Sam Chlebowski speaks with systems strategist and entrepreneur Auntee Rik. Auntee Rik explains why entrepreneurs who seemingly stumble into overnight success often need the most help unlocking sustainable growth. Auntee also shares her tips for developing standard operating procedures and tech-based processes that will allow owners to build their businesses for longevity.
Resources from the episode:
[00:00:00] Intro Music Plays
[00:00:09] Sam Chlebowski: Happy Thursday, everybody, and welcome back to Designing Growth. This is your host, Sam Chlebowski. Today I am joined by a very awesome guest, and I’m very excited for everybody to meet. Rikki Payne, affectionately called Auntee Rick, is a business operations strategist Rikki and I had a really great conversation like two weeks ago talking about all things software, also talking a little bit about her background.
[00:00:35] Sam Chlebowski: And it was just such a fun chat that I was really excited to sync back up and record a conversation this time that everybody out there could listen to. So Rikki, first things first, how are you doing?
[00:00:46] Auntee Rik: I’m great, Sam. Thanks for having me.
[00:00:49] Sam Chlebowski: Wonderful. Could you tell our audience a little bit about your background and what led you to do what you do now as a business founder and entrepreneur?
[00:01:02] Auntee Rik: All the way back. I was a wee lass way, way back in the day. And that just seemed to follow me. I always ended up in roles with the behind the scenes roles and how the business works and stuff. I landed a job at, I won’t say their name.
[00:01:22] Auntee Rik: I’ll just say their symbol because they’re not a sponsor, but if you’re familiar with trademarks and the bat and it’s a spirits company I ended up there in their operations department where I was responsible for. making sure that product got from the plant to the destination. I was responsible for North America, and one fun part of that job was tracking the tanker that held the alcohol based and if we ran into pirates I needed to make sure that I notify whomever needed to be notified to make sure that they sorted it [00:02:00] out. From there, I moved into their trading department, which handled all the trade agreements. they handled the shipping and logistics agreements. We handled sales forecasting. during my time in that department, they decided to consolidate all of the product coding and the materials. so we could identify by one number where product was made. Where the materials came from and the market it was going to, that was the goal. It was almost 20 years ago now but I was a co lead on that project. I got in trouble because one of the heads of one of the markets.
[00:02:40] Auntee Rik: He was actually holding us up. my manager at the time was like, you cannot keep calling him. I was like they keep calling me and I can’t finish this if he doesn’t do it. So I’m just going to keep calling. I’m doing my job.
[00:02:54] Auntee Rik: But that really set it off for me as far as analyzing data, looking at data, making sure things were efficient. Being able to spot something that wasn’t supposed to happen because at one point when we were cleansing data, I noticed that our sister company in Europe had been supplying product. To a country with a label of a country they were at war with. being up on world events was a big part of it as well. Working there in my first four or five years, I was also very nosy. I never let the well, this is how we do it stop me. . I was like, so why do we do this? And if we do it like this, who else is affected? They built a lot of their software in house and for whatever reason. Even before I worked there, I would get software and then the software would start acting wonky and it just became a running joke before you ship it, make sure Rikki gets to play with it, because if it’s gonna break, it’s gonna break on her desk. Looking at the details and learning how to record the issues as [00:04:00] they happen to try and replicate them.
[00:04:02] Auntee Rik: And then from the trading department, I moved into consolidations, which was basically all of the financial data reporting from all of their offices worldwide
[00:04:13] Auntee Rik: I was actually responsible for putting together the reports for the directors and shareholders. I thought it was a graphic design job. I had no idea when I applied for it it was actually a financial services job. I was ready to get into Photoshop and start making my covers and making things look pretty.
[00:04:33] Auntee Rik: And then they were like, Oh, you gotta go run the numbers. I was like, run what numbers? I hated accounting. Okay. Just let me go back real quick. So I go to high school at 15. I went to two year college and my first, my accounting professor gave me a C I can’t get C’s.
[00:04:50] Auntee Rik: What is this? She was like well, you’re being lazy. So I’m going to give you a C and if you don’t retake it next quarter, I’m going to change it to an F and I couldn’t graduate without it. So she made me redo accounting and I was really grateful when I moved into that last role that I had at that company because essentially what it was. And in that position because we were the first one to see the numbers from everywhere and to see the numbers as they were setting for budget, I learned how to tell what business decisions were being made, but based on the numbers based on sales numbers based on why are they moving 3 million from this account to HR?
