Jenni Catron is a leadership coach, author and speaker. Her passion is to lead well and to inspire, equip and encourage others to do the same. She speaks at conferences and churches nationwide, seeking to help others develop their leadership gifts and lead confidently in the different spheres of influence God has granted them. As Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group, she consults organizations on leadership, team culture and organizational health. Jenni is the author of several books including Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence and The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership. She loves a fabulous cup of tea, great books, learning the game of tennis and hiking with her husband. Jenni can be found on social media at @jennicatron and at www.get4sight.com.
Shantel: Hi, Jenni. Welcome to the Imagine More Podcast.
Jenni: Hi, Shantel. I'm glad to be with you today.
Shantel: Yes. Thank you so much for carving out the time. We're so excited to learn more about your company and your journey and how you got started. I know and I'm learning that that is such a loaded question sometimes, and so I'm trying to make it a little bit more bite sized. To kick things off, let's talk first about what and who The 4Sight Group is.
Shantel: Then we can get in a little bit of the past.
| A STRATEGIC BEGINNING |
Jenni: Awesome. Awesome. Well, yeah. I started The 4Sight Group about two years ago and my backstory and history comes from a lot of ... I'm just a strategic planner by nature, and I find that I'm wired to help people put feet to vision is my little catch phrase of give me the vision, I will help you build the plan. We launched The 4Sight Group two years ago really as a way to work alongside nonprofits, for-profits, the people who really have this big idea, big vision on their heart but sometimes get a little stuck in knowing how do I get this done, and even more importantly, how do I align a team to get this done? That's really where my expertise is is in that alignment of teams, the leadership element of leading teams and then putting the pieces together to create a plan that allows you to really accomplish the things you enjoy doing. In a nutshell, The 4Sight Group exists to help organizations build those strategic plan and align their team to accomplish that plan.
Shantel: Wow, that's great. I imagine, especially so many companies that are trying to get something off the ground, sometimes all of those pieces can seem so overwhelming. There's definitely a need,
Jenni: Oh, for sure and-
Shantel: ... For exactly what you're doing.
Jenni: Yeah. I am in this weird place of I'm an entrepreneur myself, and I'm helping entrepreneurs or other leaders move their visions forward. For most of us in that entrepreneur seat, you have such a big idea and big vision that you need to stay focused on, but there's a lot of detail and a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make that happen, and so that's often where we come alongside them in consulting and coaching capacities to help support leaders and organizations to accomplish their big goals.
Shantel: You probably helped guide people to not put on the blinders and not be distracted by shiny object syndrome of we could be doing this, we could be doing this that could really take away from the vision they may have articulated at the beginning.
Jenni: For sure. For sure. It's funny because we do the strategic stuff, but really it comes down to how well we're leading ourselves. I find that a lot of my work is helping whether it's the entrepreneur or the CEO or whatever leader at whatever level work through their own inhibitors and there's usually something that they're doing, some habit that they have that we have to lead through. It's really helping you lead through your own growth and then that results in the breakthroughs organizationally. I say I'm like an organizational psychologist just trying to help you unpack what is going on and what's going on with you that's inhibiting you from moving forward. It's a lot of fun. I love it.
Shantel: That's great. When did you start the company?
Jenni: We started at actually ... We're recording this in August. It was two years ago this month. I still feel like a baby entrepreneur even though I have two years under my belt. I'm starting to grow up a little bit but it still feels young. It still feels new to me.
Shantel: We're only five and a half years in and it still feels new now.
Jenni: All right. Good. I can pretend I'm still the young kid, right?
Shantel: Yeah. I wonder if everyone always has this ... Maybe until you hit the 10 year milestone. I don't know what the milestone is, but I do wonder if always you just have this I don't really know what I'm doing now either as it's grown. We're just going to figure it out along the way.
Jenni: Well, I actually wonder ... There's part of me that thinks that's probably a healthy place to be because it keeps you on your toes and it keeps you moving forward, feeling a bit like I still have a lot to figure out because as soon as we start to think we've arrived, I think that can actually be an unhealthy sign. Maybe it's good we still feel like we're young and figuring it out.
Shantel: I think so. That's what's we'll lean on today for sure.
Jenni: Right? Yeah. Exactly.
Shantel: You mentioned we as in have you started to build up a team?
