Lynne Meredith Golodner (formerly Schreiber) is the owner and chief creative officer of Your People LLC
, a Southfield-based public relations, marketing and business development firm.
She was a journalist for 15 years prior to forming Your People in 2007, and is the author of seven published books, with two more set to debut in the next year. She blogs regularly at www.lynnegolodner.com. This year, Lynne launched a spinoff company, Nourish Enterprises, which offers classes, retreats and programs, including Parenting Without a Map
With an MFA in writing from Goddard College and a B.A. in communication and English from the University of Michigan, Lynne is an adjunct professor at University of Detroit-Mercy and has taught at Wayne State University, Oakland University, Oakland Community College, College for Creative Studies and Mediabistro; she is a Detroit host for Mediabistro parties.
Lynne lives in Southfield with her archivist husband Dan and their four children.
When I started my business five years ago, I didn't have a clear map of where I was headed. I knew where I was leaving – the uncertain world of journalism that was changing at a rapid (and often unpaid) clip. I knew I had filed for divorce and had three small children, the youngest of whom was just one year old. I knew I would keep the house as it had appraised dangerously low and I knew I would have to pay a nanny to be with my little one until he was old enough for preschool. What I didn't know, after ten years of freelancing for publications local and distant, was how I'd keep a steady stream of income rolling in.
And so I hatched an idea – a way to work with businesses that had money to pay me – and use my communication skills to benefit everyone involved. Somehow, I landed my first client, Hiller's Markets
, and began a journey that quickly morphed into a full-scale marketing, public relations and business development company.
I operated on instinct, never looking too far ahead or voicing the what-ifs that plagued my sleepless nights. I did the work in front of me and went to yoga when the kids were with their father and hoped that we'd all be ok. I founded my business on a belief that if you build strategic relationships, you will grow your business.
And when people told me that was a stupid idea, I stubbornly soldiered on, believing that what my gut told me held some shred of truth.
It did, and it all worked out OK. So much so that five years later, I've moved from the home office to a recently renovated pay-the-lease office in Southfield, and have two part-timers and one full-timer working for me.
And all these clients who are driven by a desire to make the world better, one client at a time.
What I didn't see five years ago when I was setting out on the entrepreneur's path was that if you're working for the money, you'll always struggle. But if you're working to contribute, to be of service, to build community and to care about others, you'll always have more than enough.
Entrepreneurship is a perspectives game. It's an exercise in defining your very being, in understanding why you're standing on level ground, what your role is in the fast-paced scheme of life.
It's not just I-have-a-great-idea or I-am-so-much-smarter-than-the-rest. It's constantly focusing on a goal of helping, of building, of contributing. And that is a very different ride.
There was a time when I swore off wearing pants and tank tops for religiously-sanctioned modest attire, ate only kosher food and covered my curly hair with hats. I did so to belong to a religious community I was part of for ten years. I checked every observance off the list – muttered prayers before and after every meal, refrained from working on the Sabbath, had three kids in four years.
But something was missing.
In some weird way, I became my most spiritual through my work. I spent ten years living a religious lifestyle but in that time, I worried more about surface concerns than anything with depth. When I took off the hats and reclaimed my clothing, people in that community stopped being my friends – and I started seeing the world differently.
You can follow all the rules, satisfy the concerns and judgments of others, but that doesn't mean your life will amount to anything meaningful. For that to happen, you have to peel away the outer layers and really hunker down into the depths of your soul to KNOW what it is you're meant to do, in your own unique way.
How many business people look at their work this way? We live in a society where it's either punch-a-clock-to-collect-a-paycheck or it's gimme-gimme-gimme until you have more than anyone else. More awards, more money, more fame, more notoriety.
I'm happy to say that the clients I attract are those who care deeply. They take skills and degrees and put them to work on behalf of helping heal the world. That may sound hokey, but it's absolutely true. My clients are different kinds of business owners. They see the world differently. They have become my teachers.
The CEO of one client, Woodward Asset Capital
, explained the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement like this: The vision is the private mandate that's etched into the glass of the window above your desk. As every project and task arrives, you check in with that etching to make sure it's in the purview of what you intend to do. The mission is for the public domain to consume, it's the face you put to the world.
When you work with a higher purpose driving your every step, you're sure to succeed because your job is not simply to do work and get paid. It's to raise the conversation to a higher level. Enhance the vibration of society at-large.
Here's what I've learned in my five years of entrepreneurship: it's not about me. It never was.
When I was a new parent at the age of 30, I found the 24-7 unspoken needs of my newborn overwhelming. Stifling. Perplexing.
Like so many parents, I wanted sleep and I wanted just a little bit of time to myself. Don't get me wrong – my whole life, I couldn't wait to be a parent, but when that gift arrived, I wasn't prepared for the way my life would change.
I wanted to control the situation. I wanted it my way.
The minute I gave up that wish for control is the minute I began to love being a parent.
I now have four children between the ages of six and ten and every day feel lucky to have the gift of them in my life. They are unique and original individuals with their own needs and ways of learning. They always have been. I know this now innately and know that when my first newborn wailed for two hours straight in the middle of those first few nights, I should have wailed with him, surrendering to the moment and loving him for the lesson.
That's the essence of what I teach in my new curriculum, Parenting Without a Map
™. It may seem odd for a public relations and marketing expert to launch a parenting class midstream, but that's exactly what I did last spring after an eye-opening client trip to Bali.
In March, I served as blogger and photographer for Deborah Williamson's
yoga retreat in Ubud, Bali. She started as a public relations client and asked me to accompany her around the world to promote her inspiring work in real-time.
