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TRACY MATTHEWS: “When you can actually take time and set time aside—and we're going to give some tools later on how you can protect it—and really be focused on honing in your creativity, everything will change in your business, and you'll be able to grow and thrive and continue making more money over time and over the years. So I think that's the number-one lesson because I don't think I realized it at the time that I was filing bankruptcy that that was happening. But that negative toll, I was losing my hair, I developed a thyroid condition, I lost a ton of weight, I picked up a disgusting habit. I was smoking for a minute. It was so bad. It was, like, rock bottom.”
AMY PORTERFIELD: “Right. So you never want to go back there.”
TRACY: “Never want to go back there. And I think overall, the bankruptcy ended up being a gift to me because it allowed me time to step back and realize—this is the second lesson—that we all have a choice to do something different and make a change.”
INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-million-dollar business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, money, and time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and helps you create a life you love, you're in the right place. Let's get started.
AMY: You know how they say diamonds are a girl's best friend? Well, if we put a little twist to that, I believe that creativity is an entrepreneur's best friend. See how I did that? And I really do believe it. I believe that creativity as entrepreneurs is something that we have to keep as close to us as we do our BFFs. But oftentimes we let everything get in the way. Can you relate? I am totally guilty of this, more often than I'd like to admit. So if you too put creativity to the side and pile up all your action items in front of it, then this episode is for you because you're going to walk away with a totally new perspective on how to protect your creativity and finally start acting like the creative visionary that you were meant to be in your business.
My guest today is a jewelry designer, hence the diamond reference. She's an entrepreneur, podcast host, karaoke queen—we might have to have her prove that one—and she's a tough-love lady that calls herself the chief visionary officer in her business. She's been featured in Elle and InStyle, and she's made an appearance on the Today show. Her name is Tracy Matthews, and she is doing amazing things in her business and for her students. She created Flourish & Thrive Academy, an online community with digital courses geared towards helping jewelry designers grow, scale, and create a business that they love. Tracy is all about protecting your creative energy, no matter what kind of entrepreneur you are. So today, that's what we're going to talk about.
We'll also be chatting about stepping into the role as a creative visionary and also, most importantly, staying there. How do you keep those creative juices flowing? We're going to talk about it. I'm really passionate about this whole topic of owning your role as the creative visionary in your business.
And I've known Tracy for a long time. Funny enough, we met in a bar—yes—back when I was in Marie Forleo's Rich, Happy & Hot mastermind. She just happened to be at this bar, and she's in the entrepreneurial world, and we struck up a conversation while I was at the mastermind, and we've been friends ever since. I mean, that's years and years and years ago. So I've been able to see her do amazing things, and her businesses have grown.
And this is going to be such a great conversation. And I tend not to have a lot of creative people on the podcast that actually do things such as create jewelry, like, the tangible work. And so I thought this would be a really great kind of shift from what we've talked about before and the kind of people that have been on the podcast. So having a true artist on the podcast is extra fun.
So I won't make you wait any longer. Let's bring her on.
So, hey, there, Tracy. Welcome to the show. I'm so excited that you're here.
TRACY: I am so excited to be here, Amy. This has been on my vision board for a while, to be on your podcast. I’m super excited that you said yes.
AMY: I love it. Well, this is a great topic, talking about protecting your creative energy. We've never talked about that on the show before, and I know so many of my listeners are going to find so much value here. So let's just get to it. Are you ready?
TRACY: Let's do it.
AMY: Okay. So, I want to kick things off with the real stuff because I am truly inspired by your story. I said in the intro I've known you for a while. We run in the same circles, and your story of resilience and bouncing back is awesome. And for so many of my listeners who are just starting out or they're just getting going, I want them to hear that even when it gets hard there's always a way to come back from that. So will you start us off with your story?
TRACY: Yeah. So I've been an entrepreneur for a really long time. I'm kind of old. I started my first business in the ’90s in the jewelry industry. And I had a jewelry line, actually, that I sold to stores all over the world. I think we calculated it was about 350 over the eleven years that I was in business for that first business. And things were great. I was selling things sort of in a moderate price point. I was selling to some of the best stores out there. And 2008 came around and kind of wiped out my business. And I had to, basically, start over again. I lost everything. And it was kind of crazy because when you're tested like that, you really have these—I don't know if this is okay to say—but these “come to Jesus” moments, where I’m like, what the heck am I doing?
And so I've always identified as a creative person. I originally started out my career as an artist, I guess, essentially, because I'm a jewelry designer. But now I identify with my creativity a little bit differently. And I think one of the things that kind of led to sort of the downfall of my company, besides 2008, was that I wasn't adamant about protecting my creative energy. And what ended up happening is that I lost the passion for my business, I started resenting the people that worked for me, and I resented going to work every day, and it really had this huge negative impact that kind of went across the board.
And so I feel like there was a moment when all the stuff was going down that I probably could have turned things around, but I made the decision to just have a hard stop because I needed to do something different, I needed to make a change, and I needed to just take a step back so I could reinvent myself.
