What Works

By Tara McMullin

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It's easy to lose your way in the 21st-century economy. The world of work and business is changing so rapidly that you might start focusing more on how to keep up than how to live a meaningful life. What Works is a podcast for entrepreneurs, independent workers, and employees who don't want to lose themselves to the whims of late-stage capitalism. Host Tara McMullin covers money, management, culture, media, philosophy, and more to figure out what's working (and what's not) today. Tara offers a distinctly interdisciplinary approach to the discourse around business, work, and personal growth.

Episode Date
EP 405: What causes work stress? And what can we do about it?

Everyone experiences work stress from time to time. But some of us experience persistent work stress—even though we have more "tools" for reducing stress than ever before.

If you've experienced work stress this year, there's a good chance you're thinking about how you can create the conditions for less stress in the new year. So today, I'm exploring how psychologists understand what kinds of work create more stress, what conditions reduce stress, and how we might intentionally design our work to be more sustainable.

Note: In the last third of the episode, I use a swear word (commonly abbreviated B.S.) to reference a book & theory by David Graeber. It's the name of the theory... so I use it a lot. If you'd rather not hear it, stop the episode around 17:45. You'll still get most of the message!


Looking for a great gift for your clients, colleagues, or team members? How about my new book, What Works? It's a great way to spread the message that we don't have to do things the way they've always been done. And you can provide a little relief when it comes to all that "New Year, New You" garbage. Grab your copy here!

Essay versions of each podcast episode are released every Thursday. Get them delivered straight to your inbox by subscribing here—free of charge.

Reviewing the past year and planning for next

If you’re listening to this close to its air date, you’re probably thinking about how this year went and what you’d like to tackle in the next year. I suggest including a review of the demands of your work, the autonomy you allow yourself, and the resources you have at your disposal:

  • Does your work present challenges that motivate you to learn and think creatively? 
  • Are those challenges met with an appropriate level of autonomy and sufficient resources?
  • In what ways do you deny yourself flexibility in the way you work? 
  • How does flexibility (or lack thereof) impact how you meet the challenges of your work?
  • What resources would allow you to challenge yourself in new ways?
  • What challenges would you like to take on in the new year?

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Dec 06, 2022
EP 404: What lights your fire?

Over the last two years, I've transitioned from identifying as a business owner first to identifying as a writer and podcast first. In the first year—2021—I didn't realize that's what I was doing. But over the course of this year, it was quite intentional. Making that shift has allowed me to explore creative territory that I didn't think I could explore when my primary function was content marketing.

In this week's episode, I talk with India Jackson about transitioning from content marketer to writer and podcaster. I share what it's meant for my work, my sense of identity, and my mental health. Plus, we talk about some of the difficult decisions I had to make on this journey.

Tune in to India's show, Flaunt Your Fire, wherever you listen to What Works or at flauntyourfire.com


Grab your copy of my new book, What Works: A Comprehensive Framework to Change the Way We Approach Goal-Setting!

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Nov 29, 2022
EP 403: Have your values been hijacked?

The shelves are full of products that promise to fulfill your values: ecofriendly, independent, cooperative, woman-owned, Black-owned, sustainable, etc. And right on! Unfortunately, not every product that claims to align with your values really does. Often, values-marketing is more about maintaining the status quo than it is about doing things differently. That’s what I call “values hijacking.”

Values hijacking occurs on the consumer level, but it also occurs on the cultural and political levels. Marketing, government policy, incentive structures, and cultural norms can all short circuit our critical thinking about what action to take.

On today’s episode, you’ll hear about one my husband’s biggest soapbox issues, and then I’ll turn the mic over to Erica Courdae, host and founder of Pause on The Play, and we’ll go deep on how our values become hijacked by systems of power.


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Nov 22, 2022
EP 402: How do you crack the code on goal-setting?

What is a goal really? What purpose does a goal really serve? And is that purpose truly benefiting us, the goal-setters?

These are big, messy questions. But they are far from abstract. Our answers to these questions—whether we know it or not—shape the way we work and live on a daily basis. This intermediary space—the space between philosophical questions and practical implications—is a place I happily hang out in all day long. Luckily, I know someone who likes hanging out in that place as much as I do!

His name is Charlie Gilkey. He’s a friend of the pod—as well as the co-founder of Productive Flourishing and author of Start Finishing. He’s also the host of the Productive Flourishing podcast.

Today’s episode is a rebroadcast from the Productive Flourishing feed. Charlie and I talk about why in the world I wrote a productivity book, how the cultural code we operate in impacts the way we plan and set goals, how that code disproportionately harms some more than others, and much, much more.


Written versions of each episode drop on Thursdays at explorewhatworks.com. Get them deliverable to your inbox by subscribing at explorewhatworks.com/weekly.

Introducing Recovering Overachiever Club

Recovering Overachiever Club is a 3-week deep dive into why we strive and what we can do differently in the new year. Join us November 29-December 20 for exclusive essays, podcast episodes, and conversation—oh, and earn a few merit badges, too. Learn more!

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Nov 15, 2022
EP 401: Do we really all have the same 24 hours?

Do we really have the same 24 hours as Beyoncé? Yes. And no. And… it’s complicated.

There is a never-ending stream of advice about how to make the most of your time. And honestly? Most of it is just bullsh*t. That’s because there is no way to hack yourself or your work to produce more in less time if your emotions are fried, your energy is drained, or you’re dealing with the effects chronic illness.

This conversation—originally broadcast as a Spotify Live—is an unflinching look at what it means to consider our multidimensional capacity in the realms of work and life. You’ll hear from my friends Jenny Blake, author of Free Time, and Charlie Gilkey, author of Start Finishing—and me, too!

Note: the audio quality on this episode is totally listenable—but it’s not our normal podcast quality.


Written versions of our podcast episodes land on Thursdays at explorewhatworks.com. Get them delivered straight to your inbox by subscribing at explorewhatworks.com/weekly

Introducing Recovering Overachiever Club

Recovering Overachiever Club is a 3-week deep dive into why we strive and what we can do differently in the new year. Join us November 29-December 20 for exclusive essays, podcast episodes, and conversation—oh, and earn a few merit badges, too. Learn more!

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Nov 08, 2022
EP 400: The Power of Practice

It’s been almost exactly 7 years since this podcast first launched as Profit. Power. Pursuit. Since then, we’ve produced 400 regular episodes (with some bonuses here and there). You know, I’ve written many more than 400 blog posts and emails. But we don’t number those—plus, they are published across different sites on the web, so I never have a handled on just how many times I’ve hit “publish.”

400 episodes is a lot. It’s more than the vast majority of podcasters will ever make. The only reason I bring that up is because today’s episode is about the power of practice. Developing a podcasting practice is the only way to consistently put out a strong episode week after week. But developing a practice of any kind was not something I knew how to do 7 years ago.

This episode dives into what I’ve learned about practice from 7 years of podcasting. Plus, I share an excerpt from my book (out today!) about the satisfaction of practice in an achievement-oriented world.


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Nov 01, 2022
EP 399: Self Help, LLC: The Politics of Hustle Culture with Jadah Sellner

Hustle. Grind. Boss up. Do more. Love them or hate them, these words are embedded into the ways we think about work and entrepreneurship. But as we’ve seen with the enormous growth of the r/anti-work subreddit and the panic about quiet quitting, more people than ever are thinking about different ways to go about building their lives, careers, and businesses.

As we close out the Self-Help, LLC series, I wanted to address where our productivity hang-ups come from, who our productivity really benefits, and how we might go about doing things differently. This episode is in 2 parts. The first half or so is an introduction to how employers (including self-employers) profit from unpaid work and why the productivity-wage gap has become so immense. The second half of the episode is my conversation with Jadah Sellner, about the vision for business she lays out in her new book, She Builds.


Essay versions of each episode of the podcast come out on Thursdays at explorewhatworks.com and in my newsletter. Sign up free: explorewhatworks.com/weekly

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Oct 25, 2022
EP 398: Self Help, LLC: Good Bodies With India Jackson, Tiffany Ima, and Jessica DeFino

I wanted to include an episode on bodies in the Self-Help, LLC series because so much of our modern discourse around productivity, empowerment, entrepreneurship, and personal growth includes messages about our bodies. These messages might not be explicit, but the messages are there—and our brains pick them up loud and clear.

Similarly, we might not realize that we’re sharing messages that insert themselves into how others perceive their own bodies—but many of us are. It’s impossible to talk about self-discipline, accountability, or efficiency without those concepts leaving their marks on our flesh.

This episode covers a tiny sliver of all the ways that the medium of self-help acts on our bodies. But my hope is that it will encourage you to think critically about the messages you receive about your body and the messages you share that might impact others’ bodies.

You’ll hear from independent beauty culture journalist Jessica DeFino, body confidence influencer Tiffany Ima, and Flaunt Your Fire founder India Jackson.

This episode contains frank talk about bodies, weight, beauty, dieting, and related topics. I know that these subjects can trigger harmful thoughts and behaviors for me if I’m not careful. So please, take care while listening to this episode.


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Oct 18, 2022
EP 397: Self Help, LLC: Bad Usage With Samara Bay

We form an impression of our voices early in life. While it might shift some as we age, those impressions tend to stick with us. For many of us, what we learn about our voices is how their don’t quite measure up to the ideal: too high, too low, too soft, too loud, too this, too that. This is especially true for women, queer people, transgender people, non-native English speakers, Black people, people of color, indigenous people, and really anyone whose voice doesn’t fit into the white, male baritone mold.

So what do we do? We try to sound more like everyone else. And that can not only mess with our ability to use our physical voices, but it messes with our ability to use our metaphorical voices and confuses our sense of self.

Samara Bay, a Hollywood dialect coach who’s worked on blockbusters like Wonder Woman and Guardians of the Galaxy, is on a mission to help everyone find “permission to speak.” In this episode, we dig into how the self-help imperative to “own your voice” might be more complicated than it sounds.


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Oct 11, 2022
EP 396: Self Help, LLC: #MakingMemories with Sara Petersen

There’s an influencer for every thing these days. Camping equipment? Sure. Nutritional supplements? You bet. Miniatures? You know it. College admissions? But of course. In this episode, though, we’re going to focus on one of the original influencer niches: MOMS.

The rise of the influencer ushered in a new outlet for self-help. Now, not only are there motivational books and talks, there’s a product endorsement to help you live your best life. Influencers give us, perhaps, the direct line between personal growth and consumer capitalism. I talk with the author of the forthcoming Momfluenced, Sara Petersen, about all of that and more.


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Oct 04, 2022
EP 395: Self Help, LLC: Instagram, the Algorithm, and Personality Types with Steph Barron Hall from Nine Types Co

If your Instagram feed or Explore page looks anything like mine, then you likely see a preponderance of posts about personality types, conditions, or other self-knowledge. We’re hooked on learning about ourselves! And perhaps even more hooked on sharing what we’ve learned—which means that the Instagram algorithm (as well as TikTok’s and Pinterest’s algorithms) has learned to love this kind of content, too.

In this episode, I explore discovering ourselves versus making ourselves, why self-knowledge is big business on Instagram, and how creating viral personality content can wreak havoc on the creator’s psyche. To dig into this with me, I invited @ninetypesco creator, Steph Barron Hall, onto the show.


Essay versions of each episode are posted at explorewhatworks.com every Thursday. Or, sign up FREE at explorewhatworks.com/weekly to get them delivered straight to your inbox.

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Sep 27, 2022
EP 394: Self Help, LLC: The Paradox of Self-Help Expertise with Patrick Sheehan

Our quest for self-improvement requires us to decide who (or what) to trust with our time, energy, and money. What book do you decide to read next? Which coach do you hire? What accounts do you follow? Our consumer choices seem endless—so finding someone or something to put your trust in might feel like an Olympic feat.

On the flip side, as business owners or independent workers whether explicitly or implicitly in the business of self-help, our goal is to cultivate trust. Why would someone trust us with their business, their marriage, or their hopes and dreams for the future?

In this episode, I sit down with sociologist Patrick Sheehan to talk about his study of career coaches and the role they play with job seekers. We examine the roles that both credentialed and experience-based experts play in society and why uncertainty and instability might inspire us—for better or worse—to put our trust in prophets rather than priests.


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Sep 20, 2022
EP 393: Self Help, LLC: Selling Empowerment with Kelly Diels

It’s not only self-help or entrepreneurship products that are sold as tools for “empowerment” today. It’s just about everything: makeup, clothing, workout equipment, vitamins, office supplies… Whole brands are built around the promise that a purchase won’t just solve your problem, it’ll make you a better, more fulfilled person. But empowerment isn’t for sale—only the status quo.

In this episode, I talk with writer and coach Kelly Diels about empowerment marketing and what she calls the “female lifestyle empowerment brand.” You’ll also hear from independent beauty writer Jessica DeFino about how empowerment is leveraged by the beauty industry.


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Sep 13, 2022
EP 392: Self Help, LLC: Winners & Losers

It’s hard to escape the language and politics of self-help today. Whether you’re browsing your LinkedIn, Instagram, or even TikTok feed, there’s a very good chance that the first post you see offers up some idea for living a better life or growing a more successful business. Shoulds and supposed-tos are cultural currency. We gain social capital sharing advice or “giving value.” And that’s left me wondering: are we all in the self-help business now?

Today’s episode kicks off an 8-part series called Self-Help, LLC which will explore that question from a number of different angles. In this episode, I’m taking a close look at a particular construction of personal growth and entrepreneurship culture: winners and losers.


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Sep 06, 2022

Self-help is everywhere. But for a long time, I tried to avoid it. "I just focus on business," I'd say. What I didn't realize back then was how much the structure, grammar, and discourse of personal growth permeate every layer of a business—and the entrepreneur behind it.

Self-help sells. It's an $11 billion industry that's predicted to go to $14 billion in the next 3 years.

And that's only counting products and services that are sold under the banner of "self-help." Even bigger than the explicit "live your best life" market is the valence of messaging, media, and cultural ventures that orbit it. In fact, there is a very good chance that, in one way or another, you and your work are part of the greater self-help ecosystem. 

You don't have to be a life coach, motivational speaker, momfluencer, or day planner designer to produce products and services that tap into the desire for a better, easier, or more fulfilling life. You might be a copywriter that leverages personal growth messaging in the copy you write. You might be a non-profit director that leverages donors' desire to "make a difference" to raise funds. You might be a management consultant that helps companies build better workplace cultures so employees feel a greater sense of purpose.

Or, like your humble podcast host, you might one day make the startling discovery that: yes, you wrote a self-help book after more than a decade of declaring that you help people build better businesses, not better lives.

I've gotten really curious about the business and politics of self-help. What makes self-help-inspired messaging so effective? Why are we constantly on the lookout for better ways to live and work? What compels us to follow aspirational Instagram accounts? Are we all in the self-help business? 

Next up on What Works, I have an 8-part series called Self-Help, LLC. It's a look at how the gospel of self-improvement shapes our lives, our work, and the businesses we're building 

I talk with writer Sara Petersen about Momfluencing, sociologist Patrick Sheehan about the coaching industry and backlash to credentialed experts, and brand strategist India Jackson about how our bodies are shaped by self-help. I also talk with Nine Types Co founder Steph Barron Hall about the draw of self-knowledge on Instagram, coach and writer Kelly Diels about the female lifestyle empowerment brand, and coach and author Jadah Sellner about the politics of hustle culture. 

My intention is that this series gives you a fresh perspective on what you create, what you consume, and how the underlying values of self-help culture influence them both. We'll dig into the business models behind explicitly self-help ventures and examine how less explicit personal growth businesses build on self-help's logic.

The first episode in this series—Winners and Losers—drops September 6. Make sure you hit "follow" in your favorite podcast player and share the show with a friend who loves to think critically about the world we live in.

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Aug 23, 2022
EP 391: How do human decisions shape the economy? with Stacey Vanek Smith

The economy seems like a monolithic entity we measure, manage, and adapt to. But really, economics (as a field) and the economy (as a system) is really just an agglomeration of human decisions. What’s in? What’s out? What’s up? What’s down? And most importantly: Why? In this episode, I talk with Stacey Vanek Smith, a co-host of NPR’s The Indicator from Planet Money and this summer’s guide for Planet Money Summer School. We talk about how someone with no economics background can get so obsessed, how the economy is a profoundly human system, and, of course, inflation.


Episodes of What Works are published as articles every Thursday. Get them delivered straight to your inbox at explorewhatworks.com/weekly 

Leave a review, browse old episodes, or leave a voicemail at whatworkspodcast.com 

Pre-order What Works: A Comprehensive Framework to Change the Way We Approach Goal-Setting at explorewhatworks.com/book 

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Aug 09, 2022
THE BOOK: Do your Big-G Goals Serve You?

What’s a Big-G Goal? Well, those are the kind of milestone targets we set. At that time, my Big G Goals were about how many new members I could enroll or what kind of stages I could speak on. At another time in my life, writing a book was a Big G Goal of mine. And before that, completing a Ph.D. was my Big G Goal. They’re the kind of goals that make you feel validated for about 24 hours after you achieve them—or make you feel like a failure if you don’t.

Well, "a failure" was exactly what I felt like. So I went back to the drawing board. I wiped the slate so clean that I started to question whether Big-G Goals were helping me make my life better or whether they were simply squeezing me into stories someone else was telling.

My new book, What Works: A Comprehensive Framework to Change the Way We Approach Goal-Setting, arrives on November 1. But you can pre-order wherever you buy books: explorewhatworks.com/book

My guess is that, as a listener of this podcast, you’re interested in approaching life and work in new ways. You think critically about the shoulds and supposed-tos you grew up with. You notice how it always seems to be “up to you” to fix yourself, rather than questioning whether you’re broken at all.

You question conventional ideas of success and achievement. You notice when conventional wisdom starts to infringe on your values.

This book is for you.

I can guarantee you that it’s different than any other book on goal-setting—because it’s not really about goal-setting at all. It’s not a thinly veiled pep talk. It’s not about turning structural problems into your personal to-do list.

What Works will change the way you think about goal-setting—but it will also change the story you live in. Life and work don’t have to be structured around the next achievement or milestone.

What Works will help you take on the big questions that bubble under the surface of most advice on success and productivity—the philosophical, cultural, and political discourses that unconsciously shape how we think.

But in the end, What Works will also offer you a practical framework you can use to discover what works for you.

Pre-Order What Works today!

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Jul 26, 2022
EP 390: Context Clues: Is a recession inevitable?

How do you prepare your small business for economic ups and downs? Is a recession inevitable? And what even is a recession? In this episode, unpack why the economy cycles through periods of boom and bust. I also demonstrate how a similar cycle is at play in the online business space. And I offer some strategies for making sustainable business decisions—no matter what happens with the economy.


Article versions of episodes are posted at explorewhatworks.com every Thursday. To get those articles delivered straight to you, free of charge, go to explorewhatworks.com/weekly

Have a question about an episode of What Works? Is there something you've noticed online, in the news, or in your business that you're curious about? Go to zipmessage.com/whatworks! Leave me a message, and I'll try to respond in a future episode!

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Jul 12, 2022
EP 389: Context Clues: Does everyone need a personal brand?

Personal brand development is now a mainstay of college career preparation. Young social media influencers are well-versed on the language of personal branding. It seems cultivating your personal brand is a prerequisite for navigating the 21st-century economy. Public image has a long history, of course. But how has our relationship with ourselves changed since we started to put so much effort into emphasizing the most marketable parts of our identities? This episode tackles the history of personal branding, the labor of self-branding, and why so much value is being created in the “social factory.”


Essay versions of each episode are available every Thursday at explorewhatworks.com. To get them delivered straight to your inbox, sign up free at explorewhatworks.com/weekly

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Jul 05, 2022
EP 388: Extra Context: Not Getting Paid

“You could make money with that!” That’s probably the first thing you hear when someone discovers you’re an excellent baker, or designer, or potter. Even if your hobby is collecting super hero figurines, someone has probably suggesting “monetizing” that interest. There is all sorts of historical, economic, and sociological context for this. But in this episode, I talk with someone who typifies not getting paid for what you love to do: my husband, Sean McMullin. You’ll hear how Sean’s extended family in Utah and Montana, as well as his time living in an Iñupiat village in rural Alaska, shaped how he thinks about work he doesn’t get paid for.


 Essay versions of each episode are published every Thursday at explorewhatworks.com. Get the delivered straight to you by signing up at explorewhatworks.com/weekly

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Jun 28, 2022
EP 387: Context Clues: Is there hope beyond positive thinking?

“Positive thinking” comes in many forms: New Thought, the prosperity gospel, manifestation teaching, self-help guides, and more. It’s hard to argue with thinking positive thoughts! But when positive thoughts become a substitute for curiosity and inquiry about real challenges, positive thinking can lead us away from real solutions. In this episode, I explore my own encounters with the world of positive thinking and how facing reality has actually given me more hope.

 Essay versions of each episode are available at explorewhatworks.com each Thursday. Get them delivered straight to you by signing up at explorewhatworks.com/weekly

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Jun 21, 2022
EP 386: Extra Context: Getting Paid

Who doesn’t love to get paid? So we’re going to talk about how that actually happens. Not the dollars and cents of getting paid, but the form and structure. In the previous two episodes, we examined our relationships to work—both paid and unpaid. And it got me thinking about how we actually account for the ways paid work, well, pays—and especially how that impacts business owners and independent workers. I’m talking the difference between wages and profit, how surplus labor creates profit, and specifically how I structure my own pay in order to have a better perspective on my work.



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Jun 14, 2022
EP 385: Context Clues: Who do you work for?

It seems like every business owner or freelancer I know wants to quit social media. But very few people are actually doing it. It seems easier to imagine the end of your business than the end of social media, to paraphrase Mark Fisher. There’s something about our relationship to social platforms that makes them feel inescapable. And, perhaps without even noticing, it’s started to see like we’re working for them more than working for ourselves. In this episode, I unpack our relationship to platforms and who profits from our labor. And it starts in an unusual place: the recent Etsy strike.


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Jun 07, 2022
EP 384: Context Clues: Do you love your work?

I grew up expecting to love what I did for a living. I was encouraged to choose a career that I was passionate about. But when I did, I bumped up against the stark reality that work I loved didn’t pay the bills. At least not in any straightforward way. In this episode, I explore the context of “doing what you love” and how it shapes the way we build our businesses or careers today.



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May 31, 2022
EP 383: Extra Context: Rugged Individualism

“Rugged individualism” is the very language we speak in America. It shapes the way we approach work, family, and society. And rugged individualism has a direct impact on the decisions we make about our businesses and careers. In this short Extra Context bonus, I unpack where rugged individualism comes from and highlight a different way forward.



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May 24, 2022
EP 382: Context Clues: What makes for a fair refund policy?

No one likes being asked for a refund. In fact, I find the thought of it stomach-churning. And when what’s being refunded is the product of your time, experience, and expertise… it’s tempting to put every obstacle you can think of between a customer and a refund. In this episode, I’ll take you on a journey from the 17th century all the way through the modern era of online business refund policies to answer the question: What makes for a fair refund policy?


 Full written versions of each new episode are available on Fridays or sign up for What Works Weekly to receive them in your inbox.

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May 17, 2022
EP 381: What happens when you take a 4-month break from business as usual?

At the end of 2021, I stepped away from my business: left our community, off-boarded my employee to another company, and focused on my mental health. Over the next 4 months, I wrote a book and thought about what might be next for me and my work. In this episode, I share what I’ve been up to in that time and what I might do in the months to come.


* What Works: A Comprehensive Framework For Changing The Way We Approach Goal Setting* NYU’s Intro To Creative Nonfiction course* Catapult’s Writing Pitches That Land Bylines* How Your Personal Priorities Shape The Way You Design Your Business

Essay versions of new What Works episodes are posted on Thursdays. Sign up for What Works Weekly to get it in your inbox!

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May 10, 2022
EP 380: When does overdelivering become overcompensating? with Allison Davis

I’m sure you’ve heard it before: underpromise and overdeliver. But is that really the best way to do business? Or does it just give us a permission slip for self-exploitation? When does overdelivering become overcompensating? And when does being generous just morph into entrepreneurial martyrdom? I sat down with sales coach Allison Davis to talk about overdelivering, generosity, and when it all gets to be too much. We talk pricing and scope of work—but we also talk about familiar relationship patterns and how they play out in our expectations for ourselves or others.


* Allison Davis* Down Girl: The Logic Of Misogyny by Kate Manne* Kate Manne on Forever35* Living A Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed* EP 371: How does emotional labor impact our work?

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Apr 05, 2022
EP 379: Why do we choose squeezing more in over taking time off? (Time & Money 8)

I’m bringing our Time & Money series to a close this week by exploring why we choose squeezing more in over taking time off. I share how The Squeeze works, why work gets more intense over time, and some of the economic incentives that keep us from making different choices.


* “Feeling The Squeeze? Why Your Business Feels So Tight” by Tara McMullin* “Busy vs Squeezed: How To Tell The Difference & Why It Matters” by Tara McMullin* “Economic Possibilities For Our Grandchildren” by John Maynard Keynes* Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher* Protestant Ethic & The Spirit Of Capitalism by Max Weber* “When Time Is Money: Contested Rationalities of Time and Challenges to the Theory and Practice of Work” by Barbara Adam* Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen* Wintering by Katherine May

Love the show? Share What Works with a friend: pod.link/whatworks

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Mar 29, 2022
EP 378: How much time do you work? with Anne Ditmeyer (Time & Money 7)

A lot of the work we do today doesn’t much look like “work.” The divide between work-life and life-life is flexible and porous. So what does that mean for the way we spend our time? Or how we earn a living? In this episode, I share designer, coach, and consultant Anne Ditmeyer’s story of rethinking how she works thanks to a big move to Paris. And, I argue that perhaps we need a radically different way of thinking about what work is—instead of a better “work-life balance.”


* Learn more about Anne Ditmeyer* Lost In Work, by Amelia Horgan* Episode 349 with Brittany Berger

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Mar 22, 2022
EP 377: What game are you playing? (Time & Money 6)

The systems we operate in all have different incentive systems: our business models, the social media platforms, our economy, the culture at large… And many of these incentive systems have become simplified and gamified—changing the way we view the results of our work and the goals that we hold. In this episode, I explore how the philosophy of games can help us identify when we’re just trying to “game the system” instead of taking effective action based on our own values and goals.


* C. Thi Nguyen at the Royal Institute of Philosophy* Nguyen on The Ezra Klein Show* How Twitter Gamifies Communication* *What Tech Calls Thinking* by Adrian Daub* *Games: Agency As Art* by C. Thi Nguyen

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Mar 15, 2022
EP 376: What Is Our Time Worth? With Keina Newell (Time & Money 5)

Most of us learn the value of our time in our first jobs. Even as we get more experience and our hourly jobs turn into salaried jobs or freelance projects, the specter of selling your time for a particular wage looms. In this episode, I talk with Wealth Over Now founder & Money Files host Keina Newell about how she thinks about the intersection of time and money. I also offer up a light history of wage work and how that history influences as business owners.


* Wealth Over Now — Keina Newell* Money Files — Keina’s podcast* What is the domestic system?* What is the Fair Labor Standards Act?* Further reference: Labor writers Kim Kelly & Sarah Jaffe in conversation* EP 341: Taking Better Care Of Each Other with Kate Strathmann* Games Against Humanity: C Thi Nguyen on the Conspirituality podcast

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Mar 08, 2022
EP 375: Is this really a new economy? (Time & Money 4)

I’ve been talking about the “new economy” since about 2010. But more and more, I recognize that the economic possibilities created through the internet aren’t nearly as new or innovative as I’d first thought (and hoped). It seems that the old economy is just making itself over as the not-so-new economy. In this episode, I explore 3 processes of the old economy—speculation, financialization, and liquidation—to pinpoint how they’re showing up in our digital world of independent work.

I weave together the housing market, creator economy, Great Recession, and crypto promises to help you situate yourself in this strange, not-so-new world. At times, it’s a bleak story—but ultimately, understanding where we’re at gives us a better opportunity to make different, more humane choices.


* CNBC Interview with NewNew Founder Courtne Smith* Investopedia on financialization* *The Big Short* by Michael Lewis* Michael Lewis on 60 Minutes* “How the financial crisis changed jobs” from Marketplace* Gig Economy explainer via Marketplace* NFTs explainer via Marketplace* “How Money Became The Measure Of Everything” by Eli Cook* “The complicated reality of doing what you love” by Marian Bull* Greater Fool Theory on Investopedia* “I crowdfunded a novel using cryptocurrency” by Elle Griffin

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Mar 01, 2022
EP 374: How do you measure quality time? with Elisabeth Jackson (Time & Money 3)

There’s more than one way to measure success—and there’s more than one way to measure time. How do you account for the time you spend working? And is it really the most effective—for you—to spend it? In other words, what constitutes quality time when it comes to the way you work? I talked with business operations coach Elisabeth Jackson about how she changed her overwork habit, how she measures quality time for herself & her clients, and why she doesn’t love the word “productivity.”


* Find out more about Elisabeth Jackson* More about Frederick Winslow Taylor* *Lost In Work*, by Amelia Horgan* EP 373: The Eggbeater Effect, listen or read

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Feb 22, 2022
EP 373: Should we lower our expectations? (Time & Money 2)

We spend money on lots of tools designed to save us time and work. But all too often, those tools just end up raising our expectations. Why do work in less time when you could do more work in the same amount of time?! In this episode, I examine “the egg beater effect” and why we should, just maybe, lower our expectations a bit.


* You’re Wrong About: The Stepford Wives* More Work For Mother by Ruth Schwartz Cowan* Episode 371: What is the creator economy? with Gina Bianchini* Episode 364: The Abundant Value Of Virtual Assistants with Janice Plado Dalager* Economic Possibilities For Our Grandchildren by John Maynard Keynes

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Feb 15, 2022
EP 372: What Is Money? with Paco de Leon (Time & Money 1)

“Time is money.” Ben Franklin gave us that chestnut in 1748—and ever since, we’ve been trained to think of our lives as opportunities for making a buck. This week, we start a series exploring the “time is money” construction. But before we think through how we spend our time, we’re going to think through money: what it really is, how we relate to it, and some of the factors that make it “weird.” I talk with Paco de Leon from the Hell Yeah Group and author of the brand-new book, Finance For The People.


* Finance For The People, by Paco de Leon* The Hell Yeah Group* The Nerdletter

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Feb 08, 2022
EP 371: How does emotional labor impact our work?

Emotional labor is an under-appreciated, under-compensated type of work. But it’s essential for navigating the 21st-century economy. Entrepreneurship almost always brings with it a need for managing our emotions to lead and care for others. And this expectation is only doubled when the entrepreneur is a woman or marginalized person. What’s more, the type of marketing that many of us are told to do today is thick with emotional labor: showing up with confidence, using your personality as leverage, banking on your sense of self. It’s no wonder so many business owners are burning out. In this episode, I tackle: What is emotional labor? And how does it impact our work as entrepreneurs?


* The Managed Heart by Arlie Russell Hochschild* The Impact Equation by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith* What Is The Creator Economy? With Gina Bianchini* The emotional labour of academia in the time of a pandemic: A feminist reflection by Michelle Newcomb

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Feb 01, 2022
EP 370: What is the creator economy? with Gina Bianchini

What is the creator economy? And why are so many creators… miserable? Mighty Networks founder Gina Bianchini was the first person I knew talking about the creating economy. She’s passionate about helping entrepreneurs, organizers, and creators see why building independently beats trying to amass huge audiences on the usual platforms. In this episode, we talk about what the creator economy is, how the game is rigged, what’s making creators miserable, and how she sees a different way forward. Plus, we’ll discuss research from the massive independent study that Mighty Networks commissioned.


* How “Building An Audience” Is Different From “Finding Customers”—And Why It Matters* What Tech Calls Thinking by Adrian Daub* Lost In Work: Escaping Capitalism by Amelia Horgan* The New Creator Manifesto (Research on the creator economy)* Mighty Networks* Creators Calculator* Subscribe To What Works Weekly

Looking for a transcript? I’m publishing every episode in essay form on Thursdays at explorewhatworks.com!

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Jan 25, 2022
EP 369: Do your goals make you a better person?

The way we set goals often invites a load of comparison and competition. We can even create a moral hierarchy of more and better. In this episode, I explore the roots of moralizing around the goals we set, borrowing from Dr. Devon Price, Max Weber, Kate Manne, and Simone de Beauvoir.

Resources for diving deeper:

* *Laziness Does Not Exist* by Dr. Devon Price* Max Weber* Morality* Kate Manne on the immorality of diet culture* *You Belong* by Sebene Selassie* Simone de Beauvoir & The Ethics of Ambiguity

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Jan 18, 2022
EP 368: What Does Growth Without Striving Look Like? with Rita Barry

“What does growth without striving look like?”

Rita Barry posed this question 3 years ago, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

In this episode, I talk with Rita about the journey she’s been on to answer that question as her company has exploded. We dive into validation-seeking, social conditioning, and identifying what you really want in the face of so much “common sense” about what success looks like.

You’ll hear Rita’s story, plus commentary from writer Anne Helen Petersen (via Librairie Drawn & Quarterly) and psychoanalyst Paul Verhaeghe (via Renegade Inc).

Find out more about Rita Barry at ritabarry.co

This year on What Works, I’m exploring how we can navigate the 21st-century economy with our humanity intact. Read articles, listen to the archives, and sign up for What Works Weekly at explorewhatworks.com

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Jan 11, 2022
EP 367: Moving Into A New Chapter with Darden Creative Founder Tamera Darden

In This Episode:

* Why Darden Creative founder Tamera Darden decided to shut down her business at the end of 2022—and how that decision evolved* How she wrestled with the practical, emotional, and financial questions around this big decision* The experience that led her to reclaiming her original vision for the business* How she’s planning to move forward and what it means for the way she works in her own business

How do you know when it’s time to quit?

It’s a question I’ve been asked countless times over the years. Sometimes, the question is asked in frustration or sadness. A business owner will tell me they’ve tried everything; they’ve tried everything; they’re at a loss about what to do next.

Other times, the question is asked sheepishly, with almost a tone of guilt. The business owner will tell me that they’ve been successful, maybe even more successful than they dreamed. But that something isn’t right. They’re unhappy or just feeling the pull of a new challenge.

Either way, knowing when to quit is almost never clear cut.

When I sat down with Tamera Darden a couple of months ago, we were scheduled to talk about values and how her business has operationalized those values. But in our pre-show warm-up, she told me she’d decided to shut down her business at the end of 2022.

So we pivoted. I let her know we were doing this series on letting go & beginning again and offered, if she was ready, to talk about her decision.

We went there. I was struck by her willingness to occupy uncertainty and liminality. And I was impressed by her self-confidence, even when things weren’t quite crystal clear.

I told her to let me know if anything changed in the 8 weeks or so before our conversation would actually go live.

A few weeks ago, she sent me a message. She needed to make an update. Her decision had evolved.

I hesitate to say she’s changed her mind—you’ll hear why.

Instead, she asked more abundant questions about what was next for her, why she felt compelled to shut down the business, and what other options could look like.

What follows is both parts of that conversation. It’s a rare look into the reality of how entrepreneurial decisions evolve if we let them.

Tamera Darden is the founder of Darden Creative. She’s a photographer, creative director, and business mentor with a vision for helping Black women-owned businesses thrive.

Changing your mind is hard. Doing so in a public forum is even harder.

I believe very strongly we owe it to ourselves to normalize coming to new conclusions based on new information, questions, or perspective. I hope this conversation creates some space for you to let your own positions evolve.

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Dec 14, 2021
EP 366: Unpacking Business Grief with Charlene Lam

In This Episode:

* Creative grief worker & curator Charlene Lam shares how grief impacts us—as humans, leaders, and business owners* How she discovered a passion for understanding grief and helping others process after the death of her mother* The practical exercises she uses to process feelings of loss

Toward the end of 2020, I started to hear the murmurs of something I’d come to learn was called “ambiguous loss.”

Of course, 2020 was full of loss and grief. There were goals, events, and—of course—people who were no longer with us.

But there was also an amorphous, chronic type of grief that set in. The murmurs spoke softly of pain and exhaustion that couldn’t be attributed to any one particular loss.

In 1999, Pauline Boss coined the term ambiguous loss for exactly this kind of feeling. In a conversation with Krista Tippett, Boss said:

“We like to solve problems. We’re not comfortable with unanswered questions. And this is full of unanswered questions. These are losses that are minus facts.”

For me, the ambiguous loss of the last 2 years has been felt as a sort of ongoing liminality. I’ve felt stuck between the life, goals, and identities that were part of my pre-2020 life and the next life, goals, and identities that have yet to take form. And while this is my sense of a personal ambiguous loss, I think it also mirrors the ambiguous loss we’ve faced as a society.

As the pandemic has worn on and social change has stagnated, we keep catching glimpses of what might be on the other side.

But the promises that “it’ll be over soon” have become ever harder to believe. We’re stuck between our pre-2020 world and the world that has yet to come into focus.

Grief in general, and ambiguous loss in particular, might seem like an odd topic for a business podcast. But it was conversations with small business owners that made me realization how important talking about grief is for us.

Business owners like us go through all sorts of experiences that can bring on a sense of loss or grief: the failed launch, a canceled event, the lost opportunity, an unmet goal, the loss of a team member, or the end of a working relationship. But our natural optimism as entrepreneurs, as well as a culture that doesn’t make much room for grief, means that we rarely pause to observe and process the transition.

So last December, we decided to devote this December to letting go, processing grief, and beginning again. At the end of last year, this topic felt urgent—but now, this topic feels timely.

While I think we’re all still feeling deep uncertainty about what’s next, we have a little distance from the onslaught of fear. I’ve talked to a bunch of people who finally feel like they have the capacity to make a decision about moving on and process what that means for them.

Today, I want you to meet Charlene Lam, a creative grief worker, as well as a business mentor, content marketing strategist, and curator. She’s the creator of The Grief Gallery and Grief. Grit. Grace., where she writes, speaks, and curates exhibitions that help people process their grief.

Charlene and I talk about what grief is and how we process it—as well as how grief shows up for us as business owners and what we can do to let go of what was and begin again with a new vision.

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Dec 07, 2021
EP 365: Asking Abundant Questions To Solve Business Challenges

I always hesitate to talk about practicing an “abundance mindset…”

…because it so quickly veers into positive vibes only, charge what you’re worth, girl, wash your face territory.

And to my mind, that territory is steeped in scarcity and its cousin, precarity.

Abundance isn’t about ignoring unpleasant feelings or people who ask hard questions.

When we do that, we’re essentially signaling that our positive vibes are so precarious that something challenging or unpleasant could cause us to lose our high. Practicing abundance, instead, invites us to wrestle with hard things without fear of losing our way.

Abundance isn’t about charging what you’re worth because abundance knows that markets are fickle and that human experience can’t be quantified in hourly rates or flat fees.

While I readily acknowledge that “charge what you’re worth” has helped lots of people ask for more, it also reinforces scarcity thinking in the form of “getting what’s yours” or “they’re out to get me.”

Abundance also isn’t about equating endless hard work with deserving more abundant rewards.

It’s certainly not about sucking it up. This kind of thinking reinforces that there’s a limited supply of resources out there and you better get up before dawn to grab your bit.

Truthfully, I’m not sure I can define abundance succinctly.

What it means to me is a present knowing that I am enough, that I have enough, and that there is enough time, attention, and support to live a meaningful life and do meaningful work. I can’t say that this is my mindset at all times—far from it.

But in the times when I’m feeling most hopeless or desperate, it’s the mindset that I eventually bring myself back to. It’s the Truth that’s guided difficult decisions and unlocked completely unexpected paths forward. An abundance mindset—when I’m truly in it—shifts my perception and presents new possibilities.

Maybe one way to think about it is that an abundance mindset isn’t so much an answer to the problems of scarcity, urgency, and precarity, but a series of questions that remind you there is always a way forward.

Throughout this month, my goal has been to speak some of those questions out loud. Hopefully, you’ve experienced at least a small shift in perception as a result.

Today, we’ll round out this series with 3 more stories about interesting questions and new ways forward. You’ll hear from sales coach Allison Davis, business strategist AnnMarie Rose, and Athena Village founder Kelly Pratt. Listen for the shift in perception that allowed them to see a new possibility for their work and businesses.

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Nov 30, 2021
EP 364: The Abundant Value of Virtual Assistants with Janice Plado Dalager

In This Episode:

* Consultant and virtual assistant Janice Plado Dalager joins Tara for a conversation about the unique skill set that virtual assistants and other support professionals bring to small businesses* How VAs end up mistreated by entrepreneurs—and the gendered and racialized components of these relationships that make mistreatment more likely* Why emotional labor is an undervalued skill for support pros, as well as why it should be a key part of how this work is compensated* How small business owners can check their own behavior to make these working relationships more humane

Back in 2016, the odd-job platform TaskRabbit ran a series of ads in New York City subways.

Imagine a photo of a thin, white woman in upward facing dog pose on a yoga mat. She’s blissed out. Above her, the poster reads “Mopping the floors” in trendy, pseudo handwriting script. Below her, the TaskRabbit tagline reads “We do chores. You live life.”

The ad campaign communicates the promise of letting your chores disappear into someone else’s workload.

We do chores, you live life: Who is “you?” And who is “we?”

Do the folks who are mopping floors ever get to be the “you” who lives life while someone else does the chores?

I’m Tara McMullin and this is What Works, the show that explores entrepreneurship for humans.

Independent work, the gig economy, online business—they’ve all been sold to us as ways to transcend old class divides. They promise a more level playing field for offering your time and skills. No fancy resume needed, just a willingness to put in the work.

Of course, this is far from the truth.

Michael Zelenko puts it this way in an article for The Verge:

Instead of establishing partnerships within a community, the gig economy and TaskRabbit’s ads reaffirm a class divide, between the “You” — whose life is defined by recreational activities — and the “We,” whose lives are devoted to doing your chores.

Rather than leveling the playing field, gig work and the ever-increasing push to classify more workers as independent contractors has, in effect, reestablished a servant class. Now, however, it’s not just elites and the aristocracy who get access to servant labor—it’s anyone with a smartphone and a few extra bucks to spend on takeout or housework.

The more times I get my groceries delivered, the more I see my time, work, and self-care as more important than running errands. It’s a short jump to start to see those who are running my errands as less important than me. Less deserving of the good life.

And, in classic upstairs/downstairs Downton Abbey fashion, the more I use these services, the easier it is to allow the people doing them to be invisible. Sarah Jaffe, the author of Work Won’t Love You Back, recently talked about the culture of entitlement to service that we have in the United States on The Ezra Klein Show. She suggested that our sense of freedom hinges, in some ways, on being able to get what we want, when we want it—without consideration for those who are making it happen.

And this is where I want to pivot to talking about micro entrepreneurship and digital small business. ★ Support this podcast ★
Nov 23, 2021
EP 363: Making The Hard Call With 90-Day Business Launch Founder Michelle Ward

In This Episode:

* Why Michelle Ward decided to retire as the When I Grow Up Coach to go all-in on the 90-Day Business Launch* Why a complicated business model (and her peer mastermind) made the decision pretty clear* How she made the transition and the impact its had on revenue* How she’s reprioritizing business & life so she’s focused on what she really values

Small business owners are famously susceptible to the sunk cost fallacy.

If you’re not a familiar, sunk cost fallacy is the idea that the more we sink our time, money, and other resources into a project or idea, the more likely we are to stick with it even when it’s not working.

Our resources are limited—or at least feel that way. So we’re attached to them. Deciding to invest precious resources into an idea then creates an attachment to that idea. The more attached we become, the less likely we are to willing detach.

The more resources we sink into a project—and the more attached we become—the fewer choices we seem to have about how to move forward.

This is the work of a mindset of scarcity and limitation.

Now, I don’t want to give short shrift to the drain on material resources any project, idea, or business can be. We can invest money in growth—and not see it shift into a return. We can invest time in a new offer—and not see it sell. We can forgo our own compensation to make a big move—and have it not work out.

Those situations all suck. And the drain on resources is very, very real.

