“5 things I wish someone told me before I became a CEO” with Trivinia Barber

Go all-in on learning how to write. At the heart of it, business owners are communicators whether we like it or not. Honing this skill would have saved me a ton of time, and money, wasted on content that didn’t resonate, didn’t convert, and didn’t connect me with my ideal audience. If I could go […]

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Go all-in on learning how to write. At the heart of it, business owners are communicators whether we like it or not. Honing this skill would have saved me a ton of time, and money, wasted on content that didn’t resonate, didn’t convert, and didn’t connect me with my ideal audience. If I could go back in time, I would become a master at direct response writing. Direct response writing permeates all facets of our business communication, from newsletters, to drip emails, blog posts, social media ads, webinars and our sales pitch. If I could have mastered direct response writing, I would have saved so much time figuring out how to sell, without sounding slimy.

As a part of our series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing. Trivinia Barber, founder of Priority VA. Trivinia is passionate about helping entrepreneurs live their life without letting their business suffer. How she does this? Through outsourcing and delegation. Being the owner of Priority VA, host of the podcast Diary of a Doer, and a mother of 4, Trivinia knows how valuable time is and how to maximize it to improve your business and personal lives.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is it about the position of CEO the most attracted you to it?

From the time I was a young girl working at an Adult Daycare for Alzheimer’s patients, I’d look at the way the leadership performed and thought about how differently I’d do things. I’d stay up late and map out new plans for the company, and bring my ideas to the CEO, to be rejected because I was “only 17”. That was the first time I knew I would be in charge of a company one day. I wanted to make a visible impact to those who we served, yet no one seemed to care about that, and only focused on the bottom line. I knew that if I was a CEO, I could do both. Being able to influence and speak truth that moves people to action was important to me. I have a deep sense of responsibility, so I knew that if I was going to care this much about an outcome and feel responsible for it either way, than I might as well be the one calling the shots, and truly own the results.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I used to have serious hang ups about money. I worried that if my prices were too high, I wouldn’t close the deal. Consequently, if my prices were too low, I couldn’t pay the bills. I’d finally settled on a rate I felt was fair. During a sales call with my mentor who was in the market for a Virtual Assistant, I made the pitch.

I told him our hourly rate for virtual support. He looked at me and said, “Trivinia, if that’s what you’re going to charge, I’m not going to work with you”. Shoot! My rates were too high. On the contrary, he went on to say that he wouldn’t contract with my company unless we RAISED our rates. He empowered me to believe in our business enough to raise our rates. He was right. I find it so interesting that despite how I felt, he gave me the push I needed to charge what we were worth… and refused to work with me until I charged him more money! He was operating from a logistical stance while I chose to operate from an emotional standpoint.

After increasing our rates, the business experienced massive growth because we were able to recruit higher quality talent and leaders complied with our rates because they knew it meant a good ROI on their investment.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’d finally made the decision to hire an accounting company and on the week of their first full payroll cycle, my family and I decided to go on a 4 day, 3.5 mile backpacking trip into the forest in Colorado, with no cell service, and no civilization. So when the company needed our approval to move money around, we were nowhere to be found, for 4 days. It was terrible timing, and I’ll never forget getting all the texts and emails that flooded my phone once I had cell service. I had to scramble to be sure everyone was paid. The lesson was an expensive one, but we learned to ensure folks have proper permissions before we left, or to hold off on making massive changes to your business right before a big trip. It’s funny looking back on it now, but at the time, the thought of our people not getting paid caused massive anxiety and that weekend, I vowed never to take a vacation again. Thankfully, I’ve been on many since with no problems.

Specifically, what is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

I didn’t realize how much of my role as CEO would include vision casting. I’m a self-proclaimed worker bee. I love to work. It’s who I am, so when I made the shift from “doer” to “leader” I struggled to take myself out of the daily operations. I’ve learned over the years how to be a good leader, not just a good employee. It was a hard mindset shift to make. I still like to get in and do the hard work, it just looks a little different than it used to.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

I believe it begins by knowing who you really are, what you’re good at, and what you suck at… our team thrives when we can get real about who we are, how we show up and where the gaps are.

  1. Encourage: you’ve got to find the lever that moves your people to action and it’s different for everyone. Words of affirmation don’t work for some people and a Starbucks gift card means nothing to someone who doesn’t like coffee. Encourage your people the way they need to be encouraged, which means asking them questions up front about what they need to bring their full selves to the table.
  2. Equip: Whether it’s the right software or paying for a mastermind for your employees, you’ve got to equip them to do the work they need to do.
  3. Empower: The days of being helicopter CEO need to be over. Empowering your team means stepping back and letting them run (and sometimes fall). There will be spilled milk, but they’ll never learn to clean up the mess if you never let them make one.
  4. Engage: Automation is all the rage right now, but I’ve found that a simple phone call to your team when they least expect it can mean the world to them. You’ll find out what burdens them, what excites them and your team will be more open when you randomly check in with them than they ever would in an annual review session. Don’t be afraid to engage.

Who inspired/inspires you and why?

Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx inspires me with her down to earth outlook on life and parenting, coupled with a fierce drive as a business owner. She’ll post her messy kitchen, bad life decisions she’ll make in parenting and then a new product she’s revealing all in the same day. I’ve always wanted to create a space for women to know they can be both mom and businesswoman, and be successful at each. Sara’s approach to failure (she believes we should fail regularly), emboldens me to step out of my normal routine, implement new ideas and push the envelope more than usual, which often leads to success.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve never told her this, but I owe online marketer Amy Porterfield a huge debt of gratitude for her influence on my life. Success came to my business not because of anything she did, but more so because she taught me not to settle. I learned much about not settling for partnerships or programs that aren’t in alignment, team members that aren’t a fit, or a business model that doesn’t light you up, simply because it makes you money. While I was building my business, Amy always made a point to ask questions like “If you could stop doing one thing, what would it be?” It helped me hone in on what I didn’t want so I could fight for what I really did desire.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Since the inception of Priority VA, I’ve given entrepreneurs the freedom to operate in their zone of genius. Giving people a framework designed to help them build teams they can trust and provide radical service to each individual makes the world a much better place. Because of the role we’re given in the backend of businesses we work with, leaders are able to get clear on their messaging and use their platform to make an impact. I truly believe there’s a ripple effect to what we do and I’m honored to be part of their success.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Focus on growing YOURSELF from the start, instead of focusing so much on growing the business.

Looking back, I was so consumed with trying to grow the business quickly, that I neglected to grow it strategically. I should have focused on being a better leader, rather than hustling so much. Years later, our business had grown in size, but our strategy was still playing catch-up. Looking back on it now, I would have slowed my roll even more and grown the business more slowly if it meant saving my sanity. I was so focused on the hustle, I sacrificed precious time with my family that I will never get back. I worked 13 to 16 hour days, sometimes never leaving my desk. I would work straight through dinner and rarely tucked my kids in at night. I was always coming in second, in regards to my weight, my mental health, my diet and my exercise regimen.

2. Go all-in on learning how to write

At the heart of it, business owners are communicators whether we like it or not. Honing this skill would have saved me a ton of time, and money, wasted on content that didn’t resonate, didn’t convert, and didn’t connect me with my ideal audience. If I could go back in time, I would become a master at direct response writing. Direct response writing permeates all facets of our business communication, from newsletters, to drip emails, blog posts, social media ads, webinars and our sales pitch. If I could have mastered direct response writing, I would have saved so much time figuring out how to sell, without sounding slimy.

3. I’d have not been shy about asking for the SALE, or the TESTIMONIAL.

I believe in our services, our mission, and we’re constantly up-leveling our processes to provide more value, better vetted support, and higher quality team members for our clients. It took me YEARS — yes YEARS… to ask people to write testimonials, or do a video shout out for us. I was so worried that I’d look desperate, or that maybe they weren’t as satisfied as I thought they were, that I was too chicken to even ask. This is stupid, I know, and can kill your business. I wish I would have known this sooner.

4. Attended more diverse events & go ALL in on Relationships Early.

If I had it to do over again, I’d have branched out to other events WAY sooner. Getting to go to events like UnderGround, MMT, and putting groups like EO, or Maverick, Baby Bathwater, and even Abundance360 on my list of events I wanted an invite to, or wanted to attend, would have been way higher on my list than being at a social media conference that didn’t have my ideal client attending.

5. I would have delegated more outcomes that I thought only I could do.

Right here, this is the Achilles Heel of being an entrepreneur, and the reason that Priority VA exists, and yet I still struggled with delegating when we first started our business. Heck it took me almost two years to fully hand over my email. I think what I — and many business owners — miss, is that the things that come SO simply to us, don’t in fact come well to others. So, we expect someone else to do something better than we did, but that shouldn’t be our approach. Instead, we need to document the processes we know and get them off our to-do lists entirely. What you’re more likely to find, is that once it’s off your plate and someone else gets to own it, they’ll find a better, faster, cheaper or more efficient way than you did, to get that thing done.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good for the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could inspire a movement it would be to offer second chances to individuals. We live in a society that looks at past experiences and takes them for face value. What people fail to see are the years of hard work, tears, and dedication to improve their livelihood. I know individuals personally who struggle financially because they’re judged on their past mistakes rather than their current victories. By giving second chances, we as leaders, would be able to change the lives of so many people.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. — Rita Mae Brown

It’s not that I have ever been afraid of making mistakes, but others SEEING ME make mistakes. It wasn’t until I realized that it was all of my missteps, both seen and unseen, that taught me to be discerning. That I must either slow down, or take a chance. It was then that my confidence flourished and I became proud of the experiences I’ve had, even the tough ones.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I saw Dandapani speak at an event and was mesmerized by his story. In the frenetic, hurried pace of running a business and raising four daughters, being present with my thoughts, and learning to control them has brought me the most peace in what most would consider challenging times. A meal with Dandapani would be a great way to tell him thank you for that talk, and his subsequent influence on my ability to harness my energy.

About the author:

Phil La Duke is a popular speaker & writer with more than 350 works in print. He is the author of two books, I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business, and Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. Follow Phil on Twitter @philladuke

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