Season 1, Episode 18
From Employee to Employer
“You want to be a creator, not a consumer on social media, that’s the key to success on social media.” – Shondell Varcianna
Join Shondell Varcianna and Lyle Leads as they discuss Shondell’s journey of being an employee to becoming an employer.
In this episode you’ll discover:
- How to build quality business relationships
- How to have a successful meeting
- How to engage on social media in 20 minutes
LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE 18 NOW
WATCH Podcast Episode VIDEO
Meet Our Podcast Guest
Shondell Varcianna is the owner of Varci Media. A content writing company that helps financial institutions save time by writing content that speaks to their target audience. Shondell and her team have transformed their clients blogs into a solution provider for their customers.
Find Shondell on LinkedIn:
Practical Tips To Build Strong Business Relationships
In this special bonus training video we discuss the value of building relationships in business and show you how you can do that for your own business.
Bonus Business Training
Transcript Of The Main Podcast
Lyle: Hi, this is Lyle with Optimize Profitability, I’m here with Shondell, my new friend. I love to meet new people. She’s a mom of two. She’s got a one year old, and a five year old. So if you hear some noise, she may have a little one running around somewhere. She loves helping financial institutions, specifically content writing things, like newsletters, and blog posts, and things like that. But more than that, she loves talking on podcasts to help entrepreneurs in their journey.
So I’m looking forward to hearing your story today. So Shondell tell us what’s your story.
Shondell: Thank you so much for having me. I love being here. I’m originally from Toronto, Canada. I got started in business because I had a house that I was living in, and I had a rental property. I paid both of those mortgages off in a fairly short period of time. And I think I told three of my friends, and one of my friends, she just got so excited and said, “You have to help other people to do the same thing!”
So I thought, you know, why not? And she suggested that I start a blog, and I didn’t know what a blog was at the time. I was like, whatever. She explained to me what a blog was and how it could reach a wide audience of people. And I thought, Ok, well, it sounds good. So I taught myself how to blog, created my own website on WordPress and just started blogging. And over time my blog started to get popular.
And I was a part of that whole personal finance community. And at one point, Redbook magazine started contacting me. Radio stations started contacting me, just wanting to hear my story. And then that led to me working with a lady by the name of Gail Vaz-Oxlade. She’s the Suze Orman woman of Canada. And once I started working with her, companies started contacting me, wanting me to write for them. And I still have my full time job at the time.
And so I couldn’t handle all of the work that I was getting. So my husband suggested that I hire some writers to help me out with the writing. And then I thought, you know, I don’t even think I’m that really of a good writer. There’s got to be better writers out there. And then I could focus on managing the team and the marketing, which is more my strength. So that’s what I did. I just hired some writers, hired some editors, and we continue to grow the business.
And then I brought the business here to Atlanta, Georgia, simply because I wanted to live here since like 13 years. I’ve always loved this place. I’ve wanted to live here for so long. So it just made sense that we could just bring the business here and here we are today. And we were more niche specific now in terms of who we write for. Now we mainly write for just financial institutions. Before we were writing for everybody until I realized it was just too much.
It was easier to just focus on one niche, and we just chose financial institutions because that’s my background. I’m actually a qualified originator in Georgia as well, and I have my license in Ontario. So it just kind of made sense since my whole entire background is working with banks. and credit unions, and mortgage brokers, and things like that. So it’s just a nice fit because I understand that world and that’s how we got to where we are today.
Lyle; And what was that mindset you had to go through to change from the corporate job to doing a business?
Shondell: I realized early on, because I’ve always had a bi-weekly paycheck since I started working. So I realized in order for me, for a business to work for me, I needed to figure out how to create a way where money was coming in consistently and not just whenever. So that was when I decided that we needed to put people on monthly retainers, because that was the only way I was going to be able to hire, if I knew exactly how much money was coming in.
So we did that early on when we took on clients that needed monthly retainers. And also I had to move from thinking like an employee to an employer. That was very difficult for me because I’ve always been an employee. So even when I was hiring writers, I was still thinking like an employee. My husband had to say, you know, you do have to schedule meetings, you do have to lead the team.
