There are many life truths that dawn on us as we get older. Yes we could have just listened to our parents but where’s the fun in that. One of those life truths is that you realise you’re probably working too much and not living enough, and panicking as you watch your life slip by, like sand through the hourglass. So you stir from your work-induced daze to make a commitment to working less, and righting the work/life imbalance you currently have.
Now you could just close shop, sell your stuff and buy a one-way ticket to Argentina to join the unwashed masses of (unpaid) digital nomads. But how long would that last? The sudden tip of the work/life seesaw would no doubt be exhilarating (and yes you could find yourself, or even find that you don’t mind your routine life back home as much as you thought you did) but it would hardly be sustainable.
Yes, work/life balance is not just a case of working less – even some psychologists say it’s more about finding a personal equilibrium. So what does an affordable business website have to do with helping you, the business owner, find more harmony and equilibrium in your life? Read on.
What do I really want?
First of all, and I don’t mean to get all navel-gazing on you, but you need to stop and ask what are you really wanting to achieve? What’s your end goal? And please don’t say to die in your sleep and get a good turnout at your funeral. The reality is that not everyone wants to escape what others see as the dreaded hamster wheel of life – some are perfectly content living in the same house, working the same routine and following a well-worn lifestyle right through to the end. So it’s worth deciding what you want before you do anything rash – and if you’re not sure maybe look into options that allow you to “undo” the decision and return to your old life if it all goes pear-shaped.
By way of warning, don’t get fooled by the Tim Ferriss’s of the world – these digital nomad “gurus” have some good ideas (and a lot of pretty travel pics) but their focus is on selling the dream; that’s how they make their money. They’ll make it sound as easy and appealing as can be, but the reality is it’s not easy and it’s not for everyone.
I’ve spent many years working the corporate life and saw that first-hand. One boss was so determined to be seen as the great corporate martyr she was attending meetings on her phone while on vacation with her family, meetings that she didn’t need to attend but work was her life, and she wanted everyone to know it. Someone like that will never escape the rat race because it’s what they live for, and maybe all they’ve ever known. The sad reality is that for many Americans that’s not uncommon – it’s no wonder they have one of the worst scores for work/life balance in the world. I was happy to get out of that rigid environment and now enjoying a much better working lifestyle (and you can read all about it in my new ebook: The 20-minute workweek :)).
All I’m saying is that decide first what you want because change is possible and maybe more within your reach than you think. So take the first step and make a few notes about what you really want. We can then look at how you can get there (and how your business website can help!).
How does a website help automate your business?
Work smarter, not harder – You’ve probably heard that worn-out phrase before but it’s relevant here so I’m going to wheel it out one more time. The key to achieving better work/life balance (or equilibrium if you swing that way) is to think about all the things you need (and things you’d like) to get done and see if there’s a better way.
A better way for your business might using your website to do more of the heavy lifting (and leave you more free time and the opportunity to not be around). Here are a few ideas:
- Common sales questions – How often do you find yourself getting the same questions from customers, a thousand times over? Why not have all that information on your website, perhaps a dedicated FAQ page? You could even add a note to your voicemail (or email auto-reply) suggesting they look at the FAQ page for an immediate, comprehensive answer to their question!
- Taking orders – Do you receive orders manually or over the phone? Why not let customers fill in an online order form (or get an ecommerce website) so they can see exactly what they’re buying and you have their order in clear black and white. They can send in orders while you sleep (in a hammock in Costa Rica?) and you can get to them in your own good time. You could even take it a step further and setup automated recurring orders.
- Filling in forms – Do customers need to complete forms, such as when updating their contact details or requesting special work assignments? Do employees need to complete accident reports or timesheets? What about offering them an online option? You’ll save time and see an improvement in data accuracy.
- Operating hours – This is a basic one but you’d be surprised at the number of businesses that are terrible at providing an easy way for customers to know when you’re open and when you’re not – a website can do that, easy.
- Latest happenings – What are this week’s specials, latest promotions or change of work hours? Provide customers with a single source of truth, updated in real time. Websites can do that, true story!
It’s really just a case of thinking about what you do now (particularly manual processes) and thinking about how you can automate the process using your website. Think how much time airlines save by getting customers to fill in their own bookings online!
But it’s not just about saving time; a website is also about doing your work when you’re not physically present. Imagine you had a physical bricks’n’mortar store. To sell anything you needed to be there. If you wanted to travel for a week you’d have to close shop and that means no sales and maybe damage to your business reputation. Now if you switched to an online store then not only would it save you time but it would also mean you wouldn’t have to be there – you could setup your website orders to go directly to a fulfillment centre. Imagine that! You could be lounging around the Spanish Steps in Rome throwing money at pickpockets and rose sellers instead of having to be at work.
Your website can help you (and your customers) change
To achieve better balance in your life will likely mean making changes. If you’re a business owner this will probably mean your customers might have to get used to doing things differently as well. What are some ways your website can be instrumental in making these changes both possible and palatable for your customers?
- Communication – There was a time when all business was done over the phone (or in person). While nothing can completely replace all the nuances of that type of communication it comes at a cost – both in time and disruptions. It’s hard to ignore a ringing phone but if your business depends on it then you’ll answer it – often when you’d rather be doing something else. But change is happening and more businesses are realising that by training their customers to email them instead (or complete an online form) they can control more effectively when, how and where they do business. There’ll still be times when a phone call is needed and for some business types this won’t work (although online chat is another option) but could you move to a more online style of communication?
- Discounts – Take a lesson from one of the world’s best airlines – Air New Zealand. They knew encouraging customers to use their website to make bookings instead of ringing their call centre would make them a lot more efficient and profitable. But how could it be done? Many of their customers were older who were stuck doing things the traditional way – pick up the phone and talk to a real person. The key was appealing to something else older people liked – cheap prices. By offering discounted airfares through their Grabaseat website they effectively trained their customers to book online instead of phoning. Could you use that technique in your business?
- Business Central – This involves making your website the centre of your business’s universe – basically it all revolves around the website. Firstly, make sure your website is completely up-to-date with all the latest information. Then always refer customers to it, whether they’re calling you (hopefully not anymore, refer tip #1), messaging you through Facebook or emailing you – always send them to the website so it becomes your single source of truth, even for staff. Do this consistently and customers will learn to go there first before reaching out to contact you or your team.
- Do It Online – Keep adding more features to your website that allow customers to do more stuff online, not just contacting you or buying stuff but maybe updating their details, checking order progress or putting together a wishlist.
You can see from this quick list of ideas that achieving better balance with the aid of your website may involve a paradigm shift, changing how you view your website. Is it currently sitting there, unchanged from when you got it built three years ago? Maybe it’s time to reassess your website’s role in the business, particularly if it can help you achieve better work/life balance.
Build it and they will come
I know this is a misquote from a sappy Kevin Costner movie but it fits here. Change is tough but it can be done and by taking action it will come together, and your customers will get on board. Of course, you’ll need to give yourself (and your customers) time to adjust to the changes but keep the end goal in mind: To make sure you’re not working in the business more than you actually want to, and to have the freedom to do the stuff you’d rather be doing, i.e better balance and equilibrium in your life.
If you need help with figuring out what changes you need to make to your website get in touch, we’d be happy to give you some advice or assistance in making it happen.