Collaborating Pt. 1

 

You can't do it all on your own.

As the mission minded leader that you are, the idea of teaming up with another company can sound empowering or exciting, but sometimes it feels downright intimidating! I’m sure you have already seen the impact your dream has had on others around you. As you dream & do, chase and conquer, you inspire others to do the same. I truly believe inspiring one another and being inspired by one another is what real living is all about.

Being one of the many product makers in my market arena, I mindfully aim to encourage and support other newer and established makers alike in this business. Collaborating is a big gesture towards your mission to support other brands. It says much more than “I like what you do”. It is actually saying, “Let’s be partners by association!” Such a gesture can be a simple reaching out to other like-minded business to see how you can come together to have greater impact. Perhaps teaming up to host a local event or coming out with a collaborative limited edition product is a great start to showcase you businesses while simultaneously bolstering each others hard work. As plenty as the possibilities in your mind might be at this moment, be mindful that who you team up with, makes all the difference in the world too.

Dear Maker,  don't be afraid to ensure each collaborative member’s vision compliments the other participants and serves a purpose in the mission of the project. I don't recommend naively inviting everyone to join in, but rather set up a certain team for each fitting project. You can have as many collaborative events and projects as your schedule will allow. Just makes sure each one makes sense for your brand and all the brands involved from start to finish. It wouldn’t make sense to compromise your mission for a fun project and what’s more, you could lose your loyal follower’s attention and regard in the process of creating ambiguity.

 

How to know who is in and who is where.

Just like the business of your dreams, every single mission you set out on must have a purpose--even the small collaborative endeavors. First thing, I would lay out a clear picture of what you are setting out to accomplish and where each participant’s strengths can make a difference in the outcome. Divide up the responsibilities and areas of shared agenda. Just like the operation plan you have for your team, all missions and plans must have a clearly stated start, middle and end.

Set boundaries and expectations in place ahead of time. No one should begin work until all details and positions are hashed out. Likewise, no one should go rogue and do extra or less work than what was agreed upon. A healthy foundation is what created that desirable united front. Everyone loves to see other helping each other out, boosting each other up & in general, supporting each others hard work and efforts.


Market opportunity & the united front that brings it home.

We are better together. All of us--you and your team, you and your fellow makers. Not one of you is the same and not one of you could fully replace the other. In my humble experience, we are ten times stronger when we take advantage of each others hard work by coming together for a united effort. Enjoy watching your target audiences--which hopefully compliment and overlap each other by the way-- enjoy being introduced to a brand new product they might not have had thought to try before. The market awareness and strength you and your collaborative team creates with your collaboration and will surely keep them talking!

 

Grab a copy of A Makers Guide to read a few of of own collaboration experiences along with many other helpful tips on how to navigate this exciting phase!

 

Until next time.

XOXO

Amy

 

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Team Players Pt.2

 

Tough calls and the conviction that drives.

 

Dear Maker,

It has always been important to me that everyone on my team is satisfied and on the bus--ready to give the mission their all. Not that I am a proponent of an employer tiptoeing around anyone, but I do believe in the power of the intuitive leader. In truth, I guard my employee's well-being with ferocity. Afterall, when your team is healthy & well-balanced so is your operation!

While you may be headed in a satisfying, mapped-out direction, at some point you will have a member of your team headed in another. Most of the time, as members naturally phase into an alternate stage of their life, the signs of growth, maturity, and that invaluable component call “experience” will being to shine and prove them ready for promotion. However, there are instances when a team member has grown, but not necessarily within your team. In order for your operation to function at 100%, everyone needs to fully believe in the significance of your dream and therefore the mission they are working towards. The tough calls rear their ugly head when you are moving in one direction, but others are furthering their own agenda.

In my experiences, long before you are ever aware of a problem, a wayward team member will begin making their own plans. If left unaddressed or overlooked, they will eventually abandon your mission altogether. The important thing to remember is that regular check-ins with your team are a must. Yearly performance assessments, quarterly sit-downs, weekly meetings and daily conversation that go beyond a shallow “Hello” all keep you in-tune with your team.

