This week we had the honor of being recognized as the Small Business Administration Woman-Owned Business of the Year. The event was hosted at the new Silicon Slopes venue in Lehi—an eclectically chic locale, complete with exposed ducting, concrete walls and murals from local Utah artists.
Clint Betts, CEO of Silicon Slopes, welcomed attendees of the sold-out event, thanking supporters of the genealogy industry in attendance for their work in staying at the forefront of the tech community to continue to advance the mission of companies such as Legacy Tree –to connect families and generations.
Since 1963, National Small Business Week has recognized outstanding achievements of America’s small businesses for their contributions to their local communities and to our nation’s economy. The U.S. Small Business Administration accepts applications and selects companies based on a number of criteria.
“Legacy Tree stood out during the selection process because of its sustained growth in the genealogy field, for its peer to peer support within that community, and its dedication to a high standard of personal service to its world-wide customers,” said Siobhan Carlile, Public Affairs Specialist for the Small Business Administration Utah District Office.
Stan Nakano, Director of the SBA Utah District Office, shared information on resources available through the Small Business Administration. According to Nakano, in 2016 the SBA awarded 1,314 SBA loans to small businesses in Utah, equating to more than 579 million dollars. He encouraged attendees to visit the Small Business Administration website at https://www.sba.gov to review all the resources available for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
As Director Nakano presented our founder and president, Jessica Taylor, with the Small Business Administration Woman-Owned Business of the Year award, she welcomed Legacy Tree employees who were present at the event to come on stage and accept the award with her.
After accepting the award, Jessica shared her “Rules for Entrepreneurial Sanity”, which we’ll share with you now:
Rule #1: “Do On” or “Do Off.” There is no “Noff.”
A few years ago, I was a mom of three kids under 7 in a teeny country in Asia (Macau), with a genealogy team in Utah 13 hours different from me. I’d just lost our General Manager in Utah and needed to get a handle on the business and keep everybody from jumping ship in my absence. There was so much to do – so much I wanted to do – that I had to set a sleeping rule for myself. If I didn’t follow the rule, I soon got overwhelmed and sick. It took me several iterations of this to recognize that I needed a rule. So, now my rule is to not open my eyes until 5 a.m. After that, it’s fair game. But when it is time to get up, I jump right out. Spending time in halfway groggy land is a waste of time. So jump out and get to work. Unless you’re naked.
When I’m up and at it, I try to be up and at it as fully as I can. For whatever reason, it seems women are famous for multi-tasking, but compartmentalizing is so relaxing. It means when I’m “on” at work, I’m all in, and when I’m “off,” I’m OFF. This can be hard, especially for me, because we’re a remote company. We hire here in Utah but also around the country, and we work with genealogists around the world. We’re all on the same level playing field, and most of our teams meet virtually most of the time. It can be hard to be off because of multiple time zones and schedules, and the mixed bag that comes with doing something challenging and meaningful is that it can also be hard to turn it off.
For me, that was especially apparent when I was in Macau and most of our main team was in Utah. When I was in bed, supposed to be asleep, I knew their days were humming along and they were sending me hundreds (maybe a slight exaggeration) of emails. When I was supposed to be hanging out with the kids after dinner, their days were just getting started. Having the “No Noff” rule helps me be present.
Rule #2: Manage repetitive tasks.
Particularly when I was in Asia and started to feel overwhelmed, I established a routine for repetitive tasks. Every week there are a fair number of repetitive tasks I do. Some of these are checking in on things to make sure things are being done right and according to plan. Some of these are organizing my desk and making sure I’ve listened to all my voice memos, making sure I’ve sent out at least one “thank you” to someone, and checking in on emails that are waiting on action by somebody else. These are all grouped together, so once a week I have to complete this checklist of things, and I don’t have to worry about them until it’s my day to worry about them. This doesn’t have to be pretty. A Google Sheet or Trello works fine.
That same day, I review a list of things I had planned to get done that week, and create a new list for the next week. Most employees in our company are required to do this same type of to-do list weekly and send it to a manager for review. This list of things I want to do each day then leads me through my week. I don’t have to feel lost or wonder what to do next, because I’ve already laid it out. And most of what got laid out came from a longer-term list of stuff I want to accomplish, so it’s not hard to put together.
