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Erika Butler, Founder and CEO of Higher International Human Resources, joins Lisa in discussion on various aspects of leadership, team management, work-life balance, and the integration of family into professional life.

They emphasize the importance of effective communication, recognition, career development, and accountability in fostering a positive work environment. Erika shares insights from her experience and recommends focusing on key areas to drive employee engagement and satisfaction. Erika also provides practical tips for finding balance personally. Throughout the discussion, they underscore the value of continuous learning, mentorship, and personal growth as leaders.




Erika Butler

Erika Butler, SHRM-SCP, is the Founder and CEO of Higher International Human Resources, an HR consulting group committed to providing small to mid-size organizations best in class HR services.  At Higher International LLC, we embody the values of Quality, Trust and Results and have the privilege of working with organizations from the sciences, government, the service industry, fortune 500, non-profit and ministry-based organization, to name a few.

With 15+ years of HR, leadership and training experience, Erika is passionate about building thriving cultures and teams.  She also prioritizes instilling a desire for life-long learning and on-going career development within the organizations she supports.  From launching career development committees, mentor programs, high-potential development initiatives, leadership trainings, etc., training and development will continue to be a top priority for Erika and the organization.

At HIHR LLC, the team moto is ‘Go Higher!’, because we deeply believe in the positive impact and difference-maker of personal and professional growth that spills over to our families, our communities and the world.

For fun, Erika’s favorite hobbies are curling up at home with a good book and exploring the world with her husband and two children.

Show Notes


Lisa 0:00
Welcome to the Agency Balance Podcast. Today I am so excited to be joined by my friend, my peer, my colleague, my go to for any HR related advice for parenting advice, working mom advice. Today, I have Erika Butler here today she is the creator and CEO of hire. So welcome to the podcast. Erika, can you introduce yourself to our listeners who are so lucky to have you here today?

Erika 0:31
Well, wow, thank you, Lisa, for that lovely intro. Yes. So my name is Erika Butler. And we founded our organization, an HR consulting business, just over five years ago, we’ve been very fortunate to work with Lisa, Dave and the smart acre team for just over two ish years, two and a half years, something like that. And, you know, personally, I have two kiddos at 10, and six, and be married. We’re celebrating 15 years coming up in just a few weeks. So I think one of the reasons Lisa and I have connected so much is because we’re passionate about the work we do and the impact we make. But we’re so so passionate about being great moms and great, great family, women. And that’s a huge priority to us. So I love that agency balance covers that and very happy to be here today.

Lisa 1:19
Awesome. Thank you so so much. Congrats on almost 15 years of marriage.

Erika 1:24
Thank you. Thank you.

Lisa 1:25
That’s amazing, that’s awesome. Such a big deal. So worth celebrating.

Erika 1:31
I feel that yes, it’s, I can’t even believe it. I feel like we just got married, but we got married right out of school. And here we are 15 years later.

Lisa 1:38
Yeah, it’s awesome. Makes you feel a little old. But… Right? I know you do a lot of disc in your work. I am a D through and through. So we’re gonna get right into it. Today, we’re gonna get into our conversation and questions. So I know we talked about this quite a bit. Whenever you and I are connecting, we always tend to bring up our kids and talk about just being a working mom and what we’re going through it it’s so awesome. Just I think for others to be able to hear this. Because sometimes you can feel like, oh my gosh, am I the only one that is experiencing this right now? Or can someone else please just say “Same, I get you, I understand”? So tell me a little bit and tell our listeners a little bit about how you find that balance and being a working parent?

Erika 2:29
Oh, such a good question. So for me, I’ve only been doing this business, like I said, just over five years. And both my husband and I were working very full time jobs before that and traveling. And there were weeks, I was away from my kids, sometimes up to six days. And for us, it felt out of balance. It didn’t feel okay, it didn’t feel healthy. So we made a lot of changes a few years back and just believing it’s possible to have this life balance, which is, I think is the first step for us. But I think one of the biggest things that I learned the last few years is no one can be the wife of my husband, no one can fill that role. And no one can be the mother to my children. That is my role. So I can outsource cleaning, and sending Christmas cards with my messages and all these things. But the priority of our family, no one can fill those roles. But you whether you’re a husband, a wife, a mother, a father, a granddaughter, or whatever it is, you’re the only person that can do that. So I think one of the biggest lessons is outsourcing what takes energy from you, and what you don’t love in your life, and really focusing on what gives you energy and filling the roles that only you can fill.

