lifestyle

Ep. 8: All the Bad Sh*t in Business

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You guys! It's episode 8! We hope you've been loving season 1 so far and if you have, would you send Kristen a DM on Instagram @kristenforgione? Don't forget to rate, review, subscribe and download! It helps us so much to know what you like, what you don't, etc. So far the most popular episodes have been Episode 5, which was with Blanche and Rach and then Episode 4 which was Attracting the Right Clients and knowing your Worth, and Episode 6 which is the Unexpected with Turning your Passion into a business are neck and neck!

We really never dreamed that 10 of you would listen to this thing or that we’d be able to connect like we all have, so thank you. It’s really such a gift you’re giving back to us, allowing us to share my experience with you and help you on your journey, personally or in business.

Anyways, let's get to it! Episode 8. All the bad sh*t in business. It's a good one - it's juicy, it's real talk and I think recounting some of my experiences will definitely help you all whether now, or in the future. Listen up and tune in now!

 The show notes

In 6 years, there’s a lot of BAD SHIT that happens, just by default. And the crazy thing is that even some of the BADDEST shit between clients, employees, whatever! surprises you in the end. Sometimes you look back and think huh, that particular thing or experience kinda wasn’t that bad and was meant to happen because now I know x, y, z. There’s something calming in all those experiences that leads to confidence and makes your fuck with rating through the roof! (Before you go googling “fuck with rating,” we define it as what happens when you have enough experience where you decide you’re not going to get fucked with anymore - ha!)

This is a highly anticipated episode and of all of the comments, messages and feedback Kristen gets, a ton of it is centered around all the bad shit in business! Stuff people don’t want to talk about because it’s uncomfortable or controversial. We want to remind you that what Kristen is sharing with you today is her real experience and how she actually handled it, NOT what would make the best podcast. Also, every person handles situations differently so while you’ll hear on the podcast the real details of the situations Kristen went through, it is her opinion and experience, and nothing more.

Okay, now that that’s all out there, where to even begin.

Let’s start with Bad Clients…

There are two main points that will get discussed when it comes to bad clients:

  1. How to avoid bad clients

  2. How to deal with them when you missed the avoid part

In the beginning, for most people, it’s very likely that you’re going to take “bad” clients and instead of beating yourself up over it, you just have to get okay with the fact that it’s a right of passage in business, no matter what industry you’re in. From interior design to accounting, everyone deals with this and you’re totally not alone! These are the types of things that you can draw from in gaining experience and knowledge, and will make you a better business person.

In order to aid and help avoid bad client situations, Kristen came up with a few basic questions, based on her non-negotiables, that she asks herself before jumping into a new client project:

  •  Is there an organic connection?

  • Are we an aesthetic match?

  • Is the client realistic and all parties are on board? In other words, are the decision makers on the same page?

  • Do we like to communicate the same way? We’ve found that emails and text messages work best for us. In our business, communication is key so we need to be on the same page when it comes to modes of communication.

  • Are your conflict resolution expectations the same? This is huge! Sometimes you’ll deal with a terrible contractor, etc and if you and your client talk about your conflict resolution expectations at the beginning, you’ll be on the same page on how to deal with that person and there wont be any surprises.

These are basic principals for Kristen and the team. It’s a good idea to figure out what your non-negotiable parameters are and go through the same type of vetting process for your own clients. The best way to avoid bad clients is to hold everyone to the same criteria, listen to your gut and watch for the red flags. Even if you go through all of this, sometimes you still come across clients that are just plain bad. Sometimes there’s drama early on, or something seems off, and what we can say to you in that situation is to trust your gut, no matter how much that project might be worth (money isn’t everything if it’s going to cost you your sanity).

moving on to Bad Employees…

Like bad clients, chances are you’ll always have bad employees here and there. It happens. Kristen got some really good advice about how to deal with bad employees from a client, actually, that we ended up parting ways with because of a bad employee. He said, “Don’t beat yourself up over it too much. No matter how great of a boss you are, how much time you have or how much you do, sometimes people are just going to go rogue. That’s just human beings by nature. Also, a lot of times there are factors in people’s lives that affect them at work, that you simply just have no idea about.”

Read that over and over again until you have it memorized, and refer back to it when you inevitably deal with an employee that turns out to be less than awesome.

Another piece of advice? Hold your employees to the same standard as your clients! Along with creating non-negotiable parameters when vetting clients, Kristen has a set of similar questions she asks herself when hiring new employees:

  • Do we have an organic connection?

  • Are your expectations realistic?

  • Do we feel like we have an aesthetic match?

  • Do we communicate the same way?

  • Are your conflict resolution criteria the same?

