Scaling Through Delegation with Moniquea AllenMay 11, 2022
Q. How did you get to the point where you are now running this complete executive assistant firm? What’s the journey been like?
I am originally from the great island of Jamaica, but I grew up in New York. I took about 2 years off after working in finance. It was a lot of hedge funds and compliance risk work. It never really felt like a fit for my soul. Finances can be very “dog eat dog” and that didn’t sit well with me.
I was trying to find my place in being present with my family, but also working and feeling like I was doing something that felt meaningful. That’s what really started the journey of me asking myself, “Mo, what do you do? What can you do well?” My degrees have always been administrative and lots of socially related and this opportunity and idea, pretty much fell in my lap.
One day, I randomly saw a virtual masterclass for virtual assistance and I was like, I can do this in my sleep! This is what I do. I went from taking the Masterclass with this wonderful woman named “Shanna?”, to being hired by her, to making one post in a FaceBook group and got seven clients from that one post. Within one month, I was fully booked and busy.
It’s been a fantastic journey of figuring out what works and what doesn’t work and making adjustments along the way, but here we are!
Q. What were the symptoms for you that being in the financial space wasn’t working?
I think our initial response is to leave when things get uncomfortable, but uncomfortable doesn’t mean you need to exit. There may be things you need to change and so I tried that first. I went from managing hedge fund clients to compliance, it was something totally different. But everyday felt like I was living in a Monday meme, where you’re being dragged into work on Monday mornings. It felt like a death. You have to get up and go to this place that didn’t feel like it was feeding me, growing me, and I couldn’t quite figure out what it was, but I knew that something wasn’t aligned.
So I think the message in that is:
- Evaluate yourself and find the misalignment. It could be you. Take the time to figure out what is misaligned. Is it the environment, is it a particular segment of the business.
- Honor the fact that you’re changing and that it’s ok to shift. It’s ok to do something totally different. I don’t work in finance now and that’s where I’ve worked my entire corporate career.
- Be willing to shift before you make a swift exit.
Q. What do you tell people who are trying to start a business? They are needing to find a skill that they are passionate about and can execute on right away, but where do they start?
- Inward work. Assess yourself to find out what is a deal-breaker. It’s probably something you could do, but don’t want to do. Find out what you can do in your sleep and be happy while doing it. What lights you up?
Oftentimes we attach dollar values and the ability to see other people in that space. Sometimes, it’s up to you to create your own lane. Don’t discount your idea because you haven’t seen it.
- Learn a new skill. Find out about courses being offered in the field of interest. Google offers world renowned certificates for free. I registered for free digital marketing courses. LinkedIn and Coursera have courses.
After taking all these different courses, I realized I still didn’t know how to interact and apply what I learned to my business and working directly with clients. After taking the Masterclass with Shanna, she offered me an internship and it was so valuable!
- Find a mentor. Find someone who is in your field or in something similar, but even if they’re not, find someone who is in business and can guide you or provide resources. They provide invaluable advice that I’m glad I took. That internship turned into a friendship and she became my first client and guided me along the way. She taught me that I need an invoicing system and taught me about the other tools that entrepreneurs use. These were things that I would have otherwise spent hours googling.
Q. Tell us about what LBE Solutions has evolved into that allows you to better serve entrepreneurs and business owners now.
We started, literally, doing a little bit of everything. Social media management, creating graphics, and I slowly learned that it was not what I wanted to do. I had people in my corner who said, ‘It’s ok to shift if that’s not what you want to do’. Sometimes we can be so married to the idea of something that we’ll stay and be miserable, but that felt very much like corporate and why I left.
I realized that this was my business and I get to say ‘No’ and make a different decision for myself and so I did.
Q. Practically speaking, how did you more deeply align with the business you wanted to be and what did that feel like?
I think I knew once I found that I could no longer juggle all these things. It usually starts there for me, or I miss things and I see that things are not flowing and I have to assess myself. I’m really good at looking inward and making that assessment that shows me that the work doesn’t align with me today and I have to figure out how to proceed. When I don’t like the way something feels, I shift. I want to live my best life and sometimes that means that I don’t get to bring in the big bucks.
So to summarize, you do that evaluation of self and then you figure out what’s most important. For me, it was the time I get to spend with my family and getting to feel like the boss. I love to feel in charge so when I’m doing things that don’t align with that, I know it. What I have found when I stop and realign myself, everything starts working in my favor. I don’t market myself very much and when I align myself, people just come to me. I attract the right clients.
