My husband and business partner, Buddy, and I have owned and operated businesses together for over 16 years. We have established and sold two companies and are now working on our third venture. Over the years, we have spent a lot of time traveling, both for business and pleasure. When on vacation or business travel, the work back at the office doesn’t pause or slow; it continues to build. Having a structured remote work routine can be the key to your success, allowing you to stay on top of business even when you are out of the office.
Growing, and scaling, our businesses over the years has required a great deal of commitment and time and often required us to travel, sometimes at length. We embraced the philosophy, “the family that travels together, stays together,” and took our children with us whenever possible. We also turned many business trips into a vacation to make the most of our time somewhere. One summer, we drove cross-country on two different highways, taking crew members to dinner and conducting job interviews, while stopping to tour national parks and visiting family members along the way.
When your spouse is your partner, and you’re traveling together, (meaning you are both out of the office), you need even more self-discipline. Striking a balance can be challenging when working remotely. For us, it’s been a learning process, and sometimes I feel like I have to learn the same lessons over again. Here, I’ll cover some tactics we’ve learned over the years that might help you manage your existing workload, gain traction on new initiatives, spend quality time with your family and explore new places and adventures on your journeys.
A theme in our family and my life is: Work Hard, Play Hard. You’ll find this underlying message in all my writing, speeches and videos. I believe in embracing life to the full and living purposefully every day with that objective in mind. Yes, at times, this intense lifestyle can be exhausting. I have to live very intentionally to keep pace with our self-imposed chaos. This starts with a relentless morning routine. I also work to incorporate meditation, a healthy(ish) diet, adequate sleep and other beneficial daily habits. Let me disclose; I’m never 100 percent. I never fully crush it in every area, but I am always trying and that helps keep me centered amidst the mayhem.
Travel is part of that mayhem, but it’s worth the effort. Travel will enrich your life and create impactful experiences and memories to share with your family. It can also expand your business, and I’m not just referring to the big meetings and conferences you attend while on your trips. Exposure to new cultures, excellent customer service and interactions with new people can serve as an opportunity to broaden your experience and foster an environment for creative innovation within your own business.
Here are some Work & Travel Life Hacks to help you prepare for your next business trip, family vacation or hybrid of the two. You’ll be excited and organized with a smart plan that will allow you to stay on top of your work life as you embrace the next adventure with your littles!
1) Prep hard before leaving: Plan ahead to take as little work with you as possible. I work like crazy when preparing to be out of the office. I make a list of all of the tasks that I can complete before leaving, so I go into my trip feeling really good about all the momentum I’ve made.
2) Put everything in a planner: I know it’s 2020, but I still use a planner. I also use my Outlook/iCal, and my husband and I share calendars, so we don’t double book each other. When I’m preparing to be out of the office for a while, I find it a helpful exercise to write everything down and to see it all laid out in one place. I can review it daily to see what the week and specific days look like at a glance.
3) Set up autoreply for voicemail and email: I used to be wildly insecure about using autoreply, I thought my clients would lose respect for me if they knew I didn’t chain myself to my work desk. Now, I use my autoreply as a chance to gain respect and build trust with my clients and team members by keeping them informed.
Here’s an example of how I structure an autoreply:
I’m working remotely from Monday, Feb. 17 through Friday, Feb. 21. I’ll be responding to emails and messages twice daily, so there may be a slight delay in my response time. If you need immediate assistance, please reach out to XXX at (XXX)XXX-XXXX. Otherwise, I’ll be in touch shortly. As always, thank you for your trust and confidence in our team.
Long Live the Adventure, Nikki
4) Streamline your meeting schedule: Once you’ve organized your schedule, identify what you can delegate to minimize the number of conference calls you need to attend. Delegation is essential to scaling a business. You must have a capable team that you trust. That's why you hired them, right? If you aren’t a natural delegator, start working on this skill now. It will empower your team and elevate your capacity to focus on areas of your highest and best use. (Now that I’m thinking about it, I think I’ll write a blog about this soon.) Also, assign someone to take notes in meetings and to email you a recap for your review during your scheduled work period (see below).
6) Tag-team: Cover for each other: You both don’t have to be everywhere at once. Decide who needs to attend what meetings, and let that person recap the other when possible.
7) Schedule working periods: Schedule working periods twice a day to check and respond to emails, review recaps and take action on any outstanding projects. Ensure that these time slots are short and as efficient as possible. Mitigate distractions so you can dive in, be productive and then get back out to your family, who will be anxiously awaiting your return. Note: Don’t take calls on the botanical garden hike to the waterfall with your kids. Be present. They deserve it.
8) Wake up early: We are relentless about our morning routines, even when on vacation. We still wake up early and tackle our individual routines, first thing. Early morning is a great time to knock out your first working period of the day. The kiddos are still sleeping, and you both can be extremely productive without distractions. You can get through all of your morning emails before the team is in the office, and can still hit the slopes for some morning turns.
