Willow Oak’s Values

Company values are a key enabler to behaviour in a company. We think of our company values as the car that is taking us to our destination  – but also regularly remind ourselves that we are in full control of ensuring we are moving forward with our car, not leaving it (or our ‘values’) behind as we grow our business. 

Photo: Ian Schneider

We sat down and spent a few hours getting to our company values. We spent time trying to understand how exactly we wanted to live out every day at Willow Oak, and what we should come back to when we’re feeling lost or unsure. 

At their best, our values allow us to lean into one another for our strengths, build up our clients and our community, engage in meaningful dialogue that leads to the best results, and allows us to continue to build a ‘journey’ of entrepreneurship, recognizing that we never want to feel ‘done’.

Our Company Values 

So where did we land after hours of dialogue? Our three values are simple, to the point, and are truly the essence of what we are trying to achieve at Willow Oak. 

Community:

This one is arguably our favourite. It’s really the spirit of Willow Oak as a whole in that we believe deeply in community over competition. We all bring our own strengths that we want to play to, and we recognize that others have strengths that we simply don’t!

Especially in business and entrepreneurship, it can be easy to look at others in your landscape and feel intimidated by their skill, network, and success. But we believe in a mindset that enables us to be successful in our own journey, while also being able to admire the journey of others. ⁠

It makes this whole path of being an entrepreneur, and even being a human, a lot more enjoyable and inspiring. It also means we are unashamed to ask for help when we need it – in fact, we encourage it!

Mindset:

We use a growth mindset and are comfortable with a beginner mindset – there is always more to learn, more to do, and more areas to grow. We accept new ideas with open arms, and enjoy the journey of learning and being open. 

In any role, at any level, we believe this frame of mind is a critical mindset to have. We should never stop learning, and we believe this applies to our personal journeys & our professional ones. 


Respect:

We all play an important role and bring different perspectives, viewpoints, and ideas to the table. While we may not always agree, we know that dialogue and conflict are critical to growth & are a necessary path to get to the best possible solution. Our discussions are rooted in respect for eachother and the diverse views we all bring.

Photo: Franciele de Silva

We love our values because they feed eachother so seamlessly. By leaning into our community, we immediately open ourselves to more viewpoints and ideas, and are able to engage in fruitful and meaningful conversations that drive us forward. 

Have you ever done a values exercise? Brene Brown has a wonderful one that allows you to choose your own personal values, or if you have a company, you can do a similar exercise for your company! Share below!

Bringing Together HR & Finance

At Willow Oak, we realize there are many opportunities for Finance & HR to come together in businesses of all sizes. Effective partnership between these two functions can truly propel businesses forward through effective and strategic goal setting processes, more balanced support in company growth, and through alleviating administrative burdens from business owners and managers. 

Photo : Bianca Akermann

Today, we wanted to break down what that looks like on all fronts and how having the two functions operate together can yield better business results. Click through the following sections to see how they work together in some critical business scenarios.

Goal Setting

Goal setting is a critical component to any business – it keeps you focused on where you’re going and gives you something to work towards. It allows you to dream big, while setting you out on a path to achieve those dreams. But Goal Setting, and follow through, is a skill in and of itself – and doing it right will keep you on track and take you to the mountain top. 

Finance Goal Setting

Naturally, there is much overlap between the role HR and finance plays in goal setting. At Willow Oak, the finance aspect of goal setting includes: 

  • Creating projections on multiple scenarios (realistic, risky, and huge goals) 
  • Understanding the number of products & services you might need to achieve your financial goals 
  • Understanding your cash flow before making major investment decisions (equipment, hiring employees, etc.)

Financial goals can vary from revenue, cash flow, salary/dividend, profit and gross margin. It’s everything from what the company makes, what you can bring home or what the company can have left over to grow. 

HR Goal Setting

From an HR perspective, the most critical role is ensuring your goals are both aspirational and clear enough to help you in driving towards them. One of our favourite quotes that illustrates the importance of this is: 

Hard goals drive specific performance more effective than easy goals. Specific hard goals produce a higher level of output than vaguely worded goals.

