Ever wonder how structure in your small business can help set you free? What tools should people look at to help manage your business? What are the things that you do in your business over and over? Or things you don’t do that often? Write those things down so you are able to get help. Listen as Nickquolette Barrett and Susan talk about process, tools, fulfillment, and priorities on the iRock Podcast.
Please find the full video transcript below:
Nickquolette Barrett: Hello. Hello. Hello, everyone. Hi.
Susan Fennema: Hi, Nickquolette.
Nickquolette: I am so excited to have you on the show. I miss you.
Susan: I am so excited to be here. This is going to be so fun.
Nickquolette: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. I am excited. Let me take this background off. I don’t want the stars. I like that. This one’s cooler. All right. So I am so excited, everyone, to have my dear new friend, Susan who’s going to tell us all about how to eradicate the chaos in our businesses for National Women’s month. I am so excited to have wonderful women doing their thing in their specialty, in their space, or what have you. I am so excited.
Now I’m going to tell you all something funny that happened last week. Now you know I was supposed to have had a show last week, right? So I’m interviewing my guest. We’re having an awesome time, Susan, and they come to find out the system we were using did not even go live. It said didn’t go live, but we did the whole interview with nothing showing up.
I’m like, “Okay, I know I pushed ‘go live.’ But nothing recorded anything. So we have to do a redo.” So she’s going to be coming back at the end of the month, but it was a great interview. But this one we said, “No, we’re going to switch it over to Restream.” So I’ve been playing with some different systems. I used to use StreamYard all the time and then I invested in Melon. Melon is the new kid on the block. They’re having a couple of challenges. So it didn’t work last week so we went back to Restream. Restream was the first one that we had. So we’re back to our original, which is nice because Restream has upped their game. So I’m excited to be on Restream.
Let’s see who we have with us. Hi, Nairobi. I’m so glad that you’re on LinkedIn, Nairobi because we had a hard time last week connecting anything. So I’m so glad. Hi, Hasib. So glad to have you as well. Thank you all so much. And if you all are joining us, please make sure you get Restream permission to show your face and your name so you all can have this discussion with us as well. As I always like to do as well, please make sure you’re sharing a broadcast with your audience so others can join us.
But I am excited to have Susan. Hello from Michigan. Hi. So glad to have you on. Thank you all so much. Elaine, your first name is… But I see Elaine. So hey Elaine, thank you so much for joining us. Share with your audience as well, because we’re about to do this, right Susan?
Susan: We are.
Nickquolette: We’re about to do this. Okay, Susan. So as I always like to do, I like to always have everybody go ahead and give a general introduction of who they are. So tell the iRock audience all about how wonderful you are, how you got started, and all that kind of good stuff. Go ahead, the floor is yours.
Susan: So it is pronounced Fennema, so Susan Fennema.
Susan: I am the Chaos Eradicating Officer (that’s CEO).
Nickquolette: I love that. And I just do that eradication out my head. Awesome. I love it, Susan. Go right ahead.
Susan: Beyond the Chaos is the company name.
Susan: We help small business owners extricate themselves from the day-to-day of their business. So all of you out there who are overwhelmed, who feel like their business is dragging them around like a bull with a ring through its nose instead of you being in charge? (And I know you’re all control freaks, because I am!)
Susan: Instead of you being the control freak that you are and you controlling your business, the key here is you can get help. So my team comes in and helps you develop your operational approach. We look at how you fulfill your clients. And usually, that’s some sort of a project with who we work. We work with professional services firms and, I call them home services, but HVAC, electrician, plumbers — those types who have 25 people or fewer in their businesses and who are eager to grow, but just cannot figure it out. How do I take the next step? How do I change so that I don’t have to be involved in everything? There is help. We can help you do that.
Nickquolette: Oh, I love that. I love that. Now I need to dig a little bit further. So tell me, how’d you get started in this Susan? What’s your professional background because this is also a peek into almost like a job shadow so people can understand how you do what you do, where did you get your experience from? What’s your background so they can hear an idea, maybe that’s interesting for me as well. So what’s your background?
Susan: So when I went to Texas A&M University in the-
Susan: I’m not going to say when… a while ago. I knew I could write and that was about it. And I’m like, I don’t want to be an English teacher. So I pursued journalism and I got a minor in marketing, figuring maybe I’ll go be a copywriter for an ad agency one day. I really loved the advertising world. Well, it turns out I’m not quite talented enough to be a copywriter at an ad agency level. You have to be really good. There’s more talent than I have.
Susan: But what I also learned is that I can write in a very structured way. Journalism taught me that. So even from my very first job, I started as a graphic designer. Essentially we called it desktop publishing then, back when that brand new Macintosh came out. Yeah, way back then. Even then I was starting to write processes. The steps you went through to execute tasks. I did not know this was a job.
Susan: I did not know that there was a thing like that or that project management was really even a job. So throughout my early career, I was always writing process and managing projects. And I worked for small businesses my whole career always for or at the direction of the owner or president. And so I really got to know the mindset of small businesses. I worked through that until I finally landed my big advertising job. It wasn’t as a copywriter, but it was as an operations director.
