VIBE Brown Bag – Laureen Skrivan – Spring 2017

VIBE Brown Bag – Laureen Skrivan – Spring 2017


Laureen Skirvan: I am honored. Thank you so much. So we know what the title of this talk is, “It’s Not A Man’s World”. I love that I have men here, thank you!
[Laughing] That’s fantastic, so I’m just going to share a little bit about my background and talk a bit more about how I ended up where I am and that I love questions. I was raised in the, I was born in 59 raised in the 60’s when you know mom stayed home and baked cookies and dad brought home the bacon and that was my world. The church that I attended was I’ll say legalistic in that they you know that was the role of the women was to be home and bake cookies and I know a lot of people during that time certainly believed that was the right thing. I struggled with that as I got older and became a woman and I thought you know I’m going to go back to my roots even further than that church and those churches and I’m going to research, you know there’s got to be things that talk about women in their role in the world. And so I latched onto a chapter in the bible, Proverbs 31 that talks about a women of noble character. And I’m going to paraphrase just a few here but this has inspired me, this has been my inspiration, “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands” that’s great “She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.” “She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family” love that! “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.” “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” “She makes linen garments and sells them,” “She speaks with wisdom, She watches over the affairs of her household.” “Her children arise and call her blessed” I love that! That inspires me, that gives me what I need to get up every day and do what I do. I started my career in this field ten years ago as a designer. That was a, is an acceptable women’s profession and I enjoyed it I learned design and I worked with other builders and I worked for other builders. And I soon realized that every time the design was done the client would then say, hey now I need this kitchen remodeled so who can I call? Do you know anybody and I give contractor A, contractor B, contractor C and every time I gave that card out I gave 100’s of thousands in some cases dollars away. And I began to think you know I don’t like doing that and I don’t get to finish that project. You know I started it’s kind of here and allowing with the client and I don’t have that ability once I turn this card over to the client that becomes this contractor’s job. And I didn’t like that feeling so I did some research looked into how I can become a general contractor and studied for what I needed, applied got my contractor’s license and that I immediately entrenched myself in the world of builders. Most of whom are men and I decided that you know women unfortunately some have a reputation of if they’re going to be in a man’s world they get to claw and scratch their ways through and I knew that, that wasn’t the right approach it just goes against who I am individually anyways. So I decided to join the master builders association and I immediately was adopted in as a little sister with all of these big brothers. And I made a point of really getting through that gatekeeper club so to speak by seeking advice. I thirst it for their wisdom and I loved that they were willing to mentor me. And through that I learned a lot about not just general contracting but also business in general. My interior design business at the time was small and very easy to maintain but getting into general contracting was a liable insurance and L&I and all of these other things that you know wasn’t ever a part of my world and through my big brothers I really learned a lot about how to not just deal with that but also how to deal with business in general. I after several years of being part of that group, I was asked to be on the board which again quite an honor and a couple year after that was asked to, was nominated to be the first women president that the master builders of pierce county ever had in 69 years of its beginning. So I was flattered but I didn’t stand there and say, “hey go women power”, you know, “I’m the first women!” I just wanted to be a part of the group and the fact that they nominated me and asked me to do that was such a confirmation that whatever it is I was that I was doing at the time it was working. So I think what I what to do today is to just, it’s a little bit in the background. I wanted to mostly talk about what it is like to be a women in a man’s world which construction is certainly thought of that way. And ways that I have learned to lead and be accepted as a women in that trade. I’d say that as I mentioned certainly adopting these big brothers and having them teach me made a huge difference because I got a lot of support from them but I also learned that I had to have my own personal brand and that in term is the brand of the company. And so what are my core values, you