The Kade Wilcox Podcast: ROI Talent Development
Posted By Kade Wilcox | May 19, 2021
With just over three decades of dedicated knowledge, talent and industry confidence between the two of them, LeAnne Lagasse and Joy O’Steen of ROI Talent Development were finally ready to jump into the world of entrepreneurship.
But just like many budding business owners, what they envisioned for their future took a back seat when COVID hit.
Learn more about a small business that started just before the world shut down, and what their employee-based business looks like in a post COVID world, only on this episode of The Kade Wilcox Podcast.
Connect with the folks behind the episode: LeAnne Lagasse, Joy O’Steen, and Kade Wilcox
Kade Wilcox: Welcome to The Kade Wilcox Podcast. I'm Kade Wilcox, your host, and I love small business. I love the leaders who lead small businesses. I love the journey of starting a new company and figuring out how to manage people, culture, and vision and operations and finances and sales and marketing. And so on our podcast, we feature local small business owners who are in the trenches and doing the work. And we learn from them: what's going well, what's not going well, things they've learned throughout their journey. So thanks for joining the podcast and enjoy learning from others who were in the trenches and doing the work.
LeAnne Lagasse: And then 2020, you know, hit and in about March, you know I'm with the rest of the world, businesses shut down. And when your business model is, let's get businesses together in rooms and have meaningful conversations and trainings, I mean, that was really, you know, that was very difficult for us. And in the past year it's been very hard. It's been very stretching. We made some good decisions because immediately when everything happened, there were all these business leaders and owners that were having to start managing people remotely. And so we very quickly realized, okay, we need to pivot. We had to figure out, how can we leverage this knowledge that we have to really help people? And so I think that helped us a time with visibility and brand awareness and those kinds of things. But suddenly we weren't getting the big revenue coming in that we had been with these big events. It was little things here and there, which were all good, but it was just hard, financially, for us. And also who knew it was going to last a whole year, pretty much.
Kade Wilcox: LeAnne and Joy, thanks for joining The Kade Wilcox Podcast. I really appreciate you being willing to do it. You guys, in the last year or so, have started ROI Talent Development and so I'm really excited for people to hear from you, kind of, what your entrepreneurial journey has been. I know you both came from Texas Tech, which I'd love for you to give a little bit of background to. You started this together. Now you're growing it. You're doing a really good job. And I personally can't wait for others, but especially myself, to learn from you and to hear kind of what this journey has been like.
LeAnne Lagasse: Well, thanks so much for having us Kade. We are really excited to be here and really passionate, even though our business does not focus on necessarily equipping people in the entrepreneurial journey. What we do really aligns with that because we're all about company culture. So we're really pumped to be here.
The Start of ROI Talent Development
Kade Wilcox: That's cool. So why don't each of you, we can start with LeAnne, and then Joy, I would love for you to share as well. Why don't y'all give just a little bit of a background about yourselves and then one of you — you can just flip a coin to figure it out — can kind of share about where the vision for ROI came from, what that journey of mentally processing it and making the decisions to start it. And you can kind of both just dialogue. This is a super informal podcast, okay? So don't feel bad if you're talking over each other and saying the same things. This is just a fun dialogue and conversation. So no stress.
LeAnne Lagasse: Awesome. Okay. So I'll maybe — Joy, sometimes we'll do like, I'll do the past and then Joy can kind of talk about — or we'll switch it.
Joy O'Steen: That's great. No, that's great. Go for it.
LeAnne Lagasse: You want to talk about our past, and then I'll jump in and kind of talk about where we are currently?
Joy O’Steen: Sure. So we actually, we were both professors at Texas Tech University. We were faculty members in the College of Media and Communication. And we started out — we were young, naive faculty members who I think said yes a lot. And so probably more than we should have, you know? So we, because of that two cool things happened. One, we were able to teach between the two of us, the entire communication catalog. So we taught a lot of courses. But we have a, because of that, we have a depth of knowledge that we bring to our business that I think has really informed who we are. And LeAnne, we'll talk about that in a minute.
The other cool thing that happened was pretty early on, we were both promoted to director roles where we were in charge of incredibly large courses. And so between the two of us, we each had a thousand students each semester. So we had 2000 students and then we each had our own group of TAs, which were about 25 TAs each. And so we were having to, you know — we did not hire them. We had some fabulous ones and we also had ones that, were you know, would admit they were there for the tuition discount and the fee waiver, right? And so we learned pretty early on what worked and what did not work when it came to managing a group of highly diverse, high turnover, you know, group.
And so I think that's kind of built the foundation for what we're doing today, which Leanne will also talk about. We're both, just, just a little bit more background about us, we're both — our education both comes from the communication world. So I have a bachelor in business communication. LeAnne has a bachelor in communication studies. I went to LCU. LeAnne went to Texas Tech for both of her degrees. And then we were both at Texas Tech for our master’s in communication studies. And so we met when we became faculty members just really early on in 2009.
Kade Wilcox: Cool. How long were you at Tech? Like, how long were you all doing all that at Texas Tech?
LeAnne Lagasse: I was there for 18 years total and LeAnne was there for 14 years.
Kade Wilcox: Wow. So that was the path. I mean, y'all are on the path to be in academics for a long time.