We discussed this in episode 7, but we need to reiterate that when you’re making hires, do. not. compromise! And don’t hire someone out of convenience! However, if the going gets tough with one of your employees, it’s a crossroads for you as a boss - it’s either a “is this person coachable?” moment, or a “do i need to let this person go?” moment. For Kristen personally, she always default to trying to coach them so she knows she gave 150%, but that’s a decision that you need to make for yourself.

When it comes to employees, put expectations in writing, give them grace, be real and compassionate, and hopefully you’ll turn out on the other side of it. Bottom line.

sometimes, people are just plain Bad

Even if you do everything in your power to avoid bad situations, they happen. And the first thing you can do to prepare yourself for when that time comes is to accept that. In knowing that something bad is bound to happen, Kristen recommends starting your own “Bad Shit in Business” fund. Start taking even 5% of your revenue, or your credit card rewards, and transfer it into an account that you can use as sort of an insurance policy (aka a “rainy day” fund).

Bad shit in business costs you money - be ahead of the game! “If I would’ve had [a “Bad Shit in Business” fund], making some of the calls I had to make might’ve been easier. In the beginning, you tend to hold onto every penny and maybe put up with things longer than you normally would. Having this kind of “insurance policy” will allow you to put your foot down and not have to just deal because you can’t afford to do otherwise,” she says.

This will help you when it comes to those bad people you come across when you have to give a design fee back, when an employee quits or for legal fees when you get sued…yes, she’s been sued. It was something totally out of left field that lasted over a year. The case is now closed, and she won, but it was awful. Kristen got served by someone who bought one of her flips, for negligence in covering foundational and wall cracks, among other claims including impersonation saying that her company wasn’t legit. “That experience as incredibly horrific and makes you so vulnerable - it’s threatening,” says Kristen. “I told my parents and my dad said - in a very dad way of saying things - ‘Congratulations, you’ve made it. If someone is threatened by your success to the point where they think they can financially profit from it, you’ve got something worth fighting for.”

She hasn’t owned any investment properties since and doesn’t know if she ever will because this experience really soured the flipping business for her. But it’s also experiences like this that teach you so much about navigating rough waters, who you are as a businessperson, what you can handle, what you’re willing and not willing to handle, and so much more. You can’t ever know when bad experiences or people will happen, but you can preemptively prepare for them in the best way you can.

If you take nothing else from this episode, remember this: in all things, try to be ethical and hold your team to the highest regard and value. And even when it’s hard and you don’t want to, take the high road.

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Ep. 7: Building Your Team

It’s episode 7- can you even believe it?! We’re on the downhill slope of this podcast season and are so beyond thankful and grateful for all of the support you, our listeners, have shown us so far. In this episode, we wanted to dive into Kristen’s experience building her current team. You know that part in our intro where it goes “it’s not all sunshine and rainbows”? Yeah. We meant it. Building a business is one thing, but building a team and refining your own skills as a leader of not only your company, but people too? That’s a whole other rodeo no one tells you about when you’re first starting out.

Ready to get ahead of the pack and take in some sound advice on this topic? Tune in and read on for the notes!

THE SHOW NOTES

When you get to the point in business where you’re ready to take the next step and start building a team, it’s generally because you’re ready to take things to the next level. What does that mean for you? This “next level” is all relative and subjective to you personally, and the goals you have both personally and professionally.

For Kristen, the next level didn’t mean happier, wealthier or busier - it meant being more organized and streamlined, having more comfort and trust, less mistakes, a better experience both internally and for clients, and better communication. Maybe those things don’t equal the next level for you, and that’s totally okay. This is an opportunity to turn inward, do some soul searching and actually qualify or quantify what you think having extra hands on board will do for you.

Maybe you’re just fine in your little one woman (or man) sailboat and you don’t need anymore hands on deck. If that’s the case for you, good on you! Keep doing what you’re doing to kick ass and take names. If you feel like you’re drowning a bit and are in need of someone to throw you a lifeline, keep on reading because we’ll get to some strategies you can implement in order to get the best employees for you.

“I think I always knew I would have employees,” says Kristen. However, she continues on to say that If you had asked her five years ago if she thought she was a good boss, she would’ve said totally! She’s reasonable, empathetic, sympathetic, honest; but she admits she was lacking at really being able to put her needs second, and put the needs of her employees as developing professionals first. Kristen reflects and says that this concept alone is the biggest key in getting quality employees and most importantly, keeping them. It’s a learned skill, for sure, but one that is invaluable to the growth of your business and the growth of yourself as an entrepreneur.

