In The Art of Possibility, Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander write about Rule #6. There are no other rules, and #6 is a simple one: “don’t take yourself so goddamn seriously.” It’s easy to get caught up in how much you have to do, and how busy you are, how much money you want to make, and how fast you are progressing. But ultimately, this is your “wild and precious life” (Mary Oliver), and it’s more fun if you don’t take yourself too seriously.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Eva Jannotta. Eva is a cutting-edge content and social media marketing entrepreneur and founder of Simply Put Strategies (SPS). SPS works with women CEOs and business leaders to create data-driven thought leadership and marketing strategy so they can increase their power and influence, make a social impact, and achieve gender parity in business and technology. Eva hosts the #MarketingMinutes Facebook Live interview show, featuring women entrepreneurs discussing their most effective marketing strategies and how they are learning to trust themselves.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I grew up outside Washington, DC in Maryland. I was homeschooled until eighth grade which taught me how to be self-reliant and to manage my time from a young age. I never suspected how valuable that experience would be for entrepreneurship! Building a business takes a ton of discipline, and having experience as a kid in organizing my own time and relying on myself to get things done gave me a great foundation.
I started public high school when I was fifteen (hi, culture shock) and had to learn how to fit in to school culture. Thankfully, I love making friends. My mom once joked that, “Eva could make friends with a door.” It’s true! I find people I want to talk to everywhere I go. I adore relationship-building and I am grateful I can apply this skill to building my client’s businesses.
Why did you found your company?
I founded my company after a full-time job I loved went sour. I used to wish I had a more aspirational founding story, but the more women entrepreneurs I meet the more I realize that many of us start our businesses because of a career or life crisis. Once I learned how quickly employment can change, I decided I don’t want to be reliant on one person or company for my livelihood.
If I’m going to be beholden to anyone, I want it to be ME. There is nothing like holding your own economic fate in your hands. Sometimes it’s scary, but it’s POWERFUL. I built my company to serve women business leaders because I believe that women CAN have the economic and political power we deserve. Working for gender equality is one of my core values.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I do business by parking my ego at the door and being present, compassionate and trusting of myself and my clients. This includes having strong boundaries. Many women get into a habit of bending over backwards to please other people at the expense of our own wellbeing. Being a compassionate businesswoman means disrupting this pattern in myself and my clients. It is critical to say “no” when a client requests a service outside the scope of our agreement, while at the same time empathizing with their request and offering alternatives.
I listen without an agenda: what would serve my client, even if it’s not great for my business in the short-term? What serves my growth and wellness, even if it doesn’t look sexy on Instagram? How can I view competitors as collaborators, mentors, and partners instead of threats?
When you are building your own company there is a lot of pressure to see constant signs of growth and success. The pressure might come from the Internet, from potential investors, from your family (especially if you are the breadwinner) and from yourself. When my clients get anxious about low engagement or a slow period of client intake, I remind them that business growth is cyclical. Just like the cycles of nature there is ebb and flow to a healthy, thriving business.
The conventional way to do business (portrayed by shows like Mad Men) is to be cutthroat and insistent, even manipulative.This approach is easy to fall into, for it plays upon our evolutionary biology! Our brain is evolved to believe that resources are scarce and competition is necessary to get ahead. But it’s a stressful to live and do business. It also leads to burnout and isolation.
Disrupting this model takes a lot of patience, openness and vulnerability (and practice). I do the following: be honest when you don’t know the answer. Hear feedback without defensiveness; feedback is as much about the person giving it as it is about you. Connect with people by sharing what you’re struggling with and how you’re achieving results. (More people on social media are embracing this, thankfully. Highlight reels and glossy images don’t serve anyone). Ask for what you want, not because you do or don’t “deserve” it, but because of your desire to serve.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
Rachel Wynn has been an invaluable peer-mentor. We’re both online marketers and when I first met Rachel my immediate response was, oh-no-she’s-a-competitor-we’re-supposed-to-be-enemies. I powered through that reaction and found a warm, generous friend who buoys me when I feel doubtful and gives me feedback when I ask for it.
In 2018 I attended two business retreats hosted by Eleanor Beaton. In Eleanor I found an inspiring mentor (side note: high-quality events are worth what they cost!). I am filled with energy and ideas after her events. I am motivated by her candor and actionable insights for reaching greater levels of career success.
I invested in a business coach for the first time this year: Kim Chernecki. This was a big mental and financial commitment, and I almost didn’t do it because I was afraid I wasn’t “ready” or didn’t “deserve” it. I’m glad I chose to commit to myself and my business growth, and I’m already seeing results.
I’m grateful to many of the friends and acquaintances who have mentored me in small but valuable ways: answering a phone call when I need to solve a problem, giving me feedback, or simply telling me, “I hear you, and you can do it.” (Heather, Leslie, Sarah — I’m talking about you!)
How are you going to shake things up next?
I would like to revolutionize the marketing industry by creating and practicing heart-centered, authentic marketing solutions that drive results. It scares me to say (write?) this out loud, because of the Usual Suspects (aka fear-mongering thoughts): what if this idea fails? What if someone is already doing it, and I’m too late? What if everyone hates it? What if it doesn’t deliver?
The problem today is that online marketing is relentless, yet Americans only trust 22% of brands! That means consumers see through the shiny, polished, creating-a-new-need-not-addressing-an-existing-one ads that many companies publish. We could have an entire conversation about capitalism and consumerism, but I’ll say this: I believe that marketing is about connecting people to the products, services, and resources they want and need. There is a way to do this without making people feel like there’s something wrong with them or harassing them every time they get online. It starts by marketing LESS, and marketing more slowly and empathetically. I approach marketing with an emphasis on the PEOPLE, on building relationships for their own sake, on high human touch campaigns, and on creating communities where everyone feels safe and has access to what they need.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.
In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore. This book argues that most of us live with this unquestioned assumption: it’s better to do things faster. But IS it? Through chapters dedicated to different topics (child-rearing, eating, sex) Carl makes the case that living slowly is often preferable to a fast-paced life. I love applying this to my business: how can I take my time when I email clients, savoring the opportunity to connect with and support such inspiring women? How can I luxuriate in the process of writing marketing copy, to sink into how we want to serve people with an email or Facebook post or video?
Glambition Radio with Ali Brown. Ali is one of my top #sheroes! She interviews different high-level, high-performing women on her podcast about their professional journeys. It’s fascinating because every story is full of twists and turns and goofy circumstances. Ali facilitates these conversations with humor and a vulnerability about her own experiences that inspires and motivates me. One time, in the middle of a recording, Ali’s young son entered her office and asked her a question. Ali was so startled she yelped in surprise. It was so cute and REAL!
Ologies with Alie Ward. This science-comedy podcast is hilarious, clever, and informative. But what I love most is the way Alie describes how afraid she was to start the podcast because… what if everyone hated it? Her courage to pursue the podcast despite her fears inspires me.
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 whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Ali Brown! We both live in the Phoenix, Arizona area and I would love to sit down with her over a glass of wine and hear her stories about family, business growth, friendships, travel, and more.
Ann Handley inspires me with her funny and quirky writing style, her use of analogies, and her years and years of marketing experience. I’d love to sit down with her over coffee and ask her about her life and career journey.
How can our readers follow you on social media?