3 top tips from Alicia Butler Pierre:
Read something every day to continue to perfect your craft. Don’t ever become comfortable in what you already know. There’s always something new to learn.
Write something every day. Use your LinkedIn newsletter and all of the amazing materials. That’s how you continue to perfect your craft and get your message out about whatever it is that you do.
Measure & do the calculations. What are some of those key numbers that you need to look at, maybe not every day, but at least once a week to really let you know the health of your company?
You can reach Alicia through her website: https://aliciabutlerpierre.com
Business, Debra, started, people, book, Alicia, company, index cards, exercise, customers, perform, work, department, activities, process, eos, atlanta, podcast, owner, document, infrastructure
Debra Chantry-Taylor 0:03
Welcome to another episode of Better Business Better Life. I’m your host, Debra Chantry-Taylor. I’m passionate about helping entrepreneurs and their leadership teams get what they want out of business and life. On the show, I invite successful business owners and expert speakers to share their successes. They are open and honest about the highs and lows of business and also life as a business owner. We want to share those learnings with you to inspire you, but also to help you avoid some of the common mistakes. My hope is that you take something from each of these short episodes that you can put into action to help you get what you want, not only out of your business, but also your life. Good morning, and welcome to another episode of Better Business, Better Life. Today, I’m thrilled to be joined by Alicia Butler Pierre, is that how I say your name properly?
Alicia Butler-Pierre 0:11
Oh, that was perfect.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 0:13
Alicia Butler-Pierre 0:14
That was perfect, Debra!
Debra Chantry-Taylor 0:15
Thank you. So Alicia actually contacted me. And she is the owner & CEO of a company called Equilibria Inc, which has been going for about 17 years. They specialize in building operations management, specialising in sort of diagnosing, and designing business infrastructure and processes. And so Alicia is telling me before we go on to this podcast, you know, she works with businesses that have actually been around for a while. They’ve kind of grown, they don’t have an issue with not having enough customers. But they’ve actually been like we’ve got too many customers and their business starts to fail, because they’re not able to keep up with that. So that’s what we’ll be talking about. Alicia, welcome. Really great to have you here.
Alicia Butler-Pierre 0:55
Thank you so much, Debra. I’m really excited to be on your show.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 0:59
No, thank you. And I know that you’re on the other side of the world, and Atlanta, Georgia. So I believe it’s afternoon for you. So good afternoon to you.
Alicia Butler-Pierre 1:06
Thank you, and good morning to you.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 1:08
Thank you! So I’m really excited because I know that certainly when we work with customers, one of the things that I do see is that businesses get to this point where they’re growing really fast, they’re mid size, got a high growth, mindset and drive, and they’ve got lots of customers coming in, but the wheels start to fall off. So we’re gonna talk a little about how we can actually overcome that. Before we start, I always love to ask our guests for professional and personal best, just so we can get to know you a little bit better. So please, Alicia, tell us your story.