It’s not just you hiring writers. And then you kind of say, Ok, just write this. No, you have to have more of a structure. So he really helped me to structure the business and to think, you know, just what he said to me was just like how things were organized when you worked for the company. You’ve got to now create that order in your company. So you have to structure things. You have to have meetings with your clients.
You have to know what your clients want. So he was really just telling me that I had to create processes and systems, put systems in place so that the business could run efficiently, and that’s what took some time because he would keep saying, you know, did you guys have a meeting like, no. So what are they doing today? I think what I told him to do last week. He has the patience of Job because he was just always on me with, “You have to structure the business in order for it to grow.”
So that took some time. But we do have meetings now, so it’s much better now. But that was the biggest mind shift for me, moving from employer to employee to employer.
Lyle: And when you started having those meetings and everything, would you have to go through? Did you have to just kind of say, I’m the boss now?
Shondell: No, no, I never do that. I don’t even have unnecessary meetings because I used the eight meetings working in the corporate world. We don’t have a meeting if there’s no need to have a meeting. But no, I have an outline of what we’re going to discuss. Usually it may be a larger client that we have to bring on board, when we’ve got to discuss the logistics on what we’re going to write, and how we’re going to write this type of content.
So the team is aware. So it’s very strategic because and it’s not you know, I don’t have a lot of them, because I hate meetings. I think my staff does, too. So I just don’t like unnecessary meetings. There’s no need, if there’s no need to meet, we’re not meeting. We have an outline and I got that from the corporate world. There was always what we’re going to discuss. So usually just a few points just so they are not overwhelming.
I would go to meetings sometimes, and it was like 20 things, and we’re going to discuss it. I’m tuned out after the first one. So I don’t usually have more than two or three things that we’re going to discuss in one meeting and then, yeah, we just keep it going. But I always have an outline of what we’re going to discuss. And they are aware of that so they can come.
Lyle: All right. Let’s take it just a step further, because a lot of people may be new, and they’ve never had to have meetings before, and this is new for them. Do you send them an agenda for the meeting? And how advanced do you send it, like send it two days advance? You give them seven days?
Shondell: Usually just a day in advance. Even before we meet, we’re having discussions anyways, like we talk a lot through email and stuff like that. We have an internal system that our I.T. guy created. So we talk through that as well. So they’re usually aware of that.
It’s because I’ll say, you know, let’s meet on this because we have a few things that we’re going to discuss. So they’re usually aware that we’re going to have a meeting and what we’re going to discuss, I just make it more organized.
And so these are the things we’re going to discuss. We’re not really going to go off of that just so the meeting doesn’t get drawn out. So they’re usually aware of what we’re going to talk about. And then I just send them an agenda a day in advance. And yeah, we just go from there. Maybe if I need to get their input on something or if they have questions that they’re coming with, then I’ll send them, you know, I’ll give them a little bit more time.
Because if I need some feedback or if they’re going to send some questions that I need to prepare some answers for, then I’ll send it a little earlier. But usually, for the most part, most of the day.
Lyle: And do you recap the meeting afterwards and send it to them?
Shondell: No. I’ll send them a recap of the notes and usually it’s recorded anyway. That’s already posted, so they can go back over it. But yeah, I try to do things so it’s not, you know, too much. Like, I’m very simple. So the recap is there and they can go and read it over or watch it again if they want to. But yeah, that’s usually how we do it.
Lyle: Cool. Awesome. And what are you doing right now in your business that you feel like is helping you to win in life and in business?
Shondell: Building better relationships! That is hands down. That’s been a life change for me. And I take that in every area of my life because I was not really big on building quality relationships growing up, like I would have friends and things like that and people in my life. But now I really pay attention to the people in my life, the clients that we have. And I want to get to know people on a personal level. I want to go beyond just us writing for them, like I want to get to know people on a personal level that’s so important to me.
That’s what life is all about. And I’m instilling that in my children, my five year old, because I want her to just love more, just care more, just place people first is really what I want to get through to her, because I didn’t do that growing up and I had to learn that, you know, I woke up and said, you know, I have no friends there. I don’t have enough good quality relationships.
And it’s my fault because I’m the common denominator. So I have to change that. And it’s great now because now I’ve got clients, and I get invited to all these different things and it’s great. And that comes from getting to know people and realizing, you know what? Well, we have something. We both like to play basketball with school, play basketball on Sunday. So it’s just, you know, building quality relationships is definitely been a game changer for me.