Susan: I worked as an operations director in Chicago for a pharmaceutical advertising agency, which adds a whole bunch of other regulations. So you have to be very structured in that environment. And I helped that company pull itself out of silos. Every team was operating differently. They didn’t have a cohesive process. They didn’t have a tool to help them manage things. So, they were all just kind of making their own way.
Susan: And that’s great until you’re trying to grow. You can’t grow like that. Now you’re just hoping everybody does their own thing and does it well. So I really helped build a cohesive process for that agency. And then after that, I will tell you, there is a reason that most people over 40 are not in advertising. It is a tough, rough, hard business.
Nickquolette: Wow. Okay.
Susan: Yeah. It’s long hours. It’s high pressure. And, it’s high stress. So, I was ready to go about the time that most people are. And I left in 2010 to become a project manager/operations manager for a software development company that was virtual. So I have been virtual since 2010.
Nickquolette: Wow. That was unheard of back then.
Susan: Right, right.
Susan: That was totally unheard of. And so I’ve been virtual since then. In 2016, I decided it was time to stop serving one business owner at a time and start serving multiple business owners at a time.
Susan: And so I could bring all of those skills of systemizing and organizing and structure to more and more small business owners to help them be released from the stress and the pressures that I watched my skillset be able to alleviate for these other business owners. So that’s how Beyond the Chaos came to be.
Nickquolette: That is absolutely phenomenal. And what I’m hearing in all of that is that you basically had a talent that you didn’t know was a talent. It was basically just something you. And it became not only an actual position in the organization, it now has evolved into a business because here’s what’s been happening. So many businesses have been opening up and they say, “Yeah, wonderful talent, but I don’t know how to do any of that back end.” So there’s an opportunity there.
Susan: For sure. And to be clear, I always knew I had the talent. I just didn’t know it was a job.
Nickquolette: Yeah, isn’t that wonderful. Because a lot of times we don’t think about our skill sets as a natural talent, I mean, job. And then talking with one of my clients here recently, she has the same kind of mindset because she was just all over the place, didn’t know what to do. I said, “Well, it sounds like you are more like a business operations person.” I said, “Why don’t we start focusing on business operations management jobs?” She said, “I didn’t even know that was a thing.”
Susan: I certainly didn’t know it was a thing, especially… And I think it was less of a thing maybe years ago, but it definitely is a thing now. You have a chief operating officer in any large company. Usually, they’re the ones doing everything that you see. They’re the ones running it.
Susan: They are the ones that make things happen at the vision of someone else.
Nickquolette: Now I love that. They’re the ones that make the vision happen. The vision of someone else happens. Now you all hear that because if you all have that kind of talent and that kind of skill start thinking about how you can enter into that, starting with a project management type of position, even a process — that’s a big buzzword now — process management, workflow management, all of those types of things that you can start thinking about, how can I do something different?
Because here’s the thing that I find, Susan, when I’m talking to my clients. They only think about the big jobs like you said advertising, marketing, as business. And when I tell my daughter, I say, “What do you mean by business?” There are so many different things with business and I’m going to make sure that she watches this because she’s majoring in advertising. Because she’s also a writer. I told her, she gets it from her mom. Anyway, that’s not what I’m saying. Anyway, she’s really good at writing. I said, “Well, why don’t you think about something with communications?” She wasn’t keen on journalism. So we decided, “Okay, let’s do advertising with the marketing.”
So I don’t know anything about it, but you just gave us an insight into it. She has to be thinking about what can she do with her writing skills and talent, so college is not that hard. Or your job is not that hard, because then you’re doing truly what, I always say, working in your dream job. I always tell my clients, “Let’s work on landing your dream job, not just a job.” That’s not what I’m here for. If you just want a resume to just land a job, go find somebody else. But I’m working with you to make sure you land your dream job. And it sounds to me, that’s what you did, Susan. You really did.
Susan: It’s what I did. I made it.
Nickquolette: Wow. And that just lures me because you made it. I mean, you took your skillset and said, “You know what? I’m just going to start doing these things and now Beyond the Chaos.” Now, did you say how many years Beyond Chaos has been in business?
Susan: We opened in May of 2016. So coming up on six years.
Nickquolette: Nice. Wonderful. That is absolutely awesome. So what is your anniversary?
Susan: May 23rd.
Nickquolette: Wow. And I’ll be eight years old on May 25th.
Susan: Oh, look at that. We share a birthday party.
Nickquolette: Yes, exactly. Oh, I’m so glad to hear that. Okay. So let’s talk a little bit more about your career. So if I ask you, Susan, what is one thing you wish you had known when you began your career? What is the one thing if only I had known this, I would’ve done this?
Susan: Okay. So this is going to be big and heavy stuff.
Susan: I grew up raised by a small business owner. And what I saw was somebody who worked really hard, who didn’t always get to do what he wanted. He had this obligation all the time. And it was high stress, huge ebbs, and flows, ups and downs, all those kinds of things. And I thought to myself, I’m not doing that. I’m going to get a secure job that pays me regularly. Because I’m the structured person, right? I’m full of structure. Now I have my money structured too. What I wish I’d known is that the security blanket is fake.
