Programming Mom

Personality Driven Business

Posted by at 15 February, 2008, 11:35 pm

Nothing like getting back into the swing of blogging after being away for a while. Sigh. So here goes!

For those of you reading, there’s been a lot of recent activity at Mompreneurs – so many of the gals are getting local press or getting on The Big Idea. And wow, am I excited for everyone! It’s such a great boost for these gals, and there’s nothing more inspiring than seeing other moms ‘make it’.

But as my hubby and I watch the show each night (he’s now hooked too – it’s our wrap up for each day!), we watch in amazement as all these brave souls talk about their stuff. And every night, we end up looking at each other and saying the same thing: “I think it’s awesome that these people get out there, and I’ve learned a lot from this episode, but I personally would never want to be on that show!”

I know, I know. You’re thinking we’re crazy not to want that kind of publicity, right? But in all honesty, neither one of us has the kind of personality that works well on TV, and we’d look like goobers. I’m not trying to be self depreciating. I like who I am, and I’m a very social person. But if I had to speak on a show, I’d get nervous and I’d look like a total dork! It’s a moot point anyway – our product is one we only sell direct to resellers and not to the general public, so a show like this would not be a good avenue for our business. But even if it was, it would not be something that would appeal to either of us.

That really made me think about how successful entrepreneurs tend to migrate towards products or services that they’re not only passionate about, but that also fit their personalities. If you’re the bubbly outgoing type, a product that is tailor made for announcing to the world probably fits you very well. If you want to be outside 24/7, a product that can be sold in a shop at the beach may be right up your alley. If you love clacking away at the computer, a business selling web services or doing virtual assistance work probably fits you best.

It’s not enough to just have a passion for something and a great idea based on what others want to buy. We also need to look at the avenues for marketing the product or service, to make sure it fits us as a person. Only then will we have a business model that thrives with us as owners.

Category : Programming Mom

She Does, He Does

Posted by at 7 October, 2007, 9:09 pm

Now that I’m back into the groove of my business after summer break (yeah, I know, it’s waaaay past summer – but I’m just now starting to feel like I’m getting a routine again!), I’ve been paying a lot more attention to my hubby’s processes. And I have to admit – he gets things done, even if his methods make me cringe sometimes!

  • To Do List – I keep everything – from medical records to business notes to PTO agendas – on my computer. I write detailed to do lists with time frames. Then I stress about everything until items get knocked off the list. Hubby makes a list every few days – usually on the back of a grocery receipt or envelope – with very little planning involved. But somehow he still gets just as much accomplished!
  • Communication – In school, I loved essay tests. Hubby liked multiple choice. And our customer responses really show it! If a client asks if a system can do something it can’t, I’ll research possible solutions and try to find an answer for them. Then I write a nice long message explaining the steps to take, turning a five minute answer into a two hour one. Hubby just responds “No”. (Yeah. Guess why I don’t let him answer many client questions?)
  • Work/Life Balance – I map out my work so I can spend as much time as possible with my daughter when she’s home in the evenings and on the weekends. But it’s really hard, and I always feel guilty when I spend time on the business and she’s home, or spend time for fun when there’s work to be done. But hubby doesn’t seem to stress when he has to ask the kiddo to hold on while he works, nor does he worry in the least about turning off the computer to take a weekend away.
  • Future – I have contingency plans with very specific instructions, processes in place should something happen, and try to save as much as possible for that ‘just incase’ day. I worry not just about our livelihood, but my clients’ as well, and always try to incorporate that into my daily activities. Hubby lives for the moment, and says that it’s silly to worry about something that may not happen.

It’s obvious that hubby and I have two very different approaches to life, and that carries through to the business. We both get things done, but they’re done in completely different ways.

We’re learning from each other though! He’s learning to plan a lot more, and is becoming more organized. I’m taking weekends off and am trying to cut down on my research-filled client responses, focusing just on the question at hand. Working together has definitely shown us that merging our approaches a bit can actually make us more efficient overall in the long run.

