Coffee Break with Liz Hunt

/ creatives / entrepreneurs / leaders / students /


I like to think about my fight with fear in Sumo wrestler terms. You keep pushing and pushing and pushing-- you hit your fear head on until you knocked it out of the ring. And then you own that ring.

Liz Hunt is the owner and founder of Daycloud Studios in Omaha, Nebraska. She joins us to share her journey from solo practitioner to girl boss.

I like to think about my fight with fear in kind of those terms, the Sumo wrestler terms, where it's like you keep pushing and pushing and pushing, you hit your fear head on until you knocked it out of the ring. And then you own that ring.
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Daycloud Studios is a brand strategy and creative agency that designs, builds, and operates transformative experiences.


Transcript

Liz Hunt
And so I like to think about my fight with fear in kind of those terms, the Sumo wrestler terms, where it's like you keep pushing and pushing and pushing, you hit your fear head on until you knocked it out of the ring. And then you own that ring.

Simon Yost
Well, you and I have known each other for quite a while now, and since we've known each other, you've gone from being a designer at, at an enterprise to a solo freelancer to now the boss lady and you have a team and all that stuff like what's that like?

Liz Hunt
Yeah. So it's been, it's been really good. I love the team. They're awesome. Awesome people. A lot of them, I got them right out of college, which is good and bad. But yeah, so we're going strong, you know, it's, it's good.

Simon Yost
So let's dive into that part first, cause that's really interesting to me. So there's things that you can learn through not just academia, right? But like if you, some, some folks are gonna learn through a degree program. Some folks might re-skill online, some folks might do some self pay stuff wherever you come from, there's some things that you can only learn by interacting with other people. And so kind of, as a, as an example of that, you having some folks work for you fresh out of college, what was that like for them and for you and how did that work?

Liz Hunt
Wow. While it's a lot more work for me, if I'm being honest but I also really enjoy you know, I'm a developer, I don't know gout strengths if you're into that, but developers in my top five. And so kind of being a teacher around things is one of my strengths. And so I don't, I don't dislike that. So it can be really fun because I think, you know, I get to train them in the way that I want them to work and I get to train them in the day club processes. And you know, how I want files set up, you know, even just like down to the nitty gritty things that, you know, I think in the long run create a lot of efficiencies, you know? I get to train them on that kind of stuff. So that's in that regard, you know, I think that that's, it's a really good thing to have them fresh out of college.

Liz Hunt
Cause you can train them on how you want them to go. As opposed to, you know, there are other things when, you know, I've hired other people that have come from other companies and you know, I just it hasn't always been the best experience. There are some obviously who are awesome people, you know, some who still work with us that are super awesome. I love them. And they do a great job and they've, they've molded well to our culture and our processes, but then there have been others who, you know, frankly, the agency life and the agency world is just a little bit too much of a culture shock for them. And so they didn't know how to handle it. They didn't know how to keep up with fast pace and they didn't know how to manage themselves around clients. You know, I've had some people who I hired who worked like in house.

Liz Hunt
And so they just didn't understand that subtle nuances of managing and working with clients as much, you know, as opposed to working with coworkers. Cause that's a totally different thing. You know, I've done it a lot, hiring people that are fresh out of college. And so in the long run, I do think it it's better for me. I really love the energy that they bring when they're fresh out of college. You know, they come with kinda like stars in their eyes and like dreams in their hearts. You know, it's kind of that attitude, you know? And so like it's their first job and they really want to do a good job and they're enthusiastic and energetic and all these things. And so I really, I really love that. So that's another reason I like to hire right out of college is because they bring that kind of stuff to the table.

Simon Yost
Yeah. And maybe then that energy can be used to craft some intentional work flows and interactions. Some of us learned with unintentional light and we just were kind of like in an environment where it was all synchronous, there was no asynchronous, the printer was some of the first folks to see our file names, right. Like from there, I guess what I'm getting at is that the only real way that place that we had to jump into with our kind of from school passion was here's the work I want to do. You have this passion, you have this energy, what do you do with it? So you talked about that. A lot of your folks have that. How do you kind of harness that? Or what do you do with that?