Joy O'Steen: Yes.
LeAnne Lagasse: We really were, but you know, something that was different about Joy and myself is that kind of independent of each other, we both made a decision early on that, you know, despite the wishes of our graduate advisors and faculty, that we just made a decision not to pursue PhD school. Both of us. And we didn't really know each other then, but you know, when you're sort of in academia and you want to work as a professor, you got to go get your PhD. And so we both, I think just on our own, had a sense that that really wasn't what we were the most — we weren't really as passionate about doing the research as we were taking the research. Because we were passionate about the discipline, right? The discipline of communication. But we weren't necessarily the ones that wanted to be doing research. And we didn't know that we wanted to kind of live that full professor, like, tenure-track life.
So neither one of us decided to go on a path towards a PhD. And what that meant was that we were sort of in a position at Tech, and would have been this way really anywhere we were, where there was a limit to sort of where we could go. That we were honestly, when Joy said a minute ago, we were both promoted pretty early in our careers. And that's because we said yes to everything. But also we, I think displayed a lot of competence in those areas. And so we were promoted. And by the time we were both in our mid-twenties, we were as really as high as we were ever going to go. And we used that and leveraged that for everything we could. We learned so much during that time that we still feel, like Joy said a second ago, we're using every single day. But there was just a limit where, you know, to your point, you're like, hey, that's the path you're on. We knew that. But there was also a limit to that path unless we decided to go back and get our PhD, which we didn't really feel was in the cards for us.
Kade Wilcox: So did either of you grow up wanting to be entrepreneurs who are going to start your own thing, and build your own client base, and hire, and fire, and manage finances, and figure out operations? Like, did either of you have that vision for yourselves?
LeAnne Lagasse: No.
Joy O'Steen: No, we did not.
Kade Wilcox: What was it like, then, kind of figuring that out? And like what, when was that kind of an epiphany for you guys where you're like, "Oh my gosh, we're really doing this." So, like, how'd that all shake out?
Joy O'Steen: So we, actually, this was something that we had discussed for a while, and kind of like a dream. Like, especially on the hard days, we would say things like, "Hey, we should just start our own consulting business." But it never was anything that we really were putting a lot of thought into until one day I actually had the opportunity to sit in on a training that another company, you know, had brought a person in to speak at. And on the way home, I called LeAnne and I was like, "Listen, if this guy can do it, we can do it." And so, and that was like the turning point. And then we're like, "Okay, let's do it." But I think even then we still thought it would be like a side hustle. It would be something that we did, but we would still stay with our full-time.
And so, and I know LeAnne will talk a little bit about, like, the vision of ROI, but I think, like, to your point, Kade, we — I think the epiphany came — we knew a lot about the content. We didn't know a lot about running a business. And so we were Googling all the time. Kind of building the airplane in the air, you know? And one thing that we didn't know is how to pay ourselves. So we were just stockpiling the money that our clients were giving us, like, just in this little account we'd opened with a local bank. And one day, you know, we were like, okay, we really need to buy computers. And so we go to Costco and we pick out the computers we want, and then we're like, we both pause. And we're like, we feel like we should call someone.
“Can we spend this money?”
Yeah, like, can we spend this money? Like, should we call and get approval? And no joke, this is embarrassing to admit now, but now we actually called our accountant, "Can we spend this money?" And she laughed. She — we're still her favorite clients. But it's so true because we, you know, we always said, look, if we could get the people in the room, like that's our world. We feel in control and in command. But it was all of the other stuff that really Joy said we were Googling. It was like, what does this form mean? Like, somebody would just drop a term and we're like, "Sure." And then we go Google that, you know? And we still do that some, honestly, 'cause we're still figuring it out. But those are fun. That's really fun to kind of think about, actually, that we called our accountant to ask if we could buy — we're like, are we going to get, is somebody gonna come arrest us if we do this wrong? You know? You gotta remember we came from Tech where, like, to get a computer took, like, 45 levels of approval.
Kade Wilcox: Yeah, I can't imagine. I can't imagine. Y'all are the opposite of me, though. I like spending every dollar we make and y'all are like over there trying to stockpile it. So before I asked you some questions about what your experience has been owning your business, tell those who are listening that don't know what ROI Talent Development is, maybe give a brief overview of what you guys do and what your real focus is.
LeAnne Lagasse: Yes. So we specialize in helping business owners and leaders improve their employee engagement, attract and retain really high performing employees. And then ultimately what that does is help them build just exceptional workplace culture. We do a lot of different things, but probably the things that we're most known for are one, we do CliftonStrengths workshops and trainings. And then secondly, we do, we create customized learning series for — and we do that virtually, we do that in person, more virtually in the past year than I've been in person because of COVID — but we do learning series. We're really, we're coming alongside and partnering with, oftentimes HR leaders, cultural leaders, or small business owners who know, "Hey, we really want to equip our managers." Oftentimes it's those frontline managers that are, maybe they've been promoted, maybe they're like Joy and I were back then in our early twenties, and we got promoted, and we're like, "What are we doing?"
