June '15

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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54 || P R I N T W E A R J U N E 2 0 1 5 Embroidery Business STITCH SOLUTIONS B Y J E N N I F E R C O X Jennifer Cox is the president and co-founder of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP), a professional organization for apparel decoration busi- ness owners. NNEP supports the success of NNEP mem- bers with best practices, ideas, sources, solutions, vol- ume-buying benefits, and services. Cox was recognized as a Top 50 Small Business Influencer and Community Choice Leader by Small Biz Trends in 2013, is recognized as one of the industry's "Most Creative Thinkers," and repeatedly ranks in the top 40 on the industry's "Power List." Reach her at or go to Help for Embroideraholics Establish boundaries between work and home A s an embroiderer, there's always more work to do. The idea of finding a work-life balance seems as mythical as a rain- bow-colored unicorn, considering everything on your plate. I, too, am a workaholic. I know and live with the innate strug- gles that come with owning a business. I've spent countless eve- nings on my laptop working—not browsing, shopping, or con- necting with friends on social media. We need to learn how to manage our own internal drive to help us bring some sense into our lives. In fact, we need to protect ourselves from the chaos of being a business owner and risk burning out or, worse yet, caus- ing ourselves health issues. One way to protect ourselves from burning out is to reframe how we think about that mythical work-life balance. Accept that it is mythical. Give yourself a free pass from trying to achieve it because, as a goal, it probably isn't helpful for us. When you think of the word "balance," what do you visualize? I picture a teeter-totter, like the kind you see at the school play- ground. It's only in balance when chil- dren of equal size sit on each end. How many children do you know that are the same size? Not many. Now apply this visual to your busi- ness and your personal life. When are the demands from your work equal to your home demands? If you're like me, they never feel equal. Often, it feels like one order or one home situation is urgent, and everything else has to wait. There's always an order deadline or the backordered items finally arrive. There's a ball game or a family gather- ing, and you still need to put dinner on the table. It never ends. So let's ditch the concept of balance. Boundaries, on the other hand, are something we can work with. Boundaries keep life in check. Here are some boundaries that you can build into your life that will help you stay sane and, perhaps, healthier. DEFINE TIME BOUNDARIES Reserve time for certain tasks. If you're most creative and produc- tive in the morning, assign that as work time. Focus on work and only work. Don't run to the grocery store, pick up office supplies, or run a load of laundry. Work on making money—nothing else. On the flip side, if you never want to miss a child's activity or ball game, reserve that time with an equal level of commitment. Your customers are people and family members, too. It's okay to say, "I cannot hand deliver that order tonight. My child has a game. Would you like me to drop it off tomorrow at 9 or 10 a.m.?" No order or customer is worth missing that one game where your child hits the home run, makes the big play, or gives a solo performance. If you have a home-based business, define when it's appropriate for friends and customers to interact with you. We often hear home-based business own- ers lament about their friends hanging out at the house while the business owner is trying to finish an order with a looming deadline. If you're working, tell your friend you'll meet for coffee, breakfast, drinks, or dinner when the work is done. When a customer appears at your door during dinner, let him or her know you're not working at the mo- ment, and you'll call tomorrow to go over the order. In fairness to your fam- ily, friends, and customers, define when you work and make that information available. Post your work hours on your website or post a discreet sign on your door. Email customers who show up during off hours and let them know when they can show up. DEFINE PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES Create physical boundaries between you and your work. If you check email on your phone while at the dinner table with your family, you've crossed that boundary. Be present for yourself and your family at home. This is especially challenging if you run a

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