This week we were able to speak with Kristi DePaul, the Founder and CEO of Founders Marketing -- a marketing agency devoted specifically to the future of work and future of learning niches. Kristi is also a popular writer, speaker, startup mentor and has extensive experience in both executive roles in the remote work space and now through her role as CEO of Founders Marketing.
Kristi was great to talk to and learn from. Like many of us in the technology space, she’s got an interesting background and took a relatively unconventional route in becoming a successful entrepreneur. We were able to dive into what makes her team unique in the crowded marketing agency landscape, her thoughts on team building and much more. Of the many things we discussed, I think my favourite was how her background in journalism has affected her entrepreneurial journey.
Thanks for listening!
If you’re in need of marketing help, or interested in what Kristi and her team are up to, please check out https://www.founders.marketing/ for more information.
The book Kristi recommends: “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed
Matt H: 00:09 Hello everyone. My name is Matt Hollingsworth, and welcome to another episode of the Remote Show, where we discuss everything to do with route work with the people who know it best. Thanks so much for listening. The Remote Show is brought to you by We Work Remotely, the largest community of remote workers in the world, with over 220000 unit users per month, We Work Remotely is the most effective way to hire.
Matt H: 00:28 My guest on today's show is Kristi DePaul. Kristi is the founder and CEO of Founders Marketing, a marketing agency devoted specifically to the future of work and the future of learning niches. Kristi is also a popular writer, speaker, startup mentor, and has extensive experience in both executive roles in the remote work space and through her role as CEO of Founders Marketing.
Matt H: 00:50 Kristi, thanks for coming to the podcast. I really appreciate it.
Kristi DePaul: 00:53 Matt, thank you so much. It's my pleasure.
Matt H: 00:55 We're looking forward to getting into it with you today. I know that you've got a lot of remote work experience, so really excited about it. Why don't you tell us a little bit about how you got your start working remotely, and what business that was in, and then you can start talking about what you're doing now. But how did you get your start in your career? And you can even go prior to that into your education if you like, but tell us a little bit about yourself?
Kristi DePaul: 01:14 Sure. So I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I went to school at a couple of different institutions, undergrad and grad, both in Pennsylvania, incidentally. And I started working in an office right out of graduate school, and I remember looking out the window of my office and, first of all, thinking, "Wow, how cool is it that I have an office, and I'm only 24. That's so awesome." I remember looking out onto the quad. I was working at a university, and it was desolate no one was there in the summertime. And I just thought to myself, is this is? Is this going to be it forever? Coming into an office every day from eight to five and doing the things that I need to do, but on this computer and maybe having some meetings, but lather, rinse, repeat every year of my life will be like this. And I just buried the thought, and I continued working at that university.
Kristi DePaul: 02:08 It was actually one of my alma maters. It was technically my second job out of grad school. And I stayed there for almost three years. Actually, that was the longest job I've held in true millennial fashion, I think, until my current company, which is my company. That tells you something about how I felt about the jobs following, although all of them were very interesting. I'm still seeking something more.
Kristi DePaul: 02:34 Other rules that I held, I think the way my career evolved moved toward a more entrepreneurial bent. I moved from higher ed to educational consulting and EdTech companies where I was managing rest of world market, so we had clients and partners in India, Korea, Malaysia, Columbia, Russia, across Europe, so I had a lot of opportunities to travel, which was really fascinating to me, and I love doing that as part of my job. It was very inspiring and stimulating work, but I still felt like, okay, this is interesting. What am I going to do next?
Kristi DePaul: 03:09 It just so happens that I left my job that was an EdTech startup, and then I spent a summer figuring things out. What am I going to do? I started teaching at a local university, which is very much not remote. It was not online teaching it was face-to-face and a bit terrifying because I don't like public speaking. Podcasts are easier. No one sees you. So, I was teaching, and I felt like, I'm piloting my own ship here, as an educator, and I was basically developing the curriculum myself, there was some direction from the department. I was teaching business communication, international communication. I just thought, wouldn't it be cool if I could just combine all the things that I did in my past roles in a company one day? And that sowed the seed for the idea for my company, which is Founders Marketing.
Kristi DePaul: 03:57 Now, of course, after that, I still didn't quite get to launch it, so I found a remote job with a really cool organization in the higher ed IT space. It's an IT association for colleges and universities around the globe called EDUCAUSE, and really, in that role, that's where I learned the processes and how to help build team culture, ways to mitigate conflicts, and all the things that eventually I would write about for Remote.co, which is an online outlet and also a very popular jobs forum for remote workers. I've written almost 200 blog posts for them based on that role at EDUCAUSE which was roughly two years. I think I've just taken you through my whole chronology. Thank you for listening.
Matt H: 04:51 Yeah, one of the things that I love about this podcast is hearing about people's background and their education and how it evolved into their careers. And I think it's a really valuable thing for people to hear, because there is a lot of people out there that are listening that are wondering where to go next and what's available to them and the idea of jumping from job to job and from industry to industry is a scary one, but there are successful people out there who do a bunch of different things, and actually how you set yourself up for success is to try a bunch of different things before finding out what it is that you are really passionate about. So I think it's really important.
