"How we contribute now and how we can continue to contribute shapes our future. So let's not sit back and let someone else decide that for us. Let's make our choices now and make the new normal."
We're joined this week by Sarah Wood, business management consultant and founder of The Good Talk and Supply Connector (and former VP of Operations at Industry Nine). Sarah shares the process behind founding her COVID-19 relief platform, how communication is shifting in this new normal, and the ways we can adapt and be nimble during these changes. Sarah drops some operations knowledge on this one!
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Ep 5.5 Transcript
Iris: Hey, Lisa.
Lisa: Hey Iris.
Iris: What's the weather like all the way over there in Whitefish?
Lisa: Yeah. Iris and I live probably 40 minutes apart and it's just dreary and rainy over here today.
Iris: Yeah, it's... looking out my window. It's like I'm in a giant cloud.
Lisa: Yeah, it's just pouring rain.
Iris: So it's spring time!
Lisa: Yeah. Spring in Montana. We have a great guest on the podcast today, and, uh, we'll get to that in a second. But first, you know, let's do a couple minutes talking about what we've learned about ourselves or about working at a creative agency during this time where we've been working from home instead of in an office.
Iris: Yeah. Lisa, what have you learned about yourself sitting at home in the woods?
Lisa: I love this. I love it so much. Um, I love not going to an office. I miss you guys. I miss seeing you in person, but I have really enjoyed the space to think deeply and, um, really, really tackle bigger topics. I've been reading like crazy, I’ve been riding my bike. I've been doing a lot of sit ups and pushups. Like I'm having… I'm having a great time in the woods.
Iris: I'm so glad.
Iris: I don't love it. [laughs]
Lisa: You don't love it?
Iris: I don't love it.
Lisa: What have you learned?
Iris: Um, I've learned that I definitely am an extrovert and I get energy from being around people and talking to people all day. So I find it much more draining to be like working by myself, just staring out the window, talking to my plants and no one else.
Um, so I've come to rely on our morning meetings and our chats and just taking lots of breaks and all the, all the little tricks to keep myself productive during the day, instead of just moving over to my couch and taking a nap.
Lisa: I do find I absolutely love interacting with our crew. When we jump into video chats I'm so excited to talk to everyone because everyone is so funny.
Iris: Yeah. [laughs]
Lisa: It's how I feel about our clients too.
Iris: For sure.
Lisa: I've been getting into fine art again, and just creating for the sake of creating, that's been feeling really good. Um. Not doing commercial work, but having more time to like create. I'm like, Oh, I'm going to turn this room into an art studio, and it's like, no, I'll just go out onto the porch and work out there.
Iris: Yeah. Yeah I've been like journaling all of a sudden, which I've never been able to do before, but now I've gotten into it.
Lisa: It's awesome. Who's on the podcast today, Iris?
Iris: Today we have the lovely Sarah Wood.
Lisa: I love Sarah Wood. She is someone I met as a work acquaintance who became a friend. I think she's a friend of everyone, and she is just a magical human being.
Sarah was the operations director at Industry Nine for many years. Um, so we met her working with Industry Nine, and now she's branched out on her own. Um, she owns The Good Talk, which is TheGood Talk.biz. Uh, it's a business management firm where she helps business owners and companies, uh, become effective and streamline their processes. And, um. She's so level headed and chill and a really good mountain biker. She's a wonderful human.
Iris: Yeah. And she also, during this time of coronavirus, she founded Supply Connector, and it is an online platform for…
Lisa: It's a directory designed to connect people who can supply material- companies who can supply materials and manufacturer-finished goods with those who need them the most.
Iris: Yep. So face masks, face shields, um, tons of PPE. Um, she is- has built this platform to connect hospitals and doctor's offices and essential workers with the people who have supplies or finished goods and, um, getting those out so they can get to the people who need them.
Lisa: Sarah has an amazing work ethic, and she shares those beliefs in the podcast too, and I love them.
Iris: Well, without any further ado, let's get to Sarah
Lisa: Sarah Wood. Thank you so much for being here today.
Sarah: Thanks for having me!
Lisa: Um, I'm very excited to be talking to you. I'm also so curious to the answer that we asked the very first... The first question we ask every guest, which is, where are you and what are you looking at?
Sarah: Oh, that's a great question. Well, right now I am in my living room in Brevard, North Carolina, and I'm looking at the new view that I have after we took down a very sad looking tree yesterday. So, um, it's quite nice and it's about to start raining. So it's really kind of, you know, that springtime feels right now.
Lisa: Um, and also we had to cancel our trip.
Sarah: [laughs] No, when was that? Was that like forever ago? It feels like forever ago.
Lisa: I think that was in March. We were supposed to go to Whistler. We were all lined up, um, for our backcountry, backcountry trip.
Sarah: Epic snow year.
