Stephanie Skryz…: Welcome to the 100 Degrees of Entrepreneurship Podcast, the show for purpose driven entrepreneurs who want to get inspired to step outside of your comfort zone, expand it to your purpose and grow your business in a big way. I’m your host, Stephanie Skryzowski, a globe trotting CFO whose mission is to empower leaders to better understand their numbers, to grow their impact and their income. Let’s dive in.
Hello, hello. Welcome back to the 100 Degrees of Entrepreneurship Podcast. I’m your host, Stephanie Skryzowski, and I am so excited to share this episode with you today. I am here with Laura Foote. Laura is a branding and lifestyle photographer, coach, editor and educator based out of Kansas City in Tampa. Her work has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Southwest Airlines and Southern Weddings Magazine as well as brands like Lauren Conrad, Emily Lay and Glitter Guide.
Additionally, Laura holds a master’s degree in counseling and instruction and is a former university faculty member and StrengthsQuest Certified Educator. Her Disney customer service training developed from her time working as a cast member has been delivered to over 3,000 people, and she also speaks and coaches professionally about applying your strengths in life and business and networking with intention to cultivate growth, among other topics.
She has been a speaker and or a mentor for the Cultivate Retreat, the Creative Heart Conference and the Mastermind Retreat. Recently, Laura is the creator of two photography courses, the One Hour Workflow and Shooting Manual. She’s a momma of two girls and married to her high school sweetheart. Any day that ends with good food, red wine, and conversations that go 10,000 feet deep are the best in her book.
My conversation with Laura today is awesome. I just love talking with multi-passionate entrepreneurs. Laura has this amazing photography business, and she also is a StrengthsFinder coach, and she really has weaved her passion for these two things so seamlessly together based on her education and her experience. She talks about that, being multi-passionate and having this business that is two different things, but that are really, really interwoven together with some very common threads.
What really sticks out to me most about Laura is her generosity. She really operates her business from a place of giving, and she just really wants to serve, and it is so clear in everything that she does. Honestly, she’s a real inspiration to me, and we just had an awesome conversation. We probably could have chatted all day. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this episode with Laura.
Welcome back to the 100 Degrees of Entrepreneurship Podcast. I am so excited to be here today with Laura Foote. Laura and I have worked together a little bit in the past, and I always like to kick off our podcast with how do we know each other? Laura, I actually listened and watched you speak on the main stage at Creative at Heart in 2019, and then stalked you on social media for a couple of years and then ended up bringing you into our team retreat last year to walk us through StrengthsFinder. I am so excited to chat with you today.
Laura Foote: And I am thrilled to be here, and I love that a small meeting and a big conference can lead to continued relationships. It’s really great, and I appreciate you so much.
Stephanie Skryz…: Yeah. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business and what you do now.
Laura Foote: Of course. I am primarily a portrait photographer. However, there are a lot of facets to my business, and I’d love to unpack some of that tonight. Everything from strengths training, which StrengthsQuest is an inventory that looks at high talent and really cultivating that in teams and individuals. Everyone from young kids, all the way through adults. That’s some fun work that I get to do.
I actually have a master’s of education with a focus on curriculum and instruction, and I was PhD bound in that field with a bachelor’s degree in counseling with a focus in marriage and family therapy. Not to jump the gun, but that’s definitely the heart of my business, when you even look at the type of portrait work I focus on, some of the places I volunteer my time and effort.
I feel like over the last decade, my business has been able to reach into a lot of different corners. I also travel a ton. So, my market is not locationally based in one place. I find that you have to ask me on a given day, what I’m up to and what the business is doing. I tend to be a follow the bouncing ball a little bit in that way.
Stephanie Skryz…: Yeah, I love that. I follow you on Instagram, and I feel like you’re doing all these cool things, but I love that common thread. Walk us through that journey from having a counseling degree and going on that path to photography, and StrengthsFinder, coach and certification. I know that’s quite the process as well, because I looked into it very quickly after you did our exercise with us. But how did that journey take shape?
Laura Foote: Well, if you’re listening to this, and you ever been in a position where you’ve run multiple passions or professions alongside each other, that’s very much my story. I actually started my business as a senior in college on the heels of my first internship with the Walt Disney World Company, which was a really transformative experience. That season was just really profound. I was ending my college career in the field that I had always wanted to pursue. I was a kid who never changed their major, was ready to graduate early because I consumed the classes at such a fast pace.
I wouldn’t even say that photography was something I grew up doing, it wasn’t. I naturally was drawn to the camera, and I grew up with a performing arts background. But I’m very practical in personality, and I like things to be set. I’m high achieving. Finishing college was really important. I wanted a master’s degree, that was really important.