Jenni: I have. I have little by little. That was really my vision for it. The work that I do I could just be a solopreneur and do my thing, but I have a real heart for building teams and working alongside a team. That's a big priority for me personally. We have a handful of consultants that it varies on how much time they give or how many clients they're working on. Some of them enjoy being more part-time. Some of them have other side projects. We have a handful of consultants or coaches that are doing different things for us. Then I have about three part-timers that help me administratively and marketing strategy for 4Sight. It's a small scrappy team, but it's fun and it's growing. I like we. I will pull together my team as quickly as I possibly can.
Shantel: I think that also gives you ... When you touched on part of what sets you apart in your company is that experience of how to align a team, and I imagine if you didn't have one, there's a certain level of credibility that you may not be able to check that box if you couldn't leave with, yes, I've had to lead a team and we're figuring this out internally as well and here is some best practices that we've learned along the way.
| STARTUP TO CORPORATE TO NONPROFIT |
Jenni: It's been so good for me because I worked in the corporate world. I worked in the nonprofit space. In both of those environments, I had pretty large teams. The nonprofit organizations that I led, I had over a hundred staff reporting to me. I've led big teams. I went to startup mode. For the first few months, it was just me. Then I started building my team. What I loved about the experience I've had is it's given me opportunity to lead really large teams and organizations, but then I've also been in that startup mode, too. I feel like it's equipped me to have perspective for some of the different clients we serve. I remember what it was like having a really large team and navigating the complexity of that and then the small scrappy team that everybody just pitches in and does whatever it takes to get it done. That experience has really I think benefited the clients that I work with.
Shantel: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I can imagine. You alluded to corporate and nonprofit background. Was it all in strategy and vision or how did that evolution come about?
Jenni: Yeah. I graduated college and I went to work at a record label in Nashville. That was my dream job as a kid. I wanted to be a record company CEO. At 13, I said, "This is the job I want." I was really privileged, also determined, to land an internship at a company in Nashville. Then that turned into a job and I was there for over nine years. It was a phenomenal experience. I worked for at the time it was the number one record company in the world. It was just a really great organization with a ton of opportunity and growing really rapidly, just very fast paced. Then I have the privilege of going and actually helping the church that I was working or attending in Nashville was growing very rapidly as well, and they needed somebody to come in and actually run the organization. Because in the church culture, the pastor is more of the person who is helping serve and support the congregation. But typically doesn't think like a CEO and have the business knowledge to know how to actually run the organization. That always feels a little weird that church has this business side, but there's a bunch of ... There's good, responsible, legal, financial things that need to be attended to. It was a big left turn for me, but gave me an opportunity to be a part of an organization that I really believed in and was excited about. I went over there and I served as executive director which would be equivalent to other nonprofit executive director type of roles where you're really managing the organization and the operational issues, the financial components, leading the staff team. I did that for nine years. I did nine years in the music business space and then nine years in the church executive director space. Just really great the different experiences in both of those.
Shantel: Wow. I imagine having those two different perspectives. Like you mentioned, it's just been really great in starting this, your company. Was there a tipping point at the organization that you've said, "Hey, it's my time to start something else," or what led to The 4Sight Group?
Jenni: Yeah ...
Shantel: What prompted this shift away from the position with the church and really encouraged you to start your own company?
Jenni: I think it was something that was just gradually building over time. While I was working, particularly at the church, I had started really developing a real passion for leadership and helping other leaders and organizations really carry out their mission. I was doing a lot of writing back when blogging was first taking off. I started blogging and blogging about what I was learning as I was leading in my context and found that there were a lot of other people curious and wanting to learn and people reaching out to say, "Jenni, would you help us through this," or, "Hey, would you come and speak at our event about this topic?” I had a lot of that stuff kind of bubbling up on the side. Eventually as I was finishing my role at the church, my husband and I just began talking about it and saying, "Should we start, should I start something myself where I can work with a lot of different organizations rather than just having one full time job with one place? Could I actually do this for a lot of different organizations," which really felt fun and life giving to me. That was really what prompted it, is I'd been building my influence and connections over the years and becoming kind of an expert in the space and my circles of influence. It just kind of evolved into saying, "Okay, I think now's the time to do this myself and see what happens."
Shantel: That's really exciting. One, do you remember that moment when you walked in and you said, "I'm leaving and I'm excited to pursue something else," or was it a good transition for both parties?
Shantel: Do you remember that moment when you look up and you're like, "Okay, I'm starting this today"?
