In December we held an event at thinkspace about personal branding. Alec Mountain, Meetup host and Founder of Product Blitz, shared insight and tips about personal branding: “the brand you build around yourself and ultimately, the reputation people come to know and expect from you.” Alec explained that reputation can make all the difference in helping you land more opportunities, create better connections, and live a more fulfilling lifestyle.

The personal branding trend can drive benefits to your company. Though I’m not a marketing professional, I do have fairly strong research skills and thought I’d invest some time into learning more about this trend. What I found was that there were three overarching themes in how to strengthen your personal brand: be an expert, be authentic, create content.

Be an expert. What are you you good at? What do people know you for? If you are able to answer this question, than you solved the first challenge, but now make sure you truly are an expert on it. Read about it, write about it, practice it. Your niche is out there and when you can dial in on the thing you are expert about, they will be out there looking for you. The more specific, the better. Imagine being in need of a vegan marathoner health coach (shameless plug). There can’t be too many of those out there and to dial that into my SEO will help those searching for me that much easier.

Be authentic. Speaking about your own experience can go a long way. Not only will followers and potential customers feel a connection to you, but they will also learn to trust you and your suggestions. That being said, content shouldn’t always be about marketing and trying to be “salesy.” Followers are interested in seeing what you do in your downtime, whether it’s hiking, snowshoeing, standup comedy, or where you eat.  For example, if you recently tried the new baked potato restaurant in Ballard, Papas Hot Potatoes, and want to scream about how exciting the menu is, make sure to share about it.

Create content. Without content, what do you have to share? Without content, what expertise are you able to offer? While blog posts such as this certainly count towards content, the ease and popularity of videos on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube make it a popular choice. Experts in the field claim it as the hottest piece of content to produce. Personal branding experts tell you to come up with a purpose for your video; choose whether you want to educate, entertain or inspire. I’ve created a few videos helping clients learn to cook basic meals, helping them overcome the initial intimidation of cooking from scratch.

Whatever the purpose, it’s most important to simply have one. Ultimately, personal branding is a vehicle to help build brand awareness and help you reach your goals. If content creation or personal branding is something you are passionate about, I’d love to hear what kind of content you create and invite you to share your expertise with the thinkspace community. Is your expertise in another area? I invite you to share it with us in your own guest blog post! Email thinkspace and let us know you’re interested.

Resources: Entrepreneur.com , Forbes.com, Briar Prestidge

 

 

 

 

The “How I Work” series, most noteworthy done by Lifehacker, has been reproduced by multiple authors for good reason: people love to hear from successful and influential people and learn the intricacies of their day-to-day. It can be inspiring and motivating to hear about the best, and oftentimes most simplistic practices.  In our “How I Work” interview we refined our questions by adding a few of our own and spiced them up with inspiration from Lifehacker as well as thinkspace mentor Matt Heinz. If you’re interested in checking out our previous “How I Work” interviews they get compiled here.

In this edition you’ll be hearing from Rick Miller from Richard Miller CPA, who has provided accounting and financial planning out of thinkspace Redmond for almost four years. Prior to working for himself,  Rick provided tax consulting and accounting services for small businesses, estates/trusts and individuals working as Sr. Tax Manager for Nordberg, Hammack, Kolp & CashPS.  When not with family, Rick can be seen on his bike cycling both for fun and to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  

Name: Rick Miller

Current Gig: Sole Owner of Richard Miller CPA

One word that best describes how you work: Holistic

Current mobile device: iPhone

Favorite verb: moving

Grit Score: 4.1 (If you’re interested in learning your Grit Score take the test here.)

How do you recharge or take a break from work? I ride my bike; an average ride will be about 30 miles.

