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Is Your Family Really Supporting Your Business?

February 11th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

If you’re a woman business owner, you know how difficult a juggling act balancing your family and your business can be. Whether your family includes a spouse, significant other, kids, aging parents or all of the above, keeping them happy while keeping your business running is never easy.

If you’re having an even harder time of it than usual, maybe you need to sit down and assess whether your family is really supporting your business and if not, what you can do about it. Here are some steps to creating one big, happy family:

  1. Pay attention. Often when we’re falling short, our families tell us in nonverbal ways. It’s tough when you’re working 18-hour days, but it’s important to tune into the signals your loved ones are sending. Is your child acting up? Are his grades sliding? It might be a sign he feels you aren’t paying enough attention to him. Is your husband always irritable? That could mean the same thing.
  2. Address the problem in an honest way. Figure out what isn’t working and what you can do about it. If your child’s schoolwork is a problem, can you work from home to spend some time with him when he gets home from school? Set aside time to really be with your loved ones, not half-listening while checking email on your smartphone.
  3. Enlist support. Of course, I’m not suggesting you become a doormat. As part of addressing the problem, it’s important to ask for what you need. Explain why your business is important to the family and that you need their support to succeed. Often, this is all that your family needs to be reminded of.
  4. Work out compromises. Making it work requires trade-offs. Maybe you need to spend an hour each afternoon helping your kids with homework. In return, however, you can let them know that you need an hour of uninterrupted work time after dinner. Figure out a plan that makes sense for your family.
  5. Set boundaries. Thanks to electronic devices, it’s easy for your business to consume every waking moment, but this inevitably leads to problems with loved ones feeling neglected (not to mention what it does to your physical and mental health). Set boundaries, whether it’s a family dinner at 6:00 every night so you can really listen to your kids, or no checking email after 10 p.m. so you and your significant other can have some quality time.
  6. Don’t try to do it all. The belief that we can have and do it all is, in my opinion, harmful to women’s mental health. No one can fire on all cylinders at all times as a wife/girlfriend, mom, daughter and business owner. Accepting that your life will never be “in balance” 100 percent of the time is the first step to feeling more in control.

By implementing these steps, you’ll find your family becomes more supportive of your business and both your loved ones and your business benefit.

Image by Flickr user tomo908us (Creative Commons)

Get Up, Stand Up: Why Your Employees Should Stop Sitting Around

February 7th, 2013 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

The rising cost of health insurance, the need for greater productivity at work and the costs in both time and money of illness in the workplace are driving a growing trend: Small business owners are trying to get their employees to live healthier lifestyles. While being overweight, smoking and being inactive are all obvious causes of poor health, one factor that’s attracting more and more attention is the sheer number of hours most people spend sitting each day.

If your small business is office-based, chances are most of your staff spends 8 hours a day or more sitting hunched at their desks. New research is showing that prolonged sitting—even in otherwise active people—can be harmful to health. So how can you get your staff up off their chairs?

  • Offer standing desks for employees who want them. You could invest in ready-made furniture such as Focal’s standing furniture. Or, depending on how handy you and your employees are, you could also raise existing desks to an appropriate height by bracing them to the wall.
  • For the really committed, try treadmill workstations. These can be pricey (and most people won’t be able to walk all day, anyway), so you might want to invest in just one and let employees use it at different times of the day with their laptops.
  • For a less expensive solution, stability balls can provide many benefits by requiring employees to work their core muscles just to stay stable. Workers can alternate the balls with regular desk chairs as they build up stamina.
  • Make exercise part of the day. OfficeGym sells a chair-based exercise system that makes it easy to fit in a workout at your desk. You could also encourage employees to take quick stretching breaks instead of coffee breaks.
  • Hold standing or moving meetings. Holding your meetings standing up is a great way to not only get people off their chairs, but also keep the meetings shorter. Double the effect by starting the meeting with a group stretch. You can take it up a notch by holding walking meetings outdoors. (Just make sure someone is recording what’s discussed on a voice recorder or other device so nothing gets forgotten).
  • Walk around. Instead of shooting an email to the person next door, try actually getting up and talking to him or her. (If this gets too time-consuming, you could set a “no-email day” once a week to force people to actually walk around and talk to each other). This tactic can have benefits beyond just walking around as employees interact in new ways.

Image by Flickr user jseliger1 (Creative Commons)


Web.com Small Business Toolkit: Stress Tracker (App to Measure Stress)

November 8th, 2012 ::

Stress Tracker

Feeling the stress of running your own business? You’re not alone, and with the Stress Tracker app, you can help yourself by figuring out what is stressing you out the most during your day. Created by a team of leading clinical psychologists and researchers using cognitive behavioral therapy, Stress Tracker provides an all-in-one personal stress management app that tracks, identifies and helps relieve your daily stress. Record such information as the source of stress, symptoms of stress and which coping strategies work best. Then the app gives you an action plan to deal with your stress and helps you make healthy choices.