Nickquolette: Go ahead. That’s heavy. You just hit me with that. Okay. Go ahead. Say more.
Susan: I finally gave up the ghost, so to speak, and accepted that I needed to be a small business owner like my father, like my sister, like my best friend. So, all these people welcomed me into the fold. They’re kind of saying, finally, you got here. I realized the big stepping stone for me was realizing that I can control things if I am in charge. But if somebody else is in charge, I am just responding or I’m there at their pleasure so to speak. You don’t have control. Do we have ups and downs in small businesses? Absolutely. Do we sometimes not get to pay ourselves? Yes. But the overall is that I’m in charge of that. I can change it. I’m not fired. I always have a job.
Nickquolette: Right. Oh my gosh. Right.
Susan: You make your own security. I wish I really realized that when I was first starting. I might have done this earlier.
Nickquolette: And that is so powerful because one of the things that I carry on my phone is by Kevin O’Leary. You know I love the Shark Tank and yes he is ruthless, but I still watch it. One of the things that he says is, “A salary is a drug they give you to forget your dreams.”
Susan: There you go.
Nickquolette: I said, wow. So I carry that with me. And I’m like, that is so true. And it’s like, okay, a salary is good. It gives you, like you said, that structure, that comfort, or what have you. But what if you can do it on your own? And you said, you know what? I’m going to take a chance. And you didn’t realize that you were being developed into an entrepreneur on the backend subconsciously because of what your family was doing. And then also it looks like you saw what your father was going through and you said, “You know what? I can help people not have that. So they can have more time with their family. Be able to do things that they love in addition to running their business. So they’re not overwhelmed unnecessarily.”
Susan: For sure. I mean, we are on a mission here to change American society exponentially.
Susan: Small business is the backbone of American society. And the small business owner is usually the person that has taken the weight of their own world on their shoulders.
Susan: And when you’re operating that way and in a state of overwhelm, you’re not having the best relationships with your family, with your team, with your clients, with your vendors. And when we start to take that load off, those relationships improve, and that just trickles down and everybody starts to notice a difference and that helps American society improve. So we look at it as though we’re on that path to creating a better society for Americans.
Nickquolette: I love that because that-
Susan: And sometimes Canadians because we have some Canadian clients.
Nickquolette: Yeah, right, right, right, right. Well, that is fabulous because that is so true. One of the things that I tell my team is that in corporate America, as well as my team here, a lot of times the stress is self-induced because there’s no structure. You’re not maximizing the opportunity that you have, the tools that you have at your fingertips, or putting the system or even a workflow in for yourself. They’re more doing the whack-a-mole, hitting the whack-a-mole instead of just…. Sometimes I told them, “You got to just let everything drop. Step back, take a view, and then go at and organize it.” So how do you get someone to change their mindset from being so enthralled in the business instead of being, like you said, in charge of the business?
Susan: So the big picture is to look at what are you trying to create? Are you trying to create a job for yourself that when the job is over, you hope you’ve saved some money and you’re ready to retire? Are you trying to create an asset? Or, are you creating a business that one day you could sell maybe, or maybe hand down to your children? Or that you have a strong right-hand person in your company that you want to eventually run it while you work the E-Myth four hours a week kind of thing?
Nickquolette: That’s exactly right.
Susan: What are you trying to do? If you are just trying to build a job and you don’t care if you’re going to grow it, well then you don’t need to do any of this stuff. Just keep doing what you’re doing. But if you’re trying to grow a business into something that is a true asset that you can sell, ain’t nobody going to buy it if you’re doing all the stuff.
Nickquolette: No, because you are indeed the only one, you are the business.
Susan: Right, you are the business. So you have got to set up a structure so that everyone else is doing all the work and you are leading it. You are setting the tone. Maybe you’re the salesperson to start out. An owner could see himself stepping into a salesperson role, but if you are doing everything, if nobody at your company can execute anything without your involvement, if you’re the bottleneck in making everything happen, you can’t even go on vacation, let alone sell your business.
So that’s the mindset change, are you going to keep letting this happen, or do you want something in the long run? And if you’re ready to grow it and change it, then you’re going to have to be open to taking steps back. And the only way that you can do that, the only way that you can comfortably do that is very good processes. So you create a process-driven company. You have to have… Yes, you have to have things itemized. And it’s your vision. It’s in your head. You probably already have a process for it, but if it’s just in your head, it doesn’t count.
Nickquolette: Oh my gosh, I’m a witness of that.
Susan: It’s got to be out there where your team can see it, where they can fulfill your vision for you. And so your vision needs to make its way to… I don’t say paper… I say to the digital world. Because I’m a virtual company, many of my clients are, and we don’t work on paper anymore. So get it out there where everybody can share it and then start managing it. So when an outcome is not what you expect it to be, you don’t blame the person and fire the person. You talk to the person like a teammate and say, “This isn’t exactly what I was expecting. Where did our process go wrong?”
Nickquolette: I love that.
Susan: And now you and your team are working together to improve the process, which makes a better company.
