Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Spotlight Entrepreneur: Leslie Josel, Order Out Of Chaos

Hello. My name is Eileen and I love organization.  If it sounds like a confession, it's because it is one.  Yes, the clothes in my closet are arranged in color order.  Yes, I like to strategically stack the dishes "just-so" in the dishwasher.  A clean and organized home is a place where I can relax and focus.  While my idea of a fun Saturday is spending it at The Container Store, I am always looking for additional tools to keep my personal and professional life less chaotic, which is why this month I've selected Leslie Josel of Order Out Of Chaos as our Spotlight Entrepreneur.  If you are a student, entrepreneur, someone who is in the process of relocating, or a person who is challenged with excessive accumulation, you will find value in Leslie's services.

What inspired you to create your business, Order out of Chaos?
My son inspired me to create Order Out of Chaos…literally!  When my son was 5 years old (he is now 13!) he was diagnosed with ADD, Executive Functioning deficiencies and a whole host of learning differences.  As most moms would do, I went into action!  I scoured websites, magazines, and books.  I attended conferences, support groups and seminars to find ways to help untangle his very unorganized world.  I made significant changes to his room, our house and his daily routine and environment.  A therapist friend of mine saw all that I had done and asked me to do this for a few of her clients.  Thus a business was born.  I went back to find ways to further my education on what is now known as Chronic Disorganization.  I have since earned my Chronic Disorganization and Hoarding specialist certifications from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.  In fact, I am the only Hoarding Specialist in Westchester County and Connecticut and I am really proud of that.  I work with families, students and adults with all stages of disorganization from those that have a specific organizing challenge to those that have ADD and hoarding behaviors.

What was your biggest fear when starting your business?
My biggest fear when I started my business was that people would not take me seriously.  People always ask me what motivates me and I always answer fear – that I will be found out.  It sits on my shoulder and propels me forward. Am I good enough? Do I know enough? What about what I do should people take seriously. That has really been my number one fear. 

Professional organizing was not that well known when I first started my business so it had the tendency to be perceived as trendy or extravagant or something truly not necessary.  I spent more time convincing people I was legitimate and explaining what I actually did then I did working in my business in the beginning.  I certainly had not perfected my 30 second elevator speech; mine was more like 30 minutes! I was also very fearful of not succeeding.  I did not intentionally set out to start this business so even though I was confident in my organizing skills, I wasn't very knowledgeable in running a business.  To be truthful, I made up a lot of it as I went along.  I learned a lot on the fly. I guess you can say I still am.  Each day new things and experiences present themselves that need answers. The difference is that at this point in my career and business, I don’t doubt myself anymore.  I know I am good at what I do and I let that come through with all that I work on even if I don’t have the “right” answer.

What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur?
I love being an entrepreneur, more than I ever thought I would.  Most people would say that they love the freedom and flexibility, but the funny thing is that I work harder and longer now than I ever did.  When it is yours you are working 24/7.  It all begins and ends with you. 

What I love the most about being an entrepreneur is how organic the process is.  My business has grown and evolved as I have and I love that it has gone places that I never dreamed it would.  I teach classes, speak at conferences and mentor fellow professional organizers and women in business, am featured on television shows such as “Hoarding: Buried Alive,” and am quoted regularly in newspapers and magazines such as the Washington Post, Westchester Magazine and Real Simple.  I have several employees that now work for me – both professional organizers and administrative personnel.  I opened relocation and downsizing division 5 years ago and hired a former realtor to run that part of my company.  I am expanding the Order Out of Chaos brand as we speak as I have just launched our first product!  The Academic Planner is a time management tool for middle and high schoolers which enables students to plan their weekly workload and to feel more in control of their schedule.  And it just keeps going!

One of the services you offer for businesses is Virtual Organizing.  Can you tell us what that is and why a business could benefit from it?
Virtual organizing is a wonderful way to get organizing services if you are highly motivated to do the work on your own or if your budget doesn't allow for full on organizing services.  We use email, telephone and Skype to work together.  Some clients just need goal setting, an action plan or a body double to get them going. This is a perfect way to get that accomplished.  We also use virtual organizing when we are coaching other start up entrepreneurs. It's a great way to establish intimacy in a coaching environment without being on site.  And it is less expensive than on site organizing sessions.

