Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger – and we are delighted to have you join us! We have a delightful guest with us today. I’ve been looking forward to this visit. With over 30 years of experience in transforming small and mid-sized businesses, she coaches leaders on business management techniques and consults on operations infrastructure improvements that boost people, productivity, profitability, and growth. So, welcome Jennifer Goldman!
Jennifer Goldman: Thank you! So happy to be here!
Steve Shallenberger: Well, we’re gonna have a great time today! And before we get started, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about Jen. Jen Goldman has been published in Inc. Magazine, Tech Tools for Today, Liberated CEO, several magazines, and has taught workshops and spoken at several national conferences. Her love is helping businesses thrive and embrace operational changes so that they can help more consumers – and, boy, have we had changes this year, haven’t we, Jen?
Jennifer Goldman: Yes, we have!
Steve Shallenberger: Her volunteer love is advocating for public schools and those with food needs, and her personal love is for her two teenagers, one very understanding husband, reading, gardening, brisk walks, and quick reads of the 365 Stoics. Okay. That’s a great background! Well, I’m looking forward to hearing more about that. So, Jen, tell us about your background, and especially including any turning points in your life that’s had a significant impact on what you’re doing today – and what your story is.
Jennifer Goldman: It’s all about the story, right? So, I’m originally from Buffalo, New York – actually a suburb of Buffalo – and I was born into a family of educators. My father was a teacher and my mom worked at a local college in Buffalo. And, you know, being in a family around teachers and educators, it’s about continuous learning and just kind of opening your eyes to yourself and things around you. So, one of the biggest things that have always impacted me – and this is an easy story to tell – is I remember sitting next to my dad in his “office”, which was in one of our bedrooms, going through our family finances and just taking a look at what they had accomplished and what their goals were. And it was in this little brown paper book, it was a tiny brown book. And I remember it to this day, and he still has it. It was about having financial freedom and having goals and holding yourself accountable, like, all the things. And my parents were entrepreneurial on the side with real estate as well. So, that really had a huge impact on me. I mean, between that and watching my parents work two to three jobs at times, that kind of made me who I am today, which is always self-learning, always being open, and trying to help others succeed.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, that’s great. Now, how did you get into what you’re doing today?
Jennifer Goldman: Oh, wow, I weaved like most people do. So, I graduated from college early and I’d worked a bunch of jobs already before I even graduated college. And one of them was – I actually worked myself out of a job – I overhauled some processes and procedures and ways of operating for a campus company at my college. And then, they let me go because the computer and the processes replaced me. So, then I went on to learning finance and became an advisor and planner. And then, from there, I realized I love small businesses. Like, I just, I don’t know, I’m so amazed by the fact of what small business can do for the owners and for the consumers. And so I kind of flipped. I went from being a financial planner to business owners to becoming a business owner and consulting other owners. That was 15 years ago, and ever since then, I’ve been consulting all sorts of businesses and just loving it.
Steve Shallenberger: All right, well, that is a good background! That’s helpful for our listeners. How do you help prioritize all possible business improvements to create the biggest impact? Now, that is a loaded question, right?
Jennifer Goldman: Yes, it is. If I could go to your book too, like, Manage With A Plan. So, I visualize everything. Most people are visual-based. And so, for me, the idea of prioritization is, until I know even what I need to do – whether it’s my business or somebody else’s – I have to write it out. So, I literally write out everything that I can think of that could be an improvement, and then, by doing that, I start to move things up and down the list. And it’s like a natural gut prioritization scheme. I mean, there is some method behind that, but in essence, it’s just visualization of your plan and your plan that intersects between life and work. So the best plans, to me, improvements – acknowledge the fact that with a work improvement, there comes a personal improvement.
Steve Shallenberger: Indeed, yeah! And thanks for mentioning that. Yeah, managing with a plan is one of the things that highly successful leaders do. So, Jen, from your point of view, where do you start? I love what you’re talking about here, but how do you kind of get it narrowed down? What’s the lens that you use to determine your priorities? How do you know what’s most important at that time? And what are the different things that you’re considering?
