When Shauna Bona and I started McKinnon-Mulherin Inc. almost sixteen years ago, our goal was to create a company where we would want to work. That included offering flexibility to our employees and trusting them to be professionals who could meet project deadlines with high-quality work. So far, it has worked quite well.
Nowadays, I can’t imagine a company not offering some sort of flexibility to its employees. Employees demand it and rightly so. And, although I laugh somewhat at the term “work-life balance,” which implies that work is not part of your life, I understand its intent. I think that Shauna and I go out of our way to accommodate our employees’ need for flexibility with family, school, volunteer time, or any other activity outside of work. It’s one of the benefits you can offer quite easily as a small company.
Currently, all of our employees—whether project-based or salaried—work at home. This, of course, offers a sort of built-in flexibility, but we do have guidelines so that people know what we expect. We have a comprehensive employee handbook, checklists, templates, and procedures so that people do not have to reinvent the wheel on each new project. That means they can get their projects done efficiently and enjoy their flex and free time.
Also, working at home does not mean that employees at McMul don’t have to meet deadlines, be available for phone calls, or be on site at times. We are not that flexible. However, all of our project-based employees are able to accept or turn down projects as suits their schedule.
We also are flexible as to start time as long as people include prime time business hours (10 am-3 pm) in their daily schedules, and if people on a full-time job want to work a ten-hour day four days a week, that usually works. We have an online calendar for people to post their availability and keep updated schedules. We are a bit stricter with our salaried employees, but they receive a generous amount of vacation, holiday, compensatory, and sick time.
Overall, we feel that if you offer good benefits, such as flex time, you attract good people. If you have good people, you can make your clients happy. If you make your clients happy, you stay in business. That may sound pragmatic, but that’s reality. We want people to enjoy their work, work hard, and get well compensated for it. Flexibility is part of that compensation.
So, in closing, we are not trying to be the most fun company around and we don’t pretend to be part of our workers’ families. Instead, we aim to keep our reputation stellar by treating our employees and our clients well and enabling people to spend time with their families, at school, or volunteering, and we work with them so they can accommodate and enjoy their lives outside work.
Kate Reddy is a co-owner and president at McKinnon-Mulherin. McKinnon-Mulherin offers writing, editing, proofreading, and desktop publishing services to clients worldwide.
Software Technology Group
is one of the most flexible, fun, and friendly employers that I have ever worked at. When I started working at STG, I was a single mother. I was nervous about juggling work and home. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my employer cared just as much as I did about work/life balance. I have the flexibility to be there for my kids when they need me, and I am able to perform my work as well. I feel supported by my company, a very rare feeling. I feel like STG’s culture, ethics, and practices enable me to be my best self, produce my best work, and become better.
STG is a software company that builds custom software applications for our clients. We have 150 highly skilled employees. The quality of work that we put out as a company proves that we take pride in the work we do. Because we do many different projects with a wide range of clients from all aspects of the IT market, our employees get the opportunity to grow the breadth and the depth of their skills.
STG offers many benefits for their employees, a full benefit package with 401k and company paid life insurance. We also offer our salaried employees paid overtime. STG values the time that their employees take to work extra hours and we want them to be compensated for their work. Work/life balance is also very important to STG. Flexible work schedules and telecommuting, are offered on certain projects to help employees maintain the balance in their lives.
STG believes in the education and training of its employees. We pay for any certifications and trainings that the employees want to take to deepen their knowledge and skills. We also assign a mentor to each employee, giving employees a point of contact at the company to help them if they have questions or problems. We believe in giving our employees the tools that they need to be successful. Each technology is broken into a practice, each practice has regular meetings where employees can discuss trends in the market, new technologies, and problems or successes in their projects.
STG is also a debt free organization, making it a very stable employer. We are very financially secure, we take seriously the fact that there are families depending on the success of the business. STG also cares about the culture in our organization. Our culture is one of creativity, mentoring, learning, and fun. We get together four times a year as a company. In the summer we have a zoo day where the employees bring their families to have breakfast and then enjoy the animals. In the fall we have a bowling night where we rent out a bowling alley and have pizza and drinks and bowl the night away. STG also has two nice dinners, one if January for our Holiday party, and one in April for the anniversary of when STG was founded. It is so important to STG to have a culture where our employees feel appreciated and have fun together.
I have worked in HR in many other companies and I have never seen a company that is more proactive. STG cares about making decisions that are right for the employees and their families. I have never been at a more ethical, hard-working, caring company. I come to work every day excited about the work I do, the people I get to associate with, the quality of work we produce, and the culture I am part of. STG is not just a job to me, it’s a family.
