[00:00:00.720] – David Maples
What if I told you that that pile of paper sitting next to you represented an enemy to your organization in plain sight? Today, an interview with Gretchen Moran, Master Organizer, on tripling your productivity through better organization. You’re listening to The Buck Stops Here.
[00:00:23.260] – David Maples
We’re really excited to invite to the show today Gretchen Moran, who is the owner of Simply Living KC. She is a master organizer and has worked in the corporate sector for decades as an executive assistant for going out on her own and starting her own company back in 2018. What she does in her business on a daily basis is she goes in and organizes not only the businesses for these executives, but also a lot of times, organizes things in their personal lives as well. Without further ado, I wanted to welcome Gretchen to the show. Gretchen, thank you for being here with us today.
[00:00:56.680] – Gretchen Moran
Thank you so much, David. I really appreciate you and that opportunity.
[00:01:01.440] – David Maples
No, totally. Glad to have you. First of all, you started your business back in 2018, and you are a “master organizer.” For the audience listening right now to the show, could you tell us a little bit about what that is?
[00:01:17.870] – Gretchen Moran
Well, typically, people in my field call themselves professional organizers. I think because of my background and where I came from, I didn’t really… Well, and I think a lot of it, too, is that I don’t really necessarily like the proper names of things. I have a little bit of creative in my brain, so I wanted to be a little more creative with it, but then also be able to capture what it is that I have accomplished thus far in my life. There’s also some, just like a CPA and doctors and other people with fancy initials behind their names, there is a certification for a professional organizer, and I did not have that. I felt that, at the time, I wanted to be able to encompass the work that I’ve done, but then also be able to speak the message that I’m really good at what I do. I’m really good at organizing, but I didn’t really consider myself a professional just yet. I really liked the idea of creating a more, I don’t know, off-label title. And I’m not really a title person anyway. But I mean, I realized as a business owner, you have to be able to put some descriptor behind what you do.
[00:02:37.630] – David Maples
So, just boil this down, you don’t just come in, I mean, the most famous person on that professional organizing spaces is probably Marie Kondo right now. Everybody knows who she is right now. But what you’re not doing, you’re not just going in and organizing people’s spaces. What you actually do is you actually go into organizations, with your background as executive assistants for oil and gas and healthcare, you’re actually going into these C-suite executive levels and you’re actually helping them organize pieces of the business. Is that correct?
[00:03:08.720] – Gretchen Moran
That is correct. Yeah. I think, too, that maybe sets me apart from what other organizers are out in the community doing. I’ve had an opportunity to look at other professional organizers in the Kansas City area, and what I have seen is they mainly concentrate on spaces, organizing spaces. I’m really good at that. My home is pretty organized. So, I live what I preach and speak, but then also capturing just my life experience and what I have done in the corporate world. And not just organizing the managers and supervisors and executives that I’ve worked with, but leaving those offices in way better shape than I found them. I could say that for probably just about every organization that I work with.
[00:04:02.830] – David Maples
Why, in a nutshell, why do business owners need to be worried about organizing their professional offices or professional space or the way they do business? Why would you say that’s important?
[00:04:17.760] – Gretchen Moran
Well, I think as business owners, all of us are concerned about our bottom line. It affects how much time you’re spending doing certain tasks. And if you’re spending more of your personal time as a business owner looking for documents or looking for something to do the work that you need to do, time is money. And so, at the end of the day, or at the end of the quarter, at the end of the year, you’re not at your revenue levels that you want to be at. A lot of that could be attributed back to the amount of time that you’re spending doing tasks that are not revenue-producing activities.
[00:04:59.760] – David Maples
I’ve read some studies that stated that by achieving better processes and efficiencies, the average, not the executive level companies, but a lot of the companies up to 250 employees, these companies in the 1 million to 50 million dollars a year revenue level, a lot of these companies could triple their profitability or reduce the cost by possibly a third by introducing better organization practices and things like that. So, if this seems so mind-boggling obvious, why, in your experience, do these businesses not do that? This seems like found money. It’s like, don’t step over $100 bill, pick it up. But why, in your experience, do they not engage in this?
