Christi Scarrow episode 66 image

Business Ownership Journey

Christi and I have a great discussion about some lessons we have learned on our business ownership journeys and the evolution of business ownership.



In this episode, I have a conversation with Christi Scarrow, Managing Partner with Lighthouse Nine Group, a management consulting firm, with a corporate office in Toronto, focused on improving organizational performance through people.


[00:00:00] Okay, great. We are recording in both places, so I will get rolling and then we’ll just have a great conversation. Sounds good.

Hey there, I’m Julie B and you’re listening to, they Don’t Teach This In Business School, a podcast where we discuss business ownership lessons that are learned through experience, not in a classroom or a seminar. Today’s episode is special because I get to interview Christie Scro, the managing partner of Lighthouse Nine Group, and I know we’re gonna have a fun conversation about some of the lessons that she has learned on her business ownership journey.

So Christie, welcome to the show. I’m so glad to have you here. Thank you, Julie. Excited to be here. All right, so let’s just kick it off with a brief overview of what you do in your business and, you know, some information about you so the audience can get to know you a little bit better. Absolutely. So, yeah, I’m part of Lighthouse Nine Group here in Toronto, and actually we are all [00:01:00] entrepreneurs under that umbrella.

And a lot of the work I do is around leadership development and so supporting leaders in the stuff I like to call messy leadership. You know, how do you have difficult conversations? How do you hold people accountable? How do you actually en engage in healthy conflict? That’s the kind of stuff I love.

So do a lot of work in that space and and also help organizations kind of pick their path and figure out strategically where to go. And that is very needed. I, I know a lot of business owners who, you know, they struggle to have those harder conversations that are needed to help their employees and their staff grow.

And even conversations with vendors, with partners, there’s all kinds of people that we have to communicate with on a daily basis in business and, and, and it’s hard to. Sometimes emotions can get the best of you. And and being able to navigate through all of that is a very, very needed skill for sure.

So Christie, you said something that caught my attention. You said something [00:02:00] about holding people accountable and that is something that comes up a lot. You know, we, we have to hold ourselves accountable every day, but that’s har easier said than done, I think. It’s hard to, to do that in my experience.

Talk a little bit more about accountability and how, you know, you help companies and, and organizations navigate that specifically. Yeah. And you’re right, it’s a big challenge and it’s, it’s, it’s got a lot of massive different components, right? Mm-hmm. You talk about you know, holding ourselves accountable is a challenge sometimes.

Mm-hmm. Holding others accountable. I find there’s two different areas that people struggle with or, or get it wrong, so to speak. Is, is actually when. Sometimes we try to hold somebody accountable, coming kind of from a place of like, you need to be accountable. Mm-hmm. And we’re almost blaming the other individual when we’re coming at them because they have not met our expectations.

Mm-hmm. And that’s one thing I find leaders sometimes. You know, especially business owners who are really passionate about the work they do. Mm-hmm. And the people that they engage to work with don’t always deliver in the same way they would [00:03:00] expect. Yeah. So sometimes we come at people more strongly than we intended because we’re passionate about what we do, and that’s not always effective.

On the other side, it’s sometimes really challenging because it’s human nature to. You know, be careful that we’re we’re, we’re liked and how we’re coming across and we actually avoid difficult conversations in accountability. So we we’re, we’re almost too soft mm-hmm. In how we approach it. We avoid those conversations and we don’t lean into, you know, why are we doing this?

What are the reasons I’m expecting accountability. And, and what is the, how, how do we each have an ownership role in that? So I find that’s a challenge is sometimes it’s in setting the expectations. Sometimes it’s in providing the right kind of feedback so people can stay on track. Or really it’s about empowering people to be part of the, of the solution.

And sometimes it’s, that’s a difficult thing to balance is, is how to really involve them and engage them and have a respectful conversation, but an effective conversation. And I think that that is part of what makes you, you know, there’s the [00:04:00] saying that it’s lonely at the top, whether you’re a leader, a business owner, certainly business owners feel that.

And I think what you just hit upon is a reason why it’s lonely at the top, because I. No matter if you’re doing either of those. So if you’re, you know, if you’re kind of placing blame for somebody not meeting your expectations or if you’re just avoiding those conversations, that can actually, I think, make it even lonelier at the top.

Do you, do you see that with your clients at all? A Absolutely, and I think what’s what sometimes happens is we place blame in our heads. And we, but we actually avoid the conversation. So it causes a lot of, of resentment because you’re like, why aren’t they doing what I would expect them to do? And you start to question your own effectiveness as a leader, you start to obviously question their effectiveness as somebody that you’re working with.