hear that a lot in business terms, I read a lot of business books and it’s always about the culture you’re creating a core value that you have. And I thought you know I am a woman and I’m happy to be a woman, I’m embracing it I don’t, you know, I don’t have a t-shirt with you know rolled up sleeves, not that there’s anything wrong with wearing that but I’ve chosen to say I’m feminine, I’m a woman, I love it I’m embracing it! And there are gifts that women do have that men may not and there are gifts certainly that man have that women don’t necessarily have. It’s what makes up this wonderful world of body of human beings, right? So I made sure that in the process that I treated everyone with dignity I wanted to make sure that my clients were listened to that our subcontractors are treated well and respected. Sometimes they’re not and sometimes they’re just treated like they’re the ditch diggers and no, no, no! That’s not how we treat people right? So I wanted to make sure that we were known as a company that loved and embraced their subcontractors and loved and embraced the community. Loved and embraced clients, they needed to be treated with as much dignity as anyone else and sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes you have a client that’s maybe a bit needy or a bit you know they show their frustrations more than we would like and yet they need to be heard and we need to stop and say what is it that you, that’s this underlining frustration. How can we help and make this different? I have twenty employees now and I would say 17 of them are men and I think they’re all there to stay, I hope, but I treat them like family. So once a month I cook up a big breakfast at our office. Our office isn’t like a normal office it has- it’s a showroom. It has a full kitchen and an outdoor grilling station and I mean it’s a great- it feels like a house actually. And we do shout outs so every time one of the guys in the field did something special we made sure that they get that shout out and we are constantly trying to tell them how important what they do for our company is. If there’s a problem my door is always open I don’t care how busy I am sitting at that desk if any of my guys come in can say, “Hey can we talk?” I put that pencil down and I open that door and listen to them. So leading with that core value of treating people as family as the most important things in your life as is what has truly helped our company be successful in so many ways. I read a book and I read a lot of business books it’s I think a necessity for an entrepreneur because sometimes you feel very alone. And the first book that I’ve ever read was a girls guide to a million dollar business and I remember thinking wow I’ll never get there I mean that’s like wow a million dollars and about three years ago we hit a million and I remember taking that book out and thinking I can’t believe I did it. We did this! And as soon as we hid it you know that check went in and order had my own private drumroll and within just minutes I just thought now on to the next million. That’s what you do and since then we continue to grow every year even during the toughest of times. So how did that happen So how did that happen, I mean why did that happen? It’s not because of me I’m not some super person it’s because of the culture that was created in our company and the loyalty that we have from our employees and it’s just constantly reminding ourselves and the team that we have to treat people better that we treat ourselves. We have to embrace that philosophy that way of thinking. I, I think probably the hardest thing being a women in this the trade that I’m in as a contractor was initially not being taken so seriously and I knew that, so what did I do? I thought about that and so I decided to partner with someone who was a contractor who looked like a contractor and you know I’m not going to say that I was the brains behind it because he’s very smart guy. But together we were able to kind of enter this world and be able to declare that we really are a general contractor and that I as the president really am the contractor and not in an arrogant or boastful way but just to communicate that you know there is something having a women in that man worlds. You know woman see things sometimes differently there’s layers of detail that we might note and certainly my design background has helped that a lot. Because I do see layers of color and little mistakes and if something is not might or quite right I’m going to notice it and try to catch that right away. So I know that, that has certainly helped but I have to say I known a lot of other women in business and there the biggest mistake that I have witnessed is not embracing who they are and really just saying, “Hey I do have something to contribute and I’m going to build upon that” in all the ways that women can do that. I’m going to stop there for a moment, any questions, any comments I like to hear from you. What brought you here today, what brought you to this particular workshop? Tell me.