Liz Hunt
Ah, you know, like I want my people to be happy at their jobs. That's something, you know I worked at Gallup actually that was my first like design job was at Gallup and they know a lot about managing people and managing employees. And so a lot of the, you know, the time that I spent working there, I picked up on a lot of their science, you know, I listened and heard a lot of the science about how you help your employees perform better. And one of the best ways to do that is to make sure that they're happy and that they are doing what they do best every day. And so that's, that's really what I try to do is like those, those pieces that they are really passionate about, I try to create opportunities in their roles that allow them to work on those, that passion in them.

Liz Hunt
And so everybody, you know, like all of our designers, our, our designers do everything from web design to branding, to print design, you know, they have a whole wide range of things that they do. And one of my designers from the moment I met him, he's always talked about how he wanted to do more animation, more motion graphics and things like that. And so I try to like create projects or even like sell to clients like ideas for motion graphic projects, because I know that that's something he wants to do. And so that's, that's what I try to do is I try to help create environments where they can follow that passion.

Simon Yost
So environments, you know, in your world is pretty multifaceted. It's you just mentioned kind of the, when you sell and stuff. I mean, that's the, the, some of the biggest space you have to inhabit and then there's all these other collaboration, nooks and crannies. You talked about having the right seats on the bus, in your seat, on the bus, you have a huge facilitation role, not only creating a kind of, a lot of the ethos for the company, but also directing what you're selling into, as you just mentioned. And other types of space that are eventually used to collaborate to deliver the work. What are some of the principles or the things you aspire to while creating that space? How do you think about, and keep your team and collaboration in mind when you're creating that space?

Liz Hunt
Yeah. So whenever I'm like thinking about the types of projects, you know, that we're going to be doing as a team, I think one of the things I always think about is what are our strengths, you know, as a team, what does Brooke have that really works well with what Ross has that really works well with what Andrew has, you know, like I try to really think about, okay, how can we take everybody's strengths and put them in a room together to work on this specific problem that a client has brought to us? You know? And so how do we create solutions as a team while one of the best ways to do it is to make sure that we're all playing to our strengths. And so what I do is kind of like what you said, like I try to facilitate where people are at in their own career strength and even just like personal growth as humans.

Liz Hunt
You know, I take all that into consideration whenever I'm picking and choosing one, the projects that we go after and the projects that we, you know, sign up form and to who should be on those specific projects, you know, because I have two different designers, well, one designer is really good at this kind of stuff. And the other designers really good at this kind of stuff. Maybe one designer likes a little more structure and this one really likes a lot more freedom, you know? And so I try to you know, whenever we projects come in, it's, it's usually about, okay, this person is going to work really well on this type of project. That probably the key principle to building on top of that, which would things like working together and creating together and doing projects together, you know?

Simon Yost
So once upon a time you maybe even haphazardly made a decision from just kind of being responsible for yourself and your output as a sole practitioner, to being responsible for collaboration and to delivering together for a client. What did that feel like to kind of cross over that plane of my responsibility is to the work and the client versus my responsibility is now to other humans.

Liz Hunt
Hmm. Well it started with a lot of alcohol soundbite. That's how we're going to start the whole pot. You know, it, honestly it happened so organically that it kind of like happened. And then I think like a year later my mental state got there, you know, like it was like kind of happening already. And then, and then I kind of like had this light bulb of like, Oh, I'm in charge. And not just of, like you said, me and the client and the work that I'm producing, but I'm actually also in charge of her, you know, or him, you know, and like making sure that they are producing the type of work that I want us to produce, but also that the client is happy with, you know? So it took me a while. I'm not going to lie. I'm, you know, I wouldn't consider myself like a natural take charge person.

Liz Hunt
That's not really who I am. I'm fine. You know, just kind of like, well, I used to be fine. I'm not anymore. Cause I've gotten used to it. But like it took me a while, like probably a good solid two years to really get comfortable with like, okay, we're showing up to client meetings and I'm supposed to be in charge of handling this meeting. You know, that was a big change in my life because prior to that, I was always an employee and somebody else always handle all the meetings and somebody else always facilitated that stuff. And so I'm not gonna lie. Like there were a lot, there was a lot of anxiety and a lot of tears and a lot of sweating after like I would yeah. Leave meetings, sweaty and shaking and stuff. But it's one of those things where like, you just face your fears head on day after, day after, day after day, and then eventually like they shut off, you know you faced it for so long that it doesn't scare you anymore.

