Ever feel like your business has taken over and you are not sure how to breathe and get back in control?
Today I talk to the amazing sister duo Dana and Courtney! With a wedding planning business and two wedding venues to run – they have a lot to handle! I hear about the hard work and long hours they put in to get to this point, and how they kept going even when things were tough!
Find out more about Dana and Courtney below:
Courtney and Dana: Thinking through what is your time worth? What are you actually spending on doing this task, I think is one step. And then realizing that anything that you’re doing to move your business forward is actually a better use of time and finances. So kind of thinking in that direction, like is what, is the task that I’m doing gonna move my business forward?
Or is it just fulfilling a day-to-day need? And sometimes when you’re just fulfilling a day-to-day need, it’s better to put somebody in place. And we do this, and I’ll let Dana explain a little bit more with what we call our 80% Rule.
Becca: I am Becca Pountney, wedding business marketing expert, speaker and blogger, and you are listening to the Wedding Pros who are Ready to Grow podcast. I’m here to share with you actionable tips, strategies, and real life examples to help you take your wedding business to the next level. If you are an ambitious wedding business owner that wants to take your passion and use it to build a profitable, sustainable business doing what you love, then you’re in the right place.
Let’s get going with today’s episode. Today I’m talking to Dana and Courtney. Based out in North Carolina, these incredible sisters have built not one but three wedding businesses. They’re now on a mission to inspire you to leap into your dreams and achieve things you never thought possible. I can’t wait to hear more about their story.
Dana and Courtney, welcome to the podcast.
Courtney and Dana: Thank you. Thanks so much for having us. We’re so excited to be here.
Becca: It’s an absolute pleasure to have you. I’m so excited to get into your story and how on earth you ended up with three wedding businesses. So let’s go right back to start. To your first kind of step into weddings, how did you end up in the wedding industry?
Did you end up in there together or did one of you start with it.
Courtney and Dana: One of us coerced the other into doing it. , I think is more what happened. Yes. Yeah. So we were planning Dana’s wedding and we cannot settle on a place that kind of checked all of her boxes, wasn’t a hotel, et cetera. And we were just talking about it over lunch one day and I was like, you know, there’s, you know, what’d be fun is opening up a wedding venue.
I feel like there’s like a real need for like this look. Can’t just be like you that wants it. And Dana’s like, yeah, that’d be fun. And I was like, but we don’t know anything about wedding planning besides planning our own, so let’s do wedding planning. Become wedding planners as a form of market research.
Mm-hmm. . And I think Dana was just placating me like, yeah, that’s a great idea. So we just. ate our lunch, went along the way. In the meantime, my mother, our mother told us that her best friend’s daughter was getting married like a few hours from here in Asheville. And I was like, you know what, Dana and I are gonna be doing wedding planning, so we’ll plan her wedding.
So I called up Dana and said, Hey, her name was Megan. We’re gonna plan Megan’s wedding. And Dana was like, oh, oh, you’re serious. And I was like, yeah, we’re gonna do this thing. We’re gonna become wedding planners. And that was. First time that we planned a wedding together, we decided we liked it. Yep. We had a good time.
We got some feedback that we needed to get rid of our, you know, resting bitch faces. Mm-hmm. And be a little bit more smiley at the weddings. But we really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun. We were like, let’s do it again. Yeah. Yeah, so we just put an Ad out on Craigslist for $250 . So crazy. And it just, that kind of, we met a caterer there.
It was his first gig as well, and we both just, he’s like, I like working with you. And then he started recommending us to his clients and it kind of took off from there. And it was definitely a slow build because it was a side hustle for a couple of years until we could. We had enough business for me to actually quit.
I had my first child and I was able to stay home and, and build that business and, and watch my child, and watch her child at the same time. We were both teachers. Yes. before. So yeah. And then it was like, I think seven years into business. Yeah. Roughly. And then we had amassed a certain amount of money and Courtney’s like, you know what?
We should reprive this venue dream. We’d just come out of the recession. She’s like, land is going for like a song and a dance. Let’s see if we can find something. We stumbled upon this little property that took us on a very long rollercoaster ride. Mm-hmm. and built a venue. So the rest is history.
Becca: Wow. So what a journey from just deciding to plan a kind of family friend’s wedding right through to that, in that initial dream coming true and owning the venue.
Now let’s go back to that step because you made that sound easy. Like, I just found a piece of land, we bought a venue and that the rest is history. I’m sure there was more to it than that. So how did you take the leap? Was it scary? Did you know anything about running a venue? How did you learn ,
Courtney and Dana: all those things?