Category : Programming Mom

Being the sole provider

Posted by at 9 June, 2007, 8:49 am

About a year ago, we made the jump into self employment as our sole income stream. It was a huge decision, something I pushed much more than my husband, who was tired of his job (loved the work and employees, hated the boss) but was still worried about trying to live on just my business income. The idea was that I’d work and he’d tackle the home side of things, easing himself into the business little by little, until eventually we were partners.

Well, here it is a year later, and that hasn’t quite happened. Though he does help with the finances, he really doesn’t fit into that web business mold nearly as much as we had originally hoped. But it still really works out well – mostly because hubby is an incredible house keeper and is a terrific project manager, so I still have someone to run ideas by.

I’ve learned a lot from the experience too! Here are some of the key things I’ve discovered after making a business our sole income.

1. Insurance is expensive! We used to think we paid a lot when we had a hundred dollars a month taken out for health insurance. Wow, were we wrong! We pay nearly six hundred a month, and still don’t have great insurance. Needless to say, we’re looking at other options constantly.

2. Hubby is better than I am at housekeeping. I used to balance doing 90% of the housework, child care, errands, cooking, etc. with a full time business. Needless to say, we ate a lot of convenience meals and the closets were never organized. Hubby is a much better cook and does a better job keeping the house deep cleaned – because he has a lot more time for that sort of thing.

3. I feel jealous sometimes. As much as I hate to admit it, I do feel a little jealous that hubby’s main priority for the day is getting the laundry done, or he can head out to the park with our little girl while I have to stay back and work. He’s wonderful about talking to me about it, and thankfully that doesn’t happen often, but it does creep up. There’s a flip side too; hubby misses his career sometimes, and it’s hard on him when he talks to friends about their jobs, especially past co-workers.

4. There’s a lot of pressure. If something happens to my business, we could lose our house. That adds a whole set of stress to the mix! Of course, as hubby points out, I have backup plans and we do have some saved up just for this type of thing. Plus there’s no guarantees in any job – you could be fired after 20 years of service in a stable job. Life’s always a risk! Imagine how hubby must feel though – he’s banking our entire well-being off his wife’s work.

5. Family life is great. Hubby and I have always been very close. But being around him 24/7 is really awesome! We talk more than ever, are working as a team in discussing the business growth, and I feel a lot less alone now. Plus I’m there for our kiddo when she needs me, so I can spend the time helping her with math instead of worrying about getting dinner done.

It takes some getting used to when you make a business your sole income. And we’re still going through the ups and downs and learning what we need to do to make it work. But it’s a great experience, and I am really glad we moved in this direction.

Category : Programming Mom

Handling Isolation

Posted by at 2 June, 2007, 9:34 pm

On an email group of which I’m involved, one of the members asked if there were any entrepreneurs out there who were feeling kind of alone and wanted to talk about the ups and downs of running a business solo. She soon found out she was definitely not the only one, because she had 20 people contact her with responses saying that they, too, felt the same way!

Working from home is terrific. You have a lot of freedom and a lot of flexibility, so you are able to attend business groups that allow you to network and talk socially with others. But as a solo entrepreneur, you often don’t have the time to do these ‘extras’. And when you do, and it’s hard to find others who are going through the same things you are – so many home business owners are simply dabbling, and companies that attend Chamber of Commerce and business network meetings are often small companies with brick and mortar shops. As a home based entrepreneur whose livelihood depends on her business, I often feel caught in the middle.

I’ve started looking at chat systems to add to my site, to give me more of a social business outlet. I’m also frequenting Meetups and networking events more often. Keeping that social continuity is so very important, not only for our well being, but also for brainstorming, learning new resources and networking locally.

I’d love to hear what others do to help keep them out of isolation!

Category : Programming Mom

Just Say No

Posted by at 22 May, 2007, 8:58 pm

I have a problem saying no to volunteering, especially at my daughter’s school. I help out in the classroom twice a week, help with parties and specials, am a PTO board member, the list goes on and on.

