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Business Leaders Podcast - Bob Roark 21st November 2019
Glassical Designs And The Practicalities Of Running A Business With Nora LaMar and Co-Host Catherine Wicklund
00:00:00 00:47:34

Glassical Designs And The Practicalities Of Running A Business With Nora LaMar and Co-Host Catherine Wicklund

BLP Nora | Glassical Designs


If you do something and you keep doing it, you're going to get better you're going to be able to do it regardless of how hard and risky it is. In this episode, Bob Roark with co-host Catherine Wicklund talk with Nora LaMar, the CEO of Glassical Designs which helps companies design and maintain stellar recognition programs. She talks about her business and who they serve, providing pieces of advice to aspiring business owners on how to become successful. She also shares some of the lessons that she learned from her experiences. She also touches on motivation and the typical misconceptions about the role of a CEO.


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Glassical Designs And The Practicalities Of Running A Business With Nora LaMar and Co-Host Catherine Wicklund

We're lucky to have Nora LaMar. She's the CEO of Glassical. We also have a cohost that's Cath Wicklund. She's the Chair of the Southern Colorado Vistage and the CEO of her own company. Nora, thank you so much for taking the time. Tell us a little bit about Glassical, what your business is and who you serve.

First of all, thank you for having me. It's nice to be here. Glassical Designs is the company I started several years ago. We, for the last many years, provide awards and trophies for the corporate market which is what most people think all the time. We come in and help companies and corporations develop their recognition programs to be more effective, go along with our company culture and fit into their company branding. We do a lot of custom work, pick their brain and see what it is that they're trying to convey and see if we can help them do that.

I've been at your location at a meeting and it is an amazing place. I had no idea what went on. A lot of very busy people creating some amazing items for recognition. Many of us have been in various firms that have a recognition item or award or an event in. You and I talked a little bit before about what Glassical is the physical representation of what they're trying to do. When you go in and talk to a company about developing a recognition program, what types of things do you work with them on to develop a signature piece?

When we go in, we don't have a great idea of where they're at with their recognition within their company. If they see the need and the value in it or if they just heard and they need to start one. It depends on where they're at with it. If they have an established culture and they like their culture and they want to promote their culture and if they really enjoy their branding. We walk into all kinds of scenarios. When we walk in, we try and assess where they're at with recognizing their employees and if they fully understand why. If they do, that's a blessing because we're coming in now and trying to pick their brain about how can we refine this, make this more about your company culture and your branding. How do you make these people value what you're giving them and give them the biggest bang for their buck.

We don't walk in and say, “We want to sell you a $2,000 award for every employee and I hope everybody buys it.” We go in and we try and assess, “Can we genuinely help them solve the problem and do it within a budget that they think is reasonable?” When we walk in, we get to have that leg up per se when they already understand the need for recognition. We sit down and gather information, give them an idea of what we think they should be doing when it comes to recognition, then we go back and we all brainstorm, come up with ideas for them. That doesn't cost them anything. We feel like if we're going to do a really good job for you, you're going to want to work with us and not want to go anywhere else. We don't have to charge you for that time upfront because it all comes out in the wash later on.

If you do want to recognize people well and you do want to make it about the people, then we can't go in with a dollar amount already decided in our mind about how is this going to benefit Glassical Designs? If we do that, then we've lost the game right out the gate. We go in thinking, “How can we help you?” Obviously, we need to make money but we find out how can we help you do this well. If we walk in and they have no clue why they want to do recognition because the people in charge are all about growing the business and keeping the shareholders happy and it's all about the bottom line. That's a much harder meeting to have. We have to educate them quite a bit on if you do want to grow it and you do want to make money, that's a by-product of doing this part well. Does that answer your question?

I think so. I think about the broad range of items that I saw when I was there from custom design, glass pieces for Mercedes Benz and others to a smaller piece. Looking at the companies, what type of feedback do you typically hear from a company after you've instituted a rewards program with items from Glassical? What are the takeaways that companies or a-ha moments that they have?

