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Social Capital

Welcome to Social Capital, a weekly podcast where we dive into social relationships and how the investment you put into them establishes trust, reciprocity, and value within your network. Your host, Lori Highby, will connect with top business professionals to dive into their best techniques and stories to share with you!
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Now displaying: March, 2022
Mar 30, 2022
Meet David: 

Dave is the principal operations consultant at the Crysler Club and host of the Everyday Business Problems Podcast. Entering entrepreneurship after spending nearly 20 years working for a publicly traded corporation, Dave quickly realized there was a tremendous need within small businesses to have access to the tools and support that were commonplace in a large corporation. Dave developed his operations framework to help small business owners reclaim their life and grow their businesses. Dave, welcome to the show.

 

What are some key areas that business systems connect and how does that work?

 

From my standpoint and what I like to talk about from the operations perspective are four core areas. Which are planning, people, process, and technology. No matter if you are dealing with a challenge in your business or you are working on planning to have future growth, either the challenge or what you're trying to tackle is going to be in one of those core four areas. And so, I like to talk about them in that particular order. I will never change the order of them because you can't have one without the other and if you start to layer in technology before you do appropriate planning or have people or have a process in place, it's a little bit like putting the cart before the horse, as the saying goes.

 

Do you see how people might want to change the order a lot?

 

Yes. Very often. When you're up against a challenge as a business owner, or if you're on a leadership team probably, the two quickest things I see people fill the gap is with people and technology. And what happens most often is if you're filling the gap with people first, without doing the prior planning and if you don't have documented process even though that comes after the people aspect, what tends to happen is that you have fairly underutilized people. So, we hear a lot of people talk about the efficiency of processes and what they're doing throughout the day. But the thing that a lot of people don't talk about is the utilization of those people, right. So, when you're filling the gap with a person or multiple people, because you're overwhelmed, or you've got too many things on your plate, you've got too many processes or responsibilities tasks that you're responsible for without a well thought out plan or documented processes in place, more than likely, you're going to be wasting a lot of time with those people and there's a lot that goes to that. Over the course of time, if you continue doing that, it's going to have an impact on your culture and many other things. So, I don't want to get too deep into that, but that's kind of problem number one if you're going to fill the gap with people. Problem number two is if going to fill the gap of technology without again having the planning people process part in place, what often happens is that over the course of time, the leadership team business owners, they're going to be pretty unhappy with the overall implementation of that technology. It too often fails either during the initial implementation or over the course of time, because again, you've not had a well thought out plan going into it and maybe that seems a little arbitrary saying that because people I will often hear, now we've evaluated ten to different software, we've gone through all of the sales demos and so on and so forth. But what I'm really talking about from that planning standpoint is understanding, 1. Your business model; and 2. Your business processes; and how you can, by understanding those, leverage that technology to automate and streamline what you're doing. So again, it gets back to increasing the utilization of the people that you have, and if you're freeing their time up, ultimately you can take those resources and redeploy in other areas, hopefully generating additional revenue, or what have you.

 

What is the best way to get started in systemizing your business?

 

The best way to get started is to make a conscious decision that that's what you want to do. I think that understanding where you're at today and we do have some tools available to help you do that, but to get a pulse on where you're at today in terms of those planning people, process and technology; when you understand where you're at today, and you understand the goals that you have in terms of what you want your business to be like, that could be more locations that could be just a straight increase in revenue. It could be adding a product line. There are a bunch of different goals that you can line out for yourself but understanding where you're at today how those kinds of core four areas work with each other to get you on a path of systemization to all ultimately achieve the goals that you've now set forth.

 

What are some things that we should avoid when creating these business systems?

 

I think the one thing to avoid is taking all of the work on yourself. It's one of the areas that I think, from a leadership perspective, people can often struggle with. And I know I did, right. Like I can always speak to my experiences personally growing up in an entrepreneurial family and entrepreneurial environment, my dad was a second-generation business owner and that business had been started in the seventies. So, if you think back to that time, it was kind of, as I jokingly say, ruled with the iron fist, right, as top-down leadership "do as I say", there wasn't a lot of collaboration, there wasn't a ton of engagement and empowerment happening. Even though those things were still talked about, and you knew that as a leader, as an owner, you had to develop people, all those things, right.