Lisa: Yeah. I think we would still be there. Stuck in Canada.
Sarah: [laughs] That wouldn't have been the worst thing.
Lisa: No. You know? But it's so funny to see how the world has evolved because we were on the phone like, should we go? Should we not go? I was like, uh… and now look at it.
Sarah: Yeah. Well, and I think hindsight, right? Like we can say we made the right decision for a lot of reasons, but at the same time, it's like, wow, we were right... we had to make that decision right when every piece of shit was hitting the fan. Like every piece of it was hitting right then and we were like, Whoa, is this for real? I guess it's for real. And then, and that like two days later, like, yeah, this is, we can't do this. We can't go, like, this is reality.
Sarah: It was, it was crazy.
Lisa: Yeah. It was such an intro to, um, what happened, but yeah - or what is happening. So meanwhile, um, for our audience, do you want to talk about what you've got going on with The Good Talk and how that has changed and evolved and grown with this global pandemic?
Sarah: Yeah. So, um, I was working as VP of operations for Industry Nine, which is a high end cycling component manufacturer here in North Carolina. And I decided to leave, um, mid last year. So kind of had a long leeway, of kind of wrapping up some loose ends through the end of 2019 and decided to start a consulting business doing business management, everything from, um, organizational design to leadership training, to, um, project management and everything in between - operations, process, et cetera. And umm. You know, it's kind of an interesting time to start a new business in 2020. And, um, luckily I had enough of a kind of runway to get some great contracts. Um. On, you know, for the company before the pandemic hit. And I'm, I'm still luckily working with a lot of those clients and unfortunately had a few fall off because of the circumstances. Um, but it's been a really interesting way to apply this new head space that I'm in, um, from being a day to day operations person at a, you know, manufacturing company working amongst a team of 40, uh, to, you know, almost 50, I guess, um, to now being... in my living room by myself working with, you know, a lot of people over video chat for, uh, the last several months. Um, but yeah, quite a change, but also one that I welcomed and one that, um, you know, has been exciting. And, and, um, amongst all the tragedy, uh, I think, trying to live in those little silver linings. And one of them is opportunity, you know, and how I can apply my skills to help companies right now and help people with their strategic planning and... and some, some new platforms. Mmm. And that's been kind of a... a great stretch for me in terms of pulling from my past and my networks from the past and how I can pull these pieces together, and that's been really rewarding so far.
Lisa: Yeah. I think of you as like an operations director on steroids, you know, cause you’re just like, here's what's up, here's what's going on. Like somehow you're able to see the whole supply chain, you're able to see the big picture, and you're able to put some emotions around it. Like it's not all just like, like robotic, like this is what is happening.
So, yeah, I mean, I think you've got that skill set for business management and, um. I'm really excited to have you on the podcast because so many of our listeners are like marketing managers or creative directors, so people who are managing creative teams or running marketing companies, or, um... I mean from freelance all the way through journalists or people working at digital and magazines.
So, um, I'm excited to talk to you about how creative teams can be more efficient or any like tips you have for, um, streamlining, streamlining processes that maybe aren't so definable since every project is different. And also really excited to talk to you about Supply Connector. So that was a lot of stuff I just threw at you. Yeah. Where do you wanna start?
SarahLet's do it. Um, well, why don't I talk about Supply Connector, because I think it's a good example of how small teams can be really efficient and nimble. And the frustrations of also working with teams that aren't and how to bridge that gap. Um, and I can't say I have like definitive answers, but I can share what I'm learning and what I'm experiencing right now.
Um, and maybe that'll give some insight and then, yeah. And then we can maybe talk about some more specifics for creative teams. Cause there's definitely, I've worked on those teams as well. And it is, it's kind of a right brain left brain, even though you're still having to organize information. Um. You have to, you have to bounce back and forth. And that's probably one of the hardest things to do all day is bounce back and forth between both brains, um, that, I guess maybe we'll start with Supply Connector. What do you think?
Lisa: Yeah, let's do that. So, yeah, Supply Connector got a lot going on.
Sarah: Very much, yes. Lots of hours right now. [laughs] Yeah. I always say like God, if I could, if I could manufacture hours in the day, whoo. That would be, or somebody else could do that for me. That would be amazing. Cause I could use them.
Lisa: Yeah. So was supply a connector, your brain child, or how did it come to be and, and what is it? Let's start there.
Sarah: Yeah. So Supply Connector is a platform that, um, is open and easy and quick and direct. So any manufacturer connect can connect with a supplier of raw materials or someone who has services to provide, or even someone who is in need of their services or in need of their raw materials. So if you think of the supply chain all across the board, you've got someone producing the most like basic part that that is needed for any type of product or service. And, and then you have the person at the end of that chain who has put all of those parts together to make a, another product or a final product, a finished good. And so this platform basically just creates the ability for people to find each other quickly through a searchable, filterable directory.
