Emily Thompson 0:01
Welcome to Being Boss, a podcast for creatives, 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 joined by Kathleen Shannon to talk about how to do business during hard times. Whether that's global hard times, or just a hard time for your business at any moment, you can find all the tools, books and links we reference on the show notes at www.beingboss.club. And if you liked this episode, be sure to subscribe to the show and share us with a friend.
Emily Thompson 0:34
Kathleen Shannon is the co founder and former co host of this show the Being Boss podcast joining me for the first 240 ish episodes of this show. With several one off episode since. Kathleen is a partner and creative director at Braid Creative a branding agency she founded with her sister over 10 years ago, Kathleen has always loved by capturing, shaping and sharing who she is, whether that's with a blog post a podcast or on social media.
Emily Thompson 1:02
Okay, so I feel like this is the coldest open ever. And mostly because Kathleen and I just got on Skype, I'll call it because that feels very retro. And she goes I have a funny story to tell you. But we have to wait till we're on the podcast. And I have no idea what this is about. But Kathleen apparently is about to tell me a very funny story. Have it.
Kathleen Shannon 1:22
So last night, I was catching up on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which is a show with this British guy, John Oliver, who's usually commenting on like American politics, and it's definitely very left leaning. And he'll expose things like what's wrong with the dialysis system or the health care system or the policing system. So he's always kind of doing deep dives, sometimes into pretty niche topics. So last night, he was doing a deep dive into where I was kind of only half paying attention, honestly, because sometimes it riles me up watching the show, and I get all upset and then I can't sleep. So I'm kind of like just playing Words with Friends, while my husband and I are watching this show. And he's doing a deep dive into how welfare funds have been allocated in states to kind of not actually help the people that it needs to go to. Right. So.
Emily Thompson 2:19
Kathleen Shannon 2:20
It's this whole thing. So he uses an example of this program in Michigan, I can't even really remember what it was. But then he was like, and then there is this campaign in Oklahoma. And I was like funny, both places are states that I've lived in. And he starts to run this campaign. And it's years old years and years and years old, of a program in Oklahoma called forever for real, which was like a marriage initiative program to try and help couples stay married. Right. I designed that campaign.
Emily Thompson 3:00
Kathleen Shannon 3:03
And it was so long ago that I almost couldn't believe what I was seeing. It almost felt a little bit like an echo of a memory a little bit. And so my hands are just over my face. And I'm like, oh my god, and Jeremy's not really noticing me. But then Fox looks at me and he's like, Mommy, are you okay? And I look over at everyone. And I was like you guys. I think I designed this campaign that's being roasted on John Oliver. So I text my business partners who I worked at. It was at an ad agency at the time, I texted my business partners who I worked with at that ad agency.
Emily Thompson 3:47
Right not your, yeah, not your agency.
Kathleen Shannon 3:49
Not my agency, not Braid.
Emily Thompson 3:52
Kathleen Shannon 3:52
It was the place that we all worked out before we create a Braid. Yeah. And I said, Hey, do you all remember this project? And I send them a screen capture of it. They were like, vaguely, like not really. So.
Emily Thompson 4:07
How long ago was this?
Kathleen Shannon 4:09
Probably 20 years ago?
Emily Thompson 4:12
Kathleen Shannon 4:13
How old am I? Yeah, I mean, maybe 18 years ago, like 17 or 18 years ago. So it was like toward the middle of me working there. I hadn't quite left yet. Um, so anyway, I was like, Yeah, I this is like starting. It's kind of like whenever you remember a dream, and it starts to like, come into focus again, once you start remembering it. So then I text an old colleague that I used to work with at that advertising agency. And he was like the, like assistant creative director like he was one step underneath my sister and he and I were paired up a lot as copywriter slash designer. So I texted him. I haven't talked to him in years. I texted him out of the blue and I was like, Hey, random. Do you remember working on this campaign? And I sent him a screenshot? And he was like, Oh, yeah. Was it like the Oklahoma marriage project? And I was like, Yes, that was it. He was like, Yeah, we absolutely worked on that, like that was us. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, and I wasn't even upset, you know, because it was so long ago. And we were just kind of like, doing the best with the jobs that we were given. Right. But I do remember, I clearly remember when we first got that project, it was called the Oklahoma marriage initiative. And it was around the time that gay marriage was really being debated a lot. And that was like a really hot topic at the time. And that name, Oklahoma marriage initiative, kind of gave me the ick. I was like, This doesn't feel right. Like is this anti gay, because if it is, I won't work on it. Even if I lose my job at this company, I'm not going to work on it. So it turns out that it was kind of icky for other reasons, not because it was necessarily anti gay, though, in hindsight, a marriage initiative that is heteronormative, you know, and just trying to help marriages between a man and a woman, you know, like, obviously, it is kind of systemically anti gay and anti a lot of things, honestly. So it was just so funny and surreal, and I could not believe it. I couldn't believe my eyes. And it was hilarious.
Emily Thompson 6:29
That's amazing. Who knew that it would come back to haunt you? So many years later? On John Oliver.
Kathleen Shannon 6:36
I know. So whenever I was texting my friend Brian about it, who I used to work with. He also now has his own agency that he runs himself. And you know, we're friendly. And he said that he had another one of his old old campaigns for Sonic was on being made fun of on, like, the Colbert Report, I think, or it's Stephen Colbert's new show. So he's like, now I just need to make the Daily Show and I'll hit the trifecta.