John Doerr, Measure What Matters

In addition, and also critical to an effective goal setting process, HR can help with 

  • Setting goals beyond the numbers (stronger social media presence? Employee Engagement? Recruiting goals?)
  • Ensuring goals are cascaded throughout your organization effectively 
  • Ongoing goal management and priority shifting
Strategic Partnership

In many organizations, Finance and HR don’t collaborate as much as they could. As a result, both teams are missing opportunities to be proactive and forward thinking, often playing within the role of ‘admin’. By having a strong HR & Finance partnership, HR understands financial implications, and finance has a better idea of the bigger vision. Together, they can help companies safely achieve big and exciting goals. 

Hiring Employees

Another area that yields better results when HR & Finance work together is in the process of building out a team. Whether you’re looking to bring on your first or 100th employee, HR and Finance can play critical roles in ensuring your business and your new hire are set up for success. 
From an HR perspective, we can help with 

  • Creating compelling job ads 
  • Ensuring all required paperwork is in order 
  • Providing and executing strong onboarding programs to ensure new hires can hit the ground running

From a Finance perspective, we can help with 

  • Cost and cash flow considerations, 
  • Required government account coordination
  • Government remittance planning
  • Payroll and/or payroll system set up 
  • Ensuring compliance with government regulations
Administrative Support

Beyond the benefit of providing more strategic support and guidance, frankly speaking, both of these functions come with their fair share of administrative tasks that business owners often feel bogged down by. Having a team to own these processes so that the business doesn’t have to worry about it can be a gamechanger in business owners getting to the next level. Above that, when the HR & Finance teams actually work together, patterns and processes can be streamlined for maximum efficiency.

We believe there is so much opportunity for HR & Finance to come together to yield incredible business results. We also recognize that as a rule, people don’t start a business to take care of the HR & Finance Perspectives. We are so excited to announce our upcoming offerings – if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Practicing Mindfulness

Between coming out of an 18 month pandemic, a newscycle that seems to remain heavy and constant, finding the right work/life balance, and just wanting to be able to truly enjoy this summer with loved ones, there is no shortage of things to think or worry about each day.

At Willow Oak, we talk a lot about practicing mindfulness, and find that we truly feel the difference in our lives when we take the time to do so. So we wanted to talk about it today – what is it? Why should we do it? And how do we start?

Photo: Lesly Juarez

What is Mindfulness?

“Mindfulness is the idea of learning how to be fully present and engaged in the moment, aware of your thoughts and feelings without distraction or judgment”

Headspace

I like to split Mindfulness into two parts: awareness & acceptance. I’ll break these down for you using examples in the following sections.

Part 1: Awareness

Awareness means you’re able to pay attention to the world around you as it is, and removes you from worrying about the past or the future. 

Have you ever been working on a project that you’ve been worried about being to successfully execute? No matter how hard you try, your brain is playing out all of these potential outcomes of a disappointed or frustrated client or colleague or friend. 

Have you ever fallen short on a project or made a mistake, and spent days, months, or even years, harbouring the guilt that went along with it?

For most people, we are hardwired to focus on basically every moment EXCEPT the one that we’re in – we try to solve problems in the future that haven’t even occurred, or mull over events of the past. Neither of these thought patterns are productive, and they rob you of the current moment that you’re living in. 

Mindfulness brings us to the present moment, as it exists. It allows to focus on the problem right in front of us – not the frustrated client at the end. Or it simply allows us to truly enjoy that warm cup of coffee in our hand.

Photo: Alexsandr Ledogorov

Part 2: Acceptance

But there’s a second part to this. And that’s Acceptance & Non Judgement. 

Let’s pretend you’re driving to work – you left a little early, had time to stop for a latte,and you have your favourite song on. Suddenly, a car cuts you off. 

Reaction? Throw out a few cuss words, maybe give them a big ol’ thumbs down (LOL). This passes the first test of mindfulness – you’re certainly in the present moment! But now not only has this person cut you off, they’ve robbed you of your enjoyment of your latte and favourite song! 

This brings me to one of my favourite quotes: 

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.”

-Viktor Frankl 

Put another way, we don’t have control over our first thought – but we do have control over our second! Do we really want to let this person ruin the good morning we were having? 


This is the practice of letting things happen with acceptance and without judgement. Bring yourself back to that good tune and enjoy that damn latte you treated yourself to! 

But why should I practice mindfulness? 