And it started because I was, um, doing some contract work still with Industry Nine. And, um, during the, when the pandemic, you know, it hit and they have about a hundred CNC machines down in their shop just ready. I mean, they're busy, but yeah, I mean, they can be producing anything for this, this relief effort. And so, um, I started looking into, um, or I was asked to look into how I could maybe find some outlets for them, whether it's like a ventilator manufacturer or, uh, you know, other devices or, components for hospital beds or anything that you know, is really centered around metal mostly.
Um, and then also their automation expertise. So the owner,Clint Spiegel and his father Harvey Spiegel have owned, um, the machine shop. Harvey started that 50 years ago. So they have a lot of experience with how to automate and create better processes. And so those are great services for people who have pivoted into making these protective equipment devices like face shields and masks and, um, sneeze guards and all the things that we're seeing kind of hit the market right now.
In doing that search, that initial search, I was looking for the platform. I was looking for a Supply Connector. I was looking for something that had that, that we could be a part of, and also search and find the right outlets for our, for what we could offer. And I wasn't finding it. And, um, I saw a lot of forms out there. Everyone had a form up pretty quick, which was, which is also great, but those, those were kind of closed systems. So you would submit your information, but you couldn't see who else had submitted their information. You couldn't immediately call and... I think it's funny when you say, I'm on steroids, those steroids mean I don't want to wait. It means I don't want to wait for a call back. I want them to do the, I want to make the call. I want to, you know, not stop because I have to wait for someone else. And, um, and so therefore, I, I just started asking some questions and. I thought about who is in my network that it could maybe help me validate the idea.
And I called, um, Status Forward, which is a design and development firm here in Asheville. And, and I really wasn't expecting them to jump on the project. I'm more so wanted to talk to someone who knew how to code to tell me I wasn't crazy in thinking this was something simple. Um, and so I called her and, uh, Laurel Scheer, who owns the company, and I was like, “What do you think? Like really, I'm just thinking this is a simple directory and we can build in features as we go, but like, I just want people to be able to find each other right now cause they're kind of scrambling and it's inefficient and no one knows where to go. And there's a million forms out there and maybe we can kind of consolidate this information and make it, make it quicker and easier for people to, to make this product.”
And, um. And she was like, “yeah”. She was like, “I mean, like we could probably have something in like four days.” And if you know Laurel, she's very understated. You know, like she has this cool calmness that gives you all the confidence in the world and she can back it up. And so, you know, when she says that she's not bullshitting you and she's not telling you something that she thinks you want to hear, it's the real deal.
And so I was like. Okay. Well, I mean, there's no money here. I don't have, like, I don't have any money to put into this. And, um, there's no like, grant behind the project, and I don't even know if anyone's going to use it, but I feel like it would get used if we built it. And she's like, “yeah, we're in. Nope, no problem.”
And so here we are. Pretty much a month later. And um, it's up and it, we have lots of listings and we're kind of on the, the brink of getting those grants and getting the states really bought into it. And it's kind of becoming this bigger thing that we didn't even necessarily envision to begin with.
But it's a, it's pretty amazing how quickly her team was able to turn the idea into reality and also, you know, I did the, the idea was like half baked, you know, and I brought it to her. And so her and her team with their experience building platforms and building databases for other clients, they were able to add a lot of context and a lot of layers that I wouldn't have even thought of.
But it just... It moved fast and it was so satisfying to have that experience, right? When like communication flows easily. You've got, you can clearly, you know, outline your ideas and someone can take that information and implement it quickly and yeah, just are able to kind of fire on all cylinders with a team.
And I think kind of wrapping this back to the bigger idea, that's what we're all seeking in our leadership and seeking in our team building is, you know, getting the right people in the right places, doing the right things and everything can really be a well oiled machine and a well oiled team. So I think there's a good analogy there in terms of like how we were able to do this.
It was just the right people at the right time with the right problem to solve, and we were able to do it quickly and bring it to market quickly. Mmm. So I think I answered that question. [laughs]
Lisa: Yeah, and like the goal there is kind of like to have brands be able to use what used their manufacturing and also from a marketing standpoint, like brands are using their platforms for good.
Lisa: Like good causes. And like, why is that important to you and, and why do you think, um. It's important for brands to kind of like rally behind their communities?
Sarah: Well, I think the outdoor industry is very, um, that's the right word. Like, the outdoor industry is very capable and very nimble, and it doesn't really follow a lot of the rest of the room world's rules. So when I think about that, I'm thinking about that in context of like how the governments work. And some of this stuff I'm learning in terms of like how we might be able to connect people with the defense marketplace, you know, through this thing and some of the other things that have come onto our plates and working with, um, state agencies. It's, it's, you know, it's slow and there's a lot of layers you have to kind of dig through to get what you need and get it accomplished in. Some of those things are in place for a lot of great reasons, but some of them are in place because it's just antiquated and it's how they've always done it. And so what I love about this example is that we didn't have to do any of that. We're just private people donating our time to create something and we're seeing a need and we're filling it.