Lisa 3:46
That’s amazing, such a good point and no pressure. But I think it does give you that perspective of just finding that balance. And for me personally, I boundaries are always something that I’m working on. And I think we talked about this actually during one of our last conversations where I was listening to a podcast and someone said one of their biggest life lessons was that no is a complete sentence. And I was like, oh, okay, I don’t have to explain why I need help in this area. Or I don’t have to explain to others why I have a cleaning lady or why my holiday cards are going out at the last minute. I’m finding that balance. I’m prioritizing the things I need to prioritize and I’m using that “no” as a complete sentence in ways that I need to protect my energy.

Erika 4:38
And Lisa to go off of that. If you don’t think Christmas cards one year or holiday cards, whatever you send, it’s okay. You know what I mean? Like what has to happen, what has to get done and I think not shaming ourselves not feeling guilty that we didn’t check every single box on our list there might be a year it doesn’t happen and that’s okay. You said yes to the right things in that season?

Lisa 5:01
Yeah, exactly. I do think, though, that that’s why it’s so important to have like for me to have my Erika and for others to have other people that they can talk to and just remind them of that, because we always put so much pressure on ourselves. I think especially as business owners as high achieving professionals that carries into how we parent, how we want to show up for our spouse, how we want to show up for our family. So sometimes it is nice to have that person that can talk to you like a friend, and then also have that person that can say back to you, you really need to be taking your own advice. It’s really okay for you to you know, do the things that you would tell a friend to do. And take that advice back for yourself. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done, right?

Erika 5:50
Yeah, I totally agree with you. And I think, apart from your own health and your own self care, which you cannot pour from an empty cup, I’ve learned that the hard way multiple times in my life, if my cup is empty, I cannot show up for my kids, for my spouse, for my parents for my business, the things that matter to me. And that is for me, the only thing I really protect fiercely. It’s my, my exercise, my health routines, what I need to feel well, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, I think that is a one thing that is just top top priority to be able to do the rest.

That is such a good point. And coming from an HR perspective, when we’ve rolled out work life balance policies, flexible work options, I think it can get missed that, you know, it could be singles, it could be, you know, really motivated professionals without children that chose for them. They didn’t want to have kids where they couldn’t have kids whatever reason. And I think they get put in his box, oh, well, you don’t have a family, you can work. They might have a hobby of skiing, or they have their parents might need them as the leader one thing. I’m so glad you made that point. Because it’s not just working moms we’re talking to its health for everyone and knowing your best yes and your best. No. And that is more than okay. And that is something that I always want to stand up for.

Lisa 8:06
Yeah, and you do; hire was born out of a passion to be able to have that balance and not just bring it to your employees, right, but to bring it to every business that you engage with. So tell tell us a little bit more about your philosophy on that.

Erika 8:22
Sure. So, you know, not to go on and on about this. But ever since I was in school, at least and I happened to go to the same school, amazing lot of people went to Penn State and PA, but um, it was it was on my heart. On my mind, I wanted to be a mom, I knew I wanted to be a mom. But I loved the field of human resources in business. And I just had this fire and passion. I really enjoyed it. So how am I going to do this? How I’m going to do both. So it turns out in HR, you can actually take courses in life balance, because there’s a lot of policies and programs and there’s a lot of facts backing up why this is good for business, why this drives the business into success. So I actually wrote my master’s thesis on this, and I did a ton of research of why, what is the business case for this. So in that, I got to bullet out a bunch of my full time work as an HR professional and every time Lisa, I don’t want to bore everyone here, but I’m talking the first time I actually had the chance to do this. I lead a business as the HR person with a, you know, I guess called the CEO or business leader with a fortune 500 organization, our turnover. We did this for one year, our turnover dropped in half from 14% to 7%. Our internal promotions doubled from 25% to 52%. Our employee engagement rose double digits. We lost nobody new employees in one year and every person who offered a job accepted it. And when I saw it in action, it’s the stuff I learned at school to see the impact. I was like wow, this really does work. And since I lived it out, and that was over a decade ago. I am such a believer of the business case why when you support people and trust your team, the right you know, the right team, the right performers, this really works. This just works. And it makes sense. And it will grow your business when you do it. Well. I believe it. I’m a true believer, but easier said than done, right? I mean, I think in a lot of ways, no matter what businesses want to make sure that they’re taking care of their people. But when you’re forced with the decisions of, well, how do we actually do this? How do we do this in a way that is financially responsible? How do we do this in a way? That’s fair? How do we do this in a way that’s sustainable? So what are some of the ways that you’ve seen success and actually bringing change to life? There’s a few things that must take place. So I’m so happy to ask that question. And this is why, you know, having a great HR partner or someone who just gets this piece in the business, a leader, you need to have fair and just policies in place. And they need to be well communicated and well documented, there needs to be a catch, because most people can handle this. But unfortunately, we might have a poor performer for whatever reason that cannot follow this, and then impacts the business in a negative way. So your policies, your procedures, the fairness, the way it’s rolled out, absolutely matters, it can really blow up in your face if it’s not done the right way. But it does work. But you need to be really thoughtful about how you go about it, the accountability around it. And you don’t want a couple people to ruin it for everyone. That’s not fair to the rest. But if you hold them accountable, you have a real path forward to make this work for your organization.

