Could your ego be getting in the way of you achieving the success you desire? Are you a perfectionist or are you recovering from that disease? Too often, perfectionist managers take on the work on their team, rather than setting aside their ego and believing they may even do it better than you. In this episode of the Manager Mojo Podcast, Marcia Hoeck, business expert and owner of A Purposeful Business, shares the insights and lessons that have allowed her to flourish in business. Wrapped around the importance of delegation and decision making, you’ll hear a fun (and educational!) story about the TV show Extreme Makeover – Home Edition.
READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE PODCAST HERE:
Steve: Welcome, everybody to the Manager Mojo Podcast and I’m pleased to say that my guest today is Marcia Hoeck who, for twenty-five years, was the owner of a leading marketing-communications firm in Toledo, Ohio with branches in Detroit and Phoenix. Now Marcia not only lives what she teaches, but she teaches a lot of people on how to be a great manager and a great leader. She started out as a graphic designer and after finding the details of running a business kind of tedious she set out to develop simple methods to take the complexity out of the way her business ran. The result was that she created a terrific team of people who stayed for the long term, profitable clients that came back year after year and a very manageable, lighter-than-average workload with great flexibility in her successful business. After selling the assets of her firm, Marcia now helps make business easy for others through coaching and consulting, and she often speaks on business-building topics. I’m so glad that she’s with us today. Marcia, thank-you very much for being on the show.
Marcia: Well, thanks, Steve, thanks for inviting me.
Steve: My pleasure! If you don’t mind, tell our listeners a little bit about what you’re doing these days and who you’re teaching.
Marcia: Well, what I’m doing now is working mostly with creative firms or business owners who consider themselves to be creative, which I’ve found pretty much encompasses everyone. However I do focus mostly in the marketing-communications area teaching business owners how to run businesses when, actually, what they really want to do is dig in and do the work themselves. Sometimes that bogs people down and their businesses don’t run as smoothly and they don’t really understand why they’re not moving forward and making the profits they need to make when they’re working in their businesses instead of on their businesses, so that’s what I try to tell help them do, to step back and realize that running a business is running a business and sometimes you need to manage it more than actually, you know, get in there, roll up your sleeves and do the work. So, that’s what I’m doing is working with business owners to help them build their businesses to make more money and, so that they can really, actually enjoy their business.
Steve: Awesome, well, congratulations and what a perfect segue into what we like to talk about on the Manager Mojo Podcast and, the reality is, I find, just like you do, that a lot of times people really don’t understand what it takes to manage people and business successfully, so, if you would, tell us what do you see is probably the biggest mistake that managers make and that business owners make whenever they’re trying to lead people?
Marcia: I think the biggest mistake is not letting go and understanding the different talents that other people have and how they may be different than your own. That letting go is very, very scary. That was the biggest lesson that I had to learn when I grew my own business, but when I learned it and I really understood what it meant, that’s when my business really took off.
Steve: Well, let’s dive into that a little bit because when you talk about ‘letting go’ what that’s implying to me is, actually delegating the proper task to the proper people. Is that what you’re talking about?
Marcia: Absolutely! Absolutely, because as a manager or a business owner we feel responsible and we know the way to do things and, so we want to do it ourselves. It’s very, very hard to let go and to delegate and to think that someone else can do something as well as we can because we’re responsible and, so finding the gems in other people and recognizing those things and encouraging those things can be very difficult for someone who’s really capable of doing all those things themselves.
Steve: Well, it sounds like you’re speaking from a position of maybe you were doing a lot of those things yourself and found out the hard way, am I reading that correctly?
Marcia: Yeah, yeah, absolutely, I am a recovering perfectionist and I did know how to do – at one time – everything in my business. I mean, I started my business from the ground up and I knew all of the chores, all the jobs, all the tasks, all the strategies and I had my way of doing things and so when my business started growing and I needed more people to help me one of the stories that I’m not very proud of is that: I would stay after work, after everyone left, and I would go around – I had a creative firm, so the people who worked for me were graphic designers and they had – this is in the olden days before computers – we had drawing tables and we did things, you know, with magic markers and X-Acto knives and we crafted things, we built things with our hands. After everyone would leave at the end of the day I would go around to their drawing tables and I would redo things. I would put sticky notes all over how they should change things and I would, actually move things and redraw things myself for hours after work and –
Steve: Oh my gosh!
