Episode 259 // Building Your Business to Scale with Alicia Butler Pierre

May 25, 2021

Building a strong business is likely a high priority for you, whether you’re a solopreneur or an entrepreneur looking to scale. You want your business operations to run efficiently and effectively so you can be ready to grow. But what is business operations exactly? Alicia Butler Pierre from the Business Infrastructure podcast and Equilibria, Inc. joins us in this episode to share her framework for business infrastructure and how to set up your business for profitable growth.

Learn More about the Topics Discussed in this Episode
This Episode Brought to You By:
"I succeed not because I was the smartest person in the room, I succeed because I was good at keeping myself organized and staying on task."
- Alicia Butler Pierre

Discussed in this Episode

  • Alicia's entrepreneurial journey starting as a 7-year-old side hustler
  • The peacock vs the crane analogy for business operations
  • What is business operations or business infrastructure
  • Alicia's framework for small business infrastructure and business growth
  • Common mindset roadblocks on how to grow business


More from Alicia

More from Emily

Almanac Supply Co.


Emily: [00:00:00] whether you're a seller, preneur and want to be so forever, or you're an entrepreneur looking to build a large company or literally anything in between. It's likely you want to build a strong business, right? You want your business to run smoothly for everything you or your team does to happen efficiently and effectively and best yet for you to be prepared for growth?

No matter when it comes or what it looks like. Welcome to being boss, a podcast for credos business owners and entrepreneurs who want to take control of their work and live life on their own terms. I'm your host, Emily Thompson. And in this episode, I'm genuinely excited to talk about business operations or more specifically business infrastructure, the creation of business structures throughout your business, that all work together to make your business well work so that your company can run smoothly, efficiently, effectively, and be ready to grow.

To dive into this topic. I'm delighted to be joined by Alicia Butler, Pierre, the founder and CEO of equilibria, Inc. A 16 year old operations management firm. She specializes in increasing bandwidth for fast growing organizations via business infrastructure. Elisia hosts the weekly business infrastructure curing back off as blues podcasts, which is now a part of the new HubSpot podcast network along with being boss.

And she's also the author of the two times Amazon bestseller behind the facade. How to structure company operations for sustainable success. There's a good chance that you, as a podcast listener are aware of how much the podcast industry has grown with literally millions of podcasts available. It can be hard to find true great content that's worth your precious time.

But podcast networks make that easier. In particular, I'm talking HubSpot as they aim to provide more value and educational materials to customers, prospects, and fans. By expanding their audio offerings with top business podcasts, like being boss, the HubSpot podcast network is the audio destination for business professionals who seek the best education and inspiration on how to grow a business.

Each podcast offers expertise related to one build marketing sales, service operations. Yet together, this collection covers the scope and mastery. Every company needs to find success. Listen, learn and grow with the HubSpot podcast network at hubspot.com/podcast network.

Alicia. Welcome to being boss. I am so glad that you were here. 

Alicia: [00:02:59] I am super excited. Emily, you have no idea. 

Emily: [00:03:04] We're about to have what I hope is going to be the first of many business chats together. Um, and I do want to just want to let everyone know Alicia and I have been introduced to each other or have connected through the HubSpot podcast network.

So this is like one of the first perks that I get to enjoy is that I get to grow my connections and. Get to know some amazing bosses who are doing cool things. And I was just telling Elisia that I've been digging through her buck right up our alley. I cannot wait to talk to you about some operations.


Alicia: [00:03:40] Okay. Wow. I don't hear that often. Emily, thank you. Some 

Emily: [00:03:46] of us around here are hardcore business nerds. So. I imagine lots of bosses right now are chomping at the bit to 

Alicia: [00:03:54] die. Exactly. 

Emily: [00:03:57] We are your people. For sure. So to get us started, I would first love for you to share your entrepreneurial journey with everyone.

Let everyone know where you came from, how you got to where you are now and what it is that you're doing, what it is that you're known for. 

Alicia: [00:04:13] Sure. Oh gosh, my first venture, believe it or not ever since I was seven years old, I always had these side hustles, Emily. So even as seven years old where I would go to after-school care.

I worked out an arrangement with the owners of, of that afterschool program. I was like, you know, if I swept the driveway or if I, you know, clean the bathroom and do little things like housekeeping related things around the building, would you pay me? And they were like, Oh, okay. So I think it was like $7, 10 double, you know, to a seven year old.

That's a lot of money, especially to, to fund your career. Uh, excuse me, your candy habit. So that's all a lot of candy. Yeah, exactly. Now here's, here's, what's really cool about that. My dad opened a banking account for me. And I still have it to this day. I'll be 45 this year. I still have that bank account.

