recommend that they come back in two weeks for a recheck to see how things are settling in. I also sell slippers, because some people need foot support all the time, even when they are walking around the house.

There is a break-in process for orthotics, so I recommend a set schedule for getting used to them to avoid blisters and achiness in the feet or joints as the body gets used to the support. Your bones aren’t used to being supported in those positions, so they need time to adjust. I know that it can be tough for people with certain jobs, like servers or construction workers, to switch out their insoles midday, but breaking them in is crucial.

JB: What other kinds of orthotics do you offer?

HVG: I can build accommodative and functional orthotics. Accommodative orthotics require molding the orthotic to the foot as is, whereas functional orthotics focus on getting the foot and the ankle into alignment so that your ankle bone is sitting right on top of the heel bone. Most retail stores only offer accommodative orthotics.

When I take a footprint I can tell a lot from that, like if one leg is longer than the other. You’re printed barefoot, so the width under the center of your foot should be the same on both sides. If one is significantly wider than the other, you can guesstimate a difference – a true measurement would come from an x-ray, but there are some alignment markers that help with that. If there’s a big discrepancy, you have to build that into the shoe. It’s really fun to help people with chronic pain or lingering issues from polio or childhood illness. I really like being able to help someone who was in pain leave with a smile. Teenage boys are especially fun to work with because they like to act cool, but then I can get a smile out of them. 

JB: What got you into orthotics?

HVG: I was a skier, and I went to school for archeology and was really into the bone structure and physical archeology pieces. I took a job fitting boots, and then I branched out into hiking boots and other types of boots. I ended up buying Boulder Orthotics when the previous owner retired. It’s a weird thing to admit that you like working with feet, but I really do love it, and I was required to do a thousand hour internship before I could go to school for it.

JB: What are your top tips for people who are just starting out in the field?

HVG: Spend the money and the time to address your feet. Steel toed boots and concrete floors wreak havoc on the body if you’re not supported, but a properly fitting shoe of good quality makes all the difference. Spending extra money on a good shoe will make a lot of things better – and no one even has to know you have a fancy orthotic in there. The sooner people pay attention to their feet, the happier they will be. If we were hunter gatherer people who walk through the forest all day, barefoot shoes/five fingered shoes would be fine. But pavement is much harder on your feet than a forest floor. 

JB: Tell us about running your own business.

HVG: As a business owner, I have more freedom to provide services that I think are beneficial. Other retailers may not want to offer those services, and I wanted to find my own way to help people. As a retail space, your customers come in and expect that they will get whatever they want, but when people seek me out, they want to listen to my expertise because they really just need my help. My customer service is always on point, because there isn’t anyone else there. I think about business growth all the time, and I am always trying to learn new things and continue my education. 

JB: What do you wish people knew about your business or your industry?

HVG: Although I’m technically in the healthcare field, it doesn’t feel like a doctors office. It’s very relaxed, and I wear a dirty ski apron and not a lab coat. There is still professionalism and expertise, but it doesn’t feel sterile, if you will.

Want to know more? Find Boulder Orthotics online or through Facebook here:

How Legal Marijuana is Affecting Commercial Driver’s Licenses

by Outgrow Your Garage

Legal marijuana is sweeping the nation. As of 2022, 27 states have decriminalized marijuana in small amounts, and 18 states have legalized it for recreational use in adults aged 21 and over.

The states’ legalization of weed continues to see positive results. It generates billions of dollars in tax revenue each year that benefits much needed programs for things like public education and healthcare, and it has opened up loads of employment opportunities.  

For those individuals that operate CMV’s (Commercial Motor Vehicles) though, marijuana poses a problem for getting and holding a job. Since marijuana is illegal on a federal level, CMV operators are prohibited from using the drug due to federal drug testing regulations. A person is not physically qualified to drive a CMV if he or she uses any Schedule I controlled substance.