9) Maximize flight/naptime: I try to maximize flight time, to get the extra edge before starting a vacation or returning to the office. I use this time to work on big initiatives that I might have put off. Our kids don’t have access to tablets, unless we’re traveling a long distance, so during this time, they’re pretty captivated. I’m working on writing, preparing a presentation for an upcoming speaking opportunity, building a budget, or reviewing contracts, while they’re watching the newest movie we downloaded before the flight. It’s amazing how productive you’ll find yourself on a plane! If your kiddos are still young enough to nap, this is another perfect time for scheduling your working periods. They won’t even notice that you’re growing your empire while they’re sleeping peacefully.
10) Play hard: Lastly, remember what’s important. Work hard during your scheduled work periods. Stay on top of your emails, so you don’t fall behind and bottleneck your team. Empower and build trust in your leaders — your company will be better for it. Be in the moment with your partner and children. Focus on each other and cherish the time together. Abstain from checking your phone while you’re with your family, and don’t feel guilty. Life is short and they’ll be out pursuing their own adventures before we know it. Prioritize your family; don’t fit them in around your business. When you schedule your priorities — instead of prioritizing your schedule — you are in control of what you deem is most important. What’s most important to you — the journey or pursuit of what’s at the end of it?
I'm not going to lie, "I've gotta get out of this town," is something I've heard, and said, over the years. I live in the smallish town of Tehachapi, California. Tehachapi is a quaint mountain town in Central California, composed of about 30,000 residents, in the heart of the last conservative county in the state, Kern County. Kern County is frequently referred to as the Texas of California, so it's no surprise that in recent years, I have fallen head-over-heels in love with Texas. I've visited several Texas cities and landmarks for both work and pleasure, and each time I go, I find myself even more smitten.
Texas has a long larger-than-life history of cattle ranches, farming, oil barons, industry, US presidents, independence and pride. The state is known for Texan hospitality, out of this world barbecue and so much more. While Texas boasts a long line of impressive women in history, recently, some charming Texan businesswomen are staking their claim and taking social media, HGTV, their communities and the world by storm with their vision, style, spunk and entrepreneurialism. Joanna Gaines of the television show, Fixer Upper, from Waco and Aimee and Jolie the Junk Gypsy Sisters in Round Top, along with their families and teams are putting Texas in a new spotlight.
The phrase "everything's bigger in Texas" isn't lost on these spitfires. Their inability the think small has developed an international following. They are outspoken women of faith who have warmed our hearts and inspired us to express our personal styles in our homes, through entertaining and cooking and encouraged our desire to pursue our own dreams and the belief that anything is possible with a dream, taking some risk and putting in hard work.
During a recent trip to Texas, my husband and I were again blown away by what Joanna Gaines, her husband Chip and their Magnolia Team have done to completely transform their community of Waco, Texas. This is not an understatement, Joanna and her business partner and husband, Chip have leveraged the celebrity of their show and have invested in multiple commercial real estate business in Waco. At the center of The Magnolia Market at the Silos, is their gorgeous home decor store, Magnolia. On the property is also a garden store, The Silos Baking Co. and a bustling outdoor pavilion and courtyard that is home to numerous small business proprietors of food and beverage trucks. They opened a cafe in 2019, the Magnolia Press on the Silo campus as well. In addition to the Silo property, they have the Little Shop on Bosque that serves as a last chance retail shop at discount prices. In 2018, they opened Magnolia Table and have plans to open a store featuring their own furniture line in 2020.
Prior to 2015, an average of 25,000 average visitors came to Waco each month (those numbers are after two seasons of Fixer Upper had already aired). In 2018, Waco hosted over 2.7 million visitors. That's 225,000 people a month y'all! TripAdvisor ranked Waco No. 2 on its list of top destinations on the rise for 2018. Way to go JoJo!
After visiting Waco, we ventured southeast to the Texas Hill Country to visit my favorite "Big Time Small" town, Round Top, Texas, population 90. Round Top is the home of the Round Top Antiques Show, and the Junk Gypsies, two sisters who made junking a full time and prosperous endeavor. Their boho-meets-vintage-meets-yard-sale style has become all the rage. Their famous Airstream trailer renovations have garnered them national exposure and a reality TV show. They now have a gorgeous store, The Junk Gypsy, bed & breakfast, The Wander Inn and an incredible online retail endeavor.
Round Top has been home to the Round Top Antiques Show since 1968. It was founded by a visionary Texan lady, Emma Lee Turney. What was once a small week-long antique show with a handful of curated vendors, has now become a 2-week long antique festival, that takes place twice a year, and spans miles of Highway 237 from Carmine to La Grange, with Round Top at the heart of it all. It now attracts over 100,000 visitors each spring and fall.
While the Junk Gypsy Sisters moved from College Station in 2009 to raise their children in a small town, they didn't let their small town "fence them in." They'd been participating in the Round Top Antiques Show for years. One highlight of the event is the Junk-O-Rama Prom hosted by the gypsy sisters themselves. What started in 2004 as an ode to old prom dresses past, has turned into a star-studded evening with live music, dancing and outhouse-turned-photo booth, where fun is had by all!
