One of Alison Werder’s toughest business moments was letting go an employee who just wasn’t the right fit. Upon departing, the former employee told Alison, “You think you’re big time, but you’re not.” But the mission of Alison’s business, Ali J Boutique, is big time. Alison chats with Clate about how she went from selling scarves to creating an online apparel company; balancing business with parenting; and all of the teaching involved in drawing in customers. The biggest takeaway for both these business owners? That if you feel your business is commoditized, you’re probably low on passion, not teaching right, and not selecting the people who value what you offer.
Want to automate your online business like Ali J Boutique? Check out tips from our e-book, “The Small Business Office Automation Guide.”

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028 – The Determination Factor – Alison Werder Transcript

Alison:                      And that was that first experience of opening my eyes to content marketing and opening my eyes to reaching an audience in different ways. And I thought this is it. This is how we can go from a quaint shop on Main Street and actually engage people on a much larger scale.

Clate:                       Welcome everybody to this episode of the Small Business Success podcast. I’m Clate Mask, cofounder and CEO of Infusionsoft. And today I’ve got with me Alison Werder of Ali J Boutique. Alison, great to have you.

Interviewee:             Thank you so much. I am pumped. I am so, so pumped to be here.

Interviewer:             I’m pumped to have you here. We actually don’t have Scott here today. He’s lying flat on his back today with a hurt back, so unfortunately Scott’s not with us, but I wish him a quick recovery and hopefully he’ll be able to join us on the next one. But I’m really glad we get a chance to talk because I know you’ve got a great business and one that I think a lot of our listeners can

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                                identify with because many times we’re talking about pure online businesses or maybe digital businesses, things that are different than a retail store. And you’ve got a retail store so tell us a little bit about Ali J Boutique. I think our listeners are going to enjoy this.

Interviewee:             Sure. So Ali J Boutique is located on a quaint Main Street in Minnesota. It started in 2008 as a traveling boutique and went into a storefront in 2011 so we just celebrated our five-year anniversary so we’re really pumped about that.

Interviewer:             So you were a traveling boutique for a few years.

Interviewee:             Yes.

Interviewer:             And then you got to a point – I’m going to ask you about that in just a second. But you’re on Main Street now. Where in Minnesota are you?

Interviewee:             We’re about two hours went of the Twin Cities; so we’re in the lakes area in Minnesota so we get a lot of tourists and travelers over the summer months and things like that. But we have actually built a really great, stable business there on Main Street as well.

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And we’ve also recently delved into the e-commerce world, which is quite the adventure; let’s put it that way.

Interviewer:             Yeah. Yeah.

Interviewee:             Yeah. We mainly serve women in their 30’s through 50’s and we call them kind of the in-betweeners; those gals who don’t want to dress like they did in their earlier years but they don’t really resonate with the styles that are kind of perpetuated to the older sector. So that’s who we serve and we really try to just dig in with them and show them that they can have their very own personal style.

Interviewer:             Okay. Awesome. I want to ask you about that. That’s very cool. And you can’t see, but Alison, she’s dressed to the part right now. I’m sure has got all the Ali J Boutique clothing on.

Interviewee:             Oh, yeah. Representin’.

Interviewer:             Great. She’s representing, yes. Awesome. That’s really cool. I want to talk about how you found your niche in just a moment because it’s an interesting thing. But before we get to the niche tell us about what it was like in those early years when you were

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                                a traveling boutique and then what led to you saying okay we’re going to open a store on Main Street?

Interviewee:             Sure. Well, if I take it back to college I was actually going to school. I was premed and then I was pre-pharmacy and I was kind of going that route. And my husband and I – I was married young – and we started our family a lot sooner than I ever imagined. And I had a really deep desire to stay at home with the kids.

So I was an at home mama for six years, but I also always, always loved being in groups of people, groups of women specifically. I get jazzed when I’m around other people. And so I just go to that point when I was at home where I thought I need to do something. I need to do a little something just to get out. And I thought if I could make some money for my small family perfect.

Interviewer:             So you were the quintessential mom-preneur.