No, it was very, very scary. I think for us, the hardest part was that we are not independently wealthy people. We didn’t come from money, so we had no one backing us. It was literally every dollar that we had saved, it was our retirement funds. As teachers, we had nothing. So when we decided to walk into this, we put everything on the line like.
Every bit we sold everything we owned. We sold our houses. Sold our houses, like yeah, liquidated some stocks that we had just from, you know, company stuff and like, you know, my husband and then like retirement and whatnot. So the finances were really, really, really scary. And then we all moved on property.
So we bought the land next to it. Built these little tiny cottage. and we all lived there cause we thought that was the best way to do it, is if we just had one mortgage that we all contributed to. Mm-hmm. . And it was, we joked, we built a cul-de-sac in a year We did because they built three houses, but it was the most stressful thing and.
I think we’ve ever, ever, ever been through just cuz we had to do so much sweat equity to get through it. Yeah. We had to change our original vision so much cuz we didn’t have the money. And there’s a lot that we learned from that process that we definitely, when we advise as other people is that if we, we did it so safely because we were afraid to fail.
That if we had lept a little bit more with some, a little bit more faith and asked for more money and did more of that kind of business loan type thing, we probably wouldn’t have had as much of a struggle, but it would’ve probably grown a little bit faster. Yeah, bigger, faster. But we were just so scared of it.
We were just so scared of losing everything cuz we had. If we did that, was it like there was no one to fall back on, so, yeah.
Becca: Yeah. But you took a huge risk and most people would’ve never even been able to bring that vision to life because they’d have let the fear hold them back and you didn’t let the fear hold you back.
So what was it that kept you going and kept that belief through that time?
Courtney and Dana: Courtney . I mean, I just felt like I just knew like Gutterally that it had to work. Like I just knew it was gonna work. I knew it was gonna be successful, I just had a real confidence in our ability to run a business and. I really felt strongly in our product.
So at this point, we’d been in the market for seven years. I’d been at lots of weddings and, and planned lots of weddings. So I felt like we had a good background knowledge of what people were looking for. And I do think that we like hit the nail on the head as far as, as like aesthetic, probably not space size at that particular moment, but.
That mattered less than aesthetic. So I think we put our money where it made the most sense. And yeah, I mean, I just, I really did. I, I, every day I would tell, I’m like, this is just, this has to work. And Dana’s like, really? It doesn’t have to work. Yeah. And I’m like, no, but it really does. Like, it’s gonna work.
It’s gonna work out. It’s gonna be fine. And it was, and, and I think that for us too, There were definitely some scary moments. There were like a lot of rice and beans and peanut butter and jelly, and that got us through, you know, and, but I think we were super safe. Mm-hmm. . So there wasn’t a scenario. It had to be, it had to go really badly.
Mm-hmm. for it to be a complete bust. And if it was like, okay, we’re gonna lump along and just do like 10 or 15 weddings a year, we can live along for a while in that. Mm-hmm. . , you know, that’s not how it went. Thank the Lord. Yeah. So I think that we just did it in a way that we were comfortable with, and I felt like we’d had the research and the experience in place to really put a product out there that was marketable and sellable though.
Yeah. But I mean, there were definitely some moments where like, and Courtney talking about rice and beans. Joking. That was so serious. I remember my mother-in-law bought us groceries one time cuz she was like, I don’t think you guys are eating. And I was like, I don’t think you understand how poor we are right now.
like, I mean literally like we’re just, and we had to ask for help and the simplest things of putting food on the table because we had maxed out every single credit card, every single thing that we owned. That’s not the best financial advice I would ever give. I can say that we were very lucky that we, after the whole building process, we had to do some like, legal stuff to get it kind of up to par for taxes.
It made us get, go from a sole proprietor to an L L C. And because of that, we got, we got registered on like the, a certain database or whatever, and some random person called me from a bank and said, Hey, you just started your business. I was like, well, actually I haven’t. And he’s like, well, would you be interested in banking with us?
And I was like, I don’t know. Are you gonna gimme some money? Because if yes is so, then sure I will bank with you. And it led to this meeting that literally it, I, I can’t even say. Like I, I can’t even understand it. It literally saved our lives, like it saved our business because they believed in us. It looked at what we had.
