PP 232: Maddy Niebauer, CEO and Founder of VChief
Maddy entered the Peace Corp after graduating college and evolved through several other jobs before becoming a Chief of Staff at Teach for America. This position inspired the business she has today.
During our chat, Maddy and I discuss the importance of having support in our business, the difference between a virtual assistant and a virtual chiefs of staff, the tools we use in our businesses and more..@VirtualChief & @thekimsutton chat about the support we need in our #smallbiz: http://www.thekimsutton.com/pp232Click To Tweet
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Kim: Welcome back to another episode of positive productivity. This is your host Kim Sutton and I’m so thrilled to have you joining us today. I’m also thrilled to introduce our guest, Maddy Niebauer. I got that right, right Maddy?
Maddy: You did!
Kim: Listeners, you know I have fun with names every single episode. Maddy is the CEO and founder of VChief. And has just fascinating backstory and I can’t wait until she shares that with you.But Maddy, welcome! Thank you so much for being here today.
Maddy: Thanks so much Kim, I’m really excited to be here!
Kim: Maddy, would you mind jumping in, and sharing how you got to where you are today with me and the listeners?
Maddy: Yeah, absolutely! Well, I’ll start back at the beginning of my career,and after I graduated from college, I went in the Peace Corps in Ivory Coast, and was there for a little over two years, and it was just a really transformative personal experience. And then when I came back to the States, I managed to tutoring center for a few years. And it was a great experience both to learn about running a business, and a lot about education, which I’m really passionate about. And then after that I spent some time at business school, and then I went into strategy consulting for nonprofits and foundations, with an organization called Bridge Span. After that, I started working at Teach for America, and at Teach For America, its funny! The job that I applied for was different than the job that they offered me,they decided sort of midway through the process that they were no longer gonna hire for the role that I was applying for but they liked me so they offered me a job as a chief of staff. And I was like: “What the heck is a chief of staff? But sure that sounds great!” And so I fell into that role a little bit, but it turned out to be just an incredibly good fit for me professionally, and I had a lot of fun with it. And I was blessed to be partnered with a leader at Teach For America who was just an incredible mentor for me. And we worked together for almost five years with me as her chief of staff. And I really love that role. She left the organization to go start a new non-profit, and I was promoted into a Vice President role at Teach for America, and so I was doing that for some period of time when she came back to me and said, “Hey Maddy, listen, there’s a handful of things that you did for me that you were really great at doing, that I haven’t found someone else to take over, and I’m wondering if you would come back and sort of moonlight for me as my part time chief of staff”. And I was excited to do that both because I missed working directly with her and because I missed being a chief of staff. It was a role that I just felt really motivated by, and I loved the variety and the day to day and I loved helping her be a better leader. And so I was excited to do that sort of as a side gig at the time. And then I was thinking about transitioning out of Teach for America, and thought, you know what? What I’m doing for me, who’s this leader I was working for, I could do for other people. So that’s sort of where the seed for VChief was planted was this notion that leaders could use a chief of staff, maybe they don’t need a full time chief of staff or they don’t have a budget for a full time chief of staff, so could you provide sort of part time contract based support to leaders as a chief of staff? And as I started to do some initial rounds of networking, and informational interviews, and getting a sense for people’s interest in this, I just realized that there was a real market need here and so as I launched VChief, I made the decision to not take on new clients personally, but to hire a team of chiefs of staff who could then be matched with the clients that we work with. And so we started about a year and a half ago, and we’ve grown our pool of chiefs of staff, we’ve grown our clients, and it’s really been a fun journey.
Kim: I was gonna ask about that, because listener, in our pre chat, we are talking about our families and kids, and Maddy is also a mom of twins.
Maddy: Yeah, for twin moms.
Kim: yeah its very frequent, moms definitely.