Lisa 11:37
That’s a great point. And one of the questions that I have is, as businesses make policy changes, how do you make sure that they’re truly working? And how often should a company be looking at adjusting things like that? I mean, I feel like from my perspective, we wouldn’t want to change policies every year or every few months, there needs to be consistency and education and trust. But things have been changing so fast in our world, how do you make sure that it is something that’s truly meeting the needs of your team?

Erika 12:11
So some of the key metrics that I shared earlier are going to be huge indicators for the business leaders? Is your turnover going up or down? That’s an indicator? is, do you do a survey yearly? What is the survey? Say? Is it going in a positive direction? Or negative? Are people getting promoted internally? Or are you having to keep recruiting for talent? Are they engaged? Are they growing? Right? If not, that’s an indicator that something’s missing on our team, because most people do want to grow and want to learn new things and be challenged. Then just as simple as focus groups, asking your team, what are they saying? What feedback are you getting? Are people taking your job? Are they going elsewhere, because the people interviewing are going to either be so inspiring and passionate, excited that a top talent will say yes, I want to join this team, or they’re going to go elsewhere. So these are key indicators, you can just literally look at monthly quarterly, and they’re gonna give you a green flag or a red flag if you’re doing this well or not attendance. That’s another big one. If you roll this out, and you start having major attendance problems, and there’s no accountability, big red flag, and this is an easy fix. It’s just putting that accountability in place fairly.

Lisa 13:17
Love it. I love data, I love metrics. So that Yep, that makes perfect sense. So HR is definitely part of this, right? I agree that having smart policies, having a good pulse on your team’s needs, and having a plan for that is a great way to promote balance. But what are some of the other aspects that even with your own team, that you make sure that as a leader, you’re, you’re demonstrating your preaching, you’re communicating to make sure that not only your team has the policies in place, but has the empowerment to feel good about taking time off or saying I just I need a break or saying that hard? No. Without explanation. What are some of the ways as a leader that you really try to promote that and demonstrate that?

Erika 14:08
Sure, a few things. So I think if we’re not role modeling it, and we’re not being vulnerable and honest, like my kids are sick today, so I have to move that meaning, then then your team is going to feel like they can’t, right? That’s just fact. So I think as leaders we need to live it and role model it also. And then I think allowing them to have the space to do it. I know we have a small team, there’s nine of us. So not everyone can do this, but we let our team tick off pretty much whenever they want. Because they are such a high performing team. I trust them, they get the results for their clients. They always follow through. They’re very motivated people. We built that team and we attract top talent because of that. So that’s the piece right attracting the right talent that can manage this and handle this. But the other piece is we cover for each other almost always we have a backup plan. Almost always we have two people on the account. So if one person is sick, or their kids are sick, or they have a family trip coming up, the other person steps in, we communicate, we have trust and respect. Almost anything is possible when you when you foster that, and I just, I thought it was possible. And five years later I know it’s possible. I’m 100% certain it’s possible.

Lisa 15:20
Yeah, and your team does do great work, I can speak to that, because we’ve had the opportunity to work together. So I truly agree. You’re also in a unique situation, because you don’t live in the US you live abroad, and you’ve changed time zones. And you still work with a team that is mainly U.S. based. So that that takes balance that takes navigating change, saying no, when you need to be with your family, when people might not even realize what time it is where you are. So how do you navigate that? What are some of your pro tips?

Erika 15:56
Yeah, it’s so funny, you say that, because when we open the business, I have literally thought we live in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in the Lehigh Valley, where my family is, from where I’m from, I thought we would be there forever. I thought I was in my forever house, I had no clue we would be moving abroad. We’ve been abroad three years, and you brought it up earlier, it’s boundaries is communication. It is, you know, setting your scheduling till your hours. And, you know, as long as you get back, and as long as you can give a few hours every day to meet to follow up and you have a strong team, it is possible. And I think believing it’s possible and having that mind to problem solve and figure it out as you go. Because to be honest, when I moved here, I was like, Okay, we’re supporting my husband’s career. I love this business. I want to make this happen for the rest of our life. Is this possible. But it’s the the team the communication, and saying yes to the right things and no to the right things. So it is possible, it’s definitely possible.

