Every weekend morning you can find JJ Ramberg on MSNBC’s Your Business, helping millions of small business owners across the country.
JJ Ramberg, Host of MSNBC’s Your Business
JJ is not only passionate about small business, she has firsthand experience as an entrepreneur. With her brother, she co-founded GoodSearch.com/Goodshop.com, a socially responsible company that has transformed philanthropy into an everyday activity. To date, Goodsearch has raised $11 million for organizations ranging from the American Red Cross to local high schools and animal shelters.
Not only is JJ a television anchor, leader in her field and an entrepreneur, she’s also a busy working mom. So in between interviews, airport runs and family time, JJ answered a few questions for this week’s Train Mom Chat (#TMC):
1.Your MSNBC show, “Your Business” is dedicated to issues affecting small business owners. In a way, moms are the owners of their own small business (aka their family). What’s something that you have learned from small business owners that would translate over to moms to help them better manage their own “families”?
On the show, we often talk about how business owners need to be nimble and open-minded. They should test out their products and services and if the customers aren’t responding to them, they should change them. Now obviously this does not completely translate into the day-to-day of being a mom (or else I would be serving ice cream for dinner every night!), but the broader idea of being nimble does. If you have set a schedule or routine for your family and it’s not working, don’t be afraid to shake it up a bit. There is not just one right way of doing things.
We also talk a lot about business owners spending their time properly on the important things and this absolutely translates to being a mom. There are too few hours in the day to get everything done, so spend your time where you feel it counts.
2. Of all the successful working moms that you have interviewed, is there one mom that has inspired you most? If, so who and why?
My mom really inspired me. She told me that when we were kids, she was pressured by other women her age to go out and get a job, but she decided that she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and was lucky enough to be in a position to do so. Then, when she was in her mid-40’s, my mom and my brother, who had just graduated from college, decided to start a company together called JOBTRAK (depending on how old you are, you may remember it – it provided job listings to college kids). Keep in mind, this was the ‘80s – long before students were starting billion dollar companies in their dorm rooms – and a stay-at-home mom and recent college grad did not exactly conjure up images of an entreprenurial dream team. As you can imagine, there were a lot of naysayers. But, just like she ignored those friends who earlier on suggested she get a job, she ignored the people who said her company would be a failure. She and my brother worked very hard and built an incredibly successful company which they eventually sold to Monster.com.
3. What advice do you have for moms looking to start their own business? What are the five things they need to know.
- Most ideas are not that original – so what your idea is may not matter as much as if you are you the one to execute it well.
- Test your idea – on friends, people at the local coffee shop – anyone who is in your target market. You can take people for coffee and chat with them or have an informal focus group at your house or send out free surveys (surveymonkey.com offers this service). Chances are you will get some feedback that will modify your idea.
- Surround yourself with people who know more than you do. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, so get advice on the basics from people with experience. This will shorten your learning curve.
- If you are starting a company with a friend, think about everything that can go wrong and have some very honest talks with each other about those scenarios. This will help you get a good feel as to whether you are making the right decision by partnering up.
- And finally, ask yourself what your tolerance for risk is. Starting a business is not easy. It can be very fun and exciting, but it is a lot of hard work and there is no guarantee that the company will be successful.
4. Is there such a thing as a work/life balance? If so, how do you make it work?
I’m not quite sure what people mean by “balance.” Can you have a good job that you enjoy and also get to spend quality time with your family? Sure. Can you give 100% to each of them. Of course not. So, I think the key is to figure out what is important to you and work backwards from there.
So, my idea on how to make it work: Picture yourself 10 years from now and do you think you’ll feel more regret if you missed out on a big career opportunity or picking your kids up from school more often. I feel like that helps clarify what’s important. Once you figure that out, you can make your decisions accordingly. Balance is often just a series of choices we make throughout the day – should I say yes to writing this article or take my son to his afterschool program; should I go on that field trip or have a coffee with someone who can help with my job etc…. There are no right answers. It’s a personal decision.
But, to keep things in perspective, it’s important to remember — if we are wondering if we have enough “balance” in our lives, we are lucky. Most people are not in that position.
5. How do you commute to work? What is your favorite thing to do during your commute? what do you read? watch? listen to?
I take the subway from Brooklyn to midtown. I usually read the newspaper on the way to work. On the way home I often read transcripts of an interview I’ve done for my program or books/articles written by my guests. Or, if I’ve already done all my homework, I’ll read a book or magazine for fun.