HR & Team

How Your Team Impacts Your Business' Ecosystem with Emily Thompson

No stranger to making hard decisions and priming herself for growth, Emily Thompson talks about how hiring the right people for the right positions with the right mix of skills has made her business more efficient, more effective, and more profitable.

Susan Boles
August 25, 2020
53
 MIN
Podcast

Hiring the RIGHT people in the RIGHT positions with the RIGHT mix of skills makes your business more efficient, more effective, and more profitable. And having just one wrong team member can tank the whole thing. 

Getting this right is all about your strategic—and every day—decisions. 

Your decisions on who you hire touches everything in your business. Decisions about what your process looks like affects your software choices. Decisions about your business model affects your marketing strategy. Decisions about your software affects your cash flow. 

And this all ties back into how your business is an ecosystem. Each and every decision you make matters and can affect all the other areas of your business.

Your decisions around who you choose to fill those roles and how you onboard those new team members all impact how effectively and profitably your business can operate. 

No stranger to making hard decisions and priming herself for growth is Emily Thompson. Emily is the cofounder and host of Being Boss, a podcast for creative entrepreneurs and coauthor of Being Boss: Take Control of Your Work and Live Life on Your Own Terms. Emily is also the founder of Almanac Supply Co, a retail concept that makes and curates products that help people connect with the seasons and live closely with nature.

Listen to the full episode to hear:

  • How Emily uses key members of her team to run both Being Boss and Almanac Supply Co.
  • What her hiring (and firing) process looks like—and how she preps herself for those hard conversations
  • How she hired the right person in the perfect role for their skill set and it resulted in tripling their revenue

Links

Episode Transcript

Emily Thompson (00:00):

… I've really embraced this viewpoint that we need to hire differently. We need to train differently. We need to hire people for different kinds of roles and interesting blends of roles. And so I've just embraced that and really tried out a lot of things. I've hired contractors that have worked with me short-term and long-term. I've had employees both full-time and part-time. So, what does this look like? Any configuration under the sun.

Susan Boles (00:30):

Having the right people in the right positions with the right mix of skills makes your business more efficient, more effective and more profitable, but having just one wrong team member can tank the whole thing. 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 profits and increase your operational capacity.

Susan Boles (00:58):

This month we've been talking about how your business operates like an ecosystem. Each decision you make matters, and it can affect all the other areas of your business decisions about what your process looks like, affect your software choices. Decisions about your business model affect your marketing strategy. Decisions about your software can affect your cashflow. And today we're talking about how your choices about your team affect it all. Your decisions around what roles to hire, who you choose to fill those roles and how you onboard those new team members, all impact how effectively and profitably your business can operate. Hiring the right person in the perfect role for their skillset can turn your whole business around tripling your revenue, like you'll hear my guest today talk about.

Susan Boles (01:51):

Meet Emily Thompson. Emily is the co-founder and host of Being Boss, which is a podcast for creative entrepreneurs and the co-author of the book, Being Boss. Emily is also the founder of Almanac Supply Company, which is a retail concept that makes and curates products that help people connect with the seasons and live closely with nature. We're going to talk about how Emily uses key members of her team to run both companies, what her hiring and firing process looks like and how she approaches making sure her team is in the right positions for them and for the business they work in.

Susan Boles (02:33):

Hey, Emily, thanks so much for being here today.

Emily Thompson (02:35):

Thank you for having me, Susan. I'm super stoked about this chat.

Susan Boles (02:39):

Yeah, me too. I know that you're in the process of restructuring your team a little bit, but tell me a little bit about what your team has looked like historically.

Emily Thompson (02:51):

So many things. I will say I've been in business, I guess I've been an employer for, Oh my God. 15 years. I guess I hired my first employee about 15 years ago. God, I never thought about that number. Okay. Sounds good. I've really run the gamut of traditional employees versus contractors. I've hired people just come in and do like very basic jobs. I have also hired experts. I've really run the gamut of employees. I will say, I think the most relevant is probably the past eight years or so.

Emily Thompson (03:36):

I've done some interesting things. I think that the time that we're living in calls for a restructuring too of how it is that we hire people, the roles that we hire people for. The way businesses work these days is nothing like they were working, even five years ago, let alone 10 years ago. And so I've really embraced this viewpoint that we need to hire differently. We need to train differently. We need to hire people for different kinds of roles and interesting blends of roles. And so I've just embraced that and really tried out a lot of things.

Emily Thompson (04:10):

I've hired contractors that have worked with me short-term and long-term. I've had employees both full-time and part-time. So, what does this look like any configuration under the sun basically.

Susan Boles (04:25):

Talk to me a little bit about the restructuring that's happening right now and what your plan is for your team to look like after that's all done.

