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Pia Beck of ‘Curate Well’: “Community + relationship building”

Community + relationship building: Knowing how to build authentic relationships is key to leading a business to greatness. Your audience, customers, ideal client need to feel a sense of belonging to your brand and with others in your space. They need to feel like they are heard and valued and can benefit from your offering […]

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Community + relationship building: Knowing how to build authentic relationships is key to leading a business to greatness. Your audience, customers, ideal client need to feel a sense of belonging to your brand and with others in your space. They need to feel like they are heard and valued and can benefit from your offering or services. A benefit of building that community and truly nurturing everyone you come in contact with is loyalty. People will be more apt to share your content and recommend your services if they feel heard and acknowledged.


As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pia Beck, CEO of Curate Well Co. and business consultant and Chief Strategy Officer to her clients. Curate Well Co. helps impact-driven entrepreneurs intentionally scale while maintaining the integrity of their work and without losing connection to their community.

Impact-driven entrepreneurs want to transform the lives of thousands of women but they lack intentional systems to scale. At Curate Well Co., we help you amplify your impact while maintaining the integrity of your work and without losing connection to your community. We take a data-based approach (because spreadsheets are sexy!) Best of all? We provide a top-shelf experience that you don’t have to put makeup on for.

Curate Well Co. has been featured in Thrive Global, Darling, Medium, Create & Cultivate, and more, and has collaborated with brands like Bumble, Havenly, Lululemon, and The Riveter.


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?

Growing up, I never said “I want to be an entrepreneur!” But thinking back, I’ve been an entrepreneur from day one — I always had a new idea for a business, and I was dead-set on doing things my way.

For most of my life, I’ve found myself in leadership roles — almost by default. So, it was no surprise when I quickly climbed the ladder in the tech and startup world.

I found myself at the pinnacle of my great-on-paper career. I’d checked all the boxes — sensible degrees, good job, promotion, good job, promotion. I’d reached the “destination” I’d been taught for my entire life to strive for…at the age of 23 — and then my world was rocked by “What now? Is this what I do for the next 40 years?”

That was a full body ‘no’ for me. I just had this knowing that sitting in a windowless office, working for someone else’s dream 12 hours a day for the rest of my career would kill me.

While I was “successful” by most definitions — I was miserable. I felt like my job was draining me of everything that made me, me.

I knew that there were people who needed (and could hugely benefit from) exactly what comes effortlessly to me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had so much more to offer — I was so much more than what I was doing in my career. That I could leave a real, tangible, lasting impression on this world by being exactly who I am — and be paid generously in the process.

…but I just couldn’t see a path to that working for someone else.

So I quit my job with no financial runway, no leads, and frankly — no idea what my business was actually going to be. And I set out to be wildly successful doing what I had always been great at.

Today, I’m the CEO of Curate Well Co. — coaching and community for impact-driven entrepreneurs who want to scale intentionally. Curate Well Co. has grown, in just about a year and a half, to a multiple six-figure business, in-house team of three, and community of +20k female leaders.

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?

I hosted so many events that hardly anyone attended — I led workshops for two, then five, then 15 people. Now, our workshops are attended by 50–100 people. At the beginning it was really tough to pour so much into serving people and have the attendance be so low. I questioned whether I could actually pull this thing off. I questioned if I was really credible enough to be the kind of leader I wanted to be. I questioned whether my dreams were even possible. We see people growing so quickly on social media, and it’s easy to compare ourselves to that. But what people don’t see on social media is what it takes to show up for your ideas before others can hold the vision with you.

The drive to continue pushing through comes from our community. Our clients and community are such an inspiration to me! A friend recently told me that my face lights up and she can hear it in my voice when I’m on to something that’s going to change someone’s life. When I get to flex my creativity and execute on my vision as a way of giving back and supporting people, I feel alive. When I have a new vision and can see a course of action to carry out that vision — real goals, actionable objectives, and a plan to successfully achieve them, I get fired up. I’m out to create a world of badass female leaders who are wildly successful and impact the lives of everyone around them. And any capacity that I can do this is a privilege.

What really helped me shift my mindset in those early days was remembering that I had the ability to cause something really significant for the people who did show up. It was about remembering that there are humans on the other side of our goals, our offers, and our thriving businesses — if we can make it about people, we’ll persevere.

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?

Honestly, every mistake I made (most of them because I just didn’t know any better or hadn’t done X before) taught me something. As a business-owner, you have to be willing to look at feedback or failure as an opportunity. I think the ability to not take things personally is the best lesson I’ve learned from all of my mistakes. The ability to separate your identity from things that go wrong, or others’ perceptions of what you’re doing — and see it purely as information you can choose to use to your advantage — has been a huge takeaway for me.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

One thing I hear often from our clients is that it’s overwhelmingly obvious to them that we really care. And I think it’s true — I’ve always been someone who took things seriously. Our clients recognize our attention to detail is not something they get anywhere else. And our company name, Curate, was born out of the idea of intentionality.

Because we hold ourselves to a standard of excellence, we make it possible for others to step into their excellence too.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Work-life integration. I don’t think balance is attainable — strive to feel whole about your life at large.