However, where the scarcity narrative starts to wreak havoc is in our perception of choice. Is it possible to peer through the thick fog of disappointment and still see an array of possibilities in front of you?

Maybe even an array of opportunities?

Now, it’s easy to see how the sunk cost fallacy applies when things aren’t going well. But the sunk cost fallacy also applies when things are humming along, doing just fine.

In fact, I’d wager that it’s harder to see different opportunities and make the choice to pursue a new way forward when things are working. When the investments you’ve made are paying off, it’s harder to walk away.

But that’s just what today’s guest has done.

I’ve known When I Grow Up Coach Michelle Ward almost as long as I’ve been working for myself. So when she emailed me a couple of weeks ago to ask if she could come on the pod to talk about how she’d retired the When I Grow Up Coach brand and gone all-in on her 90-Day Business Launch program, I said: hell yeah!

This is a story about wrestling with long-term success and the decision to go a different way. It’s also a story about recognizing that, any time you make a big move, things like money and marketing won’t magically stay the same. And finally, it’s a story about recognizing abundant long-term opportunity over short-term consistency.

Now, let’s find out What Works for Michelle Ward!

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Nov 16, 2021
EP 362: Debunking The Myth Of Scarce Attention

Have you heard?

The average human attention span is now shorter than a goldfish’s! Thanks, internet.  TV journalists and politicians talk to us in sound bites, assuming we don’t have the attention for more nuanced analysis. Boomers bemoan fast media like TikTok and Instagram.  It seems like attention might be one of our scarcest and most precious resources.

But I’m starting to wonder whether attention is really a scarce resource. Perhaps what is truly scarce are media and messages worth paying attention to. Before I get into the latter, let’s debunk the former.

It turns out that the panic over our attention spans being less than a goldfish’s is a pseudo-scientific soundbite in and of itself.

Actual research psychologists say they don’t really study “attention span” as a discrete component of how we think. Instead, attention span is relative. How long we can pay attention to something depends on the task, our level of interest, and the varied circumstances we bring to a given situation. For instance, I might be able to work on an essay for hours at a time because I’m fascinated by the subject and in a creative flow. But on another day, even though my interest hasn’t changed, I might not be able to sustain 5 minutes of distraction-free work because I didn’t get enough sleep or I’m feeling anxious about something.

What’s more, according to a BBC article debunking this “common knowledge” about goldfish and attention spans, goldfish do actually have the ability to pay attention! Scientists have been studying fish for over 100 years to get a better idea of how memories are formed and how learning happens—precisely because fish are able to “pay attention” long enough to do both.

So, it turns out that scientists agree that given the right task and the right circumstances, we have an abundance of attention.

That’s not to say that we don’t also have personal, neurological, and systemic challenges with paying attention. But it is to say that, as marketers, we don’t need to fight for our own slice of attention tartlet. How, then, could we approach marketing and business-building differently?

Business owners tell me about how hard it is to reach people on a regular basis. How hard it is to get people’s attention. These business owners try to keep up with the algorithm changes, the trends that are going viral, and the memes that get noticed. This complaint is a red flag 🚩. That’s a meme joke. 

Algorithms and memes aren’t the way to access an abundance of attention.

And when gaming the algorithm and leveraging the memes does pay off? That attention is precarious—fleeting. The attention we do get paid is more like an impulse purchase rather than a long-term investment. Many people today have a greater supply of money than they do time. So getting someone to pay attention—which is a function of time—might be harder than getting them to pay currency.

And yet, it’s understood that the work we create for the payment of attention doesn’t have to be as high quality as work that people pay money for. Quality attention requires quality work. When we make work designed to satisfy the demands of the algorithm, we’re rarely making work that satisfies the interests of the people we want to connect with. Just because something gets likes or reach doesn’t mean people are really paying attention.

Today, the mediascape is very different from when I became a blogger and social media user back in 2009.

Platforms were real channels for sharing whatever it was that you wanted to put online. ★ Support this podcast ★
Nov 09, 2021
EP 361: Embracing Your Whole Identity With Coach & Consultant Angela Browne

In This Episode:

* How Angie Browne‘s career has evolved into embracing her whole identity as a coach & consultant* Why she’s exploring big questions about our identities and how we work* What she did to establish how she wanted to work with clients and companies in this chapter* The story she’s rewriting a personal story she’s been telling for years

We all have an abundance of identities.

I’m a woman. A wife. A mother. I’m a business owner, a writer, a podcaster. I’m a runner, a yoga practitioner, a paddle boarder. I’m an introvert, a book lover, and a new cat parent.

I am many other things, too.

The professional world—as built by white men—has been a place where we leave our other identities at the door. We transform into whatever the job requires of us and try to ignore the rest.

There’s a passage that really encapsulates this in a book I read earlier this year—Having and Being Had by Eula Biss. She writes about a conversation she had with her mom:

“The hardest part of working isn’t the work, my mother tells me, it’s the passing. She means passing as an office worker—dressing the part, performing the rituals of office life, and acting appropriately grateful for a ten-hour shift at a computer.”

When we opt to forge our own path as business owners, it’s easy to imagine that we’ll escape these rituals, avoid assimilating to the expectations of the office. And sure, some of them we do escape from. But there are plenty we end up sticking with—like trying to be grateful for spending 10 hours in front of a computer. And there are others we adopt as part of our new work: the rituals of social media, networking, email responsiveness.

It’s not so much that dressing the part, performing the rituals, or adapting to your work environment is a bad thing.

It’s there also needs to be space for the identities, responsibilities, and personal needs we have outside our job descriptions or client agreements.

Making that space is one way we practice abundance. It might mean rearranging your schedule. Or, it could be a clause you add to your contracts that acknowledges that missing an appointment or rescheduling because of a family need is not the end of the world. It could be a having a colleague you do a mutual mental health check with each week. Or, it could be as simple as acknowledging the transitional space at the beginning of meetings before you get down to business.

This week, my guest is Angela Browne, a coach for luminaries and a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant for organizations. Part of our conversation is about the way she’s learned to bring her whole self into her work—whether in her former work as a head teacher or in her roles.

But another key part of our conversation revolves around abundant curiosity—the kind that is willing to ask bold questions without needing to have definitive answers.

My hope is that this conversation will inspire you to consider how you can both make space for your many identities in the way you work and make space for abundant curiosity.

Now, let’s find out what works for Angie Browne!

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Nov 02, 2021
EP 360: Slowing Down To Make Sustainable Choices

I am a fast person.

I walk fast. Cook fast. Write fast. Talk fast. Work out fast. It’s like I’m always moving towards some urgent need or trying to escape some impending disaster. So I’ve been working on slowing down for the last few years.

To do that, I have to be mindful. I have to be present enough to notice that I’m zooming around and get curious about why. Then, I can take a beat and slow down the tempo.

I say that like it’s easy, or like I even remember to do it on a regular basis. I don’t.

I find it hard to look around at the world—the news, the market, my family, my community—and not feel the pressure of urgency.

Things change so fast today, yes. But the problems we face and the opportunities in front of us are also urgent.

It’s not just the speed with which things happen. It’s the fleeting window of possibility we have to make changes or seize the moment.

In her book Emergent Strategy, adrienne maree brown writes:

“There is such urgency in the multitude of crises we face, it can make it hard to remember that in fact it is urgency thinking (urgent constant unsustainable growth) that got us to this point, and that our potential success lies in doing deep, slow, intentional work.”

Maybe we could call it strategic FOMO. The fear of missing out on the chance to change course, solve a challenge, make things better.

Of course, good strategy is never created quickly. Changing course, solving challenges, making things substantively better is slow work.

Otherwise, it’s not strategy—it’s just another crappy repair on top of a history of band-aid solutions.

Slowing down is key to building a business that operationalizes and embodies its values.

When you slow down, you can ask yourself better questions, gather diverse perspectives, get curious what’s really needed, and take time for quality.

And that’s really why I’ve been working on slowing down. I’ve become acutely aware of the friction and dysfunction that making a fast decision causes. I can easily see how speed has made it harder to make sustainable, humane choices.

I’ve also become aware at just how lovely it can feel to pause and check in. To say, “let’s revisit that next week.” To luxuriate in exploring how things could be done in ways that epitomize my values and honor my capacity.

Today, you’re going to hear from 4 other business owners who have also found that slowing down has helped them operationalize their values in their businesses.

You’ll hear from Sarah Cottrell, the founder of Former Lawyer, Gracy Obuchowicz, a self-care consultant for companies & organizations, Yvette Ramos-Volz, a glass artist & aromatherapist, and Jennie Morris, the founder of Vegologie.

Each one is finding ways to create the necessary space to check in with their core values before making decisions about their business—big or small. By slowing down, they make their values a core operational consideration, ★ Support this podcast ★
Oct 26, 2021
EP 359: Operating An Ethical Business With the ethical move Founder Alice Karolina

In This Episode:

* Why brand strategist Alice Karolina created the ethical move, which helps small business owners navigate building more ethical marketing and sales systems* How the ethical move evolves as they practice reflection and collaboration* Why Alice prioritizes moving slowly when it comes to building the business* What they’re discovering as they incrementally investigate what building a business that prioritizes ethics looks like

I had always thought I was running a pretty values-driven business.

I cared about people and tried to operate always assuming the best of them. I developed programs in the spirit of experimentation—a core value for me. And I utilized transparency and honesty in my marketing and sales processes.

But at the same time, I didn’t ask a lot of questions. If someone told me it was totally fine to do X, Y, or Z marketing tactic, I believed them.

I operated my business that way through October 2016. Then, I had a wakeup call and a lot of questions. Like many people, I had so many questions about how the United States had gotten to that point. I had questions about the deep betrayal that I felt as a woman and the deep betrayal that wasn’t at all new for women of color, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, and disabled people.

And all of those questions started to trickle down into my business. I started to see ways that I was inadvertently replicating power structures I wasn’t okay with. And I started to see how it’s so easy to turn a marketing campaign into a misinformation campaign.

I wanted to figure out how to do things differently.

I have learned so much over the last 5 years. And I’ve changed a lot of the ways I personally operate—as well as the operations in my business. We regularly explore what it looks like to live and work our values as a community.

And one thing I’ve wrestled with in all that change and learning has been why we’re doing things differently and why we endeavor to do better. It’s easy to let “wanting to do better” become wanting to follow the right rules, get the language just right, or make sure that you speak up in just the right way when something horrific happens.

This is a pattern that so many white, straight, women like myself fall into. And I know it’s one that I could easily fall into being the rule-loving, achievement-oriented person I am.

Last year, one of my commitments was a reminder for me to examine my pattern of defensiveness.

I talked about it a bit here on the podcast. This year, one of my commitments reminds me to speak up, to not avoid conflict, just because I have something difficult to say. As I’ve worked through those patterns and altered my habits, I’ve gotten pretty clear on what I do want and don’t want when it comes to doing business differently.

What I do want is to regularly examine the work I put out into the world to make sure it leaves room for human experiences that are different than mine. I don’t want to exclude or hurt people by virtue of the way I do business or even share my own story.

What I don’t want is to live in fear of saying the wrong thing, getting called out, or being cancelled.

And the good news is that by focusing on leaving room for other people’s experiences and taking steps not to hurt people with the language I use or the stories I tell, I don’t have to live with that fear. ★ Support this podcast ★
Oct 19, 2021
EP 358: Imagining New Ways To Work With Future Proof Skills Lab Founder Liz Wiltsie

In This Episode

* How Future Proof Skills Lab founder Liz Wiltsie has build her business on her North Star values & the movements she belongs to* How she makes room for difference, both in her own business and in her work with clients* What she’s decided not to do with her business because of her values

Imagine yourself sitting at a table. In front of you, there are all your favorite art supplies. Maybe there are paints, crayons, or pastels. Maybe there are stacks of magazines and illustrated books you can cut up for a collage. Maybe your art is music and your favorite instrument is on the table. Or maybe, like me, your favorite art supply is a tablet—one you can draw & paint with as well as create written art.

On their own, the art supplies don’t amount to much, right? The value of a tube of paint, a trumpet, or a pen is based on what we have the potential to do with it. Art supplies are tools and raw materials for creating. We imagine something and start to make it, or we get inspired and follow that inspiration.

Our values can also be raw materials for what we create in the world.

They give us something to work with, make with, imagine with.

The strength in our values isn’t simply in knowing them or putting them on our websites—their strength is in what we do with them.

What’s more, we can express those values in different ways.

Just like you and I will create something completely different with the same palette of paint, you and I might build very different businesses even if we’re working from the same set of values. The way I build my business model or core competency based on a value for community care is going to be different than the model or competency you build out based on your value for community care.

So maybe now, you imagine sitting at a table with your values in front of you. They’re the raw materials you have to play with. Also at the table is what you have to offer and who you’re offering it to. Now, you get to make art!

That might sound like a simplistic or even naive way to think about business-building. But let me tell you: it works. And not only that, it makes choices like how to market, what price to set, or how sell much much easier too. Starting with your values as raw materials helps you shape your business, instead of letting shoulds & supposed-to’s shape it.

My guest today is a perfect example of this. Liz Wiltsie is the founder of the Future Proof Skills Lab and the host of Sustainably Human At Work. She’s a trauma-informed, abolitionist skill builder on a quest to support small business owners to create more intentional, imaginative, and connected workplaces.

Liz and I talk through the values her business is built on, as well as the movements her business uses as the focal point of her work. Plus, she sheds some light on how both our needs and our values end up manifesting in different ways, as well as how that applies to the workplace.

Now, let’s find out what works for Liz Wiltsie.

Some of the thinkers Liz mentioned in our conversation:

Janaya Future KhanJake ErnstJames-Olivia Chu HillmanDrive by Dan Pink

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Oct 12, 2021
EP 357: Building A Business Based On What Matters With Coach Mara Glatzel

In This Episode:

* The key values that coach Mara Glatzel has built her business on* How her human-first approach to business gives her a framework for caring for herself and for her clients* The belief systems she’s worked on unlearning to better fulfill her values* How being “well-resourced” gives her what she needs to respond when things get stressful

Years ago, I was the trainer at the Borders Books & Music I worked at.

It probably won’t surprise you that I loved this role. I poured over the training manuals. I thought about better systems for acclimating a new bookseller to a store with some 90,000 titles. I took seriously my job to communicate company policy, as well as the special privilege of working for a company with a mission and values like ours.

You can imagine me now putting air quotes around “special privilege.”

Understandably, I couldn’t remember the company’s mission and values now. So looked them up and found them on an old Blogspot blog from around the time I reciting them to my trainees in the fluorescent-lit breakroom.

Ready for this inspiring list? As of 2005, the values for Borders Group, Inc were: Leadership, Results orientation, Respect, People development, A positive workplace, and Customer service.

Yeah. Nothing innovative there. You could probably look in the training manual for most mass retailers and find something remarkably similar.

That’s the thing about company values, right?

They seem to be there to sound good, to tell trainees that the company cares about more than profit. We roll our eyes or tune out completely. In practice, these values mean nothing.

They mean nothing because they are rarely operationalized in any meaningful way. When Borders said they valued “respect,” how does that translate to the daily work of the average bookseller or warehouse employee? And who or what is doing the respecting? My fellow booksellers and I respected each other—for the most part, it was a great group of people to work with. But did I feel respected by corporate? Rarely.

That’s not to say that I don’t believe any large corporation is capable of operationalizing their values. Patagonia, for instance, has a set of values that is designed to impact its decisions as a company and the daily work of employees. Patagonia’s values are more like directives: build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to protect nature, not bound by convention.

Damn, that’s good.

I can imagine sitting in a meeting about product development, or warehouse operations, or marketing and actually using those directives to guide both strategic direction and execution.

And essentially, that’s what I mean when I talk about operationalizing your values.

It’s taking what you say is important to you & your company and turning it into material decisions, procedures, and ways of working. It’s finding ways to get creative with “the way things are done” so that the way you’re actually doing things reflects what matters to you.

I think this is of unique concern to small business owners because we have incredible potential for doing things differently—and so often just don’t.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much we take existing systems and ways of working for granted—and then find ways to operate within those conventions that make us feel lik... ★ Support this podcast ★
Oct 05, 2021
EP 356: Creating A System Of Care

Systems have a reputation.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, as I have, “Oh, I’m just not a systems person,” you might know what I mean.

Often, the way we talk about systems is tangled up in talk about software, procedures, rules, and a sort of legalistic structure for “this is how we do things here.”

When you say, “I’m not a systems person,” you’re likely expressing the kind of claustrophobic feeling that comes from being confined to a set of rules—even if they’re rules you yourself created!

When you say, “I am a systems person,” you might very well be expressing the relief that having clear instructions and a solid expectation of how a goal is accomplished can deliver. Systems are a way of easing anxiety for you.

I can easily find myself in both camps.

I might identify as a “systems person” in the morning and “not a systems person” by the afternoon.

And I’ve noticed that, for me, there’s a moral component to how I’m feeling about systems at any given time.

When I’m feeling like a systems person, I get the moral high ground of being someone who follows the rules and does things “the right way.” When I’m feeling like I’m NOT a systems person, I get the moral high ground of being a creative, think-outside-the-box kind of person.

Of course, it’s just as easy to get down on myself about either side of the moral equation too. When I’m feeling especially systems-oriented, I often feel I’m not as creative as I should be. When I’m feeling creative, I often beat myself up for not following the rules.

I have no idea if my moralizing about my waffling identity around systems is normal or not. But I suspect that I’m not alone.

I bring all this up because I think it’s easy get caught up in moralizing about the way we run our businesses. It’s easy to translate “this is how we do things” to “this is the right way” to “I’m good because I do things the right way” or “I’m bad because I don’t do things the right way.”

Morality, suffice to say, is also a system—it’s a cultural system for understanding what is good and what is bad, as well as what makes someone a good person and what makes someone a bad person. And like every paternalistic either/or system I can think of, moralizing tends to do more harm than good.

Maybe you don’t see your identity around systems and your business as a moral issue. I might be way off in left field here!

But, I gotta tell you, I hear a lot of confessions from business owners.

They confess that they have procedures but don’t follow them. They confess that they don’t have a marketing system. They confess that they’re so tied to their procedures that they can’t think strategically about whether what they’re doing is actually creating the results they want. They confess that they’re stuck in analysis paralysis because they’re looking for the best system for achieving their goal.

In other words, I hear confessions of perceived sins on either side of systems as a moral issue.

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Sep 28, 2021
EP 355: Cash Flow Is A Feminist Issue

In This Episode:

* Tara explains how using a system-thinking approach to money makes it easier to invest in the growth of your business* Why cash flow is a 3-dimensional way to think about your business’s money* How the different components of a cash flow system work together to create a desired outcome* Why managing for cash flow creates the conditions to live out feminist values in your business

It’s easy to think 2-dimensionally about the money in your business: revenue and expenses. But 2-dimensional thinking makes it much harder to find the money to grow. If you can start to think 3-dimensionally (revenue + expenses + time), then you can expand your opportunities.

Managing for cash flow gives you a way to see the interconnected components of money in your business. Plus, it’s a way to powerful financial systems and live out feminist & anti-colonialist values.

Find this episode in article form by clicking here.

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Sep 21, 2021
EP 354: Making Sales A System With Coach Pony Founder Christie Mims

In This Episode:

* Why Coach Pony founder Christie Mims uses 2 “competing” sales funnels to accommodate for different ways of buying* How she melds both sales automation and a human approach to produce 7+ figure sales* The nuts & bolts of what both sales funnels entail and how they actually work together* Plus, why Christie’s approach is inspiring but, ultimately, might not be the best approach for you

How reliable are your sales?

How steadily do new customers buy? How loyal are your retainer clients or repeat customers?

Every business owners wants to feel confident when it comes to sales. Not just how to close a sale, but really how the chance to make a sale presents itself, how the process evolves, and how that final decision gets made.

Can you engineer a more reliable sales system?

Yes, you sure can. But it’s not the “if this, then that” kind of process that many reductive sales courses try to sell you on.

It would be awesome if I knew that every time I did a particular task, I could count on a sale. It would be awesome if I knew that stringing together a series of specific actions would supercharge my sales.

But so many things impact the way people buy… that it’s impossible to reduce sales to a single process or procedure.

That said, we can still dance with our sales systems!

So let’s return to Donella Meadows’s article on dancing with systems. Meadows encourages us to “celebrate complexity.”

Now, you might be thinking…

“But Tara, what about building simple business models? What about creating simple marketing procedures?”

I’m glad you asked! The reason we actively build simple structures, models, and procedures for our businesses is because the world is a complex place. When we focus on simplicity in how we design our businesses, we really can celebrate complexity in the world and our customers’ lives.

Meadows writes:

There’s something within the human mind that is attracted to straight lines and not curves, to whole numbers and not fractions, to uniformity and not diversity, and to certainties and not mystery. But there is something else within us that has the opposite set of tendencies, since we ourselves evolved out of and are shaped by and structured as complex feedback systems.

When it comes to sales, I believe our goal is to create the simplest system that celebrates the reality of complexity in the environment.

So what makes the environment we’re selling in so complex? Timing, trends, current events, seasons, budgets, competition, competing messages, personal histories, family needs…

The list could go on and on.

Every customers brings their own complex set of influences to the table when they interact with your business—especially in the sales process.

This is one of the reasons that “sales funnels” so often fail. A sales funnel is usually built from the business’s perspective—a perfect scenario of “if this, then that” actions that assume a lot about the people who are going through that funnel.

But no matter how niche your target customer or client is, ★ Support this podcast ★
Sep 14, 2021
EP 353: Dancing With Systems In Clickup With Lou Blaser & Sean McMullin from YellowHouse.Media

In This Episode:

* Why Sean McMullin & Lou Blaser, from YellowHouse.Media, switched their project management software from Notion to Clickup (and why it’s not the right move for everyone!)* How they’ve reduced their podcast management procedure from 75 sub-tasks to 11 umbrella tasks* Why streamlining the procedure has allowed them to bring a more customized approach to each podcast they produce* How focusing on the system behind podcast production has helped them create a lot more capacity for new clients

A couple of months back, I read a downright beautiful article about systems.

Yes, you heard that right: a beautiful, thoughtful, and useful article about… systems.

It was written by Donella Meadows, an influential environmental scientist and leading thinker on systems change in the 20th century.

The article outlines 14 principles for *dancing* with systems. But today I want to focus on the first: get the beat.

When we talk about business systems, it’s easy to default to software, automation, or project management.

But a system is much more organic than that.

And if we don’t allow for a system’s inherently organic nature, we miss out on really understanding that system in order to work with it, dance with it.

Meadows explains that a mistake we so often make when we approach systems is that we see understanding the system as a way of predicting and controlling its output.

She writes, “The goal of foreseeing the future exactly and preparing for it perfectly is unrealizable.”

I get that that might be frustrating—especially as we see data and the ability to instantly connect with customers as modes for the ultimate in business predictability.

It can also be a relief.

If the goal of understanding systems isn’t to control them or predict their output but to dance with them and learn from them, we don’t have to be so hard on ourselves!

And that brings me to Meadows first dance step—get the beat. The mistake I see business owners make with systems is that they try to impose systems on their businesses. They create or build systems for different areas of their businesses.

But that negates the systems already at work in a business. And inevitably, trying to create a system instead of investigating a system, leads to frustration.

Meadows writes, “Before you disturb the system in any way, watch how it behaves.”

So let’s say you want to work on your marketing system. If you start with a blank page and start building something from scratch, you’re missing out on all of the data & feedback that already exists in your marketing system as it is now (whether you know it’s a system or not).

If instead, you map out your existing marketing system, no matter how haphazard or messy, you can start to ask some really interesting questions about that system:

* How did we get here?* How else could this work?* What might happen if we don’t make a change?* What are the long-term ripple effects of allowing this system to continue to play out... ★ Support this podcast ★
Sep 07, 2021
EP 352: Personal Strengths Make Strategy Stronger

Personal strengths are like a photo filter.

Imagine you’ve got a photo that’s… fine. You upload it to Instagram or VSCO or some fun photo editing app.

And then you scroll through the filters until you find one that brings the picture to life. With the tap of a button, you can make the photo go from washed out colors to… black & white, or soft shades of peach and pink, or punchy shades of blues and greens.

Your filter might up the contrast or even everything out a bit.

Personal strengths can do the same thing for your business strategy, marketing tactics, or the way you deliver your offer.

So what happens when we start to use personal strengths as a filter for business?

First, it becomes much easier to make decisions about what steps to take next. The strengths filter makes it easier to see whether one path or another is going to work better for you.

But second, your strengths filter can help you find creative ways to do some of those shoulds and supposed-tos that just feel so meh.

What if you approach email marketing through the filter of relationship-building?

That’s going to look pretty different than an email marketing strategy based on ideation or analysis.

What if you create an online course but filter it through of teamwork?

That’s going to look pretty different than an online course based on focus or competition.

What if you prioritize networking but filter it through humor?

That’s going to look different than networking based on discipline or strategy.

And when you apply your strengths filter to come up with creative ways of reimagining these actions and systems, not only will they feel more natural to you, they’ll be more effective too.

I’ve got four more stories of business owners leveraging their strengths for you today. And the thread that runs through each of them is how using personal strengths as a filter allowed them to make components of their businesses more natural and effective.

You’ll hear from Lysa Greer, Mary Knox Miller (Nonprofit Video Lab), Dr. Nayla Bahri, Mytili Jagannathan, and Lisa Townsend on how they’ve leveraged their strengths.

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Aug 24, 2021
EP 351: Thinking Differently With Writer Kris Windley

In This Episode:

* Why writer Kris Windley decided to learn how to illustrate her articles* How doodling has helped her work with her ADHD* How she finds the idea or image she wants to illustrate for each piece* The metaphor she uses to think about skill-building

I’ve become a bit obsessed with the concept of “sensemaking.”

Really, I’ve been obsessed with it my whole life, I just didn’t have a name for it.

Sensemaking is the process of taking sensory information and situational knowledge and creating a framework for meaning and decision-making.

Okay, I know, that sounds kind of heady. But really, we do it all the time.

Imagine you venture into the kitchen after a long day in your home office. The kitchen is torn apart. You see dishes stacked on the counter, cupboard doors open, and pantry items covering the table. You smell a slightly chemical citrus scent in the air. Your spouse isn’t there to ask what the heck is going on.

Quickly, you deduce that they got the idea to deep clean the kitchen and had to step away for a bit. The job is almost finished but there’s still a ways to go and you’re hungry for dinner. You take the initiative to order pizza.

That’s sensemaking.

You went from “what the heck is going on here?” To “dinner is on its way” in less than 60 seconds.

Anyhow, I’ve always got my eye out for a new way to make sense of the world. A framework, a script, a visualization, a map, a diagram… I love these tools. And I make good use of them in my own head.

But my sensemaking tools don’t always make it out of my head.

In the last year or so, I’ve really started to recognize that I have a unique strength for explaining how I make sense of things and that my frameworks are helpful for others, too.

Score another for neurodivergence!

That said, it’s taken some practice find my public sensemaking rhythm. The way I write and speak has evolved quite a bit in a short time—at least from my perspective.

But the other thing that’s shifted for me is the ability to turn ideas into a visualizations and graphic representations. I’ve never thought of myself as very good at visual art or graphic design—even though I wished I was.

Then, I had a conversation with writer, developmental editor, and communications consultant Kris Windley. Kris told me all about how she’d been learning how to draw to support her writing—and that helped manage her attention & focus as she navigates ADHD.

I don’t think I can overstate how much this got my wheels turning. It wasn’t until January that I really got to work on the project finding ways to illustrate my ideas. But once I got started, I couldn’t stop!

Here 8 months later and almost a year after that conversation, I feel like I have a really powerful tool in my toolkit. And that that tool leverages a strength I had only been using at half-power.

This episode is a rebroadcast but, if you follow my non-podcast work, I think it will have new meaning for you now—as it does for me. And regardless, I think it’s really encouraging to hear about how Kris has intentionally and methodically introduced this new skill into the way she works!
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Aug 17, 2021
EP 350: Slowing Down For Success With Coach Reva Patwardhan

In This Episode:

* Why coach Reva Patwardhan counts her intrinsic sense of belonging as one of her top strengths* How “deep processing” allows her to work with high-achieving women in unexpected ways* How she’s learned to work with her ADHD instead of against it* What she’s discovered at the intersection of neurodivergence and being a woman of color

I think a lot about belonging.

In fact, “belonging” is an ongoing conversation between our community advocate, Shannon, and I.

We talk about belonging because one of the biggest concerns that prospective Network members and new members have is whether they will belong. They ask if there are people like them in the community: people with a similar business model, people from the same industry, people who come from the same background they have.

On one hand, these questions are easy to answer. Typically we can say, “Yes! There are people like you here.” But on the other hand, a sense of belonging isn’t just a factor of who you’re in proximity with.

A sense of belonging isn’t situational. It’s intrinsic.

And if through trauma, oppression, toxic relationships, injustice, or cruelty you’ve lost your sense of belonging, it doesn’t matter how much the people around you are like you. You can still feel separate and other.

Belonging isn’t a switch you can turn on and off. At least not in my experience.

One of the threads of that ongoing conversation that Shannon and I have about belonging is indeed about my experience—and about how her experience is pretty different.

A couple of years ago, we reached the joint revelation that we have different default settings when it comes to belonging. When she walks in a room, she assumes she belongs. And in a uncommonly positive result of confirmation bias, she typically starts to confirm her belonging in all sorts of social and situational ways.

When I walk in a room of people—which I try to avoid at all costs—I assume I don’t belong. I assume I’m missing the memo on something everyone else has known for all time. I feel cut off and I shut down. My own confirmation bias starts to pick out all the reasons why I do not belong in that room with those people.

While that probably sounds pretty awful, and it is, I believe that it’s also caused me to build a strength in leadership.

As a leader, I interact with a group in a different way. It’s understood that I am on the outside, not belonging in the same way to the group as others. And similarly, being on the outside, gives me a better perspective on the group and their challenges. So it works out pretty well.

Sebene Selassie writes about a similar phenomenon in her extremely excellent book, You Belong. Sebene examines the benefits of living in the margins of society. She writes, “If we imagine each circle is made up of people who are facing inwards, the closer you are to the center, the less you see. Conversely, if you are in the outermost circles, you have the greatest perspective.”

Are there real issues with being in the margins of society? Absolutely: lack of access to resources and lack of participation in decision-making chief among them.

But operating on the outside gives us perspective we can use to do real good in the world.

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Aug 10, 2021
EP 349: Updating Your Default Settings With Work Brighter Founder Brittany Berger

In This Episode:

* How Work Brighter founder Brittany Berger leverages her unique strengths to create a custom approach to productivity and structure* Why she tracks her mood and energy to make her working time more effective* How she’s reimagined traditional productivity “rules” through the lens of neurodivergence and chronic illness* How her obsession with pop culture has become a strength for creating compelling content

How do you operate in a world that’s not designed for you?

How do you make sense of instructions that weren’t written for you?

How do you navigate expectations that weren’t set with you in mind?

These are big, personal questions and, thankfully, we’ve started taking a look at the answers at a cultural level and not just at the individual level.

But until we see some serious change to a culture that privileges white, male, thin, neurotypical, heterosexual, cisgendered, hierarchal, and non-disabled ways of living, we’ve got some adapting to do.

It’s easy to think that these adaptations are a constraint. A limitation of what’s possible.

And honestly, sometimes they are.

But often, these adaptations are leveraged as strengths.

Truthfully, I didn’t think these questions belonged to me for a long time. I thought I’d been gifted with talent, intelligence, and at least a bit of charisma and that I really should be able to make it all work pretty easily.

It wasn’t until I ran straight into a wall of burnout after college that I started to question whether that was really true.

It’s been 16 years since I hit that wall. Since I sat on my professor’s couch and cried that I just didn’t know if grad school was the next step for me. Since my mom took the truck up to Syracuse to move down the furniture we’d already moved into my grad school apartment.

And over those 16 years, I’ve tried to fix myself. I’ve tried to become the kind of person who operates in this world naturally, who follows the instructions to a T, and who easily meets and exceeds expectations.

But last year, I got curious.

As I talked about some of my own breakthroughs and personal successes in terms of learning to manage myself better and execute on ideas, I got gentle messages from folks urging me to be careful about not taking neurodivergent experiences into account in the way I explained what I was working with.

At first, my reaction to these messages was the deep concern that comes along with inadvertently harming someone or making them feel like they don’t belong.

But then, once I understood their own experiences better, I started to wonder: is my experience really that different than theirs? Or rather, do my experiences fit the norms as neatly as I’d like them to?

I found myself wanting to reply that I appreciated their messages, truly, and this doesn’t come easily to me. It’s the hardest work I’ve done in my life.

Over time, the evidence grew and grew. No, my experience didn’t fit the norms. It might be different than other people’s but my sense that I didn’t belong to the shoulds and supposed-tos of culture, relationships, productivity, or emotions became clear.

At the same time, I was hearing even more women talk about themselves and their experiences in ways that felt haltingly familiar... ★ Support this podcast ★
Aug 03, 2021
EP 348: Knowing When To Get Out Of The Way With Let’s Do The Books Founder Mark Butler

In This Episode:

* Why Let’s Do The Books founder Mark Butler has been working on getting out of the way for his team* How he’s evolved the way he works to take a break from creating chaos while still leaning into his strengths for experimentation and ideation* Why he’s focused on finding the space to quiet his mind* How he’s created an environment where his team members can really thrive in ownership of their work

Entrepreneurs have a reputation for having control issues.

They also have a reputation for being real idea people.

And what happens when you combine those two qualities? Well, it can be total chaos.

Chaos can be building a system then immediately trying to quote-unquote improve it.

Chaos can be hiring up a team but never really letting them do their jobs.

Chaos can also be trying do 10 different things at once and juggle them all yourself.

It’s not easy when it feels like your life or business are in chaos.

It’s hard to find the space to take a mental break, let alone some time away from work.

My buddy Mark Butler, has been working on lessening the chaos from the last few years and so I knew he was the perfect person to round out this series on taking a break.

Mark is the founder of Let’s Do The Books, as well as a CFO for 7 and 8-figure coaching businesses. He’s generous, rigorous, super fun to hang out with, and makes for great bear bait (that’s a story for another time).

Mark is actively working on quieting his mind, exploring how to create the best conditions for his team members to thrive, and learning when to get the heck out of the way—or else allow chaos to creep back in.

We talk about all of those things—plus how his high value for family influences the direction he’s taking his work-life.

Strap in.

Let’s find out what works for Mark Butler.

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Jul 27, 2021
EP 347: Carving Out Space For Creative Work With The Autonomous Creative Founder Jessica Abel

In This Episode:

* Why Jessica Abel believes carving out space to work on experimental and creative projects is key* The strategy she recommends for buying the time you need to do creative work* How she measures creative projects in “developmental markers” and “success markers”* And why she’s committed to building a team that helps her make room for big picture thinking and creative projects

It’s one thing to get your business to a point that’s stable and sustainable.

It’s another to make room for big projects like writing a book or building a new offer.

And it’s yet another thing to carve out the space to work on a creative project that may or may not ever bring financial benefits.

It’s those big projects—the business-related and the not-so-business-related—that so many business owners dream of being able to spend time on.

Sometimes, we put them on our calendar—block out a week or even a long weekend—but then life happens.

Some quote-unquote emergency bleeds into the time we’ve set aside.

Other times, we dwell in the daydreaming. Pinterest boards are curated. Research is done. Ideas are floated past significant others or mastermind groups.

But nothing material ever comes of it.

While Tara will gladly tell you that I’m a huge fan of daydreaming, I also want to make at least some of those dreams real.

Last week, when I talked with Jacquette Timmons about finding the perfect blend of your work days and weeks, I mentioned that one of the things in my particular blend is working on art throughout the days.

I love that I’ve developed a working life that allows me to simultaneously kick butt & take names producing podcasts at the same time I’m exploring my passion for visual art.

It’s taken commitment, experimentation, and a lot of work on business systems—not to mention some serious mindset work!—to get to that place.

And that’s exactly what I wanted to talk with today’s guest about.

What does it take to be able to carve out the time and energy to pursue big creative projects?

Jessica Abel is the founder of The Autonomous Creative and the creator of The Creative Focus Workshop. She’s also a cartoonist, author, and educator. She helps all kinds of creative people juggle the work that pays with the work they dream about.

Our conversation isn’t so much about taking a break from work entirely. It’s about taking a break from one kind of work to focus on the projects we so rarely make time for.

Jessica and I talk about how her work has evolved over the years and how she’s able to juggle so many projects herself, as well as the patterns she’s noticed among creatives, the routines that can help us make sense of our time, and how she paces herself.

Now, let’s find out what works for Jessica Abel!

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Jul 20, 2021
EP 346: Finding The Right Blend With Financial Behaviorist Jacquette Timmons

In This Episode:

* Why financial behaviorist Jacquette Timmons is more interested in finding the right blend that finding a balance between work and life* How she approaches the way she engages with work to stave off burnout* Why rest is part of the work she does* How the structure of a business contributes to whether we’re able to find the right blend for ourselves

Reminder, this month, Tara is taking a break from hosting and handing the mic over to her husband & business partner, Sean McMullin:

I have a confession, dear listener.

I was once late to the start of a group coaching call because I was… taking a nap.

Through some combination of oversight and calendar failure, I missed that I had a call that I needed to be on until Tara woke me up!

So embarrassing.

And while I’m committed to making sure that never happens again, I’m equally committed to continuing to take naps in the middle of the day. Taking a nap in the middle of the day is one thing I’ve done to find the right blend of work, rest, and recharging that works for me.

It’s a small way that I take a break almost every day.

At different times in my journey with YellowHouse.Media, I’ve been overwhelmed and overworked. It felt like there were never enough hours in the day or days in the week. And that is not okay with me.

So I started to make changes. I changed the time I got started in the morning, I changed the project management tool we use, and I changed how I interacted with clients.

Soon enough, I wasn’t just feeling less overwhelmed and overworked. I had time for a nap! I also had time to take breaks periodically throughout the day to work on my art.

Solid systems, strong client relationships, naps, and art is the perfect blend for my day.

You probably have your own ideal blend for how you spend your time—whether working or otherwise. Maybe you save working on your big projects until after 10pm. Maybe you take 1 week off per quarter. Maybe you don’t schedule calls on Mondays or Tuesdays.

And if you don’t have found the right blend for you yet, now is the perfect time to think about what it might be and start experimenting you way to it.

Today, I have a conversation with one of my oldest business friends for you on exactly this subject.

Jacquette Timmons is speaker, coach, and financial behaviorist who helps people make human choices with their money.

I wanted to find out what taking a break and taking care of herself meant to her. And eventually the conversation got to this topic of finding the right blend—so that whether you’re working, resting, exercising, eating, or exploring your other interests, you feel satisfied and fulfilled with the way you’re spending your time.

Now, let’s find out what works for Jacquette Timmons!

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Jul 13, 2021
EP 345: Putting Your Business In Maintenance Mode With ScaleSpark Founder Susan Boles

In This Episode:

* Sean McMullin asks Break The Ceiling host Susan Boles what she’s learned about creating a business that runs itself* Why maintenance mode is key to creating the space to experiment and try out new ideas without breaking your business* How to view your business in smaller pieces to create your own minimum viable maintenance mode* Why creating the systems you need to take a break before there’s a crisis is critical

This month’s series is all about “taking a break”—so Tara is taking a break from hosting and handing the mic over to her husband, producer, and business partner, Sean McMullin. Take it away, Sean!

I never want to do work I can’t walk away from.

When Tara and I started YellowHouse.Media, it was really important to me that we set it up in such a way that—eventually—it could run itself. We had built this great life together. We could travel, explore, and pursue interests outside of work—and I was only going to be game for this whole entrepreneurship thing if it wouldn’t completely disrupt that life.

We actually talked about our initial approach to building a business that could work without us in Episode 232. And later in September, we’ll talk again—this time with our production coordinator Lou Blaser—about our latest steps in making that happen.

It’s taken some serious time and intention to get to the point where taking real time off or dramatically reducing hours for an extended time is possible.

But here we are.

Last week, we took our first trip of this Hot Vax Summer. And later this month, we’re driving out to Montana to enjoy a month in the mountains again. We’ll still be working but the business will largely be in maintenance mode.

Which brings me to today’s topic. When Tara and I decided I’d take over for her this month and explore the topic of taking a break, I immediately knew the first person I wanted to talk to.

My friend and YHM podcaster Susan Boles. Susan is the founder of ScaleSpark and the host of Break The Ceiling.

She has an eye for efficiency, systems, and automation that makes her the perfect candidate for talking about how to put a business in maintenance mode.

And, Susan, like many others, was forced to wrestling with the reality of building a business made for maintenance mode when the pandemic hit and schools closed.

During our conversation, you’ll hear that story and why it’s so important to her to have a business that runs in maintenance mode. You’ll also hear how Susan can fall prey to shiny object syndrome and other distractions just like any other business owner, as well as how she’s combating self-sabotage and how she balances work as a creative outlet with taking breaks.

Now, let’s find out what works for Susan Boles!

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Jul 06, 2021
EP 344: Time To Take A Break?

Do you ever get the feeling you’re white-knuckling it through business ownership?

Like if you just squeeze the wheel hard enough and focus on what’s in front of you, you can keep your business from ending up in a serious fender bender (or worse)?

I’ve certainly felt that way. All throughout 2020, I felt like my extreme vigilance was the only thing between my business and an 8-car pileup. And we didn’t get hit nearly as hard as many businesses.

It’s a burden, being able to control situations with my hyper-vigilance, but it’s my lot in life. — Tina Fey, Bossypants

That hyper-vigilance can look like needing to have my fingers in every project or having to touch base with every customer. It can look like working 10 hours a day or checking in on the weekends. It can look like not going on vacation for fear of things crumbling without me or always leaving my inbox open throughout the day.

This last year involved every one of those habits at one point or another. Sometimes all at once.

Truthfully, I’m still burnt out from The Year Of White-Knuckling.

And I need a break. That’s why, if you’re reading this at the time it’s published, I’m unplugged and on vacation. Note from writing self to vacation self: seriously, let go—don’t work this week.

Of course, “taking a break” isn’t just about taking a vacation. It might mean making space for a creative project. Or making time to work on your business. Or taking Fridays off. Or putting your podcast on hiatus. There are so many ways to take a break from things that drain us (even if we love them) but hyper-vigilance is not the way you do it.

Last year notwithstanding, I’ve led my business to a pretty peaceful equilibrium.

We have strong systems, predictable cycles of work, and a dreamy community of customers who cheer when we take some time off.

But I also catch a glimpse of my former hyper-vigilant self every time I see Sean worry about our clients on the weekends or try to make vacation plans around reliable access to the internet every morning.

While it would be wonderful to work in a world where taking a break meant just shutting down the computer on a Friday with no preparation and not giving work a second thought for 10 days, taking a break takes some work.

There is work to be done on the business—I’ll get to the specifics in just a moment—and there is also mental work.

Now, if you’re not the anxious, hyper-vigilant business owner that I am, maybe mentally preparing for a break isn’t so hard. I have no idea what that’s like. Feel free to skip ahead, though.

For all the worriers out there, probably the most helpful mental shift I’ve made over the years is learning that:

There is no amount of worry or hyper-vigilance that will stop something bad from happening.

I can’t not take a break because I believe checking email every day averts all potential problems.

Ish happens.

Even the best systems, happiest customers, and most independent team members won’t stop the random problem from breaking through.

But just because I can’t stop a problem from happening doesn’t mean that a problem will happen. I can take a few days or a few weeks off without there being a problem that... ★ Support this podcast ★
Jul 01, 2021
EP 343: 5 Ways To Do More & Better By Teaming Up

I did not like group work as a student.

I much preferred to take on a project myself. I wanted complete control over the vision for that project, its execution, and all of the details along the way.

And when I say I “preferred,” what I really mean is that I still prefer to do things on my own.

However, building a business has taught me that I’m not going to build what I want to build without group work.