With state laws changing regularly, organizations are getting confused about the use of marijuana for CMV drivers. Since THC can remain in your system for up to 30 days after use, you can still get arrested for low levels of THC detected in your system. For CMV drivers who are required to pass drug tests on a regular basis, marijuana use outside of work can lead to losing your Commercial Driver’s License, and in the worst cases, fines or jail time.

Hiring for these positions is becoming increasingly more difficult in states with legal marijuana. Earlier this year, our founder, Jessi Burg, gave a presentation on hiring for the National Association for Landscape Providers. She spoke with a Colorado landscaping company about how problematic it is to find employees since weed became legalized. They are having a hard time finding anyone who can pass a drug test, and as a result, they have an even greater labor shortage, which means that the streets are less safe in the winter after a storm.

If companies that provide necessities such as public transportation, snow plowing services, and long haul trucking of goods are unable to hire, this affects the general public and the supply chain as a whole. Requiring regular drug tests for CMV drivers, even for those states with legal weed, is creating an unnecessary burden on small businesses everywhere.

Other types of hemp products add to the confusion. Many people use products containing CBD, which is different from marijuana. THC, also known as Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes you feel high. CBD is unlike THC in the sense that it does not get you high, and is instead widely used in salves, lotions, tinctures, and other forms to treat things like muscle relief, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and insomnia, just to name a few.

Even those products listed as being strictly CBD/having no active THC can still result in a positive drug test, as they often contain large enough quantities of the compound to trigger a positive result. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has cautioned that CBD products may contain higher levels of THC than DOT allows in a controlled substance, and that CBD use is not a “legitimate medical explanation” for an employee who tests positive for marijuana.

Despite these regulations, marijuana is still the most common substance found in positive drug and alcohol tests amongst CMV drivers. If drivers choose to partake in legal marijuana when not behind the wheel, they are still unable to get hired and can face consequences for failing a drug test.

Safety is extremely important for driving large vehicles, and drug tests are one component of that. Logistically though, including marijuana in those drug tests doesn’t really make sense anymore. In the same way that workers can go home after a long day of work and enjoy a legal beer (or unlimited beers, for that matter), shouldn’t they be afforded the same right to smoke a legal, after work joint? And, if your state and local laws agree that weed is legal and can be ingested safely (not while operating a vehicle), should CMV operators still be required to pass drug tests for marijuana? 

A main argument for many seems to be that marijuana should be federally legalized. If individual states are thriving under legal weed sales, then there’s no reason why it should still be illegal on a federal level. Many view marijuana use as a victimless crime, so as long as drivers aren’t operating CMV’s under the influence, it shouldn’t matter if they legally consume marijuana in their free time. We’d love to hear your opinions on the subject, so tell us what you think in the comments below!

Marketing Trends You Don’t Want to Miss for 2022

The pandemic has had a lasting effect on the way we drum up customer interest in our products and services, and depending on your business and its goals, marketing and advertising look different for everyone. 

Now more than ever, the success of your business demands that you figure out how to fit into the evolving marketing trends that pop up every year. If you decide to hire a marketing firm, or want to take on the responsibility yourself, you need to figure out how best to reach your audience – which also determines what kind of content is going to bring you the best results for your time and your money. 

Whether you are a marketing expert of many years, a total newbie, or fall somewhere in between, these marketing trends for 2022 are ones you won’t want to miss.

Invest in Online Events

Online events have blown up since the start of the pandemic, as you may already know. As companies made the switch from an in office to a work from home schedule, online meeting platforms became a must. 

But work meetings aren’t the only way people are taking advantage of virtual spaces. Webinars, product launches, classes, and co-working, just to name a few, have given us a more convenient way to assemble. Online events can be a good way to get your company’s name out there, whether by appealing to a new audience or addressing an already existing one. It can also be a good way to gather data on your attendees, which in the long run helps you build consumer profiles and stronger relationships with your audiences.

