EP 357: Building A Business Based On What Matters With Coach Mara Glatzel

Oct 5, 2021 | Culture, Operations, Podcast

In This Episode:

  • The key values that coach Mara Glatzel has built her business on
  • How her human-first approach to business gives her a framework for caring for herself and for her clients
  • The belief systems she’s worked on unlearning to better fulfill her values
  • How being “well-resourced” gives her what she needs to respond when things get stressful

Years ago, I was the trainer at the Borders Books & Music I worked at.

It probably won’t surprise you that I loved this role. I poured over the training manuals. I thought about better systems for acclimating a new bookseller to a store with some 90,000 titles. I took seriously my job to communicate company policy, as well as the special privilege of working for a company with a mission and values like ours.

You can imagine me now putting air quotes around “special privilege.”

Understandably, I couldn’t remember the company’s mission and values now. So looked them up and found them on an old Blogspot blog from around the time I reciting them to my trainees in the fluorescent-lit breakroom.

Ready for this inspiring list? As of 2005, the values for Borders Group, Inc were: Leadership, Results orientation, Respect, People development, A positive workplace, and Customer service.

Yeah. Nothing innovative there. You could probably look in the training manual for most mass retailers and find something remarkably similar.

That’s the thing about company values, right?

They seem to be there to sound good, to tell trainees that the company cares about more than profit. We roll our eyes or tune out completely. In practice, these values mean nothing.

They mean nothing because they are rarely operationalized in any meaningful way. When Borders said they valued “respect,” how does that translate to the daily work of the average bookseller or warehouse employee? And who or what is doing the respecting? My fellow booksellers and I respected each other—for the most part, it was a great group of people to work with. But did I feel respected by corporate? Rarely.

That’s not to say that I don’t believe any large corporation is capable of operationalizing their values. Patagonia, for instance, has a set of values that is designed to impact its decisions as a company and the daily work of employees. Patagonia’s values are more like directives: build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to protect nature, not bound by convention.

Damn, that’s good.

I can imagine sitting in a meeting about product development, or warehouse operations, or marketing and actually using those directives to guide both strategic direction and execution.

And essentially, that’s what I mean when I talk about operationalizing your values.

It’s taking what you say is important to you & your company and turning it into material decisions, procedures, and ways of working. It’s finding ways to get creative with “the way things are done” so that the way you’re actually doing things reflects what matters to you.

I think this is of unique concern to small business owners because we have incredible potential for doing things differently—and so often just don’t.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much we take existing systems and ways of working for granted—and then find ways to operate within those conventions that make us feel like we’re honoring our values. Instead of getting clear on what actually honoring our values looks like and then deciding whether we can participate in existing systems and ways of working—or whether we need to create something new.

And that’s where today’s conversation with coach, podcaster, and writer Mara Glatzel begins. Mara is the host of Needy, the creator of Tend, and the kind of person I naturally think of when I think about operationalizing values. But what you’ll hear Mara tell me first is that, a while back, she realized that the kind of life and work she wanted for her clients wasn’t the kind of life and work she had structured for herself.

That’s easy to understand since Mara’s values and the values her business is built on run counter to the values of capitalism and workism.

What I’d love for you to think about as you listen to this important conversation is what you take for granted as you build your business. What assumptions do you bring with you? What shoulds and supposed-tos get in the way of fully realizing—and operationalizing—your business’s values?

Mara and I unpack how she did that for herself and what’s come out of the process—and I think you’ll find the conversation a creative jumpstart for considering how you could do things differently too.

Now, let’s find out What Works for Mara Glatzel.

Host of What Works

Tara is a podcaster, small business community leader, strategist, and speaker. She’s been helping small business owners build stronger businesses for over a decade.  

Tara McMullin, What Works Weekly Newsletter

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