HR & Team

Hiring, Selecting Business Partners, and Growing a Team That Enables Maintenance Mode with India Jackson

India and I talk about her evolution as a leader and how hiring and finding the right fit was critical to the growth of her agency and for her to be able to step back from doing all the things.

Susan Boles
June 1, 2021
"Why India prioritizes values-fit above skills when hiring, and how this approach ultimately leads to a cohesive team."

In order to be completely away from your business for any length of time, you probably need to hire someone. Or maybe a few someones.

In the last episode, I talked to Jason Staats about how he uses technology to help him keep his 4 different ongoing projects in maintenance mode, but hiring is also part of his maintenance strategy. He comes up with the ideas, figures out the tools, then hires someone to monitor and maintain.

Technology and Team are the two most powerful resources you have when it comes to operating your business in maintenance mode.

Technology allows you to make sure your team is doing only the most high-value tasks and having that team in place means that someone is there to monitor the autopilot, make decisions on the fly, and keep the trains rolling.

Having a team you can turn to, and someone you can trust to monitor the autopilot can be the last, very critical, piece of maintenance mode. And it's the piece that allows you to truly step away, and know that things are taken care of, even if you aren't there to be the one to take care of them.

Meet India Jackson. She's the CEO of Flaunt Your Fire, a brand visibility agency, and co-founder of Pause on the Play, a podcast and community dedicated to visibility and vulnerability for inclusive leaders.

India started off her career as a model and bodybuilder and evolved that into an agency where she now leads a team. We talk about her evolution as a leader and how hiring and finding the right fit was critical to the growth of her agency and for her to be able to step back from doing all the things.

Listen to the full episode to hear:

  • How India began building a team to fill in gaps in her skill sets, and how her mindset on delegation has changed in her 10+ years in business
  • Why she hires client support staff for their empathy and not just their resume
  • How India approaches partnerships and hiring with a values mindset, from full transparency in job listings to explicitly asking about values in interviews
  • Why your brand or company values have to be broken down into actions you take every day, with clarity on what impact you want to have

Learn more about India Jackson:

Learn more about Susan:


Episode Transcript

India Jackson (00:00):

Never more than 2020 showed me that I'm in the middle of the social justice movement, that you need to make sure that team members, and contractors, and even brand affiliate partners have aligned values with yours. And assuming that they do just because your content is talking about what you value is not enough. You have to have that conversation.

Susan Boles (00:28):

When it comes to putting your business in maintenance mode, you have to figure out how to replace yourself. You may not need to be in your business every day, but there's a good chance that someone has to be. I'm Susan Boles. And you're listening to Break the Ceiling, the show where we break down unconventional strategies you can use to save time, boost your profit, and increase your operational capacity.

Susan Boles (00:51):

My producer Sean likened maintenance mode to autopilot. You can have all the technology behind the scenes. You can have processes and systems set up. You can automate as many decisions as you can. But in the end, someone still has to be monitoring what's happening. Someone who can jump in and handle situations that the autopilot wasn't prepared to handle. Which means in order to be completely away from your business for any long length of time, you probably need to hire someone, or maybe a few someones.

Susan Boles (01:25):

In the last episode, I talked to Jason Staats about how he uses technology to help him keep his four different ongoing projects in maintenance mode. It was a fantastic conversation. So definitely go listen to that one if you haven't already.

Susan Boles (01:39):

Now, Jason does use a lot of tech in his business to automate and maintain. But the other thing he mentioned is that he hires for everything. He comes up with the ideas, he figures out the tools, and then he hires someone to monitor and maintain.

Susan Boles (01:55):

Technology and team are the two most powerful resources you have when it comes to operating your business in maintenance mode. They are what allow you to really finally take a step back from your business. And you need both. Technology allows you to make sure your team is doing only the most high value tasks, which makes your business efficient. And it also makes sure your team is doing rewarding work.

Susan Boles (02:21):

And having that team in place means that someone is there to monitor the autopilot, to make decisions on the fly and keep the trains rolling. Meet India Jackson. She's the CEO of Flaunt Your Fire, a brand visibility agency. And the co-founder of Pause On The Play, which is a podcast and a community dedicated to visibility and vulnerability for inclusive leaders.