They saw what we had and they said, you know what? We can refinance all of this cuz we were barely making it because we had maxed out all the credit cards. Thinking 23% interest, right. We’re barely making those payments, barely making the mortgage payment and them saying, you know what? Are we gonna take all this debt.
Let’s wrap it up into a one big mortgage that’s sustainable. It’s really what saved us, honestly. Yeah. So it’s like all these kind of random things happen. Well, there’s a couple of, like, there’s a couple of random things like that. I think there’s, I’m a little more woo than Dana, but I think there’s like these.
Things that happen that let you know that you’re on the right path. Mm-hmm. , like for example, we were really struggling and we were at like Home Depot, which is like our local hardware store every other day, and there was this checkout lady and yeah, she actually ended up, her daughter ended up booking one of the first weddings at the Bradford.
Like we were, it was muddy mess. It wasn’t built. She was the very first year. And she would, but she worked at Lowe’s. And so we’d see her, she’d ask how it’s going, and we were like, oh, it’s going fine. Like we wanted to put on a bright face. We knew her daughter was getting married there, or was really going to hell in a hand basket.
You know, like we’re so behind and trying to figure out how to make all these things happen. And she asked us multiple times. And so finally one day she. Dana said to her like, do you really wanna know the truth? And she was like, yeah. She’s like, it’s really not going well. Not going well. It’s not going well.
And she’s like, let me help you. We kind of looked at each other, we’re like, okay. She came and like literally deep cleaned the Bradford. Mm-hmm. , like right before it was our, our very, very first wedding when wasn’t her daughter’s. And stayed on and cleaned that Bradford for a whole year and like negotiated some of the rooms.
We had rooms to rent as like part of the cleaning fee. And like, it was like really an angel. Mm-hmm. in the form of a Lowe’s checkout lady. Right. That just kind of really helped us. Mm-hmm. . There was another instance when we needed a fence that separate our properties cuz it was like my house, Dana’s house, the Bradford.
One big field, right? And we need to separate it for the clients and whatnot. That was in our rendering. That’s what we sold. And we had no money to buy this fence. And like literally we needed, we needed $6,000. We needed $6,000 and literally like the week that we needed it, $6,000 came in the mail. One of our grandmothers, like annuities or something came due and everyone that had a college degree she sent $3,000 to, so I got $3,000 and Dana got $3,000 and we bought a fence with it
So it was like all of these like little things, I was like, okay, I. We’re on the right track and it’s gonna be okay. Yeah, the universe has got us.
Becca: I love that because you believed in yourselves and then other people believed in you and. Between those things, you made it happen and it became a success, right?
Courtney and Dana: Yeah. Yes. Mm-hmm. , it is.
Becca: Great. So we’ve talked about business one and two then, because I said in the introduction you’ve got business three as well. You had wedding planning, you had a venue. So, where does number three come in?
Courtney and Dana: Well, it was probably like 2019. We, we were really, really involved in our local industry and we had a lot of friends that would come to us and say like, Hey, can I, can I pick your brain?
Can you help us, you know, with this problem? We were always very open to helping other people. We loved helping other entrepreneurs kind of like see that aha moment. . And I remember Courtney one time looked at me, she’s like, you know what? We could do this. She’s like, we could actually, like, there’s a theme to all these stories.
It’s all Courtney. I’m just like, normally just trucking along being behind. She’s like, Hey, let’s do something else. Mm-hmm. . I’m like, okay. But she’s like, no, we could do this. And I really had this vision that we can, you know, kind of change the industry. Like we can change the expectations in the industry and we can really help other entrepreneurs, you know, in this market.
In the hos in the hospitality market. So we launched Hustling Gather the fall of 2019 and then obviously 2020 hit and whatnot. But so it kind of started really gaining traction towards the end of 2020. But yeah, it’s been the thing that, you know, I feel like everyone like talks about the natural progression of business, like you do this, this, this, and you become a consultant.
And for us it’s just more of, it feeds our soul so much to help other people. . I think our story, as you know, funny it is, it’s not, it’s not unique, right? Everyone has this story of where they thought they were gonna fail and it wasn’t just handed to them. Like, you know, we weren’t the 1% that got a million dollar cash injection into their, into their business, and being able to really help other people come through some.
Really hard times and get to the other side of it. It’s just been super rewarding. It’s been what’s kind of kept us going, especially through the pandemic, I would say. Yeah. Or to like be able to take what you have and capitalize on it and make a little bit more money. Mm-hmm. , like, I’m very much like a numbers girl.