That depends on them. In a perfect world and we get a lot of this, they're like, "I had no idea. Thank you so much for helping us realize the importance of doing this. Thank you for working within our budget and helping us design an award that conveys what we want it to convey but also has our company branding involved in it." That's the feedback we get. We have the fun part of sitting down and coming up with beautiful things that fit within their branding. We give those to them as an option. Most often they're surprised at what they can have. If you search the web, you're going to see pretty standard across the board what's out there. I'm not saying we don't do that. We'll do that for someone if that's what they want. If we can come in and help them design a recognition program around their branding, then that's our preference. That's the feedback we get. Most of the time when they receive our awards, we'll get an email back and like, "We're so excited. We can't wait to give these out. We had no idea what this would do." We guarantee that they're going to get them on time. We take good care of them.

I heard stories as an aside, I'm not sure who it was and they said there was a problem getting a shipment for an award. You guys have flown awards in.

Three times in 35 years. The University of Phoenix was one of our top customers back then and we had their entire Southwestern United States territory. They would hold several events and they had one in Hawaii. We had already provided the majority of the awards for events in Tahoe and in Reno and up in Seattle. This was the last one. It’s sixteen awards that had to go to Hawaii. We happen to be in the office on the weekend and I answered the phone and our contact was in Hawaii, at the venue and wanted a tracking number. We did a little digging and found out that we didn't send those awards. In fact, they hadn't even been engraved yet. That was a big one.

We didn't spend a whole lot of time going, “Oh no.” We sat down and made flight arrangements, edge the awards fast and well. We packaged them. I went on down to LAX, hopped on a plane, hand-delivered the awards myself in time for their event because we like to say we never miss a deadline. I thought they'd never worked with us again. The speaker made the entire presentation other than giving the awards to the recipients about customer service and how great we are and they'll never work with anyone else.

It's funny when you do the right thing. For the folks that are reading and they go, "We don't even know if we're a prototypical client for what Glassical does." What is the range of clients that use your service?

[bctt tweet="If your goal is truly to serve others well, sales will follow." username=""]

Anywhere from a $1 million company that wants to award their ten employees at their Christmas banquet to Pacific Life, Google, Mercedes Benz, Mitsubishi Motors, their headquarters in the US and they put together a whole recognition program. They mandate that all of their offices and all of their managers choose from what we've provided for them. We do thousands of awards for some companies, names you've probably never heard of. I'd never heard of them until we start working with them to big name companies like Pacific Life, Google and others. I've been doing it for a while so we have quite a customer base.

I’d have to ask, how did you get involved in this business?

I didn't grow up thinking I was going to be the CEO of Glassical Designs. Back in the day when we had our retail business, a hand glass engraver. I was artistic. I got a job as a teenager, engraving on toasting glasses for weddings free-hand and met my now husband who was very entrepreneurial-minded and he said, "Why are you doing this for someone else?" I said, “I don't know, is there another option? “He bought the machine and I started really small in an outdoor marketplace. Other places in the country call them flea markets. We don't call them that in Southern California. It's an outdoor marketplace and we built our clientele from there. We opened a retail location, worked our fannies off for a long time and then decided maybe we should do this for corporate customers instead of brides and made the switch.

We were talking about that right before we started. You made a conscious shift at some point between retail to the corporate world. Walk me through that process and your mindset when you were doing that. 

I don't know if all of your audiences remember the recession of the ‘90s right after Desert Storm and it hit the whole country first before it came to our area. We were a local business. We were working our tails off in our retail business. I had to lay off a few employees and staff. We were working seven days a week and had four children and felt like we never saw them. My husband and I were sitting in the Jacuzzi and I looked at him and I said, "What if we dump all of our retail customers and go for the corporate customers?" We had, not even a handful, about four corporate customers we were working with back then. One of them was In-N-Out Burger and another one was Mitsubishi Motors. We did In-N-Out Burgers entire awards program for them. I thought that there was real promise in that. It's a little scary to think about dumping what you've done for thirteen years and that many customers from your customer base and head in a different direction. It was a risk that we took and I'm glad we did because it paid off hugely. I stopped working weekends mostly. I still do a little bit every now and then because that's life on planet earth. That's what we did and I'm happy that we did it. There were no guarantees. When you run a company, there aren't any guarantees.