[Pointing to an Audience Member] What’s your name? Audience Member Avery: Avery. Laureen Skirvan: Avery, love it it’s easier to remember. Avery: Something that I’m going through is developing an app but I have no programmer’s in this and it’s something that I kind of relate it to was how you said you kind of had a little bit experience for the interior design part but you were giving away all the other jobs and so, is the way, I heard you say the way you fixed the problem of feeling like you could give- basically you debated your clients that you can give something to them. It’s like partnering with someone with someone that was already in the field. Laureen Skirvan: Correct. Avery: And do you think that it kind of goes with all businesses? In the way of, for me I have no outline you know outline experience and I guess another thing for me is since you actually, you already had a lot of the clients because of you were an interior designer. How would you suggest finding that partner that would work well for you if you didn’t have those clients. Laureen Skirvan: That’s a great question. You know the old saying you know you’re at the right place at the right time. I do think um, I think that is key but it also has to stem from a passion that you have. There was a time when I said, “I’ll sell button I don’t care I love business, I love it I love everything about it”. Now I had gut wrenching moments where payrolls coming up and where is it coming from because this client didn’t pay or this client chose to walk away and not pay at all or you know whatever. But you brush yourself off and you persevere and you get through it. If you’re passionate Avery, about business and created this then you start looking for that special person. You start inquiring, you start doing just what you did right now with me. I have somebody in mind that I may hook you up with. Just from you sharing that I have a friend who does that very thing and he loves mentoring students so when we’re done here I want to. But do you see what just happened? You didn’t know that I knew somebody, right? Avery: Yeah. But you said it out loud. You’re thirsting for that opportunity and that’s what I did. I thirsted for it, I said I liked what I do, I want that and I’m going to go after it. And it’s so empowering when you suddenly start having people come to you. It’s like wow I just had to say this one thing and throw out one little line and here it is so. Yeah. Avery: Thank you. Well thank you, yeah that’s a
[Laughing] I’m excited for you Avery! I want to help you! What’s your name? Audience Member: Travis. Laureen Skirvan: Travis, okay. Travis: So you said you started when, well over ten years ago. Laureen Skirvan: Yes. Travis: So would that, that would have been kind of right in the middle of the down term right? Laureen Skirvan: Yes, you’re the math guy.
[Laughing] Assuming all the number. Travis: I’m just curious about like I don’t know like mentally how you face it and built yourself up. Laureen Skirvan: Yeah, thank you that’s a great question and so the saying ignorance is bliss. You know a lot of educators don’t like to hear that statement but in my case it was very much that I did, I started the company the interior design division in 2006. Did that for a couple years and then 2008 I thought, “I’m going to be a general contractor”. So I’m the new kid on the block and that is right about when things were starting to take and I just felt like a naive little girl in this world where I was watching the news I was hearing that people were dropping off the face of the planet and you know what is all this about? Basically I wasn’t living F.A.T. You’ve heard that term at the time. I was new and so I wasn’t leveraged. Everything that I had or we had rented a little office in at the time in the Proctor District and it was small rent I you know had my own little savings I had another job I cashed in my little bit of retirement and that’s how I started the company. So while everybody else was owing banks money and suppliers money we weren’t there yet we were just paying cash, paying cash, paying cash. And so we kind of breezed through it I mean in part because we really were the newbies on the block. I’ve though a lot about that because I know there’s always talk out there that were going to have it hit again and well now I’m at a point where not leveraged by a bank, still not. But I do have 20 human beings that work for me and when I did the math which I’m not terribly good at I figured that there are about 65 mouths that our company is responsible for. In fact one of our guys just had another baby. STOP!
[Laughing] Every time you have kids I don’t sleep at night because I’m like okay we’ve got more children to feed but that’s, that’s why I do what I do. I love it, I’m not trying to you know, I don’t have my eyes on a yacht or a, you know anything else. I really am doing this I think it’s a legacy for the generation of worker. I have a lot of millennials and I love them to pieces and they you know we’ve talked about them you know buying in at some point and so I’m doing this truly as a legacy for them. And so now you know if things tanks we’re going to have to be really clever and really smart because in my hard of hearts I don’t want to let any of those you know dads or moms go because I know they have this huge responsibility. So what does that do? That makes me work hard. I’m the sales person of the company and I go out and I sell, and I sell, and I sell and even when we have more work than what we can handle. I’m just like okay that’s fine but what about December. I go out and I sell again. And I think that a real true entrepreneur is, you never rest on your Loral’s every and you’ve heard that term before. You can’t I mean maybe you can take an hour break but other than that you just have to get back on there and do what you do best. Our Company like a lot of companies we, I mean I say we’re a body with two arms and legs and a brain and all the other things that make up your body right. So I can’t do a lot of this stuff I’m president of the company but I do a couple things well and I know that, not in a bragging way. But just that’s what I have to do to make this company keep that fly well going right and a big part of that for me is selling. I’m not the math person I still count my fingers and where’s the calculator. And it’s a multimillion dollar company and yet I’m the president is still counting on her fingers. Okay so I know that about myself I admit what I’m not good at and I hire people who are really good at that so yeah. Thank you great question. Yes, what’s your name? Audience Member: I’m Michael. Laureen Skirvan: Michael, thank you. You said something just as you were answering his question, Travis’s question about making a company available to your staff, to your team buying things like that. If that’s not to personal question I’d love to know your thought behind that because that’s something I’m thinking about. Laureen Skirvan: Yeah it’s not to personal and again my strong suit is not in numbers. So we incorporated um you know when I first started the company Wren & Willow Interior Design it was just sole proprietorship and as soon as we, as soon as we got- I got my contractor license in 2008 that’s when we became an escort. So we have shares. Right now I am the soul share holder but we have kind of an incentive plan that we started about a year ago for the team base salary with some incentives based on some sales et cetera. And so the next step and it’s not going to happen tomorrow we still have a ways to go but the next steps would be for the few individuals that have shown interest who actually buy in. Now and buy shares basically. Now what I said to them is I’m opened to this and we’ll get a professional to come in and actually show us step by step you know how to do this. But remember it’s not just about dividence at the end of the year. It’s when times are tuff, it’s when November and December hits and my world it’s dead. It means that when you buy in you also pay in and you have to help you know when because right now it’s coming out of my bank account and I don’t think there’s that much left.