Interviewee:             I am a mom-preneur. Absolutely.

Interviewer:             You are, yes. I shouldn’t say were. You are and that’s how you started. And hat’s off to you. That’s awesome. And I –

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                                Listen, Charisse is a stay-at-home mom of six kids and I know for a fact she works way harder than I do. I think I work really, really hard, but she works way harder. And to do that and then also start a business is so commendable. So that’s amazing. Good for you.

Interviewee:             Thank you. Well it started kind of like as an outlet, you know? I just wanted to have kind of both. I loved being at home as well, but then when I got to be around women what I would do is I would set up a traveling boutique wherever I could. So I would do women’s events or I’d popup a little boutique in the gal’s living room, right, and just fancy up her living room. She’d invite all of her girlfriends over and it was something different. And how I did that is I just focused on scarves.

Interviewer:             So you stared and it was just scarves.

Interviewee:             Yeah. I was the scarf lady. Yep. I was probably the scarf lady around the area and that all came because my sister, who was an avid traveler, she came back from a trip to New York and she brought me back these scarves and I thought these are beautiful.

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                                Where can I get more? I don’t know where to find these. I looked everywhere around. And I thought to myself if I’m looking for them there’s other people that are going to be too. So I just started doing that and I would teach women. I teach women how to wear them, how to style them. So that brought in the teaching aspect of what I did.

Interviewer:             Cool. That is awesome.

Interviewee:             Yeah. Fast forward a couple of years. Gals were saying can I just shop whenever I want to? You need to open a shop. You just need to do it.

Interviewer:             So did you do – the traveling boutiques, was that only scarves? Were you pure scarves until you opened your shop? So you opened a scarf shop at the beginning.

Interviewee:             I did. Scarves and then some other accessories. But that’s what I was known for was the scarves. And so I had kind of built up a little mini following, I guess, of women who would check in and see where I was going to be next. And so it was just great because then they could just come in and find me. And the first year I built it kind of slow. The first year I just did Friday/Saturdays and I was still home with the kids. So I did that balance.

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                                And then it just kind of grew from there and we took on more space and with more space you need more hours to sell things. So that’s kind of how it grew. And now we have quite a large shop and we carry everything from clothing to shoes to accessories.

Interviewer:             And there’s six of you. You’ve got five employees and yourself, is that right?

Interviewee:             I am one of five.

Interviewer:             One of five. So you’ve got five total in the business. That’s awesome. And at what point did it kind of go beyond scarves. How many years in – how long was it that you were doing just scarves and then you started to go into a broader clothing line?

Interviewee:             I was doing just scarves for a good two and a half years.

Interviewer:             Okay.

Interviewee:             Yeah, I was focused on that for sure, but I started to do, you know, if I was invited to a women’s event or an expo I used to ask if I could get up and do a demonstration. So I’d say I want to be a part of this, but I can I get up and show people because that’s what would attract the women and attract the crowds and they would love to learn.

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Interviewer:             Hold onto that for just a second because I think the thing that is so – what I love about small businesses, you can make a business out of anything and it’s so amazing that people – you have people that will flock to you no matter what it is. We have a customer who created a seven figure business teaching parrots how to talk. Teaching people how to teach parrots how to talk. A seven figure business doing that. And people are like what? Are you serious?

What I love is there is a scarf business that causes a whole bunch of people to come out of the woodwork and say wow, this is exactly what I wanted to do. And then you can actually turn that into something even bigger, which is what you’ve done. So here’s my question for you, and I know you can’t answer for the guy who taught people how to train their parrots, but you can answer for the person who created a business providing scarves and teaching women about scarves.

What made it possible for you to attract people like that? Sure, the scarves are pretty, I’m sure, but there’s something that you have – and I see this over and over and over.

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                                So I’m just kind of wondering what it is from your perspective. What caused that? What caused that community to just come around you?

Interviewee:             It’s the chance for them to learn so they can take it into their own life and they can actually practice that. So it’s the teaching completely. People want something that they can actually take back with them and know what to do with it and be able to implement it into their own life.