Susan Boles (02:46):

India started off her career as a model and a bodybuilder, and evolved that into an agency where she now leads a pretty large team. We talk about her evolution as a leader and how hiring and finding the right fit was critical to the growth of her agency, and for her to be able to take a step back from doing all the things.

Susan Boles (03:08):

So when I say the term maintenance mode, how do you interpret that? What does that mean to you? What does that look like in your business?

India Jackson (03:18):

It's not a term that I think I would have ever used on my own. But as you ask me, it really makes me think about what does that mean? And I think in the moment, it means getting to a place where things are smooth sailing. And that doesn't mean that things are running perfectly or that it's the same every day, because I don't think that that's realistic for any business. But it does mean that you have some type of flow.

Susan Boles (03:49):

I love that. The aspect of flow. Because that's how I interpret it, is really just this idea that everything's kind of running smoothly. Everybody knows what they're supposed to be doing. Everybody's really clear on their role and the process. And you just kind of know the direction you're headed and stuff's just kind of taking over. So since you started your business to now, how has your mindset around systems, and process, and this idea of maintenance mode changed for you? How have you changed how you think about it?

India Jackson (04:28):

Well, I think it's important to be transparent. That maintenance mode and even the idea of that or systems was not on my mind when I first started my business at all. I started my business in 2009, I believe. And it's kind of like a question mark still today as to when that happened. Because it accidentally happened in college. I realized that I was doing homework assignments. At the time, there were photography homework assignments. And I needed to pay for school. I needed to pay my bills. So I'm like, "Hey, why don't I find some kind of way to integrate paid jobs into my homework assignments?"

India Jackson (05:14):

So going back to those days so long ago, I'm like, "Yeah, maintenance mode, team. No." It was am I going to be able to ensure that next month's tuition is covered?

Susan Boles (05:28):

[crosstalk 00:05:28] I think that's very common is that most business owners, when they start their business, they think about doing the thing they're doing. I don't think systems are intuitive or thinking about it is intuitive. And I think it really runs counter to what we get told about business, which is hustle harder, create more, do more. And the whole kind of concept of maintenance mode or systems sort of runs counter to that, I think.

India Jackson (05:56):

Absolutely. I'll say for me, I didn't have a lot of points of reference about anything in the business world when I started mine, because I didn't have family members or friends who had done that. And I was in college. But I think that as things progressed and began to build and I realized, "Whoa, I do have a business here. And I am going to have to file some paperwork and pay some taxes." I very quickly began to see that I can't do all the roles myself. Even if I wanted to, even if I was capable of doing that, it just wasn't going to be sustainable long term.

India Jackson (06:33):

And one by one for me, that mindset really began to build to say, I don't have to do this alone. Which was a big shift for me. Growing up as, your listeners can't see me right now, but I am an African-American female. And I grew up watching my parents live in hustle culture of the I have to have three jobs to pay all the bills, kind of hustle culture. Not getting over on people hustle culture. And seeing that, that was the mindset of you have to do what needs to happen right now to survive the thought of what needs to happen to thrive. In long-term planning, long-term visioning of your business, let alone even having a business just wasn't there.

India Jackson (07:23):

So I'll say for me just being transparent, I started out very much. And what needs to happen right now to pay for school and to still pass, which meant that sometimes my homework assignments I was turning in was paid work, because I didn't have extra time to do a homework assignment. And that transitioned into a wow, I'm realizing that the actress, or the model, or the fashion designer's line that I'm photographing, it would be really beneficial to have a makeup artist and a hairstylist help. Because right now, I'm covering all the roles of photographer, of a stylist, of hairstylist, of helping with makeup, creative direction. Let me just figure out the one area that I am not as strong at, which was definitely hair. And get that off the plate.

Susan Boles (08:14):

So how did this idea kind of expand through your business to now? So you started off kind of saying, "Okay, great. Hair is what I'm taking off my plate today." How did that evolve into your team now?

India Jackson (08:31):

Wow. Our business has definitely gone through some major evolutions. At this point in time, we're definitely not a photography agency. We're a brand visibility agency. And in that evolution, I began to really look at what was happening with the people that we were supporting. So people would come looking for visual services and thinking that that's what they needed to get to the next place in their career. But they didn't have a strategy behind why they wanted this particular type of photograph, or why their campaign was being photographed this way, or their editorial, or whatever.