And the, um, the outdoor industry is like that. You know, everyone who has pivoted thus far has done it because they saw an opportunity to contribute to something that was a, you know, vast need during the pandemic and, and is going to continue for some time as we see our supply of these products get rebuilt and, and continue to be needed. And yeah. You know, be prepared for whatever might come in the future. But. They... I mean, you, we've all heard some of the stories, like Kitsbowl was 48 hours, right? 48 hours to turn around and make a product that they'd never made before. And Outdoor Research like revamped their entire building. And some of us have been out there. You know what, I'm just, I like, that blows my mind to think they were repainting this old building in downtown Seattle to become FDA approved for this and just, you know, turned on a dime. And I think it's so, um. It's so encouraging that our industry cares enough to put in that effort. It's not just the, you know, the opportunity to keep their workforce going, it's that they know they could contribute. So they did. And that's as simple as it is. You know, and yes, the numbers have to work at the end of the day or they are not going to be able to continue doing that. And yes, they have to, you know, go through the rigamarole of all the FDA approvals. But we have small companies who did that too and aren't FDA approved but are still contributing because there's this vast need of non FDA approved devices for the rest of us, you know. sS I just love, that's how these companies are such a great example of small, nimble, make it happen, learn along the way. Don't,-you know, fail forward, right? Like two steps forward, one step back, but you're still moving in the right direction and just keep pushing until you get there.
And what a better example of entrepreneurship. What a better example of leading with purpose and also meeting an immediate need and not waiting for someone to give you permission to do that.
Lisa: Mmm. And what, uh, you know, what can people do if they work at an organization that isn't super nimble?
Sarah: I think part of it is start asking those questions, cause there is something that you can do. Like there's always something and whether it's immediately, you know, apparent... I think some of the examples I've seen are people saying, well, if you're, if, if you have the capability to transform your facility, well, why don't I help provide some labor and we do more shifts? So my employees are, are getting, you know, um, trained up on the process you've created.
And, you know, my management team can help manage those people in your plant. And we, we follow your, you know, um, uh. Standard operating procedures we've put into place so that everybody's safe and everybody's following the new rules. But we're able to produce more because now you have a whole other labor force that you can pull on because I'm partnering with you and that's what I have to give.
nd that's one example. I mean, gosh, there's so many different things that could happen. And honestly, WHEELIE’s a great example. You know, when we launched Supply Connector and you reached out and said, “Hey, we can, we've got capacity right now and, and you know what we do? How can we help you?” And I'm like, that video that you guys made, you know, is amazing. It's been a great tool for us to pass around and help people understand. You know what Supply Connector is, and we're, I think we're still, we still gotta get it up on the site, but it's been such a, a great example too. You know, that's how you contributed, you know, to, to what we're doing. And I'm sure you have other examples too, but I think those are, those are a couple of examples of, of how people can just rethink, you know, we all have something we're talented at. We all have something that we're good at. Um. We all have a service or a, a product. And right now it's just, we have to think about a different audience for it, you know? Our normal audience maybe isn't as, um. Isn't as active right now, you know, or is financially strained. But there are other audiences that aren't, that we can contribute to.
Lisa: And with the businesses that you work with through The Good Talk, are you seeing brands like having to find completely new ways to communicate and take their operations to a digital level and like kind of what's your approach to that?
Sarah: Yeah. Um, it's interesting because, um, I'm working with clients that are kind of in several different areas. You know, one is, is like an online, um, course, um, for wellness, for, for, sexual wellness. And another one is a company that, um, you know, does on the ground, you know, hands-on trail building work. And so for instance, you know, they have to work with their teams very differently.
And one is concerned with, you know, travel restrictions because they're... they're still considered an essential business and they're able to do their work, but yet they want to be very conscious about how they move through the world and, and you know, how they're interacting with the communities that they're in and that they're being very safe and they're wearing their there, um, you know, face coverings and doing all the right protocol.
And the other one is just struggling with communication with their team, because they have to work remotely with each other at a whole new level. Um, and so getting people up to speed on the technology. And I think this... this pandemic has been a catalyst for people to adopt new technology. And I'm one of those people, I hadn't gotten on Slack until this happened, you know? And I mean, why? Just because, cause it's one more thing to learn because it's one more thing to, you know, that I had on my to do list I hadn't gotten to yet. And, and it’s kind of forced me into that a little bit. And, um… I'm so glad. What a great tool. And I like live on there now. You know, my inbox is so much better.