Know what works for you. If you’re a morning person, work in the morning! If you know you struggle to focus on Friday afternoon, schedule your networking meetings then. You get to set your calendar, so leverage that to work for you instead of against you.

Define what success means to you. Know what you’re working towards, remember your why, and set your own criteria for satisfaction.

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?

There are so many people who shaped my journey. I’ve had many mentors and clients who’ve taught me things I didn’t know before, and who have given me insight and feedback that formed the direction of the company. If you’re reading this and can remember an engagement we had — know that you’re included in this sentiment.

I want to acknowledge my team. Starting your own business is easy compared to enrolling others in your vision. The shift from solo-preneur to CEO is a dramatic one — and especially in 2020, I’ve challenged my team significantly. I know that what we’re up to is so much bigger than me. They’ve taught me so much about who I am as a person, as a leader, as a business-owner. They show up willingly and with an open mind every day. They lean into the continuous opportunities for innovation that I throw at them, they work incredibly hard, and they do an exceptional job of living into our value of excellence.

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?

I love this question. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about this lately because if there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that good gets in the way of great.

A good company sets objectives and meets them. In my opinion, a good company runs on complacency…or even mediocrity. A good company takes things at face value. Good companies often survive a long time — but they tend to lack soul.

A great company is backed by a community that actively contributes to the conversation and makes it better — there’s responsibility rather than anonymity — which creates a container and culture in which people can expand. A great company is always identifying what could be better and is willing to identify and face what’s not working, and to see these things as immensely valuable. A great company balances instinct and strategy — and can integrate data and logistics with human experience and customer care.Snd, I think a great company is led by someone who is willing to create their own definition of “great.”

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.

Vision + values:

Having a clear vision of your business is key — in my opinion, you have to know what it’s going to look like 1, 5, and 10 years from now. Your values are how you make that happen — they become the common language you use with your team to move your initiatives forward and innovate meaningfully.

Community + relationship building:

Knowing how to build authentic relationships is key to leading a business to greatness. Your audience, customers, ideal client need to feel a sense of belonging to your brand and with others in your space. They need to feel like they are heard and valued and can benefit from your offering or services. A benefit of building that community and truly nurturing everyone you come in contact with is loyalty. People will be more apt to share your content and recommend your services if they feel heard and acknowledged.

ICA: 
ICA stands for Ideal Client Avatar. It’s a detailed profile that describes the client you want to work with — the most perfect fit for your unique expertise, values, and vision. Everything you do in your business (if done successfully) relies on this profile. Your products or services, your messaging, and your growth direction should all be determined by the person you serve. Doing market research and keeping a pulse on this person’s own evolution is key to having your business continue to grow.

Brand experience:

Everything you touch should represent your brand’s mission, values, and long-term vision. No matter where or how someone comes in contact with your brand, you want their experience to be consistent and in integrity with what you stand for. Branding is much more than aesthetics or word-choice — it’s how people feel when they interact with your company, anyone who works there, or anyone who has been a customer in the past.

Data:

Taking a data-driven approach business growth is incredibly important. We honor the human elements of business, and of course not all meaningful information and insight is quantitative. However, knowing your numbers is going to allow you to examine context more closely and make strategic decisions.

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?

I think this comes down to leadership. As business owners, we’re leaders in our communities — we have an opportunity to not only be committed to certain things that we get to choose for ourselves because of the path we’ve chosen to take, but we’re also in a position to be able effectively enroll others in powerful initiatives. You’re not only using your position to do good in the world, but you’re also giving everyone else in your community an opportunity to live into their values.

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”?

Market research — if you’ve stalled, it’s likely because, to some degree, you’re out of touch with what your community, audience, and client base is thinking, feeling, struggling with, needing, or working toward. Start by completing an ICA profile (see above) with the information you DO have. Then, review your direct messages, emails, and meeting notes for common questions, anecdotes, and themes. From there, poll your community on social media with targeted questions, send a market research form to your email list or conduct focus groups or interviews with your customers to mine data.

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?

Having a loyal customer base is everything. This can look like people who give you return business, but it can also look like past clients who had such an incredible experience that they continuously refer people to you. Focus on delivering value, a killer experience, and building meaningful relationships, and you’ll be able to survive — and even thrive — in tough economic times.

The second thing I’d say, is to be diligent about data-collection before you need it. In tough times, we’re often called to pivot. If you’re going to pivot, you’ll need context in order to make strategic decisions, and being able to call on data you already have helps tremendously.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

In my experience, the part of running a company that’s most often underestimated is the adjustment that comes with accepting there will always be something to do. I get asked often by newer entrepreneurs what I do to combat overwhelm and how I get over it. The truth is, the overwhelm is ALWAYS there. The curse of having a big vision is that you continue to have ideas you want to execute on. I think that running a company requires that you get okay with how much there is to do, embrace the overwhelm and find a way to work with the demands of your business, versus against them.

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’s a few things that go into high conversion rates, and the first happens way before the “visit” even takes place — if the right people are visiting, there’s a much better chance they’re going to convert. So, I think the first strategy is to understand who you serve and how you serve them — you not only need to be clear on this for yourself, but you also need to be clear about it in all the content you create so that you can attract the right people.

