Each month, I’ll be featuring an entrepreneur, an industry leader, or expert in the field here on The Talk About Town with the focus on marketing, storytelling, and balancing dreams and the 9-to-5 grind.
Alissa Carpenter is the owner behind Everything’s Not Ok and That’s OK, a company focused on providing actionable advice and strategies for employees from entry-level to mid-management in today’s diverse workforce. Alissa provides clients with training, consulting, and speaking services to help their workforce communicate across generational lines, find commonality through differences, and start a meaningful dialogue about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Alissa has worked with organizations ranging from non-profits to multi-billion-dollar enterprises and has recently delivered a TEDx talk on authentic workplace communication! In early 2020, her book How to Listen and How to Be Heard: Inclusive Conversations at Work, is set to release. Pre-order on Amazon now!
LG: Thanks for being with us today! We’d love an introduction. Tell us about yourself.
Alissa: I am a mom of two kids, married to my high school boyfriend, have an adorable Australian Labradoodle, and love to bring positivity into everything that I do.
When I meet people for the first time after chatting with them on social media or through email, they always say that I am exactly how I appear online. I pride myself on being authentic, transparent, and honest. I love being able to try new things and flex my creativity muscle while making a difference in the way people communicate with one another at work!
LG: How was Everything’s Not Ok and That’s Ok created? What were you doing prior to becoming an entrepreneur?
Alissa: I was a higher education administrator for about 13 years working with undergraduate students, faculty, and staff. I was seeing students say they were OK when talking with their friends and then breaking down in my office because of a job they didn’t get, a test they didn’t do well on, or a recent break up. It quickly became obvious that there was an understood “public face” you had to show and when behind closed doors, it was OK to let it out. I wanted to flip the script and let people know that whether it’s in your personal or professional life, it’s OK to not be OK. As long as you recognize where you are and take steps towards making a difference.
I never thought I would be an entrepreneur as I truly loved working in colleges and universities. But, I saw a need to bridge the gap between what students were learning in school, what the workforce offered, and how we communicated across these differences. I wanted to make a bigger impact beyond higher education.
LG: How old is your business? How do you envision ENOTO in 5 years?
Alissa: I started my business in 2015 and went full time about three years ago. In that time I have pivoted from a career coach to keynote speaking and creating and facilitating learning programs to enhance employee communication.
I am constantly checking in with what the market is looking for, what I am interested in and capable of offering, and what the future of work holds for both organizations and employees. I would love to say that I know exactly what ENOTO will be doing in five years, but the truth is, I am not sure as how we communicate is changing. Right now, the US economy is losing $30.5 billion annually in lost productivity! And a lot of that is from people just not having efficient and effective conversations with one another. What I do know is that I hope to have expanded my reach and help more employees feel valued and heard in their roles.
LG: How did you build ENOTO’s marketing strategy? What tactic has made a difference in your marketing goals?
Alissa: Relationships and communication. There are so many things out there that claim to provide the five steps to grow your business or the three things you need to do to market your company. At the end of the day, it all comes down to people trusting, liking, knowing, and relating to you and your work. I’ve done this through attending in person events, actively commenting and engaging in social media, and reaching out to my network to help spread the word.
I think it’s so easy to get sucked into the vanity metrics on social media. It’s something that I know I’ve done many times! It’s not so much about the likes and comments as it is about meeting your objectives. Did people sign up for my mailing list? Book me for a speaking engagement? Refer me to a new client? I think staying focused on my end goals and creating a platform based on authenticity has helped move closer towards my goals.
LG: What is the goal of your weekly podcast?
Alissa: My goal has been two-fold, to share people’s stories and get to know people who I would have otherwise not met. At the moment, I am not looking to monetize the podcast but give a voice and space for people to share the great things they’re doing to bridge communication gaps and bring together people at work. I’ve met so many incredible people who have either been on the podcast or reached out because of it.
LG: You not only host a weekly podcast, but you’ve somehow found the time to publish a book! Tell us about your journey to writing your book!
Alissa: It’s been such an incredible journey and one that I am beyond grateful for. As a first time author, there is so much I’ve learned along the way from writing a book proposal to pitching and working with an agent to the editing.
The one thing that I did not anticipate was how life does not stop when writing a book. I naively envisioned myself writing at a lake house like in the movie, Love Actually. Where I would take some time and be one with my thoughts, research, and computer.
But with running a business full-time, two little kids, and not having a lake house; that’s not something that played out. Instead, I found pockets of creative time where I would write in between client calls, speaking engagements, and training preparation. I even used the voice memo function on my phone while traveling to make sure ideas were not lost.
Each chapter in my book stands alone and focuses on a different area of employee communication. Being able to pick the one I wanted to address in that moment made the process flow more smoothly. When I had an idea for a specific topic, I ran with it and didn’t edit my work until I was finished. Getting everything out when I could, kept me going.
LG: What has been a major success in your business? A fail?
Alissa: Writing the book and giving a TEDx talk were huge accomplishments for me. Those two things have been on my dream list for a long time.
As an entrepreneur, failures are inevitable (big or small)! There was a time when I thought I got a contract because of a verbal agreement, started working on the project, and found out that they pulled it. I spent several hours on that versus other things and should have waited until the written contract was signed. I’ve hired the wrong people and lost money from unfinished work. I’ve launched a course without doing research to see if people even wanted that specific course content.
But with each failure, I’ve learned something new about myself, the market, and the direction I want to take my business.
LG: How do you manage the balance between your role as a mother, wife, author and entrepreneur?
Alissa: I put everything on my calendar (self care, kids’ schedules, husband’s travel, projects, client outreach, social events, etc.). I need to see everything electronically and all in one place to best plan around it. If I have a busy client day, I usually leave my nights free for family time and work catch up. And if we have a big family event I need to prep for, I’ll keep the day light and block out more time the week before for work.
But, I’ll be very honest and say sometimes I don’t find or manage the balance that well; especially because I am passionate about what I do. I don’t want to let someone down whether that be my kids, husband, or my clients. I’ve started to leave my phone at home when we have family time and made a more active effort to create a work schedule as opposed to all day, everyday. I also ask my network to be my accountability partner in taking a break so I don’t burn out.
LG: What’s your biggest piece of advice to entrepreneurs out there?
Alissa: The up and down emotions you’ll have are like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. One day you might think you’re on top of the world and the next, not so much. Make sure you have mentors and people who you can rely on for advice, support, and reality checks. When you start something you’re emotionally invested in, it’s important to surround yourself with support.
LG: What’s the one thing you wish you could go back and tell your younger self?
Alissa: I struggled in school to find things I was interested in. My parents and my brother are into science and math and the “main” school subjects did not excite me. If you would have told me in high school that I would write a book someday, I would have laughed.
I would tell my younger self to keep looking and you’ll find what you love to do. There’s a path and role for everyone and it’s just a matter of finding where your strengths and talents meet and help the needs and pain points of others.
LG: From your perspective and experiences, what is the biggest challenge or threat to American workplaces today?
Alissa: This is such a good question! There are so many things that I could talk about here but one of the things that I see over and over is the inability to create a community within virtual workspaces. So many people are working remotely whether it be full or part time. And it’s hard to have a connection to a person, organization or cause if you don’t feel part of it. When we don’t physically see the people that work with and for us or even know how our daily tasks are impacting the mission of the company, why not look for another job?
Planning your fall calendar and looking for any speakers for your events and programs? Interested in listening to a new podcast? Look no further! Learn more: http://www.notokthatsokcoach.com/
Author’s Note: A special thank you to Alissa for allowing me to participate in ENOTO and providing incredible perspective into leadership in American workplaces.