Lisa 16:52
It sure is you’re making it happen every day. And you’ve navigated a lot of change for your family, being able to move around and still maintain consistency. You communicate with your customer base, I think anyone that’s on the higher newsletter should be excited to see what Erika has backdrop is going to look like your videos, video messages that she sends out. Because no one would know that you’re moving all over the place, you have that consistency, yet, you still navigated a lot of change, which, as a parent, I can only imagine how hard it would be to keep everything afloat? While, not really knowing what your new house is going to be.

Erika 17:36
Well, Lisa, I have to add, and this is because since day one that we’ve met and help each other, I’ve been, we’ve been able to be super vulnerable. We’ve laughed together, I’ve cried in front of you all kinds of stuff. And we had space for that. And it’s such a beautiful thing. But we did awesome physics together still. And it is hard. I don’t want to like sometimes I’m posting on LinkedIn and be like, I learned this from Poland and this and that. But it is hard, I have moments of like, we lived on a bag for five months, we did not think that would be the case. And that was very hard. momming, a 10 year old and a six year old. However, what I have learned is we didn’t grow the business as fast then how would I My goal was to take great care of the current clients and the team. So I am in growth mode. And now that I’m settled, I’m back in growth mode. And we have a lot of goals we’re reaching out for, but I have to be okay that this is my current life, what I can do, and give myself kindness that we’re not going to grow as fast in the season because my family comes first. And they need to be settled. And that took a bit for someone you know, I’ve that DME to that disc, I’m an I, but I have that drive. And my second is D and I want to drive and get results. But you will in a few months you will so I’ve had to become okay with that. And it does work as long as you take good care of the people in your life now, which is possible, you might not grow. But I think that’s to know the season you’re in and be okay with that.

Lisa 19:00
Yeah, and just like balanced growth is one of those words that you can describe in so many different ways. And as a business owner, this is something myself and Dave and Jeff, my partners, we’ve really tried to communicate to our team, this might not have been a huge growth year in terms of our team size or revenue. But it has been a huge growth year and how we’ve been able to learn together, how many clients we’ve been able to support the type of work that we’ve done. And I that’s such an important message because you set realistic expectations. You had clear goals for the business and while it might not have looked on on paper, if you’re looking at your numbers, that it was a big growth year, but even for you as a leader, how you navigate that and what you learn from that. I am sure that you grew in that moment, because anytime that you’re challenged and accepting of that and being able to roll with the punches, you’re going to grow you’re going to take something away from that experience.

Erika 19:59
It’s so… I’m just like nodding my head with you, because what you’re saying is, so I just identify it with so much. And I want to give you one very tangible example that just happened last week. So we had our hire team meeting. And for me, it’s at night for the team. It’s an afternoon, my husband leads the finances, he has you both. He’s great in finance in general. And he was on a work trip, another dynamic piece of our life. There’s some travel, right? So he, he did this whole video for the team. And he said, we grew this year, and blah, blah, blah. But to be honest, because I’m gonna always be transparent, our revenue did not grow and, like grow early last year. But we had an awesome year. We had a good year, we were happy with our profits, we ran efficiently as a business. And I said, Well, Travis, that’s not true. We didn’t grow. Why are you telling the team I like literally asked him like, why are you trying to team and grew, we didn’t grow our revenue, he’s like we did grow. Because we ran better than ever. We ran and we had healthy margins. And we grew as a team, we got new business that was going well, we have a bright future. I think we you’re right, what you’re saying, it’s not always this top line revenue that comes and there’s a time for that. But there’s other parts of growth that you need to celebrate and give the team credit for it yourself credit for your you’re dead on. And I think we need to realize that and it helps us in our life balance, when we can feel good about that I’m celebrating this year, it was a great year.

Lisa 21:21
As you should be celebrating, it’s always worth celebrating, there’s always something to celebrate, to find the positivity in that. So I mean, we’ve kind of gotten into this, but I did want to hear more about your thoughts on helping business owners and as a business owner of finding that balance between people and profits. And I think like you said, having clear expectations, knowing what those what your goals are, what’s realistic, is a good way to help find that balance. But what are some of the other ways that especially as a CEO that you can look at? Okay, here’s what we need to do financially. And here’s how we take care of, of our team in a smaller organization. Because I am part of one I know that sometimes it does make it a little bit easier. But I can only imagine when you scale that when you grow that. And when you as a leader get a little bit further away from the people and you’re more just looking at the numbers, how that that can be really challenging to to balance it.