What was your dream job/passion project as a kid? Geologist

Sunrise or sunset:  Sunrise

Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today. I was a geology major at University of Idaho, and it just became clear it wasn’t. I looked at college as a trade school and knew I wanted a degree in something that you could actually get a job at. That’s how I got into accounting. I worked for an entrepreneur, an accountant by trade, and learned that I could take accounting and take it anywhere in business. I didn’t want to work  at a large firm and gravitated to small firm accounting and it fit me well. I was always a small business guy. Two years in Baker, Oregon turned into 10 years. We moved to Washington to be close to family and I ended up on my own since 2004.

Number of unread emails right now? 40 that are important, then probably a lot of junk.

First thing you do when you come into work? Look to see if anybody has sent an email overnight. I try to start each day with correspondence.

What is your email management strategy? I don’t have folders or anything like that. If I have an assistant one day I’d have each client with a folder. Currently, I pay the extra space from GoDaddy and sort junk and clear deleted emails. If I can deal with an email in it’s entirety, great. Otherwise I flag it and it becomes my task list. Whoever thought to create the “unread an email” option is a genius.

How do you keep yourself calm and/or focused?  I have to embrace that there are days that there is more work that comes in that I can do, and that’s okay. I keep a list and prioritize it or ask who is the squeaky wheel that I don’t want to deal with if I wouldn’t get it done. I know afternoon isn’t the time to start a big project, so that’s when I can choose things that will be easy to get from A to Z on. I to to find a way to find momentum.

What’s your perspective or approach to work/life balance? I’m still on that journey to tell you the truth. My clients all go through the same projection. They are grow, grow, grow, and I take on a lot of work. Then companies hit a second stage of how to make the same amount of money, but work less. The third phase is asking how much income do I actually need and how to cut back. Looking for that transition is stage four. I don’t know too many successful people that just stop.

Are there any work rituals critical to your success?  Yes, answering correspondences first thing in the morning usually; and working on simpler, less complex tasks during the day when there are many interruptions.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? My creative solutions cloud, which contains most of my tax and accounting related software programs.

Last thing you do before leaving work? Look at the next day’s schedule.

Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?  Mainly clients and their bookkeepers. Good communication as to what I need to do my work is critical.

What’s your least favorite thing to do, and how do you deal with it? Tackling something that I’m not 100% sure about, or that is new to me – which will involve a learning curve. I try to block out some uninterrupted time to deal with these.

What are you currently reading, or what’s something you’d recommend? I just finished Dan Abram’s book about Lincoln’s last trial (before being nominated in 1860 for President). I’m also about 1/2 way through H.G. Wells’ ‘The Time Machine.’

Who are some mentors or influencers you wish to thank or acknowledge? Todd Flynn, CPA CFP at Soundmark Wealth MGMT; Brian Bircher, CPA at Martin, Bircher, Thompson, CPAS; Richard Cash, CPA at Novogradoc CPAS; Doug Purd, CPA (RETIRED).

What is your working process like? I work alone; no employees on all planning and implementation projects. I heavily rely on client correspondences during an engagement. ‘ Out of dialogue comes truth.”

Describe your workspace?  Single office in Redmond; C-shaped desk; good sound system with computer for Pandora and Youtube Music while working.

What’s your best shortcut or life hack? Not needing to keep everything or scan every single piece of paper that comes my way. Get your work done: scan what’s truly important. 

How do you keep track of what you have to do?  To do lists, project tracking features in my tax software.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? The only person who is ever going to make your life better is you. Like the Great Steve Harvey has said, “You gotta jump.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans? It’s cliche, but I do get my best ideas for helping clients or “thinking outside the box” when doing something totally different, like riding my bike or mowing the lawn. It’s important for me to get away from my work in order to do my best work.

Interested in becoming a “How I Work” spotlight? Contact Stephanie and she’ll be excited to come chat!

thinkspace Seattle has stand up paddle boards for members that were launched this summer. Peter Chee, founder of thinkspace, demonstrates how non-intimidating this can be for the beginner.

