Kristen David of Upleveling Your Business discusses designing, implementing, and redesigning systems to automate your work in business and at home.
Kristen David empowers business owners to build profitable businesses that are self-managed by leveraging her proprietary system: The 4 Pillars of Successful Business Management. Kristen’s no-nonsense approach and results-oriented methodology has allowed her to help more than 1,500 business owners better manage their businesses. Kristen walks the walk by running her own thriving, profitable business, Upleveling Your Business, virtually while traveling the world. She is dedicated to helping business owners build a business so they can live life freely and “thrive in the moment.”
Connect with Kristen David
Find Kristen at TheKristenDavid.com and at UpLevelingYourBusiness.com. You can also find her @TheKristenDavid on Instagram and in her Facebook Group Up Leveling Your Business
Connect with Brittany Singer
You can reach Brittany on Instagram at @executiveorderpodcast and Facebook at Executive Order Podcast and on Twitter at @ExecOrderPod. If you have ideas for topics or guests you'd like to hear on the show please send a note through any of these channels.
Connect with Zenia Organizers
You can also learn more about Brittany's Organizing business at ZeniaOrganizers.com . If you're interested in getting support and assistance with getting your life or business organized once and for all send her a message at firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: Zenia Organizers
Kristen David 0:09 Invest a little bit of time and energy creating a good system or process or checklist and you literally will claw back, like, an hour every single week for the rest of your life.
Brittany Singer 0:22 Hey everyone, welcome to the Executive Order podcast show for small business owners want to learn how to do less to accomplish more. I'm a professional organizer, based in Summerville, South Carolina, and I know there isn't a one size fits all for organizing within your business. In talking with my guests and chatting about our struggles, our wins and our lessons learned. I hope that you can learn what works best to create a business and a life that's just right for you.
I am so excited to chat with you today. I know that when we were setting up this phone call I was getting really excited about all the topics that you and I are going to cover. You're definitely that organized systems kind of person. So I cannot wait to hear everything that you have to say in the way that you can help and talk about the ways that you have these systems within your own life and business. But would you tell us a little bit about what you are doing now maybe where you came from beforehand?
Kristen David 1:18 Absolutely. And thank you for having me. So, I by trade I'm a lawyer, and now I run a company called Upleveling Your Business, helping business owners build those thriving profitable businesses but built on systems. Because the systems are where the gold is that's what gives us our freedom, it's what helps the team run everything and helps us get so much more done with less time and I often tease and talk about the no judgement zone like when I was first building my business, I worked, 85 hours a week. I was there until midnight, I was trying to get it all done myself and learned how to run a business like a business and doubled in nine months and reworked the business plan doubled again. And the best part was building the systems in every department of my business and that's when I can really take vacations and unwind and know that my team could do things for me so I'm a big fan of helping people get organized, which is why you and I connected.
Brittany Singer 2:20 Oh yes, and I'm not to make assumptions, but I'm going to totally make an assumption here. When you said that in the beginning of your business you're working, 85, hours a week. Is that is that carryover from working in the field of law? Is that kind of like those habits in that culture is that where that was coming from or did you just genuinely need to or perceive that you needed to be working like that to begin your business?
Kristen David 2:44 So, a lot of that was just trying to juggle it all, like I didn't know no one, no one in law school taught you how to run a business and, and no one said okay spend 30, hours a week servicing clients, and you need to spend 15 hours a week doing marketing and sales. And you need to spend two hours a week working on your financial controls and eight hours a week doing admin work. And no one I never knew that infrastructure I never, I just, I kept trying to do more and do more and I didn't. I wasn't as effective with delegation was a delegation is a skill, you've got to own. We're not all born as amazing delegators. Yeah, as I started doing more management and and really realizing that if we wanted to grow the business, we needed to do more. I didn't really know how to delegate and get other people to take ownership of projects and I had one assistant who she say no no I'm too busy. And so then I would stay till 10 at night doing it. I later learned that I should have been pushing back a little more but you don't know what you don't know and if you don't document, the process or create good policies and procedures. It's hard to hold people accountable to that so whereas I started finally learning to document and create those processes those checklists, having the examples the scripts, the templates, like, that's where the transition came.