Nickquolette: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Susan: So overall it makes managing easier. It makes running the company easier. It makes your processes living and breathing. It’s not enough just to write them down once. You’ve got to live it. It’s got to be process-driven for the company to work that way.
Nickquolette: And that is so powerful, Susan, that you’re saying that because a lot of small business owners they’re also cash-strapped. So they go, I can’t afford, I can’t afford this. I can’t afford that. And what I’ve learned after I did that for, oh gosh, so many years, I said, “You know what? No, I have to change my mindset. The only way I will grow is that I’m setting aside money to invest in the tools, in the pros like yourself, in virtual assistance to be able to help me to grow because I can’t do it all alone. So if I was to ask you, Susan, what are some of those systems, number one, that people need to be looking at digital services or what have you online, in addition to someone like yourself coming in, what would you suggest to them to start?
Susan: So first, make sure that you have a project management tool for your business. Tools are important and they are not that expensive. So you can get a project management tool. Teamwork.com is our favorite, but Basecamp, Asana, Trello, and many of them will work.
Susan: But you got to have the process surrounding that tool to make it work. But that’s a whole other story.
Nickquolette: Yep, because I use Asana and all I do is put stuff in there, but it didn’t make sense.
Susan: Right. And so there needs to be a system and a process around how you use your tool, but you’re going to want that. You’re going to want a CRM. So something to track your leads, your sales, that kind of thing, and some sort of financial management tool. That’s the minimum. I use QuickBooks. We like HubSpot. We use the free version. If you have teammates, you’ll need a communication tool. We love Slack. That’s what we use.
So all of those things in my world talk to each other, which is also great so they’re connected. And my team is very involved in all of them. So we’re working the tools the right way. So tools are first. That’s one of the first systems you want, but then you need to start structuring those tools. So just because you have a sales tool, you have HubSpot, for example. Great.
Well, are you using it to help you remember to follow up with leads? Are you using it to help information from your website come into your CRM so it’s tracked with the person? How are you using it? Are you using it properly? And then also, where does it cut off? So when does the person stop being a sales target, or a sales lead and start becoming a client? What’s that hand over to your project management tool? Where does it end? In our case, it ends when they pay their invoice.
Susan: And then a project is opened. We always get paid in advance, but then there’s a project open and you can then begin to execute against that. But even in that, we have a very distinct process of these are all the steps that go into working with a client. We open that project. All the steps are already in there, They’re even automatically scheduled and assigned to the correct person. So we’ve built templates in our software to even streamline that. Now the individual consultant has to work the process of course. The steps are right in front of their face.
Nickquolette: No excuse.
Susan: No excuse. And it makes it so much easier for them to understand the expectation that we’re always going to do it the same way.
Susan: And speaking of employees, I know this is where you’re really involved, right? It’s resume building and all that kind of thing. The onboarding process, the offboarding process, these are things you better know how to do and you better be doing consistently. Especially that offboarding! Because if you’ve got to let somebody go in this day and age, it could be an emergency and you’ve probably given them the keys to your kingdom. They’re in everything. How do you even know what to do? I better turn off their access to this. And I got to cancel their email. All of these things that go into place sometimes as an offboarding, it could be an emergency, right?
Susan: It’s really gone south. So you want an onboarding and an offboarding process. That onboarding is going to hopefully prevent high employee turnover.
Nickquolette: Yes. Does it feel like part of the company?
Susan: Right. And you want to make that you have some other clear standard things like, what’s the process when you send out a proposal to a client? How do you invoice them? If you do recurring invoices, what’s the process to do that? How do you run payroll? How do you open a project? So all of those are some standard processes that you might want. And I understand that can be overwhelming when you first start, how do I even do this?
I’m not a fan of keeping them in the video, but shoot, open Zoom, open Loom. I love Loom. It’s a little video tool. Record what you’re doing and delegate it that way. And then whoever you delegate it to, you can have them do the writing part for you. Write up what I just told you.
Nickquolette: Now that’s a great idea, Susan. Yep. Take this and turn it into a written process. Yep.
Susan: Right. The written process is easier because when little things change, it’s easier to update and manage writing as opposed to going to record the whole video again. But the video is a great first step to get you where you need to go.
Nickquolette: And I like that you made it simple like that because it can be overwhelming. But if you are doing a process anyway, just turn on that Loom or Zoom or whatever you want to use and just record it. And then like you said, then hand it over to someone to actually create the actual paper process for your written process. But that’s a quick way to get it done because one of the things that I make a mistake with, Susan, because I kept saying, oh, this is just a little side gig enough to make money to handle my manicure, pedicure. So I kept saying, oh, it’s just enough to pay my light bill. Oh, this is enough now to pay this. And I said, “Okay, this thing keeps going, what am I going to do?”
So then I had to start backtracking, Susan, and I had a time management productivity class this past weekend with some ladies who are in business and some about to start their businesses. And I told them, I said, “Okay, you all ask me because you all have seen me grow. I am not an expert in this at all, but I’m going to tell you what I did.” And then I can tell you somebody else like you, Susan, who can really help them. So I’m not getting off my game because I love everything about career management and that’s my focus. But I wanted to share with them some of the things not to do. Meaning doesn’t start off in the middle of your business like here you are four or five years in and now you’re developing processes. That has been a nightmare for me.