So, as I got leadership roles and kind of more and more responsibility, especially early on in my career, I kind of took that into those leadership roles early on, especially, and while I did have some limited success, I'll call it with different systemization efforts throughout those leadership positions. It wasn't for me until kind of the unlock of what could happen in terms of moving the needle further faster when you started to empower and engage the people around you. So, lately, I've been talking about this collective brainpower component, but what I'm really talking about when I say that it is empowering engaging your team, the people that are doing the heavy lifting, that's the best place to start when it comes to systemization and planning and understanding where the bottlenecks are in your business. So, that's the thing to avoid.

Don't think that you can do all of this on your own. You want to be engaging the people that are doing the heavy lifting day in and day out. They know where the real dirt is; they know what is slowing them down. Don't be afraid to ask them, don't be afraid to engage with them and empower them to bring those ideas to you so you can collaborate. And the other part of that is, obviously, don't be afraid to seek outside counsel. It doesn't necessarily mean that that has to result in some sort of a paid engagement or anything like that, but there are so many resources available, especially today in the day and age of social media. I produce a ton of content. I have a ton of free resources available. So, don't be afraid to kind of seek outside counsel. As I tell people, I've learned this stuff from doing it, over 20 years directly working in operations and manufacturing facilities; many different ones, small size to very large size businesses. So don't be afraid to have counsel engage and empower your team. Those are the best places to start and make sure you're not trying to do all of this on your own. That's the thing to avoid.

 

When it comes to a process or a system, engaging your team, if you get their input, they automatically have buy-in as opposed to you coming in and saying, "this is how we do things now." If it's their system that they're creating, or they were a part of creating the new system, they're going to adopt it a lot faster than if you're just kind of pushing it in front of them?

 

Yes, 100%. The other thing about that specifically is when you're building your business, right, at one point, you personally, as an owner, or even if you're in a leadership team, we're probably doing that particular process, and now there are other people doing that process. So, my whole point is, it's probably changed since the last time you had hands-on involvement, which is just another reason to get the people that are doing that process day in and day out to get their input on it. Because they know to the detail, all of the different aspects, all of the different factors, all of the different touchpoints. The one thing we didn't talk about, but let's talk about, internally who their eternal customer is, who they're receiving information and/or products from, right. So, they have all of that information at their fingertips. Go to the source of truth. It's the people doing the work every day.

One of the best things you can do as you get into this stuff, as you get into engaging and empowering people, as you start talking about process improvement and ways that you can eliminate ways throughout your value stream. One of the best things that you can do is to start to collaborate across departments. So, oftentimes what would we do is, let's say we're working on a process improvement project, whether that was, let's just say to identify some waste within a particular process, within a particular department. We would take at least one to two people from the prior department and the department following and bring them into those events so we could get that input because it was so critical to make sure that they understood what they were delivering to the department. We were particularly focused on how what they were delivering impacted that department and the same thing, how the department we were focused on the delivery of whatever they were processing, how that impacted the following department. So, that's an area that, again, as you get a little bit deeper into this tapping into that collective brainpower, and then expanding that into departments touching on either side of the particular department or work center, whatever the case may be that you're working on becomes really, really powerful stuff.

 

Can you share with our listeners your most successful favorite networking experience that you've had?

 

It's interesting for me -- kind of my own personal journey on the networking aspect, and hopefully, this is of some value to the people that are listening out there. But I worked in a really big company for many, many years. Nearly half my life, believe it or not, and so, for me, networking back then was all about internal connections, right. We had a company with a total employee number of maybe 3,000 or 4,000 people. So, there were quite a few people internally amongst all of these different business units that were owned by this corporation. So, a lot of my, what I would consider early years was internal networking, right. I didn't put myself out there to meet a lot of people outside of the organization because I didn't understand the real power of putting yourself out there and meeting people outside of the organization. So, when I left that environment in 2018, I very quickly realized that I needed to connect with a lot more people and figure out a way to do that. So, when I started networking, I had on LinkedIn. I think I maybe had right at 500 connections or probably even less than that, to be perfectly honest. And it was one, a little bit intimidating and scary because I think when you're first starting out, especially, you're like, okay to your point, everybody hears this, but what does that mean. Like, how do you just go out and meet people online, and as I keep hearing people say, like, make sure you add value.