Alicia Butler-Pierre 1:33
My story? Oh, gosh. Well, my story, I guess, I’ll start in terms of career, career wise, my story begins with me working as a chemical engineer, wearing a hard hat and steel toed shoes and personal protective clothing. If you can imagine that. And I worked at Monsanto. For those who may not be familiar with Monsanto, don’t judge me for those of you who are but I worked in several chemical plants and oil refineries, Monsanto was my very first job out of university. And I, it didn’t take me long Debra to realize that I don’t want to spend the next 20 to 30 years of my life being in an oil refinery, or a chemical plant. And another thing I came to realize was, I didn’t understand business. When I was working as an engineer, we had equipment would run 24 hours a day, seven days a week non-stop. But then there might be moments when we would be asked to cut production by 50%, one day, shut down completely the day after that, and then run at full speed the following week. And it just seems so manic. You don’t know what was driving those decisions. I didn’t understand the business, I didn’t understand the concepts of supply and demand and how that can impact the amount of product that we were producing on a day-to-day basis. So I decided to go back to school, I went to business school, I was living in New Orleans, Louisiana. And it just opened my eyes to a completely new world, I have to be honest with you, I no longer saw anything the same way. I would look at everything from the logo of a particular company, a place of business that I might frequent or patronize, I would look at the color scheme, I would look at how customers might flow through lines at a grocery store, at a market. It just, it was just so fascinating to me. And I decided to abruptly leave New Orleans. And it’s a good thing that I did because I left in February of 2005, I relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, where I only knew one person at the time. But I just had this, you know, I just had this vision of making it big in Atlanta. And six months later, Hurricane Katrina, a very devastating hurricane happened in New Orleans. And once I arrived in Atlanta, I really thought and you couldn’t tell me otherwise, that I was going to work at Coca Cola. Coca Cola is headquartered here. I thought, I would be able to leverage my newly minted MBA, my business degree and combine that with my engineering background and I was going to work in some type of a marketing research or analyst type position. And I must have searched for a job a good two months before I just remember thinking to myself this is, this is such a soul crushing experience. Because you spend so much time applying for these jobs, and you’re lucky if you hear anything back. And I just happened to be reading different articles, books, watching different documentaries. At that time, Debra, and everything seemed to center around this concept of the fact that we’re all blessed with natural skills, talents, and abilities. But through a process of miseducation, we’re actually taught to actually work for someone else, to become a good employee. But we aren’t taught on how to capitalize on our natural skills, talents and abilities so that we can create opportunities for ourselves. And that really struck a chord with me and I started wondering, what is it that I’m naturally good at. And I thought about it. And I’ve always been very good at organizing, physically organizing different things. And I started doing some research, I had no idea that was an actual profession, being a professional organizer. And I just remember going to an office supply store, I bought some business cards that I could print into my, use my Deskjet printer and print off some business cards. And I just started going to different events, I would meet people and I did a lot of bartering. When I first started Debra, I would ask people if they had a particular space in their home that they wanted organized. And all I asked for in exchange was a very good testimonial, and the ability to be able to take pictures so that I could put those pictures on my website. And also I would ask for a recommendation or referral to someone else. And so what ended up happening, and I promise, I’m speeding through the story now, but I ended up learning or realizing that of all the customers that I had at that time, most of them were home based business owners, they were entrepreneurs. And it wasn’t that they were chronically disorganized people – that wasn’t their issue at all, they just needed systems, or processes in place, in order to keep things working and information flowing as seamlessly as possible. So I started to shift my language and my promotional pieces from professional organizing to business infrastructure. And over the years, and this is a key tenant that I would love to share with your audience, your customers will always tell you what they want. We just have to listen, I would have never, if I had written a business plan, Debra from the very beginning, I could not even fathom where this company is today. I just couldn’t have even imagined it. But in my mind, I’m thinking, Oh, I’m doing all of this research. And I’m going online, and I’m finding all of this data, but at the end of the day, it’s my customers who tell me exactly what they want. It’s my job as the business owner to listen, and to act accordingly. And that is the story in a nutshell of how Equilibria came to be how this thing called business infrastructure came into existence. And I really think it attributes to my success and my ability to have been in business for this long, because it’s just listening, right listening, just really listening to what people want. And paying attention to the trends but still listening to what people want and figuring out a way to constantly tweak the way we deliver our services.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 8:53
So that’s, that’s 17 years on. So tell me about Equilibria now, as a business.