You know? I had to kind of hit the ground running. But we equip managers and really just try to make that process easier for leaders and business owners. And then we're also, just this year, we've started launching mastermind programs for women leaders. Really just as a space for women, higher-level executive women, to learn how to lead strategically, learn how to communicate more effectively, and also just to have really good community and accountability in just a time that's been really challenging during COVID. So that's sort of what we do. And we often say that the best thing about us is that we do a lot of things. And also the worst thing about us is that we do a lot of things
Kade Wilcox: You've carried over that ability to say yes to everything, into your own business. That's good.
LeAnne Lagasse: Amen to that.
Freedom to Innovate and Interact
Kade Wilcox: Yeah. That's really cool. Thanks for sharing that. So I'd love to hear from both of you on what your favorite thing about owning and running your own business. So, like, what do you really love? What's been your experience in terms of real enjoyment?
Joy O'Steen: For me, I would say it's the freedom of innovation because we get to create it all. And so I tend to be, out of the two of us, a little more on the creative side. So yeah, but it's just the ability to you know, when a client wants something and — like we said, we always say yes — and then we get to go back and we get to figure out what that would look like and how to create that product for them. Which is a lot of fun or even just, and we've had times where you know, I got to sit down and just create a tool or resource that didn't exist before and then get to see that used later. That's kind of the exciting part of it for me, I think. What about you, LeAnne?
LeAnne Lagasse: So for me, I think what, it's this almost this like theoretical idea that, you know, I can never quite get there, but it's this theoretical idea that I get to use these strengths and these gifts that I feel like I've been given and I've been asked to steward to help as many people as possible. It's the kind of that, like, sky's the limit idea is what really, really pumps me up about owning a business. And I think that is, you know, Joy talks about the freedom of innovation, which is very much in alignment with her strengths and what she brings to the table for ROI every day. And for me, it's that drive of, like, what are we capable of and how are we going to get there and how many people can we impact, that really pumps me up.
Kade Wilcox: I'm really happy for you all, you know, to have each other. I mean I'm not really this type of leader, a business owner, that's always feeling sorry for myself. It's like, oh, leadership is so hard, and you know, it's like, we're almost like a martyr and we chose to be what we are. And, yeah, at the same time, sometimes it can be challenging, it can be isolating. And so the fact that y'all are getting to do this together, it has to be like super, super exciting and really rich and rewarding. So I'm glad you have each other. What about your challenges? Like what are the things you've noticed that have been the most challenging or the things you like the least?
Leveraging Knowledge During Challenges
LeAnne Lagasse: Oh, goodness. Well, so I will tell you, you know, we were talking about stockpiling money earlier? So the good news for us was that we knew — so I rolled off at Tech in 2019. So I finished up there and I, the plan was, I was going to go full-time and we were going to kind of see how it went. And that was a big jump for us because again, we both were full-time faculty and this was originally supposed to be this side hustle and we made the decision: LeAnne's going to go first. We'll get our footing. Joy was going to stay on another year and then, you know, roll off in 2020. So we always joke that, like I picked the right year to do that because it's 2019. But what was, what ended up being just such a grace to us is that we were putting away a lot of — we're stockpiling again, because we knew Joy's going to be rolling off.
And so it's going to be supporting both of us full-time and we were going to have to readjust our operations and our rhythms and just kind of our roles. So we wanted to make sure we had a real, a lot of cushion. And then 2020, you know, hit and in about March, you know I, with the rest of the world, businesses shut down. And when your business model is, “Hey, let's get businesses together in rooms and have meaningful conversations and trainings. I mean, that was really, you know, that was very difficult for us. And the past year has been very hard. It's been very stretching. And, in a lot of ways, because, you know, I think we made a lot of decisions that were really strong in March. Like we, Joy and I had been teaching online classes for eternity past, basically.
Like that was one of those things that we said yes to early on. You know, the old, the senior level faculty were like, "We don't want to teach. We don't wanna have to learn how to teach online stuff. We'll make Joy and LeAnne do that", you know? So we've been teaching all these online classes. We had, like, just to tell you how much the world has changed in, like, what was it, Joy 2017, think? I won this award at Texas Tech for innovation in teaching, Kade. And the award was I took the public speaking, like the online public speaking class, which that's another story for another day, just what that looks like. But, I took the online public speaking class and I really transformed it to be about equipping students to do video conferencing, pitching via, you know, Zoom. And at the time that people were like, this is so innovative, so I won this big award.
If that tells you anything about how much things have changed, just in a very short period of time. That's kind of funny. That was in 2017. I think it was 2017. But anyway, that was such a challenge. You know, the past year we made some good decisions, because immediately when everything happened, there were all these business leaders and owners that were having to start managing people remotely. And that was something we were already training on. We already had some clients that were managing people remotely. I mean, you all were positioned, I think way better than most, you know. You were way ahead of the curve because you were already doing that. But so many people were panicking. And so we very quickly knew, we realized, okay, we need to pivot. And "we need to pivot" is so overused, but that's what we did. We had to figure out how we can leverage this knowledge that we have to really help people.
And so I think that helped us a ton with visibility and brand awareness and those kinds of things, but suddenly we weren't getting the big revenue, you know, coming in that we had been with these big events. It was little things here and there, which were all good, but it was just hard financially for us. And also, who knew it was going to last a whole year, pretty much. So we were making decisions like, oh, things will be good by October. I mean, I think everybody sort of was, but that was a real challenge for us to figure out how to sort of navigate through COVID. And then I would say the other thing that we struggle with a lot is we sort of have two major audiences, if you will, that it's hard for us sometimes to figure out how to kind of align those two.