[Laughing] So you know those things are important to remember when you’re wanting to open that up to your team but I know one of the most successful business’s in the coun- in the world is Southwest Airlines. And again one of the best books I, well I read a lot of business books “Built to Last”, “Good to Great”, Jim Collins and what Southwest Airlines chose to do is to sell there, it’s an employ run company and the customer service is like nothing else because they have an ownership. They have a tiny piece is sometimes all you need to just say hey this is my company right. So I think it’s a great business model to have it’s just you know we’re not quite there yet but it’s certainly, certainly in the cards. Yeah, thank you. Michael Vcshtiend: What are your thoughts about- Laureen Skirvan: Tell me your name. Michael Vcshtiend: Michael Vcshtiend Laureen Skirvan: Perfect, thank you. Michael Vicshtiend: There is a Trent worth sharing economy based companies where there going to wars the Co-op model. Where it’s not that their shares where 1, 2, 3, people control most of the company but the small base and to make a decision to sell the company to a bigger company you would have to have majority of the share all the co-op members. I’d love to stock the agency. And it’s pretty new in my DNA and…. is it all co-op so all of the decision is voted on and discussed recently into forums. And so that the people around Co-op have to take down…selling our papers… or make decisions without participation. What do you think about that as a model for and there other companies taking and what we call it extendable stock extendable participation of the company. What are your chance about that? Laureen Skirvan: I don’t know enough about it to speak intelligently on that. I guess I would hesitate. Started the company, I can only speak personally of how it would affect me. I started the company literally from nothing you know a seed and I’ve known of other companies that sort of shared and done more of a co-op and the culture that came from that little tiny seed I would be concerned could be, would change. And so I’m not sure that I would personally want to do that because you do you have these other entities. The employ’s that have shown an interest in buying some stock in the company I, they’re apart of the culture I mean they are completely entrenched in it. And I think a company can risk that and if it’s, if it’s not there number one then I think that’s great. I mean it’s obviously working for some companies but I personally would have to really pause and see what that would do to that so yeah that’s all I can say, is based on my own you know my own sort of my own gut feeling of it but again I think it’s obviously successful. It’s a trend starting, yeah good thank you, thanks for the questions. Yes Thomas you have a question.