So, you’ve done some soul searching and are determined to add some amazing new hires to expand your woman show - now what? Before you do anything, get rid of the fear of failing. You can’t be so nervous about hiring that you end up not hiring anyone. Everyone has a bad hire - it’s a right of passage, but you live and you learn and you move on. Also, rid yourself from the feeling of obligation - don’t also hire someone out of pity, or that you know from the get go is not going to be a good hire for you.

Okay, now to the good stuff.

As a solo entrepreneur you’ll start to realize that you do things you hate a lot of your day. In a creative business, most of those hated things are usually totally not creative and more administrative. For Kristen, she realized that she started to feel like she was pushing papers - designing only once a week, in the field once a week, but bogged down on email and administrative tasks every other day. It was hard and she was able to realize that that’s where she had some weaknesses and needed help. Kristen recommends identifying where your weaknesses are, and hiring someone that compliments those. For her, she desperately needed help with all the administrative stuff that comes with owning a business, so her first hire was an office manager so she could clear her plate and have more time to design (the company’s money maker).

“Where I was as a designer at that point in my career was not a good place for me to groom another designer, from a design standpoint or a leadership standpoint,” Kristen says. “Along with knowing your worth, I also think it’s important to figure out what you’re good at, and what your employees are good at. Figure out, or even involve them in what you like to do, and see if there’s any crossover. You could be on separate planets task wise, and that’s totally okay. “

Kristen’s first hire was an office manager that was initially part time to help field consults, write contracts and run errands. This first hire not only helped Kristen build the business, but they also helped me to see what she could work on as a boss, and what her strengths were as a leader. Please note that these are two totally different things. They’re not synonymous and both require equal attention and focus.

After that, her next hire was going to be a second designer. At this point in time, Kristen’s mom was helping her with interviews and their goal was to find someone that could alleviate some of the pressure and take on some of her tasks, but who could also still design. “If you need help seeing how you work best with others, ask your mom - she’ll tell you!” she says. Kristen mentions that she wasn’t ready to pay a seasoned designer because she herself was still learning about who she was as a designer, and her aesthetic (it wasn’t called ODL at the time!). This person was a good fit at first, but things went sour. She then brought in a project manager which ended up being a questionable hire as well. Kristen reflects and says, “There were a good two years where the team I had was questionable, but I think it was important to go through those experiences to learn about hiring in general, who to hire that’s best for both the company and yourself - working with someone 40 hours/week is a lot of time spent with them if you’re butting heads and expectations don’t align.”

It was at that point that she took some time to be self reflective. It was very clear that she needed to pivot (there’s that word again!) because something she was doing wasn’t working. She looked at what she was doing (Was it timing? Hiring the wrong people and not understanding red flags in the beginning? Not understanding the exact needs of clients?) and got better as a boss. “While I don’t take responsibility for the things our first hires did,” she says, “I do think i could have served them more as a boss, lessons I learned only after going through the experience of hiring, firing, etc.”

You have to build your team with people around you that you trust, that trust you, and are drinking the kool-aid. They need to believe what you believe, and be working towards a common goal. Business is business, but it’s also very personal, so you should share common ground. Once you get your foundation laid and begin to find these people, then you can get the luxury of looking at hiring in a different way than maybe before. For Kristen, it was being able to look for “talent,” meaning can they not only do the tasks, but did they have everything on her list of what makes up the ideal candidate for her? Each employee you have over time is a piece of the puzzle, and then the puzzle is always growing, especially when you’re in a thriving business. Not only are your employees part of your journey, but you are part of theirs! They also chose YOU! Accept people for who they are, identify what their strengths and weaknesses are, and build around that, be okay with it and figure out how to help them, and you will go far.

Advice for new bosses

  • Timing is everything. Don’t hire someone out of convenience just because you need a warm body.

  • Talk to your employees and talk to them often. Are they happy? What do they need? Having employees that are dedicated to you is the biggest compliment on earth. “That is something that we’ve worked up to as a culture,” Kristen says. “I like to think that it’s because they feel supported in all aspects and know that with anything that happens, we will back them up on it. It doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes and there wont be training opportunities, but I always say i can fix 99% of what you do, just don’t lie to me.”

  • Delegate! One of the biggest strengths of entrepreneurs is that they’re control freaks, and this can also be one of the biggest weaknesses. You’ve gotta figure out the best way for you to channel that control freak-ness into something that’s positive and beneficial, and your employees can help you with that. Let them help you! It took Kristen a long time to get there and she can say that it all comes from confidence and personal growth. It will free up your time and mind from that “feeling like you’re drowning” feeling.

  • As a boss, figure out what your hot buttons are and figure out what you can compromise on. You have to pick your battles.