Kim: And I was just wondering how you’re able to manage it all if you were still-
Kim: You know, because –
Kim: Its so juggling! Oh my gosh! Because in listeners total transparency I was embarrassed that I had not responded to the interaction, that I had gotten to Maddy except not to Maddy to say: ” Yes please, get her on my show.” And it’s simply due to lack of time and my inbox often falls short which I would have to imagine that a lot of leaders’ inboxes fall short.
Maddy: Oh my goodness.
Kim: Well, i try. I really do try to keep my inbox at a zero, but in one week it can go from zero to one to two thousand and items get lost, and yeah, I don’t think I need to say anything more, listeners you understand Maddy I know you understand, but-
Maddy: -so i am.
Kim: I’m so happy to hear that you’ve been growing. So what is your staff of chief of staff look like today, how many are on it?
Maddy: So we have almost 15 who are working with clients actively right now. We’ve worked with about 30 clients to date, and then we still have a pool of about 20 or 30 more who have been fully interviewed and vetted and are ready to work with clients. And I’d like to have a big pool, because our clients have different needs and they come from different industries and so having a wide group of people, who allow me to find matches for clients that make the right fit. So there’s a lot of different dimensions we think about, when we’re gonna match a client with the chief of staff, we think about their industry backgrounds, so we have a lot of clients in the startup world. We also have a lot of clients in education and nonprofit. And so we try to have a mix of Chiefs of Staff, who also have different sorts of industry background. And then we also think about what the client needs on a functional basis. So are they needing a lot of help with finance or with communications or with H.R.? And so there are different folks in our team who have different depth of expertise in all of those things. I think what I look for in a chief of staff is someone who has a real wide breadth of experience, sort of Jack or Jills of all trades, but some of them have just deeper roots and different things. So we think about both of those things. Sometimes we also think about location, sometimes that’s important that either they’re in the same city or in the same time zone, and then finally the thing we think about in terms of match, is just sort of personality and work style match which is probably the hardest thing to match for just given the limited interaction we have with clients before we are making that match. But what I try to do is send a handful of candidates to our prospective clients that they can then look through and decide who they want to interview and ultimately decide who they want to work with.
Kim: Yeah, I was going to ask you about even communication style but it sounds like that could very much far into your personalities. I started my business five years ago as a virtual assistant, and –
Maddy: -oh nice!
Kim: Through those five years, just the communication styles and I’m not doing virtual assistance anymore, but the communication styles, even on my own podcast have varied tremendously.
Kim: Just from maybe one client wanting a response to every single e-mail that is sent, saying: ” Yes, I got this I saw it, great!” to other one saying: “No I don’t want it so just let me know when it’s done, or -“
Maddy: -yeah. yeah.
Kim: You know.
Maddy: And so we have some tools that try to help place source those things out, in the beginning of a relationship just so like, everybody goes on equal footing and knowing you know what they want and we really try to sort of tailor our style to what the client needs and wants right? But there are times where it’s important to know that, before you make the initial match, because you know for example we had one client who we started with who was launching a new business. And he thinks she really needed someone to come in as an expert and tell her what to do and a lot of ways. And the person whom i’m after with, was a really strong strategic thinker but he came in with a mindset of like, let me really understand your needs and let you guide where the work goes. So that’s sort of an example of where there was a mismatch of sort of personalities or work styles that you know didn’t work out and because we have this pools of Chiefs of Staff, it was very quick to figure that out, that they weren’t the best match and find someone who you know could come in and play that expert role in the way that that she could value, so –
Kim: Maddy do you have a Chief of Staff amongst your Chief of Staff?
Maddy: You know it’s a good question. I don’t formally have a chief of staff and there have been a lot of times where I’ve thought that I need one. I actually, i have a handful of people who played different Chief of Staff like roles for me so I have someone on my team who leads operations and so she handles a lot of things I would otherwise be doing, whether it’s you know writing an article or putting something up on the website or collecting information from our client’s things like that, and then I also have an executive coach who, you know plays that sort of a partner role for me that a Chief of Staff often does. But I’ll be honest that as we’re growing I’m thinking more and more that I should pull in one of my people to start acting as more of a formal Chief of Staff.
