Ep. 06 - Building A Culture Of Feedback with Miranda Lievers

Ep. 06 - Building A Culture Of Feedback with Miranda Lievers

In today’s time, companies don’t just check if applicants are excellent fit for the job and culture. They also search for the ones who are smarter than them, the leaders. That’s how Thinkific onboard members in their growing company. As the COO of the leading course management system for entrepreneurs and small businesses, Miranda Lievers believes in the value of having passionate, healthy debates and honest feedback in providing solutions and creating effective policies for the company. Also the co-founder, she uncovers the struggles companies face when its staff size doubles and the roadblocks in implementing knowledge and action from training. On the side, learn why leaders should involve their team members more in the process of making the complicated uncomplicated.

Building A Culture Of Feedback with Miranda Lievers

We have Miranda Lievers, the Co-Founder and COO at Thinkific. I’m super excited to actually talk to you. I didn’t realize that you were the Co-Founder, so that’s an even better part of the story. I love that component to it as well. How did you guys start Thinkific? Where did it come from? Where did you meet Greg? Give me the helicopter tour.

I’m excited to be here, Cameron. I’m a late co-founder. Greg started the business originally. Greg Smith is our founder and he was originally a lawyer and he was teaching LSAT courses on the side in classrooms for a number of years. He eventually decided to put his course online. What he found was as much as people were interested in taking his course and his own course continues to do quite well, he had a lot of people coming to him and asking him to help them create and put their own courses online. He hit up his brother Matt, who is a developer to put together the early version of Thinkific and they were originally helping people put their courses online and marketing them for them and we’re investing in the software side of things. They were joined by another match through that process and had pivoted a couple of times. The three of them were trying to figure out how to turn this product idea into a company.

Around that time, I had a lifestyle business with my husband for a number of years and I was bored stiff. As any entrepreneur does when they are bored, I had a baby and started my MBA because that’s what you do when you’re bored. I was either going to start another company or find somebody doing something cool. I love small business and I had done a lot of small business consulting, but I found that small business owners didn’t know that they needed consultants or help and even if they did know that, they couldn’t afford it. I knew that consulting wasn’t for me. I was in some startup circles starting to put out feelers to figure out who was doing what and seeing if there was anything interesting.

Greg reached out to me there and we met for coffee and I instantly was excited about the potential of a platform that could allow small business owners and entrepreneurs to create and deliver their courses and put them online. At that point, the idea pivot into SaaS. Customers could not yet pay for the product. There was no such thing as a customer on Thinkific at that time who had gotten there without Greg actually setting them up for them, but they did have the beginning software there. I got excited about what they were doing. I joined ship and the four of us are sitting around the table. Now, we’re a team of 70 employees.

What got you excited about the products being such in an early stage? I have a horrible judgment of early-stage companies. I told the founder of Uber that it was a dumb idea and I told the founder of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? that he could never franchise. I have a bad track record at judging what’s going to be successful. Did you know it was going to be successful or did you like the idea? What was it that you saw at such an early stage?

I think a lot of entrepreneurs sometimes say this, it honestly never occurred to me that it wouldn’t and couldn’t be successful. For me, it was always a foregone conclusion that I met Greg and I knew what he was building. I saw that potential and I knew that the market was there and hungry for it. I knew that I had experience. I’d always been around technology, but not a lot of people have and knowing that if we could make online business easier for people, that it was a natural fit. It didn’t even occur to me that there might be trials and tribulations or any reason for it to not be successful. In my mind it was like, “Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work in what needs to be done next.”

Learning management systems have been around for probably twenty years and there must’ve been other competitors out there already. You weren’t the first to market, were you?

Not when it comes to learning management systems, but I think that what was exciting about what we were doing then and what we continue to do is the fact that it was available and accessible to the entrepreneur and the small business owner. The traditional LMS’s were platforms designed for companies to deliver education to their internal employee body or for universities to be delivering to their students. You’re talking about these massive enterprises.

They’re complicated, too.

Yeah and there’s certainly no free plan or $49 a month plan. It’s completely inaccessible, both from a dollar standpoint and from a complexity standpoint to an entrepreneur and online business owner. From that perspective, we were one of the first to market.