Interviewer:             Yeah. So for listeners, her saying what does the scarf industry have to do with me or a boutique line of clothing? There’s something that’s so amazing we were talking about which is the teaching that goes around the product.  In every product, you can look at any industry and it comes across as a commodity if you just reduce it to the product.

But it’s all of the teaching, all of the passion, all of the experience that goes around the product that actually draws in customers, brings people to – all of a sudden you’ve got this, like you said, a following of people who are interested. Yes, they’re interested in the scarf, but they’re interested in your passion,

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your teaching, them being a part of something that is – it can be anything, anything that an entrepreneur has passion around. Congratulations. Thanks for drawing it out and for our listeners think about that.

If you are in a place where you feel like your business is commoditized what that’s telling you is you’re probably not teaching. You probably are low on passion for what you’re doing. You’re probably not selecting the people who really value what you’re offering. You’ve got yourself into a place where the fun, the passion, the emotion is absent in the business. And by the way your margins are probably suffering.

Interviewee:             That’s very true. Yes.

Interviewer:             Well thank you. That’s awesome. So tell us now a little bit about how the niche happened. So you went from scarves. Now you open a store. And people are asking you to do more. You explained your business in a really interesting way right in the beginning in

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who you are really targeting, the demographic, but also just the psychographic of where that customer is. How did you do that?

Interviewee:             Well there was an interesting thing that started to happen when we did open the storefront. We would have women come in and we started to see that the clothing that we were “selling” was like a tool for us. But the interesting thing was that we started to see women who stopped in – we saw them open up and they started to kind of let us into their world.

                                And with women there is an emotional attachment and emotional experience that happens when you go shopping and you’re trying on things and you’re in that dressing room.

Interviewer:             I have four daughters and my wife. And I am – right now I also have two sons but they’ve left the house. So I do a lot of shopping with a lot of girls.

Interviewee:             Right. Right.

Interviewer:             And I know what you’re talking about with the emotion. I definitely understand.

Interviewee:             Yes. Yes. And so these women would go in and sometimes if they really let us in we’d see that they kind of would see that dressing room as a battlefield with themselves, with their perception of

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                                themselves, with their body shape, all that kind of stuff. And when they would let us in there those are the days when I would run home to my husband and I’d say it was an awesome day. It was an amazing day. I was able to kind of dig in with this gal and kind of show her some truths about herself.

                                And he would be saying what was the revenue _____? I’d be like I don’t know! I have no idea! But this was amazing! This was an amazing day! So that’s where –

Interviewer:             He’s expecting to hear a record sales day when you say it was an awesome day.

Interviewee:             Exactly. No, but that’s where the passion came from with Ali J Boutique.

Interviewer:             And I imagine the sales follow because of that.

Interviewee:             Yes. And so when we came down here actually for Forum – we were part of that – and we were able to work with some of the Infusionsoft team members and figure out what our mission is. And so our mission really is that we teach women to wear

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                                their worthiness.

Interviewer:             Oh, that’s great.

Interviewee:             And so that is our focus now and it just describes it perfectly, those things that drive us at Ali J Boutique.

Interviewer:             Wear your worthiness. That is really – that’s really cool. So when you came to League Forum, which is really four or five months ago, am I right?

Interviewee:             Yeah.

Interviewer:             So tell us a little bit about the business from the time you opened the store until when you came to League Forum. Because I know when you came to League Forum there was a lot of kind of like you just said. You kind of discovered really the purpose and getting clear on why you do what you do, which is really great. I love the helping women wear their worthiness.

What happened in – go through a little bit of the journey. Because I’m sure from the time you opened the store until I really met you just a few months back there were lots of challenges. There were lots of ups and downs, lots of things you had to work your way through. So take the listeners into that a little bit.

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Interviewee:             Okay. So in the shop when we started to really dig in and really notice that we could have this impact on women it was still a boutique in the sense of your typical Main Street Boutique with clerks that help and that kind of a thing. And it was mostly I was there full time but I would hire some part-timers to come and watch the shop and that kind of thing. I started to realize that if I wanted to have that kind of shop that’s all well and good.