India Jackson (09:09):

So I found myself very much being a strategist too. And we just were not charging for that piece. But there was a lot of consulting and strategy happening. And as I really began to carve out more time in life out of the doing to more of the thinking, and designing, and planning, I realized that this was the most important thing, right? If we're creating an end product and we're not very clear on why we're creating that end product, and there's no strategy behind it, then we're building a roadmap to a place that we don't want to go. That product is going to attract people that may not be the right people to purchase your products or services.

India Jackson (09:55):

So as I began to kind of dissect that and work backwards, I found that we needed more time on the front end for strategy. And that also allowed less time in production if we were spending more time being really strategic about what we were producing and why with the client, and knowing their big picture vision. And getting more towards maintenance mode, it looked like at first, hiring a hair and makeup team. Even though I'm a professional makeup artist as well, I bought on a team called Silver Immersion that had aligned values with mine and really honored people's identities, and their vision, and didn't really put their stink on what people should look like.

India Jackson (10:46):

Because not everybody wants to have a full face of Vogue, or Elle, or Harper's BAZAAR makeup for their photoshoot. And as I got that piece off of the plate by doing a partnership with another company that we hired for all of our hair and makeup services, I could then look at what's happening on the back end. I'm spending a lot of time scheduling. Let's look at a service like Acuity to be able to handle scheduling for us. Automation. Some people will use Calendly, but it's a similar concept. What are all the other places that we can add in a system or add in a human to begin to be able to make the entire process of what we're doing have more ease?

Susan Boles (11:33):

Just the thought of ease being the focus, because I don't think that that's how people think about bringing on support. I think a lot of the times, it's from a place of, "I'm really overwhelmed. How can I not do this?" I love the idea of it being the focus of bringing on team members, or technology, finding support is ease. That feels nice.

India Jackson (12:07):

Yes. And I'll agree with you that I think many times, it's looked at from that way. If you would ask me in 2009, 2010, I would not have been able to see Acuity as being a part of maintenance mode or a part of the team, right? Or even this other company, Silver Immersion. And I do think that that is one of the things that changed and evolved is little by little, looking at partnerships and contractors as being a part of my team and figuring out how can I integrate them into my company culture? How can I let them know that this is their home too, even if they have other clients or a different brand name that they go by. And that was the piece that changed a lot.

Susan Boles (12:57):

So tell me more about how that looked for you.

India Jackson (13:03):

I definitely think that at one point early on, and mind you, we're talking about 20-year-old self, it looked like they just need to know the pieces that they need to know as far as a contractor, or a photo editor, or a hairstylist. So we would give them the specs of the shoot and how long it would take, payment, etc. Images of who the person is that's going to be photographed. But that was kind of that. They were just being provided the information that was needed to do a task. And I hadn't had any leadership training or even any business training in my undergrad program. So I was coming at it from that place.

India Jackson (13:47):

And fast forward, that shifted in so many ways to where we have regular meetings with contractors to get a better idea of what their long-term goals are for themselves. Not even within our company to see how we can further support that. We're having regular meetings to debrief what's going on in our business so that they're aware. Because I definitely believe in today's day from where I am now over 10 years later, that some of the things that we think are unimportant, or embarrassing, or vulnerable, or whatever that is, are actually some of the most important things that we can share with the people that are supporting us, including our audience. And when people have awareness of what's really going on in a more full picture, they can support you in a more wholehearted and aligned way versus just getting the task on the list on.

Susan Boles (14:44):

So it sounds like your team is kind of a unique makeup. Got a mix of partners and contractors. Can you kind of describe what your team looks like today?

India Jackson (14:58):

Yes. So given the transition that was 2020, we actually transitioned out of doing photo services for clients anymore. And our brand had already become majority strategy. So our team today doesn't include photographers anymore. But at one point we had a couple on the team as well as editors. And today, we have in-house, a main admin individual who handles a lot of our customer service and voicing. All of the good stuff that you would think of that a virtual assistant would do in addition to going a little bit more into empowering this person to step into the role of OBM and stay on top of me, of tasks that I need to do or other team members need to do as well, and deadlines.

India Jackson (15:52):

And then also within the business, we have two designers. One specializes in being able to do more of podcast cover art, logos, websites. And the other specializes intangibles like tee shirt design, tote bags, more of physical good designs as well as product packaging and things.