Besides the fact that without it you’re probably missing out on a whole bunch of fun things as they happen right in front of you, there are real health benefits to practicing mindfulness! 

According to studies from Harvard, there are 3 main benefits of mindfulness

1) Improves Well-Being 

+ More room to truly enjoy your day-to-day, from the big to the small 

+ By not clouding your mind with stress during adverse events, you have a greater capacity to manage them 

+ Increasing your presence with loved ones, forming deeper connections

2) Improves Physical Health

+ It helps a number of ailments such as heart disease and blood pressure, can reduce chronic pain and improve sleep, among many other benefits. 

3) Improves Mental Health

+ Mindfulness can help improve mental health on its own through reducing stress. Beyond that, it is often practiced alongside actual treatment programs for mental health issues

Photo: Georgia de Lotz

But how do I practice mindfulness? 

It’s not as complicated as it sounds! Here are a couple of my favourite ways to introduct mindfulness to your day: 

Pay Attention to the Small Things 

You’re getting out of your car to walk to the office. Feel the ground underneath your feet. The cool air fill your nose. See if you can feel a breeze or hear your shoes hitting the ground. 

You’re about to sip your first cup of coffee. How does the warm mug feel in your hand? How are you feeling? Excited? Feel the warm coffee go down your throat. Pay attention to the details of all of it. 

By simply tuning into where you are at any moment, you are practicing mindfulness. 

5,4,3,2,1 Exercise 

This is an exercise I like to talk through with my toddler! It’s a grounding exercise and goes as follows: 

  • Acknowledge 5 Things you Can See
  • Acknowledge 4 Things you Can Feel
  • Acknowledge 3 Things you can Hear
  • Acknowledge 2 Things you can smell 
  • Acknowledge 1 Thing you are grateful for 

I find as soon as I do this practice, I am taken away from whatever i was worried about, actually giving myself the opportunity to enjoy the moment that I am in. Here’s some more information on this exercise here.

Mindfulness Meditations

There are a ton on YouTube! This one is my favourite as a quick re-set and it’s only 5 minutes – easy to squeeze in every day 🙂 

What about you?

Do you already practice mindfulness? Do you have a favourite mindfulness practice? Share below!

Things to Know Before Hiring Your First Employee

So you’ve identified that you think you may have a bit too much on your plate and you are ready to bring on some help – congratulations! This is such an exciting time for business owners, but it may also leave you with some questions. Where do I start? What do I need? How can I make sure my employee is set up for success?

We wanted to provide this overview of things to consider and do before you bring on your first employee. 

Photo: Marvin Meyer

Before you Hire: 

Consider Costs

While you may be ready to bring someone on, it’s important to remember that there are costs associated with having employees. 

For example, as employers, you’re responsible for paying into CPP and EI as part of payroll costs. In addition, you will need to register for Worksafe BC, which will require premium payments. Finally, there is a legal requirement to pay or accrue vacation pay for your employees (starting at 4% of gross wages). 

Outside of employment standard requirements, there may be some operational costs as well. If you’re hiring an employee to take care of some of your systems or processes, you may need to add seats or subscriptions to your current plan. This can also incur an additional monthly cost. 

Paperwork

Employment Agreements 

This is something that is so often overlooked, but that can offer serious protection down the line – particularly around capping what you may owe an employee for severance in the event you need to let them go. 

Policies & Handbooks

Even if you only have one employee, there are some policies that you should definitely consider having on hand. If you’re not ready for an overall handbook, consider policies or non-negotiables that you’d like to have documented. There are also some required policies that you should have. For example, even with only one employee, you need to be able to prove that you have taken reasonable steps to mitigate Bullying & Harassment, and have a documented process for how people can report it. 

Photo: Nick Morrison 

Set Them Up for Success

Process Documentation

This isn’t a requirement, but it sure is nice to have! At Willow Oak, we have created User Guides for all of our systems (right down to how to set up your email signatures!). This enables employees to self-help themselves as they begin learning the ropes, and allows them to click through new things on their own time to really understand how your company operates. 

Welcome Email

Being organized and ready to welcome your employee can go a long way. First off, they’ll truly feel like you’re excited to have them, starting off the employment relationship very positively and demonstrating your commitment to them (which in turn strengthens their commitment to you!)

