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20: The Importance of Having a Healthy Company Culture - with Ashleigh Walters
Episode 2021st December 2022 • a BROADcast for Manufacturers • Keystone Click
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Meet Ashleigh:

Ashleigh and her family relocated to the rust belt town of Erie, Pennsylvania. In an attempt to revive her husband's family's 56-year-old business, she used the problem-solving skills she obtained while earning her BS in chemical engineering from Auburn. And was able to change the company culture by using a coach approach leadership style. She regularly shares her story with fellow leaders and encourages them to make things better by continuously improving processes.

Kris: Why should leaders lead with grit and grace?


Ashleigh: So I think it takes both. Kris, thank you for that question. So grit for me is that determination and resilience and persistence because it turns out things don't always go our way right. Or the way that we expect them to. And so we have to be able to make a decision and pivot when it's not going the way that we want, but also grace. And I think grace is one of the biggest components of leadership it's that empathy and compassion for others. And I think if COVID did one thing for us that was good, it was to make us more cognizant of how our peers are feeling, and the needs that they have. Whereas before, manufacturers were pretty inflexible. anyway. Yeah. So grit and grace, it takes them both. And some days it's grittier, and some days.


Lori: Ashleigh, can you tell us about servant leadership and the freedom to fail?


Ashleigh: Yeah. So servant leadership, to me, means, like, you go to the place where the work is being done to see the work because we all have different histories and perspectives. So sometimes when people are telling you about something, you're hearing it differently in your mind. then it's happening. So going to the place where the work is being done is the number one piece of service. But number two is like when you have that problem going on, or somebody has a problem going on, it's helping them find the resources that they need to overcome the obstacle, not doing it for them. So, as a leader, your number one job is to serve others. And I think historically, we've thought leadership about leadership in a very different way. there to serve us. No, it's the other way around. You are there to serve your followers and make sure that they are successful.


Erin: How has your leadership style impacted not only the happiness of your staff but the on-the-ground ROI of being a servant leader?


Ashleigh: Yeah, so we started a family-owned business. My father-in-law was not one of the founders but bought out one of the founders. And so it's always kind of been run with those family values, those people-centric values until it wasn't like we needed processes and systems in place and we certainly did. But what we did as a family was having a command-to-control leader come in because we felt like we needed that very strong leadership style and it was a deficit to the company. We went backward under that style. And what you find under that command and control leadership style is that people only do exactly what you ask them to do and nothing more. They're afraid of doing it. So when you're asking people to be innovative and creative back to Lori's question, you have to give them the freedom to fail. And what I mean by that is if you all have ever experimented, how many times is it successful ongoing one note, right? When you're trying to create and innovate, you need to do experiments and you have to have that freedom to fail and learn from those failures and then try, try again. And so that's where the freedom to fail comes in. So as I came into the business and my father-in-law had asked me to review the financials and everything and just typically lead, I figured out we needed to change our leadership style, number one because I didn't. Know everything that was going on in the business, and I needed other people's help and support to help us get going in the right direction. And so I just started asking curious questions. What takes up most of your time or what frustrates you? We started kind of ferreting out those inefficiencies organization and as we got rid of the inefficiencies and people were less frustrated, they had the opportunity and the ability to think and to dream and to make things better. And so now our organizational mission is to make things better. And not just internally here at Onex, but in our world, in our community, in our clients, help them also make things better.


And so much more… 


Connect with Ashleigh

Connect on LinkedIn!


Connect with the broads!


Connect with Erin on LinkedIn and visit http://www.earthlinginteractive.com for web-based solutions to your complex business problems!


Connect with Lori on LinkedIn and visit www.keystoneclick.com for your strategic digital marketing needs!  


Connect with Kris on LinkedIn and visit www.genalpha.com for OEM and aftermarket digital solutions!

Transcripts

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Lori Highby Kris Harrington and Erin Courtney.

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Three broads bringing you stories and strategies exploring manufacturing topics

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that challenge the status quo while laying the foundations for future success.

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Together with special guests, they'll

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celebrate what's working and unpack what is not.

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So you can learn, grow, and succeed.

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You want to learn more about your host?

