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If you've ever looked for advice as a leader or a business owner, then you know that there is a plethora of strategies and advice available at your fingertips. Seemingly, this is great, but it can also make it hard to decide a plan of action when there is so much to chose from. It's no surprise that many business owners can feel like they are just spinning their wheels and are unsure of what to prioritize.
Recently, our CEO Stacy Jones sat sown with a business consultant who helps business owners get the tools they need to navigate uncertainty while remaining aligned with your biggest business goals and initiatives. In this blog, Hollywood Branded learns how to be an effective leader of a successful business from the advice of Jen McFarland, the CEO of Women Conquer Business.
As the CEO of Women Conquer Business, Jen helps business owners work logically and intuitively from their biggest business goals to the smallest tasks, and provides recommendations based on their purpose, vision and values.
Jen has a dynamic background - combined with a contagious can-do attitude. This helps her guide women business leaders to think strategically about their business projects so they can be working toward their biggest business goals efficiently and effectively, every day.
Question: I'd love to do is start off with you sharing a little bit more about your background and what got you to where you are today.
Answer: Sure. I've had a very dynamic background. I think that in terms of being an entrepreneur, I wouldn't be one of those people who was just born selling and an entrepreneur. I think I've kind of grown into it just through a life of service. I think that my life changed maybe the most when I was a graphic designer and did a lot of work in marketing as an in house designer and marketer, and then I went into the Peace Corps and I served for two years in Kazakhstan, and I just loved it.
hat was when I really established this love for projects. Sort of like, tell me what it is that you need, and we're just gonna make it happen. Only I didn't know at that time that you could do work in projects until I left, and I looked at my husband, who was with me in the Peace Corps, and I said, what do I do now? I really liked that. And he's like, I think you need to keep doing projects.
I went and I got my master's degree in leadership and project management, and then spent 10 years working in tech project management. In that process, I started to realize that I wasn't doing enough direct service, like I wasn't helping individuals enough, and I kept having this pull back to that creative marketing side. So it was that direct service and the creative pull that led me into entrepreneurship. And it just started as helping a few friends, and then it's just grown and grown into something a lot bigger. And that's how I got here.
Question: I know you wanted to chat a little bit more today in regards to your pillars. Because you have three basic pillars that you believe in, with leadership, project management and digital marketing. What do you want to jump in first on?
Answer: First, I want to acknowledge that there are a lot of other areas of your business, just the things that I appreciate and I can help people with. So I want to just say that. But for me, especially working with women, when we talk about leadership, a lot of times people say, I'm not a leader, or I can do this one thing, and then they hire other people to handle the things that they're not experts in. And there are some real dangers to that, particularly around marketing. If you're not really clear about what it is that you need, setting up your expectations, and then championing these initiatives or goals or ideas with the people that you're hiring to help you, you kind of get what you get.
The first step in leadership is to really acknowledge all of the places in your life where you're actually doing a significant amount of leading, whether it's with your family, or as a manager before you started your business, or just in your day to day life, and then realizing that you know stuff isn't going to happen in your business unless you lead to it, and make it happen.
That's not to say that you're going to tell the person how to do their job, but you're going to be very clear about the things that they need to do. I've come across a lot of women who just kind of hand off their website to somebody else, and it either never gets done, or it doesn't get done right, or in worst case scenarios, the person actually bolts and takes away ownership of the site and they can't get into it. And here's that landing spot, right? For a lot of small business owners, online business is kind of that hub, that digital hub, and they can't get into it. And in worst case scenarios, people either do lawsuits or they have to change their URL and start over. And so leadership is really a key, I think, in small business for really helping drive your initiatives forward.
It's kind of that balance between chief of everything, which is another way of thinking of CEO, but we want to back off of that, and then hands off, and then holy crap, how come nothing is going the way that I want it to? It's like a runaway train. And so what we're really looking for is balance. Which is to say, I know what I want, this is how I want things to work, you make it happen, professional, because you know how to do your thing better than I do. But I want updates, and I want to hear about how it's going, and I want to see things as it comes along. And in some cases, most importantly, I need to know how to log in, how to access everything. I've created my own accounts, I don't want you managing all of that because maybe someday I want to work with somebody besides you.