Don’t get me wrong. I love helping out. I’ve made great friends, have seen a side of the classroom I wouldn’t normally see (and have kept up with what my little one is doing much better that way), and I feel great after I help. But lately I’ve noticed it’s taking a real toll on my business. There have been days that I’ve volunteered for three different school events in one day, some of which have lasted hours, and that left me nearly no time for work. It got so bad for a while that one of the parents at school asked me what class I taught, because she saw me so much up at school.

As work at home moms, it’s really hard not to think you can do everything a stay at home mom can. We’re home, after all. We have flexible schedules. And we feel like we’re doing our part when we can spend an hour helping the school, which in turn helps them help our children more. But it’s very easy to get caught up in the ‘I can do it – I work from home!’ trap if you’re not careful.

It’s tough too because for me, volunteer work is kind of my social outlet. I had a pretty close group of friends in my coworkers when I worked outside the home. And over the years, everyone has kind of drifted apart little by little as they left work, plus many of my friends moved to other towns or out of state. So my time at school has provided me with most of my current friends. Plus there are the kids. There’s absolutely nothing better than knowing that you’ve been able to make a difference in a child’s life, even in just one small way. But your business is always looming in the background, menacing – and let’s face it, beckoning – you to go back home and work. What people don’t realize is that we still need to get our eight to ten hours in a day. So if I’m up at school for four or five hours, I have to make that time up at night.

I’ve made a promise to myself that next year I’m going to stop and think about whether I can truly afford the time before I volunteer for anything else. Hubby suggested that I note days and times that aren’t quite as busy (like, say, Friday mornings), and only volunteer at that time. I’ll never be able to stop completely, but I can definitely be smarter about it!

Category : Programming Mom

Addicted to Computers

Posted by at 10 May, 2007, 10:27 pm

I’ll admit it. I’m addicted to the computer.

Earlier today, we were rushing (as usual – none of us are morning people!) to get our daughter off to school, and I went in to the office to check the weather. Usually hubby does it, and today we both remembered why. Several minutes later, as I was starting to check email, he was still in our kiddo’s room, a short sleeve t-shirt in one hand and a long sleeve one in the other, calling to me to see what I had found. Ooops! I hadn’t even gotten to the weather site yet.

I don’t think it’s possible for me to watch a TV show and not look up an actor or actress in IMDB. If there’s a book I see at the store that looks interesting, I run home and check Amazon reviews first. My daughter needs to know what animals are in a rainforest for homework and can’t remember? I help her hop online to check. We practically live on Wikipedia.

And then there’s online shopping. I buy all kinds of house related things – from office chairs to decorations to rugs – on the web. And if I’m considering hiring out for a service, like someone to build a fence or deck, I turn to their web sites first before making any decision.

I can’t even go out of the house without a computer. If I don’t have my laptop with me, I have my PDA phone which has full time internet access. Tonight we took our daughter to gymnastics, and some guy there had a tatoo that struck hubby as familiar. What’d I do? Googled it. Right then and there, with my phone.

Yep, I’m pretty addicted.

I wonder what business owners did before computers became commonplace? How could you start a business without having a web site or being able to research? Does it help us or do we rely so much on our technology that we’ve become soft? I think about that a lot. We take our computers for granted. And yet if something happened to computers globally, I’d personally be completely out of business.

One thing’s for sure. I’m not going to be checking the weather before school anymore!

Category : Programming Mom

Get Off Your Bootie

Posted by at 2 May, 2007, 9:46 am

Do you want to start or grow your business? Then get off your bootie and go do it!

I love talking with moms who want to start a business, and there’s nothing better than seeing them get excited about the possibilities. But all too often, a mom gets scared and starts talking about why she can’t start the business now. The kids have been sick. They need to worry about their weight first before they can deal with a business. The house really needed reworked, so they’re focusing there for now. They just don’t have the money. They have five toddlers and no extra time to do anything else. They’ll start back up next month.