Jennifer Goldman: It’s not scientific, it’s your gut, and what it tells you. So, all I can relate is my own story, in that, I tried to find my way more than once over the time of running a business, and it was finding out what made me excited and energized and wanting to learn more, what was my why, my passion – so I’m gonna use Simon Sinek a little bit, and going through that exercise of finding your own why. And then from there, prioritizing was easier because if you wrote out an improvement to yourself for the business that didn’t match up with helping you get to your end vision, you knew it was a low priority. I don’t mean to make it sound so easy, but again, if you’re writing things out, you have a vision of where you want to be, and you want the business to be in the future, it’s much easier to prioritize improvements that you can see a direct correlation with getting to that goal. So that’s how you prioritize. And then, the second tier of prioritizing is just the impact on the people around you. So, maybe there’s something that you really want to do for yourself for the business, but the ripple effect around you is going to be more difficult on others, then you might prioritize it and just give it a lot more time to simmer around them, so they can kind of adjust to the thought of what’s coming and accept it.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, good. I love the recommendations here of having a why, having your personal direction that you’re going, your organizational direction – so that’s clear, and it’s inspirational, and it means something to you. I like the idea that you’re suggesting here that you just listen to yourself. As you’re looking at the things you know you need to do, listen to what the priority is. Yeah, is that what needs to be done? And then writing it down. That’s another important thing that you said. It’s got to be really specific. I received an email from one of our listeners of the podcast and followers of some of the materials that we publish – his name is Scott from New York City – and we were talking about weekly planning and having a calendar and how do you prioritize your time. I know that’s something that you’ve given a lot of thought, as well. And so, he shared this, he said, “I’ve kind of been working with my 14-year-old-son” – you know something about this, don’t you, Jen?
Jennifer Goldman: Yes, I do.
Steve Shallenberger: And he said, “We’re struggling with school, and so, at the beginning of this week, we sat down, and we wrote down everything that needed to be done for school and when he would do it. And so, we got the weekly planner out. I want you to know the difference was night and day. Because my son, once he had it written down, and it was in front of him, then he had something to go to work on and check off.” So, I love what you’re saying about that – having a plan that’s in front of you, that’s tangible, written down.
Jennifer Goldman: Yeah, when you say it, and when we talk about it, it seems like such common sense. And yet, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met that don’t write things down. It’s up in their head and then they wonder why they feel scattered, or they don’t have focus. And it’s just, it’s too much. Our brains are brilliant, our guts are brilliant in coming up with wonderful ideas and things to do and to be. At the end, how do you manage all that? How do you organize it? So, you’re right, I’m laughing about the teenage thing. My kids really have taught me probably more than I’m teaching them of the basics and getting back to that, which is, again, when we grew up it was about having a diary. Nobody knows about that anymore. It’s old school. But yeah, again, it’s so important. And that helps you – you know, going into this idea of your time, one of the things I had to learn with being a business owner and also just a mom, a wife, is protecting your time. You know, you can’t say yes to everything. And luckily, we have these amazing people out there, teaching all of us, like Greg McKeown on Essentialism. I lean on that, and others, to say no. Like, as you’re writing things down, and you’re prioritizing, you’re starting to say, “Why am I even thinking about this? Is it ego driving it? Is it somebody else that said I should be doing this? This doesn’t sit with me.” And then the art of saying no and protecting your time. It’s a beautiful thing. I don’t think our kids get that benefit because they’re in school, right? They have to say yes. But as adults, that’s the wonder of it all. We get to say no.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah. Well, I’d love your perspective on this. I’m laughing because two or three podcast shows ago, I actually did a show on, ‘Say no with consideration, courage, and conviction’. I did a whole podcast, but I’d love to hear more thoughts on this. So, how have you found the best way to say no?