Kristi DePaul: 05:21 I would agree. I think it's about strategically, I guess you could say, pushing your own boundaries. I like strategically scaring yourself, a little bit better, embracing those things that you might not think you'd be immediately good at.
Matt H: 05:35 Yeah, that's great. It's one of my favorite quotes as well that I heard when I was younger was the idea that stress plus rest equals growth, and that could go for physical exercise, but I was thinking more in the context of self improvement more generally is that moderate stress and then time to reflect, and it makes you a better person at the end. So, yeah, I think it's really important, as well.
Matt H: 05:54 So, tell me a little bit about your education itself because you mentioned two different alma maters. Where were you? And what were you studying?
Kristi DePaul: 06:01 I attended Penn State for undergrad, and that's in the center of Pennsylvania, and there is studied journalism. At the time, it was almost exclusively print journalism, I'm not going to date myself that much, it was definitely after the turn of our current century, but there have been since a lot of changes in the journalism world. So it was a little digital than what students would encounter today. But still, from that, I gleaned a lot of, I would say, the basic tenants of journalism and principles of it, not just from an ethical perspective or a process perspective, but really a way to develop an insatiable curiosity about anything, and to ask questions that will lead to interesting answers.
Matt H: 06:45 Yeah, and it's interesting how many people come out of journalism school or being a journalist and then go into being entrepreneurial. I have heard that from a few people, actually, that they've found the journalistic path interesting and therefore pursued it to some degree, and then moved on the more entrepreneurial things afterwards. But it's a common thread I hear. What else did you take away from journalism school that you think as helped you in your career?
Kristi DePaul: 07:10 That's such a good question. So, I would say a relentless pursuit of the truth, and I'll just characterize that a little bit by saying that I think there are many perspectives in any situation, but if you can dig deep enough, you can really understand whether it's an industry or a vertical or a company or a scenario, something, anything, you can understand it from 360 degrees, as long as you remain inquisitive and seeking what the truth is. I will not elaborate on today's political climate and how things have been moving at least in the States, with regard to truth being something of a moving target, but I think that that pursuit was a really important part of my journalism degree. I'm so glad you asked this question because it's something that no one asks, and really it has helped to form my career. Of course, you're always looking backwards, seeing how the dots connected, but journalism really mattered.
Kristi DePaul: 08:08 Yeah, so after that, I studied. I went to grad school at Carnegie Mellon. It's a well known research institution, and that is in Pittsburgh, so sort of was a boomerang, and I headed back home. Moved back into my old room that my mom kept in good shape for me. I studied, of all things, nonprofit arts management, which, yes, it definitely did not necessarily promise fame and riches, but it was a really fascinating program in a university that's known for it's quantitative field, so computer science, engineering. They're all very strong programs, and the performing arts are also incredibly, I would say, well ranked at Carnegie Mellon.
Kristi DePaul: 08:55 I'm probably promoting them just a little bit because I do happen to be a legacy. I'm the seventh member of my family to go there. It was almost like it was destined. I was going to find a way to burst down those doors and find a program that worked for me, but this one was so interesting because it married the fine arts, which I was always fascinated with and business, and really understanding how to make something that is beautiful and meaningful and inspiring also profitable and sustainable.
Matt H: 09:21 Fascinating. I've never heard of the program such as that. Can you go into a little bit about what people typically do after they take a program like that? What do people tend to move into after taking a program like that?
Kristi DePaul: 09:32 So, that's a great question, and there are a variety of answers. Within my program, there were people who had come in with degrees in performance, like music performance, or they were visual artists. So we had a lot of performing arts and visual arts people, and then I was kind of in this other group, journalism, and there weren't so many students like me who hadn't earned an undergrad arts degree. And so I think that gave me an interesting outsider point of view.
Kristi DePaul: 09:58 A lot of the roles that my peers moved into have been either at universities in their arts facilities or programs, leading different initiatives, or they've been at nonprofit organizations. Think like orchestras, theaters, educational organizations, so a lot of mission-driven organizations, some of which have been nonprofit and some have been for profit, but more like a social B Corp. So, they've gone on the do some really interesting things, and a lot of them are reviving organizations that might otherwise be struggling. It's an interesting program, more than interesting, it's exciting because it's taking a look at the kinds of organizations that previously were led by people who came from other sectors, or they were led by artists who possibly lacked the business skills to really help things behind the scenes. So, it's giving rise to a new generation of people who support the arts in a really impactful way, by being employed within them.