And it is a bit isolating cuz you’re not sure. These are, these are difficult skills that, that people have, have been leaders and major organizations struggle with. So certainly business owners who are probably are, are [00:05:00] often really good at the work they do. And are having to kind of double down on how to work with people.

Mm-hmm. And as you said, even if it’s with third party contractors or your customers mm-hmm. At that, that’s challenging as well because it’s really difficult to have those kind of conversations and feel like you’re effective. But also respectful that that’s the balance. Yeah. So, so talk to me a little bit about how you come into an organization, cuz it, it’s kind of on the outside looking in, I could see where a leader would say, I don’t wanna bring another person into this conversation.

Or, I don’t know if you know. Somebody from your company can really help. I, or I’m ashamed, or I should, I know I should have addressed this sooner. There’s probably, you’re probably here like all of those plus more. How do you what do you think is beneficial about bringing in somebody else to a, a third party to kind of help navigate these conversations?

What do you find the most helpful in, in that arena? I think for me the most helpful is arming them with the right way to have the [00:06:00] conversations and, and understanding where the pieces might in fact be, be broken and where you have to prioritize. Cause that accountability is a big beast. Mm-hmm. And sometimes the issue becomes that we really aren’t setting expectations clearly, or there’s not a clear.

Purpose or vision that everyone can rally around. Even if you’re in a small business, there’s a clear reason you exist. Yeah. And people may not necessarily fully understand that the way you do. So what I typically do is would help them understand, okay where are the actual pain points in the organization?

Is that people aren’t clear on what they’re doing. Are expectations not being clear that our expectations unreasonable? Is there a clear way to feedback loop? Do you know how to give feedback in a way that is effective? And is, and feels authentic from you because, you know, I think we’ve learned a lot of bad ways to give feedback.

I know in my days that what I was taught was the hamburger method of like, say something good, say something bad, then say something good again. That is not an effective way of giving feedback. People can see through that. Yeah, it’s not authentic. Or you go the opposite [00:07:00] way and you have a, you know, a performance review or you have a conversation that happens once a year, and that’s not useful either.

Yeah. So I think what are, what are the broken pieces? And I, I help to really illustrate and help them define what might be those broken pieces and then build those soft skills and offer approaches. To go about either defining expectations, clarifying and communicating your purpose or having those difficult conversations.

Well, that is just a masterclass and how to have all of those difficult conversations. And I totally wanna off script from what I normally ask. So we’re gonna get back one script now cuz I do wanna ask about being a business owner. I wanna ask you those questions too. So, Christie, what is your favorite part about being a business owner?

I absolutely love both the flexibility and the variety. Like for me, I, although sometimes I like to say like every day’s a vacation and no days a vacation. Mm-hmm. Cuz people will say to me, are you going on vacation? I’m like, well, I don’t really take vacation because if I can get some time off, that’s awesome.

So in some ways there’s flexibility because [00:08:00] I can pick my hours, but of course if there is a need, a client need or something I, I need to get done, then it becomes a bit of, oh, I have to make a decision between. Spending time with my children or doing this this work. Mm-hmm. There’s, there’s that.

But I absolutely love the fact that I can work on different projects. I can, you know, be just doing different things every day. There’s such a variety in that. Mm-hmm. And that I can choose to maybe not work this particular week or, you know, or month if I really chose well, I could choose where I want to work.

I’m lucky in that sense. And my business is obviously a service-based business, so I can I can do that. Yeah. Christie, what has been your biggest win thus far as a business owner? That’s a great question. I literally think starting it and sticking with it is the hardest thing because I found in my world, Is that many people were like, you’re crazy.

Right? Like I, I had my, my mom was a teacher. Mm-hmm. My, my dad was a like in a sales role [00:09:00] in a corporation. My husband’s an engineer and they were like, why are you not, why would you ever walk away from a good nine to five job and take that kind of risk? Mm-hmm. So I found it was a really difficult thing.

I really started to doubt. You know, am I doing the right thing? Is this, am I putting my, my family in financial risk by taking this chance? And I think the fact that I, I put some boundaries to that and I said, you know what? Give me a year mm-hmm. Of doing this. Mm-hmm. And if I get to a point where I can’t, I’m really not contributing to the financials of this family.

I will, I’ll think about it. I think it’s important to have those boundaries and not be reckless. Mm-hmm. But I was like, let me see. And it, and it, and I did it, and it, and it stuck and it it’s, it’s accelerated from there and I’ve got to do different things within my business. Yeah. So I love that I can shift within it as well and not just stick with one thing.