Emily Thompson (04:35):

Sure. Well, I will say that the restructuring probably happened about a year ago. And so, and that's one of the fun things about business and really being a very outward facing business is a lot of people think that's what's happening. Like what I'm sharing is happening real time. And that is the case in a lot of things. But when it comes to those like really deep set business structures, those things take a lot of time. And I like to share those sorts of things after they're done a little bit while they're happening, but definitely after so that the messy part is over and I can really give a clear perspective of what's happening.

Emily Thompson (05:12):

So, it looks like restructuring is happening, but restructuring actually happened about a year, year and a half ago. And so what this has looked like, and this gives me the ability to really be a little more, I don't know, in the know, I guess of what I'm talking about because I've been there done that, not am there doing it at the moment. What's happened has been my partner and I have been dissolving our partnership and it's very amicable we're still very good friends.

Emily Thompson (05:40):

It was just a case of, we actually decided to shut down the business to shut down Being Boss because we were both really burnt out and having a hard time juggling our other businesses and really wanting to give Being Boss the attention that we could collectively. And so we started shutting things down. We actually let go of about half of our team and took down our processes to a minimal level as we worked out what it would look like to actually shut down the business. And about nine months into that decision, I realized that's not actually what I wanted. I felt that I wanted to shut down Being Boss and to move full-time into my other business, which is Almanac Supply Co.

Emily Thompson (06:25):

I actually realized that that decision made me feel worse. It wasn't making me feel better. It was making me feel worse. And so I decided or I had this idea that I wanted to buy out my business partner and we were 50/50 business partners, both on paper, but also in a contribution to the business as well. We were meeting each other at how much we were spending in and on the business and this restructuring beginning, really with that decision to shut it down and letting go of half of our team and then deciding to take that pivot of actually, we're not going to shut it down, we're going to keep doing it.

Emily Thompson (06:59):

That shift was around me putting in all of the work and my partner putting in basically none. And the first phase of it. And we thought that was going to be the phase that it's how it was going to happen was we went from 50/50 to 85/15. I was 85%. She was 15%. And we thought the energy level would shift in that way as well. And then about nine months into that, oh, actually even before that. At about the same time that we made the decision to make that shift in partnership, I also brought on a team member because I was like, okay, I'm not going to be going full-time into Almanac. In which case I need someone at Almanac who can basically replace me. Two businesses, a team of, let's see me one, two, three, four, five amongst us amongst those two. And they are all employed by Being Boss. And then Being Boss actually leases out some employees to Almanac as needed as that business is growing.

Emily Thompson (08:03):

And we do that too, for the purpose of health insurance. We want to offer health insurance. I do not want to have two full-time businesses worth of employees in order to provide health insurance for 10 employees when I just need to do it for five employees. We have all of our employees currently at Being Boss. And as the team grows, things may change, but that's worked really well for us this far. We have, everyone is employed by Being Boss and we lease out some employees to Almanac as needed. And so we brought someone onto the team and we've since begun restructuring things internally using those five employees.

Emily Thompson (08:48):

And then really about two weeks ago, my business partner and I decided to make a full split. Now I'm a 100% owner of Being Boss and Kathleen has left to go work full-time at her branding agency, which puts us in a place where I'm about ready to make even another hire. It's been a very long transition. It's been done very mindfully, very purposefully. We've had some contractors come in and out as we've gone along. But it's been interesting, but also very slow. I think a lot of times whenever our people are thinking about hiring employees, they need to, one month they're going to hire this one. Then two months later, they're going to have this one. And then everyone's going to be on board and it's going to be great.

Emily Thompson (09:29):

I've learned every time I've ever tried to make really fast moves in my business in terms of bringing people on and growing my team and all of those things, things can get really jumbled really quickly. This time I went into it, very mindfully giving myself plenty of time to really properly onboard people and to put them in the right places, which I think is something we'll be talking about in a minute. I'm finding it's very much so serving me, so doing this really interesting big transition of what our team has looked like has been about an 18 month process, but it's going really well. And it set us a foundation where now I think I can make some moves considerably faster than I could have in the past.

Susan Boles (10:14):

Okay. I definitely want some details on the specific positions you are hiring in just a minute, but talk to me a little bit about how you were thinking through what that restructure would look like. When you were processing all of this information and wanting to figure out how that transition looks, what kinds of things were you taking into consideration? What were you thinking about when you were designing what the restructure looks like?

Emily Thompson (10:44):

Good question. Two things, I think two major things. One was the fact that I was losing Kathleen. I was losing a partner who had several skills that she brought to the table. That's why we were business partners. And so I had to think about who would be replacing her in some of those roles. Taking her roles, her responsibilities and either acquiring them for myself or finding someone who could take them off of my plate then. And the second was looking at my own plate, like seeing how full my own plate was and thinking about what it is that I needed to be doing in my business. What did not need to be done and what could be bucketed together to create a job role for a single person because as the CEO of two companies, my roles are many and widespread.