Isn't that cool. I want that. 

Emily: [00:05:17] I love that they should like give you like a, a brick with your name on it at the thing. I think that is an order for 

Alicia: [00:05:26] sure. She's setting the cornerstone of our buildings. Yeah. The dedication ceremony. I like that, Emily. Um, well, so eventually once I got into. To high school again, I was always hustling.

I always wanted things. And a lot of times, if my parents told me, no, I always had that mindset. Well, okay. I'm going to figure out a way to get it myself. So I would go to the dollar general store or like a family dollar and I would get these really large bags of blow, pop cans, uh, popsicles, excuse me, not popsicles, but lollipops and just candies that were individually wrapped that I could sell separately.

And that's how I raised money to convince my parents that I should drive myself to school because I could do, I could afford to do basic maintenance. I could, I could fill up a car with gas and they just, they couldn't argue against it. And so I always had these side hustles, but once I, I eventually went on to college.

I actually have a degree in chemical engineering and this is what always trips people up. Like how on earth did you go from being an engineer to doing what you're doing now? But here's the thing, Emily, it's all about process. So when I worked as a chemical engineer, my title was actually process engineer.

And so I was making Roundup. So, uh, don't don't judge. I know, I know, I know, I know I worked for Dr. Evil, Monsanto, you know, with the genetically modified foods. And, but Hey, and in my defense, I was very young and I, I didn't know things. And that's when I learned very quickly, the dangers of being in a silo.

Because I was in a silo. I didn't know what the, what was going on at the rest of this company. I didn't know what was going on in other parts of the world. They had locations, but suffice it to say, working as a process engineer, whenever we made a particular batch of Roundup for if it did not meet the specifications before it was actually placed onto the ship shelves in stores like home Depot and Lowe's.

I, as the process engineer had to figure out, well, what went wrong in the process of making that particular batch of Roundup to cause it to not meet the specifications? So it's it's process engineering at its at its core, but in a manufacturing capacity, something else very critical happened to me, Emily, during the time that I was working as an engineer there, every business unit was assigned an accountant and that accountant would come and visit with, with that team every month.

And that person would bring all kinds of reports. They'd have this meeting with you and your team, and I'll have to be honest with you. It was as though they were speaking another language, I went to school to become an engineer. I didn't understand, you know, EBITDA and, and. Expenses and assets and liabilities and balance sheets and all that kind of stuff.

So I decided I needed to go back to business school because I didn't understand or appreciate the business decisions that were driving the production goals that they were mandating. I just knew I was given orders every day. Okay. This is what I need to do from an engineering perspective to meet and accomplish that goal.

But I didn't have an appreciation for, at a business level. What's driving those decisions. So I went back to business school and I have to tell you that's when everything literally changed. Because I no longer saw anything the same anymore. I would pay attention to the colors that were being used. Let's say I clearly remember one day walking inside of a target and I paid attention to the logo.

I paid attention to the design inside the building, the layout. I paid attention to the uniforms that the employees were wearing, their, their customer service, everything. And when I, I realized that I did not want to be an engineer for the rest of my career, that I, I wanted to go into business. I didn't think I was going to start my own business.

I would always have a side hustle because even by that point, the hustle never goes away. Right. It never dies. So my side hustle, while I was working as an engineer, I actually started investing in real estate property. So investment properties. And so I had a couple of those under my belt. By the time I was about 27.

And so I was, I was telling, well, Emily, and then I had this scary idea that I needed to leave it all relocate to a city where I knew one person, which is Atlanta, Georgia, and I quit my job and ventured into the unknown. And that was in early 2005. And as fate would have it, six months later, hurricane Katrina hit new Orleans.

So that's where I, that's where I was working. I'm now in Atlanta, Georgia, I'm thinking, Oh, this is the land of color. Coca-Cola and Delta airline, and home Depot and chalet. Right. Who wouldn't want to hire me? But guess what? Bear a lot of really smart, talented people. So I was, there was nothing special or spectacular about me.

And after about 60 days, Of doing what seemed to be endless fruitless job searching. I decided for the same amount of time, effort and energy that I'm spending, looking for a job working for someone else, I could redirect that same time, effort, and energy into creating an opportunity for myself. And that's when my company equilibria came about.

And I've been listening to your show. And one of the episodes that really stood out for me, I guess, because I resonated with that guest so much was Mary Williams. I believe. I think she was also talked a lot about Oregon organizing and systems and project management. And I was thinking, Oh my gosh, that was me.