All this month, we’ve been exploring the possibilities for teaming up as we run our businesses. We explored hiring & managing with Podge Thomas, and I shared how I cope as an anxious, introverted, and autistic boss with Annie Schuessler. We explored how we can expand the visions of our businesses to ask how they can help us take better care of each other–and not just meet individual goals for success–with Kate Strathmann.

And we explored how to guide ourselves through the process of asking for and receiving support from others with Shulamit Ber Levtov.

This week, we’re going to wrap things up by exploring 5 things that are only really possible when we team up.

As I mentioned, group work is not my thing. And, I’ve realized that the things I’m most passionate about pursuing and creating are things that can only be done as part of a group. I need a team to build community. I nurture community to transform small business ownership. I need a team to help people express themselves & their ideas with podcasts. Heck, I need a team to produce this podcast!

A lot has been written about the promise of “solo entrepreneurship” over the years. And 8 years ago, I wrote about how I believed that solo entrepreneurship is a myth. Businesses aren’t built in a bubble, I wrote.

The only reason it feels like we can build a business on our own is because we have so many ways of working together. Only we take those ways of working together for granted.

The reason social media can work for marketing? It’s because we’re all collaborating on the content we put there–intentionally or not. The reason so many of us can sell to individual consumers or entrepreneurs with no middle man? We’ve all agreed that supporting each other is a key part of creating the world we want to live in.

The reason the technology we use to run our businesses gets better and better? We’re all a part of the feedback loop driving innovation.

The more we can draw out how we’re all a part of an implicit collaboration, a quiet team of supporters, the more we can ease into the power of making those collaborations explicit.

Entrepreneurship isn’t actually group work.

It’s a huge opportunity to take better care of each other. An opportunity to make our little corner of the world a better place through the vehicle of business. And we just won’t do that alone.

Today, I have 5 ways we can team up to do bigger and better things.

SEO consultant Meg Casebolt shares a story about teaming up to create a truly unique experience. ★ Support this podcast ★
Jun 29, 2021
EP 342: Getting Help Before The Ish Hits The Fan with Shulamit Ber Levtov

In This Episode:

* How mindset & resilience consultant Shulamit Ber Levtov became interested in the mental health challenges women face in entrepreneurship* Why she took a month off from work to prevent experiencing a full burnout last year* The methods she uses to identify what she needs and how she’s feeling* Why she always starts with getting her emotional support needs met first* How she crafts clear boundaries and direct communication about what she really needs

When was the last time you asked for help?

The last time you tried to solve a problem by asking for guidance instead of throwing yourself into Google? The last time you told someone about something that was really weighing on you, not looking for answers but just reaching out for empathy and understanding?

I can’t remember the last time I did. So if you’re having a hard time picturing it, I’m right there with you.

I’ve been my identity around being the one with the answers, the one who has it all together.

Of course, much of that has been a mask for how utterly out of place and clueless I feel most of the time.

The more I can present myself as a smart, successful, and altogether resourceful leader the less likely I am to consciously worry about being rejected.

Today, we’re talking about cultivating emotional resilience and accessing support as a small business owner.

In their book, Burnout, Drs Emily and Amelia Nagoski term the collection of symptoms we face as the ones who have to have it all together as Human Giver Syndrome.

The “human giver” idea comes from philosopher Kate Manne who uses it to make a distinction between the expectations put on women, along with people of color, queer people, immigrants, and other marginalized groups, and the expectations put on white men. Human givers are the people who human beings rely on for moral support, emotional labor, admiration, attention, and care.

The Nagoskis suggest that human givers who give and give without the ability to take time to receive support for their own labor and stress are on a fast track to burning out.

I think this same dynamic can play out with business owners—no matter their gender.

Under-resourced business owners are often relied on for moral support, strategic direction, project management, post mortem analysis, and planning with little ability to receive support on those tasks—or many others.

What’s more, our culture valorizes entrepreneurs who do this work day in and day out, for long hours, with no breaks. Of course, none of that valor translates into a better safety net and more abundant collective resources for business-building.

Now, I’m in way trying to make entrepreneurs the subject of sympathy. The upside to building a business, even as an under-resourced business owner, can be immense.

But that doesn’t lessen the strain of making that upside reality.

It’s hard. And it’s lonely. And it often goes unrecognized.

Even though I am one of the many business owners who has a hard time setting aside my I’ve-got-it-all-together identity to ask for & receive support, I have created a container where people to do this on a daily basis.

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Jun 22, 2021
EP 341: Taking Better Care Of Each Other with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

In This Episode:

* Wanderwell founder Kate Strathmann and I unpack how our personal values often don’t line up with economic forces—and how that impacts our business* Why rethinking the purpose of your business might help you rethink your goals to be more aligned with your personal values* How expanding your vision to include taking care of others as well as yourself can create a paradigm shift in your business

Marketers love to tell you: do this and you’ll make more money.

Or, do this and you’ll have more freedom.

Or, do this and you’ll get to be more you.

If you do what I tell you to do, your life will significantly improve.

The reason for this is simple: capitalism turns life improvement into a task of consumption.

We’re convinced we can buy our way to an easier, more satisfying life. And that means many of us are convinced we can work our way to the money we need to do that.

Further, the more we improve ourselves and enhance our lives, the more we can use our selves as a form of capital to reinvest in the market. As Jia Tolentino writes, selfhood is capitalism’s last natural resource.

Now, I’m not meaning to pick on marketers here.

Because the way we (and yes, I’ll include myself here) market our products and services is only one very small part of a systemic problem.

The larger, systemic issue is how most of us are conditioned to focus our effort on the individual pursuit of success. We focus on our individual challenges, our individual needs, and our individual opportunities.

And that’s great because businesses can sell us answers to the questions of individual success and the solutions to individual challenges.

When their solutions don’t bring about the results we’re looking for? Well, it’s likely because we’re just not as capable as we need to be, right? Ugh.

Individualism is insidious.

Of course, just because individualism is insidious doesn’t mean we don’t have individual needs, goals, and desires that are absolutely worth pursuing.

It’s just that individualism as a system, along with the personal responsibility doctrine and the false promise of meritocracy create a series of assumptions that ultimately pit my success against your success, my needs against your needs, my desires against your desires.

We can talk about wanting business to be a win-win all we want but, as long as we’re working in these systems, it’s incredibly difficult to make it happen.

So what that does is put our personal values in conflict with economic forces. It puts the way we want to see the world in conflict with the way the world works.

Over the last 5 years, I’ve been trying to imagine and build ways of doing business that meet & exceed my individual needs while also broadening my focus beyond only my individual success. I still have many more questions that I have answers—and I’ve peeled back many layers of privilege and conditioning to see things in new ways.

Last spring, a new layer to peel back started to emerge. My friend and our resident business radical, Kate Strathmann, made it clear that many of the ways we were responding to the pandemic and resulting economic shock were an attempt at “individual solutions to ... ★ Support this podcast ★
Jun 15, 2021
EP 340: Managing As An Introverted, Anxious, and Autistic Boss: Tara’s Interview On The Rebel Therapist With Annie Schuessler

In This Episode:

* How I decide what roles to hire for (and why understanding our team structure is key)* When it’s time increase capacity by hiring versus fixing messy operations* Why you don’t want to clone yourself to get more done* How product and operations can overlap to creating some really exciting opportunities

When I say I’m an introvert, I mean I’m a hardcore introvert.

People don’t believe me when I say that because I’m loud and enthusiastic—but being loud and enthusiastic is not the same thing as being extroverted.

If you spend more than an hour with me in a social situation, you’ll see the life drain from my eyes as my internal batteries release their last burst of energy.

I wish I was kidding—but I am not.

I also happen to be an introvert surrounded by extroverts.

I’m an internal processor surrounded by external processors. I’m an avoider of small talk surrounded by people who love small talk.

It’s a tricky situation.

Who are these people? They’re my team members—and among them, my husband.

Sean and I often joke about how unfortunate it is that I’ve ended up with so many extroverts in my life. Not because there’s anything wrong with extroverts but because it can be exhausting!

My friend Annie Schuessler asked if I’d be willing to talk about managing a team as an introvert and I jumped at the chance. I’ve learned so much about team-building in general over the last 5 years but I’ve also learned a bunch about how to put guardrails in place around my own energy and bandwidth as I work with my teams.

Since recording this interview, I’ve also started to talk publicly about how the way I work and relate to others is filtered through the lens of autism. So many of the things I’ve always thought of as a result of introversion and social anxiety are present because of my autism.

I am introverted, I do have social anxiety, and I’m autistic.

That’s a pretty thick soup to be wading through as a manager.

The main reason I wanted to share that before you hear this interview is because my experiences as an introverted boss may be quite different from your experiences if you’re also an introverted boss.

The other reason reason I wanted to share that is because, before I had the framework of autism to make sense of my life, I was constantly working against myself in an effort to fix things I perceived as problems & deficiencies.

While I’m still working to become a better manager and leader, I’m also looking much more objectively at how I can build structures that don’t require me to work against my nature quite so often. In so many ways, my autism is a strength for business-building, writing & podcasting, and team-building. But it takes work to embrace those strengths when they’re so different from what other people expect!

Alright, here’s what you’re going to hear in this interview—Annie and I talk about how I find team members, why you need to know what you’re really hiring for before you start looking, how I’m onboarding new hires now, and why you don’t want to clone yourself.

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Jun 08, 2021
EP 339: Hiring For The Upside With Small Business Co-Pilot Founder Podge Thomas

In This Episode:

* Why management specialist Podge Thomas believes your team should be your biggest asset* How to prepare to hire—and how to take better care of your team member through careful onboarding* How our previous experiences with management shape the way we approach the prospect of hiring today

Managing has gotten a bad rap.

In fact, if I had to guess, I’d say that “not wanting to manage people” is the biggest reason people cite for not hiring.

Sure, there might be financial issues. There might be issues with finding the right person. There might issues about knowing what to hand off.

But almost everyone I talk to has either a fear or an unwillingness to manage people.

So why do so many of us have such an aversion to management?

Why have so many people sworn off hiring help?

Why has solopreneurship become such an enticing thing for people wanting to build a business?

Here’s my take: we grossly overestimate the risks & liabilities of hiring people and managing them. And we grossly underestimate the benefits of doing so.

Typically cognitive bias, especially for entrepreneurs, works the other way. We fixate on the upsides and ignore potential risk. That’s entrepreneurial optimism in a nutshell.

So maybe this is managerial pessimism?

I don’t know—but what I do know is that hiring might be the best thing you ever do for yourself and for your business.

That’s not to say that I think it’s the right decision for everyone—but I do believe it’s a good decision for more business owners.

This episode is going to be perfect for you whether you’ve avoided hiring to this point, whether you’re considering making the leap, or whether you’ve already got a team and looking to become a better boss and really receive the benefits of building a team.

But before we get into the meat of it, I want to paint a picture of the upside of hiring for you. Because there’s a very good chance that, even if you’re already paying people, you haven’t experienced this yet.

Upside #1: People have your back

Team members—especially employees—aren’t just there to get things done for you. They’re part of the fundamental support of the business. And sometimes, that looks like making sure you’re in a position to the do work that only you can do.

They might keep you from getting derailed by an unhappy customer. They might watch out for you when they know you’re under the weather. They might pick up an off-hand remark as an idea for a game-changing project.

I simply cannot oversell the benefit of having a team that has your back. Of course, building this kind of team takes work—management work—but it is so, so, so worth it.

Upside #2: Other people can create or deliver value for you

Most micro business owners—solo or not—operate as if they’re the only ones who can create value for the business. But team members can create value, too!

They can turn ideas into reality. They can work with your clients or lead conversations in your course. They can build systems that dramatically increase efficiency and effectiveness. They can even build offers for you!

Maybe that seems incredibly far-fetched at this point. Maybe you never even considered that as a possibility. But it’s all true. Of course, you’ve got to hire the right people and guide them... ★ Support this podcast ★
Jun 01, 2021
Q&A: What Content Should Be Free? And What Should Be Paid For?

How do you know what content should be free? And, what should be paid for?

This month, we’ve been talking all about building an audience and/or finding customers—as well as how those two things are different.

And one of the things a conversation about audience-building always comes back to is content.

What kind of content do you create? Where do you share it? Who do you create it for? And on & on…

The big question I get repeatedly, though is: How do I know what content should be paid for and what content should be free?

And I get it!

There’s a whole industry out there that appears to be helping you sell content–whether as ebooks, online courses, membership sites, Patreon incentives, or paid newsletters.

But what I’ve learned is that we are never really selling content. Or information. Or even ideas.

We’re always selling an experience. We craft an experience of content that facilitates transformation–and that’s really what people buy. Because the info is out there, right?

Even if your product is quote-unquote only an online course with no feedback, no live calls, no engagement from you, it’s still an experience. Because you’ve crafted each module and what order they appear in, you’ve chosen the course platform, you’ve designed the way you’re delivering the information–all to facilitate change. That’s an experience.

I want to share a clip of The What Works Network Insider Hour from this month where I share how I approach this question specifically in my own business and, specifically, how my thinking has changed over the years.

I get into my overall strategy for content as it relates to our product and I talk about how that approach ties into our sales process, too.
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May 27, 2021
EP 338: Why Staying Small Leads To Big Results

This month, we’ve explored finding customers and building an audience—which are not the same things.

Every business needs to find customers. But not every business—not even most businesses—needs to build an audience.

Yet, so many small business owners get hung up on building their following counts or email lists instead of doing the things that actually lead to sales.

The drive to build an audience partially comes from the false belief that “scale” is the universal goal for all businesses.

Many successful businesses never scale—or they don’t scale in terms of serving thousands of people instead of tens of people. They might scale in terms of efficiency or price or team—but scaling up one or all of those things does not require you to build an audience.

But everywhere you look on social media, someone is telling you that you have to scale.

As Maggie Patterson put it, they’re serving you poison and then selling you the cure.

Now look, if you’re excited about scaling up or you’ve found success with scaling up, wonderful!! I personally love the idea of serving at scale and enjoy speaking to an audience.

But I also recognize that this is the best way to build a business for only a teeny tiny segment of the business owner community.

A stronger, more sustainable, more effective way to build a highly profitable business is to…

wait for it…

Stay small and do things that don’t scale.

Today, I have 3 more stories of people who are serving and building in a really impactful ways without building an audience in the way you might have been taught.

You’ll hear from messaging consultant Dr. Michelle Mazur, branding expert Amy Walsh, and leadership consultant Nancy Hess.

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May 25, 2021
EP 337: Connecting With Stories With Tell Me A Story Founder Hillary Rea

In This Episode:

* Why storytelling is good for business and how it can help you build your audience* Why you don’t have to squeeze your story into the hero’s journey* How finding a related emotional touchpoint can lead to telling a powerful story even if it isn’t directly related to the information you’re sharing* How to start your own story bank so you’re never at a loss for a good story to tell

Nothing fosters human connection faster than a story.

Stories are the most direct way to tell someone else—or a whole audience of people—an important truth about you. Stories give us shared experiences and emotions to build relationships from.

Stories make even the biggest concepts or most technical information feel real.

Practicing storytelling has been a game changer for me in the way I communicate, market, and teach. And I believe it can do the same for you.

Today’s episode is a sort of conversation-meets-workshop excerpted from a special joint event for The What Works Network and Standout Podcast Club.

I talk with Tell Me A Story founder Hillary Rea about how we can more effectively use stories in the content we create and why stories have such a positive impact on our results as business owners.

This conversation is chock full of ideas, explainers, and ways to experiment with story so you can forge a deeper connection with your audience.

So settle in for this conversation on connecting with story with Hillary Rea!

Check out Hillary’s 30 story prompts.

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May 18, 2021
EP 336: Marketing Without Scale With Brand Strategist Felicia Sullivan

In This Episode:

* Why brand strategist Felicia Sullivan doesn’t bother with using social media to find clients* How she uses coffee dates to make long-lasting relationships* Why she prioritizes consuming remarkable content and how it helps her meet the people she wants to meet* How she uses Medium to deliver remarkable content on the platform her clients are most likely to be engaging with

“Do things that don’t scale.”

That’s venture capitalist Paul Graham’s advice to new entrepreneurs.

What he means is that instead of trying to appeal to the masses or market an idea with a million-dollar advertising budget, start by wooing 1 person at a time.

I’ve always loved this advice and found it to be unfailingly effective.

But… it’s possible to take this idea too far.

When I say it’s possible to take the idea of doing things that don’t scale too far, I’m talking about the tendency to assume that you do things that don’t scale until you can do the things that scale.

For Graham’s audience, that is totally the right idea.

But for small business owners, more often than not, the idea is: do things that don’t scale—and then do them some more.

And this absolutely applies to how we build audiences or find customers.

The activities that have brought me the biggest leaps forward in terms of the size of my audience were things that came from 1:1 interactions. The things that have brought in incredible clients? They certainly didn’t scale.

It’s not that scale isn’t possible—it’s just that scale is a potential result not a method.

The best path forward for most small business owners is a marketing strategy that doesn’t scale: referrals, word of mouth, networking, interacting with people online. Even creating highly valuable podcast episodes or newsletters!

Today, I’m talking with Felicia Sullivan, a brand strategist who has built a thriving business on marketing activities that don’t scale. Felicia works with startup founders and small businesses doing $10-20m in annual revenue—folks who aren’t looking for business help on Instagram.

So Felicia spends her business development time on 3 things: coffee dates, writing long-form articles geared directly to her prospective clients, and referrals.

This episode answers some of the questions I’m most frequently asked about when it comes to marketing businesses that aren’t built on online courses (which, you know, is most of them).

Get ready to take some notes.

Let’s find out What Works for Felicia Sullivan!

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May 11, 2021
EP 335: Finding The Right Strategy To Market Your Business with Savvy Social Podcast Host Andréa Jones

In This Episode:

* How social media marketing expert Andréa Jones balances two different marketing strategies for her agency and for her membership community* Why she prioritizes feelings when it comes to positioning and messaging* How she incorporates social media marketing into the larger context of a sales campaign* Why promotional content isn’t all that useful for building an audience or finding customers—and what’s working instead

Some of the most successful business owners I know spend absolutely no time on marketing.

They have social media accounts but they’re for posting images about vacations or family or hobbies.

They have blogs but they largely sit dormant.

They have email lists but never send any email.

They don’t have massive advertising budgets or a marketing team that takes care of it for them. Their businesses are simply designed to work—to thrive—without the playing the games we’ve come to associate with marketing in the 2020s.

The topic we’re covering this month is always a crowd-pleaser.

We’re talking about building an audience.

Except that… we aren’t really going to be talking about building an audience at all.

Truth be told, I chose this topic about halfway through 2020 knowing that people love to hear about all the ways people work on attracting followers and building their email lists.

But the more I thought about what I wanted to cover this month, the more I realized this month needed to be about shedding light on some of the most pernicious shoulds & supposed-tos that exist in the small business world online.

So we are going to talk about building your audience, but we’re going to juxtapose that with the reality of how marketing—or more specifically, finding customers & clients—work in businesses that are booming.

And that’s exactly where I’d like to start.

There’s a difference between building an audience and finding customers or clients.

At one point in the recent history of the social web, these 2 actions might have been one and the same. But today, the conversation about building an audience has become detached from finding customers or clients.

Building an audience typically looks like working the algorithms by figuring out when to post to maximize likes, what types of media receive the most engagement, and which hashtags to use to broaden your reach.

Building an audience has mostly been removed from the context of finding customers.

Sure, the conversation might start with identifying your ideal customer… but it quickly devolves into chatter about Reels, and Stories, and stickers, and the best ways to promote your business.

The prevailing narrative assumes that every purchase is the result of a long and drawn-out journey from haphazardly discovering something you post, to hitting the “follow” button, to signing up for your email list, to attending a webinar, to finally considering buying from you.

Here’s the thing: I can’t say that I’ve ever bought an information product or contracted a service that way.

I don’t want to speak for you here—but my guess is that the majority of your purchases don’t follow that pattern, either. Instead, you buy because a friend recommended something or because you h... ★ Support this podcast ★
May 04, 2021
EP 334: Creating Mental Space With Simple Changes

What’s the ROI on mental space?

What would it be worth to you to get some peace of mind?

What would you be willing to do to alleviate a bit of uncertainty from your life or business?

All this month, we’ve been talking about simplifying and the immense benefits you can experience by building a simple business.

We’re going to close things out here by taking a look at how operational improvements can create a profound sense of relief—and open up mental space that you didn’t even know was cluttered!

I can easily remember what it was like to run my business before we built solid systems.

Cluttered is exactly how I would describe it.

It wasn’t just the operational clutter–files all over the place, to-do lists scattered all over my desk, and priorities that could change on a whim.

It was also the mental clutter.

Where did all that mental clutter come from? Well, it was a result of a whole bunch of unhelpful habits and patterns.

It was people-pleasing and scarcity thinking and entrepreneurial optimism. I had mental clutter from my habit of trying to remember all of the things instead of documneting stuff. I had mental clutter from avoiding conflict and never setting firm boundaries.

In order to clear up my operational clutter, I also had to clean up those patterns.

Because a simple system was never going to stick if my habits were just going to lead to me cluttering things up again.

And I think that’s where we so often go wrong when it comes to simplifying and cleaning things up.

We put smart systems on top of unconscious mental patterns. We try to apply countermeasures without addressing the inner game of business at the same time.

If we’re building awareness of how and why things get messy or complicated in the first place, then we can design a cleaner system AND maintain it.

Which is great.

AND… it gets better. As I mentioned, one of the best benefits of cleaning things up and simplifying is mental space.

Once I was less exhausted and emotionally drained from navigating my own cluttered systems, I had way more space for actually helping people!

I had more space for learning more. I had space for thinking more. And I had more space for getting create.

You heard Sophy Dale echo this sentiment in Episodes 330 and 331, too.

So, I’ll ask again: what is it worth to you to get that mental space?

I ask this not because it requires some financial investment.

What it likely requires is the discomfort that comes from doing things a new way.

Maybe you decide that to clean things up, you need to start documenting everything you do. Or track you time. Or wait 3 days before you act on a new idea.

Maybe you realize that you need to actually check items off in your project management software instead of just “checking in” to see what’s overdue.

Maybe you commit to organizing your inbox in another way or following a checklist for tasks that often suffer from overlooked details.

I’m not making light of any of these choices. These seemingly small operational shifts require a lot of effort in terms of addressing those mental habi... ★ Support this podcast ★
Apr 29, 2021
EP 333: Simplifying Social Media Content Creation With Andréa Jones and Tara McMullin

What Works is all about exploring what’s really working for small business owners.

Because there are a lot of assumptions and misconceptions about what it takes to build a stronger business.

This week, I’m bringing you something a little different. It’s an interview that I did for Andréa Jones’s podcast, The Savvy Social Podcast.

Andréa and I are both on a mission to bust some of the assumptions that people have about what’s good for business when it comes to social media marketing.

For me, it’s a small part of what I do. But for Andréa, this is her whole business. Andréa runs a thriving social media marketing agency called OnlineDrea as well as a training community for small business owners called Savvy Social School.

I’ve featured Andréa here on the pod before and we talked about how she approaches social media pretty differently when it comes to her own business versus how she manages social media for her clients with very different business models.

Good news: next week’s episode is a follow up to that conversation.

I respect the heck out of the way Andréa approaches social media and the way she trains other small business owners to manage their own marketing. And so when she asked if she could interview me about the unconventional approach I’ve taken to social media this year, I was honored.

What follows is that conversation. If you like this conversation, you’re going to love Andréa’s podcast, the Savvy Social Podcast—so check that out wherever you listen to What Works. And tell her I sent you, okay?

I asked Andréa if I could rebroadcast this conversation here at What Works because I think it gives a glimpse into how simplifying can help you focus on quality over quantity.

So without further ado, let’s get into. Listen up for the most concise explanation I’ve ever given for the philosophy behind What Works, why I’m focused on remarkable content this year, and how that focus has simplified the way I produce content for social media.

I also talk about how I view my primary job at What Works as a content creator—which is a job I love but isn’t right for everyone.

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Apr 27, 2021
Q&A: How Do You Make A Big Change To Your Business Model?

How do you make a big change to your business model without making it harder than it has to be?

How do you navigate sunsetting an old offer (or a few), raising your prices, or shifting your target client?

After spending a whole month talking about simplifying on What Works, I’ve had more than a few people wonder what it was actually going to take to make some big changes to the way they do business.

This question happened to come up during this month’s Insider Hour—a Q&A session I host each month for What Works Network members. And I wanted to share my answer in case it’s helpful to you and the changes you’re considering for your business, too.

You might also find it helpful to check out these resources:

* Free Workbook: How To Create A Plan To Grow Your Business* 7 Simple Business Models For Small Business Owners* Why Reactivity Leads To Complexity* Embracing Simplicity with Brigitte Lyons & Sophy Dale* What I Wish Every Small Business Owner Knew About Making More Money

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Apr 23, 2021
EP 332: Maybe Simplicity Is Just A Dream…

I’m convinced that every entrepreneur has a fantasy business that they daydream about.

It’s free from all of the baggage and assumptions that we’ve built up around our existing businesses.

And I’m also convinced that that fantasy business—as pie-in-the-sky as it may be—has something to teach us about our existing businesses.

They can show us how we’d market differently, set policies differently, and protect our time differently. They show us the kinds of relationships we’d prefer to have with clients or the type of work we’d rather be doing.

And, maybe more than anything, they show us just how simple a business can be.

With a few exceptions, I don’t think most of us daydream about convoluted, complicated businesses. We dream up simple businesses—ones that thrive with minimal BS.

Today, I’m sharing 3 ways that I built my fantasy business—the one I’d been dreaming about for years—and how it’s different from What Works.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

* Why making changes to an existing business is less like steering a big ship and more like dragging the anchor behind you* How focusing on process & systems helped us create a simple business model* What we did to create an offer that was an obvious “yes” for the right people and an obvious “no” for the wrong people* And how we’ve gotten away with almost zero marketing since we got started almost 2 years ago

Read the full transcript below:

If you were to start a new business—something that has nothing to do with what you’re doing now…

…what would it be?

Maybe you daydream about starting a copywriting business specializing in beekeepers, or you fantasize about becoming a tarot reader for financial professionals. Perhaps you’ve thought about how you’d do web design differently or create a curated subscription box in a whole new way.

I’m convinced that we all have a business—or several—that we daydream about.

And I believe that there’s a lot we could learn from these fantasy businesses.

This month, we’ve been talking about simplifying.

I don’t think any of us dreams up overly complicated businesses. These businesses strike an elegant balance between your needs and wants as a founder and the market’s needs and wants.

None of my fantasy business ideas are complicated.

A few years ago, I wanted to launch a brand of bralettes for bigger busts. Just one or two styles sized appropriately for people with a D-cup larger. And mind you, this was before everyone started selling bralettes for bigger busts.

I’ve dreamed up a personal training business for high-performing women—part coaching, part fitness, all monthly retainer.

I’ve talked about how I’d love to open a simple, high-quality coffee shop in my town. And I’ve dreamed of opening a yoga studio on Main Street, too. While coffee shops & yoga studios might not be high-margin businesses, they’re undoubtedly simple models.

I’ve also joked that one of these days, I’m just going to quit everything and set myself up as a professional Canva designer. I also imagine this business to be pretty straightforward.

Our fantasy businesses can teach us what we’d do differently if we were starting from... ★ Support this podcast ★
Apr 20, 2021
EP 331: Embracing Simplicity With Brigitte Lyons & Sophy Dale

In This Episode:

* How Sophy Dale decided to let go of 2 of her 3 businesses and just focus on one and why figuring out a novel distribution strategy was a key part of the decision* Why Brigitte Lyons paid attention to what would break if her business grew to figure out how things needed to become simpler* Why Brigitte chose to focus on long-term client engagements* How Sophy is actually able to get more support now that her business is simpler* The tools and software that they use to run their streamlined businesses* And, of course, the incredible results of all of this simplification!

So… things have gotten complicated.

Your business is a mess of competing priorities. Mismatched marketing messages. Dusty old brand positioning. Stale offers. And the clutter from all the times you’ve tried to solve problems by doing more.

It’s easy to think that all of this unproductive complexity is a sign that you screwed up—that you’re not very good at this whole building a business thing.

But that ignores the fact that all of us have been programmed from birth to equate more work with good work, checking more things off the list with checking the right things off the list.

Today, I’ve got part 2 of my conversation with Brigitte Lyons & Sophy Dale about simplifying their businesses. But first, I want to explore a key aspect of how we let things get so complicated in the first place.

Last month, I read a book that I just can’t stop quoting or recommending—and I’m not gonna start today.

The book is Can’t Even: How Millennials Because The Burnout Generation. Yes, I’m a millennial—an elder millennial to be specific. And I deeply and profoundly relate to everything in this book. But as the author, Anne Helen Petersen, points out the systemic causes of our burnout culture are felt by every generation—just with slightly different results.

Petersen writes:

Barring a significant, psychology-altering intervention, once someone equates “good” work with overwork, that conception will stay with them—and anyone under their power—for the rest of their lives.

She goes on to say:

We’ve conditioned ourselves to ignore every signal from the body saying This is too much, and we call that conditioning “grit” or “hustle.”

If that’s feeling a little too real to you right now, you’re certainly not alone.

I’m quite certain that there are many listeners out there releasing a collective OOF.

Here’s the thing, we can say we started our own businesses to gain more flexibility in our lives, more control over our schedules, more time to spend with family or on our art or in our communities…

…but we haven’t had the psychology-altering intervention that would allow us to actually make that happen.

We’ve been taught that unless we pay our dues through overworking and overproducing and overdelivering, we can’t be successful.

And the way that plays out in our businesses? Complexity.

More offers. More clients. More emails. More marketing tactics. More social media posts. More lead magnets. More Zoom calls. More deliverables.

When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, right?

Doing more and inevitably making things more complex is the main tool we’ve been trained to use.

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Apr 13, 2021
EP 330: Letting Go Of Complication With Brigitte Lyons & Sophy Dale

In This Episode:

* How Sophy Dale ended up running 3 separate businesses—and what made her realize it was all too complicated* How Brigitte Lyons realized that her PR agency was letting scope creep make it feel like she was still throwing spaghetti at a wall* What both Sophy & Brigitte did to approach simplifying their businesses* And the personal reasons why simplifying was the ticket to creating businesses that worked both for their bank accounts and for their lives

What I wish every small business owner knew about making more money is…

…it doesn’t have to be so complicated.

I mean that literally.

Creating a more complicated business doesn’t guarantee you a bigger paycheck, a bigger audience, or a bigger impact in the world.

Adding more and more moving parts to how your business runs doesn’t get you more happy customers or more personal satisfaction, either.

Of course, this doesn’t put a stop to the anxiety of feeling like, if only you could do more, things would be better.

I am certainly not immune from overcomplicating things and feeling despair that there aren’t more hours in the day.

I’ve created intricate marketing plans, business models, and schedules all with the hope that I could pass a threshold of doing enough to make it big.

But looking back over the last 12 years…

I can easily see that my greatest successes have come from keeping it simple.

So what does this mean for you?

Whether you want to make more money or you’re looking to make a bigger impact or you’re looking for more time, we’ve got to get down to the fundamental challenges that exist in your business.

What I mean by that is that “not making more money” isn’t actually a problem to solve. It’s a symptom, an indicator that there’s something else going on.

Making more money is the result of solving a more specific problem or set of challenges.

It might be a positioning problem. Or a pricing problem. It could be a customer challenge or a capacity issue. It might be a marketing problem—although, I wouldn’t bet on it.

It might be a business model challenge or an operational issue.

Or, it could be any combination of those things.

By addressing those root challenges, we can create simple, sustainable businesses that make a lot more money.

Or we can build simple, sustainable businesses that afford us more time, flexibility, or a greater impact in our communities.

Today, we’re kicking off both a series on simplifying and a set of two episodes with businesses owners who have direct experience with dramatically simplifying their businesses—and in turn, creating immense growth.

Brigitte Lyons is the founder of Podcast Ally, a PR agency specializing in getting experts and idea people booked on podcasts.

Sophy Dale is a copywriting mentor, messaging coach, and brand storyteller who helps coaches, designers, and course-creators write compelling copy.

Both Brigitte and Sophy know what it’s like to run complicated, bloated businesses.

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Apr 06, 2021
EP 329: The Anatomy Of An Opportunity

Sometimes it can feel like you don’t find opportunity, opportunity finds you.

But even then, it’s the fact that you were paying attention—listening, watching, taking it all in—that allows you to act on it.

It can make me sick to my stomach to think of all of the opportunities I let slide because I wasn’t paying attention!

All this month, we’ve been looking at identifying opportunity and making exciting things happen. To kick off the series, I shared a framework for examining your business through the lens of sustainability to discover your next opportunity.

Then, I talked with Anna Wolf from Superscript Marketing about how she realized that the building sustainable structures & systems for her business was her big opportunity.

Next, we turned our attention to financial sustainability and I shared my 2019 conversation with Systems Saved Me Founder, Jordan Gill.

Finally, I shared my conversation with business coach Justine Clay and we looked at how identifying choice is a big part of realizing you have an opportunity–and how to navigate the crossroads when it is time to make a choice.

As we close out the month, I have 3 more inspiring stories for you—all on the exact same theme: paying attention.

Zoe Linda Pollard shares how she went from working in a digital marketing agency to starting a social media strategy business to finally discovering that her big opportunity was to focus on helping business owners build & run affiliate marketing programs.

Erin Detka shares how she went from running a massage studio to starting a web design business in mid-2020 and how it helped her to get back to the kind of lifestyle she really values.

And finally Corinna vanGerwen shares how she started her business doing something that–at most–only a few people had done before. And how paying attention to her past experience and the current market helped her find the perfect niche opportunity!

Before we get to those stories, though, I thought I’d add my own in.

In the last 12 years, I’ve certainly spotted and acted on plenty of opportunities. I wrote & sold one of the first ebooks in the craft & maker business world. I created a group business coaching program before that was a thing. I took the leap to appear on CreativeLive in front of 10s of thousands of live viewers and teach 12 classes over 4 years.

But I’m incredibly proud of the story behind YellowHouse.Media and how paying attention helped us spot the right opportunity and build a fast-growing business.

I can remember back in 2015 when I started jonesing to host a podcast… I had no idea how podcasting-as-marketing worked. I knew that I had an opportunity to connect with my existing audience and connect with new people to grow my audience.

But it was early enough—which wasn’t very early at all—in podcasting that “if you build it, ★ Support this podcast ★
Mar 30, 2021
EP 328: Navigating The Crossroads With Business Coach Justine Clay

In This Episode:

* How business coach Justine Clay decides whether or not to pursue an opportunity* Why she starts with feelings first and how she builds a “scaffolding” around those feelings with practical execution* What she did in the midst of the Great Recession to create a new opportunity by generously serving out-of-work creatives* How Justine views working on herself as an opportunity for growth

Opportunities always come at a crossroads.

Sometimes they’re intersections with big flashing lights and signs pointing to what’s ahead in either direction.

Other times, it’s impossible to know where each path goes. Maybe it’s even hard to see that there is a choice of direction in the first place.

But when we can really take notice of all the places we choose to go one direction or another, we can see that there are opportunities all around us—even when they’re not the opportunities we were looking for.

This month, we’ve been exploring how we spot opportunities and what we do with them once they’re in view.

Opportunities are, in effect, choices.

And while we don’t all have equal access to the same quantity or quality of choices, I think it’s valuable to notice when you do have a choice and how often you make a choice without even realizing it.

With every new opportunity—every choice—there’s a trade-off.

You might have the opportunity to hire someone to help you—but that means you’re trading off some amount of control.

You might have the opportunity to try out a new marketing channel—but that means you’re trading off time and effort you’ve been putting into another marketing channel.

You might have the opportunity to develop a new offer—but that means you’re trading off the focus you’ve put on what you’re currently offering.

Trading between one option and another isn’t a bad thing, of course.

It just is.

No matter what we choose or what opportunity to pursue, there’s something else we’re not choosing or pursuing. That’s opportunity cost.

If I hire someone for my business and trade off some control, I’m potentially missing out on keeping things simpler and more streamlined.

If I pursue a new marketing channel, I’m missing out on the potential growth that continuing to focus on my existing marketing channel could create.

If I develop a new offer, I’m missing out on the potential revenue that doubling-down on my current offer could generate.

Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Opportunity cost exists with every choice, on both sides of the crossroads.

Except that we rarely notice it.

When we make a choice or pursue an opportunity without realizing the trade-off, or when we fail to see we’re making a choice at all…

…we rob ourselves of the chance to truly evaluate the direction we want to take next.

We’re so eager to consider the benefit of choosing one direction or the other that we rarely stop to weigh what we’re giving up no matter what we choose.

This week, my guest is Justine Clay, ★ Support this podcast ★
Mar 23, 2021
EP 327: Building A Financially Sustainable Business Model With Systems Saved Me Founder Jordan Gill

In This Episode:

* How Jordan Gill used data and experience to set competitive prices for her business operations firm* Why she focused on serving seasonal service-based businesses and how that impacts the way she delivers her service* The stat she used to figure out a new way to offer her services* What expenses Jordan accounts for in pricing her unusual offer

Is your business financially sustainable?

The answer to that question goes beyond how much revenue your business generates, how much you charge for your products or services, and or even how much you pay yourself.

We tend to fixate on those measures of financial success because they’re pretty objective. I can check my P&L and spot how much revenue came in last month or last year. I can pat myself on the back for raising the prices on my offer. And I can enjoy a healthy salary or bask in my profit distribution…

But none of those numbers really capture the financial sustainability of my business as a whole—and that can mean I might miss out on the opportunities for future growth or impact.

In Episode 325, I defined financial sustainability as having a revenue model that supports the business’s operational evolution and the financial needs of the people involved.

Let’s unpack that a bit.

Your business’s revenue model—or your business model—is the system that you use to create, deliver, and exchange value. In other words, it’s what you sell, how you deliver it once it’s sold, and what you charge for it.

Now, we often measure this sort of “in the moment.” Is the revenue model working right now? Is the business generating enough to cover my own pay and the business’s expenses? Am I working too hard today for the paycheck I’m getting tomorrow?

Obviously, you want your business to work right now.

But if all we ever do is set up our businesses to work right now, then we’re missing opportunities to build margin and resilience into our businesses for the future. Plus, we’re having to continually go in and recalculate–which creates the sort of precarity that leads to burnout.

So maybe your revenue model is working today. But will it work tomorrow?

As your needs and the needs of the business evolve, will the revenue model be able to keep up?

I can almost guarantee you that your next financial opportunity comes from taking a longer view on your revenue model.

I’m in the midst of this with a number of business owners right now. Taking a short-term view has helped them get their feet under them and find an impressive level of initial success! But now they’re feeling squeezed just trying to figure out how to eek out a little more growth.

For me, the key here isn’t to consider what a little more growth could look like—that shorter-term view. But instead, to consider what a lot more growth could look like and take long-term view.

Consider that your long-term, higher-level growth opportunity is rarely a matter of doing more. It takes a long, hard look at each revenue stream and weighing whether it can adapt to hold its weight in a business generating 2 or 3 times more re... ★ Support this podcast ★
Mar 16, 2021
EP 326: Creating Sustainable Structures & Systems With Superscript Marketing Founder Anna Wolf

In This Episode:

* Why SuperScript Marketing founder Anna Wolf started her niche content marketing agency aimed at the financial service industry* How learning search engine optimization led to major growth—and a focus on productized service* What prompted Anna to become obsessed with building sustainable structures & systems for her agency* How focusing on SuperScript’s core competency gave Anna a framework for pursuing growth

What does your business need to be able to do really, really well in order to thrive?

The answer to that question is your business’s core competency—or one of its core competencies.

Your core competency is the key capability your business has or a key promise that it makes that differentiates your business from others offering similar products or services.

And knowing your core competency is a key way to build both opportunity and capacity into your business—which in turn, makes it more sustainable.

This month, we’re taking a closer look at how business owners spot opportunities and choose to pursue them.

Now, I know “core competency” sounds like a jargony management consultant phrase. And that’s because it is. But it really is such a useful concept.

When you know the core competencies of your business, you can invest your time, energy, and even money, into the systems and structures that are going to allow you to make sure that aspect of your business works as well as it possibly can. When that aspect of your business is working as well as it possibly can, it helps to differentiate what your business does and how it serves its clients or customers—which then helps you position the business, attract your perfect-fit customers, and set your prices sustainably.

Let me give you an example.

At What Works, our core competency is built on community-building.

But we actually get more specific than that. Our core competency is actually how we create conversation to foster learning inside of our community. We do that a few ways: a weekly member-only newsletter, weekly events, and weekly check-ins & conversation-start questions.

We also do it through this podcast—which, even though it’s free & publicly available—is still a key part of the conversations we start & nurture inside the private network.

A few years ago, we realized that, while we had systems in place for scheduling events, planning community content, and producing the podcast, all of those systems were siloed–disjointed. Despite the fact that they were doing VERY similiar jobs, these systems didn’t play nicely together and they weren’t managed in the same place.

So we made a change.

We brought together every single aspect of conversation-starting we do at What Works into a single database.

Today, you can find the procedures for creating an event, managing our newsletters, or producing the podcast all in one place. Everyone on the team knows what’s happening from day to day–because it’s all right there.

Each aspect of our conversation-starting content is designed to work together cohesively, as are the logistics behind each aspect.
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Mar 09, 2021
EP 325: When Opportunity Meets Sustainability With Tara McMullin

What if your biggest opportunity didn’t involve doing more but doing less?

What if scaling back and simplifying wasn’t only a way to make your life better but a way to build a more successful business, too?

This month on What Works, we’re exploring opportunity—how we discover it, how we decide to pursue it, and what we do to take advantage of it.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we are prone to waiting until “opportunity” comes to us nicely packaged and easy to use.

We wonder if the latest social media platform will be the key to growing an audience or if the new trend in products or services will unlock a new revenue level.

But I find that the best opportunities don’t come nicely packaged.

Instead, opportunities often present themselves in messy ways—a series of “What if?” questions, a loose synthesis of seemingly unrelated information, or a jarring new perspective on an old problem.

And I have found, over and over again, that the best way to notice these messy, half-formed opportunities is to put myself in the thick of other people’s “What if?” questions and the din of their seemingly unrelated stories.

I’ve discovered my best opportunities at conferences and meet-ups, as well as in masterminds, direct message threads, and even when I’m doing podcast interviews!

We have a whole world of information at our fingertips.

But what’s really useful are the ideas that are filtered through our conversations and connections—curated, social ideas that help us turn questions into opportunities.

These settings hold one of the keys to new opportunities because they help us see things in a new way. They change our perception of what’s possible by presenting options we might not have ever considered on our own.

And this is key.

Because no matter how creative we might be, it’s hard to come up with a completely unfamiliar idea. Instead, we use what’s familiar or known to make smaller leaps.

This contributes to the phenomenon that I’ve been calling “The Squeeze.”

“The Squeeze” occurs when you’ve run out of capacity in your business.

You simply don’t have the time, energy, or mental bandwidth to do more, and so you can’t really see a way for the business to grow. Still, The Squeeze convinces you that if you just rearranged the pieces or tried a little harder, you could force some fresh growth.

But alas, you just end up squeezed into a different arrangement of the same pieces.

In other words, you use what’s familiar to try to work your way out of the Squeeze… and so you can’t quite escape because “what’s familiar” is what got you into the Squeeze in the first place.

To actually alleviate the Squeeze, you have to take a completely different perspective and see things in a new way. And that’s how talking things out with others and learning how they see things differently really helps inspire opportunity.

Now, I know it’s challenging to have those conversations or connect with people who see things in different ways. That’s one of the reasons I started this podcast 5 years ago; I desperately wante... ★ Support this podcast ★
Mar 02, 2021
EP 324: 4 Patterns That Make Relationship-Building A Challenge

A big part of how I do what I do is by spotting patterns.

As a podcaster, I’m looking for the patterns in the stories my guests tell me.

As a business coach, I’m looking for the patterns in how a business is functioning or how a business owner is approaching a challenge.

As a community builder, I’m looking for patterns in how people connect and ask for help.