What does that mean? How do you build a genuine relationship when you are talking to them over instant messenger, if you will? So yes, I think a couple of things that help me is treating social media like you're in person, which can seem difficult to do. But when you think about it, I had a connection of mine kind of walk me through this example and I just thought it was so perfect. But, if you were a business owner that had a storefront, okay, and somebody walked in the store and was just wandering around kind of looking; don't you think, as a business owner or somebody within that business, you would, "Hey, how are you doing? Is there anything I can help you with? Can I help you look for something?" That would be a pretty typical interaction if you had a storefront, and somebody walked into your business?

If we took that same example and applied it to online if somebody reaches out to you and you just ignore that message, it'd be kind of like you owning a business, somebody walking into it, and you just completely ignoring them. I'm not saying that every interaction is going to turn into a connection or turn into a paid engagement or a sale or any of those things. But I think the easiest way to start networking is to just be human, to show up, to be available, and to put yourself out there and look for opportunities to interact with people. And you do it from a genuine standpoint and it's okay to just say things like, "Hey, how's it going? How's your week going this week? How did your quarter end up?" I think the biggest mistake people make when it comes to networking and even when it comes to sales outreach is trying to hurry the conversation and the relationship to get to a destination. If you just take some time and try to get to know somebody on a genuine level, just like you would at an in-person networking event or as I said, the example that I was taught, I think those are the best ways to get started and to continue. I mean, that's really what served me over a relatively short period. My network has expanded pretty rapidly.

To add, you shouldn't just go out and try to blindly connect with people and try to start random conversations. You want to be identifying people that you can add value to. So, I kind of like to categorize my networking in two different ways. I categorize it in people like yourself. Other professionals who have a deep understanding of some sort of a vertical that potentially is in the same circle as my ideal clients and the other people that I'm trying to reach. And then I have people that are going to be more, let's call them in the prospecting bucket if you will. That from a surface-level perspective, it looks like there's some value that I could add to that person into the things that they're probably going through. So, those are the two ways I like to categorize them. And the last thing I would say that's helped me personally is making sure that you have, again, doesn't necessarily have to be this system, but have a system I particularly like to use the CRM, but it could be something as simple as an Excel sheet or some notes, some really good notes. But have some sort of a system in place to be able to keep track of conversations, keep track of key details about people because it's interesting, you never know where you might be looking at another resource online and somebody will pop in your head and say, oh, man, I have to share this with Lori. I think she'd really appreciate this. Those are the genuine interactions where you either tag, Hey, Lori, you know, I saw this, I thought about you or send you an email or what have you. Those are the types of genuine interactions that build real relationships with people. And that is what we should be focused on from a networking perspective is building real relationships with people just like you would in person. It is really no different.

Another thing I would add to that, oftentimes, you hear people be reserved to get on social because they don't want to create content. And one of the most powerful things you can do if you're not interested in creating content is to engage on other people's posts and you can do that by leaving thoughtful comments. The other part that you can do that again kind of speaks to what I just said is you can tag people in the comments and say, here's why I'm thinking of you. Here's why I think this is relevant to either a previous conversation we had or to a project that you're working on. And not only does that help your own personal connections with the people that you're potentially tagging, but it also can help you build new connections with the people's posts that you're in engaging with. So, you could meet the author; you could meet somebody else in the comments. There are tons of ways to add value, to be engaged without having to necessarily create a bunch of content. And that's one of the things I hear from people is, "well, yeah, you know, but I don't want to do any of that." Okay. Well, here you go. You don't have to. Here's a whole another way you could get involved and build your network without having to be a creator.