Send them an email to their personal email confirming their start time, how they can expect to log on, parking instructions, etc. The less questions they need to worry about, the better prepared they’ll be to hit the ground running on day 1. 

Photo: Adam Cai

System Set Up

Spend time thinking through what access your new employee may need access to. If they’re going to an office, do they need a key cut? Will they need their own email account? Are there systems they’ll need access to? 

And then get it set up for Day 1! Have the invites to all systems and meetings sitting in their inbox for them on Day 1. This will give them a chance to go in and click around. 

Bringing employees on board is an incredibly exciting time – and it’s important to get it right! In the long run, it can protect you legally, help you manage your budget, and also helps you ensure that your employees are able to contribute in a way that is meaningful to you and your business. 

At Willow Oak, we offer support in getting you set up in any and all of these areas – so if you need any guidance do not hesitate to reach out! 

Tips to Stay on Top of your Bookkeeping

Photo: nikos.nook

Top Tips to Stay on Top of your Bookkeeping

Are you overwhelmed by your bookkeeping? Feel behind or don’t know where to start? 

Bookkeeping can be a daunting task if you aren’t 100% clear on what to do, how to do it, or let’s be real, if you just don’t want to do it. 

We have highlighted our top tips that we believe are what you need to stay on top of your Bookkeeping. 

Set Yourself Up For Success

Before we get started, I need to sneak in my two top tips for setting yourself up to make bookkeeping much easier for yourself. 

First and foremost, invest in an online accounting tool! These tools make bookkeeping easier by automating recurring entries, providing out of the box reports and connecting directly to banking. This means all steps I’m about to list below will be even less daunting! 

Second, separate business from personal bank accounts and credit cards. This will make bookkeeping much easier and reduces the possibility of missing any activity..

Once you’re set up, start to implement the following activities on the recommended cadence that I outline below:

On a Weekly or Biweekly Basis

Update your books (enter sales and expenses) on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. The more you update, the less daunting the task will be. 

On a Monthly Basis

  1. Reconcile your bank and credit card accounts AT LEAST once a month. The more you reconcile, the easier it is and the less time it will take! 
    1. Reconciling helps prevent you from missing anything and when business decisions arise or new ideas come up, having up to date records can ensure you’re making decisions on accurate information!
  2. Review your numbers on a monthly basis at a super high level – sales, expenses, payables. Without spending too much time each month, do a feel test and ask yourself these questions: 
    1. When you look at your sales, does that align with how much you felt you worked? Were you overworked for how much money came in?
    2. When you look at your expenses, does your stomach drop? Are you surprised how much money went out the door?
    3. When you look at your payables, are you nervous you don’t have the cash to pay those bills?
  3. Estimate monthly how much money to put aside for income tax and sales tax – and then put it aside! When tax times come and you owe money, you won’t blink since you have the money you need tucked away! Bonus, if you have good enough cash flow to overestimate, you’ll have a nice little surprise left over!

Now, does that feel so bad? We understand this may never be your most favourite task but we can assure you that, the more you stay on top of it, the easier it all becomes! It becomes more a part of your weekly routine and regular maintenance means less transactions in one sitting!

Photo: stilclassics

If you have any questions about staying on top of your bookkeeping or finding ways to overcome your bottlenecks, reach out to us! We not only specialize in bookkeeping it self, we help create efficient processes that work for you!

Accounting vs. Bookkeeping

Photo: unknown from Pinterest

Accountant vs. Bookkeeper 

Do you know the difference between an Accountant and a Bookkeeper? While they might seem similar, the work that they do can be quite different. At Willow Oak, we offer both services and find that while many start with a need for a bookkeeper, they eventually come to realize that they need the support of an Accountant as they grow. 

So what’s the difference? 

Bookkeeper

  • Records & classifies company business transactions
  • Ensures accuracy
  • Inputs data provided to them
  • Maintains data in an organized & accurate manner
  • Codes expenses accurately

Accountant 

An accountant does all of the work of a bookkeeper, but also 

  • Analyzes the financial information
  • Provides business recommendations 
  • Provides and prepares reports
  • Helps you understand your financials so you can make real, data-driven business decisions that will help your business thrive

Depending on your business needs and stage, you may benefit from having one or both support roles on your team! 