I, I started my company. Believe it or not as a professional organizing company. Yes for, 

Emily: [00:12:03] for individuals 

Alicia: [00:12:04] or for businesses for individuals. Wow. Here's what happened, Emily? You know how the universe has the way of nudging you. And it could be that it's, it could be a conversation that you have with someone.

It could be documentaries that you watch. Another podcast that you listen to. In other words, there are all of these different. Mediums through which you are receiving pretty much the same message and that message that I kept receiving was, you know what, we're all blessed with natural skills, talents, and abilities, but through the process of our educational system, we're taught to go and get a good, you know, get a good education so that you can do what so that you can go and work for someone else.

But what I was receiving at this moment in my life, Emily was no, you've already got it. There's something inside of you. You've always hustled, you know how to make money. Why don't you create your own opportunity and, and better yet? What is it that you're really good at that you could just spend hours and hours and hours a day working on and it wouldn't even bother you.

And I said, you know what? I've always been naturally. Very good at organizing things. And that was why truthfully I was successful at whatever type of job I had, whether it was when I flipped burgers teenager or worked as an engineer making rounds though. I, I succeeded not because I was the smartest person in the room.

I succeeded because I was good at keeping myself organized and staying on task. And so, yeah, I started a professional organizing company and here's what happened. 90% of my clients operated home-based businesses. They were the creatives that listened to the being boss podcast. They are the freelancers that get advice from, you know, being a part of Emily's community.

Those were the people that I seem to attract. And it wasn't that they were chronically disorganized. It wasn't that they are hoarders because that wasn't the case at all. They just had difficulty keeping things related to their business, separate from the rest of the home. That's when I started relying on my process engineering background, I said, okay, they just need a process.

Or as a system and once they have that, they can just keep following it. And yeah, things, things are going to get chaotic. We, you and I both know that, right. Things get chaotic in business, but, but you have something, a system that you can always fall back on to get you back on track. And so over, over about a year or two of first starting the company, I received my first commercial project and that was at a district attorney's office.

And here's, here's how naive I was because I was about 30 years old at this point, Emily, and I'll never forget thinking to myself. So. Companies are disorganized boy. 

Emily: [00:15:25] Oh boy, are they? 

Alicia: [00:15:29] And I promise I'm wrapping this up. I promise because I've spent way too much time selling the story, but so, so the language shifted from professional organizing Emily to business.

Infrastructure, because as I, I moved away from being necessarily doing work for these home-based entrepreneurs and more into people who are in more traditional brick and mortar type spaces, they weren't just looking for things to be tidy. They needed some, some hardcore foundational. Work to be done. And so that's, that's how I got to where I am today.

And it's been 16 years. It's crazy. I know. 

Emily: [00:16:11] But look at you doing it. I will say number one, your about as boss as they come, 

Alicia: [00:16:17] fury crazy. There's a fine line.

Emily: [00:16:25] We're not going to have that conversation here today. We'll have that one later. So as bosses they come and how fascinating to hear this story of you following those breadcrumbs, right. Of like, Really listening to yourself and seeing what feels right. What doesn't feel right. And just sort of maneuvering yourself into the direction and direction that none of us are taught to take right.

To find the thing that you are great at. Congratulations, you did 

Alicia: [00:16:59] it. Oh, thank you. And you know, it didn't come without ridicule and all that other good. Yeah, of course, 

Emily: [00:17:07] man. Thank you for sharing this story. That is, that is, that's a good boss sort of founding story, founder story. Your journey story. I love that.

Okay. I do want to get into some of this organizations and these operational things. Um, but before I dive into, into some of my questions, I want to bring up an analogy that you actually talk about in your book. Elisia does have a book called behind the facade, how to structure company operations for sustainable success.

Um, and one of the analogies that you. You share very early in this book, is this metaphor about a peacock and a crane? Oh yes. And I would love to hear your take on that would love for you to share that with bosses because. Y'all need to hear this. 

Alicia: [00:18:00] Thank you so much, Emily, for bringing that up, that I've never been asked that question before.

So thank you. The peacock versus the crane, it comes from one of Aesop's fables. And when you think about it, the reason I, I titled the book behind the facade is to illustrate. The fact that so many times we can focus so much on the marketing aspects of our business. That unfortunately the operational side takes a back seat and it gets ignored oftentimes to the detriment of our companies.

So the peacock represents, let's say the marketing. It's beautiful. You have a fantastic website, beautiful brochures and business cards, strong social media presence. Your personal branding is, is just through the roof. Everything is tight, it looks great. That's the facade. That's the outer layer. That's all of the sales and promotional and publicity related things that you're doing, which by the way is very important.