I haven't found the guarantee that comes with being a business owner somewhere.

It doesn't exist. You have to be a risk-taker or you probably shouldn't start one.

I think about that discussion. As you're saying, "What do you think?" “That's a good idea.” Did you immediately go and institute that or did you stew on it a little bit?

We did it instantly but we maintained our retail customers for about a year. We eased our way out of that and then focused pretty hard on sales with the corporate clients in Southern California at that time. Before we located here, we were there for thirteen years.

With all of that experience and if there's another business owner out there and you are going to offer that business owner a piece of advice based on your track record, success and all the pivots, what would that be and why?

My husband and I worked together very well, but I would tell you never go into business with your spouse because the first five years, it was pretty like this until we figured all that out. He and I love working together now, but we tell that to people all the time. I would say honestly until you run your own business, you have no idea how much is involved in that. The advice I would give people is to count the costs and then go in being willing to adjust as you go to accommodate what needs to happen. It will pull out of you the very best you have to offer. If you're not willing to do that, then you probably shouldn't start it.

I think about people that have the story. I'm going to start my own business so I can be my own boss. I always chuckle when they say I can be my own boss, which is I'm going, "You haven't run a business yet." You mentioned an interesting time frame, the first four or five years with your husband and running the business and then after that initial period of time, things settled down for you guys. Was there a particular event that caused it to settle down or just progression?

BLP Nora | Glassical Designs


Anytime you work with a business partner and whether it's a spouse or any other human being, they have their strengths and weaknesses, you have yours. They have their perspective and you have yours. As you grow and you mature. I was 25 when I started this, you round off the rough edges over time. It was, "That's not working. How else can we approach this? Let me see if I understand you better." We learned a lot about communication and how to be better listeners and how to focus on what was great and what wasn't so great. We decided that was none of our business and that person would work on their own stuff. It wasn't my job to point that out. We both had to come to that agreement that we would accentuate the positives and ignore the negatives. It was a good decision. That happened over time. That was not any one event.

It sounds like a typical marriage to me.

It's dimensional. That the marriage that you're working on which then you've got the business that you're working on as well being a partner.

You are supposed to raise the kids too.

Try and bring out the best in them. I have four daughters, so I don't want to pretend that's easy.

If you could go back with decades of experience that you have, you could go back to your pre-business self and offer yourself some advice, what would you say?

The young me, I would say is figure out your stuff.

Personal or professional?

Personal first. Don't ignore and stuff, be real, genuine and authentic. The young me, I would say embrace all your strengths and be thankful and grateful for those and be so grateful for the opportunities, more so than do this business step and do that business step. I could have saved you so much time, Nora, if you hadn't done this or done that. The number one business thing I would have said is you should have pulled the trigger on the corporate business after the first year rather than thirteen years into it. We wasted a lot of time. If you think of it that way, doing retail and not doing the corporate business, we should have started that sooner.

We talked about being able to be adverse to risk. Pulling that trigger was a huge risk. There was some apprehension that went with that that took some number of years to work through before you were like, "Wow." It's easy to say, "As I went back now, I wish we would have done it sooner." However you learn different lessons, right?

Yes. There wasn't much apprehension. Both my husband and I are risk-takers. We jump out of airplanes, that kind of stuff. We may be a little bit unique in that. We do tend to take probably more risks than the average person. We count the cost but we don't lament things that maybe went south, and then we learn from it and move on. We don't spend a lot of time beating ourselves up about decisions and stuff.

To switch to the corporate sooner rather than later and be able to take your lumps as they call it.

[bctt tweet="As smart as you are, you don't know everything." username=""]

We should do it anyway.

I think about that philosophical approach to paying tuition as you, "I wish we hadn't done that and it cost a certain amount." There's the tuition and learning along the way. If there was a specific skillset that you could have gone to college or any higher education institution that would have helped you, you're looking at it now, what would you have taken or what course might you have studied?