My executive assistant and my director of ops both had done a bunch of research for me, looking at different platforms that I was going to use for my course. It was the one that both of them independently came and rose to the top with. Surprisingly, I ended up at a mastermind called Mastermind Talks and turned around and there was Greg. We were talking about it and I recognize the name and went back to my assistant and she goes, “Yes, that’s who we’re thinking of using.” I was like, “That was easy.” What have you guys done to keep it so simple? I’ve always tried to keep business clean, simple, fast and easy. What have you guys done to orbit the giant hairball?

I think one of the things that we try to be conscious of is who our customer is. We battle this sometimes even internally where they’re this natural shift and excitement where a big company wants to use us or is checking us out. The recognition that that’s actually not the path that we want to go down, we believe in the SMB. Primarily our customer base is independent entrepreneurs and small businesses and companies. A large company for us is somebody Hootsuite. Hootsuite uses us to deliver their social media education. When you into a big enterprise, that’s not our customer. One of the things that we try to remember is that and remembering what are the needs of the small business? What are the needs of the customers that we are trying to serve? We do that in two ways, both by listening to them and giving them what they want and often, more importantly, giving them what they need and they don’t know to ask for.

You mentioned Hootsuite. Ryan Holmes is another big Vancouver success story. You guys are based up in Vancouver, Canada, but your clients are all over the world, correct?

Yeah.

Hootsuite is not a small company. They’ve got probably 500 employees approximately.

I think about double that quite a bit.

I led their strategic planning for them and they’ve done an extraordinary job with driving towards profitability. Would they be then a larger client for you?

Yes, I would say that they’re definitely on the large end for us.

That’s as high as you want to go? Are you targeting the small-medium enterprise?

Yeah, but the only caveat there is that sometimes there are departments at larger companies where what we deliver off the shelf is actually a good fit for them. The difference often is that the enterprise needs get into custom stuff where it’s not just about taking what we have off the shelf but a requirement to then do custom development work to integrate with their proprietary systems or change the functionality of the platform and that’s where we draw the line. I would say that we technically do have some larger companies using us, but they’re using our off the shelf solution and so that’s the ideal target, but most of our customers fall into that small to medium.

SIC 06 | Feedback
Feedback: It’s our job as leaders to hire people smarter than we are at the things that they do best and to remove the roadblocks and the impediments to them doing their best work.

 

You talk at the speed of a normal entrepreneur. You and I are probably wired more similarly than most COOs are as well. I’m very entrepreneurial, but I definitely see things in reverse. What do you think gives you the skills to both be an entrepreneur and then also be that second in command?

I definitely love being an individual contributor, diving in and rolling up my sleeves and figuring out what problems need to be solved and heading straight forward in terms of solving them. At the same time, I also love and I’m fairly fascinated by business and systems and processes. This is why when I had a baby, I was like, “Now what? Let’s do my MBA for fun.” I wasn’t doing it for a career. I was like, “This will be fun,” because I am fascinated. I’ve always been fascinated by the processes and the systems and how you connect things and make it work. I think that those two factors have worked well so far, the entrepreneurial just get things done side and also the puzzle of how do you make it scalable so that it doesn’t require you to be the person getting the stuff done.

How do you uncouple the puzzle? Can you give us some examples of what you see as puzzles and how you uncouple them in the business? How do you make the complicated uncomplicated?

It’s so funny because I carry around a notebook and I try not to take notes, but if you were to flip through it, you would see that it’s entirely full of diagrams. One of the things that I rely on is trying to understand how things fit together and how we can simplify and also find the patterns through that maybe are not as obvious. As a company, we’re 70 people. A year ago we were 35 people. We’ve doubled the size of our company. The processes and the systems that work that 35 people don’t work at 70 people. We’re trying to watch for the signs of cracks. Where are the balls dropping? The answer is generally not the people are dropping them. The answer is that there’s a missing process or system or something that was previously there isn’t working anymore and trying to dive in and talking to the people that know.