Anything, business creative, et cetera, needed to just be a sidecar to those endeavors. Honestly, that worked well for me, because I was a person who I liked the eight-to-five, I liked the structure, the team, the get it done bullet point list. But then I was the one who was pushing myself at night and burning that midnight oil.
Unknowingly, I evolved my career on the education and counseling side of things as my business was evolving. Obviously, the connection point there are people and clients that I was serving with photography. But I was in a very people oriented, people facing role, doing advising and teaching and getting my strength certification through one of the universities I worked at.
All of a sudden, I had this mix, if you will, of what I would have called the best of both worlds. If you would talk to me in 2015, as I was wrapping up my master’s program and writing my thesis, I would have told you, this is perfect. I’m about to have the career that I’ve always wanted, and I’m graduating at the top of my class and I’m PhD bound, and my business is thriving, and I’ve moved from one city and state to another, and I’ve done that.
Then really it was my students, at the time, I was teaching a college level course on career exploration, leadership, just really practically declaring a major and then actually knowing how to take that into the world and do something with it. My students, basically, in a group came to my office and said, “You’ve got to get out of here. You’ve got to go and do this. All you do every day is tell us how to go and take our talents and skills and live our life, and you’re doing it here, but you are caged in.”
In 2016, my students and my faculty basically applauded me off campus, into the full-time growth of this business. But I don’t know that I ever would have chosen to do this full-time, I think I would have been perfectly contented to have a traditional career and then to be a photographer on my nights and weekends.
Stephanie Skryz…: Oh, my goodness, that is so interesting. Was the business that they pushed you out to go do, that was the photography business.
Laura Foote: Right. I, at that point was about four years into business. So, I wasn’t in a position to appropriately be professionally coaching, because everything I had done had always been part-time and high quality but a smaller scale. It wasn’t until I went full-time and was able to continue to build my business resume that, that work made sense. But I think they could see at the time, my teaching and my public speaking, my heart for really helping people do what they’re meant to do well and fully that, that translated into the entrepreneurial world.
My Disney background really has woven itself through all of this as well, just taking away so much of the customer service basics that I learned and just some really exceptional experiences I had as a cast member. My students, my staff that would come through in my writing in graduate school. I think just really this story of like, “Laura, we don’t know what you need to be doing, but it’s more than what this tiny office where you meet with students one on one is going to allow you to do. So, you’ve got to go and figure that out.” And it was so terrifying.
Stephanie Skryz…: I was just going to ask that question. I feel like almost everyone that I talk to has a pivotal moment where things in their life and their business and their career, take a total 90 degree turn. It’s often really scary because it’s new, and it’s something we’ve never done before. You said it was terrifying. So, what was that like for you to leave what felt very natural and comfortable and on that path that you had watched for yourself to go do something totally different? How do you work through that?
Laura Foote: I think I had to process actually sitting down with my supervisor to have the, I need to transition out conversation for six months, if that tells you anything. Before we started our conversation tonight, we were talking about being internal processors, which is also unique in the creative world, I find that people tend to be really verbal and processing and all these feelings and words, and I definitely have that internally, and I’m a strong writer, but my default is not to go into the world and process even with one person, let alone a whole group. But when you’re afraid of something, and you’re not processing it out loud, and allowing people to speak hope and truth and what they see in you into that, that dialogue can become very, very minimizing.
I think that there were a lot of things that happened in 2016, professionally, for me, 2015, as well, I was published nationally several times, I had photos upon a billboard, I was featured in Emily Ley’s book, Grace, Not Perfection, and did her primary branding photos for that.
There were a lot of really exciting, large scale contracts, and just projects that I had been invited into that year, that I was having to take a day off work to go and do the shoot on a Wednesday with the rest of the production team.
That was exciting. I think that momentum was giving the people around me more collateral to say, “Look at what you’ve been doing for the last five years and look at how things are building, and you’re going to take everything you’re doing here with you. You’re not going to shut your office door and not be able to continue to do this work.” I think that’s what I was most afraid of, and that’s why my business presents the way it does now, which is strengths training meets vocational training and career shifting conversations meets destination weddings meets newborns. Sometimes all in the same week.
Especially now where the entrepreneurial market really is preaching. I do understand the niche market philosophy, this idea of pick your thing, and do it exceptionally well and be known for that thing. That dialog didn’t exist when I started my business, the market was far less saturated. But then I had to realize there were not a lot of mes, there’s not a lot of any of us, right? When we really choose what we want to do with our day-to-day, and what we want our businesses to look like, the biggest encouragement we can take away is there isn’t anyone like you.