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: Pocket Yoga (Yoga App)

October 25th, 2012 ::

Pocket Yoga

No time to get to your yoga class and it’s making you feel oh-so-un-yogi-like? No need to drive to a class with Pocket Yoga, a mobile app that offers quick instructions on yoga positions you can do in your office, hotel room or anywhere you need a little “om.” Practice at your own pace and on your own schedule. You can choose from three different practices, difficulty levels and durations. A detailed voice and visual instruction (of over 145 pose images) guides you through every pose, including each inhalation and exhalation. Since you don’t need Internet connectivity, you can use this app anywhere.

How to Save Money on Your Business’s Health Insurance

May 1st, 2012 ::

By Karen Axelton

Are you struggling with the high cost of health insurance in your business? It seems like every year, premiums go up without fail. Fortunately, there is one way to decrease your costs that could also increase your team’s productivity, satisfaction and happiness: offering wellness programs and incentives.

AccountingWeb recently rounded up the results of several surveys of health and wellness programs in the workplace. WORKING WELL: A Global Survey of Health Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies found that 45 percent of companies who measured the results of their wellness programs found that such programs reduced overall healthcare costs. A survey by Highmark Inc. that analyzed wellness programs over a four-year period found companies that had wellness programs saved an average of $332 per participant.

A Department of Health and Human Services Report done in 2010 found that 75 percent of the $2.5 trillion spent on health care each year in this country goes to treat preventable conditions. So it only makes sense that preventing health problems before they arise through wellness programs would decrease health care costs.

Beyond the costs savings, offering wellness or fitness programs to your employees can have benefits including better employee morale, greater productivity, fewer sick days, less turnover among employees and greater success in attracting qualified employees.

What do employees say? According to AccountingWeb, employees whose companies offer wellness programs say they not only have more energy and feel healthier, but also feel more valued by their employers and more bonded with their co-workers.

How can you incentivize employees to stay healthy and well?  AccountingWeb reports that some of the most popular incentives include:

  • Access to such as cholesterol screening, smoking cessation programs and nutrition counseling.
  • Access to fitness programs such as gyms, exercise classes or yoga classes
  • Discounts on health club memberships
  • Healthy snacks at the office such as providing fresh fruit instead of donuts at meetings, or catering healthy dinners instead of pizza when employees work late
  • Holding wellness-related events such as brown-bag lunches where experts come in to talk to the team about health and fitness
  • Offering health-related perks or rewards such as gift certificates for spa treatments or massages

Of course, some of these incentives are easier than others for small companies to offer. Start by checking with your health insurance provider to see what types of fitness and wellness incentives or educational programs they offer. Even if you can’t get your employees free membership in a health club, you may be able to work out some type of discount or set up a barter system where your business barters services in return for discounts on memberships. Also consider teaming with other small businesses to attract health educators to speak at your companies or provide on-site massage, yoga or relaxation classes.

Last, but not least, remember that you need to set the example. Hold “walking meetings,” encourage employees to use their lunch hours to work out or take a walk, and support healthy habits. The results will pay off for you, your team—and your business’s bank account.

Image by Flickr user Mimar Sinan (Creative Commons)

Can a Business Trip Make You Healthier?

August 26th, 2011 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Are you a frequent business traveler (like I am)? If you’re also health-conscious (and what small business owner can afford not to be?) you’ll be happy to learn that today’s hotels are paying attention to business travelers’ needs and becoming healthier places to stay. Going beyond the now-standard in-hotel gym or offering oatmeal at breakfast, here are seven ways hotels are getting healthier as reported by MarketWatch.

