Work From Home | WorkBook6

The Work from Home Environment – Not for the Faint of Heart

By Kara Hutcheson

Without fail, the first reaction I typically get when I tell a friend that I work from home is ‘You’re so lucky! You get to work in your PJs?’.

The truth is, yes, there was a time I did work from my pajamas on occasion – but that was because I was awoken at four in the morning by emails flooding in from East coast business, and I’d usually completed half of a day’s work before I’d even had time to pour my first cup of coffee.

The moral of this story? The work from home environment isn’t the glamorous, easy-going, path-of-least-resistance that many assume it to be. It requires fierce discipline and determination and will test your endurance (and discipline) every step of the way.

Based on my experience for the past five years working from home (including while at WorkBook6), I’d like to share why it has been the most challenging experience I’ve ever encountered, and why it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

Work-life balance…sort of

I will never knock the advantages of missing out on the daily work commute or the convenience of eating lunch from your own fridge.

There are a lot of perks to combining your work and living space. The disadvantage unfolds when the blended to-do lists begin. Suddenly, five-o-clock is about more than just work deadlines and instead becomes a mad dash to complete chores, squeeze in daily home distractions and accommodate unannounced visitors.

Work distracts you from home and home distracts you from work, leaving you feeling unaccomplished at the end of the day.

The true meaning of ‘work-life-balance’, that I’ve discovered, is not to be able to finish that marketing report while you’re in the bath, or squeeze in your daily workout while muted on a conference call. The intended solution was to cut down on all the extras – the commutes, excessive meetings, the lunch time scramble and the cumbersome office policies.

It took me years to figure out that working from home didn’t mean I could accomplish everything in the same amount of time; instead, working from home has given me more concentrated time for work and given me back more time for life. It was never meant to double life responsibilities in half the time. The biggest lesson I’ve learned as a remote employee is to work while I’m working, and to completely unplug while I’m not. Work-life balance isn’t always natural, it’s achieved.

What kind of achiever are you?

It’s obvious why the under-achiever flops in the work from home environment. Self-discipline and reliability are key traits for a successful ‘work-from-homer’ and if you don’t practice these skills daily, you’ll be invited to find a new working opportunity pretty quickly.

Unknown to most people, over-achievers tend to fail in the work from home work environment as well. Why? Because your usual nine-to-five confines becomes a twenty-four-seven work environment. While these workaholics may take home the remote employee of the month award, it won’t be long before you are burnt out, run down and losing track of day and night.

During my time as a remote executive assistant, I definitely was an over-achiever. I answered emails at midnight and was glued to my phone as if every incoming text and email was a matter of life and death.

It took me three months before I was so disgruntled that turning on my computer (which let’s be honest – was never turned off) took a herculean effort.

Lesson learned here? Do your BEST work but pace yourself based on strategic prioritization and setting daily work hours. If you finish nothing – you lose. If you try to finish everything at once – you won’t.

Good people

I will make a bold statement here, that perhaps you’ll disagree with.

More important than the work you’re doing, are the people you’re doing it with. If I could go back to the beginning of my work from home journey, the best advice I’d give myself is to worry less about the position you’re starting in, and instead focus in on the example your leadership sets and what type of team environment is established.

A former colleague of mine once expressed that he’d prefer the remote work environment so he didn’t have to interact with anyone. That was a sorely mistaken understanding of how communication works outside of the traditional office. You have to communicate more in the remote environment. It takes more effort to not only convey your message, but to correctly convey your tone through whatever digital resource you are using (I tend to use a lot of emojis in my team chats).

I’ve worked in several different company environments from home. I worked for a rapidly growing mega-corporation, as a client-facing independent contractor, and as the founder of a small company. I have found myself to be a different type of employee in each of these environments, some far better than others. I see it as my extreme fortune and privilege to have found a home with WorkBook6.

I could write an entire blog on the inspiring leadership, strong team environment and pure talent on my current team. Fully crediting my current team’s dynamics and values as an organization, I have developed far more professionally than I ever expected and feel I have accomplished my best work to date.

If this tells you nothing else, it’s that the work from environment isn’t an excuse for isolation, it’s an opportunity to expand your marketability and find a team (even outside your hometown) that bring your best work (and self) forward.

Work From Home Conclusion

It’s maybe not the cookie-cutter description of working from home, that embodies the “no-pain, all-gain” philosophy that some have of working from home (from the sofa, in your pajamas, while your favorite Netflix re-runs play in the background).