When do you need a bookkeeper?

Are you finding yourself behind in updating your books? Do you question whether or not you’re entering your expenses in the right categories? 

Are you stressed during tax season, scrambling last minute to compile your paperwork? 

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, it might be time to outsource your bookkeeping! 

When do you need an accountant? 

Are you ready to understand what your financials mean? Is your business growing and you need to know how to get to that next level? 

Are you ready to meet your financial goals and want to understand how your business will meet those? 

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you might be ready to get accountant support! 

What business stage is it the most common to get this type of support?

This differs by business!

Are you just starting out and need to understand if your business in profitable or how to be profitable? Are you settled in as a business and ready to get to the next step?

To understand profitability, projections for new services/products or understand how adding a new expenses (team member maybe?) could effect your bottom line, an accountant would be able to provide great recommendations.

Are you just starting out and want to ensure you have time to focus on your service / product but aren’t too worried about growth right now? A bookkeeping might be the perfect fit!

Can someone provide both bookkeeping and accounting services? Absolutely!

Just make sure to ask about what services are included when you are interviewing with a service provider. You want to make sure they check all the boxes that your current business needs!

If you know you’re needing support but not sure exactly what you need, reach out to us to chat! We can give our best recommendation on what you’d benefit from most.

Start Fresh

While I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions per se, I do love the feeling of endless opportunity once January 1st hits. I don’t know about you, but I usually start the year promising myself to take care of all of the things that I kept pushing to the side over the course of the year.

And, even though we’re creeping towards the beginning of March, it doesn’t mean we should lose the excitement and drive to check these things off and start the process of pushing it to the side til next year 🙂

I wanted to give an overview of the common themes we hear from clients that are seeking that “on-top-of-it” feeling and looking to get some strong business infrastructure in place.

Set Goals

Setting goals is a critical component of any business, regardless of size. At Willow Oak, we use the OKR model – but there are a lot of ways to set them up. They help you stay on track, and allow you to review areas of your business that are hindering your ability to get to the next level. In addition, setting clear goals that you can communicate to your team

Get your Documentation in Order

If you’re hiring employees and don’t have the right documentation in place, you can be exposing yourself to serious legal risk. While we’re not lawyers, we can help provide you with basic templates that can help mitigate that risk and allow you to rest assured you are communicating expectations to your employees clearly.

Photo: @stilclassics

Balancing the Books

We are over three months in, are your books up to date? Make a goal of balancing your books every month by the 5th business day of the following month. This means if you haven’t done February yet, now is the time!

Audit your Expenses

Now is a great time to audit those expenses. Willow Oak has this on the top of our list for Quarter One to ensure we will have success meeting our financials goals this year.

You can find all your expenses within a time frame by looking at your profit and loss report in your accounting system. Review each category to understand what is making up those totals. Eliminate or reduce any expenses that may not be serving your business any more.

Pro tip: check those dues and subscriptions. This is a hot category that tends to carry outdated subscriptions.

Create a Company Mantra

At Willow Oak, we spent last summer coming up with our Mission, Vision, and Values. Creating these are an incredible way to communicate the journey you are on to your employees, and even to yourself on days when you’re not feeling inspired. They focus you on a destination and give you tools to help you get there, and truly give your company a voice and let its personality shine.

Just remember – it’s never too late to start fresh! If you need help in any or all of these areas, don’t hesitate to reach out! 

Photo: @stilclassics

Systems Systems Systems!

Systems can play a critical role in how we do our business – and there are so many amazing ones out there that help us ensure we’re staying on top of things effectively. While I still thrive with a classic pen-and-paper To-Do list, I definitely have found some systems that have become integral to my business over the years. Finding systems that work for you, as an entrepreneur and business owner, especially in this remote World is SO important!

Now, before I go into what systems help keep Willow Oak moving, as your friendly accountant, I would be remiss to not gently remind you that watching your monthly subscription costs are key to ensuring you’re not oversubscribing. There are a lot of cool systems out there and they can be so intriguing to buy with their reasonable pricing and bells and whistles. Make sure you’re reviewing your monthly subscriptions regularly to ensure all of your systems are still providing you with enough value to justify the cost. 


Now – on to the 4 key Systems of Willow Oak:

Email, Team Collaboration, & File Storage: Gmail 

How many of you use Gmail?