Emily Thompson (11:44):

I can be responsible for lots of things. And that's one of the things that I love about how I run businesses is I really do love to understand how every part of the business works. I will take on roles for myself to understand them, to optimize them, to make sure they're really going to work for the company, all of these things, and then off-board them into my people. And so I had to consider both of those things, what I was losing and what it is that I did not myself want to be responsible for. And then putting those together into individual little drop roles so that I could find people to fill that space.

Susan Boles (12:24):

Totally makes sense. So, as you were crafting these job roles and figuring out who was going to be in what positions and what those positions really looked like, can you talk to me a little bit about what your decision making process, your hiring process looked like around those new roles?

Emily Thompson (12:45):

Yes. And as the one who runs, I will precede this all by saying I've learned some hardcore things, not only about hiring and having employees over my past 15 years of doing this and eight to 10 years in this particular space, I've also realized what employer I am and not even employer, but what person I am in the world of business, as someone who runs a brand called Being Boss. And this also stems from my career prior to this as an online business strategist for Creatives, I was actually helping Creatives start their online businesses. I realized that I am a flash point. I am a flash point for people's professional lives.

Emily Thompson (13:39):

And it took me a really long time to understand and to really come to terms with it and then also develop a strategy around it because I would often hire people who upon getting on-boarded decided they want to make a huge career change or upon getting on-boarded, realize that they are not boss enough for this yet or whatever it may be. I've had to really learn that people who find me are usually at that point in their life. And this is true for my audience at Being Boss, all of which are looking for some career change or to really up level, their bossiness to really make money and take control of their work and live life on their own terms, all of those things.

Emily Thompson (14:22):

I've had to come to terms with that and work around that for myself. I often like to do both contractors and employees, and I think that there are times and places for each of those in my business. And it's been a lot of trial and error to find out in which places I prefer, which and so on one hand, I like to hire professionals who will come and do short-term projects for me on a contract basis. And I say short-term because I do not like working with contractors long-term. Usually once I make that long-term investment in a contractor, they end up switching their profession. All of the investment that I've made to build that relationship ends up going away. And I find this over and over, and this is not the case for everyone, but this has proven to be the case for me and it's not a 100%, but quite often.

Emily Thompson (15:20):

Whenever it comes to long-term relationships, I want those to be actual employees. Whenever it comes to hiring employees, traditionally I have hired people who could fit anywhere in my company. I like to bring people in, give them the opportunity to work in several parts of the business and then really put them where it is that they most or can make the most impact, wherever they are happy as being, even if it's like a weird job description where they're in two parts of the business that wouldn't usually go together, but they are specifically built for those two parts of the business.

Emily Thompson (16:02):

In that case, those two things have to go into play into each role that I'm filling. Is it going to be a short-term contractor where I can really just hire an expert to come in and do this thing, or do I want to bring someone in and really nurture them and to being just the employee that I want within the business that I want them in and really make those long-term investments that can make them not even a part of my team, but really a part of my professional family. And I've done both of those things and I've done both of those things with great rewards and with huge impacts both in their lives and in my business.

Emily Thompson (16:41):

I go at it both ways and depending on the role will dictate, it will dictate who I'm looking for, how I'm looking for them, how it is that I am interviewing and how it is that I onboard them and where it is that I put them in my business.

Susan Boles (16:58):

Talk to me a little bit about this unique approach to sorting people in where they fit best, because I think that is key in terms of making sure that people have the right skills and everybody comes in with a different mix. They're going to craft their position into the things that they're interested in and all of that. But when you are looking for these people, traditional hiring, we're hiring them into a specific role in the business. How do you approach finding the right people that like when you're advertising for a job, what do you advertise for? You know what I'm saying?

Emily Thompson (17:39):

Yeah, for sure it can be difficult. And honestly, the employees that I have that I've brought on in that capacity were all personal recommendations by someone else. Both of the employee types, and I have two currently in right now, one I've had on my team for about eight years, one I've had for a little over a year, both of which are full-time employees and both of them came from personal recommendations where I sent out an email to friends and was like, “Hey, I'm looking for someone who can do like this long ridiculous list of stuff.” And it doesn't have to be all of these things, but these are all the things I need someone to fill for. If any of these brings up anyone for you, let me know.

Emily Thompson (18:27):

And so I get those personal recommendations and I have interviews and I don't really look at resumes. I will make sure that you're not bouncing around from job to job every three months. That may be something that I look at, but even then I don't put a bunch of stock into that. I want to like a person, because if I'm going to bring you on and work with you full-time for the next eight years plus, or whatever it may be, I want to know that we can hold a conversation. I want to know that whenever I ask you questions you're not going to like, I want to see what like flashes across your face, those sorts of things. And whether it is an employee or a contractor, I always do trials. I always will give them a project or two just to check their competency level. Like, can you do this?