 

 

As soon as you recognize a member of your team has their own agenda, it’s important to address the situation head on. You should try to back and diagnose the triggers of compromise.

When did they first feel themselves wandering from a passion from their job?

Were they ever actually committed to your mission?

When did you first see an attitude shift in their behavior or those who work directly alongside them?

Is it possible to address the root problem and move forward?

Are they unintentionally displaying rebellion, when in reality they are merely ready for a shift in seating or a promotion?

 

A member of my very first team--one of my longest running members in fact-- was my first experience with “off the bus syndrome”. It wasn’t until the situation had come full circle that I realized all the signs were in front of me all along. Not only was she not on board, but she was also attempting to gather my other employees to join her alternate mission. It wasn’t until a major game-changing team meeting that the bottom finally fell through.

That’s the way missions work. Either you are on or you are off. When you are off, you will eventually jump ship altogether. Riding the fence won’t cut it for long.

In the end, I realized her walking out on that meeting was the best thing that ever happened to my team. The tension that had been created as she veered one way and I turned the bus another, was toxic, to say the least. The day she called and told Gene and I “Either we do things my way or I walk..." was one of the hardest I had ever had to face. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in my leadership decisions, I just hadn’t had to stand up to blatant opposition from someone I had trusted yet. I had never had to decide “against” someone in order to decide “for” my mission. That day, as I closed that chapter of my team, I realized the irreplaceable value my position was to my mission. If I crack, so will everything I have worked so hard to build. Conviction, dear maker. I’m talking about conviction. No one wants to have to let an employee go, say no, or close a door, but when those tough calls enter your path, the answer to is found in your convictions. The convictions that started your dream are the same ones that will fight to keep it healthy, whole and growing. 

 

Give them grace. 

In the end, if an employee really is ready to move on, you will know. My best advice is to let them go and instead of begrudging the change, learn from your time together. Everyone who enters your life and mission is worth giving grace and benefit of the doubt. There is no need to burn a bridge. Rather accept your time as a team has come to an end and wish them well, just as you hope they do towards you.

 

Until next time.

XOXO

Amy

 

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Team Players Pt. 1

 

Everyone in?

As the owner and visionary of your dream, you have the power and influence to take your mission anywhere you please. Often times the ‘bringing others along’ is what creates stumbling blocks. As invaluable as your team is, the hurdles of personal agendas of a diverse grouping can be risky business.

Author and speaker Jim Collins shared invaluable insights in his business book Good to Great. For five years Jim and his team of researchers broke down the tactics and actions of the top eleven business on the fortune 500 list. The overwhelming common denominator amongst these top contenders was a focus on the WHO instead of the WHAT.

Jim displays his data in a bus analogy. You are the bus driver. You can turn, stop, reverse and go anywhere you chose. Before you are clear to take off, however, you must first ensure everyone is on the bus and in the right seat. As a leader, your job is to point your team members to their appropriate seat, but first, these members must commit themselves to the mission & heading of the bus! Dear maker, if you have members of your team who do not believe in the mission of your work, they don’t belong on the bus.

Miscommunication and Misplaced strengths

The two main causes of workplace or shall we say “bus” tension is rooted in misplaced focus. Either you as the leader haven’t laid out a clear path for your team or your team hasn’t fully joined on. In many cases, it’s a little of both mixed together to create workplace tension. No matter the root the remedy lies in a clear understanding and passion for the mission at hand. If you have members who do not believe in the significance of your mission it might be time for them to move on. You as the driver cannot depart until everyone is on, seated and buckled up!

 

The core of your mission should be clearly stated and obviously implemented in your workplace.

 

In my experience, the most palatable common ground in any relationship, especially the working kind, are found in everyone’s value drivers. Not everyone wants to run their own business, but most everyone does want to work in an area they find meaningful and fulfilling. Why can your mission become their mission too?