As a producer, I’m looking for patterns in content, perspective, and voice.

We have a lot of patterns when it comes to our relationships. And I’ll spare you the impromptu podcast therapy session and assume that you’ve noticed some of yours.

My own patterns include conflict avoidance, overgiving, and ghosting–that’s my non-technical term for my pattern of just disappearing from relationships.

I have good relationship patterns, too. Of course, those don’t make for entertaining and educational podcast episodes.

All this month, we’ve been examining the relationships in our businesses and how we make them stronger. We looked at our relationship with our customers, our relationships to our team members, and our relationships to our community and internet neighbors. We even looked at our relationships to ourselves and our businesses.

This week, we’re going to step back and take a look at the patterns that often make nurturing our relationships difficult.

A couple of these patterns are overt–and a couple are more stealthy. As you listen, I encourage you to pay less attention to the specific patterns and stories we’re diving into today and pay more attention to your own curiosity at how your own relationship patterns are at play in your business. You may or may not see these exact patterns and stories as your own–but I know that your own patterns are influencing YOUR story.

You’re going to hear from 4 different business owners today and I’ll help you unpack the very common patterns that I see at play in each story. My goal isn’t to pathologize or armchair diagnose. I just want to help you hear what I hear in these stories and celebrate the ways these business owners have overcome their patterns made really great choices for them and their businesses!

Today, you’ll hear from coach Carla Reeves, real estate broker Page Huyette, coach & podcaster Shawn Fink, and attorney-turned-community-builder Ali Zucker.

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Feb 25, 2021
EP 323: Get To Know Your Neighbors With Rebelle Founder Shannon Siriano Greenwood

Do you know your neighbors?

Sean and I know a couple of ours—but most are strangers.

At this point in time, not knowing your neighbors is pretty common. We mind our own business. We go about our own lives. We rarely intersect with the people around us–which is even more true today when we are not supposed to be intersecting with people outside of our own households!

Most of the time this is fine, right? Maybe it’s not ideal. But it’s fine.

It becomes a problem when there’s a need. Maybe you just need to borrow a cup of milk. Or maybe you’ve got to leave town for a month to care for a family member. Maybe there’s an extended power outage in town.

Who can you rely on?

This week, we’re wrapping up our series on relationship-building. We’ve looked at your relationship with yourself & your business, your relationship with your customers, and your relationship with your team. Now, it’s time to examine your relationship with your network. All the neighbors in your neighborhood, if you will.

So as I just alluded to…

Getting to know your neighbors is a disaster preparedness skill.

I heard Autumn Brown and adrienne maree brown talk about this on the How To Survive The End of The World pocdast. Autumn said—and I’m paraphrasing because I have no idea which episode it was in—when you know who is around you, you have a better idea of how you can care for each other. You’re more likely to seek out community-based solutions when things go awry.

This idea has stuck with me. Partly because I heard it while walking through my neighborhood of strangers in the middle of an ongoing global health crisis. And partly because it got me thinking about my “internet neighbors.”

It probably comes as no surprise that I am a huge proponent of getting to know your internet neighbors. And by that, I mean the people who are closely adjacent to you in your industry, in groups you belong to, and in the social media platforms you frequent.

I feel lucky that I got on social media before we’d optimized our tactics and sliced & diced the amount of time we spend actually getting to know people in those channels. I really got to know my internet neighbors in those early years. We had each other’s backs. When something bad happened, we could come up with a solution together.

We knew each other so much more than just as personal brands or headshots.

I think it’s legitimately harder to get to know your internet neighbors today–despite it being more important than ever.

So few people are actively engaging with social media. They’re planning & scheduling their content and then getting the hell off the platform.

In her book, Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino writes, “On the internet, a highly functional person is one who can promise everything to an indefinitely increasing audience at all times.” That’s not advice—by the way. It’s a warning. And it’s one of the reasons why our internet neighborhoods feel so foreign and impersonal.

Social media has taught us to be flat, to optimize our identity, to be as consistent as possible for as long as possible.

In other words, we rarely have the chance to actually get to know someone as a human being. To get to know your neighbors, ★ Support this podcast ★
Feb 23, 2021
EP 322: Building A Stronger Team With Productive Flourishing Founder Charlie Gilkey

I didn’t start a business because I was excited about managing people.

I wasn’t dreaming of hiring a team while I was writing blog posts in the stolen moments between nursing my baby and nap times.

Truth be told, I’m still not excited about managing people–although, I do dream about hiring more often. Yet, here I am–managing 5 people between 2 companies.

If I had to pin down the biggest lessons that I’ve learned about building a business, I think they might all have to do with the relationships I have with my team members.

Which is not to say that I have it all figured out! But boy oh boy, do I approach things differently than I used to.

This week, we’re examining how we nurture the relationships we have with the people who work with us.

I’ll be honest with you: there are so many different places I’d like to take this episode. There are so many of the lessons I’ve learned that I’d like to pass on. Luckily, the lessons I’ve learned have largely come through conversations I’ve had on this very podcast!

And there’s one conversation in particular that I come back to time & time again. It was my first interview with my friend and founder of Productive Flourishing, Charlie Gilkey.

Looking back on this conversation, I can see that there were already lessons that had started to come into focus about how I work with people and what it looks like to nurture relationships with team members. But what I can also see is how much this conversation actually helped to solidify those learnings into how my thinking & approach have changed since.

Before we get to that conversation, though, I wanted dig into a topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot and writing about some—and that’s the value of maintenance work. I think any discussion of the relationships we build with our team members needs to acknowledge that some of the most important work that gets done in our businesses is often under-appreciated and undervalued.

And I want to make sure that we approach this topic with the shared understanding that it’s not a conversation about delegating or handing off work you don’t want to do. It’s a conversation about team-building, management, and relationship-building—and to do any of those things effectively, we have to get comfortable with the value of maintenance work.

We need to get more comfortable with contributing our fair share to maintenance work—because yes, entrepreneurs and CEOs have maintenance work to do. And, we have to get comfortable with recognizing the contribution that the people who do maintenance work with us make to the overall health of our businesses.

Because, there are some really harmful things that happen with hiring & management in small businesses.

There are low wages, weird power dynamics, and the mislabeling of workers. There’s abuse, unrealistic expectations, and boatloads of scope creep.

It happens in restaurants, in corner stores, and in accounting firms. And, yes, it happens in coaching businesses, marketing agencies, and online course companies.

The problem is that many of us have put the work we do as business owners on a pedestal and see all of the other work—the maintenance work—as beneath us.

Whether it’s customer service or project management or formatting content or organizing files,... ★ Support this podcast ★
Feb 16, 2021
EP 321: Designing A Remarkable Customer Experience

“Exceptional customer service.”

I’m sure you’ve heard those words uttered during a training session for a retail or service industry job at some point in your life.

Heck, those words might even be in your own values statement or team member handbook.

Goodness knows I’ve got nothing against exceptional customer service–it’s just that it’s a little… vague. And more than that…

We tend to associate “customer service” with fixing problems.

There will always be problems to fix for customers but what about the rest of their experience with us?

What if we used the relationship we want our customers to have with our business as the basis for designing their WHOLE experience.

Last week, we talked through how critically examining your relationship to yourself as a business owner can help you develop a healthier relationship with your business so that it can take care of you instead of you always taking care of it.

This week, we’re taking a closer look at our relationships with our customers.

Sure, we could talk about delivering “exceptional customer experience.” But the ideas that always pique my curiosity are the ones where I learn how a business owner is thinking really creatively about how they design their customer experience.

Customer experience starts long before you ever make a pitch.

It begins when a potential customer first learns about your business and brand. That first impression sets a tone that will likely carry over into their experience of buying from your business and using your product or service.

Customer experience carries on through the buying cycle as a potential customer learns more about your business and how it helps people like them. They experience your business in a new way when they actually make a purchase and get onboarded into your world. Customer experience is, of course, baked into how they use your product or service, as well as how they’re “off-boarded.”

But customer experience doesn’t stop there!

It continues on after they’re done with their initial purchase–the ongoing nurturing they receive from you impacts their experience, too. And then, when make a follow-up offer, that’s ALSO part of their customer experience.

Being really intentional about how you design the customer experience from start to finish means you’re being really intentional about the relationship you want to build with the people who are buying from you–and even the people who never do.

What I really love about customer experience design is that it can be so creative!

There truly is no one-size-fits-all process. Our different values, types of customers, ways of serving, skills, strengths, differentiators, points of view… they each contribute to making our customer experience uniquely our own.

During the course of this episode, we’re going to look at 4 ways you can make your customer experience remarkable and help build a more intentional relationship with the people who buy from you. I’ll share some things you can consider as you think about your own customer experience and you’ll hear examples from thoughtful business owners who made customer experience design a priority.

You’ll hear from
Feb 09, 2021
EP 320: Making Your Business Your #1 Ally

Businesses are all about relationships, right?

Sure, I think we can all agree on that to one extent or another.

But what exactly do we mean by that?

Most often, a business’s relationships are understood in terms of customer service, promotional partnerships, and management structures. They’re draped in the same words we use to describe our time and money: optimization, efficiency, investment, opportunity.

That’s not the language we use to describe our relationships with the people we genuinely care about, though. Most of us don’t want to optimize our marriages or see our friendships as opportunities for advancement.

We want to connect.

To relate. To belong. To nurture. So what happens when we apply this same motivation to our business relationships?

This month, I’ve got a series on relationships for you. We’re going to explore the obvious—our relationships with customers, with our teams, and our colleagues. We’re also going to explore the not-so-obvious—our relationship to ourselves and our businesses.

As I mentioned, much of the talk about relationships in business is couched in the language of optimization, opportunity, and even domination and exploitation. When Gary Vee says he’s “crushing it,” it’s not really an “it” he’s crushing but a “who.” When we talk about likes, shares, clicks, and eyeballs, we forget that there’s are living, breathing humans on the other side of that metric.

Our capitalist culture has taught us to reduce all of these interactions to their ability to help us earn more and get ahead.

We’re taught to value individualism, speed & efficiency, competition, ownership, hierarchy, and the myth of the meritocracy. Jennifer Armbrust, who you’ll hear from later in this episode, describes these traits as part of patriachy and the masculine economy. Jennifer proposes a different type of economy, the feminine economy. In the feminine economy, we value abundance, gratitude, empathy, care, collaboration, and interdependence—the roots of true relationship.

It’s tempting to think that, because we’re small business owners, we’re always on the side of good, honest, sustainable business.

But since the patterns of domination and exploitation are baked into our definitions of power and success, we don’t get a free pass. Small business isn’t the solution to our problems but it can be a vehicle for pursuing business relationships in a more human way if we’re willing to examine how we do business and what that means for the people we’re in relationship with.

This is one expression of how Jennifer describes feminist entrepreneurship. She writes in Proposals for the Feminine Economy:

Feminist entrepreneurship requires that we quit equating masculine principles with success and power, and feminine principles with inadequacy and weakness. To do something as audacious as call your business “feminist” requires showing up every day with humility, heart, intrepid creativity, criticality, courage, self-love, and a passion for growth. It requires accountability to yourself, your business, and to the larger social project of dismantling patriarchal & oppressive systems.

How we understand the relationships we form in business and how we pursue nurturing those relationships can be a huge step in the direction of doing business through a feminist lens.
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Feb 02, 2021
EP 319: Why Our Plans Need More Margin

Margin is space—the space between and around.

There is the margin of a page, of course. And there is the margin around the border of a forest. There’s also the margin in your business–the space between your revenue and your expenses.

Most of us don’t have nearly as much margin as we used to. At one point in our lives, we uttered the words, “I’m bored…” and our caregivers rolled their eyes and told us to go outside. The margin between planned activities, play dates, and bursts of play gave us an opportunity to feel that boredom.

When do we ever feel bored now?

When are we ever faced with a lack of things to do or chores to take care of? Even in the midst of this Great Pause, margin feels tenuous. I’ve had countless conversations with people who fear returning to normal and, with it, the crush of things to do and places to go that squeezes all of the margin out of our lives and work.

I’m one of those people who feels anxious at the thought of losing the margin I’m now enjoying thanks to the forced change in my habits and patterns. My 12 year-old daughter is too. She loves cooking and crafting and finding endless ways to rearrange her Harry Potter Lego sets without the distraction of constantly coming up with things to do outside of the house.

This month, we’ve been talking about how to work our plans—how to see a plan & its execution as a learning process, how to identity the working style that works for you, how to invite change into your plans.

Margin is a key component of planning, but one we rarely acknowledge.

In fact, a lack of margin is one of the chief reasons we fail to follow through on our plans.

We don’t allow for margin at the start or finish. We don’t leave margin between projects or items in a check list. We certainly don’t make room for error. And the result is that everything we do starts to feel rushed, harried, and full of anxiety.

In Episode 298, my friend Kate Strathmann told me that she noticed she’s more likely to cause harm when she’s feeling urgency. We were talking about sales in that conversation, but I think this idea applies to many things—including planning.

We’ve inherited a pattern of over-scheduling, over-planning, and over-committing, as well as technology that eliminate our margins and induce urgency—and, with it, anxiety. We’re taught to believe that more is better by cultural forces like rugged individualism and white supremacy, as well as our broken capitalist economic system.

We try to tackle too many things at once. We think we can do things faster than we really can. We forget to factor in preexisting commitments. We don’t take stock of our resources before we start doling them out—literally and figuratively.

It’s no wonder then that we so often feel “the crunch” when we’re trying to stick to our plans.

And when we’re feeling “the crunch” we’re much more likely to take action that causes harm to ourselves, to others, and to our communities.

Maybe we ignore our families or intimate relationships. Maybe we pull too many all-nighters. Maybe we resort to choices and tactics that damage the community or industry ecosystem we’re a part of. Maybe we start to believe the horrible things we say about ourselves: how slow we are, how unprepared we are, how unskilled we are—and my personal go, how lazy I am.

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Jan 28, 2021
EP 318: Writing The 2nd Draft With Sell From Love Author Finka Jerkovic

In This Episode:

* What Sell From Love author Finka Jerkovic learned from the process of writing her book’s first draft* How she determined what problem the book was solving* Why her writing process changed between her first draft and her second draft* Why writing the book was a “top secret” project

Planning is a learning process.

When we set out an objective, make a plan to achieve it, and then implement that plan, we inevitably learn key things.

We might learn that we don’t want to achieve the objective after all. We might learn that the path to achieve it isn’t what we thought it was going to be. We might learn that we need more help or different help, that we need to acquire a new skill, or that we need to adjust our implementation.

Making changes—even big ones—to our plan doesn’t mean we’ve abandoned it.

It means we’re learning.

All this month, we’ve been talking about working the plan. It’s January, after all, and I’m sure you’ve made some plans for this year!

I kicked things off by sharing a bit about my personal planning process and how I’m planning for both of my companies in 2021.

Then, I talked with Gillian Perkins about how she planned for the parental leave she took last year and what she learned about how she works in the course of implementing that plan.

Last week, I talked with Emily Crookston about how she’s learned to leveraged LinkedIn and discovered the way she wants to show up online.

This week, I’m closing out the series by talking about 2nd drafts—both literal and metaphorical—with the author of Sell From Love, Finka Jerkovic.

You’ll hear how it took writing a first, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink draft in order for Finka to learn what her book was really about and how it was going to serve her readers. You’ll also hear how she’s needed to find a second draft of what makes her feel satisfied and worthy based on her own values instead of the performance-oriented culture she was raised in.

And, of course, you’ll hear how Finka planned for writing her book and discovered her writing practice along the way.

Now, let’s find out what works for Finka Jerkovic!

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Jan 26, 2021
BONUS: Finding Your Podcasting Rhythm With The Standout Podcast Club

Flow. Rhythm. Consistency.

These are all words we want to associate with how we do our work, but so rarely can we actually describe a week or even a day as flowing, rhythmic, or even possessing some level of consistency.

Variable, external circumstances certainly contribute to our state of relentless syncopation. But the way we think about our work–how we organize it, visualize it, plan it–doesn’t help either.

Now, this episode of What Works is a bonus. In fact, up until yesterday, I had no idea we were going to be publishing this. But when Sean and I got off our latest round table discussion in the Standout Podcast Club, we knew it was the perfect addition to this month’s What Works series on working the plan.

If you haven’t heard, Standout Podcast Club is the brand-new training, coaching, and networking hub for podcasters that we launched through YellowHouse.Media. Every month, we host a round table discussion where we dig deeper into an aspect of podcast production.

This month’s topic was finding your podcasting rhythm so that you can stay on track with the workload and avoid feeling like you’re always behind, which is a huge problem for podcasters. Essentially, the topic is working your podcast plan.

Now, even if you’re not a podcaster, this is a valuable conversation.

If you’re regularly producing any kind of content or you want to be–content like articles, a newsletter, or even social media posts, this conversation applies directly to you. If you’re not regularly producing content and you don’t want to be, there’s likely some other process in your business that often feels disjointed or for which you often feel behind. You’re going to find something valuable in here, too.

Sean and I talked through the common pitfalls of managing a podcast workflow, as well as how to mentally organize the flow differently, how to plan ahead, what to consider when it comes to the technology you use to manage the process, and how to find a consistent pace so you’re not feeling like you’re always rushing toward the finish line.

You’ll also hear us work through a sort of hot seat example of what we’re talking about with Jacquette Timmons host of the More Than Money podcast.

Finally, we mention some graphics and screen sharing, and I’ve included each of those below!

How podcasters typically think of their process–episode by episode

How we think of the podcasting process–incrementally over time

Episode by episode project management

Timeline view project management

Sean’s spur-of-the-moment mindmap

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Jan 21, 2021
EP 317: Leveraging LinkedIn With The Pocket PhD Founder Emily Crookston

In This Episode:

* How The Pocket PhD founder Emily Crookston started leveraging LinkedIn after the pandemic threw a wrench in her public speaking plans* Why she went from posting spontaneously to planning out her content and using a weekly structure to guide her* What prompted her to start a video interview series on LinkedIn* And why Emily doesn’t care about trying to work the LinkedIn algorithm

So you’ve got a big plan for this year (or even this week or this month!).

What happens when somebody throws a wrench in the works?

Do you fight to get back on track?

Do you flee to something else entirely?

Do you freeze and hope that it’ll all blow over soon?

Each of these 3 responses is perfectly normal & understandable. After all, fight, flight or freeze is a baked-in biological response we all have.

But most of the time, we need a different way to respond when our plans get interrupted.

Fight, flight, or freeze might be our biological response when faced with a threat but they’re rarely the best response.

I propose that the more strategic—more human—response is to adapt. It’s not so much a reaction to the threat as it is a curiosity about what we can do with the new information or circumstances.

I’ve been coming back to a line from Sebene Selassie’s book, You Belong, over the last few weeks. She writes, “Curiosity is a crucial component in reducing our reactivity.”

Curiosity asks us to consider how we can approach new information or circumstances creatively—instead of trying to figure out how to fight it, how to run the other way, or how to wait it out.

Obviously, we all got thrown for a loop last year when Covid hit. That wrench in the works played out different for every one and every business—but we all had to adapt in some way.

If you fought, fled, or froze, you’re not alone!

I think we all responded that way initially. I certainly did—big fighting energy over here!

What was amazing to watch though is little by little, the business owners I’m in community with started to ease up on that immediate reaction and started to find a more adaptive, proactive response.

I saw amazing things happen for people when they adapted—even if those things didn’t always lead to financial relief or more time to themselves.

One of those people is my guest today, the founder of The Pocket PhD, Emily Crookston.

Emily is a ghostwriter and editor who works with experts and thought leaders to help them bring their ideas to the masses.

As you’ll hear, Emily’s plan for 2020 was to grow her business through in-person speaking engagements. Her first gig was on March 8—and then… lock down.

But Emily adapted—taking the same strategy she was applying to speaking gigs and applied it to LinkedIn. She’s seen tremendous success on the platform over the last year and I wanted to talk with her about how she adapted her plan, decided on LinkedIn, and then figured out how to make the most of the platform by working her plan.

We talk about how she made the jump from posting spontaneously to planning her content & scheduling it. We talk about the video interview series she started. ★ Support this podcast ★
Jan 19, 2021
EP 316: Planning For Parental Leave With Startup Society Founder Gillian Perkins

In This Episode:

* How Startup Society creator Gillian Perkins prepared for her recent parental leave* What her normal 20-hour workweek looks like and how she adapted that as she was working toward her leave* Why she describes her process as “batching chaotically” and how making that process what she plans for has made things easier for her* What she’s learned from taking time away from the business over the years

There are a lot of folks out there telling you how to get your work done.

There are planners, apps, frameworks, and methods. And there are even more messages about delegating, time-blocking, batching, and fitting a whole year’s work into just 12 weeks.

It’s easy to think that the “way you work” works for you—and maybe it does. But it’s also easy to believe, if you let yourself, that the way you work has been shaped by the “shoulds” of an entire industry devoted to the capitalist pursuit of helping you produce more, be more efficient, and crank out more value for every hour of labor you put into the world.

How would you structure your work if you didn’t constantly feel the need to fit more work in? How would you approach your tasks with intention instead of obligation? How would you create plans with stewardship instead of urgency as the motivation?

This month on What Works, we’re tackling the topic of how we work our plans. This is a topic near and dear to my heart because I’ve spent years trying to squeeze myself into all the “right” ways of working and planning—only to discover that I really had to make it mine to make it work. I needed to rebuild my understanding of my work and accountability from the ground up to realize just how powerful I could be with how I create my work and use my time.

In the last episode, I shared a bit about that and quite a bit about how I’m planning for What Works and YellowHouse.Media. And, I mentioned that one of my commitments for 2021 is Adapt & Emerge.

So I want to apply that lens to the conversations I’ve had for this month’s episodes. I want to explore how business owners find the curiosity to question how they “should” be doing something or what they thought the plan was going look like and, instead, find their own way by intentionally adapting as they go.

This week, my guest is Gillian Perkins—a YouTuber with over 450 thousand subscribers, marketing expert, business strategist, and the creator of Startup Society.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Gillian through YellowHouse.Media, where we produce her podcast, Work Less, Earn More. Gillian is a disciplined, rigorous executor who is no stranger to making a plan and working it.

And there are plenty of conventional ways that Gillian manages the work to be done—for instance, she loves Asana!

But there was a really intriguing part of our conversation where I learned that Gillian’s found her true way of working on big projects—like planning for her recent parental leave—doesn’t necessarily fit the way we think it’s supposed to be done. She calls it “batching chaotically” and it’s a mode of operation I can definitely relate to!

In this conversation, ★ Support this podcast ★
Jan 12, 2021
EP 315: How I’m Planning For 2021 at What Works & YellowHouse.Media

In This Episode:

* What Works founder Tara McMullin shares how she’s planning for 2021 at both What Works & YellowHouse.Media, as well as how she’s allocating her resources to better serve her teams* The 3 commitments she’s made to guide her personal and leadership choices throughout the year* The Strategic Priorities her companies are focusing on to move forward and what projects she’s working on to make it all happen!* Plus, Tara’s unconventional take on goal-setting & sticking with her plans

Welcome to the first What Works episode of 2021!

This episode is going to be a look behind the scenes of my two companies and how we’re planning for 2021, some of the choices we’re making, and what we’ll be looking for as the year progresses.

Not only is this the kick-off episode for 2021, it’s the kick-off for our January series on “working the plan.” This month, I’m going to be sharing conversations about planning for parental leave, leveraging LinkedIn, and writing a book—all things that have taken intentional planning and execution!

But before we get to those, I wanted to share not only how I’ll be working the plan this year but how the plan got made in the first place.

I recorded this episode in mid-December 2020. And in that time, I’ve already discovered some things that are altering my plans. After all, the very act of working a plan means you’re gaining new information and even discovering new ideas.

Planning is a learning process.

It’s not about getting the plan right, it’s about finding a starting point and then learning from the result as you go.

My plan is never set in stone. Adjusting my plan doesn’t mean I’ve failed or done something wrong. It means I’m learning. So I start with my best guess of what I want to do and then adapt from there as I gain new information and experiences.

In this episode, I’ll share how I’m reallocating my resources this year to better serve my companies, what commitments I’ve made for the year, the Strategic Priorities we’re focused on, and what projects we’re kicking off the year with.

Here’s what works for me when I’m working the plan!

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Jan 05, 2021
EP 314: Discovering Who You Want To Become With Modern Leaders Co-Founder Melissa Emler

In This Episode:

* How Modern Learners Chief Learning Office, Melissa Emler, grew to meet the challenge her business faced leading thousands of educators through adapting to online learning* Why she continues to work her day job—and how it serves her as a business owner and leader* The 3-part framework she used to lead her community through the frantic pace of change this year* Why she’s prioritizing difficult conversations about systemic oppression and racial injustice in education

There’s a little cartoon that I’ve seen pop up again and again over the years.

A caterpillar and a butterfly sit at a cafe table, each with glasses of wine.

The caterpillar says, “You’ve changed.”

And the butterfly replies, “We’re supposed to.”

“You’ve changed” is often wielded as negative feedback. And sure, I guess there are times when people change for the worse. But more often, “you’ve changed” means something more like, “You’re not playing small like me anymore.”

No matter how much you know you’re supposed to change, no matter how much you want to change and grow—leaving people and their expectations behind can hurt. But this is the process we’re called into as business owners over and over again.

This week, we’re wrapping up our series on leading ourselves by taking a closer look at who we’re becoming—and how we’re changing—to lead ourselves into the future.

If you haven’t heard the other episodes in this series, I highly recommend making to time to do so! The first episode was with Emily Thompson from Being Boss and Almanac Supply Co—and we talked about how she used a “full body yes” to make a big decision.

The second episode was with coach & strategist Valerie Black about how she surfed the ebbs & flows this year as the pandemic rocked her business and her ego.

Last week’s conversation was with Alethea Fitzpatrick about how she’s led herself & Co-Creating Inclusion, her DEI consultancy, by focusing what she can control and letting go of what she can’t.

Today, we’re talking to Melissa Emler, who leads a community of educators & administrators over at Modern Learners.

As you might guess from the name of her company, Missy has been through the wringer this year! The pandemic brought an intense urgency to the work she’s been doing and the change she’s been trying to create in education for years. Suddenly, schools all over the world knew they needed a new approach to learning.

But that wasn’t the only thing creating twists & turns for Missy this year.

In this conversation, you’ll hear how Missy balances leading her company with working in the “lab” of a day job, the 3-part framework she’s used to lead educators through big change, and how she created space for conversation about injustice and systemic racism in education.

Plus, you’ll hear how Missy uses a key question about change and figuring out who we want to become to meet the moment to lead herself and others.

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Dec 22, 2020
EP 313: Focusing On What You Can Control With Co-Creating Inclusion Founder Alethea Fitzpatrick

In This Episode:

* How Co-Creating Inclusion founder Alethea Fitzpatrick navigated this year by focusing on what she could control and letting go of what she can’t* How she took care of herself during troubling times, all while her business was taking off* What operational adjustments she led the business through as they grew* How she’s planning for next year with more uncertainty and growth on the horizon

It’s a bit cliche to say that entrepreneurs have control issues.

I mean, our drive for control over our time, our work, our creative output—it’s one of the reasons many of us ended up starting our own businesses in the first place!

Our control issues can have positive side effects. Needing to be in control can inspire you into resourcefulness, it can motivate you to learn new skills, it can help you find a sense of independence…

…but control issues, ultimately, harm us and our companies. Our control issues can hurt the people we work with and can stifle our creativity.

Trying to get or maintain control can hold our imaginations and wellbeing hostage.

adrienne maree brown writes in *emergent strategy, “*Many of us respond to change with fear, or see it as a crisis. Some of us anticipate change with an almost titillating sense of stress. We spend precious time thinking about what has changed that we didn’t choose or can’t control, and/or thinking ahead to future stress.”

Well, yes. That feels familiar.

This week, we’re continuing our series on leading yourself with Alethea Fitzpatrick, the founder of Co-Creating Inclusion—a diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting practice.

Alethea told me that her go-to practice for navigating the twists & turns of this year has been focusing on what she can control and letting go of what she can’t.

As you might guess, Alethea’s consultancy has experienced massive growth this year—which has been its own challenge—while she also had to deal with pandemic life with 2 kids in New York City.

I’ve watched Alethea navigate big emotions, uncertain outcomes, and limited capacity and her openness & grace in the midst of oppression and violence has been astounding.

Now, let’s find out what works for Alethea Fitzpatrick.

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Dec 15, 2020
EP 312: Surfing The Ebbs & Flows with The Change Agency Founder Valerie Black

In This Episode:

* How coach & strategist Valerie Black led herself through a year of ups & downs* The practices she uses to find her center and stay present—so she doesn’t end up “future-tripping”* What she did to hold boundaries around her work as clients started to come back* The question she’s asking to find direction for the next phase of her work

I used to live in Astoria, Oregon.

That’s where the mighty Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean—the northwest corner of the state and the home of the Tribes of the Chinookan people.

Every day, I’d walk along the river several times and just watch the water flow.

Because we were so close to the mouth, the river actually experienced considerable tides. Throughout the day, the height of the river might change anywhere from 6-10 feet.

Not only did the level of the water change dramatically throughout the day, it would appear that the flow of the river reversed.

When the tide was out, the river flowed as you would expect—toward the ocean.

When the tide was coming in, it looked like the river flowed backwards toward Portland.

It was wild.

Of course, under the surface of the rising tide, the Columbia River continued its journey toward the Pacific. The river never actually changed course—just the water on the surface.

Life and work can create a similar illusion.

It can feel like half of the time we’re moving forward…

…and half of the time we’re being pushed backwards by forces outside of our control.

But under the surface, we’re still growing, adapting, emerging. We’re continuing our journey.

When you’re building a business, you’ll inevitably experience ups and downs, ebbs and flows.

When things are bad, it can feel like every success you’ve ever experienced is being washed away by failure.

But, of course, the truth is that we’re always learning and moving forward.

As we continue our series on leading yourself and examining the practices that small business owners used to navigate this wild year, I’m thrilled to introduce you to coach and founder of The Change Agency, Valerie Black.

I met Valerie at this time last year and was immediately struck by her mix of gentleness and tenacity. She is both strategic and intuitive, open-hearted and strong-willed—not that any of those things are mutually exclusive, of course!

Valerie has had a year of ebbs and flows, as she put it.

And I wanted to capture her story and learn more about the self-care practices that saw her through this year.

Now, let’s find out what works for Valerie Black!

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Dec 08, 2020
EP 311: Finding The Full Body Yes With Being Boss Host Emily Thompson

In This Episode:

* How Emily Thompson, host of Being Boss & founder of Almanac Supply Co, led herself through a year with plenty of twists & turns* How she knew that taking over Being Boss on her own with the right decision for her & the vision she has* How she managed herself through turning an in-person event into an online one* The practice she uses to stay focused and present with her own experience* What she did at Almanac Supply Co to replace a revenue stream lost to lockdown

Well, folks—we’ve made it.

It’s the final month of 2020 and we’ve been through a lot this year.

I can’t even pretend to know what the year was like for you. I don’t know if you felt incredibly lonely or never got a moment to yourself after March 17th (or both). I don’t know if you finally confronted your racist uncle or spent precious energy reminding people that your life does matter. I don’t know if your business cratered or skyrocketed. I don’t know if you lost a loved one or welcomed a new life into your family.

But what I do know is that, if you’re reading this right now, you led yourself through it.

You found a way to cope. You found the strength to keep going. You nurtured the resilience to grow and adapt.

And you should be proud of that.

I’ve had the great privilege of getting the inside scoop on how hundreds of small business owners navigated the endless twists and turns of this year. I’ve watched as they rise to the occasion over and over again inside The What Works Network.

I’ve observed their new self-care practices. I’ve seen how they reimagine their brands. I’ve witnessed them wait it out. And I’ve seen how how they’ve grown.

This month, I wanted to take a look back at how they’ve led themselves through this wild year.

So I spoke to 4 small business owners who each had a very different experience this year. What they all have in common, though, is a fine-tuned sense of self-leadership.

Sometimes that self-leadership took the form of intentional practices of self-care. Other times, it was finding the courage the make big decisions. And still other times, their self-leadership stared down challenges with intense creativity & imagination.

My first guest in this series is Emily Thompson, host of Being Boss and founder of Almanac Supply Company.

Emily had a big year—she separated from her long-time business partner Kathleen Shannon. She reimagined the Being Boss business model. She pivoted an in-person event to the online space. And, she got creative about how to replace a major revenue stream for Almanac.

Emily and I talk about all of these moments and much more.

We’ll get into the conversation in just a minute.

But first, I want to invite you to join me for a different kind of annual review.

It’s happening on Instagram—and every day this month, I’m sharing a different question you can use to look back on the year.

So whether the year has been up, down, or lots of ups & downs, these questions will help you reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how you’ve grown.

Today’s question is: what did you create this year?

Follow along by finding me on Instagram – I’m
Dec 01, 2020
EP 310: Unlearning Default Thoughts With Financial Coach Keina Newell

In This Episode:

* How financial coach Keina Newell realized she had a mindset problem–plus all the ways she tried to make things work without working on her mindset* The personal practices she uses to notice her thoughts and create new ones* How her sales process and revenue has shifted since she started addressing her mindset–and the incredible financial results she’s been able to create* Why taking a more objective approach to noticing her thoughts has helped her keep her mind fresh and her options open

Life teaches us a lot.

Some of it is good and helpful—the skills that help us make our way in the world.

And some of it… well, some of it ends up getting in our way.

But we might not realize the friction that it’s causing or the opportunities that it’s blocking until things come to a head.

Once you’ve discovered that there’s a problem with what you’ve already learned, what do you do?

All this month, we’ve been talking about leveling up and learning new skills.

But this week, we’re going to talk a bit about unlearning.

Marga Biller, program director at the Harvard Learning Innovations Laboratory, defines unlearning like this:

“Unlearning is learning to think, behave, or perceive differently, when there are already beliefs, behaviors, or assumptions in place (that get in the way), at either the individual or organizational level.”

Often, we try to do or learn new things without addressing the beliefs, behaviors, and assumptions that we already have—even when those things are contradictory.

For instance, it’s hard to speak up on social media and share your big message if you’ve learned through social conditioning or personal trauma that you can only be safe when you’re silent.

It’s hard to ask for testimonials or write effectively about your offer if you’ve learned that humility is always playing down your achievements or ability.

It’s hard to charge more for your services or products if you’ve learned that money is the root of all evil.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years:

The job of entrepreneurship is so different and foreign to most of us that we don’t realize all the things we’ve learned that block our ability to do it effectively until we’re deep in it.

Entrepreneurs have to unlearn trading time for money. They have to unlearn old management habits. They have to unlearn perfectionism. They often even have to unlearn old identities.

Truly, the list could go on and on.

But I won’t—I want to get to this week’s conversation because it’s a good one.

This week, I’m talking with financial coach and the founder of Wealth Over Now, Keina Newell.

Keina and I started this conversation with the frame that we were going to be talking about learning mindset skills. And we definitely talk about that.

But after reflecting on this interview, I think what we talked about the most was unlearning many of the habits and patterns that she’d learned along the way.

Keina and I talk about what she thought the problem was and how she tried to fix it before landing on learning and unlearning key mindset pieces, as well as the self-coaching system she used to final... ★ Support this podcast ★
Nov 24, 2020
EP 309: How To Change Your Perspective

Today, you’re going to hear from four small business owners who have learned to see things in a new way–to shift their perspective–and as a result show up differently for themselves and their businesses.

I’ve got stories from writing coach Beth Barany, Work Brighter founder Brittany Berger, business finance coach Lauren Caselli, and speech language pathologist and life coach Melissa Page Deutsch.

Each one has a very different story of how they learned something new and it shifted their perspective. Pay attention to how that new perspective helped them see both their challenges and their opportunities in new ways.

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* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
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Nov 19, 2020
EP 308: Leveraging Old Skills & Learning New Ones With Bouquet Stock Photography Founders Dana Kaye & Felton Kizer

In This Episode:

* Why Dana Kaye  and Felton Kizer came together to build a stock photography business–and the important mission behind the company* How the process of making things official helped them learn how to work with each other* The skills they’ve learned as they have developed the new business, as well as how they’ve leveraged their existing business-building skills to give it a jumpstart* Why they’re each playing the roles they are in the new business and how that’s guided the development of the business

Starting a second—or third or fourth—business is a great test of your skills as an entrepreneur.

On one hand, you’re reminded of all the things you learned getting the first venture or few off the ground. You can put those skills to use faster and avoid some of the hassle you went through when you did it before.

On the other hand, there are inevitably new things to learn. You might need to pick up skills that come from using a different kind of business model. Or, you might need to learn some new software. Or, you might want to acquire some new marketing or sales skills to support the new company.

Last year, I had to level up my own skills as the co-founder of my second company, YellowHouse.Media. YellowHouse.Media is the podcast production agency I run with my husband, Sean.

Starting the new venture was a huge affirmation of skills that I already possessed.

It was incredibly fun to design a business from scratch and see it come to fruition really fast—almost exactly how I had envisioned it. I even got to exercise skills around package design and pricing that I had learned but never put into practice.

But there were also all kinds of new skills to learn, too.

I needed to learn how to run the business model I had designed. I needed to develop new communication skills and new team-building skills. And I had to learn new software, too.

Of course, the biggest learning curve was figuring out how to work with a business partner—and how to work with my husband. 

We’re still figuring that one out.

All this month on What Works, we’re talking about leveling up our skills and, this week, I’ve got the inside scoop on a brand new joint venture that friend of the pod Dana Kaye and her new business partner Felton Kizer put together. Knowing what I’ve learned about my own second company, not to mention working with a business partner, I knew this conversation would teach us a lot about the skills that go into building a new business.

You might remember that Dana Kaye is the founder of Kaye Publicity, a PR firm for authors, as well as the host of the podcast, Branding Outside The Box. Felton Kizer is a photographer and the founder of Off-Kilter Media.

Together, they’ve just launched Bouquet Stock Photography. They wanted to see more people of color, those in the LGBTQIA+ community, non-binary folks, ★ Support this podcast ★
Nov 17, 2020
EP 307: Mastering A New Model With The Light House Founder Christianne Squires

In This Episode:

* Why Christianne Squires created The Light House, a community for contemplative leaders, and how it differs from her first business, Bookwifery* How she uses discernment to explore potential decisions and choose what action to take* How the way she creates value has changed in her new community-based business model* What she’s done to hone her skills for community building and how she sees her role in the business now

Different kinds of businesses require different skills.

Okay, maybe that’s obvious—but hear me out.

I’m not talking about the skills that you offer as a product or service.

I’m talking about the skills that you use to actually build and operate the business itself.

Learning how to run a wholesale product business is different than learning how to run a creative agency is different than learning how to run a training company is different than learning how to run a digital products business is different than learning how to run a software as a service business.

There is plenty of overlap. There are plenty of foundational concepts and skills that are key to each of these different business models.

But when it comes to the specific craft of building a particular type of company, that is its own unique skill set.

This month, we’re taking a closer look at how entrepreneurs level up their skills to build more effective and profitable businesses.

I’ve been reminded just how specific the skills required to build a certain business model can be at least twice in recent memory.

Most recently, I’ve been learning the ins and outs of building a productized service business and creative agency model as we grow our podcast production company, YellowHouse.Media.

I had to reacquaint myself with retainer pricing, writing proposals, and managing projects—as well as helping clients navigate the ups and downs of birthing something as big as a podcast.

A few years ago, though, I pivoted my coaching and training company into a community-based business. I’ve spent the last few years unlearning the expert marketing and product development model my business was originally based on and learning a new skill set around subscription pricing, retention, and community building.

It’s been a ride!

I had to rethink how we create value (and what that value even is). I had to take a fresh approach to how we market and sell. And I had to reconsider what leadership looks like in a peer-to-peer support community.

This year—both as predicted and rushed along by the pandemic—has seen a wave of new community-based businesses.

And lots of people are learning just how different this skill set is!

I wanted to talk with someone else who has experienced this shift first hand and I was thrilled when Christianne Squires agreed to share her story.

Christianne is the founder of The Light House and, formerly, Bookwifery. You’re going to hear all about these two businesses—and what makes them different from each other over the course of this conversation.

You’ll also hear how Christianne has been nurturing her skills as a community builder and how that’s pushed her rethink how she creates value, ★ Support this podcast ★
Nov 10, 2020
EP 306: Finding A New Way To Communicate With Writer Kris Windley

In This Episode:

* How writer Kris Windley learned illustration skills to level up the way she communicates* The process she uses to figure out what she’s going to draw and how it’s going to enhance her writing* The 3 ways she coaches herself through the hard parts in learning a new skill* Where she draws motivation from to continue to learn new things and level up her skills

The very first online course I ever created taught students how to build a WordPress website.

I created the course about 10 years ago before drag & drop page builders were the norm and before premium themes were easily customized.

Back then, building a website was a special kind of skill. If you wanted something custom, you had to know some HTML and some CSS and you had to know where to put it to make it do the things you wanted to do.

The first time I taught the class, the sheer newness of what was involved hit the students like a tsunami. They felt in over their heads and they were quickly drowning among the flotsam & jetsam of page templates and child themes and stylesheets.

I felt horrible.

I wanted to teach them this new skill so badly. I wanted them to feel powerful and in control of their online presences.

But instead, I felt like I had resigned them to the horrible fate of feeling confused and overwhelmed by something that seemed so central to building their businesses.

We worked through it… but I knew I didn’t want a repeat of that.

So the next time I taught the class, instead of diving into the first lesson, I shared a video with them where I explained what was going to happen—not in the class itself, but in their minds.

I asked them to remember back to the last time they were learning something brand new—something that they had no point of reference for. I asked them to remember that it was hard at first but, little by little, it started to make sense and they were able to apply what they were learning.

After I set this expectation, it was a little easier for everyone.

There were still plenty of questions and problems learning the material—but there were far fewer freakouts and panic attacks!

Not only were my students learning to build their websites, I was learning a valuable lesson about what it takes to learn a new, foreign skill as an adult.

This month, we’re exploring how we level up by learning new skills.

We all bring a unique skill set to our businesses. Some of us bring the skills we learned in school or corporate careers that transfer directly into the work we’re doing today. Others bring certifications and licenses from careers that no longer serve us.

Some of us bring skills from our hobbies, personal adventures, or relationships. Others bring skills they had no idea would be useful but have been invaluable to their growth.

The way we leverage our existing skills and learn new ones helps us to creatively solve business problems, invest ourselves in future outcomes, and differentiate our brands.

Over the course of this month, we’ll hear from a number of small business owners who have spent time and energy on learning a new skill so they could level up some aspect of their businesses—or, in one case, start a new one.

You’ll hear from Christianne Squires who committed to leveling up her community-building skills so she could serve her people in a new way. ★ Support this podcast ★
Nov 03, 2020
EP 305: How To Keep Speaking Up (Even When Things Go Wrong)

I have a confession to make.

This month, I committed to speaking up on Instagram Stories every day. I pledged to share something–not necessarily profound, not necessarily useful or valuable–just something.

I didn’t follow through.

In fact, as of the time of this recording, I’ve been hiding out for more than a week–not really publicly posting anything anywhere. What had been a consistent effort to creatively share my ideas, reflections, and stories has ground to a halt.

Today, we’re talking about all the things that keep us from speaking up–and how we can work through them.

This is far from the first time I’ve gone dark on social media. It’s the first thing to go when I start to feel overwhelmed and depressed. I’ve been fighting back a period of depression for over a year now and it’s just gotten to be too much.

There is something different about going dark this time, though.

So far, it’s only impacted social media. And, frankly, I don’t need to constantly post to social media to run my companies.

What’s really different about how I’ve kept speaking up outside of social media is that systems and routines that I’ve put in place to help me maintain a consistent practice of using my voice and sharing my ideas.

The What Works Weekly newsletter has still be going out every week.

This podcast, of course, has still been produced every week.

I’m still showing up to share and lead The What Works Network.

My businesses can surviving without social media.

They can’t survive without me speaking up.

