In July 2014, Schmooz Media was simply my final assignment and vision for my Masters in Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology. We were tasked (in July 2014) with writing an interview style paper where we were to "interview ourselves in 5 years." It was an exercise in planning for what we wanted in the future, rather than for planning the next 3 months.
As I closed out 2019 and headed into 2020, I found this paper and wanted to take some time to share it with you, as well as some touchpoints for the last 5+ years of my life running Schmooz Media. I see this as a time capsule of sorts and I am thankful that the Zoe of all the years past put the time in to write these reflections.
For the sake of clarity, I'll use turquoise italics for 2020 Zoe, so I can comment on this writing from Zoe of 2014.
In my paper (written in July 2014), here are some of the most meaningful excerpts:
"Q: In one or two sentences, can you tell me what your message is?
A: Simply, it is our goal to connect people and ideas through meaningful conversations. Relationship building is at the core of our company, and is at the core of what we help companies to achieve with their own customers. 2020 Zoe - This is still true!
Q: So where does online marketing come into that message?
A: That’s a great question. So many business owners are worried about losing their personal touch online. Schmooz will never stop having in person meetings, and we believe that it is the combination of in person interaction with online engagement that really takes customer service to the next level. Relationship building needs to be genuine both online and offline; good schmoozing is being genuine about connecting to customers and providing real value. This continues to be so important - and good schmoozing is still about connecting to customers and providing real value- Zoe from 2014- you were on point!
Q: What is your hiring process? Who is your ideal candidate for the Schmooz Team?
A: I want to get people on the bus who are heading in the same direction as me. I aim to have people of different backgrounds, opinions and skillsets on the team, so it is difficult to pinpoint an ideal candidate. However, what the Schmooz team has in common is the values of Schmooz and our goals to connect to people. When I notice that someone is no longer working towards these common goals, someone who is not motivated by our mission, I get them off the bus. Morale is extremely important to us, and making people feel like what they do every day matters, because it does. Our recruitment process started out by connecting to University Students, and has grown because of the amazing people we took on at the beginning. Online word of mouth is extremely powerful, and we are never at a loss for talent. We are open to flexible hours, but we are not open to flexible results.
....[the conversation continues with me rambling on about what I did between July and September (got married and went on my honeymoon]...
Q: What happened when you got back in September 2014?
A: The rest of the journey over the last 5 years has been full of ups and down and I have had to be flexible to change, but I have been true to our company values and the core beliefs I set out as important to me from the beginning. What I love most about what I do is that I am always learning, with my clients, with the world and from the people I am closest to. I never want Schmooz to become stale; this isn’t to say we are not experts in what we do, but being lifelong learners is what I look for in my employees. My team is filled with passionate individuals who truly wanted a career where they could connect with people and make measurable difference in strategic business planning. Again, I find this so fascinating that I wrote this before I even had an employee! I certainly continue to value continuous improvement, learning and making sure what we do is about more than social media, it's about demonstrating your company's value- with content that gets at the heart of your company!
Q: How did your time at the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology influence your decision to start Schmooz and your strategic decisions while running the company? Aren’t you also a teacher?
A: The MBET program didn’t change me, but it helped me refine what I was looking for out of life and out of my career. Teaching was really hard for me to leave because of how much I value helping people and making a meaningful difference. The MBET program led me to the realization that connecting people and ideas was something I could do every day at Schmooz. My story does not make sense to everyone, but for those who really know me, know how capable and ambitious I was, while struggling with wanting to be seen as someone doing something meaningful. The people were and are at the centre of my business. Understanding the bottom line, the financial planning and the strategic planning that goes into running a business was pivotal. I learned to trust myself and my gut instincts and I loved how excited I felt to wake up every day.
Looking back now, I think the MBET program was just the beginning of my learning to trust myself and my gut. I am so grateful that 25 year old Zoe was willing to risk everything and start Schmooz instead of taking a full time job somewhere else. I must've been pretty confident. That being said, I know I have come so far because I am now able to say no if the work isn't the right fit for my company and I. People and strategic planning are absolutely at the centre of what I've built.
Q: What are your hopes for Schmooz in five years from now?
A: My team and I are grateful for where we are at and the help we have received getting there. We hope to keep growing over the next 5 years. What’s so amazing about the space we are in is that technology is always changing. For example, we used to offer web site design, and now, 5 years later, this is a service that does not support our financial model; it is so easy now to build one’s own website that even the most inexperienced programmer can build it. It was easy 5 years ago, but our 50+ client-base needed help here. They don’t anymore, or at least not in a way that is profitable to us. I laughed out loud when I read this one! It's true - we don't build website anymore, but not because people (of all ages, myself included) have figured out how to build a website alone. There are a lot of amazing DIY tools, but the need for website developers is high!
Q:Why do you think you have been successful?
A: I think a lot of our success comes from being involved in the community and from staying reasonably small. Schmooz is proud of its young talent, and its ability to respond to the market appropriately. I believe that good business growth and strategy comes from having a stable direction and goal, paired with the knowledge that the way you reach the goal might be different than expected. There are a lot of different ways to accomplish a goal or to reach a milestone. We try to be guided by our core values when making decisions, while remembering that our intentions alone cannot always give us the results we want. Being open minded, reactive and creative has been and will continue to be paramount to the success of Schmooz. The other reason we have been successful is that we have been profitable since Week 1 of opening the company. Expenses were and are low; we allow staff to work remotely and have flexible schedules while managing clear expectations and building trusting relationships.
I'm tickled pink - this is STILL true, especially with our core values. You'll see when we launch the new website, how much more important core values are going to become to the front-facing side of our business! (not just internally)!
Q: Any advice for women in business or for young entrepreneurs?
A: Remember that for every plan you make, there is a surprise around the corner. Strategic planning is imperative to success, however, if you cannot put things into action, or role with the punches, don’t start your own company. One of the most important pieces of advice I got was to remember to balance the future and the present. We can make assumptions about what we think will happen, and I certainly have done that (and you should do that), but there needs to be room in those assumptions for change, for you to find a new way to get balance and for new innovation. As I said earlier, you have an end goal or a destination, but how you get there changes, the path you take one day might be different than the path you take the next day. Ultimately, if you end up where you wanted to be, it’s okay if that path changes." I still think this is great advice! I would add to this that if you don't believe in yourself, no one will...and also - don't devalue yourself, because then no one will think you're worth it!
I am so glad I rediscovered this!
Do you have your original plans for your company? Have you revisited them? Would LOVE to hear about them!
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