But what about your operations? So the fable basically says, Oh, the peacock is like, look at me and my beautiful feathers. And I'm, you know, I'm the envy of all of the birds and everyone just marvels at me and they love to look at me and the crane, which isn't as beautiful in comparison. But again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the Crain's point is, well, yeah, but you can't really take flight.

I can, I may not look as good as you on the outside, but I can actually fly. You can maybe fly just a few inches off the ground, but I can fly several feet up into the air. And I can I'm I'm far more mobile. I'm lean, I'm agile. I can do so many things that you physically cannot do all because you've invested so much in looking at your exterior.

So it's a, I think a great analogy for how we can in it's so easy to do. We can fall victim to spending so much time on the outside or the facade of our businesses, the things that are customer facing. Which again is important, but we also have to make sure that we operate our businesses as good on the inside as we look on the outside.

So I'm not saying to take, you know, to do, to sacrifice the marketing related things that you're doing for the sake of boosting up your operations. No, I think it's, I think it's important to have a healthy balance between the two. And they don't have to compete with each other, but they actually can work together in unison with each other.


Emily: [00:20:51] I will say every couple, every once, every year we do a survey of our audience of our community. And one of the questions in that survey is always, you know, what is your biggest struggle in your business? And year after year, the two top performers of this struggle list is time management and marketing.

Yeah. And if you come to any of the Monday meetups in the community or any of our events, like everyone's talking about social media, all of our best podcast episodes have the word Instagram in them. Like everyone is so concerned about looking great. Right. But in those deep conversations that I'm having marketing is not the issue.

Your basic business functions, aren't working in a way that garnishes you, all of the business success that comes before you get to marketing, right. It's performing so great for your clients, that they are your marketing, all of the word of mouth marketing that comes out of those relationships. I often say that.

For, I think the Holy grail sort of creative business is one that does not need marketing. Right? You have built an amazing business that where all of your customers and clients are, are they are your marketing, they're going and telling everyone, all of your clients come from referrals. All of that is the Holy grail, but everyone is so concerned about marketing, about looking fantastic that no one is doing the inner work that could make marketing obsolete.

Alicia: [00:22:27] I love the way you said that. And it's, it's so true. I mean, when you think about it, So I always tell people, marketing is what's seen it's the activities that you do to be seen operations are the activities that you do that aren't necessarily seen by your customer, but they are experienced by your customer.

Let's take. Starbucks. And Chick-fil-A for example, two companies that are known for excellent customer service. We have no idea what training they receive. What's truly going on behind the counter at these, at these locations. But as customers, we know. What to expect, whether we go where you are in Chattanooga, where I am in Atlanta, New York, Hong Kong, new Dell, wherever there's a Starbucks or a Chick-fil-A we know to expect the same experience.

And that's what we want to hopefully get to a place at, in our own respective companies that people know what to expect.

Emily: [00:23:34] Growing your business is hard. Work. Call them growing pains for nothing and scaling up the communications that make your business run can often be the hardest part. Managing conversations with prospects and customers throughout all stages of their journey can be tough. Information can get lost, add team members and the problem gets more complex.

With HubSpot's CRM platform at features like live chat and mail templates, and more, you get a unified system of record that allows you and your team. The ability to create a better customer experience without missing a beat, you can install, live chat on your websites and marketing emails. Allow prospects.

It's to book meetings and more, and it all lives in one place. Learn more about how to scale your business without scaling complexity@hubspot.com. As a business owner, it is incredibly important for you to have your money systems in order from how to collect it to how to track it and how you use it. I mean, it is the management of money that is at the heart of running a business, which is why we love.

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And the, how did you hear about us section?

So then how do we. How do we start doing, how do we like refocus inward on our business? Think about the experience that we're giving, not necessarily what we look like. How do we get started with that? If that's something especially that we've never really thought of before? 

Alicia: [00:25:23] Yes. So I have a framework. I, again, I refer to this as well.

Business infrastructure. And what I mean, when I say business infrastructure is a system for linking the people, the processes and the tools and technologies that are needed to. Set a solid operational foundation across your entire company. We aren't just talking about one department or a couple of departments, your entire organization, because once you have that foundation in place, then you can just continue building upon that.

I had a client years ago who once said, you know, Before we started working together. I realized I was building this on sand. I w I had a sand castle, but now I have a solid concrete foundation and I can truly build a house. And I thought that was such a great, great analogy. But the framework, Emily.

Actually starts with identifying all of the tasks and activities that you perform in your company. No matter how mundane or how complex, whether it's done daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually. You want to get all of that information out of your head and onto proverbial paper. And I've been listening to your podcast.

So I know you love paper. 