Jennifer Goldman: Practicing saying no and, I’ll be honest, scripting myself. I literally don’t have a lot of paper – I’m very much about being paperless – however, when it came to the art of saying no, I had to draw a visual in front of me that I kept on my phone and other places, to remind myself, ‘Make sure to breathe before saying yes’. There was that. I mean, again, this sounds like common sense. So I pulled on that. I think there were some tricks from Essentialism. I will tell you honestly, Mel Robbins helped. I went through the 5-4-3-2-1 coach. That helped me breathe and think before I said yes. Because I’m a giver, so it’s always yes, right? Do you want to help somebody? Yes. Yeah, you’ve got to find your little technique to switch your brain for that one minute to really spot-check yourself. And once you find it, it’s very liberating!
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, that is great. Well, it is hard to say no. And when you have clarity about your why, your vision, what you’re about, and what you’re doing, then you just have to say, okay, it either fits or it doesn’t. I’ve got to stick to my guns on what my feelings are, what they’re telling me, and respect that for a reason. Did you find that as well?
Jennifer Goldman: I do. I do.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, how do you help reduce your workload and free up some time?
Jennifer Goldman: Well, besides saying no? Letting go of ideas that didn’t turn out okay. And you could speak to this better than me. I’d like to think, as I get wiser – a.k.a older – then I’m okay with saying, “You know what? That just didn’t turn out the way I planned. And som you know what? I’m going to let that go.” That’s part of reducing the work. Another thing is, every time – my brain actually works this way – when I think about a part of the business or the work in front of me, I always think about ways to IDEOS it. It’s this little phrase I came up with, in my head. IDEOS stands for integrate, delegate, eliminate, outsource, or staff differently. So when I look at something and there’s a lot of work, I think, you know, is there a way to integrate systems so that data can flow and I don’t have to do the work? Is there a way to delegate this to somebody else who’s probably better at it than I am? More suited. Is there a way to eliminate it? Outsourcing using outside providers – and this can pertain to personal as well. I have kids, they have learning issues from time to time. I’m much better hiring a tutor than me doing it myself – that’s outsourcing. And then staffing: you know, can I switch this up a little bit, and people do different things that suit them better and don’t suit me anymore? So, that’s how I help actually reduce the work and free up the time. I just run that mantra through my head.
Steve Shallenberger: All right, great acronym! I love the fact that we’re gonna have a transcription of this interview, it’s written down. And man, we’re gonna put that one in caps!
Jennifer Goldman: Feel free! It’s in caps in my world!
Steve Shallenberger: That’s a good one. I love it! Now, do you have any advice on how to be the best leader for your team during the pandemic?
Jennifer Goldman: Yes! Be real and be honest – are two big things that I tell leaders that are working with teams of people – you know, whether it’s a committee, a nonprofit, or it’s a for-profit company. And the other thing is, you just can’t go in expecting face time. I think that leadership has changed, right? This whole COVID and the pandemic has brought to light that we needed to change how we lead, we needed to have a little bit more empathy than we’ve had for ourselves just as much as the people on our team, and we also needed to understand that leading wasn’t about the minutes and the hours, it was about the moments, and it was about quality. So, that’s my takeaway on this.
Steve Shallenberger: It’s great! So, how do you make the moments great?
Jennifer Goldman: You listen better – which is really hard because I think we’re all really tired. I haven’t met a person yet who has said that they’re not fatigued. And you’re listening, and you respond with a clear, short answer. You know, being clear, listening, being kind, and then coming back to that person with an honest answer. Very, very important.
Steve Shallenberger: Right. How about using modern technology? How important is that? Like Zoom or GoToMeeting? What’s your experience there, in trying to do this? Like, what role does it play?
