Focus on Process — Process creates the expectations for your team, saves money on time that would’ve been wasted on mistakes, and creates standards for quality. All of this creates overall business value and more cashflow. As mentioned before, having no processes leads to human error. A $12k mistake in my case. Process is also something that is evaluated heavily if you are trying to sell your business. Can you hand over the keys and it would still be business as usual?
As part of my series about “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Candie Guay.
In 2010, Candie Guay co-founded Envida Social and the multifamily payment portal, Henri. Fast forward 10 years later, and both Envida and Henri’s award-winning reputations are responsible for successfully growing the industry’s digital marketing presence, as well as managing payment processing for over 400 top U.S and Spanish real estate management companies and publicly traded REITs.
Candie’s work has been featured on Page 6, The Huffington Post, CBS and ABC News. Additionally, you can watch her share her insights as the social media correspondent on the national television show, The List. Most recently, Arizona State University awarded her #7 on the Most Innovative Alumni. Also, in 2020, Envida was honored to be included in Inc. Magazine’s 5000 List for Top Places to Work.
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?
My business partner and I began as young entrepreneurs with a college lifestyle magazine at age 21. About 4 years into the ride, we started to notice a shift in the print industry. We made the decision to take our advertisers and pitch them to move into a more innovative, new marketing strategy which was social media. This was something not a lot of companies were doing at the time. Being at the forefront of a new industry was a real hustle, but I believed in it. I then got my online street cred from being a Tweet gal. I was a digital ghostwriter for the author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki, and other notable motivational authors.
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?
The first 2 to 3 years of our social media business were a struggle. It was an uphill battle explaining why people needed to use this new platform as a way to market and brand themselves. Also, being a young female made it hard to initially create credibility. The reason there was never a day I wanted to give up was because I believed in the product and what we were doing. I knew how it could change the world of gatekeeping content and media. I was honest about what I knew worked and what I knew was a flop for the companies we marketed for. Seeing this industry evolve over the last 15 years has been exciting, validating and I now feel like the old lady at the party.
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?
A $12,000 mistake. This was during a time when we weren’t making that amount over a few months. Our team left a Google ad budget running for 3 months after the client was no longer running ads. It hurt, but it was a lesson in process and procedures. After this mistake, we began building internal checks and balances as well as templates to on and off-board clients. These are now some of the best foundational building blocks of our company. It was a major mistake well worth it.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our company stands out with our ability to react and adjust quickly to industry changes. This was built upon hiring the right people with that same mindset and ability. For example, when Facebook shuts down for a day or more (happened twice this past year), our team has had to toss their planned day to the side and manage the chaos of thousands of posts that will not go out to the world. The stress of platform changes and government standards can also push a social media company into a tailspin. Hiring based on culture fit has in turned into Envida’s standout attribute.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
What’s always helped me not burnout over the last 10 years has been to not run on autopilot. I always have goals set for the month or two ahead to ensure I celebrate the small wins. I also recommend creating teams for projects that seem overwhelming or that you may not have as much time to execute. Then, make sure to reward the people that help you accomplish those projects that could have ended up in burnout. Do I have to say it?! Teamwork makes that dream work.
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?
Sometimes people see your potential before you see it. Ken McElroy, a well-known real estate author and speaker, was that client and mentor for me. He was a person that pushed me to see my potential and the person who said, “You’ve got to celebrate the small wins in life.” After Envida was a few years into business, I remember him saying, “See, its easy right?” I always laughed at him, but I understand what he meant. It’s easy because if you are doing what you love, that’s the easiest life.
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?
A good company and a great company, in my book, both turn a profit. The real difference is that a good company is a company that conducts “business” but builds little excitement and implements little innovation for their employees and customers. A great company excels at growing people, creating innovation within the industry it specializes in and can successfully pivot when needed.
How do you decide if you are a good company or a great one? Ask yourself a few questions:
#1. Does my team feel like they have learned, grown and been able make a difference over their time at the company? If you aren’t sure, ask them!
#2. Are you the leader in your niche or industry? If not, what are the standout attributes you can use to leverage to be the best?
#3. Have I weathered a storm? Could I do it with the people, processes and product I currently have? If not, it’s time to make some changes in your organization… ASAP.
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.
- Know Your Numbers — How much does every product or service cost you to produce? About 4 years ago, I realized I hadn’t run our internal overhead numbers in a very long time. Although our team was growing and we seemed profitable, I couldn’t tell you how much each social media or branding campaign cost us to produce. After spending a week evaluating, I came to a bleak discovery, we were losing money on half of our services, the ones I thought were our bread and butter. We had also over hired and made some bad choices on what we thought customers wanted. Our management team acted fast to clean up, eliminate and highlight our most profitable services. We also had to change some positions and eliminate others. The following 12 months after these changes, we had the most profitable, streamlined year we have ever had.
- Cut The Crap — It’s that simple and you have to be honest with yourself. You are not good at everything, no one is. Are you holding your team back by not being able to admit you aren’t good at something? It may take you longer or it may not be up to par. Identify those attributes in yourself and delegate them out or hire someone that is great at it. I had a come to Jesus moment with myself a few years back. I am a creative, I am not good at spreadsheets. Help! That’s exactly what I did. I found help and dropped the ego.