                                The majority of women’s boutiques across the country are like that. But when I started to get this spark of interest and I saw that these women wanted more I thought there’s going to have to be some changes here. I’m going to have to learn a lot about how to create. At that time I was doing everything. I was the bookkeeper to the buyer to –

Interviewer:             I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Interviewee:             Oh, I know.

Interviewer:             Our listeners have no idea what that’s like.

Interviewee:             Exactly. I know. It’s foreign.

Interviewer:             Does that make sense?

Interviewee:             I was the only one.

Interviewer:             All the hats. That’s right.

Interviewee:             But you know I was just doing all these things and I just realized I needed to figure out how to get other people in on this so that it’s

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                                not all about me. And so that’s when I started to learn a lot more. I started to listen to podcasts on a daily basis. I started to read. I started to – I got a business coach who actually I met him because he came to interview me for this local publication called Business Heroes which is just so funny. If this whole thing goes down at least I have that going for me. I’m on the cover of this local publication called Business Heroes.

Interviewer:             You are. That’s awesome.

Interviewee:             No, but it’s he was interviewing me but what I came to realize was his questions were very good and very pointed. And I thought this guy probably knows what he’s talking about. And he became a business coach to me and that was that first experience of opening my eyes to content marketing and opening my eyes to reaching an audience in a different way. And I thought this is it. This is how we can go from a quaint shop on Main Street and actually engage people on a much larger scale.

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Interviewer:             Yeah, yeah. I got goosebumps because I can see the dots connecting. When you were at a place that you could see what you offered to the market is so much more than the article of clothing. You called it – it was actually a tool to enable you to do things for your clients in their lives. So you knew you had that, but you didn’t know how to expand your reach. You didn’t know how to actually is it better marketing of your product?

No, it actually wasn’t that. It was content marketing that helped people resonate with the psychological triggers and things in their minds that actually bring them into your store and help them see what it is to wear their worthiness. So I can totally see how that would connect once you started to go oh, this is how we can open it up. And then obviously e-commerce becomes a very logical, natural extension of that.

Interviewee:             Yes.

Interviewer:             Which probably didn’t follow too far behind.

Interviewee:             No, not too far behind.

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                                When we started to delve into that too then it was like okay how can I find then these other team members that will catch this and will run with it with me and that kind of thing? That’s when thankfully I met McCall who is with me today. I call her the yin to my yang. She’s my right hand. She is the practical to my dreamer. She’s those types of things. And so together we started to lay this foundation that we would need to do to even get into the framework of okay this is not this little shop. This could really be something that can impact a lot of women. Now let’s just figure out how to do that.

Interviewer:             Yeah. And so tell me when was – that’s awesome. I could go in a bunch of different directions right here, but I want to go back to what you said when you went home to your husband and you said wow, today was a great day. When was the first time that you had that ah-ha experience where you noticed wow, this is what we’re actually doing? We’re not selling scarves, we’re not selling articles of clothing.

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                                We’re actually changing the way women think about themselves and, you know, you had that kind of connection. Do you remember the first time you had that experience?

Interviewee:             I do. I do. And it was probably three years ago now thinking back.

Interviewer:             How far into the business was that?

Interviewee:             That was five years in.

Interviewer:             Tell us about it and then I want to come back to the fact that it was five years in. Because a lot of times people think that you just know – in fact I’ll just talk about it right now. A lot of times people think you just know. Well the reality is we didn’t catch the vision for Infusionsoft until we had been at it for about five years. And we were really at it and I thought we were really doing our thing. And then I realized oh no, no, no. We’re just starting to understand what it is to change the world for small businesses through sales and marketing automation.

And that was five years of blood, sweat and tears getting to that point. So sometimes when people are frustrated – I don’t quite know, I haven’t found my niche yet,

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                                I’m not quite there yet, I don’t really see the vision. Or they sometimes say we’ve created our purpose, values and mission. That didn’t happen on day one. It took a long time to get to that. And you have to be in motion and working at it and struggling and trying to find it all along the way and then it starts to happen. So you had the ah-ha five years in. Tell the listeners what happened.