There's a great deal of people in the world who will gladly hop on your bus and find purpose in the mission of your dreams. Get these members on and in the right seat dear maker! In everything you do uphold your mission with integrity, a grateful attitude and willingness to see the good in everyone. Don't worry if you find someone isn’t exactly cut out for your bus. See their stop in your quarters as a chance for them to re-evaluate their own path. But for those members you do find are on the bus and ready to get to work, hold on to them tight and treat them well. Growing from good to great isn’t a luck of the draw. Intention, integrity, and focus is what drives this proverbial bus into the sunset!


Read more about Jim Collins insights

 

Until next time.

XOXO

Amy

 

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Build Up Your Team

 

The collective genius of us all is what makes us great.

 

As hard as it can be to admit to ourselves some days, our team will be a constantly growing reflection of our leadership. A healthy operation starts at the top and trickles down into every step. This much is true for every facet of your life. When you take on team members or any other help, you are being freed up yes, but you are also taking on the wellbeing of those load bearing members. Building up a happy and healthy team comes to fruition just like every other facet of this journey: intention.

The employees you bring on need a great deal of verbal communication and even more affirmation. You as their leader are the voice of direction, peace, heading & gratification. You set the precedent of excellence, dedication, and integrity in the health of the mission. I like to look for opportunities to praise and boost my team on a daily basis.

 

Communicating with positivity is a key component of effective leadership.

 

Every operation has an in-house team and an extended team working outside of your in-house operation. Initially, your extended team makes up the larger portion of your operation, but as your company grows, this ratio will begin to swap ratios.

No matter the stage you are currently in, it is best to view every member as an imperative and valued element of your mission’s well-being. Vendors, suppliers, banks, photographers, IT support, and attorneys are all just as much a part of your team as your administrative assistant! In fact, these members will likely be the ones to walk alongside you all the way from idea to bonafide business entity. In some cases, they are your most trusted comrades. I recommend treating them as long-term assets!

 

Come together:

Every Monday we have a team meeting affectionately coined as our who, what when, where and how meetings. We go over the week's goals, responsibilities & event. We assign a team to each component. Who will be over what, how will they get there, when is the deadline, what are the expectations and why are we doing this? Often times as a leader, we are so excellence-driven within our own agendas, we often forget to bring our team along! Weekly connections like these are what make sure everyone is in on those crucial formative details from the ground up. Your staff is an extension of you, likewise, their wellbeing is not just a reflection of your leadership, but their work an extended arm moving towards your goals! 

Having employees is not easy. You almost have to go into every task prepared to dedicate pre-work at double the effort. But once you are in the habit of laying down a healthy, well-communicated, positively reinforced foundation, that prep-work becomes well worth the effort. You will always be stronger, better and go farther with a supportive community by your side. Nothing worthwhile comes easy, but remember any laborious road is going to be more fun with company. Without you team, your dream can’t expand.

 

Food for thought:

It is important, to be honest with your entire team about potential triggers that could upset the working environment. But just as much as honesty is key, so is positivity. Dear maker, never lose your cool with anyone on the team. Do yourself a favor and mindfully address any and all situations before they actually become "situations". Nothing will kill morale faster than harsh and negative criticism. The team helping you accomplish the mission of your dream must be a top priority.

The larger your company is, the more intuitive you will need to be about personality differences that can lead to upset or misunderstanding triggers. Every member has differing personalities as well as strengths. Get on everyone's level and speak their language. Have everyone working, growing and communicating within their strengths. Use those DICS assessment results in all of your favor! 

Party Budget:

Assign affordable monthly activities and events to your yearly calendar. Any out of the ordinary occurrence such as 'Potluck Friday', guest speakers or even sponsoring local events so that team members can attend for free are all morale-boosting investments. When your team is taken care of they are more likely to take care of the tasks they are being entrusted with!

 

Until next time.

XOXO

Amy

 

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Detailed Days

 

You and me, we're a team. 


A good while back, in those very beginning days of your journey, we discussed what it meant to account for every hour of every day. In a post entitled Daily Agenda, you tried your hand at the art of writing out your tasks. Each day’s worth of tasks allowed you to organize and theme your workload in such a way that nothing felt overwhelming, lost or confusing. Just as helpful as all those preparatory steps were for you dear maker, so are they for your team members!