  1. Group wellness: If you’re holding an offsite meeting for your team or an annual conference at a hotel, you can now take advantage of healthy options like light meals and exercise breaks during the event. (Forget the rubber chicken!) At some Hyatt resort properties, for instance, meeting groups can enjoy wellness activities like chair yoga or 15-minute neck massages during sessions.
  2. Breathing easy: Smoking rooms are fewer and far between (about 10 percent of all hotel rooms), which is good news for those of us bothered by smoke. But if it’s really crowded, you might get stuck in a smokers’ room anyway. To avoid that, visit FreshStay.com, which lists more than 5,000 hotels that are totally smoke-free.
  3. Get PURE: If a nonsmoking room’s not enough, go one step beyond nonsmoking with PURE rooms, designed for guests with allergies or asthma. These rooms use air purifiers, hypoallergenic mattress covers, and special cleaning treatments to ensure there are no allergens; they are offered by about 250 hotels in North America.
  4. It’s organic: Remember the days when a club sandwich was about as healthy as room service got? No more. A growing number of hotels are adding locally sourced and/or organic food to their room service and restaurant menus.
  5. In-room fitness: If you’ve ever tried to motivate yourself to get dressed in workout gear and head 30 flights down to the hotel gym at 5:30 in the morning, you’ll appreciate this increasingly popular amenity that lets you roll out of bed and work out in privacy. MarketWatch cites a 2010 American Hotel & Lodging Association survey that found about 21 percent of luxury hotels, 17 percent of upscale hotels, 15 percent of midprice hotels, 7 percent of economy and 4 percent of budget hotels have in-room exercise equipment. Hilton Garden Inns and Omni Hotels Resort are two that provide in-room fitness kits; many hotels also have on-demand exercise shows for viewing on the room TV.
  6. Get smart: Concierges have long provided guests with suggested running routes, etc., to work out on the road. Now you can forget trying to remember directions or carrying a paper map on your run. Concierge suggestions are going digital with smartphone apps that let travelers find routes or calculate their distance.
  7. Professional help: Some locations (often resorts) have personal trainers, nutritionists and wellness coaches on staff. Got some extra time between meetings? Book a session and instead of going back to your business feeling flabby, you can be better than ever.

Who knew going on a business trip could actually improve your health? These days, it just might.

Image by Flickr user Jennifer Woodard Maderazo (Creative Commons)

Adding Employee Wellness Benefits Can Help Your Small Business

March 24th, 2011 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

With the rising costs of employee health care always an issue for businesses, many companies both big and small are emphasizing employee wellness to help keep insurance costs down. A recent study by Principal Financial Group and Harris Interactive reveals that employees are giving wellness programs a big thumbs-up.

The Principal Financial Well-Being Index surveyed small and midsize U.S. companies and found that benefits related to wellness and weight loss were among the most coveted by workers. The percentage of employees who use weight-loss programs offered by their employers increased to 53 percent in 2010, up 25 percent from 2009.

Other benefits employees would love to receive are fitness facilities (27 percent), discounts on fitness center memberships (24 percent) and weight-loss programs in the workplace (17 percent).

Lee Dukes, president of Principal Wellness Company, a subsidiary of the Principal Financial Group, notes that “Americans in general are more aware of the impact of obesity on their health” and that employers as well as employees are increasingly seeking out this type of program.

Employees seem to be growing more aware that they need to be responsible for their own health to help keep costs down. Some 68 percent used an employer’s personalized action plan to manage high-risk health conditions (up 21 percent from last year), and 84 percent used blood-sugar screenings (an increase from 66 percent in 2009).

If you offer health insurance to employees, check with your plan administrator to see if the plan offers any type of wellness benefits. Some plans offer things like fitness center discounts, discounts on massages or acupuncture, or other assistance to maintain good health. If you don’t have health insurance for your staff or your insurer doesn’t offer wellness programs, contact local hospitals to see if they have any programs for business. You may be able to get hospital staff to hold educational sessions about weight loss, stress relief or other wellness concerns at your company. Another option: See if you can barter with local small businesses that provide wellness-related services like yoga classes or stress management to hold events at your company.

In addition to keeping your insurance costs down and lessening absenteeism, wellness benefits have some other, well, benefits. According to the survey, 43 percent of employees say wellness programs make them want to work harder; 48 percent say the benefits make them more loyal to their employer; and 38 percent say wellness benefits make them more productive on the job.

Image by Flickr user Coni Dutka (Creative Commons)

Small Biz Resource Tip: EatingWell

March 11th, 2011 ::


The busy life of a small-business owner doesn’t leave much time for good eating and exercising habits. But ask any successful (and happy) entrepreneur about diet and exercise and you can bet, good habits are a priority. To keep the goal of a healthy lifestyle top of mind no matter where you are, it helps to have an informative website bookmarked for quick reading. EatingWell.com is filled with interesting articles and helpful tips to help you maintain good habits. Articles and recipes such as “Breakfasts That Fight Fat” are a quick read and the site focuses on fast, not fancy, solutions that don’t require a lot of extra time to prepare. Plus, sign up for the weekly newsletters and have healthy ideas send directly to your inbox. Your body and mind will thank you.

How To Balance Work, Life, and a Home Office

December 17th, 2010 ::

By Monika Jansen

People are amazed that I like to work from home and that I get so much accomplished between 9am and 5pm.  Add the facts that I’m married, have an 8 year old and 4 year old, and keep an obscenely neat and organized house, and I probably sound all Super Mom-my (far from it, but thanks for thinking it anyway).

