Manager to CEO

Relationships, Not Followers: 3 Genuine Ways to Level Up Your Business

Relationships, Not Followers: 3 Genuine Ways to Level Up Your Business |

I started She Can Coterie in August of 2015. I was laid off from my job as a virtual assistant with no notice. Fortunately, three of the clients I had been working with decided to take the leap to work with me on my own. They had a relationship with me and not the company that laid me off, so they jumped right in.

This was my first glimpse into the power of relationship marketing. 

From there, they started sending me referrals, and I had ZERO boundaries, so I said yes to everyone and everything. Because I was getting so many referrals each week—which sounds like a dream, I know—I never invested in any sort of marketing.

But then I found myself changing course in my business. I didn’t make moves because the business or the projects weren’t working; I just knew that we could do more better with more impact for the women we worked with.

From there, referrals could no longer get me new clients. I didn’t have a flow in place for new clients to find me—and I found our funds getting tighter.

I was lying awake at night thinking about all the team and business expenses. I was hustling and trying random things to bring in money. One month I had to personally cover team payroll, and that’s when I knew this couldn’t happen again.

This all comes down to the legacy that I want to lead. I want women to walk in their strengths and build lives they love while creating the impact they were born to create. That’s what I want for the women on my team, that’s what I want for our clients, and that’s what I want for YOU.

Note: this content first appeared as a live video over on Facebook! If you’d rather watch than read, click below!

There is power in relationship marketing. 

So this is what we’ve found to be true:

Relying on referrals means you don’t have a strategy for growth.

I wasn’t cultivating relationships and paving a path for leads to come to me. When we rely on referrals to walk in the door, we are being reactive, not proactive.

When we shifted the way we worked, two things happened :

First, the referrals that were coming in were expecting something that we didn’t offer anymore. They were far from ideal, and we had high client turnover. When client turnover was high, we weren’t profitable. We invested SO deeply in the first two months to understand a client’s business and needs, only for them to leave because they were expecting services we did not and could not offer.

The second thing that happened was referrals dwindled. Because our client turnover was high, they were definitely not referring us. AND because our services were new we didn’t have clients that truly understood the way we were working. 

We were left with no strategy in place, no road paved for leads to come to us, no consistent relationship, no defined experience. So, we tried to do it all, frantically.

Trying to be everywhere means that you don’t make your biggest impact anywhere.

I found myself trying to follow all of the blueprints of success from the “experts”—I know you can relate! But those experts don’t know me or my business. They know what works for them and their business. 

I was left hustling, but never seeing success. Trying to run a marathon, but realizing I’m stuck on a treadmill.

So I began looking at our best clients. The ones who lit up our team, who stuck around for ages, who sing our praises, and who we did our best work for. I mapped out their journeys to working with us. And I realized their paths had the same touchpoints, the same flow, and were founded on one common denominator: a strong relationship built consistently, intentionally, lovingly and attentively over time. That’s relationship marketing, simply put. It’s real. And it’s powerful. 

The mediocre and even downright not ideal clients? The ones who were constantly picking us apart, who drug their feet, who didn’t allow us to do our best work, who stuck around for one month and went on their way unhappily? 90% of the time, they were referrals. 

What we realized is that you don’t control referrals. You control relationships. Or how you intentionally build relationships.

We don’t oppose referrals. But referrals must be a byproduct of a relationship you intentionally cultivate and enjoy. When you only allow clients in who you have a joyful relationship with, then all your referrals will be new friends, too.

Relationships, not followings.

Because of this journey we’ve been through as a company and the journey we’ve discovered with our clients, we discovered what worked and what didn’t. Here’s the answer: 

Relationships WORK, followings don’t. 
Relationships LAST, followings don’t. 
Relationships FULFILL, followings don’t. 

We want our clients to grow their businesses in a fulfilling, sustainable, and effective way by focusing on what works, lasts and fulfills—relationships.

If you are ready to ditch the traditional marketing blueprints, the hustling, the showing up everywhere and not making your true, deepest impact, WE ARE TOO.

We’re sharing a guided journal to discover your relationship marketing strengths. And I’ll be sharing much more in the coming weeks about how this can work for you, your unique strengths, in your unique business.

CEOs Believe Diversity is a Necessity in Their Business

CEOs Believe that Diversity is a Necessity in Their Business |

Guest Post by She Can Coterie team member, Caroline Sumlin

I hate shopping for makeup. I’ve been wearing makeup since I was about 14, and I have yet to find a foundation that matches me just right. For some reason, makeup companies tend to think that women only come in a few shades of brown. You know — light, medium, and dark. (Insert side-eye here)

I’m sorry, but the last time I looked in the mirror, I was a beautiful shade of caramel and mocha with a bit of sea salt mixed in. NOT just “medium” or “dark.” 