I would have taken some business classes. Thank God I don't have to do any of the accounting. Rick is stellar at it so I get to do the people management side of it and all that. I would probably take some management courses so that it wasn't all learn on the job. My children went to college and I know how much they learned when they were there. I don't know how much you retain, like high school. I did take some courses in college, as did Rick, but most of it was on-the-job training. They can prep you some in school for it. There's not a whole lot of education out there for doing what we do other than maybe people management. We could have learned a lot more. I learned a ton through the CEO group in Vistage about managing people and how to do that well that I wished I'd learned when I was younger.

Do you have children in your business now? 

I have one daughter. She's a salesperson.

That reminds me of the apprentice program many years ago. What advantage do you think your daughter will have from being in the business and executing on the sales side and watching what you guys are doing as opposed to the experience you have?

I wasted a few years doing sales for Glassical Designs myself with too much knowledge about the bottom line and what we needed to make. Jackie has benefited and our salespeople. A great deal from what I learned was that you don't focus on that. People pick up on that right away. If you're going into a meeting and your focus is, how can this person benefit me rather than what can I do for them? People are smart. They pick up on that. In sales, right out the gate, I tell our salespeople, “Don't try and sell anything. Go ahead and find out what it is, how you can serve them well, understand them, look in their eyes and see what it is that God put in them that made them unique and special. Try and connect with that and then see if you can find a solution for their recognition problems. If you can help them find solutions, then the sales will follow.” I would say that to all salespeople. It's amazing to me how successful people aren't going to show how much we have consumer needs. Walking in and upselling and trying to push people into something and make a decision now and all of that. We don't do any of that.

That's a temporary sales thing. It's not a long-term sales thing.

We have customers that have been purchasing awards from us for 20, 23, 25 years. They would never go anywhere else because they know our goal is to take good care of them.

It's nice to see the growth of those customers over the years. Family members extended. For you, as you look over company over the past maybe most recent five or ten years, an initiative or a protocol or something that you've installed in the company or even an allocation of your time that's helped the company most.

Probably being a part of the Vistage CEO group. Learning from those people and having them problem solve with me. I took from that and went back and applied a lot of the things that I've learned from them. I've read a book called The Four Ds Of Execution which was suggested to me several times before I went and got it and read it. That has helped us understand the need for focusing on the wildly important goals in the midst of the whirlwind of running your business which has propelled us forward. I would say it's an investment of money and time to go and it's so worth it. That's what I've taken from Glassical Designs and has helped me learn to put back into Glassical Designs. We've had good attitudes all along, but the things I've learned, I'm pretty sure I would've had to go for a four-year degree to learn what I've learned from the CEO's in the time that I've known them and spent time with them, if I were trying to get it out of going to school or something like that. Which would have cost me a whole lot more money than it was to be a part of this group.

In your day-to-day operations as the CEO, what one personal habit or self-talk dialogue do you have that you feel keeps you focused on? 

BLP Nora | Glassical Designs


It’s probably not what you think. Usually, on my way into work, I'm like, "I know what I'm going to face, I can't do it on my own. I don't know some of the things that are going to go on, I'm not sure I'm equipped to handle those." I'll say a prayer and say, "I can't do this on my own. I'm going to need God's help with this." It helped me remember that I'm there to serve and lead, not try and BS my way through. My people appreciate that authenticity and we're a team. I try and keep that in mind when I'm with them. I would say that's probably the most important thing if I forget to do that and I get in there and get overwhelmed. If I remember that I am here to serve and we'll tackle this together and we are a team, we've accomplished amazing things. I'm very proud of our culture and so that helps me as the CEO. I set that tone and I guard it. We don't let grumpy people work for us.

Which is helpful to keep the company culture whole.

We try and train them. If they come and they’re tainted and wounded by the world, they're struggling from a past job or whatever, that's not how it is here. I want to make sure you don't stuff, we want to hear what's going on with you. We want to hear your ideas and stuff. At the end of the day, if someone is determined to be grumpy, we’re like, "This is not a good fit for you."

We were visiting and you had a Vistage meeting at your place. You had an outing for all your employees. You went to the Cave of the Winds and the people there say, "We’ve got to show you guys the video of us at Cave of the Winds." Describe what it is that the video covered. What do you think the impact or reaction was of your employees from that event that you did?