But that’s, I think honestly, I would feel like it’s the biggest win is just riding that roller coaster, which is sometimes, which I think every business owner goes through, where you start to go, oh man, maybe this was a bad idea. And then you’re like, no, [00:10:00] no, it was a good idea. Just gotta stick with it. It’s that whole ice iceberg metaphor.

You know, I, we’ve probably all seen it online, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg is literally, Just the good stuff or the very top and underneath that surface, you’ve got doubt, fear, failure, you know, burnout, success, some wind. You know, I’m, this is a great day. This is a horrible day. And what always amazes me is as a, as a business owner myself, I will have days where I, I literally, like, I run through all of that in one day.

I mean, I will go, there will be awesome things, there will be really, really crappy things. And the same day, and it’s an rollercoaster I don’t even be think begins to, to describe the, the trip that is being a business owner, you need a tolerance for risk. Mm-hmm. Absolutely. Because it’s gonna be there.

And ideally you need to find a support system or a community that understands that as well. As I said with Lighthouse nine, we’re actually all business [00:11:00] owners, so we have our own client base although we support each other. So that’s an example of a community that I know everybody has felt that.

Mm-hmm. So that’s one of the things I would definitely encourage business owners to do is if you feel like you’re alone in this, you need to find others. Probably things like this podcast. Mm-hmm. That remind you that you know, this is not, this is a normal feeling to feel like, oh crap, this is I need to worry about and okay, now I’m good.

Now, as you said in one day, that’s absolutely true. You can have those moments. Hey, this is Julie B and you’re listening to, they Don’t Teach This in Business School. I’m here today with Christie Garrow and we are talking about all things business ownership. And Christie, you said something a little bit earlier about doubt when you were talking about, you know, your biggest win in business.

And I’m curious, do you still experience doubt? Are you, do you find that, that that comes up for you even, even now? I would say yes. And I’m, I’m, I’m better at [00:12:00] managing it. So I think I hear that little voice in the back of my head that especially when, when things are slow and there will be times when things are slow and so you start to go, or, you know, maybe a, a head hunter reaches out with a really good job.

Yeah. And I think, oh, maybe I should take the easy way out and just go do that. Mm-hmm. And not have to worry about where my next paycheck’s coming. So that still is tempting every once in a while. Mm-hmm. I think having now done it for. 12 years. Mm-hmm. I, I’m able to quiet that voice much better by going No, no, no.

Wait it out. Yeah, it will, it will get easier. It will get better. And so but the doubt also comes from, you know, in the variety of my work, that also means I’m thrown into things mm-hmm. That I have no idea what I’m doing. Mm-hmm. And I need to kind of figure it out quickly. And that’s part of the fun of what I get to do.

Mm-hmm. Is I’m coming in with new business that is a bit different for me and there’s always new challenges. Mm-hmm. So the doubt sometimes comes to. Comes from, am I, am I getting this right? Mm-hmm. Am I, am I doing this the right way because I’m [00:13:00] embark on new things that I haven’t done before? Always. Yeah.

So, and that’s the constant evolution of business ownership. I’m teaching a class to a, a lo just through a local community college, and that’s one point I’m trying to kind of ground into their mind, grind into their minds is that, It is a constant evolution. So, you know, they’re, they’re just getting started in business and they are working on a business plan.

And I’m like, okay, this business plan is a template and a template is meant to change, so we’re going to get you launched, but you know what you’re doing. I guarantee. I was like, I guarantee almost all of you that five years from now, you will not be doing. The same exact thing and the same exact way that you wrote in this business plan.

There’s just no, no way, cuz there’s a constant evolution in business. And sometimes that means you try new things that you’ve never done before. You, you know, you, you make educated guesses as to what is going to work in those scenarios and you take a swing at it. But you know, you, you, every single day you’re trying [00:14:00] new things and, and just trying to figure out like what’s gonna work and, and learning what doesn’t.

That’s just part of this rollercoaster trip that we are on. Absolutely. And I, and I would go so far to say, if you don’t have doubts or fears, you’re probably not pushing hard enough. Yeah. Because you cannot learn and grow if you’re, if you’re not. And, and, and if, and if you’re too confident in what you’re doing, that’s also a risk.

So make sure that you’re asking yourself the questions to go. I thought this, truthfully, if it, if it’s, if you’re a hundred percent it’s gonna work chances are you’re, you’re not thinking it fully through. You know, that’s a really interesting point and I would, I’d love to hear your opinion on this.