Sarah: And so, um, I'm excited to kind of see like some of the… what I'm calling, I guess kind of the technology aftermath of this where we, we're kind of forced to adopt a lot of new ways of doing business with each other and communicating and how we carry that forward and what new, new kind of iterations come out of that. And you know, I've got like a million side projects that I want to tackle with that in mind, you know, um, just based on my own experience, and so I'm hoping, um. I'm hoping we come up, come out with some great new tools, and as someone who loves to work remote, you know, if more people are used to doing that, um, I think we'll be able to interact with more people and help more people that aren't within arms reach, that aren't, you know, that we're not able to be face to face with and still be effective because we've learned some new ways of communicating.
Lisa: I think it's so great. I think there's creativity happening on a global level and, um, you know, it is coming through a lot of tragedy, but I, I do, um, also hold gratitude to how much creative output the world is producing right now.
Sarah: I agree.
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Iris: Lisa, I love what Sarah has to say about this whole COVID-19 situation forcing a lot of change and a lot of necessary change, and it's causing a lot of us to embrace these processes that maybe we were resisting before, a lot of employers to embrace working from home when we were embracing that before. Um, and I think it's going to change so much of how we do business and how we can do business nationally and globally, and break down any of the location barriers that we had before.
Lisa: Yeah. I think it's amazing because it opens up collaboration with designers or artists or writers all over the country or the world. Um, and it really, really, I don't know, it just makes everyone ceilingless. It's kind of exciting. And I think Sarah really embodies a growth mindset and it's her, her outlook on life and business management is just so appealing because she's all about like, “yep, this has changed. This is happening. Let's adapt.”
Iris: Yeah. Seeing it as a major opportunity versus like a brick wall.
Lisa: And still acknowledging that the change can be hard and it can hold a lot of grief and confusion and lost revenue. But. You know, but then being able to pivot and adapt and um, kind of, yeah. It's the athlete mindset that we always go back to.
Iris: For sure. Let's get back to Sarah!
Sarah: How has your, how is your team doing with it, cause you guys are normally in an office together, correct?
Lisa: We are, um, we're a little bit divided. Some people love working from home, other people really miss the office, um, based on kind of their job roles and how collaborative their jobs are. And it has certainly been slower dealing with… particularly my Montana internet. I live out in the woods.
Sarah: Oh, yeah.
Lisa: You know, like, I can't, I can't open Dropbox at all. So I'm, I've been like working with internet companies, trying to get faster internet out here, but, um, you know, we do have some of the worst internet, perhaps anywhere, um. [laughs] We have horrible internet out here. Um, and so that's, that's been a really interesting operational issue is trying to figure that out. And then also as an employer, I'm starting to wonder like, do I need to give people internet stipends, you know, if they're using their own internet, like, just like little things I could do to kind of like kick things like,like a thank you.
Lisa: Kick a little kick a bit of a thank you to my team. And, um, but yeah, it's been wild trying to... normally we just like share a screen and we collaborate and bust things out super quickly. And now it's like “upload the file to the review program and then we'll review it.” And then, you know, and so, um, budgeting those extended timelines has been kind of intense.
Sarah: Yeah. That kind of lag in between. And I think it's hard to keep momentum when you're not in a similar space, cause you're not able to kind of feed off of each other and, and have those quick little, you know, check-ins. And we've got to use different digital tools to do that now. Mmm. And, and I think we're learning, and I think, again, like we'll come out of this better equipped to do this again in the future.
Um, and I think. If for some people, and I've experienced this directly with some previous employers and in situations where they were just vehemently against the work remote kind of, um, you know, opportunities. And I'm seeing, you know, it's kind of one of those things like, well, you've had to get used to it now because you know, you don't have a choice.
Um, and so I think it, it, in some ways is going to kind of open the lens a little bit for those people who haven't experienced it to say, okay, you know what? I can work with someone like this. I can work with someone across the country and pull from their experiences that are going to give better insight to our team. Or, you know, if, if someone has a family emergency, I can, I have ways to stay connected or, you know, if someone needs to move for whatever reason. You know, we just, I think it opens our options and opens our minds to those options even more. Um, in areas where, uh, maybe people haven't been used to it. I mean, I've worked probably the majority of my career with that kind of flexibility and… and it's somewhat second nature in some ways. Um. But it also is hard to kind of kind of convey the benefits and convey those opportunities when someone hasn't had those experiences. So now, now we kind of all have had the experience. And I see that as being kind of a thumbs up.
And I also… you know, luckily I do have good internet and I'm also in a rural community, but. I think, I think most of the reason is because there's a, it's a kind of an aging community that's probably not working the way I am right now. Um, but, uh, so they're, they're giving me all the bandwidth, but I do think it's going to bring those projects from a, like economic development standpoint up on the priority list.