Jenni: It's funny because I'm by nature an idea person and pretty optimistic and so as I was preparing for that transition, and it was a good transition with the organization I worked with, at the church I was working with. We knew over the course of many months that I was going to be moving on. That was a really healthy transition but at the time I was pursuing some other jobs and then I was considering starting my own thing. I was kind of between, "Okay, I have a few job opportunities over here, or do I start my own thing?” As I was transitioning out of the church, I kind of had this comfort level of, "Oh, there'll be something," but I do remember one of those first weeks that I was at home working from my dining room table going, "Oh my gosh, what have I done? It's just me." Remember, I had a team of 100 staff that I had just left and now it's just me sitting at my dining room table starting this thing and I'm like, "Ooh, okay. There's parts of this that sound really exciting and then this is totally terrifying.” Now the good news was my husband and I strategically downsized our house and he had his, we actually wanted to relocate to be closer to family. We were living in California in the San Francisco area at this time, but we strategically said no, we're actually going to just stay put while he has his job, he has insurance and all of those wonderful things and we're going to downsize into a smaller place. It took the pressure off of what I had to earn for the first year of my business and I think that was, as much as I felt like this, "Oh my gosh, here I am, I've got to make this work," we also had reduced some of the pressure so that it wasn't as, I think it could have been much more intense and much more overwhelming. We adjusted some of those things that gave me breathing room to just say, "Hey, let it grow and let it be what it's going to be.” I don't know if I, I probably went on a tangent around your question on that one but that's what I remember, was the, "Oh my goodness, here I am, I'm really doing this, am I crazy?"
Shantel: No, and I think no, not a tangent at all. That was really relevant and great. I appreciate you sharing. I think it's smart to even acknowledge that you guys had to make some changes personally to make this dream a reality and that was brave and makes a great team. Because you guys both came to terms that, "Some things we may not be able to move right now but in order to fulfill this we have to give it a shot.” Because you had been building up your network and blogging and starting to build up that influence, did you have customers to help kind of subsidize those bills in starting a company right away or did it take a little while to get your name out there and really understand how you wanted to position yourself in the market?
Jenni: It was a little bit of both and I had several speaking events lined up which were helpful. I didn't have any ongoing clients signed up, so ideally for me, it's like you want to get into a relationship with a client where I have a long term contract with them. That's ideally how we serve most of our clients, but I didn't have any of those when I, because to be respectful to the organization I was leaving I hadn't actively gone seeking those bigger long term client contracts. I had some speaking events and things like that booked and so that gave me a little bit of momentum. Then because I did have the network, as soon as I made the announcement about my transition then I did start getting the calls and some of the leads and began to build it from there. It wasn't overnight, especially when you're doing something like I'm doing which most of my work is higher ticket work. It's like you're engaging me for a longer term relationship and I'm coming alongside your team almost as an extra player helping an organization in a season. It's not an inexpensive, just like I have fewer clients with bigger contracts. That takes time to build the relationship where somebody feels comfortable in signing with you. Getting some of those bigger contracts definitely took time and I just had to be patient with it and just recognize I've got to keep building the relationships and nurturing those leads and really serving people well. Then ultimately those turned into the contracts that have now kept us moving and really have built the flywheel for us in doing the work that we do.
Shantel: That's great. You touched on, when you're saying we and the whole team behind you, it's a different model than I feel like I've heard of in the past where you're not just the solo, excuse me. It's like those dang summer colds.
Jenni: I was going to say that, yeah. No, it's all good.
Shantel: Okay, sorry about that. You're building a team essentially to help service this work and I feel like you don't hear of that model very often. Was there a company that you kind of wanted to emulate or you had heard of in the past that had a similar model that you've incorporated as your own? Or did this brainchild come from you and you're like, "I need to be always around the team?" I guess did you look up to anyone in the industry who was doing strategic planning and strategic vision and leadership?
