Create Your Own Life: Overcoming Chaos for Growth

Recently I was a guest of Jeremy Ryan Slate, host of Create Your Own Life podcast. Jeremy’s podcast studies high performers. He interviews all sorts of interesting individuals, from world-class performers to NFL players to New York Times bestsellers. He figures out what makes them tick and then unpacks it for his audience. As the Chaos Eradicating Officer of Beyond the Chaos, what makes me tick is removing the chaos from the lives of small business owners. Jeremy and I talk about the three ways that small business owners can simplify their operations to reduce chaos and get their lives back.

Make sure to check out other episodes of Create Your Own Life. It was named one of the top 26 podcasts for entrepreneurs to listen to in 2017 and 18 by CIO Magazine, and a top podcast to listen to by INC Magazine in 2019.

Please find the full video transcript below:

Jeremy: This is The Create Your Own Life Show, episode 831, freestyle Friday edition.

Susan: If you’re just starting to do the calendar blocking go in, and the very first thing you block out is whatever is your spiritual guidance there, whether it’s God or just meditating or whatever. Get that in there. Get your health in there. When are you working out? And then make sure then, three, you’re putting in all of your family things. Are you going to go to your kid’s soccer games? Put it on the calendar because guess what? Work will take up every other minute. So do those things. Those are the reasons you work. And some of those things are the reasons that make you good at work. So make sure you do them first.

Jeremy: This is The Create Your Own Life Show, where we interview people that are world-class performers from Super Bowl champions to New York Times bestsellers to billionaires. We figure out what makes them tick and unpack it for you to do the same. I’m Jeremy Ryan Slate, and every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we help you to create your own life.

Hey, what is up everybody? Jeremy, here. It is Friday, the 5th of February, 2021. And this is The Create Your Own Life Show. Thank you so much for spending your Friday with me. I hope you guys have had an amazing week and I got to tell you I’m just so excited for all the episodes we have in store. Before I tell you about that though, let me just quickly tell you guys about today’s sponsor. This episode is sponsored by Audible and the kind people at Audible have been nice enough to offer us a free month of their service and a free audiobook download. So to get that, you can head over to JeremyRyanSlate.com/book.

That is JeremyRyanSlate.com/book. Right now I am reading The League by John Eisenberg who’s going to be coming on the show very, very shortly to talk about the founding of the NFL, which I’m very, very excited about. So if you want to grab that book or any other book for free, courtesy of Audible, head over to JeremyRyanSlate.com/book which is JeremyRyanSlate.com/book.

All right, everybody. So I’ve been recording a lot of awesome episodes recently. Welcome to this freestyle Friday episodes show where we talk about something I’ve learned during the week, a quote from history, or something that an interview I’ve done elsewhere, but I’ve been doing some really, really awesome interviews recently. So I’m excited about some of the ones we have coming to you guys next week. We’re going to be starting Monday with the author of Built to Sell, which is literally one of my favorite books.

John Warrillow is going to be coming to you on Monday. Wednesday, we’re going to have Kim Klacik ran for, I believe it was, Congress in district seven, representing Baltimore. So we’re going to be talking to her about her congressional campaign, which I’m very, very excited about. Following week, we have Amy Downs coming at you who survived the Oklahoma City bombing and it changed her life because of it, which is really, really exciting.

Also, Cornell McBride, Jr., which I’m very excited about, who’s an influencer in the beauty world. So that was really, really exciting. So, guys, we have a lot of amazing, amazing episodes coming at you. I mentioned John Eisenberg’s book. I am actually doing that interview today. That interview is going to be coming at you very shortly as well. So we have a lot of awesome episodes. And in this freestyle Friday episode, I’m very excited for our guest today as we have Susan Fennema with us today and she is the founder of Beyond the Chaos.

She actually helps entrepreneurs figure out what all this chaos is in their business and sort things straight to really get moving. So we’re going to talk about sorting out the chaos. We’re going to talk, we talk about growth strategies. We’re going to be talking about getting everything in alignment to go big or go home. So there’s going to be a lot of fun with Susan. So everyone, without further ado, let’s get into this interview with Susan Fennema.