India Jackson (16:18):

And then from there, we also have partners. And when I think of partners, I think of other individuals that have a business, and their business contracts with our team. So Erica Courdae is a pretty well-known name as a diversity and inclusion coach. And we partner with her, and she oversees our company culture as well as me as a leader, and my leadership skills, and how I'm leading my team.

India Jackson (16:46):

And then we also have a few individuals that handle some of the other parts of our business that are not necessarily client work. Like we partner with a podcast production company that does our show notes for our podcast, as well as a few of our clients' podcasts, but not many. And with that, they're doing the writing of the show notes, they're doing the scheduling of episodes. All the things we think of when we think of podcasting minus the audio production. I feel like I'm forgetting something there. But we definitely partner with other businesses too.

Susan Boles (17:27):

Yeah. I think that's unique. So one of the I think biggest challenges for business owners when they consider either scaling their business or kind of approaching it as a maintenance mode mindset is hiring a team or thinking about their team. What should it look like? Who needs to be on it? What do I delegate? What do I outsource? So what was your approach when you decided to partner with folks or to hire from within? Do you have a specific framework that you follow or way that you think about it?

India Jackson (17:58):

I've definitely learned to start with values. And that's something that I think I learned the hard way. And I'm grateful for that experience. And I'm happy to be transparent about that. But I think that many times, business owners can think that what you need to look for is skillset and experience, and maybe great testimonials, right? Or that it fits your budget.

India Jackson (18:23):

And there was a time that I looked at that. And I will say that as being somebody who is already coming from a diverse background myself, and then having a very diverse team, especially my designers have multicultural elements to themselves as well and speak different languages. So when we look at those things, I think that never more than 2020 showed me that in the middle of the social justice movement, that you need to make sure that team members, and contractors, and even brand affiliate partners have aligned values with yours. And assuming that they do just because your content is talking about what you value is not enough. You have to have that conversation.

India Jackson (19:10):

I've made the mistake of thinking that me being explicit was explicit enough. Our conversations, our content, being super explicit about what we value was enough. So we did have some team members in 2020 that we respectfully just kind of discontinued working with because they didn't believe that Black Lives Matter, even though they're working for a Black business, a Black-owned business.

India Jackson (19:38):

So that transitioned how we approached onboarding to really come from a place of starting with everything from a job announcement to the first conversation of, "Here's our values. And we want to make sure that anyone here feels comfortable being here, and completely can embody this, and not feel like it's not a match for their integrity or how they feel inside. We want to honor how you feel and also honor how the team that we already have feels. So where are you with these values? And do you have any values that you don't see in our company values? Let's have that conversation before we talk about skills. Let's prioritize that over skills." Because we can always invest in our people to get more training, and we're happy to do so, or to learn new skills or learn new software. But we're not here to change who someone is, and we don't ever want someone to feel like they have to change who they are to work for us.

Susan Boles (20:38):

Yeah, absolutely. So I'm curious, how did you approach your hiring process differently when the focus was on finding the right fit value-wise instead of just focusing on skills? Because I think sometimes, it's easy to say that you want to hire for values. But it's really hard to filter job announcements for that. So I'm curious how you approached that. It's not an easy question or an easy process.

India Jackson (21:19):

No, but it's a great question. I'm definitely going off the cuff of this answer. But I'll say that as much as possible, and this is going to sound counterintuitive, but we've been radically transparent and maybe even our job announcements sound like a place that some people would never want to work at.

Susan Boles (21:40):

I mean, but that's the point. Right?

India Jackson (21:43):

Right. So it's repelled the people that need to be repelled, and also it's attracted the people that need to be attracted. We're honest that we don't have everything figured out, and that we're in constant evolution here. And we actually value evolution. We value different thought processes, new ideas, innovation. And also, we're going to say that this is a place where you're going to be challenged to be vulnerable, and to look at things in a different way, and to be very empathetic for what other people's experiences are. Even if they're not the same as your own. And if that's something that you're not available to do, then this isn't the place to work.

Susan Boles (22:26):

I think it's something that people don't think about enough. We don't think about the culture we have at our organization enough. We assume that saying what it is actually ends up being what it is. And that's so rarely true when you don't build it into your hiring process, build it into your onboarding process, build it into every aspect of the DNA of your company. And I think it's interesting to see how you've tried to actually build it in. Because I think it's a real challenge to find places in your business to build in the culture you actually want to have.