Interviewee:             It actually came really strong when I was doing a personal styling session. So sometimes I go into women’s homes and actually go into their closet and we look through and I meet them at their need there whether it’s they want me to create outfits for them or they really let me into their world. And this is a gal named Kelly and when she opened up her closet she just decided to open up her heart to me.

                                And it was just amazing. It was beautiful because she told me her insecurities and I didn’t diminish those because they’re very real but I also pointed out many truths to her. And the truth that who says you need to be X, Y, Z? Who says that you aren’t intrinsically worthy and beautiful?

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                                And so that moment right there, I mean I went away from that. I drove home and I just thought this is big. This is it. This is what’s going to drive this for sure.

Interviewer:             Yeah. I talk to entrepreneurs about that kind of ah-ha when they really find their purpose because it’s one thing to find your niche and that’s super useful, super valuable. I’m not trying to diminish the value of that. But it’s another thing to find your purpose and to feel like this is why I’m on the earth to do this thing. I know that we have our families and that’s a different kind of purpose and it’s to me the most lofty and ideal purpose.

                                But when you just look at it from a career standpoint it’s so amazing when you’re in your purpose and you feel it and you’re just like I’m born to do this. This is exactly what I need to be doing. I watch that come over people sometimes. I’ve actually been in the room many times where people have that realization and it comes over them and they cry.

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                                It’s a very emotional experience to realize oh my gosh, this is what I’m up to. This is what I’m doing. And they start to kind of put the pieces together. So I can only – I actually know very much what that drive was like for you to drive away and feel that feeling of this is it. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. And it’s amazing. There’s nothing like it. It’s incredible.

Interviewee:             Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Interviewer:             Good for you. That is very cool. So five years in you see the – you feel your purpose. You see it. You get clear on it. And that was three years ago. And now by that point you had your store it sounds like. You already had your store.

Interviewee:             Yep.

Interviewer:             But now you’re moving through the business. You’re hiring people. You said first you hired McCall and the two of you recognized we’ve got to have people who aren’t just holding down the fort while we’re gone. We’ve got to have people who are actually driving the mission while we’re gone.

Interviewee:             Yes. Absolutely.

Interviewer:             How did you do that?

Interviewee:             Well it was a process, of course. I’d love to say –

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Interviewer:             I was going to say how did you, because McCall is there, right?

Interviewee:             Yeah. So this is about a year and a half ago is when McCall joined me. We even had to switch our framework to be thinking we are looking for these career-minded women. Not career in the sense of they’ll always be with us, that kind of a thing. But just the framework of we are here and we want to be here. We’re driven by this and we feel fulfilled here at work and we want to come alongside you and make this happen.

                                And it was a couple – we went through the first round of momentum and we went back and we realized that we would have to make some changes. That was so difficult to just get to that point. And if there’s – well one of the things that I need to work on, amongst the many, is that I can kind of just be too soft and kind of that pushover. And realizing that you can be – being nice and being kind are two different things.

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                                And it was not nice to keep them in this place where I felt like I was dragging and dragging to get results that they weren’t even seeing the mission. And so we had to do the kind thing in that sense and say this just isn’t working. This just isn’t a fit. And learning about that hiring and firing to that vision, to that mission, has been amazing to us. So this last time, this last round that we went through, at this time we had three gals.

                                So Emily is our videographer and photographer. We do a lot of content that way. And she is amazing. Nineteen years old and just fantastic.

Interviewer:             That’s cool.

Interviewee:             Yes. So we hired very differently than we ever had before. We had our core values like in front of us and were thinking about them the whole time when we were hiring this time. And now with this team of five, McCall and I were just telling our coworkers that we felt so great being here. We don’t have to worry. There’s nothing.

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We know that the business is moving on without us there and that’s a fantastic, fantastic place to be.