 

If you could go back to your 20-year-old-self, would you tell yourself to do more of/less of or differently with regards to your professional career?

 

I think for me, what I would tell myself is to...when I was that age, I was chasing my goals and my goals at that time were centered mostly around financial success and kind of a level of achievement because I was a very young leader in the position that I was in. And so, what I would tell myself is to be open to new opportunities and to recognize the skillset that you're building and what you could potentially do with that outside of the immediacy of the goals that you're seeking. Sometimes I think we get too focused on that, and we don't open ourselves up to other opportunities. And that's what I would tell myself if I got to go back and do that. Great question.

 

So how are you going to have these experiences if you're not opening yourself up to accepting them?

 

I would say it's a real balance there—kind of to your point. You want to be focused on what you're trying to achieve, and you don't necessarily want to take a bunch of twists and turns. But the things I think about are trying other things. How do you really know? I think back and say, I really knew what I wanted to do, and here I am doing something kind of completely different than what I supposedly thought I knew I wanted to do. So, when I was chasing after that and achieving those things, yes. I learned a lot. Yes. It's what shaped me and impacted me today and I'm ultra-thankful for all of those experiences. Even though at the time, I probably would've not said the same thing. It's being open and saying that there are other things out there to look at and to try and to be open to and because at the end of the day, there's a limited amount of time that we have here. And I think one of the things that's kind of thrusting what you hear with this great resignation, I think one of the things that are thrusting that forward is the fact that people are recognizing we are here for a limited amount of time, and there are things that are important. And if you want to achieve something, if you want to try something, nobody's stopping you. Just get out there and try it. A decision today is not permanent unless you make it.

 

Dave’s Offer to the Listeners:

 

We offer a free business systems audit. It will help you get a pulse on where you are at within your business when it comes to planning people, processes, and technology. It's a very fast 15 questions. You can take it in five minutes or less and you will get a personalized action plan outlining at least three steps that you can take starting today: #1, understand where you're at; and #2, kind of more importantly, what you can do to start getting yourself and your business into the system's mindset and give you a couple of ideas on how you can get all that started. So, you can get that right from the website.

 

Any final word of advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

 

I think from that standpoint, my advice is always the same. Just get started. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Treat people like people, and you'll be amazed at what happens when you do those few simple things.

 

Connect with David:

https://thecrysler.club/

Mar 16, 2022

Meet Nandini:

Nandini is a co-founder and CTO of Speakfully, the organic, ever-evolving human-centric platform to address workplace mistreatment known for humanizing tech solutions. Nandini is ensuring the success of the Speakfully mission by integrating social and emotional intelligence into the overall technical roadmap of the brand; a passionate proponent of women in stem, Nandini supports access to diverse talents while enabling women to grow to learn to their fullest potential.

Can you talk about ways you're supporting and how to be an ally to enable women in tech to progress with their goals and agendas?

It's a very important topic to me. I think we all, as women, especially in the field of tech, know that we are underrepresented, so it's very important to be able to support each other, and we can do it in various ways. So, I think one of the easiest ways is to create a little safe space for women to get together or anyone that associates as women to be together to celebrate the highs and lows, losses, and wins together. I think it's important to show some level of compassion, lean in into the other women, and sort of also be a sponsor for them to be able to grow in their careers.

We all like to face a lot of different things as we're going through, growing, and learning. I think it's important to make sure that especially if you take on a leadership role. It's important to be able to go out there and mentor someone else, take the opportunity, ladies if you're out there as, especially women in leadership positions.

Many people could do with a sponsor, a mentor, and someone who can be a good ally to share your experiences. I think it's very important to lean into them, and I believe in it very passionately. I mentor a lot of folks in my network, and I love doing it. I think it works both ways as far as I'm concerned. I learn from it, and hopefully, someone else learns from it too.

And it's a very important thing to mentor and pay it forward and help elevate those around us. I think we owe it back to society in some ways.

Why is it important to humanize tech products? What does humanizing tech products even mean and how do you do it?

