On the Balance Boldly Podcast, host Naketa Thigpen talks with ambitious women in business (and a few brave men) from a wide array of industries about their pursuit of success, how they face business burnout, imposter syndrome, and what work/life balance looks like for them.

Listen as Susan and Naketa talk about ways that overwhelmed business owners can take back control of their life, including:

  • How to eradicate your operations issues and all the chaos that’s going on so you can live your best life
  • How to work on your process and structure to gain the ability to delegate
  • Benefits you can achieve by working on your business from the inside out
  • Why blocking your calendar helps you regain control of your schedule
  • How creating a process that is written is going to be your lifesaver

Please find the full audio transcript below. 

Susan Fennema:  One of our value systems is affecting American society exponentially. And when we start to touch these business owners and change the way they treat their teams, the way they treat their clients, the way they respond to their families, you’re taking that exponentially. When somebody is constantly working in a state of overwhelm and stress, they treat people differently.

Naketa Thigpen:  Welcome back to the Balance Boldly Podcast for ambitious women in business, and a few brave men. I’m your host, Naketa Ren Thigpen, Balance, and Relationship Advisor for power couples striving to live fully. I am excited to be here with you again, as we are wrapping up another season and get ready for the next.

I could not leave this month, this summer solstice that just kicked off less than a week ago, I could not leave without bringing you somebody dope, somebody fly, somebody who isn’t shy. Yes, I know I can’t rap. Don’t make fun of me, it’s okay. I know my husband’s listening to this, like, “Why? Why does she do that? Why?”

I would love everybody to get ready, all of you ambitious women out there, and those few brave men of you who have tuned into the Balance Boldly Podcast, be excited with me as we bring into the virtual stage, Ms. Susan Fennema. She is chaos eradicating officer. That is a nice new way of putting a spin on the CEO. I really do like that, chaos eradicating officer. Ooh.

And she owns Beyond the Chaos consultancy, helping small business owners, with about 25 or fewer employees, simplify their operations and manage their projects so they can grow their business and get back to their lives. Can we underline that? Grow your business and get back to your life. What a way to balance boldly, just by the nature of what she does.

Ms. Susan, welcome to the BBP. How are you today?

Susan Fennema:  I am great, it’s great to be here. And thanks so much for having me Naketa.

Naketa Thigpen:  Absolutely. You know I’m excited to have you here, especially since the tech gremlins in the world were trying to take you away from me.

Susan Fennema:  Right?

Naketa Thigpen:  I’m so happy to hear you.

So would you tell everyone just a little bit about what that looks like when you are helping people eradicate their operation issues and all the chaos that’s going on, and keeping them from living their best lives and not being slaves to their business?

Susan Fennema:  Absolutely. Well, you’re nailing a lot of it. One of the things that I have found throughout my career, of working for small business owners … before I embarked on my own thing about five years ago … is that all business owners are completely overwhelmed all the time. They run from one thing to the next, they don’t know their priorities. They’re letting everything manage them instead of living the life that they thought they would have by being in control of their own thing.

And so what my team and I do, is helping these small business owners get back to: what did I love to do? Why did I start this business? And how do I make time to do those things?

Naketa Thigpen:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  We really work with process, structure, giving them the ability to delegate. Building up project management and follow-ups with their clients so that they’re not constantly in an emergency state. And not responding to that squeaky wheel all the time because you’re proactively working with your clients.

And then the last part that we work on is helping them really manage their schedule. We have a real solid belief in calendar blocking. And to the point of your show, and how this plays in, we are very clear on setting your priorities on your calendar first with your spiritual world, however, you hear that. Even if you do not have a belief in God, if you just need to center your own spirit with meditation. However you define that spirit, that’s your priority.

The second priority is making sure that you’re taking care of your health. Because without your health, you’re nothing to anyone.

And then your third priority is taking care of your family, your loved ones, your friends … if you’re not married and in a family situation. What is your social activity? What is your true recreation? And by that, I don’t mean sitting in front of the TV. I mean are you going to your kid’s soccer games? Are you taking a trip? And I know we haven’t been able to do that here for the past year, but there are ways to make sure that you are being social. But you have to be intentional about that.

And then the last thing is work. Now, work will fill every gap you give it, so give it fewer gaps.

Naketa Thigpen:  I love how you said that “Work will fill every gap you give it, so give it fewer gaps.” I agree with everything that you’re doing. And then the way you do it, it’s such an overlap with some of the things that we teach our power couples as well. Because it’s all essential, everything you said.

Naketa Thigpen:  We’re making sure that you have space on your calendar for the things that pull you forth, like your faith, your spiritual beliefs, your practices, devotionals, praying, laying prostrate, worshiping, whatever it is that you do to fuel that side of you; which is really essential. And the fact that you’re helping them prioritize more than just task and responsibilities for the fires that they have to put out in the day, so they have the energy to fuel their tank and be able to put out those fires if they should come, makes a lot of sense.

Down to their health and wellness and having some space for their family, regardless of whatever that family composition looks like; if they have kids, don’t have kids, if they have siblings that they want to stay in touch with, that good girlfriend from high school that they never seem to be able to link up with except for at a baby shower or a divorce party. Not that those two have to go in sync. I totally get why you’re doing that.

So, Susan, what led you to want to do this work in the first place? How’d you get to this space?

Susan Fennema:  Well, I have a journalism degree. I came out of school thinking I wanted to be a copywriter for an ad agency.

