Suffering is never wasted. Think about the times in your life when you’ve struggled; it’s also when you’ve learned and grown the most. You will draw on this experience in the future to remind yourself of your strength and resilience or to help another person through a tough time.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marlene Quade, co-owner of Prime Mutual, owns and operates websites in the insurance, finance, and home services space. Prior to starting her own company, she was quickly climbing the corporate ladder while mastering media relations, community relations, and crisis management. Now a serial mompreneur, dedicated community volunteer, equitable landlord, and Airbnb Superhost, she’s been traveling the world and managing teams remotely since launching her first start-up in 2008.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
After years in the corporate world as a public relations professional, I was recruited by a tech start-up. It was a completely different landscape and I absolutely loved it — the agility, rapid pace, collaboration, measurable results, and most of all, the freedom. Around this time, I also met my partner in business and in life, Ross. From the onset, we dreamed of starting our own business and traveling the world. Our aspirations were unsurprisingly met with a lot of eye rolls, but today we own and operate several websites and rental properties. We’ve managed these remotely from over 40 different countries and all 50 states, now with our daughter in tow.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
The best thing about finding success is the increased ability to give back. One of our favorite activities is volunteering with our daughter at a local food pantry. When I was a child, my family depended on such resources and now I can contribute in a meaningful way. Growing up in poverty gave me grit, determination, gratitude, a strong work ethic, and a deep desire to consistently improve. I took these gifts and applied them to my education, career, and eventually my entrepreneurial aspirations. I find it interesting to have come full circle; I’m now doing my best to raise a strong girl who has gratitude, compassion, and purpose.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Prime Mutual, our website that helps people compare final expense life insurance, has been a passion project from the beginning. We lost Ross’ mother to pancreatic cancer a few months before our wedding. We realized first hand how much planning in advance helps loved ones grieve in the wake of a loss. We’ve been putting all our efforts into building a resource for people who want to have a financial plan in place and for those who are grieving.
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 landed a dream job in my field right out of college. This was exciting, but I was terrified and filled with self-doubt. Fortunately, my manager was the ideal person to boost up a bright-eyed kid. She helped me gain confidence by handing me low risk tasks then acknowledged my accomplishments. She gave fair and kind constructive criticism to help me develop. As my skill set grew, she gave me more responsibility and freedom while continuing to support me. She was tough, fair, and kind, which made her an excellent leader. I try to mirror her leadership when working with teams today.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
It can be overwhelming to juggle so many obligations every. single. day. But what’s truly exhausting is the worry that accompanies it. While working, I worry about not giving my daughter the attention she deserves. When I’m focused on my daughter, I worry about my neverending to-do list.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
There are three items that have been paramount in finding balance and banishing worry:
- Set a schedule. We created a schedule that works for the whole family, which includes dedicated work and play time. It feels weird to schedule play, but if my daughter knows that I will drop everything and focus on her at a specific time, it eliminates the consistent interruptions. Knowing that there is allotted time for each item helps me stay focused on the task at hand, eliminating the worry about getting everything done.
- Stay present and mindful. The pandemic has forced us to slow down; we can use this as an opportunity to connect with our families in more meaningful ways.
- Create a Covid Cohort. Like many families, we use online resources for education, extracurriculars, and playdates. But creating our Covid Cohort has been key to our success during the pandemic. We teamed up with two other families that are equally committed to strict lockdown measures. Sometimes we all get together for dinner or a game night. Other days, we drop off at one home so two of three couples can have dedicated time to work, relax, or even enjoy a date night in. It really does take a village.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
My biggest challenge is unplugging. When there are never enough hours in the day, it feels as though every waking moment should be productive. After “work hours,” and all the home and childcare is complete, there is always more that can be done to build our business. Downtime can seem like a waste of time, but it is important in avoiding burnout.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I remind myself that unplugging is productive because it helps prevent burnout. When I’m feeling drained, it’s usually not because I’m doing too much but because I’m doing too little of what sparks joy. So I find ways to unplug that will actually rejuvenate my mind, body, and spirit. Lately, it’s been running while listening to an inspiring audio book or podcast and playing board games with my family.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Create a schedule with the whole family’s input so each member’s priorities are met. Have weekly family meetings to check in on what’s working and what’s not. Adjust as needed. Be sure all are on the same page and everyone respects each other’s time, space, and boundaries.
Carve out time for fun and celebrate achievements and milestones. Think about what actually makes an event special and figure out creative ways to safely celebrate. For instance, my daughter has been talking about Halloween since April so we discussed the key aspects that really make the holiday fun. Our answer: getting dressed up, being out after dark, and, of course, candy. To check each priority off the list, we’re planning a social distancing sunset costume parade in our neighborhood and we’ll surprise our daughter with a basket of her favorite treats. This Halloween just might be her most memorable.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
Mindset is key. When stay-at-home orders were put in place, we held a family meeting to discuss what this time period would look like. There were a lot of unknowns so we decided to control what we could and find peace with what we could not. We imagined ourselves in the future and how we would look back at this challenging time in our lives. What would be the story we would tell? Did we conquer our difficulties with bravery and grace? Did we come out stronger with a more enlightened perspective in the end? Then we came up with a family battle cry, which we use as a mantra when things get tough.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Suffering is never wasted. Think about the times in your life when you’ve struggled; it’s also when you’ve learned and grown the most. You will draw on this experience in the future to remind yourself of your strength and resilience or to help another person through a tough time.
- Reclaim childlike enthusiasm for ordinary things. The end of the school year was marked with a snow cone celebration. My daughter was bursting with excitement leading up to it and gushed about it for a week after. I felt this childlike anticipation when my partner and I planned to celebrate our anniversary with sushi takeout, which we had not had since the initial lockdown. Normally, this would have been quickly forgotten. But the excitement for our fancy night in created an indelible memory.
- Embrace the simple things with deeper gratitude. Slowing down has given me a greater appreciation for the simple things that truly create memorable moments, like pillow forts, kitchen creations, chasing fireflies, and exploring the wonders of a rainy day.
- Clean out your life like you clean out your closet. This experience is sure to create perspective. I’m making space for what I love and have found distance from joy zappers.
- This is the perfect opportunity to practice being present and mindful. Before stay-at-home orders, I was consistently on the move or planning my next big adventure. Now, I’ve been forced to slow down, find calm, and appreciate the simple charms of daily life. In accepting this new normal, I’ve learned more about myself and developed deeper connections with my loved ones. This is temporary and, who knows, we just might miss this.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Listen. Sometimes your loved ones just need to vent, not have their problems solved. It’s cathartic and it helps. Empathize honestly and share if you’ve had similar experiences or feelings. Offer support by talking about what has worked for you rather than ideas that start with “you should…”. For example, what works for me is keeping a gratitude list. This can be a formal journal, but who has time for that. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I take a deep breath and think about all the things that I’m grateful for. This centers me and I’m able to shake off tension, find calm, and be more present.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Mae West said, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” I like this quote because it reminds me of the impermanence of life and importance of each day. Life is made up of choices and every day we have the opportunity to find purpose, uplift others, and leave a meaningful legacy.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you for asking! My partner and I are currently focused on Prime Mutual, which is committed to helping people find financial solutions to final expenses. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!