Brittany Singer 4:27 I mean I think that there is. I mean, you said checklist, I got excited I want to know more. You're totally talking my language, but it's it's amazing that once you can automate something that once you can say okay well this is what works because you've reflected back on how you were doing it, and how you had success, because otherwise you're inventing it every single time and the amount of brain power and time that that takes that doesn't need to take it that long, is really where that freedom comes from right?
Kristen David 4:59 Absolutely and I talk about that all the time of the wasted mental energy, having to rethink about like the most simple things like this is it as we were talking about this pre-call about my book that I published last year was Uplevel Your Business Up Level Your Life, and I talk often about how as you learn to think more in systems and checklists and processes in your business and get things organized, you naturally start doing that in your home life, and you know you have a little checklist for Saturday mornings are a little organizational plan for like getting the laundry done during the week. And you just you kind of get into those rhythms and that frees you up so you don't waste precious mental energy on nonsensical things you can save it for the important decisions. So,
Brittany Singer 5:42 Yes. You were saying, as you as you were describing getting started with your business that you didn't know the quote formula. I want to like circle back to the quote formula, and hear a little bit more about your take on that but I'm just curious to go a little further back has organization been something that you have generally speaking, then good at or something that you've had to learn throughout your life? Or if that is the case, you know, where are places that you've learned to do that?
Kristen David 6:07 So, I think I've always been a bit organized and a planner at heart. But I will say even in college, you have to schedule and organize your college schedule and I worked through college and worked full time through law school and went to night classes and you have to learn how to time manage and do certain things so that's definitely something that's going on over time. What I didn't know when I owned my law firm was, how does that relate to all the business management and that was partially why I wrote my book, which was the four pillars of successful business management, how to balance the planning the marketing and selling and the management the financial controls and, and just an easy framework like that has helped me I it makes me so happy every time somebody reads the book it's like, Wow, now I feel like I can manage it, I can do it. I'm a big reality based person so it's I don't want to talk just theory I want to talk about like hands on actionable items which gets us to I want to talk about like the systems you build in your business.
Brittany Singer 7:27 The, the four pillars, where would you say, and meet a guy maybe I'm making an assumption here so I'll preface that. But where would you say that a lot of people are getting stuck or getting bogged down spending more time than they should on those four pillars? The biggest one is like admin email suck. I think a lot of people, you know, and client client related, you know, we think that we need to make clients first and we definitely need to make sure service as an owner you need to ensure the clients are being serviced. But it's not necessarily the number one best use of our time. Same as some of the admin tasks aren't always the best use of our time. So we're often trying to, you know, where, where should we be spending time? Well, we need to make sure that marketing is bringing the right types of people in and sales and that we're organized with our people and delegating and making sure they can do a good job. And so, you know, you spend five hours is stuck in email and you're not able to kind of lead the team in other ways. So that's a big area that I think people fall into.
Brittany Singer 8:36 I couldn't agree more. I think that I know for myself I've definitely caught myself where it's like, hold on. I've been sitting at this desk for the last three hours and whatever really not in God I mean yeah my inbox is smaller or I've responded to some things but what has really moved the needle further today? What have I really accomplished? And sometimes, obviously, like you said, I mean are we know that those admin tasks need to happen. You know anything as far as servicing the clients has to happen because that is why we're in business. But you when you just kind of get to this vortex of losing your time and losing your day you're not actually going to move forward.
Kristen David 9:22 Yeah, and that's part of, you know, when I, when I talk to people about like what do they need to work on first in their, their business I tell them get organized with some of your systems. And so, we like to have people break down. You've got kind of admin tasks that need to happen every day whether in your business life, your personal life, you know there's certain things that have to kind of happen. Figure out how you can streamline automate, you know, organize batch things so that instead of it, sucking up four or five hours you get it whittle it down to two, you know, I mean, find ways to invest a little bit of time and energy creating a good system or process or checklist and you literally will claw back, like, an hour every single week for the rest of your life. So, you know, getting getting kind of organized with where things live first step.