Matt H: 10:56 Right. Yeah, that's fascinating. I'd love to talk a bit about your view on education generally. Some might think this to be a tangent, but I think it's important because I think a lot of people out there are struggling with this. How do you view having been through a few organizations and gone through the process off higher education, how do you look at education as it translates to job prospects and how you should approach if you were doing it over again going through and choosing a program and going and exploring different things within the higher education? And obviously, a difficult question to answer because there's so many different variables, but with all these technical schools that are popping up online, and some would argue maybe more practical in a way that will allow for a high paying job after the fact, how do you view education now looking back, and would you change anything about the way that you went about that?
Kristi DePaul: 11:46 So looking back, I don't think I would change anything about the programs that I've pursued. I do think I would have studied abroad at least once, possibly twice. I would have worked that in. In the years since, having worked in roles that enabled me to collaborate with people from a variety of different cultures and backgrounds, I think that would have been a really valuable experience that could have informed my future career. It's okay. I got by without it. Many others would too, but it's also a low risk way to experience another world, if you will, while you're still a young person, and I will say this, far too few Americans take advantage of that. So that's one thing that I would change.
Matt H: 12:29 Yeah. And the reason I ask that question is not a value judgment on what should be considered more valuable and less. It's just a question as to the cost benefit of going to higher education, generally speaking, when the cost of these organizations and the cost of going and getting a degree is so high. I just like to ask that question to see if that's changed for you looking back, or if that's something that you think is still valuable in pursuing things that are out of curiosity.
Kristi DePaul: 12:54 I think it's a very appropriate question in this day and age of alternate credentials. It's something that in my current line of work, we have a lot of clients who are in the education space, so I'm still very much attuned to how things are evolving in higher ed, and seeing some of these coding academies pop up. And frankly, I think a lot of them are a really great options for a lot of people. Online learning has also transformed people's lives, and that's, when you think about work being remote, learning can also be remote. So I think when it comes to thinking about a return on investment, it's difficult to calculate how valuable in-person networks can be and building rapport face-to-face. And I say that as an enthusiastic remote worker. It is still really important to build relationships with people, real relationships. But to that end, I would also advocate that young people give the many dollar signs a second look and think about if they're going to come out of school with five figures of debt.
Kristi DePaul: 13:54 Does that make sense for them? And can they overcome that obstacle within, let's say, even a decade outside of school? Nobody wants to have loans following them around for 30 years. And frankly, they shouldn't in this day and age, there are just too many opportunities to learn that wouldn't incur that level of hardship.
Matt H: 14:12 Yeah, it's such a difficult question to answer because it depends so much on the person and it is difficult to translate. Again, coming from a political science and history myself, I think I went into those things because I was curious and I loved it. And there is something to that, there's value there, and I think there is value in having a well-rounded education and learning about different things that you're interested in. And that in itself is something that's worthwhile. But, again, whether that's 30000 or $50000 worthwhile, I don't know. I just don't know. It's a hard one, and I think people should think carefully about it before jumping into it just to jump into it.
Kristi DePaul: 14:48 I would agree.
Matt H: 14:49 So, tell a little bit about where you went after that. You mentioned you went to a few different jobs, and you worked on the campus for a little bit. You got probably an inside view as to some of the nuance of higher education because you mentioned you were seeing a number of these boot camps popping up. Where do you think this goes in terms of universities and boot camps and the different approaches of online learning versus the typical education sphere? Do you think that it goes into more of an online platform for learning, or do you think that there's enough of a need for the typical education universities to still be worthwhile and to still be relevant looking forward into 10 years from now? Do you think that that'll change at all?
Kristi DePaul: 15:31 So I do think it will change, and I think that it's largely dependent upon not only the technological forces that are shaping all of our lives and the economy as well, but also the evolution of what's known as the traditional student in higher education. Today, there's plenty of data to support the fact that the demographics have changed, that today's average student is in their mid twenties has had perhaps a couple of jobs under their belts before they've returned for their undergrad or tried to finish their undergrad. They may or may not have dependents or a spouse or a partner. So they have a lot of different variables happening. Some of them are working part time. And what I think is most exciting about the changes in higher ed, even if it makes some traditional institutions shutter in fear, is that now education can be something that accommodates the learner better than it ever has before.
Kristi DePaul: 16:28 So whether that's a hybrid program that's partly in the classroom and partly done online, it could be something that's fully online or fully remote, if you will, enabling people to have access who are unable to uproot their lives just to go to their dream institution. So this is something that traditional colleges and universities can and are in many ways of benefiting from. And when you toss in some of the companies that are springing up, especially one I'd like to mention called Lambda school, which is enabling students to pay them back for their education once they get hired and there's a sort of a sliding scale to it after they graduate. All those things that sort of seem like they're threatening education, I think they're just blowing the space wide open and enabling greater access and student agency across the board.
Matt H: 17:16 Yeah, the Lambda school one is a great example of what competitive forces and the entrepreneurial spirit targeted towards education and making it so that it's accessible, and what that can do for people because it's such an interesting story and it's an interesting model and I hope that it catches on and I'm sure we'll see Lambda school continue to grow and help people. I was lucky enough to have been one of the co-founder on the show. It was really interesting and we wish them all the best and people should check them out because it's a great opportunity for those who don't have a lot of the money up front to pay for an education to be able to get involved and gain access to this training.