Twelve years into this small business leadership thing and I KNOW that my mental health impacts my ability to share. But it doesn’t have to stop me in my tracks.

I can focus on systems that inspire me to share my thoughts and give me direction when I need it. I can commit to a sustainable pace for using my voice and pull back on any extra effort when it gets to be too much–without feeling bad about myself or my capacity.

Speaking up for yourself and your business is no joke.

Putting your ideas, stories, or information out there can be daunting. Any number of things might be going through your mind:

Is this really helpful? Hasn’t this already been said a million times before? What if someone yells at me? Who am I to say this? What if they think I’m weird? Is anyone paying attention at all? What if it goes viral and I get inundated with replies?

And it’s not just the head stuff that stops us!

Sometimes the challenge is finding our people and speaking directly to them. Sometimes the obstacle is finding a message that makes a connection. Sometimes it’s the logistics or the technology that throw you for a loop.

So many things can stand in the way of us speaking up for ourselves and our small businesses.

Today, I’ve got 5 stories for you. Each story is from a small business owner who identified a hurdle they had to speaking up and found what worked for them to overcome it.

You’ll hear from
Oct 29, 2020
EP 304: Speaking To New Audiences With Rebel Therapist Founder Annie Schuessler

In This Episode:

* How Rebel Therapist podcast host Annie Schuessler found her voice as a podcaster—and how her show has evolved over time* How she plans her content for her podcast and selects the guests she’ll have on the show* Why she decided to start pitching other podcasts to have her on—and the process she uses to do it* The techniques Annie uses to break through the fear of asking to be on other podcasts

The number one way I’ve built my audience might surprise you.

It’s NOT through especially useful or creative content. It’s not through some top secret ad targeting strategy. It’s definitely not through social media.

It’s not even through this podcast.

The number one way I’ve built my audience is by borrowing other people’s audiences.

When I had a craft and design blog, I borrowed other people’s audiences by doing extensive write ups on makers I loved—who then enthusiastically shared that write up with their audience.

When I started doing more business coaching & education, I guest posted on big name online marketing sites and their readers followed the links back to my site.

As time went on, I borrowed audiences by appearing on podcasts and speaking for free. And of course, I borrowed the audience at CreativeLive for years—which is a move I still benefit from to this day.

There are other ways to grow an audience—things like search engine optimization, PR, and—of course—advertising. But even at the heart of these tactics is the strategy of borrowing audiences from other sources.

Now, even though borrowing audiences is something that I know works for me, I all too often forget to build that work into my plans.

During our last What Works Network virtual conference, sales strategist Allison Davis shared that it’s the only way she’s working to grow her audience. Sure, she has some social media presence but her core strategy is borrowing other people’s audiences.

Once Allison shared that, it became a hot topic of conversation: how do you borrow someone’s audience? How do you get in touch with the people who have the right audience for you and your work? How do you make the most of these opportunities?

Today, we’re answering a bunch of those questions with Annie Schuessler from Rebel Therapist.

Annie helps therapists and other healers move their businesses beyond private practice. She has her own podcast—also called Rebel Therapist—and we talk about how hosting her show has helped to use her voice.

But we also dive into how Annie has been borrowing other people’s audiences all year long through a podcast tour, a concerted effort to pitch other hosts and appear on other shows.

Not only has her tour been successful—but it’s helped create incredible results in her business, like overselling her last Create Your Program group coaching offer.

We talk about how Annie finds shows to pitch, the research she does to pitch them, how she tracks her pitching, and how she’s overcome the fear she first felt when getting started on this project.

Now, let’s find out what works for Annie Schuessler!

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Oct 27, 2020
EP 303: Creating A Curated Newsletter With #jesspicks Creator Jessica Williams

In This Episode:

* Why Jessica Williams created #jesspicks, the curated weekly newsletter for sidehustlers who love their day job* How each edition of the newsletter is structured* Why going “all in” has been the key to growing her subscriber list* What her weekly workflow looks like to put the newsletter together* How curating the newsletter has helped her to find her confidence as a writer

When you think about someone sharing their message, you think about the writers, the speakers, the artists.

You think about people who are creating original work.

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to constantly be creating original work and finding something new to say. After all, that’s how we prove how valuable we are, right?

But creating original work isn’t the only way to use your voice.

Curators use their unique perspective and keen eye for connecting the dots to create value. They build and share their message by surfacing the work of others. They tell stories through the relationships between the pieces they choose to display side by side.

I see my role as the host of this podcast as one of a curator. The way we choose the topics we’re going to cover, the conversations we’re going to showcase, and the small business owners we’re going to talk to is all an act of curation.

I take a lot of pride in curating this show and thinking through how each theme relates to the next, how each conversation builds on the last, and how each guest is the opportunity to highlight a different story.

I also send out a weekly newsletter where, yes, I do write an original little piece as a letter, but I also share a set of links that have caught my eye over the last week or so. It’s an opportunity for me to show my point of view by highlighting ideas and voices that don’t necessarily “make the rounds” in the small business space.

By the way, if you don’t get What Works Weekly, can can subscribe by going to explorewhatworks.com/weekly

I was inspired to add curation to my communication and marketing strategy by Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger and currently creating & curating at Unemployable.

Brian started talking about curation versus creation as a way to share your message and make an impact in the summer of 2019. He said that he had started to elevate the role of editor over writer because while there is a surplus of good writing, there was a poverty of attention.

In that way, curation does double duty.

It’s not only a way to share your perspective with your audience, it’s a way to do them the service of wading through the sea of original works to deliver what’s important to them.

I’m all in on curating. And I think it’s something that most small business owners should consider as a potential way to use their voice and highlight their perspective.

So to take things really meta, as I was curating this month’s Speak Up theme, I knew I wanted to include a curator.

Jessica Williams came to mind.

Jessica is the curator behind #jesspicks, a weekly newsletter for side hustlers. Jessica is herself a side hustler, working during the day at &yet, ★ Support this podcast ★
Oct 20, 2020
EP 302: Connecting With Confidence with Brand Builders Academy Creator Suz Chadwick

I started my very first blog back on Xanga in 2003.

I might be your internet grandma.

I used my Xanga blog to share what I was thinking about my senior year of college and process a lot of the reading that I was doing about my field of study, contemporary and postmodern Christian theology.

It was also full of personal updates and the musings of a 21-year-old young woman.

Through my Xanga blog, I got to connect with people online. Some were old friends from high school. Others were strangers from the internet. It was exactly the kind of online social interaction that I loved as a hardcore introvert.

Back when I was writing my Xanga blog, we were blissfully ignorant of the possibility that the companies that we used to facilitate this kind of online social interaction could conspire to use our data and online activity to manipulate us. All most of us saw was the possibility of a connected online community.

I’m Tara McMullin and this is What Works, the show that takes you behind the scenes of how small business owners are building stronger businesses through uncompromising commitment and decisive action.

My little Xanga blog didn’t last more than a year. But when I did find my way back to what was now being called social media, it was like rekindling lost love.

I fell head over heels for sharing my experiences and opinions while meeting new people and cultivating new relationships online.

I happily admit that I spent loads of time on social media connecting with people—and, in the process, connected my way to a large audience and plenty of authority. But then, things started to get a little rocky.

I started playing to the audience instead of connecting with people. The updates and emails I shared were less about connecting and more about broadcasting. I stopped writing for one person at a time and started writing for thousands.

These relationships that felt so natural and genuine started to feel strained. My interactions started to be less about connection and more about transaction.

Over the last few years, I’ve been working on things. I’ve been focused on prioritizing connection again and sharing more naturally again, instead of trying to work the system and grow my audience.

And I like it. I’m back to meeting new people, having loads of side conversations, and sharing without some grand plan.

That leads me to today’s guest.

Suzanne Chadwick is so good at showing up and connecting with people. In fact, she does it every week day morning—a habit we talk about during this conversation.

Suz is a bold branding, business, and speaker coach who helps women create businesses that fit their lifestyle. Her coaching helps female entrepreneurs show up in bold ways and share their messages online and on stages.

I invited Suz onto the show to talk about how she cultivates the confidence and go-getterness that exudes from the way she speaks up. And I expected to have a conversation about going big—and we did—but my big takeaway from this conversation is in how much she prioritizes the small ways she can connect with people, the little things she does to make people feel seen and included.

So I hope you listen for that and consider how that can apply to the way you speak up and show up, too.

Now, let’s find out what works for Suz Chadwick!

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Oct 13, 2020
EP 301: Taking A Stand With Tell Me A Story Founder Hillary Rea

In This Episode:

* How Tell Me A Story founder Hillary Rea realized that she’d let her message get watered down* Why trying to please people who weren’t really her ideal clients contributed to losing track of her voice* The concrete steps she took to take a stand and show up more completely* What she’s still wrestling with as she deliberately speaks up in more potent and powerful ways

To quote the great Lin-Manuel Miranda:

If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?

Whether you’re a Hamilfan or not, you get the gist: you have to be clear on your values and what you believe or else you risk getting caught up in what others what you to believe or how they want you to be.

This applies in life, in politics, and—of course—in business too.

And today, more than ever, people expect businesses and their leaders to speak up, to share what they stand for, to claim what makes them different, and to tell their stories without hesitation or equivocation.

So this month, we’re looking at different ways that small business owners take a stand, show up, and speak up.

Speaking up is—for sure—one of the things that business owners must do decisively and consistently to build a stronger business.

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to shout.

You don’t have to plaster social media channels with your messages or barrage your potential customers with emails.

It’s more about finding your voice, being willing to show up, and creating a connection with the people you want to reach. Sometimes that happens on a very small and powerful scale—other times, it happens on a much bigger scale.

When I talk about “speaking up” here, what I’m not necessarily talking about is growing your audience or building a personal brand. Instead, I’m talking about the system you create that allows you to communicate clearly and effectively with the people who matter most to you.

And to go back to that line from Hamilton: it’s about taking a stand so that you don’t fall for all the suggestions of how you “should” be presenting yourself or your message in order to get noticed.

The more you understand your own voice and your unique communication style, the more effectively you can design a system for being heard—whether that’s in your marketing, in your team communication, or in your customer communications.

So I have 4 stories for you this month: one about speaking with confidence on stage & off, one about podcasting, one about newsletters, and—today’s story—one about taking a stand and its ripple effects on a business.

My guest today is Hillary Rea, the founder of Tell Me A Story. Hillary helps entrepreneurs, leaders, and change makers identify that personal narratives that create powerful communication.

Now, you might think Hillary had this whole speaking up and taking a stand thing under control.

She did, too.

In fact, in episode 226, Hillary shared how she’s found the confidence to stand on stage and share vulnerable personal experiences through storytelling.

But earlier this year, just after Covid-19 upended her business, Hillary realized she had let herself, her story, and her stand get watered down. She was trying to squeeze into a mold that she assumed other people wa... ★ Support this podcast ★
Oct 06, 2020
EP 300: Celebrating A Milestone With Emily Thompson, Elsie Escobar, Jessica Kupferman & Tara McMullin

This is our 300th episode of What Works!

To celebrate, What Works host Tara McMullin and top podcasters, Emily Thompson (Being Boss), Elsie Escobar (The Feed, She Podcasts), and Jessica Kupferman (She Podcasts) came together for a live podcast recording.

We looked back at 2020 and shared what we’ve learned about ourselves, our shows, and our businesses.

Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us over the last 5 years!


Emily Thompson, host of Being Boss, is a long-time business coach and creative warrior, helping retailers, makers, coaches, and designers develop an online business model and grow their creative business. She is also the founder of Almanac Supply Co., a retail business that makes and curates products that help people connect with nature.

Elsie Escobar, co-host of The Feed and She Podcasts, is a die-hard podcast junkie who lives, breathes and works the medium, and has since 2006. She’s worked with hundreds of podcasters, sharing tools for better production, educating them in the fast-moving podcasting space, as well as cultivating a strongly engaged community through The Feed: The Official Libsyn podcast which I both co-host and produce.

Jessica Kupferman, co-host of She Podcasts, is a marketing and sales expert with a history of being both the devil’s advocate and the first person to give someone the benefit of the doubt. Along with Elsie, she’s on a mission to grow the number of successful woman-hosted podcasts, thereby giving light and voice to the millions of messages that need to be shared with the world.

Tara McMullin, host of What Works, is building stronger small businesses through her podcast and The What Works Network. She’s also the co-founder of YellowHouse.Media, a full-service podcast production agency that helps entrepreneurs create standout podcasts that grow their businesses.
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Sep 29, 2020
EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

Very few small business owners start out as confident sales people.

In fact, selling is quite often a new business owner’s #1 fear.

Many avoid selling. Some stumble through it. And still others look to leaders and sales trainers to learn their methods and duplicate their models.

In that process, they learn what works… but they often also learn that “what works” doesn’t necessarily work for them.

All this month, we’ve been examining sales and selling–asking “what works?” when it comes to asking someone to buy what we’re selling.

First, I talked with Autumn Witt Boyd who shared how she realized that she’d taken the trend toward sales automation a little too far–and has since developed a hybrid process that’s high touch without overwhelming her.

Then, I talked with Katie Hunt who shared how she had a fabulous new offer launch without spending tons of money on advertising or recruiting an army of affiliates.

Last week, I shared my conversation with Kate Strathmann where we both shared our reflections on building less harmful sales systems–systems that are less manipulative, less urgent, and more in line with our values.

This week, I’ve got 4 more stories to share with you from small business owners who have intentionally done things their own way when it comes to sales and selling. They’ve found what truly works for them–even if it bucks the prevailing wisdom or would make a bro marketing expert role his or her eyes.

Before we get there, though…

I wanted to share some questions you can use to examine your own sales process.

First, I want to say that I don’t think learning someone else’s sales system is a bad thing. And I don’t think every effective sales system being taught is inherently manipulative or harmful. Even if you plan to find your own version of what works, learning about effective sales systems can help you get creative with the way you do want to go about selling your offers.

When it goes wrong is when we don’t take the time to carefully examine and analyze what’s going on in a sales system that we’re learning and, instead, just naively follow the instructions.

So these questions–which I formulated from the conversations we’ve had this month–can help you take a closer look at a sales system that you’ve learned or one you’ve created and make sure that it’s creating the experience you want your customers to have.

The first question is:

Does this sales process mimic the experience I want customers to have after they buy?

Both Kate and Autumn talked about how they want to align what was special about the type of experience they offered with the way sales conversations actually went down.

For Autumn, that meant incorporating more personalized, human conversations into what had become a really automated experience. For Kate, it meant making sure that the collaborative, co-creative experience she was building also carried over into the content and conversations she was having around her program.

Before you decide on what your sales process should look like, ★ Support this podcast ★
Sep 22, 2020
EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

This show is called What Works for a reason.

Sometimes it’s a declaration: this is what worked for this small business. And often, it’s a question, “What works?”

Today’s episode is very much a question, many questions, really:

* What works when it comes to selling when you want to avoid manipulative or exploitative practices?* What works when your values conflict with many of the best practices of selling online but you still want people to buy your stuff?* What works when it comes to sales in a business that is actively anti-racist and anti-capitalist?

And even more bluntly: Can you even sell things without causing harm or perpetuating harmful systems?

My friend Kate Strathmann is the founder of Wanderwell, a bookkeeping and consulting firm that grows thriving businesses while investigating new models for being in business.

Recently, Kate took a bit of a detour from how she’s used to building her business, which is 90% referral based and fueled by deep relationship- and community-building. She decided to offer a small group program called the Equitable Business Incubator as a way of exploring anti-capitalist business practices and how they apply to the small businesses we’re building.

To fill the program, Kate need to sell differently.

Which led her to asking the question: Can you even sell things as a anti-capitalist?

While that might not be your specific question, I have a feeling that you too have wondering how you can effectively sell your offers without causing harm, perpetuating harmful systems, or damaging relationships. And that’s why I knew Kate and I needed to explore this topic on the show.

This is a conversation about what a kinder, less harmful sales process could look like—and it probably contains more questions than answers. But I’m confident those questions can help you find the answers that are right for you and the sales system that you want to build to make your business stronger.

We start out by defining what we’re really talking about when we talk about capitalism and anti-capitalism. Then, Kate shares how the Equitable Business Incubator came to be and how she ended up selling it. And then we dig into what makes many of the sales formulas and best practices being taught today problematic—and how to think differently to create your own alternative practices.

Now, let’s take a look at what works for creating less harmful sales systems!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
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Sep 15, 2020
EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

In This Episode:

* How Katie Hunt adapted her largely events-based business in the wake of Covid-19* Why a product she’d been working on since December 2019 was the key to serving her people in the most valuable way* How Katie adjusted the messaging and marketing campaign to reflect the current state of affairs* A complete breakdown of the social media posts and email messages that made her sales campaign a smash when it was time to launch

There are a lot of misconceptions about what it takes to launch and sell a new online course or program.

Heck, there are a lot of misconceptions about selling in general—but this is just one podcast episode.

“Launching”—depending on when and where you started your small business—means many different things. I’ve talked to plenty of people who swear it’s not a launch if you don’t have a Facebook ad funnel. Others will swear it’s not a launch if there isn’t a 3-part video series to warm up your audience. Still others will swear it’s not a launch if you don’t have a list of 15,000 people to blast with 30 different emails.

Launching a new online course or program has become so misunderstood and, simultaneously, blown out of proportion, that I often outlaw the use of the word! As my friend Amy Walsh once said, “Launching is for rockets.”

Instead of launching, I plan—and talk about—sales campaigns.

Today, we’re diving straight into an incredibly successful sales campaign to get the nuts and bolts of what worked.

When the economy ground to a halt earlier this year, many small businesses were forced to think fast and make big changes on the fly. At this point, we’re probably all familiar with the local restaurant that figured out an ingenious takeout model or the local clothing store that created virtual shopping appointments or the local yoga studio that started sharing classes, workshops, and meditations online.

And while many digital small business owners kept operating business as usual—or as usual as one can operate in a pandemic—there were a few groups that were deeply affected by the shutdowns.

Two of those groups were small business owners running in-person events as a component of their otherwise online business and small business owners who depend on trade shows for the majority of their wholesale orders.

Today’s guest is Katie Hunt—who is a member of the former group and serves the latter group.

Katie is the founder of Proof To Product, which helps creative entrepreneurs run and grow thriving product-based businesses. She works with designers, illustrators, and artists to help them develop in-demand product lines and get them sold in stores all over the world.

Not long after the pandemic threw her business and the industry she serves for a major loop, Katie and her team launched Proof To Product Labs to provide a completely digital, ongoing support opportunity for business owners when they needed it most.

And that launch was a smash.

Katie and I get into all of the nuts and bolts of how she adjusted the offer to meet the moment and how she warmed up her audience before the campaign, as well as the exact mix of emails, podcast ads, and social media content she used to sell the offer when it went live. We also talk about how she sees the sales system evolving in the future and how the offer has been received now that people are using it!

Now, ★ Support this podcast ★
Sep 08, 2020
EP 296: Putting The Humanity Back In Sales With Lawyer Autumn Witt Boyd

In This Episode:

* How attorney Autumn Witt Boyd discovered that she’d over-automated the sales process for her law firm* The adjustments that she made to get her sales process back on track—and why she chose to put a human touch on it* What steps a potential new clients goes through in Autumn’s hybrid sales system* How her values are reflected in the way her business does sales now

We all have a story about a bad salesperson.

Ask my husband about buying a car and he’ll tell you about the time he and his ex-wife got trapped in a user car lot when they refused to make an offer on a car that was well over their budget.

It’s cliche—but true.

If this is the kind of story you think about when you think about sales, it’s no wonder that selling your own products or services would be a challenge.

But this is not what your sales system needs to look like to be effective.

You can be a kind, generous, and human sales person and be incredibly effective.

This month, we’re talking sales.

We’re going to get into the human side of sales in a minute or two. But first, I think we need to make an important distinction here: marketing is not sales. Sales is not marketing.

Can there be overlap? Sure. Does one often support the other? You bet.

But marketing and sales are not the same thing.

In fact, an intentional, proven sales system is often one of the missing pieces of a business that almost works—but isn’t quite there.

You can’t market your butt off and expect it to just materialize into purchases—you have to sell.

So then, what is sales?

Sales is the system that presents the offer, answers any questions or objections, and then makes the ask and closes the deal.

Sales tends to happen a little more behind the scenes—which is why it’s one of the more misunderstood parts of running a small business. It often happens in an email, on the phone, or even in person.

Our goal for this series on sales is to demystify the process and give you a look at what really works when it comes to selling your service, your program, or your product. We’re even going to take a look at sales through a feminist or anti-capitalist lens.

To kick things off, I thought it was fitting to talk with a lawyer—another profession known for their sales techniques… about how she moved away from impersonal, automated sales processes and into a more human way of selling—and why that generated better results for her firm.

Today, I’m talking with my friend Autumn Witt Boyd, the founder of The AWB Firm, which specializes in helping online business owners protect what they’ve built.

Autumn and I talk about why she started tinkering with her sales process in the first place, the speed bumps she experienced along the way, why her sales process ended up too automated, and how she’s taken a more human approach and actually gotten much better results.

Now, let’s find out what works for Autumn Witt Boyd!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, ★ Support this podcast ★
Sep 01, 2020
EP 295: It’s Always A Work In Progress

The market is constantly changing.

New technology, new trends, new players.

We can either treat the constant changing and uncertainty as a threat…

…or we can treat it as an invitation to see everything we do as a work in progress.

All this month, we’ve been looking at the process of value creation–how we wind up building the products and services we sell.

We heard from Alisha Robertson about how she turned her book into the idea for a membership community. India Jackson shared how she she went from modeling to photography to running a brand visibility agency. And we heard from Michelle Markwart Deveaux about how she took a tried-and-maybe-not-so-true model for offering voice teaching services and turned it on its head to improve how she delivered value AND to make more money.

Along the way, I also shared stories from my own companies about how things have evolved and what I’ve learned as things have changed about the ways I create and deliver value–from business support to podcast production to leadership development.

So back to change and uncertainty…

…like I said, change and uncertainty is a given.

There is absolutely no point in fighting it–trying to get things exactly right or anticipate what’s going to happen next.

And you know what? That’s great!

Because at this point, it should be clear that creating value is always a work in progress.

As the market changes, our offers can evolve.

As we learn more, we can try new things.

The challenge in this is actually treating your business as a work-in-progress.

So often, I see business owners work in fits & starts–trying to solve one piece of the puzzle once and for all… only to get frustrated, take a break, and then find something else to fixate on for a while.

Whether it’s creating value, making your systems more efficient, or growing your audience… the trick to treating your business as a work in progress is consistent action. Business-building has to be a habit, not a one-off project you have to get right.

To make business-building a habit, you need a solid system to focus on what matters, a structure of getting the work done, and the support of peers and mentors who can inspire you to keep going.

That’s exactly what we do at The What Works Network.

When you join The What Works Network, you commit to making business-building a habit. Each month, we give you the focus, structure, and support you need to take your work in progress and make it a little stronger.

Together, we take consistent, strategic action to build a more effective, efficient, and sustainable business.

The What Works Network is accepting new members right now through the end of August. ★ Support this podcast ★
Aug 25, 2020
BONUS: Refining How I Offer Business Support Over The Long-Term

Hey, it’s Tara McMullin, and this is a special bonus episode of What Works, the show that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at how small business owners take decisive action to build a stronger business.

This is the third and final episode in a series on how I’ve approached creating and delivering value through the products and services I’ve offered over the years.

In the first episode of the series, I shared how my most recent offer, a live program called The Commitment Blueprint, started as a personal life change, grew into a free webinar, and then transformed twice into a paid product.

In the second episode, I gave you a closer look at my other company, YellowHouse.Media, and shared how and why we’ve taken on the productized service model.

And now, as I close out the series, I want to share how The What Works Network has grown out of a long line of products and services that package small business support in different ways.

Earlier this week, I spoke with Michelle Markwart Deveaux about how she refined her voice coaching offer from a pay-for-service model into a value-pricing model, and what that did for how she packaged, sold, and delivered the value she was creating. Just repackaging the same offer in a new way made her business more enjoyable to run and more profitable too. It also gave her students a whole new perspective on what she was offering and how it benefited them.

Refining, repackaging and re-messaging the way I offer support for small business owners over the last 10 years has given me the chance to build a stronger business model and find more valuable, more aligned, and more customer-centric ways of creating value.

Now, to be clear, it would be easy to say the different offers I’ve made over the years are truly different products or services, but I see them as one long lineage of refining and repackaging, and that’s the key take-away I want you to have from what I’m about to share.

Building a stronger business doesn’t mean throwing in the towel on what you’ve already built.

It’s a process of building on what’s working, making guesses about what could work better, and finding ways to experiment your way to a more sustainable, profitable and effective model for everyone involved.

Let’s, as they say, start at the very beginning.

So first, did you know I used to design websites? It’s true.

I used to run my blog during the day in between taking care of my new baby, and then I would build websites either really late at night or very early in the morning. And building websites was a really easy concrete way to create and exchange value. In other words, it was an easy way to make money when that was something that was super important, just figuring out how can I make money.

But what I found was that what people really got out of the work that we did together was a better idea of how to structure their business. In the process of building a website, writing an about page, figuring out what needs to go where on that site, we’d have a lot of conversations about their business, ★ Support this podcast ★
Aug 20, 2020
EP 294: Refining Your Offer With SpeakEasy Cooperative Founder Michelle Markwart Deveaux

In This Episode

* Why voice teacher Michelle Markwart Deveaux refined her offer from a pay-for-service model to a value pricing model* How that shift changed how she packaged her services and what outcomes she focused on for her students* What she did to double her rates while deliver 3 times the value* How she started sharing her methods and business structure with other voice teachers and professionals

Product development isn’t always about building something new.

Often, it’s about taking what you’ve already built and making it stronger.

You refine the packaging, the value proposition, the customer experience, the delivery mechanisms, and the price. Little by little, you create value simply through the process of excavating the most useful or transformative pieces of your offer and making sure they are as polished & refined as they can be.

Refining the product or service you already offer can be as good—or even better—for giving your business a shot of energy as offering something new.

When you refine or repackage your offer, new people might notice it who passed it by before. New methods of delivery might give you back some serious time. A new price point might unlock a new level of profitability for your business. A new message or angle on what you really offer could open your eyes to a whole new way to market what you do.

In other words, refining your offer could lead to a new, bold vision for your whole business!

This is exactly what I talked about with today’s guest, Michelle Markwart Deveaux, founder of FaithCultureKiss voice studio and the SpeakEasy Cooperative.

Michelle is a voice teacher… as well as champion for voice teachers who want to empower students, performers, podcasters, and voice talent of all kinds to use their voices in powerful ways.

Michelle started out teaching voice with the same kind of offer you’d expect any voice, piano, or instrument teacher to use. Students paid her for each lesson and they called it a day.

But as she started to hate how transactional that method was and how guilty it made her feel for doing work outside of her lessons, she started to refine her offer—and ended up creating a whole new model for teaching voice.

We get into all of that and more, including how she doubled her rates and delivered 3x the value, how she structures her packages, and how she got started teaching voice online. Plus, we talk about how she took what she learned refining her original voice teaching offer and created a new offer to help other voice teachers, too.

Now, let’s find out What Works for Michelle Markwart Deveaux!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
★ Support this podcast ★
Aug 18, 2020
BONUS: Why We Chose Productized Services For YellowHouse.Media

In This Episode:

* Why Sean and Tara McMullin chose to “productize” their full-service podcast production offer at YellowHouse.Media… and what productized services actually are* What’s included in the package they offer–and why they don’t often custom or a la carte services* How the productized service model allowed them to quickly create a small group coaching program to increase their capacity and serve more clients

Hey! It’s Tara McMullin and this is a special BONUS episode of What Works—the show that takes you behind the scenes of how small business owners take decisive action on building a stronger business.

This is the second episode of a bonus series on how I’ve approached creating and delivering value through the products and services I’ve offered over the years.

In the first bonus episode, I shared how my most recent offer, a live program called The Commitment Blueprint, started as a personal life change, grew into a free webinar, and then transformed—TWICE—into a paid product.

In this episode, I’m going to give you a closer look at my other company, YellowHouse.Media, and share how and why we’ve taken on the productized service model—including what that means for how we serve our clients, run our operations, and build for the future.

Plus, I’ll share how the same principles that apply to YellowHouse also apply to What Works and how we continue to develop The What Works Network to support small business owners as they build stronger businesses.

Now, in the last regular episode I spoke with India Jackson, the founder of brand visibility agency Flaunt Your Fire. India described what clients come to Flaunt Your Fire looking to achieve and how the agency helps them achieve those results.

She also shared that she tailors each client engagement to the goals of that client using both master services list and a really strong idea of what the agency’s yes, no, and maybe projects are.

This bespoke service model is typically how people approach building a service-based business.

The client tells you want they need, you figure out how to make that happen and put a price on it. Each engagement looks different and might include a different mix of services.

And this model works.

But it’s not the only way to build a service-based business.

A few years ago, I started to notice that the most successful people I was working with in our community and mastermind groups were running a different kind of service-based business.

They were running productized service businesses.

(And in case you’re wondering, yes, most of the time these productized service businesses were out-earning the digital product businesses. So don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make money in client services.)

I was intrigued by the model and operations behind these successful productized service businesses… but, more than that, I was intrigued by how happy these business owners were!

They were focused. ★ Support this podcast ★
Aug 13, 2020
EP 293: Offering Bespoke Services With Flaunt Your Fire Founder India Jackson

In This Episode:

* How Flaunt Your Fire founder India Jackson takes a strategic approach to offering custom service packages without getting overwhelmed or burnt out* Why getting to know her potential clients really, really well helps her put together the right packages for their needs* How her “master list” of services helps her build bespoke engagements easily & efficiently* How she’s gotten her team involved with client-facing work and slowly let go of control

Somewhere in the craze for online courses and making money in your sleep, service-based businesses got a bad rap.

Of course, most of the bad rap really just came from marketers who convinced would-be business owners that passive income and infinitely scalable models were the only way to ensure they wouldn’t be overworked and overwhelmed by client work.

The other reason, I think, that service-based businesses got a bad rap was that so many service providers weren’t very thoughtful or strategic in how they offered their services. And understandably so!

You want to make clients happy. You want to say yes. You want to close the deal.

And so you agree to switching things up, doing things that you’re only kind of good at, and going along with what the client wants instead of what you know to be best.

That’s all a recipe for taking on too much uninspired work for yourself—and even for your team.

But offering a service doesn’t have to be that way.

Offer development is an incredibly important part of running a service-based business. Without a careful strategy and thoughtful process behind how you create value, you are likely to get stuck in the trap of trading time for money or wind up overwork & overwhelmed.

That’s why I wanted to make sure we included a bespoke service-based business in this series on creating value.

I invited India Jackson, the founder of Flaunt Your Fire, a full-service brand visibility agency, to share her approach to how she creates value and constructs the services she offers clients.

India is clear on what her agency does and what it does not do.

She’s clear on why her agency offers the types engagements it does and why some projects just aren’t right for them. And, she’s clear on how her team adds value to the services the agency provides—so India isn’t stuck doing everything herself.

Even if you don’t run a service-based business, this conversation has a lot to offer. Listen in and consider how you might be trying to do too much with your product-based business or how you’ve succumb to making offers that aren’t aligned with your values or best work.

We’ll get to this conversation with India in just a minute—but first, don’t forget to check out our special bonus series this month for a behind-the-scenes look at how I’ve developed some of my favorite offers over the years. In the first episode, I shared how we took The Commitment Blueprint from idea to free offer to paid template to paid live program. In the second episode—out Thursday—I’m sharing how Sean and I developed the service package we offer at YellowHouse.Media. It’s the perfect follow-up to this conversation with India.

Now, let’s find out What Works for India Jackson!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Aug 11, 2020
BONUS: How I Created 2 New Offers When People Asked Me, “What’s Next?”

In This Episode:

* How a significant life change for What Works founder Tara McMullin turned into an idea and then several iterations of offers* The process Tara used to turn The Commitment Blueprint process into a free webinar, then a paid template, and finally a live paid program* How a similar process is helping Tara and the What Works team continue to evolve how The What Works Network is structured* And why asking “What’s next?” doesn’t have to mean creating a brand-new offer but, instead, iterating on what you’re already selling

This is a special bonus episode of What Works–the show that takes you behind the scenes of how small business owners take decisive action to build a stronger business.

This is the first episode in a three-part series taking a closer look at what’s worked for me as I’ve developed a new ways to create and deliver value over the years, both here at What Works and now at YellowHouse.Media.

Today I’m sharing how our latest What Works offer, a live program called The Commitment Blueprint came to be—tracing it from its humble beginnings as the seed of a major life and business shift for me to a successful webinar, to a paid template, and finally to the live program version.

Now I’m going to be breaking it down iteration by iteration, from idea to offer and really to the next offer from there and the next offer after that.

So let’s start at the beginning—the idea.

Like so many offers out there, the idea for The Commitment Blueprint really came as a result of solving my own problem.

Now I had always been a planner and a goal setter, but I started to notice that my planning and goal setting was maybe causing me more problems than they were solving. I started to get really caught up in other people’s goals and trying to prove myself based on reaching them. And I realized that I needed to make a change or I was going to be constantly chasing after other people’s ideas of what I should be achieving or accomplishing instead of building the life and business that I really wanted.

So at the beginning, little by little, I started to focus more on process. In other words, I was thinking about. What could I commit to doing consistently to change my current experience and my future outcomes. Now, this led to all sorts of personal growth for me, I got back to being an athlete again after 20 years, I prioritized execution and systems in my work for like the first time ever. I learned to see how other people were functioning in the world and that helped me temper my righteous indignation, at least most of the time.

This whole process was just the experience of major personal growth. And I realized looking back over that time, especially as people started to ask me more and more, “Hey, Tara, something’s different with you. What did you change? What happened here? What, what are you doing?” I realized that there was method to the madness.

I had made certain commitments to myself. And I developed a process for upholding those commitments. And then from there I was able to make adjustments over time.

So once I realized that there was a method to the madness, I realized that I could share it with other people. And that led to the very first offer. In other words, the very first way that I could create value for other people using this same system.

Turning the method into a free webinar

So from there, ★ Support this podcast ★
Aug 06, 2020
EP 292: Figuring Out What’s Next For Your Offer With LOE Collective Founder Alisha Robertson

In This Episode

* How Alisha Robertson got the idea for The LOE Collective, a membership community supporting women business owners* The process she used to figure out how the community would take shape and what features she would include* How her course library & Intentional Success Path help members feel at home and in control* Why the pricing for the community has evolved over time

“What’s next?”

The first few dozen or so times I heard this question from a customer I was perplexed—even a bit concerned.

Whether it was after a course wrapped up or a coaching engagement came to a close or a small group came to a close…

…when a customer would ask me “What’s next?”, I worried that I hadn’t done my job.

I thought maybe they wanted to know what was next because they hadn’t quite gotten what they came for. They hadn’t seen a real change or improved their situation.

It took me much longer than I’d like to admit to realize what they were really saying was, “That was great. What else can we do together?”

I realized that “What’s next?” was an invitation to create more value for the people who I was already helping—and, in turn, make a very, very easy sale.

This month, we’re focusing on how small businesses create & deliver value.

How do we develop new offers? Put together new packages? Build new products?

We’ll be deep diving into 3 businesses and how they create & deliver value.

I’ll also be sharing a series of short bonus episodes looking back at how I’ve created & delivered value over the years—and how that process continues to evolve both at What Works and at YellowHouse.Media. Plus, we’ll close out the series by hearing from a few more business owners who have found creative ways to create and deliver value through the offers they make.

As I mentioned earlier, “What’s next?” is often a question that helps you figure out how to create and deliver value beyond what you’re already doing.

A product or service that solves a particular problem might shine some light on the next problem that needs to be a solved. A product or service that creates a delightful experience might simply leave the customer asking for more.

Or “What’s next?” might simply be a request to go deeper, keep working together longer, or investigate new possibilities.

Alisha Robertson found herself with a whole bunch of customers asking her “What’s next?” after she released a book called Living Over Existing. After a lot of thought, some customer research, some soul-searching, Alisha came up with her next move.

Alisha and talk about how the LOE Collective came to be, how she’s set up her community to meet those “What’s next” needs, and how she created the Intentional Success Path to guide her members through more “What’s next” questions. Plus, Alisha shares why she also created a physical welcome kit to send to her new members.

Now, let’s find out What Works for Alisha Robertson.

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Aug 04, 2020
EP 291: Reply Hazy. Try Again.

I had a Magic 8 ball when I was a kid.

I wouldn’t say that I relied on it in any serious way… but, when my kid brain was trying to process some big emotions or sort through a sticky situation, I often pulled it out and asked it questions.

Most of the time, the mysterious blue text that would emerge from the dark depths of the ball would give you some sort of definitive answer. Without a doubt. Signs point to yes. Don’t count on it. My reply is no.

But there was another set of answers that just really left you hanging.

The one that sticks out in my mind is “Reply hazy. Try again.”

All things considered, “Reply hazy. Try again,” was probably the most accurate of Magic 8 Ball answers.

You can ask the ball a question. You can shake it vigorously and beg for the answer you’re hoping for. But, in truth, the reply is ALWAYS hazy.

The future is hazy.

It’s unknowable. And that makes taking decisive action to build a stronger business much more challenging.

But we have a choice. We can either fight it–and metaphorically try to shake that damn ball until we have a complete picture of what the future is going to be.

Or we can make decisions based on the information we have, a solid understanding of our goals, and an acceptance of the uncertainty of it all.

Waiting until you have all the answers you need or want is a great way to keep spinning your wheels. While embracing uncertainty might be risky and it’s can definitely be scary, but it’s the only way we move forward.

This month, we looked at 3 different stories of embracing uncertainty. Lou Blaser told us how a big life change allowed her to look at her business in a new way and see how she could finally build the business she’d been dreaming about for years. Sarah Avenir shared how she leads herself and her team through uncertainty. And Cher Hale told us about getting clearer and clearer on her vision for life and business–and the big moves it required of her.

We’re rounding out this conversation about embracing uncertainty today by hearing from 4 more small business owners: Podge Thomas, Melissa Dinwiddie, Kat Lu, and Amy Feierman.

Each entrepreneur embraced uncertainty in a way that allowed them to move forward despite not having all the answers or a guarantee of what the future would hold.

My guess is that you’ll hear a version of situation or question you’re wrestling with right now in at least one of these stories.

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks. ★ Support this podcast ★
Jul 28, 2020
EP 290: Discovering Your Vision With Ginkgo Public Relations Founder Cher Hale

In This Episode:

* What led Ginkgo Public Relations founder Cher Hale to move from Las Vegas to Portland, Oregon* How she took her business full-time in a new-to-her city* How her mom’s romance novels inspired her to discover a bold new Why for her business* What action that new Why led her to take and how she’s showing up in new ways because of it

What do you want?

It’s a simple enough question.

What do you want from your life? From your business? From the work you do on a daily basis?

What do you want from your home? Your relationships? Your community?

It’s a simple question—but it’s not easy.

Answering this question—even imperfectly—can give you more confidence in managing and even embracing uncertainty.

What do you want is not an easy question for me to answer.

What I want is often influenced by what others have, what they do, and what they’re going after. What I want is often an effort to prove that I’m good enough, smart enough, and goshdarnit, you should like me.

I’ve been working hard on making sure that I’m really honest when I answer that question. It takes some soul-searching and a willingness to admit that I’ve been on the wrong path. But it’s been oh-so worth it.

Because when I know what I want, I can make much stronger plans for my life and business. I can pursue more decisive action. And I don’t have to wait around for the approval or praise of someone else.

Today, we’re talking about how knowing what you want—and discovering a clear vision for your life and business—can help you navigate uncertainty and even embrace it.

My guest is Cher Hale, the founder of Ginkgo Public Relations.

Cher is full of incredible stories of figuring out what she wants and taking action to make it happen—from making a big personal moving, to going full-time with her business, to embracing a bold new “why” for her business.

We talk about why she made the move from working on the Vegas Strip to getting weird in Portland, how she used retainer clients to take her business full-time, and how she rewrote some of the harmful mindsets she held. We also talk about her mother’s erotic romance novels and how Cher was inspired to make a big shift in who she serves with her business and why.

Don’t worry—this interview is completely PG.

Now, let’s find out What Works for Cher Hale!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
★ Support this podcast ★
Jul 21, 2020
EP 289: Leading Through Uncertainty with &yet CEO Sarah Avenir

In This Episode:

* How Sarah Avenir took on the role of CEO for digital development & strategy agency, &yet* Why Sarah considers herself a naturally fearful person—and how she pushes herself to face that fear* Why refining the positioning & messaging at &yet helped her to discover how her strengths could be of highest value* How she structures her work and responsibilities to maintain her capacity for leadership* Why she focuses on being “anti-overfunctioning”

We’re looking for leadership.

We’re living through this time of deep uncertainty: uncertainty about our health, uncertainty about our culture, uncertainty about our businesses… uncertainty about our communities, our families, and—I think—even uncertainty about our relationships with ourselves.

We’re looking for leadership because there’s a lot to be wary of and, at the same time, there is a lot of opportunity too.

We’re looking for leadership because where there is a leader there are other followers we can gather with.

We’re looking for leadership because we’re called on—every day—to lead more and more ourselves.

If you’re a leader—and I know you are—you’re being called to lead in a new way right now.

And that leadership can be humbling, scary, and exhausting.

Your leadership is also an opportunity to figure out what your best role is—how you contribute the highest value, how you work best with others, what your vision of the future is. The call to leadership in this moment is a call to growth and clarity—which shouldn’t be confused with a call to certainty.

I wanted to dig into what leading a team or community through a crisis can look like…

…and I could think of no one better to talk to about this than my friend Sarah Avenir.

Sarah Avenir—who you might know better as Sarah J. Bray—recently took the helm as the CEO of &yet, a digital development and strategy agency.

Sarah is an incredibly thoughtful leader and I knew her approach on leading both herself and her team through this time would be an insightful look at embracing uncertainty.

Sarah and I chat about how she became CEO of &yet, how she considers herself a naturally fearful person, and why a key part of her leadership is knowing others have her back. We also talk about how she structures her time, team, and approach to her work so she can focus on her own role and let other people do their job.

Now, let’s find out what works for Sarah Avenir!

Grab Sarah’s book, now in its second edition, Gather The People. And keep your eye on this Instagram account for a free Gather The People course!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

★ Support this podcast ★
Jul 14, 2020
EP 288: Rethinking Your Business Amidst Change With Second Breaks Founder Lou Blaser

In This Episode:

* Why I chose “embrace uncertainty” as one of my commitments for 2020 and how it’s served in this wild year* How Charlie Gilkey recommends finding the most courageous next step* What led Second Breaks founder Lou Blaser to rethink her business model—and return to a years-old vision for her work in the process* What 2 questions she used to find new ways of creating value* How she used existing assets in her business to start building toward her new vision

The tweet that’s pinned to the top of my profile lists my 3 commitments for this year.

Those commitments are my guiding principles, the things I’m actively trying to cultivate more of in my life, the ideas that guide the decisions I made.

My three commitments for 2020 are: Question normal. Expect success. And embrace uncertainty.

Now, most people I know have had to recalculate their goals for 2020. But these commitments? Well, they’re more relevant than ever.

In fact, I’ve had a few people @ me on Twitter and ask if I’m psychic!

While each of my commitments for 2020 have been a huge help for navigating this wild year, it’s that last one–Embrace Uncertainty–that’s really asked me to grow.

Uncertainty seems to be the theme of 2020.

With everything that’s happened so far this year and no real confidence in what might be coming, we’ve all had to recalculate.

Some business owners I know have had to completely rework their business models. Others have taken huge in-person gathering online. Others are discovering they have skills that are incredibly useful in the pandemic economy. And still others still aren’t sure what they’ll do next to bring in some revenue.

As I’ve worked with business owners on making decisions and reworking plans, there’s one thing I keep coming back to, though. While 2020 might have presented us with a unique batch of unpredictable circumstances, uncertainty is not a new condition of entrepreneurship.