Whatever. Stop making excuses and get off your bootie!

Sorry, I know that seems harsh, and I’m not a harsh person by nature. But I see so many moms with potential who don’t move forward because they’re afraid, and that makes me so very sad and frustrated. I just want to encourage women to stop worrying about what-ifs and start making their dreams a reality. Look around the Mompreneurs site. You’ll see moms who had cancer, sick kids, financial troubles, death in the family, marital issues, no support system – and they all pushed through it and made a business work.

I have a little girl with down syndrome and celiac disease who needs therapy and a special diet, who had heart surgery at eight months. We could absolutely not afford for me to quit my job years ago, but we did it anyway – hubby took on a second job and we sold stuff on EBay and through second hand shops to make ends meet. And that wasn’t enough – we had hospital bills stacked a mile high, used check cashing places every week, and even scrounged through couch cushions to find enough change to go buy food for the day. During that whole time I was sick, and to make a long story short, I went through a lot of surgeries and spent a lot of long all nighters working despite the pain. We got through it though, developed a successful business, and now my hubby has quit his job to stay at home and help out.

Yeah, life can be tough. And starting a business when so much is going on in life can be really challenging. Believe me, I know! But it honestly is so rewarding – it feels absolutely incredible to say that you’ve made a go at a business and didn’t just let life pass you by. Plus, anyone reading this has an extremely valuable tool – a bunch of moms who have been there, done that, and are more than happy to help others who are having difficulties starting or growing a business. Check out the Mompreneurs Forum for inspiration and guidance, or just to vent about the troubles you’re having. But then – and this is the important part – use that help to actually get off your duff and take action, so you can start seeing results.

Remember, ladies, we are all in this together! Let’s work together as a team to help each other and encourage each other to reach our full potentials and make the most of our home based businesses!


Category : Programming Mom

Normal Business Hours

Posted by at 29 April, 2007, 2:48 pm

Not too long ago, I decided to make a bold move in my business. I set business hours! My business is technically ‘open’ only Monday through Friday, 9 am through 6 pm.

It was a really tough decision. But being ‘on call’ 24/7 was really affecting my work. Scripting is easiest when you have a stretch of time to work, and breaking it up with constant questions just wasn’t helping me get that work finished. I also felt like I had no time for family – and after all, isn’t that the main reason we enjoy working from home in the first place? Plus I worried about my support person – she was tackling weekend posts as well, and I felt she wasn’t taking enough time for herself. Something had to give.

I do have an emergency line for my clients – a simple form that sends an email message to the support desk and also sends my cell phone a text message. I felt more comfortable having a place for those extreme emergencies that just couldn’t wait until morning. And I do check messages a few times over the weekend or at night to look for other high priority issues that really need to be addressed quickly. But otherwise, I try to save it for the next business day.
One of my resellers asked me how the new hours were working out. She was thinking about adopting the business hours for her business as well, but was worried about how her clients would take it. I told her that I hadn’t had any complaints yet – either my clients weren’t saying anything, or they realized that it wasn’t fair to ask a company to be open at all times. I think most people understand. After all, how many stores have ‘always open’ hours? Why would we expect that of a home business?

If you’re feeling like you’re always working, or you don’t have time for family anymore, you might look at adopting normal business hours. Treat your email inbox as a storefront – close it down at night and on the weekend, and open it up during specified hours throughout the week. It’s tough to start, but once you do that, you’ll realize just how important it is to keep a life outside your business – for your sake and your family’s!


Category : Programming Mom

Partnering Up

Posted by at 27 April, 2007, 8:33 am

I love partnering up and working with others. Not only do you get a fresh perspective on your business, but you can move a lot further when you have others who are lending a hand.

Besides starting a partnership, there are three partnering up methods that I’ve personally used with success, and strongly recommend for any Mompreneur who wants to grow her business: joint ventures, virtual assistance, and reselling.