One of the things that I believe and one of the ways that I think we’ve built our company is I believe that it’s our job as leaders to hire people smarter than we are at the things that they do best and to do everything in our power to remove the roadblocks and the impediments to them doing their best work. I see my job then in the same way as like when I see problems or balls dropped to not go in and prescribe the solution, but go in and try to help the people who are actually involved uncover what is working, what isn’t working. Let’s diagram it, let’s map it out. What ideas are on the table, how do we test out potential solutions to this problem? Involve everybody in the process of making the new system because that’s the only way to get buy-in. Also, the answer and the outcome of those conversations are always going to be better than anything I could come up with on my own.

I love that you’re looking for the cracks. Michael Gerber who wrote The E-Myth talked about people don’t fail, systems fail. I’ve always said that if somebody drops the ball, it’s not a bad thing. It means they’re either carrying too many balls or they don’t know how to carry the balls. It could be an interviewing system that we brought in the wrong person, but I think you uncovered something else, which is every time the company doubles in size, you have at risk the people in the organization being lopped in their job. It’s our job as leaders to grow people first and foremost. At 1-800-GOT-JUNK? when I was the chief operating officer there, I took them from fourteen employees at the head office to 3,100 employees system-wide. We doubled six years in a row at 100% revenue growth. The head of marketing after three doubles can’t be the head of marketing anymore. The company is so different. How have you been growing people? What do you plan to be doing differently? I’m guessing you’re probably going to double again.

I would say this is apt to ask me that question. We’re going through our very first annual performance review process. That’s one of those things where definitely some companies don’t yet have formal systems around that at a team of this size, but there’s the recognition that we need to have that in order to grow. We’re in the phase of, “Let’s have candid, open, honest conversations. Let’s build into our culture of feedback.” The expectation is that we’re all giving and getting feedback so that we can talk about what’s wrong and where we need to solve problems. We have had a lot of internal movement, definitely, especially people coming in, for example, to support. Our customer support team is a great starting point into the company because the people who know and understand our customers the best are then the best suited to move into roles on our product team or marketing team or anywhere else in the company. We’ve definitely done that.

The flip side of your question around the ability to level up at the speed that the team is leveling up, that’s also caused us problems and has bitten us on the ass a little bit in the past. From a very practical standpoint, it’s hard to get a title handed out by me at this point. I’m hesitant to bring somebody in with some of those hierarchy-implying titles because as you said, somebody who is a great director of marketing for a team of this size, it’s challenging if not impossible for that person to level up to what is required to match the company as we grow. Trying to have open and honest conversations and trying to build in place the performance reviews and also development conversations. Being a little bit careful about establishing hierarchy when I think it premature to do that. Talking a lot about what roles people see themselves growing into as we grow and how to specialize is also part of that.

It’s almost more in favor of looking at what responsibilities people can handle versus what titles they want. I’ve been on a ranch and I’ve probably been feeling it for the last few years. I’ve been publicly ranting about the fact that so many companies have given up very inflated titles for no need. You’ve got a chief marketing officer of a 50-person company. The reality is it’s probably a marketing manager or a director of marketing at best. It’s certainly not a VP of marketing and it’s definitely not the chief marketing officer. In the finance department, you’ve got a chief financial officer. Maybe it’s a controller or director of finance or a finance manager, a VP of finance.

The bigger we give out the titles, the more responsibility people think they have. The more senior they feel their role is, the faster they want to build this little empire underneath themselves. They also get a very inflated sense of what their worth is financially because they go out on websites like Indeed or talk to recruiters, they say, “I’m a chief financial officer.” “You’re in a $250,000 role.” No, I’m not a Chief Financial Officer. I’m more like a head of finance of a $3 million company. I think you’re smart with keeping the org chart clear for a while, but also being very careful with titles. Talk to me a little bit about skill development and your leadership team. What’s your leadership team comprised of? What does it look like?

SIC 06 | Feedback
Feedback: The bigger you give out the titles, the more responsibility people think they have.