Uncertainty is baked into the operating system of how we function every day as business owners…

…whether we like it or not… and whether we like to admit it or not.

When I chose embracing uncertainty as one of my commitments for this year, I didn’t have a pandemic in mind.I wasn’t gearing up for a historic upheaval in the labor market. I didn’t predict the long overdue tectonic shift in public opinion about systemic racism and police brutality.

I chose to commit to embracing uncertainty because I wanted to take more courageous action. I wanted to see what would happen for me and for my business if I stopped trying to predict the right thing to do and started leaning into my full potential and my full vision.

And while you might think I’m a natural risk taker, I can assure you I am not.

This idea wasn’t really mine at all. It was a very important lesson I learned from my friend Charlie Gilkey during an interview for this very podcast.

Before we get into this week’s interview with Lou Blaser, I want to share a snippet from this interview to tee up all of the conversations we’re having this month around embracing uncer... ★ Support this podcast ★
Jul 07, 2020
EP 287: The Things We Thought We Knew About Money

How we think about money impacts what we do with money.

And for many of us, what we think about money is influenced by narratives, frameworks, and biases we picked up well before we started our businesses.

The money framework I picked up as a kid was that I could either make a lot of money or I could do something I love.

Now, no one sat me down and told me I was destined to barely scrapping by if I didn’t choose a lucrative career that I didn’t like very much. But my little kid brain chewed on everything that I was being told and interpreted that way.

I could either make a lot of money or I could do something that I loved for work.

My idealist teenage brain told me that I was NOT going to be one of those people who choose to make a lot of money–so I settled on a major I loved and a career path I thought would bring me fulfillment even if I’d be struggling for the rest of my life.

When I started to have major doubts about that career path, I had to go back to the drawing board. And that’s what eventually led to me starting my own business. Even in that process, that either/or money framework was still doing its work and keeping me down.

It took real work to start to replace either/or with both/and–and truthfully, that work continues to this day.

Today, I know that I can do work that I love AND make a lot of money. But I struggle with similar either/or framework: either I can compromise my values so I can make a lot of money easily or I can hold fast to my values and turn making a lot of money into a struggle.

Today I’m working to replace that framework with one that reminds me that I can hold fast and find abundance with ease. I know embracing that money narrative is the key to the next phase of my business–and my life.

This week, we asked members of The What Works Network to share one thing they thought they knew about money but later discovered wasn’t true. Each shared a narrative or bias that held them back from fully embracing their business and their earning potential.

As you listen, consider which of these narratives are ones you’re currently operating with and how you could start reevaluating them. What would you do differently if you reprogrammed those money thoughts? What decisions would you make if you claimed a new money narrative?

You’ll hear from Charlene Lam, a curator and social media strategist, Maggie Patterson, the founder of Scoop Studios, Carol Hamilton, the founder of Grace Social Sector Consulting, and Anna Wolf, the founder of Superscript Marketing.

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
★ Support this podcast ★
Jun 30, 2020
EP 286: Pricing For The Future With Fire + Mineral Jewelry Founder Tiffany Whipps

In This Episode:

* Fire + Mineral founder Tiffany Whipps shares how she’s gone from willy nilly pricing to pricing for the future of her company* What her “feather money” phase taught her about the value of her products* The future expenses she’s factoring into her pricing today* What product-based businesses need to consider when they’re thinking about their pricing & business model

Pricing your products or services can feel like a game of pin the tail on the moving donkey.

There are so many factors to take into account. The price you choose needs to consider the market, your cost of goods sold, the positioning of your brand, the value of what you’re offering, and the cost of doing business.

Each of these pricing factors have their own challenges and potential pitfalls.

And just because you figure out the equation once…

…doesn’t mean you’ve solved it for all time.

The factors that influence price change over time.

Over time, the market changes, your cost of goods change, your brand positioning might change, the value of what you’re offering can change, and almost without a doubt the cost of doing business will change. And that all means that what you price your products or services at in the beginning will likely need to adapt to future circumstances.

But what if you could start to anticipate those changes? Could you build future changes into your pricing strategy?

Yes, I absolutely believe that you can.

As you grow as a business owner, you can start to anticipate market changes and plan for the way your cost of goods increases. You can set a goal to position your brand in a certain way and you can become smarter about your target market so you understand the value of what you’re offering more fully.

And perhaps most importantly…

You can plan for the ways your cost of doing business will evolve.

You can anticipate the team members you’ll hire. You can plan for the software upgrades you’ll need. You can build in margin to cover unforeseen circumstances or changes in the market that impact your bottom line.

Very, very few business owners do this from the start. But over time, you can get better and better at your pricing strategy—and even your overall financial strategy—so that you’re planning for the future instead of reacting to it.

And that’s exactly what I’m talking about with today’s guest, Tiffany Whipps. Tiffany is the founder and designer behind Fire + Mineral Jewelry. Tiffany has been designing jewelry full-time since 2012 and she’d be the first to admit that her pricing strategy has become a lot more sophisticated since she put together her first line sheet on a whim.

I originally invited Tiffany onto the show to showcase how money flows through product-based businesses. And we absolutely talk about that. But we also talk about how Tiffany’s approach to money has grown more sophisticated over time, as well as how she’s now pricing for the business she wants to have instead of the business she has right now.

Tiffany and I talk about how her pricing strategy has evolved over the years, why she’s focused on products that have more long-term value as opposed to what’s trendy right now, and how she’s using her goals to set prices for her new work.

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Jun 23, 2020
EP 285: Going All In With Strategist Marie Poulin

In This Episode:

* The webinar that changed everything for strategist Marie Poulin* Why she decided to go “all in” on creating content about Notion and how YouTube has impacted her bottom line* How she developed and sold an in-progress online course about Notion * The process she’s using to create additional leverage in her business even when clients coming asking about 1:1 services

The path to building a business that works is not mysterious.

Sure, there is always some luck involved. Timing, connections, and how you show up can play a big role in whether or not you feel traction early.

But the nuts and bolts of it? It’s really not up for debate.

You create a product or service that people want because it is going to solve a problem or improve their lives.

And then you find enough people who want it and are willing to pay the right amount for it to offset the costs of doing business.

Then, you make the methods and costs of doing business efficient, effective, and humane.

Okay, sure, that’s pretty reductive—but it’s also true. That’s how you build a business that works.

The problem is that we have a tendency to fight one or more of those steps.

We resist the process.

We resist building the right product or service for our people. We resist going out and finding customers or clients. We resist putting an appropriate price on the work. We resist making our business operations more efficient or humane.

And so things get sticky—or worse.

I’ve gone through the push & pull of resisting the process of building a business that works many times.

I notice it every time I feel like it’s hard to make money.

It’s in these times that I have to look at what part of the process I’m resisting and why I’m resisting it. And it almost always comes down to feeling like I don’t wan to go all in on what I’m working at.

Maybe I don’t want to go all in on the product I’m working on.

Maybe I don’t want to go all in on the way I’m building a customer base.

Maybe I don’t want to go all in on how we’re operating or the systems we’re using to do business.

The problem is that not wanting to go all in on any single part of the process creates friction and makes it harder to make money.

This week, we’re taking a look at what happens when you’re able to go all in on every aspect of building your business—product, marketing, and operations—and how that impacts how money flows through your business.

To do that, I talked with Marie Poulin.

Now, Marie has been on the podcast several times now. Most recently, I spoke with her about her decision to not build a business that scales. Funnily enough, at just about the time that interview aired, things started to change for Marie.

Marie found something she could go all in on.

And suddenly her path to the right product, the right marketing, and the right operations became clear—as did the path to making money with ease.

In this conversation, Marie and I talk about how she transformed her business when she stopped resisting and found the thing she could go all in on. ★ Support this podcast ★
Jun 16, 2020
EP 284: Pricing On A Sliding Scale With Corpus Ritual Founder Jennifer Patterson

In This Episode:

* Why grief & trauma worker Jennifer Patterson prices a significant portion of her work using a sliding scale* How a sliding scale system increases accessibility to valuable healing work for people from disadvantaged and marginalized communities* Why Jennifer priorities clear & direct communication when it comes to how people find the right amount to pay* What she thinks about “charging what you’re worth” (hint: she’s not a fan)

People with power have used it violently against others throughout history.

We are being reminded of this right here, right now.

Before I get into today’s episode, I want to make sure that my position—and the position of my company—is clear. We condemn police brutality and state-sponsored violence. We believe Black lives matter. People took the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others unjustly.

To our Black listeners, I want to acknowledge your cumulative pain and thank you for the superhuman ways that you continue to show up.

To all of the indigenous people and people of color who listen, I want to acknowledge your cumulative pain as well. Thank you for continuing the work.

This show is all about learning about what’s working to run and grow a small business.

However, the question that feels most urgent right now is:

What works to end this violence, to end our systems of oppression, to end the continual trauma perpetrated against Black people and people of color?

The answer is… I don’t know. I’m listening to the people are working toward these ends though, so that I can do better work myself.

But I do know that just as power can be used for harm and violence, it can be used to make new culture. It can be used to set new standards. It can be used to create new systems that take the sanctity of all lives and the dignity of all work into account.

And I know that business owners have power.

We have the power to do things differently. We have the power to question how business has always been done. We have the power to question the leaders who encourage us to exploit others and ourselves in the name of success.

This month on What Works, we’re talking about money. Money is a tool for creating change—and it represents cog in the system that has been used to exclude, exploit, and dehumanize people for a very long time.

When we start to question our assumptions about money and its role in our business, we start to undo that system little by little.

Today, my guest is Jennifer Patterson. Jennifer is a grief and trauma worker and the founder of Corpus Ritual.

Jennifer operates a significant portion of her business on a sliding scale pricing system. She does this for all the reasons I just outlined. She sees pricing as a way to work towards economic justice and make valuable services available to everyone—especially people from marginalized communities that need it most.

We’ll get into exactly how this works in just a minute—but first, I wanted to share that money is not the only way we can create change through our businesses.

White supremacy and systems of oppression are at work in the default ways we operate throughout our businesses—marketing, sales, management, hiring, communication, and more. One resource that I’ve been sharing a lot over the last f... ★ Support this podcast ★
Jun 09, 2020
EP 283: Taking Stock Of Our Evolving Relationships To Money with Tara & Sean McMullin

In This Episode

* The single most important lesson Tara McMullin learned about money in the last 5 years* How that lesson rippled through her business and personal development as a leader* Why this lesson also led with taking stock of how much her sense of credibility was tied to the money she makes* How Sean McMullin is asking new questions about money and his relationship to it now that he’s a business owner, too* What his experience with collectivism has inspired him to consider as the business (and bank account) grows

Money is always about more than the dollars and cents.

No matter how nice it might be to objectively measure the value of a thing or calculate the salary of a new hire or assess the return on a particular investment, there’s always something else going on. Something that defies the ability to measure it with pure math.

There are the cultural norms we carry, the familial attitudes that are passed on to us, the limiting beliefs we’ve picked up along the way.

There is always so much more to consider about money than the dollars and cents.

This month, we have a series of episodes exploring money and our changing relationships to it.

This is a series we’ve been planning since late last year but as the current global health crisis has blossomed into a global economic crisis, these questions about money and our relationship to it–especially as small business owners–feel more relevant every single day.

Over the course of the month, you’ll hear from What Works regular Marie Poulin about how a surprise discovery led her to upending her business model while finding a whole new sense of ease when it came to making money.

You’ll also hear from jewelry designer Tiffany Whipps who has seen first hand the wild swings in value that a fickle market can create. And you’ll hear from Jennifer Patterson, who runs a large portion of her herbalism and breathwork business on a sliding scale.

Plus, you’ll hear What Works network members share how their relationship to money has evolved over time, too.

All throughout this series, we’re asking you to examine the assumptions and beliefs that you hold about money.

Some of them might be long held… perhaps stemming from how your parents handled money or a story you heard a long time ago.

Others might be more cultural… maybe you’ve picked up some beliefs about money that come from how the news is reported or which business heroes are celebrated.

Others might come from your very own market… I hear tall tales about money repeated as fact in my own industry all the time.

Today, I wanted to start close to home.

My own relationship to money has changed so much over the time I’ve been a business owner. So the first half of this episode is my own reflections on the most important money lesson I’ve learned in the last 5 years and the specific ways it’s played out in my business over that time.

The second half of the episode is a conversation with my husband and business partner, Sean, about how his relationship to money is changing now that he’s a business owner, too.

As I put this episode together, I realized that the whole of it is really a conversation about... ★ Support this podcast ★
Jun 02, 2020
EP 282: Finding Support Through Coaching With Wholehearted Coaching Founder Shirin Eskandani

In This Episode:

* What happened with coach Shirin Eskandani got the call for her dream job–singing in Carmen at the Met* How she discovered coaching and the process that would help her reexamine how she feels and what she wants* The role coaching plays in her life now that she is a coach herself* How she works to support her own clients in a coaching relationship today

I was not a girl scout. But I love merit badges.

As in, few things thrill me more than earning recognition for learning or doing something.

I’ve been chasing merit badges all my life—so much so that the pursuit of merit badges has often led me away from what I really want out of life… and toward what will earn me the next badge.

I’ve taken numerous jobs I didn’t want just to get the merit badge. I’ve agreed to plenty of collaborations I didn’t really want just to get the merit badge. And, I’ve chased a bunch of goals that didn’t really inspire me just to get the merit badge.

Every merit badge I earn is just another attempt to prove to myself that I’m good enough, that I’m worthy. And each merit badge I earn only convinces me that the next merit badge will be the one that finally makes me happy.

It’s only been in the last couple of years that I made this realization. And I did so with the support of my husband, my team, and coaching.

Now that I know about my merit badge pattern, I’m always on the lookout for it.

I’ve rearranged my goal-setting, planning, and decision-making so that I have a better opportunity to notice when I’m stretching toward something I really want… or gunning for another merit badge.

I know I’m not the only person who always has her eye on the next merit badge. There’s a good chance that, as a listener of this show, you’re also keen on collecting accomplishments and achievements. Maybe that’s been helpful for you… and maybe it’s gotten you off track.

Maybe it’s been a result of your own sense of self-worth… and maybe it’s been an attempt to prove it.

My guest today found herself in a similar situation to me—always trying to prove she was good enough by climbing the rungs of her chosen career ladder: opera singing.

But when she earned the merit badge she had most wanted her whole life, she realized that she still wasn’t happy.

I’ll let her tell that story—but, listener, I can relate. And that’s why I so wanted to bring Shirin Eskandani onto the show.

Shirin has done a lot of work on rewriting this pattern and she’s found support for that work through coaching.

Today, Shirin is not a full-time opera singer. She’s a full-time coach herself.

Shirin is a life coach, public speaker and writer who specializes in mindfulness and mindset work. She has been a featured wellness expert on the Today Show and Cosmopolitan Magazine. Shirin’s holistic approach to transformation is influenced by her background in meditation, spirituality and the arts.

We talk about achieving her childhood dream and realizing she still wasn’t happy, as well as how she started to choose the thoughts that would help her feel the way she wants to feel, made the leap to coaching, and found her why. We also talk about coaching as a support structure and how coaching can ... ★ Support this podcast ★
May 26, 2020
EP 281: Business Support Comes In All Shapes & Sizes

Leading a business can be lonely.

I noticed just how disconnected business owners are when I started my very first website way back in 2009.

That website was a blog about makers and artists in Pennsylvania. I wrote about their stories and shared products that caught my eye. The blog was relatively popular but the real magic of it wasn’t in what I was writing about.

The magic was in how it connected people who didn’t know anyone else who was trying to make a go of turning their ideas into a business. They connected on my website, they connected in an early iteration of what Facebook groups have become, and they even connected in person.

Even though I haven’t written for that blog in a decade, I know there are still people from that community who support each other as business owners. They are less lonely because of the connections they made through that simple website.

After I handed that blog off to other people and started down the path of business coaching and education, I noticed that not only were small business owners a lonely bunch, I noticed that our isolation often led to missing information, confirmation bias, and unhelpful assumptions.

And that’s what’s really led to how I’ve structured my business from there on out. I have been creating the structure to connect small business owners to each other for the last 10 years. I build containers, see what works, and then evolve. From Kick Start Labs to Quiet Power Strategy to What Works, I’ve endeavored to help entrepreneurs find the support they need–the support they crave.

I’ve seen first hand how, yes, the emotional support of the right people can make all the difference in whether you press on or whether you quit. But even beyond the huge help of emotional support, I’ve seen how the right people can open your eyes to new ideas, how it can help you check your assumptions and self-limiting beliefs. I’ve seen how support can help you set new goals and find your focus.

I believe we all need to find our support as small business owners… and I believe that support comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s the people we hire to work for us. Other times it’s our families. Sometimes it’s the professionals we engage with. Other times it’s the colleagues who call us on our own bullshit.

All this month, we’ve looked at the challenges–and opportunities–that small business owners face in getting the support they need to feel confident and prepared.

We’ve looked at mental health support, we’ve examined peer support, and we dug into coaching. This week, we asked 4 of our community members to share times when they’ve experienced a profound sense of support and I’m thrilled with how each of them shared a different form of support.

Rebel Therapist founder Annie Schuessler shared how being honest & vulnerable with her peers has made a huge impact on her and her business.

Business coach Justine Clay shared how a year-long program and accountability partner helped her get a new business off the ground.

Voice coach and the SpeakEasy Cooperative founder Michelle Markwart Deveaux shared how her team supports her–and has helped her see herself and her role in a new way.

And coach Leigh Johnson brings it all home by sharing how important different types o... ★ Support this podcast ★
May 21, 2020
EP 280: Thriving With High Functioning Anxiety With The Happier Approach Host Nancy Smith

In This Episode:

* How licensed professional counselor & therapeutic coach Nancy Jane Smith learned to navigate high-functioning anxiety while building her business* How high-functioning anxiety differs from our usual concept of what anxiety “looks like”* The strategies Nancy uses to help herself (and her clients) deal with HFA* Which of the 3 voices in her head Nancy uses to guide her action and keep moving forward

Can we talk about anxiety?

Even if you don’t think of yourself as having anxiety or dealing with anxiety, there’s a good chance you’ve felt pretty anxious over the last 2 months.

I’ve been calling it ambient anxiety.

It’s just in the air.

Everything is in flux. Nothing is in our control. Everyone is on edge.

It’s just really hard to get a solid handle on what’s going on a day to day or even hour by hour basis.

Your response to all of this ambient anxiety might be to slow down—even shut down. You might feel numb or a bit panicked. You might have trouble concentrating or find yourself caught up in worry.

That’s a very normal, very understandable response.

But it’s not the only way that anxiety can manifest.

The other way anxiety makes itself known doesn’t even look much like what we think of when we think anxiety.

And that’s how I initially responded to the anxiety of our present moment.

This month on the show, we’ve been talking about finding support as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely endeavor and the mental health challenges that many of us face don’t make it any easier to feel like you’re not alone.

Which leads me back to how I found myself quote-unquote coping with my anxiety a few weeks ago…

Instead of shutting down, I turned on. I worked long, hyper-productive days. I created new things. I hosted live events. I checked in with friends and supported our members and clients.

My anxiety led me to over-functioning. My subconscious was trying to work my way through the stress and uncertainty. I was trying to control the uncontrollable.

That burst of anxious over-functioning led to a complete collapse. I’m now trying to get back into a more manageable and gentle groove but I’m feeling pretty rotten.

I’ve talked to a lot of people who have been living a similar story.

Which really isn’t that surprising to me because in the before times, I was having a lot of conversations that started with: “Can I tell you about high-functioning anxiety?!”

You see, I started learning about high-functioning anxiety from our guest today, Nancy Jane Smith. The way Nancy described anxiety was nothing like what I thought of anxiety to be… but was everything about my experience of the world.

I’ve shared on the podcast before that only recently did I realize I was living with chronic anxiety. I had always identified as dealing with chronic depression and didn’t recognize my normal-for-me mental state was one of high anxiety. But the more I’ve learned from Nancy, the more I’ve learned about my own brand of anxiety.

Nancy is an expert in High Functioning Anxiety. Nancy is trained as a licensed professional counselor and therapeutic coach. ★ Support this podcast ★
May 19, 2020
EP 279: Leveraging Masterminds For Support With Startup Pregnant Founder Sarah Peck

In This Episode:

* Why Startup Pregnant founder Sarah K. Peck started organizing mastermind groups & experiences before she was even a business owner* How Sarah facilitates conversation among group members for maximum results* Why mastermind groups are less about getting answers and more about getting in touch with your own inner knowing* The role that mastermind experiences play in her business today and how her business model is structured (including pricing)* Why structure is such an important part of creating highly effective mastermind groups

What would we do without the internet?

I mean, really.

I have access to a global library of information and ideas in my pocket at all times.

If I have a question, I can typically find an answer in less than 60 seconds.

And how about online learning?

If I want to learn a new skill, there’s probably a YouTube video or a CreativeLive class or an ebook that will teach me what I need to know.

It’s probably impossible to quantify the amount of new skills I’ve picked up thanks to the internet.

And how about the people that the internet brings together?

You know I love online communities, social networks, and just finding random connections between humans you would have otherwise never met.

The internet gives me access to people all over the world.

Information, ideas, learning new skills, meeting new people and connecting with old friends… the internet, with all its faults and foibles, can be an incredible place for support.

But at some point, learning new information, acquiring new skills, and even meeting new people starts to come up short.

At some point, as my guest today says, you realize that their aren’t external answers to internal questions.

You realize that beyond access to the world’s information and citizens… you need access to yourself: your own inner knowing.

One way I’ve gotten access to myself—my own inner knowing and decision-making—is through mastermind groups.

Last year, at an in-person gathering of one of the masterminds that we run at What Works, one participant told me that they didn’t really need anyone to tell them what to do with their business. They knew exactly what they should be doing. Instead, they said they needed people to ask why they weren’t doing it.

That’s why they were in the mastermind group.

To me, that’s the perfect illustration of how a mastermind group can support business owners who are committed to—not just learning a new marketing skill or figuring out how to launch a new product—but to becoming a more whole entrepreneur and building a business that works exceptionally well.

I’ve been running mastermind groups of one sort or another for about 5 years and I have a lot to say on the subject. But I didn’t want you to just get my thoughts…

So I invited someone equally as passionate about masterminding as I am, Sarah K. Peck, the founder of Startup Pregnant.

Sarah was on the show before talking about how the Startup Pregnant podcast got started—but the whole business and community of Startup Pregnant has evolved and grown a ton since then.
May 12, 2020
EP 278: Prioritizing Your Mental Health With Chris Brogan

In This Episode:

* Bestselling author & business consultant Chris Brogan shares how depression and anxiety impact his experience as an entrepreneur* Why he always knows what he can “drop” when things get rough and what he isn’t willing to let slide* Why he has been transparent about his mental health challenges on social media and how he’s helping to reduce the stigma for others* How he approaches his conversations with others to be as supportive as he can, while also creating his own support network

I have received an outpouring of gratitude in the last 6 weeks.

Telling you that makes me quite uncomfortable and feels self-serving, but I promise there’s a point.

The messages I’ve received have thanked me for being a leader and for sharing how I’m personally processing both our public health crisis and our economic pause.

Many of these messages have also ended with something along the lines of: I hope there’s someone supporting you right now.

And that’s why I’m sharing this with you. Because, sure, I know that sharing how I feel, what I’m doing to navigate planning or marketing, and how I’m coping is helpful.

But what I think is really helpful about what I’ve been sharing?

It’s showing people that they’re not alone.

I think that’s what they’re really saying to me when they say “I hope there’s something supporting you right now.” They’re saying “you’ve made me feel like I’m not alone and I hope you don’t feel alone either.”

Because the truth is…

Leaders get lonely.

When everyone is looking to you for answers, for support, for guidance, you can feel like there’s no one to go to for your own support.

And since all small business owners are leaders in one way or another, we all feel that loneliness sometimes—or maybe, we feel it quite often.

This month, we’re tackling that feeling of loneliness and the different kinds of support we can lean on to feel grounded and whole.

We’re going to tackle 2 sides of this conversation—mental health and business owner support—and we’ll acknowledge that this conversation really has many more sides than that. I’ll share what works for me and we’ll be asking our community members to share what works for them, too.

You’ll hear from Nancy Jane Smith about living with and finding support for high-functioning anxiety which is something I certainly deal with, along with many other business owners I know. You’ll also hear a conversation between me and Startup Pregnant founder Sarah Peck about using & facilitating masterminds for support. And you’ll hear from Shirin Eskandani about finding support through coaching.

Today, we’re kicking things off with Chris Brogan, an author, speaker, and consultant who has been incredibly forthcoming about his own experience with depression and anxiety. Chris helps business owners feel less lonely by vulnerably sharing what he’s going through on a regular basis and by regularly offering his support to those who are in the throws of mental health challenges.

Post by post, conversation by conversation, Chris is doing his part of reduce the stigma of depression, anxiety, and even failure.

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May 05, 2020
EP 277: 3 Tools These Small Business Owners Swoon Over

The tools I use to run my business have come a long way in the last decade.

Back then, I had to do most things manually. Now, integrations and automations are a given.

Back then, I had to learn code and poke through dense documentation to get what I wanted. Now, everything is drag & drop.

Back then, digital small business owners were repurposing tools meant for other tasks to put our businesses together. Now, we use tools that are made just for us.

But it’s not just the tools that have changed. It’s also how I use them.

When I started my business, I was always just trying to get one step ahead and the tools I used were solving problems as they came up–no real rhyme or reason. I didn’t stop to think about what my technology or system needs might be even a few months in the future.

Today, I look at my tools in terms of how they’ll help me grow. I ask myself how I can use them to build a foundation that makes my business easier to run months or years in the future. I don’t just solve problems with my tools–I create systems.

We’ve covered a lot of territory with the tools we use to run our businesses over the last month. And we’re going to cover a little more today.

But I think this mindset shift around how we use technology and develop systems has been a thread that has tied all of our episodes together. Whether it was my conversation with Sean, or Jessica, or Prerna, or Holly & Arryn, I hope you picked up on the strategy that these business owners use when it comes to picking and working with tools.

That strategy isn’t just about what tools or systems they use.

It’s really a bigger mindset around how they run their businesses. They expect to be running, building, and growing these businesses for years to come and so they choose tools, systems, and workflows that make that easier.

Today, I want to share 3 more business owners and their favorite tools with you. You’ll hear from designer & illustrator Cynthia Oswald, operations manager Heidi Johnson, and software engineer Rachel Ober. Each one is sharing a tool that’s dramatically changed the way they do business–each in completely different ways.

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
★ Support this podcast ★
Apr 30, 2020
EP 276: Tools For Building An Online Personal Training Business With Holly Myers and Arryn Grogan From Lift With Holly & Arryn

In This Episode:

* How personal trainers Holly Myers and Arryn Grogan use systems and software to run a thriving online coaching business* Why they invest in new training and certifications as tools to use in their business* What coaching online has allowed them to accomplish* What tools they use to communicate with clients, produce a library worth of content, and build programs for people to purchase

My routine has been disrupted.

It’s been six weeks since I’ve been to the gym and I’m quite certain my neighbors are very confused about what I’m doing with the kettlebells in the backyard.

Like most gym-goers, I’ve been experimenting with working out from home and hoping that my gym family is well.

Luckily, I also have an Instagram gym family—and they’ve been motivating, educating, and challenging me since long before this all started. It’s been so fun watch them re-learn how to do business overnight while, at the same time, providing an immense amount of leadership for the people they care about.

Now, all that said, this episode sounds like a no-brainer—but I assure you, it was recorded weeks before every gym in America shut down.

This week, we’re taking a look at the tools that personal trainers use to run their businesses online. And since I realize that you’re most likely not a personal trainer, I want assure you that this episode is still full of interesting ways to think about your business and the tools you use to run it.

My guests today are Holly Myers and Arryn Grogan from Lift With Holly And Arryn. They were running an online personal training business before taking your personal training business online was corona-cool!

I found Holly and Arryn through my Instagram gym family and fell in love with their joy, strength, and precision. Their content is incredibly useful and very fun and real at the same time.

Because Holly and Arryn specialize in training other coaches on the techniques they’ve mastered, they realized that online coaching was a great fit for them early on. Instead of constraining their client base to their hometown, they’re able to coach people from all over—and coach while they’re on the road, as well.

In this episode, we talk about the tools and systems they’ve used to build their online training business—including the equipment they prefer, the software they use for coaching, the system they use for putting together programs, and how they build content for Instagram.

We also talk about some of their favorite tools for working on the road.

Now, let’s find out What Works for Holly Myers and Arryn Grogan!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
★ Support this podcast ★
Apr 28, 2020
EP 275: Tools For Building A Copywriting Agency With Content Bistro Founder Prerna Malik

In This Episode:

* The process Prerna Malik, founder of Content Bistro, uses to create effective copy for her clients* Why she keeps her tools simple and isn’t quick to change them just because there are new options out there* How Prerna uses experience, testing, and research to push the edge and try new things with the copy she writes* What she did to translate her service processes into a program for other agency owners and service-based businesses

Your process is your most valuable tool.

By that, I mean that the way you do what you do, the system you use to create results, the pattern you follow time and time again is what all the value-generating activities of your business are based on.

Now, when you’re just getting started with your business, your process probably feels pretty loose and undefinable. You might even call it magic.

And so then it’s no wonder that you have trouble explaining it or documenting it—let alone putting a dollar value on it.

But as your business matures, your process (should) become clearer and clearer. You can explain it. You can document it. You can see the financial value in it.

Everything else in your business layers on top of your process to create clarity and efficiency.

Your process provides the foundation for every other tool you introduce into the way you run your business.

This month, we’re examining the tools we use to run our businesses. So far, we’ve talked through some of the tools that Sean and I use to work with clients in our podcast production agency. I talked with Jessica Stansberry about the tools she uses to run her content-driven digital products business.

And this week, I’m talking with Prerna Malik about the tools she uses to run her copywriting agency, Content Bistro.

Yes, Prerna and I get into the specific tools she uses—things like Google Drive, Notion, and CrazyEgg. But we also talk a lot about her process—how she does what she does.

Like I said, process is the most valuable tool in your business and your process should determine the tools that you use.

Prerna’s approach certainly demonstrates this. Her tools help her make her process work. They help her make her process more efficient. And ultimately, it’s her process that’s helped her build an incredible business.

Now, let’s find out what works for Prerna Malik.

Tools In This Episode:

* Google Drive – document collaboration and file storage* Notion – project & process management* CrazyEgg – heat maps, user recordings, and A/B testing* Book Like A Boss – scheduling system

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Y... ★ Support this podcast ★
Apr 21, 2020
EP 274: The Tools That Power A Content-Driven Business With Grit Host Jessica Stansberry

In This Episode:

* What tools Jessica Stansberry uses to run her content-driven business* How she knows when it’s time to switch tools and what criteria she uses to pick a new one* What project management tool she’d make out with if she could* How her systems and workflows help her get the most out the software she uses to run her business

Most small businesses today create some form of content.

Some are sporadically posting updates & photos on social media.

Others take the time to create helpful articles, entertaining videos, or valuable podcast episodes.

But there’s a whole category of small business that I would consider content-driven. In other words, these businesses rely on the steady production of content that keeps the existing audience happy while it also helps attract new audience members.

These businesses might make money by selling advertising, leveraging affiliate marketing partnerships, or selling their own digital products. And often, it’s a combination of all three.

These businesses—and the creators behind them—have a lot to teach us about the tools and workflows that can make the content we create easier to manage, more effective, and more profitable.

We’re continuing our series on the tools we use to run our small businesses…

…by taking a look at the tools a content-driven business uses to create, manage, and publish all that content—as well as how it actually drives revenue, too.

I could think of no one better than my friend Jessica Stansberry to talk content & tools with. Jessica is a YouTuber, podcaster, and fellow lover of tools.

She’s the host of Grit, a podcast about business and lifestyle design. She’s also produces videos on planning, productivity, business, and marketing for over 66,000 subscribers on YouTube.

Jessica and I chat about the hardware, software, and systems she uses to manage it all—plus her criteria for selecting or switching tools! I also asked her about the tools she uses to manage her life outside of business.

Now, let’s find out what works for Jessica Stansberry!

Tools In This Episode:

* Clickup – project management software* Canon D70 – camera for video* Ring light – lighting for video* ATR2100 – microphone* Zoom H1n – portable audio recorder* Premiere Pro – video editing* MemberVault – learning management system for online courses* GoodNotes – iPad app for notetaking* Keywords Everywhere – SEO research Chrome extension

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:
★ Support this podcast ★
Apr 14, 2020
EP 273: The Tools We Use To Run a Podcast Production Agency with YellowHouse.Media Co-Founders Sean and Tara McMullin

In This Episode:

* Sean and Tara McMullin, co-founders of YellowHouse.Media share the tools they use to run their podcast production agency* Sean shares the value of templates across a variety of tools* Tara sheds light on some of the “magic” tools that help them make standout podcasts* And they both share what’s working when it comes to tools for managing stress & anxiety right now

When I started my business over 11 years ago, the only tool I worried about was WordPress.

My business was my website and my website was my business. WordPress made it all work.

And while I still use WordPress to this day, there are dozens of other tools I use to run both of my companies. There’s my email provider, my web host, our community platform, the graphic design tools I use, the communication software we chat on… each tool has it’s purpose and place within the larger business.

This month, we’re going to take a deep dive into the tools that different businesses rely on to run.

We’ll talk software, systems, and processes—plus how it all works together.

We’ll talk about how things have changed, what’s stayed the same, and how to know when it’s time to switch up your tools.

And, we’ll talk with business owners that run different kinds of businesses—digital products, 1:1 services, and agencies.

Focusing on tools is especially relevant right now because many business owners are looking for ways to run more efficiently and more effectively so that they can boost profit or create new streams of revenue as the economy is changing.

We’re also trying out new tools to cope with interruptions and stress.

So in this kick off episode, I wanted to talk about both of those pieces of the puzzle with my podcasting partner-in-crime, my husband and the production coordinator for What Works, Sean McMullin.

Together, Sean and I run YellowHouse.Media, a full-service podcast production agency that specializes in helping small business owners create standout podcasts that power their marketing and sales.

We’ll get into the tools we use to run YellowHouse—including how we set up client dashboards, manage projects, edit audio, and consult on content strategy. But first, we wanted to share some of the tools we’re using to mange stress and anxiety right now.

Let’s get into it!

Tools Mentioned In This Episode:

* Headspace – meditation app* Rode Procaster – Tara’s microphone* Audio Technica ATR2100 – Sean’s microphone* Google Drive – documents, spreadsheets, storage, and more* Descript – transcripts and audio editing* Headliner – app for creating audiograms* Canva – graphic design tool* Notion – project management and organization tool* Squadcast – remote interview recording tool

Some of the links above are affiliate links—meaning that we may earn a com... ★ Support this podcast ★
Apr 07, 2020
EP 272: Making Your Brand Personal With Stasia’s Style School Creator Stasia Savasuk

My brand is more “me” than ever.

Which is funny because, up until 2017, my brand was my name.

That year, I made a conscious effort to move away from my personal brand and build out a company brand, something that could represent an idea that was much bigger than me.

At that same time, I started to do some significant personal work. I drank less. I ate better. I started moving my body. Later, I did a heap ton of mindset work. I discovered the great outdoors.

I started to feel like a new person… and at the same time, I started to feel more myself. More comfortable with myself. More confident, more whole.

Along the way, the brand I was building evolved. It created a space where I could fully belong—as a leader, a businesswoman, and as a human.

I wasn’t playing at who Tara Gentile was anymore. I wasn’t hoping to become something that I really wasn’t. I wasn’t putting on a nice dress and fancy makeup and hoping people would trust me.

I could just be me.

We’re closing out this month on branding by getting personal.

We’re looking at how who we are informs what we create and how those brands evolve over time.

Like I mentioned, my business brand is more “me” than it’s ever been.

Just because my brand represents a company and a community doesn’t mean that it’s not extremely personal.

So whether your business is represented by your name and your face or whether you’re building something separate from you, there’s a lot to dig into in this episode.

Today, I’m joined by Stasia Savasuk, the creator of Stasia’s Style School. Stasia helps people find the courage, clarity, and congruency to rock their personal style.

I wanted to showcase her story during this month as a way of helping you reexamine the stories and patterns that we inadvertently fall into because of what we believe it takes to fit in, to be professional enough, or to earn credibility.

Stasia’s personal story—and how she’s turned her passion into a thriving business—will shed light on all the hangups you might have about your personal style and the way your personality plays into the brand you’re building.

We chat about how Stasia realized she was fitting herself into imaginary boxes, how the birth of her first child changed how she approaches her own body & style, how she finds the guts to dress the way she wants, and how her personal style informs her personal brand.

Now, let’s find out what works for Stasia Savasuk!
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Mar 31, 2020
EP 271: Brand-Building Is More Important Than Ever

People are still spending money.

It’s a message I’ve shared over and over again over the last 2 weeks. Not everyone is spending money… and not everyone has the money to spend. But plenty of people are still investing in goods and services that will make their lives and businesses better.

And along those lines, my friend Mark Butler shared some great insight with his audience last week after investing in a program–even in the midst of our current economic situation.

He said that, even when times are tough, when we need help, we’ll invest with the people & businesses that we trust.

Who do we trust? Well, they’re the people–the brands–that have made a lasting impact on us over the years. They’re the people and companies that have made an effort to connect with us, that share our values, that represent what we want to see more of in the world.

I’m Tara McMullin and you’re listening to What Works–the show that transcends the hype to bring you stories of what’s really working for small business owners today.

Yes, people are still spending money and they’re spending it with brands they like and trust.

This weekend, I spent money at my local brewery because I want to support them as they try to keep their workers employed. I spent money at a local cafe. And I spent money at Whole Foods, which might be a big corporation but one that does a helluva lot of good for its workers and our local economy.

These brands are really important to me. They represent my home, my friends, and the world that I want to live in. I value their presence and I want to see them thrive.

They’ve worked hard to build brands that truly connect with people.

The small business owners we support at The What Works Network are doing the same. We asked 4 of them to share how they approach brand-building and what they’ve done to create a genuine connection between how they show up and the people they care about.

Now, I want to let you know that each of these contributions was recorded before the outbreak had fully hit North America. But I think sharing them with you and inviting you to think about how you want to approach your own brand-building is more important than ever.

You’ll hear from Layla Pomper from Process-Driven, Lou Blaser from Second Breaks, Julie O’Hara from Hearts & Brains Consulting, and Margy Thomas from ScholarShape.

Let’s get into it!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
★ Support this podcast ★
Mar 26, 2020
EP 270: Building A Brand That Defies Stereotypes With 300 Pounds And Running Host Martinus Evans

In This Episode:

* Why Martinus Evans started running in the first place* How his idea of a runner changed at the starting line of his first race* Why Toastmasters played a bit part in his decision to play bigger* How he’s defining his brand on his own terms

My now-husband and I agreed on our second date: we are not people who run for fun.

Run to escape zombies, sure. Run as a necessary part of a pickup game of basketball, okay.

But run for miles on end chasing some feeling of inner contentment? Hell no.

It was much to his dismay, then, when I started running 3 years ago.

I started running because I wanted to move my body more and practice personal accountability. Running seemed the easiest way to do it—no gym membership, no expensive equipment. Just sneakers and pavement.

But still, I was not running for fun. I was not one of those people.

Now, let’s pause for a second and imagine what those people look like and sound like.

Maybe you picture Rob Lowe’s character from Parks & Rec—high energy, frenetic, obsessive, and very trim.

Maybe you picture marathon runner Des Linden who became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years back in 2018. She’s petite, wiry, and has that stare of someone completely focused on her goals.

Maybe you picture a friend of yours, a coworker, or a family member who has been running their whole life.

That’s how I pictured those people—the people who run for fun—a few years ago too.

When I started running races, however, I realized that the picture of a runner that I had in my mind couldn’t be further from the truth. I mean, sure—there are plenty of wiry, high-energy, trim people who toe the starting line.

But there are also people of all different shapes, personalities, and backgrounds who race, too.

We’re all runners—no matter how “off brand” any of us might seem.

Now, I know I use running & fitness metaphors quite a bit on this show. But today, there’s a very good reason why I’m talking about running.

Back on that second date with my husband, I had a certain idea of who a runner was and how someone got to enjoy running. Think of that as the brand of “running.” When I started running, I didn’t feel very on-brand.

Now, my guest is Martinus Evans, the host of the 300lbs And Running podcast and the founder of the Slow AF Run Club.

Martinus isn’t very “on brand” either if you consider a runner someone wears short shorts and only eats salads. But Martinus is very much a runner. And Martinus has built a brand around rebranding who you think of when you think of a runner.

Today, we’re talking about building a brand that defies convention and stereotypes.

Martinus and I chat about how he got started sharing his journey to become a runner, how his first race changed his own idea of who a runner is, and why Toastmasters played a big part in him finding the confidence to go big. We also talk about dealing with negativity online and why he chose to create the Slow AF Run Club as a standalone community instead of a Facebook group.

Now, let’s find out what works for Martinus Evans!

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Mar 24, 2020
EP 269: Co-Creating A Brand In Community With Shameless Mom Academy Host Sara Dean

In This Episode:

* Shameless Mom Academy founder & host Sara Dean shares how her brand developed over time and in partnership with her community* Why she started the podcast in the first place, as well as why it was key she didn’t have a business in mind at first* How she came to understand the rewards of imperfect action* Why she took some big risks to bring her community together in person and how it paid off

It’s tempting to think that you control your own brand.

After all, you’re the one paying for the logo art, the web design, the copywriting, the photo shoots…

Your money, your decisions.

Your story, your brand.


A brand is really only as strong as the idea of it in your customer’s mind.

Let me say that a different way: you can put loads of thought and money into carefully crafting a brand for yourself or your business but, at the end of the day, if the customer thinks of you or your company as something else entirely, none of that thought or money matters.

Your brand is what your customer thinks it is.

Your brand is what your customer thinks it is. It’s the impression they have about who you are, what you do, and how you help them.

So in essence, all brands are co-created with their customers.

We saw this in my conversation with Gina Bianchini from Mighty Networks in Episode 267. Gina and her team is in constant contact with their user base to understand how people want to use their product and what that means for leveling up the brand.

We saw it again in Episode 268 with Alyssa Catalano from Studebaker Metals. Alyssa shared that their unique approach to genderless accessories was always sparking conversations with new customers. Those 2-way conversations go a long way to create a stronger brand identity for Studebaker.

And I’ve experienced this first hand. The hardest part of my business transitions and pivots over the years hasn’t been the process of changing a name or redoing a website. That’s the easy part.

The hardest part of rebranding has been rebuilding the idea our customers and community have about who we are and what we do for them.

That process is never a one-way conversation. It’s collaborative and co-creative, especially in a community-based business like ours.

My guest today also runs a community-based business and she’s intimately familiar with the role that her community members play in the brand she’s building.

Sara Dean is the founder and host of Shameless Mom Academy.

As the Shameless Mom Academy podcast started to take off, Sara realized that what she was creating wasn’t just hers. It wasn’t just her sharing her thoughts and stories behind a mic and her audience listening, all from their respective houses, in their separate communities.

No, Shameless Mom Academy was a connection between women wrestling with their identities as mothers and ambitious women. This connection was the real story, the real brand powering an emerging business.

Today, Sara leads the Momentum Mamas membership community, ★ Support this podcast ★
Mar 17, 2020
SPECIAL: COVID-19 And The Impact On Small Business Owners

Well, things are weird out there.

We’re all wondering how the coronavirus pandemic will shape our lives and work in the months (or years) to come.

For many small business owners, there’s real uncertainty about how COVID-19 will play out. Many are feeling the immediate effects. More still are planning for the long-term fallout.

Now more than ever, we need honest conversations that transcend the hype, uncertainty, and panic. This is a special episode of What Works.

Normally on What Works, we talk with small business owners about what’s actually working for them. Not the hype about starting or growing a small business, but the reality of how marketing sales systems and management work on a day to day basis.

But in this episode, I wanted to have an honest conversation with three business owners who I love and respect about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on their businesses now and what they expect that impact to be in the coming months.

