Oct. 17, 2012 at 10:23 AM ET
You know you're busy when your to-do list includes "have the baby" when you're eight months pregnant. My husband used to joke that that was indeed the case with me.
In 2005, I co-founded the company goodsearch.com, which turns people's everyday actions into ways to support their favorite cause. In 2006, I launched the msnbc show Your Business, which I host. And then in 2007 I got married and had the first of my three kids (just to give you the full picture, I had three children in two and a half years – and no twins!).
So within just a couple of years, I went from being someone who ran a business (and hosted a TV show) into someone who also ran a household. And, the truth is, running a household has a lot more in common with running a business than you might think. Whether it's "managing logistics" of getting kids to school, "outsourcing" meals, "hiring" baby sitters, or "networking" with other parents, right down to the worst headache of all, "controlling costs,” these overlaps aren't just metaphors. Running a house and a business share many of the same kind of challenges.
Over the past six years, as an entrepreneur and a journalist who covers entrepreneurs, I spent my days learning what makes companies run efficiently and smoothly. Together with two "Your Business" producers, Lisa Everson and Frank Silverstein, I recently wrote a book, "It’s Your Business – 183 Essential Tips that Will Transform Your Small Business." And as a mom, I’ve used many of these business tips in the book at home. Here are a few I wanted to share with you:
Tip #179: Knock off the easy stuff first. As an entrepreneur you are just as likely to be emptying the trash as meeting an investor and at the end of the day you need to be sure all the tasks are complete. And as a mother you may have big projects like Thanksgiving dinner alongside smaller demands like organizing a cluttered closet. Whether you're running an officer or a household, we advise: "When scheduling projects, consider how long something will take and where it stands in the pecking order of things to do. When you’re deciding what to do first, see if you can knock some things out fast, even if they are less important."
Tip #65: Insist on employee (in this case, family member) ownership of projects. Never let an idea leave the room without a champion – whether that idea is about a vacation you want to plan, a new way of organizing the refrigerator, or how you are going to change the way you and your spouse keep track of schedules. Assigning ownership of a project is the only way it will ever get done. People need to feel both responsible and accountable for things to happen.
Tip #60: Create a disagreement protocol. This is one of my favorite tips to translate from business to home. I learned this from Michael Bosma, managing shareholder of the Bosma Group in Reno, Nev. He suggests creating a procedure for how you expect your employees to proceed if they disagree with one another. Here’s the policy: “If someone is on a rant about somebody else, they should speak about the problem directly with that person.” If someone complains to Michael, the first thing he does is ask if they’ve addressed it correctly. He says it’s substantially decreased the number of personal issues in his office.
And here’s one that I’ve not been able to make work at home, but I think it’s worth others giving it a try:
Tip #88: Connect with your sales prospects by “mirroring.” It’s much easier to close a sale when you and your customer are on the same wavelength. Menina Givens, a top Mary Kay salesperson, taught us about how she subtly mirrors the body language and mood of the person she’s speaking to. If they’re excited, she’s excited; if they’re speaking softly, she does the same.
I thought that perhaps this would work with my children. But so far, it’s just lead to me jumping up and down on the couch announcing that it’s dinner time, which pretty much just results in my kids jumping even higher!
JJ Ramberg is the host of msnbc’s Your Business, co-author of "It’s Your Business – 183 Essential Tips that Will Transform Your Small Business" and co-founder of goodsearch.com.