Management Tips

Management Tips

Managing a Virtual Business by Managing You

by Susan Fennema

Managing a virtual business has some added challenges over managing a traditional one. There are wonderful pros, but there are a few cons, as we wrote about previously. The first and foremost challenge is managing you.

While some personalities find a virtual business or work-from-home environment more difficult to manage, you can create a structure so that it is a little easier. It might take more willpower for some than for others. If you get distracted or can’t maintain focus easily (or even if you don’t!), developing a structure and schedule for managing a virtual business is very necessary.


Get a good digital calendar that can sync to your smartphone. We are huge fans of Google Calendar because of the power and ubiquity of it. You can create multiple calendars within your Google Calendar for better organization. Plus, you can subscribe to other calendars, like family members, teammates and “calendars of interest” (e.g., federal holidays, the Chicago Blackhawks or Texas A&M footballschedules).

The first thing you want to do on your calendar is to block out your personal obligations. Your spiritual time, your family, and your health should be your priorities. If you are not taking care of yourself first, you will not have anything to give to your clients and your team. Take Sundays off. Make sure that gym visit is booked and that you are taking breaks for lunch. Go to your daughter’s soccer game. And don’t forget to walk the dog.

Here’s what a typical day looks like for our CEO (Chaos Eradicating Officer), Susan. For her, managing a virtual business “starts” at 6:00am. She calendars her morning routine. It is usually the same – morning readings, a few light chores, walk the dog (that’s exercise too!), breakfast, gym workout, and shower. Her “work” start varies around the time the classes happen at her gym; sometimes she works before the class and sometimes after. And, she has a 1/2-hour blocked for lunch. “Sign off” is at 5pm, because that’s when she cooks dinner, spends time with her husband and dog, and does personal tasks like meal planning, etc.


Working from home brings the challenge of isolation, which can lead to depression – and a loss of social skills. So, make sure you are getting out at least once a week. It can be lunch with a friend, a networking event, a client meeting at Starbucks, or a volunteer gig. But, make sure you have some in-person socializing as part of your schedule.

Continuing with the calendaring concept, block times into your calendar for when you are going to work on client projects, marketing, financials, sales, etc. Be sure to save your best focus times for the biggest challenges. If you have promised a certain number of hours per week to a specific client, block those as well. This is especially important if you are a subcontractor. It allows you to see how much availability you have and prevents overpromising.

Lastly, avoid overworking. Easier said than done when there’s no physical commute, but there are ways to create physical boundaries at home. Have a routine that signals the end of the working day, like simplying shutting your laptop, turning off your desk lamp, writing a to-do list for the next day, or putting your chat status to “away”. You can take it one step further by putting the laptop out of sight so you don’t feel tempted to jump back on.

Other Tools for Managing a Virtual Business

Software is important when managing a virtual business. You need tools for communications, finances, sales, project management, time tracking (if you do that), and social media/marketing.  We love how technology can help you solve problems. We have written a couple of articles on business tools that you can peruse for ideas:

Accountability is another area you need to address. Even if you are great at holding others accountable – Project Management 101 – you can still be challenged to hold yourself to the same standards. A business coach, teammate, or spouse can help. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of strength!

Mastermind groups can be a great source of accountability. They can also give you the opportunity to be challenged and strengthened by others who are in the same situation. Susan’s OneLife Mastermind group consists of small business owners, from around the country. They meet monthly via Zoom video calls. She is also a member of a Vistage Trusted Advisor Group, where she gets a lot of support from other small business owners. While businesses are diverse, having a group of people who are in the same situation who can provide insight and friendship – and the occasional referral – is invaluable. If you can’t find one that already exists, start one!

While working from home allows for flexibility, if you create structure and generally stick to a schedule, you will be more productive. On days when you skip pieces of that morning routine, you may find that you’re a bit “off” the whole day.

But don’t structure yourself into stress. The beauty of having a plan is that you know what to do if you need to change it. Having all those blocks of time on your calendar allows you to move them and shift them – like a puzzle – into a schedule that works and is adaptable. Sometimes you may end up moving them just because you feel like it. Others, you stick to that schedule like glue because you know you need the extra focus that structure allows.

Creating your own structure can create more freedom in managing a virtual business. For more resources on virtual working, including how to better manage a remote team, check our our resources here.




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Management Tips

Intentional Planning Is Part of the Work

by Susan Fennema

One of the biggest complaints we hear from clients is that they don’t have time for planning. These clients have tools and a process in place, but they are not using them. Why? They have “too much work to do.” But their workload would actually decrease through pre-planning. Intentional planning is part of work. Making time for planning upfront will prevent spending more time later to sort out the results of no planning.

Planning is part of the project work and you should consider it as such.

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower planned the biggest project known to man! Remember that D-Day was not originally scheduled for June 6, 1944, but had to be moved because of weather. Because of planning, the Allies were able to adjust their plan to accommodate it.