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Make sure to listen to episode one.

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All right, this is the question that I

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asked my team yesterday, and it was really fun to hear the answers.

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So I'm going to ask you ladies.

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What is something that you think should have been taught in school but wasn't?

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Whoa, that could go in so many directions.

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You got 1 minute.

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I'm so curious what your staff said, too,

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because they're a little younger, so I'm curious what was missing for them.

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I'm going to take a minute.

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You've thought about it?

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Lori, why don't you kick it off and then I can yeah, there you go.

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Yeah. I really think the understanding money and

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the financial, personal finances and really understanding compound interest and

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how spending money versus saving money, especially when you're younger, I mean,

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you understand it more when you actually experience it.

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But I think a lot of kids don't understand the true value of money because

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their parents are just giving them money and then when they're out on their own

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that's why there's just so much debt and living paycheck to paycheck and whatnot.

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I mean, there's other issues that play into that right now, but I just think that

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that's a huge important life skill that is barely touched on taking.

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Like, I remember in middle school, I had

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to learn how to balance a checkbook, but, yeah, that's all I remember of doing.

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Anything related to personal finance.

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Yeah, I would vote for that one, too.

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So if I go next, yeah, that would have

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been my first one that I would have thought of, but since I have to think of

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another one, I will go with leadership skills.

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I think that there are so many times in my life I've had to look up to identify what

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I like or dislike in leadership and take the good and leave the bad.

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And I think that there are so many great books

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we read, historical books, we read books for English and grammar and other things.

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But if we could wrap our heads around some of the best leadership books and really

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understand how to lead and how to be a great follower

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into leadership, I think that's something that would be incredibly beneficial.

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I think a lot of the leadership I learned

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was because I played sports, of course, and then I went into the US.

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Navy. So you can say that I naturally got these

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things through the things that I was doing, but I still had to keep learning

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after school how to deploy different tactics in leadership.

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Wow, that's a great one.

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I'm going to follow up.

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Not with something that was even an issue when I was in school,

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but it's something that I've observed, and I use different words to refer to it.

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But one of the phrases I use is digital

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hygiene, and I don't see that kids I'm not seeing my kids learning

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all it goes back to critical thinking, really, but how to be a thoughtful

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consumer of online information, branding, all of those things.

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So that you take a step back and you assess, is this valuable or not?

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Instead, we all just kind of fall into the

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funnel of the internet without being really intentional about it.

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And I think school is the time for kids to

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do that, and I'm not seeing a lot of that education happen.

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Maybe some places it is, but I'm not

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seeing it, and I really think that should be happening.

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So that's a great question.

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Lori, thank you so much.

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And that's going to lead us right into our

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wonderful, wonderful guest today, Ashley Waters.

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What an honor.

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Yeah.

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We have all kinds of experts join us on the show, but today we have somebody who's

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on the ground making a difference in her own manufacturing facility.

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And also just for all of us in thinking about leadership.

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Right, Chris?

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She just has amazing things to say.

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So I'm going to just read your bio real quick.

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Ashley. Hi, Ashley.

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And then we're going to kick off and have a really great conversation today.

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So, for those of you that have not had the pleasure of meeting ashley yet, she and

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her family relocated to the rust belt town of Erie, Pennsylvania.

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In an attempt to revive her husband's

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family's 56 year old business, she used the problem solving skills she obtained

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while earning her BS in chemical engineering from auburn.

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And was able to change the company culture

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by using a coach approach leadership style.

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Ashley regularly shares her story with fellow leaders and encourages them to make

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things better by continuously improving processes.

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Wow. Love that.

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Wow. Such a great fit for us here on the

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broadcast, and I cannot wait to dive in and learn more.

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Who wants to kick off the first question?

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Because my question is pretty big, and I would like to work my way up to it.

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I'll kick it off. All right.

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Let's hear you, Kris.

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Well, we know

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that you talk a lot about grit and grace, and a question that we have for you is,

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why should leaders lead with grit and grace?

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So I definitely think it takes both.

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Kris, thank you for that question.

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So grit for me is that determination and resilience and persistence, because it

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turns out things don't always go our way right.

