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Breast-feeding babies at the office

12 Mar

First things first. I apologize for a long blogging hiatus. This is my first post in about four months. The best thing about my blogging hiatus is that it has been for a great reason, and one that I know many working moms will be jealous of. I get to bring my baby to work. I get to have my cake and eat it, too. No, this is not a long term solution, and very soon he will have to stay at home with our nanny. But for now, he has been able to be with me 24/7, and I have been able to continue to come to work and run my business.

The realty of being the CEO of a 45 person company is that I really had no maternity leave. It’s not that “the company” didn’t give me one. It’s that a CEO can’t take that sort of time off.  I was answering emails from home  the Monday after my son was born,  with my baby lying next to me sleeping and nursing as he needed to. I was back in the office January 4th (my son was born December 12th). But how fantastic has it been for me to not have to give up on the bonding and closeness that comes from being with a new baby ALL THE TIME? Instead he just comes along my normal day with me.

breast-feeding baby at work

Baby #3 in a sling, under the Bebe au Lait nursing cover

Some people do think it is a little strange and inappropriate. I am at the office and attending meetings with the baby in the sling, and in  a great nursing cover from Bebe au Lait (seeing as this is my third child I have breast fed, I can’t believe I didn’t invent this simple yet vital tool for nursing moms), so that my baby can sleep and breast feed all day long. I have conducted interviews while breast feeding my baby. Yes, that’s true. The baby was hidden and behind the nursing cover — so that I was not being inappropriate, but I am sure some people may be offended. I think this is the reality of being a working mom. I think I am lucky to be able to make the choice and bring my baby into the office for the first three or four months of his life. I think it gives me the best of both worlds — being able to work, while also being able to bond with my new baby. I realize that this scenario is unique and can’t work for everyone. It works for me for some reasons that are really beyond most people’s control:

  1. My baby latches really well. He can nurse in the sling, behind the cover without needing any help from my hands. He can stay latched while I walk around.
  2. My baby has not been very fussy. He does not have a lot of gas, does not seem to get tummy aches, and is a really good eater.
  3. Because he is not very fussy, as long as he is with me in the sling he is generally happy and quiet. I have conducted conference calls with clients that were over an hour long and no one on the other end of the phone knew there was a baby in the room.
  4. My husband works with me and can take the baby when I have to go to the bathroom, and once or twice I have had to quickly hand off to him because the baby did get fussy during a call. When the baby makes noise and I am on the phone, I apologize to the caller for the noise, but I don’t apologize for having a baby in the office.
  5. He is my third. I am not as nervous about things. He then doesn’t sense I am stressed out. It’s a lot easier to multi-task and actually get stuff done when the baby hanging around my neck is a third child. I don’t think I could have done it with the first. I did do it with the second.

So there you have it. My approach to motherhood and career. Yes, maybe you can have it all. As long as you are okay with the exhaustion and the back ache that comes with doing a full day at the office, and taking care of a newborn baby who hangs from your neck and shoulders for most of the day. For me it’s worth the back ache. For me, it’s worth the judging I probably get from other people who find it inappropriate. I think it’s the ultimate show of how you can work and have a baby, and not give up bonding and breast feeding.  I’m sure there are plenty of people who will disagree.

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Technologist of the year!!!! WOW!

29 Dec

Natalie MacNeil paid me a huge compliment by including me in her Top Women of 2008 blog post! I am very honored and tickled pink! When you work hard and wander the world sleepless, it’s nice to get some positive reinforcement.

Invigorating Events

18 Aug

Last week, during the evening of Wednesday August 13, I spoke at an event in support of Entrepreneurship and Princeton University – 2 things that are near and dear to my heart. I did have to fly down to the Silicon Valley for the evening — without my boys — which is always hard on me.

I am currently slated to run the Princeton Entrepreneurship Network – the alumni organization that organizes events to help Princeton Entrepreneurs get started. Because of my involvement I was asked to speak to a group of about 75 people about my ideas and thoughts concerning entrepreneurship and the Princeton community. The event was organized by a young man who will be a sophomore at Princeton this coming school year. I have to say I was a bit skeptical that he would get good numbers of attendees — as he started the planning process about 4 weeks before he wanted to have the event. But he rocked it and got more than the expected 60 people to show up, as well as enticing some really interesting people to come and speak.

Mark Jung, the former COO of Fox Interactive and MySpace, now the CEO of VUDU was a panelist, as was Josh Steinitz, founder and CEO of NileGuide.com, and Peter Wendell the founder of Sierra Ventures and Chairman of PRINCO (Princeton university Investment Company) was a keynote speaker –just to name a few of the stellar participants. The conversation was very lively and fascinating. The 3-hour event flew by and before we knew it we had to wrap it up.

