Learn From Others

The Inventive Journey
Episode #327
Learn From Others
w/ Liz Kislik
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What This Episode Talks About:

Learn From Others

"In addition to knowing what it is you want to do, look at how other people, either in your field or adjacent, do it. You can learn as much from the good that they do as you can from the things that you disagree with. It's really useful to be able to thread your own path that's a little bit different from what everybody is doing but getting the benefit of what they have learned."


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What Is The Inventive Journey?

Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.

ai generated transcription

 in addition to knowing what it is you want to do look at how other people either in your field or adjacent do it because you can learn as much from the good that they do i don't mean that in a moral way i mean what's effective as you can from the things that you disagree with and it's really useful to be able to thread your own path that's a little bit different from what everybody's doing but getting the benefit of what they've learned [Music] everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where he helps startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat now today we've got another great guest on the podcast uh liz kisslick and uh liz uh graduated from high school and wanted to get right to work uh or graduate from college i said high school college and so she took a job as an intern for a couple summers over then took over as a man her manager in um her manager and then i think took maternity or for someone taking maternity leave um promoted for about every six months for a few years and then at 23 was a vice president running a 300 person call center and then moved on to our next thing um the owner died there wasn't as much of a succession plan decided it was a good time to try something else and move on so started her own practice and has been uh did that they're doing that for 34 years um and the nature of the work has changed but the practice is still holding strong so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast liz hi devin thanks so much absolutely so i just took a much longer journey and condensed it into a 30-second version of it so with that uh let's uh go and unpack that a bit more so take us back in time to graduating from college and how your journey got started there okay i really wanted to work unlike my friends who were going to grad school i just believed that work was where you could make things happen and i still believe that and so i went to this marketing agency as you were describing where i had worked as an intern previously over the summers and couldn't have paid for the education i got there it was a great example of if there's a gap and you want to fill it people will appreciate that so as you were describing when i was hired i was hired as an account executive but it turned out that the manager of a clerical department was on maternity leave when i started and so they threw me in there instead to act as interim manager and i had to learn how to deal with two dozen people who were more experienced than i was i didn't know their work they certainly weren't expecting me and it was a really fascinating experience to get them to trust me for me to trust them uh we learned a lot from each other their real boss was a screamer and i was not and the first staff meeting i held they started screaming about things that were bothering them and i told them i couldn't really hear them when they were screaming at me hard to tell what was going on they got adjusted to the idea that i was actually different from their boss and it was a fabulous lesson in how different your expectations can be and yet you can still learn to accommodate each other if you have good will so i kept finding things to do their boss came back i became an account executive and where there were problems in the organization or work not getting done i didn't like it i would take some of it on and i would get promoted every six months and as you said i was quite young probably too young too inexperienced to be responsible for so many people although that's what happened and you know at the time it i might have been their best shot so i didn't enjoy that job because it's very hard to get everything to come out right i didn't like going home at the end of the day feeling that so much was still undone and that there were still so many needs but i had several other jobs in that company and as you were describing the owner died pretty suddenly and with no succession plan and the widow brought in a new guy to run the place and it was going in a direction i didn't like and i ended up resigning but because i was well known in the industry within a week after i left consultants were subcontracting work to me and that's how i got started and i never stopped the work has shifted just one quick question on that so you know that makes sense you know management changes they are death of the owner you know somebody else comes in they have a different style have a different vision different direction which is all their prerogative and they come in and they have to do it according to how you know what makes sense to them but on the other hand it also shifts the culture and it becomes a place where you're saying this isn't the the same place that i enjoy working and it prompts that change so as you're kind of going through all you know that transition their business going to transition you're making coming to that realization how did you decide what you were going to do or you know if you're going to make an exit do i go work for someone else or start my own thing or kind of how did you land on what was the next step for you um it really was i'm going to say a kind of emotional decision on my part so this was a telemarketing agency and i worked there long enough ago the telemarketing was really a good and wonderful thing we did very high-end complex projects it was it was good work the fellow who came in and took over was a lovely person his approach to telemarketing however was what we now think of in many ways as bad telemarketing it was pretty commoditized and i was not comfortable with that kind of work i didn't feel it was good for consumers and i felt that strategically and by this point by the way i was executive vice president um strategically we were not going in a direction that would be successful for the business and the plan that i recommended he only half-heartedly accepted and i really didn't have confidence and at the time um it just seemed like the firm would actually be at risk and i didn't want to participate in that so i left without a real plan i