Martha McKay joined Software Technology Group in June 2011. She loves working with people and interviewing potential STG staff. She has her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Utah in Management, emphasizing in Human Resource. Martha has several years experience with employee relations, benefits, and staffing. In her free time Martha enjoys spending time with her two children. She loves to spend time outdoors, enjoys music, and is also a vocal teacher. Martha also thinks that nothing is better than curling up with a good book.
Introducing the first guest post in my series highlighting Sloan Award-winning businesses that promote flexibility.
Julie Jakob moved to Utah in 2004 from Sacramento, CA, bringing with her a full-service marketing agency--Jakob Marketing Partners (JMP). Before starting her own business, Julie worked for Wells Fargo Bank, where she moved up through the company to various marketing positions, ultimately serving as the vice president for the Home Equity Group's nationwide direct mail program.
Workplace flexibility and teamwork are important to Julie. One of the core values at JMP is to have fun, so Julie organizes company-wide offsite events, has contests, and incorporates silliness in many aspects of day-to-day work, in an effort to create an enjoyable atmosphere. JMP was the only company in Utah to be named one of the 101 Best and Brightest Companies To Work For™ two years in a row.
Julie understands firsthand the challenges of being a busy working mom, so JMP offers a variety of flexible working options to support her employees and help alleviate the stress experienced when having to choose between work and family. She also solicits suggestions to make the office run more efficiently. JMP provides employees with a well-stocked refrigerator and pantry that has drinks and snacks available at no cost, a paid holiday on their birthday, and daily fitness breaks. JMP is also dog-friendly, so employees can bring their dogs to work.
She is currently a member of the Women’s Philanthropic Network, the Holladay Chamber of Commerce, Smart Women In Marketing (S.W.I.M.), the Park City Women’s Business Network, Mountain West Capital Network, Corporate Alliance, and Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), and is vice president of membership for the Utah Chapter of the Nation Association of Women Business Owners (N.A.W.B.O.). She is also on the Utah Microenterprise Loan Fund’s review committee.
Julie and her family relocated to Utah so her children could pursue their ski-racing careers. She is an avid hiker, reader, and vegan cook, and enjoys being outdoors as much as possible with her family and her golden retriever, Rocky.
Whether you're a boss looking for someone to cover an employee's maternity leave or an employee planning an extended leave of absence, it can be hard to find temporary workers. You know that family time matters, but in many instances, you can't just train someone to take over your work in a day. Sometimes it takes months or years to develop the expertise and skills that particular job needs. Rather than looking for someone in a pinch or calling your local temp agency, it pays to be prepared in advance by developing a temporary worker hiring pool
. Here are some tips to make it work, so that when you need to leave for several weeks or months to take care of a newborn, fly home to help your mother sell her house, or take a sabbatical to teach for a semester in Europe (can I come?), you can assure your boss you've got your shift covered.Stay in contact with employees who leave the company for greener pastures. Whether you're their former employer or co-worker, make sure their contact information is current and keep them updated on what's going on with the company. With social media, you've got few excuses not to.Then, when their new employer turns out not to be so nice, they get bored in retirement, or
that baby ends up costing more than they'd planned, and you call them with a temporary offer of employment, they just may jump at the chance to come back. And even if it's been a few years since they left, it will be much easier and faster to train someone who knows your industry and the company. Here are a few potential contacts for your hiring pool:
- employee parents who left after the birth of a baby
- other employees within your company
- former employees who left for another company
- former employees who left for personal or family reasons
- clients in the industry
- part-time workers
- college/university friends in your field of study
Today's post is brought to you courtesy of the Sloan Awards. If you're not familiar with this award, it's a national award given for workplace flexibility. In Utah this year, there were thirteen recipients (here's a list of the winners).Though I often feel like I'm fighting an uphill battle with the work I do with this site and with the committees I'm involved with, it's nice to know that there are lots of employers out there who are genuinely concerned for their employees and who try to make it possible for them to balance their work and personal lives.It just makes sense, and these employers realize that. As Mike Cameron of Christopherson Business Travel stated, "Finding and hiring the best people is the easy part. The hard part is keeping them."Turnover is costly. Some employers felt that they couldn't compete with others by offering high salaries, so they offered flexibility instead. This makes sense when you consider that the millennial generation of workers prefers flexibility to high wages.