Like that’s the way that I think and I think about like the return on investment and all that, and I’m like, Hey, like I can take what you have and I can, it can implement these three things and you can make more money still doing what you’re doing. So I think thinking through those kind of things I is really rewarding to, to me in particular.
There’s been some other like fringe benefits to that. Like for example, we are adjunct professors. Mm-hmm. at the, at the university or the college that we graduated from and we teach the special in the special events hospitality program. And it’s really neat to be able to be on this side of it and be inspiring like those people who are just coming out of college and just thinking about starting that career in hospitality.
I don’t know. I think I, that’s the one thing that I love about business and entrepreneurship in general, is that you have no idea where it’s gonna lead you. Like you have no idea what path it’s gonna take you down. And I just, if you’re open to all of that, like there’s all these really great experiences that I think you get to experience.
Becca: absolutely. That’s so, so true. And I love what you say about giving back as well, because I think sometimes the coaching and consulting industry can have a bad reputation, but actually I think there’s a lot of people. In this world and people I speak to on this podcast who just genuinely have a desire to help people do better and to stop them making the same mistakes as they did, right?
Courtney and Dana: Mm-hmm. . Sure. For sure. Well, yeah, and, and to, and I feel like we both feel very, very passionately about like, Making your life what you, what you want. Right. And I feel like for as a kid, you were told, what’s your job? What do you wanna do? You know, I wanted to be a teacher since I was five. What I realized is, as much as I loved teaching, and I’m so glad to be back into that world, but it did not allow me the life that I wanted to have.
And it’s not because of the finances. It was the time, it was like the stress, it was the emotional like toll that it was taking and. When you have this dream of something that you’re building and you’re making and it is yours, it’s almost like having an another child. Right? But it is, it, it allows you to have the life that you want, right?
Whether that’s the finances that you want, whether it’s the time freedom that you want, whether it’s living out of passion that you feel like, you know, deeply passionate about. You know, I think that’s what, that’s what’s really important to us, is having people look at life as like, it’s not just. Check this box.
I did this. This is, I went to school and then I, you know, followed this very linear. It’s very much what you make it.
Becca: Well, that brings me very nicely onto my next question because I know one of the things that you love to talk about is how to run a business without it running. You now, when you talk about your business journey and how you kind of got out of teaching to do what you wanted to do, and then you’ve talked about how stressful it was to start the wedding venue and all of the rest of the things.
So what have you learned from that and what do you teach other people now when it comes to their business and how they can run it so that it doesn’t run them? I. .
Courtney and Dana: To be clear, there are going to be times in everyone’s business where it’s gonna run you. Yes. . Like, there’s gonna be times where you’re just gonna have to like pick up your bootstraps and you’re gonna have to power through.
I think what we talk about is how sustainable that is. Mm-hmm. . Right? It’s not a sustainable life model, but recognizing there are gonna be periods of that. And we still experience those now, like when something’s , like when something’s breaking down, or if we need to like step in with one of our companies and kind of triage a situation.
Or if we’re really training somebody to do something. Like there are times where it feels, moments where it’s overwhelming. But I think what we like to talk about is one. That’s not why we, You get into business, you don’t get into business for it to run your life. You get into business, but can augment the life that you do want.
But then also, what are some steps that you can put into place to make sure that you aren’t staying in that, staying in that, like, it’s not like the whole defining part of your business, you know? Cause I, I think people get stuck in that and we did too. Mm-hmm. , like we got stuck very much in that martyr identity.
Mm-hmm. , like our identity was very much. Oh my God, look at all this work that I’m doing. Mm-hmm. and well great. You know, for the moment it’s again, not a life that I really wanna live. Yeah. And it’s super interesting and I think that being in a, a high-stress industry, like, like the wedding industry, it’s very easy to fall into that martyrdom.
I’m like, I don’t think I’ve ever been a, met another venue owner when I, and I said, Hey, how’s it going? And they’re not like, oh my God, it’s so terrible. It’s awful. And you just be like, I know it’s so busy, it’s so crazy. But I can just. Yeah, it’s not bad. . I have a great team. Yeah. Like I actually only went in the office two days this week, like mm-hmm.
you know, but there’s something in it that there’s not, like, we want to brag about how hard it is, but not necessarily give ourselves the credit of like, oh my gosh, I’ve created this system so that I don’t have to be there all the time. And so for us, the very first thing that we really talk about, you wanna talk about some tangible things.
