Business 15 December 2017
Earlier this summer, I was invited to a really big conference in the blogging and writing community and was at first, hesitant to go. I would need to travel, get a hotel - the whole shebang. But I kept weighing the pros and cons of the education it would provide me for the work I do everyday and finally decided to take the leap - with my entire family in tow.
Yup, the whole conference was at a family friendly resort that offered such an amazing rate that I came to the conclusion that I probably couldn't afford to take my family on this dream vacation for any cheaper, so we just went for it. The weeks leading up to the conference were a bit stressful and my type A personality took full force. I needed to plan our itinerary and find a steady balance between work and family fun so that I felt it was at least a little bit of a vacation for me. Translation: I spent hours everyday cross referencing session times with keynote speakers and pool hours and Disney ticket prices. It was exhausting, but well worth it going into the conference with a plan.
When we arrived, it took all the will I had inside me to actually get to the conference and absorb everything that I wanted to get from it and I realized that there are so many women who have to do this year round whether they have families they can't leave or are single mamas rocking it in the business world. Things aren't always easy when you're traveling for business, so I set out to chat with some business-minded moms who have had dealt with it all to make sure they stay on top of their game.
When there is an emergency
The scariest thing to think about while traveling would be having an emergency of some kind, but life is filled with unexpected things, so sometimes you need to roll with the punches. This is exactly what happened to Nancy J. Horn,owner of The Mama Maven. She said, “I had traveled to Chicago in 2013 for the BlogHer Conference so we could run an event a few days before the conference started. The day after the event I woke up and was vomiting all day (turns out later I had ulcers and something I ate triggered a reaction). I had planned to take my then 5 year old daughter sightseeing, but instead she had to stay in the hotel room all day and watch TV while I slept on the floor of the bathroom. It was awful. I learned that I should have had a back-up plan if something happens. I could have arranged for my friend to come pick up my daughter for the day and I could have gone to an urgent care. Or have a go-bag with activities for a kid in case you have to go to an urgent care (and take your with you)."
Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail
Words of wisdom
Traci Stapleton, Sr. Manager of Client Services at Kalypso offers the ultimate mom mantra for when traveling for business with your family: “You are in control of the pressures. You will never be perfect, you will never be all places or get it all done. Be intentional in the time you have with your family, be attentive and present. Don't beat yourself up chasing unachievable expectations." These are the words that we all need to hear when we're out trying to be the jill-of-all-trades.
When you just can't unplug
Then, there are times when a trip that isn't completely intended to be a work trip, somehow ends up being one. We all know how difficult it is to turn off “work mode", esepcially when you're self-employed, and Natalie Greaves, Writer & Strategic Communications Consultant, Graves Writes learned from an experience she had during a family getaway to her parents' home country of Trinidad & Tobago. “I found myself answering way more work requests than anticipated. Between the beach lime (slang for party) and sampling some of the best curry ever, I had an epiphany: if work was going to follow me, it would be so much easier if I changed the way that I worked. So I quit my job!
As long as I have a solid internet connection and some headphones to jam during my daughter's nap time, I can map out an hour or two daily to get in a marathon session of consulting. We'll up the ante this summer during our next surf trip."
Tips from a pro
Melanie, a single mom to Ellie, and Partner & COO, BDI Events, often brings her daughter along on business trips. While she tries to figure out a plan to keep her at home, life happens, so she often comes along! She recommend to “utilize the hotels network of trusted sitters – they are usually really great and super well vetted (and used to working with random kids!). Keeping kids on their normal time zone, if possible, and pay to bring a friend or family member along… it doubles the cost of the trip, but can be well worth it if it's an important trip or meeting (and might be tax deductible!)."
Organization and thinking ahead is key
Seasoned travel writer, Samantha McNesby, has her kids with her while visiting new places often and while she loves having them with her, being organized and planning ahead is key. “I love bringing my kids along when I travel; they have gotten to see so many amazing places this way! One thing I always do is rent items at our destination – strollers, mini-fridges and more can be rented at many vacation destinations and sent right to your room, so you don't have to struggle with these items at a busy airport or go without. "
And when it comes to luggage, she has a pretty epic tip to share. “We travel a lot, and color coding the kids' luggage is a big help. Each child has their own color or style so we can quickly spot pieces in baggage claim and they know which bag is theirs. Hello Kitty, Star Wars and a few other favorite characters make it easy to spot our pieces in the airport."
Find apps that work for you
Felicia Chanell, owner and Brand Vibe Strategist of Swanked Creative is all about using apps to help keep you organized right down to the smallest details, like food allergies. “Plan every thing you can! I love using Trello to plan everything for an upcoming trip. I create cards/lists for our itinerary, travel details, hotel information, etc. This is perfect for planning activities that will be fun for my 4 year old. I even plan what restaurants have gluten free menu options." And for coordinating client need, “Gsuite/Google Drive for storing everything for my business to access while traveling. GSuite also has unlimited storage on my plan so I can upload photos directly from my phone to the drive to clear up space."
3 Min Read
"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.
Find A Need And Fill It
I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.
Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.
Have Working Capital And Credit
There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.
I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.
Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.
My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.
Know Your Product Thoroughly
I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?
My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.
My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!
More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.
Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth
I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.
I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.
Delegate From The Bottom Up
I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.
In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.