AMY: Okay. So, we're going to talk about what that reinvention looked like, and I actually want to get into that right away so people kind of understand the business that you have today, because I want to talk about some of the lessons that you learned once you did go bankrupt in your business and what made you get back up and try again. But before you even answer that question, talk to us about what you do now. So that all happened. You lost that business, and then you re-created yourself in your business. What do you do now?
TRACY: Well, for all the multi-passionate entrepreneurs out there—I am one of them—I have three businesses right now. I have a jewelry company where I design engagement rings and wedding bands, and I do a lot of heirloom redesign for private clients. I have a mentoring company where I mentor jewelry designers and teach them how to run successful businesses. And then I have a brand called Creatives Rule the World, where I work with visionaries to help them protect their creative energy and really be better leaders in their business.
AMY: Holy cow. So you've got three businesses that are all doing really, really well. So I just want to remind everybody that Tracy went from having this jewelry business that literally did not end up working. You went bankrupt, right?
AMY: And I mean, that's just soul sucking to even think about that. And I think a lot of my listeners, they fear that happening. So the worst of the worst for some of my listeners happened to you, and here you are today with three thriving businesses. First of all, shout out to you, girl.
TRACY: Thank you.
AMY: That's so exciting. So I know that we're going to talk a lot about protecting that creative energy and how the fact that in your first business, you really didn't do that. So talk to me about some of the lessons that you learned along the way of kind of this big crash and burn, and, really, what made you get up again and say, “I'm going to keep going”?
TRACY: Okay, perfect. Yeah. So, I mean, there's so many lessons. I started listing them out, and there was probably too many to share. But I think the first one I kind of touched on is that it's so important to protect your creativity, because I identify as a visionary, but there's a bunch of different types of creativity that you're probably modeled after, all of your listeners. But the one thing is that the most important thing as a business owner is that you need to really be in your zone of genius. And when I say that zone of genius or zone of creativity or whatever, because that creative energy is what fuels the success of your company. And so when you kind of lose it or you're doing things that are maybe not in your wheelhouse, you end up—at least for me, and I know that this is the case for many of the people that I mentor—is that they end up feeling the same feelings that I did. They resent their team, they resent coming to work every day, they might lose a passion for their business, they're confused often, and they feel overwhelmed. When you can actually take time and set time aside—and we're going to give some tools later on how you can protect it—and really be focused on honing in your creativity, everything will change in your business, and you'll be able to grow and thrive and continue making more money over time and over the years. So I think that's the number-one lesson because I don't think I realized it at the time that I was filing bankruptcy that that was happening. But that negative toll, I was losing my hair, I developed a thyroid condition, I lost a ton of weight, I picked up a disgusting habit. I was smoking for a minute. It was so bad. It was, like, rock bottom.
AMY: Right. So you never want to go back there.
TRACY: Never want to go back there. And I think overall, the bankruptcy ended up being a gift to me because it allowed me time to step back and realize—this is the second lesson—that we all have a choice to do something different and make a change. And I think that was the biggest lesson that I learned.
I had this consultant that I worked with toward the end, and his name was Phil. He passed away a few years ago, sadly. But he said to me in one of our meetings, “Tracy, what is it that you love to do?” And I couldn't even answer him for a while because I was just in such a bad place. And I'm like, I love working with my—I finally thought it out—I love working with the clients, I love coming up with ideas, I love designing. And so when I finally realized, oh, the reason why I was so miserable was that I wasn't doing what I love to do. I had this choice to make a change. And that was evolution of my new jewelry business, where I was focused on all the things that I was really good at.
AMY: Interesting. How did you get clear on what you were really good at versus what you needed to leave behind?
TRACY: A lot of pushing by Phil and a lot of journaling and working with a coach, quite honestly.
AMY: I’m a huge fan of that, because sometimes doing it alone just doesn’t cut it.
TRACY: Yeah. I mean, at the time I was—I mean, I lost everything. I didn't have a ton of money, but I had a friend who I was working with. She wanted to launch. She's a coach now, and she wanted to kind of test on me. So I got really lucky that my friend wanted to coach me, and she really helped me through this. It took about a year to kind of remove all the negativity. But through that process, I was able to get really clear on what it is that I wanted to create so that I could focus on that instead of what I'd lost or what I didn't want to do, if that makes sense.
AMY: Right. It does. It does.
Give me one more lesson that you learned along the way.
TRACY: I think this is a really important one. I want to give you two, but the second one will be really short. You have to build your business around the kind of life that you want, because what ended up happening in my first business was that I was a slave to the business, and I wasn't able to enjoy all the hard work that I'd put in and the financial rewards. And so I think when I reinvented myself, the first thing I thought about was, what do I want my life to look like? I want to be able to travel and be location independent. I don't want to have to go to an office every day where I have a big team.
So now all my companies are built virtually. I don't have anyone, an office space or high overhead for any of that stuff. And there's a lot of flexibility. Even with my jewelry business, all the production is outsourced.