The most honest insight I can give you is that working from home comes with a plethora of challenges and takes a lot of adjustment and a willingness to learn from your mistakes. It’s not always easy, but those of us who meet the challenge, learn to become resourceful and find clever ways to prevail even at times with limited resources.

When we say we work from home, we do indeed ‘work’, harder than some and often times, smarter than most. We’re grateful for the opportunity to put our best foot forward for our teams, no matter where our desks are located!

Building Consensus | WorkBook6

What to do when the answer is yes

By JT Benton

“I want to do this. But my partner isn’t sold. We’re prepared to move forward, but I wanted you to know that.”

A prospective client said this to Anna Lewis and I recently.

If you sell anything with a big price tag or a long-term commitment attached, you’ve probably heard something like this before. You’ve got a sponsor who is willing to put his or her neck on the line for you, but there’s a short leash and there’s already someone pulling on it.

You’ve got two choices

  1. Take the deal. Don’t let perfect get in the way of good enough. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. If you don’t believe in your own product enough to prove the doubters wrong, what good are you anyway, right?
  2. Work to perfect the deal. Win the doubter(s) over. Sell past the yes, and risk losing it all. Do this, and you have to be crazy enough to accept the consequences.

So, what should you do?

We asked this exact question on Twitter, in the form of a poll. The majority of respondents – 67% in fact – said they’d take option 1.

Building Consensus, and Getting to Yes | WorkBook6

Listen, there’s no ‘right’ response here – context is important and every scenario is different. If you sign it, as is, you do so with an immediate adversary on the other side – and a chip on your shoulder to do great work. Maybe that’s just what you need. If you hold off and work to perfect the deal, you’re risking the loss of good revenue. You might also be avoiding a potential problem, later on.

How you think about this might ultimately be colored by your own role in your company. For example, if you’re a salesperson, and you don’t involve yourself with client service after the ink dries, you might not worry about the mess that might follow. But if you’re responsible for both sales and service, you might think twice about it. And if you run customer success for your company, you’d likely want to take a more conservative approach.

Here’s what we did

We’ve seen this a few times, and we’ve navigated things differently each time. Our decision, this time, might surprise you. We paused – and then we ultimately walked away from a big, long-term agreement.

Here’s why.

WorkBook6 serves as an extension of our clients’ business development, marketing and senior management teams. These folks keep the lights on around here, so we go to the mat for them. But when it comes to inking our own engagements, we’re not as hard-charging as you might think.

When I learn that we don’t have near-unanimous support, I typically pause to work on that. Often, even if I have the support I need to move the deal forward, I still want to feel like there’s a consensus ‘yes.’ I know…not very sales badger of me, right?

Here’s my logic: we already have more opportunity in front of us than we need in order to be successful. If I stretch to add a relationship that’s not fully supported on the client side, it has the potential to set off a chain reaction that can impact the entire company.

Here’s how this could play out:

  1. Because the deal could be on life support from day one, we could slip into survival mode (which in my experience is, like, the worst way to run a business).
  2. There’s the potential to overcompensate, or ‘grip the stick too hard’ as Rob often says.
  3. No matter what, you’ll always wonder about if/when the nasty is going to come out.
  4. Finally, it might just make us all feel crummy.

We’re not into all that, so in this case, we thought it better to work from a consensus ‘yes’ – and better to pass when that’s not the case.

Respecting the Old, Embracing the New

Respecting the Old, Embracing the New

By Our Very Own Chris Cox

If I’m not hard at work with my awesome WorkBook6 team building groundbreaking marketing partnerships, one of the places you’ll likely find me is out in nature hunting or fishing. I love being in the outdoors studying wild game and a major perk is the excellent food we get to enjoy as a reward to the hard work it takes to try and outsmart an animal.

But it’s not uncommon – AT ALL – for me to return to my home empty-handed. And usually the theme going through my mind is what my dad used to tell me all the time “If you got something every time, it wouldn’t be called hunting”, which is a very true statement.

As I wrapped up one of my unsuccessful hunts I remember thinking about the fact that I had on some new, cutting-edge, First Lite camo. Camo is used by hunters to blend into their surroundings so that they may remain unnoticed by the animals they are stalking.

And as I was driving home I laughed at an interesting concept. The truth is that sportsmen around the world (myself included) spend unruly amounts of money on the latest and greatest gear made to help you become more successful – it’s fun to geek out over gear, and yes the gear absolutely helps BUT, people have been hunting for centuries before me successfully without the latest and greatest gear that we have today.