Hey, what is up, everybody? Jeremy here. And as always, I’m bringing you guys some incredible people that are doing really big things, and we have a special guest with us today. I have Susan Fennema with me today and we’re going to be talking about getting business owners through the chaos. Susan, thank you so much for hanging out with me today.

Susan: Hey, Jeremy, thanks so much for having me. I’m looking forward to this conversation.

Jeremy: Absolutely. I’m so excited about this because I just know like, especially in the last year, business owners’ lives got even crazier when you had to figure out how to change how your business even operates. So like there’s a lot of chaos out there for us business owners to be dealing with.

Susan: Absolutely. And you know, people have gone from non-virtual businesses to being virtual businesses. In some cases, losing team members. In some cases, people are exploding and having to grow quickly. There’s just so much going on.

Jeremy: And you know what’s interesting is our company’s always been virtual. So we had a leg up in a lot of ways, but the thing is like, you still run into there are certain things that you’re like, man, I wish we had an office for XYZ because there are certain things that you only handle in an office. So it’s a huge learning curve, even for those of us that have done it for a long time.

Susan: Well, you know, that’s interesting. I have been a virtual business as well. So, you know, we’ve been around for four and a half years. Before that, I was an employee in a virtual business. So I’ve been virtual for 10 years. And so to me there was a sense of, wait, what do you mean? People don’t already know all this? Do you know? So it was an interesting environment to be in. We work with a lot of virtual clients as well. So translating that into working with the few that were not virtual was very interesting and fun.

Jeremy: Let’s talk a little bit about your story. Like what made you want to help business owners?

Susan: You know I have worked for small business owners throughout my whole career. And one of the things I’ve always loved is watching, taking that overwhelm and those details off their plate, gave them room to focus and grow. As you watch this as an employee, you see the business do that and you make this huge impact in this first year. And then all of a sudden, okay, you’ve written processes and you’ve put in tools and things are running and now you’re a well-paid operations director that’s maintaining stuff. So my philosophy was maybe what I need to be doing instead of helping one person at a time and staying somewhere for five or six years is to actually go out and help five or six, 10, 15, 20, we hope to grow, at the same time small business owners.

So that’s really where my drive to start the business came and being able to see that impact that you have on that business owner, not only in how he grows his business, but how his personal life changes, how all of a sudden those details aren’t constantly nagging, and they’re able to relax with their families, maybe just have dinner with the family. That’s a huge improvement for some. Right? So getting their lives back is a big thing. And that’s one of the things we want to put forward the most when we’re working with the small business owners.

Jeremy: I can really appreciate that cause I know 2019 was like a crazy year for us. And over this Christmas break this year from Christmas until right after New Year’s, we actually just totally shut down this year, which we haven’t done in the past. But we were set up to be able to do it. And you know, we went up to upstate New York. I did some skiing and I actually forgot what day it was. It’s never happened before. And I was like, oh my gosh, I think we’ve kind of reached that next level. And it’s, as a business owner, when you get there and when you’re helping people do that, it’s very cool.

Susan: It is amazing to watch the impact that it has. And you know, that’s actually, one of our values is we want to affect American society exponentially. And so, Jeremy, I can imagine when you noticed this change, the people around you noticed this change too, your team, your spouse, your kids, if you have them, I don’t know if you have them.

Jeremy: We have a two-year-old. We have another one on the way.

Susan: There you go. And you know all of these people start to be impacted by your change. And then they can impact people differently. So we’re able to take that change exponentially to the full American society. That’s how we’re seeing what we’re doing.

Jeremy: This episode is sponsored by Command Your Brand, your source to build your brand, get more business, grow, and create the attention that your brand really deserves by becoming a guest on some of the top, most top-rated podcasts in the world, just like this one.

If you want to get out there and get more attention and grow your brand then Command Your Brand will help you define exactly who you need to be in front of. Help you tell a better story, locate and book you on the right podcast, and also help you create content that’s going to create even more ROI for you years down the road. So if you want to find out more, head over to CommandYourBrand.com, drop a line, and figure out how you can start to take command of your brand.

