Today, I am 70kft’s co-owner and principal of public relations and marketing. I have worked for some of the country’s strongest household brands. In 40 years, I have come a long way from my humble beginnings. My mother was one of 18 children and my formative years were spent in a farming community surrounded by loving and smart role models. Each one of them aspired to achieve great things and went on to secure one, two and in some cases three degrees.
While I adored and respected my maternal grandparents (Floyd and Gennora Reed), I often underestimated their guidance because of their limited education. But this couple, not unlike my business partner Gus and I, ran a business—an agricultural farm—managing 15 employees (aka children). They, too, dealt with a sometimes-volatile economy and serving customers in the face of an evolving competitive landscape.
By the time I became a young adult in the business world, I found myself reflecting on all they had said. Today, with nearly 20 years of business experience under my belt, I find their quotes playing as a repeating reel in my head as I go about my everyday life at 70kft and during business meetings. Who would’ve known their country wisdom would have so many business applications?
The rural, delta region of Eastern Arkansas where we lived was nicknamed stump city. I heard a lot of things that I didn’t understand back then but live by now. The following is how they apply to my everyday business life.
1. “Just do like I tell you” –
My grandfather would say this after one of his children had gone against a very specific piece of direction. He said it with such an adamant and throaty voice that it would strike fear in you. In fairness to him, it was usually direction he had repeated on an almost daily basis that some knucklehead had decided to ignore which led to an error that led to more time and effort being expended than necessary. Business application: Of course, I never say these words to anyone who works for us but I love the simplicity of the statement. I find myself thinking it when I see a team member making a mistake that was avoidable had they only followed directions. People are human and sometimes process does not exist and, accordingly, mistakes will happen. This is why our branding agency offers staff members at least monthly professional development sessions and quarterly performance reviews. Your ability to capture and learn from direction greatly improves if it is transparently and regularly provided to you. 70kft directors and managers strive to live up to our promise that review commentary should not represent a surprise.
2. “Sometimes, you gotta have some sense of your own” –
My grandmother would gently say this as a declaration or retort. It was typically her way of responding to her children conspicuously or inconspicuously seeking her advice, or relaying some “expert” advice they were given. Business Application: At first blush, it might appear as if number 2 and number 1 negate each other. That is not the case. Before you can lead others, you must first be capable of following. Accordingly, number 1 comes before you can flex your number 2 muscles. What I ask for all of my direct reports and their teams at 70kft is that they exercise critical and logical thinking. Some may consider this notion more synonymous with the word intuition and I’m fine with that.
3. "There is enough in this world that you don't know about to make a whole 'nother world”—
Wow, what a powerful statement. My grandmother would say this to ground all family members in reality. She had a way of seeing when you were getting to “big for your britches” and thought you knew everything. Business Application: Since I was a 20-something in my first professional roles, I have been saying, “know what you don’t know.” I thought it was an Audrey original but now I know my famed statement is founded very much in my grandmother’s sage words. Truth of the matter is that professionals, no matter their age or practice area, require ongoing education to perform at their best and offer clients the best counsel. At our integrated brand communications agency, 70kft, we support that need by providing every team member with an annual allowance for ongoing education. You’re never going to learn everything there is to know but please be intellectually curious enough to demonstrate a desire to learn more.
4. "A little will tell you what a heap will do"—
My grandmother would drop this little gem once someone showed you their true colors or her gut instinct was to steer clear of someone. Business Application: This little proverb definitely speaks of business partners whether they be clients or vendors. I have found that people show me who they truly are very early in the relationship. Regardless of whether you encounter someone at one company or vendor and then years later your paths cross again, you should remember how they treated you the first time around. That also speaks to the fact that the world, in reality, is small. In fact, 95 percent of 70kft new business is the result of current or past client referral. I believe this directly relates to the fact that we treat each client project—small or large—with the same level of strategic thought and creativity.
5. "Sometimes you have to feed people with a long-handle spoon"—
Similar to number 4 this was my grandfather’s way of saying exercise caution.You can help and train people but beware of the dangers associated with someone who has shown their true colors. Business Application: 70kft has learned this by way of working with different business associates. As the agency grew, Gus and I partnered with some other small agencies and contractors. We learned a wealth of hard lessons. We had startup client skip out on bills and contracts. We witnessed people not caring as much about quality or client care as we did. All were hard lessons but prepared us for the next chapter of our business maturity. This led us to working with tighter contracts and one of the top law firms in Dallas to protect our interests. Additionally, 70kft became more selective about our client partners. This led to the growth we have achieved today and the success in a best-teams approach.
6. "Your family will be there when no one else is"—
This is beyond true! Times are hard and in this life you have only a select group of people on which you can count. Business Application: The 70kft team is a family. Just as with my grandparents’ farm, we work day and night sometimes but we don’t mind because the harvest is great and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished. The relations formed working in the trenches on client accounts will last a lifetime. Some of my colleagues from my days in public relations at Edelman and Golin Harris more than a decade ago, are still dear to my heart. That’s why 70kft hires with intellect, discipline prowess and cultural fit in mind. Knowing that you spend more time with your co-workers than your loved ones, we strive for a drama-free environment. That part might be different from your family but we aim high.
I know my grandparents would be proud of how I have taken their everyday, country wisdom and used it to keep a sassy, Dallas businesswoman grounded. I may not be in the country anymore but it is certainly deep within me and I am proud of that.