Kim: Do you have a typical day?
Maddy: Yeah. You know it’s funny, that has changed over the course of running the business so as I said I’ve been doing it for about a year and a half. And initially I was still doing a decent amount of client work with the woman who was my former boss. And I have over time sort of scaled back on that, because I wanted the ability to spend my time differently to grow the business. And so I found other Chiefs of Staff on my team who could support that organization. And I’ve been sort of slowly literally over the course of a year extricating myself from that and I still haven’t fully there’s still some projects that I lean in on. But it’s not to be sort of hard hours. The one thing that helped me make that decision was that we as a family decided to spend some time abroad, this past winter. So we left in January and went to South America on sort of a crazy family road trip and I knew that it would be hard at moments on that trip to find Internet connection in some of the places we were. So at that point I tried to sort of fully extricate myself from that client work but because you know when you’ve worked with someone for eight years, you just have a really close relationship and sometimes you have knowledge that you know the new person doesn’t have and so it was it was hard to fully pull myself out of it, but it was a good sort of reason that pushed me. So back to your original question, client work is very little of my time now, but in the early days it was more. The other things the ways that I spend my time are doing business development and that can look like a lot of different things. It can be content marketing online, it can be you know catching up with old colleagues going to networking events and meeting new collaborators. It can be doing things like going on podcasts. You know there’s a really wide range of business development type work that I’m doing and then I also spend a decent amount of my time building our team so I have someone who leads talent, but I always interview all of our Chiefs of Staff before we add them to our pool. So that’s important to me both to know them personally and also to ensure there are a great fit for us. And then I do a decent amount of work with clients whether that’s our current clients and making sure that they’re getting what they need from our team and also prospective clients and meeting with them and really helping understand their needs and seeing if we’re a good match for them.
Kim: Maddy, is there a difference between a virtual assistant and chief of staff?
Maddy: Yeah, yeah there is! And it’s funny because the most often reason we turn away a potential client is because what they really need is an Executive Assistant or a Virtual Assistant and the difference for me, they’re similar in that they both support a leader and they both do that in a really personal way. But the Virtual Assistant often does that on a more tactical basis so they might be doing more things like, setting up calendar appointments or booking flights or doing things like that. And the Chief of Staff is focused more on working with the leader to help set their personal strategic priorities, and helping make sure their time is aligned with that. So oftentimes a Chief of Staff really works hand in hand with an Executive Assistant to say: “Okay, what is our leader doing this week? What do we need to make sure that she is prepared for all of her meetings and pieces like that?” And then the Chief of Staff will also lead a lot of big strategic projects for a leader. So there might be a project that is sort of goes across an organization doesn’t naturally sit within one of the teams, and so they can often play the role of you know, setting out work plans and setting deadlines and deliverables and then making sure that you know all of the stakeholders involved, are meeting expectations and are moving aligned towards that. We also do, i mean a little bit of everything but the kitchen sink. So there’s a lot of different ways that we directly support a CEO. So sometimes we do meeting preparation and follow up, we often do a lot of communications on their behalf, so it might be drafting newsletters or pitched X. It might be writing speech notes. Oftentimes we create PowerPoint presentations or other things like that. So there’s a lot of ways that we support the CEO. And then also I think a Chief of Staff will sometimes jump in to things like hiring or budget creation or you know any number of things that a CEO might otherwise be doing themselves.
Kim: Can you hear me over here drooling?
Maddy: [Laughing] No, I think everyone needs a Chief of Staff.
Kim: I don’t think I know, holy cow! So let’s just say we’re talking about one of your startup clients. When would be the right time for them to hire a Chief of Staff versus hiring a Virtual Assistant? Is it a chicken or the egg type of scenario?