India Jackson (23:09):

Absolutely. And one of the things that we talk about at my other business Pause On The Play is that allyship and action are imperfect, right? You're an imperfect ally, you're taking imperfect action. So there's never going to be a perfect. And we're transparent about that too. There's always room to bake company culture, and even more than even we already have. So all of the touch points that someone gets to before they ever even get an interview.

Susan Boles (23:39):

I want to talk a little bit more about your evolution mindset wise. So as a founder, you being comfortable handing things off to your team. I think that can be a challenge for a lot of business owners. Feeling like you're losing control, feeling like you handing things off or you not being the person who's doing everything can be the hurdle that kind of trips you up when you're thinking about scaling or moving into having a team. What did that look like for you? Were there any mindset shifts that you needed to make to be more comfortable being in this leadership position coming from ... you're 20 years old, and you've never had a business, and you've never seen a business. And you suddenly have to figure out how to do this. What did that look like for you?

India Jackson (24:35):

It's funny. Now for reference, I'm 34. And I literally had a conversation earlier this year with a pretty well known client actually that has a lot of success in the business. And they said something that I was just dying laughing at because I'm like, "It's so true." They said, "The role of CEO is bottleneck for many people. And we should just retitle that to resident bottleneck so that we're transparent about what's going on here."

India Jackson (25:08):

It's the CEO that becomes the person that stops the project from getting finished on time, or the decision being made, or the email response being sent out. If we're not careful. And I've definitely been there, so I say that lovingly and I still work on that every day to not be the resident bottleneck. But I think awareness is key.

Susan Boles (25:28):


India Jackson (25:30):

I will say that for me, it started with handing off things that were the things that I knew were my weaknesses, and I knew were not areas that I was as skilled in or educated in. Right? I'm not a licensed cosmetologist or a hairstylist. So I needed to hand that off really quickly because you don't want me doing your hair.

India Jackson (25:51):

So for me, it was baby steps. And I don't necessarily think that might be true for everyone to take that approach. But I definitely baby stepped my way into what am I the least comfortable with doing that needs to be done in the business? How can I partner with another company or have a contractor handle that? And today, so many years later, looking at the areas like design. I have a degree in art and design. I wanted my hands all over every design.

India Jackson (26:24):

It's funny. Even our podcast cover art. I originally designed the Flaunt Your Fire podcast cover, and I just kept fighting it. Because if we're not careful, we don't see that the certain areas of our business, especially the service that we provide for our clients in my opinion, is the very service that is the fastest service you probably need to hand off to your team to do for your own brand. Because what could take 10 minutes to do for a client might take you hours for your own business because you're so attached to it being overly perfect or overthinking it, or you're so in it, that you can't zoom out and see what really needs to happen from an outsider's perspective.

Susan Boles (27:14):

Yeah. In the same way that it's really difficult to do your own strategy.

India Jackson (27:18):

Yes, exactly. Exactly, Susan. So I think a big pivotal area for me was handing off the graphic design for our podcast cover art, something that most people really don't think too much about.

Susan Boles (27:33):

It's seemingly small. But I love the idea that this one small thing was a pivotal moment for you.

India Jackson (27:42):

Right. When you're a design company, you're just looking at the yard and you're like, "It needs to be perfect." It's like, there's no such thing. Come on. "Why have I been trying to figure out this cover art for a month?" And at one point, I just had a breaking point and I was like, "I need to give this to my team. If I can't show them that I trust them to do our own cover art, how will they believe that I trust them to do any of our clients?"

Susan Boles (28:07):

So as you were growing your team, as you were kind of shifting into more of a leadership strategy position, were there any specific positions or roles that were especially critical for you as you were thinking about stepping back? You mentioned that roles where you weren't as comfortable were a little easier to hand over because you were confident that somebody else would probably do a better job than you were, because they were more of an expert. But were there any specific positions that seemed either really pivotal or particularly critical for you as the CEO to kind of step back into that more leadership role?

India Jackson (28:51):

One of the most challenging roles that we've had to fill has been office support. Client communication and customer service. It sounds really simple, but I think that we definitely do things differently as a company. And we really value witnessing people and their experiences. And it's something that I think from the outside looking in, if you're looking at working for a branding company, or a marketing agency, or visibility agency, which we cover a little bit of the above in all aspects. It's easy to have people come on board that are only thinking about the tangible what needs to be done. Because it's a very tangible industry.