We’ve got it set up. Now I’m going to the eighth year, but I didn’t start writing out processes until my fifth year. And I had to do a whole lot of backtracking and I don’t want people to go through that. So when do you recommend that they start documenting their processes and/or getting help from someone like yourself?
Susan: So even if it’s only you that you’re a solopreneur or you’re a freelancer or in your case, it’s a side hustle to start. You are going to be doing things over and over and over. Those things… document them because that’s something you can probably hand off if you grow. And if nothing else, as part of a brand of any company, you should be doing things the same way, especially where it touches a client.
And on top of that, if you’re a solopreneur here and you don’t do things that often. Think about that, right? I don’t really know how to invoice a client because maybe I only do it once a month, write down the steps, and document the steps. And then the next time you’re like, “Oh, I know what to do that. I’ll just go look up the steps.” And then you step yourself through it. It’s pretty simple.
Susan: Yeah. So I’d say big picture things when you’re just starting out. Maybe don’t worry about those yet. But those little repeatable one-off tasks that you’re going to do all the time? That stuff… start to make a process out of. That will be something that you can hand off to your first employee who might be an assistant. And if you don’t have anything to give an assistant, “Hey, these are the steps to follow,” that assistant is not going to be very good for you because you’re just going to be standing there telling them what to do all the time and fall into that, “I can’t get good help or it’s too much effort for me to explain it I’ll just go do it.”
Nickquolette: Yep. That’s all I do. I’ve done that. Oh, forget, I’ll just do it.
Susan: So if you have these processes in place, you’re where you can start to hand them off to somebody much easier and get that help much sooner than when you’re trying to document them on the fly. If you have one other person in your company, you absolutely need written processes. And you should start to have some policy at that point too, right? You might not need to document the holidays when it’s only you. Although I did even early because I wanted to make sure I took them, right.
Nickquolette: Nice. Yes ma’am. Yes.
Susan: But as soon as you add people, they’re like, “Wait, what days do we work? What’s our schedule?”
Susan: So you want to make those policies. If we’re closed on these days, these are the hours you’re expected to work. This is what you do when you have to miss a day because you’re sick. Some straight basic stuff. It doesn’t have to be a whole HR manual, but you should probably start to get into that soon too. But some basic process… I’m sorry, the policy of what the rules are to work here.
Nickquolette: I love that because what they can do is if like you say I don’t have to be much if they just take a Word document, one page can be HR. One page, can be this process basically this and just start to just label those documents in one document, then you’re on your way to creating an employee handbook, right?
Susan: Right. Right.
Nickquolette: So this is as simple as that. Yeah. And so you all think about that. I know it’s overwhelming because you’re working in the trenches of your business. Trust me, I know and I understand. And even when my daughter said, “Well, I thought you had…” My virtual assistant’s name’s Ian. “Why do you keep doing everything? You got Ian.” I said, “It’s just quicker for me to do it.” “You’re never doing this. We can’t go here.” And of course, she always wants to go to the mall. I am not a mall person. Anyway. You need to go out. I said, “Okay, I’ll do it real quick, just give me a minute.” But see, that’s time I’m taken away from being with my family. Even if I don’t like to go to the mall, I can at least go with her.
So those are the things I want you all to listen to because everything that Susan is dropping, these gems for us is for you to be successful in your role. And a lot of these things that we’re talking about, well can happen even on your job. Because what if you do work for a small business who don’t have those processes in place? Maybe you can start.
So you’re not feeling overwhelmed with what you have to do day to day or because your manager is not giving you the direction that you need. Maybe you’re there to create the direction. So think about those things as you work day today, how can you pull those redundancies out of your work so you could feel less stress? And that’s what this is to me, just having less stress. And if there is a process in place, just go to it and utilize that.
Susan: For sure. Checklists will save your life no matter what role you’re in. And you’re absolutely right, if you’re not given them, make them. And now all of a sudden you’re the standout employee, because look at how productive you are and look how many fewer mistakes you make because you’re going through the steps each time and you don’t actually forget something.
Nickquolette: And it becomes a cakewalk for you. And then it has the quickest way for you to get promoted through the company to oversee major projects, and major departments because you have created basically that career trajectory for yourself. And don’t keep the processes to yourself because some people say, I do it well. I want to outshine other people around me. No, you shine when you share your knowledge, and not only do you bring yourself up, you bring everybody else up around you because guess what? You become the subject matter expert.
And that’s how you differentiate yourself from the competition there. Not by holding it to yourself because some people will think, “All they want is to be right. I’m not going to tell them my secrets.” Well, that’s being selfish. A closed hand can’t get any more in it, right? So when you open that hand up and you share, everybody wins, and guess what? You win even more. So I try to teach a lot of career professionals, don’t think about that they’re doing it just for themselves. How do you make an impact, not only for yourself, for your team, for your department, and it keeps going on and on and on, right?
Susan: Absolutely. And that willingness to share, to your point, pulling up those around you, I mean, that is a really great feeling when you’re able to do that. And by the way, that’s what leaders do. So if you want to be a leader, you got to pull up all these other people around you otherwise you’re just going to be a cog in the wheel the whole time.