One of the things that was scaring me and holding me back was how can I do all the things I love? At least right now, I run a business, and I have this incredible academic counseling career, and I get to do it all. I was so afraid that if I let one go, that I would lose, and that has not been the case. But definitely, took confidence in myself that I didn’t realize I wasn’t caring because of just what it is like to work in a nine-to-five environment, you automatically have team members, you automatically get feedback, you automatically get critical feedback, you automatically are given projects that you have to run with, whether you like to or not.
Obviously in the entrepreneurial space, all of those conversations are one person to the person who needs to execute. It was really a lack of confidence that was contributing to my fear. When I realized every single person around me believed I could do it, and every single person around me not only believed it, but thought I was crazy to sit at that desk one day longer, I realized, okay, I have to give this a try, even though I still was such a doubter.
Stephanie Skryz…: That’s amazing that you were able to make that leap, and you talked about something that I wanted to talk about, because I follow you on Instagram and your work is just so multifaceted. It seems like you’re doing a lot of different things, but they don’t feel disjointed. It doesn’t feel like you’re all over the place. You’re somehow able to bring it all together into one very cohesive brand.
I think that’s really interesting, especially like you said, where the messaging that we’re getting is to niche down, niche down, niche down. Do one thing, one person, and you’re not really following that path. I love that, because one thing that I have realized in my own business is that what works for somebody else doesn’t work for me. I don’t have to follow their path, I can understand what works really well for me and just do that, and it continues to work well for me.
I don’t think that there’s any one path. So, I just love the different pieces of your business and how they really do feel, very cohesive and tied together. I think it also helps having all of these different pieces. I feel like it helps you continue to be creative and innovative if you do have a few different things going on. I was thinking, specifically when I was looking at your Instagram of what you’ve done, specifically thinking about the projects that you did with editing newborn photos, editing newborn hospital photos for families that had babies during COVID, and were not able to have photographers in the hospital. Where did that idea come from? Tell us a little bit about that. I just loved this project.
Laura Foote: Well, I really appreciate you asking about it, because Labor in The Time of Corona, which is the name of the project, I don’t know how to really explain the profound impact it had on me. But I also haven’t really been able to talk about it, and we also aren’t out of the woods. I actually got an email yesterday from a delivering family, is this project still running?
I think one thing that this intersection that I’m describing, of just people and needs and genuine love to see people just doing well in their life, that’s really the heartbeat of my business. It allows me to do exactly what you just said, to take my individual gifts and the things that I know I can do well, and to try to see them through a lens of what the people right in front of me need right now, and how can I open handedly offer whatever I have to help them?
Obviously, when COVID struck, it sounds silly, but there was a tremendous loss happening for people in terms of photography. There were major life events happening, especially related to babies who don’t stop. You can cancel a wedding or gather later to celebrate a 50th anniversary, but babies are going to be born. Families were not only missing the opportunity to have these moments documented, but they were also missing the opportunity to have those they love most with them.
I was pregnant at the time. I had a baby on May 5th, 2020. So, I was living this as well, and I realized how privileged I was because I was a professional photographer. I had gear to take with me to the hospital, I had a nursing team that knew me and was ready to help wield the camera, if that’s what it took. I knew I was equipped to take my newborn photos.
But so many families were not in that position. In early April, I basically posted on Instagram, “Hey, I’m willing to edit 10 images for any families who have babies during lockdown, and you can submit them here and you’ll get back a gallery of 20 images that are color and black and white and you’ll be able to order prints and this and that. Hospital lighting is hard, haha, so is how you look after you’ve had a baby. Let me help patch that up.”
The post, I wouldn’t say went viral, but the reach in one day was thousands and thousands of people. I think within a week I had edited for tons of families, I was pulling other photographers on board who were also in lockdown wanting to help. In totality, that project ran from April until September. We edited for over 600 families worldwide who had babies during COVID, and there were 10 editors total, who jumped on board with no expectation for compensation. We did all of that for free for these families.
Every family was able to submit their birth story along with their photo or just how this has all impacted them. When I tell you we had mothers at New York Presbyterian delivering without their partners back when that hospital was totally locked down. We had families separated from their children for two plus weeks due to NICU stays and COVID limitations. Just incredible, incredible stories.
Really, it got me through. There was so much about opening those at night as I was pregnant, I even edited it in the hospital when I was having [inaudible 00:18:05] she was like 10 hours old and I’m on my laptop just reading these stories, letting them pour over me and just remembering how amazing people are, and also just the gift that photography can be, even when you’re editing someone’s iPhone photos from a 3:00 AM delivery. That’s a little bit about that project and how it came about.