And the final lesson is really that I learned to be very scrappy, because when you can't get credit cards or financing for your business, you have to learn how to be profitable really fast or you're not going to be an entrepreneur.
AMY: Right. Exactly.
TRACY: Those are kind of the top lessons that I learned.
And it's been interesting coming out the other side because so much has changed over the last ten years. And I feel really blessed that I've been able to kind of create a couple of businesses that really light me up.
AMY: Well, tell me this. Some of these business lessons that you've learned along the way, you've taken those and you've realized that you've had to make some shifts. So you learn these lessons, and then from the lessons, you actually made the shifts. Can you give me some specifics about what those shifts have looked like?
AMY: Yeah, 100 percent. Some of the things that I mentioned earlier, but the biggest shift was that I wanted a business that was location independent, and there was a very specific reason for this. I'm one of eight kids. I knew I wasn't going to have children, many years ago. I didn't want to have children. And I wanted to be able to spend time with my family who live on the West Coast and watch their kids grow up. And if I was tied to an office or a production schedule and always had to be there, then I wouldn't be able to really see my nieces and nephews grow up. So that was the first thing.
AMY: That you had to figure out where you were going to live and how you were going to live so that you could have more freedom to see the family members you wanted to see.
AMY: Got it.
TRACY: And then also be able to travel and still get work done. I think two years ago I went to Europe for six weeks and took a little bit of a sabbatical. But my team was still able to reach out to me when they had questions, and my business was still making money even without me being there. So that was really important to me, too.
AMY: Yes. How about another shift that you ended up making as you moved into these new businesses?
TRACY: Well, I was really focused on my financial goals, first and foremost. I think before, I would just kind of let business happen to me. And while I had sales targets and stuff like that, I don't think that I was really taking a look at the difference between sales and profitability. And it's always a fine balance because there are some years in business where you have to invest a lot of money back into your business to reach your next level of success. And so that was something that started to lead with how I was building businesses is to really think about, what kind of money do I want to be making? What kind of money does this business need to make in order to get the right team in place to support it, and what are my bigger aspirational things that I want to do in life, and what does that look like from a financial perspective?
AMY: This is a big one because I've done the same. Early on in my business, as things started to work, I really didn't want to dive into the numbers and into the analytics, and I didn't want to really budget or forecast or anything like that because it's not my expertise. Numbers are not my thing. And so I just kind of went along with it. And then at one point I realized I don't really have a good financial understanding of my business, and there's no way anything good can come of that.
And so those that are listening, I want you to know that if things are not going as planned just yet for you, understanding the financials will help you make better decisions. And if you are making money right now and you're like, “Okay, I feel pretty good in that area. There's some things I want to work on, but at least I'm making money,” if you understand the numbers even more so you can make more money. So there's just a win-win here. You just have to kind of buckle down and say, “I'm going to look at the numbers. I'm going to educate myself.” Would you agree with that?
TRACY: A hundred percent. And I think there's one more thing that I’d like to add there, too, is that I know sometimes as entrepreneurs, because we're so passionate about what we do, we don't end up really thinking about how we're going to pay ourselves. And I know that especially for the jewelry designers that I mentor, many of them work for years without really considering what kind of salary they want to make. I think when you can't support yourself financially and really think about—or really get to a place where you are consistent in not only cashflow but how you're going to actually pay for your lifestyle on all those things that it will start to suck the life out of you, and it can make it hard to be creative.
AMY: Yes. So true. It's hard to be creative when you're worried about the numbers all the time. But sometimes when you just educate yourself on the numbers, even when they don't look how you want them to look just yet, it creates a sense of ease. Just the knowledge in and of itself, no matter what the numbers look like, allow you to breathe just a little bit because you've educated yourself. You know where you're at, and you know where you want to go. And there's power in that. So don't forget that.
So actually, with that, I want to kind of change gears just a little bit because we started off talking about and promising that we would talk about this idea of creative energy. And I want you to just let us know what is creative energy? Why is it important in your business? Even more so, why do we have to protect it? Give us the rundown.
TRACY: Yeah. So, I think there is this misconception that creative energy or creativity is really basically for artists. But that's just one facet of it—people who make things or art or whatever. But creativity, in my opinion, and in my experience, I should say, is really the fuel that helps you innovate and stand out from the crowd, especially in business. So it might be your ability to create art, but it's also your ability to generate ideas, to problem solve, to move into action when things are absolutely bonkers or haywire. It's your ability to create a big vision for your company or even complex systems, which doesn't seem creative at all. It seems more analytical. But all these things kind of help support that creative energy.
And I also think of it as like, have you ever talked to someone, Amy, who you're just like, all of a sudden, you bought something after you spoke to them, and you’re just like, what just happened?