My life follows the visual of the meme about God and the little girl with the tiny teddy bear. If she would just let go of the little one, God would give her an even bigger one. When I get out o f my own way, and align myself with what feels right in my spirit, everything flows in and it’s easy. In the moments where I feel like it’s painful and forget that I’ve never lacked or been in need, I remind myself of those things and let go knowing that better will come.
Q. What about entrepreneurship attracted you? How did you know it was time for you to go into business versus taking your incredible skills to a corporation?
That’s a great question and something I still ask myself now. Entrepreneurship can be lonely if you allow it to be. It can also be scary, but the word that sticks out to me is freedom. I don’t know how much men experience this, especially dads, but there is a pressure on women to be present in all places when you’re a mother. I feel like the school system and the powers that be aren’t really set up to support that. I can’t go to a school concert at 10:30 in the morning if I worked a regular job. I have the freedom to join the PTA and do all these things for my family and still be the boss and feel like I am being impactful. For me, entrepreneurship was the only way I saw that happening and it wasn’t new to me because I had owned a t-shirt business and done other things and it was natural.
Q. How do you carve out a really intentional integration of being a parent-preneur?
I did it really bad in the beginning, Justin. Those getting up at 3 am and getting back to work weren’t working for me. I have a really good friend who owns a well-being company, Evok Like, and she will often ask these questions of me that get me in alignment. In the beginning, I didn’t really know what it took. I pull my all in it and jumped in head first. Now, I know better. I experience the exhaustion of doing it by myself, so I brought people on to my team and I set some protected time. I knew I wanted to take my son to school in the morning, which means I can’t have meetings before 9:30 AM. It became an anchor and a pillar that I have to honor because sometimes we get too lenient and say, ‘Oh I’ll do it!’, but no, I have to honor the time I’ve set.
I set meeting times for specific hours because I like to pick up my kids and go get ice cream with them, so I have a two hour window open for my kids. I have aligned myself in a way that my schedule reflects what’s important to me and I also set an end time. I understand the hustle culture, but I don’t wanna hustle anymore. I wanna live my life and bring my kids with me. I bring my son to the office and in the summer, my daughter, who is older, interns with me and she loves it!
Q. Where do you see entrepreneurs getting stuck in terms of starting a business, but they keep hitting a ceiling?
It’s not that people aren’t willing to delegate, I think many times they don’t think what they’re doing is something they can delegate and it feels like, ‘I’m the only one that can do this thing if I want it done well’.
To Get Unstuck
- You need to write out your process and figure out what is something in the process that would only take you approximately 30 minutes to an hour to teach someone else.
It is ok to delegate. There is no business that exists and is successful because one person is doing it all. What I’ve noticed lately, and have asked my clients is whether they need an employee or do they need a contractor? You need someone that works for you and one comes with a lot of ownership and one comes with just accomplishing these pieces. Both are valuable and necessary, but you have to be able to identify which is necessary and get out of your own way.
- Be willing to have someone on your team who can tell you ‘No’.
I do brain dump days with clients because I feel like our minds, as entrepreneurs, are constantly racing. You’ve got so many great ideas and pieces to the puzzle, and you really need some time. Sometimes you just need to speak it and have another set of eyes on it that say, ‘we can accomplish this and that before moving on to another piece. You need someone who can say, ‘I see where you’re going, but I think there’s a better way.
Q. What’s your experience been with doing only the things that you’re the highest and best suited for?
People who are watching the interview, you are watching what Justin does best, but what you don’t see is what goes on in the background that he doesn’t have to do because he has a team. We’re setting up the interviews, the links, putting them on the calendar and following up on logos and headshots. These are the things that aren’t his highest and greatest. He needs to be prepared for this interview as well as building other things.
One of the first things we did when he began to systemize his process was find out what it looked like and how we could take it off his plate. I think everyone has to start at the place where they’re doing it, unless you come into some great seed money for your business. Ultimately, you’re building up to the place of delegation and creating processes.
There are so many resources to get support and internships and you’ll know when the time has come to get that help.
Q. For someone on a tight budget and doesn’t have a lot of extra capital in their business, but they’re wanting to move some pieces off their plate, where do they start? How do they know which of these tasks could be moved off their plate?
- Assessment. Write it down. I am a firm believer in pen and paper or a whiteboard. Give yourself a braindump.
- What can you take some time (30 min to 1 hr) to teach someone else? We don’t often think of it that way, but if we thought about what would give you BACK 30 minutes or an hour? It would free your plate to prepare for other things. An investment with a massive ROI. (Return on Investment)
Q. How do you identify some of those high leverage pieces?
I’m gonna tell you how I did it the opposite way. When you’re an entrepreneur today, everyone thinks you should be on social media, in all the places, all the time and that’s not practical. I found that for me, I can go on canva and create a dope graphic. It'll take me a while, but I can do it. I had to assess and hire a social media team and I’m spending money, but wasn’t seeing a return on investment and I had to ask myself why. It’s because I don’t get my clients on social media. That’s not how my business works and so instead of spending my money on that, I can bring someone on to help me with administration and on-boarding my clients. I can’t stress enough for my clients to do that internal work. I set it on the calendar to do once a month, once a quarter, etc.