I’ve been. Kind of realizing this year and, and talking to other business owners, we, you really have to have a balance of confidence and humility to be a, a really effective leader, business owner, whatever your role is. Do you, do you see that through the work that you do as well? Yeah, that totally resonates with me and I, and that is a hard balance sometimes.

Mm-hmm. Because I think [00:15:00] particularly as women, we are, we are maybe too humble mm-hmm. Sometimes, and we don’t come across as confident as we should or we don’t feel as confident mm-hmm. As we should. And so I think it’s in. I totally agree with you. It’s, you can be confident and not arrogant. And I know some people have said like, if I do that, I’m gonna be arrogant.

I’m like, if you’re worrying about being arrogant, chances of you actually being arrogant are slim. So it’s a good that you’re thinking about it. Yeah. But, but you probably, probably means you’re not showing a confidence enough. So I think it’s, it’s absolutely finding that humility balance. I would I love that thought.

That’s a really, that’s a really good point. If you’re actually thinking about, Are you being arrogant or cocky or whate, whatever word you use there, you’re probably not, because you have the awareness to just even ask that question. From my, from my perspective, actually, had somebody ask me one time, do arrogant people get imposter syndrome?

And I was like, well, you know, I don’t technically know, but I’m guessing they don’t because they feel like. They [00:16:00] know that, you know, they, they just feel like they know what everything about everything, and they probably don’t get imposter syndrome until, you know, something shows up and kind of, we all get, we all get course corrected from time to time.

And I, I’ve seen, I’ve seen some people go through that and it’s, it’s just been interesting to watch. But I, yeah, I think that you’re right. The arrogant people. Or if you’re asking if you’re being too braggy or too arrogant or too, you know, you, you probably aren’t. Cuz you at least have that awareness that, eh, should I post this on social media?

Should I talk about my book a hundred times? You know, all these things that I, I myself have gone through and thought about. If I’m having the self check of, is that too much? It’s probably not. That’s a good point. Yeah. And that is a, that is really hard. That was hard for something for me in transitioning to my own business because I had a background.

In sales, but I had to sell myself. Yeah. And no matter what you’re doing as a business owner, you have to sell yourself. And it really is hard. Mm-hmm. Because you feel braggy, right? Mm-hmm. You feel like you’re, you’re just talk, [00:17:00] talking about yourself and you need to talk about yourself, but it’s because it comes from a place of I’m, I know I can help you.

Mm-hmm. That feels a little bit easier than feeling like I’m the right person for it. Mm-hmm. So it’s something in the messaging and in, in the authentic how, how you come across. But I also think it’s. Confidently knowing that you can help somebody. So make sure they know it. I could not say it any better myself.

So yeah, man, this is just being, this is a great conversation you are listening to. They don’t teach this in business school. I’m Julie B and I’m here with Christie Scro, and we are just having a great conversation about business ownership confidence. Having difficult conversations, accountability, all the list goes on and on.

So, Christie, I wanna ask you a couple of other questions. One thing I’m talking a lot about with business owners these days is burnout. And I’m wondering, do you have any experience going through burnout? And if you do, would you share that story? I, I don’t know that I’ve gone as far to say I’ve, [00:18:00] I’ve been burnt out.

Mm-hmm. Although I can definitely claim to have been in like a state of languishing where you’re in this, which I think I’m describing as, you know, this lack of, lack of energy and yet need to do things. Mm-hmm. Which feels a bit probably like on the cusp of burnout. Mm-hmm. I think probably mid pandemic, end of pandemic when things were, were kind of there and there was a whole bunch of swirl going on.

Mm-hmm. I started to wonder like, am I doing the things I wanna do? Yeah. Which, which I think is part of the, I think I would just heard this term yesterday. This idea, we talk about the great resignation. I’m hearing the great rethink. Yeah. And so people who went through the pandemic are like, is this like, am I spending the time where I wanna spend the time?

Mm-hmm. And so I think that comes a little bit with burnout. I think there’s always a bit of a risk of, I I find it really hard to go to balance personal life and, and my family’s needs mm-hmm. With business when things get really busy. And and so I don’t, I, I don’t know if I can claim I’ve gone so far, but I know I’ve gotten to a point where I’m like, I just don’t know.

That I have the energy for [00:19:00] this anymore. Yeah. And taking a step back to rethink my priorities. Yeah. And, and it’s, yeah, go ahead. I was gonna say, it sounds like you got right up to that line and you had the awareness to say, I need to take a step back and just rethink, rebalance, reprioritize. A lot of business owners just blow, right.