Emily: [00:26:44] I do. I do put it on 

Alicia: [00:26:45] paper. Yes, yes. Yes. You love so much about your show is that as you told me before, it's it's for creatives and for people who do things creatively. So one of the things that I do with my clients. And I'm, I'm going to show this to Emily because we're on video right now.

But for those of you listening, I'll describe it to you. And I must preface this by saying. This is, um, this is a rigorous exercise. So if you know that you are a visionary, big picture thinker, this might not be your cup of tea, but. I promise you, it is worth its weight in gold, just to stick with me. So you want to make sure again, that you document everything that's going on in your company.

So I'm holding up a little card here and I do this on little small index cards. So I'm holding up a card here that says C one. And this is for illustrative purposes only. So we have C1, we have a two, and we have B3. Now imagine you and your team, or even if you're just a solo preneur. You're going through this rigorous exercise, you're writing one task or activity per index card.

Don't be surprised if you end up with, well, over a hundred cards on the side one actually 

Emily: [00:28:07] scaring me just thinking about 

Alicia: [00:28:09] it. Yeah. It's it's but you know what? But here's the other thing Emily is so freeing. Yeah, because you're literally watching the transference of the information from being in everyone's heads.

And now it's onto, again, that proverbial paper. Now you can do something with this information. And there's another little tool that I have, uh, just to help jog people's memories because what happens also. If you don't have someone to facilitate this exercise for you, you might. If I ask you Emily, just name everything that you do on any given day you might come up with.

I don't know, let's say 20 things, but if I were to, to kind of drill you. Okay, Emily, are you really just doing these 20 things? It's more like 60, you know, but because you're doing it every day and you know, it like the back of your hand, you don't think twice about it. Right. So get all of those index cards together.

You're going to lay that out across a table. And then what I want you to do is to group all of the activities that have to do with each other that are similar in nature. You're going to group those into columns on your table. So right now I'm showing index cards that say a one, a three and a two. And obviously I've grouped these altogether because they all start with the letter a.

But here's the point. Let's say, if you had what we'll talk about something that every business can relate to, which is the money side. So you might have a task that says as submit invoice, deposit, check. Reconcile account. You might look at those three activities and things. We know what these all have to do with each other.

I'm going to group these together in a column. And if I had to give that, if I had to give that column a name, in other words, if I had to assign a department to that grouping of activities, this is what I would call it. So you might call that your accounting department, your finance department, accounts, payable, accounts, receivable, whatever you want to call it.

So in our case, we're going to call these tasks that we've grouped together, a one, a two and a three. We're just going to call it department a here's why that's so important. You've not only gotten all of the activities out of your head. You've grouped them into columns. You've now assigned a department to each grouping of activities.

Now you're in a position to be able to create an organizational chart for your company. And let me tell you that is so important because your organizational chart is really like a vision board for your company. Now, some of you who are listening might be thinking, I don't want to do all of that. Oh my gosh.

Are you kidding me, Alicia? Here's another cool thing about knowing, just knowing which departments make up your company that serves as a foundation for how, for how you organize your paper records. It serves as a foundation for how you organize your, your information electronically. I know you use a sauna.

So even when you go into a sauna, this is how you can start to categorize the different types of projects that you have going on within each of those different departments. Even with HubSpot. What we do is we have all of our contacts. They're all categorized according to the department that we think they would fit under.

So Emily Thompson, for example, as a contact in HubSpot for us, Emily would probably fall under, or she does fall under business development because that's one of the departments of our company. We have marketing, we have operations, we have HR, it legal, compliance, so forth and so on. Now once you have, and please tell me when you want me to start.

No, you're doing it. I love this. Okay. So once you have all of your departments and you know, all of the activities associated with each department, there's one more really cool thing. I think you're gonna really like this. Emily, these are some stick figures, durable 

Emily: [00:32:40] guy. 

Alicia: [00:32:43] I have these laminated stick figures.

They look like ginger kind of like gingerbread men they're laminated. And here's the cool thing again, where we have all of these tests spread out into columns on a table and you're then going to say. Which in a perfect world. Emily, if you had access to all of the resources that you needed, who ideally should perform these different activities within each department, that's, what's going to let you know how to actually build your team and who to go and seek first.

You may realize you have a need for a bookkeeper. You may also realize that you have a desperate need for an assistant of some sort. You may find that you need some other technicians, people who can do the actual technical or day-to-day operational work. Whoever those people are. Again, it's helping you identify who they are just from using something as simple as a stick figure.

And some index cards. It's a craft project is what it is. It totally is. Um, So, yes, I'm sorry. No, 

Emily: [00:33:57] this is wonderful. This, the thing that this does that I want to point out here is that, especially in creative businesses, where we start, you know, we pick up this project over here and we do it and then we keep doing it or not sure why we're doing it, and we just keep doing it.

