Family-Friendly Workplace Pays Off

By | April 21, 2013

How would you like to work for a company that has a mandatory five-week vacation policy? How about no meetings on Wednesdays and flexible work schedules?

“We want our employees to recalibrate their lives and their souls,” said Pamela O’Hara, CEO and founder of Batchbook.com, a cloud-based software platform for small business owners

Batchbook is described as a “social customer relationship management” platform that helps business owners keep track of customers, orders, vendors and everyone else they deal with—all in one place. It also has a social media aspect and is available by subscription, starting at $20 a month.

O’Hara said workplace flexibility is critical because she’s a busy mother of three kids trying to achieve a balance between work and family.

“The more I have on my plate, the more I can handle,” she said. “But, of course, some days the whole thing blows up.”

Plus, she believes that requiring staffers to take one week of vacation every quarter and then a floating fifth week whenever they choose, creates an energized and enthusiastic workforce. She also pairs employees up with partners to share knowledge and skills, which benefits everyone, especially when people are out of the office.

Before founding Batchbook, she had developed other software applications and was interested in helping small business owners succeed. O’Hara, who also trained as a graphic designer, said she related to the many challenges faced by small business owners because when she was growing up, she worked in her uncle’s pizza shop in Rome, Georgia.

While launching another software company, she started looking for a high-powered contact management system and couldn’t find one she liked.

“I wanted to create an electronic Rolodex® to keep track of everyone all in one spot,” said O’Hara, who explains how Batchbook works in a video posted on the company’s website.

That electronic Rolodex concept was the inspiration for Batchbook, now a privately-held company with 22 employees. The company is based in a tech incubator in downtown Providence, Rhode Island.

Big on collaboration, O’Hara said she’s teamed up with other software companies, including Mail Chimp and Fresh Books, which both provide cloud-based services to small business owners.

“Mail Chimp was the first to open up and give other people access to their data,” said O’Hara. “Once we integrated our platforms, we saw a huge uptick in our customer base.”

She said the same customers who use Mail Chimp newsletters to build their customer base are receptive to purchasing another service like Batchbook to help them manage their overall business operations. For more information and a free 30-day trial, visit: http://www.batchbook.com.

“We do a lot of co-marketing and have a directory of other companies on our app,” said O’Hara, adding that Batchbook is collaborating with about 20 to 25 other companies. “Anyone who can integrate with Google docs, calendar, etc. can be in our marketplace.”

When asked about their competition, O’Hara said it is actually Excel®, Microsoft’s spreadsheet program. (But, Excel is not exactly a user-friendly program if you use it).

Being a tech company based in Rhode Island versus Silicon Valley or Boston also poses challenges, but O’Hara said she and her family enjoy a great quality of life. She has three kids, six, nine and 11—all are very involved in sports, school and events. Her husband works for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and is on the road much of the time.

Like all working mothers, she tries hard to balance work and a home life.

“It’s definitely one day at a time,” she admits. “There’s a lot of scheduling with schedules taped on the refrigerator noting who needs to be where and when. I could not do it without my husband and sitter, plus other moms and a grandmother living nearby. It takes a village and lots of prioritizing.”

O’Hara said she used to read professional development and social media books, but that was not relaxing. “Now, I read reading fiction and fantasy books, often written by my customers.” Reading fiction is gives her a “brain break.” Spending time together as a family in their home in Maine is also a way for her to take a break from the business.

What’s next for Batchbook?

“We are about to roll out a new feature, a sales tool,” she said. “And, we are looking at the international market.”

Right now, half the company’s sales are outside the U.S., in the English-speaking countries of Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Once they figure out a better ways to provide customer service in multiple languages, they will cater to more foreign users.

Her advice to women in business? Engage your family in your business.

“I bring my kids to work,” she said. “They understand and use the product and when they see cool businesses, they tell me they should become customers.”

She said her kids understand how important it is for her to work “because I’m doing what I love and feel good about it.”

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