These employers recognized that family comes first for most of their employees, so rather than reprimanding their employees' other obligations, they accommodated them. The winning organizations felt that it only made sense, because if they took care of their employees, then their employees could take better care of their customers and clients.Here are some highlights of what the winners are doing to make life better for their employees:
- A wide variety of schedules to choose from
- Building up vacation or sick time which can be cashed out or even given to other employees in need
- Allowing employees to choose their own job titles
- Allowing employees to work from home or to bring their children to the office
- Throwing parties for employees and their families
- Incentives such as trips for performance
- Stretch breaks throughout the day
- Yearly bonuses
- Earning sabbaticals
- Banking overtime to vacation
My favorite story about an employer who went the extra mile came from this
two-minute video clip. It's worth watching!
Many business owners said they received advice that they should do the exact opposite by cutting back on benefits or spending less on employees. But these employers believe they're reaping the rewards for caring about their staff. And their employees agree!
Janet Thaeler is an internet marketer and writer specializing in SEO online press releases and online PR. She is the author of I Need a Killer Press Release, Now What???, and the companion DVD “Killer Online Press Releases" (both available on Amazon). She consults for a variety of clients and works as the social media consultant for OrangeSoda.
She won the 2009 award for “Best Social Media Content Guru” from the Utah Social Media Club, and her webinar entitled “Creating a Killer Publicity Strategy with Online News Releases” for PR Web was attended by thousands and earned her a spot on PR Web’s list of “Best PRWeb Webinars of 2009.
Janet has spoken around the country to the PRSA, PRSSA, at major universities, on webinars and at many conferences.When I started my career I was newlywed and newly graduated with a degree in conservation biology. I didn’t plan on starting a career. In my mind I was simply supporting my husband through grad school. Yes, I was starting a career, I just didn’t know it yet.
I remember a woman who said God gave her jobs. I thought it was a bit strange but later I saw her point. I feel I was pointed toward my career as an online marketer. I recognized the impact the moment I heard about it. I think angels started singing and it instantly became the focus of my professional life. When I look back it all makes sense, but at the time it didn’t seem to.
My first job out of college was answering the phones at an internet startup. I got a lot of calls about broken links so I taught myself HTML in order to fix them. In the process, I learned the internet in depth. This was key to my future.
Years later I had my first child and stopped working full time. I thought I wanted to be a stay at home mom, but the problem was it was boring and isolating. When I looked for friends I found that I didn’t fit in with the other moms. We also needed money, so I started thinking about finding a job.
I saw a flyer for a neighborhood meeting and decided to go. That’s where I heard about a part time job as a community organizer through Americorps. It was a one year commitment. My only question was, could I bring my son to work with me? The answer was yes and that became the next step on my journey.
That job proved to be a godsend and provided a soft landing for me. A year after I finished my work, when I was getting a divorce, they called me to interview for a job I hadn’t applied for. I got it the job the same day, which was good. My life was in upheaval and I had no money at all, only a credit card. There I did PR (public relations) because there was no one else on our small staff to do it. I was the default network administrator too. My first PR win was to land a story about one of my projects on the front page of the local newspaper. Later I took what I learned as a community organizer to online communities. Each of my jobs taught me something I needed or introduced me to people I learned from. For example, being a recruiting assistant at Novell demystified the hiring process. I learned to interview and market myself well, a skill I’ve used almost every day. Due to my time at Novell, getting a job has never been difficult for me. In fact, one of my friends teases me about how I can get a job easier than anyone he’s ever met.
I found that this community of online marketers and developers were incredibly open and gracious. I gained and learned so much from many amazing people, such as my friend Paul who was the first person to tell me about internet marketing. We bought ebooks, shared ideas and blog posts. We talked about ideas for marketing online whenever we worked together.
Since I have a bad memory, I wanted to document what I was learning about internet marketing. So I started my blog Newspapergrl.com, which helped me gain a following. My book, I Need a Killer Press Release, Now What???, and the reputation I built finally led to what I’ve wanted all these years.
Penelope Trunk cites research about how most women want to work part time or do freelance work once they become moms. She writes, “The best way to stay home with kids and not lose your mind from boredom is to pay someone to take care of your kids while you do freelance work.” That’s what I hoped for and what seemed possible since I can do my work from just about anywhere.
It worked. Today I help businesses become more visible and findable online. I organize blogger events for local businesses, manage social media (blogs, Facebook and Twitter) and write optimized press releases. In addition to driving online traffic and sales, some of my press releases have landed clients on TV, in newspapers and magazines.
I feel blessed to be where I am now. There were times it was scary and I never want to repeat them. It was fun but still really, really hard. However, life is good. Not only do I get to do what I love on my terms, I'm a mom and I have a supportive husband. In fact, according to him, I’m the highest earning “paid at home mom” on the block.