After hours of scouring the makeup aisles for the brand that has the widest variety of shades, I finally find something that I believe (read: hope) will work. “Yes! Finally!” I exclaim to myself as I hurry through the self-checkout at Target and rush to my car to tear it open. I lift down the car mirror and begin to apply the foundation only to be utterly disappointed. Yet another color that is too light for me. Yet another makeup brand that doesn’t understand the beauty and depth of a brown woman’s skin complexion. 

I hop right out of my car and straight to customer service to return the makeup. It doesn’t even get the chance to make it home with me. Disappointed, I hope to have better luck next time. 

It should not be this hard for me to find a foundation color that represents me, but it is. Just like it shouldn’t be hard to find African American representation in the world of online entrepreneurship, but it is.

Honestly, diversity shouldn’t have to be a thing that we talk about. It should just… be. When we look up from our phones and at the world around us, we don’t see what is reflected in media. We see a gorgeous array of colors, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, sexual orientations, socio-economic statuses, curly hair, straight hair — you get the picture. I don’t need to sit here and convince you of how beautifully diverse our world is. 

Yet as soon as you open Instagram and scroll through the top photos for the day, what can you honestly say that you see? When you search Pinterest for your next outfit idea, what ethnicity represents 99% of the pins you see? When you look at your own team and clients, does everyone look alike?

Why is it that our businesses do not reflect the true diversity around us? As CEOs, we MUST stand firm on the belief that diversity is a necessary foundation in our businesses. In order to serve our teams, clients, and audience well, we must represent them. Representation matters. It's a must.

As a woman of color, I automatically feel excluded when I am under-represented by a company in their marketing, advertising, or their employees. I know that the same more than likely holds true for any other minority, whether that be a racial minority, a religious minority, sexual minority, or economic minority. As humans, we want to feel valued, heard, seen, and loved. We want to feel human. We want to feel ACCEPTED. However, if we aren’t properly represented in our society, are we fully accepted? 

So, now that we’ve had the hard discussion, let’s talk about what to DO about it. Let’s take an honest look at ourselves and our businesses and make a plan for how we can bring in diverse representation in every area. 

First, let’s recap why this matters.

  • Because your audience wants to feel included and understood

  • Because your team members want to feel respected 

  • Because your ideal client may not become your client if they don’t feel represented (Think about my makeup story. That company did not get my business and that wasn’t the first time that’s happened.)

  • Because there is someone out there who’s perfect for the job you’re hiring for, but they just may not apply if they don’t see anyone who looks like them on your website 

  • Because in order for us to empathize and connect with our audience, clients and team members, we must do the work to understand every other perspective besides just our own. This is what separates a manager from a CEO. Let’s be CEOs. 

So, where do I start?  

Let’s start internally. Take an honest look at your business and ask yourself the following questions. You may want to get out a pen and paper or open a Google Doc where you can jot down some answers. 

  1. Do I have an inclusive company policy that specifically highlights the importance of diverse representation? 

  2. Are my team members legally protected against discrimination in the workplace? 

  3. Do I honor and celebrate the cultures and various ethnicities that are represented on my team? 

Now, let’s ask some questions about the diverse representation of your client base:

  1. Is my client base diverse? (Yes, it's important to have a niche and an ideal client so there will be similarities, but that doesn’t mean your clients don’t need to be diverse.) 

  2. Am I attracting a diverse group of leads? If not, how can I improve this? 

  3. Do I have a strategy in place to make sure I am inclusive in my reach strategy? 

  4. Do I have diverse representation on my Instagram feed and other social media channels? Is my stock photography diverse?

Lastly, let’s see how well you are supporting other business owners of diverse backgrounds:

  1. Do I support other entrepreneurs that don’t look like me by purchasing their products and services? 

  2. Do I make sure the media influence I am receiving (podcasts, people I follow on Instagram, videos I watch on YouTube, etc.) is diverse? 

  3. Do I help promote other products and services offered by business owners with different beliefs and backgrounds? 

Did you answer the questions or just skim them? Don’t worry about getting through this post. Stop and answer those questions so you can take the next steps.

Now, let’s fill in the gaps: 

If you realized that you’re lacking diversity within your team, here are some things you can do to improve in this area: 

  • Send out a questionnaire to your team and ask each member about their background. Take 5 minutes to highlight one team member’s background at the beginning of each team meeting until you have reached everyone. 

  • Honor and celebrate all holidays as a team, even if that culture isn’t directly represented on your team. For example, the next time Kwanzaa rolls around, why don’t you celebrate it together?

  • The next time you are in the market to hire a new team member, seek out someone who represents a different background. I bet they will be exactly what your team needs.

If you realized that you’re not actively reaching a diverse group of clients, here are some improvements you can make in this area:

  • Start using stock photos that represent all skin tones on your social media.

  • Check your language in your marketing copy. Does it sound like it only targets one group of people? If so, change some of that language so it's more inclusive. 

  • Reach outside your normal audience. For example, did you know there are hashtags that many African Americans use to represent themselves? Take a scroll down the #blackgirlmagic, #browngirlbloggers, or #blackentrepreneur hashtags and your next client might be right there! There are hashtags for all ethnicities! 