Meaningful Multimedia 

Breaking up the text in your posts/emails is important. Using images can spice up your posts, but make sure that if your reader looks at only one thing in your entire post, and it’s that picture, they can still get value from it. Replace your empty stock photos with videos, podcasts, or any other picture content that illustrates what the post is trying to say with just a glance. You can also use a program like Canva to create an infographic quickly, making your content even more relevant to your audience.

Sustainability, Goodwill, and Values

Be a part of the things that matter in the world. While it goes without saying that different brands are going to have different practices, stay authentic to your values and to the things that matter the most to you. Even if your entire company doesn’t currently revolve around sustainability, sharing posts and generating discussions using your brand and your platform will go a long way. These things are going to resonate with your audience. Consumers are more likely to support brands that demonstrate awareness and responsibility for things like the environment, animals, and humankind. Aligning your brand with positive values will attract new customers, while helping you retain the ones you already have. Marketers need to shed light on the actual steps that their business is taking to tackle the world’s most challenging issues. The more transparent you are about your practices, the easier it will be to attract clients who are looking to support a business like yours.

Accessibility

Accessibility is a hot topic of discussion for businesses, and it’s getting even bigger in 2022. Making yourself digitally accessible means that you’re making an effort to reduce any barriers to your services, tools, and technologies. This means making sure that your designs are universally usable for customers who may have different impairments. 

The “ideal customer experience” should drive your operations, and a lack of accessibility, whether that be your website, your course material, or the product itself, is going to spoil the brand image that you’ve been working so hard to create. For a more in depth look, check out the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities.

The world of business marketing is an ever-evolving one, and as the world shifts so do the expectations consumers have for the companies they choose to support. Finding new and exciting ways to cater to your audiences doesn’t have to be rocket science (even though it feels like it sometimes). Stick with it, and find what works best for you and your brand.

Tune in next Wednesday for a special 4/20 blog…yes, you read that right.

How Co-working is Changing the Work Game

by Jessi Burg and Kelly Sullivan

There are so many great things about being your own boss: you can write your own schedule, choose your own clients, and work on projects that you enjoy. Oftentimes, when paired with working out of your home, it can also get lonely or become difficult to stay motivated. One of our favorite ways to combat these issues is with business co-working.

What exactly is co-working? Co-working spaces are increasing in popularity amongst individuals who need a space to work, but don’t always want to work from home or from a coffee shop. You meet at a given location with provided desks and reliable internet, and are able to make connections with others while you work. Similar to working in an office, but with people who don’t work at the same company as you.

Co-working is also successful in a virtual setting, or in planned groups. In this sense, co-working is a set time frame where a group of people come together at the same time, like a study group for business owners. Everyone works on their own projects, but being in a group setting helps them stay focused. Keep reading for some of our favorite reasons to join the co-working movement.

Accountability

If you didn’t already know, voicing your goals out loud to someone else makes you more likely to actually achieve them. Co-working helps to promote this same process! At the start of each session, everyone in the group talks about what they’re working on, and at the end, shares their progress. This creates accountability, which makes you less likely to procrastinate on the work you need to get done. Once you get your task done or achieve your stated goals, you have a group of people around you to help you celebrate your accomplishments.

Connection

Owning your own business can get lonely, especially if you are one of only a few employees, or you are the sole employee of the company. Sometimes it’s hard to find people who understand the issues specific to your business. During co-working sessions, you’re given the ability to network with other small business owners who understand some of what you deal with in your day to day. Whether you help each other troubleshoot or listen to each other’s qualms, creating community is vital to individual success. 

For those who mainly work from home, co-working blocks out time in the day to have some human interaction. For those who spend much of their time having transactional exchanges, (every conversation is about someone paying you, or about who you’re paying), co-working allows you to chat without any fiscal expectations.

Structure

One of the hardest things about working from home is creating structure. It’s easy to decide that you’ll start late today because you want to get laundry done, and promise you’ll make the work up later, even if you don’t (somehow, there’s always more laundry). Even if you work on personal tasks, co-working gives you a start and an end time to get your work done. If you can’t make it to co-working sessions or have trouble finding a group that works for you, we love the Pomodoro method – you can set up your smaller work periods, choose a short break or a long break between them, and voila! Structure! 

