Treat your people well. Your staff is the most important asset you have.
Genuinely care about the people you service or provide products to, and work at developing a trusting relationship with them.
Find a way to make what you do fresh so your company stands apart from others in the same industry.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth Stevens. She is a pianist who received her undergraduate degrees at Eastern New Mexico University and her graduate degree in piano performance from Southern Methodist University. She is a pianist in the Dallas area and has taught piano for over thirty years. Several years ago, she found four abandoned puppies. Her desire to write this book was a combination of her interest in educating children and a desire to share the wonderful message learned through this experience.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Several years ago, I found four abandoned puppies at the lake house of the physician I was working for at that time, and I took them in and cared for them until I was able to find them their forever homes. During the process, many family members and friends stepped up to help me in many different ways. I always thought the experience was full of wonderful lessons for children to learn from, so I decided to write a children’s book in order to share them. The Porch Puppies is released November 1, 2020. Its sequel, The Reunion of the Porch Puppies, will be released July 15, 2021.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
The hardest thing for me in writing The Porch Puppies was finding the time to do so. When I found the pups, I was still balancing a day job with my music life so the project remained on the backburner for several years. Returning to music full-time last year provided me with the time I needed to begin this new journey. I know finding a publisher to publish your work can be very difficult, but in my case, it was not. I saw Barbara Terry on the news one day talking about the importance of children reading and how Waldorf was giving away books so that children would have books to read. I reached out to her company and the process has been very efficient and very pleasurable. Working with everyone there has been terrific.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I haven’t had anything funny happen to me during this journey, but, I suspect I will one day!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think what makes my book stand out is that it’s a fresh approach to a children’s book. My sister, who taught second grade most of her life, knows children’s books well and says The Porch Puppies is unlike any other children’s book currently out there because of the additional pieces I include in the book. The additions will be appealing to both the teacher and the student.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I mentioned earlier that when I found the porch puppies I was balancing my day job with my music life. I think burnout happens when a person is doing a job they really don’t enjoy. We all have to pay bills and to do so sometimes requires us to work at a job that we may not be passionate about. If that’s the case, then it becomes even more important to at least balance what you must do to pay your bills with what you love to do.
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 is easy…. Barbara Terry. Barbara is the owner of Waldorf Publishing company and has been a huge blessing in my life. Her belief in my story and willingness to have her company invest its time and talent to publish my book has provided a wonderful new opportunity to me.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
In my life, I balanced working during the day in law firms and medical clinics with my music career in churches and my private piano studio. The businesses are vastly different from each other but the component that makes them each successful is the same. All good businesses are successful because they employ talented people in their field, and all great businesses stand out because of the time spent developing a genuine and successful relationship with those they service.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- There is no replacement for hard work. Find something you love to do and be willing to work hard.
- Hire talented people that will represent your company well through their work ethic and character.
- Treat your people well. Your staff is the most important asset you have.
- Genuinely care about the people you service or provide products to, and work at developing a trusting relationship with them.
- Find a way to make what you do fresh so your company stands apart from others in the same industry.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Liking what you do, and believing in what you do, changes your job from being what you do to pay your bills to an extension of who you are. Who was it who said, “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life?” Doing what you believe in will motivate you to work hard and result in benefiting the people you service.
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
I think it’s important to always look for a fresh idea. Thinking creatively will boost your excitement and make your business stand apart from others in your industry.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
As much as possible, be flexible. The people you service will appreciate your efforts to keep them safe and see the genuine concern you have for them. As mentioned earlier, great businesses focus on relationships. Your patrons will appreciate this and be loyal to you.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
The devil’s in the details. Patrons see the end result but generally have no idea the effort or process it took to get there. Always value and appreciate what each employee does to achieve the end result.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
There may be others in your industry who provide a product or service as well as your company does. I think people choose you because you successfully show genuine interest in the people you service or hope to serve.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
A business’ reputation to always deliver a trusted and beloved brand is a result of producing a consistent and excellent product. Delivering quality products/services is accomplished through hard work, and believing in, and loving, what you do.
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Be genuine. Nobody likes a salesman but everyone likes a nice relationship.
What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Social media is a necessary evil. There is always the risk someone will post something unflattering, but I think most people understand that some people are just unkind and perhaps unfair. Do your best to provide the best product/service you can, work at building relationships based on trust with your patrons and don’t worry about social media. Use it to your advantage by getting your business name on it.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
It’s not enough to know your stuff. Have a plan, make realistic goals and work hard.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. 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. 🙂
Many people would probably like to do something huge that would help many people, but most of us will never have the opportunity or ability to do so. But, what if everyone focused on making their little corner of the world better by how they perform their jobs and how they treat one another? My book, The Porch Puppies, is a very sweet story about how the kindness of strangers changed the lives of four abandoned puppies. How different would our world be if we each focused on doing the most good we could in our little corner of the world? Wow. Now that would change the world.
How can our readers further follow you online?
The Porch Puppies, most appropriate for grades K-3, can be purchased online, in retail stores or on my website: elizabethstevenspianostudio.com. I’m not a blogger, but readers can view other interviews with me at Authors Central on Amazon.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this! Thank you for visiting with me!