Maddy: Yeah, I mean I think one of the ways to test for that is for the CEO to sit down and look at the ways that they’re spending their time and imagine the ideal world of how they would be spending their time and what’s the difference there. Like if, I should be spending my time you know, on business development and I’m spending time booking a lot of flights to different events or you know going back and forth with people to get them on my calendar. That’s the type of thing where it might make more sense to get a Virtual Assistant or a leverage technology that can do that for you. You know calendar setting appointments or things like that. If on the other hand I as a CEO needs someone who is sort of a critical thought partner. Someone who can take the vision that I have in my head because most startup leaders are really visionary people, right? But oftentimes they’re not sort of operationally focused or right like systems focused. And so a Chief of Staff is someone who really thinks in that space and it’s like ok: “This is what you’re trying to do or what you’re trying to create. Let’s map out what you need to get there and how that should happen”. So there’s someone who can really help bring a level of strategic approach to a leader’s vision to bring that to reality.
Kim: I’m blown away, seriously. I may, well, I hope I never try to pretend like I have it all together because I most certainly do not. However, oh this is just of many conversations. It’s all I’ve got to say. [Laughing] Oh thank you, I mean I just I really really love the role personally on a on a personal level I really like being a Chief of Staff and I’m just seen what a difference it can make to leaders whether it’s in a full time role, or even you know just 5 hours a week can create a leverage that can give someone the space to focus where they need to focus and also just to have that time to sort of breathe and step back and be strategic in ways that most of us because we’re buried in our inbox or other things, don’t sort of prioritize finding that time and having someone who can both sort of hold you accountable to achieving those priorities and be a tool to get things off your plate so that you can focus on that. It’s just really great benefit, all yours.
Kim: Breathe, and step back, I didn’t know it could exist!
Maddy: We all love moments to do that. ( Laughing )
Kim: Oh my gosh! I, actually this past weekend, did not touch what I will call my official work computer the whole weekend. So-
Maddy: -good for you!
Kim: Yeah, and-
Maddy: -feels good, doesn’t it?
Kim: Oh absolutely. However, I mean coming in listeners were recording on a Monday coming in today and seeing that my Skype basically blew up this past weekend. I was a little bit: “ohh!” But, yeah, but- I,it was probably actually the first weekend that I have not had guilt for doing what needed to be done and spend time with my family and I’m not ashamed to admit at all. But my four year old daughter had to play Mario and the Super Nintendo a couple of signal.
Maddy: [Laughing] I love it!
Maddy: So I mean she and I were playing Mario this weekend. Was it a great use of time? Ah, Yes. I would have to say most definitely because it was not putting my work before my kids for a whole weekend which has never been done before.
Maddy: [ Laughing] It’s amazing! We all have to carve out that time where we can make it happen.
Kim: Absolutely! And I know this is positive productivity where I share with listeners all the time about how important it is to step away and spend time with family and I have had those blocks but I’ve never had the whole weekend. So maybe it was just meant to be that we talk today because now I’m seeing that possibility of: “Oh my gosh, I did it for a weekend maybe I start doing it for one or two or three days during the week when I’m working on business development.” I want to go back though and talk about Virtual Assistants versus Chief of Staff because one of the things that I ran into a lot when I was a Virtual Assistant was that I have the listeners have heard about it chronic idea disorder where I constantly have ideas. I’m a strategist. I’m definitely a strategist. And there were definitely some clients who did not want to hear. No, just do what I told you to do and just get it done. But it sounds to me, like a Chief of Staff would be, well actually would have been like a perfect role for me because there probably would have been more opportunities to use that side. But would you say that that’s more along the line to put the offer and can they offer the suggestions or even just work with the team to get it done?
Maddy: Yeah! I think it’s it’s definitely all of that. I think you know the best Chiefs of Staff meet the needs of their leader, right? So if their leader is someone who also has you know chronic idea disorder, and is like overflowing with ideas, maybe more ideas is gonna overwhelm that person or maybe it will excite and energize that person, right? So you know I think it’s knowing what the client wants, and knowing when to push back on the client or when to, you know really encourage them to think about the ideas that you’re putting forth whether that’s like a crazy new idea they could use in their business or, like here’s an idea of a system that’s gonna to make your life as a leader way easier, because we’re going to streamline things and you’re not going to sort of be doing duplicate work or things that are just inefficient, right? So you just sort of save time in the overall pie of time.