You get to a point in your business where you can’t do all the admin and social media and whatnot, so you now need someone to hold your ladder.
Q. Tell me more about that ladder analogy.
So as the visionary, you can only go so high without someone to support your ladder. Have you ever seen someone paint the side of their house alone? Imagine if you had somebody at the bottom holding it and being that support. As you grow, you can’t be everything. You need someone stabilizing you and it starts with that self assessment.
If you’re a life coach, you don’t need to do all the preparation work. There are people out there who enjoy doing all the tasks you don’t enjoy or simply don’t have time for. Let them do it!
Q. When it comes to delegation and building a team, what are some of the ways that can keep you healthy as you go forward?
- Make assessments to ensure you’re prepared to scale.
Scaling requires having the time to train people as well as the money to pay people as you scale. Otherwise, it isn’t gonna work. The time portion is very important because you have to teach the person you’re bringing on how to do things your way. If you don’t have time, however, scaling is gonna lead you to burnout eventually because you’ll be double and triple checking things behind them. Ultimately, you have to find the balance between what you’re able to do financially and time wise and knowing what needs to be done.
- Make use of productivity systems and tools for automation.
A lot of burnout stems from fear of new systems and tools and a lot of entrepreneurship is those systems and tools. What I bring some on to do or even do myself, a system could do that in two seconds. Automation solves a lot of burnout. It takes time on the front end, but saves you in the long run.
Q. You said there are people who can do it better than you, what are the times when it’s still worth it to get someone who isn’t necessarily better than you to take it off your plate?
It stems back to what you said before about that highest and greatest and being ok with letting it go. I may word something to my client differently, like, ‘ I hope you had a fantastic weekend’ and the person I bring on may just get straight to business. I’m not going to spend time correcting their style of addressing clients just because it’s different from mine. As long as the task is getting done efficiently and the clients are receiving what they need, I’m good.
Q. Delegation is a practice. Practical leadership wise, talk about that leadership period that gets you moving forward and not taking the load back on yourself.
I think we do a good job in corporate america talking about the leadership aspect and managing people and teams, but we don’t talk about it enough as entrepreneurs because we think entrepreneurship is a one man job. You have to be able to lead and teach your people. One of the things that I love about working with you and starting our meetings is that we first assess the state of our soul.
When the ball gets dropped and mistakes happen in delegated work, it helps to understand where there may be a misalignment in their lives or a miscommunication of instructions that explains why the error occurred to begin with. Maybe there is a training that they’re in need of. People managing is important and as an entrepreneur building a team, you have to have those leadership skills.
One question I always ask my team is, “How can I support you?” I’m always willing to invest in training and tools.
Q. What do you wish you knew at the start of your journey that you know now?
- I wish I knew I needed a team.
- I wish I knew all the things I’m telling you.
- I wish I knew that I didn’t have to do everything just because everyone else was doing it.
- I wish I knew I could own it and make it my own even though I didn’t see anyone else doing it.
- I wish I knew it was ok to not be ok.
- How to shift and to stop. There was a season where I took no clients.
Q. Talk more about being ok with not being ok.
I am a recovering superwoman because I don’t wear that ‘S’ on my chest anymore. There was literally a season of months where I let go of clients because it wasn’t good for me anymore. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I stopped. I had a season of being able to figure it out for myself and it was scary because no one advises you not to take clients and figure it out. But I needed it. Human first, business second. I learned that from you, Justin, and I apply that in every other space in my life.
Q. Did you have to look at your pricing in order to hire/delegate or did your pricing already have enough cushion to make the change?
I did not want to bring anyone on and pay them pennies. I wanted to pay my people a living wage. As a result, I shifted what I was offering and the price point of them, but not in a way that was a shock. Ever since I started, every two or three clients (every couple of quarters), my price changes and that’s because I have gained a new set of tools and knowledge. I have become more valuable. Yesterday’s price is not today’s price. It is the growth from that that showed me that I can bring on someone new to work with me.
- Price increase for a service
- Creating new ways where price stays the same or goes down, but also, your time investment goes down.
Q. Where can everybody find you?
I’m on Instagram @lbesolutions, www.LBESolutions.com, or you can email me at [email protected]
Click below to watch the full interview!
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