[00:05:51.740] – Gretchen Moran
Most of these folks have started these businesses from an idea. They’ve started it from their garage or from an office in their home, and they built it into a fabulous business. But along the way, their heart has gotten in the way of practicality, logic, and just the bottom line. They’ve not been able to let go of the heart and soul that you would even have put into your business. If you’re still having a hard time letting go of that decision-making process for a certain aspect of your business, there’s fallout from that. So, I think that’s probably the biggest struggle that if you’re growing from a small business to a medium sized business, your ability to let go of those decisions and handling those tasks, it’s paramount to the speed of the growth that you’re able to make.
[00:06:57.220] – David Maples
Okay, see, that’s a really interesting point. So, what you’re suggesting is, a lot of it is when you talk to these executives, it sounds like a lot of times they know that they need to do these things. They know these things are, for lack of a better term, baggage that they’re carrying with them. But they don’t realize that it’s okay to let it go, or they’re emotionally invested in a process that’s… If you built your company, there’s a phrase I’ve used before, and people are like, raising a company is like raising children. And I always said that that was really silly because in some respects, raising children is much easier. Because your children are going to grow up, as long as they get fed, clothed, and housed, they’re going to grow up whether or not you do anything else. But your business will crash and burn if you’re not actively engaged in that. And I’m not saying, by the way, in case you’re listening, I’m not saying that businesses are more important than children. They aren’t. But, at the end of the day, they do require a different care.
[00:07:58.340] – David Maples
But a lot of times we carry things with us, for lack of a better reason… It’s like the person you meet and they’re like, “What are all these boxes in your attic?” And they’re like, “Oh, these are my baby clothes.” And they’re like, “For your kids? Your kids are like 40. They have kids of their kids.” And I was like, “Do they want these baby clothes? Well, no. Well, do you hug these baby clothes a lot? Do you pull them out and play with them? I mean, what do you do with these things?” They’re like, “No, they’re in an attic.” And you go out there and you’re like, “Man, this is gross.” I wonder if it’s this emotional attachment to things you’ve done or because you did it that way in the past and it worked for you when you were a five person organization. And Gretchen, as you know, what worked for you when you were five people wasn’t going to work for you when you’re 500. I mean, it’s a different set of skills. So, you think it’s just it’s partly the emotional tie-in, or is it that they need someone as an outside force to give them permission to say that that’s okay?
[00:08:51.760] – Gretchen Moran
Well, I think that could be even just the personality. I mean, there’s a wide array of personalities that drives a business owner. But I think also there was something else that I was thinking about other than just I can do it all. I can wear all the hats. I can do them. I think I’m the only one that knows how to do it right. I know the results that I want, and this is how I want it done. And they oftentimes think that if I delegate this or I give this responsibility to someone else, that they won’t do it as good as I can. And I think that could be to a fault.
[00:09:35.480] – David Maples
Well, okay, so let me play devil’s advocate here just for a second, Gretchen. I, as a business owner, have had many examples of where I decided to delegate something to these other people, and then they did screw it up and I had to swoop in and save the day. What advice would you give to me? Because I’m going to look at you and say, well, yeah, they did screw it up so I had to do these things. So, what advice would you give to a business owner who’s had that example and they’ve had that experience and now they’re like, well, I can’t possibly give this to this other person because they will mess it up.
[00:10:05.880] – Gretchen Moran
Well, I think two questions I would ask. One of them is, if you allowed that person to make the mistakes because even as us as business owners, we’ve made mistakes and we’ve learned them the hard way, you give them some space to let them make that mistake. But then you’re also empowering them to step up and take the reins and maybe do things a little bit differently. I think that is so important for people to build loyalty, to build the buy in. If they have the same mission and values and immutable laws that you do and you can coach them along in that process and they have the buy in that you do, they’re going to do an amazing job. Number one, they’re going to work really hard to not screw up again and to build that trust factor. I just think that it can be so rewarding for a business owner to be able to wrap their arms around them. Hey, I know you screwed this up. I’m going to give you another chance to come in and redeem yourself and sink your teeth into it. And it just gives people the opportunity to step up into a better role or more responsibility to help you envision things. Maybe take your business in a way that you hadn’t thought of before.
[00:11:38.580] – David Maples
They always say that failure- Success is not the best teacher. Failure or mistakes are because you don’t forget those things.
[00:11:45.900] – Gretchen Moran
That’s exactly right.