Erika 22:23
Such a good question. And I actually haven’t really thought about this. So what I have found, I’m just speaking from personal experience, it’s not profit or team, it, they just are so blended, they just go so hand in hand. Because when you have the right team, the profit grows and the profit is there, and you run a successful business. So what I have found is always pick the team always prioritize the team, but you can’t just give $5,000 bonuses to everyone and go broke, you can’t do that. But can you do a really heartfelt note and gift card? If the sales are down that year? What can you do that shows your team that you prioritize them care about them being creative? I will say in general, like I said, prioritize the team. But there might be a really rough year, it happens in major Fortune 100 organizations and small businesses, that you literally, you just lost some key clients, and you need to let some people go. And that is so hard. And it’s so oh, it just is not fun for anyone involved. But it’s the right thing for the business and for the majority of the team. And I have learned not to feel it’s sad. It’s hard. But it’s the right thing to ensure that business moves forward. And if you communicate that the right way, and your real relationships, you’re still putting the people first you’re being honest and transparent. The message is not always fun. But if this is the reality, I heard, I really liked this woman she her name is Christie Wright. And she’s part of the reason we’re able to start the business, a woman’s conference, she helps women start businesses years ago, I went. And she says if you if your business doesn’t have a profit, that’s a hobby. So if you want as many people to go with you as possible and have a future, you have to make those hard decisions. Sometimes it’s not personal, but you got to do it.

Lisa 24:11
Yeah, sometimes the best way that you can take care of your team is by being financially responsible, and how you communicate that how you make sure everyone knows these are the decisions that we’re making. This is the change that we’re making, because we want to take care of you, not just today, but into the future so that you’re consistently rewarded and have an opportunity to grow. For SmartAcre we had to make some policy changes this year. And it was challenging. It was daunting. We thought about every single possible angle, we thought about everything single possible person as a person and how changes would impact their lives. But when it came down to it, and we had to talk through this with the team, we wanted to make sure that it made sense for everyone, not just today but how we could continue to reward them 10 years from now, because we have team members that have been with us for 10 years, and we hope they’ll be with us for 10 more years, but if we can’t financially sustain the business or give them opportunities, of growth that scale with how we grow, it just doesn’t make sense. But it was it was very challenging as a business owner to have to. To find that balance this year between people and our profit.

Erika 25:26
Well, you hit the nail on the head is being financially responsible, that’s being a leader that’s giving a path forward. Either you have to let a few people go that you really care about or you go under as a business in a year, you know, like it, that’s what it comes down to sometimes, and we talk a lot about like loving our team loving our clients. Um, you know, it same with a company, if you’ve heard a Whole Foods most people have, I was so inspired years back a talk, I heard the leader of Whole Foods, they’re like, We just love our team. And we lead by love. Because love is a driving force. Love means you’re honest, you you get people honest feedback, you know, you get it, you get it. And we really tried to do this. And love could mean a termination. And you don’t just terminate someone out of the blue, you have the warnings up to it. But they’re not a they’re not making choices that are it’s hurting the rest of the team. And that’s love, even if they have a family, even if you do everything you can. But as a leader, you have to make those hard calls. And that’s a good leader. And that’s a loving leader.

Lisa 26:26
And I love that …it is. Yep, yeah, I love Brene Brown, I love her work. One of the things that she says about feedback is clear is kind, then when I read that line, and I don’t even know which one of her books it was, she might have even said it multiple, multiple places. But it just made so much sense because sometimes it feels a little icky to be super direct. But the more clear you can be the kinder it is because someone can take that feedback and just move forward. They don’t have to overthink it or be unsure of what you truly meant. So yeah, that I think that relates.

Erika 27:08
Well, going off of that in my 15 years or so plus of experience, I have found the hardest thing for even very senior leaders, seasoned senior leaders, we’re talking 30 plus years of leadership experience is the first warning, the final warning, the performance improvement plan that termination, losing sleep sick to their stomach, like physically ill because they don’t want to have this conversation, very seasoned leaders. So I just think people who don’t like this, leaders, they need to give themselves again, kindness and give themselves the benefit of the doubt, still the right thing to do doesn’t mean it’s easy. But this is what I see as one of the number one blocks of people of being an effective leader, the accountability piece, but how important it truly is.

Lisa 27:51
Yep, that’s a great point. So anyone listening, just remember, you can do hard things, you got this.

Erika 27:59
I heard one leaders say I was in this training, he’s like, I just don’t want to be the bad guy. I don’t want to be the jerk. I’m like, well, because you’re letting these two poison your team act like that you are being the jerk, jerk to the 10 other people that are suffering because of these two employees that are rude, that are late that are you know, I mean, when you think about it like that, it really flips your opinion about the actions that you need to take to be a good leader.