You know, like maybe they were dragging their feet a little bit, but you know what? Now they need to keep people engaged and working and this is the way we're doing it. So those broadband projects hopefully get more funding and get more, um, priority when, you know, when they can get tackled. Fingers crossed. I know I've seen it a lot in some of the conversations with the state agencies I've, I've seen. So hopefully that's happening everywhere.
Lisa: Yeah. Yeah. It's funny. I've owned wheelie for 11 years and I used to work from home before I had any employees and I loved it. And then I started realizing I needed to store the employees, you know, somewhere. So I, I went the office route, you know, I didn't really like mindfully think through like what if everyone works remote? But, so that was just the path that I took. And the office has been great, but at the same time, like I remember this lifestyle and I'm like reminded of it every day now, and I'm like, I'm never going back.
I'm never going back to civilization. Never!
Sarah: Well, we've been joking that we're all in like office mullet mode, you know, we're like, we jump on a video call and from the waist up we're good to go, but by the waist down, we're still in our pajama pants. [laughs]
Lisa: Oh yeah.
Sarah: And I don't know. I mean, I feel very productive in my pajama pants.
Lisa: Oh yeah. Jessica... Jessica, our operations director, she like migrates around her house with her laptop in the sunlight like a cat.
Sarah: Oh, I love it. She follows.
Lisa: Yeah. Every time I chat or she's somewhere different, like sitting in the sun, you know, it's just like cute, right? But, you know, on the other side of the coin, I, I see how, um, you know, some people, especially in cities when you're living in small apartments, like having a 27 inch iMac in your space all of a sudden is pretty intrusive.
Sarah: It is.
Lisa: Yeah. Yeah.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah. I am... I'm borrowing kind of this dual, I have like mission control going right now. I'm borrowing a dual, like, monitor system with the laptop, and so I got three screens that I'm working on at any given time. You know, instead of, I think about… I will never be a stockbroker. And I think about like, this is my version of stockbrokerage - massive screen world, you know, or it got like the Supply Connector over on the left. And I got client work over on the right and I got like email and Slack in the middle. And, um. You know, left, right center all day long. And, um, I definitely am pulling way too many hours in front of the screen, but, uh, you know, at the end of the day, what else am I going to do right now? You know, it's not vacation, you know, it's work and this is what, this is what the work is right now. And, I’m, I'm still stoked to be doing it. And I think the, I guess, you know. At the end... I guess at the end of all of this. I mean, it doesn't really end right, like we just kind of morph into something new and continue to do that.
And, and I think this kind of, yes, there's a ton of tragedy around it and there's... it's hard, you know, and I have like the survivor's guilt right now because I'm feeling somewhat minimally affected by what's happening. And, and like weirdly suited to be okay during this time. And so there's like a survivor's guilt of like, I'm the one at the funeral celebrating the life a little bit too much while everyone's grieving. And I'm like, “no, there's opportunity still. No, keep your head up, keep your chin up. Like, let's do this. We still have a lot to do and you know, you can contribute and you can, you know, let me help!” And you know. I'm like, well, this kind of shook us out of complacency. Like everyone was, you know, pretty complacent. But also looking forward to 2020 and like just taking advantage of like... or taking for granted, I should say, the luxuries of this privileged life that we, that that really, it's all we've known, right?
Like, yeah, our generation hasn't experienced anything like this, right? Like we kind of, most of us skirted through the 2008 financial stuff. Most of us weren't old enough to really be terribly invested, or at least my group wasn't, you know? And, and there were lots of, I mean, that's maybe the only thing that we've experienced - 9/11 comes to mind, you know?
But I'm like, I mean.... Yeah. And, and there were Wars and family members who went to those places, but you know, nothing has compared to this in terms of how it has changed our daily, every day. How we interact with people, how we communicate, nothing, nothing has compared. So I, I can't help but have, I guess my optimistic nature take over and say. “What do we do with this? How do we shape our future? We get to shape our future. How we contribute now and how we can continue to contribute shapes that. So let's not sit back and let someone else decide that for us. Let's make our choices now and, and make the new normal. Why not? No one, no one's really showing huge leadership right now.
I mean, at a state level, at county levels, at, obviously national levels. Yeah. I mean, we’re, we're on our own. Let's then let's make the most of it, you know?
Lisa: Yeah. What, uh, from the hip, what's, what's your advice for creative teams and marketing teams, um, to adapt or, you know, streamline their new, their new normal?
Sarah: Well, I would want to ask, I guess from a standpoint of... well, I think the first thing that comes to mind is, and some of the conversations I've heard, I've just heard, you know, what do I do? My industry isn't operating right now. It's like, well, I would ask you, why is your identity and value as a contributor or as a worker, as a company tied to one industry?