figured i would figure it out so i had to assess my options i was actually pregnant at the time and the idea of interviewing for what would have been uh say a vice president of customer service in a bank or some other large company might have been a natural thing to do i wasn't going to relocate so though that would have been a reasonable option but the truth was that this was a pretty entrepreneurially behaving company until this more corporate guy came in and although i had always had somebody who was called my boss i operated pretty independently and i couldn't see going into a corporate hierarchy so i hadn't even really made plans yet i was so lucky people contacted me that i knew in the industry and said we have too much work do you want to do some of it so from that i saw not only that i could do the work that they had but that there were plenty of assignments to be had in the kind of consulting that i had had exposure to when i was in the agency and so it just seemed like a natural progression and i worked i had my son i kept working and i kept working had another kid kept working it's just been very very lucky i also work very hard and i know what i'm doing but i've got to say i was really lucky that people knew me i had a good reputation um some right time right place know the right folks you know and i think that makes sense i think it gives a good landing you know kind of a landing pad you're saying hey made the exit not exactly sure what i do but i have you know the connections the contacts i made we have people that are asking me you're telling me that you know there's work out there and would you want to do some of this that makes it an er you know natural transition to say sure i'll start doing that and start your own thing so that you'll have the ability to control you know your destiny so to speak or control your path while also having that income so now you do that and i think you've been doing it for 34 years is that right yeah um yeah this past december yeah so now my question would be is you know that's a natural place to start the business but i would assume out over 34 years you've grown and expanded and pivoted and adjusted and so you start out with that natural transition of you have people that are saying hey we got asking if you'd like to take on work and if they've got projects they'd like to pay you for now where did you take the business from there how did you grow it or pivot or adjust it what has changed the most i think looking back is the nature of the work as opposed to the size i mean it's still me and a part-time assistant um but the nature has changed so i started out doing the kind of telemarketing that i had learned in the agency um and consulting two companies that had some kind of telemarketing or inside sales call center but because the industry was going in a direction that i didn't care for my first shift was into customer service and so then i was consulting about that and that also expands the number of companies who might have needs so that was very helpful and then what i learned through the years in a variety of corporate call centers whatever goes wrong in an organization sooner or later affects the customer and if a customer has a complaint it's likely to come into the call center so i would learn a lot of things from what customers said and also from interviewing the representatives in these call centers i would learn what was going on in the company that wasn't working so well and in some of my clients organizations there would be a senior leader who wanted to hear that stuff of course there were some organizations that wanted me to limit my work to the call center that was totally fine it was what they hired me for but because in many organizations leaders want to know what could be better or recognized that i had access to information about problems either they were unaware of or weren't sure what to do about and so i would be involved in helping to solve non-call center problems and to work on non-call center projects so over time i've done everything from strategic planning workforce planning all kinds of organizational design and development and a lot of leadership development and really helping people figure out how to get the work done together when they've got different ideas about how it ought to get done so a lot of internal facilitation some kinds of mediation and development of people so that they could work better together oh that makes sense and you know sounds like things you know you figure out both things hey i don't like these things that are the way that it's done i think there's a better offer option the better path forward and then by the same token as you're figuring those things out you're able to assist and help others and it takes you here kind of helps you there to find the the path that you know that works best on all fronts and so definitely makes sense so that takes us a bit up to where you're at today now if you're gonna say okay been doing this you know 34 years and had those kind of wines and those you know adjustments and pivots along the way and you're saying now i'm looking a bit into the future kind of where you know things are headed or what's the next you know phase or part of the journey where do you kind of see the next six to 12 months going for you and and for the business it's really the same kind of work you know when kovid started there was a big pause companies weren't sure what to do what they needed couldn't be on the road anymore and there were many organizations that really didn't have the budget anymore and that seemed completely reasonable and fair to me it's very hard to be laying off staff and paying outsiders you know you want to hold on to your folks and take good care of them in difficult times so there were a few months in 2020 when it was really a little perplexing about what was going to happen next and you know thank heaven for zoom because so much of my work it's not like manufacturing even if i'm working with manufacturing people we can do it on video because it's dialogue so the work picked up and in many ways is now more interesting than ever distance is no issue although i will say in the next six to 12 months i'm so looking forward to going back on the road and seeing people again there is a real difference to being physically present at least i feel that way i'm an introvert but i miss my clients something awful it's really nice to be with them um but the work itself is still what the client needs so it's everything from planning a client's growth strategy to i work with a number of family businesses and succession planning is a big issue a lot of that going on and the kind of inter-departmental support just to have the work go smoothly have everything get done have people