We've got, obviously all of our in-person clients that, you know, most of them are in the West Texas area. But we do travel as well and we work with companies virtually, you know? We're working with a company in DC right now, and we've got some things happening with some companies in California. So we've got some of those virtual relationships, but then we also have this online following and this really cool online community that we've built that sort of sees us in a different light. And so it's been a challenge to figure out how do we align what we're doing since we've been on these certain two different trajectories. So I think those are maybe like the two biggest challenges that I think about in the last year that we've dealt with.
Kade Wilcox: Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. That's really good. Thanks for sharing all that. So every, I mean, there's so many different business frameworks, right? Like just these frameworks that people can work through, relate to a business. And I'm a real simpleton. And I often think of them really simply like, you know, vision (where are you going?), culture and people, operations, finances, and sales and marketing. So I'd love to hear maybe each of you can kind of go back and forth on a different one. So maybe Joy, you can talk a little bit about how do you guys handle creating a vision? You know, setting goals and objectives and not just like what they are, but like, how do you do it? Do you meet once a week? Do you meet once a month? Do you meet annually? Like what does the process look like, or has looked like for you guys related to vision and setting goals?
From Organic Conversation to Strategic Target
Joy O'Steen; So we actually do this probably a little differently than most people would. We actually set an office up to where our desks face each other, and a lot of those conversations just happen in the middle of all the other conversations that we're having, because we're both very futuristic-minded. So we're both very goal-driven and kind of always kind of looking to the future or where we want to go. And so honestly those are just a part of our natural conversations that we have now. When I was still at Tech full-time and Leanne wasn't, we were a little more strategic with let's meet once a week and talk about some of those things, you know? And we kind of had a Monday meeting, if you will. But now it's just every day we talk about those types of things.
Kade Wilcox: That's interesting. So how do you then work through — like, okay, so you're both futuristic, which is awesome. I've got that in my, I think top five. It's happening so naturally, organically, and regularly since you're working together. So then how do you take that kind of natural, organic, consistent routine vision-casting and organize it in such a way where you're tracking it? You're, you know, you're monitoring whether or not you're accomplishing that goal. Do you struggle with the target always moving, you know, because it, you know, you do it so regularly? Or what is it like relating to those things?
LeAnne Lagasse: Yeah, that's a really good question. I think during COVID it has felt like the target is moving and that — so I am much more than Joy, I'll say it the way she said it, I'm a little bit more organized than Joy. And Joy, here's your cue to go, "A little bit?" But so for me, it's probably been a little bit more difficult, too, because I am so much more — I want to know the very specific target, and then I want to set the framework and the systems and the structure and create routine and predictability around that. So I have 100% struggled a lot during COVID feeling like the target is moving because we felt like we were in this perpetual state of experimentation. And I think part of that is really great. And that is sort of the thing that really energizes Joy, to me, not as much, you know? But I have definitely felt that tension.
And I will say that as we've sort of, you know, things have really been opening up and we're getting to do (yay) more in-person work, now, that is really, I think, where we're best. And we're great in virtual settings, but we'd much rather be in the room with the people. I think we have felt a little bit of that need to start getting a little bit more strategic and get some more structure around it. But to Joy's point, we are constantly having those vision mission conversations and, ”Hey, does this really, is this really gonna move the ball for us? Or is this just another thing we're chasing, you know?” And so we'll have ideas and we'll chase them for just a little bit. And then it's like, we'll talk ourselves off of the ledge a little bit with like, “No, okay. Maybe we'll table that for later.”
But that is an area that I think as we grow, and that's our goal is to grow, that we'll probably need, I sense that, to get some structure around it. But right now it's been really fun to just stay nimble and try to work through it that way.
Joy O'Steen: One more thing on that point. I think for us, too, you know, in our previous careers, we were very much, set the goal. Accomplish the goal. Excel. Like we never had — what we're experiencing in business are those opportunities where we're failing a lot. And I'm just like, that's the nature of business. And it's so different from what we were used to in our previous careers that I think for part of those conversations we're having is us just reframing like the failures and kind of working through those and using them to kind of inform the direction we go next, and experiments we try next.
And so I think, too, for us, we're still learning that part of business a little bit, to where — because before in our previous careers, I mean, a failure was devastating. Like, you know what I'm talking about, LeAnne. It's just it was; it was a totally different world. And so we didn't fail and we were afraid of failing, I would think. I mean, we've had to kind of bring ourselves out of that and be a little more free-spirited in the entrepreneurship of just experimenting and see, you know, throw some things out, see what lands, you know? Those types of things.
Kade Wilcox: That's really exciting. And it is huge — I can see it being a big difference from the environment you came from. But back to what you said earlier about just the freedom for innovation. Like most innovation is a failure at first, you know? And so I can see where that'd be really freeing and really kind of energizing. That's really good. So I'm really excited to hear what you all think about building culture. So not only, you know, what you're doing right now in terms of your own organization, right? Because it's different helping. I would think helping other people focus on culture and build culture versus you building your own culture and not neglecting it because you're so busy helping other people. So what have y'all learned and what are y'all thinking as it relates to building your own organizational culture?