Body Doubling

Co-working is sometimes referred to as “body doubling”, which is a term for a productivity strategy used to help us stay focused. The “body double” is the presence of another being in your workspace that holds you accountable and makes you less likely to get distracted (check out this quick video from How to ADHD). You may have heard of “mirror neurons” – these are particles in our brains that tell us we should be doing the same thing as someone else. Being able to watch someone else work tricks your brain into thinking you need to be working too. For neurodivergent business owners, such as people with ADHD, this can be a physical anchor to the world – making it harder to chase those mental rabbit holes.

Here at Outgrow Your Garage, we offer virtual co-working sessions twice a week. If any of the above applies to you, or you just want to check it out, come join us to find out why we think co-working is so beneficial.

*Note: You can also test out the concept of the Pomodoro method using a focus app – we recommend Forest since it works as both an app as well as as a browser extension, and the paid version supports forest restoration (YAY)!

3 Client Communication Templates Every Service Business Needs

by Jessi Burg and Kelly Sullivan

If you run a service-based business, then you know all about juggling a thousand tasks an hour.  While this is an impressive skill, running your business this way quickly leads to burnout. 

We all know that client communication is one of the trickiest parts of running a service business. Every client needs something different, and you end up spending extra time answering questions that don’t lead to jobs. Not every piece of your business has to require your constant energy and attention. There are ways that you can consolidate your efforts while still getting things done. 

Sending a post-project email is hard (but still important) when you have 50 unread emails stacking up. One of the best ways to stay on top of your client communication is to build templates for the most common scenarios in your business. 

Templates are the key to staying consistent while providing the best customer experience possible. Each big step of your process should be covered, from pre-job communication to sending an estimate to following up after the project is finished. Building templates that are easy to send ensures that you and your clients are getting all of the information needed to get the job done right. It also shows that you are organized, thorough, and prepared. 

Here are our top 3 client communication templates that every service business should have:

  1. Initial Contact Response Template

After your first contact with a potential client, you should walk away with everything you need from them after the initial conversation. Whether you connect through Facebook, text or email, what is the key information that you need from a client beyond their name and contact information? Build a template that cuts right to the chase during this stage to eliminate unnecessary back-and-forths.

For example, if you run a painting company, you may need to know 

  • Is this property commercial or residential?
  • Are you painting the interior or the exterior? 
  • Do they already have the paint or do you need to provide it? 
  • What is their budget? 

If you are a wedding photographer, you might want to know

  • The date of their wedding
  • Do they need engagement photos? 
  • Have they looked at your website and your work, and know that your style is what they are going for?

Think about the most important information to know about your business, and write your own list. If you want, you can even turn this into a form that you send to potential clients before scheduling an estimate. 

  1. Follow-Up Template

Whether you make a connection at a networking event or a backyard barbecue, it is important to maintain your brand by following up in a timely manner. If you have a template built, you can modify it based on the situation and send it out quickly and easily. 

For example: 

“Hi [insert name here],

It was great to meet you at the [insert event here]. Thanks for talking to me about your project! [Insert details about project or conversation]. When do you want to have a follow up call to [insert follow up action here]? Feel free to take a look at the project gallery and FAQ pages on [insert website here] in the meantime to get a feel for what I do.”

You can modify the wording to fit your company, but no matter how you use it, you’ll be able to remember where you met someone and what you talked about easily. With a template like this, you can also direct people to where they can find more information about your company. This will show your potential clients that you were listening to their needs and that you understand what their project could involve.

  1. Post-Job Template

An “end of job email” is (in our opinion) the single most important email you will send in terms of client retention and word of mouth referrals.