Stephanie Skryz…: Oh, my gosh, I had chills the entire time you were describing that. That’s amazing, that you had the idea. A lot of people would have monetized that, and people probably would have paid a lot of money for that as well. But the fact that you were like, you know what, this is my gift, and I want to share that with the world. I just feel like that you have just embodied such a sense of generosity into your business. Again, this is based on social media and our experience working together with StrengthsFinder. But is that one of their core values and something that you really intentionally put into your business? Or was this Labor in The Time of Corona project just like, oh, this is a good idea. Let’s roll with this.
Laura Foote: Yeah, it’s funny, with that project, people were begging me to be able to give something, it just meant so much to these families. I selected a couple of organizations that were near and dear to my heart that serve families who are experiencing loss related to childbirth and infancy and things like that, and we were able to write checks in the middle of this pandemic to organizations that obviously, most people weren’t making donations in the thick of lockdown.
My editors who were all photographers who were completely out of work and lockdown like me, even when I was able to do $100 PayPal deposits, a couple of weeks in and knowing that they could order takeout Chipotle and things like that. Again, it made a huge difference. It totally changed my mindset.
Generosity, I think is something when I look at the world and when I look at the people around me that I want to be more like and to spend more time with, they’re people that I would describe as generous. It’s funny talking with you, the numbers girl, because the financial side of business is really important to me, and I’m a total numbers nerd, and I think because I worked in the corporate sector for so long, that fear I was describing earlier, also had to do with the numbers, because I have a paycheck and insurance and had 401(k). A lot of entrepreneurs never get there by choice, but I had that, and that was very hard to leave.
My point is, as soon as I went out full-time, on my own, I realized how quickly I was going to be swallowed alive by my earning trends and my quarter-to-quarter and just all of the numbers that could consume me were really, in that first year, especially of leaving my full-time job. For me, one of the mechanisms, which is dealing with that mindset, is being open handed and trying to give when I can, especially when it’s something that costs me in time and talent, but doesn’t cost me actual dollars out of my bank account, and seeing that return, and knowing that my business is then built on acts of generosity that are authentic, has only brought me incredible people, incredible opportunities. Because good people and good opportunities, see those sorts of things, and they pursue and there becomes a cycle.
I have met, in person, families from Labor in The Time of Corona who live in different states who’ve had me come and do photoshoots with their families, or I just got to meet a little baby from that project back in Florida, who is now seven months old. Just incredible stories that I’m so thankful for now. Yeah, I do think I definitely wake up every day, even with my social media, and I think, all right, it’s 1,000 people are going to watch my stories today, or 200 people are going to like a post. What can I produce that could encourage someone, could prompt someone to figure out a way to be kind today that they wouldn’t have thought of otherwise could remind somebody that they really do matter?
If I can do that, instead of just selling what my photos look like, or pushing a coaching program, or trying to get people to take Strengths and hire me for a call, I’d rather build trust, and have people want to walk through that door, because that just starts the work in a totally different place.
Stephanie Skryz…: Yeah, totally. I love that. It’s so true. I feel like you can establish yourself as an authority, and as somebody who knows what they’re doing in whatever part of business that you do with coming from a spirit of generosity, and a place of generosity, and sharing, and just adding… I feel like we hear the term adding value all the time, but you’re really doing that in a very genuine way and not like a, let me add some value and then put my link down here to go buy my stuff or whatever. Yeah, I love that. I feel like it’s very clear that that is a really important part of your business in real life. I love that.
You hear me talk all the time about how important it is to know your numbers as a business owner. But you may be thinking, well, how in the world do I do that? Where do I even begin? I have a free resource for you. The Profit Playbook is an amazing template that you spend about 15 minutes getting it all set up, and you can literally see into the future of your business; revenue, expenses, cash flow, just like a crystal ball. It is a huge resource that will absolutely help you create a roadmap to reach your goals in your business. It is for free, over at 100degreesconsulting.com/profit.
I know with your experience as a Disney cast member, and really all of what you do. Again, I think this goes back to the generosity thing. But you really seem like one of the things, again, that you value in your business is really making your client experiences really special and unique. It all ties together. I did not know that you had a background in counseling, but it all makes sense now. How do you really make your clients experiences special? Maybe if you have some tips for other business owners in different industries, in different businesses, how can they make their client experiences really special and unique?
Laura Foote: Well, that’s a great question, and a compliment too. I certainly helped my clients feel like they get an individualized time and product with me, I would say that, and not just a conveyor belt experience, which I think happens. Again, as someone who’s highly strategic, one of the things that’s allowed me to do so many different things within my business is that I’ve got great systems in place.