I get asked that a lot. Like when I’d say I love to like trying to humanize tech products. So, suppose someone asks me what it is. In that case, it's essentially thinking of it as you're building something that would present use for technology in a sense that allows you to connect with other people and other humans and also put you a little more mentally and emotionally in charge of what you're trying to accomplish. And the irony is when you think about tech products, and I'm talking purely from a software aspect because that's my skill set. If you look at technology products, the irony is a lot of it is meant to try and connect people, but in the process, I think the communication process has become completely discombobulated in many ways, especially now, in the world that we're living in. In a pandemic or a post-pandemic world, people create that human connection and we're all sitting in front of our computers, and we are all having to deal with various products that we are using in our day-to-day lives. But how many of those products are putting you in the front seat emotionally? And how many of those products are allowing you to engage with them where you are in charge of making that final decision? You don't want to build software solutions that are just meant to be there to make just for the sake of automation. For example, I don't want the software product to tell me what clothes I need to wear. I want them to maybe give me a range and to give me different factors, for example, and say, here's the weather, here's the situation, or here's the place you're going to go to. And then I would still want to be in charge of what I'm going to wear as opposed to a software solution or a bot telling me what I should wear. So, that's a subtle difference, but that can essentially put you in charge of things, what we are doing, and the work that I'm doing now. 

Also is about how you are essentially wanting to come forward with what you're experiencing, whether you're in the workplace or whether it's personally depending on what you're going through. I don't want to be sitting and talking to a bot that is just being very insensitive to what my situation is. I want compassion, and I want human connection. And that's the humanizing portion of the whole technology if that makes sense. I know I said a lot of different things there, but that's kind of what humanizing tech means to me, at least.

Are you talking about AI to some extent?

AI to some extent, yes. I think AI is such a buzzword at the moment. Everyone wants to do AI. Largely, it's meant to make life easier. Largely, it's meant to make decision-making more informed, but at the same time, we need to know where we have to cross the line. Do you want to provide enough information to your end-user so they can be in charge and make the decisions on their own or know what kind of conversations they need to have with people? Absolutely.

Would you rather have AI kind of have those conversations for you or make those decisions for you? Probably not. And that's the sight that I don't necessarily fall in. I believe that if we are building software, we as technologists, I think we have this big moral responsibility on our shoulders that if we are building a software product and putting something out there, let's leverage AI to the point where it's the bare minimum and needed, but you still need to make sure that the human connection is not being replaced by a bot.

It's really hard to get it right. If you're trying to automate the whole process of emotion. I mean, emotion is so centric to humans. It's our thing, right? It's what differentiates us from anything nonhuman. So, it's very hard to train a bot to like to have that right balance. So, if you're seeing like every sentence in a chatbot being followed with a little smiley emoji, then yes. It's the algorithms skewed too much to one side.

How do you instill diversity and inclusivity specifically near the space of project engineering when it’s not fully represented by various demographics?

When you think about it and say diversity and inclusion it probably again, it's another buzzword these days, but if you step back and look at it, I think it's got to mean something different. It has to have different meanings to different people. So, the way I think of inclusivity and diversity is really in perspective, in thought, in ideas. And I think it's important to make sure that those ideas are in an environment like especially engineering teams, tech teams, you've got to make sure that there's enough. You set the framework and set the team dynamic in such a way that diversity and thought are to be included without condition. That's like the top level of it. But as again, if you really do want to instill a sense of diversity and inclusion or instill that passion in the team, then I think the first and foremost thing is like the awareness of the gap, right. I mean, recognize where the gap exists. Is it a pay gap for example, or is it really a gap in representation or is it a talent gap, and each of these needs to be handled in different ways? So, I think the first step I would advise is to recognize where that gap exists and make sure that you are aware of that. When you do, then if you, for example, if it's a pay gap, then you have a very clear idea of what you need to do to close that gap. You've got to go after and make sure there's equity in pay. For example, if it's a representation gap, then clearly there is a problem in your talent pool and the hiring process. So, maybe go after that and fix it. So, I think it comes down to first being aware and then really trying to like to have a path forward to like to try and close where that gap exists. And more than anything, I think it is also culturally. We all need to be very purposeful in our approach to this. I think we all need to be super proud of the fact that, we are making an attempt to create that diverse environment and we need to own it unless you're going about it in a very intentional way. You're not going to find true results in actually moving the needle and creating more representation. And like I said earlier too, it's like as a woman leader, I think it's very important for me and as it's the responsibility lies on my shoulder. I do need to give it back to make sure that we are creating environments where everyone can come together and have a very collaborative, positive interaction regardless of what we're doing.