Jennifer Goldman: Yeah, it plays a huge role. I mean, I use Zoom even with my parents, and my kids – we’ve done some cooking classes – and in business. I know people have Zoom fatigue – or let’s just call it video fatigue – I get it. But it’s just so important to be able to look at somebody in the eyes as much as you can or to read the nonverbal body language. So, quite frankly, I’ve always been a big proponent. Like, when I started my business 15 years ago, there were a bunch of things that I did. One is I always used video for all my communications, even if the other person didn’t want their webcam on or didn’t have one. Two, I’ve always used online software to communicate. And by that, I don’t mean email. If I was working on a committee – I do volunteer work – I always worked in a software program where whatever I wrote, others could see, and they could change later and vice versa. So, I’ve always been very transparent and I think that applies to business as well. Like, this idea that whatever you’re documenting, others can see and edit and they can come back to you. So, does that answer the question?
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, great! That’s wonderful. And so, what operations techniques do you teach, that make it easier to manage a business? What are some things that have worked well, that you’ve seen?
Jennifer Goldman: So, one of the things that work really well, is just what I mentioned about collaborating online. So, I happen to use a software program, again, which is online, where we write all our ideas, all the improvements, we prioritize, and we all can do it together. So we do a video call and we share the screen, but then after the calls, we actually can continue to make changes in that software. So, not to pitch because I have no ties, but I use Asana, but there’s Basecamp, and there’s ClickUp – there’s so many different programs out there. So that’s one absolutely huge thing. People love getting stuff out of their heads and into an organization system, and then prioritize. So that’s huge. And the other thing is the scheduling system. I have lived and died by my scheduling system for 15 years and it’s where people can book calls with me without having to talk to me or my team to do so. So, if they decide they want to schedule time with me, and that’s at 11 o’clock at night, they could click on a link and just pick a day and time that works and it sends reminders. And the beauty of a scheduling system is that on the flip, it blocks my time and protects it. So, if I know I want to keep my mornings open for big thoughts or something else, I just don’t offer those times.
Steve Shallenberger: Right. What are the best scheduling systems that you found?
Jennifer Goldman: Well, I happen to use Calendly because I find it super easy and inexpensive to set up. I just happen to love it. I used to use TimeTrade, but that’s really for huge businesses and it’s more complex. For me, it’s all about keeping it simple. So I use Calendly. Others use Acuity. There’s a whole bunch out there, but they’re so easy, they work with your calendars and, boy, oh boy, do they save you some serious energy and time!
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, probably everybody, right?
Jennifer Goldman: Absolutely. I mean, there’s a reason why even… You know, some people might not like it, but all my banks, they all use them. Why not? It’s so much quicker to schedule with somebody if you don’t have to play the back and forth on email or on phone.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, indeed. How do you help to boost growth? What’s your recommendation? How do you approach that? That’s a big deal for every organization that’s at least business or nonprofit, like you said. How do you make a difference?
Jennifer Goldman: Yeah, so, one of the things I’ve learned – and I’ll give credit to Samantha, who kind of pushed me in this, but I think we forget about Google reviews. I think we think about testimonials, like people writing letters or people posting notes, whether it’s on Facebook, or LinkedIn, or in some other way. Google reviews is a big one, just because the search engines really go to that system if people are searching for certain words, right? So Google reviews is a big one. I think it’s really important, even though our email boxes are loaded, that you do drip on your followers. So, I believe in an email subscription system, where people can kind of sign up and get news from you. And maybe it’s as simple as once a quarter you send just a quick note. I think that’s really important to let people know you’re alive and kickin’. And the scheduling tool, the ‘share social media toolbar. There’s a lot of firms that send information to me, and they don’t have any way for me to share it with somebody else. It’s kind of a little short-sighted. And then, the last one that I’ve learned is saying ‘no’ to all social media. I think we get trapped in this idea that we have to be everywhere, into all. So I find that boosting growth is also about saying no to some things that are time wasters, like plastering information everywhere. I think you’ve got to find your niche, find your audience, and then just live there.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, yeah, find out what works and then build on that. And if it’s not, then simplify a bit. Focus on the good stuff.
Jennifer Goldman: Yeah, like chunk it back, right?