Kristi DePaul: 17:52 Yeah, I mean this is really the mission of education, is to be able to transform lives and to positively impact society as a whole. And I think that companies like that push us back toward that ideal.
Matt H: 18:02 Yeah. And it just removes the idea that only a certain group of the population can afford to take advantage of what's out there and be able to develop those skills. Because everybody should have the opportunity to develop these skills and be able to go into these different programs and get to these careers. Up until this point, it's been such a limited group of the population that can get into that. So it's great. And I hope that Lambda school continues to grow and I think that they're in a very good position moving forward. So you went from higher education, now you have your own company. So I'd love to talk a little bit about that and how you got your start. So the company's called Founders Marketing, and so where did you get your start? What was there a lack of that you decided to go out and fill on your own and how did you develop that business?
Kristi DePaul: 18:44 So the impetus for developing Founders Marketing was that I really felt that I had maxed out my experience in the role, the more traditional remote role as an employee. I thought the things that I've learned in this particular position and from past roles in crafting messaging, strategic communications, whether that's social media or managing blogs or helping with promotional plans, all those things that I've done could be pulled together into something really powerful for organizations that lack the in-house ability to do all these things that don't have that expertise and whether those are small fledgling startups or even larger foundations or nonprofit organizations that just don't have the means to hire a full marketing staff to perform all of these very critical roles in many ways. So I found I can do this, I can build a company that can serve in that role and we could work with anyone we want to. That is the most freeing, exciting, and also terrifying thing by the way, because business development has to come into play. You have to actually find clients.
Kristi DePaul: 19:51 But you can have that job instead of staring out at that quad and thinking it's going to be lather, rinse, repeat every semester, the same, the same, the same. Your life just becomes totally different. It's variable, you can work with anyone you like. We've had clients in Europe, we've had organizations we've worked with in the States and continue to work with. We've worked with startups in Israel, and it's been so rewarding to build this business over the past. It's going to be coming up on four years at the end of this year.
Matt H: 20:22 Wow. So funny you mentioned the lather, rinse, repeat, and the issues that often entrepreneurs will have with the idea of that it doesn't matter what it is that I ended up doing, well it does matter to a certain extent, but at least it's not the daily routine over and over again. Anything I can do to get out of that cycle, I need to do that because I can't go through my life doing that, and it's something that I hear often. I think it's a pretty consistent theme with entrepreneurs. It's interesting that you mentioned that. So when you started Founders Marketing, what would you say is the most difficult component of the business in terms of building it that you maybe didn't expect and you mentioned business development there, but was there anything else that you sort of didn't see as something that you needed to spend time on and all of a sudden with being an entrepreneur you thought to yourself, holy, I didn't know that that was the case, or I didn't know I had to spend time doing that. What was the major one, if there was one?
Kristi DePaul: 21:09 Well, I think there's definitely challenges for every entrepreneur who sets out to build something from scratch. For me, being a marketer and a communicator, it was, okay, well how do I build a brand? What am I doing? It's like the hairdresser who has to cut their own hair or the shoemaker who is shoeless. You have to start figuring this out for yourself, the things that you would ordinarily do for someone else you're doing on your own behalf. It's always been easier for me to promote others and to kind of see other's blind spots and I think maybe that's something that's endemic to us all, that it's hard for us to see our own and I had to overcome some misconceptions. Definitely. One being that sort of like field of dreams. If you build it, they will come, right? Like I've created this, I have a website, I've assembled a small team, come customers. We are fantastic, believe us, we're great work with us.
Kristi DePaul: 22:04 I think I underestimated the amount of outreach it would take at first, and also just the ramping up. I think the first year really it was quite tough to reach out to customers. We were still determining who we were and what we were about. And it was kind of like, okay, let's talk to this organization and this startup and that startup and what do you guys need? And it was a little bit shooting from the hip and we tried to do a little bit of everything, which I think a lot of firms do in their early days. And then later on we were able to whittle things down and really specialize in two areas. The future, what I like to call the future of learning and the future of work. So we work with remote firms and companies that are focused on AI, machine learning. And then we also work with a number of organizations that are focused on reframing and reshaping K-12 and post-secondary education.
Matt H: 22:58 So why those two? Was it personal interest or was it just a matter of trying to figure out where the need was or maybe a combination of the two?
Kristi DePaul: 23:06 It's interesting that like I said, looking backwards, you can always connect the dots. So I'd love to say, well there was this incredible convergence and the two of them blend so seamlessly, and in a way they really do because one, learning translates into work and I think the two are not mutually exclusive in any way. But for me I was looking for something that was meaningful and that was going to be also for us as a business. Something that we had some experience with myself and my team and many of us have backgrounds in education. I'd say the majority of us do and some of us have worked remotely for a long time. And so there's a level of comfort with that, and we thought this is a way that we can deliver a lot of value by having these very personal experiences in these two areas, both of which are really growing and changing.
