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Director of Business and Family Affairs

Every executive position is a juggling act -- and being "CEO" of your home career is no different! Use your managerial skills to take control of your work and family life.

© 1997, by Lisa M. Roberts

There's a title every work-at-home parent holds. It may not help to advertise it on your business card, but it couldn't hurt as a sign boldly displayed in your home office. What could possibly describe every job an at-home working parent covers?

Try "Director of Business & Family Affairs." It pretty much sums up your life (as much as a single title could!).

The key to making this integrated job position work for you is to see yourself as you are - a Manager. Managerial skills constantly come into play as you juggle the three "departments" of your home career: parenting, business and housework. Without strong managerial skills, one of these "departments" is bound to collapse.

If your workload gets overwhelming at times, just do what all good managers do -- draw up a plan. If you've been in management professionally before, you know what's expected of you; if you haven't, draw from your roles as a parent and head (or co-head) of your household.

A manager steps back to see "the big picture" and to develop a course of action, then steps in to set that plan in motion. This takes the ability to:

  • Delegate and motivate.
  • Schedule and organize.
  • Monitor what works and what doesn't.

DELEGATION

In any business, the call for a manager comes whenever there's more work than one person can do alone. This call is likely to come sooner rather than later in the life of your home business. The common sense approach of delegating tasks to others is a bright spot in your work-at-home lifestyle plan! It eases your workload and is the keystone of successful management.

Although in the beginning you may try to handle everything on your own, as your business and family grow the task of delegation will be a welcome one. One way to get started is to study each point of your triangle of responsibilities (child care, business, housework). List the primary tasks involved at each point and realistically evaluate your need for outside help. Then jot down the names of a few friends, relatives and professional associates who may be of assistance in these areas.

In short, your delegation needs will depend on:

  • Child Care -- The number, ages and personalities of your children.
  • Business -- The nature and volume of your business.
  • Housework -- The size of your house and the standard of cleanliness you subscribe to.

Just remember that when it comes to delegation, this simple premise holds true: the best work is done when the worker is in the best spirits. Whether you enlist your children, spouse, neighbors, friends, relatives or professionals to help you out with any of your child care, business or household tasks, always extend respect and appreciation of their efforts. In addition to any monetary compensation you may agree upon, offer positive feedback, a smile...and gratitude.

Remember: A healthy dose of motivation with each delegation!

SCHEDULING

Once you have your extended support team in place, the next exercise of your management skills is scheduling -- not only of the tasks that you've delegated but of all the remaining that are left to you.

Here's your chance to loosen that 8-3, 9-5 block of work time you've picked up in the school system and traditional workplace. As a home-based professional, you will find innovative applications of your work time, weaving your business-related, housework and child care tasks in between, through and around each other. In fact, the next time you braid your daughter's hair, recall your day's activities...and feel the similarity.

It's more likely, however, that the similarity will be found more in the weaving than in the equal distribution of three parts. No matter how organized your schedule may be in theory, you'll find in practice a good dose of flexibility will be in order. Some days you'll find yourself under the pressure of business deadlines, other days you'll be acting as a full-time nurse to a child down with the flu, and still other days you'll play catch-up with domestic chores.

The prospect of unexpected interruptions shouldn't rattle you. Managers of every type -- in every line of work -- face this upheaval of planned agendas. But that fact doesn't keep them from setting up estimated timetables -- and doing their best to stick to them. Timetables help managers keep track of all the tasks ahead while assuring that they will get done.

For home businesses, timetables play another critical role. The structure of a fairly consistent work schedule enables the family to adjust to home business life. Knowing when you are unavailable to them (save emergencies) and when they can enjoy your full attention develops a sense of security in both your children and your spouse.

Just as your business needs blocks of your uninterrupted time to succeed, so does your family need them to flourish. Without an established work schedule, the pull to pitter-patter in your home office may rob you and your family of that critical time you all need to spend together.

MONITORING

The final test of your managerial skills comes at evaluation time. This should happen one or two weeks after putting your first plan into action, and then continue every couple of months and/or as needed.

At this point you're on a schedule (somewhat), you've delegated tasks to others, and now it's time to track the results. There are two aspects of home business that need to be consistently monitored:

  • Productivity -- Whether all the tasks that need to be done are getting done.
  • Spirit -- Whether all the players involved are in healthy spirits.

These two considerations are partners in home business success; one cannot do well for long without the other. If one gets ignored, the other cries out for attention. For instance, if you find yourself getting everything done but at the expense of a positive family psyche, your family's needs will grow more and more demanding and that productive roll you've been on will come to a halt. On the other hand, if you're constantly worried about how everyone else is "handling" your new-found work-at-home responsibilities, you may never have a chance to get to them!

With that thought in mind, we're once again back to that triangle of responsibilities:

  • Child Care -- How are your children doing? Is the gleam of pride starting to shine in their eyes or are their arms folded in opposition? Are they going to bed peacefully or do they keep popping out for "more" of you? Have they grown more diligent with their homework, inspired by your "home" work, or are their grades starting to slide?
  • Business -- So how's business? Are client calls/orders streaming in on a consistent basis? Are you following up on your leads? Taking the time needed for administrative and business management tasks? Continuing to market even when business is booming?
  • Housework -- So what's the house look like now? Is your basement growing soiled clothes? Does your kitchen sink host dirty dishes every night? Are you afraid to open up some of those tupperware containers in your fridge?

Take time -- and time again -- to identify the weak spots on the domestic and business front and then figure out how to address them. If the laundry's piling up, for instance, why not throw a load in every morning after you shower, then finish it up whenever you need a break from work. If it's the filing that's piling, set aside a half hour each evening before turning in to clear your desk off. Finally, if your children take an attitude/behavioral turn for the worse, stop everything and sit down for a talk...

In other words, start weaving! Pull every functional task, one way or another, into the fold. Don't worry if certain strands keep sticking out -- that's natural! Just keep in mind that a braid simply won't hold unless all three main parts are taken in. As a Parent -- and a Director -- you'll learn the art of weaving soon enough.


© 1997 Lisa M. Roberts, all rights reserved. The above article is an excerpt from How to Raise A Family & A Career Under One Roof: A Parent's Guide to Home Business, a title highly recommended by La Leche League, Home Office Computing and the Family Christian Bookclub. Order your own copy today!

 
 
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