Lisa 28:23
That’s a great point. And sometimes it’s so helpful to have that perspective. And to be able to look back a few months later, after you make the hard decision, or you have the hard conversation and see your past employees are thriving. I I’ve never had a situation where we’ve had to part ways with someone and they’re struggling, we always look back. And it’s like, you make sense on both sides. Right? You might be really, really hard to understand in the moment, but then that change, sometimes you just need to let someone spread their wings and fly because they’re maybe just on the wrong seat. And sometimes they’re on the wrong seat on the wrong bus.

Erika 29:02
Don’t drag it out, do not drag it out. The sooner the better, sometimes with support with training, one tangible thing I know you and I like tangible things when we’re meeting and we’re just very tangible. And we’re like okay, action oriented, let’s make the change, do what we need to do that DNS that does DNS. So it’s funny because it’s actually with the ADA Americans Disabilities Act. But I actually think this mindset applies every day when you’re leading a team. So it’s this this profit versus employees first, right? Reasonable Accommodation is a term they use in the ADA. Is it reasonable to give your your team member A, B and C? Is that reasonable? Or is it an undue hardship, also something used by the ADA. And this is a good like testing thing. Ask yourself these things. Is it reasonable? Are they really taking advantage of attendance policy policy and hurting everyone else? Is it becoming an undue hardship? Is it hurting our team hurting your business? If the answer is yes, then there needs to be something that is done, there needs to be an action. So that’s kind of like a little test that I think can be helpful for leaders new to dealing with this kind of thing.

Lisa 30:08
I love that because I think one of the most important things is, as leaders, you have to like you said, you have to be able to react quickly and know when to make a judgment call, sometimes know when to have that hard line in the sand versus hoping that your gut whispers to you the right decision to make. But definitely, as a team at SmartAcre, this is one of the things that we are really trying to work on is how can we make sure that we are more time bound to when we recognize a change needs to make take place? And how can we make sure we have a clear decision tree of of why and the path forward. So it’s not so much, it becomes a little bit more process oriented, and managers are empowered to know, okay, that this has happened more than one time, I can’t just let it slide again, we have to make sure that we’re making a change so that it’s still working for the greater good of the entire team for the entire agency.

Erika 31:03
Many times it’s not just that like that performance issue with that employee. When you look at the engagement across the team, losing talented people, the cost is normally much greater than you realize in the day to day, if you really step back as a leader and think about the influence this individual has, it’s not a fit, if the cost is normally much greater with clients with sales with a lot of things. But going off of this least I had a handy just in case, but one that I love to read, as you know, we talked about this, I’m reading this book called The Diary of a CEO. It’s by Steven Bartlett, and he has led several companies, he has interviewed many people all around the world, like 1000s of successful leaders. And it just goes hand in hand what you and I are talking about, it talks about as a leader, one of your most important things is recruiting the right team. And those high performers and those high performers will not like or put up with a performance issue of courses or sickness or there’s something that’s one thing but like an actual person that’s not engaged, not not not adding to the results. And it’s just so fascinating, because I consider the most important job of someone like myself, like you, Lisa, like me, it’s recruiting, I bet a lot of my successes are finding these truly gifted people not settling for B and C players, but really going for the A players. It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people. So they tell us what to do. And taking it a step further. They literally make a machine. I know because I’m loving it because I’ve seen it in action in other companies, and they start hiring other A players, they protect the beautiful culture, you have the trust, the integrity that the results. And then I mean, it’s not it’s hard to interview for my team probably for years too, almost too hard. I’m like, okay, like, we’re being like a little tough here. But that’s why we keep getting a players because the players want to work with a players. And then it’s not even about me and my leadership, they fuel each other on, they love working together. And there’s beauty in that. And there is results in that it really works. And then they you don’t have to recruit, because you have a line of people that want to work for work with your team. It’s really amazing.

Lisa 33:08
You know, it’s so awesome that you bring up that book. And this was completely unplanned for anyone listening. But actually, Steven Bartlett, he spoke at Inbound this year, which is one of the big conferences for marketing and sales technology. So so many members of our team heard him on stage during one of the keynotes, it’s probably, I think you can still watch it if anyone wants to check it out, because Inbound did record a lot of their keynote sessions. And I agree he is brilliant, so inspiring. And we’ve taken a lot of his philosophies internally as well. I think one of the things that he said when determining when you need to make those decisions with team changes is he had a pretty simple formula. And I don’t know if he’s says this in the book, I’m gonna have to grab a copy. But it was very clear, is this person raising the bar? Are they basically maintaining the bar? Or are they lowering the bar, he’s he said, we want people that raise the bar. If anyone is lowering the bar, it’s an easy decision. If they’re just maintaining the bar, then we have to continue to think about ways that we can get everyone to rise above. But when you do have that culture of bar raisers. Oh, that is fun.