I have pictures of my grandpa and his friends with amazing animals that they hunted in nothing more than blue wranglers and a black and red flannel.

What’s really interesting is to compare this to modern day business. I see many similarities. The activity of selling, marketing, operating, executing, etc. is not anything new. People have been transacting since the as far as we can remember.

Tools, services, and technology have been created to make things more efficient, productive, and profitable, but it still isn’t anything new. The fundamentals of relationships, communication, accountability, responsibility, and many more have not changed and are as important today as they were to people doing business 10, 20, and 100 years ago.

And same to people who will do business 100 years from now!

Simply put, I think it’s great to innovate and create new products and efficiencies in business, but as hunting will quickly show you, the tools don’t get you the win, it’s the fundamentals passed down from generation to generation that do. Respecting the old, embracing the new.

To Big Wins in 2018!

What Do Your REALLY Mean? Getting Smarter When Recruiting

What Do You REALLY Mean? Getting Smarter When Recruiting

By Keith Selvin

Should the following “ideal candidate” descriptors be red flags for entry-level (or any level) job-seekers?

“Must be a self-starter”

“Must thrive in a fast-paced environment”

“Must be able to multi-task”

I’m helping a younger friend (who is a recent college grad) vet new career opportunities, and it’s so interesting to read some of these cookie-cutter job listings through an experienced lens.  Obviously, everyone wants the above qualities in an employee – at WorkBook6 we look for these qualities and more – to the point where it should go without saying.

It’s amazing to me how many companies focus on these vague qualitative “requirements” and completely neglect to provide meaningful insight into what the job actually entails, why it’s impactful to the larger corporate mission, how the applicant will be supported by surrounding staff and departments, and what kind work environment (both culturally and logistically) an applicant can expect.

As I read through some of the job listings my friend sends me, I can’t help but remember my own fresh-college-grad, “wet-behind-the-ears” days where I wouldn’t have known a good opportunity from a churn-and-burn shop if it sat in my lap.

I may be getting cynical in my old age, but when I read those descriptors now, here’s what I see:

“Must be a self-starter”

We don’t invest in onboarding or training, and fully expect you to figure everything out on your own.

“Must thrive in a fast-paced environment”

We haven’t properly staffed for your role, and we’re struggling to establish tangible job-success metrics.

“Must be able to multi-task”

Our business processes are all over the place, and we don’t have clearly defined swim lanes, so we need you to wear multiple hats until we figure out how to best use you.

In an age where we have more college graduates than ever (and a $1.5T student loan industry to prove it), throwing up vague and uninformative job descriptions is not only unacceptable, it’s a terrible reflection on your brand.

Are your recruiters just lazy, or do you not actually know what you want in a new-hire?  Is casting a wide net really the best strategy, or would you rather only attract the best and most aligned candidates?

Sites like Monster, Indeed, and Glassdoor remind us that it’s more important than ever to set clear expectations to attract the right talent.  Forego that, and you risk sinking tens-of-thousands of dollars, and months of wasted work, into a candidate that may turn out to be a complete bust.  It’s becoming increasingly clear that hiring & firing costs are adding to the rising margin compression crisis most companies are facing.  And yet, companies aren’t evolving their first line of defense against a bad hire.

Look we get it – hiring new employees (especially entry-level employees) is tricky, and it’s risky.

You don’t know them, your growing department or company has constantly shifting needs, and you have an idea in your head of what your ideal candidate looks like.  It’s tough.

So stop throwing spaghetti at the wall when it comes to your hiring practices, and start getting smarter when recruiting to attract the right candidates.

Hindsight is 20/20

By The Show-Jumping Anna Lewis

Hindsight is 20/20.

It’s very hard to believe that while the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off today, it will be without the Italians, the Netherlands and the USA.  The Italians boast multiple World Cup wins, and the Netherlands is generally a top contender – how did they not make it?  Was it just an off year, were there extenuating circumstances, or did they just become complacent and assume they would make it? 

It’s easy to do, in life and business.  It’s easy to assume that because you had a great meeting, the deal will close.  Easy to think that because your customer is happy now, they don’t need a lot of attention to stay happy.  Easy to believe that your employee’s satisfaction will always stay positive. 

The problem is that without attention, that deal might not close. 