TRACY: Well, I think that the ability to negotiate or close a deal is super creative because people like that, they are reading you. They're just winging it to try to get you to take an action in the direction that they want to go. So I think there's just so many ways to kind of dice this up. And I really do believe that when you protect your creative energy by putting boundaries around it and understanding what that really looks like, that it will become your biggest asset in business, because when you can tap into that all the time and use your creativity in different ways, then you're always in this moving forward type of energy, where you're kind of working towards the next big thing that you're trying to create.
AMY: I’m so glad we're talking about this because as entrepreneurs it's so easy to get caught up in the day to day, all the different tasks. I love a good to-do list, so I get it. You've got the to-do list, you’re checking things off. And when I have a big to-do list and when I get super focused on that, all of my creativity goes down the drain, 1 million percent, because I become a task master, and that's all I'm doing.
And so I know in your business you call yourself the creative visionary. And although I don't call myself that, I really do think of myself as a creative visionary. Just a little look inside my own business. We now, because we're growing, we have different departments. We've got marketing and content and operations and community, and so these are different departments in my business. The one meeting I go to every week is the content-development meeting with my content team, because content to me is creativity. That's where I am the most creative, creating my content. So I am deep, deep, deep into content in my business because that is my number-one creative outlet, and that’s where I add the most value. You said earlier when you worked with your coach, Phil, he asked you to get really clear on what you like to do, where you shine, where you really feel like you're supposed to be spending your time. And for me, that's content.
So I say all that because I know that there needs to be a better understanding of your brand of creativity and what that looks like in your business. And you have something really cool around archetypes. And I was hoping you could walk us through the archetypes so my audience can really start to understand what this idea of creative energy looks like specifically for them.
TRACY: Yeah, 100 percent. I'll give a little backstory on how this happened. So about twelve or thirteen years ago, it was before 2008, so it was probably 2007, at the end of the year, we were doing some restructuring in my jewelry company, and I have a friend here in New York. His name is Art, and he's a finance guy. And he came into my office, and he was going to help me with some advanced business financial modeling, which to me, I was clueless. Like you, numbers. I love numbers, but I could not understand what he was doing. But he said something to me, like, I don’t have a creative bone in my body. And then two days later, he delivers this complex business model spreadsheet with all these crazy formulas that spit out numbers. I was like, “How the heck did he make that happen? That is so creative.” I said that to him. He’s like, that's not creative. That's like whatever, you know, because he’s a finance dude. Literally, I don't have a creative bone in my body. I think the funny part is that his name is Art.
AMY: Kind of ironic.
TRACY: I know. Kind of ironic. And then I started watching my nieces and nephews and seeing how they started interacting as humans. I mean, they're all pretty young, but I started to be able to identify different types of—they're all super creative, but they're different, so different. One's an artist, one is going to be a CEO of a company, and the other one's going to be either a performer or a salesperson later in life because she's really good at getting what she wants. And so I just started talking to people about this and kind of diving deep into what it meant to them to be creative.
And I was single for a very long time, so I went on a lot of dates. And people that I would go out with would always say things like, I'm not creative or I am, or they couldn't really articulate how they were creative, so I would just get curious and start asking questions. And in fact, I was able to identify my boyfriend now in one of these creative archetypes because he's super good, similarly to Art, at the systems piece of this.
So should I dive into some of the archetypes and kind of what it looks like?
AMY: Definitely. Let's do it.
TRACY: So the most obvious one would be an artist. These are people who actually make things. And this is what most people think of as creative. And I want to just backtrack here, because most of us will have more than one archetype, but we'll have a dominant one. So the dominant one is what leads, and then the other ones kind of support it.
For instance, someone might be an artist but also good at—I've seen this. It's very strange—but really good at organizing systems in their business, which is a very unique combination, but it does happen. So the artist is usually someone who, obviously, makes art or they're musicians or they're making jewelry or they’re writers or something like that.
The second archetype is the visionary. And I know you talk about this a lot on your podcast, but these are really idea people. These are people who bring innovation into the world. In the book Rocket Fuel, that we all love, they say that when you can find that combination of a visionary and what they call an integrator, that a business can really fly, but you need ideas in order for big things to happen in business. And visionaries are the ones—I think there's a statistic. It's, like, 5 percent of the population, and they make up 95 percent of the jobs in the world or something like that.
TRACY: Yeah. So I think that was from that book. Visionaries are really idea people. They come up with things that grow commerce.
The ambassador, which is the third type, these are really like negotiators. They are really good at conflict resolution, and they're great problem solvers. So they can look at a situation and say, oh, I see what's happening here, and come up with a solution really quickly or make win-win situations for anything that happens.
The next archetype I call the rainmaker. This is really kind of what I think of as a CEO and sometimes maybe an integrator. They are able to take ideas from the visionary and make something happen with it. Now, sometimes a visionary might call themselves a CEO, and then they'll have a COO in this role. But this is someone who makes things happen with a big idea.
The director, these are typically great leaders. This would be someone who's running your operation. They are typically people person—people people, people persons. How do you say that?
AMY: I gotcha.