And it makes me happier because I love people. I love hanging out with people. I love getting to know people, especially since, you know. Well, people seem to be fascinated with my accent here in the South. So it’s a conversation starter. But like my mom is from Jamaica. My dad’s from Africa. I was born in Canada, and now I live in Atlanta. So I’m very big on meeting people from different places.
Like I just love it. Like, it’s just nice meeting people that are so different from me. Right, because we’re so similar. But at the same time, we grew up differently. We may look different, but I just love meeting people that are just different. They think different. I love that.
Lyle: Yeah. The cultures. We can learn from each other.
Shondell: Yes, yes, that just makes us! That was part of the reason why my mom moved a lot , because she was born in Jamaica, and then she left Jamaica to the Bahamas, and then moved to Canada. But a big reason why she wanted to live in Canada is because it’s so multicultural, like Toronto actually means the meeting place. So there’s so many different things you can literally, like if you’re a foodie, you can eat Japanese food on Tuesday, Italian food, like there’s so much different, there’s so many different kinds of people there.
And that was part of the reason why she wanted to raise her children in Toronto, because where she grew up, there was just one race. There wasn’t really a whole lot different, there were a few, but not as much as Toronto. You just meet so many different kinds of people. And she loves that. She wanted us to grow up and learn different cultures, taste different foods, and just be a part of different worlds in the same city.
Lyle: Oh, yeah, I agree with that totally. So you talk about relationships, and we’re in 2020, and everybody’s got different versions of how far, or how close they could be with people and all that. So what are some things you’re doing right now that you didn’t do a year ago to make those connections?
Shondell: I’m in Facebook groups. I’m on LinkedIn all the time. My ideal customer is on LinkedIn. So I tend to build relationships on LinkedIn. I’ve got Sales Navigator, so I will save my ideal customer. I connect with people every single day and then I’ll save them in Sales Navigator. So I’m notified every time they post something on LinkedIn and then I’ll go in, and if I could provide value, I’ll comment on something that they say and I do that every day.
I take twenty minutes and I do that every single day and that helps me to build relationships with my ideal customer. And then I post on LinkedIn every single day as well. And one of my assistants helps me with the post just so we can try to post like five times and I’m trying to bring that up to 10 times a day. But that’s what we do to try to build relationships. We connect with people every day. I post on people’s, my ideal clients post every single day.
And then we also post things on LinkedIn every day as well, and I am on Facebook groups. I’m in a lot of Facebook groups, some for personal and then for my business Facebook groups. I go in there and if I could provide value, if I can answer questions, I do that as a way to build our brand as well. So since we’re not able to meet as much and then I get invited to some of our clients, like I just was a judge for a Halloween party in October for one of our clients.
So that was tons of fun. So things like that, we’ll do I’ll do as well. I love being a part of things like that because that just gets me in front of them, even though, you know, normally I would just go into the office for that. But since people are working virtual and we’re doing the social distancing. So those are some of the things that I do to try to still have that relationship with people and with my clients.
Lyle: Ok, so when I ask a very specific question, because you said you spend twenty minutes, a lot of people get in and they get sucked into the Facebook world, especially if there are a new entrepreneur. What they do is they get this mindset. I’ve got to get in there and they are just there all day because they feel like they’re doing something, but they’re not pushing anything. So how do you get that in there and out of there in twenty minutes? You have a system set up or how do you do that?
Shondell: I can’t remember his name, but he is the creator of ClickFunnels.
Lyle: Russell Brunson.
Shondell That’s it. He said you want to be a creator in social media, not a consumer of social media. You don’t want to be consuming the content. You want to create content for social media. Captured it so well when he said that he articulated it better than I just did. But that’s what he was saying.
And I really am big on that because you can get lost in social media. So I literally will set my timer to spend twenty minutes in there and I do that every single day. And then what I do is I’ll take two hours a week and I’m usually on a Monday morning or if I have time on a Sunday evening, I’ll do it. I try not to work on Sundays, but because the kids have been home. But I’ll take two hours a week and I will create all the posts for like a whole week.