Kim: Oh yeah! Definitely I have told my assistant and also my graphic designer that these are the two things that we are working on right now. And if I ask you to do anything else that’s not for a client if I ask you to do also this for me, please tell me no, because we need to get these done.
Maddy: Done, right!
Kim: Right I’m tired of having as I’m sure many other entrepreneurs are. I’m tired of having a whole lot of ninety five percent complete projects
Kim: And not having the 100% complete once. So-
Maddy: -yeah! And it’s so helpful to have someone you like hold you accountable for that right? Like, and to say: “no, we’re gonna to do this, and I’m gonna help you sort of achieve your goal of getting this done” all the way 100%.
Kim: Oh yeah, and I realized it took a good three and a half four years to realize that all those Well, I had to also admit that a lot of those projects said I was not finishing, I was just not passionate about. I was chasing income rather than chasing impact. I didn’t even know what my brand was. And by the way, listeners, this is episode 232 so you can find the show notes and resources and tools and everything we talk about at TheKimSutton.com/PP232. However the week that we’re releasing this is actually one episode 200 is going live, and I can’t believe I actually brought up with my husband this week and I can’t believe that I made it this far in a project.
Maddy: It’s amazing!
Kim: Yeah, I mean the biggest project I have to say that I’ve ever tackled before now, my wedding dress!
Maddy: We’ve got it!
Kim: It was not, like it was not at all like a conventional wedding dress but I couldn’t find one that I liked so I knitted it. It only took me a month because it was fairly simple. Listeners if I can find a good picture I’ll put one in the show notes and then knitting blankets for my kids and some of them have nothing that small, but you know those are the most major projects they’ve ever finished. I have not finished a project in my business before, that was not a website.
Maddy: Great! [Laughing]
Kim: Is that right? So, it’s yeah I would definitely need somebody to hold me accountable and just say hold that, are you sure that you wanted me to start on this? Because I thought we were working on getting this done. Fine.
Maddy: Yeah, yeah.
Kim: What are some of the best tools that your Chief of Staffs, how do you pluralize that?
Maddy: [Laughing] I say Chiefs of Staffs [Laughing]
Kim: Chiefs of Staffs, thank you. This grammar i am not familiar yeah, and your clients use to stay organized. Do you tend to use one project management system within your organization for your clients, or?
Maddy: Yeah, so we tend to try to integrate ourselves into an organizations existing systems. If they have them and if they’re working for them. So for example with one of our clients, they use Asana and they do a great job of that. And so we just add ourselves in an Asana profile we assign tasks to people in there and it works really well. So that is a great one. There are a number of other ones out there and we use a lot of Google Docs even just within our own organization. We like them because they’re great for collaborating. So if you’re creating you know, a document together or a spreadsheet you can do that in real time together and see what the other person’s editing et cetera. That’s another tool that we use a lot. One of the things our team uses just in our work with clients that might be interesting to other people who do you know client base work is an app called toggle and it’s just an online time tracking system. But what’s nice is you could assign, you can have different clients and you can have different projects under different clients. And so you just say okay I’m working on the budget now and you just click the button on their web app and it starts tracking your time and when you’re done you just press stop. And at the end of the month it just creates a report for you of how you spend your hours and it’s just really easy way to track time. That’s another thing that could be helpful to other sort of consultants or service businesses.
Kim: Oh I love that. I use Harvest for invoicing and time tracking personally. And I love how I can invoice retainers to clients.
Kim: And it will just for me and for team members and it will count the time that’s tracked against their retainer so that we can keep up to date on how much time is remaining and then we use Trello here. I used to be a Sona but… but the cards which I know a Sona now does. But I loved the cards in Trello. How important are SOP’s or standard operating procedures?