  1. Joint Ventures - As Mompreneurs, we wear a lot of different hats, but we can’t be expected to do everything solo. Combining efforts with another Mompreneur adds to our product lines or services, and enables us to increase our markets. Plus it increases motivation – there’s something very empowering about working as a team vs. by yourself.If you’re as lucky as I am to have found others that you work well with and who have complimentary but non-competing skills or products, a joint venture is a perfect way to grow your business without putting in more work.
  2. Virtual Assistants – When I first started thinking that I needed help with my business, my biggest concern was finances. I had no idea how I was going to pay someone for help when I wasn’t exactly rolling in the dough. But I knew I had to do it for my own well being.The funny thing is, my productivity and motivation increased so much after I outsourced Sherri (another Mompreneur!) for support that I was able to complete more projects and get more additions done. Now I don’t have to be on the computer for twelve to fourteen hours a day, so when I am on, it means I’m fresher and can focus much better. Of course, I really lucked out – to say Sherri is the best is an understatement! But having help really does make a difference.
  3. Reselling – I know where my abilities lie, and I know those areas that are not my strengths. I love programming, thinking up ideas and troubleshooting, and enjoy customer service. I am not good at marketing or design type work though. So I decided a few years back to decrease my costs and sell directly to web designers. I sell the base script to the web designers, who add their own design and styles, install it onto their clients’ sites, and sell it to them under their own brand.I can’t stress enough how this type of B2B sales can help a small company! Everyone wins. I make less per script, but my support questions decrease (one reseller with 100 clients means I get one support question vs. 100), and I don’t need to worry as much about marketing. My resellers win because they are profiting from my scripts, and are able to provide their clients with a much-needed service. The clients still pay the same amount as if they would have purchased it directly from me, but now they have a backing of two companies with different skill sets, which helps when problems or questions arise.

    If you sell products, consider selling wholesale to other moms who then sell to their own clients. If you offer services, think about other companies that could use your services, and sell to them so they can offer those services to their clients. It really is a great way to broaden your customer base and sales!

Again, partnering up makes a huge difference to a Mompreneur. Remember, we can’t do it all alone. We need a little help too! Consider working with other Mompreneurs on projects or even in sub businesses, and you might find that a team environment makes for that much-needed boost to your bottom line.


Category : Programming Mom

Accountability Logs

Posted by at 27 April, 2007, 7:40 am

When you program for a living, your entire career focus is to create systems that will make life easier for others. So if a client mentions that there is a bug in the system, or asks if it’s possible to add another feature onto the system, it’s very difficult to say no. I’m horrible at that – feature additions especially are hard for me to turn down! When added to the nearly non-stop support requests, it’s difficult to find time to get these systems completed.

The other day (after realizing that I had planned on getting a CMS system out in January, and it’s already April!), I sat down with my husband to develop a plan of attack for all my projects. He suggested an accountability log, where I note the different things I do each day and set concrete goals for releases. He also noted that I tend to flit from project to project as I see things that need to be changed, so he suggested that I plan to tackle one system at a time until it’s completed, jotting down any changes I need to make to the other systems.

So far it’s working pretty well. I’ve completed the new site builder release and am zipping it up today for testing. Tomorrow I’ll do the same for the new catalog release. Next week I’ll complete the CMS system and plan the sales site. In between, I’ll continue on with client projects and support requests – again, these are logged (and plenty of time added for things like support). As I notice other issues, I’m adding them to my OneNotes lists so I can tackle them when I work on that project.

If you have a business in which you have a lot of projects, and you need to attack those projects in a more organized manner, I strongly suggest creating an accountability log. Make sure to add due dates and specific changes you’ll be making, then create a course of action to handle all those changes, one at a time. Then have your spouse or a friend keep you accountable for meeting those deadlines. You might be surprised at how much easier it is to stay on top of things with a log to keep you on track!


Category : Programming Mom