[00:05:30] Auntee Rik: I also got to hear a lot of trade secrets that I will take with me when I go, but because of the positioning of my desk the CFO and the controllers their offices were directly across from me. CEO would come down and sometimes they pass each other on the steps or whatever. And just stand and lean against. The wall to my cubicle and have conversations that, and I’d be like, I was paying attention. So I learned how really big multinational corporations run. And I’m fortunate enough [00:06:00] that this particular company ran a tight ship. My, Love for SOPs and documentation came from my first manager. it was a requirement and she called it our Bible and you were required to have a Bible. It was required to be updated at least once a quarter. Because at any time, if you are away from your desk, somebody had to be able to jump in and handle your market. Like the functions of our position were the same across the board, but different markets different cultural operations, different languages. I had to learn how to say, where are your numbers in. Italian and French and Spanish. And I don’t remember any of that stuff now, but, all of those notes were in our Bible and in working with her, uh, she really set the foundation for what I do.
[00:06:49] Auntee Rik: So fast forward some changes happened. I ended up moving to Atlanta and I went to, radio and television school ended up with an internship at a very well known radio station in Atlanta. And they put me on the, midday show as a producer and the DJ happened to be new to the market and people were calling in for him and trying to get his attention and stuff. I was the person who answered the phones I ended up leaving the radio station and then worked for him worked for myself but with him as a client I took on a couple more clients
[00:07:23] Auntee Rik: and I have always tinkered with building websites. And Somebody called window that I ended up doing that schools. And then they had another school that was opening within their family. The director of that location hired me to do his website and I started doing WordPress websites, in a very, this can’t be life moment. I was like, you know how to run a business. You do this. You’ve done this for years. You know what it is. So like stop it. It only took me five years to get to the point that I knew the things that I needed to know to be efficient
[00:07:59] Auntee Rik: and to not [00:08:00] have to spend so much time doing stuff. I got myself together. I made a product coding system similar to what I made is, multimillion dollar corporation. I adopted that for myself and I applied it to my business and my life and I shaved about three hours of work off of my day.
[00:08:17] Auntee Rik: Easily. had I spoken to somebody about pricing before a lot earlier, that probably would have saved me a lot more headaches.
[00:08:24] Sam Chlebowski: In terms of like, raising your prices?
[00:08:27] Auntee Rik: And charging enough to actually live and enjoy the three hours a day I was saving.
[00:08:33] Sam Chlebowski: really interesting What would you tell a new business owner who kind of has their first round of pricing set up? What should they be looking for? what are indicators to them that they should maybe raise their prices?
[00:08:47] Auntee Rik: now can I use colorful language?
[00:08:48] Sam Chlebowski: yeah, we have the explicit E on the listening directories.
[00:08:53] Auntee Rik: Okay. So, If you find yourself saying they are not paying me enough for this shit. At least once a week, you are not charging enough.
[00:09:02] Sam Chlebowski: I love
[00:09:03] Auntee Rik: that’s The first indicator. The minute a client comes to you and asks you for the 15th revision and you’ve only included two revisions in their contract, the minute you say, they are not paying me enough for this shit, double your rates.
[00:09:18] Sam Chlebowski: That is amazing advice.
[00:09:21] Auntee Rik: like, are you kidding me right now? One big mistake, not even necessarily you quit your job and start doing it, but when you’re setting your prices and you’re basing it in comparison to what you’re getting paid at your job, you now take on the expenses that your employer takes care of.
[00:09:38] Auntee Rik: So if you’re making 30 an hour on your job. You need to be charging 90 an hour for yourself,
[00:09:45] Auntee Rik: at least at minimum, because as a business owner, you are now responsible for all the things that your employer picks up. And for me, I definitely was cutting myself short because that particular company, I have full [00:10:00] health, medical, dental, optical insurance for myself and my daughter. They fed
[00:10:04] Auntee Rik: us lunch every day. And I’m not talking like a paper bag lunch. We had lunch. We had a mater D. I think I had four weeks of vacation, two weeks of sick leave plus three personal days, summer hours, like it was ridiculous. So if my base pay was 80, my package was probably close to worth one 40
[00:10:27] Sam Chlebowski: Yeah, and that’s all the way back in
[00:10:29] Auntee Rik: in 2005 as an executive assistant.