The Act of Planning

You learn things through the act of planning. Think of it as a rehearsal to play out and better understand:

  • what can go wrong
  • the resources required to accomplish your goal
  • the tasks you might have originally overlooked
  • contingencies that become apparent

The planning process prevents you from running around like a chicken with its head cut off. It’s not a pretty picture, but it applies. If you are frenzied, frantic, and chaotic, then you are much less effective and efficient.

Here’s an example. A junior project manager was assigned to a new client. One of the tasks was to “build reports”. The tasks were supposedly mostly done, and due very soon. The developer and the client had been discussing the project for weeks. The project manager barely had the opportunity to ask for a list of what reports were due before the due date.

She should have itemized each report, and had a discussion with the client and developer about each report, and required them to stop and have a clarifying discussion. Instead, she allowed them to keep working. (rookie move)

A week after they were due, lack of completion frustrated the client. Comparatively, the developer didn’t know what remained to finish because they had a running commentary on the reports as a whole.

If the project manager had just taken the literal 3-minutes required to list out each deliverable separately, that whole mess could have been avoided. Doing it after the fact did not have good results!

Intentional Planning

To be more intentional with your planning, schedule a 1/2 hour every Friday afternoon to prep for the following week and align your to-do list with reality.

  • Look at your meetings.
  • Look at your workload and at your commitments outside of work.
  • Look at your to-do list.

What can you REALISTICALLY accomplish? And don’t forget that something will come up and throw you off track. Adjust your schedule and list accordingly, rather than allowing the chaos to get a hold of you.

If you just can’t make yourself do it… or if you hate doing it… then it is probably time to get some “help”. The help comes in the form of another person taking a look at the tools you have in place and reminding you of the plan on a regular basis. If you find the right person, then he can help you rearrange and reprioritize. Depending on your workload, the person doesn’t have to be full-time. Here are some places to find help:

Being intentional about your planning will change your world. It will enhance your client relationships. Your team members will work more efficiently. Your projects are not as likely to go over budget or get out of scope as often. It will also help the main goal: completing projects!

Learn more about our operations consulting and done-for-you project management provided on a scalable, fractional basis.

See our self-guided resources in our complete guide to successful small business operations.

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Management Tips

Stay Focused at Work – 5 Easy Ways

Are you constantly checking your phone and refreshing your email? Whether you find yourself scrolling through status updates or disrupted by your coworker in the next cubicle — who suddenly decided to hold a conference call on speakerphone — it can take up to 23 minutes to recover from even the smallest distraction.With all the demands on your time, it can be nearly impossible to stay focused.

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Management Tips

Are you working way too hard? Part two

The secret to making YOUR life work (like other people’s!) is easier than you think.

by Carol Williams

In part one of this blog, we discussed the hamster wheel of life and how to get off. We talked about what’s working for you and what’s not (which you can assess here: Productivity Success Cake.) And we covered committing to taking control with a calm mind.

So now let’s dig a little deeper into how you can design and create the life you want to live, purpose-led and heart-centered, and balanced throughout.

Why would you bother designing your life?

The answer is plain and simple, if YOU don’t take charge and design your life how you want it, you’ll be permanently stuck on that hamster wheel, just trying to keep up. Life will be what goes on around you while you’re battling to stay afloat. It doesn’t have to be like this.

You have a chance to live your IKIGAI.

What is IKIGAI? It’s a fun AND effective way to uncover what you really want. Ikigai requires introspection, and a true commitment to changing your life – out with the old, in with the new.

It’s an exciting prospect, right?

Ikigai helps you identify your purpose in life. With that newfound sense of purpose, you will begin to live each day with meaning and motivation. You’ll be focused and clear on what you want, and you’ll feel rejuvenated.

Key elements to Ikigai

When you’re working on your Ikigai, you should focus on your values, your morals, your ethics, and your truth. In order to live in a truly authentic way, in alignment with self, pay close attention to this area. These elements will influence all the others.

The main areas of focus are:

  • What you love
  • What you are good at
  • What the world needs
  • What you can get paid for

Then you drill deeper into the overlapping areas of:

  • Your passion
  • Your mission
  • Your profession
  • Your vocation

It’s worth spending some real time with your Ikigai. It’s likely some things will come to you easily and quickly, but other areas may take some time and reflection to truly get to the core.

How does your Ikigai reflect your current circumstances?

If you’re living a life that is so far removed from your Ikigai, it’s no wonder you feel trapped on that hamster wheel. If your profession jars with your core values, for example, you’ll likely feel lost and overwhelmed, and unhappy.

The more we use our Ikigai to influence our decision making, the more aligned we become with our truth. And this helps us to design the life we were meant to live.

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Management Tips

7 Passwords You Should Never Use at Your Small Business

Owning a small business means owning data. You’re constantly acquiring new information related to your customers, your financial details, and all the vendors and contractors with whom you work.  One cybercriminal, though, one lucky hack, and you’ve just exposed your business to a major blow. From lost trust among your clients to costly lawsuits for the damage done, protecting your company from data theft is among your most important responsibilities.

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