Maddy: So I think there are a few things that we try to create a consistent client experience in a few different ways but at the end of the day, I think we try to be responsive to our clients’ needs, right? And they’re so so vastly different that it’s hard to sort of have a really fixed, you know set of operating procedures the things that I would say we do consistently we try to do the time tracking piece pretty consistently or like the expectations around that are pretty consistent. We also have a resource that we use with all of our new clients called a comprehensive needs assessment, where it’s sort of a set of you know eight different buckets of work that we could lead for a client and a bunch of questions in each bucket and then that really helps us understand. I mean often clients will come to us and say OK have these three things that I think you need help with. But they don’t necessarily realize other ways that we could help them and so the needs assessment really helps source out what are, you know the things that are holding this leader back from being where they want to be or how are they spending their time differently than they want to be spending it and how can we fit in there. And then what are some of the other organizational challenges that they might be having, so maybe they just started working with a new accountant and they need someone to be a liaison with them and they haven’t thought about a chief of staff playing that role. Going through this needs assessment will help them sort of know what different things we can do for them and also really helps us map out how we’re going to spend our time together. So typically clients will opt in to a different number of hours of support each month, so they might want 20 hours of a chief of staff per month or they might want 80. So that helps us think. OK well if I have you know 10 hours a week to spend with you. These are the types of things that we’re gonna be working on to move forward.
Kim: I’m glad I was muted because I started laughing about you know what does this person need the most help with? My biggest struggle comes in the 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. time bar..
Kim: When my kids are getting home from school, my older two.
Maddy: Yeah, its really hard. [laughing]
Kim: And just –
Maddy: This is why I work at a coworking space instead of at home because I can’t get anything done. But I’m lucky.
Kim: See,co-work? Co-working would not work for me because even though I’m introvert I love to talk, so I don’t get distracted easily.
Kim: And I would be so distracted by the conversations going around.
Maddy: Great!I have to, we have like a quiet side of our coworking space when I need to just pound through things like go hide over there and then people know they’re like oh, you’re heads down okay, I’ll leave you out.
Kim: Yeah,don’t bother. Well for some reason that just doesn’t work in my house.
Kim: So, well, I mean I can have my office door shut and I’ll be recording a podcast and I finally had to turn off my scheduler for the 3:00 to 5:00-time bar because they’ll actually stand there knocking at the door.
Maddy: Well like hello, I can’t get up and answer the door right now! [laughing]
Kim: Yeah, its like boys, you have straight A’s on your report card. So what part of closed door and, mom is recording sign on the door, do you not quite understand? So I would love to hear what the chief of staff has to say.
Kim: Hi, I’m Ray. Over the phone. Sometimes it’s like the only thing. So actually on standard operating procedures, I love how you know that you recognize that what you have in your business may not necessarily work for every client but I was actually more so wondering if your chiefs of staff help their clients create S-O-P’s.
Maddy: Oh, yeah! It’s a good question. Yeah, I mean I don’t know that we wouldn’t call them that per se but I think absolutely sort of the concept behind them we do. So for example right now we’re working with a documentary film company in New York City, and they have an operations team that has been you know, under some of the transitions and they wanted someone to come in and just help them do sort of an assessment of their operations. And as they think about different projects they’re gonna be working on you know like what is sort of the standard procedure to be moving forward with those things and helping you know create those systems and then getting their team aligned with them so that everybody sort of marching to the same drummer.
Kim: Yeah, I can see how it would be so beneficial there. I even realized that I was doing so much of my own that when I hired somebody to help me, I fell into the same pit that so many entrepreneurs do where they think that is just going to take so much more time to train to know how to do it. However if I had just created some videos to show how it’s done, then I could have just turned it over.
Kim: Now in the spirit of positive productivity, I recorded my videos and then realized that I had accidently turned my microphone..
Maddy: My goodness!
Kim: So it recorded all the video and then it didn’t get the audio so I mean and that was four weeks ago. I haven’t gone back and it’s actually my podcast flow of all things. There’s so much time here that I should not be doing, but just because number one, I don’t have the time to train somebody in person and number two, because I have taken the time.