Really understanding what your business path is. And it’s very different for every person. And the way we talk about that is having a strategic vision and having a very clear mission and value statement. Because those two things together has helps you determine the path that you’re gonna take. And for us, You know, our values, one of our very strong values is hospitality and inclusivity.
Our mission statement is very much about having a very tailored experience, that is unique to each person that sets foot on our property. And so for that, that meant one that we couldn’t have the same planner here every single weekend. It meant that I could not be the only person selling, marketing, executing, doing all the things right?
So it meant that we had to have a diverse and robust team, and that was super important to us when it, you know, when we were kind of deciding the path we wanted to take. So in the very beginning, years after we got our feet under us and our financing was, you know, straight, we slowly started hiring our team.
And that meant me and Courtney were the least paid people on our team. We made the least amount of money. I would write these checks to these people and I’m like, oh my God, I wish I was writing that to myself. But here you go. You know, knowing full well that the payoff was gonna come eventually, but what we needed to do was invest in what our strategic vision is and what our mission statement was and what our values were.
And we knew that once we invested in that there was gonna be a time that we were gonna. That returned tenfold. And we did. We, I mean it took about four years of building that team for us to really see like, oh my gosh, like I’m living a life that I never thought I would live. Right? You told me back in 2014, like, did you know at this year you’re gonna be making X amount money, but like you’re full of shit?
That’s not gonna happen. Cause I can’t even imagine a life beyond what we’re doing right now. But that’s the first thing we talk about is like really doing that hard work and deep work of figuring out what is that business path that you. And I think secondary to that is also, yes, your business path and your business purpose, but what are also your personal path and your personal goals.
Cuz I think you staff and build your team and run your company accordingly. Right. And I think the other thing too is to be aware that those things can change as your life changes. You know, like when you, if you meet somebody and end up getting married, maybe your financial need is less, but you wanna have more time.
Same thing with having a child, like knowing that that’s gonna change your involvement that you wanna have in your. . And I think being open and honest with yourself about those things allows you to make the right decisions that is gonna give you longevity and fulfillment in what you’re doing. Mm-hmm.
Becca: . So when it comes to outsourcing, I know one of the things that some of my listeners struggle with is that idea of letting go and giving money to someone else to do a task that they know they could do.
Just as well themselves. If not, they might think they can do it better themselves. So how did you level that in your mind? How did you decide, actually, no. I know we can do this, but we could get someone else to do it. How did you let go of that kind of control?
Courtney and Dana: That’s a good question. It’s hard. Yeah, it was hard.
I, I think one of the hardest things to do as a business owner is to value your time. Mm-hmm. , right? You tend to devalue your time mm-hmm. before you put a value on it and. There’s nothing like actually being a consultant to realize actually my time is more valuable. Right? Like when you’re like, I’m, when I’m charging someone else for an hour of my time.
I have no problem putting a price tag on that. But then when I’m thinking, oh, I’m gonna work on this like social media poster, I’m gonna do this very menial, like, I don’t know, spreadsheet creation or whatever it is, like why am I devaluing my, my time so greatly? But I think thinking through what is your time worth?
What are you actually spending on doing this task, I think is one step. And then realizing. Anything that you’re doing to move your business forward is actually a better use of time and finances than just kind of running what it is that you’re doing. Mm-hmm. . So kind of thinking in that direction, like is what, is the task that I’m doing gonna move my business forward?
Or is it just fulfilling a day-to-day need? And sometimes when you’re just fulfilling a day-to-day need, it’s better to put somebody in place in that particular, like get your wheel going, fulfill that need and work on growing your business. And we do this, and I’ll let Dana explain a little bit more with what we call our 80% rule.
Yeah. So there are things that we will never outsource that is leadership that’s leading our team. We will never outsource someone to help or to create our strategic vision, mission statement, execute those things. And then a high level finances, like we don’t mind someone handling the day to day accounting, but high level finances will always be in the in, have our hand in that.
And so once we kind of determine that those are the things that we’re not gonna outsource, we had to, I had to take a step back and say, okay. This job. Some like social media. I did that for a while. Can someone do this job? 80% of what I can do. I feel like I can do it a hundred percent. Like I’m a hundred percent great at it.
Right. Can someone do it? 80%? And that’s a lie. Was a lie. Neither one of us were ever a hundred percent great at social media. Right. But you know, get the point. Yeah. And the question was that this is a task that I have a decent SOP for I can train somebody on and they can do it to the 80% of my ability and it’s not one of those three big things then that is okay.