Emily Thompson 7:04
Oh, my God. Oh, my gosh.
Kathleen Shannon 7:07
It was just so weird and wild to see an old project like that come up, because it was so so long ago, I barely remembered it. Isn't that wild?
Emily Thompson 7:17
Just like a little that is wild. That is really, really wild. Right? And what do you what do you do with that? Nothing, I guess. But like.
Kathleen Shannon 7:24
I know, Jeremy was like, you're famous. And I was like, I think I'm famous for reasons other than that.
Kathleen Shannon 7:29
That's your 15 minutes Kathleen.
Kathleen Shannon 7:31
I think I've got a better 15 minutes under my belt.
Emily Thompson 7:35
Right? And no one knows. It was you. Well I guess, now a couple ten thousand.
Kathleen Shannon 7:43
Because, in fact, whenever you even Google that campaign, another agency comes up. And I want to say that maybe we subcontracted with that agency that actually has on their portfolio, and then the agency that I work with has come or that I used to work for has completely folded so they don't even have a portfolio around anymore. It's it's hard to know, it's hard to even attach it to it. But it is I think that the interesting thing, though, is is that at the time, I was young, I was like what, in my early 20s. And I remember feeling icky about that project. In my gut, I didn't really know what it was. And I really had no place I was just a senior graphic designer at the time I had maybe even a junior graphic designer at the time, I had no place within that agency to really put my foot down and say, Yes, I will do this, or No, I won't do this. And you know, it's my job on the line for doing it or not. So I just kind of did it. But I do distinctly remember having a little bit of an ick feeling. And I didn't quite know why. And so it's really important to trust those feelings. Like if something feels off, it probably is even if you can't pinpoint why. And I know that even since working at Braid, I've had client inquiries that have felt a little bit off, whether they are government agencies that feel like they're just not a good fit, or I you know, because we do a lot of branding in the self development space. I've had a few people that feel almost a little bit like cult leaders like a little bit, their kind of tactics go beyond life coaching and feel a bit manipulative, or culty. And just kind of weird, and I will turn those projects down. And never feel bad if you do want to turn a project down. And at the same time, I don't feel bad for having worked on that because again, I was doing the best with the information that I had at the time. I didn't have the same kind of skills and like capacity for discernment or for like the critical thinking that it takes to know whether or not a project is the right fit or even having control over whether or not a project is the right fit. But I knew I knew in my gut. It was shady.
Emily Thompson 9:58
Right and it's back. That's such a trip, man I can't even imagine.
Kathleen Shannon 10:07
And it's funny because it's not back like that project has completely like that whole. That whole leg of business or you know, government contract has,
Emily Thompson 10:15
Kathleen Shannon 10:16
It's no longer even a thing like that program doesn't even exist in Oklahoma anymore. So I really kind of question why John Oliver was even highlighting it as a thing, maybe just showing that this historically has been a problem. And it can continue to be a problem if we don't look at how policies are created and funds are allocated. But yeah, wild, wild, wild.
Emily Thompson 10:39
Cool story. Cool story, Kathleen, thank you for sharing. Love that you experienced this. And I love the timeline for this. I feel like this is actually a really nice little segue into our conversation today. Because what we're here to talk about is not necessarily doing projects that feel weird, even if you don't know why, but really, around doing business during hard times, is what we're here to talk about. And if this was 17-18 years ago, you were looking at '06, '07 right? which is right before the '08 recession which.
Kathleen Shannon 11:16
It could even been in '08, honestly.
Emily Thompson 11:18
Kathleen Shannon 11:19
It could have been during that time.
Emily Thompson 11:21
Right. So like so perfectly timely, in a weird kind of way. Because we want to talk about this idea of what it looks like to do business during hard times. And you know, I feel like there's, I feel like people are still trying to not say we're in a recession. Were like if we don't say it, maybe you won't be true, right as of right now. But we know looking back at '08, there was a recession, we all just made it through some Well, most of us made it through some capacity or another, that's not a laughing matter, this pandemic. Now we are in this quote unquote, post pandemic existence. And for both of us, we had our businesses continue through it, we may be looking at another recession. And we're not really here to talk about recessions per se.
Kathleen Shannon 12:07
Yeah. But wait, can I ask you what is a recession? Like I don't even really know what a recession is.
Emily Thompson 12:14
I don't think anyone really does. And by that I'm saying, I don't really know, either. I feel like there are some, some hallmarks around, you know, economic things. But really, I just think the economy becomes a shit show.
Kathleen Shannon 12:31
Yeah, I just Googled it. And it said a recession is a significant widespread and prolonged downturn in economic activity.
Emily Thompson 12:40
Yeah, economic shitshow. Basically, right. And with like, as of recording this, this won't go out for a hot minute. Until you know, it'll come out later. But as of recording this, Silicon Valley Bank folded, just like five days ago, as of recording this, right, so like, we're just starting to kind of see some even bigger things happening. By the time this does come out, we'll sort of see some of the repercussions of that happening. And so we're just here to talk about basically what it looks like to do business during hard times, regardless of what that looks like. And this '06, '7, '08 situation is important here, because this is where I feel this conversation kind of needs to start a little bit. Do you remember what year you went freelance?
Kathleen Shannon 13:31
I went freelance in 2010. And then I started Braid in 2011.
Emily Thompson 13:39
When did you start buying rental properties?
Kathleen Shannon 13:42
We bought our first rental property. And so we've bought houses before. So we each lived in our own house and then rented those out. And then we bought a house together that we eventually rented out but the first property that we rent, or that we bought that we did not live in as a rental property was in 2010.