It was fun to be a part of this event, and definitely worth the short super speedy trip. I look forward to becoming more involved in Princeton Entrepreneurship and growing the alumni business plan competition.

-Sabrina Parsons

Tell the truth – you actually DO know it

23 Jul

After my experience with the women at BlogHer08 conference I thought a long time about business, and what makes getting into business and being serious about business, and owning your business so hard for anyone. Whether woman or man, young or old, I have talked to many, many, people who want to own their own business but are afraid, deeply afraid.

What are they afraid of? It turns out they are afraid of not knowing “stuff.” Many people who want to start their own business somehow think that they need to know more than they know.

Here is the funny thing about this. Talk to anyone passionate about a business idea. Start by asking them questions about their passion, how they got interested in it, what drives them to pursue it, and how they stack up against other people in their space. My experience is most people are eloquent, excited, and very knowledgeable when you ask them questions like this. BUT… start to ask them questions like:

  1. What is your business model?
  2. How will you price your product/service?
  3. Who are your competitors?
  4. Have you forecasted your sales?

You will see panic in most people’s eyes. They will look at you like a deer in the headlights. At best you will get the response “oh I know nothing about business. I just know about ______ (their passion).” What they don’t realize is that they actually know the answer to all those questions. They are just terrified of the business terms. Let’s rephrase the questions:

  1. How are you going to make money?
  2. Have you thought about what you will charge people?
  3. Who else is doing this?
  4. How much money do you think you can make?

The more I experience working with entrepreneurs, the more I see that the biggest weakness most people have is lack of confidence. And more interesting to me, I find that many women entrepreneurs (not all) want to tell you up front, very quickly, how uninformed, and technically challenged they are. They feel the need to apologize right off the bat, for not being “real” business people. Yet when you actually start to dig into their business or business idea you find that all these apologies are unnecessary and in fact misleading.

So where am I going with this rambling post? I guess to encourage all you entrepreneurs – and especially all you women entrepreneurs to be confident. You KNOW your stuff. You just need to think about it in a way that makes you comfortable and confident. Anything that you do not know can be learned – and learned easily. Just because you did not study business does not mean that you can’t run one, and be successful. Think about one of the most successful modern day entrepreneurs: Bill Gates. He is a college drop out. He didn’t study business. So take the bull by the horns, set your sights on success, and don’t apologize to anyone!

Sabrina Parsons

www.emailcenterpro.com

Taking Care Of Business: Resources to Forecast Your Business

18 Jul

I promised the attendees of the BLOGHER Taking Care of Business break-out session some additional resources to help them understand pricing, forecasting, and even, yes, simple business planning.

  1. I highly recommend that you take a look at this website: Plan As You Go. Tim Berry, the founder of Palo Alto Software has written a book that explains a new, easier, more manageable planning methodology for any business. The idea behind Plan As You Go is as simple as the title. You don’t have to get caught up in a huge long cumbersome document. The value in planning is exactly that — planning, not writing a document. Start small and just jot down a few things that will help you map out a direction for your business. Take a look at the website and let me know your thoughts, questions, comments, etc.
  2. Play around with the free business calculators at www.bplans.com. The starting cost calculator is great way to see what it takes to get a business started, and the cash flow calculator does a great job at helping you understand cash vs. profits. The email ROI calculator is an easy tool to help you see the potential return on investment in email marketing.
  3. A great article that outline 6 things you should think about when starting a business.
  4. Research, research, research. Start by looking at your competition. This may be other blogs, this may be freelance writers. Try to see what they charge to advertise on their websites, or what their hourly rate is. Look at places like Elance.com and Freelancewriters.com Type “blogger, freelance writer” into Google and take a look at the results.
  5. Do the math. If you are bringing in money today, figure out what that means. Do a simple spreadsheet that breaks down your costs, and the revenue that comes in, and then calculate the hours you spend “on the job.” Often times, when I take people through this exercise they realize that when it all breaks out they are making less than minimum wage per hour. IF that is the case for you, you need to either charge more, or set a real goal to reach a better revenue level SOON. It is OK to invest in your business, but know exactly what it is that you are investing. Your time is worth something, and most likely your time is worth WAY more than minimum wage.
  6. If you are interested in getting a super discount on Business Plan Pro (I can give you a CEO discount of 50%!) then email me. Business Plan Pro can help you put together some very simple spreadsheets that will help you forecast your sales. If you don’t want the full software, email me anyway. I can get you a simple spreadsheet to use at your own risk in Excel.
  7. If you have any questions specific to your business please drop me a line!