- A Happy Team, Creates Happy — Clients will see it and so will potential talent who will in turn be more likely to work with you. I spend a lot of team thinking about my team’s happiness levels. It’s kind of like that saying, “Happy wife, happy life.” Spend time, money, and energy on good people. What do they need to be at their happiest at work? People are the pulse of your brand and who your clients hear from each and every day. Great people produce positive energy, and that combination produces positive results.
- Focus on Process — Process creates the expectations for your team, saves money on time that would’ve been wasted on mistakes, and creates standards for quality. All of this creates overall business value and more cashflow. As mentioned before, having no processes leads to human error. A $12k mistake in my case. Process is also something that is evaluated heavily if you are trying to sell your business. Can you hand over the keys and it would still be business as usual?
- Identify Your Suck — If something isn’t making you money or creating value, don’t do it. That also goes for clients. Is there a client that takes up all of your time and energy, only to create no values for your team? Time to identify those accounts and move on quickly. Is there a service or product that takes you too much time to create and don’t make you money? Eliminate it. Evaluate your company and client/customer list every 6 months to instantly make you lighter, leaner and less sucky.
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?
There are many reasons to have a purpose driven business model. The biggest reason is that it creates a sense of loyalty to the business when people are working somewhere longer than a year. Most people can work anywhere, even a job they hate, for about a year without a hesitation. This is what I like to say is the honeymoon period for an employee. After that, their reasonings need to be bigger and more profound for longevity. One of these reasons could be aligning themselves with a company they believe at the core is founded on good principles as well as a company that matches their core value to create good in the world. Every year, our team picks one charity to provide our services to as well as donate time and resources. Giving back is one of Envida’s core values, which has created a sense of purpose for the team.
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”?
My best advice to restart a business leader’s engine is to rally the troops and create accountability. Sometimes being a leader feels a bit lonely. If you can create the energy around growth or around change with multiple people, you will always have a higher success rate. Get a goal set with your team for the next week, month and year, then make sure to hold each other accountable for tasks, wins and losses. If only I could apply this same theory to my workout schedule. Hey, you have to know your limits!
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?
To really know where you should focus in challenging times, you must know your industry and your target market better than anyone. I always start by creating a S.W.O.T. analysis of my business. This is where you list out your strength, weakness, opportunities, and threats. I do this with a group of people for the brainpower. After completing the analysis, it should help kickstart ideas for new marketing and sales strategies as well as identify where you may have overlooked an opportunity in the marketplace. You may even realize you need to pivot into a new space. These are all things that have helped me overcome hard times in my businesses.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
The most underestimated aspect of running a company is making sure you are getting the right people on the bus and the wrong ones off quickly. The importance of hiring the right people is a real talent and should not be taken lightly. The hiring manager position is someone that can increase your bottom line if they are awesome at it, but also someone who will mold your culture for better or worse. I once hired a person to fill this hiring role, who I thought was a unicorn. Turns out she was a great actor with bad intentions who left our team feeling uneasy. She’s also been dishonest which led to people leaving left and right.
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?
The 3 Ts are how I increase conversions — tracking, targeting, and trial. In order to increase your conversion rate, you first must make sure all of your current efforts are being tracked correctly to your website. If you aren’t tracking with detail all efforts, you are wasting your money. I repeat…. wasting your money! You need to create promo codes, track URL links, pixels, or unique landing pages for ads or any marketing efforts depending on what you are tracking. Making sure your target audience is on-point will instantly up your conversions. If you haven’t performed a S.W.O.T analysis for your business, that is a must. Once you identify what is or is not working from your tracking and your target marketing efforts, move quickly to add to or adjust what is working and what is a flop. This is the final step of the Ts process — trial and error. Rinse and repeat if you will. Although it takes time, remember A/B testing all efforts with different targeting and creative is the only way to figure out a solid conversion ecosystem.
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?
A mentor of mine would always say, “You must connect to the hearts and minds of people to create loyal brand ambassadors.” Finding a way spark emotion in a person, creates a loyal bond to a brand that makes them want to fully align with you. This is what major brands like Apple and Tesla have done to create loyalty. For example, Tesla’s raving fans connect on a level of true alignment to their core and how they want people to view them — techy, early adaptors, and environmentally aware.
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?
WOW customer service is generated by showing you care and finding a way to show creativity with your clients and customers. Sometimes you have to “fall on the sword” when something is your fault. Let your customer know you understand, then tell them what will change on your end to fix it for the future. Taking that extra step that they would say really helped them feel valued. Being creative to standout creates that WOW factor. One thing my Envida Social team does is we decided to celebrate Joy in July for our clients instead of at the normal holiday time. We send our clients a fun thank you gift to spark a smile and a sense of appreciation randomly mid-year and remind them we truly value their business.
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?
The most common mistake CEOs and founders make is starting a business too fast without the proper foundations in place. These foundations are the 3 Ps — people, process, and product. Simplified, know what type of personalities you need on your team before you hire, aim to have some process in place for structure, and know your costs to produce your product. When any are skipped over, it becomes a Band-Aid game to repair when they rear their ugly head… and they will.
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. :-)
A spark I would like to trigger in the world is encouraging leaders to do small things daily to create a happier team, that in turn, creates a happier work environment and a happier world around us. I have a note on my computer that says, “Who’s day can I make better today?” This simple reminder sets the tone for my day as well as helps pull me back to my greater good when I’m ready to pull my hair out from a rude email. Cheesy, I know, but it can help you feel more fulfilled by helping others.
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!