You know, maybe you, you know, want to work in that industry and that's, that's totally fine, but you still have skills to offer, and there are industries that need those skills, so you still have options. And you know, saying that with as much kind of compassion in that I've, I don't want to work for just any industry either.
You know, um, there are certain industries I'm drawn to and certain types of people I want to work with. And you know, at some point I'm also willing to go bag groceries at the grocery store because they need labor. And if I need the income to buy my food, I will go do that. You know, I'm not above any job. I'm not above any level. I'm not above any, you know, type of task. If it puts food on the table. And, and I think at the, you know, at the core of it, we need to be, we need to be reminded that we're adaptable and that, um. You know, our choices today to further our business or, you know, contribute to creatively are going to change.
And to be reminded that when they change, we are also opening up new… um, new channels for that creativity to be expressed. Um, and I think, you know, you guys probably have some good experiences in, in jumping from different industries like, I think you've done work in the financial space with banks, but you're also doing work with some of the coolest outdoor, you know, forward-thinking companies, you know, at the same time.
And that's a huge difference in terms of the type of people you're working with.
Lisa: Oh yeah.
Sarah: And you know, so like that's kind of the question I want to lead with. Like, you know, how, how do you, how do you... you know, what, what are your challenges right now? ‘Cause then we'll tackle each challenge, you know, as it is. But if it, if it is that your industry is just, you know, on pause, well, YOU don't have to be on pause. You know, you have things to contribute to other industries that aren't on pause. So you can find those opportunities too.
Lisa: That is awesome advice. Um, how do you suggest people - I mean, a lot of, a lot of our audiences in editorial, travel, tourism, outdoor, um, but obviously travel and tourism are changing right now. How do you suggest people find new contacts?
Sarah: Well, I would say that those, those industries in particular, and I know this just from being kind of slightly involved with what's happening for the state of North Carolina, um. You know, being, I'm the board chair of the North Carolina Outdoor Recreation Coalition, so we're kind of keeping a very close look on what our travel and tourism is doing and how it's going to affect our outdoor businesses across the state.
And that industry is not... there's no definitive answer right now in terms of how it's going to move forward, right? Like when the states reopen and the parks reopen, does that mean we want to start promoting our states for outside visitors? Well everyone's star crazy, so they're going to travel. Whether we like it or not. Right? Unless they put a restriction on that travel. Okay. That is a little concerning, especially for some of these small communities, like the ones that we are in, you know, Whitefish and Brevard are, you know, while, while very different in terms of landscape and people and even population, they're similar in that it's a place everyone wants to come to get away from wherever they're, they're from. Right? They want to come to enjoy the natural resources that we have in our backyards. And, and that makes the populations that we have here very vulnerable, you know, um, to what they might be carrying or the restrictions that they know in their community and how it's different here. Um, you know, Georgia and South Carolina opened up and, you know, we're not far from there, and we're kinda like, “Oh God, don't come here yet. You guys aren't safe.” You know, like, we're not ready. We're not ready for that.
But there is really important messaging and, and that needs to still happen, um, around the tourism around... it's different messaging. The messaging isn't “come visit us” necessarily, yet. It is, it is “pump the brakes a little bit and be mindful of how you're going to, um, you know, recreate and how you're going to, um, travel.” And so I think that industry still has a need and the messaging has just changed.
But I also think, you know, when... If that opportunity isn't there for you, if that industry isn't open for you, well how did you, how did you break into the industry in the first place? It's the same tactics, right? It's who's in your network. How can you start with one person? You are only ever, you know, what is the saying two degrees or three degrees away from anyone you need to, to be in touch with.
And while we're not in large gatherings for networking like we used to be. Um, or you know, the shows like the Outdoor Retailer show, you know, might be a place where normally you would go and get business and drum up accounts. Um, you know, there are other avenues right now that you can use to do that. And honestly, it is kind of an old fashioned outreach model. Obviously social media is there and everyone knows that's a, an Avenue, but um. You know, a good old, fast fashioned pitch one-on-one with somebody... you know, it's still on the table. Um. We still have phone numbers. We still have our email. Um. And I think it's just, you know, getting, kind of pulling up the bootstraps and getting tenacious and saying, you know, like, “I still have something to offer here and, and I'm going to start knocking on those doors.”
Lisa: Yeah. I love that, man. Well, is there anything that I didn't ask you that you would like to tell our audience?
Sarah: Um, I definitely want to encourage everyone who is connected to a manufacturer or to a retail business, um, or really any public facing business - um, education, um, restaurants, et cetera, to come to the Supply Connector. Um, and you will be able to connect to a new platform that we are partnered with called the Goods Connector. And we have, um, partnered with college outside, um, Sarah Lockwood and her team have been doing B2B with college and universities and outdoor gear manufacturers for the last seven years. And they've pivoted their platform to help connect public-facing businesses with the materials and, and products that they need to reopen. And I think it's just really important for us to kind of focus on reopening and what's appropriate and the pace at which we do that and how we can prepare the businesses in our economy to do that.