Then, I’d say it’s about logistics. One of my mentors taught me the concept: transformation is 95% logistics, and I’ve integrated that fully into our business. It’s similar to the hierarchy of needs — if basic logistics aren’t taken care of, your buyer can’t focus on things higher up in the hierarchy, like making a purchasing decision. So, make sure your visit to conversion experience is logistically sound — be clear in your calls to action so they know exactly what to do to take the next step, how to do it, and what’s going to happen when they do.

Last, I’d say listen and ask questions. Let’s assume you’re “converting” on a sales call — it’s not at all about convincing people, it’s about listening generously and asking strategic questions so you can understand if and how you can add value.

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?

Trust, in my experience, is earned through being in Integrity. Doing what you say you’re going to do. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

At Curate Well Co. we have an operating principle of “full-assing” things — we do things to 100% completion.One of the best pieces of advice I got very early in my career was “under promise and over deliver”. We strive to do that every day.

When you can become someone (or a company) who can be counted on, you’ll build loyalty with people who will go on to champion your brand. These champions will drive more customers to your business, and the effect continues to appreciate and build that “beloved” sensation.

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?

My favorite way to create a “wow” customer experience is to weave our values into our systems and processes — this not only delivers on fine details, but also makes our experience unique from all those around us.

For example, one of our values is community, so in our client onboarding process, we ask our clients to name three people we can introduce them to. When we host events (in person or online), we make sure that every single person there feels seen — either by greeting them personally on their way in our out, asking them to share or ask questions, or chatting with them for a while if we notice they’re separate from the group.

As another example, we have a core value of generosity. We send our clients gifts and handwritten notes in the mail. We give them opportunities to use our platforms to share their voice. We pledge donations for certain sales we run, so our community can be generous with us. We’re always thinking of ways we can give to our community.

Finally, we value excellence. So, we ask all of our clients in their offboarding what they would change and what didn’t work for them. I’m always paying attention to what’s not working, and asking myself and our community how we can top the last experience we created.

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.

I think it’s less about the platform being good/bad and more about how you use it. I see social media as a business tool — same as your company’s project management platform, your email, or your spreadsheets. When you can approach social media strategically as a business owner, I think it’s really powerful.

There are some uses of social media I believe are really powerful for small business owners and entrepreneurs. For example, it’s an opportunity to show the personality of you and your business, appeal to your ideal customer’s “soft” identity (outside their goals and challenges) and create brand-affinity and -authority.

Another example is that it allows us, if we use it correctly, to make meaningful connections with more people we otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to connect with. I approach social media interactions the same way I would approach attending a networking event, or meeting someone for coffee — how can I facilitate a real conversation, be a resource, and start a relationship with those who choose to consume our content?

I’d say a potential downside of social media, depending on how you use it, is that having a strong presence increases your exposure considerably — which is why it’s important to do the work in your business from the inside out, so that if you do choose to show up online, you’re doing it from a place of integrity with what your company stands for and is creating.

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?

Not having a long-term vision. I see a lot of entrepreneurs throw spaghetti at the wall to find out what sticks. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing — trial and error, a willingness to make mistakes, and taking action are necessary skills of business owners. But the mistake I see a lot of founders make is that they start throwing spaghetti before they identify the wall they’re throwing it at. They get caught up in the throwing versus the target. That’s what your vision is — the wall you’re throwing spaghetti at.

Being afraid to invest. I talk to a lot of business owners, especially female business owners, who aren’t willing to invest — whether it be time, money, energy, attention, courage — before they have proof it’s going to work. A mentor recently prompted me with the idea of “donating forward.” So, I’d encourage business owners to think about the investments they make into their business as a donation into their future — what you put in now will come back to you in some form. Plus, if you’re not willing to invest in yourself, how can you expect others to invest in you or what you’re creating?

Thinking it’s going to be fast AND easy — I saw something once that said, the secret is there is no secret. And I think there’s a lot of messaging that makes business owners feel like they need to grow to X point within Y amount of time, and that it’ll be easy because someone else has done it. The reality is that, while your business may grow quickly and there are many things you can do to remove friction — you’ll work harder than you ever have, you’ll learn how to solve a new problem every day, and you’re going to be challenged to get creative.

Forgetting about the humans — On the other side of every “like”, dollar, click, or support ticket is a whole person. You wouldn’t have a business without your customers and community. Treat them accordingly.

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. 🙂

Wow — that’s a powerful question. My movement is community. Every single opportunity I’ve had has come from being connected to other people. I think in a world that’s more divisive than ever and more distanced than ever, what we need is community. We need to feel like we can relate to others and that we are seen, heard and known by others. Every single person deserves to feel like they have a whole community of people standing behind them, having their back. In my experience, when we feel like we belong to a collective, when we have people we can turn to for inspiration, support, and resources, when we can stand for shared values together and use them to inform our actions — we’re unstoppable. Curate Well Co. is nothing if not a community for people to do what they’re meant to do.

How can our readers further follow you online?

You can follow us on Instagram at @curatewellco

And mid-December we’re launching a brand new website at www.curatewell.co

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!


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