I can book a Strengths coaching call, and three days later be on the call with a full report diving in deep with that person, and I can have a shoot that day. Those things can all happen within 72 hours if need be. That’s really, again, talking about systems and putting them in place. What I didn’t like, again, back when I was especially developing a growth model for my business, as I was considering leaving my career, the rhetoric that was coming at me was, put your system is in place so that you can scale, so that you can automate, so that things can just reach this mass group, and then you can educate, and then… Just this explosion, if you will, of being able to take something that’s really personalized and specialized, and generating it to a mass audience.
I think there’s tremendous value to that. I have friends in this industry who have done that in powerful ways, and I’m forever grateful to see their courses, and their speaking and our products are able to reach more people than they ever would have seven years ago when I sat in the living room with them. But for me, that has always created a lot of discomfort, even in the courses I’ve launched, anytime I’m at a conference, I never want to be the person who walks on stage, takes a microphone, talks to a crowd, walks off stage and then goes to the green room. I want to sit in the chairs with everyone there and really understand who they are and where they’re coming from.
I think that sets the tone for my client experience. My clients know that they matter right from the get go. If for no other reason, then usually they have interacted with me in some way, shape, or form. Again, our clients are interacting with us website, they’re watching us on social media, they’re talking to a friend who’s worked with us. My clients know me, before they ever get to me. I can’t remember the last time somebody inquired through email or by phone or by DM and said, “I have no clue who you are, I saw four pretty photos, and I want to hire you.” That is not the story.
I think recognizing that in every space you show up in, that is who you are to whatever clients are going to come from that experience, is so important. I realized early on, I can’t scale a version of me that works on stage, but not offstage. That’s a Disney analogy, right? When you go to work, you don’t go to work, you are on set.
That was such a shift when I got to the company of just, I can’t work these 12 hour days, 15 hour days over holidays, in the heat, in the rain, in the sun, I can’t do this, unless Laura decides she can align with this role that I’ve been given in the company, and Laura can show up and get on set every day. Because if a version of Laura that’s performing has to get up, that version is going to burn out. I know it was the same for my business.
I think really assessing how much of who you are should be built into your brand is critical from the get go. Because otherwise you’re going to be questioning, should I say that? Should I post that? Should that be part of what my clients know or not? We can all set those boundaries. I’m not saying that there’s a certain line that every person should draw at all. But I think when we don’t decide the who we are in the business on the front end, when we let our clients or the work or the money decide that for us, then all of a sudden we’re in chameleon mode, and that creates inconsistencies. Not only in the work we’re going to continue to do, but definitely in the client experience.
Because over here, you were one person or you offered one thing, but then you showed up over here, and maybe you didn’t get along so well with that client, et cetera, et cetera. I think that was really important for me, just early on knowing that I couldn’t maintain it, and Disney had taught me how to show up and do the hard, long work really authentically.
Then also, again, what you said, trying to be values focused without ever projecting that onto the people around me. But we’re saying, look, I love to work with a high end bride, but I would never want to work with a high end bride who’s going to be unkind to her grandmother on her wedding day, which happens. We can all have attitude or stress out moments, but when I say my brides are truly so kind and love their families to the point where they plan their weddings for their families, that statement is true. Anytime I get on an inquiry call, I just say it, I just say it, just to clear the air, “Hey, I’m going to hug your grandma, and your grandma is probably your best friend. If that’s not the case, haha, side talk.” But that’s the reality.
Usually, again, we’re not meeting for the first time on an inquiry call, we’re just connecting for the first time. But I think reminding yourself of that. I’m not meeting my client for the first time, I’m connecting with them. So, what’s the context that I’m connecting with them in, and what do they know up to this point, it’s just really important, I think for all of us to assess. Because unfortunately, there’s a lot of front end looks like, but back end is actually like for business owners, and a lot of clients that are getting the backside of that, and it’s not great. It’s not great for the business owner. That’s got to be really tiring, too.
Stephanie Skryz…: I love what you said that… The very first thing you said about having systems to allow the experience to be special. You have systems in place that allow you to make everything very unique and make every client feel special because you’ve got the administrative logistics stuff taken care of. If that’s a hot mess, the client is going to see that and feel that. I like the scale that you mentioned, because you’re right, when we do start a business especially if it’s any type of online business, if you’re online in any capacity whatsoever, you’re hearing, like, okay, these are the systems that you need and the funnels that you need to build so that you can scale and that you can reach an infinite number of people.
That’s not my business model either, and it never has been, and honestly, I’ve dipped my toe in those waters, and it just has never really felt super aligned. I like that we’re using systems to really deepen that one on one experience versus trying to reach the masses. Again, I think that’s like paving your own way, because that’s not really the popular conversation right now.