  • You have to trust the people that you hire. This doesn’t mean that you let them lead you into a black hole of death, but give them capable hands and empower them to use their own brain, reasoning, project management skills to get your company and clients to the best outcome.

  • Hiring your first employee is a big deal and affording them is also a big deal. Have at least 6 months of wages in the bank ready to go so that you aren’t worried about how you’re going to pay them.

the links



Ep. 1: The Backstory + 5 Biz Tips for Startups

It's the moment you've all been waiting for! The LCo Podcast is happening people! In this first episode, we meet Kristen Forgione, Creator + Principal Designer (and now podcast host!) of THE LifeStyled COMPANY Design Firm and Retail Shop. Kristen started this podcast from a place of, “how can I help?” and as a way to better connect with all of you! 

After 10 years in career fields from finance to hospitality, it was her stint in Los Angeles fashion school, that reignited her childhood passion for all things color + design. Now calling Arizona home, LCo has lead the west coast design market for the last six years, with clients nationwide, a design studio, retail shop and a team of desert loving designers and support staff. 

In this first episode, Kristen dives right in giving listeners a behind the scenes look into her journey so far, the “death of the moment,” five biz tips for startups and SO much more!  Listening on the go? No worries! We took notes for you. Let’s get to it!

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THE BACKSTORY

LCo was established in 2012 after a wild ride that took Kristen from Arizona to California and back again. With talent and timing on her side, Kristen grew a one woman side hustle into a multi-million dollar company in just six years.

Kristen was born in San Diego, and grew up loving and excelling in all things creative. When it came time for college, there wasn’t a school in AZ that offered a design program other than architecture at the time. After a brief conversation with her parents and discussing potentially going to school to study dance (a lifelong hobby she had), Kristen’s dad suggested studying business instead and before ya know it, Kristen enrolled in Arizona State University for a business degree! Kristen ended up staying for two years doing more boozing and bartending than studying, and eventually dropped out (she wouldn’t change a thing because it’s part of her story and why she’s where she is now). Her boyfriend at the time was from the Los Angeles area, wanted to move back to California and Kristen saw an opportunity knocking. She packed her bags, moved with him to LA and finally got the chance to pursue a degree in fashion. She enrolled in fashion school at SMC and instantly fell in love. “Fashion school for me was everything I wanted my college experience to be, but never had,” says Kristen. Not only was she excelling in school, but she was also taking advantage of the LA lifestyle and put her bartending skills back to work doing bottle service at a swanky LA club. Time passed by and Kristen began missing her family and home in Arizona, and it started to become obvious that her time in LA, as amazing as it was, was coming to a close. This beautiful year of her life reignited her passion and confidence that she would definitely be involved in a creative career in her lifetime.

She finished one semester of fashion school, was back at home and back at square one at age 23 trying to figure out how to make something out of all of her creative skills and experience thus far. With the support of her parents and best friends, Kristen picked herself up and jumped back into life in Arizona. One of Kristen’s friends worked in events at a high end resort in town, and was looking for someone to take over her job as she moved on to a new opportunity. With Kristen’s arsenal of experience in the service industry, she landed the job and soon took over as the lobby bar event coordinator. This opportunity not only launched her career BUT she also met her husband, Vince. They went on a pseudo date, talked at a neighborhood dive bar until 2 AM and it’s safe to say, the rest is history. They moved in together within two weeks, were engaged within two months and headed back to California (this time Orange County) when Vince got a promotion with their company, and really started their lives together. Kristen and Vince got married within a year and then got pregnant six months after that with their first daughter, Harper Rose.

After a year years in California, life brought them back to Arizona and Kristen went back to her corporate job, this time doing both weddings and events. This opportunity gave her the chance to create, further develop her skills and establish herself as a young professional. Kristen and Vince would be back in Arizona for a short two years before THE LifeStyled COMPANY was born. In 2011, Kristen started an Etsy shop selling printables, and around the same time, Kristen and Vince bought their first house, which prompted her to also start a blog, called THE LifeStyled COMPANY. The blog was intended to be a way for her to document and share their renovation, DIY projects and designing on a budget. At the time, Pinterest was brand new and Instagram didn’t yet exist, so Facebook was THE THING and only way to be social on the internet. Kristen would get regular inquiries from friends, family and strangers asking if she could style their home, so in an effort to see if she could really make a career out of her passion, she decided to host a contest on Facebook where she would give away free styling sessions.