Nickquolette: That’s it. That’s it. That’s it. And you may get that little extra percentage of a raise for that, but you’re not making an impact like you think.
Nickquolette: Okay, I got a question for you. So what is your biggest failure? What was your biggest failure and/or falling forward? And what did you learn from it?
Susan: Oh gosh. That’s a really good question. I would say it’s been a long career. Probably my biggest failure was not necessarily understood in a corporate environment, how I came across because I make decisions quickly. I move forward quickly. My job is to make things happen. I don’t sit around and wonder, “Oh, how do we proceed?” I’m willing to take the risk and go down the path because you can fix it if something goes wrong. Sitting still and doing nothing makes no progress. And so I had a boss once that sat me down and he said, “Susan, you always make the right decisions. That’s part of why we hired you. You make them fast and they’re right.” And he said, “But could you sit on that decision for a couple of days or something because other people don’t think that you’re listening to them.”
Nickquolette: Yes, ma’am.
Susan: I had no idea that’s how I was coming across. And so actually that’s what I did. I would make the decision. I’d put it aside and I just wouldn’t announce or act on it for a couple of days so that… It was essentially vice presidents and older people that weren’t used to quick change — that they could sit with it and think that-
Nickquolette: And process it and all that kind of stuff in their heads. Yeah.
Susan: It made a huge difference. It was a great piece of advice. I had never really thought of that. And so it was a really good insight into also, you have to realize how you’re coming across.
Nickquolette: I love that. And kudos to your manager for sharing that tidbit with you because now that’s a gem for all of us. Because if we are doing these things great, sometimes you got to step back and see how they’re being viewed. And it’s so funny because I’m a quick decision-maker too. And I’m telling you how it plays out in my family. To your point, when it’s just a simple thing of trying to figure out what’s for dinner, my family cannot make a decision. I’m like, “Okay, we’re going here. Let’s go. Wait, you haven’t done this, wait.” And I’m not listening to them. So note to self, let me take a step back and listen to my family’s food choices, like what. Anyway, I just want to eat.
Susan: You can still make your decision on it. Tell them that’s where we’re going, but let them talk for a minute.
Nickquolette: I love that. I love that piece of advice. That is so awesome. Okay. So now I was going to ask this next question. What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue… Oh, here it is. Yeah. What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career like yours?
Susan: Seek out opportunities to work as a project manager somewhere because learning that is the first step into being more of an operational person. You have to know how the fulfillment works, and this is how we work with our clients too. The fulfillment is first. So how you make that client satisfied. It doesn’t matter how much you sell if you’re breaking it, right? So the fulfillment is first. So this is part of that too. You can’t step up and take a bigger look at the overall company operations until you know how to manage a basic project because, essentially, you’re managing the project of a company.
Nickquolette: Wow. That is excellent because then they can understand the processes and things and you know what, even to take it a step further, if their company sometimes if there’s not a title for project management, there are projects that you can manage.
Susan: Right. You can say, let me lead that. That’s an opportunity to do it. And there are tons of different ways. I’m not saying you have to go become a certified project manager. I only have one of those on my whole team and she didn’t even keep up the certification. So you don’t have to do that by any means. You just have to figure out how to lead. So to what we were talking about before, sharing knowledge is really what it is.
Nickquolette: I like that because a lot of times people think that they have to go and get the PMI and all this kind of stuff before they make a move. And I tell people all the time, I started my business again, as a hobby. I didn’t have all of the certifications until later, because I didn’t know I was going to go down that path for real, but my writing skills… No one ever even asked me about my certifications.
And I was writing resumes for executives, and vice presidents. They just knew the results I was getting. And then I went out and got certifications because I wanted them. But not because anybody asks, so it’s your skillset. And if you can get results from your skillset, do that. And if you want to get the certification, that’s up to you. But think about the skillset. What’s more valuable and that’s what people pay you for, are your skillset and the results you get from your skillset. So hear that people, you don’t have to! Susan just said it.
Susan: That’s right.
Nickquolette: Right. Okay. So what are the best resources that helped you along the way?
Susan: Honestly, the people that I worked with because I worked with so many small business owners throughout my career. It was great to learn from each of them. It has been great to be able to take the tidbits of what they had in common and pull it together. I am definitely somebody who learns by doing; I’m not big on taking a class, or reading a book. Although I have read plenty of books, Traction – about the EOS structure, is a great one if you’re trying to structure. If you’re trying to manage your money, Profit First is a good one.
Nickquolette: I love Profit First. Yes. I’ve about five accounts. Only use four, but I got about five accounts.
Susan: Nice, nice. Finding good mentors and I consider the people I used to work for as mentors. Man, I learned from my current clients every day. I’ll be like, “Oh, that’s a good idea. We should be doing that with more people.” So make sure that you’re being open to what’s going on in your environment every day. That’s really one of the best ways I think to learn. That’s my biggest resource.
Nickquolette: Oh, that is absolutely fantastic. And you’re right about your clients will teach you because when I find something broken in my process, it’s usually because a client is asking a question that I now need to go and ask. You know what? They have that question. More people may have that question.