What we have found is when we were able to take a step back and allow person to do that job, what we figured it was at 80%, the fact that we could have the time to train them, we had the time to lead them and manage them well because those things were off of our plate. That every single job that we’ve hired for, they have ended up outperforming anything we’ve ever done.
Right. So like a really good example of sales, I took sales on, I think year three. We were kind of in between people and I was like, you know what? get a handle on this and, and I thought I was great at sales. Courtney’s like, yeah, your conversion rate from like, you know, lead to tour to booking, it’s like 35%, which is great.
Then I was like, yeah, so you know, train this next person and then we hire this next person. I was like, I don’t know if they can do it as well as I can. Mm-hmm. . But you know what they can do 8% and that’s okay. A person booked like 60% and I was like, what the hell? ? Like apparently I wasn’t very good at it, but you know, it’s one of those things like, because we were able to really invest that time and that was their sole focus, that they did that job so much better than I could, you know, so it’s a little bit of eating some humble pie.
Mm-hmm. . But at the same time it’s recognizing that when you invest in people, what you feel like they can’t do or achieve as high as you can, they actually do and they do it better. And it makes sense because they aren’t carrying the weight of the company, right? It’s not like they’re client facing and making the insurance and financial and tax decisions all on the same day.
You know, like, think about as an entrepreneur, like how many aspects of your business your hand is in on any given day. It’s like a d, d, like to the max, right? Mm-hmm. , you’re like, I got five minutes to spend here, 15 minutes on this, 20 minutes on this. I’m gonna answer that phone call. I’m gonna have this client thing, and.
All of those things add up. Right? And it doesn’t allow you to really focus on if you were to hire over a particular. solely what that job is. So really, even though it feels like you’re giving up control and you’re hiring somebody to do something that you think you can do better, if you have that right person and you make sure that you’re clearing up that time to either grow your business or manage your business, that person’s gonna do so much better than you ever could do.
Mm-hmm. , because they have, they have the focus on it. Mm-hmm. .
Becca: So it’s all about letting go and realizing that maybe we’re not actually a hundred percent, even though we like to think we are in every single task. Okay. So, One other thing that I know people worry about when it comes to outsourcing is outsourcing to the wrong person.
So letting go, deciding that they’re gonna let go of a task and then the person that they hire doesn’t work out. Have you had any bad experiences of hiring people or have you been finding that you Absolutely. Okay. Good. Tell me about that, but no, no detail, no names
Courtney and Dana: It’s unavoidable. It is unavoidable.
Like it’s gonna happen. And I think for us, what we, what you wanna see is you wanna see that percentage very low, right? Like, we don’t wanna be hiring the wrong person over and over and over again. You know, for us, we learned the hard way, one of the worst experiences we ever had. hiring somebody created, it was just like, it was like the perfect storm of, I don’t know.
It was, it was 2019 and it was, it was like, it was the perfect storm of us being like too busy to manage and train this person. Not having the personality to be a hands off employee, which is what we needed. Mm-hmm. and just the sheer amount of overwhelm. Mm-hmm. that she was walking into without processes, procedures, and structure.
And she’s a person that needs that. And us not having the time to recognize that she was the person that needed that created this, you know, Total tornado. Tornado. And, and I think what was super well for us and what kind of got us onto this, and we really had to take a step back. So for, I would say the first year whenever we would mention this person, it’d be like this shudder.
Like, oh my God, they’re like this terrible person. It was awful. And I just don’t ever wanna think about that ever again. And eventually we realized, you know what? Like that person, the reason why they failed was because of, Like it ultimately came down to the fact that we did not lead her in a way that was effective.
We did not recognize what her strengths were. In fact, what we did is every single time that we thought we were being a good manager, a good boss, we were feeding into every single insecurity that she had. It literally brought out the worst in her personality because who she was when she ended that job was not the person that I hired.
And I said that and we let her go. I was like, you are not the person that I hired. And I realized I had a hand in that. Like I had a hand in creating. This person that was so insecure that couldn’t be honest, that was so overwhelmed that couldn’t do her job, to what I knew that she could have done prior to.
And so what it did is it put us on this journey of understanding who we were. And it was not an easy one, and it was a little bit ugly at times. You know, just to confront those things about you that you wanna pretend isn’t. But once we like embrace it and say, you know what, actually, like I can’t handle somebody who needs me to hold their hands.