You will always need a daily agenda to accomplish your mission, and likewise, so will your team!

When working in something as near and dear to your heart as your dream, it’s imperative every step be calculated and intentional. It only makes sense that the team you hire to execute your carefully written plan be on the same page! When I brought on my very first employee, back when Amy Howard at Home was still refinishing forgotten furniture, I made sure every task was written, clearly displayed and checked off once completed. It looked a  little something like this:

___ Turn on House Lights

___ Turn on workshop lights

___ Set air to 70

___ Turn on music

___ Open cash register and account for funds

___ Light candles

___ Open front door

      And so on…

I couldn’t help but believe that if the little details were accounted for just as clearly as the big details, those small tasks could remain small but necessary instead of small but deadly! Eventually I brought on sales members, stockists, showroom stagers and errand runners. Just like the members before them, there was always a checklist to be marked off.

 

Over the years, I have had team members who didn’t want a job description or a daily agenda for fear it would stifle their creativity. If you as the owner and CEO aren’t above following a daily agenda, no one on your team should be either dear maker!

The truth is, having a job description as well as a task sheet is quite freeing. Such efforts allow you the satisfaction of clearly laying out the expectations within your position and reaping the reward of a job well done once completed. Aristotle is quoted as saying, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit.” Most people have to hear something seven times in order to commit it to memory and perform it at least 21 times to form it into a new habit. You can tell yourself and your team they need to work hard, but unless you are all willing to create a habitual routine of excellence you are all doomed to forget.

 

One universally applicable approach to laying out a day’s worth of tasks is to, you guessed it, reverse engineer your way from the end to the beginning. Yes, the tried and true reverse engineering approach will always be my favorite piece of advice. Across the board, it is applicable and foolproof! Everyone involved on a project or big picture mission should have a clear goal in mind so that deadlines, task lists and checklists can be established as stepping stones toward the finish line. The daily strides and successes each member of your team experience will not only bolster the business of your mission but provide them with long term satisfaction on your team! Once your team experiences continued success in a process, go ahead and write that process into a company policy.  The processes that lead to a successful mission will then become concrete and lead to a healthy operation as a whole.

 

 

Nuggets for the road:

  • In your weekly team meetings, go over the 5 W’s. The who, what, when, where and why of every week ensures everyone is on the same page.
  • How could you plan your daily agenda is such a way that it complements your team’s daily agenda?
  • As you plan your own long-term mission, have each of your team members come alongside you in theming their own schedules to support a company-wide mission and agenda--one that compliments, intersects and supports everyone’s goals.


Find out more information on creating a healthy team operation in your copy of A Maker’s Guide!

 

Until next time,

XOXO

Amy

 

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Who to Hire Pt. 2

 

If you can’t creatively dream as a team, your house is divided & won’t stand.

 


There is a rule of thumb I have in all of my interviews: watch all of my interviewees walk in and watch them walk out. How fast do they get to your door? How do they leave?

It may seem extreme, it may seem silly, but after years of observation I have learned to never hire someone who walks slow. This not meant to offend I assure dear makers. The idea is not to focus on pace or mode of transportation, but rather the focus and intention in which they come from their car and to your door. Do they arrive with an agenda? Do they seem driven, intentional? Do the arrive with excitement? Do they seem determined and focused as they interact you?

These are the people I hire. These are the team members that get work done. These are the people who see their days full of opportunities to be ceased. These are you gold star employees. Simply said, if they aren’t enthused over the potential to work alongside you, don’t expect the attitude to change after they are hired.

 

Team trust

When you conduct your interview, have the duties & position description written out in detail. Sit with them and walk through every duty, every case scenario in which the role demands that task to be fulfilled. Talk openly about your expectations from them & the role they are interviewing to fill. Talk openly about the culture of the office environment--especially the unspoken boundaries. Do you condone using allotted sick leave days for personal use? Is it frowned upon to chit chat during the work hours? What benefits, official or unofficial do you give your team members? These are the areas in which you and your team members will either connect or divide. It allows them to see whether the environment you have created is for them or not I think we all wish these areas were covered in the beginning of every type relationship--working or not.