And, and I encourage all the creatives out there to continue pushing to help spread these, these messages. At the state level. I think, you know, our governors are trying to pull together the right language to give guidance to our businesses and to give the public the guidance. And, uh, on a few calls recently, and everyone's like, we need a big public messaging campaign. And, and, you know, one of the questions was like, how do we do that? And I'm like, what kind of question is that? We have a whole world of creative agencies just like who could knock this out of the park in an instant, and not to mention all of the convention and visitor bureaus that have their own departments, you know?
And I'm like, why is that even a question? Um, but I, you know, but then you bite your tongue and you know, not everybody's kind of on the same page at any given time. And, and you try to help them find those right resources. And guess what? Like we, we all know somebody, especially with this audience that can do that. And so everyone's looking for that help and, and looking for that guidance. And don't be afraid to stick your neck out and say, “Hey, I can help with that.”
And I think another thing, this is, I'm bouncing all around right now, but another thing that comes to mind with it. Um, a company I've been chatting with is, you know, right now, um… if a business is, is just kind of on pause, this is also a good time to do some of the work that never gets done and some of those projects that you know people are kind of don't have the time for, or they're just a little hesitant to, okay. You know, jump on right away, or, or especially right now with money, obviously we're all, we're all trying to manage, you know, what we give and how we're able to sustain ourselves. But I think there's an opportunity for some companies to take some risks right now with, um, with clients and, and say, look, I'm going to help you through this process. You know, and if money is the issue, if - if money is the issue, you can create a contract that. You know, if you're in a, in a sound place, and this makes business sense for you, and I mean like that's number one. You have to decide that first, look at your own financials and decide what you can do and how for how long. But you could help some companies and get great loyalty by helping them through some stuff right now with the future payment and a contract that outlines that. So just because they can't necessarily jump in and pay you at a normal rate right now doesn’t mean once things are back up and running that they're not going to be able to. And if you can help get them that much further along and get them ready to reopen, then you get closer to that payment. You also are building a level of loyalty with these brands.
I think at the end of the day, we all want the outdoor industry to continue to thrive and we see the benefits, you know, across the board in what that means from a social responsibility to community, to culture and to our health and wellness. Um. And so, you know, if we all have something to contribute to that industry, and my version is the Supply Connector and kind of roping them into this bigger manufacturing world and trying to keep domestic manufacturing, you know, on the forefront of, of how we move into our new, you know, next normal. Whatever. The new phrase is.
I just, why not? You know, let's shape it. Let's shape it. Help those companies shape their new path. And you’re creatives and you know, how that should look and you know how that should feel and you know how that should sound. And so do your best to prepare them so that, so that we can all continue to thrive in this industry.
Lisa: Beautiful. Love it.
Lisa: That was like, mic drop status right there.
Sarah: Oh my God.
Lisa: I loved it. Um, where can people find you online?
Sarah: Don't. [laughs] No. Just kidding. Um, so I am purposefully, pretty much off social media. I have a couple accounts that are just sitting there so that I, if people know I'm alive and breathing, cause that seems to be what people need to see to make sure.
Um, but I, I just encourage folks you can go to, um. TheGoodTalk.biz to kind of see what I'm up to, um, see who I'm working with and what I offer. Um, you can go to the SupplyConnector.org to check out that project and, and how you might be able to, you know, connect to manufacturers or some outdoor gear, um, manufacturers or retailers to that platform to help with current relief efforts.
And then any public facing businesses go to the goods connector.com and you can preregister um, we will be having that wholesale B2B platform up here shortly. Um, so everyone can prepare to open their doors safely. And, um, otherwise, yeah, just, uh, you know, let me know if you've got any ideas. I'm totally, I'm a great, um. I am always open to, uh, brainstorming. So if anyone is, is just wants to... if I can be the person that encourages you like my crew encouraged me with Supply Connector, uh, I want to pay that forward.
Lisa: Awesome. Thank you so much, Sarah.
Sarah: [laughs] Thank you. I don't even know what I said.
Iris: Thank you so much, Sarah, for joining us on the podcast. I sure learned a lot from this episode, and I know our listeners will too. And if you, a listener, enjoyed this episode or the rest of our episodes, please take one moment to leave us a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcasts. That helps get us to many more listeners.
And if you'd like, share an episode with a friend who might want to hear it. If you know someone who works in the outdoor industry or who is an artist, a founder, um, anyone who might be interested in the things we talk about here on Outside by Design just send them our way and they might like it. We will see you next week.
Lisa: See you next week.
Outside By Design
A business podcast for people who love the outdoor industry.