Like I am not, I’m not up for the task. Like, it makes me, it makes me anxious, it makes me angry, and then I just resent the hell outta that employee. So like, I can’t manage somebody like that. And so if we have someone on our team, like I am not their direct manager, right? And so we recognize like, okay, what am I really good at?
Who can I manage really well? And we hire for those kinds of people. We recognize, you know, what’s not gonna fit in our team. We are, our screening process is very intense and it’s very important that they fit into our company culture. That is the most important thing. And you know, we say this, that it’s really important to hire the right person and not the best person.
And for us, sometimes we hire the person that maybe doesn’t have as high of skills as somebody else, but they fit in our team so well. They fit in our culture so well that they eventually become that best person. And so we had to really adopt that mm-hmm. And understand that about ourselves and our company, which like I said, led to, we had some failures with it.
Sure. But, and it was hard to do, but it’s definitely. Been a game changer.
Becca: Yeah, and I think that’s really insightful as well, that you could look back on that experience and realize, actually there’s some learning that we can do that we can’t just put all the blame on another person, but actually it’s a time to reflect on us as leaders and on your own hiring process as well, which I think is really interesting.
So with so much going on and with all these different companies to run and all these different things that you’ve outsourced, how do you both personally avoid burning out?
Courtney and Dana: Well, sometimes that’s unavoidable
but, therapy. Yeah, therapy. Some therapy spots last maybe some medication maybe. And alcohol. No, but I think it’s communicating honestly. So we are, and I think this, this is our secret sauce, is there’s two of us, right? Mm-hmm. , so we are co entrepreneurs. So, , I think communicating to our, the partner, like, Hey, like, I’m feeling burned out.
Or recognizing the burnout signs in your partners. Like, Hey, is there something that I can alleviate? Where can I step in? we have divided and conquered in this past year, which is actually new for us. We kind of did everything together and we realized that it was leading to a lot of burnout, overwhelm, mm-hmm.
because there’s, you know, a thousand tasks for each company and. Not feeling like you could mentally let go of any of those, I think was really detrimental actually to our mental health. So we divided and conquered that. Like, Hey, the buck stops with you and this company, the buck stops with you and this company.
And when there’s big decisions, you know, we come together and say like, I’m spending money on X. What do you think about this? Or, this is a proposal, or Here’s the review. Recap of what’s going on in this particular area. . And I think that really helped with the, the burnout piece. And then I think for us personally too, it’s letting go of like some of the guilt.
Mm-hmm. , like, honestly, like there are things that, Dana’s really good at and it really pissed me off that I wasn’t good at it. It made me feel like I was like not up to par or less than, and I was continually trying to like keep up. And then there’s things that I’m good at that Dana’s not good at.
I’m sure she didn’t feel that exact same way. I don’t think she has the same people pleasing mentality that I do, but you know, but realizing that, hey, that’s my strength and this is this person’s strength, and it doesn’t have to necessarily be a business partner. It could be like, that’s my strength.
Mm-hmm. , and this is my employee strength. I’m hiring for this weakness. I think is a really great way to avoid burnout. Mm-hmm. . . I totally agree. I think you have to look at it as for us, like a game changer. One of our most stressful companies is our planning company because it had one of the biggest teams and it was contract teams, so it wasn’t like full-time people.
And that’s really hard to manage. It’s really hard to lead a team like that. What changed for us is we said, I, I, well, I said, I was like, either we’re gonna sell this cuz I’m done with it, or we’re gonna create a barrier between. Our planners, like we need a manager. We hired two managers to like just literally manage the company.
And that has been huge and it made me realize that, yeah, like Courtney said, we are very, very fortunate that we have each other to like kind of, you know, when one’s feeling burnt out, the only one can kind of absorb it. But as a solopreneur you don’t have that option. And for us, and we’re talking to the solopreneurs, it’s like you need to find a second in command that can help alleviate some of those things and that you can feel like, okay, I need to.
You know, a week off and that, you know, it’s in good hands. And we just actually interviewed a good friend of ours who took a six week sabbatical, and she said that she left it in the hands of her very high functioning great team. And they took it from her. They were able to do all the, the inquiries, they did all the events and whatnot.
And it was, you know, life changing for her because she was losing that spark and that joy in, in her company and in her business. And so when we’re talking with other entrepreneurs, That is the hardest and the loneliest journey to go on is being a solopreneur. So finding someone that can help you manage your business, whether it’s a part-time person or whether it’s even just, what we call like your board of directors, like someone to lean on, is super important to kind of help alleviate that burnout.