One of my favorite things about thinkspace Seattle is that I can see so clearly over Lake Union to Eastlake and no matter today or in five years, it will be the same or similar view; that is they won’t be building on top of water anytime soon. I also find watching the seaplanes taking off and landing fascinating not to mention the fancy of all the yachts, sailboats, and rowers I see daily. While sitting in the coworking space I find that I am oftentimes inspired to write, to create, or brainstorm with my team and apparently this isn’t unique. According to marine biologist and author Wallace J. Nichols, “a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment” is triggered when we are in, or near water.

Wallace explains “When we step away from our high-stressed lives and step into nature, we get a shift. Physiologically, our brains and bodies change. We relax, and the quality of our thought changes. A different brain network activates. That brain network is available for a completely different kind of quality of thought which is much more introspective and self-referential. Oftentimes it leads to feelings of connectedness and that can lead to innovative thoughts.”

Life and work might seem high-stressed but at thinkspace it’s juxtaposed to nature, so harnessing that balance is accessible. When I’m perplexed or feeling confined, I’m literally a doorway away from the patio, or a walk along the waterfront. As I write this I’m looking at the water investigating my own thoughts, which are indeed introspective. If anything else, I’m inspired to show up because I love where I get to spend my day, and the work will come. If you’re interested in reading more about Nichols’ book here’s a great article from The Washington Post.

The “How I Work” series, most noteworthy done by Lifehacker, has been reproduced by multiple authors for good reason: people love to hear from successful and influential people and learn the intricacies of their day-to-day. It can be inspiring and motivating to hear about the best, and oftentimes most simplistic practices.  

Bi-monthly, you’ll hear from thinkspace’s Stephanie Slaton, Executive Assistant of thinkspace CEO Peter Chee, as she makes her way around the office getting to know you. In our “How I Work” series, thinkspace will feature members from Redmond and Seattle who are veteran entrepreneurs or startup techies, answering what will become our standard “How I Work” questions.  You’ll be able to catch up on previous featured stars here as well. This “How I Work” entry features Tiffany Larson of ZappBug, a thinkspace Seattle member.

Name:  Tiffany Larson

Current Gig:  I do both Marketing Management and Web Management at ZappBug

One word that best describes how you work:  Sprints

Current mobile device: IPhone X

Favorite verb: Strive

Grit Score: 3.70 (If you’re interested in learning your Grit Score take the test here)

 

How do you recharge or take a break from work? I take short walks

What was your dream job/passion project as a kid? I was obsessed with animals and wanted to be a Veterinarian. But as I got a little bit older there was a live stream on tv of archaeologists unearthing mummies in Egypt and after that, all I wanted to be was an archaeologist and go to Egypt.

Sunrise or sunset:  Sunset

Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.  I graduated from college with my degree in Visual Communications and Design. I graduated during the recession and getting a Graphic Design job was nearly impossible. I had an interest in web design and development but my school didn’t offer much at the time, so I taught myself the basics of front-end development. With the help of a little saying “Fake it until you make it,” I was able to get my first web development job for an eCommerce store. I moved on to a social media marketing company and from there to my current role at ZappBug.

Number of unread emails right now? Thirteen in my work inbox, 5000+ in my personal. I make sure I check for important emails and I just ignore the others.

First thing you do when you come into work? I have to get coffee. 

What is your email management strategy? I read what is important and then once every couple months I do a mass delete of all the spam and non-important emails .

How do you keep yourself calm and/or focused?   I make lists for everything. By breaking down larger projects into small tasks it helps me to stay focus and not overwhelmed. I feel a lot more accomplished when I can look at a project and see half the tasks checked off. 

What’s your perspective or approach to work/life balance? I think it is super important to have a good balance. If you work too hard for too long it can really drain you. I have worked for companies in the past that didn’t believe in the balance and it just burns you out. I am very lucky to currently work for a company that believes strongly in a work/life balance.

Are there any work rituals critical to your success? I work in sprints. I spend around two hours at a time getting lost in my work and then I get up and go for a short walk and repeat. 

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?  PhotoShop, Everything Google (analytics, drive, etc…), and Asana.