 

We try to have a lot of different voices around the table intentionally because of the idea that we try to hire people smarter than us and do we can to remove roadblocks. The three people on our team who are trying to live up to our titles are Greg, myself and Matt. We know that we’ve got a lot of work to do to fill the shoes and the titles that we do have. It’s definitely the three of us. Matt is our CTO and Greg, CEO and myself. We have representatives from our support team sitting there, our product management team and the marketing team. We do follow the Rockefeller habits quite closely. We do our leadership team get-together.

We do quarterly offsite planning sessions with a professional coach. That does comprise some of our leadership development, but we actually should be probably doing more, especially from a formal standpoint. We come from varied backgrounds. Some of us have a formal MBA or business background. Other people have a biology degree, which doesn’t necessarily give them some of that formal background. There’s definitely more that we can do to continue to help our leaders’ level up. One of the things that are a little bit top of mind is around connecting and finding outside mentors for our leaders in our organization so that they’ve got peers at other companies that they can reach out to that can help them solve the problems that they’re facing.

That was something that we did a good job with at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? When we got to around $50 million in revenue, we started to go outside the organization to find formalized mentors. I was the Chief Operating Officer and my mentor was being groomed as the COO at Starbucks. Our VP of IT, his mentor was the head of IT for Crystal Decisions and Business Objects. Our head of our call center was getting mentored by the head of the call center at WestJet and we went out for very specific mentors who had strong industry experience, but also the style of leader that we wanted, and also in the style of the company. You think about Starbucks with a multiunit operation. It’s a great brand with good people development. That was a perfect mentor for me. He was ten years older and his kids were ten years older.

We worked hard to find those mentors. They were all mentors for free. They weren’t paid roles. They were happy. It was their turn to give back. It’s great that you’re doing that. The other area that we did a big job on that you guys might want to take a look out around skill development from the leadership side was from College Pro Painters where we trained all of our executives. They’re on situational leadership coaching, training, delegation, meetings, interviewing, email management, time management, hiring, problem-solving and conflict management. There was a host of about fifteen different leadership skills that we trained and certified all of our management team on to raise their bar in terms of their ability to run a business and manage a business.

The only place that we have done formal outside training is with our interview in our hiring process. That has translated. We use the top grading process and that has contributed to the team that we have, but now it’s level two. It’s like, “Now, we’ve got these people. How do we coach them? How do we help them develop? How do we handle the situations that come up?” You’re right, that’s the next step.

I’m happy to spend some time with you guys offside if you want to chat briefly about how you can build a viral learning program as well so that once you’ve trained your initial group of people, it becomes like a virus and they can train others. It’s because the last thing you want to do is every quarter you have to bring in the same trainers again to train the whole new group of people.

Yes, that would be great.

The other one is the meetings. I wrote a book about it, Meetings Suck because so many people were complaining about meetings and I realized that no one has ever been trained on how to attend meetings and how to participate in meetings, let alone how to run them. Let alone how to organize and set up. That can be a huge skill to train people internally as well for anyone on getting deep into the organization on how to actually run meetings and participate and show up at them.

We did internal training where we had one of our team members. She’s in an operations role, but she’s finishing her MBA. She put together some training and went on team by team. She delivered some great stuff and I would say that none of it is being actioned. Do you have any tips? How do you take it from the classroom knowledge to actual implementation?

I would leverage Thinkific and I want to talk to you about something that could be massive. I would even look at partnering with you guys on this. What I would do is take the content and create a pretest so you get everyone in the organization to know that they don’t know this stuff. Train them in it and have a post-test to show that they’ve learned it. That’s the core basics. After that, have a retention test to see if they remember it. They’re allowed to be certified in that content to prove that they’re actually using it and make certification in these skills as a part of their way to get promoted and move up in the organization. Without it, they can’t move up in the company at all. They can’t get a title. They can’t get a pay raise. What you ended up doing is flipping the model upside down so that people want to be certified in skills so that they can get promoted versus they have to go to another training session.

We should talk about that.

Talk to me about the vision of where you’re taking the organization. How do you get four co-founders on the same page with vision?