They just blow. Right. By that point, they don’t even realize it’s happening. And it’s so hard. It’s so easy to do because. You know, we wanna do, I know this is something I’ve fallen into where I just try to do everything myself and get it done. Mm-hmm. And I’m trying to do everything at once. So, you know, I’m, I’m on social media mm-hmm.

And I’m trying to create a podcast and I’m trying to do some writing and I’m trying to actually serve the needs of my clients and. And you have to be. And and that’s actually why I did realize, no, I don’t have to do all of that. Mm-hmm. But I have, so cuz it’s, it’s not, you know, where, where am I gonna put my effort and energy that’s gonna have the biggest impact now.

Yeah. And maybe that can change as well. And maybe this is my focus for the next six months. So trying to be choiceful is difficult. Because [00:20:00] you wanna do everything as a business owner, that that’s our nature, I think, right? Is just to Yeah. Wanna do it all. That’s, that’s why we’re great entrepreneurs. But it’s, it that’s the biggest risk of burnout.

And I think I see burnout being a massive challenge for all, whether you’re in a corporate world or an entrepreneur, just because the workload seems substantial. Resources seem. Difficult and I think we really have started to think about our priorities a little bit. Absolutely. So Christie, how do you define success for yourself these days?

I think success means I’m doing the work that I love and helping people transform in a way that I know is meaningful, cuz that is the work I love. Mm-hmm. So, so, you know, I, I used to, I, I still kind of set financial goals for myself and I think it’s important, but I’m, but I actually have a statement that that’s written in front of me that talks about the things that look to be successful for me, which is I’m doing meaningful work.

Mm-hmm. And I am delivering value.[00:21:00] And I’ve had an impact on people. And so success is, is when someone kind of acknowledges. I, I love those aha moments and the training pieces I do, right, where someone’s like, I hadn’t thought of it that way, or that really changed the way I was doing it. That made it really easy.

Or someone will come back to me a few months later and say, yeah, I tried that and it really worked. Those are such powerful moments for me. So I think, you know, I as a, my friend’s got a, a son who’s just about to go off to college, in business school, and cuz he wants to make money is really what he’s saying now.

He’s, he’s 17, 18 years old. So I get that. And of course we all wanna make money. We need, but at the same time I’m like, but he should really be thinking about business for what does he want to do? Absolutely right. Because you’re gonna be you. Yes, money’s gonna make you happy, but so is it’s not gonna make you happy if you’re not doing what you love.

So, Christie, you there? Christie? This has been just a fantastic conversation, and as I’m wrapping this up though, I always ask this question of business owners. If you were going to [00:22:00] teach a class to future entrepreneurs, what is the one thing you would really want them to learn from your class?

I would want them to learn how to find the balance and. Let them sell and, and allow yourself to fail and recognize that’s a key part of success. You’re gonna invest money and time in things that have no impact and that’s okay. But I think a lot of people fear. Failure. Mm-hmm. And, and, and you have to absolutely balance it with, with reasonable risk.

Cuz I wouldn’t want anyone to mortgage their house to fail. Mm-hmm. But what are those small investments you can do? Because it also is easy to get into the do it all yourself, and then you don’t invest and you do get burnt out. Mm-hmm. And so recognizing that you can leverage others, that you, it’s okay just to invest your time and money in something that [00:23:00] doesn’t end up working out.

But, you know, give yourself some. Some leeway and some boundaries on that. That’s probably one of the best. Explanations of risk tolerance I’ve heard from a business owner. So that’s a really good, I’m gonna like ta I actually had a conversation last night about risk tolerance with one of my students, and I was like, how, what if this, what’s the worst that can happen if this goes really bad?

Like, or, and can you tolerate that because what she’s talking about doing is a lot. But yeah, that, that was really fantastic advice on, on the, that failing is a key part to success as well. Very important. Yeah. Thank you. Well, Christie, I have so enjoyed this conversation. I just wanna thank you for being on this show today and you know, where, where can people learn more about you, find more about you, you know, sign up for email newsletters, can you share some of that with us?

Yeah, probably the best way to find me is actually at my christie garrow dot. Calm website. Mm-hmm. Because that links to my, to Lighthouse Nine as well as to my book Truth [00:24:00] Warriors, which talks about conflict and decision making. So that would probably be the best place to, to explore further and of course, connect with me on LinkedIn’s also a great option, of course, and that is a wrap on this episode, but please subscribe to this podcast on your favorite podcasting app so that you don’t miss out on future conversations like this.

I’m Julie. B. And they don’t teach this in business school

recording stuff.