Alicia Butler-Pierre 9:01
Equilibria now as a business, most of effort, mostly everything that we do is now digital, Debra, so we’ve gone from doing everything face to face to everything is pretty much 100% digital, and we were starting to make this transition before COVID. You know how COVID forced so many of us, you know many of us who may have been resistant to digitization, it really forced us to take a look at how we were operating our businesses and how we might be able to deliver our products and services in a more remote type fashion. So Equilibria is fully digital. We have an online course now, we have a team. It looks completely different from what it was when I first started out where it was just me and I’m barely getting any sleep every night and just continuing to grow, the team is spread out across the world. So I have some wonderful people who helped me in the Philippines. There’s a wonderful team in Nigeria. And I’m starting to also look into some working with a company in Ecuador as well. So it’s just really exciting. And we, a lot of our content, we are very content focused. Because so much of this centers around education, Debra, a lot of I think we were talking before, before we started the recording. It’s very difficult to find information as a mid-sized business owner, when you are on the cusp of scaling to an even greater height. And you’re starting to run into some trouble with your back-office operations, things are starting to become chaotic. Who do you turn to? What type of consultant do you look for? What type of advice do you seek? How do you, what do you call it? And so that’s why our focus now Debra is so it’s so heavy on the content side. So the newsletters, the YouTube videos, the podcast interviews, taking advantage of any content platform that’s out there, so that we can just get the word out. So that we don’t, so that these midsize businesses that are already so successful, don’t have to become a part of that tragic statistic of companies that fail not because they don’t have enough business, but because they may have too much, and they don’t have the operational or the business infrastructure to support that growth.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 11:48
Yeah. And I think this is the challenges that I’m in the businesses I work with, they’ve often been around for some time they are established, they are doing well. But as they as they grow quickly, things just become more and more complicated. And if they haven’t got those systems and processes infrastructure right, then there is a real challenge because it becomes reliant on individual people. And of course, that individual person is no longer available. So talk to me, talk through with me, some of the companies that have come to you and the kind of challenges they face and how you’ve helped them.
Alicia Butler-Pierre 12:20
I can give you a very recent example, because I do still work with very large organizations as well. But I’ll focus on another mid sized business that just reached out to me a couple of weeks ago. And this poor owner, he’s panicking because he’s starting to lose a lot of his valuable employees, because they’re finding jobs elsewhere that are paying them higher salaries, but the business just keeps coming in fast and furious. And we’ve had a couple of conversations. And he said, You know, I’ve read your book, I listen to the podcast episodes, but we need help. So Debra, one of the first things that I always recommend that people do is this exercise where you document every single activity that you and your team perform, from the most mundane to the most complex. And I’m going to give a little demonstration here, I hope you don’t mind it that says hey, just to give a little visual here. So imagine you have some, some index cards. And you’re going to write the name of every single activity that you’re performing in your business. So here I’m holding up three sample index cards, one says C, one A and B three. This is just representative of different tasks or activities that you and your team are performing in your business. Now once you’ve gone through the rigor of brainstorming everything that you all do, including the things that you recognize you should do, but you may not be doing right now you want to get all of that information onto those different cards. And the next step is to try to get everyone together in the same room at the same time in front of a large table. And you’re going to spread all of those index cards across that table. And the next thing you’ll do is you’ll start to group all of the tasks that are similar in nature into columns. So here, I’m holding up three cards now. Each starts with the letter A. So if I have this particular column of cards on the table, and then I look at my team and my team and I we’re starting to brainstorm and we will have a conversation about ideally, if we had to associate all the activities grouped in this column where everything starts with the letter A. What would we call the name of that department? Well We’ll call it department A. And so you’ll keep going through this exercise until you’ve identified hopefully no more than about nine departments. But then you want to go through the next really fun exercise, which is my favorite part. I have a little stick figure here, and it has CEO written across it. And what you’ll do next, Debra, and for anyone who’s listening, so you’ll look at each department in isolation of the other departments. So right now I’m holding up department A, I have task A two. Now, someone may say, Well, I’m currently performing, as CEO, I’m currently performing this task. But it’s important for you and your team to have a serious conversation about whether or not you ideally, are the best person to perform that task. What if it’s really an office manager, or a director of some sort of VP, whatever the case may be, you want to get into the practice of identifying in a perfect world if you had access to all of the resources that you needed, who ideally should perform all of these different activities. And it’s so eye opening. So with going back to this business owner who contacted me a couple of weeks ago, he was he called me just a couple of days ago, actually, so excited because he and his team, were starting to go through this exercise. And he’s a light bulb went off for