Emily Thompson 13:57
Okay, okay, cool. Cool. So the reason why I want to paint a picture around this is I started doing business online in '08. So about the time that economic shit started hitting the fan, I was like, on my way towards graduating college. It took me a little longer than four years to finally finish it. I had a kid towards the end of it. So that sort of stayed me a little bit. But I started doing business online and launched the business that or started doing the stuff that ended up being Indie Shopography my web design agency in I think late '08 early '09 is when I started doing website stuff. And then in the I think officially launched in 2010.
Kathleen Shannon 14:42
Did you know at that time that you were in that we were in a recession like economics like did you have any clue because in '08 I was working at an advertising agency and I had no clue and like God bless the CEO at the time for kind of protecting us from knowing that or maybe I was just a dumb 20-something.
Emily Thompson 15:00
Kathleen Shannon 15:01
I'm still kind of a dumb 40-something whenever it comes to recessions, but I just didn't realize it.
Emily Thompson 15:07
Right? No, I know, I don't think I did in '08, '09. But and because begin again, I'm in college, I'm wrapping up my senior year, I had moved into an industry, geography that I was told at the time had 100% job placement. Though once I actually got there into graduating, not necessarily a thing, and I didn't want to do it anyway, so it didn't really matter what the placement was. And so it wasn't trying to buy a house, I didn't have, you know, family and real estate, or really with enough money to like, be affected by a recession like that. So no, I don't think I knew, and '08, '09 what was happening in the world around me. However, I do remember, when I started really getting into website projects, I had a lot of clients who were coming to me because they were starting their own businesses because they'd been laid off, or their husband had been laid off. And so they were sort of making ends meet by making bows for babies and, you know, starting their dream t shirt business to keep their family afloat, and those sorts of things. And so I do remember, in 2010, 2011, knowing I remember having conversations with David about it even that, even though we're in this recession, and coming out of this recession, my entrepreneurial journey was really getting kicked off or in particular, my business was really kicking off as a positive side of this recession, like I was literally building a business because the world was in flames. And I was able to help the people who were being laid off and being negatively affected by the recession. So my entrepreneurial journey was kicked off because of an economic economic downturn. And so I sort of, that's how I got started, basically, was doing business in quote, unquote, hard times, and not even, they were legitimately hard times, but they weren't hard times for me.
Kathleen Shannon 17:13
Without realizing it, you know, I probably got started in building my rental company like buying up investment rental properties around that time, as well. Because what happens in a recession, I do know this is that interest rates will drop on properties so that people can buy houses. And this is kind of interesting to, again, because we might be in a recession right now. And this is just a little bit of a tangent, but we just put one of our properties up for rent and had more than 20 responses in less than 24 hours. So that's really interesting whenever it comes to people who are renting versus buying and what that means. Anyway, that's a whole other conversation. If you are interested in investment property stuff, I think I've done a couple of podcasts on it. Anyway. Um, we, you know, started Braid in 2011. And I think that the thing is, is that you probably you and I both started our businesses, all of our businesses under very frugal circumstances, we weren't taking out loans. We weren't taking out investor money. I would say that we're bootstrapping it, though. I think that, you know, that is kind of a technical term that doesn't necessarily apply to us. But other just really saying that we kept our overhead low, we made really smart decisions from the get go so that we could make profit from the very beginning, even if it wasn't a whole lot of profit, we made enough to be able to pay ourselves and to make a living. Now, if, as a business owner with eight employees, it looks a little bit different, going through hard times, my priorities are wildly different. But I think that it's all kind of along the same continuum of how we started. And because we started with such a risk aversion, we are able to kind of weather hard times a little bit easier. And I also think that we've just gotten really lucky with some of our clients. You know, we've had some really big clients that essentially we are almost an in house branding agency for, that have allowed us to like kind of float through the hard times as well.
Emily Thompson 19:27
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Emily Thompson 20:18
I think even going back to this idea of like starting of starting businesses during hard times, I mean, I think that's one of the hallmarks of a recession is entrepreneurship booms out of more necessity than anything, quite often the businesses that are started during hard times are more successful because they do have to start in a more risk averse manner. And you have to even think about how to make yourself recession proof from the very beginning, as opposed to starting during a booming time where you have, you know, I always think that, the thing I was thinking about whenever I think about especially that '08 recession is all the stories of how, you know, the first people to go were the people who watered plants, and how businesses just had that kind of extra cash flow that you could hire someone to just come water your plants, but how those when you start in times where you immediately hire someone to water plants, you know, you're not operating in this kind of frugality that really assists you in moving forward and you know, such a strategic way. Whereas if you're starting a business, and times of recession are really great for helping you start or otherwise refine your business in a way that has you working more economically sound more efficiently and effectively. And really honing in on the things that matter in your business like delivering really well so that people will come back to you and tell other people about you and making sure that you're hiring just the right people for just the right roles, like you're making smarter decisions. Because you have to, that this can be a hard times like this can be really great for business owners, if you have the right mindset around it.