Or, you know, we're considering these other projects, but we're not really sure where it fits in or whatever. It may be. One of the things that I love about this exercise, because this is a. Beefed up in much better version of an exercise that I do that I get bosses to do, especially around a hiring like that hiring piece, I think is incredibly important for you to pick out who it is that you need to hire next.

But it also serves as other purpose of letting you see the things that you don't need to do in your business anymore. Right. Those little processes that are still just running, but you don't know why. 

Alicia: [00:34:49] And you know, what else is so cool with this exercise? It makes you it's exactly what you just said. You realize just how many hats you really are wearing.

So, you know, as entrepreneurs, we're, we're just excited, right? We run on pure energy and adrenaline, and we know we're doing a lot, but it's not until we sit still. We do an exercise like this that we realize. That's why I feel like a chicken with his head cut off because I am literally doing the work of seven different people.

Oh my gosh. So now that you know that you have, you're now in a position to do something about it, So let's say you have all of your, your index cards spread out. You have these stick figures that are spread out, showing who ideally should be doing this work. Now you can ask yourself of all of these people who do I hire first, or who do I need first and that when you can, so let's say if it's your assistant, you need to hire that assistant first.

Now you have all of the information that you need to craft that job description, because you know exactly what that person is supposed to be doing. You know, what skill set is needed to perform those activities. And it's up to you to determine how many years of experience and all of those other things that you'll be looking for another really quick thing that I want to make sure I mentioned with this exercise, because you're not done with these different cards.

You might also, as you look at each department and you have all of those different activities, let's go back to department a and remember we had activities that represented a one, a two and a three. Well, you might say, you know, what, if I look at a one and a three and I had to develop a process around that, I would call that my accounts receivable process.

So now you have your departments, the associated activities, and the processes that you need to document within each department. And you've already kind of given yourself a jumpstart. In terms of documenting the processes because you've already identified the core activities. Now it's just a matter of figuring out how do you want to document your process?

Do you want to document it as a checklist, as a flow chart, as a step-by-step procedure? That's up to you. The point is by take, going through the rigor upfront, figuring out how your company is actually organized on the inside. It lays the foundation for how you organize every other aspect of your business.

So again, whether you're talking about the way you do your record, keeping the way you organize your contacts, the way you even, and we can talk about tools later, but the way you use and leverage certain technologies is just, it helps to always have that, that as a starting point so that you aren't starting from scratch every single time.

Yes. And 

Emily: [00:38:13] you're also setting the tone and you're just building your business is what you're doing. You are literally building the infrastructure for your business, right? That's right. I'm getting 

Alicia: [00:38:24] in there.

Emily: [00:38:28] I love it. Okay. I want to take it back just a step though, and talk about. Really why this is so important, especially if someone has a very small business, maybe they are a solo preneur, or they have two or three people I would love to hear from you why this is such an important exercise, especially if you're that early in your business or that small of a business, and really how this sort of relates to scale 

Alicia: [00:38:56] as well.

Yes. I'm so glad you asked that question. Whenever people ask me, who do you work with? I always say fast-growing companies. And the reason is because Emily that's, when people realize why operations unfortunately is so important, it takes them having to experience the pain of fast unmanageable growth.

Before they realize why the stuff we're talking about is so important. So if you want it to be more proactive and start to get some of these things in place, now, the reason it's important is because let's, let's reflect back on what we talked about earlier regarding marketing you're out there. You're marketing, you're getting interviewed on TV shows, podcasts, radio shows.

You have these advertisements that you're doing. You're out there. Well, what happens once you start to achieve a return on investment in those marketing and advertising activities? Now you have customers beating down your door, you have a very different type of problem. Now you go from not having enough customers to potentially having too many.

And if you don't have the infrastructure in place to support that demand, your business will implode. There's too many examples of this happening. There's countless examples and it's, it's preventable. I read an article very, very recently about this famous ice cream shop in Brooklyn, New York. And they, they worked really hard, had a great reputation.

Locally had been around for years and they got a contract with Disney and they could not meet the demand. And sadly they closed their doors, but could you imagine you do all of that work? You work so hard to build your reputation. You have this fan base, this community, and then you get this multi-million dollar contract from a company like Disney and you can't meet the demand.

How tragic is that? 

Emily: [00:41:07] Isn't it though. And I feel like there are lots of cautionary tales like this. You've heard of people who, you know, get named one of Oprah's favorite things and that exposure puts them out of business or same thing with shark tank. People will go on there, get that exposure. They get put out of business.