Marcia: I was a single mother! I should’ve been home with my son! Sometimes I would drag him there with me, put him in the corner and have him coloring while I was doing this, which was obviously very labor intensive, it was redundant and then my staff would get in, in the morning and can you imagine how thrilled they were to find out that I had redone all of their work? It was awful. It was awful for them, it was awful for me and it got to a point where the business just grew and grew and I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t, you know, handle it anymore. I didn’t have the time to do it anymore and things had to start going out to clients without me having done that and what I found out, which was a big blow to my ego, was that, guess what? Everything was fine when I didn’t redo everything. So.
Steve: Wow, imagine that.
Marcia: Big lesson. Big lesson for me.
Steve: So, could I say that you found out that you were working all of these hours doing and redoing work that had already been done capably and find out that, wait a minute, you didn’t have to do that?
Marcia: Yes. Now, keep in mind, again, that I said I was a recovering perfectionist, so I had already downloaded, you know, months and months of my way of doing things to these people and I had already beat into their heads, you know, this is how I want things done. There was absolutely no reason for me to be doing all this stuff to them and these people would come to me with great ideas and I would say, “Yes, go ahead and do them.” And then when they would do them I would still feel like I had to put my stamp on them. I had to, you know, my name was on the door, I had to put my stamp on it, but when we got too big for me to do that and things would go out to clients that didn’t have my stamp on it, of course, my staff was thrilled because suddenly their work was being seen. But what also happened was my business grew exponentially – not only financially – but because now we had all these other new ideas going out there, suddenly we not only had Marcia’s Way of Doing Things, but we have Debbie’s Way of Doing Things and Bonnie’s Way of Doing Things and Linda’s Great Insights. Suddenly, the clients were seeing all these great, new insights from other people and I started seeing, “Oh my gosh, some of these things are better than the way I was doing them!” But it was all under that Hoeck Associates umbrella. It all came back to the team, to my company and our expertise and our name in the community started to grow at the same time. It’s like, “That’s a great group of people!” and we started getting more work and growing faster – it was amazing what happened.
Steve: It’s so wonderful that your business actually grew enough that you were faced with making a decision and, you know, I see so many managers that were great individual contributors and they get promoted to manage a team of people and they tend to do this exact same thing. They’re perfectionists, they were perfectionists and that’s what made them really successful as an independent contributor and, now they’ve got all of these people to work with and when you’re always over people and redoing their work, I mean, did you find that created some stress and tension in the communication lines that really didn’t need to be there?
Marcia: Yes, it was very stressful. It was stressful for them and it was stressful for me and once we stopped doing it, I would’ve liked to have said, “I was smart enough to not do it in the beginning.” But I will give myself a little bit of credit to realize once we stopped that it was a good thing for the business and the stress went away because I did back off. I started realizing, okay, not only are we getting more good work because people like what my staff is doing and, in a lot of cases, there were clients who – this was a really big blow to my ego – there were clients who liked what the other people did better than what they liked when I was putting my stamp on it. We got reports back that, “Wow, this work is really improved.” (they laugh)
Steve: I can understand the ego part. To me this is one of those good things that – I’m going to give you a lot of credit – number one that you recognized it and number two that you took action to change it and, then it also seems that what you began to see was that your actual team began to grow because everybody was able to utilize their own strengths and their own talents without fear of somebody saying, you know, that, “That’s just garbage.” And rework it.
Marcia: Exactly! Once I realized how happy they were about the chance that their work was finally being seen without me smothering it, or putting my stamp on it and I saw that the clients were liking it better, which was good for business and I saw that our profits were up, which meant that we were making more money – I was, personally, making more money – and it meant I could go home in the evening and spend time with my son. I couldn’t work around that, there was no way that my ego would allow me to continue – the ego had to be beaten down. I just had to get my ego out of the way at that point and say, “This is good for me. This is good for business. We’re going to change.”