TRACY: They're good at managing teams and motivating people. And a lot of times, they’re coaches because they love helping people become their best self.
The architect is what my friend, Art, was and what my boyfriend, Jason, is. And these are people who can take an idea and create complex systems behind it. So they see, typically, a little bit more linearly. They aren't as good at the vision piece, but they have a natural talent for understanding of how all the puzzle pieces fit together in marketing or in business or in finance, something like that.
And there's just three more types. The investigator, this is someone, if your listeners understand what the Kolbe is, he's really high on fact finder. They're really research oriented or data driven. They like to know how things work. My nephew Rickson is an investigator. He loves to take things apart and figure out how to put them back together because he's really interested in all the details of how something works.
The performer, this is someone who's really charismatic. And they either love to be on stage or be in front of an audience, or they're really great salespeople. This is a really amazing asset to have if you're good at sales. But also, if you like to speak on stage, this is where you're kind of leaning into that.
And then the final archetype is the intuitive, or the mystic. And this is the most woo of all types. Those are the people who can just look at a situation and completely read the room and know exactly what to say or do. Or they're reading your energy, and you can kind of feel it, and then they can come up with a solution based on that. So they typically can intuit really easily what to do next.
And as I mentioned before, most of us are going to have one primary archetype, but then the other ones, you might be sort of supported by one or two other ones.
AMY: Gotcha. Okay. So I'm going to guess I would be most likely a visionary, but also that, I think you said, ambassador, where you kind of look for the win-win situation, and you're a good troubleshooter. I do a lot of that in my business.
Once, I was reading a book and I heard somebody say in this book about—or I read—that someone was saying so much of business is troubleshooting. Every single day, you're working through challenges and obstacles, and you become a master troubleshooter. And truly, that has been one of my strengths that I've wanted to hone. So I could see myself embodying that as an archetype, but also a visionary. Which one are you?
TRACY: Well, I'm definitely visionary, as the first one. And I kind of tie with ambassador and artist because I am an artist. I create things and make things. It's not the thing that I really lead with anymore, though. And I think that you can kind of shift over time. But I do love solving problems, and so I think that my secondary is really ambassador, too.
AMY: Okay. So with that, how can you play with your strengths and use these archetypes? So if you know your brand archetype, how does that help? What do you do with that?
TRACY: Well, I think the biggest thing here is that everyone has gaps. No one's ever going to be good at everything. And so the second, or the minute you start—or the second or the minute, whatever—you realize what your strengths are and what you're really good at and what you're not good at, you can start to get support around that.
So I don't know about you, Amy, but when I started my businesses, I was doing everything, and I wasn't really good at everything, but you just have to do it. And then for a time, your sales grow and your revenue grows and your profitability grows so that you can start getting help. And I see people resisting getting help because they're like, well, I could just do it myself and save money. But it's going to always be limiting if you do that, because—I think about this.
There's so many simple things you can outsource in a business. People are so tied to saving money and not investing in hiring someone who you could pay way less money than you would want to make even per hour to do something that would take it off your plate so you can actually focus on the things that you're good at.
To me, this really starts with really getting clear on what it is that you love to do, what it is that you're good at, and then start slowly but surely, starting to get support around you in the form of outsourcers or teammates who can take things off your plate. So that's really the most important piece of it. I think when you can identify what you're not good at, that's the first things that you should start getting off your plate.
AMY: And I think that's so important, getting back to this idea of protecting your creative energy, when you identify which archetype is you, then you could say, “Okay, but these other things, they're not me. They're not my strengths. They're not my area of expertise. And so with that, I am going to find people that could support me in those ways,” whether you're outsourcing or hiring for your team.
Let me give you guys an example. One area—it's funny you said, Tracy, that guy saying “I don't have a creative bone in my body.” I have said that in the past. It's been a while because now I understand what creativity looks like. But years ago, I would say that. I just don't feel like a creative type, in the sense of you make jewelry or other people can look at something and they could say, oh, I like that look and that look, and I'm going to bring that into, let's say, my website or my business. They have that aesthetic skill that I do not have. You don't want me making a website because I can't even put fonts and colors together to save my life. And so because of that, because I don't have a really strong aesthetic background and I'm not able to see the beauty in things like others are, I always thought that I wasn't that creative.
But then I started to realize, oh, I can be creative in different ways, just like your guy who put together the numbers and it was like a masterpiece. I can do that with processes and systems, and I can put together a flow of content like no other. Those are my strengths. But I hired Chloe, and she's my chief marketing officer in my business because she's got an eye for that. She just right away can pick up the aesthetics of something and know this is us. This fits into our look and feel. This is the kind of brand board that we want to create for this project or that project. So I found people that can do the things I can't do. And I couldn't find people like that until I identified where my strength is and where my strengths are not. And so I think that is so important that you're bringing that up here and using the archetypes to do so.