This is not an uncommon thing. Unfortunately. 

Alicia: [00:41:27] Correct. So true. Um, and a lot of those shows will warn you before you even go onto those shows. Can your website, for example, handle the traffic? I mean, think about what happened when I think it was when the, uh, Obamacare first happened, remembering everybody was trying to go to the website and it crashed, it was just a mess.

Well, imagine the same thing happening to you, maybe on a much smaller scale, but still, you know, if you, again, if you get showcased on a very popular TV show, because TV is still a very powerful medium, and all of a sudden people are rushing to your website and they're trying to do business with you, but your website crashes.

Emily: [00:42:09] Yeah. Or at your, you know, customer support team can't support the feedback or your shipping department can't ship out the things, whatever it may be. I've definitely heard of so many scenarios and not even Oprah's favorite things, but like you said, a TV spot, like you're mentioned on the right. Do you have a, an article in the newspaper?

Like the kinds of things that. Can and should happen if you are showing up and doing really great work, your business has to be prepared for those things. And it sounds like operations is the, is the magic bullet. 

Alicia: [00:42:41] That's right.

Show it some love. 

Emily: [00:42:47] So then I would love to hear from you then if you have seen anything. That is common where business owners are standing in their own way of this. Like what sort of things do we need to overcome to get in this space where we are either thinking about this, which is stopped number one, or actually like becoming aware of it.

And then I think implemented, because I think it's like those three things, right? Like you have to. No, that it's important. You have to actually do the work of making all the note cards, but then even the note cards, aren't the last step, right. You have to actually like, make it work in your business. So what sort of things do you, do you find, um, do you find business owners doing are not doing that stands in their way of actually making this work for them?

Alicia: [00:43:33] Trying to be a perfectionist number one, we'll need your hand. We'll never be perfect. You have to be okay with. It's it's good enough. Yup. But the spirit of continuous improvement I do think is healthy, but, but realize you will never, ever truly attain perfection. There's always going to be room for improvement.

Always. The second thing I would say, Emily is delegation is your baby, especially as creatives. You work, you, you work hard and this is, this is literally the output or the result of, of your creativity. So no one else can do it like you can, right. And we, we really start to convince ourselves of that. And in some cases, you know, depending on, you know, you know, not everybody is Rembrandt, for example, you know, is going to do that, but even think about this, think about this.

Everyone who's listening, even with artists, they have understudies. Right. So they're Michael Angelo and DaVinci, those guys, they weren't cranking out every single thing. They had understudies that they taught, they had their apprentices, they became the master teachers of their craft. So figure out how to delegate, because if you are serious about taking your company to the next level, because not everybody wants to grow, pass the solo preneurs stage and that's okay.

But if you do. We have to get from that owner operator mindset, meaning I'm in the work I'm in the business, I'm doing the, the actual technical work. And if I don't show up it doesn't, it doesn't happen. We have to, we have to take that mental mind shift or mindset, excuse me. From owner operator to founder, CEO.

Because CEOs function very differently from an owner operator. A CEO is usually is doing things at a very high level, visionary, strategic thinking, strategic planning, the owner operator is okay, how many orders do we have to fulfill today? Okay, well, let's get her done.

Yeah. Whereas the CEO is saying, okay, Emily, you got that right. Okay, so you're, you're, you're on it, right? So we know that to count on you to do X and then Kerryn, you're going to be doing, you're going to be doing Y and then Jane, you're going to be doing Z. And then they're off on the golf course, tennis court, wherever they're there at the networking luncheons, you know, schmoozing and, and doing business development activities, right?

The things that are actually going to bring in more money and more business to the company. And functioning at a very high level. And even your language starts to change. I've, I've sat in on board meetings at very large companies. They don't talk like some of us, Emily, again, it goes back to that, you know, speaking, accounting, speak, they're talking numbers and some of that stuff, if you don't have that foundation you're lost.

So I would also encourage all of, all of the listeners. Sign up for some of those, you know, financial planning for nonfinancial managers, uh, courses, because I'm telling you I've, I've been a fly on the wall in, in very high level board board rooms, uh, a very, very prominent companies and they it's, it's a completely different ball game.

It really is. 

Emily: [00:47:24] Oh, that's such, that's such great insight. And I would even say you mentioned, you know, No solar preneurs, you do what you want to do for everyone else. Do this. I also want to bring it back to like solo preneurs. You will also work smarter, not harder, right? If you have amazing systems and processes in place.

So even doing it. Similarly, you're the only stick figure, you know, on the board, which is fine, but knowing those processes and having them so clear will keep you from working 60 hour weeks, you can do the same amount of work and half the time and get better results. If you also have these infrastructure pieces in place 

Alicia: [00:48:05] too.