It helped to establish a feeling of belonging and that you matter working at Glassical Designs. We see you and your uniqueness and we want to bring out of you the very best that you have to offer. Not because we want to make it always fun but we want it to be a rewarding place for you to work. We try and interject some fun. We did it because not everybody there are risk-takers like Rick and I. We've talked about jokingly taking them on retreats where we're all going to go skydiving or something and people freeze in their seats. We were joking but this Cave of the Winds, they have a tour of the caves which is something that everyone could do.

We thought out of 22 people that came with us, maybe ten, Rick and I tried to figure it out the night before how many are going to want to do the TERROR-dactyl. It is a chair that you get strapped into with a partner and they hang you out over the ravine. They tilt your chair forward while they open up the deck below you and you get to see that 1,000-foot drop. They have a cable attached from one end of the ravine to the other and a cable gets pulled out to the center and then they release you and you do a 300-foot drop in a swing out over the ravine.

We thought maybe about ten people. Twenty out of 22 did it. That was what the video was about. We paid for the video to show everybody going through that experience and they were all terrified but they all signed up for it. What that did for camaraderie and helping them to have something fun to talk about. If you could see the thank you card that they gave both Rick and me afterward, they felt so poured into and we decided what the fun thing was going to be. We didn't like to take a headcount. We chose and brought them and they all bought into it. They were so appreciative.

It reminds me of the things that you do for others.

The reason we have customers for as long as we do, if we figured anything out, we figured out to not go in with an agenda. We have a strategic plan. My CEO group helped with that. We have goals for our company and our business but we don't want to ever forget why we do what we do. I've had salespeople get a little burned out because they make cold calls every day, the quota. After a while, they get a little burned out and we'll have a discussion. I'll remind them, "You don't want to forget why you do what you do. You're making these calls to make the connections. That will make a difference. You have something to offer these people that they don't realize yet. You get to go in, meet them, enjoy them and offer solutions for them. That's what makes your job rewarding. The 40 phone calls are just a vehicle to get you there.” When they get burned out, I left, "Did you forgotten why you do what you do?" We talk about it and process it and then they usually get back on board. Sometimes people don't want to be salespeople anymore because it's challenging.

For the folks that are reading, before I forget to ask, how do people find you on social media?

We do have a Facebook page. We have a Pinterest page. We have an Instagram presence and a Twitter presence and we're getting all up on LinkedIn.

It's Glassical Designs. Thinking about what you guys do and this is a physical representation of a mindset personally. If you were to take the message of your company and you could put your message on page one of the Denver Business Journal or some other, what would it say and why? 

[bctt tweet="Motivation is overrated. Don't wait to be motivated to do what's right." username=""]

I think let us help you grow your company through the avenue of meaningful and appropriate recognition. That narrows it down and that's what we do. I would have the Glassical Designs logo and a picture of what it is and what we do. I don't know that I would overwhelm them with a ton of text. Put down there some avenue to get in touch with us. If that strikes a chord with them, we would go from there.

The thing that strikes me about all that is even if you hear all of this and you're not sure, it's inexpensive to reach out and say, "Please explain it to me because I don't get it." What that means is call or reach out.

Over the years, what would you say is a belief or protocol that you've established with respect to your ideal target market as far as how your treatment of your customers has impacted your company?

I can think that it's impacted on several levels. It helped the people who work there become better people and understand what customer service is all about. If your goal is truly to serve others well, sales will follow. Many companies start out and we included at the beginning like, "This is our premier company. We're going to make a ton of money," thinking about what it can do for them. The big impact that we have is that it has to be about others. For your life to be meaningful, for your company to have meaning, for it to have longevity, it can't be all about you, it has to be about others.

From a belief perspective, tell me again what you have on the top of the wall, the sales on it, what it would say?

It says, “If your goal is to serve others well, the word love might be in there somewhere too.” I can't remember. If your goal is to serve others well, sales will follow.

