We learned to focus on what matters and forget the rest — For me, with balancing running a business and kids, I quickly learned that I did not have time for everything. I had to figure out what was essential and what was a nice-to-have but not an important task. I removed time-fillers from my to-do list and focused on what was moving the needle. My business thrived by letting go and learning to say no.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of my series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Van Cuyk.
Jamie Van Cuyk, the owner and lead strategist of Growing Your Team, is an expert in hiring, building teams, and people management within small businesses.
Drawing from over ten years of leadership experience, Jamie teaches her clients how to hire and manage loyal contractors and employees. By learning the dynamics of each company and their needs, she helps her clients create, understand, and execute the right strategies so that they can find, manage, and retain their perfect-fit team members.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I always knew that I wanted to run my own business, but I wasn’t sure what type of business I wanted to own. So, I decided to start a corporate career and to learn everything I could while working for someone else.
In 2016, I decided that it was time. I left my corporate leadership career to start a business with my husband. Our vision was to run a software development company where he, a software engineer, would run the tech side, and I would run the company overall. Six months into that journey, I realized running a software company was not my passion. I didn’t leave a career I loved to run a company I hated just to call myself a business owner.
During that time, I was doing consulting work for the corporation that I left. Through those projects, I learned that I loved consulting work and helping newer managers step into their leadership role.
At the same time, I was attending many local networking events. I kept finding myself talking to small business owners. They would tell me, “I never had to hire or lead a team until doing so within my own business,” or “While I did have a team when I was in corporate, I didn’t realize how much support I had during that time until I was navigating hiring and managing a team on my own.”
Through those conversations, I learned that small business owners needed and wanted help navigating hiring and managing their first teams. From there, Growing Your Team was born, and I have been helping small business owners find and lead the team members they need for success ever since.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
Last fall, I attended a local business workshop. As an activity, the presenter told us to turn to the person next to us, introduce ourselves and our businesses, and tell them one business accomplishment from that year.
My activity partner, who I had never met, went first. The accomplishment that he shared was how, after five years in business and many bad hires, they finally have a reliable and solid team.
Then, it was my turn. I introduced myself and shared how my business helps small business owners through the process of hiring and building their first teams, so they don’t have to suffer through a series of bad hires and management mistakes.
We had a good laugh about the coincidence of what he shared compared to what my business does.
I was so glad that he went first because he said that he would not have shared that accomplishment if he knew my area of expertise. I told him that I was glad he went first because it reminded me that my business offers a much-needed service, and we talked about how his struggle to learn how to find good team members was not unique.
Too often, we get stuck in the day-to-day activities of running a business, and one little conversation with an outsider can put our why into perspective.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
At this time, I’m getting ready to launch a new membership program. The program is designed to offer small business owners on-demand, online training, paired with expert access. This will allow them to improve their hiring and leadership skills at their own pace while still being able to ask an expert their questions.
The membership will serve the business owners who don’t need full one-on-one hiring or managing strategic help but still want the ability to ask their questions and get support as they navigate hiring or leading their first or growing teams.
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 about that?
100%, hands down, I would have to say my husband. He has been my support and the first person to tell me to keep going when I have faced challenges.
When I told him that I was thinking about quitting my job and learning how to code, so I could help build applications until we could hire someone, he told me to do it and set me coding resources.
When I told him that I no longer wanted to continue with the software development company but I wasn’t ready to go back to corporate yet, he told me to take my time figuring out a new business idea.
When early on my business didn’t hit a self-imposed revenue goal and I debated getting a part-time job to make up the gap, he told me just to keep focusing on my business instead of splitting my time.
Just recently, when I was sharing about hitting a business milestone like it was no big deal, he was the one that reminded me that it was a big deal; that I needed to slow down and see what I was accomplishing and not just move on to the next goal.
He reminds me to celebrate my wins, and I know that those wins would not be possible without the encouragement he gives.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
The biggest family-related challenge was having the kids home full-time and having to guide them step-by-step through their education.
While the teachers put together an excellent curriculum, it took hours to go through each day. At first, we imagined setting the kids up at a table in our home office and having them complete their assignments as we continued to work.
However, with the kids being in preschool and first grade, they needed help and direction throughout it all. As soon as you would set the one up to watch a video or do an activity, the other would be ready for their next direction. We quickly learned that no business work could be completed while you were actively helping the kids get through their school work.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
With my husband and I both working from home and having jobs where we could have control over our schedules, we decided to split the responsibility of virtual teaching.
One day, I would block my work calendar until noon and spend all morning with the kids. The next day, he would do the same. We swapped day-by-day until the end of the school year.