Where I Am Weak, She Is Strong
LeAnne Lagasse: Yeah. I really love this question because I think wouldn't it be funny if, maybe not funny, but if we were the company culture and gurus and ours was just like a dumpster fire, you know? I think one, I will say, you know, Joy and I have worked together for so long. We were, you know, and she touched on this. We figured out very early on that we were a really good compliment to each other and that we were — she was really strong, I was really weak, and vice versa. And we worked together so closely that in a lot of ways, you know, the transition into owning a business together was really natural because it felt like, okay, well obviously these are the things I'm going to own. And these are the things you're going to own because that's where we're really strong. The challenges, I think, for company culture with us is, you know, how do we continue to communicate effectively with respect to expectations?
And as the target, you know, is maybe moving and those kinds of things, how do we stay aligned? How do we make sure that we are leveraging our strengths really well? We, the other one of our problems, too, is that we know, it's almost like we know too much, you know? I was talking to a friend the other day and I was talking about some like nonverbal communication stuff, and she's like, “You just know, like, you know too much. You know too much.” And it hurts you, you know? And I think that for sometimes, Joy and I both, that gets us in trouble because we are analytical by nature when it comes to people. And so it's easy to start thinking, okay, if we do this, does that lead to all these other things happening? Or what are they going to be the natural consequences of this? But I do think that we've been so fortunate to have each other and we naturally work so well together that that's felt so intuitive for me, for the most part. I don't know, Joy might have another story to tell, but that's been the case for me, for sure.
Kade Wilcox: That's really good. Yeah. It'd be fun — do you have any employees yet?
LeAnne Lagasse: So we, we usually have like part-time independent contractors that work with us. And we've had several of those in the past. During COVID we had to sort of stop working with a lot of those independent contractors because we just, I mean, we were, you know, there were periods of time during that where we were like, "Are we going to be able to even pay our bills that we have coming in?" Just because it was such — it was so abrupt for us. So we currently don't have any independent contractors working for us, but we are — we have now, we have an intern that we're working closely with that we're just crazy about. And then we're also sort of starting to have some conversations with other consultants and trainers who might sort of come under the ROI umbrella to work in some niches, some different areas.
And we're sort of exploring that. We're going to — our plan is to move sort of cautiously with that. But we've, it's one of those things, you know? You don't know what you don't know. And suddenly there were people who would ask us, like, “We would love to work for y'all,” you know? And we're like, “That's so cute that you're like that. You think we can just hire,” you know? You're like, we're just doing the best we can. But what it did is it showed us like, hey, there's people that really - maybe they've wanted to get into consulting or executive coaching, and maybe they were like us and they have a full-time job, but they're like, “Hey, I'd really love to explore this.” So we're in conversations with some people that we might be bringing on in that capacity. And so we're really pumped about that as well.
Kade Wilcox: It'd be fun to do this podcast in a year or two and say, okay, now you have 27 people. What'd you learn? Based on y'alls facial expressions you're not quite ready for 27. But it'll be fun to learn, you know, to hear what you learn about what's worked and what doesn't. And I appreciate what you said about, you know so much, right? And you're always trying to help others. And we have felt this way over the years, even doing our own marketing is, you know, we're helping other people do it, but it doesn't necessarily mean you're really skilled or you're good at figuring out your own voice or your own message or your own brand or your own website. So I feel like it will be fun to hear y'all's experience in the coming years. Talk to me a little bit about operations. And again, I'm a simpleton. When I think of operations, I'm simply referring to the delivery of your service to your customer.
Operations When Every Client is Unique
And so from an operational standpoint, in terms of how you organize internally in order to deliver a product or service, how do you evaluate the health of your operations? You know, you're in an interesting position where like you're innovating and creating the work you're delivering, the work you're serving the client. And so what's that been like for you guys to evaluate that and to tweak it and to get better at it and to kind of figure out the whole kind of process of implementation and not just the substance of the content?
LeAnne Lagasse: I think for us one of the things that we really pay attention to is customer feedback and customer satisfaction. And that's just, you know, the verbal feedback or the referrals that we get to look at; a satisfied client is referring us to someone else. But we also, we keep track of surveys that we do with anyone we do a workshop with. So we do track those metrics as well. And so those are kind of just the ways — but yeah, you're right. We're kind of, we kind of do it all. And so it, a lot of it, too, I think sometimes it's, it's when we start to get the questions around a certain thing, we think, "Hmm, maybe we weren't as clear about that." And so sometimes we're pretty reactive on a lot of those kinds of tweaks and things that we're changing. Or sometimes we'll do something and it works great 10 times and then we do it again, and we notice things are changing a little bit, you know? Culture shifting or something's happening, and so we're rerouting and figuring it out. I was coming up with another word than pivot, but you know, we're trying to figure out another way to come at the same problem, but maybe from a different direction, to give a little bit more voice to, or eyes on, something that is now becoming an apparent problem in a particular area.
Kade Wilcox: That's good. Do you tend to build out a system and process and then implement and learn from it? Or do you tend to like to go for broke and then learn on the back end of it?
Joy O'Steen: LeAnne is all about systems.