Both sisters Amie and Jolie, have successful college backgrounds and were heading into promising careers in their fields of law and medicine, but the call to follow in their mama's footsteps and pursue the creativity of junking and design was too great. They quit their jobs in 1998 with $2,000 and a prayer to pursue their passion. That passion has landed them design gigs for the likes of Miranda Lambert and Green Day frontman, Billie Joe Armstrong. Their trash to treasure style, and Texan charm, also landed an HGTV show, Junk Gypsies, endearing them in the hearts of many of us, and putting Round Top in the spotlight for a new audience, including this small-town California girl. I'm currently planning my fourth trip back! Their style is so adored, they even have a custom line with Pottery Barn Teen!
The vision these women, their partners, families and teams share has spanned beyond their businesses and bank accounts. When driving through Waco or Round Top, there is no denying the impact these ladies have had on their communities. As a businesswoman, entrepreneur and developer, I reflected multiple times throughout the trip, and now back home, on the risks they took, the purposeful way in which they are living out their callings and the support of their families and communities in which they are thriving. After graduating from high school, I couldn't get out of my town fast enough. I needed to spread my wings and see what the world had in store for me. After my husband, Buddy (also from Tehachapi) and I started our family and business, the calling to relocate back to the roots of our hometown grew stronger and stronger.
We've been back home nearly nine years now and it's been a blessing. Don't get me wrong, there are some negatives to small-town living. I love the saying, "The nice thing about living in a small town is, if I don't know what I'm doing, someone else surely does." I know that people have always had their own opinions, but social media seems to have empowered people to more freely express their unsolicited negativity about our community's progress and our personal investments in it. I know that our town isn't unique to these rants. It happens everywhere. I read something recently that explored the concept that when you post online, versus speaking directly to someone you free yourself of receiving the expression on the person's face to whom you are speaking. You dodge the responsibility of witnessing the impact of what your cruelty has done to the other person. It really struck me. Daily, I've been reading more and more posts, primarily from women, encouraging one another to shake off such judgement and to "straighten each other's crowns." I love seeing this outpouring of encouragement, especially from our community of female small business owners. It's inspiring to see these ladies taking a stand, exerting their power, exercising their voices and loving on each other! You go girls!
Yes, the occasional, uninvited small town critic can be annoying, and downright hurtful, but my trip prompted me to consider all of the opposition and negative feedback these pioneers have surely received throughout their journeys. They didn't let it stop them. They didn't shrink or move to somewhere more metropolitan and ready for such visionaries. No, they stayed right where they were planted and blazed ahead in pursuit of the callings of their hearts. Not only did they and their careers blossom, but they undeniably enhanced the communities in which they live and invest.
I came home radically inspired. Inspired to pursue the desires of my heart and my family's, which involves continuing to invest in the community where we're planted, where we are raising our children, where we were raised. Where my family has resided for four generations and my husband's for six. We aren't going to make ourselves small, because some vocal minority on Facebook wants to criticize our design choices or investment strategies. And, neither should anyone else. We're going to stay right here and grow where we've chosen to be planted. As we journey into this new decade, my prayer for my family, friends and community members is that we'll all be inspired to meditate on our callings, to intentionally pursue that purpose, for relentless focus and to make 2020 the very best year of our lives. Heeding the calling of your heart can have a profound impact on your life, your family, your community and even the world! Let's go!
Side note: There are a couple of Texas ladies who aren't included in this blog, but I'd be wildly remiss to write a blog about today's strong Texas women and not to give them honorable mention:
San Antonio native and University of Houston powerhouse, Brené Brown is a professor, speaker and author who has written four New York Times Best Sellers. Brené specializes in studying, and coaching on, courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. She works with C-Level leaders, high ranking military personnel and business organizations all over the world. Her philosophy encourages leaders to view and embrace vulnerability and transparency as strength and courage in leadership. My only wish is that I'd discovered Brené's books earlier on in my career. Her "no-nonsense" style gets right to the heart of addressing the responsibility of leadership when it comes to creating a successful or failing culture. Her philosophy and "grab the bull by the horns" tactics speak right into my heart. I encourage you to check her books out.
While Rachel Hollis, is a native Californian, she's originally from Kern County, so as previously mentioned, she's pretty much a Texan already! She and her husband chose to move to Texas as a strategic decision to headquarter their business and an emotional decision to choose the best place for them to raise their family. Our girl Rach lights the hearts of literally millions of women around the world on fire from her home in Texas. She has taken the personal development world by storm and is revered for her positive message that we are: Made for More! Her Texas roots continue to grow deeper as her company, The Hollis Co. announced plans at the end of 2019 to acquire land and build a large campus for their team in Austin. Rachel's daily social media videos, posts, podcasts, books, journals and emails are a part of my everyday motivation and have literally changed my life!
Believe it or not, both Brené and Rachel have their own documentaries. Brené's, The Call to Courage can be seen on Netflix and Rachel Hollis Presents: Made for More can be viewed for free with Amazon Prime Video.
We're a family who loves living life to the full. We try to live each day with intention in an effort to find gratitude, seek wonder, show love and a experience a ton of laughter.