[Laughing] I knew that. Thomas: When you talk about you know purchasing some stock for your company and also when your employee, what characteristics are you looking for, for an individual apart of your organization they can be talented but if they can’t along? Laureen Skirvan: So bear with em here humility is at the top of my list of character trait that I find very important to fit into our culture and what do I mean by that? We all know what humility means right? But being able to be teachable someone that is willing when you’re truly humble you’re listening to that other person. You’re not trying to just sort of ignore and dismiss and think you have all the answers and that I mean that can apply to any field even selling buttons. But for us in particular we go into people’s home and we re-model and build, we do tenant improvement work so we’re entering their space and if we come in as if we know everything, move out of the way the heroes are here now [Sarcastically]. It’s bad on many levels and so when I hire people, when I’m interviewing I love that people are shar- you know when you’re interviewed you want to make sure that you are telling your best things you’re not going to go in all slumpy and say you know I’m just not really good at this and I’m really bad at that. I mean nobody wants to even see that. But there is a point where arrogance can tip it and if I sense in an interview that there’s some arrogance I just think that they’re not going to fit into our culture. Because we’re all about you know serving others and serving each other and making sure that the clients know that they are the ones directing this thing here. We’re coming in with all of our talent and expertise so that’s you know if I were to in a word to say what I’m looking for in a human that we’re hiring men or women. or men and women. I am, that’s quality that I’m always looking for and my antennas are so out there that I can here that arrogance and I just think this is going to be trouble and I don’t hire them. Thomas: Yeah it’s just an example of when you we’re doing that ring bottle in my neighborhood it’s a lot of activities and one day I came back to the gym and it’s like early in the morning and one of your workers, traffic halfway in the road and on the property that I couldn’t get around and he saw me and rushed us out and he just profusely apologized, “I am so sorry, I’m so sorry”. And he just, Laureen Skirvan: Wow, that’s my guys. Thomas: Yeah and they moved the truck and got out and made sure that I was okay and I was just like, wow, that has never happened to general contractors before. They usually give you the burden to just go around.
[Laughing] Laureen Skirvan: Yeah thank you. Thank you for, and see I didn’t know that I mean who knows they didn’t know that. And that is the kind, now they’re still human okay don’t get me wrong but that’s the kind of thing that with a culture which again I would want to lose this this is the kind of things that we train the guys all the time. This is how you treat people and they buy in I mean they’re already there obviously. Avery, do you have another good question? Avery: Yes, so a lot of, a lot of this talk and I feel like it’s about the culture that you kind of brought to your company. You have become, like for an example you express to them that they are important which I hadn’t really, you know that makes complete sense you know listening know matter what, creating culture, embracing who you are. How are you kind of bring that in because everyone is such a different person you know everyone is so different, how can you, how did you create the culture that you know people are expected to come in and have a fun day on whatever day you know whatever day of the month or week that you guys have that barbeque or that kind of thing you know how do you kind of develop that? I mean I just feel like it, was it just likes, “hey we’re having this on this day, and it’s going to be fun!” you know what I mean. Laureen Skirvan: It’s like, it’s like anything. You have to cultivate that sort of relationship it doesn’t just happen overnight. Everybody is different, I mean as president of the company I don’t even really do the design anymore it was what I brought to the table for a long time but now I’m sort of HR department and it’s you know when I say you put the pencil down when someone walks in I don’t care if it’s one of the guys put in the field or my lead carpenter, a superintendent. I just look at them and say come on out let’s talk about this and I think over time when you cultivate that and they know that they’re really important then they kind of, without them realizing it they’re buying into the culture, they love that. Who doesn’t? Who doesn’t want to be told, ” you know you matter, your kids matter, you matter to me”. I mean we’re, we were created to meet that and so I as a boss and a leader I love that, I love people so that helps. But I love to look at each and every person just like each and every person in this room and just say your unique and your different and your different. You’re the only women in this room besides me.
[Laughing] So you’re different. But it’s just I love that and I love to make people feel like they really matter they are a life, they have a soul, and that matters to me and they know it. So it just happens, it’s like you take care of your garden and one day your flowers blossoms and your like I don’t know how it all happened but between the rain and the sun and you know some fertilizer there it is and that is how it is when you lead a company. Really is.
[Pointing to an Audience Member] [inaudible ] Audience Member: … I mean anybody can sell something but when you are the person that’s standing in front of the company saying you’re important to me and when you have customers like when you go out to get clients and customers. If you’re pursuable with them and you are interactive and you show you have good terms with them. If you treat every client and every customer like they’re the most important client and the most important customer you will always have more customers than you can handle. That’s so true, well said you bet. Audience Member: I go to Chamber of Commerce meetings and different associations and I often hear …complaining that they cannot find the right people to hire. The people don’t show up on time, they don’t do the work, they have to supervise them all the time But then we talked to them and found out that they’re paying minimum wage. They need a lot of money they’re delegating debt and kind of micro managing. There is no delegation of work and just possibilities which is they sit down and just have to answer the phone eight hours a day same thing right? So there is no variety of work or real responsibilities. Laureen Skirvan: That’s right. Audience Member: So I think, not just telling people that you respect them and their position and just showing it through fair wages. Laureen Skirvan: Absolutely. Audience Member: Not just minimum wages but fair wages. And I think delegating more that would be interesting to them and maybe that necessarily can’t do it but help training them. Laureen Skirvan: Well said, yes and I think everything that you mentioned this, this, this, this, it equals that I’m not feeling important, that I’m not feeling like they really, they matter right? When you are payed a waged that you believe is appropriate. When you’re talked to and said hey how do you like your job? Well I don’t I’m answering the phones all day; I want to get out there and visit with people. Okay! Well let’s talk about that. I refer to our company sometimes as a bus with lots of seats and I didn’t make that up, it’s some business book I read that it’s probably “Good to Great”.