What is your #1 organizational tip for women who run their business out of their home?
My number one organizational tip for women running businesses out of their homes is to schedule their time and make sure you have a private space to work.  Ok, that is two but both are equally important! Seriously, you really need to schedule your time or make appointments with yourself if you run your business out of your home.  In the early years of my business I made it very clear to my friends and family that even though I was home, I was working.  That meant I wasn't around for lunch or to supervise workmen or even to pick up my kids from school.  Those constant interruptions really ate into my work time.  My kids knew that if my office door was closed that they needed to call me on my office phone to check in.  I used the same justification as my husband who was working in the city.  If they had to call him after school then they needed to do the same for me. This really helped to establish boundaries and to also have everyone take my work time and therefore my business very seriously.   I schedule everything and always use timers as I have a tendency to hyper focus.  But when I a done for the day, I am fully available to my kids, house, whatever.

As a working mother, how do you balance your business and your family?
That balance question is a tough one.  Do we ever really balance? I think it is more like a seesaw.  Truthfully it was much harder when my kids were younger.  They didn't have a full understanding of what I did so when I was in the car and needed to make a call they weren't that cooperative.  I scheduled my time appropriately and worked a lot after they went to bed.  And I had help.  Particularly when my kids were little – I always had help. 

My kids are 13 and 17 so it is much easier. If they are doing their homework, then I do mine.  If they are at school or activities, then I schedule my appointments.  I actually use my kids a lot in my business.  And that has really helped the balancing act. I employ my 17 year old to do administrative work for me.  She updates my contacts, keeps my data base organized and even helps out on team jobs. My son is my guinea pig.  New products, new apps, even the new student planner was tested on him and his friends first.  The fact that they understand my business definitely helps. When I need to excuse myself for a call or am gone at night working with students they have a firm understanding of exactly what I am doing. I love delegating what I don't like doing and giving it to my kids to do. I'm just not tech savvy and they are very happy to get paid and do it for me.  I would also be really negligent if I didn’t mention my husband. He is amazing. He is hugely busy himself but we truly work as a team. We play to our strengths in terms of what we take care of so there is never any misunderstanding of “he should, you should.”  As long as I know what is on my “to-do” list, then I am good!

In your career as an entrepreneur, have you encountered naysayers and if so, how did you overcome that negativity?
At the beginning, when I was first starting my business I came across naysayers. It was mostly my friends and individuals that didn't understand what I did.  Most either didn't take me seriously or didn't believe that my business was real.  I just couldn't stop to have lunch or play tennis. Or they didn't understand that I had to educate myself or teach a class that would take me away from other activities.  When I started getting publicity or appearing on television or expanding my business, then people sat up a little straighter or listened a little more closely when I spoke. Again, surrounding myself with like minded individuals really helped to take the edge off. Having validation didn't hurt either!

What is your advice for females who are thinking about starting their own business?
Here is my best advice for females starting a business.  Number one, as women we are very lucky.  The amount of groups, meet-ups and clubs focused on women entrepreneurship or women in business is overwhelming.  Use them; surround yourself with like minded individuals who are doing what you are doing.  That connection, that education, that networking is invaluable.  Simply put, women want to help other women.  So seek it out and use it. It will pay itself back in spades.

Second, run your business like a man.  Men don't apologize for what they charge.  Men don't excessively explain. And they never apologize for being successful or smart or important.  When I walk in a room, I believe I belong there, I believe in what I have to offer and believe in the knowledge that I have.  And if I don't then I fake it really well.  Lastly, and this would be for anyone starting a business...follow up!  Crazy I know, but it will make or break your business.  I have been in business for 8 years and I follow up on every lead.  And I also send a personal thank you for every referral.  I can't tell you how many people tell me that I am the only organizer that called them back.  And I would always get the job.  These days I teach a course on the art of following up.  I truly believe in this day and age the personal touch and the establishing connections is what will make or break your business.  Oh, and one more thing.  A wise woman once told me that you can do it all (work, home, family, etc.), just not all at the same time.  I have made those words to live by!

To learn more about Leslie and achieving Order Out Of Chaos, you can reach her here:

Email:                  Leslie@orderoochaos.com
Phone:                914.420.6643
Website:            www.orderoochaos.com
Facebook:        Order Out of Chaos fan page
Twitter:              @orderoochaos