Laura Foote: Once the systems are in place, I guess my follow up question to anyone listening would be, what then are the questions you’re asking of your brand new clients? How can you know them quickly? That’s usually what I tell my coaching clients, how can you know your clients as quickly as possible? Because guess what, the second you cut through the, here’s the rate, and here’s my availability and da, da, da, da, you’re asking pointed questions that make them really connected to you automatically. Not only does that help from their experience, their side of the experience, but you’re going to do such a better job and work because you’re able to take whatever it is next that you’re going to walk them through, that’s already a system has been created.
I call it, basically going black and white or pencil to computer paper to then adding color. The color we should add anytime you plot that computer paper should be for this specific client we’re working with. But we can only do that if we know what questions to ask. Like my inquiry forms are super tailored, my follow up email to a booking for any of the services I do tends to be fairly tailored, and it’s not overwhelming, but I know the simple questions that I can ask to immediately connect and make sure that what I’m going to be offering them next is going to feel really pointed to what they’re needing.
Stephanie Skryz…: Yeah, oh, I love that. Some thoughtful systems set up in the beginning is going to allow you to make that experience special, and get to know your clients a lot faster so that it can be really special for them. Because on your first call, or maybe your second call after you’ve read through this very thoughtful intake form or whatever that you’ve put together, it’s like, oh, we already know each other, we’re like besties now, because I’ve got this very specific information that I’ve requested.
That’s really interesting. It’s like not slapping together systems to make a workflow, it’s more like putting together a system that are going to allow you to get to know somebody faster.
Laura Foote: Yes. In higher ed, we actually have a theory called freedom within a framework. This is the idea that if you give people structure, if you provide the framework, there’s tremendous just growth and development that can actually be tracked on an X, Y axis in the freedom piece, but the framework has to be presented. I think a lot of times with our brands, we’re either so obsessed with things being a certain way in terms of the client pattern we want them to walk through, and the things we want them to fill out and the steps we want them to take, that that framework’s missing, or it’s too much freedom. It’s like, well, whatever you want, whatever you need.
Yeah, I can do that. Behind the scenes, you’re scrambling, exhausted, stressed, not enjoying that client. We don’t realize that really, when we provide the framework piece that not only suits us, but it suits the client, and then the freedom piece allows, again, the client to have that really personalized experience where they feel like they’re contributing in ways that are allowing that progression for them to have a really personalized experience. But you also are being creatively challenged, because not every day is the same, and you’re able to watch your systems refine themselves. It’s just a nerdy, higher ed reference there.
Stephanie Skryz…: Of course, I am here for it. I love it. I always like to ask this question, because I’m a CFO, I really love to ask other business owners, how do you manage your numbers in your business? You mentioned that you are definitely a numbers girl. So, what’s your process for looking at your finances and your numbers?
Laura Foote: Absolutely. I truly nerd out over this stuff. I feel like if I could get on Instagram once a week and just do a financial check with people, I would, because I think… Well, we know, we know what the data says, the data says that finances are, unfortunately really tearing apart American marriages and households, or I should say in the United States, our marriages and our households are really struggling in the hands of money and the same for entrepreneurs.
After everything we’ve been through, I can come out on the other side of COVID-19 and say I am tremendously proud of the business that I’ve built and the framework underneath me, and I don’t know that that is the case for so many entrepreneurs.
It’s okay if we’re learning from it, but anyway, not to toot my own horn, I just think finances and our numbers and all of it, we need to be talking about it. People are talking about it. Especially, I shared earlier where my journeys been and I’ve been doing this now for 11, almost 12 years, and there was even less information back then, and I was young and financially naïve, more naïve.
Gosh, where do I start? First of all, it’s not just me, I do have a professional bookkeeper who is doing all of my monthly checks and balances for the business, and I have a professional accountant. So, quarterly, we’re touching base with the accountant. Annually, she is managing the filing on behalf of my business, which I’m an S Corporation, so it gets even kind of trickier, versus just being a standard LLC. Then, my personal finances as well.
My husband is a teacher. I always like to be really straightforward with anyone who’s willing to listen that I truly am a breadwinner in my family. What I make matters. The health insurance I can come up with matters. I have had two children now, beautiful, healthy baby girls, and my maternity leave had to be paid for by me, their births had to be paid for by me.
I don’t say that to minimize anyone else, but I say that because I have often felt alone as a female mom, entrepreneur who actually have to earn more honestly, than my partner to be able to provide for our home. The numbers have to matter, and the back end has to matter. QuickBooks, my favorite program, I use Gusto for payroll. I’m a huge savings account nerd. So, I have all these savings account buckets through a Capital One program.
