Managing Expectations and Your Telephone

Saturday, August 09, 2008

I originally posted this back in April, but I wanted to rerun it because it is a resource that has helped my business so incredibly this past year since I implemented it.  

One of the perks about having a mobile office is the ability to work from anywhere. I've been in completely different states before and my clients haven't known unless I've let them in on my traveling plans. Not being confined to a cubicle or a permanent brick and mortar location was one of the reasons I opened up shop for myself. Not being tied to one spot also makes it a bit easier for me to do destination weddings, which is one of my areas of specialization.

One of the must haves for a mobile office is a portable phone number. With cell phones, these obviously come as part of the package, but giving your direct number out to anybody and everybody makes it hard to set boundaries, which is a crucial element in owning a business and still having a life. I needed a solution that allowed calls to come to my cell phone, yet allowed me to maintain some sort of office hours. Since I don't just do weddings in Arizona, I also wanted a number that was toll free so that people weren't confused by the area code when they called.

The fabulous and super smart Anne Ruthmann told me about RingCentral, and it was exactly the solution I was looking for. Their services provide a toll free number, roll calls to my phone, and enable me to check my voicemail from the internet as well as the option of dialing in. In addition, there are extensions that I can assign to my associates so that when people call, they can press a number for exactly who they want to speak to. No matter where in the country any of us are, if a client dials one number, they can reach any of us. The number also acts as a fax number and will send your faxes to your email via PDF, so I was able to ditch my service with MyFax and save money by combining the two (MyFax is also a great solution, it just became more economical to use one service versus both). The best part? I can set office hours on my phone and if a client calls before we're open or after we're closed, their call will go to a voicemail option and not ring through to my phone. For a one time set up charge of $30 you can also create a vanity number, making your phone number easier to remember. For example, mine is 888.387.BLUE. You can also set it up to be non-toll free, if you wish to keep a local area code.

On the weekend of events, all key players get my direct line. I've also given my direct number to clients, but since it's not going out to all the world, it's no longer being abused. Now if I receive a call in the middle of the night, I know that it's legitimately important.

I really believe that setting boundaries is healthy, not only in life, but in business. Some people are afraid that they will lose business if they don't answer their phone 24 hours a day. All of us have different target markets, but to put some perspective on it, think of it this way: Super Walmart is open 24 hours, Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany's are not. Set a precedent of hours that work for you, and people will respect them. Event planning is my job, and while I love it and I love what I do, it is not my entire life. Although I work more hours now than I ever have at any other job, I've set boundaries in order to maintain some sense of balance. After all, I didn't start a business so that I could be a slave to it, but so that I could create more freedom in my life. Burn out is a slippery slope, so decide for yourself ahead of time what actions you are going to add or cut out of your routine in order to avoid it.

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