him. And he said, Oh, my goodness, I never realized how much all of us, were doing the work of three to four, three to five different people like each of us. This is crazy. No wonder we’re all so stressed out. And the anxiety is high. It’s such a stressful environment. Because we’re overworked. Well, now he’s identified all the additional roles or positions. And it’s giving him a plan of action. Obviously, you can’t go and expect to hire or fill all of those positions at one time. But now they have a plan. Okay, within the next 12 months, based on our sales forecast, I think is realistic, I think it’s realistically we can at least fill two of maybe these six positions that we’ve identified, that are still vacant. So it’s a very visual way and elementary way for you to quickly get to the crux of what makes your business work. What does it really look like on the inside, knowing your activities, and how they’re organized into departments is so empowering, because that literally serves as a foundation for how you organize your paper files, your digital records, how you come up with your organizational chart, and your processes. So now that you know all of those activities associated with each department, you can then start to carve out the different processes that need to be documented, per department. So this is just a really quick demo of the exercises that I go through with clients and the exercises that are detailed in my book, I use a lot of analog tools, which shocks a lot of people, but it’s so effective. Because, can you imagine getting onto a zoom call with your team and you say you’re going to have a brainstorming exercise and you’re all just kind of sitting there and
Like, do we have to go through this again. And it’s just challenging, honestly, sitting in front of a computer for up to, you know, four hours, you could easily spend four hours if not more, doing an exercise like this. But when you’re in the same room at the same time, and you have these large post it notes, you’re writing things out, you have these index cards, and then people get to work together to actually group things that you know according to similarity, you would be amazed at the conversations that you will have that you may have never had before. And another thing is, so many so much information is revealed. You may realize just how siloed your company is working, where the left hand may not realize what the right hand is doing. But by having everyone in the room at the same time. And they’re involved actively involved in carving out the departments of the company and really getting crystal clear on what the company looks like on the inside. Now, Debra, when it comes to implementing any type of change, you better believe that they’re going to be advocates because they’ve been there in the trenches with you actually figuring all of this out. So they have a vested interest in making sure that it works now, rather than you just kind of working alone in your office, you come up with something and then you email it out to everyone, and you expect them to follow it. So, so I just thought I’d share that. It’s a really fun thing that I do. And these stick figures are laminated. Because as you’re having conversations, you know, you may say, wait a minute, this shouldn’t be me, you know, I shouldn’t be doing this as the CEO, let me let me just erase that. It should really be someone else.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 20:37
I love it. And it’s actually a little bit, as a EOS Implementor we had this thing, because we talk about, you know, the vision and the core values and the core focus. And often the owner will say, Yeah, but I know all of that. It’s like, Yeah, but you’ve got to bring your team on that journey as well. And so actually getting in a room and having those discussions, we often don’t end up that far away from what the founder, originally envisaged, however, just by having the input from the team, things do get tweaked things get picked up. I’ve never been picked up before. And I just think it’s yeah, getting in a room is so powerful. But of course, the process component is really important for us as well, a lot. And I’m loving this idea, because often will go okay, we know that we have to, you know, systemize and document our process. But how do we do that? And I love, I have this vision now there’s big tables full of index cards, and, as you said, becoming aware of how many that actually are and what is really going on. And that ‘aha moment’ of oh, hold on a second. I’m the CEO or the founder or the vision, whatever it is, and I’m doing the the office work, you know, that makes sense. And we know that we’re doing stuff that we don’t like, you’re actually in a negative kind of headspace as well. So the more that you’re not working in your unique ability, God given talent, whatever you want to call it, the more challenging it is for you. You’re not in flow, you’re not enjoying it.
Alicia Butler-Pierre 21:55
That’s, that’s so true. And speaking of EOS for your listeners, definitely looking into all of the books. I have a good friend here, Linda Martin, she’s an EOS implementer as well. So I’m familiar. You know, Linda?
Debra Chantry-Taylor 22:10
I do, we have quite a tight communication. We all know each other. Yeah.
Alicia Butler-Pierre 22:14
Okay. Yes. Yes, Linda, I’ve known Linda almost since I’ve lived here in Atlanta, wonderful woman. That’s how I first learned about EOS. And so I’m familiar with the books. And, and yes, we are all kind of banding around this idea of getting your operations in place. You know, that’s what EOS stands for, right? The Entrepreneurial Operating systems. So, it’s not it’s good to focus on the sales and the marketing, obviously, that’s very important. But at some point, you have to start focusing on the operational side as well.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 22:18
Absolutely. In fact, we always say that, you know, you’ve got to sell stuff, you’ve got to make stuff, and then you’ve got to get the money for stuff. And if you don’t have those three things sorted, the wheels will fall off, no matter which one, you know, if you’ve only got two or three, it’s not going to work. So it’s really important. So tell me about some of the common sort of pitfalls. Where do people fall over? Where did things start to go wrong?