Sending an email at the end of a job saying thank you, providing your contact information, and giving them options for any future questions, is going to show that you are dedicated to the quality of your company and your work. You can send it as part of the invoice, or as a separate follow up at a later time. You want to ensure that you:

  • Thank the client for using your company
  • Provide information about who to contact with questions about the job
  • Provide care or maintenance information if needed
  • Provide information about future services they might need from your company
  • Any other information they might need about your company or their project

For example, if your deck company builds someone a cedar deck, you may want to include in your post-job email template things like what to do if they notice any loose boards, how often they should re-stain the deck, or information about your maintenance services. If you don’t offer maintenance services, give them a referral to another company that does. Writing this template in advance will save you time at the end of each job, and show clients that you stand behind your quality of work. 

Templates will assist you in answering client communication easily and efficiently. If you have a checklist of things that you need and know exactly where all of your leads came from, you won’t spend nearly as much time answering repeats of individual emails. Every second counts!

Women in the Spotlight: Emily Soloby

by Jessi Burg and Kelly Sullivan

Happy Wednesday to all of our readers! Today we’re interviewing Emily Soloby, CEO and Founder of Juno Jones, about her vibrant spectrum of talents and a knack for business solutions. Emily has been advocating for women since the beginning of her career, and we’re excited to share her story.

JB: How did you get into the trades?

ES: I have a background in women’s studies and law. I was a domestic violence victim advocate in college, so I went onto law school to continue that work as a lawyer. Eventually, I wanted to switch careers because I needed a break. I went to graduate school to study broadcasting, where I met my husband. Together we co-own a truck and heavy equipment safety training firm. We have spent the last 13 years growing that business from a mom and pop shop into a national level consulting firm.

JB: How did you start a women’s work boot company?

ES: I have always been a boot lover. I trained in shoe making in Cuernavaca, Mexico and at the Brooklyn Shoe Space in New York. I found myself in need of some steel-toed boots that could work for both being around equipment at job sites and meeting with clients. I realized that there was a gap in the market when I couldn’t find anything I liked between the two options on the shelves. I started talking to women in various trades businesses about the lack of options in safety footwear, and decided that I wanted to change that. I’ve learned even more about boots since opening Juno Jones.

JB: Where did the name Juno Jones come from?

ES: Juno Jones is a fictional character that I created. I was aiming for a name that was easy to remember and fun to say. This character is intended to represent the modern woman – like a superhero who isn’t afraid to try new things and take on the world.

JB: What is Hazard Girls?

ES: Hazard Girls is a free Facebook community powered by Juno Jones. I launched Juno Jones in February of 2020 during the peak of Covid-19 lockdown, and we had a lot of extra time while we were waiting for the shoes to be produced, so I created the Hazard Girls group. I was starting to build a community on Instagram, and I would receive a lot of messages from women looking to be introduced to other women in similar industries. At first I wanted to direct them to Facebook groups, but quickly learned that there were no groups that were all encompassing women in male populated fields. I took the opportunity to create that group, and Hazard Girls was born!

JB: How did the Facebook group turn into a podcast?

ES: I was a guest on the Women in Manufacturing Podcast, and they loved my content so much that they wanted to give me my own podcast. Our team worked with Jacket Media Co. to create and produce the podcast. We now release a new episode every week, each that explores a different field through candid interviews with women leaders about their professional journeys. Starting this podcast has helped me grow a community to network with, and I have learned so much from amazing women in all different types of trades.

JB: What is your favorite thing about working with this population of women?

ES: My favorite thing is connecting with this community of women that have now become my friends and colleagues.

JB: What do you wish people knew about working in the trades industries/hazardous, non-traditional fields?

ES: My mission is to spread the word so that women know it is always an option for them. It’s easy to not consider those types of jobs when starting out on a career path, but there are many well paying jobs that need more women on board. I want them to know that men and women can have that same independence and financial freedom with a career in the trades.

JB: How can people who are building their businesses better support women in these fields and support that culture?