Last thing you do before leaving work? I double check that I have completed my list for the day and if there is anything left I create a new one for the start of the next day.

What’s your least favorite thing to do, and how do you deal with it? I do not enjoy writing, especially large pieces of content which is needed for marketing and websites. Writing is not my strong suit, but obviously most jobs involve a lot of writing. I will usually quickly write something up and have someone copy or edit it, or I will just straight up ask or hire someone else to do it for me.

What are you currently reading, or what’s something you’d recommend? “Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders.” I have just started it. I am not sure if I would recommend it yet. 

Who are some mentors or influencers you wish to thank or acknowledge? I have a couple of college professors that really pushed me to do my best, Brian Kamp and Kristine Hwang.

Describe your workspace? Organized chaos; my desk is always a little messy.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? I mentioned earlier, “Fake it until you make it.” We are lucky enough to live in the day of the internet. It is so easy to google anything you don’t know.

Interested in becoming a “How I Work” spotlight? Contact Stephanie at stephanie@thinkspace.com and she’ll be excited to come chat!

Recently, I attended a workshop on Building a Predictable Sales Pipeline by Heinz Marketing. The focus was enablement strategies and tactics to increase your confidence in hitting your number month-after-month. The speaker was Matt Heinz who has over 20 years of marketing and sales experience translating strategy into execution and building a framework that allows your company to generate a net-new sales pipeline with predictability and at scale.

During the workshop, one of my questions was in a “boiler sales room” how many prospects does a sales person have to reach out to every single day, Matt’s response was 130-200 but you can’t have productive conversations. Since I’m not interested in creating a sales boiler room, I asked, what is a reasonable number of people that a sales person should be reaching out to on a daily basis? Matt said, that 40-50 people is considered to be reasonable.

This is the first time that I’ve heard anyone say a specific number. It’s 40 per day.

After hearing that number 40, I decided to start asking questions to sales people that call me. My question to a sale representatives at Outreach.io and to SalesForce.com was how many people do you reach out to regularly? They said about 40 people. They are also said that they are looking for seven (7) meaningful prospects each day of those 40. Meaningful is defined as someone that is genuinely interested in solving their problem with our solution. I also started to research the number 40 and found this: “The average sales rep makes 52 calls every day.” — The Bridge Group 

If you expect your sales people to reach out to 40 people per day, you’re going to need to have a good process. That means you’ve defined things well and you have a good sales sequence. Without a sequence that the team can follow, you’re going to end up with randomness, uneven results, and something that isn’t predictable at all. Sales sequence steps are things like 1) phone call. 2) voice mail. 3) email. 4) social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. 5) newsletters. 6) invitations to events. How many steps are in your sales sequence?

There’s a lot more which was covered by Matt and I’ll continue to blog more about that but I wanted to first touch on the number of prospects that your sales and business development people are reaching out to every day.

Heather Smith, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Jess Stipe, Moz; Nicci Herron, Rover.com

Seattle Startup Week is a week long celebration of entrepreneurship in Seattle. On October 9, 2018 we hosted an event that focused on Executive Assistants with panels of EA’s from small startups to large tech companies. Those in the field know an executive assistant is the unsung hero of the office who is running the show. Executive assistants spend countless hours anticipating the needs and supporting their bosses to make the CEO look good and of course to keep him or her organized. Though there are endless professional development and conference options for any given profession, executive assistants don’t have much to depend on in this arena. Peter Chee, CEO and founder of thinkspace, and his EA, Stephanie Slaton, decided to take on the task of bringing together EA’s from all over the Seattle area and create the opportunity for a shared learning experience.

Leslie Hall, Amazon; Lynanne Lewis, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Sheena McKinney, Heinz Marketing

The first two panels included amazing Executive Assistants from Amazon, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rover.com, Heinz Marketing, and Moz, and excitingly the final panel highlighted both the CEO and EA from Heinz Marketing, to capture how to best partner in this role.