Kathleen Shannon 22:09
Yeah, I've noticed that, you know, especially during the pandemic, some of our biggest clients were born out of the pandemic, you know, they were funded by grants or have out of necessity, you know, if they're working for themselves, they kind of were able to shape their offerings around the world as it is today. So I think that's part of it, too, is just being nimble enough to change as things change. And regardless of hard times that may come, change is inevitable. And I think that innovation and creativity is born out of being able to work within the limitations as they change, right. So some of our clients were really pivoting during the pandemic, and they needed help from a branding standpoint. So we were able to help a lot of people position themselves in a new way that was in response to, not necessarily a reaction to, but a response to the world that we're in right now. And I think that what's really interesting about that, though, is that we as Braid Creative, did not pivot, we didn't make any changes, we stayed exactly the same, our packaged signature offering, the Braid Method, which is how we brand people, it has a reputation, and it has equity that has allowed us to really just hang tight during hard times. And because we've offered it for so long, whenever people are looking for a branding expert, it is easy to get those referrals, and it's easy to tell people what we do. And we have, you know, been able to scale our offering from working with solo business owners, or creative entrepreneurs, to working with a team of four to five people to working with multi level organizations where we are flying in and conducting research and hosting white sheet sessions, like it can look, you know, really different depending on our client. But again, that signature offering the backbone of what we do has stayed the same. And I think that that truly has really helped us during hard times to maintain focus on what we do and what we do best.
Emily Thompson 24:17
Yeah, I think there is something to be said about those of you and industries, where you can maybe not necessarily really benefit from these times, but where you can stay the same, I think, I mean, there can be this like initial feeling like you gotta like pivot and shift and like, make sure you're working right, but the right kinds of businesses can do best if you just hold your ground. And like do what you do really, really well. On the flip side of this, there are there are kinds of businesses who have to make hard and fast pivots. I think. I think specifically there was one particular though I know though that there were a couple of industries that were heavily affected, but I can think of one individual in particular, the Being Boss Community, whatever the pandemic hit, who was a massage therapist. And so her entire industry was gone. Over the course of a couple of weeks, she went from having, you know, a full completely stocked like calendar, appointment calendar moving forward to literally not having any, like having no path forward for the foreseeable future. And so this individual made a hard fast pivot into choosing to go into a completely new industry that she had always found fascinating and interesting, and became a web designer, which I love for her. And so and I also know several people who were event planners, who was who were in similar situations where there are some industries that cannot weather these sorts of things, in quite the same way. I even think of Being Boss. You know, as we have entered into this recession, one of the things that we have struggled with a lot is that for the entirety of this company, a large portion of our annual revenue comes from sponsorships. And a large number of our sponsorships are made of tech companies. And guess who has been having the tightest budgets and the most layoffs over the past couple of months, tech companies and even from the very beginning of the pandemic, when those advertising budgets, those are usually the first things to get cut. We have had, we've felt this all along the way. And it's caused us to have to pivot and reconsider some options as well. So there are industries for sure, that have to sort of tiptoe through things a little more carefully, and not so much like you know, batten down the hatches and just do what you do really, really well, because your clients leave, budgets are cut, you're unable to do the job. And so that's where really that being nimble and quick on your feet and making decisions and being very strategic and having your head in the game become really important for you to keep the thing going. Even as you know, in some cases, the world around you comes crumbling down.
Kathleen Shannon 27:16
I want to give a big shout out to that massage therapist turned web designer, I think that that is so incredible. And that's one of the mindsets that I go into business with every single day is that if I need to change it up, I can so like as much as I'm talking about staying the same and doing the same thing. And you will have heard me say that I love being a graphic designer, I love pushing some pixels. There are days whenever I think okay, if this all burned down today, what would I do? And I don't know, I might end up I kind of sometimes daydream about teaching art maybe or teaching graphic design at a university. And I don't really know what that would look like. Or sometimes I'll daydream about well, I could take my number one hobby, which is working out and turn that into an actual business. Or I could work at Starbucks, like I'm not above it, if that's what I had to do, I would do it. And I would do it with a smile, I'm sure I would just make the best I trust that I would make the best out of whatever that situation is, you know, this is kind of related. But it's that how you do anything is how you do everything. And one of the things that we've seen as an entrepreneur, people with entrepreneurial spirits who work for other people tend to be promoted the most. And they get raises whenever they're thinking about leaving because their employer sees the value in them, because and they're so afraid of leaving, because they don't know if they can do it on their own. And I'm like, Listen, if you are getting this much praise and kudos and recognition, in your job, it is going to translate over to you working for yourself.
Kathleen Shannon 28:59
And so I also believe that whenever it comes to pivoting, and switching careers, and what that might look like is, you're not like a whole new person, just because you're changing your career, you're bringing all of those skills and knowledge and wisdom that you learned, whatever that looks like from your previous situation into your new situation. So even whenever you're talking about the massage therapist, turn web developer, I got so excited from a branding standpoint, thinking about Ooh, what if they really specialize in doing web development and design for massage therapists and like of course, that whole industry was hit, but now it's going to be opening back up and having had that experience and that insight will give her so much more like shorthand with what they would maybe need from a website or how they can optimize their website to get more clients and really combining those offerings you know, are combining her knowledge and both of those things could be huge for her in finding like a really good niche. So I think that that's an important thing too, is to just realize that as you're going through hard things, and as you're pivoting, or as you're staying the same, you can bring, like more of who you are into the work that you do to make it do.