Brittany Singer 10:10 Yeah, so when when you say I mean, I just want to hear you talk about it getting organized, where things live It's huge. What What does that bring to you Why is that a benefit. Why is that important. For me it's a lot of like we talked about open loops in our brain like when we have a project we know we need to work on. And it's like, it's sitting out there as an open loop or you might delegate it to someone and you sit there wondering like, Hmm, I wonder what happened with this and your brain kind of just noodles on it kind of wondering what's happening or maybe it's a project you want to get to, or even just a financial bill that came in. And you if you know that every Thursday morning, is your time to work on your financial controls, then you don't have to worry on Monday Tuesday you set it aside and you know, Thursday morning I'm going to work on that. And your brain doesn't have to waste that energy kind of wondering what's going on. It kind of has a place to live. And then you can get to it. And same with, like, sales calls or or getting on into in social media or marketing, just being more intentional and being like, nope, on Monday afternoons from one until four that's my marketing time, or I'm going to do social media, every afternoon with a cup of tea from two to 230, or in the evening or whatever it's going to be right and so when you kind of set some of that organization that gives you the ability to free up your brain to work on the things that matter in the other moments.
Brittany Singer 11:56 Yeah, and I'm hearing what you're talking about there too is is building the systems. But there's also that building of the habits you know I love specifically, thinking about that okay two o'clock to 230, you need a little pick me up, you know you maybe you've been working for a few hours now you're starting to hit that mid afternoon slump and it's like, oh my gosh I get to reward myself by having a cup of tea or whatever it is that I might want, it's like okay, this is a time that I set aside for this and you're pairing it with something else and you know it just being built into your day again, you don't have to think about it. I'm sure at some point, your body will just be like, oh, it must be two o'clock, because I'm creating my cup of tea and that means that I need to do whatever I do during this time. Which I think is- Again, the less brainpower you have to use the more you can do.
Kristen David 12:37 Yeah, well, and it also helps you with anything like when you're super focused and you're like, Okay, I only have 30 minutes to do X, and it's amazing it's, I always tease attorneys about like me I worked with attorneys for a lot of years now I work with a lot of professionals, but it's like when you know that client is coming in at three o'clock. It's amazing what you can get done from 215 to 245, like, you know how to like get it all going. And that's important when you're when you're building and when you're growing and when you're, you know there's a lot that's on your plate, and, you know, if we give us ourselves three hours to get it done, we'll spend three hours to get it done. Give yourself 45 minutes, it's amazing. You can get it done in 45 minutes. So, same kind of thing.
Brittany Singer (13:32) I love you speaking that because on the one hand, time blocking and batching, are, are amazing, I guess, time blocking will speak to this more so than batching perhaps, but sometimes when you say okay I'm going to sit down and I have three hours to do my marketing on social media, whatever it might be, they stagnate the time. Yeah, it may be really only needed to take 90 minutes but you use that three hours because that's just how it was on your to do list or on your schedule. And I think that just kind of tuning into your own habits like what are the things that you can really drag your feet on and maybe give yourself a little less time where you really have to light that fire underneath you do what I do when I'm working with kids in their rooms is you know we'll set a timer and you've got to beat the clock. Can you get it done in 35 minutes, can you you know if you did it last week in this amount of time, can we can we bring it down by another five minutes, whatever it might be that you're kind of making it fun and punish rather than like hey I have three hours to leisurely get this thing done that's kind of looming over my head.
Kristen David 14:37 Absolutely like I love you talking about gamifying, with the kids and like beat the clock. So, I have taught a lot of policies and procedures workshops, like I've done them for like a two day a four day workshop. And one of the exercises we do is this is kind of fun one everybody can do whether with their family or with like their, their office staff. We had everybody line up in two rows, and we say face each other and this tennis ball has to pass in a zigzag fashion down the rows, all the way to the other end and see how fast you can do it. So, the first time they do it it's like 38 seconds. And we'd say okay, you have one minute to strategize and we're going to time it again, and literally lay with like decide to stand closer and have their hands cupped ready to go. And we clock it again and it'd be down to like 20 seconds, and then if they do it, I'd say okay you think you can get faster and they do it a third time, and they'd be down to like 16 seconds. And because just by doing the same thing over and over again. And then I help them to see, this is what happens in your business when your team all knows how to do it the same way every time you're going to get faster and faster people are going to be more productive and feel more efficient, getting it done when they know what's expected they can do their part pass it on and get it done and a great example of how creating that system that process that you know consecutive thing but it is a little bit of time is our commodity we can't get more of it so you got to be efficient with every moment.