Kristen put out the contest on Facebook, got 20 entries and was blown away at how many people were interested! She picked three winners, got each project professionally photographed (which was huge!), got great feedback and continued to write. Kristen always had an idea of what she wanted her future to be, and things were coming together! It was about six months from the very first blog post and the time that Kristen quit her corporate job to jump into THE LifeStyled COMPANY full-time. While that may sound really fast and sunshine and rainbows, it was really working two full-time jobs, which most people tend to do when starting their own business.

Word was catching on and after Kristen had a couple tv segments, her and Vince really sat down and figured out what they could cut out so she could leave her corporate job once and for all. They saved $20,000 before she quit after 1 year of lean expenses, not adding additional money to their savings or 401k, and no travel. Kristen gave her corporate job a month’s notice and hit the ground running. When it comes to leaving a job, she advises to leave on the VERY best of terms. Kristen was open enough with her company on her goals and intentions so that if in a year the entrepreneurial route didn’t work out, she could go back. “Life is hopefully very long,” Kristen says, “but it’s a small world and you never want to burn any bridges or leave in a sour way.”

Kristen didn’t take any time off during her transition, and didn’t allow herself the flexibility that many people think comes with being an entrepreneur. With new gigs come new titles, and Kristen was adamant about calling herself an interior stylist at the time, not a designer. The reason? She hadn’t actually designed anything yet - she was taking what was already made and rearranging it in a way that was visually appealing. She was specific about that title because she was self taught, a two-time college dropout, didn’t want to be offensive to those who had letters after their names and felt it was important for her to earn her stripes. Right at first, Kristen was still working from home doing events, weddings and parties. THE LifeStyled COMPANY name made perfect sense because Kristen was styling all aspects of your life and when she started, she was offering services in all of those areas too. Fast forward a year of doing the hustle, she started to realize that she couldn’t keep changing her hat that many times a day and eventually retired from weddings to dive head first into doing interiors full time. Things began snowballing and after two years of working from home, Kristen moved into her first office space and hired her first employee after realizing the intern route wasn’t the way to go (more on that later).

Needless to say, Kristen knows a thing or two about starting a business! As more and more episodes get released, you’ll begin to learn even more about all that it took for her to build LCo into the successful and noteworthy company it is today!

5 BIZ TIPS FOR STARTUPS

  1. IDENTIFY YOUR CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE EARLY

    As an entrepreneur, Kristen says that if she would have listened to everyone and more than just a few trusted people, she doesn’t know if she’d be in the same spot today. It takes a lot of guts, confidence and come to Jesus conversations with yourself AND your circle of influence to start a business. Everyone has an opinion - decide who in your world matters and whose opinion you’re willing to take with you into the next phase of your business journey.

  2. THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE IN TWO PHASES: THE NOW FUTURE (NOW) + THE FUTURE, FUTURE (2-5 YEARS), AND BE WILLING TO PIVOT ALWAYS

    To Kristen, success came because she was never so committed to what she wanted personally that she couldn’t see what else was happening right in front of her. 98% of business owners hold on for too long., and when you hold on too long you lose the ability to make decisions. Leave your peripherals open enough that you are committed enough to keep going, jump in and be wise, but not so committed that you miss everything else that’s happening and you can’t pivot. It’s important to remember that pivoting is different than abandoning ship. A major pivot point in business for Kristen came when she stopped thinking about herself and started serving others. This changed things for her employees and changed everything for her as a boss, business owner, entrepreneur and member of community.

  3. PUT THE TASKS AND ACTIONS THAT ARE REVENUE DRIVING FOR YOUR BUSINESS AT THE TOP OF YOUR DAILY LIST

    Something that worked for Kristen is following the 70/30 rule. Spend 70% of your time doing the revenue driving and most rewarding tasks, and 30% doing everything else. Because she did this, it allowed her to get out of the minutia of the everyday and get more clients, do better projects and frankly, do cooler sh*t. Following this rule will allow you to operate and see what you should and should not be dedicating your time to.

  4. KEEP YOUR EXPENSES LOW FOR AS LONG AS YOU CAN

    Can you design your own business cards and website? Do it. Do your research and find different cost options for things like printing, etc. Try to keep as many things in house as you can and DO NOT fall victim to business subscriptions that many people think are necessities. Do things the old fashioned way using excel spreadsheets, and don’t buy things that you don’t need yet.

  5. BRING YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF INTO YOUR BUSINESS IN A PROFESSIONAL WAY AS EARLY AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE, AND THEN TALK ABOUT IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

    Go as deep as you can to identify and figure out two things: who your authentic self is AND why you’re different. Why is your business different? How does your service offering and experience for your clients differ from others in your industry? Is your aesthetic different? Is your location different? TALK ABOUT IT. Find your tribe. Find the people that are speaking the same language as you. This will also help distinguish your unique value proposition without even trying.

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