Erika 34:21
It just makes your job so much easier, because it’s already happening. And I literally learned, well, you know, because you work with several of our team members, I learned from them. And they in many ways are smarter than me and they leave like it’s so fun, because they always say, Oh, I work for your guy. I’m like, you work with me. Because they lead projects and I report to them on projects. I get several projects that I’m reporting to them because they’re better than me and many of the things that we’re trying to do, I don’t know how to make a website, and some of them do, thank goodness and you know, they carry us forward. It’s hiring those eight players and not settling for less for the beautiful impact you’re having as a company and the goals that you have set.

Lisa 34:58
I love that that could be an entirely separate Season Three agency balance, here we come. Bring it on. So I know we only have a few minutes left, I want to be mindful of your time. i One other thing I did want to touch on because we have this has come up in our previous conversations. And I think it’s so inspiring just how you bring your children into the fold of, of your career and working between how you include all all children in higher events and how you make sure that your children can see you working. So tell me a little bit more about how you find that balance between, “Okay, mom’s in a meeting, I gotta shut my door” versus “Come on in”.

Erika 35:42
I love that so much. There’s meetings I told my kids like, so I have a schedule that because of the European time, normally, my husband will cover one or two nights a week. And then I just, I’m in meetings, and I just told my kids in advance, this is a meeting you can come in, and this is when you can’t. And because they’re 10 and six that they were toddlers, they that probably wouldn’t be the case, but they get it. Anytime it’s a team meeting, they can pop in and say hello. And the team always welcomes them as I welcome their kids. But I think it’s the small and big things like we every every year, every summer we get together as a team. And the kids are always invited to our celebration. We have awards for the kids, we try to make it you know, fun for the kids and just that they are part of everything. The pictures all of that. I know I’ll just give you some specific examples. But sometimes you I don’t think you work with Jen. But she sends stuff to some team members just to mail things and her team, her kids always draw pictures. And she puts it in the mail. Sometimes it’s to Canada. Sometimes it’s South Carolina’s and I literally see emails across my desk, saying thank you to Maggie for that picture. And like the team, it’s just like a sweet thing.

Lisa 36:49
That’s so amazing!

Erika 36:51
Yeah, but even events, my kids will help me set up if I’m doing a training. And it works for them. They like like getting involved. And we’re not there yet. Because none of our kids are this age. But maybe I think there’s like eight or nine kids at this point across our team. And internships. Yes. mentorships. Yes, I think as they get to that age of one is now in high school, and a few of them are heading in that direction. But I just want to pull them in, I want to pour into them. And if they want to intern if they want to grow, I would love to give them that opportunity. So we’re not there yet. We’ll have to do season three or another season. But those are some of the ideas that I like to live out for the kids. And the parents.

Lisa 37:28
Yeah, that’s incredible. It’s, in my opinion, it’s so important for your kids to be able to recognize that you work you you’re smart, you’re it’s it just gives them a I think it can be inspiring, as long as you you know, bring them into the fold and help include them. So they don’t feel like okay, that’s such a hard boundary between mom’s at work, she can’t talk to me versus I get to see what she does. And that that microphone on her desk is kind of cool.

Erika 38:00
You know, I just to be super transparent, I think because I grew up with a wonderful mom a stay at home mom, she she worked until she had the third kid and then she was home with us. And I think I thought in my head, I couldn’t have both. And maybe that’s why I did my thesis on this. And I’m like, it’s not possible, but to see my kids ask questions and care and see that we’re there for them. But also we have this other thing going and we update them when it grows. And he’s like, they’re like, I can’t believe how much they want me to do it. I’ve literally asked him at times. Are you okay that mommy does these night meetings, are you? And they always say yes. And I said if they do say yes, I will read you know, I might have to still do it. But I would. But I can’t believe how much they’re cheering it on and how much I just wasn’t expecting that. So to me, that was a nice surprise.

Lisa 38:50
Yeah, I love that you’ve asked them for feedback on that. I think too, from from how Kent and I my husband how how we operate. When I have to do things for work that pull me away from my normal responsibilities as a mom, they my kids get really excited. They’re like, have daddy time, you know, it’s a special thing. So that’s often in the agency balance and on LinkedIn, I try really hard to talk about working parents, because I feel like I would not be able to be a great working mom, if I didn’t have the support my fellow working parent who his career also gives him a lot of flexibility without any stigma to be a co parent with me. Why I think policies you have to think about that you have to make sure that you’re not just giving leave for moms when when when you have a baby but parental leave and just being really open minded because I could not do it without my better half. It just would not work.