We were able to transcribe Matt Heinz and Sheena McKinney’s responses to this final panel and have shared it below. Head over to the livestream links to all three of the panel discussions to hear more!

Video link to Panel 1 – Train Like the CEO/Executive That You Support
Video link to Panel 2 – Tips and Tools From the Best EA’s in Seattle
Video link to Panel 3 – How Best to Partner With Your EA

Matt Heinz & Sheena McKinney, Heinz Marketing; Stephanie Slaton & Peter Chee, thinkspace

The last panel showcased Matt Heinz, CEO of Heinz Marketing and Sheena McKinney, Executive Assistant to Matt. It was great to see the two of them on stage together, interacting, and communicating. They have been working together for four and half years so it was good see what a well-oiled machine looks like. Below are some of the questions that we asked them starting with a lightning round of questions:

Interview Lightning Round:

What is your favorite guilty pleasure TV show? 

Sheena: I watch a lot of HGTV and Food Network, but I must confess…. with emphasis on the word “guilty” vs. “favorite” … I watch The Bachelor.  I know.  It’s embarrassing.  My own brother almost disowned me when he heard I watched the show.

What do you think about when you’re alone in your car? 

Sheena: I’m pretty task oriented so I tend to think about things I need to do.  I press the home button on my mounted-hands-free iPhone and tell Siri “add eggs to my groceries list” or “remind me tomorrow at 10 o’clock to update the spreadsheet”.  I will also say– on the way to work I listen to the radio in my attempt to keep current and on the way home I listen to my book club books on Audible.

What is a hidden talent you have that has come in handy at work? 

Sheena: I find writing comes easily for me.  I’m able to send off emails without too much thought and occasionally I get to write blog posts for our blog.

Best Partnering Questions:

First, how long have you been working together?  4 ½ years

Matt, one of the key reasons Peter was hiring an EA was to open up time, 5 hours a week specifically. What are your top reasons for hiring an EA and how has hired Sheena changed the way you work?

Matt: Having a great executive assistant can make you literally 3-5X more productive than you can be on your own.  It’s not just taking stuff off your plate, it’s delegating those things and having them done better, faster, smarter.  And when I focus on the right things, it has an exponential impact on my business.

What are your work styles and how do you compliment one another? 

Sheena:

    • We are both zero inbox people.  I’m so addicted to the freedom of this approach I’m also a zero-saved-texts person. Anything I might need from a text I copy/paste/save elsewhere. For sentimental conversations like a mushy note from my husband or a screen full of emojis from my granddaughter, I take a screenshot and save it to my photos.
    • The way we approach tasks and information is very similar.  Matt is a David Allen “Getting Things Done (GTD) guy and I originally learned the Franklin Covey system back in the early 1990’s (when Matt was about 14 years old— which makes me feel really old!).  There are a lot of similarities, especially in GTD’s Five basic steps.
    • I’m naturally more here/now minded and less future minded.  Matt’s really good at short, mid, and long term planning and goals so I think we compliment each other here.
    • I’m more detail oriented (not that Matt isn’t).
    • I have perfectionistic tendencies… Matt is better and letting “Good” be “Good Enough”
    • He works better in the morning, I work better in the afternoon

Matt: Before we hired Sheena, our HR consultant told me I needed to find someone who would take an assignment and think through the next 4-5 steps to get it done (vs me having to telegraph it).  Sheena does that really well and isn’t afraid to come back to ask for further detail.

We also have our own hidden language of sorts.  For example, I’ll reply to someone telling them I’m happy to grab an intro call with them and copy Sheena.  Sheena knows that means a 30-minute call, knows when during the day to avoid scheduling it, etc.  These levels of efficiency take time but they add to the extreme benefit of having an EA.

Expectations are important and communication is key. As the Executive Assistant, how do you set expectations with Matt? How does he set expectations with you?  

Sheena: Yes, communication is key and we are in almost constant email communication.  Our weekly 1:1 meeting is also a key way to set and communicate expectations.  Sometimes, we’ll email each other prior to our meeting when the list is longer and/or needs some previous thought or research.  Our annual review is really helpful in setting goals and areas of improvement.