I like to just shout those out, because if you’re listening to this, and you’re like, what in the world is happening? There’s some very practical programs that I wish someone, six years ago had sat me down and said, you don’t need to freak out. Here are some easy ways to get this started. I now am able to do that. I hold my fellow… Anyone who’s running a business, even if they just started, I tell them, you’ve got to do this right from the beginning. Everything from knowing your pricing, contracts, knowing what you make, you could ask me for any session that I do, and I do a lot of meals for my clients and gifting and just things throughout the process that I tried… Just little touches, but my newborn sessions, I show up with a hot meal. The Midwesterner me, you can’t show up to a house without that, but that meal needs to be calculated as a subtraction from the total cost of the session, if I want to actually understand my bottom line.
If you’re an entrepreneur listening, and you want that magical customer service side, and you want to be able to do little things for your client, don’t forget that generosity still has a price. Being able to calculate that into the services that you are selling, can allow you to be even more generous, because you’ll know what those margins are for each of the things you’re offering, and that has been huge for me, and just being able to say, let me just do this, or let me surprise you, which is one of my favorite things to do.
Stephanie Skryz…: Yeah. There’s so much power in just knowing because then you’re making decisions from a point of really strategic intelligence versus like, oh, I really want to do this for them, and you’re not thinking about it. Then before you know it, you’ve made like 10% or something on whatever it is that you’re offering. Sometimes, maybe you’re going to have a lower profit margin on one particular service or one project that you do or whatever. But as long as you’re making that an intentional choice, it’s okay.
I love that you know, your margins on your sessions based on what you’re putting into it and what you’re charging. I think that’s awesome. Absolutely what you said about starting that strong foundation from the beginning, I think that applies to finance, it applies to legal. I know, I personally did not have good contracts in the beginning, and that absolutely bit me a couple of times.
I think it’s finance, legal, I feel like it’s things that people are like, it’ll never happen to me, let me just Google and Frankenstein something together and hope for the best because nothing’s going to happen. Then you run out of money, and you can’t pay your contractors or a client has an issue with you, and you have a terrible contract to support you. I love that you’ve been paying attention to the important things from the beginning. That’s so good.
Laura Foote: Don’t let the fear ninjas haunt you. If you’re listening, and you’re in any stage of entrepreneurship, and there’s something you’ve just been shoving in the closet, again, not to pat myself or Stephanie on the back. But I feel like we’re people who are like, okay, this closet is messy. Let us deal with this, and get the people in there. You don’t have to go to the container store and buy all the things and install them and organize it, there are people that can help you do that.
I was actually thinking today about a season where my business bank account was down to like $1,000, I had moved from Kansas City to Tampa, I was starting grad school, my husband was in Kansas City doing… We were long distance, it was just all sorts of crazy. I think I had $1,000 left in my business bank account, and I spent $450 of it on a coaching session. You can come up with the funds when you need to and you do not have to do it by yourself. But being intentional about your investments, I think is also really, really important.
Stephanie Skryz…: Yes, I love that. I get the question a lot, like, am I allowed to spend on this? Is this a bad expense or good expense? I’m not the person to judge that, I don’t care what you spend your money on, just do it intentionally and have a plan. I love that, yeah. Out of the $1,000 that you had left-
Laura Foote: [inaudible 00:40:06], you can just do whatever you want and then write them off. I remember that, I’m like, I can just write anything off? No, it’s still your money.
Stephanie Skryz…: Right, exactly. I know, there’s an episode of Seinfeld that they’re talking about writing things off, and they’re like, do you even know what that means? You just write it off. No. Okay. Before we wrap up, I always like to ask our guests, I have three little quick questions at the end. First thing that comes to mind. My first question is, what is your favorite productivity hack or tip or trick in your business or your life?
Laura Foote: Oh, goodness. Mine is probably… First of all, I do everything digitally, I do nothing pen to paper, and that might make some people scream, but Google Calendar and then I just use the Notes and the To-do list apps that are built into Apple devices. If you’re a late at night thinker, or you wake up in the morning, and you’ve got three hours for office time, and you’re feeling like I don’t even know where to start. For me, I open a bullet list and I just start, okay, this email needs to be replied to, this gallery needs to be delivered, these Strengths results need to be processed, this flight needs to be booked.