[00:10:32] Auntee Rik: And so in hindsight, I can see that now. But for me to have carried on the lifestyle I was accustomed to there’s no way 30 an hour shouldn’t even enter my mind. I should have started at maybe 150, 200 an hour, See what your competition is charging, but also make sure you’re looking at the type of client that you’re looking for. The time you’re saving them, the effort you’re saving them, the convenience fee. yOu always want to add in a pain in the ass fee, a PETA fee. And do it before you find out that the client is a pain in the ass.
[00:11:09] Sam Chlebowski: Bake it into your contracts and
[00:11:10] Auntee Rik: Yeah, it’s hard to backtrack and then tack that fee on Your PETA fee should be
[00:11:15] Auntee Rik: baked in.
[00:11:16] Sam Chlebowski: Yeah.
[00:11:16] Auntee Rik: there’s another thing, please have a refund policy intact. I think it’s Stripe somewhere on their website when it comes to refund policies. They say that no refunds is not a refund policy. So have a refund policy and something I learned, I don’t know where I picked it up from. bUt I had a friend hire me for a project and the deliverables were lost in translation. She was the middle person.
[00:11:41] Auntee Rik: And whatever she conveyed to me wasn’t exactly what the client wanted. And I didn’t know what questions to ask her. Because I didn’t know the client.
[00:11:50] Sam Chlebowski: Yeah.
[00:11:51] Auntee Rik: It ended up where I would have to refund her.
[00:11:54] Auntee Rik: But I had already done maybe 12 hours of work.
[00:11:58] Auntee Rik: I mean, I didn’t have to refund [00:12:00] her, but that was a friend, an actual
[00:12:02] Sam Chlebowski: Yeah, was the right thing to do.
[00:12:04] Auntee Rik: and so at the last minute I said to her, I said we didn’t even have a contract So I’ll get back to that. But so I said, okay I’ve done X, Y, Z, we they would pay me. For that 12 hours at my hourly rate. after I hung up the phone with her, I was like, I need a refund policy.
[00:12:21] Auntee Rik: And I had been working for seven years before I needed it. I was like, I need a refund policy. And the refund policy needs to be a calculation and that calculation needs to be in a contract. And we never ever, ever, ever, ever do work without a contract anymore.
[00:12:36] Sam Chlebowski: it’s your safety net from preventing things from happening. And I think a lot of times too, it’s like with contracts, half the stuff in there is never going to apply, but it is your safety net for if the unexpected does happen.
[00:12:52] Sam Chlebowski: One of the things when you were talking about, at the very beginning, how you didn’t charge enough, it was because, the way that you explained this, you were New as a business owner.
[00:13:03] Sam Chlebowski: You were just jumping into this. It took a while to get to that point. looking at your website and one of the first lines on there. Transforming accidental entrepreneurs into intentional business owners.
[00:13:16] Sam Chlebowski: I love it. It’s super concise. It speaks to who you serve, but talking with you today. The thing that I love most about that is it also draws from some of your own experiences. These lessons that you have, in a lot of ways, already learned the hard way, and you can stop people from making some of those same mistakes that you did.
[00:13:40] Auntee Rik: I was watching Shark Tank one night and Mark Cuban called somebody a wantrepreneur. And I was like well, I’m a half to put an order. Cause I didn’t have a choice. I moved to
[00:13:49] Auntee Rik: Georgia and I was technically unemployable. I was sending him my resume. I know now almost 20 years later that I was just applying for roles that I should not have been applying [00:14:00] for. But I had
[00:14:00] Auntee Rik: hiring managers told me that my resume was intimidating. I was coming from an international location, Managers would think that I was coming for their job. I was like, I ain’t got no time for that. I got a kid to feed. And so that’s how I ended up with my first VA client.
