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Kelley Higney Of Bug Bite Thing: How To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results

There is no perfect clone of you but you can absolutely take the time to coach and train your employees so they understand your needs and goals. Investing the time to do this will pay off in the long run.

As part of my series about the “How To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelley Higney.

Kelley Higney is the founder and CEO of Bug Bite Thing, the chemical-free, reusable insect bite relief suction tool that is Amazon’s #1 selling insect bite treatment, with over 40,000 reviews. Kelley is a member of Fast Company Executive Board and Forbes Business Council, the recipient of many awards and was named ‘Female Entrepreneur of the Year’ by the 2021 Stevie Awards for Women in Business.

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?

As early as I can remember, I was helping out with our family business. Whether it was attending trade shows in Las Vegas as a family or answering the phone at the office, I was always in the mix. I grew up observing two amazing female entrepreneurs — my mother and my grandmother!

While working for the family business, my family moved from California to Florida. One sunny state to another — with one big distinction. No one warned us about the mosquitos! That’s how my journey with Bug Bite Thing began.

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?

In the beginning all I heard was “no” and “can’t.” “You can’t start a business with only a one SKU item.” “No retailer is going to buy a one SKU item, they want a line of products under the brand name.” But my customers were telling me YES, they wanted Bug Bite Thing. So I listened to the consumer — I still do. There was a demand for the product and not another viable chemical free option. It became clear that I just needed to educate people that a chemical-free option existed.

My belief in the product has always been my driving force, I’m my first and biggest customer! That’s because Bug Bite Thing started out of necessity. My daughter suffers from severe reactions to bites, enduring days of painful swelling and itching. So the move to Florida hit my family hard. Bug Bite Thing is a game changer for us. How could I not share this with other families who were also suffering?

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?

When I started Bug Bite Thing, I was running the business out of my garage. I didn’t have any employees yet, so I was doing everything myself, which included fulfilling and shipping customers’ orders. My online business started growing fast and the boxes to ship were stacking up. Let’s just say I was on a first name basis with my mail carriers and I kept snacks and drinks readily available to thank them. They were doing their normal route and then making a second trip just for me because my boxes filled up the whole truck! So don’t underestimate your potential growth. It’s possible you might find yourself running a full scale business out of a residential neighborhood. And absolutely make sure to thank those supporting you along the way — in this case my amazing mail carriers.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Bug Bite Thing is built off of our customers. Consumers drove the demand for the product. We were getting positive review after positive review — because it works! And then the retailers started coming to us. We didn’t know it at the time, but it doesn’t always happen that way.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

It’s important to take a step back and look at the big picture. If you are frustrated by your lack of progress, STOP and look back at what the issue is. Maybe it’s an employee in the wrong role, workflow, or an overall strategy. It’s ok to pivot if things aren’t working. The worst thing you can do is get stuck on a hamster wheel wondering why things aren’t improving. You can’t make changes that way.

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?

My mother, who is a successful entrepreneur herself. She is an incredible role model and an example of how women are powerful leaders. My mom taught me to think outside of the box at a young age and to make every situation a win-win-win. Both of these skills have helped me get where I am today.

And in the early stages of starting Bug Bite Thing, her 35 + years of experience was vital in helping me make important business decisions, like deciding how much inventory to take on and communicating and negotiating directly with the factories.

Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?

There is a mentality that as a founder you must be a jack of all trades. While this may be true in the beginning, you will never be able to build a sustainable business by doing all the work yourself. If you don’t learn to delegate you will burn out.

It is so key to take a look at your weaknesses and delegate those tasks to employees that possess those strengths.

There is no perfect clone of you but you can absolutely take the time to coach and train your employees so they understand your needs and goals. Investing the time to do this will pay off in the long run.

In your opinion, what pivots need to be made, either in perspective or in work habits, to help alleviate some of the challenges you mentioned?

If you find that your employees are not able to complete the tasks you’ve delegated to them, it’s time to put yourself in their shoes. When did the miscommunication occur? Is there something in your workflow process that is causing them to hit a roadblock?

And of course, make sure you and your employees are on the same page. Establish an open dialog in meetings and encourage them to ask questions and address issues — be accessible. It is vital that your employees are comfortable raising an issue if they aren’t sure how to execute a project instead of just guessing. Collaboration is key.

Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Know To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results?” Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Once you surpass the initial startup phase, begin building a team that you trust. You’re only one person, you can’t be everywhere. It’s time to create a team.
  2. Delegate work to the right people. Don’t make the mistake of delegating your work to someone who lacks experience in that area and expect to be happy with the results. It’s important to identify the strengths of your team members.
  3. Identify your areas of strengths and weaknesses. Equally important, it is essential to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Again, you do not need to be — nor should you be — doing everything. Do a self assessment and start delegating projects.
  4. Hire employees with an entrepreneurial spirit. You’ve got a vision — having employees that see it is crucial. Their personal investment in the company means they will approach their work with a sense of responsibility and ownership.
  5. Invest in Your Employees. Eagerness to learn often outweighs experience. We offer our employees the opportunity to take online classes and encourage them to grow professionally. We want them to be part of the Bug Bite Family for the long haul.

One of the obstacles to proper delegating is the oft quoted cliche “If you want something done right do it yourself.” Is this saying true? Is it false? Is there a way to reconcile it with the importance of delegating?

False. If you can build a team you trust with your vision, you shouldn’t have to do it yourself. The key is to take the time to teach your employees how you want projects executed so you will be happy with the results.

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. :-)

Educate yourself about the chemicals that are in the products that you use on and feed your children. In the U.S. there are fewer bans on chemicals compared to other parts of the world. I have two young girls and I am constantly trying to educate myself on the topic. Bug Bite Thing is also active in Cancer Free Economy Network, which is a great resource for data and information on this topic.

How can our readers further follow you online?

@KelleyHigneyCEO on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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