India Jackson (29:41):

And they miss and leave behind that people are having real emotional experiences about changing their name, about having a logo attached to being the first thing that people see. And how that can affect what they think about who their brand is and what it's here to support and represent.

India Jackson (30:04):

So that's one of the areas that I've found that not just my business, but also clients' businesses I've witnessed has been a role that is way more important than maybe we give enough credit to. It's really easy to say just go find a VA. And there are so many websites to find one, right? And they might be able to get things done and do tasks, but are they truly able to witness the human experiences that your clients are having? And go beyond a task, or go beyond sending an invoice. Or checking in to see if something got done or if they need any support to actually say, "I saw this happen and are you okay?"

Susan Boles (30:45):

I think you're right. And I've seen it in my clients' companies as well that the thing that often gets delegated or outsourced first is client communication. But I think we do tend to forget the empathy that is needed to be really effective and witness people's experiences. Like you said, that's the touchpoint. And it seems like just administrative work, and it's not.

India Jackson (31:20):

No, especially when you get into the business and some of the things that you're checking in on is did you submit this pitch to a podcast? Did you send your speaker one-sheet for this public speaking opportunity? And that could be really easy to just leave it there. It's another to understand that the client shared with you that they have stage fright, or that they've been bullied in the past, or anything else that could live and affect mindset there as to why they possibly didn't send that thing off, and put themselves out there, and be vulnerable.

India Jackson (32:00):

So there's a lot of layers to that that I didn't expect. Because graphic design school doesn't teach you and marketing classes don't teach you that people are having emotional experiences that sometimes are linked back to traumas they've experienced when it comes to showing up.

Susan Boles (32:20):

Yeah. I experienced this a lot with money mindset issues. Never really thought about the brand visibility mindset issues and everything that comes along with that, outside of rebranding myself and feeling emotionally wrought during the entire process.

India Jackson (32:40):

There you get it though. I mean, it's a very emotionally raw experience. And I'm curious to hear from you, what does that look like within your team? Because as somebody who's had money mindset issues that I've worked through in my past and continue to work through, I know that it's so much more than just raise your prices. It's like hey, you're attaching price to worth. And my ancestors literally had a price tag to their life. So there's some things we got to unpack here.

Susan Boles (33:18):

And it's probably true on the visibility side too is that particularly when it comes to money, and how we think about money, and what we believe about money, so much of it is related to structures and experiences outside of our own head. So there's the stuff that's going on in your head. That's the normal anxiety, individual stuff. And also, so many systemic pieces that I don't know that you can ever work through on your own. Money mindset work is both individuals, but there's some stuff you're never going to be able to fix by messing with your own head when you live in a capitalist, racist, misogynistic society that it's built into the structure. It's something that I grapple with. And I think that there is value in doing work to work through your own relationship with money, but that it's really hard to separate that from the larger system that you live in.

India Jackson (34:31):

I couldn't have said that better. And I would love to know from your perspective, kind of flipping the interview back on you now. But if you found that there are any roles in your business that being able to truly internalize, and believe that, and value that understanding there has affected your hiring.

Susan Boles (34:55):

I don't know that it's necessarily a money mindset issue that affected my hiring. So I have no employees. I don't have any real contractors. Most of my approach to hiring tasks or work out in my business tends to be working with other business owners. And my approach has been kind of the rising tide lifts all ships. So if I support your business, you can support another business owner. And I don't know, there's something vaguely anti-capitalist about that.

India Jackson (35:36):

Definitely anti-capitalist.

Susan Boles (35:39):

But I get to pick and support business owners that I really love and believe in. And a lot of it honestly came out of having done HR for very, very large organizations, and being so frustrated at being completely unable to change things through bureaucracy. So my approach has been I love being able to support other business owners that are making a difference. But also, I don't want the responsibility of having employees anymore.

India Jackson (36:17):

I feel you there.