[Laughing] So um but I use it a lot and there had been many times in our company when I had an individual doing a particular job and I have watched and I’ve been frustrated and thought they’re not good at that but I like this person. This person has gifts in other areas, so I’m going to take you from this seat and I’m going to move you here. And we’re going to try you out. I mean I’ll try every seat on the bus if I need to it’s probably not the best business decision at times but, but the teams know how much I care about them. Now again if there’s arrogances, if they’re not meeting the culture then, then they have to go because that’s going to destroy the culture but if they by the end of the culture they genuinely want to be a part of the company I’m just putting them in the wrong seat then shifting them around. That says you know what I care about you not only this company but I care about you and where you’re going to fit best. And you know what happens? The Company excels just like you said. Sorry I didn’t get your name. Girl Audience Member: Jen. Laureen Skirvan: Just like Jen said that when you do all this you’re going to get it back more than you even imagined. It’s just the way it is. It starting at that root at that seed and treating people a certain way. So yeah. Keep asking, I don’t know what time we need to be done but I guess we are still okay. Avery: I keep getting stuck on the embrace who you are right I think I’m, I think personally just from going to Travis’s doing the motivational Monday’s and just from going there You know I’ve really just grown just from the past couple of weeks you know a lot. But what I totally see as a problem for me is I don’t know how to share that with other people you know I don’t know how to share with, with Travis or someone that doesn’t really feel comfortable in their own shoes. To kind of express themselves you know kind of embrace themselves so that they’re not becoming what I’ve been asking or you know what I have been taking about you know like I would say oh I love to hike but then the next second they’re like oh I like hiking to. You know what I mean that type of thing you know even if they hated hiking and I guess that what I’m wondering is how can I, how can you build that culture [Laughing] back to that to make people feel comfortable enough to really be like man I don’t like hiking, I like doing this and this and this. Laureen Skirvan: So it takes time Avery. You have to earn that trust, you have to build that and you need a lot of patience because everyone has a wall and everyone has a facade that they put on. It’s one thing entering a room and just socializing or networking you’re going to put on your best face and many people will say what they think you want them to hear, correct? So you have to build that, let’s do a little garden illustration again. You plant that seed and you water it wait for that sun to come just kind of dry so more water and that is how you cultivate a relationship. And you need to present yourself as somebody who is very opened who doesn’t just say yeah, yeah tell me what I want to hear. You have, that comes from within to say look I really do care about you, tell me whatever you need to tell me and we’ll work on it together. Why, cause I care about you! I know that seems odd but I really truly do and that’s, that’s the kind of person, leader, business man you want to be. Is somebody that you know that people come to. Audience Member: Being willing to accept that criticism. Laureen Skirvan: Oh yeah! [Grunts] I don’t want to hear it.
[Laughing] Thomas: Sometimes it relies on ego and I said don’t talk to me in that way. You know but- Audience Member: That’s why you’re sitting way over there.
[Laughing] Laureen Skirvan: Come on in Thomas, let’s have a therapy session. Thomas: If you want that you got to realize that sometimes that rawness comes and it’s not really kind and you got to accept that. Laureen Skirvan: It’s true and that, so that humility that I’m looking for has to start here right. I have to, I have to be approachable and I’m not saying that it’s easy I’m not saying that I just you know bake in that. I have to swallow hard I’ve had to apologize many, many times especially to clients I am so sorry that happened we will make sure, you’re absolutely right. Rebuke, rebuke, rebuke if I kept on defending myself my team watches me just scary. But they do, so if they see me apologizing and say no they are right we have to honor this, this is what I told them we were going to do we need to do it then you’re going to get the person who you know is running out and apologizing. He’s part of my team this guy and but if he witness me saying, “NO, we’re always right, everybody else is bad, customers always wrong”. Well then they’re not going to continue that it’s just like you’ve got these great little wings I don’t know wings.