Matt H: 23:57 So those two obviously are near and dear to my heart. Obviously the future of where it plays the major role there, but the AI especially, it's always interesting to hear where people go with that. And I guess my question would be sort of what makes you uniquely positioned to take advantage of that niche in terms of the marketing perspective, and is there a certain way that you align your presentation to potential clients coming from those niches and those fields and how is it different from maybe other marketing niches? If there is a way, and again, it's not really my area, but I'd be curious to hear how it's different from maybe in different niches and different industries?
Kristi DePaul: 24:37 These are such good questions. By good, I mean really difficult. You're really getting at the heart of what differentiates us. And I think it's that when we're looking at these two areas, I can't really call them verticals quite because each houses many verticals within them. But when you look at these, I think one thing that characterizes both is that there's a lot of nuance behind what's happening in education. And there's almost a whole vernacular tied to changes in that realm, whether it's K-12, post-secondary, lifelong learning or training in a workforce context. There's an awful lot that's going on that really requires an immersive experience to understand, and it's something that we possess as a team. When it comes to the future of work, I would love to say that we are uniquely qualified to speak about machine learning automation or artificial intelligence, but frankly, we're not. None of us are experts in these areas, but I would argue that being enthusiasts perhaps is an even more important thing that we follow the trends that we're interested in them, that we keep up with what is happening in this space.
Kristi DePaul: 25:58 And that might not be something, in fact, I would say that that's not something that every marketing firm does. They're not always immersed in the realms in which their clients live. They don't eat, sleep and breathe all of the important news and movements and changes and things influencing those spaces. And we do for both of these.
Matt H: 26:21 Yeah. And it sounds like it comes back to the idea where you were mentioning before about journalism, about the curiosity piece is that just keep pursuing things that are interesting and then you can dive into and that will lead to potentially some sort of competitive advantage because not everybody else is going to spend the time to dive deep and be curious about these things. So it does differentiate you probably from your competitors and people out there as well is that the genuine curiosity and learning about these things is super important.
Kristi DePaul: 26:51 I think you probably put that better than I did Matt. So you're hired. Thank you. Very nice.
Matt H: 26:58 One of the things that you mentioned a few minutes ago, and I'd love to talk with you about it, is the idea of blind spots when you are an entrepreneur. I think it's something that again comes up a lot is how do you account for things that maybe you are not good at or you don't even know you're not good at, because you are a one person team or you maybe you have a couple of people that you don't have enough people around you to be able to understand and realize what you're missing. So was that an issue for you at the start and was it just a matter of hiring the right people to be able to identify those blind spots? And then we can talk a little bit about the hiring piece, but how did you account for those blind spots originally?
Kristi DePaul: 27:35 So I think that becoming an entrepreneur forces you to confront a whole lot of personal weaknesses and fears. And that is probably why it leads a lot of people to run screaming in the other direction. Maybe not screaming quite, at least skulking who knows? But it's not an easy path. It's certainly a pass it if you take it, you've got to be looking at yourself rather critically because the world is going to, other people are going to, as you are trying to promote yourself as the leader of a business and also promoting your business. So I think for me, thinking about blind spots, thinking again that things would just organically happen, that just people will know that I'm really good at this and that other folks will want to work with me. I'll be able to find some teammates who also align with our values, thinking that things would be automatic at first. That was a pipe dream. That was really nice. I look back on it. Oh, such wishful thinking.
Kristi DePaul: 28:36 It's a little bit adorable in a way to look back on yourself even just four years ago and think how precious you might've been about the ways things could play out. So I would also not be naive about the fact if I were to do things over again, naive about the fact that sometimes you can really enjoy working with certain people or you have a great rapport with them, but they might not be the right fit for your team right now. They might not be that skill set that you need. That's a tough realization, especially when you really like the people. But for me, in terms of weaknesses, I think the weaknesses I always knew I had were there, they just reared their heads in an even uglier way. Like my inability to deal with spreadsheets. There were certain things that just bubble to the top when you're an entrepreneur and you're like, okay, I really need to find someone who can compliment the strength in that area.
Matt H: 29:32 Yeah. Yeah. That kind of comes back to this idea that when I was talking to another entrepreneur on the show, and she was saying that the realization that, and she put it this way so I won't lay claim to this. That no one cares about you as much as you think that they might. Which was an interesting way of putting it. And when we talked through it, it was more of the idea that just because you have a product in unit or have an idea and you work really hard, doesn't mean that people are going to like it and people are going to use it. And that's a difficult thing to come to terms with when you're starting out or when you're a young entrepreneur.
Kristi DePaul: 30:06 Yes, absolutely, it is.
Matt H: 30:08 So with the hiring piece, how did you think about hiring it first? And you mentioned you had a small team. When you first started out. Was there a process in which you went through and found things that there just was an urgent need for that you couldn't deal with on your own, and how did you or did you do assemble the team that you wanted to work with and knew to be great marketers or in whatever needs they were in? And then went out to build the product. How did the hiring process go for you originally?