Brittany Singer 16:26 Yes, and I, I really totally want to nerd out I you know I'm like the camp counselor in me is all excited about that I love some facilitation games, but along with that, I mean, I would have to guess that if you just said you like to do it once and you pass the ball, you zig zag, the tennis ball down the hall, the hall the room, then do it again, without that strategy session, how much time would have come off versus having that strategy session take that time to reflect that and say what went well, what didn't. What can we do better. And I think that's really where the work comes out, not just the repetition of it. And I agree, absolutely. Yeah, no, I think I mean I just I love, like you said, gamifying it but also it's, as you said in the very beginning of this conversation you want to see the actual in real time results so doing something like that is so beneficial because not only are you able to facilitate showing them how that happens but they're able to, in real time, see how just that one change can really make such a difference in their process.
Kristen David 17:31 Absolutely. And I know a number of people have gone back to their offices and done it they've done it with their families, just talking about like cleaning the house or tidying up or you know like this, just seeing how we can make it better make it faster, be more efficient? And just that recognition to all those things that's that's a key part but yeah you know I mean I think to some extent that's great with the team that you have. Obviously you're not going to swap out your family members. But in a business, your goal is not as a business owner is not just to build right now for this team- it's to build longevity, and people will come and go from your team. And for a variety of reasons I mean, some people just, they fall in love, get married move across the country you know whatever might happen and. And so, we're always looking to document how we're doing it so that when you bring in another new employee in literally a couple days they're like, up to speed, ready to start operating. And that's where the gold is that's where you're really building, equity, long term and benefiting yourself in so many ways. So it's it's not always just that initial team it's been documented and creating a long term investment to make the business run smoother.
Brittany Singer 19:01 Interesting. I love that you're acknowledging that you know the team doesn't stay the same, a lot of the times for all sorts of different reasons but how do you still keep those systems, the same as someone that has worked in restaurants for, you know, 13 almost 14 years, there have been so many times that you are working with one group of people, maybe it's the opening team that opens up that restaurant and there's a whole set of procedures and everything was really like mapped out and this is how it's going to be. But then the responsibility doesn't naturally fall on anyone to enlighten anyone new to ‘hey this is the procedure and this is how we do it’ and things start to get out of whack. And the more that time goes on, and the more changes within the team, you have gotten so far off course on the systems. Is there any way that you recommend or that you personally within your team as those change changes happen that you are able to instill and ensure that those systems are still working with the new players?
Kristen David 20:06 yeah so definitely I mean this is where I always tell people policies and procedures and systems manuals, they're like living breathing documents, they're not just like build it once and stick it on a shelf and having a monthly meeting because you know you might draft it and then roll it out to the team but the beauty comes when you say okay in 30 days, we want feedback, how can we make it better what what needs to be cut or simplified or, you know, you're always working and striving to like edit it down, make it more concise. When I sold my law firm business in Oregon. My Policies and Procedures Manual was $100,000 negotiating point, just for that one asset, it was like an inch thick. But that's what made it turnkey so that other people could come in and run the business and could hire a new paralegal and be able to get them up to speed fast and so that's a big part of, you've got to make sure that they the systems keep evolving and as you grow your business. What works when there's four people on the team is a little different than when you have 16 people on the team. So, I'm dealing with that right now I started this new business, August of 2019 with myself at $0, just trying to make my first 10 grand. At the one year mark we are having $100,000 months. And now we're at the what are we 17 month mark and, you know, I've got 16 people on the team now. And so as you can imagine, the policies and procedures and systems have evolved as we get more people on the team. So they definitely live and breathe and grow with you, that's for sure.