How do you decide when it’s appropriate to use “short but sweet” communication vs. detailed communication? 

The key word here is “decide” I naturally lean toward too much detail but I’ve learned to be as succinct and concise as possible at all times– because of whom I married and because most of the exec’s (current one included) strongly prefer “short but sweet”.  I sometimes (literally) will reply to an email with “Short Story:……….and list the info. with bold fonts, underlines, highlights, etc. and below that, “Long Story:…. And then list out all the detail and back story… knowing full well he may not read it… but it makes me feel better and in some cases, if he questions the short answer… the longer one will help him understand why I arrived at my conclusion/decision.

How do you know when to solve a problem on your own or to ask for help?

Sheena: Plan A is to always try to solve the problem. 1.) I have self-sufficiency issues, 2.) It’s my job to gate keep and let Matt do what he does best.  If it’s a completely new issue where I do not have previous experience from which to draw, I’ll ask for help… sometimes from one of our VP’s who has been around longer and knows Matt and our business better.  If the outcome of the problem could negatively reflect on Matt and/or Heinz Marketing, I will ask for help because I/we care about integrity a lot and I’d rather be safe than sorry.  Fortunately Matt is good and quick at making decisions and is so approachable I feel pretty free in asking when I do need to ask for help.

What have you found to be the most effective way to work together?

Sheena: Open, continual communication is key.  I truly want feedback, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We’re both comfortable with fierce conversations.  Also believing and assuming the best is important. Mutual respect and expressing appreciation is crucial.  At a previous job I had no idea how I stood with my boss.  It wasn’t until months into the job at the company Christmas party (and the alcohol was flowing) I found out from my co-workers how much my boss appreciated me and was glad he hired me. Matt does a great job of showing appreciation and confidence in me and that’s priceless.

We have startup founders and CEOs in the crowd today too, what advice can you give about how to hire and onboard your EA. 

Matt: Do what I did, start the week by making a list of all the things you do that someone else could do for you.  Next to that write how long it took.  At the end of the day look at how many things and how much time is reflected, and consider the opportunity cost of what you could have spent that time doing.  It won’t take you long to do the math and start the hiring process!

Do you walk? Do you run? Did you know that IRONMAN, who acquired Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series in 2017, has been a part of the thinkspace community since May? Come join IRONMAN, the thinkspace team, and colleagues throughout the community October 10th to get outside and move! We’ll be reassembling at thinkspace post-run for electrolytes and refreshments before gearing up for your evening of events or relaxation.

What’s “Show & Trail?” A co-hosted 5k with thinkspace and IRONMAN, the “Show” gets to showcase the amazing community at and around thinkspace. Grit + Resilience is something that entrepreneurs embody, and this is something that won’t only show up in the way you do business, but live your life as well. Before the group heads off for a 5k walk/run/jog, our “Show-ers” will introduce themselves, their company, Grit story, and why they chose to become a part of the thinkspace community. We believe these are all profoundly connected.

Where: thinkspace Seattle
When: Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 4:00-5:30pm
RSVP here!

I’ve been tracking all my time while on a computer this week and it’s broken down to 30.5 hours. 49% of my time is spent on communication and scheduling, 21% on business, 11% on design and composition. I am very hopeful that hiring an executive assistant is going to be one of the best decisions I could make and I’m really excited about this. Have you hired an EA before? What was your experience? Here’s the JD for the position: https://bit.ly/2In7zPo

We’re down to the final stretch before our March 1st Lake Union launch. From the work side we’ve only got five offices left before we hit 100% pre-lease occupancy. We’ve got twelve days or 244 hours left!

From the personal side, I’ve run two half marathons in the last two weekends and tonight I went for a swim and covered 120 lengths, 3000 meters, or about two miles.

Mentally and physically, it’s time to give it all we’ve got. Be strong, maximum effort, set a new threshold, and get across the finish line.