The first secret to success as a working mum is sheer willpower. Even on tough days I didn’t quit, writes Donna Stone.
More than 18 years ago I had three young sons whilst working part-time for a few clients at home. So I guess I was technically a business owner. That business grew from a kitchen table to a garage and then to five locations around Australia. I employed 25 staff and won dozens of awards. Then, three years ago I sold that main business and retained the authoring and coaching side and returned to life as solopreneur. Today, I have six books under my belt. One thing for sure is – I’ve been a very busy lady. Oh, and in the middle of all that I went through a divorce and finished my accounting studies.
I’ll share with you my ingredients for success and most importantly, as they say, for ‘getting sh*t done’:
The first secret to success is sheer willpower. Doing well in business can sure be hard work! Even on tough days (when I had to organise three small children, find a missing shoe, study for an exam or get a client’s deadline met), I didn’t quit. The moment you quit could be the moment just before you were about to succeed. It’s often easy to quit, to throw in the towel and make any number of excuses – however economy, competition, changing technology … they are all just excuses! If you want something bad enough, you will get it.
2. Have a plan!
Ok, full disclosure – in the early days there was no plan. I just followed my nose. However as time went on and I became more adept at business, I realised and valued having goals, clarity and a plan. I started working well with lists and pretty soon, some big goals were getting ticked off. Having a mentor was a big help, too. That person kept me on track, accountable and was a great sounding board. Often I was right, but gosh, it was good having someone to confirm my direction and decisions.
A huge part of success is simply turning up – day after day. It’s that consistent habit of doing the things that need to be done that pay off. Not many of us enjoy chasing money or getting the filing done, but if you don’t have someone to do these things, they need to happen. Consistent little steps, done hour after hour, day after day soon amount to great achievements.
I believe that discipline is key. Some days it’s too easy to just not follow-through. It might be easier to stay in bed an extra half hour, or sit down at night and watch an episode of your favourite program on Netflix. But being personally disciplined ensured I spent time on what was important. Having said that, be sure to give yourself balance. A business is a marathon, not just a quick sprint, so be sure to have breaks, not work silly long hours, and live life. Sometimes being disciplined to stop and have a break, might be what saves you from burnout.
5. Support network
This is crucial. I absolutely knew when to ask for help. Whether it was enlisting the services of a cleaner or asking someone how to do something in a computer program. I also recognised I wasn’t superwoman. I was able to grow to five locations because I had a PA, advisors and a General Manager for the core business. Having those people in place also made the business more saleable, as one of the key components to selling is getting yourself out of the business.
This is paramount. I am the Queen of Lists. Planning, scheduling, routines and lists were vital to everything. In business, everything is documented, templates are used, systems are in place. Keeping a tidy house and systemised office and doing things as you go helped a lot too. Everything has a place; everything in its place. Even after I sold that core business and focused purely on my coaching business, I kept those practices in place. They worked when I was large, and I knew they would keep me organised when it was just me.
7. Quit perfectionism
To me this was hard; but I learnt quickly that my family could live without ironed sheets and that if we had takeaway an extra night a week, we all wouldn’t die of malnutrition. Emails to staff or suppliers didn’t need to be long and perfect either … although some things, like proposals or tenders – I did keep up those high standards. Being a perfectionist can absorb many additional hours in your day, so if you know you have those perfectionist mannerisms, perhaps it’s time to retrain yourself.
8. Separate your home and your office
I always found keeping the office separate from the house worked better. Working in your bedroom or at the kitchen table isn’t effective. Set up a room and be clear it’s your work space. Dress to go to ‘work’. Take a lunch break. I educated my boys to not interrupt me when I worked, but I also struck a deal with them that I would finish at a certain time – if they didn’t interrupt. Be sure to keep those promises – whether those promises are to your family or yourself.
I share a heap of knowledge, experience and education in both my books and through my blogs on my website. Knowledge is gold and you are never too old to learn. Today, with over 30 years of business experience, I still learn something almost everyday. Part of that is the thirst for knowledge, willingness to grow and change, as well as the willingness to improve my skills through investing in training.
Do you have any steps you would add to this list? If so, share in the comments.