Emily Thompson 30:16
Yeah, or even more of what you're interested in, right? Maybe it's like, you know, I feel like that is like quite a, quite a big transition. But you can have minor pivots as well. Maybe you add a service to what it is that you're doing that is bringing some of the you're interested in that as little more you know, quote unquote, recession proof or whatever it may be into the work that you do. There's so many opportunities, and I think that's really the mindset, I actually very much so remember those first couple days of the pandemic, you know, being in the Being Boss community, and we were really going into that Being Boss conference that was supposed to be in person in April 2020. Everybody, remember, that was a fun time. One of the things that I kept saying very early on was like, what are the opportunities as everyone's freaking out, because the world is ending, as we know, it literally, as we know it, it was over. And everyone was thinking about what they were losing, and how they weren't going to be able to do this, or see these people or whatever it may be. There's this mindset shift that is very important to entrepreneurship, that is constantly what are the opportunities, because in every moment of hardship, there are opportunities, and is it filled with grief to let go of like, what it is that you've done, and what it is that you've like, learned to trust and expect and all of these things to move into a different direction abso fucking lutely, it's a very hard thing to do.
Emily Thompson 31:40
But it's part of the journey. And so, I also think that anyone who was you know, embarking on, and I think of this for both entrepreneurs and business owners, because I do think of those groups of people as being two different groups, you have to keep this sort of understanding. I mean, literally, even also, if you have a day job, that there is no such thing as security. And that it all you almost have to look at it as like a playground or a fun game moving into anything that you're doing. Because for me, I have to think of it as like, constant problems to solve or really puzzles to solve more so than problems of if you are choosing this path, you are choosing a path of constantly solving puzzles. And whenever I think about it like that, it sounds fun, right? As opposed to like, I gotta fix all these problems, which is just another way of looking at it. That sounds very lame and tiresome. And so there's just a very important mindset shift to consider as you're choosing the path of entrepreneurship or of business ownership, that you will always one have problems to solve slash puzzles to solve, and two have that paired with opportunities that you have to keep your eyeballs open for.
Kathleen Shannon 33:02
One of the things that was really helpful for me through hard times is having a business partner. And I want to caveat this by saying that I think that a lot of people want a business partner so that they can have someone else solve their problems. And that is not what a business partner does. So if you think that bringing someone on will solve problems, it does not, it's like the equivalent of having a baby to save your marriage, you know, like, it's just not the solution. Okay, so that's first and foremost. But how having business partners has been really helpful is that you can kind of take turns freaking out, you know, like, so whenever one person is freaking out, one person can kind of hold steady, and everyone's bringing their different strengths and perspective to the conversation. So maybe if I'm freaking out about what does this mean, you would say, well, there's an opportunity here, like, what are the opportunities and just having that broader perspective. So for me, having business partners has been huge and just kind of helping to soundboard and really think through scenarios. So during hard times, I've had to think through if we had to make hard decisions, what might those hard decisions look like? How will we make them? How do we avoid them? And so one of the big things that we have done, starting at the beginning of the pandemic is we really wanted to make sure that we had six months of savings in our savings account, so that we could weather storms, you know, because we didn't know what was going to happen.
Kathleen Shannon 34:41
I even remember in my personal life like we were really buckling down and canceling subscriptions and saving. So that's like one just really tactical thing that we did. And trust me, there's actually been a few fights like it's six months of savings sounds wonderful. But whenever you run a business my size, that's a lot of money. And so then deciding, okay, what are we actually doing with this money? And at what point? Are we saying the hard decisions need to be made? Is it when we go through three months of savings? Is it whenever we go through four months of savings? Is it whenever we get to zero? Like, what does that actually look like? So that is something kind of really interesting. And then on the flip side, Emily, you might be able to speak to going through hard times, on your own, you know, so I sold Being Boss to you, right before the pandemic hit, I think I was like, you know, how animals can kind of feel an earthquake comeing and they start scattering, I was an animal that could feel the earthquake coming, like truly, it feels almost magical, the way that I was, like, you know, something's not quite right. And so it was a culmination of a lot of different things. But with that, you went from, you know, me and you making decisions together to making decisions on your own. And I bet that there is something a little bit liberating to that. So like, what has your experience of that been? Like how is it having a business partner versus not having a business partner during hard times?
Emily Thompson 36:09
I mean, I found business besties.
Kathleen Shannon 36:11
Emily Thompson 36:12
Right. I really felt other business besties, I still never made any decisions on my I mean, I made the decisions on my own, but they were no less informed, right? Or no less like, bounced off of, I think very early in the pandemic, having a little like a mastermind, like Voxer group, where we were talking through, like the pros and cons of what was happening. And these two people had retail stores. So it was very much so like, what are they doing with, you know, with sort of protection of their in store employees, what were they doing with like closing down, one of them had some really crazy things happening around her landlord and the landlord expecting them to be open regardless, because it was in their lease that they had to be open a minimum number of hours every week, and even though like, and how to get their employees to go in when everyone is dying, and like all these things. And so we were talking through all of these things, whereas for me, I'm like, but now I have to take a whole conference online, like, how do I do that? What does that look like? And also, PPP is I remember everything I learned about PPP, the PPP along the way came from that Voxer group. That's how we all got money, basically, to run our business.