While I was there to observe and report, she also invited me to take part in her program. And while doing so, I realized that my long-held teaching skills (I've taught at Wayne State, University of Detroit and Oakland University, among others) were untapped and my passion for parenting my be a prime venue.
I love to teach. I find it supplements my client work and so some semesters I throw a college English class into my schedule just to keep me on my toes. That sense of discovery, the learning that occurs when teaching others, the attention to the How and the Why instead of the Do – it's what I love about teaching.
And, in the role of the serial entrepreneur that I am, I spun out a new product with an outline and a wish and a page added to my personal website. Presto-changeo- it was a reality.
That's the beauty of entrepreneurship. You don't analyze and assess the wisdom or likelihood of success. You just DO.
I taught my first Parenting Without a Map™ class in Staten Island, N.Y., at a yoga studio. The curriculum combines ancient knowledge with modern perspectives, writing exercises and meditation and conversation, to empower parents to surrender to the art of parenting.
More than anything, I give parents a forum for their concerns and insecurities and I help them build a community of like-minded peers who want desperately to succeed in being the best parent for their children.
It's not hard to start a new business when you believe in it. When passion drives the train, you go fast. This is something I can do, it's something people need and it comes from a place of giving rather than getting. That's all you need to launch.
You can build your own web page. You can create a gorgeous flier. You can print business cards for cheap online. And then you find the people you need to spread the word.
After I launched Parenting Without a Map™ and before I even taught the first program, parents from my son's soccer team (which I coach) approached me at practice to ask my advice on parenting matters. I didn't tell them what to do; I listened and reflected. I told them they know the answer. And they did. They just needed a sounding board.
In this era of too-much-access, of Facebook and Twitter and dinner-table-texting, we are connected to so many but lonelier than ever. We don't know quite whom to trust because so many people are chiming in – but most of them don't really care.
And in the secret darkness of our minds, where we dwell with our misgivings and insecurities, we need a voice to guide us back to the light.
I embrace social media to the nines. It's all a great tool to round out every business (and personal) effort on the table.
If anything, social media has shone the light on the absence of true friendship today and revealed how important it is to have handshakes and face-to-face connections. We cannot rely solely on distant forms of communications. We must retreat to the old-fashioned relationship-building approach to make our lives better.
Anyone who gets that should have no trouble launching a brilliant business.
When I transitioned from journalism to public relations and marketing, I never intended to manage people. I didn't envision building a staff or hiring others or becoming The Boss Man.
And that is exactly where I stand today.
In May, my company, Your People LLC, moved out of my home and into a 500-square-foot office in Southfield. My long-time administrative contract worker who showed up occasionally to file and buy supplies now works 12 hours a week in a very organized manner.
I hired a graphic designer (a former student of mine from University of Detroit-Mercy) who also does account work (mostly social media). He works 20 hours a week. And in August, my first full-time salaried employee joined the team.
It took me four months and one bad hire to find her.
When you're an accidental entrepreneur (and by that I mean, no MBA, no legitimate road map telling you to do this now and follow this protocol), no one teaches you how to hire others, how to manage a staff and how to delegate and supervise. You learn it on the fly – sometimes to your detriment and sometimes to everyone's success.
We are truly a team now. My company is so much more than it was when I hung out my shingle five years ago. There is more at stake, more investment, and a familial feeling. When Michael generates a gorgeous eight-page booklet for a client, I feel like a proud mamma watching my chick take wing. When Ingrid makes contact with a new-to-us member of the media and expertly, artfully weaves a nascent relationship into something really nice, I feel like walking on clouds.
And when someone sends an email with misspelled words or repeating something I've already said, I remind myself to teach with kindness.
Here's what I've learned thus far as I've stumbled into the world of finding, and nurturing, local talent.
1. It is really hard to find the good ones. I interviewed nearly 18 people for Ingrid's position over the course of four months. I posted ads in several places, fielded calls and emails, turned people away for misspellings on resumes, inability to make time to meet with me, or just inappropriate behavior in some way (beware of what you put on Facebook!). Everyone thinks there are no jobs in Michigan. That is entirely not true. There are jobs; there just isn't always incredible talent to fill them with.
2. When you find the good ones, take care of them. I feel protective of my team, in part because they are giving me their heart and soul, and in part because I realize the responsibility of employing someone. That doesn't mean I excuse bad behavior – but I don't see much of it anyway because when you treat someone with appreciation and kindness, it comes back at you.
3. Don't forget, business is business. I hired a bunch of placeholders before I found my true team because I needed the help. When someone cries over an email that has no harshness behind it, or gets passive aggressive because they're not really loving the work they're doing, it's just too bad. It's not personal. It's business.
4. Build in rewards. As the business grows, I want every member of my team to feel it in increased pay and benefits. It's only right. I establish a work ethic in my company that nurtures, encourages and rewards.
5. Hire only people who are 100% on board. I've tried out people who were just looking for a job. I don't care what industry you're in – if it's just a job, there is no loyalty, no teamwork, no longevity. Explain exactly what to expect and check in regularly to make sure everyone is on the same page.
6. Create a company protocol and mission. This summer, I wrote a 32-page employee handbook that outlines all protocols, policies and expectations for everyone in my company. I included a huge section about vision statements and mandated that every employee write their personal career vision as well as their vision for their job at Your People. And I pledged to do the same – for the company as well as for each position. That way we are articulating our goals and expectations and have a way to measure growth and accomplishment.
7. Have fun. I love going to work every single day. I feel lucky to do what I do. I thank people regularly and show gratitude. I communicate my mission and vision to my team constantly and make sure they're happy with their work. We spend so much of our lives working, it might as well be fun, right?