Yes. And, you know, you just said something that made me realize a point that I completely forgot to mention, which is if you are the only stick figure, there's still a way that you can probably augment what would maybe in other companies be another stick figure or another person with technology. Yes.

Right. So there, there, it could be that, you know what? I don't have that bookkeeper right now, but I know like FreshBooks is also one of your, your sponsors. So maybe. Maybe I can invest in fresh books. It'd be a lot cheaper than investing in, in actually paying an employee. Right. And figure out how to automate some things using these different technologies so that maybe you can get away with not having to bear the brunt of the expense of adding to your team.


Emily: [00:48:55] sure, for sure. That is also another important sort of outcome of the exercise as well as automations. So who's solar preneur or looking to grow or simply being ready for growth. I also think there's this interesting mindset that especially like. It's funny, you know, Hey, you see those light graphs that are like, you know, here's my confidence on my journey.

And it's like really high and then it gets really low and then it sort of like evens out and then it gets high. Like it's just a roller coaster. I also feel like that sort of confidence is similar to, um, a new business owners expectation of growth. Right. I think those two things sort of are hand in hand.

You see, you start this business thinking you're going to grow so fast. And when you don't grow, maybe as fast as you thought you were going to that confidence level, like dips and you think I'll never grow. I'm always just going to be this size company. And I'm going to try really hard and it's probably not going to work.

So I'm just going to stay. Right. But then little things start happening that confidence or that like outlook of growth begins again. Yes. And so regardless of where you are on that emotional roller coaster, because it feels like we're all writing multiple emotional roller coaster at once. You have to be planning for growth one way or the other, or else like go find yourself a nice job, you know, if you're not starting this to do something with it.

So I even think just that mindset shift of you need to do this work. Because you do want to grow. If you do anticipate a growth in your business and preparing yourself for that as early as you can is definitely a boss move. 

Alicia: [00:50:38] For sure, for sure. I mean, truly be a boss and being boss means you're delegating, you're calling the shots.

You're the shot 

Emily: [00:50:49] caller. Right. And you know, everything that needs to be done in your business to make it happen. That's right. Briefing. Oh, I love this at least yet. This has been a pleasure. I cannot. We're going to talk about this, like 18 million more times. Let's go ahead and Mark off your entire calendar for conversations with me about business operations.

This is when I can really get geeky. I appreciate you giving us this like, sort of bird's eye view of what this looks like. This has been incredibly insightful. 

Alicia: [00:51:22] Oh, thank you so much. And I'm, I'm so amped and excited about your enthusiasm for operations because, you know, I'm always told, well, nobody wants to talk about it because it isn't sexy.

So thank you for, for this opportunity. I really appreciate it. My 

Emily: [00:51:40] pleasure. My pleasure. Will you please tell our listeners where they can find you around the interwebs? 

Alicia: [00:51:47] Sure. Well, if they want to know more about my company, that website is E Q B systems.com. So it's equilibria, but people have trouble spelling equilibria.

So EQB systems.com. If you want to know more about me, the best place to go is Alyssia. Butler, pierre.com. And when you get there, you'll see more information about the book, my podcast, which is the business infrastructure podcast, as well as the consulting work that I do and links to all of my social profiles are there as well.

Perfect. And I have one more 

Emily: [00:52:23] question for you. This is my sneak attack. I hope you're ready for this. Okay. What makes you feel most boss?

Alicia: [00:52:33] Calling my calling my own shots. Um, and I don't know. I'm sure there is a word that kind of best encapsulates all of that, but that is such a powerful feeling to know that you truly are in charge. 

Emily: [00:52:51] I will say from your story, it sounds like you've learned to leverage. All resources in your vicinity to call your own shots since you were about seven.

Alicia: [00:53:02] I know isn't that crazy? Yes. 

Emily: [00:53:06] I love it. Thank you so much for coming 

Alicia: [00:53:08] to chat with me. Thank you so much, Emily. I really enjoyed it. 

Emily: [00:53:14] So, did you feel personally seen when it came up that delegating is what holds most businesses back from building a strong, scalable business? Well, in my experience, it's just as much getting over the hurdle of the technical side of hiring as it is, having someone else in your business from payroll and benefits to taxes and onboarding, hiring can be intimidating, whether it's your first time or your 10th, especially when you don't have the right tools to help you get the job done.

Which is why you should check out Gusto, simple online payroll and benefits, but for small businesses, sign up and get three months free. Once you run your first payroll, when you go to.com/bean boss, that's gusto.com/being boss. Now until next time, do the work, the boss .