Recently, I've talked with some couples that work together. Maybe one spouse had a job with the company and then the company hired the other spouse. Or maybe, more commonly, they're in business together.This kind of working arrangement got me thinking. What would that be like, to work with your spouse? Would you get sick of each other? Would arguments about the business or work get in the way or your relationship? How could you leave work at work when you're working together at home?So I did what I always do--I researched. And I found out that for a lot of couples, the arrangement works just fine. Even when they see each other all the time, they still love each other, miraculously enough. How do they do it?
- Take breaks. And don't freak out about it. If you need time away from your spouse, that's normal. So if your spouse doesn't want to take his break with you, assume he needs some alone time and don't assume you've done something wrong or that he doesn't love you enough.
- Play to your strengths. If one of you can crunch the numbers but the other hates accounting, why not go with that? Do what you like and what you do best so that work doesn't become a drag.
- Set boundaries. This will vary from couple to couple, but if you work in the same place, maybe you can set certain hours where you're not allowed to talk about work. Or certain times of day (such as dinnertime) where the computer has to be turned off. If certain topics are touchy but you have to address them, you can set some ground rules about how you'll talk about them ahead of time.
- Don't feel guilty about not following the "marriage rules". Most couples don't work together and may not need as much time apart as you do. So ignore your neighbors who gasp because you and your wife took separate vacations or who are scandalized about who does the cooking.
- Trust each other. You and your spouse are under constant scrutiny by the same customers, clients, or boss. So it's natural to want to jump in when you see that someone is treating your spouse unfairly or to intervene with his work in order to protect him. Don't. Trust that the other person is capable enough to handle it, and pay him the compliment of trusting in his abilities.
Today's post is by Del Thatcher, owner of inDELible social media. Del lives in Wylie, TX, where she founded a children's theatre nearly three years ago. She has a degree in sociology and worked in management positions for six years before recently deciding to start her own small business.How often do you do an internet search
for a particular business, only to find that they don't have a website? How often do members of the business community hand you a business card with an email address @yahoo.com or the like? In today's business world it's amazing to see how many businesses still
do not have a web presence. You probably know some businesses that do phenomenally well without a website . I do, too. But if often wonder how much better they could be doing if they did
It's not difficult to get a website anymore.
- Professionalism: Having a website lends your company an air of professionalism that just can't be had with a Gmail or Yahoo email account. Yourname@YourBusiness.com is so much more polished! One of the best benefits of having a well-thought-out website is that it adds credibility to your business--no matter how young or small your business is.
- Visibility: By creating a website you stop being invisible to the people trying to find you online. No one with any kind of spending money uses a phone book anymore. Instead, they let their keyboards do the work with an Internet search. If you don't have a website, there's no chance of you showing up and you never even enter into their thought process. Can you afford to be invisible?
- Sales Tool: The main objectives of a website should be to inform, engage and convert your audience. Your website can be a powerful sales tool, one that allows you to address your customers' concerns and and give them the information to make a decision. Your website is a place you can go to seek out trusted information about your company. Use it to build confidence in your brand and give customers important buying information.
- Convenience: Your clients will have the convenience of reading about your company and the services and products you offer on their own time. Your clients are just as busy as you are. By having a well-presented website, you lend yourself to the convenience of your clients. They can come to you when they want to...even if you aren't open for business.
- Market Expansion: By having a web presence, you make yourself available to people in other time zones and even across the globe rather than the limited market audiences you can reach in your own geographical area. The people who visit your website are there because they have a specific interest in your company's product or service, which you can use to your advantage.
- Changeability: Printed material, while still very necessary, can be expensive and troublesome to keep updated. With a website, you can easily let the public know of changes to your hours of operation, product or service offerings, business address or phone number, staff, etc..
In fact, you can get a domain name and hosting for $100 a year or less. Designing a website takes time and a bit more money, but if you're a business that can do without a custom-designed website, you have some very inexpensive options at your disposal. At the top of my recommendation list is a Wordpress site. You don't need to know HTML or CSS to build a website for yourself, just a little time and dedication. If you are without an ounce of technology intuition you could contract the work out for a small fee. Then have the designer show you how to run the back end so you can maintain it yourself. The moral of the story is this--whether you are a small business owner, inventor, entrepreneur, artist, author, musician, or band, you need a website. Increasingly people are turning to the Internet to find information. If you aren't there, how will they find you? Without an effective internet presence, your competitors are the winners.