That is the belief you have to your core as well as your husband, Rick. That is truly what has propelled you forward. Customer experience perspective, from a customer service perspective and that's also how you treat your employees.

It sounds very idyllic and doesn't get me wrong. Rick does all the finances and he pays all the bills. He's our CFO. We balance each other out. There are practicalities to running a business. You have to be able to pay your vendors, pay your bills, pay your employees, pay your payroll taxes and all of that. I'm aware of the challenges that he has. I don't delve into the details of the money part of it so I can keep my brain clean and not get freaked out or selfish.

That's a pretty good compass. One of the things we've not talked about is that you're a woman-owned business.

For the first year and a half that I have the business, I ran it. Rick was an air traffic controller and he meant to set me up. He was going to continue being an air traffic controller and then he would start other small businesses. That didn't really happen. About two years in, he jumped in with me. He quit his job as an air traffic controller and started working with me. Essentially, yes, he funded the machine but it was my company first and then we built it together. When we were defining roles and stuff, we decided, "I'm probably better with the managing of the people part, the sales part, the marketing part and all that. I will be the CEO." He will be the COO/CFO and we went from there. We are certified woman-owned and have been for quite some time. I didn't feel neglected by the business world for being woman-owned but I know that there are other woman-owned companies that have really fought an uphill battle to find good standing in the industry, whatever it was that they wanted to get into. I haven't experienced that. I've been pretty fortunate.

That's a good story in and of itself. For you, advice to another CEO if they were assuming the role of CEO for the first time, what would it be? 

Don't do it on your own. Join a group like I'm part of and pick the brains of other CEOs who've walked before you. As smart as you are, you don't know everything. There's a lot to be learned from other people who are humble and want to share. I would say that as number one.

BLP Nora | Glassical DesignsI think about the wisdom of the crowd. As you look at, you may have A through F on experience and somebody else in the crowd may have M through Z experience and so on. You go, "We both experienced, we both run successful businesses, we don't have the same experience on perspectives.”

Their perspective has been, I have adequately say how valuable it has been to me, but when we issue process, I'll throw out something that I'm challenged with and then these people will ask qualifying questions like, "Let's clarify what's going on." They will offer possible solutions. I find one good one, maybe two, in there that I take back and talk with my team about. We have a management team and my husband and I are running it together. We go back and it's been invaluable. There are things that I wouldn't have thought of on my own. I'm smart but I can't know everything. It's been tremendous.

You get in the business instead of on the business. You've had a fairly good milestone, as I understand it.

We are projected to double in revenue since I've been part of this CEO group.

What do you think the one or two obstacles that you overcame to have this occur?

Getting my head out of the whirlwind which is necessary to run your business. You have to be engaged. Setting aside time and being purposeful about thinking where we want to be, what is most important to us, and how do we define ourselves in the marketplace. I would say trying to do both. Keep my mind on the wildly important goals that make the most sense for us and keep the whirlwind going at the same time. Does that answer your question?

I think so. Cath, do you have another thing to add to that?

No. That accurately sums up the Vistage group. One of the main goals is to create space and time toward the business versus in the business. If you don't get your head out of the business for at least one day a month, you're probably more likely to be part of the problem.

Here you are some number of months ago and you've got this thought process go, "I need to do this instead of what I've been doing." Describe what that was when you had that moment or that a-ha thought process or how did it arrive?

Most things in my life left field. Jackie, our Southern California sales rep, contacted Vistage's corporate office having no idea who they were or what they did. She discovered that they had a recognition program and they weren't super pleased with the vendor they'd been working with. They were open to talking to her. We learned about what they do. We started working with them. First, to provide ideas and then help them with their recognition program for their CEOs who'd been members for numerous years. They reached out to me about joining Vistage. I didn't fully understand what they do nor did I know if I had the need but entertained talking with them about it and they put me in contact with Catherine. She came and explained it to me and it seemed to make sense to help give me some insight on how to better move forward. I went in a little tentatively and right out the gate first meeting, I was thinking it was like drinking from a fire hose and I'm so glad that I came. We pulled the trigger right away and I have not had a moment where I thought that wasn't a good idea.

