That wearing your heart on your sleeve isn’t always a good thing. Having a little bit of thick skin to deal with the various things that are thrown your way can actually be more beneficial. Whether that’s an outspoken follower or a less than pleasant competitor, not letting your feelings weigh you down helps to stay focused on your goals
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Murphy.
Ashley Murphy is the Co-Founder and CEO of NEAT Method.
NEAT Method was founded in 2010, after Ashley Murphy and Molly Graves met at random while shopping in San Francisco. As it happens, both had recently re-located from Chicago to the City by the Bay, and they had much more in common than their sweet home city. Instantly becoming friends, and bonding over glasses of California vino, they shared their mutual love for organizing anything and everything. Six months later NEAT Method was officially born.
With more than 70 locations in all major cities throughout the United States and Canada, and a robust product collection for kitchen, pantry, closet, bathroom, and beyond, NEAT Method brings a fresh new face to the organizing industry. We’re guided by our core mission of helping people live their most organized lives, and we are laser focused on creating uniquely personalized and effective systems. From the clutter-prone, to the meticulous overbooked professional, and a local or cross-country move, NEAT Method has transformed thousands of spaces from chaotic to composed.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When we first started, it was all about helping others live a more organized life. Simply because we knew from our own personal lifestyles the difference that it could make. What we quickly discovered is that our impact could be much bigger than one organized house at a time. So we created an opportunity for women all across North America to start this same business with our guidance and discovered that entrepreneurs doing something they truly love impacted the entire organizing community!
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
There really wasn’t a playbook for us to follow on how to do this. Sure, the industry existed, but the idea of utilizing a team of organizers or shopping for products a client needed was few and far between. There were so many times that we would try to ask veteran organizers for feedback or tips on getting started, but it was as if we were stepping on toes doing so. We didn’t have a “best practices” to follow, so we created it.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
At this point our brand isn’t about us. It is about the 70+ franchise owners who have to find the drive to grow their businesses every day and our job is to inspire, encourage and support them. There are faces and sweet relationships tied to that 70+ number, these are our people, our friends, and they are what drive us to show up and innovate even when times are tough!
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Given the current circumstances with COVID, grit and resilience are still very much a part of our vocabulary. Three months ago business was thriving and now we are more or less surviving, but we are confident that this too shall pass and our drive to weather this storm is really what counts. We are digging deep every day and being forced to be creative and innovative just like we did at the beginning. In some ways it is easier this time around because we know the true benefit of hard work paying off!
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? So, in the beginning we didn’t really know how to organize. Sure, we lived our own lives being organized, but it’s a completely different story organizing for others. Our very first real client happened quickly and they hired us to do their entire house. Talk about a story of faking it until you make it! Thankfully, the client loved it and had us back 1 year later for a “space lift”. And the good news is, they kept up our system. The bad news is, we have no idea how. In today’s NEAT standards, it was terrible!! Side note; they are still clients of ours to this day 10+ years later.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
In a world of intense competition amongst businesses, we stand out not only with our unique approach to home organizing that breaks the mold of a traditional home organizer, but most significantly, by providing a community for other women who want to run their own businesses. While there is still competition out there for them, we love that they have 70+ other owners to turn to who are walking in their shoes and want to support them and see them succeed.
On a weekly basis we see owners fly across the country to join other owners on a job, refer business across state/country lines and solve problems together on our various communication channels. We love that community is at the core of who we are and that it extends beyond NEAT as well. We believe that when one succeeds, we all succeed!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
One of our questions when interviewing potential franchise owners is: what is your support system like? We believe having a strong support system is one of the fundamental components of becoming a successful entrepreneur. We are super transparent about the fact that every day isn’t easy, and that is when you need to call on your biggest advocates to remind you why you decided to follow a dream, or to help you re-balance. Burnout is definitely a real thing in our industry, and it can occur for multiple reasons, but with supportive friends, family or coworkers to help identify the root, it can be overcome!
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? That person for me was Marissa Hagmeyer, who became a Co-Founder and the CMO of NEAT Method. Oftentimes, no one knows what goes on behind the scenes of a company, but what you should know is that it definitely takes a village! And when that village is co-lead by the most patient, driven, humble, honest and all-around good person…success is inevitable! Since 2012, Marissa has been by my side with as much grit and determination (if not more) for wanting big things for NEAT, and we truly wouldn’t be the brand that we are today without her!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
While our type of clients varies from city to city, one constant remains…they are likely going through one of life’s many transitions. Whether we are helping them prepare their home for a new family member or getting them settled after a move, we are there to bring calm to an otherwise chaotic time in life. By removing stress, it allows our clients to focus on what makes them happy in this world vs. what weighs them down. In turn, bringing more goodness!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- That wearing your heart on your sleeve isn’t always a good thing. Having a little bit of thick skin to deal with the various things that are thrown your way can actually be more beneficial. Whether that’s an outspoken follower or a less than pleasant competitor, not letting your feelings weigh you down helps to stay focused on your goals
- Invest. Invest. Invest. The more you can invest back into your company, the more successful you will be. In the beginning, everything we made went back into the brand (ie. new website, working with a branding expert, hiring employees and not paying ourselves, PR, attorneys, and a whole lot of time!!).
- Build leaders. As type A entrepreneurs, it’s in our nature to want to be in control. The truth is, having the ability to give up that control and create leaders amongst everyone you work with, will go a lot further! We have, by no means, perfected this, but we strive to have each and every one of our franchise owners and employees feel that they are a part of this business right alongside us, not below us.
- Have the meeting. There isn’t a meeting too little or big that you shouldn’t be open to. Whether that means for your own networking purposes or hearing about others, we strongly encourage you to put yourself out there. In the beginning, we oftentimes were bogged down with the little details of who would be best to meet with. We are here to tell you that the least expected ones provide the most benefit to your business.
- Don’t overthink things. Some of our greatest successes have come from trusting our gut and going with what it is telling us, versus spending hours thinking through all the pros and cons. While on the other hand there are some things we’ve spent countless hours fine tuning, only to have them not work at all. Your instinct is a powerful thing and likely if two or more people have a good feeling about something that is for a reason … trust yourself!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
With the current situation of our world, this is a moment when our resilience really shines…as an organization, as leaders, and as individuals. Industries and companies are all being forced to pivot and dig deep to survive these unprecedented times. How amazing would it be if the world of entrepreneurship focused more on the youth? What if it was a matter of simply educating young college students better on the ins and outs of what being an entrepreneur really means? I believe that if there was more encouragement to take risks, by showing the positive impact on doing so, you would have more college graduates unafraid of taking that leap and turning to their own passions to ideas. Sometimes it’s a matter of painting the proper picture of drive and determination in order to see business mentalities shift
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