I’ve personally had to make difficult choices this week, as well as leading our digital community through this uncertainty. So I know that the stress of the uncertainty is real.

And while I know that nothing beats an actual conversation with another human being, I also know that, often, the next best thing is listening in to a conversation between people you trust. So that’s what I wanted to bring you today.

I invited Jacquette Timmons, Autumn Witt Boyd, and Lauren Caselli to talk with me about their experience so far dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, the impact they’re experiencing now and how they’re preparing for the future, plus what they’re both fearful of and optimistic about.

Jacquette Timmons is a financial behaviorist, the host of More Than Money, and a sought after speaker on how our choices impact our money.

Lauren Caselli is the founder of Lauren Caselli events, a boutique events planning agency specializing in events for the tech sector.

Autumn Witt Boyd is the founder of the AWB firm, a law practice that works with small business owners on intellectual property, contracts and agreements, and employment.

Now, our goal was to give you a look at what we’re thinking about and how we’re approaching taking care of business and taking care of ourselves in this uncertain time.

You’ll hear about the ripple effects we’re considering, the legal gray area we’re navigating, the way we’re planning for the short and long term, and you’ll hear about the emotional impact we’re dealing with.

One last thing before we dive into this conversation: this conversation was planned in about 24 hours and we wanted to turn it around fast. In the process, we had some tech mishaps at the beginning of the recording, so we ended up recording on a platform that doesn’t have the sound quality you’re used to hearing on What Works.

My hope is that you’ll value the conversation enough to forgive us for the lower fidelity!


P.S. We know a lot of small business owners are looking for thoughtful spaces to process what’s going on, plan for the future, and connect with people who understand their concerns. We’ve extended a 30-day free trial of The What Works Network so you can join in on the conversati... ★ Support this podcast ★
Mar 14, 2020
EP 268: Creating A Focused & Intentional Brand With Alyssa Catalano from Studebaker Metals

In This Episode:

* What Studebaker Metals stands for as a brand and how that shapes the choices they make about product, marketing, and messaging* Why they’re focused on producing genderless accessories—and how that impacts the conversations they have with customers* What their motto, “Slow is fast,” means and the role is plays in their brand positioning* How they make the choice about what stays and what goes when it comes to their product line

Strong brands are focused and intentional.

You know exactly what you’re going get from them. When a brand you’re a fan of rolls out something new, you already know you’re going to want it.

They’ve sold you before they ever showed you the product—because they were never focused on selling you a product in the first place. They’ve been selling you on the idea behind the brand all along.

Think Apple and how they leverage global attention with every new product cycle.

Think Target and how they sell out of every new design collaboration.

Think Glossier and how they’ve encouraged a generation of women to think about makeup in a new way.

Think Everlane and how I just had to try out the performance leggings they just rolled out. They’re great, by the way.

Strong brands aren’t just for big companies or mid-sized direct-to-consumer businesses.

Even a tiny business can build a strong brand.

But since tiny businesses lack the ability to invest heavily in brand-building advertising, it means the burden for brand development is on conscious, intentional choices about messaging, product development, and organic marketing.

Tiny businesses have an even greater need to stay focused and intentional if they want to build a strong brand.

This week, my guest is Alyssa Catalano, the co-founder of Studebaker Metals—a metalsmithing and accessories brand that epitomizes focused and intentional choices.

Alyssa and the Studebaker Metals team have made careful brand choices about everything from how they style their products to how their products are categorized to the tools they use to craft their products to the messaging behind the products.

Alyssa and I talk about the unconventional choice to produce unisex accessories, why slow is fast and what that has to do with their brand positioning, and how their brand plays out in advertising, plus the roles of timelessness and place in how their brand is built.

Now, let’s find out what works for Alyssa Catalano!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
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Mar 10, 2020
EP 267: Leveling Up With Customer Feedback with Mighty Networks Gina Bianchini

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How Gina Bianchini has been leading a slow & intentional brand evolution at Mighty Networks* Why customer feedback has been the key factor in how the brand (and product) has adapted* How the Mighty Networks team is using an online course to gather more customer feedback and create a plan for the future of the brand* What led to leveling up the Mighty Networks visual brand in 2019

Brands evolve.

Sometimes brands evolve naturally—think Dunkin’ Donuts changing their name to Dunkin’ to reflect the fact that more people think of them as a coffee place than a donut place.

Sometimes brands evolve… unnaturally—think Weight Watchers changing their name to WW because, well, I’m not sure why other than they’re trying to stay afloat as more & more people care more about health than weight loss.

The reason that brands evolve is that a brand is only as strong as its reputation in the mind of the customer.

A company doesn’t—can’t—have sole ownership of a brand.

A brand is what the customers believe it is.

Yes, a company can influence a brand’s reputation and story—but it doesn’t own it.

Brands are co-created with the people who engage with it.

This month, we’re examining how brands are built.

No, we’re not talking about where to get a logo done or what color scheme to use on your website.

We’re talking about how the people you care about—your customers, clients, and prospects—remember your business.

We’re talking about the story you tell about what you do, why you do it, and who you do it for.

And we’re talking about what it takes to define a reputation and a presence when there are so many things competing for the attention of our people.

Over the course of this month, you’ll hear from Martinus Evans who is redefining what it means to be a runner with his podcast 300lbs And Running and his community, the Slow AF Run Club. You’ll hear from Stasia Savasuk about how her journey to discovering her personal style taught her about establishing a personal brand. And you’ll hear from Alyssa Catalano from Studebaker Metals about how what you offer defines your brand.

But today, we’re kicking things off with Gina Bianchini from Mighty Networks.

Now, as you probably already know, Mighty Networks is a sponsor of What Works. Plus, we’re proud users of their community-building and course delivery software.

And, as such, I’ve seen the Mighty Networks team go through a careful brand evolution over the last 3 years.

In fact, Mighty Networks brand evolution is a perfect case study in co-creating a brand with the people who engage with it and that’s exactly what I wanted to talk with Gina about.

Gina and I chat about what’s stayed the same and what’s changed over the last few years as Mighty Networks has grown and grown. You’ll hear about Gina’s light bulb moment, how building a community for Mighty Networks users helped her see how people were really using the software, and why she decided to build an online course. Plus, you’ll hear how all of this learning helped Mighty Networks create a stunning new visual brand, in-house, ★ Support this podcast ★
Mar 03, 2020
EP 266: Building An Inclusive Community With Whole30’s Melissa Urban & Dr. Carrie Kholi-Murchison

The Nitty-Gritty:

* The day Melissa Urban realized she needed to do more to make the Whole30 community more inclusive* Why she’s chosen to be public about her learning when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion* How Dr. Carrie Kholi-Murchison is taking the lead on efforts to make sure everyone feels seen and heard within the community* What unique challenges Whole30 faces in their DEI efforts* Why listening is at the heart of so many of the initiatives they’re rolling out

Who’s missing here?

What points of view, what lived stories, what experiences aren’t represented here?

Up until a few years ago, this is a question I didn’t think to ask.

The reason I didn’t ask those questions, simply put, is because the spaces I was in—the spaces I had created—seemed so normal to me. The spaces I was in and the spaces I had created were full of middle class, white women.

If I’m being frank, the only question I would ask from time to time were: where are the men?

Which probably just further proves my point… I was used to seeing men around, so I questioned it when they weren’t there. I wasn’t used to seeing people who had different points of view, different lived stories, and different experiences than mine so I didn’t notice they were missing.

Who’s missing here?

It’s a question that asks so much more of me as a leader than to “simply” even out the demographics.

“Who’s missing here?” asks me to consider why people are missing in the first place. What is it about the way I’ve built my business, my community, my brand that doesn’t create space for people who are different from me?

Over the last few years, like many white women I know, I’ve been on a personal growth journey to better understand systematic oppression and internalized bias—and their role in my business.

I’m personally invested in this journey. I’m politically invested in this journey. And yes, I see this journey as integral to my effectiveness as a leader and entrepreneur, too.

I do not have answers. I don’t even have all the questions! But I’m learning and sharing that learning with you is important to me.

While there are many white women entrepreneurs who are on this journey with me, few have been so public about her learning, her missteps, and the action she’s taking in her business as Whole30‘s Melissa Urban.

About a year ago, shortly after I finished my own life-changing Whole30, I noticed that Melissa announced she was searching for someone to lead diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts for her company. I kept my eye on those developments and always enjoyed seeing her update her audience on the hire and progress they were making.

So when we decided to do this month on leadership, I knew I wanted to talk with Melissa and the woman she hired to fill this role, Dr. Carrie Kholi-Murchison, now Whole30’s Director of People & Culture. I wanted to find out why and how Melissa has been leading so publicly on this front—and I also wanted to find out what Kholi was doing to lead this change internally in the organization.

This conversation has been several months in the making—even though we recorded it less than a week ago! ★ Support this podcast ★
Feb 25, 2020
EP 265: Leading Differently With MicroConf Co-Founder Rob Walling

The Nitty-Gritty:

* What values are woven through Rob Walling‘s many ventures* Why he started MicroConf and how it’s a direct reaction to so many communities & events for founders* How Rob sees his role as a leader of a rapidly growing community* How he turns his values into policies, systems, and operating procedures no matter one business he’s working on

“Different is better than better.”

That’s what Sally Hogshead says. Sally is a brand expert and the creator of the Fascination Advantage Assessment, which helps entrepreneurs and leaders discover what’s naturally fascinating about themselves.

What she means is that better is fleeting. It’s uninspired.

“Better,” she says, “keeps you chained to the same way of working as your competition.”

Being different, on the other hand, helps you stand out. Being different helps you gather the right people around you—because they immediately see what you’re about.

Different helps you win on your own terms.

So how do we arrive at “different?” How do we build our brands, our ideas, our businesses to be different?

Different is a result of operationalizing our values.

This month, we’re working our way through a series of conversations about leadership. Specifically, I’ve been talking to small business owners about how they lead with their values and how those values pop up in their businesses in their systems, policies, and operating procedures.

Today, my guest is Rob Walling and Rob is committed to doing things differently.

Rob is best known for his leadership in the world of bootstrapped software-as-a-service businesses. He is the founder of Drip, MicroConf, and most recently TinySeed. He’s also the host of Startups for the Rest of Us and the author of Start Small, Stay Small.

Rob has chosen, from the beginning, to do things differently—and the reason is his values. His values led him to realize that he could build a business without playing by everyone else’s rules—and that’s made him a leader for thousands of others who are looking to do things differently too.

I talk with Rob about the throughline that weaves his different ventures together, the values that define his work, how his community and events are a reaction to the “standard” in his field, and how he views his role as a leader. Plus, I ask him how he’s ensuring his values continue to play out as his community rapidly expands.

Now, let’s find out What Works for Rob Walling!

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Feb 18, 2020
EP 264: Leading A Growing Community With Rebelle Founder Shannon Siriano Greenwood

The Nitty-Gritty:

* The “fetal position” moment that led Shannon Siriano Greenwood to start Rebelle* Why belonging, inclusivity, vulnerability, and authenticity are the top values the community leans into* How the details and design of each event help bring the values to life* How she sees her role as a leader within the Rebelle community* How she’s managing the growth of Rebelle so that she ensures its values continue on

Stepping up as a leader takes a willingness to walk a fine line.

On one hand, you become a leader because there is a community, an organization, a group, or a movement that you care passionately about. Your leadership is an expression of belonging at the same time it is a question of possibility.

On the other hand, as a leader, you have a responsibility to set the tone, to hold others accountable, to make decisions for the group, and set standards. Your leadership is product of always being a few steps in front of the rest of the group.

Whether you’re leading a team, a community, your current clients, or a bevy of customers, every small business owner is a leader. Which means you—yes, you listening right now—are walking this fine line whether you realize it or not.

This month, we’re examining leadership and specifically how we lead with our values—and turn those values into systems and action.

One way that we, as leaders, can make sure our values are known and that our actions support the kind of culture we want to create within our businesses, is by recognizing our role as members of the group we lead.

If you’re leading a team, you’re a member of the team.

If you’re leading a community, you’re a member of that community.

If you’re leading a movement, you’re a member of that movement.

Yes, you have a role and responsibility that is separate from that—and often takes up much more of your time and attention. But you’re in it, too. And that’s important.

Last week, Erica Courdae shared that one of the ways she leads is by modeling how she wants her values to play out. She shows up and does the work just like she wants her staff to.

This week, my guest Shannon Siriano Greenwood, echoes something similar. When I asked her how she views her role, she told me that she sees herself as much as a member as a leader.

In my own business and The What Works Network, this is also how I’ve learned to see things. If I model the kind of behavior I want to see play out, others will follow my lead. If I show up as a member in our community, others will mirror what I do.

That’s not how I used to operate, though. I used to think that being a leader meant distancing myself from the people I lead. It meant being different and doing differently.

What I’ve learned is that being a leader is both/and.

I’m both a member of my community and the one that sets the standards. I’m both a member of my team and the one that makes the plans. If I’m careful and thoughtful, I can do both.

And now, it’s time to get to this week’s guest. I’m thrilled to bring Shannon Siriano Greenwood back to the podcast.

Shannon is the founder of Rebelle, which started as a conference and grew into a whole community of women ... ★ Support this podcast ★
Feb 11, 2020
EP 263: Turning Your Values Into Action With Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coach Erica Courdae

The Nitty-Gritty:

* The frustrating situation that led Erica Courdae to go on her own and create Silver Immersion, an inclusive hair and beauty company* How Erica has developed her voice and ability to stand up for what she believes in* Why modeling is a key way she leads her team—and her clients* How she made the transition into coaching and decided to specialize in diversity, equity, and inclusion for business owners* Why Erica takes a stand for imperfect allyship and how that plays out in her business


We talk a good game about having values, living our values, and even running a business with our values.

But, like, what does that really mean?

It’s not enough to have them written down somewhere. It’s not enough to put them on your website. It’s not enough to talk through them with a new hire.

No, values can be, should be, the filter for how we do everything in our businesses.

Part of our job as business owners—as leaders—is to ensure that the values we hold dear are operationalized in our work. It’s our job to make sure values turn into systems, product features, or boundaries with clients.

Strong leaders turn values into action.

This month on What Works, we’re talking about leadership—and specifically, we’re talking about how leaders operationalize their values, how they turn values into action, structure, and systems.

I’m fascinated by the creative ways that entrepreneurs operationalize their values. I’m fascinated by how values make decisions easier, policies clearer, and plans stronger. I’m fascinated by how brands display immense leadership by doing things differently than the norm—all inspired by their values.

And I’m fascinated, of course, by the results that businesses see because of how they operationalize their values: stronger communities, bigger movements, more brand recognition, and, yes, often more profit, too.

Displaying strong leadership and operationalizing our values isn’t squishy and it’s certainly not just a nice-to-have.

It’s become the bar we have to rise above if we want the work we do to be relevant and meaningful.

Over the course of this month, we’re going to hear from leaders who have operationalized their values in a variety of ways.

You’ll hear from Shannon Siriano Greenwood, who has built an incredible, values-driven community with Rebelle. Shannon is now expanding outside of the Richmond area and I wanted to hear how she’s taking her values into new territory.

You’ll hear from Rob Walling, a serial entrepreneur, podcaster, and the founder of MicroConf. Rob has intentionally an event experience that’s different than others in the same field by focusing on his values.

You’ll hear from Melissa Urban and Carrie Kholi-Murchison from Whole30 on why they’re investing in making the Whole30 community a more diverse and inclusive community—and what steps they’re taking to do it.

But today, my guest is Erica Courdae, the founder of Silver Immersion, a Baltimore-area hair and makeup business, as well as a diversity, equity, ★ Support this podcast ★
Feb 04, 2020
EP 262: Honing Your Craft Using Smart Project Management With Kickass Conferences Founder Isaac Watson

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How Kickass Conferences founder Isaac Watson manages massive projects like organizing a conference* The 5 phases that each event plan goes through and how project management works at each stage* What tools Isaac and his teams use to ensure every detail is accounted for and every guest has a fabulous experience* How he manages the experience on the ground during a live event

I used to balk at project management.

It felt like the systems I was supposed to follow were imposing rules on things that didn’t need rules.

I’d get it done. And I’d do it my own way, gosh darn it.

But then, at some point…

…probably the 341st time I didn’t have enough time to execute a project the way I really wanted it to be done…

…I realized that project management is as much about honing your craft as it is about making sure you hit deadlines or don’t forget a step.

Teasing out the bits and pieces of how projects happen helps us make better stuff…

…whether what you’re making is a publicity campaign, a book, a set of complex financial reports, or a podcast.

This month, Sean and I have working hard on the next phase of our project management at Yellow House Media. Yellow House is the full-service podcast production agency we co-founded back in August.

The way we look at it, every step in the process of producing a podcast is an opportunity to make a show better—to make it more engaging for the listener and to drive more results for the business owner. But to fully take advantage of those opportunities, we have to have our process down.

We can’t just throw an episode together. We have to carefully and intentionally work each step of the process so that both the host that we’re working with and our team has the greatest freedom to innovate and improve.

The structure of project management gives us the space to hone our craft, to get creative, and to make something great.

And the better we get at making great podcasts, the better our project management gets too.

My guest today has had a similar experience learning the ins and outs of event planning and hosting kickass conferences.

Isaac Watson is the founder of Kickass Conferences, an event strategy and production studio based in the Pacific Northwest. Isaac helps community leaders develop and deliver transformative events for their audiences that inspire them to build a better world. So far, he’s planned and managed events that have touched over 21,000 lives across the US and Europe.

Isaac is a natural event planner. I know because I’ve attended a number of events that he’s planned and I hired him to plan a conference for me 4 years ago.

But Isaac hasn’t relied on his natural aptitude for creating meaningful and engaging experiences. Instead, he’s designed a process he can rely on to pull off one great event after another.

This process and the way he manages his events is clearly a product of the way he’s honed his craft over the years.

He notices what works, he notices patterns, he notices the things that go unnoticed—and then he adapts the way he manages future projects.

In this conversation, Isaac and I talk about how things have evolved since his ve... ★ Support this podcast ★
Jan 28, 2020
EP 261: 5 Project Management Tools These Small Business Owners Can’t Do Without

The Nitty-Gritty:

* 5 small business owners share the project management tools they can’t live without* Why each tool is the right fit for the way each business owner works* How they incorporate the tools into their workflows* Plus, what tools haven’t worked for them

Project management is so much more than software.

But if you think about tools like Asana, Trello, Clickup, or Notion (referral link that helps to support What Works) when you hear project management, you’re certainly not alone.

I remember when Asana first started gaining popularity among digital small business owners. “Finally!” we thought collectively, “We can figure out how to get it all done.”

Of course, most of us quickly realized that software like Asana doesn’t solve the problem of having too much work, unclear priorities, and a decidedly nonlinear project to complete.

Project management is as much about how you approach the work that needs to get done as the software you use.

So if project management is as much about how we approach the work as it is the software we use, why do we spend so much time stressing over that software?

My hunch is that, despite all indications to the contrary, we believe that there’s a piece of software out there that will make us more productive, more organized, and more effective.

Here’s what I’ve found to be true, instead:

My project management software is only as good as I am. I can’t expect it to do for me what I’m not willing to do for myself.

But if I commit to doing the work of project management…

…if I organize my projects and get real about what’s required to bring each of them to completion…

…if I’m willing to do the work I say I’m going to do…

…if I consciously balance my big picture goals and my daily to-do lists…

…then I can find project management software that helps me do that. But it starts with me and my own approach to the work.

Now if that sounds personal, I can assure you that it is. I thought I was “broken” when it came to project management and that maybe there was some piece of project management software that could fix me. I tried a bunch. For while, I tried managing projects in Evernote–but that really just turned into me relying on my own brain, as per usual. Then, we dabbled in Trello… but it just didn’t work for us.

Then, I tried using Asana. My team used it for 2 full years but I could never get the hang of it.

That’s partly because I needed it to do something it just didn’t do–but it’s also because I wasn’t fully committed to doing the work of managing my projects. Then, I decided to grow up and do hard things.

At the same time, we switched to Notion.

Yes, Notion lets me do things I could only dream of in Asana or Trello. It combines content with task management in an completely customizable interface.

But the most important piece is that I decided to manage my projects. I decided to work the system. I committed to following through–and Notion helps me do that.

Today, ★ Support this podcast ★
Jan 23, 2020
EP 260: Tracking Complex Projects With On-Demand CFO Christina Sjahli

The Nitty-Gritty:

* Why clear client communication helps on-demand CFO & cash flow analyst Christina Sjahli manage her complex financial projects* The system she uses to keep track of documents and change history* How she uses deadlines for herself and her clients to manage the progress of her projects* What Christina learned from her corporate finance experience that’s transferred to her own business—and what she left behind

Can I really learn project management as an entrepreneur?

A few of years ago, it became trendy to explain away the operational problems in our businesses by saying something like, “Dammit, Jim! I’m an entrepreneur, not a manager.”

This trend was fueled by a book called Rocket Fuel, by Gino Wickman. In Rocket Fuel, Wickman argues that entrepreneurs are Visionaries.

He writes, “Entrepreneurs hunt. They don’t manage. They explore rather than analyze. They build companies with vision, creativity, and tenacity; not with policies and procedures.”

He continues by suggesting that every Visionary needs someone to be their Integrator. The Integrator’s role is to manage between the entrepreneur’s vision-driven ideas and the people on the ground actually making those things happen.

I bought it. Hook, line, and sinker.

The ideas in Rocket Fuel felt right to me.

After all, the idea of creating, managing, and—dear god—following procedures made me feel all sweaty and claustrophobic.

Finally, someone was telling me what I suspected all along: I just wasn’t good at managing. I wasn’t built for precision execution. I would always suffocated by routine, analysis, and consistency.

Lots and lots of other small business owners I know bought this argument too. Soon we saw job descriptions for Integrators everywhere. We saw virtual assistants and online business managers start advertising themselves as Integrators.

The language might be new to you—but I have a feeling that this distinction between the idea-creators and the idea-managers feels familiar.

Here’s what I’ve realized since I myself caught the Rocket Fuel fever:

While it’s true that some of us are gifted with natural aptitude toward one side of this spectrum between vision and management, that doesn’t get us off the hook for taking the time and care that’s necessary to manage projects well.

Just because I’m an idea machine doesn’t mean I can’t also be a procedure machine.

Just because I’m creative doesn’t mean I don’t have to follow systems.

Just because I’m fueled by vision doesn’t mean I get a pass on thinking through the process behind my vision’s execution.

Plenty of people will say that you’ve got to stay in your Zone Of Genius to be successful. At the risk of mixing metaphors, I say cross training is important.

I’m not either/or, I’m both/and.

And the more I’ve stepped into everything I can bring to the table,... ★ Support this podcast ★
Jan 21, 2020
EP 259: Managing The Creative Process With Brooklyn Book Doctor Founder Joelle Hann

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How Brooklyn Book Doctor founder Joelle Hann manages the process of book writing for her clients* What her book coaching experience taught her about creating and managing a group book proposal writing program* The tools Joelle uses to track her clients’ progress and coach them along to completion* Why it’s key for Joelle to consider the human element at every stage of managing a book writing project

What happens when project management and the creative process collide?

I think we expect a mess. A gnarly pileup of missed deadlines, unrealistic task lists, and artistic prerogative.

But what if the creative process was manageable?

What if there was a way to do your best creative work while also honoring your commitments to the more objective pieces of your project?

That’s the question we’re asking today.

Managing the creative process is exactly what my guest, Joelle Hann, does.

Joelle is the founder of Brooklyn Book Doctor. She works with authors to help them complete their book projects—whether it’s crafting the proposal or completing the manuscript.

Her job is to be as much creative partner as it is project manager.

After Joelle and I wrapped up our conversation, she told me: “the human element is a huge piece of the puzzle.”

And, honestly, if you listen for this idea throughout this interview, I think you’ll see what she means.

Joelle has become a master of managing for the human element in the creative process. And while Joelle has to manage the human element with her clients, we have to do this for ourselves every day.

I believe that all business owners are creatives in one way or another. Whether your version of creativity is expressed in product development, code, design, marketing, or management, you’re creative.

And that means we’re tasked with managing the human element—that’s us—in the creative process each day.

It’s the reason we can fail so epically at developing systems, documenting our work, or shipping new work. It’s the reason we can expect a team to follow our procedures while ignoring them ourselves. And it’s the reason why the technology we use and the way we approach that technology can make such a difference in whether we follow through on the work or not.

Be sure to listen to this conversation for not only some ideas on working with your customers or clients—but working with yourself.

Joelle and I talk about the tools she uses to manage different types of writing projects, what she’s learned about managing projects for creative people, and how her project management system blossomed into its own offer for working clients through the book proposal process.

Now, let’s find out what works for Joelle Hann!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

★ Support this podcast ★
Jan 14, 2020
EP 258: Managing Multi-Layer Projects With Kaye Publicity Founder Dana Kaye

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How Kaye Publicity founder Dana Kaye plans and manages multi-layer book publicity projects* The tools she uses to track progress, run reports, and organize the information that goes into every project* How her team members take ownership of different areas of each project* Why she’s learning to take a more top-level role in each project they manage

One of my most important personal commitments from last year was to “work the system.”

In other words, I wanted to stop constantly reinventing the wheel, breaking things that weren’t broken, and looking for new novel things to add to my plate.

I wanted to take the systems that we had as a company and work them. No more pretending that I didn’t have to follow the procedure or document my work just because I was the boss. No more excuses for why my tasks weren’t getting checked off or the process wasn’t getting completed.

Just working the systems we had, making them better, and following through until every last item was crossed off the list.

By and large, I was pretty successful! I confirmed this with my team to make sure I wasn’t blowing smoke up my own butt.

What I’ve discovered as I’ve embraced working the system is that—against all odds—I actually love it. In fact, now that I’ve been working the systems for a year, I see systems everywhere. I see how they make things better, how they make me better.

And I relish getting those set up and figuring out how they can become more effective.

Since I’ve decided to finally embrace not only having systems in my business but actually using them myself, I thought it would be fun to kick off the new year at What Works by focusing on project management.

In other words, what does it take to make sure that the projects we start are projects we can finish?

And how do different kinds of projects take on different forms as we use tools to track and complete them? And… how do different kinds of business owners approach managing projects differently?

This month, we’re going to take a look at how a book coach manages the creative process for her clients. We’ll examine why communication and expectation is so important in complex projects with an on-demand CFO and cashflow analyst. And we’ll find out how a conference planner sees his events from vision to final invoice paid.

Plus, we’ve also asked a panel of small business owners to share the tools they use to manage their projects and why they love them. You’ll hear about software like ClickUp, Asana, Trello, and Notion so you can make a more informed decision about what will work for you.

But today, we’re starting with a look at managing massive multi-layer projects.

Dana Kaye is the founder of Kaye Publicity, a publicity agency specializing in helping authors get media coverage for their books. As you’ll hear, publicity projects aren’t exactly linear. It’s not just a list of tasks that need to be completed step by step.

There’s traditional media to go after. There are influencers to reach out to. There is content the team needs from authors and there are conversations that need to be had with the publisher.

Each type of media is another layer in the project. Each layer is owned by a different member of the team. ★ Support this podcast ★
Jan 07, 2020
EP 257: End-Of-Year Mailbag Episode With Tara McMullin

We’ve had a helluva year here at What Works. We’ve talked to over 100 small business owners, published more than 80 episodes, and tackled 12 different themes this year.

What Works is special because we focus on the people who are making their businesses work every single day.

We believe we all have a lot to learn from each other—and the more honest & transparent we are about how our marketing, operations, tools, product development, or sales processes work, the better chance we all have for success.

On this episode, it’s no different—except, instead of me being the one asking the questions, you are!

Here’s what we covered:

* 2:20 What are the best ways to grow your organic reach on social media today?* 12:48 What kind of structure have you used for in-person strategy intensives?* 19:31 What’s working for you right now as you deal with capacity challenges in a 1:1 service business?* 28:46 What trends do you see coming in 2020?* 36:08 How did you come up with the name for YellowHouse.Media?* 38:24 What are your biggest business lessons from 2019? What marketing will you continue in 2020 and what will you stop doing?* 49:58 How have you leveraged the symbiotic relationship between your podcast and your community?* 55:21 Still running Facebook/Instagram ads in 2020?* 56:43 Who manages your finances and payroll? We use Gusto and recommend you do, too (we receive a small commission when you sign up)!* 57:49 What has been your biggest business challenge in 2019?

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Dec 24, 2019
EP 256: Discovering What You Need From Your Business With BrainSpace Optimized Founder Hailey Thomas
Dec 17, 2019
EP 255: Taking Stock & Setting New Intentions With Podcasting Advocate Elsie Escobar

The Nitty-Gritty:

* Why podcast advocate Elsie Escobar created a personal process for looking back over the year and setting her intentions for the year to come* How setting clear boundaries helps her to stay on top of her commitments and execution* The tools she uses to look back over the past year and how they give her a fresh perspective on what she’s experienced

Do you know what you did this year?

Do you know how many blog posts you published? How many emails you sent out? How many customers bought your product?

Have you kept track of the accolades that have come your way? Or the speeches you’ve delivered? Or the interviews you’ve done?

When the year is hurtling toward a close, it’s easy to lose track of everything you’ve accomplished already. All you can see in front of you is a to-do list that absolutely must get done before you can relax and enjoy the holiday cookie spread.

But that’s precisely why taking a look back is key.

This month, we’re examining how we can take better care of ourselves as small business owners.

We’re putting aside cliche self-care tips and digging into how entrepreneurs actually engineer their routines, procedures, and operations to care for themselves.

This week, my guest is Elsie Escobar. Elsie is the co-host of LibSyn’s podcast The Feed as well as their community manager. She’s also the co-host of She Podcasts, a podcast and community of over 14,000 women podcasters. Her mission is to help more people use their voice and make an impact through the craft of podcasting.

With everything she has going on, it would be easy for Elsie to forget what she’s accomplished in a year.

It would be easy to dismiss the small wins and important insights she’s experienced.

That’s why Elsie has developed a personal process of looking back, assessing her opportunities, setting intentions for the new year.

Elsie and I talk about the energy of the end of the year—and how it can contribute to feeling like we need to catch up no matter how much we’ve achieved. We also talk about the experience that catalyzed her will to look back and set intentions, as well as how she’s trained herself to recognize her true capacity.

Now, let’s find out what works for Elsie Escobar!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
★ Support this podcast ★
Dec 12, 2019
EP 254: Transforming Your Business Model With Growth & Impact Strategist Toi Smith

The Nitty-Gritty:

* Why Toi Smith made the shift from virtual assistant to online business manager to growth & impact strategist* How she reassessed the true value behind what she was offering her clients so she could rework her business model* What eliminating exploitative business practices from her own model has taught her about creating value* How her rates, working hours, and client load is different now that she’s built a business that helps her take care of herself

Business is an experiment.

You try something, you get a result, you learn. Then you try something else.

Little by little, the learning adds up to a business that works.

But often, our learning leads us down a path that earns some money and keeps us busy but doesn’t really let us thrive.

Discovering “what works” can feel like a dead end.

In other words…

…success can make you feel stuck.

You’re your own boss. You’ve got good clients. You have plenty of work to do.

By many accounts, you’re successful.

So it can be really tempting to just make do with what you’ve got—even if it is slowly and relentlessly grinding you down.

So what happens when “what works” is actually grinding you down and making it hard to take care of yourself?

That’s the question we’re exploring today.

It’s a question I’ve asked myself several times during the course of my own business.

There have been plenty of times when what’s working in some ways just wasn’t working for me as a human being. There have been times when what works has turned into what worked—and I needed to rethink my business in a way that would contribute more to my own well-being.

Today’s guest is Toi Smith—a growth & impact strategist who has wrestled with this same question.

Toi and I talk about how her identity and business model has shifted from virtual assistant to online business manager to strategist and why each pivot was necessary. We also talk about the ups and downs of making these changes and the impact each shift has had on her rates, working hours, and client load.

Pay close attention to how Toi talks about her mindset shift away from thinking of her work as labor and into thinking of it as thought partnership and leadership.

She’s had to dismantle and reassemble the way she thinks about how she and her business creates value in order to realize the full potential of her own entrepreneurship.

Now, let’s find out What Works for Toi Smith!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
★ Support this podcast ★
Dec 10, 2019
EP 253: Discovering The Joy of Missing Out With Inkwell Press Founder Tonya Dalton

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How The Joy Of Missing Out author Tonya Dalton discovered the stories and self-talk that were keeping her from really enjoying life and celebrating her success* Why identifying the litmus tests she put herself through helped her determine what she really wanted out of life and business* How she reflects on the good, the bad, and the ugly to keep her stories and self-talk in check* How Tonya rewrites her stories so her self-talk supports her and the life she wants to lead

Let’s talk about self-talk.

Self-talk is that voice inside your head that narrates everything happening around you.

Sometimes self-talk pumps you up—like after you nail a meeting with a new client and you remind yourself what a boss you are.

Sometimes self-talk cuts you down—like when you realize you’ve made a mistake and you tell yourself you’re such a screw-up.

I think we’re all pretty familiar with how our inner critics or inner cheerleaders can impact the way we feel or act at this point.

What you might not be so familiar with is how your self-talk can reinforce stories about how the world works… stories that just don’t hold up to scrutiny.

This month on What Works, we’re examining taking care of ourselves with our businesses. That doesn’t just mean taking time for a Hawaiian vacation with all those sweet airline miles you’ve earned on your business credit card. Nor does it mean treating yourself to a massage, a meal delivery, or a first class upgrade because you “deserve it.”

Taking care of yourself with your business means examining how you work—and how the business works for you—from the ground up.

Today, we’re going to look closely at a key component of how you make decisions for your business—your self-talk—and how your self-talk contributes to the 21st century phenomenal of FOMO.

Specifically, we’re going to look at the stories we tell ourselves and how they convince us to do more, push harder, and never rest for fear of missing out.

Next week, we’ll examine how your business model and identity as a service provider impacts how you run your business with growth strategist Toi Smith.

You’ll also hear from podcaster Elsie Escobar about how she audits her growth and accomplishments over the course of the year and sets intentions for the year to come.

Then, you’ll hear from Hailey Thomas about how a sudden loss led her to rethinking the way her business operates and how it impacts her life.

Alright, back to self-talk and the fear of missing out.

A bunch of the stories we tell ourselves revolve around what it takes to be a good business owner.

And these stories make it really difficult to take good care of ourselves.

Your story might be that a good business owners is always available for their clients—so the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night is check your email.

Or, you might tell yourself that a good business owner always completes their to-do list—and you beat yourself up when you don’t.

Or, you might tell yourself that a good business owner is on all the social media platforms—so you work your tail off to be o... ★ Support this podcast ★
Dec 03, 2019
EP 252: Making New Clients Feel At Home With SmartStart Founder Linda Lopeke

The Nitty-Gritty:

* Why SmartStart founder Linda Lopeke has every potential client complete a rigorous application* How she sets expectations clearly from the get-go so that every client has the best chance of getting results* What inspired her approach to business systems and client experience* How she makes brand-new clients feel at ease, step-by-step

Starting my working life as a retail worker, I always associated “customer service” with what you do when there’s a problem.

A customer needs to make a return. They have a question about this week’s sale. They need to report a problem with the bathroom.

Despite years and years of training on customer service, no one ever said to me: customer service starts before the customer even walks in the door.

Customer service is having the right product on display. It’s having the carpet freshly vacuumed. It’s having the music at the right level, playing the right songs.

Do customer service right, right from the beginning, and you dramatically reduce the number of problems you encounter during the day.

I didn’t learn that lesson until I started my own business—and really many years after.

For our final episode on our series on designing exceptional customer experiences, I spoke with Linda Lopeke, the founder of SmartStart.

Linda knows that customer service starts long before the first purchase is ever made.

She’s designed her entire client on-boarding system to set clear expectations, ensure fit, and make new clients feel at ease. Instead of crossing her fingers and hoping she doesn’t run into customer service problems, Linda has crafted a process elevates her client experience.

I talked with Linda about the lengthy application process she uses, why she interviews every prospect before they can work with her, and how she brings on a new client step-by-step.

Play close attention to all the opportunities Linda has to set expectations throughout the process and reduce the friction of doing the work.

Now, let’s find out what works for Linda Lopeke!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
★ Support this podcast ★
Nov 26, 2019
EP 251: Teaching Customers How To Use Your Product One At A Time With Tyme Iron Creator Jacynda Smith

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How Tyme founder Jacynda Smith manages 100-200 individual consultations with new customers each week* Why these personalized consultations help Tyme delight 90% of frustrated customers* How virtual styling sessions create a feedback loop that helps Tyme get better & better* What Tyme is doing to leverage the success they’ve had with personalized virtual styling sessions

“Do things that don’t scale.”

That’s the advice that Paul Graham, co-founder at startup accelerator Y Combinator, commonly gives to founders.

“Do things that don’t scale” just happens to sound like the opposite of what many digital small business owners fret about when they exclaim, “but that doesn’t scale!”

Here’s the thing: if we spend all our time worrying about what does and doesn’t scale, we don’t take the very necessary steps to get to the place where scaling is even an option.

Today, we’re examining customer service that might not scale but has helped the company create massive growth.

Before we get there, let’s take a closer look at this idea of doing things that don’t scale.

In Graham’s article on the concept, he outlines how a number of today’s huge companies did things that didn’t scale to build their footprint.

First, companies like Stripe, Airbnb, and even Facebook recruited new customers by hand. The Stripe founders personally set up new users and installed the software on their websites. The Airbnb founders literally went door to door. Facebook famously went from campus to campus signing up new users.

Second, founders make deliberate choices to take small actions that build the foundation for their ability to scale up. Graham writes, “the right things often seem both laborious and inconsequential at the time.” The “right things” were actions like the Airbnb founders taking professional photographs of early home listings or Steve Jobs prioritizing the quality of execution of his product from fonts to packaging.

Finally, Graham talks about how many successful companies have been built by “over-engaging” with a small group of core users in the beginning. The founders reach out, have one-on-one conversations, and find out how the product is meeting (or not meeting) the user’s needs. It creates a feedback loop that helps the product get better and the company better understand the customer.

And that leads us to today’s conversation with Jacynda Smith, the creator of the Tyme Iron.

The Tyme Iron is a unique hairstyling tool that’s meant to replace both your flat iron and your curling iron so you can create a variety of styles for medium-length to long hair.

When you look at it, you get it.

But when you use it? Well, that can be a different story.

Faced with questions and even some frustration from new users, Jacynda made an interesting choice. She decided to FaceTime her customers, one at a time, and walk them through the process of creating the style they wanted to create with their new Tyme Iron.

In other words, Jacynda made the choice to do something that doesn’t scale.

But instead of abandoning that choice as the company grew, she doubled down.

As you’ll hear, the company now employs 5 full-time virtual stylist... ★ Support this podcast ★
Nov 21, 2019
EP 250: Creating Wildly Fun Client Experiences With Allie LeFevere

The Nitty-Gritty:

* Why Obedient Agency co-founder Allie LeFevere believes so strongly in the power of humor to build a brand and market a product* How the agency incorporates humor into every touchpoint of their client experiences* The brainstorming techniques they use to find surprising & delightful marketing ideas* Why humor has even made its way into their hiring process

The first time I heard the phrase, “Surprise & delight…”

…I was being trained on Starbucks & Seattle’s Best Coffee company culture.

Our trainer—who was excellent—told us that we were empowered to look for little ways to surprise and delight our guests. Whether that was delivered a freshly brewed cup of coffee to the table they were sitting at or simply taking the time to learn our regulars’ names, the expectation was set that we would go above & beyond.

The “surprise & delight” mantra has stuck with me over years of running my own company.

I’m not as good with stylish gifts or personal notes the way some business owners are. But I am very good at surprising & delighting our clients by taking extra time to answer questions, providing extra resources, or just paying for coffee when we meet up.

It doesn’t take much for an experience to be memorable.

And building a brand around memorable, surprising, and delightful experiences? Well, that’s a recipe for success.

This week, we’re taking a look at a very particular way to surprise and delight your customers—with humor.

Allie LeFevere is the co-founder of Obedient Agency—a full-service humor marketing agency.

Truly, the first time I landed on their website, I can describe my experience as nothing less than surprised and delighted. It’s not funny for funny’s sake—it’s humorous for clarity’s sake. Every piece of it serves to define who they are, what they do, and who they do it for in the most unique ways possible.

I had to know how this brilliant branding & positioning functioned on the inside. Had they designed equally surprising & delighting client experiences?

Yes, of course they have.

Allie and I talk about how that website got built—which is a great look at the brainstorming process they use throughout the agency. We also chat about how they infuse humor into every touchpoint they have with a client, how they manage each client touchpoint, and why client fit is such an important piece of the puzzle.

Now, let’s find out what works for Allie LeFevere!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
★ Support this podcast ★
Nov 19, 2019
EP 249: Standing Out With Exceptional Customer Experiences With Project Army Founder Viktor Nagornyy

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How Project Army founder Viktor Nagornyy discovered his opportunity in the website support & hosting market* The reason he decided to do the opposite of industry standards when it comes to key customer policies* How he landed on competitive pricing without having to slash expenses or sacrifice customer experience* Why prioritizing exceptional customer experiences has led to significant business growth

I’ve been building websites with WordPress for almost 11 years now.

In the beginning, I used the cheap web hosts you’re probably already familiar with—I won’t name names, though.

I relied on the support those web hosts offered to teach me just about everything I know about name servers, MX records, cPanel, and common errors you get when screwing around in the backend of WordPress.

I asked, they answered.

Then, something changed.

Over time, the support got less and less reliable. It got less and less helpful. It was less and less personable.

And somewhere along the line, the support started to suck.

At the same time, I started to notice I just wasn’t getting same level of service from these companies that I had in the past. My website was down frequently. They started to tell me I needed to upgrade and then upgrade again.

That’s when I jumped ship.

Today’s guest noticed the same crap happening in the web support & hosting industry.

Instead of pursuing a marginally better solution, he decided to take advantage of the situation and use exceptional customer experiences as a way to stand out in a very crowded market.

Viktor Nagorynyy is the founder of Project Army. What started as an SEO and digital marketing consultancy has blossomed into a full-service website support & hosting company that prioritizes customer service and experience.

Viktor shares how doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing has led to big results, why customer service is so important to him, how prioritizing customer service has helped the company grow, and how he utilizes social media to offer help to anyone—even if they’re not a customer.

Now, let’s find out what works for Viktor Nagorynyy!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
★ Support this podcast ★
Nov 12, 2019
EP 248: What’s Working In Setting Boundaries While Delighting Customers With Coach Nicole Lewis-Keeber

The Nitty-Gritty:

* What business therapist & mindset coach Nicole Lewis-Keeber does to help her clients identify boundary issues in their businesses* Why clear communication is key to have a great relationship with your business and your customers* How to renegotiate a relationship that’s run afoul of your personal boundaries* What habits and routines you can develop to ensure you’re upholding your own boundaries on a regular basis

Underpromise and overdeliver.

It’s a sound strategy for wowing your customers…

…but it can also be a recipe for burning out.

Unfortunately, plenty of well-meaning small business owners take the “underpromise & overdeliver” mantra to extremes—especially women.

They bend over backwards to make sure their customers are happy—even if their boundaries and values are being trampled.

I’ve seen this phenomenon up close & personal many times. I’ve also seen how taking the uncomfortable step to establish clear boundaries, charge prices that are appropriate for the level fo service being delivered, and realign scheduling can catapult a business into new, exciting territory.

Since we’re focusing on customer experience right now…

…I wanted to spend an episode focused on what creating customer experiences is not.

And creating exceptional customer experiences is not necessarily about underpromising and overdelivering.

It’s not about bending over backwards to fulfill an unreasonable request.

It’s not about spending every waking moment going above and beyond for your clients.

And while those examples might be an extreme interpretation of what ends up happening in many businesses, they’re also what drive many business owners out of service delivery and into business models where they think they can keep customers at a distance—only to find out they bring the same problems with them.

