Let's just say running a personal concierge business, any business for that matter, when you have small children, is no easy feat. Some of the key lessons I've learnt over the last five years include:
- How to ignore a crying child while you lock yourself in a room and attempt to speak professionally to a client.
- How to type one handed - do anything one handed - especially making coffee!
- That carrying a scarf with you at all times is a must, in particular for covering up the breakfast they've left on your shoulder whilst clinging to you as you try to leave the house.
- Having your passenger seat stocked with drinks and snacks makes it totally possibly to run urgent client errands without too many melt downs.
Some of you may think I'm joking, but I promise you, I'm not! These are some serious life skills I've learnt.
But Abbie, is it really possible? Can I actually be a personal concierge and have young children?
My answer is yes! But you must have boundaries. I have learnt this the hard way, in many areas of my life. Yet, having children is certainly a way of forcing yourself to really take a good look at how you design your business to suit your lifestyle, and not the other way round.
Five Tips From Five Years
Here are my top five tips for running a business with children.
1. Plan For The Longer Term - Remember they are only little for a short space of time in relative terms, but a long space of time in a business sense. Especially if you have 2, 3 or more children, what you set in place now is going to help you in the future as you add more children to the mix. Don't just make "for now" decisions. Try to implement strategies that are going to last the long haul - like regular child care or babysitting days that extend into the future. We are fortunate that my Mum looks after our girls one day a week and Tim's parents on another. They aren't locked into this permanently i.e. they do take breaks or go on holidays, yet we all know that if and when they are available, this is the arrangement and we are all planning around this.
2. Let Your Clients Know - No doubt your clients will know you have children, but make sure you also fill them in on at least some of the details of your 'working with kids' arrangement. Make them aware that some days you will be working from home while the kids are there. There will be times when you can't answer their call, or that they may need to understand that we are currently ignoring the crying child in the background so that we can finish this key phone call. No, I don't think it's all that professional to have a child cry in the background but if you keep your clients in the loop or explain to them that you are at home and that you can call them back if they prefer, then more often than not they are happy you are taking their call. On the flip side, know that you don't always have to answer the phone, and if you have a child in the high chair in the middle or lunch, or stuck on the toilet, or throwing a tantrum, then answering the phone is probably not your highest priority in that moment. Remember, your clients a human beings, and many of them know what you are going through.
3. Block Out Time - Now this doesn't always work for me, but one of the best things we did was lock in days with our family when we knew someone else was looking after the kids. This way we know the days we can book appointments, make regular bookings, or allocate time to complete certain tasks. I know that Wednesday and Fridays are my complete work days and I can work around this. I work other days too, but they usually involve one or more children which doesn't make things as flexible as child free time. For you it might be a morning, and afternoon, or certain hours every day. If you can make it as much of a routine as possible and avoid changing this plan, then things seem a lot more doable and less stressful.
4. Try To Hide Your Phone - Anyone who knows me will testify that they have probably never seen me without my phone! So, I am probably not the best voice of reason on this one, but if you can relinquish the stranglehold on your phone occasionally, then try to spend 15 minutes or half an hour (ok, 5 minutes) playing blocks with your kids without checking or email or seeing how many likes your latest post on Facebook is getting. It's great for your child and will do a world of good for the parent guilt factor. That being said, I do not belong to the camp that believes it goes against all good parenting if you even pull out your phone for a second at the playground. As one wise mum once said, who cares what the other parents think. As long as your children are safe, they don't know that this may be the only ten minute you've had all day to get some work done - so do it! This has certainly been my experience.
5. Remember Why You Started Your Business - If you are anything like me, you started your business to make it easier to manage work and family. Even though I started my business 7 years prior to having kids, family was always a big part of the reason why I started my business. It is easy to get caught up in the work and feeling as though your clients are 'the boss'. But remember, you're the boss, it's your business, and you can design it the way you want to. It doesn't mean this is always easy, especially when there is the stress of when the next invoice will be paid (or ready to send!) but when time and sanity starts to get away from you, remind yourself that flexibility was a part of this whole 'going out on your own' thing.
Have you run a business with kids? I'd love to hear what you've learnt along the way! Please share below.