[00:14:15] Auntee Rik: It was out of necessity. I was a half entrepreneur TM for the trademark thing. on the flip side where the other part of that accidental entrepreneur comes from. I have a lot of colleagues and I’ve had a lot of clients who said, Oh, I just want to do this. And they do it and they have amazing success. what they call accidental success. Oh, I was just trying this out. I just wanted to see what would happen. And they make six figures in three months. They would have been happy to make 500 off of what they were doing, but it clicked and it took off and they’ve been going and keeping things going, but they can see further out from what everybody else around them sees, and they
[00:14:55] Auntee Rik: can see it falling apart if they don’t do something quickly, and that’s where I come in. One of the other things is we’re talking 2007, like we didn’t have a whole bunch of these communities online I just did not have the resources around me to tap into as far as running my business. Like I said, it took me a minute to be like, duh, you do this. You know how to run your numbers for the week, for the month, for the quarter. So get back on that schedule of doing that type of stuff so that, you can have a timetable.
[00:15:30] Auntee Rik: I didn’t have anybody to talk to about entrepreneurship and running a business and how hard it was and damn it, why do I have to be the marketing person and the admin person and the legal person?
[00:15:40] Auntee Rik: Like I’m doing legal HR, all of that. But thankfully I had background in all those areas. So that wasn’t as hard for me to find what I needed because I knew what needed to be done. One thing I noticed as well, just in the clientele I had, because I did do branding and web for a good part of my [00:16:00] independent working career, I had two types of clients, those who had never worked In a management or higher position and those who had worked in management or higher and so they approached entrepreneurship in a totally different way, both as a business owner and as a client.
[00:16:18] Auntee Rik: And those with the managerial experience I found didn’t really fuss too much about what got done and didn’t fuss too much about the rates. Either owned a business before and had their own set of mistakes that they learned from. So they were less hands on, once they hired somebody to do what needed to be done.
[00:16:38] Sam Chlebowski: to even like, dissect that for a second. I could see why. That would be the case is because they’re hiring you for a specific reason. They know what they want out of it. And as long as they get those end results, they’re going to be happy
[00:16:53] Sam Chlebowski: Where I think if on the flip side, the person who either hasn’t owned a business before or hasn’t even had experience working within a larger ecosystem
[00:17:01] Sam Chlebowski: Might be a little bit more questionable of the things you’re doing because they’re unsure if this investment that they are making is going to pay off where a person who is an experienced business owner is going to say yeah, I hired this person for his very specific reason.
[00:17:17] Sam Chlebowski: I have no reason to question what they’re doing. That’s a really interesting insight. When we were running the web design agency, there were kind of those two types of clients as well we were focused in the mental health space and there would be one set of clients who They knew they needed a website. It was just something they hadn’t done yet, or they knew they need to redesign their website. It was something that they just been putting off. And then the other set of customers were people who were brand new to their business and those types of people we had to do a lot more.
[00:17:48] Sam Chlebowski: explaining a lot more handholding, once we understood that that these were just two different types of people, it became a lot easier to manage them because we knew the expectations of going [00:18:00] in, we knew for one client that we’d have to do a little bit more and we were prepared to do those extra things where with the other client, we knew that we could just say, Hey, Okay.
[00:18:09] Sam Chlebowski: Here’s your questionnaire. Here’s the first draft of your website. Any changes? Great. We’ll make those cool. Your website’s live.
[00:18:15] Sam Chlebowski: other person might have to go through it a little bit
[00:18:17] Auntee Rik: that’s how I ended up in digital products because I just didn’t have the capacity to handhold anymore. my initial questionnaire was like, have you owned a business before? No. Have you tried to do this before? No. Okay. This is what I need you to do. And I sent them through a 30 day. email course, they got an email every morning once they finished it and submitted what they did, then we could talk if they didn’t
[00:18:42] Auntee Rik: finish it. I wasn’t even talking to. I just didn’t have the capacity to deal. I think part of that too, I was teaching middle schoolers at the time.
[00:18:50] Auntee Rik: So my patience was like that low. I was teaching middle schoolers while raising a middle schooler. It’s not for the weak. I was just like, listen I don’t have the capacity to get in the back and forth with you, but here’s what you need to prepare to work with me. And it’s okay if you don’t hire me, if you don’t hire me to do the site, you can hire me for a little extra and I will give you the plan.
