Botanical Brouhaha Expert Discussion Panel: No. 101

The Question:

I have the hardest time being present with my friends and family without getting interrupted by business calls and emails. I’m afraid to turn my phone off and take a chance on missing an important call, text or email from a current or potential client, but I know it annoys my family. I don’t want to annoy them, but we need my income to provide for our family. I need to find the balance! Any tips?

Holly Chapple Flowers |  Abby Jiu Photography

Holly Heider Chapple Flowers | Abby Jiu Photography

The Answers:

Finding work/life balance is one of the hardest parts of owning your own business! I suggest setting ‘business hours’ for your studio. You can relay these hours to clients via your voicemail message, website, setup an automatic response to all clients stating your office hours, etc.. This allows you to have a life and some time to yourself and also gives your clients parameters on when to expect to hear from you.  I also *try* to take 1 or 2 days off a week to disconnect. It’s definitely hard to do but in the height of wedding season you need some time to unwind and remove yourself from the business.  It’s hard to make the change when everything is so accessible on your mobile phone, but it is important to set a work/life balance or you will burn out! You and your family and friends will be happier because of it!

Beth Zemetis (Blush Floral Design)

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I think it’s important not to equate being available 24/7 with being able to provide income for your family. Creating healthy boundaries around your work is essential for you to have a sustainable business and one that REALLY benefits you and your family. So just go ahead and turn off your phone. If you need to, you can create a voice mail message or email auto-responder that articulates when a client can reasonably expect to hear from you so you’re managing their expectations.

Clare Day (Clare Day Flowers)

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Just turn your damn phone off. Do you really want clients who think you should answer their call/text at 11 PM?

Jennie Love (Love ‘n Fresh Flowers)

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No answer – balance in one’s life is difficult to do when you are working really hard for a living…

Hitomi Gilliam AIFD (Design358)

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Balancing family life and an entrepreneurs life is a definite struggle, and I think we all fight there. When it comes to managing communication with potential clients here is my strategy: My phone number is nowhere to be found on my website. The only way people can contact me is through my contact form. When they fill it and hit the “Send” button they automatically get a message saying I got the e-mail alright and will answer within a certain delay. That allows me to get a little bit of a time margin and manage potential clients expectations in terms of quick answer…

Laetitia Mayor (Floresie)

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I think we are all a bit guilty of work/life imbalance. Now that we all carry our phones around with us all the time, it can be hard to disconnect from work, and fully engage with friends and family. Although I have been accused of obsessing over work, (or spending too much time on Instagram), I do have a few tips that may be helpful.

First, check email twice a day. I check and reply to emails in the morning- typically before everyone gets up- and in the afternoon. During the school year, this would be before picking up the kids. If I’m working on a time sensitive project, I may check and reply throughout the day, but I try to limit the bulk of my correspondence to these two time periods.

To rein booked wedding clients in (those under contract who already have a detailed proposal and plan), I schedule a final detail meeting one month before the event. Instead of receiving emails from them for the nine-plus months leading up to the wedding, I have them save all their tweaks, questions, final count, etc. until this scheduled meeting.

If you are able to rein all of your wedding clients in like this, you can dramatically reduce the volume of emails. This change has definitely improved my work flow, and I think it calms clients too. Putting boundaries on them quiets the crazy, and also teaches them to respect your time. They understand that they’ll get your full attention at that focused detail meeting (or phone call) and this puts them at ease.

Clients deserve your un-fractured attention, as do your friends and family… as do you!

Susan McLeary (Passionflower)

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I will be very interested to read the responses from our other panel members. Perhaps one of them will have some healthy feedback that might even help me. I will honestly answer this question, but I am ashamed to do so. I too work constantly and it is very hard on my family. I am incredibly driven and quite honestly love to work. In addition, I have so much on my plate that I am often behind. I certainly always have something I should be doing. Just now I got my emails to 0 for the first time in years. As I typed this response the emails were flying in. I can’t really get ahead and that is my fault. I personally made decisions that increased our need for more income and I have to work like this because of my decisions. My husband would be quite happy with less. In addition, I prefer to keep up on things if I can and if I can knock out some emails after business hours, or do some social media, I do. I am not one to sit idol not accomplishing things.  I do think each one of us has a unique set of circumstances and each one of us must be accountable for the choices we make. We also can’t compare ourselves to others. I can’t even compare myself to the old Holly (which was the young Holly). When I was younger I think I was more focused and present for the kids. These are the things I am currently doing to try and get some balance back. I have recently started a block schedule and we are trying to define a time for everything. Team meetings, social media, contracts, clients and so on. I am also posting on social media, but trying not to pay attention to what anyone else is doing. I try to respond to people if  I can, but I really am trying to not fall down the rabbit hole. I do know family is precious and they do deserve to have it all just as we do. Good luck!!

Holly Chapple (Holly Heider Chapple Flowers)

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In the words of Nike – “Just Do It”. Set business hours, it is the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself and your loved ones! Often I send out an email to a floral designer and get an automatic response with messages such as “We are closed Sunday and Monday. We will reply to your email on Tuesday.” or “Our design days are Wednesday-Saturday and office days are Mondays and Tuesdays”. They set boundaries and their clients will heed to the boundaries. I, too, struggled with this for a long time, I’d bend over backwards to be available at all times. Then I booked a trip to Africa where I was going to be on a Safari trip and far away from email. At the time the cell phone coverage wasn’t available and we were told we’d have limited places to check in on email. So I did a crazy thing and it scared me. I put up an automatic response saying that I would be on vacation from October 1-15 with no access to emails. Guess what – my business survived. Mostly people asked if I had a nice vacation. It was a great lesson to me, I saw that the whole business wouldn’t crash if it took a little while to reply to a client. So .. boundaries .. get them into place! You’ll be happy you did!

Alicia Schwede (Bella Fiori)

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