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Or the way that we expect them to.

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And so we have to be able to make a

Speaker:

decision and pivot when it's not going the way that we want, but also grace.

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And I think grace is one of the biggest

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components in leadership it's that empathy and compassion for others.

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And I think if Kova did one thing for us that was good, it was to make us more

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cognizant of how our peers are feeling, the needs that they have.

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Whereas before, manufacturers were pretty unflexible.

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anyway. Yeah.

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So grit and grace, it takes them both.

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And some days it's grittier, and some days.

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Oh, I love that.

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I do think you're right.

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Some days are grittier and

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the moments that you can lead with grace are some of the most gratifying days.

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So I just love that you tie those two together.

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Thank you for that.

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It's beautiful.

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Ashleigh, can you tell us about servant leadership and the freedom to fail?

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Yeah, absolutely.

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So servant leadership, to me, means, like, you go to the place where the work is

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being done to see the work, because we all have different histories and perspectives.

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So sometimes when people are telling you

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about something, you're hearing it differently in your mind.

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then it's really happening. So going to the place where the work is

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being done is the number one piece of service.

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But number two is like, when you have that

Speaker:

problem going on, or somebody has a problem going on, it's helping them find

Speaker:

the resources that they need to overcome the obstacle, not doing it for them.

Speaker:

So, as a leader, your number one job is to serve others.

Speaker:

And I think historically, we've thought

Speaker:

leadership about leadership in a very different way.

Speaker:

there to serve us.

Speaker:

No, it's the other way around.

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You are there to serve your followers and make sure that they are successful.

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Wow.

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I love that change with that.

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It's that hierarchical thinking.

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It worked at a certain place in a certain time.

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Right. That got us where we are.

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And we appreciate that history.

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But as you pointed out, I mean, COVID

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being the biggest example, but there's so many things have changed, and that

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hierarchical way of doing things is now a deficit for your business.

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Right? Yeah.

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More agile now. Right.

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Like, command and control used to work and

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it came about during mass production and things were just one way.

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Right. And done that way.

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But now the market is changing so fast, no

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leader could possibly think of everything that needs to be done.

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Exactly.

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I'm so curious about your experience.

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If you could just tell us a little bit

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about I want to hear specifically about your operations and how they changed and

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what you've seen in terms of just production.

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How has your leadership style impacted not only the happiness of your staff, but the

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on the ground ROI on being a servant leader?

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Yeah, so we started out family business, family owned business.

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My father in law was not one of the

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original founders, but bought out one of the original founders.

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And so it's always kind of been run with

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those family values, those people centric values, until it wasn't

Speaker:

like we needed processes and systems in place and we certainly did.

Speaker:

But what we did as a family was have a

Speaker:

command to control leader come in because we felt like we needed that like very

Speaker:

strong leadership style and it actually was a deficit to the company.

Speaker:

We went backwards under that style.

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And what you find and under that command and control leadership style is that

Speaker:

people only do exactly what you ask them to do and nothing more.

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They're afraid of doing it.

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So when you're asking people to be innovative and creative back to Laurie's

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question, you have to give them the freedom to fail.

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And what I mean by that is if you all have

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ever done an experiment, how many times is it successful on go one note, right?

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When you're trying to create and innovate, you need to do experiments and you have to

Speaker:

have that freedom to fail and learn from those failures and then try, try again.

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And so that's where the freedom to fail comes in.

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So as I came into the business and my father in law had asked me to review the

Speaker:

financials and everything and just typically lead, I figured out we needed to

Speaker:

change our leadership style, number one, because I didn't.

Speaker:

Know everything that was going on in the business, and I needed other people's help

Speaker:

and support to help us get going in the right direction.

Speaker:

And so I just started asking curious questions.

Speaker:

What takes up most of your time or what frustrates you?

Speaker:

We started kind of ferreting out those inefficiencies organization and as we got

Speaker:

rid of the inefficiencies and people were less frustrated, they had the opportunity

Speaker:

and the ability to think and to dream and to make things better.

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And so now our organizational mission is make things better.

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And not just internally here at Onyx, but in our world, in our community,

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in our clients, help them also make things better.