[00:19:13] Auntee Rik: I ended up. As the business operations and system strategies, because around 2017, I found myself doing more operations, consulting and website designing because my questionnaire evolved and it was how much revenue are you expecting your website to generate for you over the next year? And it would be very low numbers. Not even numbers that would justify hiring me. paRt of that is cultural, but I was just like, okay, so what is your plan to generate this revenue? tHis is what I’m going to sell. Okay. That’s what you’re going to sell. But what is the plan for revenue generation? I’m going to put some ads here. Yes. I understand that, but like, we need a plan to generate that revenue.
[00:19:58] Auntee Rik: You got this great [00:20:00] idea and you know about the manufacturing part of it, but how you making the money back? And so that’s where I started because for a long time, my, why do you do what you do was to pay the light bill? because I didn’t have a nine to five. And passion is cute and all that, but passion don’t pay the bills. I was spending more time. Consulting on on operations and revenue generation before I got into building a website because one thing that plagued me was going to grab a link to a site.
[00:20:31] Auntee Rik: I did to add to my portfolio and that site was no longer operational
[00:20:35] Sam Chlebowski: I could see how that would be, the reason for getting into revenue generation, that is the indicator that, oh, this business has folded already. That’s really interesting.
[00:20:47] Auntee Rik: There was a time where the sites I built did not go past the first year renewal.
[00:20:52] Auntee Rik: and I got frustrated. cause yes, I was paid and I was underpaid, but beyond the money thing. Like I spent a lot of time and care and put this into your site and you couldn’t even pay the renewal fee. It was just something for you to try out, which is cool. iT’s cool the check cleared and everything, but I’m more interested in. Clients who are building for longevity and I
[00:21:12] Auntee Rik: think that’s why a lot of people also gravitate towards online businesses because you can do stuff on the fly. noticed a trend of people just running their businesses on the fly. Even if you plan out for next quarter, that’s not far enough in my books. Because if you have to pivot, you have a very short time to pivot. And that type of operation is not sustainable.
[00:21:33] Auntee Rik: And
[00:21:35] Auntee Rik: I’ve found especially in the last five years or so, People are just not, trying to build for longevity. They’re building for the moment, or for the next quarter, or for the next, whatever figure milestone. They don’t have a plan for once that milestone is hit. And when you don’t have a plan for when that milestone is hit, you know what happens? Everything falls apart, cause now you’re not in love with it anymore, cause you’ve achieved everything on your to do [00:22:00] list.
[00:22:00] Sam Chlebowski: That is probably going to be the name for this episode, Building for Longevity, because it is, it’s so true. To quote the great Stephen Covey, beginning with the end in mind, and where you want something to go versus the momentary gratification. I think that is, Just the perfect summation of kind of everything that we’ve talked about on this episode, Ricky, and the things that you are helping others do.
[00:22:24] Sam Chlebowski: Within their businesses. So can’t thank you enough for coming on and being so generous with your time and chatting. This has been super fun. Two questions that I have for you to wrap things up. First one is a business one. Second one’s a fun one as is tradition on this show for my first one, the business one.
[00:22:42] Sam Chlebowski: If people want to know more about you and want to connect with you online, where should they go?
[00:22:47] Auntee Rik: Okay. So I am on, I still call it Twitter. His mama named him Twitter is still Twitter. I am
[00:22:52] Auntee Rik: on Twitter, auntie Rick, a U N T E R I K. And auntie Rick. com is my website. you need me immediately though, find me on Twitter. Otherwise I’ll see the message eventually because part of my systems is making sure that I check all the inboxes in the spam, in the promotions folders at least weekly, so I don’t miss anything because don’t know if you’re familiar with T Pain and How he went into his DMs one day and found a whole bunch of messages opportunities to make money and do work he missed out on because he
[00:23:30] Auntee Rik: didn’t
[00:23:31] Sam Chlebowski: cause T Pain was really broke for a while. I think he like filed for bankruptcy.