The very practical answer to that is that one of our co-founders, Matt Smith, Greg’s brother, he founded another company. He’s not involved on the day-to-day anymore at all. He founded Later. They do the social media platform for images and Instagram. It’s mostly Greg and me who go head to head and battle most of the decisions about where we think we want to be going. Matt, our CTO is the one to listen and come in with the why’s to remind us that we’re arguing about the same thing. I would say that passionate debate is one of our company values for a reason. I think that one of the things that I love most about working so closely with Greg is that we bring two different sets of strengths to the table in a way that is functional. I would say that more often than not, he is like, “Move fast and get it done,” and I’m the one that’s like, “Slow down and do it right.” Between the two of us, we end up somewhere where it’s a little bit faster than I would maybe be comfortable with, but it’s built in a better, more sustainable way then he might have otherwise on his own and it puts us at a good position. I feel that anytime that we’re both involved in the decision, we end up in a healthy place and often better than we would have individually.

I’m like both of you and I’m tormented by both of my selves. I feel like I have these two alter egos and the first one is minimum viable everything and then the second is like, “Wait, tighten it up a bit.”

I would say that my team says that I’m both as well because I’m also getting a lot of flak for the minimum viable and I’m the one that’s pushing that. I equally can do both but I know that those are the default traits.

Have you done any personality profiles?

Yes, I’m an ENTP.

We’re the same. I’m ENTP. When I did it, I was ENTJ and I flipped to ENTP around and I didn’t trust it, so I did it again and I was ENTP again. Have you done a Kolbe Profile?

No.

Check out Kolbe. I would have you and Greg both do your Kolbe A profile. Basically, the core thing you learn from it is how do you start things. What’s amazing about it is I would guess that Greg starts by starting.

SIC 06 | Feedback
Feedback: You can’t use the same communication style with your team as you do with your CEO.

 

Probably, and I start by planning.

You start by putting a system in place roughly and you might start by asking a few more questions, but my guess is that you visualize it all in your head and then put a rough plan or a checklist or something in place to then start. That’s a huge strength of a second in command. Most entrepreneurs are very high quick starts.

Yes, that describes us pretty much to a tee.

We started a group called the COO Alliance and what we recognized was there were a million groups for entrepreneurs. You’ve got EO, YPO, Gazelles, Mastermind Talks, Genius Network and all these amazing places for entrepreneurs to go learn. There are places for lawyers and accountants and marketers, but there was never a mastermind or a group or a network for the second in command. We started the COO Alliance and all of the COO that our members are very different personality profiles to the entrepreneur, even if they’re co-founders. We have Sascha who is the second in command at Unbounce here in Vancouver. He’s a member. His profile is completely different from his CEOs. We’ve got the guy from Consumer Affairs, they co-started the business together, but very similar to you and Greg. They are amazingly complementary, almost that Yin and Yang, but totally different personality profiles. There are some big strengths I think that come out of that. You talk about the healthy debate. I think Jim Collins talked about, “The fear of conflict is a bad thing in dysfunctional teams.” How do you guys have a good healthy debate and good healthy conflict and not take it personally? What do you personally do or what does Greg do to not ever take things personally?

I don’t even know if there’s any specific thing that either of us is doing. Greg and I have always communicated in a way where we can fiercely debate and fight for what it is that we believe and it’s always in the good and interest of the company. I think that knowing that we view each other as partners in this business and that neither of us wants to move forward with a decision unless the other is actually on board. The debate is less about “My way, no, my way” It’s about trying to convince him, lay out the reasoning and the thought behind the decisions that we’re making. We’re never ending up in a power struggle about who’s right, but we’re trying to come to a common consensus about what the best course of action and direction is and we’ve successfully been able to do that.

Why do you think you were successful at it? Did you struggle at all?

No, we haven’t struggled. We’ve naturally communicated well. I would say that at the same time, there definitely are other people on the team that communication is not as easy. One of the things that I’m trying to do personally, especially when I’m communicating with other people, is recognize that I can’t use the same communication style with my team as I do with Greg because I know Greg will always stand up and push back for what he believes in and getting us to a good place. Sometimes my more dominating communication style comes across as direction as opposed to a discussion with my team. If anything, I’m trying to be cognizant of how I’m communicating with other people, but with Greg, honestly, we’ve naturally fallen into that pattern.