Kathleen Shannon 37:22
Emily Thompson 37:23
And so for me, at that point, it was that particular group that we worked each other through all of those things, we were all sort of single business owners of our businesses, in that group, and so we weren't like we were each other's sort of partners in that, but just a group of business besties talking through all of the things as I've gone through, I found another more like online focused group for Being Boss support in general. And it's the same thing, you all things, this weird thing happened, let's talk through it, or what am I missing? Or please ask me the questions that I need to properly reflect so that I can make my own decision? Or what would you guys do in this situation, whatever it may be, for me, it's still very much so connecting with others to have that sounding board to have someone show me the holes or share, you know, advice or the things that they've learned or whatever it may be, it's just when it comes down to the decision making, it really just is on me, which to some level is like more anxiety ridden, because it's not sort of spread between two people. But also, in some ways easier, because I know it's just my decision and I'm making it and we're moving forward. Whereas you know, at Almanac it's me and David, so it's still very much so bouncing things back and forth. And there is like a speed with which I can do things at Being Boss because it's just me that I can't do with a business partner because there has to be much more like let's get on the same page on things. So there are pros and cons for sure. But the answer for me is still business besties having the community of people around me to help me gain the knowledge and information and perspective to help me question myself and otherwise gain all the information that I need to make decisions those people are invaluable to me and it goes both ways. And then we don't have to share profits with with each other which is also kind of nice.
Kathleen Shannon 39:25
I mean, it does make going on vacation a lot trickier because we used to be able to use the Being Boss card.
Emily Thompson 39:34
Right and call it a day.
Kathleen Shannon 39:36
Don't, don't come after Being Boss, IRS. Surely they won't.
Emily Thompson 39:40
I mean we talk about business all the time, all the time. They're all business trips.
Kathleen Shannon 39:44
Well, and that reminds me you know, even on our last trip to New Orleans, you were kind of thinking something through as it relates to Being Boss and as your unofficial board of director for Being Boss. I was able to talk you through it a little bit having been there are having been where you are, you know, literally as your partner at Being Boss. And then you know all the things that come with all the hard decisions and just being able to kind of talk it through with you. And so that's one thing I was thinking is that if you don't quite have business besties that you trust, or you don't have business partners that you can bounce ideas off of, and maybe you do have best friends, or a life partner, or whatever that might look like, but they don't quite get it. One thing that you might do is think about who your own personal board of directors are. So an exercise that I always do with personal branding is called the dinner party exercise. And it's where you're inviting 4, 5, 6, imaginary or real people to dinner in your mind. And they could be celebrities, they could be historical, they could be fictional. And it's how you see them. It's not how they actually are, it's how you perceive them. And you can do the same thing for your business. So what it does at the dinner party is it kind of reflects back to you some personality traits that you would like to embody or share whenever it comes to your business and your personal brand. But this can relate on the inside. And think about it as your board of directors, these people that you would invite over to help you make business decisions and kind of tap into what would they tell you? What kind of advice would they give you. And really, what you're doing is you're embodying the kinds of characteristics of these decision makers that you trust. And guess what, it's really just you and you can trust yourself to make really hard decisions, you've got this.
Emily Thompson 39:52
But hold on, but also go find yourself in business besties you do that you trust yourself, but also define who you your ideal business besties are and absolutely go find them because I do think that there is no replacement for people who do get what you do, who are able to ask you hard questions and help you reflect and otherwise bolster you in some way as you are making hard decisions in your business. Especially when you know, like for me when my employees are involved and you know, aren't they always whenever you have them. I like knowing that my decisions have been seen from all of the points of view. Basically.
Emily Thompson 41:41
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Kathleen Shannon 43:40
Businesses go through and people creative entrepreneurs and solo business owners. Small business owners sometimes are perpetually going through a hard time mean sometimes it's not a reflection of what's happening in the economy. And so I wanted to address that as well. If you are perpetually in a hard time, then that means something isn't working there is something fundamentally wrong with but what's going on in your business.
Emily Thompson 44:08
If you're looking at the last five years, three years and you're like it's been hard for three it's also just been hard for three years. Like.
Kathleen Shannon 44:17
Emily Thompson 44:18
If you look at them pandemic and post because I think of I was actually as I was prepping for this for this chat. I was thinking about Almanac which started in 2018. We intentionally started actually we intentionally started slow but almost immediately the business partner with which I started the business quit unexpectedly. No reason just like, PS I decided that I don't want to do this. And I was like okay, noted. So like immediately difficult. We sort of got going about you know, a year and a half later the pandemic hits. So basically Almanac has never had it easy. Like we have been pushing a boulder up a hill with with like someone on the other side, pushing against me, as we have done this thing, and I don't think that that is, If anyone finds themselves in that situation, I don't think that's necessarily a sign that you're doing anything wrong, just that we have been living through almost impossible times and obviously not like we are very like, you know, some awful things are not happening. But Almanac has not been easy. And I cannot wait to see what Almanac does, when there is less pressure from all the outside forces because I know that if we can do what we're doing now we can grow in the ways that we have grown irregardless of what the world looks like, once all of that pressure has gone Almanac is going to take over the world, and I am stoked about it.
Kathleen Shannon 45:54
Question, How long are you willing to be in a hard time with Almanac? Like if Almanac's been in a hard time for three years? Will you go three more years of feeling like external forces are pushing on you like and you have had growth. So do you really consider it like hard times? Do you know what I mean? Like at what to what end are you willing to do that?
Emily Thompson 46:17
I mean, I have four years left on my lease. So we'll start there, I got at least over four more years more or less. And I will say Almanac has gotten easier because we have pushed against right as much like I we have not given up though I've been very open that a couple of years ago, I guess it was 2021. David and I, like going into 2021. Or maybe it was even 2022, David and I had previously like a couple of months before and like okay, in December, we're going to sit down and have a conversation as to whether or not this is worth it. Like we're in the middle of a pandemic we're trying to open a retail store, like what the fuck is even happening? And we had the conversation of like, okay, we saw what it did through this holiday season. Are we willing to do it? And I think because we've started in that place that we maintain a consciousness of that, like willing to continue pushing in a way that wouldn't have been there, right under the same circumstances, which goes back to that, like, when you're founding a business during hard times, you just think about it differently.