Emily Thompson (19:13):

I'll never forget whenever I was hiring my developer, who is still with me, I actually hired two or I interviewed two people and I trialed two people for this job. And it was for a website developer at the time. And [Mike Corey 00:19:31], it's funny, both of their names are Corey. Corey number one, which is the Corey that I hired, came in and did my trials, great. He did the development task that I gave him. It was wonderful. The other guy came in also named Corey. And he asked me how to code in bolded text.

Susan Boles (19:51):

Oh geez.

Emily Thompson (19:52):

And I was like, "Honey, you're not a web developer." I'm like, “I can do that.” And so, you know that for me, that little trial and I always pay those trials on a contract basis. So, you're going to come in, you're going to do these trials for paid. I'm going to pay you to do these as a contractor. And if the trials go well, I'll offer you a position. And so those trials always let me know. Because I can really like a person and them still not have the skills. It's both of those things that I will test out. And so, yeah, that's just, I guess an example of how I've done that. And then the employee that we brought on about a year ago was the same.

Emily Thompson (20:33):

And here's the funny thing too. I do tend to usually fire or excuse me, hire two people and just realize this whenever I hire people, I usually hire two and one of them usually does not work out. Maybe that's a fun tactic. I always hire two. And then just recognize that like one of them might not fit. But whenever I hired my most recent, a full-time employee, it was the same thing where I hired two people. One was actually going to come in as a contractor didn't work out. But, the employee that I did hire is still with me and is really positioning ourselves with an Almanac to replace me in so many ways. And so many of the tasks I was doing, she's really come on to be the employee that I was looking for.

Emily Thompson (21:21):

So it's a roundabout way. I have a wonderful network of business owners. That's again, a byproduct of the job that I have. And so I have this huge network of professionals that I can always tap whenever I am looking for someone. And so I usually take those personal recommendations. Again, sometimes they don't pan out for sure, but they oftentimes do. And I will hire a person for their attitude and their personality over their skills any day. Because I can teach you skills. I can't teach you to be a cool person.

Susan Boles (21:54):

Yes, absolutely. I have moved over the course of my professional career and the same thing. Like you can teach somebody to be interested. You can teach them to want to learn. You can teach that like, I guess, opposite of what I'm saying. You can't teach that stuff. Like they have to be motivated enough to want to learn. And sometimes their skills when they come in, their resume reflects skills that they don't have. I also love the idea of test projects, because I think you do realize so much about the kinds of questions that they're asking you about the project really tells you a lot about how able they are to research their own questions or how experienced they are. You just get so much information from watching somebody actually do their work.

Emily Thompson (22:47):

For sure. And I will say too, you said something about putting people in the right position. Whenever I am hiring an employee, I will give them a broad spectrum of tasks and allow them to ask me questions. And I'm constantly asking them questions. Like “What are you loving doing? What do you want to do more of? If I could take one thing off your plate, because you never want to do it again, what would it be?” And not to say that it will go off your plate, but whenever it comes to hiring a future person, maybe it's someone who was going to love doing that thing that you don't like doing whatever it may be. I keep the conversation very open because I've definitely found over the years that people will fall in one of two camps.

Emily Thompson (23:27):

One is that they end up applying for a job that they actually don't have the skills in, but they will still be very valuable to me. In another part of my business, this has happened a couple of times. I'll never forget. I hired a graphic designer a couple of years ago. And it was one of those things where like, I can teach you some skills. I can't teach you some personality. I thought I liked her personality, I thought she was great. She ended being an awful graphic designer but was really great at being an event production assistant. And so I worked with her for a couple of years in a completely different capacity from the job that she had actually applied for.

Emily Thompson (24:04):

And then same thing with Corey, my developer, who is now my podcast production guy, he still does website support, but the majority of his tasks for me are around podcast production. And that was one of those things where he had had some experiences around that before I had not hired him for that job whenever I hired him, Being Boss was not even a thing. But as the business has grown, as things have evolved and changed. I've been able to let him choose the roles it is that he takes so that he maintains a love for the job that he's in and he gets to grow professionally too. He has skills now that he did not have eight years ago whenever he joined the team.

Emily Thompson (24:45):

It's very important for me and this is even again, part of what we teach at Being Bosses. I can't encourage my listeners to take control of their work and get paid, doing what they love if I don't also allow my employees to do the exact same thing.

Susan Boles (25:03):

I love that. Now what? That's the question I hear from a lot of service based business owners, maybe you've been asking yourself now what too. You've built your business from the ground up and your business works, but maybe it's not growing. You keep bumping into a ceiling on how many clients you can take on and maybe how much money you can make. And maybe now you're even wondering if your business has staying power. You might be keenly aware of how small challenges could easily balloon into big problems as the market and the economy change. I help entrepreneurs decide how to take action so they can build more resilient business that's primed for growth.

Susan Boles (25:48):

I combine strategic thinking with a background in business finance data and operations, to see the patterns that have your business bumping against a growth ceiling. I'll show you exactly what you can do to break through and make more money all while making sure the foundation under your business is strong. I have a few new client openings for my quarterly or monthly advisory packages. When you work with me, I'll examine your financial reports to spot opportunities.

