Innovator Insights: Founder of Artemis Connection, Inc., Seattle’s Christy Johnson @christymjohnson
Christy Johnson’s career has led her from the classroom (she was a High School math, economics and history teacher) to starting her own venture, Artemis Connection, a strategy firm that creates innovations through holistic solutions, using data and design thinking. She’s out to innovate the workplace, by showing that treating people well, leads to better bottom line results. As a driven founder and the mother of three, Christy considers her company “a learning lab” for people who want to “work hard and have a life outside of work”. Christy is also a member of Dreamers // Doers, a highly curated community of high-achieving trailblazing women who come together to support each other on their entrepreneurial paths. The community encompasses a diverse mix of female founders, women working at startups, and other female creators, change-makers, and influencers.
Me: Why are you an entrepreneur?
Christy: I’m an entrepreneur because I became absolutely obsessed with the fact there were amazing and competent people wanting to work but they were either underemployed or unemployed due to the way traditional work environments are structured. This was a problem in my life, and many other caregiver’s lives, and I wanted to solve it. Specifically, I wanted to continue doing what I love — helping organizations strategize, innovate, and grow — but in a way that fit with my lifestyle as a working parent. When I had my twin boys 2+ years ago, caring for two preemies — in addition to my older daughter — made me realize that my previous lifestyle of working as a management consultant and at other low-flexibility jobs wasn’t working. As a working mom I’d been able to make it work because of great bosses who let me have flexibility as long as I delivered results. When my boss left while I was on maternity leave I realized how dependent the work environment is on the relationship with one leader. I also knew many other parents and caregivers who were in a similar bind, many of them former consultants. Hence, the idea for my company, Artemis Connection — a consultancy that both focuses on strategic solutions, with data and design thinking, plus provides a flexible working model for our own talent — was born. We are determined to prove that treating people well will lead to more innovation, more productivity and better business results.
Me: What problem would you like solved?
Christy: I want companies to innovate in their approaches to talent, to help their employees become more engaged, creative and productive at work — which not only makes employees more fulfilled but also makes employers more profitable. I also want to build a firm that “practices what it preaches,” so at Artemis we’re continually experimenting and evolving our approaches to our own employees. We’ve done everything from hiring contractors to letting employees craft their own job descriptions to offering unlimited paid time off to paid maternity / paternity leave.
Me: Advice you’d wished you’d had or had followed?
Christy: Move quickly on people decisions. At various points in my career, including in my work at Artemis Connection, I’ve taken too long to hire someone or too long to ask someone to leave. But, as soon as I’ve hired “A players,” my own job became much easier, and as soon as I’ve let people go, the rest of the team dynamics improved. Most of the time it is just a fit issue so I’ve been getting granular on what our culture is, what types of team members we want, etc so people know what they are getting.
I see clients struggle with this all the time and I have to role model what I’m telling my clients to do. That holds true for clients as well. We now have a rigorous vetting process for clients that ensure they are data driven and are willing to actually do something, no matter how small, to improve their company.
Me: What does success look like for you?
Christy: A team of talent innovators who are fulfilled and productive at work and outside of work, and who also help clients innovate so that their own employees are happy and productive at work. Basically, a revolution in workforce fulfilment and productivity.
Me: Who are your heroes?
Christy: The executives we work with. People are wonderful, complex beings and the leaders we find who are willing to challenge the status quo, who truly believe talent is a strategic action and who are willing to align their actions and strategies with that belief are truly heroic. Especially when there is investor pressure to minimize labor spend. They have to answer to investors, which is not easy. And my kids. Their curiosity, optimism, and joy raise the bar for my own approach to life. They inspire me every single day and I want them to bring all of themselves to the work environment and to the world.
Me: What is your best discovery?
Christy: That as an entrepreneur, and as a working parent, it’s critical to monitor and manage my energy levels. I’m no good to anyone — employees, clients, or family members — if I’m burned out. So, I make it a priority to take care of my health through sleep and exercise, plus ensure that I carve out a little time just for me. (I’m a big fan of biweekly massages!) I’ve also had to be very attuned to my own physical and emotional state and keep that balanced. I don’t sleep great while traveling and if I’ve had multiple days on the road, I feel my thinking get fuzzy and my patience diminish. We’ve discovered that there actually is a lot you can do with zoom video conferences, proactive communications and intentional in person conversations.
Me: What would the title of your biography be?
Christy: A Full Life: Tales of doing important work at home and outside of the home
Me: What is your biggest regret?
Christy: That I spent my 20s stressing about my career and mapping out grad school, work post grad school, etc so I could be set to have kids. The journey ended up much different than I expected but in the end I ended up with the job and family I was meant to have. All of my stressing was just wasted energy.
Me: Anything else we should know about (product launch, crowdfunding or marketing campaign, recent interview, job openings..)?
Christy: We’re always looking for innovative companies who want to work with us on their talent needs, and we’re also always looking for talented consultants who want to help companies find innovative talent solutions. When I was determining our direction, I reached out to 40ish new execs / week and of that outreach, approximately 2 of the execs have the vision we do and are also brave and creative enough to work with us. We have good results and would love to enroll more companies in the small pilot we’re launching in Q2. Reach out to me at Christy@artemisconnection or via our website if you want to learn more.