The problem is that exceptional customer experiences—and exceptional customer relationships—start with clear boundaries and expectations.

And that’s just not a social or professional skill that many of us learn.

We’re often rewarded by teachers, romantic partners, bosses, and friends when we compromise our boundaries. We learn to underpromise and overdeliver at a young age—and we keep it up until we just can’t keep it up any longer.

It’s all part of a cycle that I learned about from my friend Nicole Lewis-Keeber.

Nicole is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker turned business therapist & mindset coach who helps entrepreneurs identify the patterns that cause friction and dysfunction in their businesses. She helps them identify trauma of all kinds, rework habits, and redefine relationships—with themselves, their team members, and their businesses.

I wanted to ask Nicole how she helps her clients establish strong & clear boundaries while maintaining exceptional customer experiences in their businesses.

We talked about how to know when you have a boundary problem, why unclear communication is unkind, how to renegotiate boundaries when there’s a problem, and what kind of routines we can put in place to keep boundary issues from happening in the first place.

Now, ★ Support this podcast ★
Nov 07, 2019
EP 247: Managing Exceptional Client Experiences In Less Time With Coach Ashley Gartland

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How Ashley Gartland works with her business coaching clients to help them streamline their own work and reduce their sense of overwhelm* What goes in her welcome email to keep new clients from feeling overwhelmed as they’re getting started with coaching* How a customized Trello board helps her (and her clients) manage the engagement efficiently* Why she reduced her business model to just 2 packages and how that’s helping her create better client experiences

All told, I spent about 12 years of my life in retail and customer service.

I was a pharmacy technician dealing with sick, scared, and overwhelmed pharmacy customers at the ripe old age of 16.

I was cashier at Kohl’s, often stepping in for the cashier supervisor and hawking credit card applications without understanding the damage those credit cards were going to do to the people applying.

I worked in a tiny jewelry shop in the upscale Hotel Hershey.

And I worked my way up for barista to manager at a Borders Books & Music in Reading, PA.


Customer service is in my blood.

I’ve probably dealt with every conceivable customer service experience you can think of—some fun, others quite uncomfortable, and still others that left me questioning my own ability to form rational thoughts.

And while customer service wasn’t always the most enjoyable part of my job, it was something I took pride in.

Then, I become a business owner.

I thought I was leaving customer service behind.

Now, of course, I know how silly that seems.

Despite being “founder & CEO,” customer service is woven into everything I do. Every decision I make directly impacts the experience we’re creating for the people who pay good money to do business with us.

What’s more, any misstep I make with customer service or experience feels like a judgement on me and my greatest work. It threatens to derail my schedule and ruins my day.

What I have learned as a business owner, though, is that customer service is as much—if not more—what happens far in advance of actually talking to a customer or putting a product in their hands. It’s the planning, the communication, the policies, the expectation-setting, and the procedures.

This month, we’ll be exploring how small businesses create exceptional customer and client experiences…

…through the way they plan, communicate, create procedures, and set expectations & policies.

You’ll hear from Viktor Nagornyy who has grown his website support & hosting company by prioritizing exceptional customer service—something unheard of in his industry. You’ll also hear from Jacynda Smith, who has developed a system for providing one-on-one help to everyone who buys the hair tool she invented.

You’ll hear why Linda Lopeke developed her rigorous client on-boarding process and how Allie LeFevere incorporates humor into her client experiences. And in our next episode, you’ll hear what’s working to create firm client boundaries while you prioritize exceptional experiences with Nicole Lewis-Keeber.

But first, I want to share my conversation with Ashley Gartland with you.

Ashley is a business coach who specializes in helping overwhelmed, ★ Support this podcast ★
Nov 05, 2019
EP 246: Learning From Your Mistakes With Leadership Developer & LMFT Rebecca Ching

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How Potentia Therapy founder Rebecca Ching learned from key mistakes she made bringing her vision to life* What she does differently today when she’s finding the right people for her team* Why learning to lead has made her less lonely as a business owner* The process of self-reflection that allowed her to stop debating her own worthiness despite her setbacks

If there’s one constant in business and entrepreneurship, it’s that stuff happens.

Things go wrong.

We make bad choices.

The market shifts.

An employee leaves.

The big client gives notice that they’re terminating your contract.

We can’t always prepare for what’s going to go wrong—but we can work on becoming more resilient when bad things do inevitably happen.

This month, we’ve been sharing conversations all around the topic of resilience.

We’ve looked at why we don’t push through to our goals and finish the projects we start. We’ve explored the natural and not-so-natural pivots that happen over time. We’ve examined how expectations can get out of hand and what it looks like to coach yourself through 2 decades of business ownership.

Today, as we close things out, we’re going to take a good, long look at actually learning from our mistakes.

I spoke with one of my oldest business friends, Rebecca Ching, about some of the mistakes she made when she took a huge leap forward in her therapy business and opened a multidisciplinary brick & mortar practice. Today, Rebecca is both the founder of Potentia Therapy and an Integrated Leadership Coach helping entrepreneurs and leaders navigate the complexities of leadership today.

Rebecca shares both the errors in her execution and the errors in her thinking that led to some difficult years.

She also gets into some deep reflection around her personal identity and sense of worthiness that really resonated with me. For many of us self-described “achievers,” making a mistake or failing at a venture isn’t just a set back—it rocks us to our core.

If that’s you too, I think you’ll especially appreciate this conversation.

And if you’ve appreciated this deep dive we’ve spent on resilience this month, I’d love for you to leave What Works a rating & review on Apple Podcasts. Your kind words mean the world to me.

Now, let’s find out what works for Rebecca Ching!

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Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while ... ★ Support this podcast ★
Oct 29, 2019
EP 245: Coaching Yourself To Stick With It With Original Impulse Founder Cynthia Morris

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How coach & author Cynthia Morris has coached herself through 20 years of growth as an entrepreneur* How she battles the “octopus of lots of different offers & ideas” that sneaks up on you when you’ve been in business that long* Why a trip to France helped open a new chapter in her business—and ultimately created its own challenges* How she wound up with the business model she has today

I am really willing to do that?

I pulled myself out of bed this morning at 5:30 and went downstairs, anxiously awaiting my first cup of coffee.

I put the water in the kettle, fired up the burner, and prepped my Aeropress.

At this point, I realized the dishwasher needed to be emptied.

Now, I am not the kind of woman who does household chores unprovoked. In fact, some serious provoking is usually what it takes for me to do things like fold the laundry, sweep the floor, or return the accumulation of water glasses on my desk to the kitchen.

I’m not proud of this. It’s just the truth.

But I’ve been working on it.

Because I value my marriage.

So, I told myself I was willing to empty the dishwasher and I did it.

Thank you… thank you… Hold the applause to the end, please.

“I am willing…” that’s a personal mantra I’ve been working on over the last 6 months or so. I learned it from a book with a questionable title by a coach named Gary John Bishop.

Truthfully, I haven’t gotten past the first chapter of that book because “I am willing” was enough of a mind-bender to work on for awhile!

Reminding myself that I’m willing has had a dramatic impact on my business, too.

During a sales campaign that I wish was over already, I remind myself that I’m willing to show up, answer questions, and find every last person who is ready to buy.

During a conference that has my social anxiety peaking, I remind myself that I’m willing to meet new people and nurture old relationships.

While emptying out my inbox, I remind myself that I’m willing to take a few extra minutes and reply to emails that have been waiting for me.

It’s these small activities—and often the moments of small “c” courage that Charlie Gilkey talked about in Episode 241—that really add up at the end of the day.

Just like proactively emptying the dishwasher or folding my laundry really adds up in my marriage!

When you’re looking at something like your business—or your marriage—that ideally is going to last 10 year, 20 years, 30 years or longer, it’s easy to think about the big moments and forget about all the small things you were willing to do along the way.

But my guest today hasn’t forgotten about the small things that have made her business stand the test of time.

Cynthia Morris is the founder of Original Impulse. She coaches writers, artists and entrepreneurs to get out of their own way so they can finish projects that matter. ★ Support this podcast ★
Oct 22, 2019
EP 244: Managing Anxiety As An Entrepreneur With Supernova Collective Creator Jo Casey

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How coach and business strategist Jo Casey manages her anxiety as an entrepreneur* The situation that revealed just how big an impact anxiety had on how she ran her business* How setting clearer boundaries and doubling her rates helped to get back on track* Why she’s simplified her business as a way of managing her anxiety* The positive results she’s seen by making her anxiety conscious and working to manage it productively

Wait, my anxiety isn’t normal?

We were driving along Interstate 90 somewhere between Chicago and Minneapolis on the hottest day of the summer.

Sean asked me, “Can you remember a time when you didn’t feel anxious?”

I paused. I thought. I looked back over the key periods of my life.

“Well, no. I can’t remember a time I didn’t feel anxious,” I finally responded.

Honestly, I was surprised.

You see, I’ve spent my whole adolescent and adult life being hyper-aware of my history of depression. Even when I’m feeling good, I’m on the look out for the warning signs.

I realize that might sound a bit anxious all on its own—but looking for the warning signs has allowed me to get help before things got really bad a numbers of times.

I’ve spent the last 7 years or so fairly free of depressive episodes and generally considered my mental health to be strong.

So this realization that anxiety—that tight feeling in my chest, the lump at the pit of my stomach, the prickly skin, the whirling mind, the foreboding sense that at any moment things could all fall apart…

That realization that anxiety has always been with me and—get this—that it isn’t normal? **It was a shock.

As I started to examine the impact anxiety has had on me, I couldn’t help but see its presence all over my business.

Now, here’s the thing. You might be surprised to learn just how big an impact anxiety has had on me and my business over the years.

You probably don’t think of me as someone who struggles to make decisions or take action. You don’t think of me as someone nervous about stepping out of the shadows or making big moves.

But there is a whole category of anxiety that often presents in high-performers—the achievers, the doers, the make stuff happen people. It’s called High Functioning Anxiety.

Simply put, High Functioning Anxiety is the constant sense that everything will fall apart around you if you’re not performing at your highest capacity all the time. It’s mix of overdoing, overthinking, and over-achieving.

And listener? I would not be surprised if that sounds familiar to you.

I learned about High Functioning Anxiety from one of Yellow House Media’s podcasting clients, Nancy Jane Smith, and her show The Happier Approach.

Ever since I heard the concept, I can recognize my anxiety everywhere. I feel it when the hotel shuttle bus is making me late for my flight. I feel it when I receive an invitation to a party I’m expected to attend but don’t have the right outfit for. I feel it every time I hit send on an email or realize I’ve made a typo in a sales page. I feel it when I’m obsessing on a client situation or setting big goals for the business.

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Oct 17, 2019
EP 243: Living Up To Your Own Expectations With ClickMinded Founder Tommy Griffith

The Nitty-Gritty:

* Why Tommy Griffith left a job he loved at AirBnB to pursue growing his side hustle, a digital marketing education company called ClickMinded* How his expectations of life as an entrepreneur collided with the reality of executing his plans* The mindset that allowed him to persevere through some pretty gnarly circumstances* Why Tommy decided to bring on a partner at ClickMinded late in the game—and how that decision helped him take the company to the next level

Let’s talk about your fantasies.

Most ads that grace your Facebook or Instagram feed are selling every business owner’s fantasy: more money with a heckuva lot less work… get paid to be you… use this 3-step formula to finally find true freedom.

Most of those ads look pretty much the same because they’re selling an end result—an outcome that inspires you to buy. There are photos of beautiful destinations. There are videos with soft, natural lighting. There are charts that only point upward.

What most ads leave out is how it’s all going to come to fruition.

Sure, there are blog posts, email courses, and webinars that will tell you more about what happens in between now and full fantasy realization. But the details are in the product they’re selling or the service they’re offering.

And rightfully so! If you have a product that has the potential to create the ultimate fantasy, you should absolutely get paid for that.

Of course, what comes between the “now” and full fantasy realization—that’s where our brains start to play tricks on us.

This doesn’t just happen with business training or services, either. It happens any time someone is selling wellness, weight loss, retirement planning, relationship coaching, fitness, personal styling… in fact, most consumer industries are all about fantasy fulfillment.

We know that it will take time and work to create our dream outcome. We know there will be detours to follow and mistakes made. We know it’s never quite as easy and straightforward as it seems.

And yet…

We forget.

We fixate on the fantasy and forget reality.

Now while we’re fixating on the fantasy, we get careless. We assume that our dream of working from the beach, traveling full-time, putting the kids through college, or—say— building a custom tiny house in the Flathead Valley of Montana is just right around the corner and we act like our success is a foregone conclusion.

This is where the story starts with today’s guest, Tommy Griffith.

Tommy is the founder of ClickMinded, a comprehensive digital marketing training company that started as a simple, in-person SEO workshop.

I’ll let Tommy tell you the whole story—but suffice to say that it includes leaving a great job at AirBnB, living abroad, fantasies of working from the beach, food poisoning, ruining $50,000 worth of work, and being robbed.

Through it all, Tommy persevered.

And the story—a happy one—ends with a pretty unexpected move to bring the company into its next stage.

Tommy and I chat about why he made the decisions he did, how he kept going when things were nowhere near awesome, and how his expectations routinely got in the way of his execution. ★ Support this podcast ★
Oct 15, 2019
EP 242: Embracing Uncertainty To Grow Your Business With Co-Creating Inclusion Founder Alethea Fitzpatrick

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How Co-Creating Inclusion founder Alethea Fitzpatrick took a long & winding road to creating her new company* Why embracing uncertainty has helped her stay flexible while building her business* The many pivots she’s made from architecture to photography to operations management to diversity consulting* Why respecting her Zone Of Genius has kept her from getting caught up in expectations

Starting a business is a risk.

Running a business is a risk.

Growing a business is a risk.

Ostensibly, we’ve all signed on for this risky life as an entrepreneur. But, we often find ourselves searching for certainty and hunting for the “sure thing.”

We do it every time we think another $2000 course is going to answer all our questions about building a successful business. We do it every time we wait a few more months to launch a new offer into the world. We do it every time we avoid reinforcing a boundary because it might upset a client.

In our last episode, Episode 241 with Charlie Gilkey, we talked about how striving for certainty keeps us stuck.

When we aim to choose the “sure thing,” we hesitate, procrastinate, and avoid.

Charlie advocated for building our courage by finding all the moments in the day when we can choose the option that has room for growth, for vulnerability, for risk… and yes, for uncertainty.

I was reminded of that idea during my conversation with today’s guest, Alethea Fitzpatrick.

Alethea is the founder of Co-Creating Inclusion, a diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting firm with a mission to shift culture and drive equity through workshop facilitation, leadership development, and business integration.

But Alethea has also been the founder of a host of other ventures!

To continue our focus on resilience and entrepreneurship, I wanted to talk with Alethea about the long and winding journey she’s taken to get to where she is now. Because where she is now is authentic, organic growth and a whole new level of success doing work that is incredibly important to her (and to the world).

We’ll get to how she’s achieved that in a minute—but first…

…let’s take another look at how having the courage to tolerate uncertainty, to even embrace uncertainty, can work in a business.

Later in the conversation, Alethea shares that she’s chosen clarity of her Why and her What but she’s remaining open to how it’ll all come together. She’s choosing to be strategic about designing a container that’s flexible enough to hold different outcomes.

I think this is a beautiful example of what Charlie was talking about in our last episode—but it also seems to be the secret sauce for how Alethea has gotten where she is right now. She has always followed clarity while allowing for openness and uncertainty so that she could grow into the direction of her goals.

Keep that in mind as Alethea and I talk about the journey she’s taken to get to where she is now.

Alethea and I also talk about the businesses and jobs that predate Co-Creating Inclusion, the moment she realized there was a new opportunity presenting itself, how the transition into consulting felt, and how her Zone of Genius keeps her from getting caug... ★ Support this podcast ★
Oct 08, 2019
EP 241: Finishing What You Start With Start Finishing Author Charlie Gilkey

The Nitty-Gritty:

* Start Finishing author Charlie Gilkey explains the relationship between resilience and finishing the projects and plans we start* Why tensions like mastery versus growth, structure versus novelty, and serving ourselves versus serving others make it harder to reach our goals* How vulnerability and little “c” courage can help us achieve bigger, more meaningful results* What Charlie coaches his clients through when they fail to reach an important outcome

We all procrastinate, avoid, and hesitate from time to time.

If you’ve ever stared at an empty email trying to figure out the exact right thing to say…

If you’ve ever avoided a networking event because you weren’t sure how everyone else was going to be dressed or whether you’d feel like you belonged there…

If you’ve ever hesitated to share your thoughts in a comment because you didn’t know how you’d be received…

Well, you and I have a lot in common.

Maybe your list isn’t the same as mine. Maybe there are other variables or scenarios that send your mind swirling.

Regardless, life is full of those moments when we procrastinate, avoid, and hesitate because we’re not exactly sure what will come next.

Business is full of those moments, too.

Today, I invited my dear friend Charlie Gilkey back on the show to talk about the subject of his new book, Start Finishing: How To Go From Idea To Done. It’s perfect for this month we’re spending on resilience.

You see, Start Finishing, sounds like a book on productivity—and it is. But it’s the kind of productivity book that only a philosopher could write. And this is the kind of interview on productivity, decision-making, planning, and doing your best work that only a philosopher could give.

If you don’t know Charlie already, let me give you a bit of background. Charlie is a PhD candidate in philosophy at the University of Nebraska. He was a logistics officer in the Army National Guard and was deployed in Iraq. He’s now the co-founder & CEO of Productive Flourishing, which helps people build better businesses through strategic planning, system development, self-mastery, and personal effectiveness.

I wanted to find out what resilience has to do with the way we do—or do not—complete the projects that we start and the goals we half-heartedly commit to.

My conversation with Charlie certainly provided some answers to that question—and a whole lot more.

One of my biggest takeaways from talking to Charlie was the divide between certainty and uncertainty…

…and how our quest for certainty keeps us stuck.

I’ve been paying much closer attention to the moments when I can make a choice where the outcome is uncertain but the upside is big. It’s helped me lean into vulnerability, find my true commitments, and achieve some pretty amazing results in a very short period of time.

Charlie and I also talk about the tension between mastery and growth, why we love structure but still crave novelty, how we let conflicting patterns mess with our ability to create results, and why achieving success isn’t just a matter of intelligence or information.

Now, let’s find out what works for Charlie Gilkey.

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Oct 03, 2019
EP 240: Leveraging Commitment To Find What Works With Tara McMullin And Big Dreams Bold Moves Host Malia Russell

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How What Works founder Tara McMullin realized that business had gone off track* Why she chose to pivot to a building community-oriented business support network instead of offering coaching or online courses* What mistakes she made along the way and how she changed course to correct them* Why “steadfast commitment” is her barometer right now

I turned 37 last month.

I certainly don’t get worked up about getting older nor am I one for big birthday celebrations or rituals.

But this year, it really hit me just how much growing up I’d done in the last 12 months. I’ve done a lot of work on myself. And that’s led to a lot of very practical work being done to the business, too.

I’ve examined old stories that were still controlling my thoughts and actions. I’ve looked at the shadow side of my strengths. I’ve questioned myself, my motivations, and my goals to make sure I’m blazing my own trail and not chasing someone else’s idea of success.

And, like I said, this wasn’t just personal work—if there’s any “just” about that.

All of the personal work I’ve done has led to some very real changes in how I run my business and how I operate as a leader.

Over the last year, I’ve worked to slow down and loop my team into ideas I have or changes I want to make. I’ve integrated my work into the systems that our team uses. I’ve gone deep into the way our core product is built and delivered to question why we do what we do and how our product could serve our customers better.

I’ve worked to make this podcast best in class.

Looking back on all the work I’ve done over the last year, I have to admit…

I am pretty damn proud of myself.

So I asked myself what exactly I learned through all that work—and how I could leverage it to keep the momentum going.

I looked at all the ways the work I did over the last year left me feeling more fulfilled, more fully realized—and I realized that it all had one thing in common.

When I committed—truly, fully committed—I not only got satisfying results, I felt freaking great about the process of getting those results.

When I did something just because I could—or I thought I should—I might succeed but it didn’t make me feel awesome. I ended up feeling more anxious, self-conscious, or just plain bored.

Okay, commitment. I can do that.

And yes, again—this applies to both my personal life and my business life. It applies to my mindset and to the practical, hands-on work I do on a daily basis.

So on my birthday, I decided that the question that would shape this next year in my life would be:

“What am I willing to make a steadfast commitment to?”

And to answer that question, I would ask myself what does steadfast commitment actually look like? What does steadfast commitment to a race look like? What does steadfast commitment to an offer look like? What does steadfast commitment to this podcast look like? What does steadfast commitment to my relationship look like?

Truthfully, these questions didn’t appear out of thin air. It’s actually something that’s been percolating for quite some time.

So much of my life and business to this point has been guided by impulse... ★ Support this podcast ★
Oct 01, 2019
EP 239: Expanding Your Capacity Beyond The Classroom With Design Dance Founder Debra Giunta

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How Debra Giunta’s vision for Design Dance led her to make specific hiring decisions as the company grew in scale* Why she waited 6 years to hire herself on full-time* How her dance program and curriculum adapts depending on the school she’s partnering with* What she looks for in the people she hires—and how that’s evolved over time

I’m pretty sure I took myself to Starbucks for an iced latte with the first 10 bucks I made with my business.

From there, everything I earned went into the family kitty.

I started my business with a vision of paying myself… and not much else.

Many years later, this is the #1 thing I regret from those early business years. Had I spent more time considering where I was going and how I could reinvest in my business to get there faster, I think I’d be in a very different place right now.

That said, I don’t beat myself up about it. I did the best I could with the information I had at the time.

Today, I do things very differently.

I invest in my team. I invest in professional tools. I invest in our growth. And, as I’m starting a second company, I’m reexamining how I do those things with a fresh mind.

By the way, if you missed the 411 on my new company, Yellow House Media, you can catch up by listening to Episode 232.

A huge part of what we do here at What Works—and inside The What Works Network—is purposefully expose you to business owners who have taken a different path. I want to equip you with more information, options, and experiences than I had all those years ago.

That’s what this whole Scaling Up series has been about.

Today’s conversation is the last in our series on Scaling Up. We’ve covered a lot of territory —everything from starting with scale in mind, to intentionally not scaling, to leveraging your special sauce, to building certification programs, and more.

But today’s conversation gives us a crash course in how all these things can fit together and it tackles another common dilemma business owners with scale on the brain face.

Is your first priority paying yourself? Or is your top priority paying someone else?

My guest is Debra Giunta, the founder of Design Dance, a community dance education company that’s reaching over 1500 K-12 students with arts education and social-emotional learning every year.

I talk with Debra about her vision for Design Dance and how it led her to making important choices about when she started hiring help. We also talk about how Design Dance has expanded from its original school partner into 50 different sites, how she hires teachers to manage all those programs, and the nitty-gritty of how the business runs on the inside.

We’ll find out What Works for Debra Giunta in just a minute—but first, I have a favor to ask you.

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Sep 26, 2019
EP 238: Scaling Up With A Certification Program With The Ops Authority Founder Natalie Gingrich

The Nitty-Gritty:

* Why The Ops Authority founder Natalie Gingrich opted for scale using a certification program instead of building out an agency* What she created first on the way to developing her certification program* How she determined what the certification program would include and how it would be structured* What she’s tackling next to continue to create value and build capacity for her company

What you do doesn’t have to be magic.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is Arthur C. Clarke’s third law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

I love this idea because not only does it apply to the iPhone in my pocket or the car that plays music from that phone as soon as I turn the key. But it also applies to the work we do on a daily basis.

I’ve heard from so many small business owners over the years that what they do for their clients can feel like magic.

Maybe you feel that way too. You don’t know exactly how it happens… but you get on Zoom with a client and magic happens. You start writing sales copy for a client… and magic happens. You get on a stage… and magic happens.You start painting or designing… and magic happens.

Now, I don’t—in any way—want to discount the feeling that comes along with making that kind of magic happen.

But… what I do want to do is point you to the underlying technology that makes it happen.

“Technology” in this case isn’t code or wires or processing units.

It’s a system.

We all have them. And, even when something feels like magic, there is a technology—a system—that is making it all happen.

So let me remind you of Clarke’s third law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

The reason your work feels like magic is because it’s really advanced technology! And, listener, do you know what else that means?

It’s super valuable.

This month, we’re talking about scale and, as you might have already guessed, the advanced technology behind the magic you make on a daily basis could be the key to scaling your business.

So far, we’ve explored this in the form of your “special sauce.” But really, special sauce is just another way of talking about advanced technology! In Episode 236, Carol Cox shared how she’s using her advanced technology to train other speech coaches to work for her. In Episode 237, Katey Schultz shared how focusing on her advanced technology allowed her to expand the capacity of her monthly mentorship program.

Today, we’re going to look at another way of scaling up based on your advanced technology—certification programs.

My guest is Natalie Gingrich, the founder of The Ops Authority.

After spending 15 years in corporate at a Fortune 150 company, she dove into entrepreneurship leveraging her project management and HR experience to assist high-level influencers in the online and small business worlds. What she discovered along the way was that there was a ton of super capable women whose skill sets were not leveraged and whose natural tendency toward leadership wasn’... ★ Support this podcast ★
Sep 24, 2019
EP 237: Discovering What Scales With Writer & Maximum Impact Founder Katey Schultz

The Nitty-Gritty

* How writing mentor Katey Schultz knew she wanted to scale up her Monthly Mentorship program* What she did first to scale… and why it wasn’t enough to meet her goals or her personal needs* Why some big mindset shifts were key to seeing the real opportunity—and how a moment of deep fatigue opened the door to an important aha moment* How Katey settled on a format for serving many more writers in much less time

Scaling up often requires zoning in.

What I mean is that, most of the time, a business doesn’t actually scale up the whole of what can do. It scales up one small piece of the puzzle.

The result might be focusing on a particular outcome you can create for clients. It might be focusing on a particular aspect of your methodology. It might be creating leverage from a particular component of the brand. It might even be a particular feature or component of your value proposition.

And, quite often, businesses choose the wrong thing to focus on.

A business that’s not operating at scale can be good at many things. But which one of those many good things will be the key to scaling up?

It’s easy to see how the wrong choice gets made.

My guest today had a business that resembles so many: one that required her constant input, expertise, and care just to stay afloat.

While she felt like it was already a success in many ways, Katey Schultz (get Katey’s free guide to using flash storytelling to power your content marketing) realized that her business wasn’t really meeting her needs. She wanted more of a challenge. She wanted more time. She wanted more money.

So Katey started to look at how to scale her offer, a monthly mentorship for writers.

This conversation is the story of her journey to do that. We talk through the mindset shifts she needed to make, the experiments she ran, and the aha! moment that made her realize she’d scaled the wrong thing.

Now, let’s find out what works for Katey Schultz!

A good story, in about one page or less, is a powerful and genuine way to sell things. Katey is offering What Works listeners a guide on how to do just that. Get the free PDf here!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
★ Support this podcast ★
Sep 19, 2019
EP 236: Leveraging Your Special Sauce With Speaking Your Brand Founder Carol Cox

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How Speaking Your Brand founder Carol Cox realized she was at capacity and hungry for more* Why she chose to hire & train another speech coach instead of moving into online courses* The mindset work she needed to do to prepare herself for the transition into scale* How she found her first hire and got her started with clients

When it comes to small business, there are plenty of special snowflakes out there.

And before I inadvertently offend you, let me explain what I mean.

A special snowflake business is one that’s focused on the unique talents of the owner. It’s the “only you can do what you do” mantra so many fluffy business classes preach.

When you have a special snowflake business, customers buy to get a piece of you. They want what you can do for them.

Look, some people genuinely like it that way. Cool.

But special snowflake businesses don’t scale.

Oprah is truly special—but she didn’t create a culture-shifting television show, her own entertainment network, and O Magazine by being a special snowflake.

Oprah figured out her special sauce and channeled that into all sorts of ventures that grew the capacity of her work & impact beyond her own personal capacity.

Working out the recipe to your own special sauce is a key to crafting a company that scales.

When many small business owners start thinking about growth, they think about all the tasks they don’t like to do and outsource them. The dream is to be left with only the task of making the product or delivering the service that you love.

Regardless of whether you ever reach the point of living that dream, eventually, you’re at capacity and stuck at a ceiling—again.

If you want to really scale, you have to be willing to train other people to create value for you (and for your customers). You need to get others in on the game of making the product or delivering the service.

That’s the plan Carol Cox devised. Carol is the founder of Speaking Your Brand, a speech coaching agency that helps women entrepreneurs and executives craft their signature talks.

I wanted to ask Carol how she worked out the recipe to her own special sauce so she could start training the first speech coach she brought on board.

Carol and I talk about the time and energy she put into working with clients 1:1, paying attention to exactly how she worked her magic. We also chat about how she knew it was time to hire, what have been her biggest fears throughout the process, and how her mindset about the business she’s building has shifted.

Now, let’s find out what works for Carol Cox!

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Sep 17, 2019
EP 235: What’s Working To Scale With Software With Scale Spark Founder Susan Boles

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How ScaleSpark founder Susan Boles uses software to solve capacity problems for her clients and help them scale up* Why she starts with a software audit before making any changes—and how you can too* What she looks for when considering what software options to go with* The first step to getting started with new software (it’s not what you’d expect!)

When I first got serious about building a team and documenting our business systems…

…I signed up for Asana.

If you’re not familiar, Asana is a project management system that tons of people were raving about at the time. They claimed how organized it made them. they said how wonderful it was to have a checklist of everything that needed done in front of them. They loved being able to assign deadlines and delegate tasks.

That all sounded marvelous.

But my experience of Asana was… not so great.

No matter how hard I tried to “be good”—check off all the boxes, stick to my deadlines, and process my tasks, I’d end up falling behind and ignoring the whole system.

My team could use Asana. But I couldn’t.

And I felt like a bad business owner. I felt like I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t disciplined enough, like I just couldn’t hack it.

Dramatic? Maybe but it seemed like Asana was what worked for everyone I respected and I just couldn’t seem to get on board.

Late last year, Marie Poulin—who you just heard from in Episode 234—shared that she’d switched her project management (and practically everything else) over to an app called Notion.

It turned out that Notion (why yes, that’s our referral link) allowed for way more than checking things off a list and organizing tasks by project. It was purposefully non-linear, adaptable, and infinitely customizable.

I was intrigued.

We took a look… and we were hooked.

Now, it’s no surprise that my team can use Notion. They’re a bunch of a project management badasses. But the fact that I can use it? Well, that was a surprise.

What Notion has made me realize is that software doesn’t just work on its own.

It works with you—or it doesn’t work.

Asana is great. But it’s not great for me. It doesn’t help me scale my capacity. It doesn’t help me do my job.

Notion works with me. It let’s me think the way I want to think. It helps me do my job and increase my capacity for doing my best work.

Notion reminded me that I am organized, disciplined, and committed to growing my company.

And no piece of software can take that away from me again.

Now, my guest today is no stranger to the way software can either help or hurt a business.

Susan Boles is the founder of ScaleSpark, a consulting firm that helps companies break through growth ceilings by fixing back-end processes and creating systems designed to scale.

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Sep 12, 2019
EP 234: Choosing Not To Scale With Oki Doki Co-Founder Marie Poulin

The Nitty-Gritty:

* Why a cocktail party conversation prompted Marie Poulin to confront the assumption that scaling your business is the ultimate goal* How Oki Doki’s hybrid business model works—and why it’s the perfect approach for Marie and her partner, Ben* How Marie’s personal priorities and ideal lifestyle are helping to shape her business decisions* Why she’s looking for a sense of equilibrium between the energy she puts into the business and the energy she receives from it

To scale or not to scale—that’s really not the question.

At least, it’s not the first question you need to ask about the direction you want to take your business.

As we mentioned in Episode 232, Sean and I are choosing to prepare our new company for scale is because it will help us live the lifestyle we want to live and do the kinds of work we want to do.

Callie Willows mentioned in our last episode that one of the reasons the Member Site Academy works so well for The Membership Guys is that it supports the lifestyle her and her partner want. Coaching and consulting just wouldn’t.

She also talked about how building a membership site has allowed her to thrive as an introvert.

So maybe the real questions are:

What kind of life do you want to lead? What kind of work lights you up, allows you to thrive?

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the hype or anti-hype around scaling and miss those questions.

Today, my guest is Marie Poulin—our first 3 time guest here on the pod!

Marie is not someone to miss the important questions. Her and her husband Ben are building Oki Doki with the life and work they want to lead top of mind. That choice has brought them face to face with some scrutiny from people with a scale-or-die mindset.

Marie recently wrote a lengthy article about her choice not to scale—or, not to scale in any conventional way—so, of course, I wanted to bring her on the show while we’re covering scale to talk about it!

Marie and I chat about the hybrid business model Oki Doki has developed, the cocktail party conversation that shook her up, how she approaches finding a equilibrium with her energy, and how her focus on profitability has paid off.

Now, let’s find out what works for Marie Poulin!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
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Sep 10, 2019
EP 233: Creating Scale With A Single Offer With Membership Guys Co-Founder Callie Willows

The Nitty-Gritty:

* Why Callie Willows and her partner decided to go “all in” on a membership site as their only offer* How she stays on up to date with the content and conversation inside the community* Why member experience is their top priority and retention is their top metric* What makes a membership site perfect for her own unique kind of introversion

Okay, who wouldn’t want to be paid month after month for the same product?

That’s the promise of a membership site. You set it up, convince people to join you, and they pay—and pay again, and again, and again, and again.

You tend to the group and the money just keeps coming.

Now, if you’ve already guessed that this is—in fact—not the reality of building and running a membership site, you would be correct.

Creating any kind of subscription-based product has the potential for a huge payoff with healthy profit margins. But actually building the business that allows that to happen is a different story.

Building a subscription-based product is one key way small businesses can scale up.

But they can require a significant trade-off in at the beginning. It takes time, energy, infrastructure, and savvy marketing to get to a point where the business is healthy and profitable.

I know this from personal experience.

So does Callie Willows, the co-founder of The Membership Guys. Callie runs Member Site Academy, a leading training resource and community for membership site owners.

Callie and I talk about why The Membership Guys chose to focus on just one offer, the mindset shifts she’s had to make running a membership site, the operations that go into keeping members happy, and how running a membership site is a great fit for her as an introvert.

Now, let’s find out What Works for Callie Willows!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And charge for them…all while building YOUR brand.

Visit mightynetworks.com to see more examples of brands bringing people together and taking their businesses to the next level.
★ Support this podcast ★
Sep 05, 2019
EP 232: Scaling From The Start With Yellow House Media Co-Founders Sean & Tara McMullin

The Nitty-Gritty:

* Why Sean & Tara McMullin are starting a second company, Yellow House Media, and keeping scale in mind from the get-go* How they’ve prioritized doing every task like they’ll have to do it again tomorrow* Why they’re keeping future hires in mind while they document processes* The importance of considering an exit strategy earlier than you’d ever expect

Big businesses start small, too.

Today, we’re kicking off a month focused on scaling up.

We’re examining the misconceptions, the assumptions, the biases, and—of course—the many ways that small business owners today are scaling up.

And no—it’s not all online courses or apps.

If you’ve been thinking about how your business can have a bigger impact, serve more customers, and make you more money…

…but you’re at a loss of how to do that without running yourself into the ground or sacrificing your values…

…this month is dedicated to you.

To start this month, I have a confession to make.

I started a new company. A second company.

And I started it with someone you know: my husband and the producer of What Works, Sean McMullin.

We’re approaching the first moves in this company completely differently than when I started my own business almost 11 years ago.

To sum it up: we’re starting with scale in mind from the get-go.

To be honest, the idea of “scaling up” snuck up on me the first time around. By the time I was well on my way to scaling up in theory, I realized that my company wasn’t ready to scale up in practice.

My finances were a mess. My team was disorganized. There was little—if any—documentation. Important stuff fell through the cracks all the time.

Getting that stuff handled? It took years.

I do not want to repeat those mistakes.

And since Sean was around for that clean-up job, he doesn’t want to repeat them either.

So Sean and I are doing things very differently this time around.

In just a bit, we’ll have a conversation about what scaling up means to us, why we’ve started this company, and how I finally convinced Sean to start a business.

We’re also going to talk about the nitty-gritty details of how we’re starting with scale in mind. Things like process documentation, planning for future hires, pricing with labor in mind, creating scripts, anticipating training, and considering our exit strategy.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg for what we’re covering on the podcast this month. You’ll hear from Callie Willows who scaled up with a membership site, Marie Poulin who is intentionally choosing a path that doesn’t necessarily scale, and Carol Cox who is hiring and training coaches to help her scaling her speech coaching company.

You’ll also hear from Katey Schultz who challenged some personal assumptions to scale up her writer mentorship program, Debra Giunta who has scaled her company providing
Sep 03, 2019
EP 231: Taking Risks And Experimenting With Confidence With Author & Online Business Manager Victoria Klein

The Nitty-Gritty:

* How Victoria Klein questioned her choices and assumptions to try some decidedly unexpected things in her business and life* Why she decided to go back to school to study Japanese and how the decision gave her a fresh perspective on her business* What’s happened to her level of confidence as she’s experimented and questioned her assumptions* Why her business is better off today than before she took these unconventional risks

Assumptions, defaults, stories—I’ve had a number of conversations recently about the role unconscious choices play in how we run our businesses.

Maybe your inbox is out of control and your calendar is jam-packed, so you go with the flow and assume you need to hire help.

Maybe you tell yourself a story about keeping prices low so that more people will buy and sales will be easier.

Maybe you default to following someone else’s business plan instead of getting creative with your own.

Every single day—every hour, even—we’re presented with choices. But most of them never really look like choices to us because we’re so used to falling back on the default or playing to the story that’s already in our heads about what we’re supposed to do in that scenario.

The option of doing something different doesn’t even cross our minds.

We’re wrapping up our month on confidence with today’s episode and I think it’s worth taking a look back on what we’ve covered. Not in a “previously on What Works…” kind of way. But, instead, looking at the threads that have tied these stories together.

One thing I’ve noticed is how all of our guests made the decision to disrupt the stories about what life or business was supposed to look like…

…and embraced something personal, maybe even unconventional.

Jamie Varon picked up her life and moved to the south of France—and discovered a new a approach to life.

Hillary Rea realized that success doesn’t have to mean conventional growth and that her body of work is much more than the number of butts in seats.

Michael Karsh didn’t wait until he felt ready or experienced enough to sign big deals with Google or Facebook.

Victoria Clark chose to prioritize building her career in a way that meant she was getting paid for the hard work and long hours she was putting into practicing law.

Disrupting long-held stories, beliefs, and assumptions is really uncomfortable. It’s unnerving. While you’re there, being a leader, questioning something important… you end up questioning everything else too.

So maybe that’s another way to look at confidence.

Confidence is the skill, the practice of questioning everything.

It’s the power to be uncomfortable while you forge your own path and make your own decisions. It’s the habit of never assuming that the next step is REALLY the next step.

Today, for our final Candid Confidence Project conversation, my guest is Victoria Klein.

Victoria is an author, entrepreneur, ★ Support this podcast ★
Aug 29, 2019
EP 230: Finding The Confidence To Come Back After Major Loss With Book Coach Jodi Brandon

The Nitty-Gritty:

* Jodi Brandon took nearly 2 years away from full-time work on her small business to care for her dying mother* When and how she made the decision to step back from her business and step up for her mom* How she kept things going behind-the-scenes while she wasn’t working normal hours* Why her confidence took a hit when she returned to full-time work* What she learned about running her business through the process of returning & rebuilding her confidence

Small business owners—especially women—take time away from work for all sorts of reasons.

I’ve already spoken with Catherine Orr and her business partner Elena Rue, who took simultaneous maternity leaves. I spoke with Rebecca Tracy who takes extended time away for rock climbing and hiking.

Others take sabbaticals or take time away to write books.

On a regular basis, though—and much more frequently than I would have ever guessed as a clueless 26-year-old just getting started—small business owners take time away from their businesses to care for sick or dying family members.

It makes a lot of sense in many ways.

Small business owners work flexible schedules. We often have more passive revenue streams that might keep money trickling in even if we’re not actively working. We can work from anywhere.

But small business owners also have a lot to lose.

We could lose clients, the audience we’ve built over years of hard work, the brand reputation we’ve worked so hard for, the team we’ve trained…

Of course, when it comes to family, it’s worth the risk.

So what happens when it’s time to come back to your business? What happens when you sit down to your desk for the first time in weeks or months? What do you do first? How do you feel? What do you set your sights on?

These are daunting questions. And they get to the heart of the crisis of confidence that comes from stepping away from a business for an extended period of time—often unexpectedly and without a real plan.

Today, my guest is someone who has lived this scenario.

Jodi Brandon has more than 20 years’ experience in book publishing. Today, her passion is working as a book coach and editor for creative entrepreneurs and small business owners who want to serve their business with a book.

Jodi took 2 full years away from her business full-time to care for her mother. We talk about how she made the decision, the challenge of trying to keep up, how she felt when she started back in her business, and how she’s adjusted both her work and her mindset.

This conversation with Jodi is part of a month-long series on confidence and entrepreneurship called The Candid Confidence Project. To get the full series delivered to your inbox—and check out what we’ve already released—click here.

Now, let’s find out what works for Jodi Brandon!

What Works Is Brought To You By

Mighty Networks powers brands and businesses – like yours! – that bring people together.With a Mighty Network, online business owners just like you can bring together in one place:

* Your website* Your content* Your courses* Your community* Your events online and in real life* And cha... ★ Support this podcast ★
Aug 27, 2019
EP 229: Leveling Up Your Confidence With Lawyer Victoria R. Clark

The Nitty-Gritty:

* Why attorney Victoria R. Clark decided to leap into her own solo law practice just 5 years out from law school* How she’s focused on working through her weaknesses and supporting her business with each new challenge* What happened when she realized that her prices were keeping her stuck and overworking* Why she believes increased confidence is the key to overcoming every obstacle she’s faced with her business

Starting a business takes a real leap of faith.

I don’t think anyone starts a business expecting to feel fully confident in what they’re doing. So we end up being fairly prepared to feel unsure and a bit anxious at the beginning.

As the saying goes, you feel the fear and you do it anyway.

Throughout this series on confidence, I’ve wanted to look beyond getting started and look at what happens when our confidence falters long after that predictable startup period.

What happens when a new opportunity, a new goal, or a new idea causes our insecurity to come flooding back?

How do we deal with it, find new confidence, and move forward?

My guest today is Victoria R. Clark, the founder and managing attorney of Clark Law in Washington, DC.

When Victoria got in touch with me, she told me that it wasn’t just getting started that required a new level of confidence. She had to find a new level of confidence every time she wanted to show up and level up.

She told me that anything from introducing herself at a networking event to pricing her services to adding new areas of her practice required her to dig deep.

And here’s the thing, talking to Victoria, you’d never know her confidence wavers.

She’s self-assured. She’s present. She’s willing to put herself out there and show up for herself in intimidating spaces.

Like Katie Linder and I talked about, though, there’s always that tricky balance between the confident public persona and lingering, hidden self-doubt.

So I wanted to hear how Victoria has dealt with it—and is dealing with it. I think Victoria’s story might just sound pretty familiar to your own.

Victoria and I talk about why she decided to start her own law practice in the first place, how she became more confident talking about herself, and how she took a new approach to what she can control on a daily basis. We also chat about how aspects of the business have evolved as she’s gotten more confident in what she’s doing.

This candid conversation with Victoria is part of a whole series we’re doing here at What Works on confidence. We want to shed light on how small business owners continue to find confidence, long after they’ve taken the leap to get started.

You’ve already heard stories about raising your prices, landing huge clients, and changing up your habits—and there are more coming. When we’re not posting new conversations here on the podcast, we’re sharing personal essays and reflections from What Works Network members on how they find the confidence to take the next step.

To get the full series delivered to your inbox—and check out what we’ve already released—click here.

Now, let’s find out What Works for Victoria Clark!
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Aug 22, 2019
EP 228: Trusting Yourself & Your Decisions With Coach Katie Linder