Nickquolette: So, therefore, let me add to my process to make sure I answer that in anticipation of that question. And it’s good because if they have it already, it’s already solved, but they teach you. I tell my clients all the time, “You all have helped me grow my business and taught me how to do this. I didn’t learn this on my own. You all taught me.”
Susan: That’s it. That’s it.
Nickquolette: It is so wonderful. Okay. So let me see, who are the two to three people who have been the most influential to you?
Susan: Without question, my father. He gave me a fantastic theological base, as well as an example of a wonderful family man, who also is very, very good at running businesses. So that’s one. I would say the manager that I just talked to you about that gave me that tidbit. He taught me how to pull emotion out of a situation. So I called him the emotional vacuum. You’d go into his office all upset about something and he could ask you two questions and all of a sudden you’re calm and solving the problem. That’s a brilliant skill.
Nickquolette: Yes. I love it.
Susan: And then I think the third I have to go to a family priest. I had a priest that was a family priest at our church for 30 years, who really taught me so much about Christianity. And it is the basis of everything I do. So that’s how we interact with clients, even if we have to exit from working with a client, we’re going to do it with grace. We’re going to do it in their best interest first. And so that has been a huge impact on who I am.
Nickquolette: Oh, that is so wonderful. Let’s see, we got a question here. “It is true that school is always in session.” Oh, Elaine, you got that right. Yes, indeed. It is. And I mean, just learning from those mentors, your father, the manager that told you that, and also having that basis of your Christianity because I tell people all the time. I use #God is my CEO. #Jesus is my director. And #the angels are my virtual assistants. And that’s how I lead it.
Every time I’m done with a client, I say, “I’m adding you to my prayer list. Even if you’re a believer or not. This is what I do for all of my clients because their success is my success. And I pray for them after we part. And it’s part of the off-boarding process for my clients that they get up they always get a virtual hug. I always give a virtual hug and I tell them, I’m praying for them. I do it all the time. That’s my signature for my company.
Susan: I love it.
Nickquolette: That is so awesome. Okay. So let me ask you another question. What is the one common myth about your profession or your field that you wanted to debunk today?
Susan: In the small business space, it’s that everything that we’re going to create is going to be a bunch of bureaucracy. Most small business owners did not start their business to jump through hoops. I don’t want a big business; it needs to be simple. That’s what this stuff does. It makes it simple. So it’s setting you free. It’s not adding parameters to you and otherwise. You aren’t being controlled by it. And I think that’s the biggest thing. This is not a bunch of bureaucracy that’s going to weigh you down. It’s going to lighten your load.
Nickquolette: And I love that because you want to have that freedom of mind and trusting your business, trusting the processes that you’ve created, and trusting those that you’ve hired around you to be empowered to go ahead and, as you say, execute on your vision. I am just loving that. That’s going to be probably on my little whiteboard somewhere. I love that. Okay. So let me ask you this. If you can step into my shoes, what would you have asked yourself that I didn’t get a chance to ask you?
Susan: Oh, that’s a good one. How about this. “After I learn how to create the process in my business, how do I figure out how to manage all this free time I have now?”
Nickquolette: Oh yeah, go ahead girl because I need to figure that out. Go right ahead.
Susan: Right? Because what we don’t want is for it to fill up with a bunch of little stuff that just weighs you down again.
Susan: I’m a big believer in this and anybody who’s ever heard me talk anywhere will already know the answer, but it’s calendar blocking. You need to be-
Nickquolette: I talked about that in my workshop this past weekend. It saves me so much time. Go ahead.
Susan: It does. So just like how you have put yourself in charge of your business with the process. You need to put yourself in charge of your time and your calendar and you do that by blocking things out. And I don’t mean just your appointments or your meetings. I mean put a structure together so that you are first living out your spirituality. Put the church on there. Put your meditation time on there, whatever you do spiritually get it on there first.
Susan: Put your health on there. When are you working out? Are you making lunches? Do you cook on Sunday for the whole week? Whatever you’re doing put all that on there because if you do not have your spiritual health and your physical health, you are worth nothing to anybody else.
Nickquolette: You can say that again.
Susan: The next one? Put in your family stuff. So make sure that you are going to your kid’s soccer game because it’s on the calendar. Make sure that you’re going out with friends and that you’re having a date night with your spouse and all of those things need to go on your calendar, then put on there bedtime. What time are you going to bed so you can-
Nickquolette: I like that. That’s one I need to add.
Susan: Because you need sleep, right?
Susan: You need sleep. And how many of us have stayed up way too late doing something like mindless and then all of a sudden been tired the whole next day, right? Now guess what? Work fills in all the rest of the holes.
Susan: So if you’re not careful with putting… It’s just like that story of the jar with the big rocks and then the little rocks and then the sand. It’s the same thing. And if you’re then also not being intentional about the blocks of time you’re spending focusing on your business, digging into marketing tactics, digging into new ideas that need to be blocked out too so that you don’t end up being filled up with you sitting looking at your email, because you didn’t have anything else on your calendar. So be intentional about how you spend your time.