Susan Boles (26:15):

We'll talk about where you're feeling friction and discover ways you can reclaim your time and attention. We'll dig into how to scale your operations without sacrificing quality. You can increase your capacity and make more money. Each action you take will be informed by strategic financial insight and data driven, operational planning. The result you'll feel wildly capable and in control. And you'll finally break through that ceiling. Ready to learn more about working with me as your business advisor, go to scalespark.co/advisor.

Susan Boles (26:55):

So, we've been talking around this a little bit, but having the right people in the right positions with the right mix of skills can really have a transformative impact on your business. It can make you more profitable. It makes you more efficient, more effective. How have you seen that play out for either one of your businesses either before, during or after this transition? How have you seen this play out for you?

Emily Thompson (27:21):

Oh, so many ways. The right employee in your business will change everything, will change absolutely everything, if you allow them to do so. And that's the key there, if you allow them.

Susan Boles (27:32):

That's definitely, I think a hard part for some folks.

Emily Thompson (27:34):

For sure. I think my most recent full-time hire is a perfect example of this. Her name is Mary. I hired Mary a little over a year ago to replace me at Almanac. And so Almanac is my product business, where we make and create products to help people live more closely with nature. And this is the business that I've always wanted to start. Back in the day, whenever I was helping other creative start online businesses, I would always get really sad when I was watching beautiful retail stores online because I wanted to launch one for myself.

Emily Thompson (28:07):

About two and a half years ago, I did that. I finally did the thing and I launched Almanac, but I still loved Being Boss. It was always a really hard dance for me to really run both of them by bringing on, or whenever I made the decision that I would be keeping Being Boss, I wanted to Being Boss to maintain of full-time job and Almanac would be my side hustle. I didn't want Almanac to suffer for that by any means. We brought on Mary, she does some things at Being Boss just in like small tasky things occasionally, but most of her work is at Almanac and that has enabled me to do so much.

Emily Thompson (28:52):

And so we brought her on initially as a contractor. She came in and was doing some project specific things for us. And then we decided that we would bring her on as a full-time employee. And I allotted four months for training her with the idea of like, “I'm going to bring you in and literally show you all the things that I do, from marketing, to purchasing, to managing the website, all of these things.” So that she could really run the gamut of all of it and essentially replace me. And so we've been in that relationship for, I guess about seven, eight months now.

Emily Thompson (29:32):

I spend about five hours a week at Almanac. At Almanac, I really am just the CEO. I'm not pushing the pixels. I'm not dealing with customer service. I'm not seeking out new business. I'm only doing the parts that I really, really want to do because I made one hire. One full-time hire has allowed me to be the boss in that business and only the capacity that I want. I'm not like getting annoyed that I'm still doing that thing or that thing isn't getting done because I don't have time to do it or whatever it may be. Mary has stepped in to do that. And so her and my partner, David really run the day-to-day operations of Almanac. And so I only need to step in for those weekly meetings where we're going over those very high level business projects or whatever it may be.

Emily Thompson (30:19):

And then the fun thing, we do these biweekly crystal parties where we are selling crystals on Zoom at the moment. It's a ton of fun. And so I just kind of get to pop in every other week to do these crystal parties and then I go back to working at Being Boss. So that I think is a perfect example and not only do I get all of my time back, but Almanac's revenue has, I think tripled. Yeah, it's tripled this year and we're in the middle of a pandemic. Even just like my reluctancy to do all of that stuff was also energetically affecting Almanac and getting me out of it, getting me out of our way basically has opened us up to immense growth in the retail sector, which is one of the hardest hit sectors by COVID and we are here doing it. How about that for an example?

Susan Boles (31:15):

I love that. That is a perfect example. Are there any positions on the other side at Being Boss that have been particularly pivotal or enabling you to do more over there, or have you been primarily taking over Kathleen's roles? How has it worked on the other side as you've transitioned your partner out?

Emily Thompson (31:41):

Oh. This is where we fall into this is still happening. We've done a lot of the other transitions and this is where the rest of the transition needs to happen. Now that Kathleen is out, which always sounds so much harsher than I feel it actually is, now that she gets to do exactly what she wants to do. I now have the opportunity to make some of those hires here at Almanac. I am actually working on getting a couple of contractors in place for some copywriting and again, some of those smaller projects that I have coming up. I will soon be making what I hope is my next pivotal hire at Being Boss that will enable me again, like at Almanac, take my attention to the next level.

Emily Thompson (32:26):

For me, and going back to what I was saying earlier about how I really love to have my hands in everything before delegating because I love systems, I love making things super-efficient. I've seen over and over whenever someone gets into a role who is not as organized as I am, which is next level and not as efficient-seeking as I am, which is also a little next level, things can get fluffy. Things just get really fluffy, really fast. And so I've been purposefully keeping everything in my hands so that I can de-fluff as much as possible to get really in there with the systems, what's been working, what hasn't worked, but also because the business is going to be taking a bit of a pivot as well, part of this exchange. And also a lot of what's been caused by the upending of the world over the past couple of months has required some shifting.