I'm always interested in the instigator, the pivot point or whatever it is. The catalyst for how you step out of where you were and then you look at where you are now and you go light years difference.

I don't know that there are a ton of epiphanies or a-ha moments. It's more a steady download. I was like, "That's helpful. That's a better way to look at that. I wished I’ve known that a long time ago." All those things, that's how life has been for me. I don't know. I haven't had that many epiphanies as much as you keep climbing the stairs one step at a time.

[bctt tweet="There's a lot to be learned from other people who are humble and want to share." username=""]

Misconceptions about you and your role as the CEO of this company. What's the typical misconception? 

I've heard a few times over the last several years. Usually, a new employee would be intimidated by me. I have no clue why except maybe the role. The idea that because I run a company and I'm willing to take risks that somehow I'm further along in life than they are. Once people get to know me that they find out that I'm figuring it out the same as everybody else one day at a time. I don't have all the answers. Do I have a whole lot more wisdom than I did when I was 25? Sure. At the time there has to be some benefit too. One of the misconceptions is that you sit around all day and you tell people what to do. I don't. We talk about it and we come to conclusions together and at the end of the day, I have to pull the trigger. I don't need everyone to agree with me. Some people assume because of the role that you have, a bunch of people working for you and you don't have to work that hard, and that is not true.

Looking back over the past few years, I want you to know you're very inspirational, not only to me but to the rest of us. You truly are and it's a pleasure to work with you. In the area of motivation, what do you feel like to do in motivating your team members? My second part of that question is what do you do to keep yourself motivated, especially when those days are gray and bleak and ten unexpected things happen, like a normal business day?

Motivation is overrated. I don't wait to be motivated to do what's right because if I felt motivated all the time, I would get one third done of what I get done. I know that there are have-tos in this world and that I need to do them whether I feel like it or not. I don't go with my feelings and I'm a very feeling-oriented woman. I override how I feel all the time to do what is right. I've had a few managers come and say, “We need this to be fun.” I'm like, “I love fun. Trust me. I love having fun.” I don't know that I think about work as being fun. If I'm waiting to have fun to feel motivated then I probably won't do it.

I feel like work needs to be rewarding and that's a big part of what makes life meaningful. If I do the right thing and we accomplished some of the goals that we set out to accomplish, I get the reward after. You become a person of your word with follow-through and doing what you need to do, whether you feel like it or not, when you follow that process. Motivating my people when I talk with them, sometimes they'll say, “I don't enjoy this or I don't enjoy that." We should talk about it. I said, “Are you supposed to? Is that an expectation you have? I do a lot of things every day that I don't necessarily enjoy." I don't focus on that. I focus on why am I doing this? Is it for the good of the company? Is it for the good of the customer? Is it good for the culture as a whole? If it is, then I'll do it. I don't wait to be motivated.

It goes back to I would call it the company mantra which is serving others as well. You are good about talking to people. You don't feel like, “I'm doing this now. Does it bring you joy? Does it tie back to our common goal to serve others?" If that's the answer, then that's the right thing to do whether you're motivated to do it or not.

BLP Nora | Glassical Designs


When you're younger, especially, "I don't have any motivation now." Welcome to life on planet earth. I don't either.

For you looking over the inventory of books that may have been pivotal in what you do or how you think about things. What comes to mind that you might recommend that's been influential? 

A huge one that I think spills over into business. I have two but one of the biggest ones in my life has been Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It's important for me to know what's mine to do. I don't want to do any more than what's mine to do because then that can cross over into the realm of manipulation, passive-aggressiveness. If I clearly know what's mine to do, I want to do it. Boundaries have helped me with that in the business sense and also in my personal life. It's like right next to the Bible. I would say it's my number two. A recent one, the four D's of execution, The 4 Disciplines of Execution. Sean Covey is one of the authors and that has really helped. There are a ton of books that we've read about. There is the E-Myth and all kinds of stuff, but I would say The Four D's of Execution has been pivotal in helping me how to run a company and how to manage people.

Thank you for those recommendations. I always like to ask people if there's a quote that they like. Is there one that you'd like or you repeat often?