And I think geography matters too, right? Depending on, and this is a practical world that we live in; recognize how the coasts approach it, even in our country. The coasts approach it very differently than other parts of the country. So, factor those things in as well. Sometimes, depending on the geographic area you're in diversity or representation of different demographics is super easy. It's almost like a second thought, not a second thought, but in other areas, for example, you have to be more intentional about it, but it's okay for us to like go after it as an agenda item especially as leaders because it's important. That's the only way you're going to have a truly inclusive environment. And along with that comes a huge level of training as well like. Maybe people aren't seeing eye to eye that this is something that needs to be solved for in the organization. Maybe we like to leverage some good training programs. So, people know how the business can be impacted when you have a more diverse team. So, I think all of it put together is kind of there's no one agenda item you can go after, there's no one thing you can do and solve all of your DNI action items magically, but you have to really go after it in a very purposeful way.

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?

I recently joined a diversity channel. It was basically like a Slack channel, and one of their biggest agenda items was providing us a safe space for women and women of color to come together and talk about issues they're facing. I think one of my favorite interactions there was talking about how? Someone asked us the question on the channel about how your past experiences or negative experience could have essentially shaped you to be who you are today? And I was just essentially blown away by the types of responses you saw to that question. It was eye-opening for me in so many ways but also a little disappointing because you think you know the different negative experiences that people might face, but it was tremendous for me to see the power in that conversation, and I think that's been my favorite networking moment so that I can think of at the moment.

Vulnerability is the word for it. And I think, often, leaders tend not to want to be vulnerable because they confuse that with the sign of weakness. I think it's quite the opposite. I think you being vulnerable in a sense, essentially creates a sense of compassion, and you function with a high level of IQ, and I think that's what I think good leaders should try to do.

How do you stay in front of and nurture the community that you've created?

I think it's like I said, you've got to be able to share your wins and your losses together. You've got a good network. We've all taken our time building our network around us. It's very important to be around each other, and you don't use your network just as an excuse to just go meet people. I think you have to be more authentic about it, and that's how you do it in a way that you are open about the way that you're communicating with each other and making sure you are there for your network as well. It's not just about you tapping into your network. It's not one-sided, but I think it has to be a two-way street. So, if there are people that need you, show up for them, and I think that's how you end up being in the front and center of it. Support each other, and it may even mean like people post different things on social media. You might need to just be there, participate in the conversation, engage with them. And those are ways that you can actually like to promote each other. I think that's important to do as part of any network.

If you could go back to your 20-year-old-self, what would you tell yourself to do more of, less of, or differently with regards to your professional career?

I think it's important for me to have been more confident in myself. So, I think I would've told myself to do more confident things. I don't know what else to say, but essentially doing things that can create a sense of self-confidence. I think I definitely would've liked to do more of that. I think maybe less of going out and watching games. Perhaps a little bit less of that. Oh yes, and here's another one I think I would tell myself to write shorter emails. I tend to be very, very wordy with my emails, but I think I've learned to be more concise and brief. So, I would definitely tell myself that. I think that's something most people in their 20s don't understand. It might seem very significantly big, but in the long scheme of things, such as career and life, it is a marathon. It's not a sprint.

Do you have any final word or advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

Absolutely. Just be there for the network. Show compassion and lean into your network; and compassion is the next level beyond being supportive. I think we all need to stretch a little bit to meet our network, and I think that's a very important thing to do. We all owe it to our network.

 

Connect with Nandini:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nandinieaswar 

Website: www.speakfully.com   

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