Alicia Butler-Pierre 23:14
In the process of growing quickly, or in the process?
Debra Chantry-Taylor 23:18
Both, I know you’re gonna say so yeah, the process of growing quickly, but also in terms of, you know, not being able to keep up with their business infrastructure.
Alicia Butler-Pierre 23:27
So I’ll tell you, a common thing that I see is people wanting results overnight, or rapid results. And I understand you know, this, this whole idea of instant gratification, but you know, what, I often what I always tell them, Debra, whenever someone says, you know, I want this done, and you know, within the next month, and I look at them, and I said “Well, you didn’t build your business in less than a month, right?” So why do you think you’re going to fix it in less than a month, you have to be in this for the long game. But what I have learned is that rather than approaching it as this one big, massive effort, try to break it up into smaller, more digestible pieces, because that way you feel a sense of accomplishment. So I’m also an advocate of the Agile method of project management. You know, I know a lot of the software development companies, adopt that method as well, just so you can have a sense of accomplishment. But I think also another pitfall is, is thinking that it’s static. It’s not static, it is very much dynamic. So don’t think that just because, oh, well, we’ve identified all of our activities, we know our departments, we know the people who perform the active, we’re done. We’re done Debra! And we put it off on a nice you know, we print it out it’s nice and pretty or we distributed through email or you know, whatever systems that we’re using to share information remotely, and we walk away from it. But these are living breathing documents. And they have to constantly be updated and constantly be evaluated, I would say, look at it at least twice a year, once you once you’ve really put it in place, just to evaluate, ‘Does this still make sense?’ Because the world is constantly changing around us. So what you came up, think all of us who started off the year 2020, with all of these plans that we had for 2020 and then COVID comes along, and we’re like, ‘Okay, we have to probably change most, if not all of what we originally planned for this year.’ So that’s why I think it’s so important to just, you know, remind yourself, this is dynamic, it’s not static, it’s not intended to be done one time, and then you walk away from it, and you never to revisit it again. And, you know, another personal mantra I know, at the beginning of the interview, you did ask me, kind of like, what’s something that I call almost like a creed. But my personal mantra, and professional, I guess, too, is ‘leave it better than you found it.’ You know, sometimes, we can be extra hard on ourselves, too. So this is another pitfall that I see of business owners is really beating up on themselves, you know, ‘I should have known better’ – ‘I should have done this’ – ‘I should have done that.’ You know, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. And don’t, don’t be so hard on yourself. Take the lessons. Be grateful when you do meet people like Debra and they enter email and Debra introduces you to EOS don’t beat yourself up at or ask yourself why didn’t I think to search for something like that years ago, and I could have met Debra years ago instead of right now in 2022. Just everything happens for a reason. And just be grateful that you now have the people, you’re attracting the people that you need are the different types of resources, the different books, the websites, the webinars, the workshops, whatever it is, whatever knowledge it is that you need to help you start making some some critical decisions that may need to be made in your company.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 27:33
That’s fantastic. Hey look, I’m really conscious of time, we could talk forever about this. And I have to say, in all honesty, this makes the process component now so much more exciting, because I think often people kind of go, ‘Oh gosh, systems and processes we hate that” “we don’t want to do anything.” The way that you describe it. It’s got me kind of go, ‘Oh, I want to go get some bits of paper.” And I’m sure the readers will find that too. Now, you’ve mentioned that you’ve actually written a book. Can you tell a little bit more about that book?