Photo : Krsto Jevtic

Okay.. Now how many of you use Gmail to its full potential?  ⁠

Seriously, Gmail and Gsuite are amazing tools for collaboration, organization, and communication. With one subscription, you have your email interface, your calendar, your professional tools, and your document storage. ⁠

I used Dropbox for the longest time, but then realized I could save on my monthly subscription by using the built in feature Gmail has while getting the same benefits. It took some getting used to initially, but now that we’re up and running it is so nice to have all my professional tools all in one place. 

My favourite feature of Gmail is the ability to collaborate with your team on spreadsheets, word docs, and presentations. No more issues with version control – everyone has access to the same document at the same time. ⁠

Task Management: Asana

Photo : Forbes

Next I want to talk about Asana, the tool we use to manage our team tasks. 

Asana is an incredible internal tool that is designed to support team communication, goal achievement, and task management. It allows me to know what the exact progress is in all the things we have going on, and gives us a single source of truth as we work through packed calendars and client turnaround times.

It also allows me to manage any internal tasks (like social media posts and client newsletters!) by allowing me to categorize the tasks, assign due dates, and assign owners. Me and my team can just log in, see our list of tasks in order of due date, and get shit done 

Now that’s what I call a powerful tool.

Client Relationship Management: Dubsado 

Photo: Dubsado

We signed up for Dubsado in early 2020 and it has provided so much value to our business. We use Dubsado primarily as our CRM system. I needed a tool to manage all of my clients so I knew exactly where to go to access my clients information, as well as manage my client onboarding and house all of our contracts and important client documents. 

Dubsado checked all these boxes! 

With financials, there’s a lot to remember about each client; business numbers, filing requirements, names, multiple emails and the list goes on. Dubsado is a user-friendly system that stores all this information, and allows me to build new fields as I need them. 

We also needed help to streamline our onboarding process. Dubsado stores our branded contracts and canned emails for simple, streamlined workflows. My favourite is I can edit each one before sending in order to personalize as I see fit! I love automation but at Willow Oak, that personal relationship is very important to us!

PS: if you use our code “willowoak-dub” when purchasing Dubsado, you can get 20% off your first month or year!

Accounting/Invoicing: Quickbooks

As an accountant, I have to mention the system we use most, Quickbooks Online. I use Quickbooks as my online accounting software as well as working with it with 90% of my clients.

Photo : apps4rent

Quickbooks online is a very intuitive online accounting system. A few of the benefits that I love

  • Great financials reports and ability to dig deeper and navigate within these
  • Clean and organize interface; easy to navigate
  • Connects with your bank and credit cards to allow for each transactions and reconciliations

There are a lot of great accounting systems out there but if you haven’t chosen one yet, I recommend putting Quickbooks into your picks!

I hope you can use the blog post to guide you in your decision making if you’re trying to figure out where to invest in your business. It can be scary to make these decisions blind – so I wanted to give you all a little peek into the systems that have been helping us move forward so quickly at Willow Oak. 

About Courtney

Cover Photo: Shelby Rose Photography

Hi! I’m Courtney Hughes!

I was born and raised in Ladner BC and still live here with my husband, Dylan, one year old son, Jaxon, and our two cats Benjen Stark and Francine. 

I have my BBA in Human Resources Management and have nearly a decade of experience working in both larger corporate settings and smaller non-profit settings. 

I’m absolutely an ‘ideas’ and ‘big picture’ person. I rarely look at tasks as an individual, and view them as a piece of an entire system. For the most part this allows me to create things that feel complete and whole to me. This translates to all areas in my life, whether it’s doing a work project, hosting a dinner, or tackling a home improvement project. I throw out big ideas, and then scale them back til they fit snugly within the confines of the system 🙂 

On a personal note, I live a primarily plant based lifestyle, and have for 4 years. I love creating vegan meals that are “Carnivore-approved” (a much easier task than you’d expect) and am constantly on the hunt for new, fun, nutritious recipes. I barely enjoyed cooking before I made the switch, but ever since it’s become a complete and total passion. If I’m not talking about food, I’m thinking about it – and often find myself asking my husband “What should we have for dinner?” as soon as we wake up. 

