Keynote speaker for the Rogers Small Business Centre Event in Kingston, Erin balances work and family life to stay productive.
Tell us about yourself and your role within your company.
I founded my first company, a virtual assistance business, back in 2004. I was twenty-one years old and had no other examples of entrepreneurship in my life but I knew that I was meant to carve my own path, be my own boss and do something unique and different. While working as an instructor at a private college, teaching the business administration diploma program, I did an Internet search for an "online executive assistance" and found the world of virtual assistance.
Today, my company has evolved into a full-service digital marketing strategy firm. I work closely with clients all over the world to provide them with high-level strategy for their online presence, which includes helping them launch their new big ideas, products and services out into the world. We have worked with clients who are simply looking to grow their personal brand and we have worked with big companies like Disney, Kraft, Post and Ford Canada.
What is the most rewarding part about being an entrepreneur? What keeps you passionate and driven to succeed?
What makes entrepreneurship rewarding is ever-changing. When I first began my business, I felt that I had a lot to prove. I was very young and very inexperienced but I didn't let that detract from what I knew I wanted for my company and for my life.
So, I woke up every day and made sure to put out as much effort, energy and desire as humanly possible.
In the beginning, the reward came from reaching new milestones -- my first client, quitting my full-time job, making $50K in revenue, then $100K and then $250K. Today, the reward comes from being able to balance my extremely fulfilling work with my home life. My six-year old daughter means the world to me and our time together is sacred so to have a business that has some built-in flexibility feels extremely rewarding.
In terms of keeping the passion and drive alive, I spend a lot of time on self-reflection and I am constantly setting new goalposts. What I've found is that if I allow myself to be flexible in terms of where I'm going, I'm much more apt to want to keep showing up. If I create a rigid plan and six months in I feel stuck or bored, I won't accomplish what I've set out to do. I rarely plan far in advance for this reason.
We know how important productivity is for developing and continuing to grow a business. For you, what are some key concepts or tools you suggest for small business owners?
Being a separated parent means that when I am "on" as a parent, I'm "on". That means that on a regular basis I'm juggling a full business with my responsibilities as a parent while also showing up in my relationship, keeping my home life in order and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life. Needless to say, I've had to learn how to be SUPER productive very quickly. There are a few key concepts and tools that I use to stay on top of it all:
1) Your brain is not a storage system -- when I first learned about this, something inside clicked and I realized that I was putting way too much pressure on my brain to remember all of the things I need to do. I'd tell myself lies like, "Oh, I'll just remember to grab milk later on today" and more often than not, I'd forget. Now, I jot everything down into my favourite tools so that I don't rely on my brain to remember things but instead, on the systems that I've chose to support my business and life.
2) Accessible tools I can use anywhere -- I use my smartphone and tether my Macbook to my smartphone a lot (thank you Rogers for your large data plans!) Due to this, I need accessible tools that I can access from anywhere and from any device. A few of my favourites include -- Wunderlist for to-do tracking, Basecamp for project management and Slack for team communication.
3) Batch your tasks -- if there was just ONE productivity tip I could tell people, it would be to batch your tasks. I've been doing this naturally since I started my business and began supporting numerous clients but it's life-changing when you extend it out into your entire life. Batching your tasks means doing all tasks that fall under a specific category / client / life area at the same time to maximize your efforts. Gone are the days of multi-tasking -- that just doesn't work! Batching is where it's at.
What advice do you have for aspiring and prospering business owners when it comes to taking their business to the next level?
My advice is pretty simple: create with intention and impact and not just to create more noise in the industry. There's enough people out there creating noise but not enough people creating impact. Instead of trying to do everything under the sun, pick a few things and do them really, really well. Instead of creating just for the sake of creating, create because you can't help yourself. Produce when you have something valuable to add to the conversation. Show up when it's a big ol' heck yes.
When you create from a space of intention and impact, people will take notice and you won't have to over-extend yourself in the process.