[00:11:46.990] – David Maples
I wonder how many business owners are out there just running their business on autopilot just because they’ve been successful and they haven’t flown it into a wall yet.
[00:11:56.670] – Gretchen Moran
[00:11:57.020] – David Maples
So, Gretchen, before we had this meeting, I’d asked you, when I met you, I said, what do you think the three biggest organizational mistakes that companies make? Just off the top of your head, you said that a lot of these executives live in a cluttered space. A cluttered space is a cluttered mind thing. You said number two was that because they’re in the business and they’re having to do so many things all the time. Executives don’t put in 40-hour work weeks. That’s a joke, right? It’s like, when have you worked 40 hours? And then the executive will tell you, “The last time I was on vacation.” So, number two is that their lives are often in chaos because they’re doing so many things and they don’t have time to do these other things. And the third one you said was that a lot of these executives you run into are spending time all day putting out fires, and that creates a culture of reactivity in their business.
[00:12:51.080] – David Maples
So, if you want to take this one at a time, tell me about the cluttered space, cluttered mind thing, because I tend to be a little cluttered. And when you told me that, I, personally, was like, she’s talking about me! I don’t know how I feel about that. So, let’s talk about that for a minute, if you would.
[00:13:06.790] – Gretchen Moran
Well, it’s interesting. So, in my previous life, I call my previous life my first marriage. I was married to an individual who I was deeply in love with very early on. We have three kids together. But he became an alcoholic and dabbled into drugs. So, it just left me feeling very out of control in certain areas of my life. But what I could control of what was under my ability and power was in my own home. And so because of my DNA from my mom and things just in my own personal life and how I had been trained up as a child, being organized and having a clean and tidy home came very easy to me. But I also found, too, that it was almost therapeutic because there were things that were out of control in my life that I… Things happening that I didn’t have control of. But there were certain things that I did have control of. And so, having an orderly home just gave me such a sense of peace that I can’t even begin to explain to you. If I would have had chaos going on in my emotional and relational life and chaos happening in my home, I don’t even know what would have happened.
[00:14:33.500] – Gretchen Moran
I wouldn’t have been able to get through life the way that I was able to get through it. So, I think that was just foundational for me as an individual. But even further deeper into that, I have done a lot of research and just reading clinical studies, just trying to figure out my own brain a little bit, like, why is it that I had this need to do that? But as I started doing more research and seeing all of these hundreds of clinical studies that have been done on the effects of seeing visual clutter and how it affects us mentally and emotionally. It started to make sense to me why I had that deep need in my own life. But then also seeing that in other people’s lives and the people that I worked with when I was still in the corporate world. And so learning a lot of that, I’ve been able to help people that I am working with, my clients, to see the value in- You have this space around you, and it’s no wonder you can’t focus and concentrate on the work you need to do because you got so much stuff out here that you’re visually looking at that you’re having a hard time focusing on what you need to do.
[00:15:46.730] – Gretchen Moran
Because if you see a pile of paper over on your desk, you instantly start to feel this stress and pressure. You’re like, “Oh, my gosh. I know that I need to deal with that pile and there’s something in there I need to get out and now I can’t remember what it is, but I remember I was supposed to get that to my accountant.” But you’ve sat down at your desk to write an email, but suddenly you’ve caught yourself looking at this pile and so your brain just starts clicking away. And so it keeps you from being able to stay focused on what it is you’re trying to do in that moment.
[00:16:18.900] – David Maples
I guess it’s like business owners as a rule- The one thing all business owners are supposed to be able to inject in the future. You’re supposed to have your performance. You have to talk about where you are next quarter, next year. What is your five year goals? Gosh, the past few years with the pandemic, it’s like, man, those are really different now. But I think for a lot of business owners, and I’m going to relate this back to the pandemic a little bit, that was an area that it introduced a high level of chaos into pretty much anybody running a company. It was an unexpected event. It’s like living in the middle of a hurricane. You are looking for that eye of the storm, that moment of calm where you can do things. And if I’m distilling this down, a lot of this is, is that by having a more orderly workspace and area, you aren’t engaging that reactive part of your brain. It allows you to have control over some solace over a small part of what you’re doing. And by doing that, you can focus on the bigger goals, the bigger things you need to be involved with.