Thinkific has strong company culture, how did you create that? What do you think are the core components for you on creating a great company culture?

On our hiring processes, we work hard to bring on A players who are good historically at what they do, but also that we think are going to be a good culture fit. Culture fit for us means adherence to values. We want people that have demonstrated their ability to learn and grow, to work well with other people, to not be afraid to debate for what they want. Also, we’re a no-bullshit environment. We utilize radical candor. We have open and frank and honest discussions. If there’s something that’s not working or even the hint that something’s not working, we lay it out on the table and we talk about it because I think the worst thing that you can do is not address things when they’re not working.

We’re not afraid to admit that we’ve made mistakes and that sometimes we need to change what we’ve done either in terms of a system or a process and being open to change, but also sometimes we make a mistake when it comes to hiring. We’re not afraid to let somebody go as well. Hopefully, that happens sooner than later and that’s on us to figure out early on if somebody is a good fit or not, but it doesn’t help the team to keep somebody around that’s causing friction. We do a lot of retreats. We also recognize that you have to couple working hard with playing hard. We just got back from our retreat. We had the team offsite. We try to have a lot of fun as well.

Where do you host your retreats and how do they set up?

This one, we’re at Gambier Island. It’s a little island off of Vancouver. We were at a summer camp. It’s a bunk beds and dining hall situation. In the past, we have done a little bit of work and then a little bit of play.

Is this the whole company?

Yes, the whole company. We were there for two days. There was archery, there was kayaking, there were great dance parties at night and two days in the wilderness to relax and unwind as a team with no formal agenda of doing a team bonding experience or something. It was like, “Let’s go hang out and not talk about work.”

That’s company culture for sure. What percentage of your employees went?

This was the first time that we’ve done a retreat that I didn’t do all the planning and the logistics. It was great. I think that there was a handful of people that were literally out of town. Everybody that was in town, the other came for the whole thing or they came up for the day. I don’t know that anybody was in town. There’s a few weddings or things where people literally couldn’t come, but otherwise, it was everybody.

You didn’t exactly choose an easy location to get to either. Gambier’s not like just driving your car around the corner.

The boat is important because if somebody can just drive their car, it’s easier because then it’s like, “I’ll come up for a bit and then I’ll go home to my dog or my babysitter.” The boat is actually valuable because it instantly puts people into vacation mode without having to put them on a plane to get there.

It’s amazing that you guys did that. Talk to me about your firing process. Inevitably every company has to fire someone. Do you have a system in place to fire people and how do you do it?

Yes, we do. That’s actually one of the things that we’re doing a better job of formalizing. The biggest thing there is the recognition that if we’re letting somebody go, the ultimate blame for that decision is almost certainly us and that there’s been either an error originally with who we hired or how we communicated about the role or the objectives or something along the way has broken down. We definitely try to take ownership there. The biggest thing for us is having what we call the map, which is basically, “Something’s not working so now we’re on the map.” The map is the conversation of like, “This thing isn’t working. Let’s talk about why it’s not working or if there’s something else that you need or that I can help you with and let’s build a strategy for getting it back on track.” Let’s check back in three days and whatever the appropriate timeline is and continuing to do that to first and foremost try to help the person address and correct whatever it is that’s not working with the sole goal of getting them to the place where they’re able to perform.

SIC 06 | Feedback
Feedback: Being a COO is not just about coming up with what you think is the best plan and bulldozing through. It’s taking the time to build the scalable processes and systems.

 

If we go through the process repeatedly where we’ve identified that something’s not working, we’ve talked about and put in place systems and plans to help correct that situation and we keep falling down the same trap. It’s not a situation where there’s another job that would be better or it makes more sense to change the role, then ultimately we make the decision that we need to part ways and we do that. We try to do that sooner rather than later for their benefit so that they can go and find a role that is a good fit for them and also for the benefit of the team. Because inevitably it impacts the other people on the team when there’s somebody that’s not pulling their weight or that things aren’t working.

Do you do the same on the cultural side if they’re the wrong cultural fit even though they might be performing well on the results side?