Interviewer:             Isn’t that great? Yeah, it is, you know, I love seeing when business owners get to that point where they can get on a plane, go away and not be so stressed and just know things are going to be okay. I’ve got people. You always hear it’s always a matter of finding good people. You know, people are good. It’s a matter of finding the good people who are driven on your purpose and understand what you’re trying to do.

                                And what I try to help business owners understand is if you’re not finding “good people” it’s that you haven’t gotten clear on your purpose. And then you end up being jaded thinking everybody sucks because they’re not doing good work. No it’s actually all about you as the business owner. You haven’t made that clear for people. Because the person you think is lousy is going to go find the spot where they really fit and they’re going to do amazing things.

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                                It all comes down to the business owner getting really clear about the purpose, the mission, the values, what they’re up to, and hiring and training and firing to it like you’ve learned and you’re doing, which is awesome.

Interviewee:             Yes. We came back from Forum with – I think it was you who said all problems are leadership problems. And that became McCall and my mantra. We were just all problems are leadership problems we just need to learn more. We need to figure this out. We need to get stronger in this area and this area and kind of try to lay this foundation to bring the people in that are really going to take off from that level and keep going.

Interviewer:             That’s great. That’s so good to hear. It’s good to hear that you’ve got the hiring in place that is consistent with your purpose, values and mission because that will give you the ability to have people adding fuel to the fire of your purpose. It’s not you and it’s a really important thing because when you don’t have that you get drained as the leader. You can’t be always on the way that your people need.

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                                Like you said, if you’re if you’re having to drag them along, versus when they’ve got it, they’re clear and they fit and they’re just fired up to be a part of the thing that you’re doing. So fun.

Interviewee:             It is.

Interviewer:             Good for you. Congratulations. Tell me what, when you talk about success, what is success for you? What are you able to do now because of where your business is? One thing is you can get on a plane from Minnesota and come to Phoenix and not be stressed out and be able to talk to McCall and say this is pretty awesome. That’s one thing. What else? What else has been – what has this level of success afforded you?

Interviewee:             We have been really focused on how to reach more women on a national basis. And so now that we have kind of a lot of these other things figured out and we’ve got open and clear communication at work. We don’t have egos at work anymore. We used to walk on eggshells and oh, just the atmosphere is so clear. We can breathe so clear.

Interviewer:             Yes.

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Interviewee:             We’ve been able to then focus on what are we going to do to reach more women? So recently we started a style program online and it is geared toward those women in the in-betweeners. We call it My Midlife Closet. So this is our new program to do just that. It’s to reach out and encourage women. And then we offer them different outfits that we have curated specially for them and that kind of thing.

                                But without the team that we have right now and having just that ability to see each other as individuals and celebrate our individual traits, and we can just reach out now to so many more people out there because we don’t have all these things that we’re worried about and that are dragging us down emotionally at work. So we have been – we launched that just a few weeks ago and it’s been going amazing.

Interviewer:             Sounds great.

Interviewee:             And so that’s what we’re really excited about right now.

Interviewer:             Cool. So being able to impact more people and partly because you

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                                have team members that have that passion, share that purpose. Okay, so now let me go the other way. Tell me about – I mean as a mom-preneur you’re trying to get this business going. It’s got to be difficult and challenging. Tell me about one of the dark times where you felt like throwing your hands up in the air and saying why am I doing this?

Interviewee:             I’m so excited for this question.

Interviewer:             Seriously or are you joking?

Interviewee:             No, I’m joking. I’m joking. Oh, okay. No, one of my traits is that I’m a futuristic thinker so it’s kind of difficult for me to go back and think things through. But I really do think that the thing that is awesome right now is our team members, but the thing that was so difficult in the past was not having that team. And I remember one instance in particular where there was a team member. It was time. She knew it was time. I knew it was time. We’d had many emotional conversations.

[0:28:00]

                                We went into the same little bitty office where we had sat together side by side for a year and we had to have this talk. It was either is she going to put in her two weeks or am I going to have to let her go? And she decided to go ahead and put in her two weeks but the one thing after this whole emotional ride with her that she said to me was that she looked at me and she said you know you think you’re big time but you’re not. You think you’re so corporate but you’re not.