Some random thoughts…..

15 Apr

Lately life is going too fast. I mean to write on my blog every day and then all of a sudden it is the next day.  So in the interest of posting something here are some random thoughts from my life in the last few weeks:

1. The other night my almost 4 year old was having trouble going to bed. We could not get him to stay in bed and he was just antsy. I went int to talk to him about this being the last time I was going to come in. He said to me:

I know Mommy. I had this conversation with Daddy already.

If my not yet 4 year old son is already exasperated with me… I am not sure if I want to think of all the stuff that is yet to come!

2.  We have been really busy at work lately. There are a lot of cool exciting projects on the horizon which I am very excited for. Because of this though, I have had a few evening meetings and work commitments which I generally turn down in favor of spending time with my boys.  Really the only time the boys are not with us in the evenings are for the occasional business meeting, and recently for a few evening weddings. I came home from one of my meetings and my three year old said:

Hi Mommy! I have been saving some pizza that I made for you. But first I want to know how was your wedding?

He confused “meeting” with “wedding”. I was on the ground laughing.

3.  I was at a venture competition over the weekend in Portland.  My company sponsors many competitions and for this one we had sponsored a Best Written Plan Award. This meant I had read most of the business plans for the teams presenting and was excited to see the presentations. Sometimes a plan that was just not that good comes alive with a presentation, and sometimes it is just the opposite. During one o the presentations, at the Q and A portion one of the teams was asked about how they would handle customer service. One of the team members said that they had thought about this, and had decided that they would hire “house wives” to do their customer service.  I was appalled. Who uses that word these days? I mean seriously they couldn’t have used “stay-at-home workforce”, or “part-time work force”?

4. I have been helping several different  business plan competition events organize and launch initiatives lately. I am constantly shocked at how many people volunteer to be a part of something, want to take ownership, take full authority, but then just simply don’t do what they have committed to do. I just don’t get that. How can you be a successful business person and do that?

OK my random thoughts are at an end as I have to finish 5 more things before rushing home to my boys!

Mistakes Are Good! Failure is OK

1 Dec

We are trained our whole lives to do the right thing, and to avoid making “mistakes.” Our lives are more and more bombarded with a million tools to help us make all the right choices, and help us avoid making the wrong decision, or making any sort of a mistake. Growing up you were constantly judged by how “perfect” your scores were, and how few mistakes you made on a test, a paper, etc.

Alina Tugend writes a fascinating article in the New York times entitled: The Many Errors in Thinking About Mistakes. The article includes information about an experiment done by a Stanford professor with a classroom of fifth graders. It is amazing to see how quickly a 10 year old reacts to being praised for “trying hard” vs. “being smart.” The children praised for trying hard were more apt to try harder tasks — at the risk of making more mistakes.

When you apply these theories to business, it’s even more interesting. A good manager, according to this article is one that is not afraid to make mistakes — but then learns from them. A manager that doesn’t make mistakes is probably not taking risks, and most likely won’t have big wins. In the context of being entrepreneurial, and running your own business, this idea make a lot of sense. People who start successful businesses are risk takers. Taking risks means not everything is going to turn out exactly as you planned, and you will have to be able to deal with mistakes and learn quickly from them to keep your business running.

People often say that they want to start their own business, so that they “can be their own boss.” As someone who has started several businesses I can vouch that this is not EVER true. The business is your boss. Your spouse who invested the same money with you to start the business is your boss. Your children who need their schools and daycare paid are your boss. The vendor who needs to be paid is your boss. You best client is your boss. You unfortunately are not your own boss. BUT if you are willing to take the risk, willing to learn from your mistakes, it can be one heck of a ride, and a successful and lucrative one as well.

Nataly over at Work It Mom posted an article about her fears about running her own business. I think this fits exactly into the idea that people are afraid to make mistakes. It’s this fear that makes someone afraid to just do it and start their business. But at the same time this is a healthy fear that can keep making mistakes in perspective, and fuel a business to success. While I am sure that Nataly is not the only business owner that has fears about her business, she took the risk, made the leap, and started her business. I am sure that she has made mistakes along the way, and I am eve more sure that she has quickly learned and adjusted so as not to ever make those mistakes again. That is what it takes to run a business.

Think about it when your child wants to do something that may be too hard for him/her. think about how if encouraged correctly, and with the right support what you may be actually teaching your child is that they should try anything (within safe reason) and that you are OK if they make a few mistakes along the way. You never know – maybe you are raising the next Bill Gates!