Steve: Wonderful! Well, congratulations for doing that and I want to thank-you for sharing that with our audience because I do know that people everywhere struggle with delegation. It’s tough to just hand a task over to somebody and say, “It’s yours. Do it.” The hard part that I feel people have to do is that they can give them a task, but they’re really reluctant to give them the authority to do that task well. You found that if you gave both the task and the authority that the work improved and that’s an awesome, awesome recognition on your part. When you were recognizing that other people’s work was good and you were delegating, how did that actually affect your own personal productivity?
Marcia: Well, I remember at the time I had a friend who had a very similar business to mine and I was trying to explain it to her – how I had changed my business model – and how I was bringing people on and delegating to them and that freed me up to do other things. I realized my role was changing and that I could then go out and get more work and while they were working I could be working and it was like compounding interest in the bank. She just couldn’t get it. She couldn’t assimilate it and she said, “Well, but if I hire people and delegate to them then I’ll give up control and I’ll have to pay them and it just sounds like I’ll lose control of my whole business.” Meanwhile, I was skipping down Happy Street thinking how wonderful this was all working out for my business. It allowed me to recognize my own strengths, which was in – I’m really good at getting a hold of complex subjects and breaking them down into understandable bite-sized chunks that can be communicated and that’s what my clients liked about me. Now when I was actually doing the work I would take that further and implement that into, you know, graphic design and communications vehicles, but the thing that I was actually best at was the thinking part of that. So, if I could find people who could take my thinking and implement it and actually do it better than I could – which, again, the blow to the ego part – I started hiring designers who were better designers than I was, technicians who were better technicians than I was. It allowed me to further that strategic thinking part and allow us to partner better with our clients, so that they realized we were more at a peer level with them and not just a vendor. So –
Steve: Got it.
Marcia: It up-leveled our value to our clients.
Steve: That’s awesome. Well, you know, as you’re talking about these things one thing that I would like to hear your take on is that, I know you work with a lot of entrepreneurs now and business leaders. One of the things that I’m always curious about is how much people tend to struggle with decision making. Do you find that a lot of entrepreneurs do struggle with making decisions, because you were mentioning that person that’s like, “I’m going to have to give up control.” And, so the decision was, you know, too risky to take. What’s your experience and thoughts about decision making?
Marcia: I find that, more often than not, business owners, entrepreneurs, managers put off decision making until the decision gets made by itself, especially people who have been in the corporate world where decisions take a long time because there isn’t an urgency to it. I came from the corporate world and it was painful to me how long it would take for decisions to be made for the ability for action to be taken. So when I, you know, branched out and started my own business I just was thrilled with the idea that I could turn on a dime and make decisions quickly. You know, you’re worried when you make decisions that you’re going to be making the right one, but what I found in business was: you can always change your mind, you can always fix something that is wrong, which is better than making no action at all. I like to give the example of: if a plane is flying from New York to California, most of the time the pilot is spending his time correcting his course, you know, because of the drags and the atmospheric pressure and everything that happens when a plane is flying. The pilots are constantly checking their instruments and doing all sorts of things to avoid other planes and get around weather and all the things that they do to change their course, but you can’t change your course if you’re still sitting on the tarmac and that’s the whole message behind moving forward in business. It used to be, you know, twenty years ago, you could sit around and you could sit on decisions and big corporations can, but when you’re in a small team or in a small business you need to make decisions – any decision is better than nothing– and just make it and then you can correct your course, you can change it. Business is moving so quickly today and you need to make decisions and then correct your course and business owners, I find, don’t want to they just don’t and when they need strategies, they need methods in order to be able to, you know, put that toe in the water and start making decisions. Yes, I would say –
Steve: Yeah, absolutely. It’s that fear of making a mistake and, the fact is, making no decision, or delaying a decision, is the biggest mistake you can make. You have to pick a path and, as you say, redirect if necessary, but move forward.
Marcia: I agree.