Yes, we have done that as well. One of the things that we’re quite intrigued by a little bit in that regard is Buffer has a good system around their three months’ probation where your first three months are on probation, then you’re a part of the team. Your first three months are more of an extended evaluation to determine whether or not you’re then invited to join the team. That’s intriguing to us because we would like to make it even a little bit more of a big deal to graduate from the probation to full-time regular member of the team in part so that we can give more attention to what that culture piece looks like and not just, “Are they getting the work done. Are they playing well with others and are they a culture add?” It’s not just about like, “Do you fit in and do you look like everybody else?” It’s like, “Are we a better team because you’re here?”

Don’t compromise your interviewing process because you’re doing a great job with top grading. I hate to see companies that almost cheapen their interview process by allowing people to be interviewed in their first 90 days on the job. I do like the whole onboarding process of awarding them a position on the team or formally making them part of the team. We are going back to meetings quickly because of my book Meetings Suck, tell me a little bit about what you have put in place at Thinkific that make your meetings run successfully.

I would say that we’re trying to make our meetings run more successfully. A couple of the things that have worked well so far is the, “No agenda, no attenda.” Also shortening meetings. I wrote an article about time management and one of the things in there is the idea that meetings expand to the amount of time that you give them. Let’s not book hour-long meetings when a 25-minute meeting will do. I’m trying to push people to do shorter meetings. You can always extend a meeting, but inevitably it’s harder to end it early sometimes. I’m trying to do that. The other thing we’re trying to do is also to stack them. It’s hard to have meetings spread out. I’ve got one in the morning and three in the afternoon every single day because then you don’t get any downtime at all. That’s especially terrible for some of our individual contributors. We are trying to do a better job of having no meeting days or stacking all the review updates or whenever it is on the same day so that we can also honor the non-meeting times.

That’s huge when you build out your meeting rhythms and cascade them and keep those same rhythms all the time and then work around those. They’re your big rocks in your calendar, right?

Yes, exactly.

I love that you’re trying to do the meetings in a shorter amount of time as well. I always say that book your meetings for half the time you first think about booking them for. If it’s for an hour, you book it for a half an hour or whenever you plan an all-day meeting, book for half because you’ll get it done. I say it’s like a quickie. You can get it done in less time if you need it to. With kids, you got to fit it in once in a while. Without that, people drag everything on and you’re not get anything covered. Give us one final big tip. If you’ve got something for someone starting off in the COO role because a lot of people move in their careers and they end up in this operational COO role. Maybe they’re the head of finance and operations as well or the head of marketing and they take on operations. If you’re going to be moving into a COO role, what would your biggest part of advice be for anyone?

One of the biggest things that I’m constantly trying to remind myself, because I also am quite an effective individual contributor and in the context of growing this company from a very small company, is the idea that if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. It’s not about coming up with what you think is the best plan and bulldozing through but taking the time to build the scalable processes and systems. You do that by talking to other people and engaging the people that are actually participating in those activities and helping them to do their best work so that you can go far as a team and that you’re doing everything that you can to not insert yourself as a bottleneck in that process. It’s about empowering the other people on the team and making the connections in order to build those scalable processes.

Miranda, you guys are based in Vancouver. Are you in Gastown?

Yes, we actually moved. We were in Railtown and we took over a space. We’re at 369 Terminal, by the Main Street Train Station.

I am going to come down and visit you guys because I have a feeling that you’ve got a pretty great corporate culture too. Is your office ready for a mini-tour?

Our office is ready for a mini-tour. We would love to have you come by.

Miranda Lievers, the COO for Thinkific, thank you so much. I appreciate the time. I am looking forward to finally meeting you in person and getting down to see your offices too.

Thanks so much for having me.

Thank you.

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About Miranda Lievers

SIC 06 | FeedbackMiranda Lievers is a Vancouver-based entrepreneur devoted to the intersection of small business and technology.

As co-founder & COO of Thinkific, she’s helped over 27,000 business owners earn $80 Million+ with online courses this year while educating millions of students around the globe.

Prior to Thinkific, Miranda helped scale a team from 40 to 1600 before jumping ship from corporate life, grew her own side hustle to 7 figures, and earned her MBA just for fun.

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