You know, what’s interesting too cause I feel like a lot of businesses, especially when they’re newer, even when they’ve been around for like a business has been around for a while, they kind of get in this like constant cope. Right? They’re just trying to make it go right. They’re trying to make it go right. Trying to make it go right. And it does kind of, I guess, create this little bit of chaos. Right? It kind of creates this craziness around that. So when you’re looking at that, Susan, I guess, what are the top three ways to control chaos in a small business? Because I think to some extent, you’re always going to have a little bit of craziness, but we need some more sanity in our business and I guess what does that look like?

Susan: Right. And so the important part to note here is you’re controlling it. You’re not eliminating it. Right? So there will always be some.

Jeremy: Yeah.

Susan: But there are three ways. And one is to systemize. Absolutely start looking at everything that you do over and over again and get that written down. Either put, make a checklist, make a process, something that is going to enable you to hand that off to a team member, maybe a spouse. We actually had a client who we set up the project management and their spouse does the project management and then delegates to a virtual assistant, whatever you’re delegating to. But as a small business owner, you have all that in your head and you have an expectation and a fear surrounding letting it go. So if you’re able to put it down the way you intended with the detail that you want to be done, it’s easier to let go. So that’s the first thing.

Jeremy: It’s a huge barrier too I feel like for a lot of people. Right? Because they’re like, they end up wanting to hire somebody to do something, but they can never hire somebody to do something cause, what do you do? Oh, do that. Well, what does that look like? And I feel like that documenting process or writing a standard operating procedure, whatever people call them different things in their different businesses. But like having that, how things are done is important.

I’m curious for you, is there a preferred way you like to document? I know for us, I think, you know, people have different modalities, so I’ll do a written version, and also a lot of our stuff is digital a screen recorded versions so people kind of match the things up. But I’m curious when you’re documenting, do you have a particular way you like to do it?

Susan: So I have a great method, but now I’ve created some and I’m able to work with a virtual assistant this too. So if I’m trying to hand off something to someone, I will record what I want them to do or what I’m doing. It could be both. And then do that on with a screen with audio and then send it to them. Ask them to do it. But then also to write it up. I don’t even have to write it… just show somebody once, they write it.

I do have a preferred method of making sure it’s always written because it’s a lot easier as processes evolve, and they will, and they should. If you’re growing and changing, they should. Then if it’s written, it’s a lot easier to go in and change that one line as opposed to going and rerecording a whole video because you changed software or something like that. Yeah.

Jeremy: So your first point there was documenting, I cut you off before you give us the other two, but do continue. I always like to add that little bit of context because I think it makes it just, you know, there’s so much that makes it more real to our business owners listening. You know?

Susan: Oh, for sure. For sure. So the second thing that we need to do is to better manage our projects. And that means not using email as a project management tool. It means using a tool that is set up properly with a consistent system, that you and your team can communicate with your client through that tool. You know, I hear a lot of people that’ll say, oh, I used Asana or I used Teamwork and it didn’t work. Okay. Well, it does work. I guarantee all of them to work.

Jeremy: Do you have one that you like better? Cause personally, I haven’t been able to get into Trello. I just didn’t like it, in the beginning, we used Basecamp a lot. Now we’ve built our own system that we use. But I’m just curious if there’s one you like more.

Susan: So, Jeremy, I will tell you that my least favorite is Home Grown Systems, but… Because you’re trying to reinvent the wheel, in my opinion. With all the API tie-ins that most of these have, if you just need a little piece added, that’s always a way to do it. But my absolute favorite is Teamwork. We are a Teamwork partner and I became that because I love the tool. I’m not selling the tool because I am a partner. It’s the other way around.

But we also work in Asana. We’re an Asana partner as well. We work in Basecamp. We’ll work in any tool that our client uses. Trello is fine as well. As long as it’s getting the job done. So choosing one and not jumping around to a whole bunch of others and saying, oh, I tried it for six months. And then I just moved on. That’s a big no-no and you know, I just liken it to pick a tool and use it properly.