Steve: You mentioned that one of your strengths was managing complex topics and subject matter, and I know from looking at your material and background that you had a fantastic experience at managing a complex project in your marketing agency where you did a project with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Now that had to be a lot of different decisions, a lot of different moving parts and maybe you, if you don’t mind, could share a little bit of that with our audience today?
Marcia: Yeah, (laughs) I would love to, Steve, you know, but I cannot take any credit for that at all. I guess, the only credit that I can take is to say that I prepared my team – how about if I just say that? We got a call to work on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition which, of course, is the TV show where they come out and, with the bullhorn, they ask the family to come out and they redo – I don’t know if it’s still on TV or not – where they send the family away for a week and the designers go in and redo the entire home. It was one of the first, and you know, now there are lots of TV shows where they come in and they redo different – they find homes for people and they redo things, but this was the first one — Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. We got the call to work on that show and a lot of people don’t understand what is actually involved with a program like that, or why an agency, like ours, would even be involved. They think it’s just, you know, Ty Pennington and his craftsmen go in and rebuild a house. Well, those people are actors and they come on for the actual filming, but there’s a whole crew of people behind them that actually do the work: there’s a hometown builder who comes in and does the construction and behind the builder is an agency, like ours, who makes things happen behind the builder because the builder’s building the house, the actors are on screen making it look like they’re building the house, but they’re not really, but then behind the builder is a group like ours and what we had to do was get all of the volunteers. We had to get 3,000 volunteers together to help the builder and the volunteers did things like, you know, this house is built in a week, so the volunteers had to line up food for the people who were building the house, get all of the set up, this all had to be organized, like a little city, that had to be organized and that was part of what we did. We also built a website that had to be built from scratch that could handle 2.5 million hits in four weeks. We put a blog together to keep the community up-to-date. There was signage, there were retaining walls, you know, like 3.5 – 4 foot retaining walls to keep spectators back who were all lined with posters for all the sponsors. We did all the signs and posters. There were firefighters that had to be arranged that needed to be on demand in case something happened. There were medical people that had to be there. I mean, it was just amazing. We also put together two events that went on to raise money for the family. One of them was a rock concert and the other was a corporate event, so it was just constant managing of this city behind the whole build. But the amazing part, Steve, was that I wasn’t even there. Yeah — I took a sabbatical every year for a month and I would go to my cottage on Pelee Island in the middle of Lake Erie, so I didn’t want to come home to do this big project. I asked my staff if they thought they could do it by themselves without me, with just giving me updates and phone calls every once in a while. They said they felt they could, so four people, plus a couple of others who helped, handled this. We had a month’s notice before the actual team was going to come in, before the actors and movie cameras were going to come in and the rest of my staff had to continue handling the other work of my business because I was on sabbatical.
Steve: That’s awesome.
Marcia: And, they did it! When I came back – I came back right before the week of the build, when the TV cameras and everything were there – and when I was walking around with my Extreme Makeover ball cap — we all had golf shirts to match– people kept coming up to me and saying, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe what you did! This is fabulous!” and I said, “I didn’t do it. I had nothing to do with it, it was my staff. I’m just here for the build.” And then everybody would give me a knowing look, like, “Well, but we know it’s your staff, they pulled it off.” But that’s what happens, I think, when you’ve prepared your people and they know what they’re supposed to do and they all use their own unique talents. I mean, it was amazing what these people were able to do and, actually, we were told that our build in Toledo was one of the most successful that they had ever had and we were called many times after that build as consultants for subsequent builds that the Extreme Makeover team did in other cities after ours.
Steve: That’s wonderful, what a great example of teamwork and delegation and it’s just a great example for all of us to learn from. When everybody’s prepared and you delegate and everybody knows what they’re going to do you get a great result.
Steve: I want to ask you a little different question and change topics just a little bit. Being a successful female business owner and leader, I would like to hear your take on some of the challenges that you faced just being a woman in business and tell us how you overcame those – if there were any obstacles…..?