Kristi DePaul: 30:34 So I think as a business, I had already started moving forward with some ideas regarding our services and what we could provide. And then that was really flushed out by the folks I was able to bring on board. And I will say that my team, actually none of them were strangers to me. I have worked with them or known them in some capacity for years in many cases, in some cases over a decade or two decades, at least one teammate and I go way back, which is both a blessing and a curse. And I think she would say the same that we can almost read each other's minds. And at the same time it's like being an old married couple, you know each other's thoughts inside out. But there could be challenges when one person disagrees, right? Because you have that rapport where you feel comfortable enough to say what's really on your mind.
Kristi DePaul: 31:25 So I sort of like a traveling band I guess I've picked up people along the way and I've been impressed by their work in different contexts. Either I worked with them at a startup or as a colleague in a different capacity. And so when it came time for me to seek additional hands on deck for Founders Marketing projects, they were the people that I sought out and I was really pleased when they said, yeah, absolutely. Let's, let's do this. Let's take on this adventure.
Matt H: 31:55 I guess because people, like you said, that came on originally, I'm sure had many different projects that they could have worked on. And what do you think, and again, this is hard to reflect in this way, but what do you think made it interesting to them what you had to offer them in terms of the work and a job and an end project? What do you think drew them to you and your business? Again, I know those difficult questions maybe, but I'd be curious if you had any thoughts there.
Kristi DePaul: 32:18 You mean aside from my obviously magnetic personality?
Matt H: 32:21 That's exactly right.
Kristi DePaul: 32:22 Right, exactly. I think it was the promise. It was the promise Matt of a different kind of work life. One that they could take ownership of, that they could in many ways lead on their own terms. I'm by no means the kind manager or boss who wants to oversee everything and Lord over all the projects. I want everybody to bring their best selves, their whole selves, bring all your creativity, bring it all. I want people to be fully engaged and I don't want them to be bored. Too many people are bored at work, and so I wanted this to be an opportunity that could really be inspiring for them and help their careers flourish too, because they can now say that they've worked with all of these different kinds of organizations and people all over the world. It's hopefully a boon for their careers as well.
Matt H: 33:14 Yeah. And I think that's probably the key and what I've heard as well is giving people responsibility maybe more than they have had in the past and maybe more than even you're comfortable with often leads to people going above and beyond your expectations were for them. So I think giving people responsibilities is a key piece as well. Was there anything else, do you think that leads to people being more satisfied at work and maybe if there's anything that you do to implement as a process for your business in terms of meetups and a sort of week to week, maybe monthly sort of things that you do to keep people engaged and interested and motivated. And how do you think about that?
Kristi DePaul: 33:52 So I would love to share with you after this podcast, I'll send you some links to a few blog posts I've written about motivating teams and keeping remote workers engaged. Because I just think that that is a really important area for all kinds of remote organizations to think about, because we have to be kind of deliberate about it. How are we building a culture? How are we developing strong relationships, broadening our networks, et cetera. So with my team, we've had team calls where everyone's on video, whether we're separated by three time zones or 10 and we've deliberately built into the agenda. So thinking from a process perspective, how do we make this kind of fun. Bits of trivia about one another, little games that we can play so that it's almost like more of a session where we're hanging out and oh by the way, work is also going to be discussed, but it has a more casual vibe to it.
Kristi DePaul: 34:47 So I think even the first time we all gathered together on a video call, by the end of it, although I knew everyone individually. One of the things I did before introducing them was pointing out the things that they had in common with one another. So then they saw those shared experiences and backgrounds and thought that was pretty cool.
Matt H: 35:06 Yeah, that's a good one. I haven't heard that before, but that makes a lot of sense, because it's not something that I think maybe people would come across otherwise, especially in a remote context that they had a shared interest. And speaking for myself as well, we just realized that one of my co-workers and I realized that we had a shared interest in a sports team, and it's been however long, a year and a half and that hasn't come up. So curating those things early on allows that sort of formation of those relationships to happen at a faster pace than they might would've otherwise.
Kristi DePaul: 35:36 Exactly. And many of these things are not things that you're going to see on a LinkedIn profile. Just a quick example, one of my esteemed colleagues is an advocate for multiple sclerosis research, and he and his wife both happen to have MS. And recently they were profiled in People magazine, which is really exciting.
Matt H: 35:56 Wow.
Kristi DePaul: 35:57 Yeah. The work they're doing is incredible to raise the visibility of the disease and to try to advocate for more research funding. And one of my other teammates, her mother had MS, and so it was something that she had a deeply personal experience with and the two of them could connect over that, but it's not something either of them would ever know being separated by several states and that's not the first thing you bring up. Oh by the way, I have this or my mom had this. And so those kinds of things that really are part of who we are but aren't something you'd find on a resume, still matter.