Emily Thompson (33:23):

Then again, I wanted to keep in my hands before handing it off to someone new. In the next couple of months, I think the role that I need to hire for, and I'm making some final decisions around this, is a content production assistant. So someone who can come in because the biggest role we have is our content production. And there's lots of different kinds of content that's being produced. And this is a role that I could see more than any bridging or having to bridge the gap between Being Boss and Almanac because content production is a part of both of those companies. I think that will be the next hire that I make. I hope to do that in the next month or two. Again, just making some final decisions around some direction in the business that I want to make now that this change is official because again, that's fresh like two, three weeks. And then a content production system I think is on the docket.

Susan Boles (34:17):

Ooh. Talk to me a little bit about the, once you've have your hands in things and you understand and have kind of made processes, made them more efficient. What does that look like?

Emily Thompson (34:33):

For me, it's a very beautiful [asana 00:34:37]. Kind of simple as that. Yeah, I think it's asana, but also some visioning plans. Part of us winding down at Being Boss with the idea that we would be shutting it down and this would have taken place at the end of 2019. It was only about a year ago now that we actually decided that we were not going to shut down the business. And so there's been a lot of rebuilding that I've had to do in the past year. Putting several pieces that we had shut down, back into place. Things like the community, bringing back our events though now that is what it is. Doing some of those things that rebuilds our revenue streams when we had started dismantling them, that has been the task for the past year. Moving forward it's really recreating that vision.

Emily Thompson (35:33):

And now as a solo business owner, I have to figure out what that piece looks like. And needing to get that in place has been very important for me. It's planning. It's basically creating a plan for what happens next, which again, prior to thinking we were going to shut it down, we had plans on top of plans on top of plans, but now we have to reimagine everything. And so it's also funny because this pandemic thing, a lot of people saw their plans stop or having to be completely re-pivoted. For me, it happened naturally in a place where I was already pivoting when I was already making new visions and coming up with new plans and all of these things. I think I was able to take it a little less hard because I was already in that place.

Emily Thompson (36:29):

I'm putting together plans, I'm creating. And this is things like knowing what I'm going to launch when, like creating a launch calendar for the next 12 months, think about what it is that I'm creating for the next 12 months. Really solidifying a couple of streams of the business model that I need to put into place for it all to function correctly. Those sorts of things, it's creating those big vision plans and the path towards them in a business that we kind of burned the plans. We were like, “Mm, never mind.” We're putting those back into place and then [inaudible 00:36:58], creating those processes around them. Putting them in asana so that someone can just be on board and be like, “Okay, you know that digital thing we need, here's all the tasks that we need to do it. Let's get started.” It's those kinds of things that need to be put into place first.

Susan Boles (37:12):

And how have you found kind of having that clear vision, those clear processes when you onboard new folks, what does it look like for them now? What is the impact of having spent that time on really making sure that the vision is clearly communicated and your expectations are detailed inside the process? What is the result of that for you?

Emily Thompson (37:35):

I think for anyone coming into a business called Being Boss, it shows them really what it is that we stand for and what it is that we value and what it is that sets us apart. For years, Kathleen and I have said because we're both designerly. We both are designers actually. We are very particular about things. We are very highly effective at communicating all of these things. We often say that we are where we are because of our attention to detail. It is the fact that we do those things that really has put us where we are and has kept us there even despite a year of complete [lowl 00:38:16]. For me, it's putting my money where my mouth is, it's going into a relationship prepared. It is showing them exactly how it is that we communicate as opposed to them coming in and be like, “Okay, let's figure this out.”

Emily Thompson (38:29):

And there is a level of that 100%, but not everything can and should be that in my business. I hold those things very, very high because I want them to come to me with some fully thought out plans when the time comes because I want people to take ownership of the things that they do. And so I'm also taking ownership of the things that I'm doing first. And so for me, it's practicing what I preach. It's showing up ready to do the work. Not like, “Eh, let's figure it out. I don't really know all these things.” There is some of that that happens, but I think that can only happen effectively when they come in and can be confident that they are walking into a job that is actually ready for them.

Susan Boles (39:14):

I love that because I think so often business owners, like we were talking about earlier, when you try and hire fast or you hire in kind of this emergency mode, it's really challenging for the folks coming in and for you as the business owner, to be able to detail what the expectations are or what the role is. And so I think that time that you're spending really clearly communicating to them is so invaluable.