So getting back to protecting your creative energy, I know that you teach your own students some tools and some practices to make sure that they make that creativity a priority. Whatever creativity looks like for them, how do they protect it? How do they make it a priority? And I think if you give us these tools and practices, it will help those that were like me, that they weren't really sure where they were creative. It will really bring it out.
TRACY: A hundred percent. So the thing about creativity is that you can't schedule creativity in between appointments. Really challenging. You need open space for this. And so when you're pulled in a million directions every day, that's just going to really zap your energy. You're not going to be your best self. You're not going to do your best work. So you have to figure out how you can protect it, and you have to also guard it for dear life and set really strong boundaries around that.
So the best way to set boundaries is to start by creating routines and rituals for yourself. Now, a lot of people talk about morning routines or morning rituals. It doesn't have to be a morning routine or morning ritual. But you should have some sort of routine in your day.
This is really interesting because I was speaking with a designer, probably, like, six years ago. And she said to me—she came to us for help. She was really struggling to get her business to a place where she was actually making money. I don't think that she was hard pressed to get anything done quickly, because she was being supported by her husband. So she had some time. But the first thing that I suggested to her is that she needed to be more structured in her day and more scheduled and to start creating routines. And she's like, well, the reason why I have this business is so I don't have to think about anything that I do, and I could just show up and let the day flow. But that's the worst thing that you could do for your creativity, because what ends up happening is the day’s over, and you didn't get anything done. Then you feel defeated, and it's like Groundhog Day every single day. So I think starting with rituals and/or morning routines and setting structure into your week can be really, really powerful.
The second thing that I love to do is to have creative days. Now, if you are doing everything yourself in your business, it's hard to take one day a week. That's what I'd really recommend for most people who have a business that's somewhat established is to have one day a week for a creative day. But you can start with one creative day of the month. And on creative days, this is your opportunity to work on some of the big projects that you're working on, to learn something new, to go out and maybe go to a museum or do something that inspires you to kind of generate new ideas or get into the flow of your creative archetype. And on creative days, you can't have appointments, you can't have meetings, you can't be checking Slack or your email all day, because the purpose of the creative day is to create space so that you can get stuff done.
The next piece of this is if you do have a team or you start building a team is to set boundaries around your team and your time. So the more you can—I mentioned structure in your week and structure in your day. But I think one of the biggest issues I had, especially working in the same office with a bunch of people—because at one point I had thirteen employees—was that I was getting interrupted all day. And this can happen in a virtual team, too, because there's so many tools to communicate now. If you're on Skype and it's pinging all the time, or if you're on Slack and you're checking it every five seconds, you're not going to get anything done, because you're going to be pulled in so many directions. So setting boundaries around your time, meaning I'm only going to check email once or twice a day. I'm only going to check Slack when I need to respond to something, or setting times for that.
And then also setting boundaries around your team so that if they do need to come to you for questions, that they are, number one, coming to you with answers first, so you set parameters for it, and that they can’t just interrupt you any time of the day unless it’s an emergency or something like that. And so they're coming to you at specific times to ask questions, to come to you with solutions before they ask questions if they don't need it, and what this ends up doing is it ends up creating a culture of problem solving and you'll get less interruptions. And so it ends up helping you be more productive in the long run.
There's two more. I mentioned this before, but delegate to elevate. Stop doing what you suck at, because it's really a waste of time at the end of the day. And then I think this final thing, and it kind of ties in with creative days, boundaries and rituals and scheduling and all that stuff, is spending the most-important hours of your day—and for most of us, it's the morning—doing the most-creative work that actually grows your business. Stop doing the tasks in the morning because they're easy. Start doing the most-important things like business development.
Now, years ago, I was speaking with a designer, and she was sharing the story of a company that grew from four million, to I think 250 million in four years. And this jewelry designer had hired a CEO. And someone asked the CEO—he was interviewed—what happened and how was he able to scale the company that fast. And he said he had zero distractions from the time he walked into the office until twelve or one, when he had lunch. And the only time he ever checked email or picked up the phone to call anyone was if it was to focus on the business-development aspect of the business.
And so when you can be adamant about this, it really does work. And as a business owner, your number-one job, until you can have a business-development person on your team, is to be spending time growing your business, those most-important key hours. And the reason why I think morning’s important—and I'll give some people a hall pass if they're late-afternoon people—I think morning’s important because if you do it first thing, then it won't get scooted off to the next day. You know what I mean?
AMY: A hundred percent. I always do my most important work in the morning. I am a morning person, but I really do think it slips away if you say I'm going to get to it at three or four today, and then the day just gets away from you.
But I also want to let you guys know that one thing we do in my business, and this is a new initiative for the new year, is that we do not make any meetings on Friday. And the reason for that is exactly what you said about the guy who said, I have no interruptions until lunch. There is magic in that. And so as my team is getting bigger, it's so easy for me to get in Slack and Asana and get on calls and a quick conversation here or there, and then, truly, the creativity just slips away, because, again, I'm in that task mode. And so we do not do any calls, any meetings on Fridays, and everybody is just working on whatever it is in front of them, whether it be our customer-support rep all the way to our person running marketing and running operations. Anybody. It doesn't matter what role you're in, it's important, and you've got to just focus. And so I think that you bringing that up, it truly is to boost that creativity for everybody in the business.