[00:23:35] Auntee Rik: he went through some things, but then he discovered his DM inbox on Instagram and all the money he missed. I’ve actually had that happen. Not to that magnitude, And thankfully for me, it was something that I could still participate in. So Sunday is spam folder day in my
[00:23:53] Sam Chlebowski: Oh, I love
[00:23:54] Auntee Rik: you have to like and when I remember, I’ll tweet it out or I put it up on my Instagram [00:24:00] stories like it’s Sunday, go check your spam and promotions folder
[00:24:02] Sam Chlebowski: We will put links to all of those things in the show notes. And I also will be checking my spam folder this Sunday. So thank you for
[00:24:09] Auntee Rik: No problem.
[00:24:11] Sam Chlebowski: And for my final question to wrap our show up here. If you could go ahead and give me one for each category. Doesn’t have to be Business-related, it could just be things that you’re interested in or things that you like for entertainment, but one for each category, best things you have read, watched, and listened to over the last
[00:24:31] Auntee Rik: Oh, I can’t even give you a best thing I’ve read over the last year simply because I’ve been really bad at the reading thing.
[00:24:38] Auntee Rik: the big leap I have a chapter and a half left, but it’s been a chapter and a half left since July. But that is the book I picked up this year and I enjoyed it. but I haven’t done fiction reading in a really long time I was the kid, my parents had to kick out of the house because I would just hole up in my room with a book. And that really made me sad the day that I realized I had stopped doing that. watched today I watched an interview with Angie Martinez has a podcast called in real life. And I watched her episode with Jeezy that just came out a couple of days ago. And I was just like, wow, he got the really good therapy. That conversation it really pulled me in, but in rest in peace to Richard Roundtree, who just passed yesterday, there’s a movie with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Richard Roundtree’s in it.
[00:25:30] Sam Chlebowski: a cast.
[00:25:32] Auntee Rik: Listen, I don’t even know how it ended up on my TV, but it pulled me in and it was, Oh my goodness. I got to find the name of it. I will send you the name of it. But basically it was dark, very dark comedy, but it was so good.
[00:25:45] Sam Chlebowski: And I found the name of it, I think, I believe it’s called Moving On.
[00:25:49] Auntee Rik: Yes.
[00:25:50] Sam Chlebowski: that sound right? Nice.
[00:25:52] Auntee Rik: And it would probably
[00:25:53] Auntee Rik: go with a nice glass of wine. I’m allergic to alcohol now, so I can’t even enjoy wine. if anyone [00:26:00] listening decides to watch it, have a nice glass of wine, a nice little snack.
[00:26:03] Auntee Rik: It was so good. was the last one?
[00:26:05] Sam Chlebowski: Listen
[00:26:06] Auntee Rik: Listen to, okay, outside of the GZ podcast episode. Oh, it’s very old and I was really upset that I didn’t know about it when it first came out, but I decided to skip sleep to watch a video of the roots,
[00:26:22] Auntee Rik: I don’t know, I found it at like one 30 in the morning.
[00:26:25] Auntee Rik: It was close to four o’clock by the time it went off. And then I was so amped up. I couldn’t go to sleep. But it was the music my soul needed. And there were a few surprise. They’re not surprises anymore. It happened in 2017. I was like, why didn’t I know that this occurred?
[00:26:40] Sam Chlebowski: I’m very interested in that because Questlove, phenomenal drummer from the roots. Somebody I’ve just admired for his drumming ability for a long time. And the roots, too, have… A lot of, I know this is meta, but roots in Philadelphia, where I spent, a decent amount of time like, in my college years, my family’s from Pennsylvania, I have a lot of family members who live in Philly, and I just know how Impactful they have been to the music scene there over time, but other than those couple things, I don’t know a lot about them other than that.
[00:27:13] Sam Chlebowski: They are this insanely influential band, so I’m very interested to go check that out.
[00:27:17] Auntee Rik: Oh yeah, now Questlove beyond drumming, he’s just amazing with music. He’s like a vault of knowledge with music.
[00:27:28] Sam Chlebowski: Thank you, Rikki, so much, for coming on the show.
[00:27:32] Auntee Rik: Thanks for having me.
[00:27:33] Sam Chlebowski: Hope everybody out there is having a great week. This has been another awesome episode of designing growth until next time, everybody. My name is Sam Chlebowski… Have fun. Good luck. Go crush it. Take care of everybody.
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