[00:17:24.020] – David Maples
We just finished a podcast a couple of weeks ago that was about decision making and things like that. We said if these things are black and white and they’re clear, then you, as an executive, probably shouldn’t be making these decisions. You need to be dealing with the authority, questionable decisions where there’s not an A and B. There’s literally A through Z, as far as answers go. And you need to be spending your time doing that because you’re the only one with the capabilities to do that. I think the first step of this is that if I’m getting this right from you is that it’s going to provide some solace. It’s going to provide you vision. It’s going to provide you the clarity of purpose to laser in on what decisions you need to be making and focus on those, instead of the reactionary portion of that pile of papers over there. I feel like I’m pointing at a pile of papers right now. So, there’s that. Is that a fair restatement of what you’re getting to here?
[00:18:15.910] – Gretchen Moran
[00:18:18.060] – David Maples
Okay. So, the second one of these is that you mentioned about their lives being in chaos. And I got, from you, the impression that that was a function of time, and maybe it’s a time management problem. I’m not sure. But if the only time you get to spend 30 hours a week working at your job is when you’re allegedly on vacation, so how does that work with you? You said that a lot of it is they don’t know how or why to delegate. Is that a function of where you came from? If you could just talk about that for a minute for us.
[00:18:50.950] – Gretchen Moran
Yeah. So, I think the how and the why and the what to delegate, I think those are definitely the next pieces of the puzzle to get your teeth sunk into, as you’re thinking about, how do I take everything in this business and funnel it into more organized patterns or pillars or however you like to organize your business? So much of human behavior is based on what you learned. So, how your parents dealt with things, maybe even in a college, if you had a professor or a teacher somewhere in your life and how they dealt with things. We take all of those learning and wisdom when we were kids in our formative years growing up. So much of that determines how, just in our DNA and our learned behaviors, what it is that we take into our life as adults. So, figuring out how it is that you got to where you are, and then as far as just delegating, a lot of that, too, is personality. I’m such a studier of human behavior, and I absolutely love it. But I think once you understand how your brain operates and getting more in tune with how your brain operates, you just become more self aware.
[00:20:20.720] – Gretchen Moran
Once you can get more self aware and where you are in the way that you make decisions, I think that can determine if you’re going to take a slow path to growth or you’re going to take a fast path to growth.
[00:20:33.780] – David Maples
All right. So, as a self-confessed, recovering control freak, how would you recommend to somebody like me what decisions… How do I start delegating? Is there a way for me to dip my toes in the delegation? I don’t feel like I should just talk to my person tomorrow and say, we’re expanding to Wyoming. I need you to go come up with a five step business plan for it, and on my desk by tomorrow at two. I don’t know that I could feel comfortable doing that. So, how do you dip your toes into that if you’re not necessarily comfortable with that part of it yet? How do you know when to delegate and what to delegate, or how do you dip your toes in it?
[00:21:12.820] – Gretchen Moran
Well, you have to start small. You know how you have to start just with little small things, which I think we’ll probably talk about in another episode, is you have to establish that trust first. So, whether it’s an admin person or salesperson or your marketing person or a tech person, you have to be able to delegate those small things and see what they can do. So, are they going to rise to the challenge and are they going to take it and run with it? Or are they going to hold back or are they going to be nervous? Are they going to be standoffish? And it could be you’re trying to present an opportunity and then you find out that they are not who you thought they were and that you may need to let that person go. So, it’s giving you some opportunity as a business owner to be able to see if your people are measuring up or if they’re not. So, I think it’s a twofold benefit there.
[00:22:11.780] – David Maples
So, that gives me a second that this can really take us into the No BS portion of the podcast. Just for a minute, if you’re listening to this podcast right now or you’re watching it online, there’s a few things that Gretchen is saying here that are really part of that no bullshit persona you need to adopt in your business. What got you to two people or to five people or to 10 people won’t get you to 50, and what got you to 50 won’t get you to 500. At the end of the day, delegation and proper assignment of tasks and relinquishing control to other people in the company is something that is vital for you if you want to grow your organization. You will not grow without it and you’ll never move beyond. There’s a barrier to about 10 people for organizations. If you have more than 10 people in your organization, the skills required to go to 25 and 50 are very different. You, eventually in your organization, this is the delegation part, you have to hire people who are better than you at the things you were once the expert in your organization at.
