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13 posts from October 2010

October 11, 2010

Finding work life balance when you are self employed

Self employed2 It has been a little more than a year being self employed and I thought I had figured out work life balance when - BAM! - my long time babysitter told me she is leaving. Now, as I re-evaluate my child care needs and my work needs, I realize that being self employed means regularly re-shifting to make it all balance.

It's comforting to know there are lot of people out there pursuing self employment and trying to find their balance. More people launched businesses in 2009 than any time in the past 14 years, according to the Kauffman Foundation, an entrepreneurship research organization. Workers either bought an existing business, invested in a franchise or started a business. (I read a great article this weekend in the Sun Sentinel that outlines the pros and cons of each)

I've discovered a few key ingredients to balancing a personal life and a work life in self employment.

Figure out what works. When a curve ball comes your way, try reacting strategically. Lifehacker.com asks: Why not look at what is working for you in other areas of life or on other projects, and see how you can apply those factors to other endeavors? In my case, I share a lot of the driving for my kids by carpooling. Now, I'm applying that concept to my business and looking as putting on events with other moms could share the workload.

Know your priorities. Decide your goals for the week, the month, the year. Keep them in front of you. Know when you are wasting time that you could be spending more productively. (See my column on being business vs. productive for more elaboration)

Dive in. Sometimes just getting started on a client pitch or new assignment is a challenge. Lifehacker.com suggests that whenever you have a big task ahead, just tell yourself that you'll do a little bit and stop. There's a good chance that the little bit of effort you exerted to get started, will turn into a strong push of energy which helps you get things done.

Set work hours. It doesn't have to be 9 to 5 but setting office hours keeps you on track. Remember, being self employed means the added responsibilities of invoicing, collecting, attracting and retaining clients. If you slip, and find yourself working crazy hours, re-shift. Some weeks you make work more, some less. But try to stick to a routine as much as possible. And at all costs, don't take your laptop into your bed.

Allow yourself flexibility. Remember, one of the biggest advantages in being your own boss is setting your own hours. If you want to spend a morning volunteering in your child's class, you can. But that means you may need to block out time somewhere else to get your work done.

Have fun. Spend time figure out what's working and what isn't. Don't be afraid to make changes if something isn't working for you or if your balance is out of whack. If you find yourself miserable, look at what client you could attract or what new skill you could offer that would make work more enjoyable.

Remember my self employed friends, finding work life balance usually is more challenging than we expect.  You may want to talk to others who are successful in your chosen self-employment occupation for their insights. Even as I now try to re-evaluate my child care, I'm pretty sure others have gone through this same exercise. Clearly, re-evaluating and re-prioritizing regularly is the new norm.


October 06, 2010

Can I Pick Your Brain? A Work Life Balance Disaster!

How often has someone said to you, "Can I pick your brain?"

Is this a compliment or an evil plot to suck up productive time during your work day?

I tackled this topic in my work/life column a while ago and discovered most people have limits on what they are willing to give away for free. We all know that finding those limits can be challenging.

 But I read a blog post today by social media marketing expert Laura Roeder who had some great advice. You can read her full post if you click here but I'm going to pull out the advice I found most helpful.

* When someone asks you for your time for free, be grateful that they view you as someone who can offer valuable advice.

* Sometimes people ask you to work for free because you haven’t given them anything to buy.

* Know what content or information you are and aren't willing to give out for free.

* If you lead someone down the free path that’s exactly where they’ll go. Lead them down the customer path instead.

*When you’re clear and confident in what you offer, paying for your time becomes the natural progression.Hold firm and freebie requests will fall off.

Roeder provides a script for how to handle someone asking you for coffee or lunch to “pick your brain”:
"I’m glad to hear you’re interested in getting deeper into this. The next step is my one-hour consultation. Would you like me to tell you how that works?"

I love her suggestions. Do you have any that have worked for you?




October 05, 2010

Best Accounting Firms for Work Life Balance and Firm Culture

Wouldn't it be interesting to learn what workplaces in your industry provide their workers a great quality of life? Which treated women and minorities well?

If I had that info for all the industries, I'd love to share it with you. The good news is that I have it for the accounting profession. The 2011 Accounting Quality of Life Rankings by Vault.com are out today and I must applaud Miami's Kaufman Rossin & Co. It was number one in firm culture.

Vault examined what accountants really think about their firm’s culture, compensation, hours, training, and diversity, among other categories.  Armanino McKenna in California took the top spot in overall satisfaction, and Marcum based in Long Island, NY, led the pack overall taking the top spot in 7 of 15 categories, including compensation, hours, training, diversity in respect to minorities and business outlook. 

Marcum actually is the result of a recent merger between two formidable accounting firms (Miami-based Rachlin and New York-headquartered Marcum & Kliegman) It is now one of the 15 largest accounting firms in the U.S. "Marcum has become a strong presence on the East Coast, and it has aspirations of creating a national firm,” said Vault.com Finance Editor Derek Loosvelt.  “It has also become a firm known for treating its employees well: it pays its employees at the top of end of the national scale, works but not overworks its staff, and maintains a family-like culture, despite having nearly 1,000 employees.”

Below are the top-ranked firms in each Quality of Life category along with quotes from their accounting employees:

Overall satisfaction: Armanino McKenna (“I came to this firm in 2000 hoping to grow professionally and looking for an opportunity to advance. This firm has helped and allowed me to do both, and I honestly could not imagine a more rewarding professional experience than the one I've had so far.”)

Firm culture: Kaufman, Rossin & Co. (“The firm culture is very people-oriented and supportive. The partners maintain an open-door policy, and are approachable and responsive.”)

Hours: Marcum (“We work hard at Marcum, but the hours are very reasonable.”)

Manager Relations: Kaufman, Rossin & Co. (“Office doors are always open. All managers are very approachable and willing to help.”)

Formal Training: Marcum (“Training is top notch. Marcum places a heavy emphasis on training.”)

Informal Training: Marcum (“Through the Career Development Program, employees are assigned 'coaches' who help them along their career path. My coach is very supportive and has been instrumental in my growth at Marcum.”)

Office Space: Marcum (“The brand new offices are state of the art and spacious.”)

Compensation: Marcum (“Marcum pays at the higher end of the pay scale. Compensation is extremely competitive.”)

Selectivity: PricewaterhouseCoopers (“We only strive to hire the best candidates.”)

Green initiatives: Goodman & Company (“Goodman has implemented a green office environment, with recycling programs throughout the office, and encourages green-type behavior related to electricity usage, etc.”)

Overall business outlook: Marcum (“Marcum is set up to thrive as soon as the economy turns around.”)

Overall diversity: Kaufman, Rossin & Co. (“Gender, sexuality, race and religion are not factors in people being hired or promoted.”)

Diversity—Women: Goodman & Company (“The firm has been very supportive of diversity with respect to woman. There are many female partners and employees, and various options for flexible work schedules for working mothers.”)

Diversity—Minorities: Marcum (“We hire people solely on talent and ability.”)

Diversity—GLBTs: Kaufman, Rossin & Co. (“There is no discrimination against GLBT persons.”)

Click here to view the Complete Accounting Quality of Life Rankings.