Hello All In community! Today’s wisdom comes to you from Carrie Hillen, President of Town & Country Resources. Her transparency and authenticity is uplifting. Enjoy!

I own a domestic staffing placement agency, and it is our goal to build a community for our clients and the candidates who choose to work with us. The community we create provides support, advice, empathy, and encouragement at a time that can feel uncertain for clients and candidates alike.

As a business owner and mother, there are many times (likely daily) where I feel uncertain. I wonder if sales will be okay next month, if the employees are happy in their jobs, if my children feel supported even if their parents are not at all their events, if I will regret working so hard later in life, if we are doing everything we can to find the best candidates for our clients… and the list goes on and on.

A Community to Call Your Own

In the presence of this much uncertainty, I’ve found for myself that it’s imperative that I find and nurture my own community. Over the years, I have found my community in a wide variety of personal, and some not so personal, connections and I am always looking for additional community members.

Annually, Agency owners from across the United States will meet up at the annual conference for the Association of Premier Nanny Agencies (APNA). I’d bet that there are very few outside of our small industry that even know that this organization exists. But for me there is no one else in the country who will empathize and understand better what it feels like when you receive a call from a parent whose temporary Nanny is delayed because her car would not start in the morning, or when the Nanny that the family loves resigns because she must care for an ailing parent, when a Housekeeper twists her ankle taking out the trash, or when there is a miscommunication between the event Chef and the family and there is no dessert for the attendees of a small fundraiser. I look forward to this conference every year and the feeling it gives me to know that my experiences are shared and the challenges are common. Somehow, I always walk away feeling like I have a fresh perspective and the challenges are just a little bit easier to manage. I also know that I can call upon many of these business owners throughout the year with a specific question or just to catch up and see if they are experiencing the same trends we are seeing.

The podcasts I listen to are another source of community for me. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I really enjoy listening to the “StartUp” podcast from Gimlet Media. I love hearing the stories of other business owners. Sometimes, I can walk away from listening to an episode feeling a little smarter or maybe even more confident in my own entrepreneurial and leadership skills. Frequently, I find myself listening to a particular episode and being struck that the people I’m hearing about have some of the same feelings and sentiments I have felt as a business owner. I will often stop mid-episode and send a text to my husband (my business partner) to encourage him to listen to it. Sometimes these stories help my husband and me to talk about our own business – feelings we have, goals for the company, or suggestions of ways we could do things differently. Admittedly, I went through a period of mourning when I completed the latest season of StartUp. I have no idea when the next one is coming, but in the meantime, I will make my way through episodes of Slate’s Working and the TED Radio Hour.

I have found tremendous support and encouragement from other mothers. I could not get by without the continuous support from my family and from other moms in our “kid group” who step in consistently to help with driving, feeding, entertaining, and supporting my children. I am forever grateful for their generosity and willingness to embrace my children and our family. I have also found tremendous support and a foundation of shared experiences with other working mothers. I appreciate their honesty and support. At times, it is not an easy path to walk and we have all found different ways to face the challenges with varying success. I revel in the conversations where I can learn from someone else about how they balance their work, family and social lives. I do not think that you really can balance all of these things in the short term all the time but over the long term, I am confident it will all balance out.

You Get What You Give

Of course, one cannot nurture a community without offering something back in return. For this reason, I am the first to sign up to drive to water polo games on the weekend, answer the call from a friend who wants to talk about the ins and outs of hiring someone to care for her parent, cook breakfast for the team on a weekday morning before work, tackle the volunteer role for the parents club that requires computer work that can be done at any time – day or night, take a board position with APNA, and wake up daily at 4:45 am so that I can walk the dog and listen to my podcasts at the same time. It can seem like a grind at times and the volunteer work may appear entirely altruistic, but really, as I nurture my community, I am nurturing myself!

By Carrie Hillen
President, Town & Country Resources

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