Emily Thompson (39:46):

Yeah. And I've seen it too. I have a friend who got hired at a tech startup maybe about a year, year and a half ago now. And I talked to him several times. He was so excited about getting this job. It's like his big boy job, that's what we call it. He'd had several big boy jobs before that. There was something about this one that was just like, it was like it was his dream job. He was getting his dream job. He's a software developer. And he got into the job. It's this crazy hiring process too. There was tons of applicants, really hard trials to get in. The interview process was very intense. He finally got in and he got in there and he's sitting down and he had like a couple of things to do.

Emily Thompson (40:26):

Basically the first six to eight weeks, he didn't have anything to do. He kept going to his bosses who were basically never there and asking, “What do you want me to do?” And they'd just be like, “Oh, we'll give you something when we're ready.” He's still there and he still loves it, but I always felt like that was such a waste of potential. For a new hire to come in there and especially if it's a job they're excited about, there is some energy there that I want to capture. I want us all to be excited and I want to harness it and continue it. Not like drop you in the middle of it, let it fizzle out because you don't even know what you're doing or if you're even going to keep your job because they're obviously not even using you.

Emily Thompson (41:11):

Like, “What is job security like here?” I don't want any of those questions in place. I want someone to come in. I want someone to have a roadmap in front of them that will teach them the ways of the company so that whenever it's time for them to start making decisions and start doing things on their own, they're primed for that and that energy is still there because none of it was wasted.

Susan Boles (41:32):

Yes. I love that because I think that's so common, especially at bigger companies where you show up and they're like, “All right, you can't log into your computer yet because IT hasn't given you your credentials. Just sit in your office, here's some policy letters storied.” I think it's just, you're right. There's so much energy when you start a new job. You're so excited. You're excited to see what it's going to be like, what your job is going to be like, and you just lose it all when you're just sitting there staring at a blank computer monitor, reading policy letters.

Emily Thompson (42:02):

Right. It takes discipline. I coach Creatives. I know what it looks like to stall and to not want to do the hard work or the work that you don't feel qualified to do. I can't recommend enough how even just a little bit of preparation can go such a long way. The first couple of times I hired, I didn't know what I was doing. By no means did I know what I was doing, but here I am now literally having a conversation apparently as an expert on having a team. I mean you get there.

Susan Boles (42:42):

[crosstalk 00:42:42] you become an expert by virtue of having done it for 15 years.

Emily Thompson (42:45):

For sure stuff.

Susan Boles (42:46):

You try new stuff, you learn as you go.

Emily Thompson (42:48):

So, you do. You have to do the prep work. You have to get people ready. You have to make the most. Oh, and especially when it comes to small businesses, you do not have the, is it a privilege, the privilege to waste resources. Bringing someone in, you need to have them ready. I think there is something to be said too around bringing people in and letting them create their role. Letting them figure out what their own systems are, those sorts of things. I think there are places to do that. If you are too lenient, lenient, yeah, that's the word lenient on that, I think what you can often find is employees who don't actually think you're the boss because they've come on and had to create their own job because you didn't have the foresight to figure out what it is that they were going to do.

Emily Thompson (43:37):

I think that can create a not productive relationship potentially as well. There is a balance there between you setting yourself up to be the boss of your employees to be the person who's running the business or at least look like you know how to run the business. There's a balance between being that and also allowing your employees to have ownership over their job.

Susan Boles (44:03):

Yes. All right. We have talked about so many things so far. Is there anything that you think we should talk about that we haven't yet? Anything that we haven't touched on?

Emily Thompson (44:14):

Oh, I don't know. The first thing that pops into my head is firing people.

Susan Boles (44:18):

Yes, thank you. Because I wanted to ask earlier and I completely forgot, when you were talking about having hired two people, you have to fire one of them.

Emily Thompson (44:28):

Yeah, you do. I've had to fire many people in my day. And I'm the kind of person that when I fire people, they usually thank me.

Susan Boles (44:41):

Well, tell me how you do that. I think a lot of people end up with these people on their team that they know aren't the right person, or they know they don't have the right skill or they're not in the right position. And they're afraid to have that conversation.

Emily Thompson (44:54):

Yeah. Well, okay. I will say too, having a business partner where I'm having conversations in front of 30,000 plus people has equated to, I have a lot of practice having hard conversations and then being public. I do have that extra skillset that not everyone has, but I will say that in order to have conversations, you just have to have them and you need to practice having them. And they get easier and easier. And because of that, the last person that I had to fire was one of those conversations where we had hired her at Almanac on a contract basis to do, it was a set of like two or three specific projects that we wanted her to work with us on. She did not deliver. She just kind of stopped. She literally ghosted us for a couple of weeks.

Emily Thompson (45:43):

Like that scenario, where she knew it was coming. She knew it was coming, but still my partner, David, who's my life partner and business partner, he did not want to go into the meeting where I knew we were firing her. And even though she had to have been primed. She had to have known it was coming and it didn't bother me. It did not bother. I was just like, “Let's just go do this. It has to be done. I'm not worried about it.” And we went in and it was another one of those conversations where I was like, “This is obviously not working. Here are the things that have gone wrong. Here are the expectations that you did not meet.” Gave her an opportunity to explain herself and then told her, “I think it's best for both of us, if you are no longer working with us, because if you had, you would have shown up and done these things.”