Brittany Singer 21:55 Yeah, I mean because honestly not to be a downer but what's the point otherwise you take so much time and effort to create them, and then, like you said, if it just sits on a shelf. Well, Okay, why did you take all the time to do that if you're not going to continue to reflect back on it to enhance it to see how your team how your, your business has changed over that time And is that something reflected in the procedures.
Kristen David 22:20I always like to akin this just like stuff at home as well because think about like the checklist you give for the housekeeper or the nanny. And when your kids are like six or seven years old, you know there's a lot of things that we're doing to kind of create like little drawers where they can have healthy snacks and they get to pick two healthy snacks are one non healthy snack like they get to make choices and learn, but that checklist changes as the kids, you know, become eight nine years old right? And so, you know, while that's not a full on a written policy and procedure, even just the checklist of what the housekeeper/nanny does to like prep the kitchen or prep certain things like as the kids get older, we have to update the checklist we have to like. Now the kids know how to do certain things and we can add different things to the list and so it's you know when your home life and your business life. We're always evolving and growing, and so we want to have those elements in place so that we remember to update, and we remember to, you know, let the list grow as we grow. Does that make sense?
Brittany Singer 23:39 That totally makes sense and I think that it comes much easier because as you see your children growing. It's such an obvious marker, you know from one age to the next from one grade to the next as their hobbies and their things you know you just are seeing this evolution in such a real way where sometimes in your business because you're in it. You don't necessarily see the big changes that are happening or how it's evolving. If you're not taking that time to step back and actually observe it like you do observing watching your children.
Kristen David 24:05You just touched on, like such a key part of this is what we call like when you're inside the business, it's so hard to see the instructions on the outside are what's so evident on the outside and that's the value of having a coach or a professional like you that like comes in and can give a fresh look and be like, oh, okay, we could do this and we could do that and just little tweaks, small hinges swing big doors right like little things that you do make such a difference.
Brittany Singer 24:38 Yes, and there's so many times I you know you'll, you'll be talking to someone and I'm sure that you experiences as well and you know you'll ask the question, Well, why do you do it this way, whatever that might be. And it's like, well, I don't know, I've never thought about it that's how we do it. That's, that's our intake process that's the way that we answer the phone that's the way that we, that's the day that we do laundry even though we have 100 other things going on that day you know whatever it might be. It's like I don't, I don't know why we do that. Okay, well let's let's get a little bit more intentional and let's find out why and when and how and ask all those questions to really make sure that we're building a system and a habit that makes it a lot easier and beneficial.
Kristen David 25:22 You've probably seen this as well with people you've worked with it. You know we have to get clear on our own our own why our own like what's motivating us and and what are the things that you need to do every day personally and what can you delegate off your plate and how can you organize the space around you and the things that you need to do versus the things that are want to do or have to do, you know like, just kind of building off of those different elements, and the more clarity, you get the easier it all becomes.
Brittany Singer 25:48 Absolutely. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness as far as business goes but the fact that you're able to reflect it back in the household, because you're not not everyone owns a business that everyone has a household. Is there a way in which you like have some sort of aha moment or something that you remember about something that perhaps you were doing or using in your business or you know the way you're organizing in that way that you then brought into your household that really made a difference?
Kristen David 26:21 Oh, I don't know if I could come up with just one but but also I'll share one of, though, I worked with a stylist Lee Hayward, who is actually out in your area, not too far. But she is amazing and listen everyone I was a lawyer I wore the same like I had six suits wore my hair and have been like I was. I grew up on a farm style was not my big thing and. And so she helped me get out of suit jail. But she also helped me organize my clothes and my like everything about like just, I'm vibrant and fun and I need clothes that can move with me I can't be. I don't have time to iron I don't have time to like I travel a lot, I need like wrinkle free, easy to launder, like, I don't have time to do a bunch of dry cleaning that every city I go to and. And so, you know, part of this was her helping me look at my professional career my lifestyle and then bringing it down to a reality check of okay well let's make it work for you. Let's make let's create an environment and a wardrobe that like is fun and sassy and vibrant but not high maintenance. And so that was one of the big eye opening moments for me as I transitioned to like, wow, what, what an idea I don't have to dry clean.