Steve Shallenberger: Right. Oh, this has been fun. I’ve loved your ideas today. A lot of really great ideas, Jen!
Jennifer Goldman: Yeah, I can’t say they’re all mine, too. I think it’s great that there’s so many of us out there, right? We just kind of grab and pluck and use and test them out. So, that’s all it’s about.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay. Well, I’m always amazed at how fast things go, and we’re towards the end of our show. So any final tips you’d like to leave with our listeners today? This has been fun!
Jennifer Goldman: Yeah, you know, that same tip I give myself: don’t take on the world all in one day, and just kind of pick one major priority and focus on it.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, that’s great advice. Well, now, how can people find out about what you’re doing?
Jennifer Goldman: So, I post just about everything on LinkedIn. So, if you just look up Jennifer Goldman Consulting, I’m there – and you’ll also find my website. I’m pretty much an open book there.
Steve Shallenberger: So what are we gonna find on LinkedIn?
Jennifer Goldman: Well, you’re gonna find content – every time I have a business tip, I publish it, I put it out there. If I love somebody else’s items, which I do, I’ll republish them. And then, if I’m coming out with a new course – because I have online curriculum for business leaders – I’ll put it out on there. So I pretty much put out just about everything that I really like, and I think people should follow or read about, on LinkedIn.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, good. Well, thank you, Jen Goldman! It has been fun being together with you today!
Jennifer Goldman: Yeah, you too. Thank you very much!
Steve Shallenberger: You’re making a lot of difference! You’re blessing a lot of lives, I can tell, and you’ve got a great spirit. So we wish you the best as you’re making that difference in the world.
Jennifer Goldman: Thank you!
Steve Shallenberger: And to all of our listeners, it’s been an honor and a privilege to have you with us today. We’re so grateful for you. You lift us! Hopefully, you’ve gotten a few ideas, as we go through these various podcasts, that make a big difference. I noticed that Jen is a gardener.
Jennifer Goldman: Absolutely!
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, well, way to go! Of course, we’re just at the end of the season, and I’ll just tell a little story about this because we have a son that’s lived with us – he and his wife and two little boys – for about a year and they’re moving next week, we’re gonna miss them. But he is a gardener as well. And in the north side of our house, we have fruit trees and a garden, but on the south side of our house, Tommy planted two pumpkin seeds – one by our patio, the other, my office is on the east side of our house, it’s kind of a separate building, there, and he planted another one there. One totally took over our patio. It was humungous, giant. And then, the one next to my office measured 70 feet wide!
Jennifer Goldman: Isn’t it amazing? I did that last year, and it took over my entire 20-foot garden. I could not plant another pumpkin. It’s truly amazing! But how fun to watch it grow, isn’t it?
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, it was! So then I took a picture of it with a pumpkin seed in my hand, showing this one seed did all of this. And that’s what we’re doing today. You know, you get a seed here and you get a seed there and your plant it and you cultivate it, and some really magnificent things can happen. And it’s not just that because then we had the plant. And by the time we were done, Jen, we ended up with 35 pumpkins in the one plant. I counted the seeds. I went to the internet and I said, “How many seeds are in a pumpkin?” 280!
Jennifer Goldman: Oh, my God! That’s amazing!
Steve Shallenberger: That means there’s close to 10,000 seeds in that one plant. So, what our listeners are doing is they’re here with a commonality, they have the spirit of Becoming Your Best. These are people that want to improve themselves. That’s what you are. You have that same spirit. You’re trying to do that in your family, in your own life. But that’s what we do. We plant seeds. But while you’re growing your own garden, you’re also deliberately planting seeds with others by your very actions. And so, this has been fun today. We planted a few seeds. I’ve had a few planted in me. So, thanks a lot!
Jennifer Goldman: Likewise! I love doing it. It’s the fun of what we do, right?
Steve Shallenberger: Yes, it is. Well, okay! To all of our listeners, wishing you the best, and have a great day! And we will talk with you later. This is Steve Shallenberger, with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, signing off.