Emily Thompson (46:41):

And that's always the lens through which my firings happen, because it is the lens through which I think every firing happens and maybe not a layoff. I think a layoff is very different, but a firing where you are not right for this position and it's showing. If this position was yours, if your heart was in this, none of these things would be happening. I'm going to release you. I'm releasing you to go find the job that you want because you don't want this one. And at the end of those comfort, there's always some tears. There's always some thank yous and some hugs because I've done them the favor that they could not do for themselves. I've released them from their responsibilities so they can go do whatever it is that will make them show up and do the work.

Susan Boles (47:34):

I love that. And I think that's so true. Being clear with folks is always the kinder route than trying to hedge around it or not show up fully in the conversation. And so I love the idea of if it was their job, if it was what they truly want it to be doing, they would be showing up because they'd be excited to do it. And obviously if they ghost, they're not or something's wrong and they have the opportunity to say, “Hey, my dad died.” Or, “My partner is sick.” Or something else is happening and you give them that opportunity. I think I love this concept that you are releasing them to go find the thing that they truly love.

Emily Thompson (48:23):

Yeah. It's a reframe for me. It makes it easier for me to show up more authentically. And it makes it easier for me to show up more authentically because it is more authentic. It also makes it easier for them as well because it's not, “You're doing a bad job. You need to go.” It's, “You're doing a bad job and you need to go do a good job somewhere where you're inspired to do a good job, whatever that may be.” Again, I don't mind firing people. I'll do it because I know it serves both me and them to do so.

Susan Boles (49:05):

Yeah. And I think it's an important skill to build up because having the wrong person in your business or the wrong person in the wrong position can really impact your ability to make an impact on the world with your business. It can really drag the whole business down. I've seen it drag whole teams down with one person who's just not interested in being there. And so I think we're talking about having the right people in the right positions being effective, but having the wrong people is just as detrimental.

Emily Thompson (49:44):

If not more so. I've not because again like one … There's a saying there that I'm going to butcher. It's like, don't let one bad apple ruin the bunch. Is that a thing?

Susan Boles (49:54):

That's a thing.

Emily Thompson (49:55):

That's how that goes, right. One good employee will do great things for your business. One bad employee could ruin everybody. Absolutely everyone. Toxic people do not belong in your organization, period. And so you can't afford, and again, for small businesses who do not have the privilege to waste resources, you cannot afford letting someone who is not right for you, stay in your business. I think there's definitely some remediation things you might want to try beforehand if you really like them, or if their skills are really great or whatever.

Emily Thompson (50:29):

But it's also very important to realize when to cut the cord period, because you don't have the privilege to waste that resource and put your entire organization and the impact that you're making and the product you're delivering and the service, all the things. It's not that it can impact, it will negatively impact what it is that you're doing.

Susan Boles (50:51):

Oh, I love that. All right. I think that is a perfect place to wrap up our conversation on. Where can our listeners find you if they want to connect or learn more about either of your companies?

Emily Thompson (51:00):

Awesome. You can listen to the Being Boss podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also find us online at beingboss.club. We have a community where we're having all kinds of conversations about business as creatives and all kinds of other things. And then you can find Almanac Supply Co at almanacsupplyco.com. We sell candles and crystals. The team is fantastic. They all write little handwritten notes in all the packages. As proud as I am of Being Boss, Almanac is my baby. And I do love the work that we are doing over there as well. So, beingboss.club and almanacsupplyco.com.

Susan Boles (51:43):

Thank you so much for being here, Emily. I think this was a fabulous conversation and I wish I could just keep talking to you all day.

Emily Thompson (51:50):

I am happy to come back at any time. Thank you. This has been fun for me too.

Susan Boles (51:55):

Throughout this month, we've talked a lot about the different areas of your business, your process, your software, your team. They're all different components, different tools that you can use to improve how effectively you operate. The right mix of those tools can have a dramatically positive impact, like making you more efficient or more profitable. Having streamlined processes combined with the right software, with the right mix of people can make your business resilient and sustainable. And your role as the business owner is to figure out what that mix looks like for your business. What does your ecosystem look like? If you're not really sure, and you want some help figuring that out, reach out. Just head to scalespark.co and grab a time for us to chat, or just send me an email at susan@scalespark.co.

Susan Boles (52:50):

Next week, we're jumping into a new theme, exploring return on investment and trying to answer the question we all have, well, just about any decision we make, will it be worth it? So, hit subscribe in your favorite podcast player, so you don't miss that. Break the Ceiling is produced by Yellow House Media. Our production coordinator is Sean McMullin. This episode was edited by Marty Seefeldt, with production assistance by Kristen Runvik.


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