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I love that. Yeah.

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And I love that phrase because it's so perfect for manufacturing, right?

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It has these two meanings make things better and make things better.

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It's instilled in your culture, but it's also like you encourage people to do that

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in their own lives outside of the office too, outside of the plan.

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I want to turn your question that you ask to employees back to you.

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What frustrates you the most and what takes up most of your time?

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Since that's a question you ask your

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employees, I'm curious how you would answer that question today.

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So I think what frustrates me the most is

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some companies believe that there's no need to change.

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Have you ever heard the phrase, we've always done it that way.

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We'Re trying to change the challenge.

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That's something that we're trying to fight against.

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For sure. Yeah.

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So before I done it this way, always to me goes, okay, well, maybe that is the right

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way to do it, but maybe could we explore just a few other ways and just kind of vet

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that out and make sure we are doing it right.

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And then as far as what takes up most of

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my time, chris really is just just the leadership of people and serving them and

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making sure they have the resources they need.

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And so I have ten different individuals

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that are reporting directly to me, and we have a company of 50.

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So just making sure everybody has what

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they need to be successful is really where most of my time is spent.

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That's great.

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What strikes me too about you and what you did that is courageous.

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Where did you find the guts?

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People can't see her face right now.

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She's, like, following you with that question.

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Where do you get off the nerve to do that?

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So brave.

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I think it was just because it was a family business and we felt as a family

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that we had to fix it for the 50 families that were working for us.

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Yeah, we had gotten it wrong and they trusted us to hopefully get it right.

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My background is in engineering.

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I didn't have any leadership management schooling at all.

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Right. Just learned on the job.

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And honestly, when my father in law made that phone call back in September of 2013,

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I was a stay at home mom with two little boys.

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They were two and three years old, lived in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Wow.

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This is in Erie, Pennsylvania.

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So I traveled every other week and just

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had to really rely on family support to help with those little boys.

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And we were in a turnaround situation, so just really had to learn on the fly.

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And I remember Aaron, one day I said to my

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girlfriend, that's like the artist type, right?

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I'm pouring all this out to her.

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I'm like, how in the world am I going to fix this?

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What skills do I have to make this right?

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And she said to me, Ashley, how do you eat an elephant?

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And I thought, really, girl?

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Like, right now?

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I don't know, elizabeth, how do you eat an elephant?

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One bite at a time.

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And she was so right.

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And honestly, I was in a place in my life where I was raised.

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I was just nauseous all the time.

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I didn't know what I was going to do.

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But when she said that to me, it kind of just calmed me down.

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And I thought, okay, she's right.

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We just have to focus.

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Yes, there's a hundred things to fix, but what's the biggest one?

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Like, where am I going to make the biggest impact?

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The quickest, right? Yeah.

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Just that focus, that priority.

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I'm curious, how long did it take to get from where it

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was to where you got to a point of everyone's trust in leadership and where

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the ship is going in the direction we wanted to go now?

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Yeah. So I would say it takes time.

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Right.

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If you've ever been in a relationship where your trust was broken.

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How long does it take you to repair that, if ever?

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I guess.

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There were definitely incremental changes and things were going better early on.

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Right.

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So I hung up Think Outside the Box posters

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and I wrote handwritten letters of gratitude when people came up with an idea

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that saved us money or made us more efficient.

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So you always have those, like the early adopters, right?

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Yeah.

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But how long does it take before you get the laggers on board?

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Three to five years.

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Five years before we had everything really running in the right direction.

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Got that ship turned around, but you.

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Perceived and you kept moving forward.

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I think that's amazing because I think a lot of people get intimidated going, oh,

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it's going to take three to five years to do this, but it's so worth it.

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Now, obviously, just hearing you and

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seeing everything that you've done aren't accomplished.

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Congrats.

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Yes. And you're vocal about it, which means

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there's a level of transparency, and your employees are going to love you for that.

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I'm absolutely sure of it. Yeah.

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They are so amazing, all of them.

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In fact, just this morning, one of our vendors dropped in and poked his head

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through my office store and he said, Actually, I just love your employees.

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He goes, they are really, truly all amazing.

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And he's right, they are.