Jenni: Yeah. I think probably the company that I looked to the most is Patrick Lencioni's group, The Table Group. Our work is probably similar to theirs in many respects in that they're working with organizations and helping them with team dynamics and so forth. They really work on the team chemistry piece and I kind of do that plus the strategic planning side of it, but I really did look at that organization as a model because Patrick is the, and he's just a really well respected author and New York Times bestseller, et cetera. He's a thought leader in that he's building the concepts, he's building the ideas and initially he did a lot of the consulting in his organization. Over time, he's built up a team of consultants who really, like he's more of the thought leader generating the ideas, doing the speaking and out in front and now he has a team of people who are consulting and working with organizations. Their organization is probably the one that I looked to the most to say, "I really want it to be more about a group of people rather than just about me. I felt like they have modeled that well. That's probably, there are a couple others here and there for different reasons but I would say The Table Group is probably the the one that I've the most closely looked at and admired and tried to model after.
Shantel: That's great. Can we talk a little bit about your team and aligning a team and also perhaps any advice you have for other leaders that maybe are struggling with getting the team on the same page? Do you have any tangible action items that you typically suggest that you wouldn't mind sharing. I know I don't want you to give away all your secret sauce.
Jenni: No, that's great.
Shantel: How do you align a team? What are some pieces that you typically start with if people are struggling?
| TEAM 1ST |
Jenni: I love the question because obviously my heartbeat. I think it's really important for all of us in however big or small our organization may be to recognize how critical a team is to the work that we do. I think the first step really is the recognition that we were better with other people. They can complement our weaknesses, they can bring different gifts and strengths to us, they can help us move faster. Even though you can do something doesn't mean you should do something. Oftentimes bringing somebody else around you who can take that piece away so you can really focus on the part of the business that you're the best at. I think just that recognition is starting point number one of a team is better than just being on my own. By and large, that is true for most of us. Secondly I would say giving time and attention to actually selecting your team members. I think this is where a lot of people just hurry and find the closest warm body who says yes because we so urgently, especially as entrepreneurs, by the time we're able to pay to hire somebody we're so eager to get it off of our plate that we're just like, "Who's here, who's available and yes, do it." I think being more intentional, to say, "What's important about my team? What do I want? This person's value, what kind of values do they need to embrace to be aligned with me, with our organization, with what we do?" Taking a little time to say, "What's really important to me and what do I want to mimic in this organization? How do we work with clients and customers? How do we handle our affairs?” Just whatever is really important to you and is part of the reason why you started your own business. Make sure you've defined the values that drove you to do what you and then look for people who will share those values. They will bring different skills. Skills are easy to identify. "I need a bookkeeper, okay, I'm going to go find somebody who has accounting experience and is qualified with the skills to do this function.” What makes or breaks a team in an organization is I can have a bookkeeper who is fabulous at her job but if she doesn't value the same things I value, we're going to be butting heads and we're going to be at odds. She's not going to serve clients in the same way that I would and there's going to be a disconnect in how we're working with our customers that eventually will derail us organizationally. The recognition that you need people around you and then secondly being intentional to hire them for not just their skill but for a shared sense of values would be the two things I think top of mind I would say are so critical to building a good team.
Shantel: I'm so glad you mentioned the values piece. The first few hires that we had, we got extremely lucky. I'm sure intrinsically maybe we weren't articulating or asking questions initially but we had a good sense of who. We did a great exercise that I really look back on and I love that we did this but we brought together the team and we said, "Okay, we are these things and we are not these things." We did this exercise to really hash out our core values so that they weren't just words that lived on the wall that meant nothing to us. From that conversation we have integrated them into everything, like partner and client facing, hiring, onboarding, firing, I mean everything that we do and we talk about. I think beforehand if anyone would have said, "Your core values as a company can make a big difference," I would have said, "What are you talking about," because I had always worked in previous companies, that they just lived on a wall. No one knew what they were, no one could say what they were without reading through them. I'm really glad that you touched on those values because the more and more I think about it and reflect, it's completely pivoted our business by just having those and living them out everyday and talking about them.
Jenni: It's so good. It really does make a difference. We know it when we feel it but being intentional to hire for it. Because there's so much more pain and financial loss when we have to terminate an employee or they quit and so if you can get the hire right at the front end and you're intentional with things like values, we talk a lot about character or competency or chemistry. Those are the three Cs of hiring, but a lot of times we'll feel like we have chemistry but we haven't really drilled down to understand why. Typically that will be within that understanding of values, so I love how you guys did that as a team, to say, "This is who we are, this is what we're about.” It sometimes has a couple layers. We could all say we value excellence but what do we mean by that? Then I'll say, "Okay, define the value, but then define the behavior that displays that value." Excellence to you might look like this but excellence to me might look like this. We even could say we share the same value but when we drill down to how do we behave in accordance with that value, it can help us find those nuances to say, "Is this person really going to be a great fit for the team? Are they really going to align with who we are and what we're about or not?" Then it helps you make better decisions about hiring. Then when you're that intentional with hiring, then you're going to have synergy within the team and that just creates momentum that makes a team unstoppable.