ES: Hiring women is an obvious answer to creating a diverse team. But not just women, ALL diverse candidates across the board so that you have all different voices and perspectives at the table. Oftentimes, business owners feel that they don’t have those options to hire, or don’t see many diverse applicants. One way to create a diverse team is by actively seeking out those applicants and putting structures in place to add more training where needed. This helps open doors for more on-the-job-training in order to hire women and other diverse candidates.

JB: What should men know about Juno Jones and the Hazard Girls?

ES: We find that most men want to be allies and want to support women in these different industries. They (and society as a whole) are starting to realize that yes, there is a shortage of workers across the board in many industries and yes, women are a great untapped resource. Anything men can do to support this will benefit our economy as a whole. Everyone wins!

To find out more about Emily Soloby and her many hats, visit any of the links included below.

6 Ways to Make Your Business Communication Easier

by Jessi Burg

Communication is a tough topic for many small business owners. We know we should be doing better, but it’s so hard to balance getting a job done with the communication that surrounds all of your other jobs. 

Some days you’re answering your emails from a job site and praying you have enough cell phone service to hit send. Other days you’re answering the phone while driving, and desperately hoping you’ll still remember what you talked about by the next red light. The struggle is real.

Today, we’re going to discuss ways to make your communication easier, as well as why your communication around the job can actually be more important than the job itself.

Let’s start with the “why”. Communication matters because:

  • A happy client equals repeat clients and referral clients
  • When everyone is on the same page, the process goes more smoothly
  • When you have a system in place, it’s easier to remember how things are done so that you can be consistent
  • Operational efficiency will make or break your bottom line

The trades tend to have a bad reputation when it comes to communication (or lack thereof). We are here to change that. But how, you ask?

  1. Write Everything Down

First things first. Write everything down! It doesn’t matter where, as long as you know where to find it. Write things down while they are happening, and stop answering the phone while you’re driving or on a ladder or walking a dog so that you avoid forgetting it altogether. 

  1. Block Out Time to Respond

Set designated times to call clients back and answer emails – this could be all at once at the beginning or end of your work day, or at a few set points in between. It could even be on your snack break if that’s what works for you. This also ensures that you respond to inquiries in a timely manner.

  1. Build Templates

Build templates for each different job you perform. This makes responding to your clients quick and easy, and makes it so your team has everything they need in one place. You want your operations to stay consistent, while also ensuring that you, your staff and your contractors (if applicable) have all the information needed to complete a job. (Not sure how to do this? Check out our Client Communication course for a more in-depth look).

  1. Create a Project Gallery

Devote a portion of your website to a project gallery or an FAQ’s section. This way, if your clients have general questions about your work, you can direct them to a page that explains your process and what to expect, saving you time and energy. 

  1. Don’t Stretch Yourself too Thin

Don’t take too much on. This sounds obvious, but sometimes it’s hard to notice when it’s happening. Give yourself 1-2 hours per day to make sure you’re caught up on upcoming jobs and client communications, and don’t book up that time with jobs or estimates. It’s tempting to fit “just one more job” in, but if you nail communication, you’ll have more jobs than you know what to do with, and be able to charge more. 

  1. Pay Attention to Your Client’s Needs

Listen to your client’s needs and know your key demographic. If you learn to do a few things really well, you’ll be able to focus more on those jobs, charge more for them, and then repeat the process. Also, listen closely to your client’s questions and concerns – if you can address their questions, they’re much more likely to hire you, which in turn allows you to close more jobs.

For example, if a previous client wants a raised flower bed and you know that they’ve mentioned cost or sustainability in the past, you can anticipate their needs and come back with details about the cost and source of the different wood options available to them without them having to ask, thus strengthening your trust factor.

  • Pro Tip: DO NOT ignore anti-solicitation signs – if you do, the first interaction with your potential client will likely be one of annoyance, and they might not want to hire you.

Use these tactics to tackle communication within your small business. It can seem daunting at first, but once you organize your process you will realize that it doesn’t HAVE to be so difficult to manage.