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Wow, that's such an endorsement. Right.

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He doesn't need to tell you that.

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It's just amazing.

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Yeah. That is so terrific.

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Well, this is the time where we just dig

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in a little bit more, get to know you a little bit better.

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And so what is something that you think that people don't know about you that

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maybe you would like them to or maybe you wouldn't?

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I don't know. Let's hear it.

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So I think one of the things that people don't know is that because I do tell our

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story a lot, I'm actually an introvert, and I would prefer to keep it that way.

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But I have learned to become an extrovert

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just because I felt like it's so important to tell our story.

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Because I know that other people are experiencing some portion of our story.

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And so even when I wrote the book,

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it was just to make our story available to others who might need it.

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Yeah. Thank you.

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And everybody should check the book out.

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Leading with Grit and Grace is just a

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wonderful piece of guidance in whatever industry you're in.

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But I love that this exists and came from

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the manufacturing industry and yeah, be sure.

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Well, tell us about where to find you

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online or listeners, please check out Ashley online.

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Where did they go to find you?

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Yeah, so LinkedIn is the platform that I'm most active on, for sure.

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So reach out, follow me, connect with me, send me a direct message.

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That's where you'll find what I'm up to,

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where I'm either consulting or training or what we're doing with book clubs for the

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book, and then I also write articles for Industry Week.

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So you'll find those links out there on the page.

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Awesome.

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Excellent.

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Well, we could probably go for, I don't know, hours more because I just feel like

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you have so many rich stories and such great experience to share with us.

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And you'll get a chance because now we're at everybody's favorite part of the

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broadcast for manufacturers, which is I just learned that if you're

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tuning in for the first time, I just learned that is our chance to share our

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tidbits, whether it's the industry direct or something totally off the wall.

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And today we're going to start with Lori because she's ready.

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I knew you were going to pick me.

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I didn't do that.

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Well, I was excited because I read this

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article the other day and I'm like, this is the one I'm reading.

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I'm sharing.

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So, any of you heard of Project Starline from Google?

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No.

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I didn't either, but apparently it's been

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a work in progress for about a little over a year now.

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And it's really somewhat uncertain as far as is this going to come to market or not?

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But basically

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Google is competing against meta's virtual reality type thing, and they're

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creating 3D video calling booths and right now so basically you're sitting in a booth

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and your other is a person that you're talking to.

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Like, we're on a zoom call right now, but

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actually you can see them from a 3D perspective.

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So what they're seeing and what they're

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finding in their experiments is that people are responding like they're

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actually physically in the room with them, having a conversation with them.

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It's like a hologram experience.

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Pretty much, yeah, it is like a hologram experience because they're looking at, I

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guess, the data that they're collecting is just every movement and every angle.

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If you think about what they do in the movies with just CGI yeah, all that.

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So it's kind of like pulling that in it's,

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translating it, sending it over all the Internet bobbers and then recreating it.

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I don't know, it's just really fascinating.

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I'll include the link in the show notes.

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There's a little video, but I don't think

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the video does justice because the video is flat, obviously,

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but just hearing the response of the individuals in the video, like their

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testimonials just really like, wow, this sounds amazing, actually.

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Great. Fighting and crashing starline.

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Okay. All right.

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May never have to leave my booth again.

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Wow.

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Chris, need to follow up? Yes.

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So I was doing some research the other day and I was trying to figure out, is there a

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social platform for our business that we should be on that we're not on?

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Okay. So in my search, I was surprised to learn

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that YouTube is one of the highest channels on all of the lists.

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I have to tell you, Gen Alpha Technologies

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hasn't really been doing much at all on YouTube.

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Okay. We've made most of our videos private, so

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if we use them on LinkedIn LinkedIn has been our most active channel.

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Sure, we also post on Twitter and

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Facebook, but nothing on Instagram, nothing on TikTok today.

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And we really haven't been leveraging YouTube, but it was interesting.

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So Statista had mentioned that globally, facebook, YouTube WhatsApp?

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Instagram and Facebook Messenger, that's their top five for global.

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Okay. And then pew in the US said YouTube.

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So they had YouTube number one. Number one.