Shantel: I love the behavior piece.
Jenni: For sure.
Shantel: It's a good thing to even take it one layer deeper, so I'm glad that you mentioned that. Is there anything you wish you knew when you first got started? Because being an entrepreneur is a new journey for you. Is there anything looking back like, "No one told me this"?
Jenni: People tell you it. I wish that I believed it. I wish I believed that it takes time, it doesn't happen overnight, it is hard work, you're going to doubt yourself. All those things that I think people do try to tell you and if you read some of the books, it's there but I think all of us kind of think, at least I thought, "Oh, I've got a lot of experience under my belt, it's going to be fine." The reality is it is going to be sacrifice for the first few years. It's going to be hard. Not everything is going to go the way you expected it to even with the best laid plans. I think I would have really, I think it's the blessing and the curse of having more of an entrepreneurial mindset is there's an optimistic like, "I can do this," kind of attitude that even gives you the gumption to start something. While I think I'm saying I would want less of that, if I had less of that I don't think I would be an entrepreneur. I feel like it's a bit of a catch 22, right, that I'm like, "Well I wish I would have been more realistic in just what it's going to take and just knowing to be okay with that," but I think if I had seen all of that, maybe I wouldn't have been brave enough to start. I don't know, maybe I'm just justifying it for myself. I think the honesty of the hard and early days of entrepreneurship is something that's really helpful to know about and to talk about.
Shantel: Certainly. I was going to ask you if, I mean now looking back knowing that, would you have changed anything, though?
Jenni: No, I wouldn't. I probably would be a little less stressed.
Shantel: You've kind of answered that already, of like, "No."
Jenni: Now if I rewind a couple of years I think I'd be like, "Oh, you know what? Just chill out, it's going to be fine. Just stay after it, don't get distracted." I think that's the other thing too, is that if something doesn't just immediately take off it's really easy to second guess yourself. I think especially in my first year I did too many pivots too quickly if something just didn't feel like it was going crazy overnight, like just working like crazy, say a marketing thing or something. I think if I had known just to be more patient and give things more time, that things just need more time to help people get connected and to understand what you're doing and just be patient with that, I would say I wish I had known that or heeded that more. I think that's probably the thing I would say I would do over or do differently, is be more patient and not try to hurry through things or to pivot too quickly from things because sometimes it isn't a bad idea, it just needs more time. I have had a tendency to think something was a bad idea if it didn't just blow up overnight. That's probably what I would say, is just be more patient with the time it takes for something to catch on.
Shantel: That's a great perspective. I also think a piece of that is being self aware, though. You may have pivoted those times but it did get you to a place where you are today. Now looking back, you have that perspective of, "I probably could have waited on that but in the moment," I think that's a good perspective, to have the patience and it doesn't happen overnight and there's going to be hard days and hard months or challenging situations that you have to navigate as they pop up. No one will probably really articulate when you're first starting.
Jenni: Yeah, we would love that.
Shantel: Jenni, how can people get in touch with you and learn more about the 4Sight Group and get connected if they're interested?
Jenni: On social media I'm Jenni Catron, J-E-N-N-I C-A-T-R-O-N. You can find me on, now I've got your disease there, Shantel. I've caught it, right? It's so funny. I actually was just in Atlanta so maybe there's some allergy thing or something going on that I picked up there too.
Shantel: Oh geez, just coughing through the mic. I'm sorry.
Jenni: On social media I'm Jenni Catron, J-E-N-N-I C-A-T-R-O-N, and love to connect with people that way. It's just a fun way to stay in touch with one another. Then our website is get4sight.com. It's the word get, the number four, the word sight, dot com. You can check out what we're doing there and there's a ton of free articles and resources. There's a strategic planning workbook that you can go pick up in the resources section, just helpful things. There's a team building one on culture that might be really helpful for people. Check out that stuff and connect with us. We'd love to get to know you all better. I loved it. Thanks for having me.
Shantel: Thank you so much for being on the show and sharing wisdom on building great teams and strategic planning. We really appreciate it, Jenni.