Susan: You know, if you put a hammer down next to a nail, your picture’s not going to get hung. There’s a whole bunch of other things that go into using a tool. So that’s the second way. The third way to control the chaos in your business is really that managing of interruptions. So making sure that you calendar block, making sure that you are setting time to do your thing, your business, your tasks, and relating those back to what’s on your task list. And then staying out of your email. For Pete’s sake stop answering the phone and stop messing around in your email.

Jeremy: My wife yells at me for that one. Actually, that’s the thing I’m worse with is checking my email. I’m in it too often.

Susan: Right? And I do the same thing. I’m very tempted. I actually have two virtual assistants. One works at night and one works in the day. I really have almost no excuse to be in my email because they’re going to tell me if there’s something I need to do. But it’s tempting. Isn’t it? And I think that that’s one of those things that we interrupt ourselves because sometimes you just need something that, oh yeah, I can totally get this done.

Jeremy: That’s like when somebody sends me a long email. I just look at the length of it. And I’m like, oh, I’ll handle that later.

Susan: Right?

Jeremy: Just because it looks big.

Susan: But sometimes you’re like I could go answer a few emails and feel like I’m accomplishing something, but really you’re not, especially if you have a virtual assistant. If you don’t have a virtual assistant, then schedule times in your day to check your email, and make sure that you’re turning it off between those things. The more interruptions you have, the less you can focus.

And as a business owner, there are two things you really want to do. One is sell. Almost all small business owners are doing the sales process of their business. But the second is why did you start your business in the first place? You’re good at something. You love it. And now that you’re a business owner, you’re finding out I don’t even get to do it anymore. So make sure that you’re allowing time in your day to do that, to keep your skills sharp, and to do what you love.

Jeremy: I can really appreciate that too cause I know for myself, the way I set my days up is I’m usually at the gym by seven in the morning cause I know I have to do that first because if I don’t, I’m a cranky pants. I don’t show up very nice to anybody. So that’s kind of first. And then I’m usually working from eight to 10:00 AM because then, and before having any phone calls or anything like that, because like you were talking about, once those interruptions get done, those things you want to get done, number one, take longer, but number two, usually don’t get done so I can totally agree what you’re saying. That’s vital.

Susan: Yes. And you know, to your point about getting that exercise in, you know, I have a big philosophy of making sure that’s on your calendar, if you’re just starting to do the calendar blocking, go in, and the very first thing you block out is whatever is your spiritual guidance bear, whether it’s God or just meditating or whatever, get that in there. Get your health in there. When are you working out?

For me, it was, I would skip lunch and be starting at three o’clock. So, okay. I have to have a lunch put in my calendar to make me do it. And then make sure then, three, you’re putting in all of your family things. Are you going to go to your kid’s soccer games? Put it on the calendar, because guess what work will take up every other minute. So do those things. Those are the reasons you work. And some of those things are the reasons that make you good at work. So make sure you do them first.

Jeremy: So important too cause I know my wife and I do joint Google calendar events when we have stuff we’re doing together and we always know. There’s no excuse. We know what’s happening. We figure out if the baby coming with us? Is she not coming with us? So it’s important to think of a lot of those things. And at the same time, I love the mention of food. Right? Because I think in this hustle society, we’re kind of told like, oh, you can do that later or whatever.

You’re not very useful to somebody when you’re not eating. I know for myself, I was always convinced that the Snickers commercials were inspired by me. You know, like the way people get when they’re there… But like the thing is, is like, you know, you may show up angrier with clients. You may not get through your day. You got to eat. It’s so important.

Susan: Well in sometimes you’re just not thinking as clearly. Make sure you have your water. You need to be drinking water regularly, a lot of it. All of those things make your brain go and the better your brain goes, the more present that you are for your team, for your clients, for your family. And that’s what we’re looking to accomplish. We want those things to be perfect and awesome in everyone’s lives.

Jeremy: So, Susan, let me ask you this, you know, based on all the clients you work with and you know, all the experience you’ve had, what would you say is, I guess, the biggest lesson that you’ve learned about chaos and business just from that perspective.