Erika 39:49
The dads miss out and I’m so happy you’re talking about this because I do think it might have been a cultural thing for a long time. I don’t know but the dads want to be there. My husband wants to be there. He doesn’t He does not want to miss anything. And I think it takes that partnership, right and his co parenting, and the more like he works in corporate America, and I’m so thankful he has a company that gets that and supports that. But not all companies do. They think, Oh, your wife’s not working or the spouse isn’t working. But I’m so glad you called this out. Because a lot it’s possible when you also Let the dads be a good dad and coach that team and have that it’s better for the families. It’s better for everyone. I think we’re all better employees, too, when we can really be there for our kids.

Lisa 40:30
100% Completely agree. All right, Erika, we’re getting down to the end of our time. I know we could keep talking for a very long time, but it’s late where you are. And we’ll just have to come back and do a few more recordings together. Is there anything else that you want to share with our audience before I go into this Zwikl sizzle of some random questions that you have no idea what they are?

Erika 40:53
Well, I like to always try to give value wherever we can. And I’m thinking this little comment hopefully will save companies small to midsize maybe money time, I have been part of 1000s and 1000s of employee surveys at this point, I’m small to big. And I’m not even kidding. Lisa, every time it’s the same three to four things and I just want to say, I always recommend surveys and focus groups. But if you didn’t have the budget, or the time or whatever, this is what you need to be focusing on communication, recognition, career development. And the fourth is accountability. I’m not kidding, I don’t know how this happens. You can’t make this up. Every time whether corporate America, small business, these are the things that are the trends. And these are the things that are lower sometimes in the rest. So if you don’t have the time, but you want to make things better, tell your team we’re working on these three things, these four things, and every month, pick something to improve it and your team, you’ll see engagement go up, you’ll see positive things happen. So hopefully that’s a time saver and a life hack as a leader that will help you.

Lisa 42:00
Always adding value. Thank you so much for that. Okay, here we go. We’re gonna go through just rapid fire questions. gut reaction, no wrong answer. So what’s one thing you go back and tell your younger self since I had the pleasure of growing up with you and knowing little Erika, what’s one thing that you’d go back and tell yourself 10 years ago, 20 years ago?

Erika 42:21
Don’t be so hard on myself. There’s always a path forward and it will work out.

Lisa 42:28
Love it. What’s one of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received?

Erika 42:34
That if you believe it’s possible, and you’re willing to put in the work, it is possible. If that’s your passion, and you have energy, you can go for it wherever you want to go for.

Lisa 42:46
Anything is possible, completely agree. What’s one thing that you do every week, every day as much as possible to find balance.

Erika 42:55
I’ve really tried to protect my exercise and moving it can be really hard. But I have my little running a routine outside. My little kettlebell thing. Not little I worked up to 55 pounds. I’m really proud of that.

Lisa 43:06
Holy moly.

Erika 43:07
Yeah, I just feel like it gives me energy and it makes me feel strong. And I really try to protect that.

Lisa 43:15
I love it so important. What are some of your sources for knowledge or inspiration?

Erika 43:21
So I am reading all the time. So like this book, by Steven Bartlett, I’ve read 1000s of books at this point. But also I love the Bible, I found a lot of wisdom in that. So reading, reading, reading, seeking wisdom, and I take it as mentorship. Just because we’re not meeting these people doesn’t mean there’s not wisdom in these books that we can apply to our life.

Lisa 43:44
Incredible, Erika, you are so awesome. I’m so proud of everything that you are doing for your business for yourself to protect your energy, the thought leadership that you’re putting out there, and the ways that you’ve helped SmartAcre grow and challenge ourselves and be better leaders for our team. So thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with our Agency Balance audience. I always always enjoy talking to you. It’s just so refreshing.

Erika 44:13
Well, I have to say right back to you, Lisa. I think what I have found what I think will sustain me for my life doing this is working with people like you, Lisa, that give me energy that have passion integrity, that’s do what they say they’re going to do. Not everyone is like that I found in business, right? And it’s finding your tribe, your people that you share the same value. So I cannot thank you enough for the wisdom you’ve imparted to me the last few years and how you’ve really helped shape our company, our marketing, all of that you guys are amazing.

Lisa 44:47
Aw…awesome. Well, more people need to benefit and hear your voice. So tell our listeners where they can find you.

Erika 44:54
Yep, so our website is, which is H I H R .com. So You can check us out there we have our blog. We’re also on LinkedIn we you can search us on LinkedIn and then I’m happy to take emails and follow up I love getting to know other organizations especially through SmartAcre. So you can reach me at EriKa with a K dot Butler at go G O H I Because we’re always trying to go higher together with our clients and our team.

Lisa 45:21
I love it. Awesome. All right. Erika, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.