Balancing work, life, and a home office require discipline and excellent time management for sure, but you can read more about that in The Four Hour Work Week.  I have found that the keys to achieving some sort of balance are both commonsense and easily doable.

Keep your office separate from your home

Do the best you can to keep your office space separate from your living space.  This means no working in the dining room, family room, or kitchen!  This simple act will help you close the door on work and “leave” the office at the end of the day…and on the weekends.  If your work stuff is in plain sight at all times, it is hard to not think about it, and the next thing you know you’re at the computer checking e-mail “just one more time.”

Keep all of your work-related stuff in your office, too: computer, files, software/hardware, books, and supplies.  If you can set up your office on a floor in your home that is separate from the main living areas, even better (mine is in the basement).


Set your work hours and keep them.  If you need to occasionally start work earlier than usual or work a little later, no biggie.  But devote the time you are home before and after work hours to your family, friends, and “regular life.”

To stop yourself from thinking about work after-hours, make a list at the end of the day of everything you need to do tomorrow/this week/this month.  Then walk away from it.

Take productive breaks from work

If you work in an office outside of your home, you probably take more breaks than you realize.  You chat with coworkers at the water cooler, in the kitchen, in the supply room, in the hallway, before and after meetings, when they stop by your office or desk, at lunch, etc.  You might even run out to the nearest coffee shop a couple of times a day.

Feel free to take breaks at home, but make them productive if you can.  When I need a break, I do the dishes, unload the dishwasher, throw in a load of wash, fold laundry, pick up the house if it’s a little messy (I’m a little Monica Geller if you haven’t figured that out yet), marinate chicken for dinner.   This way, I feel like I am keeping on top of “house” stuff.  Do whatever would help you feel like you are balanced and not juggling a million balls. If that means catching up on the latest episode of Big Bang Theory, so be it.

Ignore your smartphone

This is really hard for people to do, but try it anyway.  I check my BlackBerry if I get stopped at a long light on the way to pick up my son from preschool between 5 and 5:30.  Then I check it after dinner, around 7:30.  Then I check it one last time around 9pm.  Then I shut it down for the night and I don’t turn it back on til around 7am the next day.  10! Hours! E-mail! Free!

Note that I said I check my BlackBerry.  It is rare for me to reply back to an e-mail after hours, because guess what?  Only a tiny fraction of e-mails are actually emergencies, and most everything can wait til the morning.

Oh, and on the weekends, I don’t even look at my work e-mail.

So, how have you managed to achieve work/life balance when there’s a home office in the equation?

Image by Flickr user Joie de Cleve (Creative Commons)

Introducing the Grow Smart Business Small Business Expert Network

August 10th, 2009 ::

Over the last month we have been reaching out to some very talented experts in small business many of them owners of their own small business. We began with leveraging our network on Facebook through the Grow Smart Business Club and asking some very smart people to contribute once a month and impart their expertise to you our Grow Smart Business blog.

We have about 20 contributors writing about topics such as capital access, small business marketing, technology and small business, marketing, pr, social media, customer service, accounting, taxes, business writing etiquette, health and wellness, generational marketing, business coaching and human resources to start. All of these contributors are experts have volunteered their time once a month to impart their wisdom and experience so you can build the best small business possible.

Starting today we will be publishing these guest contributors in addition to our staff writers and we would like to give you a preview of the upcoming week and future contributors.

Contributors for the Upcoming Week

Email Marketing and You: So Happy Together by Monika Jansen
Social Media: 10 Tips on Jumping In Feet-First Without Drowning by Michelle Riggen-Ransom
Evian babies in your face. Just like their GenX parents by Jessie Newburn
What to do if you are downsized by Lorne Epstein
The apple pie bakery that could teach you a thing or two about making a sale and loyal fans by Mayra Ruiz

Contributors Coming to the Blog in the Coming Weeks

Barry Moltz – Small Business Technology

Carla Briceno – Marketing to the Hispanic Markeplace

Carlos Diggs – Selling for Small Businesses

David McGillivray – Small Business Coach – “Coaches Corner”

Debbie Weil – Corporate Blogging

Toby Bray – Small Business Sales and Marketing

Jimmy Gardner – Small Business Technology

Erica Knoch – Small Business Marketing

Gary Honig – Raising Capital for Small Businesses

Harry Lalor – Small Business Strategy

Kristin King – Effective Business Communications

Liz Strauss – Social Media for Small Business

Pamela O’Hara – Small Business CRM

Would you like to be a contributor?

If you would like to be considered as a contributor, we would love to see if there is a fit so reach out to listen@networksolutions.com and point us to your blog or send a few samples of your writing and your bio.