TRACY: It is. It's really important. I love the ideas of Fridays, too.
AMY: Yeah, because start the weekend off right, and get into that creative zone, for sure.
But I also wanted to ask you just really quick some really specific examples of what it means. So, let’s say—you talked a little bit about this, but having a creative day. So for me, it would be that I would read a chapter of a book. I actually do—it's funny we're talking about this right now. One of the things that I wanted to get clear on in the new year was my habits, the habits, really my morning rituals, which is what you talked about. And so I've always had morning rituals, but I cleaned them up for the new year. And one of my morning rituals, I have seven, and they're easy and short, but one of them is ten minutes of inspiration, because I can easily get away from the creativity. And so it's either reading a chapter of a book; listening to a podcast that's going to fuel me, whether it's work related or not work related, something that kind of gets my mind going in a different, new, kind of fun direction. And it might be watching IGTV, but a certain channel. I'm very deliberate and intentional about what I'm watching, what I'm viewing, what I'm listening to for inspiration specifically. So what's one or two of yours?
TRACY: I mean, I do the same things that you do as far as learning. I'm always trying to learn. So I listen to your podcast a lot. You're one of my— I told you this before, but I was like, I love the way Amy structures her podcasts. It makes it really easy. It was easy for me to kind of think of like when I was recording episodes for my podcast. I'm like, how does Amy do it? So you helped me reverse engineer.
AMY: I love doing stuff like that. I do it with other people, too. Like, how did they do it? I like how they're doing it. And then I kind of reverse engineer it for my own thing. So we're one and the same in that.
TRACY: Yeah. I try to learn new things. I just finished Heroic Public Speaking, so I was taking their grad program. And so I spend Wednesdays learning that. But another thing that I really like to do, I have these big—because I am an artist, that's what I started my career in—I like just taking markers and paper. And so I draw funnels sometimes, and I spend a few hours doing that. I'm writing two books right now, one for jewelry designers and one about creativity and archetypes. So I spend my creative days doing that. So it's usually a combination. Sometimes I'll go out and go to a museum or just do something fun to just get out of my own way. It depends on the time of the year—it’s cold in New York now so I stay inside.
AMY: But you make a great point about getting out of your own way. Getting out of your comfort zone, doing something a little bit different could always shake up some creativity.
TRACY: Yeah. It’s usually, depending on what's in front of me at the time, but I like to always try to be learning a lot every single week, and on those creative days, spending at least an hour learning something new.
AMY: I think it's a great, great thing to do.
Okay, so, I want to switch gears just a bit because I know you, and we've talked before about your story. And one thing that you told me that kind of just hit me in the gut, but I know my listeners need to hear this, is that you were married at one point, and your ex-husband said to you, “If you don't start making sales soon, you're going to have to go back to your retail job.” Now, I just took the conversation to a whole different spin right now. I know that was a quick turn there, but I don't want to end this podcast without getting to this very important topic, because you weren't getting the support that you needed from your spouse, and I know that some of my listeners have the same thing going on. And so how do you stay creative and how do you protect your creative energy when you're not fully supported by the ones that you love?
TRACY: Oh, it was so hard, Amy. But I think my personality type is that when I'm stressed and I can focus, I move into action. And so my ex-husband, he actually was, in the beginning, very supportive of me starting a business. But we were in a real place of me having to bring home money. He could only support us for so long. So I think what ended up happening in that scenario is that—and I think this happens a lot of people when they're not super clear on what they need to do next—is that I was kind of living in fear. And so instead of focusing on the things that I needed to do to grow my business, I was basically spending all my time doing the things that were easy to check off the list instead of the things that were actually growing.
So when that happened, because we did have this conversation about this, I was like, hell no, I am not going back to that job at Nordstrom. I worked there for so long. That's how I put myself through school. And I'm tired of working nights and weekends and every day after Christmas and Thanksgiving. And the pain for that literally catapulted me into action.
And so what I ended up doing was just—this is back in the day before email. Email just started when I was doing this—and the terrifying part is, to get sales, I had to pick up the phone. So I started just calling up a bunch of stores, and I would go to meetings. And a lot of times they would say no. But then they started saying yes. And I listened to the feedback that I got from the store owners, which I think in Internet, a lot of your listeners are in Internet marketing or coaches or developing courses and stuff, so that might be getting out there and trying to get clients or reaching out individually to people if you really need to get money in the door fast. I think always the fastest way individual outreach and a personal connection.