regard each other well right now in this period in some ways that's more important than ever because many employees know they have opportunities elsewhere there are enough open jobs now that good employees if they want to they can find something so it's really important for people to feel comfortable at work and a lot of my consulting and coaching has been lending itself to trying to keep people and making sure that everybody has a good sense of direction so there's job crafting involved sometimes and career development internally it's really varied and that's part of what i like so much one of the wonderful things about being on my own is the independence the flexibility and the variety i think that that uh that definitely makes sense and uh you know sounds like good opportunities to come in the future and you know be interesting i i tend to be the same way i think you know we do a ton on zoom and a lot of our clients are remote but there is a different you know for a lot of industries and for a lot of people they're saying hey you know that may work on a temporary basis or for some circumstances on the other hand hey i want to get back in front of people or be able to see people face to face and have that a bit more of interaction so as that continues to hopefully progress in that direction it'll be interesting to see how it continues to play out so well that was uh you know now as we've caught up or gone through a bit of your journey and also caught up to now where you're at today and a bit into the future great trying time to transition a bit into the the two questions i always ask at the end of each podcast or the end of each episode so on the first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what'd you learn from it i would say it has been not taking action quickly they're i've got two you know and there's they're interwoven it's not taking action quickly enough is definitely one you know you have a feeling about something that it's not so great and you watch it for a while sometimes it's hard to make a change when you need to make a change and i say that both in terms of employees and clients sometimes it's good to get out when things are not going the way that you feel they should um so that's one and the second one is i have not always paid enough attention to building a pipeline of business i love the business i've got i'd rather do that than anything i'd rather do that than the writing i should do i'd rather do that than you know the sales and business development i should do i just like the work itself so um when i've made errors it's usually because i've been too focused on today and not enough on what's next i like both of those i mean there are a couple things to hit on one is focusing on what you tend to do i mean i think that that one's always a balance and especially if you're a startup small business owner you always have things that you feel like you have to do or that you know that need to get done even though that may not be your area of passion or expertise and then there are areas that you can add value yourself and a lot of times the more you can offload those areas that you're not a passionate you don't enjoy you're really not adding the value that you can so that you can focus on the areas that are really you know specific to you and the things that you can really add the most value tends to be the the ones that uh are the most beneficial to the business and yet always much easier said than done on that front but i also like you know getting here getting here getting things started getting things done is another a great uh takeaway so second question i always ask is if you're talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or small business would be the one piece of advice you'd give them all my clients would say i have a lot of trouble giving one piece of advice so i so i'm going to give more than one i hope you can stand it devin i would say in addition to knowing what it is you want to do look at how other people either in your field or adjacent do it because you can learn as much from the good that they do i don't mean that in a moral way i mean what's effective as you can from the things that you disagree with and it's really useful to be able to thread your own path that's a little bit different from what everybody's doing but getting the benefit of what they've learned so understanding that and how it works i think that's an important lesson up front but then with that in mind asking your customers if what you do is working for them is important all the time and getting their feedback about what could work better for them what they're happy about or not so happy about helps you understand what to do next and that's been a very valuable thing for me that uh that definitely is a good uh good good takeaway to have and a great piece of advice for those that are getting it they're just getting started with the startup or business or looking to grow as well well as we wrap up the podcast if people want to reach out to you they want to you know be a customer they want to be a client they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you contact you find out more oh thank you um easiest is to go to my website that's wwe l-i-z-k-i-s-l-i-k and they can also find me of course on linkedin and on twitter and if it's useful to anybody in your audience devin i've got a free ebook on my website about the interpersonal aspects of conflict and how to deal with them and there's loads of material i've been writing weekly for more than 10 years loads of material about all kinds of organizational human dynamics departmental issues that might be helpful to people awesome well i definitely encourage people to check out all the above check out the website connect up with you on socials and then also you know anytime that you can get a a free ebook that gives you a direction helps you to become a better leader and a better business owner definitely worthwhile to check out well as we wrap up thank you again for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast we'd love to have you um just go to inventiveguest.com or doc inventive get in if i cannot get tongue tied inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the show a couple more things as listeners make sure to click subscribe make sure to click share and make sure to leave us a review so everybody can find out about all these awesome episodes and last but not least if you ever need help with patents trademarks or anything else your business just go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat well thank you again liz for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thanks so much devin great to be with you absolutely [Music]

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