Becca: Yeah, so it’s really interesting because in a lot of what you talked about then was talking about each other, and I think it’s interesting for you to have run these businesses as sisters, as family members of the same family. And I know often people say, never go into business with your friends and never go into business with your partners, but people do.
And there’s listeners that I’ve got who work with their partners or other family members. So what have you learned on that journey? What have been the highs and maybe some of the lows of working together in a business, and how have you managed to keep the peace and remain friends and sisters?
Courtney and Dana: That’s a great question.
Yeah. I mean, there’s definitely times where it’s not been peaceful. Yes. But I think, I don’t know. I, I feel like for us, our sister relationship’s always been paramount to the business, even when it was like super scary. Felt like everything was gonna fall down around us. We’ve always said like, look, it’s always gonna be sisters first.
And I think that you can say that, but I think you actually have to act that out. Mm-hmm. . And it is, you can’t really separate it. I mean, as much as you can say, oh, it’s business, it’s not personal, whatever. When it you’re working with your family, it is personal and it is business and it is kind of all consuming.
But I, I think that recognizing each other’s intentions is really important because I think that tends to get lost a little bit. Like when you get in. You know, he said she, she said for us, she said, she said in the minutia or the disagreement, understanding that one, that person loves you. You love that person.
They care about you. They want what’s best for you. You want what’s best for them. They want what’s best for the business. You want what’s best for the business. And then going back to like, these are the things that I know about this person. So if I’m interpreting this in a way other than, It has more to do with my interpretation and we need to have a conversation than it does with the actual person.
Mm-hmm. . So I think separating, you know, how you’re feeling about a particular situation and getting back to what you know about that person and why you went into business in the first place, I think is key. Yeah. And I, I, it is really great kind of agreeing. It is really hard to separate. There’s been many times we’ve had some really, really, really, really hard, hard arguments and conversations.
You’ve had to take a step back and say like, look, I just wanna be your sister right now. Mm-hmm. like as your sister. This is what I’m saying to you, and this is what I feel like you should do as your business partner. We still need to figure out a way to make this correct. Right. But as your sister, like I have that empathy, I have that compassion.
I, I understand what your intentions were and are, and I respect that. Right. But we still have to make a, a sound, sound business decision. And I think for us, it’s definitely been a rollercoaster. And I, I personally feel like it was really hard. The hardest years were, were building the Bradford and it was living on property.
Because there was no escape at all. Like there was just never a moment. I remember when it was like right before me and my husband or my family ended up moving off property about year three which is always the plan. And I remember we were leaving somewhere and I was like, oh, I’m gonna tell Courtney we’re gonna go to the grocery store.
He’s like, why? , like when in your life did you ever just call your sister when you left your house to say you’re going to the grocery store? I was like, well, she won’t see my car in the driveway. Mm-hmm. , because we share a driveway and she’s gonna be curious where I am. And he’s like, that’s crazy. . Like, and so it was really, really, really hard to, to have that kind of separate life that you really, really, that we needed.
Mm-hmm. . And I definitely think it got immensely better when we had a little bit of that physical separation. Even though we still see each other literally every single day at work, it’s nice that you. I don’t know that we have a little bit of separation. Yeah. And I’d say shockingly, like it is almost always personal that seeps into business and it’s never business that sees into personal.
Yes. Yes. Like it’s literally like, it’s not really ever the business. I feel like we’re almost always in step as far as it concerns the business. Right. We agree. Very like, like we have very similar like life philosophies. Yeah. We’ve had very similar risk tolerances. Mm-hmm. , like we feel very confident making decisions, business decisions for each other.
There’s a lot of that. It’s almost always like the personal that seeps in. Mm. And just, and that, and I mean that by like outside forces beyond Dana and I like kind of those kind of forces that sit then, right?
Becca: Yeah. And that happens to all of us, doesn’t it? But what the great thing is about you working together is, as you said before, yeah, that you’ve always got each other and you always know that there’s someone else in that business that can step up and do the job for you, right?
Mm-hmm. . Yeah, totally. It’s been so fascinating talking to you both. I’ve really enjoyed hearing about your story, the ups and the downs, and how you’ve got through it all. I’ll be sure to link to all of the different links for you guys in the show notes. So if anyone wants to go and find out more about Dana and Courtney, you can find the information there.
It’s been a great chat. Thank you for being here, and I’ll see you next week.