And so I would just go to these appointments and get rejected nonstop until people started saying yes. And then I finally landed a really key account that was a game changer for me, because I could put that, basically, on my pitch resume, saying that I was in this store called Metias, and it opened the doors to a lot of other things. And so I was just really focused on action. I did everything that I could to bring money in. And it ended up working out in the end. But it was hard in the beginning. I work with a lot of people who don't have support from their network around them, because they think that their jewelry business is a stupid hobby. And I didn't want to be put in that category. And I think it's my personality type. I'm so determined to make it work that I did. But I think at the end of the day, if you're in that situation, then I would just take a look at what you're doing and make sure that you're focusing on the things that are actually going to bring money into your business, because that's the fastest way to start supporting yourself and proving your husband wrong.
AMY: I feel like that's a great point, though, that when something's not going for me in terms of, in this case, you don't have the support that you need or something feels off. It feels awkward. It feels uncomfortable. You're scared. The number-one thing I do is get into action, and I say, okay, I can't do anything about this right now. So let's just start moving forward. And like you said, get on the calls, make something happen, and focus on what you can change. In your situation, you couldn't necessarily change your ex-husband's feelings or thoughts around your business and not making enough money. What you could do is make things happen for you. And I love that that's exactly what you did.
TRACY: And prove him wrong.
AMY: And prove him wrong. There you go.
Okay, so, we're going to wrap this up. And I thought the best way to wrap up this great conversation around protecting your energy is with one of your favorite stories about how you protect your energy and your business. So can you share that with us?
TRACY: So, well, I mean, I talked about my creative days. I want to share a story from the past, because I think this is kind of a funny story. When I started my jewelry business, I lived in San Francisco. I now live in New York City. And the business was growing, and we'd moved into this bigger office space. And I was so excited because I had my own office, which was technically the fax room. It had no windows, but it was an open loft space. And I was getting interrupted all day. And I had to kind of figure out how I could get work done, because I started thinking the only time I'm ever going to get worked done is if I come in really early or stay really late. And I'm a morning person, so it wasn't too hard to come in at six or seven, but I didn't really want to continue doing that all the time. So I started closing my office door so that no one would bug me. And that was a forced boundary. And I said, if the door’s closed, you can't ask me questions. And I kind of touched on this earlier, but when I wasn't available to answer the questions, the problem started getting solved by themselves, and it was less taxing on myself.
And so even if you don’t have an office where other people are, you can create these boundaries around people interrupting you and sucking the life out of you, because if your brain's working for five other people, you don't have anything left for yourself. So that was one of the biggest lessons in hindsight. I didn't even realize I was doing it at the time. I just was so drained I couldn't get anything that I was supposed to get done done. And that was really helpful. So that's one little story. My team was like, whatever.
AMY: So, basically, you’re saying you closed the doors, you stopped, making sure that your time was spent helping everybody else in order for you to get really zoned in on what you could do the best.
Now, I want to bring up, when people hear that, they're like, “Wait, you've got to support your team. You've got to give them the information they need. You got to help them.” But one thing that we've learned in my business over the last years we've grown a team is that for sure, you need to do that, and you need to set up a system so that your employees feel as though they're getting the support they need in order to do the job they need to do.
But there are different things, such as Asana and Slack and processes and systems that you can put into place so that there are not one-off conversations and one-off questions flying at you every five minutes. And we totally subscribe to that in our business. And we'll go on Slack and we'll say, okay, guys, I'm going—we call it our creative cave—I'm going in a creative cave for the next two hours. I'll be back. And we know that we get the most, the best, the most-productive work done when we have that creative-cave time. And so that's exactly what you're doing. I love it. I think boundaries are important. I did a whole episode about it. I’ll link to it in the show notes. I’ll link to the episode all about boundaries. So important. And I think it ties into protecting your creative energy.
So, Tracy, thank you so very much for your time here. We covered so much ground. Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability around what it took to create the businesses that you have today. I'm so glad you've come on the show.
TRACY: Amy, thank you so much for having me. This was a blast.
AMY: Always. All right. Take care. I’ll talk to you soon.
AMY: So there you have it. Just a big shout out to Tracy because I love this topic and I'm glad that she got us talking about creativity, but more importantly, protecting it.
So here's what I want you to do. In the next twenty-four hours, I want you to identify two ways that you get into that creative mode. What can you do to fuel your mind with more creativity, to give yourself space to be more creative, to really make it a priority in your week? Now, I mentioned this on the podcast when I was talking to Tracy, but if I don't plan for it, if it's not part of my daily habit, it's just not going to happen. Like I said, I could put an action list ahead of anything. I could pretend that the ten actions on my list are a bigger priority than anything coming my way. And so if I want to really hone in on that creativity and own my kind of creativity, where I offer the most value in the business, then I got to make time for it. Just like anything important, you got to make time for it. So I hope you do that. That's my challenge for you. Next twenty-four hours, choose two ways that you get into that creative mode, and then make it happen. Make it a habit.
All right. So there you have it.
As I always remind you, if you haven't done so already, make sure you subscribe to the podcast wherever you listen so that you never miss an episode. We got some good ones coming out, and I can't wait to share them with you soon.
All right, guys, have a wonderful day. I'll see you same time, same place next week. Bye for now.