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:

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.