  • Seek out what is interesting/on-trend for other backgrounds besides your own. Write content that caters to those trends.

Lastly, here are some ways you can support other entrepreneurs that come from different backgrounds:

  • FOLLOW THEM! Search those hashtags, they’re there! Hit follow! Engage! 

  • Share their content on your social media channels

  • Read their content, sign up for their list, purchase their products and services. 

  • Listen to podcasts from entrepreneurs of different backgrounds. So much knowledge lives in those podcasts. It will change the way you do business. 

That was a lot of info, but it is necessary. 

Diversity is a necessity and as CEOs, it is our duty to make sure we run businesses that empower and equip our team members and clients from ALL backgrounds. It's up to us to set the standard. We must be the change we want to see. Let’s create a world where we no longer have to work so hard to make sure our society is diversely represented. It starts with us.

7 Steps to Leading a Team Meeting with Power and Grace

Here at She Can Coterie, we’ve been hosting team meetings since the day our second team member came on and made us a true “team” — but I’ll be the first to admit, they haven’t always been the most effective. Ever been there?

Even back when it was just myself and my small team, developing a process for effective team meetings wasn’t really a priority of mine, but I knew this needed to change.

7 Steps to Leading a Team Meeting with Power and Grace |

I was still miles from becoming the true CEO of She Can Coterie and I knew one of the many steps to get me there was to designate a team meeting leader. I’m hearing Carrie Underwood’s song in my head, but instead of Jesus, take the wheel, I said to our Operations Director, Ali, take the wheel, and she took on the responsibility of leading effective team meetings with power and grace.

Now, you may be thinking, what makes a team meeting effective? And, how do I know if my team meetings are not effective?

An effective team meeting essentially creates a time and space for your team members to bring their knowledge and expertise to the table (tweet this!), where you can hold open conversations and use their unique perspectives to problem solve, plan, and support one another in your separate agendas as you work toward reaching the company’s goals as a whole.

As our team has grown and evolved, so have our team meetings. We have put together seven must-do’s to keep in mind when cultivating your own plan and process for leading effective team meetings.

Schedule them in advance

Whether it’s once a week or once a quarter, meetings are only effective when your team members show up. I recommend coming up with a consistent schedule so everyone knows when they can expect a team meeting will be happening and they can make space. For example, we have ours bi-weekly, every other Monday afternoon.

Designate a dependable leader

A team meeting without a leader is like setting sail with no compass. Whether it’s you or someone else on your team, the leader should be someone who has a general overview of the team, the clients, and the company’s goals.

Break the ice.

If your team is as tightly knit as ours, you probably won’t ever feel like you need to break the ice, but nonetheless, they’re still fun! We always love to check in and hear from each team member at the beginning of our meetings and a fun way of doing that is by implementing conversation starters. You could get ultra silly and ask questions like, if you were a pizza, what toppings would you have? Or strike some empowerment within your team and ask, tell us about a compliment you received that you hold near and dear to your heart.

Fun Note: Our lead copywriter, Kristen, just launched a super fun new Instagram account called @AskGoodQuestions focused on helping people cultivate intentional relationships with others through ice-breaking, fun questions! If you’re looking for further question ideas, you should definitely check out her account.

Set an end time and make it known

Each team meeting should be shared as a calendar invite and there should be a start AND end time. It’s important to stick to this boundary not only because it helps you and your team stay on track, but also because team members may have scheduled other work around the meeting.

Create an agenda and stick to it

Without an agenda, it’s pretty easy to stray off topic and lose your way. Like I said previously, your meeting leader is like the compass. Now envision the agenda as your map. Create your agenda while keeping in mind recent questions the team has asked, what the company’s upcoming projects and goals are, as well as any client issues or questions that may need resolved.

Quick Tip: If it’s not written down on the agenda, it doesn’t get discussed. This will drive your team meeting leader to create an agenda that provides clear objectives.

Build an action plan with timelines

You never want your team to walk away from a meeting wondering, wait, what am I supposed to do again? It not only leads to overwhelm due to several follow up questions, but it also most likely means your dreams and goals for your company aren’t going to get accomplished. Always, always spend a good chunk of time at the end of each meeting going over next steps and collectively come up with reasonable due dates for when the team is expected to complete their projects.

Write a discussion list for the next meeting

Maybe you ran out of time or maybe a team member had a question that wasn’t on the agenda and it can wait until your next scheduled team meeting. Taking notes on these objectives can be super helpful and an absolute time saver when going to create the next team meeting’s agenda.

Implementing these strategies is a step toward moving from manager to CEO.

You’re taking another day-to-day operations task of your hands, putting it into the capable care of someone else, and freeing up your time so that you can dream big and focus on the vision for your company.

If you’re ready to start making the transition from manager to CEO, we have compiled a FREE ebook that will help you do just that. Sign up below and we’ll send it to your inbox!