Maddy: Well,and I think, like delegating is actually really hard. Like you think oh it’s gonna freak me out but then you realize Oh well there’s all these pieces that I have to do to make sure that goes well. And I think we play a big role in helping sort of coach are the leaders we work with to be better delegates and to be willing to give things up. I mean I’ll say we lost a client at one point because she just couldn’t give things up to us like she just didn’t know how to release control in some ways. And so I think like she went back and forth in her head like how does it make sense for this person do that or not and here’s all the reasons it would be good or not good. I swear the amount of time she’s been thinking about it. Had she just like actually said OK we’re gonna give this a try. Here’s like all the things you need to know would have you know saved her hours and hours of her life. And so we try to work with her and coach her and help her get there. But it’s hard.
Kim: Oh absolutely. And I don’t mean that, Oh I’m totally ready to delegate. But it’s just a matter of always finding something else to go in that time because I fall victim to whatever notice coughing up has popped up on my scorecard turn them off. Yeah I need to do this I need to do that. And actually I would have to say that last night, Sunday night after my littles went to bed, I actually wrote down in my calendar this whole week and blocked out time to get things done this week so that I can’t use it as an excuse again.
Maddy: Yeah it’s huge. It’s huge to do that. You can make a huge day and then you just have to actually do it and not get sucked into some e-mail chain with someone. Which is what I operate. I’m like oh, wait I was going to accomplish this today. Let’s get back on track.
Kim: Right. I think it’s well it’s almost 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon and I have looked at my e-mail once today, which is an accomplishment.
Maddy: Good job, yeah.
Kim: And yeah. and that was a thank you, but I, I can only imagine, I mean now knowing that somebody else was maintaining that so that there’s no emergencies, there should never be emergencies. But let’s just be real people, have a great way of breaking stuff. They just do or forgetting to set something up. I felt guilty of it especially in what I do when I’m not doing positive productivity digital marketing. Who knows if LeadPages went down while I was recording this and now I have to go in and shut off 1800 Facebook Apps. You know, or just make sure that when the client said that they published a campaign that they actually publish, share an Infusionsoft, because clients have been seen not to do that too. But all those little things can be sort of scary. And if I didn’t have to be doing my podcast activities because I would actually have taken the time to create those videos then it would be a little bit more under control. So thank you for that additional kick in the bum to get back to it. Yeah. We all do. What’s the most inspirational book you’ve read in the past couple of years?
Maddy: Good question. The one that was really like fundamentally changed the way I thought about creating my business was a four hour work week. And I feel like a lot of people talk about that book and have sort of like, take it a little too literally like I’ve never had any intention of only working four hours a week. But I think what it made me think of differently, was you know thinking about the business as my time versus thinking about it as sort of creating something and leveraging other people’s time to do the work that I could serve maybe four or five clients total if it were me and with my pool of chiefs of staff we could serve hundreds, right? And so I think it both you know financially makes sense and also from a perspective of you know providing a service that a lot of great benefit we can just benefit a lot more people. And you know personally for me it allows I’m not working for hour weeks. I won’t say but it allows for me to have the freedom to live life on my own terms which for me right now means when we go abroad for long stretches of time I work a lot, lots! I work you know maybe 10 or 20 hours a week and then when we’re back in the States and in the cold Wisconsin winter right now I don’t mind you know working 40 or more hour weeks to sort of build up the business so that when we have those stretches of travel you know I can scale back a little bit and that like just the idea of focusing on what your business means for your life in a tangible way. And you know we’re entrepreneurs we are all going to work hard. But you know giving the space to have that freedom has been fundamental. And I can’t say enough about creating a virtual business and giving that free on both to myself but also to all the people who work for me. You know they can work from anywhere they can work on the hours that work for them and for their clients. And you know I think that is you know as I get to this stage in my life where I’m a mom and you know I know that I’m you know life is short and I want to really maximize today, right? And I don’t want to wait until I’m retired to go see the world or to go you know pursue my passions outside of work.