Susan Boles (36:20):

Which I go back and forth on. Do I want to make the change that I want to see in the world via having employees, and being able to pay them a good wage, and being able to make sure that they can support their families, and that they can feel taken care of and supported? Because I do believe that when we are financially supported and we are financially secure, that everybody does better work. So it's a trade-off between do I have employees and do I do that through employees, or do I do that through supporting other businesses? And my approach has always been at least today, supporting other businesses and being really conscious that the other businesses that I'm supporting also value those things that I value. It's just not through my own company. So very similar to your approach I think, where I want to make sure that the people that I work with support their employees if they have them, support paying people a living wage and making sure that they are taken care of. Which is one of the reasons I don't work with any companies that outsource overseas or don't pay people living wages. But I mean, that's how it's turned out in my business today.

India Jackson (37:45):

I love that. And I think that the living wage piece is so important because I do see in some of the businesses that I've supported, outsourcing some things to overseas. But it's like if that's the most aligned option for you, how can you offer them a wage that goes way beyond what they're asking because it's the wage that you were going to pay anyway if you hired in the us? Not just because they're cheaper.

Susan Boles (38:14):

Yeah. I think it's something that particularly over the last year and seeing the inequality from a financial perspective and the lack of support, the lack of systemic support we have and the kinds of precarious positions that has put people into over the last year, as we basically realize that there is no social safety net for anyone, has made me even more emphatic about that. I mean, it was a value before. And now, I'm going to put my money where my mouth is, and it's not going to people that aren't paying living wages, who have a value of supporting the people that work for them as humans.

India Jackson (39:00):

Yeah. I couldn't agree more about that.

Susan Boles (39:02):

Yeah. That was a really interesting, and also very good tangent. [inaudible 00:39:08] and made me think about stuff like that. So was there anything that you think we should talk about that we haven't yet?

India Jackson (39:15):

I'll say that my reflection from our conversation today is the importance of first before you start making decisions, go back and really do some values exercises. Get crystal clear on your values. Know what you're supporting, why you want to support it. What impact do you want to have in that area? And what exactly does that look like? I see so many people do brand value specifically and company values as a word. "We value diversity. We value equity. We value honesty." It's like, I hope you value being honest.

Susan Boles (39:58):

I would hope so.

India Jackson (40:01):

But can you break down around that into really assessing a way for first internally you yourself, and then you and your team, and then the public, to be able to audit that value? So have you really began to describe what do's and don'ts that you have because you value these things? What will you do? What won't you do? It's really simple to lay that out. But until we've done that and put it on paper, it's challenging to say, are we truly living through this value? Are we showing up with this value in our decisions and our everyday actions?

India Jackson (40:47):

And I will personally say a large part of how I've gotten to maintenance mode is I took a lot of time to get really clear on what impact do I want to have, and what do I want to support in the world? And what changes do I want to see? Way beyond the service we provide, way beyond the money we can make, and what we have to sell. And we began to restructure what was happening with our team, what services we offered, and even started a whole secondary business once we were able to get in a maintenance mode for Flaunt Your Fire. Because of the values that I laid out, it made it crystal clear what needed to happen.

Susan Boles (41:28):

I love that. I think that is the perfect place to wrap it up on. So where can our find you if they want to connect or learn more about you and what you do?

India Jackson (41:37):

Thank you for asking Susan. You can find out more about me. I have lots of conversations about brand values specifically, as well as marketing, and how you can do visibility and branding differently over at the Flaunt Your Fire podcast. And we talk a little bit more about the diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, and financial equality piece over at the Pause On The Play podcast.

Susan Boles (42:02):

Hiring for your business is a big decision, especially if it's the first hire. Finding the right fit, integrating new hires into your culture and your processes, and then feeling comfortable enough to let go of the reins and let your team fly are all part of evolving as a leader. But having a team you can turn to and someone you can trust to monitor the autopilot can be that last but very critical piece of maintenance mode. And it's the piece that allows you to truly step away and know that things are taken care of. Even if you aren't there to be the one to take care of them.

Susan Boles (42:43):

Next week, I'm talking to Claire Pelletreau about actually stepping away from her business for a few months. What she did to prepare, what happened while she was on leave, and then what she realized she actually needed to build when she came back. So make sure you hit subscribe in your favorite podcast player so you don't miss it. And if you enjoyed this episode, please share it with someone who you think might benefit from listening.

Susan Boles (43:07):

Break The Ceiling is produced by Yellow House Media. Our executive producer is Sean McMullin. Our production coordinator is Lou Blaser.


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