Your customer may start to feel neglected, and your employees may begin to feel burned out.  I believe that business (and life for that matter) require our constant attention and vigilance – it doesn’t mean we always have to be driving/pushing forward (no one likes a used car salesperson approach), but it does mean that we should be purposeful – that’s something we always strive towards at WorkBook6

I imagine, if you ask any of the Italians why they aren’t in the World Cup, they’d have a reason, and an idea of what they could have done better.  Hindsight is 20/20, but I’d really rather be mindful during the process, and not have to learn from it.

Would you take the money? WorkBook6

Would You Take the Money?

By Rob Stevenson

So Amazon is at it again, breaking traditional norms in the name of innovation and a dedication to customer service. While it’s not a new policy (instead adopted from Zappos), on their work anniversary Amazon employees are offered a deal – take a $1,000 bonus (which escalates up to $5,000 for five year employees) to quit, right there on the spot.

But there’s always a catch. This one? You can never work for Amazon, ever again.

Seems odd, right? Offering people money to quit, especially with the six-to-nine month runway required to get new employees up to speed and optimized in their new role, seems counterintuitive. But as always, doing things differently is Amazon’s style (and sometimes here at WorkBook6), and there is a method to the madness.

By refusing these “quitter” bonuses, the employee is actually saying something much more valuable to Amazon – “I’m in this for the long haul, and that journey has more value to me than $5,000”.  That level of commitment and dedication, that sense of belonging, of big picture thinking, isn’t typical in every employee’s day-to-day job duties, but instead the tactic allows employees to embrace the company more deeply, which promotes performance and productivity and output, and doesn’t cost Amazon a penny.

Pretty cool idea, very neat delivery – but it begs the question: would you take the money?

Are you so committed to your job that if your boss dropped a $5,000 check on your desk and gave you the same choice, are you passionate enough about your job to resist?

I guess in this case, that’s the $5,000 question.

WorkBook6 Internet Trends Report

The Internet Trends Report

OMG, it’s Brett Kaufman:

Every year, Mary Meeker from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers puts out her Internet Trends Report.

For some people. Mary’s report acts as their bible or playbook for the year ahead. For others, it’s a solid read of 294 slides of useful info. And to most, it’s a lot of information they’ll never need or understand.

Personally, I always love these reports but over the years I feel like the info has become less innovative or eye-popping. Yes, there are some awesome nuggets in those 294 slides but a lot of this is information we see and hear about on a daily basis.

Has Meeker (and the Internet Trends Report) lost her touch? I don’t think so.

I think in 2018, the age of information is so easily there with commentary from amazing and smart people daily that these big summaries are less valuable.

As an example, LUMA’s State of Digital Media is a newer version, a slimmed down 75(ish) pages that focuses just on digital media. There are many others around the world that I have seen popping up. Some are used at conferences to present findings or aide in keynote speeches.

Do you find these massive research pieces helpful? Is the content digestible or have firms lost touch of the goals of these presentations? Is there a better way you’d like to see summaries of the information?

While I don’t see us at WorkBook6 putting out a 300-slide summary of the State of Partnerships, I do think we would love to share what we see in the ecosystem on a daily basis and help spread the true meaning and value on expanding your partnership programs.

What say you, Internet chums?

Marketing Jargon

Marketing Jargon: Lost in Translation

By Rob Stevenson

Marketing people love marketing jargon – ROI, KPI, CPC, CTR, and literally thousands more cute acronyms and fun, secret ways to make what we’re talking about seem more important than it really is. Call it jargon, call it buzzwords, call it gibberish (my current favorite, and a completely random sampling: Alignment wheelhouse tablet virality content curation iterative Cloud.)

Whatever you call it, insider language can become a crutch, and worse, result in your brand’s voice consisting solely of you shouting into a meaningless void. But are you being heard?

Over here at WorkBook6 world headquarters, we are wrestling with this very problem right now.

In a nutshell, we help companies overcome something we call the Unit Economic Crisis (explained beautifully by beloved leader JT Benton), a big-picture concept defined as the point in time when a customer’s lifetime value (or LTV) drops below a specific (preferred) ratio of Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC). Every business is different – but when the LTV:CAC ratio drops below the business’s desired figure, it’s time to be concerned.

This happens in almost every business (there are a number of reasons, we’ll simplify down to competition and a general decline in customer persistency), and marketers and BD folks are in a pickle. How do I improve my unit economics quickly, and sustainably? (*The answer is through strategic partnership marketing, but that’s not the point).

Whew – 264 words in and I’m finally getting to the point. And what’s the point?