Kim: I just want to take my honeymoon with my husband that I’ve been married to for almost six years. Sometime in the next decade. Yes. I mean I’ve been married twice and I have not got to get on honeymoon.
Maddy: It’s hard, i’m sorry.
Maddy: Find your time with all your kids.
Kim: Yeah definitely. Ok, I have a couple last questions. Do you give your cell phone number to clients?
Maddy: Yeah. You know it’s funny I just had a conversation with my executive coach about this actually because I was debating whether to put my schedule calendaring link in my signature. And that turned into a conversation about what is in my signature, which in the past has included my personal cell phone on our Website. I have a Google Voice number, which comes to my cell phone. So it’s effectively the same thing. But when it comes and it has sort of a message before the person hops on, so I know that it’s from a work call. So she actually encouraged me to use that number in my, in my signature. So I just started doing that although I imagine clients will have my regular cell number anyways. But I think you know creating a little space so that not everyone has it who I happen to e-mail with is probably not a bad idea.
Maddy: But I do want people to be able to reach me whenever they need to but people don’t tend to call in this day and age. I mean me at least my clients most of them just e-mail. And if you’re responsible of an e-mail that’s fine right. And identity.
Kim: Yeah. And then that leads me to my last question. How do you set up healthy boundaries for work versus personal time?
Maddy: For me it’s just setting expectation for what moment I’m in. So as I said when we travel, I really try to limit the number of hours that I work and I’m not overly prescriptive about that. Like if I need to work a bunch to make something happen, I will work a bunch to make it happen. But as a rule I know that I don’t. You know I want to spend a few hours working in the morning and then go do an activity with my kids in the afternoon or you know when we’re here over the summer, I said I’m not going to work on Wednesdays. I just want to spend that time with my kids. They’re out for the summer. You know I want one day a week to just be with me and them. So things like that help me create those boundaries and I don’t, I always save those sort of dinnertime hours between dinner and bedtime to be with the kids I don’t work I don’t look at my phone. It’s a way so that you know we can be really present with them. And that’s been great. And I don’t work at home on the weekends which I think is also important for our work life balance and sanity.
Kim: Definitely. Yeah I’ve been reserving the five to eight thirty sought for my family with the exception of one night when I have a mastermind an accountability call with a group, and that has been amazing. Dinner has been getting burnt less often that’s just awesome. Don’t worry. Maddy, i i want to thank you so much for having spent so much time with us today. Where can listeners find you online and connect and get to know more about you?
Maddy: So our website is www.virtualchiefofstaff.com. and we set up a special page for this podcast which is /+ and there, people can find a download about what a chief of staff does in more detailed than we talked about today. They can also find more information about the ways that we work with clients, and our blog there has just a lot of interesting content for leaders to think about their own productivity and efficiency and the chief of staff role and whether it might be a good fit for their organization.
Kim: Ah, so listeners again, in case you’re driving right now you can find everything that we’ve talked about including the tools, books and everything at thekimsutton.com/PP232. Maddy, thank you again, my mind is blown, I can’t wait to connect with you again after this. At some point. Do you have a last piece a parting advice or a golden nugget that you can offer to listeners?
Maddy: Yeah, well I think even if someone doesn’t hire a Chief of Staff or doesn’t think they need one right now, I think a really important exercise for everyone to do is to really think about the ways that you’re spending your time, and how you want that to look different. And if you haven’t taken the time to set personal strategic priorities for yourself, what are the things you want to accomplish? That’s a really important exercise to do so, if you do that and then you subsequently revisit that and think about that as you’re planning out your week or planning out your day and say okay how am I going to stay centered in my priorities and not get distracted by everything around me that can really help you be efficient and think about how you can delegate other pieces of the work that you feel like you shouldn’t be doing. So whether you’re delegating it to a chief of staff, or a virtual assistant, or you know your accountant or whatever other person is supporting you in various ways, just thinking about what you can get off your plate to free up that space where you can just spend time thinking or being strategic is really important as a leader.