[00:23:09.800] – David Maples
For example, if you were the top salesperson in your company, you grew everything because you had the gift of gab and you could close deals. If you want to move to 25 or to 50 people, you’re going to have to hire people who are better at you and delegate those skills and trust them with it. If you can’t do that, you’re never going to grow past a certain limit. And that self limit, if you’re okay being that, if you want to just have that lifestyle business or you’re okay being at 10 people, then be comfortable with that. But don’t bullshit yourself at the end of the day, my friend. At the end of the day, you got to understand, in order to grow, you have to delegate because you can’t do it all yourself. And great things are only built in teams. So, coming back to what we’re doing right now is the third part of this, you said, and it was the culture of reactivity you talked about. You talked about fires, about those existing in your company and then putting out fires all day. Tell me how that relates to organization.
[00:24:08.300] – Gretchen Moran
I think about a lot of the guys in the trade. I’ve done a lot of just conversations. I’ve done a little bit of consulting with some of the guys that are working in the trades. So, these guys are really good at the hands on work that they do. They’re not necessarily really good at the back end office stuff because they’re out working a trade. They’re out fixing plumbing issues and putting in electrical boxes and building buildings, these kinds of things are not necessarily good what’s happening here. So, they get in this mode of when you’re dealing with other guys in their trade or in their line of work, stop coming up all the time and they’re just putting out fires constantly. You’ve got a trouble with this vendor. You got some conflict with this subcontractor. And you just get in the vibe of you’re just putting out fires all the time. And it’s really stressful. And so what happens is you start to create this culture of putting out fires. So if you’re the boss and you’re the one that’s having to put the fires out all the time, and all your guys are around you and you’re teaching them, oh, this is what the business is.
[00:25:30.430] – Gretchen Moran
We’re just putting out fires all the time.
[00:25:32.210] – David Maples
You’re saying, in particular, it sounds like they don’t have the training or the skill set or have never been… Nobody’s ever talked about how to manage the business. Is that part of it?
[00:25:42.160] – Gretchen Moran
Yeah, I think that’s a huge piece of it. These guys have come into their trade, come into their service work. Maybe they’ve learned it from their father, but not really understanding the business side of it. I think you have probably heard it said you’re a reader like I am. Let’s say you’re in a sales position and you’re really good at sales and you’re the top sales guy in your organization and your boss says, “Oh, my gosh, you’re the best sales guy that we’ve got. Your numbers are awesome. You’re always producing every single month. I’m going to make you a manager.” Do you think that that sales guy is also a good manager? He might be.
[00:26:25.680] – David Maples
I think it’s gambling, right? It’s like, occasionally… It’s not flipping a coin. It’s like winning at roulette. It’s like 1-in-30 something, right?
[00:26:35.340] – Gretchen Moran
Right. So, just because you’re really good at this area or this focus and you’ve made a business out of it, that doesn’t mean that you know how to do the accounting. You know how to do marketing. You know how to put your papers together for your tax account. All of these little bitty pieces that are vital to your business, that doesn’t mean you know how to do them. So if you’re out there working in your trade and you’re doing your business, doing all of the work and you have no process for how the other things get done, you’re going to be putting out fires, whether it’s putting out fires all the time out in the field or you’re just in a constant state of chaos because you don’t have those systems or processes in place.
[00:27:19.460] – David Maples
Partly, I wanted to address this culture of reactivity you’re talking about because I can see, definitely, where that happens. I know that you, on the podcast, we do some consulting with some companies, et cetera. I have seen a lot of times, to what you’re talking about, I’ve seen it’s just a warm body. It’s like you don’t have somebody in bookkeeping and you’re like, “Well, John knows math. So, how hard could it be?” Or the classic case is the salesperson you promote to manager. Maybe 1-in-10 are qualified. And they can become good managers if they even want to be managers. Maybe they love what they were doing. It’s really interesting. That culture activity, I think you’ve worked for some very large organizations. Did you find that they were much better at not creating that culture than the smaller ones, or was it similar?
