Striking the Right Work/Life Balance on the Road

Striking the Right Work/Life Balance on the Road

Today we’re featuring a post written by Forge Member Alex Grodner. We loved Alex’s perspective on work/life balance as he’s a remote worker often traveling for his job. Alex and his friends have a podcast and blog called the Clueless Dads. We know there are plenty of mom blogs out there (and rightly so!) but we love hearing from the mindset of the dads too. They share personal experiences and stories as they learn how to be a better dad.

In today’s day and age, the local / Monday-Friday / 9-5 jobs are almost non-existent. The antiquated ideas of all families being a man who is the only source of income for the household and a woman who takes care of the children and home are long gone. We have turned a corner in society where families look different, have different priorities, and a different working/stay-at-home mixture. While many families, including mine, have decided that the women staying home with the child(ren) makes the most sense, that is not always the case. The idea of the stay-at-home Dads or both parents continuing their careers soon after the baby is born is starting to change the way we think about families and how they work.

The idea of having the entire family home to sit down for dinner every night is not very conducive to many jobs. I personally have gone from every week travel schedule to every other week (but very flexible). What I have found, especially while my wife is pregnant and home with a toddler, is that work travel is not easy and can cause many issues if not addressed. Below is a list of the 6 things that I have found that help find that right work/life balance.

1. Set boundaries when you are home

I would argue this is important regardless of whether or not you travel for work. Whatever expectations you set at a job will be assumed in the future. If you are the kind of person that during a busy time will working until midnight and be back on working at 6AM the next morning, more power to you, but don’t expect that will be a one-time thing. On the other side, if it is an hour or two every work night you are home to spend with your family or letting it be known that Saturdays are for football and not work, it is so important to set boundaries of when you will/won’t work (outside of “normal business hours”). I have found that few jobs will care as long as you are meeting expectations and getting your work done when you say you will/when it is expected to be completed.

 

2. Make sure the time at home is special

 

When I am home, I have found that doing “other things” during my non-work time – playing video games, working on side projects, etc. – are best done when my wife and son go down for their afternoon naps or go to sleep at night. I also make a strong effort to spend as little time as possible on my phone or computer, often leaving my phone in the other room to avoid the unnecessary distraction. Having those distractions take priority over spending time with my family, especially when I am traveling a lot, is just not worth it and I end up regretting it when I am out of town.

 

 

3. Find a special activity

 

My son Bryant and I have our special activities that only him and I (and sometimes the dog) do. Spending some time at our local zoo (it’s 5 minutes away, hassle free, and we have a membership), cooking together, and going on runs with him in the jogging stroller and the dog’s leash around my waist are just a few of “our” activities. This is not to say that my wife cannot come if she wants to, but more times than not she finds this as a great time to do things that she wants to do…without a toddler and crazy puppy running around the house.

 

 

4. Give your significant other a break

 

As mentioned in the earlier comment, the activities that my son and I do give my wife a chance to do whatever she wants and has not been able to do while I was out of town – get a well-deserved nap, clean up around the house, run errands, etc. In addition to getting us out of the house, doing some of the things that my wife does while I am out of town (and especially the things that she doesn’t or can’t do) is something she greatly appreciates. Doing the bedtime routine/morning routine, turning cleaning up the house or dog poop in the backyard into a fun activity and having my “big helper” assist (which more times than not he is the opposite), and taking my son to school on my way to a coworking space ends up being a much-needed break for my wife.

 

 

5. Have a checklist of to-do’s before leaving town

 

Trying to get items on the “honey-do list” or things that you have put off and need to get done around the house is so important to try to do while you are in town. Many times it is very easy to forget/ignore some of the issues because they are “out of sight, out of mind” for you, but your wife and child(ren) have to see those things every day. Whether it’s cleaning up pet’s poop/pee or mowing the grass that has become a little too over grown, it can really make a difference and when you get home you aren’t reminded of something else that you wanted/needed to get done.

 

 

6. Communication, communication, communication

 

My wife and I share a Google calendar where I put my flights so that she knows when I am leaving and when I will be back home. This can obviously change due to flight delays or last-minute work changes, but if that happens I try to let her know when I know. I have found this gives my wife something to look forward to (a much-needed break) and it also keeps from the “so when are you going to be home again” question every day. In addition to keeping my wife updated on when I’ll be home, technology has made it extremely easy to video chat regardless of what type of technology someone has. I obviously can’t video chat with them every night, but it’s a nice way to see my wife and son and for them to see me.

 

Being on the road so much has not been easy, but I have found that these things – maximizing time when I am home, setting work boundaries, and constant communication – make it a little bit easier.