Or sometimes I can create enough for two weeks and then I use Buffer, and I schedule them in Buffer and then I have enough posts for two weeks. I don’t even have to think about that. And then I’ll just schedule the twenty minutes to get in there every single day and interact with my ideal customer. So that’s the system that I have. And, it works pretty well because at least I’m active and I’m also engaging with my ideal customer.
Lyle: It’s called the Paradox effect! How much time are you going to spend there? Give yourself a time you have for every day.
Shondell: Oh yeah. And the thing is, that’s the job of these social media sites. They want you to be consuming as much information as possible. So you stay on there all day and it’s easy to do, especially Facebook. Facebook is brilliant in sucking you in, like I will. They must listen to our conversations because I will be talking to my husband about something, and I see an ad on Facebook and just like, really?
And I get caught in there. And because I bought stuff from Facebook. And so it’s just, you know, so I really am really mindful of that, especially since we know, we’re business owners too. So I’m really mindful of the amount of time I spend on it because it’s so easy to get lost and it’s why there’s so much interesting stuff on there. But I could be reading a book and learning something new. So I got to know I put my timer on that. That helps me a lot.
Lyle: That’s smart. So what tip would you give an entrepreneur who’s just getting started? They’ve never been in the real entrepreneur world. They’ve always been in the business for the corporate world. What tip would you give them to help them take that next step to become more professional and a better entrepreneur?
Shondell: There’s a lot of things, but I think one of the big ones is know who you want to target and get where they are, and build relationships with them. For example, I’ll just give you an example, because we write for financial institutions, so what their target market is, a lot of them, their target market is first time homebuyers. So the ones who we work with, some smaller ones, they know who they want to target, but they’re not sure how to build relationships with their target audience.
And I will tell them you have to go where they are and be a part of the conversation that they’re already having. For example, first time homebuyers, there’s a ton of Facebook groups on first time homebuyers, and they are in these Facebook groups wanting to know what’s their minimum down payment, what’s the minimum beacon score that they have to have. You know, they want to check out different neighborhoods. They want to know what neighborhoods they should be thinking of buying in.
And they want to buy in an area that has a good school district. So things like that, they’re talking about all these different things. So you want to be where they are talking about it. So whoever your target audience is, find out where they are, if they’re on forums, if they’re in these groups, go to these groups and provide value. When they’re asking questions, chime in there and answer some of those questions. A lot of these groups, you can’t advertise your services directly, but you don’t need to if you’re providing enough value, if you’re answering the questions that they have.
And then you want to make sure that on your Facebook page or LinkedIn, wherever your target audience is, you make sure that you have exactly what you do on your profile, with your contact information, with your website information, so that if you’re in these groups answering enough questions, they will eventually raise their hand and possibly ask if they can message you directly or go on your Facebook page so you can put whatever you want on your Facebook page, all of your information to make it easy for them to connect with you.
So that is what I would suggest you do. And when you do that and you just be a part of the conversation that your ideal customer has, you’re listening to what they want, and then you could provide that to them through your product or your service if it’s a good fit, because all you’re doing is just bridging the gap between what it is they’re asking for and the product or service that you have to sell. You’re just bridging the gap. They’ve already said they want it.
So now it’s just makes the transition so much easier. And that’s great selling, in my opinion.
Lyle: Absolutely. Yes. You find a solution and add to the value. Value is key.
Shondell: Yeah. And you can only do that if you know your ideal customer. If you build relationships with them, you know them just like how you know your friend, you know what they want. And that’s just because you’ve spent time with them, you’ve talked to them, so you hear what they want. So that’s why I see these Facebook groups are huge because it allows you to get into them and see what your ideal customer wants and stay in them.
Now, this does take a few months to really get to know them because you’re looking for patterns, and then take it a step further and start creating content, answering those questions. So it’s a whole marketing approach that you can take when you do this. But the more you know your customer, the better it is, because then the better able you are to serve them.
Lyle: I agree. So we’re going to take this conversation a little bit deeper. Talking about relationships. I’ve talked with Shondell. So you want to go to Optimize Profitability. You can look for episode number eighteen, look for the name Shondell, and we’re going to be talking specifically about how to deepen those relationships.
And you get to know her a little bit more. We can have a great dynamic conversation, so make sure to join us at OptimizeProfitability.com. Thanks for being on with us Shondell and I’ll see you in a minute.
Shondell: Yes. Thank you so much for having me.
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