Matt H: 36:32 Yeah, totally. You're right. It's really just a matter of being more deliberate about trying to foster those kinds of conversations. I think it's the key piece that people forget about, I think.
Kristi DePaul: 36:41 Yes, definitely remote contexts. I think many people forget about fostering those conversations and pointing out connections or commonalities where others might not see them.
Matt H: 36:53 Speaking of sort of the typical, I try to stay away from sort of cliche questions, but I like this one. So I'm going to ask anyways. What does your day look like? Is there something that you do every everyday consistently? What does your working day look like now?
Kristi DePaul: 37:11 I'm pausing before I answer this because my working days now also consist of a very adorable small person. Two months ago I gave birth to a baby girl.
Matt H: 37:24 Congratulations.
Kristi DePaul: 37:24 Thank you. And her name is Ella. She's a fabulous co-worker to have around all the time. But no, I'm fortunate that my husband also works remotely. So the two of us are sharing caregiving responsibilities, much like I think a traditional maternity and paternity leave might look like. But at the same time we're also working. So as we're recording this podcast, he is spending time with Ella. So my typical day has sort of been shuffled, and there was never really a typical day before, but now it just includes a lot of diaper changes and a bunch of feedings. So you throw that in there. But on any given day, I'm meeting with teammates one-on-one to figure out how certain projects are moving forward.
Kristi DePaul: 38:08 I try to keep meetings kind of short, if it's one on one half an hour probably would suffice. These are synchronous, sometimes audio, sometimes video. I do a lot of context switching, which is kind of the nature of the beast when you've run a marketing firm and you've got a number of clients. I do try to batch the work so that I'm not going from one thing to the other thing. Even as I look at all of the tabs that are open right now in my browser window. I know that I have those tabs organized so that I am not jumping between them from organization to company to this to that, because I think it's really important that you try to minimize those shifts. It's a way for you to stay productive and to not lose ground, and it's just so easy to become distracted.
Kristi DePaul: 38:53 So there's a lot of moving around during the day working on projects for clients. And those could be ghost writing a blog posts or editing guest blog submissions. It could be crafting a social campaign, working on a marketing strategy, a positioning statement for an organization that is shifting its brand. It could be working with an entrepreneur who has to create marketing materials and messaging that appeals to audiences in Japan for example. So there's no typical day, but every day it's something again, really different.
Matt H: 39:29 Yeah, that's really interesting. And it's again, one of my favorite questions because it's always different. And I get to sort of peer into people's day to day. It's often where people have been working remote for a long time and they've said, oh, I started out doing this and I stopped doing this because it didn't work. And it's just nice to know that nobody really has it figured out and everybody's trying to do their best. So I think that's a good realization.
Kristi DePaul: 39:51 Absolutely. And I do think that having a formulaic day, I feel like that would be kind of sad if someone said, well, if it's a Tuesday, I'm doing this. But this is not the nature of work anymore.
Matt H: 40:01 No, I think that's why people move away from nine to five jobs in an office. And maybe move to remote work, is because you have that variability and you can kind of pick and choose depending on how you feel. For me too, it needs some structure, but it is nice to have time that's blocked off to do whatever it is that I think is important for that day. But yeah, I'm still trying to figure it out myself.
Kristi DePaul: 40:18 Absolutely. Are you guys remote incidentally?
Matt H: 40:21 We are, yes we are.
Kristi DePaul: 40:22 Oh cool.
Matt H: 40:23 Yeah, so I'm in Victoria, BC, up in Canada and Barcio is down in Seattle. There are a few people actually in Victoria as well, and we've had contractors come in and out over time that have been sort of spread out. But we have the luxury of being able to occasionally meet up in person and without having to fly everybody out and put people up, which is nice. And so luckily for us, CEO is down like I said in Seattle, so he can come up, there's a boat that actually comes right into Victoria. So yeah, we're lucky. We're lucky in a lot of ways.
Kristi DePaul: 40:54 That's really cool. I look forward to one day visiting Victoria since we split our time now between Tel Aviv, Israel and Lopez island, Washington. So that should be a destination on our list.
Matt H: 41:08 Yeah, it's a wonderful place to be. I consider myself very, very fortunate to be able to live and work here. So Kristi, you've been so kind with your time and I really appreciate it and I have so many more questions for you to be honest, especially when it comes to the specifics of your marketing and how you go about doing your research and that sort of thing. But we'll have to save that for a different time unfortunately. But I do have a couple more closing questions for you and they're a little bit different, so take time in answering them. The first question here for you is, what leadership practice or skill do you think is most important?
Kristi DePaul: 41:40 Listening. I think listening is the most important and underrated skill, and far too few people cultivate an ability to actively listen. Because there's so much that you can gather and glean from what people say.
Matt H: 41:56 Yeah, that's a great one. And I have a follow up question to that. How do you become a better listener? And I guess my caveat to that is, is there something that you do specifically to make sure that you're listening as you should and maybe become a better listen over time?