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Yeah. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and then

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LinkedIn showed up as number five on that list.

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Yeah.

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In the business for business, social media

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for business was Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn,

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LinkedIn was number three, YouTube number four and Twitter number five.

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So I guess I shouldn't be surprised by that, but I was.

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We have some work to do on YouTube.

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So many comments about that.

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Okay, it's comments because I'm a huge advocate.

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At the end of the day, YouTube is owned by Google.

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So if you think about your Google search results, it's not just text links.

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Oftentimes you have a video result showing up.

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So the goal is not to just have one

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ranking on that Google results page, but you want to take over that page.

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You want image results, you want video results, you want links to your site, you

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want links to amazing articles that talk about you.

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So you want to control the whole results page, not just get excited because one

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link is showing up on the first page of Google for whatever that search phrase is.

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And YouTube is the second most popular search engine, actually.

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Like, people go to YouTube to search as a search, so

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it 100% needs to be part of your digital strategy, without a doubt.

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Shame on you.

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You're.

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Going to confess, we have not done this well, and I will change that.

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We together will change that content.

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You just got to put it out there.

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That's, yeah, you've got the content, you can put it out there.

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And I think everybody is trying to figure this out and the right thing for them.

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You began with where you knew and what you were comfortable with.

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I think that's a much better motivation for how you begin than

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trying to game the system and get your algorithms down.

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Once you've got your content engine

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running, then you can dive in and optimize.

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And so I think you're doing a great job and I think now is the time for you.

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And like Ashley, I'm a natural introvert,

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so it's saying yes to things and putting myself out there.

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The whole idea of just creating videos, I would love doing stuff like this, where

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it's conversational, but for me to just look in a camera and talk.

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So, I mean, there's a lot of things I need

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to work on, but I did think this one's a big one.

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Great, well, we can't wait to subscribe.

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Okay, so I'm excited to share.

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I just learned that my son plays baseball little League, which I just love it.

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And part of what I like about it is

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there's a sort of almost a mysticism around baseball.

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Like, there's things that are just serendipitous that happen in baseball.

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And part of that is what makes it also so frustrating.

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And I just learned that by 2024, they're probably going to have the strike zone

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automated so that it won't just be the, umps, call anymore.

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And I think it's kind of like, obvious,

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like, well, yeah, because nothing's left to chance anymore.

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Right. We can digitize everything.

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On the other hand, it's like, oh, that sort of that mystical part of calling the

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ball will go away, but not for Little League, because I don't think they're

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going to have the money to put the automated straight.

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I was going to ask, is this.

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League or just it's funny that baseball has held on to

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sort of this antiquated human driven decision matrix for so long

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and is yet still out another year before that change happened.

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So I thought that was really interesting.

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Yeah, I didn't know that either.

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Thank you, Ashley.

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Cheer turn. All right.

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So I love sitting on other companies

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boards as well as nonprofit boards because I find that I always learn something new.

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And so yesterday I learned that there's an accounting change coming for the US.

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Non public companies.

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So we have to now list our leases on the

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balance sheet and under both the assets and the liabilities.

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Really? What.

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If you leasing office building

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lease, a piece of equipment or you release a copy or something like that?

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You have to list it both as an asset and a liability.

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Now.

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That is a real nugget.

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Yeah.

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You know what I mean?

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That wouldn't have been in your email inbox.

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I guess your CPA would let you know when you did it wrong.

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Yeah, that's interesting.

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That is a good nugget.

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That opens up all kinds of questions when somebody's looking at a new lease.

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Right.

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They just want them listed and it doesn't impact the value of the company or

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anything like that or make any changes to your balance sheet.

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Yeah, you got to put it down there.

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Interesting.

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Thank you.

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Well, folks, it's time to say goodbye.

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This is a great episode, ladies.

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Thank you.

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At the next one. Bye bye.

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Bye bye.

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This wraps up today's broadcast.

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If you're looking to shake up the status quo at your organization or just want to

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connect with these broads, visit Mfgbroadcast.com. Contact Laurie Heidi.

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For your strategic digital marketing initiatives.

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And contact Aaron Courtney for Webbased solutions.

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