 

Top Podcasts: Recommended by Bham Entrepreneurs

Top Podcasts: Recommended by Bham Entrepreneurs

 

As you probably already know, podcasts are a very valuable resource for small business owners. Do you need to learn about marketing or SEO? There’s a podcast for that. Do you need to learn how to scale your business? There’s definitely lots of podcasts for that. We’ve done the hard work for you and taken recommendations from Forge members on their favorite business related podcasts.

Masters of Scale

Masters of Scale is hosted by Reid Hoffman, Co-founder of LinkedIn. Reid shows how companies grow from zero to a gazillion, testing his theories with legendary leaders. This podcast is the first American media program to commit to a 50-50 gender balance for guests and it won the 2018 People’s Voice Webby for Best Business Podcast. Masters of Scale is definitely a Forge member favorite!

Perpetual Traffic

Every week Molly, Keith, and Ralph have shared cutting-edge paid traffic strategies they’ve used with their clients and in their businesses. They also share the struggles of digital marketing and online advertising and how they overcame them. If you’re hoping to acquire more customers online, Perpetual Traffic is perfect for you!

How I Built This

If you love storytelling and business, this is the right podcast for you. Guy Raz talks with the some of the most influential companies to learn how they began. How I Built This is full of inspirational stories from lots of entrepreneurs and founders. We love hearing about the humble beginnings of such influential companies- so be sure to look up How I Built This. 

Without Fail

We all know that any big successes were accompanied by some failures too. Without Fail is a new show from Gimlet Media that asks people who have pursued incredible things: What worked? What didn’t? And why? It’s hosted by Alex Blumberg. We believe that if you’re a business owner, it’s definitely worth your time!

Goal Digger

Hosted by Jenna Kutcher, the Goal Digger podcast answers many questions we have as entrepreneurs: How can I make money online? Am I ready to leave my 9 to 5 job? How can I grow my Instagram following?  Jenna shares plenty of tangible tips that she personally used to become a self-made millionaire. Listen to Goal Digger for inspiration, a unique perspective and plenty of interviews with industry leaders.

Entreleadership

Under the umbrella of Dave Ramsey, the Entreleadership Podcast is hosted by Ken Coleman. You can find interviews with some of the top minds in the business world like Seth Godin, Donald Miller, Jim Collins and many more. You can never have enough leadership advice so we suggest checking it out!

 

If you try any of these out for the first time, let us know your thoughts! Do you have other business related podcasts you love? Tell us about them! We’d love to add to our list. 

3 Mistakes of DIY Marketing

3 Mistakes of DIY Marketing

Forge member Jacqueline Jones wrote this blog post about mistakes we make in DIY marketing- we found it extremely helpful! Check out the original blog post here.

A large majority of businesses handle their marketing in-house.  Unfortunately, marketing efforts often get overlooked or handed off to someone who knows only a little about how to manage marketing for a brand.

If you’re a “solopreneur”, you may find that you simply have to do everything yourself because outsourcing can be costly.

There is nothing wrong with DIY marketing, but there are a few things you should attempt to avoid.

1. Only talking to your audience when you’re selling.

The majority of small businesses find themselves grasping at straws when it’s time to meet sales numbers.  So naturally, social media posts and emails only go out when it’s time to ask for money.

Your brand’s content strategy should focus more on building a relationship with and educating your audience.  If they trust you, they will spend money with you.  When they spend money with you, they shouldn’t feel like they had a cheap one-night-stand because the communication ended with the sale.

Understanding the process you want your customer to experience is extremely important to building and maintaining a profitable relationship.  Most marketers call this sales-funnel development.

2. Not using Call-To-Actions.  

Publishing great content is a wonderful step to achieve in the process of marketing your business.  It’s just pretty pictures and nice copy if you don’t have a call-to-action.

CTA’s tell your audience where to go next.  This means you have to make a place for them to go before asking them to.  Don’t forget to add links, instructions, lead pages, or whatever is the next step for potential customers to take.  This is a common, yet avoidable, pitfall.

3. Thinking social media is all necessary to market your brand.

Do not do think that social media is all you need.  Because social media platforms are free and accessible to all, many people feel that’s all they need to market their business.  It’s just not true.

Social media is only one aspect of marketing a business.   It’s a great tool, but should only be a part of your process.  Marketing 101 would teach you the 4 P’s of marketing are price, place, promotion, and product.  Social media falls under promotion, as does digital and print advertising, website development, t-shirts, and pens.

Marketing is far bigger than your social media presence.  Spend time creating a strategy that covers all bases.  It will make marketing your brand much easier and far more effective.

These are simple mistakes.  Mistakes can be corrected.  Invest the time, money, and effort in properly marketing your business.  Doing what you love and you are passionate about is, actually, the easy part.  Do what it takes to take your passion to the right audience.