Susan: That’s a great question. I haven’t been asked that before. That’s good. I like it. I would say that there is going to be chaos. You are a small business owner and so you don’t have 40 people to go do the work for you. You’re doing, there’s different chaos in that, but you’re doing almost everything.

Jeremy: You need HR for that.

Susan: Right? You’re doing almost everything. And so it is important to know that there will be more chaos, the fewer experts that you bring in, getting those things handed, and by experts, I even mean assistants, bookkeepers, they’re experts in their area. They’re not huge marketing officers or something like that. Although marketing is another one that you probably need help with.

Jeremy: Well, like I hired somebody for Google Ads because I’m just technical enough to waste my own time. So you know what I mean? And I think it’s really important to find somebody who knows how to do that stuff and just has a good price and they do it. You know?

Susan: Yeah. And, you know, especially if you’re a technical person like a software developer, you’re like, oh, I can make my own website. Well, you probably can, but is it going to be the best? Is it, and more importantly, is it the best use of your time? And that’s something that you always have to be thinking about. That’s probably the biggest lesson. I had to talk myself around to it. That’s probably the biggest lesson is always trying to figure out what you’re doing. Is it worth your time?

Jeremy: We’ve talked a lot of different topics today, Susan, and I guess if we’re thinking about the idea of legacy, like, you know, if you’re far in the future and you’re looking at the legacy you created and you’ve left behind, what does that legacy look like?

Susan: It looks like a bunch of happy business owners that got to retire and sell their businesses because they structured them to be sold. That’s another benefit of those processes, by the way. If you don’t have them, you have nothing to sell, that we’re able maybe to retire early, that could spend time with their family, and that they were able to understand that all of that effort that they put in reaped the reward that they had in mind when they started.

Jeremy: I can really appreciate that. And I just want to bring in something you said in the beginning because I think this kind of makes this full circle. After all, it’s perfect and it’s the best, it’s a great idea. You talked about helping a lot of people that each in themselves make an impact. And I think that’s what the ripple of things looks like. Right? If you can touch a few powerful people that do some big things, it’s pretty amazing what you’re doing. That’s an awesome legacy.

Susan: To me, that’s a big, big deal is making sure all those people are affecting other lives positively, I might add, because overwhelmed does make you tend to affect them negatively.

Jeremy: Yeah. Definitely. Definitely. I’ve been there. I get it. Don’t talk to me today. I’ve been there. I understand. Well for people listening to this, Susan, if they want to connect with you, if they want some help, hey, they got some chaos in their life, in their business. They want to get it out. How’s going to be the best way for them to go connect with you?

Susan: Sure. So, you know, I’ve worked with about 50 clients over four and a half years. And so we’ve compiled the top three ways to control chaos in your small business into a short ebook. So it’s a lot about what we talked about today, but a few more details. So you can download that for free at BeyondTheChaos.biz/ebook. And from there too, you’ll find all of our contact information. So feel free to reach out to us too.

Jeremy: Very cool. Well, Susan Fennema, thank you so much for hanging out with me today.

Susan: Thank you, Jeremy. This has been great.

Jeremy: Hey, everyone. Thank you so much for hanging out with Susan and me today. You can grab her ebook that she mentioned over at beyondthechaos.biz/ebook-control-the-chaos. You can get the show notes for this episode over at JeremyRyanSlate.com/831.

Also, if you guys have not yet checked the video version of the show, be sure to go over to youtube.com/JeremyRyanSlateBiz, that’s youtube.com/JeremyRyanSlateBiz. If you’re listening to the podcast version of this and have not yet subscribed to the show, whether you’re listening on Apple Podcasts or you hit the follow button on Spotify, be sure to do that and leave us a rating and a review while you’re over there as well. All right, everyone. Have an amazing, amazing end to your Friday. Catch you guys on Monday for our awesome episode with John Warrillow. So get out there and go create your own life.

Susan’s business, Beyond the Chaos, partners with other small businesses to control their chaos through project management and process development.

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