Photo: Kelsey Lynch Real Estate

More recently I’ve taken on the adventure of baking and cake decorating – pictured below is the fully vegan (which doesn’t always mean healthy!) birthday cake I made for Jaxon’s first birthday. I’ve always loved sweets and treats – so this newest journey has been a fun one for me! 

During this pandemic, I’ve come to realize how much I love the journey of learning and improving on a new skill. Before COVID, I was an avid West-Coast Swing dancer. I often traveled as far as California to spend weekends dancing and competing with friends from all across the world. I loved the journey of improving as an individual dancer, taking private lessons and having practice sessions and watching my competition results improve over the years. I think in some way this is the void that my new cake-decorating hobby is filling – a new skill to continually learn and master. I don’t really have a target destination for either, I just enjoy the journey of improvement. 

I am so, so, so excited to be part of the Willow Oak brand and to get to know all of you. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since coming on board, it’s that the community of entrepreneurs is so inspiring and powerful and I’ve been loving every minute of it. 

The Value of Time

Time is your most valuable asset – it is so important that we do our best to manage it so that we can achieve what we’d like to in a day, and still have room to breathe by the end of it! I’ve spent my entire journey of entrepreneurship strengthening my relationship with time, and I’ve come up with some must-do’s if you’re looking to do the same. 

I know that these strategies seem daunting up front, but trust me when I say they are integral to your business and to your mental health. Your time is valuable, and it is so important that you understand it well in order to achieve that oh-so-sweet “on top of it” feeling. 

Time Tracking

I was new to time tracking when I started my business. To be honest, I tried to stay away from it because it seemed like an overwhelming task, and I didn’t see the value in doing it.

Turns out, it’s one of the most important tools in my business. It helps me plan, understand my business, and track my overall business goals! Some specific benefits I’ve found from time tracking include:

  • Pricing & Billing: I can clearly see how many labour hours are going into our services, meaning I can bill my clients appropriately, and I alleviate the likelihood of leaving hours unbilled by doing tasks in small increments and not marking it down
  • Weekly Planning: By time tracking, you get a way better understanding of how long certain tasks take you, allowing you to comfortably plan your week without getting overwhelmed. 
  • Understanding When I Need Help: When I track the hours I spend on my own business, I can tell when certain aspects of work are taking too much of my time. From there I can make a decision on outsourcing some help in these areas. 

“But Megan, I get that timetracking is important, I just don’t know how to start doing it!”

Well, let me tell you my top tips that helped me take timetracking from a task to a habit:

  • Choose a method that works for you: I’ve gone back and forth between online tools and good ol’ paper and pen. I am strongest at pen and paper. I use my planner for my days and move it over to invoicing at the end of the day. I will move to online one day but for now, I know this works best for me.
  • Decide if you will use increments: If you plan to have a minimum increment, (e.g. 15 minutes), ensure this is communicated with clients and/or teammates.
  • Record time IMMEDIATELY at beginning and end of task: I used to get busy and try to summarize my time tracking at the end of the day. There was no way I could remember all the tasks I did which left me under billing!
  • Organize your tasks so you aren’t jumping back and forth: The more you jump around, the less likely you will capture time…. Which leads me to my next topic…. Time Blocking!

Time blocking 

Time blocking is a magical way to organize your days and weeks. Rather than going off a massive list of to-do’s, block your day with specific tasks. And then do them. No opening emails or checking social media – I promise, those can wait. 

Here are my key tips to timeblocking that have been very effective for me: 

Block off big chunks of time for bigger projects so you can sit down and focus on them

  • Block out time for personal tasks too! Especially in this remote world, the line is ever-blurring between personal and work. 
  • Start your days with work that NEEDS to get done and/or your most daunting project. It will make the rest of the day feel more relaxed and enjoyable. 
  • Carve out 15-30 minute slots specifically for emails. Only check your inbox during those times. I know, easier said than done. But I promise they’ll still be there for you and you’ll get back to them more thoughtfully when it’s the only task on your plate. 
  • Have some extra bonus tasks on hand: You can tackle these when all these great time management tips leave you with some free time at the end of the day 😉 

I can’t say it enough, time is your most valuable asset. I want to make sure I am using it to the fullest.. and that includes rest time! 

Happy Time Tracking!