[Laughing] Audience Member: …Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurs are made from the or there born being Entrepreneurs. Laureen Skirvan: Good question. I have always been a leader little bossy maybe. So I think for someone like myself it was kind of a natural thing to eventually get into. I wasn’t twenty five saying I want to one day own a company. It’s just that over the years things that I did, I did fine myself enjoying that role of leading so I don’t know if it’s part of the DNA. I know that we all have our own individual score card for me selling is a score card if I can get out and make a sale I’m just like yes I did it. So I think it’s, I think you can learn how to be an effective entrepreneur but I do feel that it’s, you’re kind of either a born leader as they say or not necessarily and that’s okay. We’re not all meant to be bossy little things, right? I mean some of us have to be followers but wow you can contribute, not everybody can be the head. But without this arm I am like, I’m stuck I can’t drive, I can’t write [Laughing] because I’m right handed, that’s a lot, I CANT TALK! [Laughing] That’s right being an Italian I think I forgot to mention that early on I can’t really talk without both of these things.
[Laughing] But yes I mean I think there’s certainly a DNA in there. I’d love to hear what a business professors. Are any of you, business professors? I’d like to hear your actual take on that, yes.
[Pointing to an Audience Member] Audience Member: I like to kind of, you skipped from 1959 to 2006. Laureen Skirvan: I did what did I do? [Laughing] Audience Member: Well you said you were born in 59 then here’s the company, Wren & Willow design company, but what happened in between? How did you go from Philadelphia to here to creating and designing company, like how did that react and yeah. [Both talking] Laureen Skirvan: I know yeah, it’s just a big blur. No I that’s great if we have time [To the side] Yes we still have a few minutes. I got married I’m still married 38 years, I had 3 kids. I worked as I worked for a private Christian high school where I recruited students in. So a lot of my marketing brain came from that and I think over the years I always wanted to do design I did it for years and years on my own, you know advising friends, neighbors, and then I decided you know I really like, I like this and I was in a place in my life where I can go and go to design school and did that to legitimize this professionally and then the rest is you know what you already heard 2006. So yeah that’s my life. Yes [Pointing to an Audience Member] Oh I’ve got two questions, one is what book do you recommend for entrepreneur, and then two and this is just kind of something I’ve been thinking about lately it’s just kind of I mean there had to been I think Tom had a touch on this, hate words. Just like some people who are just like no you can’t do this or I’ m sure you have experienced some of that in this process and It’s just kind of how you would approach that from a mental standard. [Both talking] Laureen Skirvan: So the first business book I mentioned that I read, “The Girls’ Guide to Building a Million‑Dollar Company” is or a Million-Dollar Business I guess it is actually. Her name is Susan Wilson Solovic, and I can write that down here but she actually talks about that and she says that those people who are in your lives especially when you’re starting out because there are so many things you’re learning. You are like a 3 year old in the forest just trying to find your way out and in and to the sunlight and there are a lot of people who will be in your life. Family member unfortunately there the people who are closest to you. Whether it’s jealousy or they’re just bent on not being happy for you or they just nobody can do this. You have to actually get them out of your life and it’s tough and I’ve had a few of those and I just kind of stopped calling them and kind of went my own way and didn’t answer the phone and because I knew that they weren’t people that were going to help me or encourage me. Because I didn’t know what I was getting into. I certainly didn’t in 2006 think I’d be here. You it’s a wonderful gift to not know the future . I know a lot of us want to know the future but it’s really a gift not to because there are so many hurdles that you have to go through. So many sleepless night, so many agonizing moment when you’re in business that if you knew what was ahead you’d be like I’m out no thanks. So you have to start with having people in your world to become one of your cheerleaders and that’s why when I jumped into the master builders and I had all my big brothers I knew that in order to learn I couldn’t come in and just say move over boys cause here I am. I knew that wouldn’t work, I knew that I had to say to a big brother, “I need help I don’t know what I’m doing but I really want to do this”. And they love that role, everyone wants to be a mentor, right? I mean that feels good I don’t care who you are