 

Jump on in

Don’t be afraid to get a new team member involved in important tasks on their first day. If they are able to see how their role is vital to the daily mission, you will have gained a loyal member dedicated to your greater and even better, long-term mission. Every team member will eventually have some decision-making ability within their position. Their emotional quotient will determine where their responsibilities and power will be best applied. 

As you bring on more staff you might see that your charter members feel a certain amount of seniority. If not applied cordially, this ranking system often leads to entitlement; which can lead to poor relational interactions; which can lead to resentment. This just can not be so dear maker. Everyone is going to have to be willing to work together, learn from each other & appreciated each other. It all boils down to integrity. Like you have experienced, integrity is found & grown as we all experience the freedom of working within our giftings & passions. While seniority is very real, the role comes with the responsibility to mentor guide new members, not lord over them! It is in your best interest to establish this as a company policy and practice on the front end rather than have to backtrack. The culture of your team is the result of the environment you have established & nurtured. Remember that everything starts at the top and trickles down dear maker!

 

The whole gang

Your company  will eventually need people in a variety of positions. From taxes to sales, your team will be a melting pot of personalities, positions, and power levels. Some members will be full-time, some will only come in seasonally. Some will work part-time out of the office, some will be there to re-stock and prep only when the doors are closed. You name it, the modern workforce has it covered. Different & progressive is a good thing. It means you are looking at the big picture. You see & understand what your operation needs, what do your employees need and what work habits ensure all needs are being met easily, simply, without frills, fuss or stress! That is modern, that is progressive, that is where you will find your team!

 

For the road

These little nuggets I leave you are, of course, the personal insights & nuances I’ve found in my own hiring processes. Entrepreneur.com have a very helpful article that breaks apart the in’s & out’s of the legal side of tackling your first hire. If you need more of a legal breakdown check it out!  

Until next time,

XOXO

Amy

 

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Who to Hire Pt. 1

 

The pitfalls, stumbling blocks and learning curves of your first hire.

 

Your first team member should relieve you where you are your weakest. Every hire that follows will work in that same reverse order--according to your needs. ALWAYS hire in accordance with your organizational chart. NEVER go rogue & hire outside your well-planned fact based chart. You will be tempted one day, just remember...don’t do it.

The DISC

For as long as I can remember I have utilized the wonders of personality assessments with every one of my new hires. This isn’t meant to be a “test” as much as it is a helpful assessment. Imagine you had spent the better half of your life thus far assuming your best career path was found in accounting--just like your parents. Imagine you had spent the majority of your job-seeking years offering your talents & time to the care of numbers, facts, organization and the like. Imagine that you secretly despised every minute of it and couldn’t figure out why. The DISC assessment and the many other personality profiles have been developed to aid you & I in our search for our ideal career fit.

The irony is that most of us do actually know or at least have a hunch where our talents and passions derive, but for some reason allow the noisy advice from all the surrounding career know-it-alls to drown out our better self-judgment. I have never met a person, myself included, that didn’t need a healthy dose of personality reality.

It happens to the best of us.

Years ago I hired a very personable bookkeeper. By all resume standards she was more than experienced and qualified for the tasks at hand. The hiring process was easy, she and I hit it off perfectly. It was only after weeks of missed deadlines, forgotten details and missed calculations that I realized something was terribly awry.

But in the end, I count this as one of my greatest teachable moments--for myself and her. I had asked a ton of questions during the interview process, but I didn’t come armed with a personality assessment. What she never knew about herself had developed into one of her greatest stumbling blocks. She and I could sit and chat for hours and I thought I had found a great fit for the team. But that was actually the problem. My bookkeeper wasn’t a bookkeeper at all, she was an extremely personable saleswoman hiding behind a desk full of over-due invoices. They were over-due of course because she was otherwise so busy connecting with the clients and team!