Nickquolette: And I like the fact that you even said, once you get all of those main important things into the calendar, then you put work in. So then you’re not feeling so overwhelmed because all you do is work. After all, when you are looking at a blank calendar, it is like, “I’m just going to work.” But there’s no structure to it in identifying what you need to do it will just drive you crazy. And that’s what I got into and learned about time blocking and calendar blocking and things. I like tasks in one area that saved me. Now, the one thing I don’t put on there is when I need to go to sleep, I got to go better about that. So I’m going to add that, Susan.
Susan: I stole that from somebody’s podcast. See this is how you learn. You listen to other people.
Susan: And I’m like, “Oh, that’s something missing in my calendar.”
Nickquolette: That is so awesome because if after everything is done and I can squeeze in more work, I will. But I can put in a cutoff. I’ll even fall into the bed when I’m tired because it says time to go to bed.
Susan: Yeah. And all of you, turn off your screens at least an hour please before bed. Screens off you’ll sleep better.
Nickquolette: Yes. Oh, I love that. Okay. So I’m going to ask you…Another thing I wanted to ask. If someone wanted to work with you, where could my audience find you and connect with you?
Susan: So I’m going to give a little gift here and I’m putting it in the chat. But if you go beyondthechaos.biz/ebook, you’ll be able to download our Three Ways to Control Chaos in Your Small Business eBook. At the end of that eBook, there is a free operational audit that you can take. I’ll meet with you after you do that and give you three free tips on how to control your operations and your chaos. If you’re totally overwhelmed and that’s just too much and you just want me now, [email protected]. Just email me there.
Nickquolette: Okay. Susan-
Susan: I’ll put that in here too.
Nickquolette: Okay. Yeah, go ahead. I’ll copy it and put it in here so everyone has it. That is awesome. Excellent. I will go ahead and grab that. So you all get that book and definitely take the next step to meet with Susan. And I’m telling you, you will grow faster. Don’t go and try to recreate the wheel now.
If you are at the early stage of your business, do it now. If you are heavily in the midst of your business and you’re just too busy, call Susan so she can unravel the chaos. So you can feel at peace and more like a CEO of your business and not as a worker bee. Because no one wants to create a job for themselves. Especially if you left corporate America, you left a job and now you have your business and you’re still having a job, that’s not how it should be.
I’m telling you I’ve experienced it, not the best thing. I’ve spent so much time trying to recreate, get out of my head, doing all those things. Now that I have all these clients, now that I have this business, now I have these different legs and it’s not fun. It took us a year and a half to get in control of this. And if it wasn’t for Ian to say, “You know what? We got stuff all over the place. We need to get some of this stuff in order.” I’m like, “Yeah, I just never had help. Thank you.” So now we’ve done it, but please, please ma’am, please sir, reach out to Susan, especially for Women’s History Month.
Susan: Right. And I’ll add real quickly to that, Nickquolette. We are not consultants who are just going to give you a list of more things to do. We are going to help you implement it. So we are not just leaving you with, “Oh yeah, there are way more things that you’ll never get to.” We are going to help you implement it too.
Nickquolette: And that is most important because a lot of times you get a lot of information or you get a coach or something like that, who’s just listening to you and telling you what to do. Get someone who can actually walk with you hand in hand to do it and that’s the best investment of your money. Not just to hear somebody tell you about it and then send you on your way and you still got to do it.
But someone who shows you how, and also basically teaching a man how to fish, right? To teach you how to do it. So now you’re seeing, and the reason why it will help your business, you will stay on top of that from now until. So please, please, please make sure. I’m so glad you made that distinction, that it’s just not valid, just telling you what to do, but that you’re actually helping them implement, which is a better use of your money than anything else. Okay.
Susan: For sure. For sure.
Nickquolette: So, my last question, when I say, ” I rock”, what does that mean to you? So this is my signature question. So you could say, “I rock because…” Finish that.
Susan: I rock because God gave me the talents to organize anything anywhere, anytime. And it is my responsibility to share those with the world.
Nickquolette: Oh, that is so wonderful. I was ready for the question. I was ready.
I’m so excited that we connected, and you grace me with your presence on my show. I don’t know if you hear my dog being really bothersome right now. He is so spoiled and I’m like, “No, I can’t pick you up right now.” But thank you so much for spending this hour with us. It’s our Lunch and Learns every Thursday. Well, mostly if it works. Every Thursday at 12:15, where we come and have tips and things on resume writing, careers, and LinkedIn, and we have special guests coming in and sharing their expertise with us. I truly appreciate you sharing with us and we will be in contact with you soon. And thank you and I miss your face in the place so I don’t get the chance to see you on Fridays.
Susan: I know. We’ll stay in touch though.
Nickquolette: Okay. Now hold on for a minute and I’m going to do my virtual hug to you too.
Nickquolette: Okay. Bye, everyone. I’ll see you all next week. And go ahead if you are watching the replay I’ll see you… I like this one first. Elaine said, “Be ye also ready.” Yes, Elaine. And then she said, “Thank you so much for the information.” Thank you so much, everyone.
Susan: Thank you all for coming