Rule #3: Establish a Daily Schedule.
I feel that the first 1-2 hours of a day are precious. Most of the time, no one will miss me if I don’t respond to their email first thing. And few phone calls come in early in the day, especially from 5-7 a.m. I try to keep that time sacred – for the most complicated things I need to accomplish, the things that require the most thought and least interruptions. There’s always a chance to run around crazy later, helping to solve other people’s problems.
Rule #4: Record Your Thoughts.
I found that recording my thoughts for a later time worked wonders for me in helping to follow my “No Noff” rule. Even now, jotting down my thoughts in some way – when I’m at the park or running or making dinner – keeps my brain free to stop stewing over something. I know I can come back to it at a more appropriate time and keep figuring it out then. There are many ways to solve this – one thing that works well for me is audio notes. I can record a thought on the fly – Saturday at the park, wherever – and then deal with it when it’s appropriate. I also have future agenda items separated out by meeting in Trello, so they’re saved for an appropriate time to deal with them rather than throwing little tasks and questions at others all the time, and creating meeting agendas is easy. Do what works for you, but don’t make your head tired by having to hang on to random thoughts and to-do items. Get it out and recorded.
Rule #5: Share your baby.
My first child, Jozie, was born in 2007. When a baby’s this little, you don’t want to let them out of your sight. They NEED you! But with some time, you come to realize that 1) only supernatural people could ever be a sole caregiver 24/7, and 2) other people are actually pretty competent help.
My oldest “baby,” though not in the same league, is Legacy Tree. And boy, some of us entrepreneurs love our little babies. But at a point, if we want them to grow, we have to let other people raise them too.
We love to talk about how entrepreneurs wear a lot of hats. Learning to take off a hat when it’s appropriate is almost as important as putting it on. I’ve seen a lot of businesses lack growth because the owner wore almost all the hats. There’s not enough time for that. And we’ll go crazy trying to do all of that. It’s not even best for the company.
Personally, I love the variety of getting to wear lots of hats. But I start to feel it when I know I’m not doing a job justice. When I’m too distracted to fully fill a need, I try to bring in someone else for that as soon as I can afford it. And so, so often, I find that they fill the need much better than I had been filling it – because that job itself becomes THEIR baby.
There are many “Lean Startup-esque” ways to give someone else a hat. In genealogy, we’ve had a huge pool of very talented mothers fill many of our roles. All they needed was some flexibility to be able to soar, and this often helped us as well when a role was new and not a full-time need.
Communicating expectations and then trusting team members to figure things out for themselves, within the parameters we’ve set, has allowed us to grow star team members who now mentor others.
Rule #6: Celebrate Meaning.
We each carry a load – for me, the secret is to organize my load, share it when possible, and find meaning in it so that it motivates but doesn’t bury me.
Several years ago I heard a story about managing your load. This story referred to someone who had gone into a snowy area to gather firewood. When he got there, his truck got stuck in the snow. He wasn’t sure what to do at that point, so he went ahead and filled his truck bed with the wood he had intended to collect. Lo and behold, when it was time to go, he found that the heavy load in the back of his truck had provided enough weight that his tires were able to better grip the snow and drive away.
I keep a post-it note at my desk reminding me that it was actually the load that got this person unstuck. Having a load to carry is not a bad thing. It can mean you’re doing something important.
No matter what your day-to-day role is in a company or in life, the more you can get at the “Why” of what you do, the better you can deal with the various pressures that will push on you. And the happier you will be dealing with those pressures.
I’ve also found that the more meaning I find in my role, the more eager I am to learn, even from the hard things. These days when something doesn’t go well, like when a potential hire does not select Legacy Tree, rather than feeling rejected, I try to learn all I can. Because we are on a mission. And because I’m competitive. Learning turns failures into impetus for growth.
For Legacy Tree, it’s hard NOT to find meaning. We get to enjoy statements like these regularly (see below), and they remind us of why we do what we do. It’s a privilege to be able to contribute to the genealogy space.
It was an honor to be recognized as the Small Business Administration Woman-Owned Business of the Year, just as it has been an honor to serve clients around the globe for the past thirteen years. We look forward to continuing to assist clients in discovering their roots through narratives, record research and DNA analysis.
To view the live stream of the event in its entirety, please visit our Facebook page.