Year End Review of Forge – 2018 at a Glance

Year End Review of Forge – 2018 at a Glance

After opening in September of 2017, Forge has grown and changed more than we could have imagined! We’ve learned so much over 2018 and thought it would be fun to recap the highlights of the Forge family over this last year.

We’ve saved a lot of entrepreneurs and remote workers from overcrowded, stuffy coffee shops. Our members love coming to Forge’s atmosphere with an unlimited supply of coffee and tea- plus a fun community of hustlers!

here’s what Forge can save you from

The size of the Forge family has continued to grow over 2018!

In January, we had 67 members.

In December, we have 121 members!

We have nearly doubled in size.

Celebrating Forge’s 1st birthday with some members and friends.

This year we hosted 22 educational Lunch & Learn events!

We learned about all kinds of things:

Josh Andrews of Gatehouse Law teaches at Forge each month.

In 2018 we hosted 12 Free Fridays for the public to come work at Forge! Free Fridays are the perfect time for people to try out coworking and experience the environment at Forge.

Forge also hosted 4 pitch night events to learn about new Birmingham businesses- Your Big Idea.

At Your Big Idea, three businesses present their big idea for feedback from the audience and panelists. It’s not a competition but an opportunity to support the growing businesses in Birmingham!

Your Big Idea: a pitch night for Birmingham businesses.

We organized 5 Founders Fridays to hear the journey of different Birmingham founders.

Erin Holtz- Founder of Pure Fitness

Not only do we focus on educational events to serve our members but we host lots of the fun, networking events. Along with several happy hours, we’ve also held yoga and pilates classes. The wine and chocolate pairing event with Match Chocolate was one of our favorites!

Kala Northrup- Founder of Match Chocolate

Free pilates class taught by Club Pilates

We love celebrating holidays around Forge- it’s a great excuse for a happy hour or friendly competition between Forge members!

Decorating pumpkins at Halloween

Pie competition to celebrate Thanksgiving

Holiday party with Forge friends and homemade eggnog

We’ve also doubled our monthly conference room bookings! Forge opens up its conference rooms and meeting spaces for both members and visitors.

The Vulcan Room with seating for 8 people

We truly love building the coworking community in Birmingham and connecting with entrepreneurs across the city. We can’t wait to see how the Forge family grows and what’s in store for 2019!

If you’re interested in trying out a Coworking Membership, join us in January! Buy one month and get the second month FREE! Email us for details: info@workatforge.com

Survey Design: Gathering Information Your Team Can Use

Survey Design: Gathering Information Your Team Can Use

Autumn Foster of Quire Consulting taught Forge’s most recent Lunch & Learn about survey design. We know we need data in order to get better. So we craft surveys and program evaluations and give them to our customers. We get them back, share the results at a team meeting and return to business as usual. For this lunch and learn Autumn talked about a better way to use customer input to improve your business.

 

Why do we use surveys in research?

 

Surveys help us gather information from a large number of people in order to make decisions that impact our business.

 

 

 

 

First step: Ask yourself “What information do I want to know?”

 

Different Kinds of Information:

  • Attitudes: what people say they want
  • Beliefs: what people think is true
  • Behavior: what people do (descriptive)
  • Attributes: what people are

 

Here are different question structures you can use:

  • Open-ended
    • Never use an open-ended question if a close-ended question will do!
    • People have to think harder about an open-ended question so choose wisely.
  • Close-ended with ordered choices
  • Close-ended with unordered choices
  • Partially close-ended

 

 

Pay attention to your wording! Ask yourself these questions:

  • Will the wording be understood?
  • Are the questions too vague/precise?
  • Is the question too demanding?
  • Is the question objectionable?

 

 

Make sure you know your goal! What are you hoping to learn from this survey? Who are you trying to reach?

 

Define your audience:

  • Start with what you know
  • Identify your assumptions
  • Go beyond your network
  • Consider your strategic goals

 

 

How will your team process and use the data?

 

After going through the work of gathering data, you don’t want to throw the information in a binder- never to be seen again. So ask yourself how your team will process the data you receive. When processing the data, think about these things: 1. Know your audience (user vs. spectator) 2. Know what they need to know 3. Make it accessible and durable

 

Autumn and her team processing data a few years back!

 

Think about the impact of the survey: What does this mean for your business?

 

Let the data lead by:

  • doing more research
  • identifying opportunity areas
  • setting goals tied to your learning
  • establishing a plan of action

 

 

Surveys take work but they can certainly pay off if you gather valuable information about your audience. Make sure you establish a plan of action to use the information you’ve gathered! Thank you Autumn for sharing with us! Check out Quire Consulting if you haven’t already. Feel free to contact Autumn at autumn@quireconsulting.com.