Emily Thompson 47:21
And so we maintain that consciousness, but we have, we have four more years of our lease, I will say it has gotten easier, because you know, pandemic restrictions have been lifted, and people are coming back into the store. But we're still dealing with more people out sick, than I think is normal, or at least like pre pandemic normal, which is something that we have had to work into our ongoing processes and sort of hiring practices and scheduling practices and all of those things. Would I call it hard and Almanac at the moment? No, I don't think it is necessarily like it's not the hardest of times by any means is not as easy as it could be. And so I am interested to see what Almanac could do if, you know, the economy was doing better if tourism was all the way back, if events in the city were back to the capacity that they were pre like all of these things. And who knows if it'll ever go back to you know what it was. But it's still not. Things are not happening at 100%. We're still operating. I think I like 70% efficiency because of everything. And so is it hard? No. But is it as easy as it could be also absolutely no.
Kathleen Shannon 48:38
Right? So you're still in puzzle solving mode quite a bit, or you're always kind of being thrown. Maybe even working on three jigsaw puzzles at the same time. And they're all mixed together. Absolutely.
Emily Thompson 48:51
Absolutely. As opposed to like the one puzzle.
Kathleen Shannon 48:54
Just one puzzle. And maybe it's like a 500 piece, baby puzzle, right?
Emily Thompson 48:59
Kathleen Shannon 48:59
But you know, going back to I will I still stand by the fact that if you're perpetually in a hard time, then something's not working. Right. And you may need to reassess. So Emily, you naturally are going to be reassessing, testing and changing and experimenting all the time. And even making those little pivots like you were talking about. So yeah, people aren't coming into your shop. So you started doing live crystal sales on Friday and utilizing YouTube, you started adjusting your SEO to make sure that you are leveraging your online know how with your physical products. So you are reassessing and tweaking things as you go. So if you are at perpetually in a hard time and something isn't working for you, you may need to reassess. You might need to reassess your offering, your dream client, how you're finding business, how you're nurturing relationships, and what that really looks like and you've got to get honest. So upon having this conversation, it really makes me think that our listeners, what they could really start doing is one defining what a hard time looks like.
Kathleen Shannon 50:09
So what does it mean to be in a hard time? Are there times that have been hard for you? What was the reason why it was hard? And have there been times that were really good? And what did those look like? And what did that feel like? And then also, what would it look like to be out have a hard time you kind of have to give yourself a goal, so that you don't just perpetually move the bar on yourself so that you always feel like you're in a hard time, what is a good time look like? And maybe, in fact, you're in a good time now, and you just don't know it. Because you've always been miserable for whatever reason, because you're moving the bar on yourself, or because you're focusing on what's not working, and not doing anything to fix it. So I know that that's like a little bit tough lovey, and I'm not trying to necessarily be that way. But I do think that there is something to just taking a really honest, hard look at what it is that you're doing, how you're thinking about it, what your systems and processes are like, the kinds of relationships that you're having, are you really putting yourself out there? Are you really doing the things that you know, you need to do to move your business forward?
Emily Thompson 51:18
Yeah, so you mentioned something a minute ago, I also love the tough love Kathleen, personally, so high five on that. But the thing that I think about whenever it comes to making it through hard times, and again, maybe this is like world hard times, or just like your business hard times in this moment, is one of the things that we have to do as leaders of the organization, whatever it may be, is always have contingency plans, like contingency plans for contingency plans, whenever we are navigating anything difficult, right? You know, we all remember what those first weeks slash months of the pandemic were, like, when we were like, you know, if I travel, I have to, like, be ready for all these different scenarios. Or if it were in my business, I have to be ready with all these different scenarios, whether you remember when they were literally releasing PPP, but they didn't even have it defined as to what that would even be like, and right.
Kathleen Shannon 52:18
You get PPP and then just put it in savings, because you might have to just end up paying it all back tax time, like we had no idea what it was gonna look like.
Emily Thompson 52:27
None, it was wild. And so and even like that is obviously like, extreme end of the spectrum. But I even think, you know, now, I will be very honest, because I think this is a fun time to sort of start bringing this up. Being Boss over the past year, again, has been very difficult for because for so long, so much of our revenue has come from the tech industry and the tech industry has had such a bad day, over the past year, and that we've had to build contingencies on top of contingencies as we go through negotiating contracts and sort of renewing relationships with brands, some people have dropped off, some people have come back, people we've worked with for years have decided to cut their ad budgets and those sorts of things in ways that we were not expecting. And so I've had to build layers and layers and layers of contingency plans in a way that like I'm a little tired of doing puzzles, right? There is this, like, there is this, this fatigue that comes from working in that way, especially after coming out of so many years of just generally doing it to go to the grocery store. But you're right in that that also it is opportunities to change to shift things. And so even as I think about what Being Boss looks like forward, some of those contingency plans are being put into place in a way that me and the team are more excited about then like the original path moving forward. But there are opportunities that are presented to you and you have to know when and where to take them. As well as you are navigating through implementing whatever contingency plans come up and being ready for it.