LeAnne Lagasse: Yeah, but I would actually, I would actually say both; both/and a bit. So we, I am definitely the structure, predictability, routine person. And so I think even when I was looking at the question and thinking through operations, I think so much of that feels really intuitive for me to go, okay, here's the journey, like, the client journey, that we're going to take people on. In general, these are the things that — these are the touch points. These are the, you know, these are the areas we know we want to move them through. And so there's some of those things that we do that are really systemic and, you know, routine and structured. But then one of our core values really at ROI is individualization to the client. And so to Joy's point, that's where within a lot of the framework and the systems that we want to take clients through, we are always doing the work of audience analysis and perspective taking and trying to figure out what is the unique solution for this particular client. And so in that sense, it's always fresh. It's always new. And so our operations are so diverse because while there's a lot of similarities, every client is so unique. The size of their workforce is different. The industry they're in is different. The problems they have are different. And so that sometimes is a struggle for me because I would much prefer to have something that's more streamlined. But actually, my number one strength is individualization. So I also very much get energy around that process of customization.
Kade Wilcox: Yeah, that's really good. Yeah, it just brings back so many memories. Like we were pretty much, and always have been until we hired really great people like Jessica, and Heather, and Annie, but I was kind of go for broke and then learn from it. But along the way, you're breaking everything, including people, which is really bad. And so yeah, it's interesting just to hear how other people handle it.
Profit First Finances
What about finances? Like I'm intrigued by the fact that, you know, you guys had this stability of careers, like long-term careers, and then you're going to start your own thing and you happen to start that thing right before a global pandemic. And so what are you learning about managing finances and, you know, how you've adapted to going from a really large organization to now, it's your money? Like, it's your money and you gotta decide what to do with all that. And so what's that experience been like?
Joy O'Steen: So we knew, first off, I think the first call we made was to an accountant because we knew we were not going to be the tax people. We were not going to be the ones that were going to be keeping the books. And, you know, we knew our limitations in that area. So that was definitely — we surround ourselves with a great team. But we also, we both feel strongly about, you know, trying to create something that is sustainable. And so we knew we didn't want to start out with a lot of debt; that was like a direction we wanted to go. I know it works for a lot of businesses, but because we did have the full-time jobs, we felt like we had a little bit more of that flexibility to be able to kind of try to get this started and off the ground without taking out any loans or having investors.
And so we use a method called profit first, which we really like. So we actually have different bank accounts for each of the money, you know, the designated areas for our money. So for instance, like the taxes, they go into the tax account, and that is what it is for. And what's great about it is having it in separate accounts gives us eyes to see where the money is and where it's, you know, earmarked for instead of it all being in one giant account. And you're having to remind yourself, “Oh yeah, but this percentage is for taxes and this is for something else.” The other thing we like about it is it kind of creates a little bit of financial creativity because we have an operations account and we only have that operations account.
So we know if those numbers are running a little low, we got to get a little creative. So just a few weeks ago, we wanted to make a change on something. And so what we did is we got creative and we kind of ran an assessment of everything we were paying for and decided where we could make some cuts so that we could afford the next direction we wanted to go. And I think that really helps us run our finances as well.
LeAnne Lagasse: Joy and I are both like, personally, big Dave Ramsey fans. And so we both kind of operate our finances, our personal finances that way. And so that was, to her point, that was a real value we had. And that's why we've really liked this, the profit first philosophy, which works really well with, I think, any business, but for sure, small businesses. And it's kind of like Dave Ramsey for business, in a sense, and so it's worked really well for us.
Kade Wilcox: That's awesome. I'm so glad you brought it up. Someone just recently in the last few weeks recommended I read the book. Because it's a book, right? Profit First. And so I'll have to check it out. I'm super encouraged that you all took it seriously from day one. We didn't take it seriously for like seven years, you know? And so we had a real propensity to make a lot of money and then spend all of it. And so it took us a while to really go, you know what, we're not being serious enough about this. And we got a CFO and really started to develop some financial health which has been a real blessing. But it sounds like y'all were way smarter on the front end than we were.
Just a couple more questions for you. Thanks for sharing all that. What's y'all's approach to sales and marketing. It sounds like you've chosen a very methodical, very organic approach to growth. And so as y'all continue to pick up steam and more people hear about you and you do more work, what is your mindset around kind of sales and marketing and growing revenue and getting new clients and things like that?
Pre-COVID and Post-COVID Growth
LeAnne Lagasse: Yeah. So this is another thing where I almost feel like there's a pre-COVID answer and there's a post-COVID answer, which I think business leaders everywhere know what that's like. But you know, pre-COVID, we were truly, we were not advertising, you know, in the traditional sense. We were getting almost all of our clients from referrals, and once we had landed those first strategic partnerships with clients, then it just sort of snowballed. And so we were, people were calling us, you know, "Oh, hey, we heard about you." And we're like, "This is great. Owning a business is amazing."