[00:28:13.840] – Gretchen Moran
I think it was better. I think that there, in my experience, I would say it could be industry specific, too. A big chunk of my career, I worked in healthcare. The level of executives and supervisors that I worked with were not reactionary because they have such good systems and processes in place. You literally have an algorithm of when this happens, then this has to happen. Then either this happens or this happens. It’s literally just an algorithm and that’s how they do it in healthcare. I worked in the accounting field. That was definitely lots of structure, lots of processes in place. I worked for CPA and audit firms. Those all did some things very similarly as well. But then you can work in other organizations like retail or the food industry. Those can tend to attract reactionary people, people from all walks of life who may not necessarily operate on those systems and processes. So, a lot of times it just depends on the person, not necessarily the industry, but just the personality.
[00:29:30.820] – David Maples
So, I have just one final question before we wrap the interview up today. What would you consider to be the… On The Buck Stops Here, it’s like we don’t get to lie to ourselves about things. What are the biggest lies that you’ve seen business owners tell themselves about their organization’s organization? What are the things you’ve seen them tell themselves or sell themselves on?
[00:29:54.540] – Gretchen Moran
I can do all the things. I can wear all the hats and I’m good at all of them.
[00:30:00.620] – David Maples
All right. So, to sum up at the end here, if they listen to this interview today, if they get to go back and put that in their organization today, it’s just like, these are the tips. What would those three be?
[00:30:15.020] – Gretchen Moran
I think of the three best takeaways that I could give your audience today; number one, I think would be to just recognize your blind spots. Figure out where your weaknesses are, where your blind spots are. Those are the areas that you really should be delegating. Maybe you are not the best at your QuickBooks. That’s probably something that you can delegate because you’re not… That particular task is not an income-producing activity. It’s something that is essential and must be done. Find someone that’s really good at that and let them do it. Because, honestly, it’s an inexpensive cost to your business to have an expert do that for you. I would say probably the second thing that they need to remember is that time is money. Whether you think about you having good time management skills, you may have, you may not have, but time is money. So, if you think about a task that you are getting ready to do, and if you were to be able to bill your client for that work… So, I charge my clients hourly. If I’m going to sit down and do a task that I could charge my client for, would I be able to charge my hourly rate for that task?
[00:31:44.620] – Gretchen Moran
I think that is one question that I talk to all of my business clients about. If you’re sitting down to do a task that’s going to take you three hours, could you ethically and morally send a bill to your client for that task at your hourly rate as the business owner? If that answer is no, then that’s something you need to be delegating. Then I think the third thing is to have those systems. Creating systems and processes. You can start small. It doesn’t have to be great, big, huge things. It could be something as simple as getting away from paper and just scanning your documents and creating an electronic file system. Because that’s going to save you time and money. If that’s just something small you can do, start small. But make little small changes, small increments to doing something that’s going to create a process. Number one, that will save you time and money.
[00:32:47.420] – Gretchen Moran
And It’s going to be something that, I made up this word a long time ago, and it’s setting up a system that’s duplicatable. So, is this something, a system that I can create that I can teach someone else how to do so that I don’t have to do it>
[00:33:01.400] – Gretchen Moran
Then, the next person say that person leaves your organization and comes in, this process is going to have to be something that can be carried down to the next person that takes this role.
[00:33:11.720] – David Maples
So with that, I wanted to thank Gretchen for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate that. The name of her business is Simply Living KC. If you’d like to find out more about Gretchen, we’re going to have links below online if you’re seeing this on YouTube. If they want to find you, Gretchen, where can they connect with you on social media?
[00:33:31.120] – Gretchen Moran
I do have a Facebook page and I am on Instagram, but I mostly connect with my audience on my website.
[00:33:38.840] – David Maples
Okay. So, they can call you or fill out a form and get in contact with you?
[00:33:42.300] – Gretchen Moran
They sure can.
[00:33:44.010] – David Maples
Excellent. Well, stay tuned, listeners. We have another a bonus episode coming up. Gretchen is going to tell us all about how to hire the most important Swiss Army person in your company, and that is your executive assistant. And that and more on The Buck Stops Here Podcast. Thank you.
[00:34:02.060] – David Maples
Thanks to Gretchen for coming on the podcast today. If you’d like to find out more about what she does, you can go to simplyliving-kc.com. That’s simplyliving-kc.com. Again, if you enjoyed this podcast, please give us a thumbs up, share it with your friends, or give us a five star review on Apple, Google, Spotify, or wherever else great podcasts are hosted. Again, I’ve been your host, David Maples. Thank you for listening and have an amazing week.