Our failures can sometimes feel like pitfalls in the areas we feel like we should be thriving. I’m here to tell you dear maker, this is just not so. These so-called “failures” are actually red flags pointing to where we are misapplying ourselves! After I saw her DISC assessment results I snatched up my “bookkeeper” and traded her number crunching tasks for a sales position. She was a perfect fit! My clients loved her as much as the rest of the team members. 

Coming to today, I NEVER hire without first referring to my interviewees DISC profile results. First comes my organizational chart, then comes the DISC. If I can’t check of both of those boxes, I don’t make the hire. I’ll say it again, never hire outside of your reverse engineered organizational chart. It saves you and your team from an unwanted bundle of wasted time and effort.

Nuggets for the road ahead.

During every one of your interviews, ask a lot of questions. Use that wisdom you have gleaned from your own journey and the journeys you have witnessed in others. Never create a job for someone and likewise chose only to hire the team members who fill your immediate needs. It saves you and them from the potentially detrimental wasted time. Every hire you make is fellow dream seeker trying to make their mark on this world. Treat your potential team members, interim team members & veteran team members with all the respect & consideration you wish someone would show you. It’s just good business dear maker.

One day you might find that a previous member of your team is one day a fellow maker in the market! How wonderful would it be to have them count you as an influencer and mentor rather than ill-willed competition. It’s all in how you look at each individual, dear maker. We are all looking for our destiny. Some will find theirs in supporting your mission, while others will find theirs in learning from your mission. But at the end of the day we are all in this journey together!

 

Until next time.

XOXO

Amy

 

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Start Dreaming Again Pt. 2

 

It's the growing pains that shed light on all your glorious strengths.

As you grow and bring in more income, you will be able to hire a person to oversee each area of your operation. Until then, you  have to be creative!

 

Last week we left off at “compose your organizational chart.” Though this tedious task might seem a bit mind numbing, your organizational chart will serve as an invaluable administrative tool as your business grows. With every hiring need, you have a checklist and plenty of data to back you up. You might not have the ability to hire every position right away, but when the time does come, there will be a plan already set in place to guide you along! No matter the stage of your business, always remember dear maker: Every person in your team, including you, needs to have their responsibilities clearly laid out.

This week I want to show you how that act of discipline was worth the effort. Until this point, you may have felt as though your calling was to make and sell as much product as you can in order to make your mission count. While that was true for your “start up” days, this phase is all about building your legacy. And what creates a legacy better than community, right?

When you closed your eyes last week, did you see yourself surrounded by team members, fulfilled and happy to be on board supporting you? I hope so. That is exactly what we are after.

What did you discover through the help of your organizational chart as being your number one need right now? Is it bookkeeping? Is it possible you need help with the personal side of the business, an assistant perhaps? It is possible you, along with many others, simply need someone to just “be there”. A friendly face to run errands, help customers on the sales floor, make customer calls, answer phones, help open or be there to close the shop.

Whatever your need, try to think outside the box with this first hire! Sometimes that first team member is not only the most memorable but the most loyal and longstanding employee you will ever have. Is there a way to save the budget by bringing someone on part-time or just weekends?

In the end, some of us just don’t know who to hire first. Our organizational chart is just screaming at us to do everything all at once. You and I both know this isn’t even an option for the biggest startups, let alone a small local business. In these cases, it’s is time to call in the professionals. A professional advisor can help you make sense of where to start first. For a small fee, those few hours with a support figure can make all the difference. Take advantage of these first stages dear maker. Your efforts are building a legacy and you are learning so much along the way! This is what excellence looks like.

The work you are doing right now is the important kind, not the temporary kind. In every stage of your business, you will be able to reference back to this time in your early days when you, in a sense, paid it forward to yourself and the health of your mission.  This work may seem very taxing and tedious, but the payoff was well worth it.

 

Thoughts for the week ahead:

Who are you planning to hire during this first year in business?

What “outside the box” tactics can you implement to make this goal a realistic and stress-free reality?

What impact will this first hire have on your mission?

In what ways are you mindfully building a legacy through your mission––not just a business.

 

 

Until next time.

XOXO

Amy

 

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