I am beyond thrilled that February 2021 marks Remote COO’s 15 year anniversary! It all started with a desire to help empower business owners and nonprofits to thrive by supporting their operations. Today, we are honored and grateful to have grown our company from 1 to 13 amazing employees, and we will be welcoming our 100th client this year! Before hitting these milestones, I was a solopreneur unsure of where I was headed. I’ve learned so much along the way and am sharing 5 of the most important things I’ve learned. If you’re reading this, hopefully, you find these lessons useful in whatever stage of your business you are in.
Allow your core values to shine as your guiding principles.
As a company, we took the time to actively choose attributes important in our daily lives and defined their purpose in our organization. They truly serve as our North Star. We continuously discuss them in our company meetings and keep them top of mind by posting them in our workspaces. You can find our core values on our website.
Don’t just post them in the break room and throw them on your website. Truly embrace your values and adopt them into your company culture. Use them when hiring, firing, to make important client decisions, and internal organizational decisions. Acknowledge and celebrate team members when you observe them abiding by these attributes. Embrace the pain points as learning opportunities when you don’t see them being utilized. Why are identifying your organization’s core values so important? Company values will not only help guide you through your everyday decisions, they will also show you where to draw the line in the sand.
Establish boundaries – personally, professionally, and organizationally.
Establishing boundaries creates a firm foundation. Boundaries help dictate how you operate on a daily basis while putting your core values into practice. Don’t allow your boundaries to be malleable or you will find yourself constantly moving your proverbial line in the sand. If you’re continuously moving your line, why have a line at all?
My favorite book on this topic, Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, has been highlighted, flagged, dogeared and notated to death. One of my favorite highlighted sentences is “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” While we do our best as a team to prepare and educate our clients, we are not always able to save them from themselves.
Early in my career, I took on one very well-connected and seemingly well-loved client who ran over me at every turn. Working for this client was the epitome of riding a rollercoaster on a daily basis. One minute I was a Rockstar and the next minute I was berated for not living up to their impossible standards. Text messages and demeaning emails were sent at all hours of the night and day and it got to the point that I dreaded checking my phone every morning. The client’s poor planning caused me many tears, lots of stress and anxiety, and led me to make poor decisions. I doubted myself on countless occasions and never understood why I couldn’t seem to ‘get it right.’ After multiple discussions with mentors and some serious soul searching, I realized it wasn’t me who couldn’t ‘get it right.’ This experience helped me set the standards for operations that are reviewed with every new team member and new client regarding respect and appropriate communications.
The client is not always right.
The worst thing you can do as a business owner is allow your client to dictate how you run your business. To ensure this doesn’t happen, it is important to establish clear expectations with your clients at the beginning of your relationship. Get to know each prospect with a solid, well-planned consultation call and understand that not everyone will be a good fit for your company. Revenue should not be the only deciding factor in your decisions. Recognize that when you take on a client who doesn’t fit into your company’s best client category, you are closing the door on one who does.
Understandably, in the beginning stages of your company’s existence, you may be taking on clients unsure of whether they are a good fit for your company culture. You will quickly learn what works and what doesn’t. Be sure to document each learning experience, as this will allow you to craft your desired client profile over time. And when a client is not the right fit, be kind to both them and yourself, by showing them the door.
Be Kind in the Grind.
Through everything you do, be kind. Hold patience and grace in your heart and try to put yourself in other people’s shoes to foster empathy. We are all human, and thus are all intrinsically flawed by design. Don’t allow this to cause you to lose site of the bigger picture. You have a job to do and a company to run. As a leader, you must collect data through observation – listen, ask questions, and gather information from all parties. Your team, clients, vendors, and network are all important facets of your business, and they all deserve to be treated with kindness.
This is why we created Be Kind in the Grind – an initiative to remind us that we cannot always control the circumstances, but we can control how we respond. This mindset also encompasses our organization’s core values, underscores how we operate, and provides a solid foundation for the growth of our clients. Whether you’re burning the midnight oil, pushing through back-to-back meetings, or trying to cross things off your never-ending checklist, always remember your words and actions do impact others. Don’t let the grind get you in a bind.
Balance is not 50/50; it is a sum of 1.
Don’t be all work all the time. Grinding it out 100% of the time will only lead you to a quick burnout. Understand that you cannot possibly be everything to everyone. Life is a constant ebb and flow. Sometimes your business will require more of you, and at other times, the scale will tilt toward your family, a friend who needs you, or a desire for more personal freedom. Don’t constrain yourself to the rigid standards society may want to dictate, and don’t believe that growing a business means you have to give up any semblance of a personal life.
As a solopreneur with too many clients (a great problem to have, right?!), I was burning the candle out every single night. I was beginning to make some good money, but I was always exhausted, and my personal life was struggling. After a botched Valentine’s Day, too many tears to count, tons of anger, and my 10-year-old asking me if it was, “your mean client again?” I knew some changes needed to be made.
As a business owner, I consistently check in with my team on their work loads, schedules, and personal time to ensure they aren’t making the mistakes I made early in my career. I offer coaching based on my past experiences to aid my team in successfully managing these areas. By offering the services we do, we are also giving our clients back their most valuable resource – time. This allows them the opportunity to focus their energy on growing their business and spending time with the people most important in their lives.
I am truly in love with my business, my team, and my clients. By keeping these five things in mind, you can be also.
By Sasha Crabtrey