I also had to learn to let go. At first, I wanted to lead the days when my husband was teaching and make sure the kids did all their assignments. I would even double-check all the worksheets before they were sent to the teacher. Finally, I said enough was enough. I needed to trust that my husband was doing what needed and that I didn’t need to be involved.
Giving up the control was hard, but so needed.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
My biggest work-related challenge was seeing leads starting to dry up. As a business that helps small businesses with hiring and managing teams, I saw clients and leads having the put their hiring plans on hold and even having to let go of staff.
I started to wonder how my business was going to survive when my target audience was suffering. I had just had my best month in business to date, but it was hard to see a way where that could continue during the pandemic.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
It took a conversation with a business owner to realize that while a lot of businesses were hurting, select industries were thriving during the shutdowns. I learned that companies were still hiring, and I needed to focus on those industries.
I decided to do two things. First, I offered support to my clients who were thinking about having to make tough decisions. We made sure they were not making decisions out of fear but making data-based decisions.
Second, I kept marketing my services. I didn’t hold back because even though some businesses were hurting, other companies needed my help. I was able to get in front of the right people, and my business continued to grow.
As a result, I doubled my 2016 sale revenue by the end of June.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Use your resources. If you have a partner, don’t feel like all of the family needs should be balancing on your shoulders.
Split the homeschooling, share the cooking, and partner with the cleaning. If they get kids-free time to work, whether in the home or out of the house, make sure you also get kid-free time to work.
You don’t have to do it all. Your household is a team.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
Step away from the computer and spend time as a family.
It’s far too easy to let work take all your time when you’re not leaving the house. And, it’s also easy to start seeing your family as a distraction that makes it so you have to work 24/7 to get through your to-do list.
Schedule in breaks. Take a lunch break and eat lunch with the kids. Go on a late morning walk after jumping off a client call. Play a quick board game in the afternoon between working on project deliverables.
By taking intentional time with your kids, it will help you realize that there is enough time in the day to do everything that is needed. Sometimes the number one reason your kids are a distraction is that they want your attention, so purposely give it to them.
Also, by stepping away from work every few hours, it will help you with your mental focus.
Create a new norm in your family — times are different, so don’t try to keep everything the same.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Bonding with family — this summer, seeing we couldn’t stick to our usual summer schedule, we spent more time together focusing on the little things with each other. We play games after dinner, watch more movies together, and simply enjoy each other’s company instead of running around from one thing to another.
- Getting back to nature — Not being able to stick to our previous summer travel plans, we made trips that brought us closer to nature. We spent over three weeks in the Finger Lakes area of New York, where we would take the boat out or go on a hike during a long lunch break. We learned to enjoy the beauty that was around us.
- Businesses are shifting — While not possible for all, more companies are taking the time to learn how to offer their products or services in a virtual environment. The pivots showed that as entrepreneurs, we could take challenges head-on and come out right where we need to be.
- Communities came together — In the business community, I saw many groups come out in full support mode. Conversations were being had daily to help each other overcome a new challenge, learn how to adapt to the new environment, or be the shoulder of comfort when tough decisions had to be made. In many ways, my local Tampa Bay business community became closer, and many groups have no plans to end that level of support.
- We learned to focus on what matters and forget the rest — For me, with balancing running a business and kids, I quickly learned that I did not have time for everything. I had to figure out what was essential and what was a nice-to-have but not an important task. I removed time-fillers from my to-do list and focused on what was moving the needle. My business thrived by letting go and learning to say no.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
One of the best ways to support family and loved ones who are feeling anxious is to let them talk and truly listen. With so much unknows right now, know that it’s going to be hard to change people’s opinions. Therefore, don’t go into a conversation to change their mind and have them become comfortable with everything going on around them.
Instead, let them talk and be a good listener. You might find ways that you can offer more support, or you might be able to ease their anxiety just by letting them get their feelings out in the open.
Everyone has different points of view and different experiences. The more we let people feel heard, the more they will feel supported and know that they are not in everything alone.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Brene Brown
I am an introvert, and sometimes it’s hard for me to put myself out there. But then I remember that I cannot wait for someone else to put me in the spotlight. I have to take the actions to get myself there if that’s where I want to be.
In 2019, I challenged myself to make visibility my goal of the year. I started the year with very few people knowing my business and what I do. By the end of the year, the tides had changed. I landed my first conference speaking gigs, was on several podcasts and two different radio shows, and more. Also, by the end of the year, every time I walked into a business networking event, someone would tell me that they saw my business posts all over their social media feeds and that they loved the content I was putting out there.
While my audience might still not be a large one, I found the courage to show up and be seen so I could move my business in the direction I wanted.
How can our readers follow you online?
Website — https://growingyourteam.com
Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/GrowingYourTeam/
Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/growingyourteam/
LinkedIn — www.linkedin.com/in/jamievancuyk
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!