Yes. From 22 years of age, whether I was on a long run and I wanted to quit, whether I wanted to throw in the towel with the company during the recession. It's a funny one but it's, "You can do what you do do." If you do it and you keep doing it, you're going to get better at it and you're going to be able to do it. It's a simple one. If you're at the end of the long run and you don't want to keep going, you can do what you do do. If I continue to do this, the next time I do it, it will be easier. You don't give up.

There's one that I've heard a lot. It is, “You got this.” I say it's quite empowering when you can tell yourself, “You've got this.” When you tell yourself that, do you notice a shift or a behavioral difference or anything mentally when you say that to yourself?

[bctt tweet="You need a strong leader to keep everybody on track." username=""]

Yes. I'm not easily defeated by most things. I would tell you it’s helped me tremendously over the years to know that if I do what's mine to do, I can do it. If I don't know how, I'll figure it out but I don't get defeated too easily. I get tired but I don't get defeated. Because I don't know how to do something now, If I do it and I keep doing it, I'll figure it out. It really helped me a lot. There was something that my anatomy and physiology instructor or professor told me in college, told our whole class and of course all young people, everybody laughed about it at first. I have made that part of the fiber of how I operate.

Can you imagine that instructor thinking back of all of the things that they've said over time and you go, "That's what stuck?"

Yes. She was a character. She would've enjoyed that.

We're here and Cath Wicklund is with us from Vistage as a cohost. You've mentioned this often on and I thought we might take a moment for the people that are not familiar with Vistage and what Vistage does. Maybe I turn it over to you guys to talk about the role of Vistage and what, where, when, and why type of things.

Vistage is an organization that's been around for 65 years. It started at Mid-west by a very astute CEO who realized that he didn't know what he didn't know. It was the wisdom of the crowd in that he knew if he surrounded himself with other business owners and CEOs that he would create an opportunity for everyone to learn together and also from one another. Vistage was born and it is now global. It's in 21 countries. It's a membership organization for over 22,000 members who are CEOs, business owners or key executives. It's my passion and my purpose to help lead a group of business owners and CEOs who are willing to commit to themselves, to their business and their businesses and to create better decisions, better results and better leaderships. It's a privilege to work with our group.

She does a good job. Sometimes she's hurting cats.

That's part of what I love about it is that being a leader to myself for several decades. I also have the ability to rise up above whatever is going on at the time and pull everybody together and get involved in the right direction. That's a gift from me and a gift for them.

It’s a true gift because if you can imagine you have a room full of CEOs, a lot of them have big personalities and they're wonderful people. To be involved, you have to be a lifelong learner and you have to be somewhat humble so that you don't think you know everything. You need a strong leader to keep everybody on track. What I love about Vistage, which I stumbled into, is that they choose people to be chairs that have experience knowing how to do that. Catherine is great. We had couples retreat up in Breckenridge for our team. We brought our spouses and my husband kept saying, "She does such a great job. She pulls everybody back on target." It's been wonderful to have her as the leader of our group.

I truly enjoy it. It is very gratifying.

I would have not met you if it wasn't for Cath, for another Vistage person. I would not have met you, Nora, otherwise. Thank you for the hospitality, which I failed to say from the last time we met at your location. I really appreciate you sharing your story and your insights. Cath, thanks so much for helping along the way. 

You're welcome. 

Thank you.

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About Glassical Designs

Nora LaMar is the chief executive officer of Glassical Designs, Inc. and a member of the company’s board of directors. Drawing from over 44 years of experience in manufacturing and employee engagement, her leadership has enabled Glassical Designs to establish itself as a national leader in corporate recognition. As the owner and CEO, Nora oversees all aspects of operations and business development. Her focus on customers, innovation, improved operational efficiency, and execution has led to significant growth over the company’s 35+ years of operation.

Nora is a wife, mother, and grandmother to 7 grandchildren. When she is not at Glassical Designs she enjoys spending time with family and friends. Her hobbies include hiking the Colorado mountains, painting, and floral design.

Her passion is helping companies with recognition that is both beautiful and meaningful.

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