And so we were doing, you know, we had some marketing pieces in place. We knew we wanted to have, you know, a presence, an online presence. And so we had some social media channels and I would say we were maintaining, we weren't doing anything strategic there, for sure. It was mostly just trying to get stuff out there. So if people Googled us, they're like, "Oh, my friend mentioned ROI Talent Development. Let me look into them." Oh, they've got a Facebook page and they've got a LinkedIn page" and “Okay, they look legitimate.” That was kind of our goal because we just had so much business coming. And then of course, when COVID hit, we made a strategic decision that Joy and I are at our very best when we're presenting content, and we're delivering, we're equipping, and teaching.
And so we went just all in kind of our marketing, our sales, which sales were not really happening, honestly, because people were not, people did not have budgets for the work that we do during COVID as much. And so a little bit, but not as much. And so we were going, our strategy is, we're going to get our faces and our teaching in front of as many people as we can. And so we were doing webinars. We had built some really strong partnerships with some companies that, you know, really kind of aligned with the work that we do. And so we were doing webinars for them or the society, you know, or SHRM, right? Human resource management. We were doing some webinars with them. We were getting in front of as many people as we could in the hope that when things started opening up, we were going to be front of mind when people looked around and said, "Wow, COVID has really hurt our workforce in so many ways, and we need help." That we would be, they would think Joy and LeAnne, ROI Talent Development.
And that has been really fruitful for us so far. But I will say that now, again, post-COVID, I very much sense that, you know, there's a lot more people that have moved into this space where we are now for different reasons. And so that's where my competition, and I know, you know what, I'm talking about here. I know, you know, that I'm like, "Let's go. Let's go." And so I've been — that is an area where I, in my own professional development, very much since I want to get a higher level in being strategic. And we're already starting to see some fruit from that as well. And then the last thing I will say about this one is neither Joy and myself, neither one of us are really great networkers. Like if you're like, “Let's go to a business networking thing,” we're like, “No, we don't want to do that.” Like, that's just not — now if you're like, ”Hey, would you like to come speak at this business networking thing?” Yes. We're there. So that's another thing that we're very much both of us are really working on because we sense the value in that. And we know it's important, but it's not as natural to either one of us. So we're working on that, too.
Kade Wilcox: That's good. Well, I try to tell every single person who will listen about y'all, so I'll fill that role of the networker for you guys until y'all have more space for it. Anything you want to add to that, Joy? That's really good. Thanks, LeAnne.
Joy O'Steen: I think, I mean, you really covered it. I think one thing that's helped is kind of getting a little bit of extra training about things like building, you know, an email list and kind of nurturing that email list. And so that was something that we had actually started prior to COVID. But when COVID hit, that's something that we kind of zeroed in on because we thought this is something we can do now, let's go ahead and build, like LeAnne mentioned, let's get as many eyes on this as possible. But I think for us, we needed a little bit of training around like that digital marketing side.
Kade Wilcox: The amazing thing about y'all, and it's going to be — it's a real gift and it's going to serve you well — is you're remarkable content creators. You are the thought leader in your space. You can easily create content. You've been creating content for 20 years. Your content is robust. It's helpful. It's easy to consume. And so as you build out your team and you just have a tactician, right, just someone who knows what channels to put it on, can kind of package it up into different, you know, bite-sized chunks and then deliver it. That's really easy where most people really struggle is creating the content. You guys could do that with your eyes closed. And so I think that's going to serve you really well as you continue to build your brand.
Okay, these are a little easier to answer. So two more questions, then we'll wrap up. What, and both of you can answer, what tools could you not live without? Whether it's your phone, your computer, some kind of app, I'm just curious. What are the go-to tools for each of you?
The Gift of Space and Kajabi
Joy O'Steen: One of the tools — we actually talked about this when we got the list of questions. One of the tools is not one you would probably think of immediately. But we are in a co-working space and we love it, like us having an office and a place for us to go and not be around our children and be able to work together. And because there are two of us, what we were doing before, well, prior to COVID, we were going to Starbucks a lot, and that was great. But when COVID hit, we were taking turns meeting at each other's houses. And I think even when we would do that, they're always, there's that little bit of a feeling that you're in someone else's house, you know? And then, too, we would joke about, it's like, yeah, I'm trying to work on this, and I'm looking at the dirty dishes in my sink, the laundry I need to fold. Like, you know, what is this doing to me mentally?
And so I think for us, one of the best decisions we made was to — we're at Hub City Workspace. And we love it there, and just getting an office. So having a place just for ROI was helpful for us.
LeAnne Lagasse: Yeah. So I would say to our kind of platform of choice that we do so many things in is Kajabi. And so we actually don't host our website on Kajabi, although that's something you can do on Kajabi. But we use Kajabi for a lot of our digital products for like deployment of those products, for our email list to, you know, to kind of help us facilitate the scheduling of our webinars and our online trainings, our learning series. And we really love Kajabi. I mean, we've been using them for several years and even just now I think we are starting to scratch the surface of what's possible in the platform. So we really enjoy Kajabi.
And then I think we would be — it would be ridiculous if we didn't say that maybe our all-time favorite tool is CliftonStrengths. You know, we use — and I say that not just because a huge part of our business is built on, you know, the work of the Gallup organization and CliftonStrengths, but also because we use that tool every single day as we work together. That we're constantly having conversations and that's really the power of that tool, you know? For those of you that maybe don't know about it, it's a talent assessment and it's rooted in a lot of data. And it's just an amazing tool that helps teams develop a shared language around areas of strength that they have. And then it also leads to really fun conversations about the areas of vulnerability or weakness.