Kristi DePaul: 42:11 I try to turn off that little voice in my head that constantly wills itself to think about what I'm going to say next. And that is something that I think we have to actively suppress. I think it's natural for everybody in a conversation to be thinking, okay, this person's talking about X. Oh, I can talk about Y, but maybe you should really just listen to everything we're saying right now because this conversation could take a completely different direction, or you could unearth some really interesting nugget that could be a worthwhile thing to explore.
Matt H: 42:47 Yeah. That's such a good one. And it's something that's so clear to people that have to skill, I think is such a refreshing conversation to be in when you're with somebody who's a great listener. Because what will happen, and I learned this actually from my aunt who's a fantastic listener, and she's listening to this, and this is a shout out to her. That you'll finish the conversation with her and then realize that you were talking the entire time, that she asked questions that were inquisitive enough that you just talked the whole time and then you finish the conversation and think to yourself, I didn't ask her anything. I didn't know anything about her. And so anyways, that's a really unique skill.
Kristi DePaul: 43:22 Wow, Matt's aunt well done.
Matt H: 43:24 Yeah. Shout out to Andy if she's listening to this.
Kristi DePaul: 43:27 I love that. Really it's an act of selflessness in a way. It's a way of putting the other person first and putting them forward, and it winds up being beneficial for both people and it's something that's great, obviously, personally and also professionally. So that's a trait I think people should try to cultivate.
Matt H: 43:45 Yeah, that's a great one. And so my next question here, without having to transition from there, which is a difficult thing to do talking and listening and going to the next question, but I have to in the context of the podcast unfortunately, but if you could force everyone to read one book, what would it be and why?
Kristi DePaul: 44:03 Such a challenging question. There are so many incredible books out there that I think are really worthwhile for people to pick up. And I'm so leaning towards saying something that is in the professional space, but I actually think I'm going to recommend that everybody read a book called Wild by Cheryl Strayed. And I'm recommending this because it's about really tremendously challenging personal journey that Cheryl took as a young woman. And that was both metaphorical and literal. She hiked the Pacific Crest Trail by herself, which I think is noteworthy and maybe even a little full hardy as a young woman, but she learns an awful lot about herself throughout the course of the book.
Kristi DePaul: 44:56 And you're sort of invited on the journey with her. And I think it's something that could benefit a lot of people when they're considering their own dark nights of the soul. Everybody has challenges in their lives and everybody works through different issues and changes and whether that's not meeting others expectations or personal loss. And a book like that shows you that you can make it through to the other side, and that sometimes the only way out is through.
Matt H: 45:26 I haven't read that one but it's on the reading list now, and we'll link to that as well. Was that a movie as well?
Kristi DePaul: 45:31 It was a movie. If you're going to read it, you should totally read the book first, but yes, after I read it I saw the movie and I love Reese Witherspoon, so it was another really incredible cinematic experience. The book is really fantastic. You should check it out.
Matt H: 45:46 It is nice to know that the movie is at least somewhat as good as the book. It's always unfortunate when that's not the case, but we'll link to that for sure. The last question I have here before I let you go here, Kristi is for the best advice you've ever been given, and I know the questions here don't get easier, so you may have to take your time on that one, but what is the best advice you've ever been given?
Kristi DePaul: 46:07 The best advice I've ever been given is to try as hard as you can to get rid of your own limiting beliefs. I think we all grow up thinking certain things about ourselves based on experiences we have, our personal failures or shortcomings or an area where we might not think we're so talented as we hold onto those going into adulthood, they do us a disservice. Again, it's about that voice in your head that tells you, I can't do that. I'm not good enough. I have no idea how to do this. I'll never be whatever. And just try to tell yourself, I'm not there yet, but I will be there.
Matt H: 46:42 Yeah, that's such an important one. It speaks to all kinds of different things. So as long as you know that you're a working progress and I think that good things will happen. Well, Kristi I know that we've taken up your time and I know that you have more important things to do, but we really appreciate you coming on and then thank you so much again. Where should we be sending people to get to know you and to know Founders Marketing as well. Is there wherever you want to point people to?
Kristi DePaul: 47:05 Yes, absolutely. Please send people to founders.marketing. That is our website.
Matt H: 47:11 Alrighty. I think I can hear Ella in the background so I will let you go.
Kristi DePaul: 47:14 Yes, she's beckoning me. I do have to go.
Matt H: 47:17 All right, well thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it and hopefully we can talk again soon.
Kristi DePaul: 47:21 Likewise. Thank you so much Matt. Take care.
Matt H: 47:23 All right. Bye for now. Thanks so much again for listening to the show. Be sure to check out weworkremotely.com for the latest remote jobs. And if you're looking to hire a remote worker, We Work Remotely is the fastest and easiest way to do so. As always, if you have someone we should talk to, any device you have, or if you'd like to advertise on the podcast, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org that's email@example.com. Thanks so much again for listening and we'll talk to you next time.