Just start there. I find that, one of the other things, if you need to, measure it, say it back to yourself at the end of the day, because it’s so easy for me to hit five things on a list in three hours, and be like I got nothing done, because everything isn’t done. That is counterproductive and waste the time that you have. Again, I’m a mom working from home in the middle of a pandemic where my childcare is inconsistent. So, sometimes I’m packing things into an hour, and it’s got to get done. Then another hour will find its way later at night. But for me, the digital bullet lists, and again, I use a Notes app to just track… If you open my notes app on my computer, I have client notes, what we were talking about earlier, if I do a phone call with a client, I’m taking notes throughout the whole thing, so that I can refer to it later. Just things that popped up in conversation, things they mentioned in passing, to weave into my work moving forward. Because the reality is, I can’t remember every single detail, but it will all matter in the moment of FaceTime with that client.
For me, lots of little digital sticky notes.
Stephanie Skryz…: I love that and I feel like that brain dumping process allows you to, once it’s out of your brain and it’s written down somewhere or typed out somewhere, I feel like it alleviates a little bit of that weight on you as well. At least it does for me. I know I’m carrying so much around in my head and if I could just get it on paper, I feel like a weight’s been lifted.
Laura Foote: Yeah. For me, sometimes I feel like it’s a waste of time to write things down. But when my brain is going so fast, I can’t get something done, that’s when I know I need to just pause for a second and brain dump.
Stephanie Skryz…: Yeah, I love that. Okay, my second question is what is a favorite, and I’m going to add this in there, nonfiction books that you’ve read? It doesn’t have to be business, but nonfiction book.
Laura Foote: My favorite book ever is The Pact by Jodi Picoult. You got to read it.
Stephanie Skryz…: I’m writing it down right now. Okay.
Laura Foote: It will not steer you wrong.
Stephanie Skryz…: I feel like I’m having all of these conversations with amazing people on the podcast and they’re all recommending books. So, now my to-read list is-
Laura Foote: Oh wait, you said fiction… But wait, you said nonfiction, I heard fiction.
Stephanie Skryz…: I did say nonfiction, but now I have this written down. So, do you have a favorite nonfiction now-
Laura Foote: Sorry, I thought we were doing like a to get your brain out of the business world. Okay, nonfiction.
Stephanie Skryz…: I need that too.
Laura Foote: Sorry, I’m looking at my shelf. I love… Where is it? Let me just grab it.
Stephanie Skryz…: I do the same exact thing.
Laura Foote: Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins.
Stephanie Skryz…: Oh. I feel like I’ve heard of this one. I’ve not read it. Love it.
Laura Foote: He also wrote The Art of Work, which is like one of my number one books I refer to for other people. But I think yeah, this one’s really refreshing too.
Stephanie Skryz…: Real Artists Don’t Starve. Okay, writing that one down. Okay, last question, imagine that you had a weak day completely free from work and from all obligations. What do you do?
Laura Foote: I would definitely treat myself to lunch somewhere. I love a weekday… I don’t even like multi-course. Yes, I’ll take the salad and the dessert at 12:03, I would love that. Eating out is a real big treat. I would probably go somewhere with my camera. I get a lot of energy walking through downtown areas or exploring a new park. I love a treasure hunt at like Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, even a thrift store. I’d probably stop somewhere like that. That also really creatively energizes me. I think I walk through places like that, and I think about people and things they like and colors and I try to find things. Sometimes when I’m in a rut, I do that, and maybe a pedicure would probably be my day.
Stephanie Skryz…: That sounds so good. Lunch is my favorite meal-
Laura Foote: All things that I’ve been missing for the last year.
Stephanie Skryz…: I know, restaurant meals, just leisurely shopping. Oh, my gosh, that sounds like a –
Laura Foote: Lunches out have been my favorite thing the last few months because I feel like I can go at like 11:45 for the early bird lunch, and no one’s really out. Even though it’s winter, and we’re eating inside, I can do it. I got to, a few weeks ago for a business lunch. I think I was just savoring the soup. The lady looked at me like, “Have you not left the house in a long time?” I’m like, “No, I haven’t, and this is great, and this tortilla soup is so wonderful.”
Stephanie Skryz…: I know. You know what, it’s the little things and I feel like if nothing else, we are just so much more appreciative for some of the little things in our lives after making it through this. We’re not on the other side of it yet, but after surviving this for the last 11 months.
Laura Foote: Yeah.
Stephanie Skryz…: Well, Laura, thank you so much for chatting. This was such a wonderful conversation. Where can our listeners find you?
Stephanie Skryz…: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for taking some time to chat with me today and appreciate you being here.
Laura Foote: Thank you, Stephanie. You’re so great.
Stephanie Skryz…: Thanks for listening to The 100 Degrees of Entrepreneurship Podcast. To access our show notes and bonus content, visit 100degreesconsulting.com/podcast. Make sure to snap a screenshot on your phone of this episode and tag me on Instagram @stephanie.skry, and I’ll be sure to share. Thanks for being here friends, and I’ll see you next time.