Marketers Love Marketing Jargon

As we look to increase the impact of our outbound (and inbound) marketing efforts, it’s VERY easy to rely on this world view (the Unit Economic Crisis, LTV and CAC) as WorkBook6’s primary differentiators. In fact, they define the core of our business – we help our clients overcome rising acquisition costs and falling LTV by forming strategic partnerships.

But to our prospective clients, do they phrases mean anything at all? Do they resonate in a meaningful way? Or are we shouting into a meaningless void? We’re A/B testing, offering multiple messages (and creative) and deliveries, following the “Very Good Marketer” playbook to leave no stone unturned, but if language choices don’t resonate, does it matter?

I even had our COO Brett Kaufman post on his VERY active LinkedIn feed about this very conundrum, asking for advice re. CAC and LTV and lingo/jingo/gibberish. Now, Brett averages nearly 10,000 post views and 250+ likes/comments every time he sneezes on Linkedin, but this post? 7 likes, one comment. A (virtual) fart in the wind, if you will. Does everyone hate lingo, or just talking about it?

So what say you? Does marketing jargon fly in your world, or does common sense language prevail? Is there a balance based on preference/audience? Or am I just shouting into a meaningless void (again)?

Calendar Etiquette

Calendar Etiquette for the Modern-Day Professional

By WorkBook6’s Conscience  Kara Hutcheson

More than ever, we’re relying on our digital calendars, synched across a plethora of devices to keep our professional lives organized. The calendars, and appropriate calendar etiquette, dedicate our daily work hours, track important deadlines, prompting reminders and (arguably) most importantly to coordinate and confirm our internal and inter-party interactions.

These digital tools are more advanced than ever but for some reason missed connections and confusing communication reigns more prevalent than ever. Take advantage of the administrative tools you are possibly overlooking every day and use the following best practices to make sure that your calendar is serving you at it’s full capability and that your ‘calendar communication style’ is as direct as possible.

Schedule Your Call or Meeting with Other Participants…No seriously.

This may seem obvious, but it’s actually a very prevalent poor practice that many busy business professionals use.

If you want a call or meeting (whether internally or with a third party), confirm with participants before assuming they are free. Establish a schedule and then extend a calendar invitation. While your schedule may be busy, it’s never safe to assume that your availability is representative of everyone’s availability.

Sending a calendar invite without confirming schedules is an easy way to provoke no-shows and late attendees.

Use the description field!

Between back-to-back meetings, reschedules and follow-ups to follow-ups, it’s easy for call and meeting content (and calendar etiquette) to become convoluted or repurposed. To make sure you’re accomplishing the necessary discussions, don’t hesitate to set an agenda (and set time suggestions for these agenda items).

While some people may hesitate to send an agenda in order to avoid looking dominant or pushy in the meeting, nine times out of ten, an agenda is appreciated by all participants to help focus the call/meeting and prepare attendees.

This is also a great place to include call or meeting materials, attachments, etc.

Calendar Etiquette: Please, Please, Please Accept or Decline Calendar Invitations

On the receipt side of calendar invitations, best practice is to accept or decline a meeting invitation to confirm your participation or lack thereof.

Leaving a calendar invite unaddressed leads to confusion about attendance and can prompt unnecessary reschedules. This is also very important if internal employees are tracking your availability to include you on additional meetings.

If you don’t accept a meeting invitation, your schedule can easily become double-booked or you may miss your notifications.

Follow Up on Calendar Invite Responses

This tip works on the receipt and delivery end. Never assume that if you decline a calendar invitation the other party is aware that the meeting is cancelled.

Calendar glitches happen all the time and sometimes an accidental click can completely misrepresent your intent. If you must cancel a meeting (especially last minute), include a note in the cancellation, or send a follow up email with whatever explanation you deem appropriate (this will also help you adhere to “Emily Post” style etiquette to help you avoid offending outside parties).

In addition, if you receive a decline notice from another party from a calendar invitation you hosted, follow up and ask if a reschedule is appropriate.

In conclusion

While these seems like extremely basic and obvious scheduling tips, you’d be shocked at how few business professionals are investing their time in calendar communication.

Why does it matter? If you’re working in any field that requires B2B communication or sales is an important aspect of your business, your communication style speaks a lot about who you are as a professional and the way your company operates.

If you don’t have a minute to spare administratively, consider bringing in some help through an administrative professional who can help own your calendar and put your best foot forward!

Happy Scheduling (and Calendar Etiquette)!

Let’s Connect!