                                I was able to maintain my cool and I just said you know, if you’re talking about how we’re laying down some processes here and actually having some structure yeah. But she is right. I’m not big time, but this mission is big. This is huge. And so I just kind of went home from that and I let that not drag me down, but feed this feeling of you know what? That’s just not true. This is a big mission.

[0:29:00]

                                And then it’s working through those emotions and things.

Interviewer:             It is big and it’s so interesting. I used to say all the time when we were getting Infusionsoft going, I was like look, we have plenty of critics outside the building. I don’t need one inside. If you’re a critic of what we’re up to, I just don’t have time for that. I don’t have any problem with you being critical of a way we’re doing – provided you’re bringing a better solution. Don’t just be a critic and not have anything to share.

                                But we want critical thinking, but we can’t have critics. We can’t have people who are against the mission. And so I just imagine to have that conversation with somebody that you’ve been working with for that long, when you’re trying to get the thing going it’s poison. It kills it. The business can’t grow. I guarantee you we have people listening right now who are thinking of John that they need to have the conversation with and they’re dreading having

[0:30:00]

                                the conversation. They know it’s hurting the business and it’s driving them crazy.

                                They’re going out and talking with their spouse at dinner, they’re talking about John. When they’re driving to work they’re thinking about what John did and they’re questioning what John said. All those things they take such a massive toll. I have two questions. Why did it take a year? And what did – and I’m not criticizing you in say that. There are people who have been doing this for five years and they’re listening, I’m telling you. This is so predominant. So why did it take a year, 1. And 2. What got you to say it’s time?

Interviewee:             I think it honestly took a year because since I am in the business of encouraging women and bringing them up and building them up I was doing that and I was trying to foster this environment where the women at work then could have this chance to really go. So I think it was just honestly that. And I would see some signs and different things but I kind of shrugged them off and I would just

[0:31:00]

                                focus on well she did this or this. But when it comes down to it and there’s no respect for timeframe or anything like that it was really difficult.

                                So it just really came down to that. When McCall came on board she created more clarity for me in those senses. She was able to come alongside me and say actually do you notice that this is kind of a tendency? And she brings a practical, like I said, so when it came down to it, and she has a way of just putting it black and white and this is what it is, it just really helped me. It just made me feel like I can see that. Yeah, I can see that. It kind of cleared the path for me to say this really isn’t going to take us the places that we need to go.

Interviewer:             Thanks for sharing that. I think sometimes I think about – I just wonder how many businesses that fail fail because the business owner couldn’t let go of the person that they needed to let go of.

[0:32:00]

Interviewee:             It’s never going to be easy. It’s not easy.

Interviewer:             It’s so hard. And particularly when you’re running the kind of business where purpose and passion are so much a part of it and you believe in people and you’re optimistic and you don’t want to do that. But you have to. You just have to make that move. It literally will kill the business if you don’t. So for our listeners out there if you’re in that spot, especially if the employee’s name is John…[Laughter] This is a message for you.

Interviewee:             John’s across the country are let go.

Interviewer:             That’s right.

[Laughter]

Interviewer:             Thanks for sharing that. I’m going to ask you two more things. 1. What characteristic do you think has helped you the most to get to where you are – I don’t mean to plant that it’s perseverance, but to get to where you are. What’s helped you the most? What characteristic do you possess?

Interviewee:             I think it’s related to perseverance. It’s determination. So even as a little girl I was very strong-willed. I had fantastic parents who just

[0:33:00]

                                said all right. If we just harness that in a certain direction she’s going to be okay. And so when I get something in my mind it’s like look out. Why not us? Why can’t we do this? Let’s just figure it out and let’s just go for this. And so the determination factor is definitely it mixed with I just – I kind of found the way that I could reach people is through sales and I guess I’ve always just kind of had that.

                                I was a little girl on the playground who learned how to make clay beads at Bible school and then I went and took orders on the playground and made them and charged them also a creation fee. It was just, yeah. So finding where I fit and then throwing that passion with it, I’m just – I guess determination is probably what people around me would say.

