To celebrate the launch of my new ebook, How to Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too I’ll be sharing the stories of women who are living proof that you can pursue your passions while investing fully in your family. Join me all week to hear what these inspirational women have to say about how they make it work!
Jennifer Tankersley is the founder of ListPlanIt and the mother of two daughters (10 and 6) and one son (6). She and her family are currently on the adventure of a lifetime, living in Monte di Procida, Italy and traveling all over Great Britain while her husband serves in the active-duty reserves as a Staff Judge Advocate in Naples. Life will be returning to normal for them later this year, but you can imagine that they’ll carry these memories with them long after that!
You’re passionate about helping people clear their mental clutter by giving them a place to write down all of the information swirling around in their brain…when and how did you discover that passion?
I’ve always been a listmaker. Putting things down on paper has forever been my method for thinking things out. Unfortunately, ListPlanIt did not start out as a noble venture. I was simply overwhelmed post-Christmas with all of the chaos. I was getting ready for bed one night and considering all of the things that I needed to get done. I was mentally planning my To Do Lists when I began to wish that I already had an organized page that I could just print out and fill in.
That is when it hit me. I had made lists or forms for several different occasions in my life and knew how beneficial they had been to me. I sat down and just started writing possibilities. Before I fell asleep, I had about 500 ideas and a plan. ListPlanIt.com launched on May 9, 2007 – nearly 4 years ago.
Have you struggled with juggling your family and the pursuit of your passion? Have you ever wondered if you should give up your career for your family? How did you come to peace with embracing both roles in your life?
Not everyone saw ListPlanIt as I did. I think my husband and my parents thought I was a little crazy. I am a very goal-oriented person, and I had a very clear goal of creating this website. The learning curve for me was steep. I learned quickly that most business owners are not able to “build it and they will come”. I spent a lot of time in the beginning educating myself.
And as I mentioned, I am a listmaker. Most people think that I am an organizer, and that my house is immaculate. That is, sadly, an area where I see little payoff for myself. So once I became involved in growing a business, I had even less incentive to clean house. I occasionally consider giving up my business to focus solely on my family and home, but I think my family finds me a much happier person.
I think we have found our groove. My children know that at times, I need to do some work, but I always try to keep in mind that they are only young once. I feel my family has become quite proud of ListPlanIt. It is almost as if it has become another member of the family.
Does your husband’s support play a role in your success? Has he made sacrifices and compromises along the way to enable you to build your business?
My husband and I will be celebrating our 17th anniversary next month. We’ve grown up together. We’ve been best friends and partners for nearly half our lives. Though it might have taken him a bit of time to get on board fully, he is very supportive now.
I am always delighted when he tells me about someone he was proudly talking to at work about ListPlanIt. We’ve all sacrificed and made compromises in pursuit of this dream, but his achievements have been many. He’s been a big part of the success of ListPlanIt.
Have you ever had to take a step back and reevaluate your schedule and the amount of time you were spending on your business? Can you give an example of changes you’ve had to make to bring things back into balance?
I feel, and I hope I’m not wrong here, that I have worked hard not to short change my family when it come to the amount of time that I spend growing ListPlanIt. Maybe they would tell you something very different. I go to all of the soccer games, I make dinner every evening, I help with homework, and tuck everyone in to bed at night. One day I realized that, though I still loved working on ListPlanIt and growing it, I felt like I was missing out on other things. I hardly spent anytime with girlfriends. Reading used to be a big part of my spare time, but I hadn’t read a book in over a year. All of my “spare time” was devoted to ListPlanIt.
That is when I took a look at my schedule and decided I needed to make some changes. I had started working part-time a year and a half ago when my husband was just off of active-duty service and couldn’t find a job for 5 months. I still had this job because 1) I like it, 2) I had friends there, and 3) it was a safety net. It was a really difficult decision, but I decided that I needed to devote my days to ListPlanIt, afternoons to my family, and evenings to Trey and I. Of course, just a few months later, we were headed to Europe and things have been topsy turvy since then.
What advice would you give to someone who is just embarking on the journey of discovering their passion or starting a home-based business while caring for their home and family?
Be aware of all of the work that it will take. There is no such thing as easy money. Even if you feel like you have a terrific product, no one will know about it unless you get in front of them and expose them to it. Know that it takes time to reap a benefit from all of that hard work, so be prepared financially to wait for an income.
I love having my own business, but it is an illusion to think that successful business owners work fewer hours. Sure you can set your own schedule and work around important family events, but in the beginning, accounting, administrative, customer service, order-fulfillment, troubleshooting, and marketing are all your responsibilities. If what I just said excites you. . .then go for it! It is rewarding to see a business grow.
What are your non-negotiables or things that you’re not willing to sacrifice for your business or career?
I am a go-er. I have never been a “stay-at-home” Mom. More like a “where-shall-we-go-and-what-shall-we-do-today” kind of Mom. So my business has had to be portable. I have an iPhone so I can check on business while I am busy doing things. This year, I had the incredible opportunity to travel, and with the help of my laptop and iphone, I have been able to ski in the Alps, marvel at the Colosseum, visit Big Ben, travel by train from the south of England up to Scotland, and do and see countless other things.