Question: When talking about leadership, what are some of the guidelines that you set up when you're helping people? What are you telling them then are best practices so that they do get their teams coming back to them, they do get people to say, this is where I'm at, here's where there might be holes I need help with, so that again, that CEO's not sitting there knocking on other people's doors, asking for it, seeding through the information, trying to create their own reports?
Answer: This is where kind of the project management piece kind of comes into it, right? So one of the things that needs to happen for effective leadership is that you're tying in these mission and goals with the projects that you're leading and the initiatives that you're doing. That means you develop some clarity around these tasks that you're doing on the daily with how they actually relate back to some of the biggest goals that you have. And that's part of leadership, is you might not be doing all of the tasks, but you have ways of monitoring what's happening, and if it's actually moving things forward. You're involved in things, like all of the assumptions that you're making. It's really easy to be like, I'm going to make $1 million, like yada, yada, yada, I'm posting on Facebook on Tuesday. And it's like, well how is that actually going to help me make this goal? So you do that through effective planning and project management.
Now plans in and of themselves are not sexy. But planning actually is, because planning helps you kind of see the landscape, and then as it changes, then you're able to navigate it and you're not caught flat footed as much. You don't create the plan just to be like, oh, we've got this figured out, and put it in your drawer. You plan so that you've had discussions around what success looks like with your team, and you know how you're going to measure success. Even if you personally as a leader isn't going to do that, somebody is tracking and keeping keeping tabs on things so that you are making these connections between all of the things that you're doing, all of these things that you're paying for, and achieving these broader goals and your vision.
Question: Project management, that was another area you wanted to chat about and talk about, and you've touched on it in the conversation just now. Is there a certain software that you suggest that you like working with the most, or that you've had experience with, or is there certain systems in place? Or how do you go about, we know you love the word project, how you go about this?
Answer: What might surprise you is I don't recommend project management software right away, and I'll tell you why. Project management software, and I don't care if it's Microsoft Project or if it's Trello, Asana, Monday, I mean, all of all of these. I've tested most if not all of them. They mostly keep you down at the task level. It's mostly like, what do you have to do? Is it done yet? You know, it's mostly about moving work forward at the very micro level, right?
And as leaders, what we need to do is really, like I said before, make that connection between our broader goals and the tasks. So I would say before just saying, okay, I'm going to invest in some project management software, is to gain some of that clarity around moving from your goals and what it's going to take before you even get to the tasks.
There are some connections that you can make, and that I work people with, through a series of questions to kind of help them connect the basis of what is my mission and goals? And then what are the assumptions I'm going to make before I set a set up, say, a digital marketing plan for executing that?
Once you're clear about the goals, the purpose, what the outputs are going to look like, meaning what are you going to be delivering? Then you can start thinking about programs like Asana and Trello, which will really help you manage tasks. Although I really like any software that involves a lot of dates and tracking so that you're kind of held to some deadlines. Sometimes project management softwares really just, well, I don't know, like an an overblown to do list that you're writing down on a piece of paper, and there's nothing there that saying, hey, did you get this done? So you need to make sure that you are able to like hold your teams accountable and get things done and have automated reminders and things like that.
It's kind of about who you have working and what's gonna work for them, and then also what it is that you're trying to do. I mean, some of these software, they're really built around like a tech space, and they work great in the tech space, but then they're making that transition to try and help everybody, and there is some bumpy spots in there. So that's why it's really hard for me to make just off the top of my head kind of recommendation.
I do think it's sometimes important to do like the teamwork of leading through like what this project really looks like, and then you get into the tasks. And I think that that's the part that's easy to skip for a lot of people, especially small teams and small businesses.
Jen's third pillar, digital marketing, is our favorite of the three. Check out the full podcast to hear why that's her third pillar and how to incorporate digital marketing in your business!
Every week we have a marketing professional on our show to share their tips, tricks and lessons learned from their professional experience. Check out some of our other podcast blogs from earlier this year:
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Topics: Business Advice, Podcast Interviews, HB Podcast