Marcia: Oh, Steve, there were a lot of obstacles. Yes, I think a lot of women would just recognize some out of hand. I’m pretty confident and I’m tall, so those were two tools that I would always take with me, especially to our corporate client meetings, so I didn’t have a problem walking into a meeting with executives, but sometimes because of those things — added to the fact that I was a woman – and you asked me this question, so I’m going to answer honestly – sometimes men were threatened by that. I think men sometimes don’t want women in the old boys club, but when you add to that a confident woman, who is also tall – and tall does have something to do with it, I talk to short women and they have a harder problem, but when you’re tall also it’s like men want to keep you in your place. They want to keep women in their place, they want to keep confident women in their place and they want to keep tall women in their place. I’ve had men stand up next to me and it’s like I can almost feel them try to be taller, they stand taller, they pull up their pants taller, they stand on their tippy toes. I’ve also been paid less, in situations where I absolutely know that I’ve been paid less than men. I’ve not gotten jobs that I’ve been pitching because I know that the guy plays golf with the guy that got the job. There’s definitely an old boys club that is very – it’s always been hard for women to break into, but, you know, my dad always told me, “Do the best you can and hold your head high.” So, I’ve always just done that.
Steve: Well, it’s that confidence that allowed you to go ahead and move forward and be successful because, yeah, you may have some of that initially and it definitely exists. I know I have two daughters of my own, and I understand the challenges, but there’s no substitute for confidence and the ability to really get done what you say you can do and people will respect you if you hold yourself in that regard and I think that, you know, I know you, so I know that’s the way you carry yourself and I think that’s a great thing. I think a lot of times people need to hear that these types of discrimination are out there, but you can overcome it if you’re persistent and if you’re a confident individual. Do you agree with that?
Marcia: Yes, I absolutely do and I have also had men clients. I get along very well with men clients. I’ve had a lot of men clients, over the years, and still continue to have a lot of men clients. I know a lot of women business owners like to focus on having women for their clients, but I’ve just always been very strong with having men clients and I’ve had men clients tell me that they appreciate my point of view as a woman because they don’t get that from a man and that women can be, sometimes, more insightful because they’re not as competitive in business, so they get a different point of view from a strong woman in business. And then there are just some businesses where a woman’s point of view might be necessary. I’ve had clients who have wanted to work with me because their customer-base is mostly women and they desperately need a female point of view. So I can’t say that it’s really hurt me, but it’s been something that I know I’ve had to barrel through. It’s not been a cakewalk and I’ve seen a lot of guys get jobs – and by that I mean projects as well as job positions – that I should have had or that I’ve had to work a lot harder for.
Steve: Right and I can see it on both sides of that coin. I definitely can see where sometimes women are favored because of the things that you mentioned. I’ve also seen where, a lot of times, it’s just because it was a guy and I do see it less today, which is the good thing, than what you and I saw twenty years ago.
Steve: So, I think it’s great to hear that people can still succeed in spite of whatever those obstacles are.
Steve: Well, one thing I want to ask you about –give us your opinion today to help people: what do you believe it takes to be an outstanding boss?
Marcia: I think to be an outstanding boss, well, letting go is a big part of it, but you also have to be real to be an outstanding boss. You have to be fallible and you have to be able to let people see you. You have to be transparent enough that people have to see your mistakes and you have to let them see you. I see with my clients a lot of times, the ones that I’m coaching now, that they don’t want their staff to really see them. Now, I’m not talking about, you know, going out drinking later on and being their best buddy and everything, but you have to let them see that you make mistakes and you have to be able to apologize for things and let them know that you’re a real person. I think that’s essential.
Steve: Yeah, I do too. I think, I call it “the genuine person” where you’re willing to really show both your faults as well as your strengths. People relate to that, don’t they?
Marcia: Yeah, I think so, ‘cause if you’re just always bringing down the sermon from the mount, you know, there’s just not a lot of give and take.
Steve: I get it totally! How can people get in touch with you if they would like to, Marcia?
Marcia: My website is at MarciaHoeck.com or APurposefulBusiness.com.
Steve: Marcia, thank you so very much for sharing your wisdom today on the Manager Mojo podcast. We certainly wish you great success and happiness in all of your endeavors.
Marcia: Thank you so much Steve!