Interviewer:             That’s cool. Great. Thank you for sharing it. Do you have any questions for me? Is there anything that I can help you with or something you’ve been wondering about?

[0:34:00]

Interviewee:             Yes. So I believe it was you, in a previous podcast you said if you knew now what it would take for you to get here, if you could have that glimpse back and you said I don’t think I would have done it.

Interviewer:             I was going to say I don’t know what I said on that podcast, but I know what I’d say on this podcast. I wouldn’t have done it.

[Laughter]

Interviewee:             So how do you take that when you are looking ahead because you’re going to have to do – you’re at this amazing phase in your business, but you’re looking ahead. I know you are because I’ve seen the plans. So you’re just putting yourself fin there again.

Interviewer:             Right. Right. It’s such a great question because just as much as I would say – I’d stand here today and say if I knew all that went into it at the beginning I wouldn’t have had the courage to do it. Just as I can say that, we literally started 14 years ago.

[0:35:00]

                                I can now stand here today and look forward 15 years and I know it’s going to be super challenging, but I just have – I’m excited by it. I’m just excited by the challenge. I look back and I look at what I’ve learned over the last 14 years. It’s incredible. What I love about entrepreneurship is it’s an amazing school. It is an amazing school. I mean it just teaches us so much.

                                It teaches us about ourselves. I told our company at our company birthday party recently I said look, I love this business because it makes me a better person. You just get better. So are you kidding? To go through that journey and to accomplish goals. And there’s financial aspects of it. I would never be one to say that I don’t appreciate the financial aspects of it. I absolutely do. And I don’t think entrepreneurs should ever be ashamed of that or shy away from that.

                                That’s part of the reward for the hard work and the risk that we take. So yeah, there’s financial goals but it’s working with people I love and care about. I have the opportunity to help shareholders grow their value. That’s huge. It’s so fun. It’s a cool thing.

[0:36:00]

                                And then to see what happens for partners, to see what happens for customers. When you see the whole picture it’s just fun. I love it and it’s hard. There are ups and downs, but just as I wouldn’t have had the courage back then now I would say I have the benefit of hindsight of the accomplishment. So that fuels me for what the future is because just the journey and the accomplishment and everything you go through, it’s great.

                                I would say that I have a balanced appreciation for what it is and I don’t any more look at it as purely the destination. I think early on I looked at it more of the destination. It was we’re going to get to this point and then there was just more and more peaks on the mountain and we just kept going. Now I just have a lot more appreciation for what we get to do, just the joy of what it is. And the wins; working with people and seeing employees do great things that I couldn’t do or Scott and I and Eric tried to do and did a lousy job of it.

[0:37:00]

                                Just stuff like that. So I don’t know. I think it’s a great question, but I would say now I have the benefit of hindsight and that’s very encouraging and exciting when I look at the future.

Interviewee:             That’s awesome. Thank you for that.

Interviewer:             Yeah. You bet. Thank you. Well this has been great, Ali – or Alison. Ali J Boutique, but I should call you Alison.

Interviewee:             That’s okay. Either one.

Interviewer:             Thanks so much for being here and congratulations on what you’ve accomplished. I’m excited to see what you do next and what it looks like in the future. You’ve got a great team member in McCall. You can just see that in what the two of you have begun to build as you’re building your team. Super excited for you. And thanks for sharing the hard times and for sharing particularly the challenge of letting go of an employee and what that does and how it frees you up. You couldn’t do what you’re doing without that.

Interviewee:             That’s right.

Interviewer:             Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I appreciate it.

Interviewee:             Of course. Thank you so much for having me. This has just made my year thank you.

[0:38:00]

Interviewer:             Well great. Well thank you so much and thanks everybody for listening to this edition of the Small Business Success podcast. I’m Clate Mask with Alison Werder. Looking forward to getting Scott back as my partner in crime here soon, but until then have a great time building your business. We wish you the best of success. Thanks.

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