Alicia Butler-Pierre 27:59
Oh, sure. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to talk about it. It’s called ‘Behind the Facade, how to structure company operations for sustainable success.’ You can’t miss it. It’s a green book. It has a lion on the front. And on the front covers, this lion, he’s on a stage and there’s a spotlight shining on him. And the question that’s posed on the front cover is, ‘Is your business ready for the spotlight?’ In other words, imagine if you had that one viral moment, you were on a particular TV show or a podcast interview, a radio interview, and all of a sudden, you have all of this business coming your way? Would you be able to handle it. And so what’s cool about the book is when you flip it over to the back, on the back cover, it’s just the little cub – behind the stage, behind the curtain. And that the whole idea is there’s nothing wrong with erecting a facade, you know, you have to put forth your best effort to attract the customers that you hope to attract. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. All I’m suggesting is make sure that your business look operates as good on the inside, as it looks on the outside. So that’s what the book is all about. It talks all about the stick figures and the index cards, it goes through great detail about how to perform all of those exercises, but it tells it in the form of stories. So these are stories that I hope your audience, if they would be so inclined as to check out the book, you would definitely find a story that you would relate to.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 29:41
I’m a big, big fangirl of Patrick Lencioni. And that’s because I love the way that he tells stories for me when you tell a story is much easier to get your head around how that works. And so that’s great. Okay, so what about three top tips for the listeners? What would be the three things you’d love to share? Either based on things that you’ve learned or tools that you could introduce them to.
Alicia Butler-Pierre 30:03
So I have two sets. One is the D’s, the three D’s – Document, Delegate, Digitize. The other set are the three R’s – Reading, Writing, Rithmetic. Read something every day, to continue to perfect your craft. Don’t ever become comfortable in what you already know. There’s always something new to learn. Write something every day. I know, Deborah, you have your LinkedIn newsletter, you have all of these amazing materials. But that’s how you again, continue to perfect your craft and get your message out about whatever it is that you do. And then rithmetic – measure, right, you know, do the calculations, what are some of those key numbers that you need to look at maybe not every day, but at least once a week to really let you know the health of your company? So those are my tips.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 30:55
Oh, that’s fantastic. Thank you. And if people want to get ahold of your book, where would they find that? Is that on Amazon? Is it easiest way?
Alicia Butler-Pierre 31:03
It is on Amazon, you can also go to my personal website, which is https://aliciabutlerpierre.com/ And when you get there, you’ll see a link to the book, my company, all my social handles, so anything that you might want to know about me, you will probably find on that website.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 31:24
Right. We’ll put that link in the podcast as well. And I believe you said at the beginning, you’ve got a special offer for the listeners as well.
Alicia Butler-Pierre 31:29
I do, I do. So if you enjoy that the little bit that we’ve shared today on Debra’s podcast about the stick figures and the index cards and made if you want to hear the stories that we mentioned, in the book, we actually have it in an audio format. So there is a free audio masterclass, called the Smooth Operator Masterclass. And if you go to smoothoperator.courses, all you have to do is provide your first name, your email address, and you will start to receive links to these free audio episodes, and it will go into great detail about how to perform these different exercises.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 32:14
Oh, that is fantastic. So I’m getting myself a book and I’m gonna go listen to that as well. So I’ve really, I’ve really enjoyed that as it’s – to be perfectly frank, I myself sometimes struggle with that processing. I’m much more of a visionary. And so we get to the process components like, ‘Oh, really do I have to do that.’ But now I’m getting quite excited about it. So I’m gonna get the book, we’re gonna have a look at my integrator and go, How can we actually do some of this ourselves make it easier? Oh, that’s awesome. So, yeah, thank you so so much for your time. I know. It’s been an absolute pleasure to meet you. I know. We had a couple of little hiccups in terms of getting here and I messed up on the times, but really appreciate everything that you’ve shared. I love talking to you. Hey, if somebody wants to get in contact with you personally, can they do that through the website as well?
Alicia Butler-Pierre 32:58
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, of course, and social media as well. Definitely. Yeah.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 33:04
Hey, look, I’m sure people will do that. I really appreciate your time. Thank you so so much. I look forward to keeping in contact and chatting again soon.
Alicia Butler-Pierre 33:12
Oh, definitely. Thank you, Debra.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 33:12
Thanks very much, Alicia.
Professional EOS Implementer | Entrepreneurial Leadership & Business Coach | Business Owner
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