But we use that tool — I mean, it is like in the fabric of who we are. We talk about it constantly, and it helps us be strategic in deciding, again, who owns what and who's going to do what, and oh, why was that conversation so frustrating to LeAnne or to Joy? Here's why. And so that's a tool we could not live without, also our business could not live without it probably.
Kade Wilcox: Yeah, that's always important. That's really good. Thanks for sharing that. Last question, what piece of advice would you give to yourself if you could go back two, three years ago when you were birthing this idea of a business? Or if someone were thinking about getting into business, what's one thing that each of you have learned that you would offer as a piece of advice?
The World Needs Your Contribution
Joy O'Steen: Oh, I can go first. And I would say if I was going to talk to someone who wanted to start their own business, or maybe they've just started a business and they're a little discouraged, like, what I would tell them is, you know, the world needs your contribution. And so don't listen to that little voice in your head that's telling you you're not good enough. And because that's that imposter syndrome that is so popular for many of us, especially women. It's kind of that constant battle we have with — even in rooms that we know we deserve to be there, there's always that little voice in the back of the head that's saying, "Wait, everyone's going to figure you out, right.? You're an imposter here." So I think that's what — but the main reason why I would say don't listen to that voice is because the world really does need whatever unique talents or, you know, your business, the world needs it. And so you would be doing the world a disservice if you hold back. So I'd say, just go for it.
Kade Wilcox: That's good.
LeAnne Lagasse: That's really good. I needed to hear that today, Joy.
Joy O'Steen: You're welcome, LeAnne.
LeAnne Lagasse: I think for me, we've touched on it a little bit, but I think what I would say is become a student of yourself. And I don't mean this in a, like, puff yourself up way. I mean this: study yourself, know yourself so that you can be really strategic about it as much as possible, investing your time and energy in those areas of energy and natural talent for you. And as much as you can. And I know this is hard with resources, especially when you're starting out, outsource what you are not naturally good at to other people. Whether it's in, you know, you're hiring people or you're working with vendors or you're trying to support your — create a team around yourself. So I would say as much as possible, don't do the things that do not come naturally to you. Now, that's not to say don't learn and grow. Like, for example, when we started out, I built our website. Like Kade, I know zero things about building a website. You're like, I saw your website, Leanne.
Kade Wilcox: No, no, not true.
LeAnne Lagasse: But I had to do a ton of learning around that and it was not as efficient because I spent so much time doing something that didn't come as naturally to me, but I also understand that struggle of needing to have the resources to do it. So I would say study yourself and figure out the areas where you can really invest your time and energy, and then as much as you can, outsource to others. And then kind of a sub point of that is surround yourself with a team of experts who are teachers. And that is important because we, you know, one thing that we did early on, we actually went and visited with — so this is not the accountant who helped us with our computers at Costco, before that somebody else had referred us to another accountant. And I tell this story sometimes because it, for me, was like a really defining moment, and for Joy as well.
I think that we didn't know anything. We didn't know what kind of, like, we didn't know how to classify the business. We didn't know any of these terms. We were so overwhelmed and we just knew we wanted to do this thing. And so we went — we got referred to this accountant and we went to sit down with him and, you know, was very polite. So if he's listening, he was very polite, but it took me about three minutes in that room to figure out, "Okay, I don't think that you are taking us seriously. And I very much sense that you've made up your mind already that we're not going to be able to pull this off." And so we laughed because as we left his office, he walked up to his administrative assistant. And we knew there was going to be a charge obviously for his time.
And we walked up and he kind of leaned over to her and said, “Don't worry, you know, about charging them.” And Joy, who's our positive one, was like, "Oh, this amazing. We didn't have to pay for this." And I was, I was like, "No, how dare he not think that we can pay this?" and "We're going to do this thing," you know? But the thing was, he wasn't — he didn't have a teacher's heart for us, and maybe he does for his other clients. But what that did is it made us go, no, we're going to go find people who believe in what we're doing, who believe in us. And that's not to say, they're not going to challenge us or hold us accountable, but they're going to be teachers. And so our accountant that, you know, takes our calls from Costco, she sits down with us and equips and teaches us in areas that we're not naturally gifted in. And so I can say to her, "I know you've explained this to me 10 times, but my brain does not process info this way. Can you do it again?" And she will. So that's the other thing I would say.
Kade Wilcox: That's really cool. That's really good. I can not tell y'all how proud I am of you. I really admire you. I mean you're wives, you're moms, you're friends, you're committed to your communities, and you're phenomenal business people. And I'm really lucky. Like, I'm really, kind of, barely one of those things and y'all are doing like five things exceptionally well, and I really admire it. And it's going to be really fun these next two or three years to kind of watch your growth and the way that you really blow this company up. And, you know, I appreciate what Joy said about, you know, the world needs your contribution. I can't think of a greater contribution to society than really healthy business leaders and the teams that they're leading and that's the work y'all are doing. So it's a real joy to know you. And I'm just super excited about what y'all are creating and to see kind of where it goes. So thanks for joining the podcast and for sharing all your great wisdom.
Joy O'Steen and LeAnne Lagasse: Thanks so much for having us.
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