or how old you are you love being a mentor to someone. And so for me it was, it was a great way to get those positives and the negatives out. To answer your other question there are so many great business books. Simon Sinek has a book called, dah I just had it. Audience Member: Start With Why. Laureen Skirvan: Yes thank you! Start With Why, and that’s a great business book to kind of help you understand why am I doing this? So the reason I didn’t start a button business is cause I wasn’t really in love with buttons. I wasn’t really passionate about it I’m passionate about interior, I’m passionate about creating a home a haven for my clients. So that’s why I started what I did but that book is a great one. Tipping point, I’ve read all of Gladwell’s books, Tipping Points, Outliers, and blink. Have any of you read Gladwell? I’d say Blink is my favorite. It’s not technically business book but when you’re in business a lot of what you have to listen to is your instinct. I think women maybe, I read this somewhere I’m not making it up, tend to listen, maybe in fact it was Blink I’m not sure but tend to listen to that internal voice and a lot of people, women as well, pushed it away like no, no it’s that six sense that’s happening it’s not, it’s truly a God given gift and you better listen to it. When you don’t listen to your instinct there’s trouble ahead and I’ve learned when I, I can feel it like right here and when I feel it it’s like wow we got to stop the talk about this. Whether it’s taking on a job or a potential client whatever that is and that book Blink helped me realize that, that is a true it’s a whole brain thing it isn’t just some out there, you know not a real I don’t know technical thing that happens. So that’s another great one. I mention already Built to Last and Good to Great. Built to last is a good book I think Good to Great is fantastic. It talks about culture, it talks about how you treat people. If you want to create that company it is like a road map on how to do that. In fact I’m pretty sure that’s the one that talks about the bus and the seats and it’s true, yeah. That guy is a genius, I would love to meet him some day he’s fantastic.
[Pointing to an Audience Member] Audience Member: Which book is the one that you mention fly wheel some point in term of this conversation. Lauree Skirvan: I think that’s good to great. Audience Member: Good to Great. Laureen Skirvan: Yeah. Audience Member: Because I think Daniel Burn also mentioned the fly wheel… [Both talking] Laureen Skirvan: Oh good okay and did he mention Good to Great? it’s either built to last or Good to Great, yeah. Yeah with those business books I’ll tell you many times at night I have my IPad. I don’t have a book library anymore I just because I read at night cause I wake up like, PAYROLL IS IN 2 WEEKS!
[Laughing] Okay I’ll read and so they become my friends. [Laughter] So in 3 in the morning there I am IPad and all Jim Collins you know Simon Sinek those are great. Audience Member: Would that be a thing that the company you have really depends on the person who is presiding over it. It doesn’t, if someone is a micro manager that would be them, no matter what books they read no matter what workshops they’ve been. Go to, they won’t have a company where their employees are happy. And there’s someone who is a good leader doesn’t matter what book, they probably did well. It’s more about the thirst of the, not… … so many people like reading these ones, and I think really it might help correct the course a little bit, just kind of our own experience. Laureen Skirvan: It’s like what Thomas asked you know, are you a born leader or are you a born entrepreneur or do you learn it. I think that you have to inside and embrace what you’re reading or your absolutely right it’s just going to be a lot of words that you can check off and say yep another book on my shelf that I’ve read. Well that’s not necessarily a born leader. A born leader really wants to eat up all that they possibly can. It’s like nature versus nurture I don’t know if I agree that how you’re born is how you’re going to go through life. It’s whether you have the capacity to learn. I in college have known….where is Mark but don’t…. so for those who are determined to kind of … the united … to innate ability or the genius in them. Laureen Skirvan: But they want to learn. That’s the key, they have a thirst, you have to have that. You have to desire to be a certain way. Look obviously I’m not like I was when I was five years old. I was a brat so I hope not I hope I’m not that person anymore and I, but you, but I’ve been eager to learn. I’ve been eager to want to be a better leader. So you have to have something that’s motivating you to do that, to read the right books, to surround yourself with the right people. So there’s got to be even just a little flicker in there you know. Okay anything else, I see Thomas walking that must mean it’s time to wrap up.
[Laughing]


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