If you're a woman with a business idea, you might feel alone, especially if you've been away from the work/business world awhile. It isn't unusual for people contemplating the idea of starting their own businesses to do some or all of these:
How did you do on that multiple choice test? If you answered (f) all of the above, there might be a reason. According to my own completely unsubstantiated opinion, there are three things that keep women from moving forward in their lives:
- a)freak out
- b)keep their plans secret so no one will ask about them
- c)assume they'll never succeed
- d)not know where to start
- e)give up before they start
So, instead of a guest post, today I'm introducing a new guest. A guest who knows all about business and would love to offer you free advice. It's your local Women's Business Center!Here are a few highlights of what is or will soon be available at my local WBC (most of these are free and the paid events are very low cost):
- lack of time
- lack of money
- lack of confidence/knowledge
The Women's Business Center is not just a local agency. It's a national partially government-funded organization meant to assist women and economically/socially disadvantaged people to become entrepreneurs, and it's part of the Small Business Administration. This is a great resource to help you overcome all those pesky obstacles that are standing in your way, and won't have to spend thousands of dollars to get their advice. So check the directory, find a WBC near you, and get the help you need to launch your business!
- financial education
- mentoring program
- business planning
- one-on-one consultations
- networking meetings
- social events
- government contract information
- business training sessions
- consultations with professionals such as attorneys and CPAs
- human resources seminars
- information about funding
- access to other resources
A few years ago, when Linda Babcock was serving as the director of the Ph.D. program at her school, a delegation of women graduate students came to her office. Many of the male graduate students were teaching courses of their own, the women explained, while most of the female graduate students had been assigned to work as teaching assistants to regular faculty. Linda agreed that this didn’t sound fair, and that afternoon she asked the associate dean who handled teaching assignments about the women’s complaint. She received a simple answer: “I try to find teaching opportunities for any student who approaches me with a good idea for a course, the ability to teach, and a reasonable offer about what it will cost,” he explained. “More men ask. The women just don’t ask.” (Women Don’t Ask, Babcock and Leschever, Princeton University Press)
It isn’t that women don’t have negotiation skills. Many women who have no problem making multi-million dollar deals on behalf of their companies won’t do the same for themselves.
The cost to women who don’t negotiate can be huge. If, at age 22, a man and a woman receive identical job offers, but the man negotiates a $5,000 salary hike, assuming they receive identical three percent raises annually and work for the same amount of time, by retirement, he’ll make half a million dollars more than the woman. This is called “accumulation of disadvantage.”
Even worse, the consequences for non-negotiation can be more than financial. In one instance I read about, a woman received a job offer but was afraid to ask for more money because she wanted to make a good first impression. She got the job at the original salary, but found out later that the company almost changed its mind because her acceptance of their offer made them wonder if she was assertive enough for the position.
Also, many women who don’t ask for promotions never get them. They wait, thinking that their boss will hand them a raise and/or more responsibility, but often get passed over in favor of someone less qualified because the other person stuck a foot in the door.
So why don’t they ask? If women see a situation that could turn to their advantage, what’s stopping them from speaking up?
There are a few possible reasons:
- Believing that circumstances are controlled by others rather than yourself
- Believing that you should accept what you’re given
- Thinking that hard work alone will get you noticed and get you ahead
- Following gender-based rules about when it’s acceptable to speak up
- Expecting less than men
- Undervaluing your own work
- Comparing yourself to the wrong people
- Assuming things are not negotiable when they really are
Of course, men are not always stellar negotiators, and there are plenty of women who aren’t afraid to ask for what they want. But they are in the minority. Most of the factors listed above that stop people from negotiating are correlated by gender. Men are more likely to believe they need to ask for improvement in their circumstances than women. Women are more likely to be so grateful for what they have that they’re afraid to damage relationships by asking for more. And so on.
I admit I fall into these traps all the time. I hate asking for things, especially for myself. I do it anyway, sometimes, but I usually need a pretty big motivating reason to convince myself that it’s worthwhile.
Sometimes it pays off. I completed a grant application last May for my orchestra, and just this week, voilà! It worked. I spent some time on the phone last week soliciting donations for a fundraising event. And some said they'd help. Is it just me, or is anybody else surprised when you ask someone for something and they say yes?
I’m not sure why I dislike asking so much, but here’s an experiment that increases my incentive to ask a little more. Students at the Kellogg School of Management had an assignment to negotiate something in the real world. Some negotiated something for themselves (such as a salary, an apartment rental fee, or a purchase of an antique) while others negotiated for an employer (such as a contract or work agreement). They saved a median amount of $2,200 by negotiating for themselves, or $390,000 by negotiating for their employer. Some saved more. When these students were asked their most important negotiation technique, their number one answer was that they chose to negotiate.
I don’t have to be a financial whiz or genius number-cruncher or hard-nosed executive in order to ask for what I want. All I have to do is decide to ask.