Emily Thompson 54:10
I think oftentimes, David and sometimes my team, they get a little wide eyed at me sometimes whenever I start talking through these plans that I've like that's been bumbling around in my head for weeks, and like they're just learning that something is happening, but I already have four plans in place, guys, we'll just sort of see what happens. That becomes your role as a leader in hard times of like, there is an element of like, getting in there and doing the work that needs to be done. But there is also a lot of like planning for as many eventualities as you can so that your business can take whatever path opens up as you were available to do it. Which also leads me to another thing this idea of, of putting energy, I think when you're going through hard times putting energy in places that are As close to revenue generation is really important, and I have no problem pulling the entire team into those things, I think early in the pandemic, you know, it was transitioning into those online crystal parties on YouTube. And so like we all like fell into, like, if we can't make money in the way that we've been making money, markets, and shops and all of those things, how can we do it and we all went face first, and to figuring out how to stream on YouTube these crystal parties, or even thinking about, you know, Being Boss, over the past couple of months, we've all been working on really interesting projects to pull everyone as close to revenue generation as possible, which I think is something that not a left, usually when I mentioned it, people are like, Oh, I haven't even thought about that. But like, what would it look like to put your VA just a little bit closer to revenue generation? You know, maybe it's like follow up emails, or whatever it may be like, everyone can be moved a little bit in some capacity, closer to revenue generation. And you should be doing those things if you find yourself in a hard time.
Kathleen Shannon 56:01
Yeah. How can you make $100 today? That's the mindset. I always come back to.
Emily Thompson 56:07
the old Kathleen-ism. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, for sure. Oh, that's made my brain hurt just thinking about it a little bit. Who thought this was a good idea to do to businesses through a pandemic?
Kathleen Shannon 56:24
That's why I decided to just do one.
Emily Thompson 56:26
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. But I also think there's something to be said that like, one, yours is still here, and like thriving. And also, Almanac is thriving, and Being Boss's about, it has been doing a great job. But over the last couple of months, it's made me realize like, how much is this sustainable in a way that the pivots are about to have Being Boss thriving in a whole different way. More will be coming about that are coming out about that over the next couple of weeks. I'm not going to share anything in this moment. But hard times cause or are cuase for interesting pivots and opportunities to do more and or better, maybe less. As it may be, right. And sort of, I don't know, reinvent things in a way that are places where innovation arise, which I think is like the ultimate experience of entrepreneurship.
Kathleen Shannon 57:37
That sounds good to me, and, and done. Okay, do the work be boss?
Emily Thompson 57:43
Not quite yet one. I do want to like if we could, if we could just sort of pin down one thing from each of us. That is like if you if there's one thing you could tell listeners, anyone listening to this, who may either find themselves in a hard time right now or like, who knows what this recession is going to do over the next couple of months? or years? What would be your like, number one tip?
Kathleen Shannon 58:08
I think make $100 today, if you start taking action to make $100 today, it's going to move the needle forward. And it might be more than $100. Does that make sense?
Emily Thompson 58:20
Kathleen Shannon 58:22
So just focus on making $100. Because I think that people instead are thinking about their six figure salary that they want to make. Just think about making three figures think about making three figures today. And it will all start to add up it will move the needle forward.
Emily Thompson 58:38
I agree with that. That is number one. I think number two is literally the exact other end of the spectrum of I think that you as your or after you do that. Get dreamy, get really dreamy as to, if your business needs to evolve, if what you do business or not needs to evolve. What is the contingency plan? Right? Or like, where is the where's the other marker for you? Is it Starbucks? In which like, it's funny, I say that and like not even jokingly in the C-suite we always have these moments of like, can we just like go to Starbucks? Or like go work at Starbucks or really our thing is like, an only fans. Like, I think I would maybe sell photos of my feet. I think I'd be fine with that.
Kathleen Shannon 59:34
I feel like I've aged out I never even go there anymore. Because
Emily Thompson 59:39
Yeah, I've never even been.
Kathleen Shannon 59:42
Oh no, I know. Like in my mind, because I used to be a little bit of a contingency like well, I could always take my clothes off, you know?
Emily Thompson 59:53
Yeah, yeah. Well, no, I'm just talking about my feet like you don't even know it's me, it's totally fine.
Kathleen Shannon 59:58
Nobody wants to see my feet.
Emily Thompson 59:59
We've actually even talked in the C suite about doing a collective onlyfans? Because we're all kind of into it a little bit. So like, basically, what are your contingency plans? And really, really in your business, like if the mold breaks, like if the craziest thing happens if you lose your biggest client, if your industry disappears, if you know, whatever, whatever, like what would you go do? What would your business do? How would your skill sets serve the world in a different way and not that you have to go there? Not that you have to physically go there. But if your mind can go there, you open your perspective to the vast number of possibilities and opportunities that are available to you in hard times. And when you do lose your big client or your industry does disappear. It's not oh my god, I have to figure it out. It's Oh, wow. Maybe I finally have the opportunity to do X. And so I think both of those things together are really important for hard times go make your cash 100% but also go ahead and start thinking about what the worst case scenario is and how you can make it not so bad. And now we can be done Kathleen.
Kathleen Shannon 1:01:15
Do the work. Be boss.
Emily Thompson 1:01:18
Decor for your office gifts for your clients celebrations for your own job well done. Find it all and more in our handmade candles and carefully curated collection of crystals and gifts at almanacsupplyco.com/beingboss and get 15% Off with code being boss at checkout. That's almanacsupplyco.com/beingboss now. Until next time, do the work. Be boss