Naketa Thigpen:  Wow.

Susan Fennema:  And it turns out you really have to be really talented to do that. So I might about kicked my coverage there. But I have always used my writing throughout my career. With journalism, you learn a few words, direct communication, get to the point. And that’s, to a degree, what process writing is. That’s how my mind thinks.

And every job I ever had … up until I now have a business … I worked for very small companies, working directly for a business owner who was stressed beyond belief. And I came in and tried to make those things simpler. I think I have the nature of wanting to serve. And that contributes to my willingness to go out of my way to take care of people, to a degree.

And so I found that method to be making things simpler, and making a process that is written that you can repeat, and seeing those business owners come out of total stress, to a degree, relying on me … not going to lie, that feels a little good. Right?

Naketa Thigpen: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Susan Fennema:  And then getting all of that, all those processes and systems, to a situation where you’re just maintaining them … you’re not creating anymore, now you’re maintaining … that would be when I would get bored and be ready to move on, and I felt like I was leaving them in a good place.

And so when I started Beyond the Chaos, I really was thinking, “Why am I just doing this for one person at a time? Let’s do it, let’s take it to the masses. Let’s go help all small business owners, they all feel this way.” And if you’re out there listening, you’re not alone. The overwhelm of trying to be everything takes away from why you started your business.

And so I got into that. I have a God-given talent for creating order out of chaos and so I’m required to use that. And so I do like to use it in a way that benefits others. One of our value systems is affecting American society exponentially. And when we start to touch these business owners and change the way they treat their teams, the way they treat their clients, the way they respond to their families, you’re taking that exponentially. When somebody is constantly working in a state of overwhelm and stress, they treat people differently.

Naketa Thigpen:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  And so all of those people go out and treat people differently. So that’s the path I took to get here and what keeps me motivated to keep doing it.

Naketa Thigpen:  I love it. There’s a lot of interesting points that you brought up there. And one of the most significant, for me, for the work that we do, and for a lot of the listeners, is understanding the connection between the stress that they’re enduring because of the chaos that’s around them … whether it’s the chaos on their desks, the chaos in their closets.

I mean, literal closets, but also figurative closets, like when you feel like you have to hide so many pieces of yourself because your family can’t deal with the fact that you’ve evolved and grown and change in a certain way. And now you feel bound to the expectations of other people instead of being able to live your true self.

That does, in turn, create this vicious cycle where now your desk is chaotic again because you feel like you can’t get clean of anything. You can’t be free. So you’re living in this rooted dysfunction that’s showing up, literally … not just figuratively, but literally … on your desk, in your office, in your kitchen, the way your living room looks. It starts to spill out of you from those thoughts that are keeping you awake at night and not allowing you to sleep, through the thoughts that make you do nothing but want to sleep.

Because a lot of business owners, to your point, are having all of these challenges with not simplifying in their business, because they really just don’t know-how. Making something simple is one of the most difficult things to do, right?

Susan Fennema:  Absolutely.

Naketa Thigpen:  And them not being able to do that creates chaos in other parts of their life. For us, for the work that we do on the personal development and relationship side, we see it show up in their marriage. We really see it back there.

Susan Fennema:  It’s interesting you bring that up because many of our clients come to us … We joke that they have to hit rock bottom before they acknowledge that they need help or that they can’t do it themselves. Which is too bad, we can fix it before it gets there. But a lot of them are, their wives are telling them, “If you skip dinner again, we’re done.” Or their kids are not speaking to them because they keep not showing up at their events. There’s always some sort of rock bottom. It might be a business rock bottom thing too. But something happens that they say, “This has to get fixed.”

And that clutter you were referring to. Physical clutter is one thing, business clutter exists as well, but the clutter in your head is the worst. That stuff that’s always there that you can’t sort out until you have your first peaceful moment. And then it comes to the forefront and now you’re not having a peaceful moment anymore.

Naketa Thigpen:  Right? Absolutely. And you’re 1000% right on so many levels. I tell people all the time because it’s such a tricky thing to tell your colleague, or your good girlfriend, or someone in your networking circle that you’re just really good professional friends with, “Hey, I think you need to go and get a balance and relationship advisor for your marriage.”

Susan Fennema:  Right?

Naketa Thigpen:  It’s a challenging thing to say. So our allies have really been people like you. Who are more on the business strategy, business consultancy, side of things. Their sales coaches have straight told them … One of our power couples that I love to life, because she tells anyone and everyone how she can, she’s like, “Listen, my sales coach told me straight up, you and your husband need to have more orgasms, you’ll make more sales.” It’s like, “Yes, honey. Yes.” It’s so much truth to that on so many levels.

Susan Fennema:  It’s a setting yourself free. And that’s what structure gives you, structure lets you set your brain free and your life free. I know it sounds like the opposite, but it really does.

Naketa Thigpen:  Yeah, it sounds counterintuitive to think that giving more refined ways to do things would let you feel more autonomous and free to live your life. But the reality is, you are 1000% right.

Susan Fennema:  Right?

Naketa Thigpen:  Right. I am kin to strategic agility. Be flexible, but you have to have a strategy first. Don’t just be bending to the wind and the water and everything else that comes into your life, you’ll never be grounded, you’ll never get anything done if you’re just floating between the fires; those things that are popping up as crises in your life. But if you have some structure and some anchors, one, you can prevent some of those fires …

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