Brittany Singer 27:50 Did Lee help you out when you were still working in a world of law or laws that after you had started?
Kristen David 27:55 it was right there at the cusp of, it was, I met her when I was still a lawyer, and then and she and I had gotten to know one another and then I hired her. The first thing she did was Skype to my closet. That was an eye opening experience.
Brittany Singer 28:16 And how was it eye opening?
Kristen David 28:19 like she made me literally pull out everything and she's like okay So when's the last time I wore that and I was like four or five years ago right. And then there were other things I had a drawer of like Carhartt pants and like for hiking and. And she was like, what, what is like this is not consistent with the business Kristen. And I was like no this is fine like we can go for hikes and geocaching, which is like little treasure hunting with the GPS and you don't get outside and. And so she was you know it's kind of fun to kind of see and realize like the different parts of my wardrobe, like what was in my closet but yeah we were able to get rid of a lot of things that just, you know, I bought that I never really was in love with that didn't suit my, my world anymore and, and it helps me just kind of get clarity on if something doesn't serve you, you got to even if you only you think oh, I'll use that someday it's. like no you use that in the next two weeks or it's gotta go. It's gonna be fun and part of you.
Brittany Singer 29:33 Right. I mean, I, you know, our spaces, reflect who we are. And if you're surrounded by things that no longer reflect who you are at that moment in your life. Then what does that say how is that energy not to be too like woowoo but you know I mean, there's, there is a sort of energy suck that comes with. If you aren't really a suit person, but you're surrounded by suits, it kind of still has this misalignment for you. And I think that I asked specifically if you were still in the law field. When you were working with Lee because I think that we have an idea of what we should, or what you know not even. Yeah. What we should or we think we should be doing or what other people are doing so we'll we'll do the same thing as them, and it's like well that doesn't really work for me though and especially since I love that you were able to work with her as you were starting a transition into a new chapter and phase in your life to just let that go. say thank you and goodbye and start over with who you really are and in the role that you want to and the way you want to show up in the world. In this new venture.
Kristen David 30:44 Absolutely, and she helped me understand and and I use that so much in my life now. Like your home environments, your office environment is a reflection of your brand your personal brand your business brand like who you are and how you want to show up and it is actually when you're when you're not in congruence with that and you're in that misalignment space like you were talking about like it's it's tough it's, you always kind of feel like something's not right versus when you are in that zone of, you know, life is short wake up happy thrive in the my mantra is thrive in the moment, no matter where you are, do and enjoy and feel blessed for every little thing that life has given you and when life is throwing you a curveball just know that. Well, we're one step closer to the direction we want to go we just have to go take a slightly different path together. So,
Brittany Singer 31:41 That is so true and so important, and not always easy to do. So definitely a good mantra to remind yourself Wait, hold on, I am in the moment and this curveball is on purpose for me and going to get me to where I'm supposed to abe so hold on tight. Let's do it. Kristen this has been such a pleasure I feel like I could pick your brain so much about, I want to get into the nitty gritty of each system, but I'll let it. I'll let it go at this level and see if there's maybe another time that you and I will speak a little bit more in depth into all those systems, because love me a good system that's for sure. Is there anywhere that listeners can find you, whether on social or through your websites or any other avenues?
Kristen David 32:28 Absolutely, so you can always find me at TheKristenDavid.com or my social media handles are the Kristen David on Facebook, Instagram, and our business helping business owners is uplevelingyourbusiness.com. And we've got a great Facebook group I think we just hit over 700 members of just a robust group that loves to, like, good. Amazing entrepreneurs successful people always love to share other information with other people and so I you know surround yourself with great people. I mean, Brittany that that was how you and I like we first connected I was like hey we both like the same stuff and we both love to help people. So, I'm so glad to have the opportunity to jump on and I hope this has given people some, some ideas and thoughts. I mean hey life is a journey and we're always building and grown.
Brittany Singer 33:22 Absolutely. Thank you so much, Kristen. I'll talk to you soon.
Kristen David 33:27 Thank you.