Liz Hunt
And so now I've gotten to the place where it's pretty easy for me to help facilitate those things because, you know, I guess in a way, like I'm not thinking about what I'm doing other than how I am empowering my people or what I can do to hook them up, to get them to the place that I know a client wants and to get them to the place, like I said earlier, that even they would want, you know, and so really it's just about teaching softly, you know, and asking questions. That's a big part of what I do is, you know I just try to ask questions. Why did you decide to, you know, design it that way, as opposed to something like this, tell me that information. And then it's like, okay, what if we tried something like this? What do you think about that?

Liz Hunt
You know, and so like, that's a really, really good way to work in collaboration is just asking questions, you know, and, you know, I have my ways of thinking and doing things, but I purposely hire people that don't think and operate like I do so that I can ask them questions and so that I can learn and grow from them. I think that's a big part of kind of learning to collaborate with people too, is like a, always having that mutual respect for each other. And then out of that respect, that's how you operate, you operate out of that respect in the way of like, they think differently than I do. They have different perspectives than I do. And because of that, part of my role is just to ask questions.

Simon Yost
It might be too soon, but how have the questions specifically kind of morphed or changed or been reproduced asynchronously or on Slack, those kinds of things, since you are not in the same room any longer,

Liz Hunt
You know, that's a good question. So yeah, we do, we do it a lot over Slack, but I think tone of voice makes such a big difference, you know, especially like I'm, I'm aware that I'm the boss. And so like, I don't want to come off, like I'm telling them what to do because that's not, I don't think that's healthy. I think it's healthy for us to work together on something, you know, instead of me just saying, Hey, I want you to do it like this, you know, is every once in a while, there's a time and a place where something like that, because I know something more about a project than they do. But oftentimes it's, Hey, let's work together and you know, how are you working on this? Or how is that going? Or what are you thinking? You know? And so honestly, a lot of that has to be done over like zoom and stuff, because, you know, like it's helpful if I can look at the artwork with them and explain my thoughts and then they can, you know, we're looking at the same thing and we can talk about all the same things, you know?

Liz Hunt
Also fresh that there might not be a lot of patents around it yet, but it sounds like what you're saying is there's types of communication that can happen one way. And there's other types of communication that could happen in another way. How do you try to differentiate? Oh yeah. So how do I, I know exactly like if I had an example, I would know exactly what like, which one to do. I'm trying to think of like,

Simon Yost
So it sounded like design reviews, you just mentioned kind of like a review of a draft of artwork or something.

Liz Hunt
If what I want them to do is very clear, like, Hey, change this font to this, you know, that is like a really easy thing to say over Slack, Hey, I want to use this font for this thing, you know, or, Hey, move that line. So many pixels up, you know, that's, that kind of stuff is like, it's very clear if there's a lot of clarity around what I'm saying. Now, if I'm saying, Hey, I want to create more hierarchy on the page. Could we try this? Or could we do this? Or, you know, if, if there's any like ambiguity in the directive at all, or in the review at all, then that's when I think it needs to be a conversation because I want their feedback to when I'm giving them feedback, I'm asking them for feedback as well. Like, Hey, I think, I think we should try this. What are you, what do you think? You know? And so like, I want to have a conversation around what we're talking about rather than, you know, them just doing something like a minor little text change or something that's a really clear,

Simon Yost
So kind of realigning versus dialing in like sometimes dialing in is easier to do asynchronously realigning might be more challenging needs some face to face or zoom to zoom. Yeah,

Liz Hunt
Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. So, yeah,

Simon Yost
At what, this is a random question, but at what point of the day, maybe how many hours into the Workday do you wish that you could not ever zoom again?

Liz Hunt
For me it's like, well, honestly I really enjoy doing it this way. Even more so than doing things in person,

Simon Yost
I guess you gotta be around your, your dog.

Liz Hunt
Yeah. And I think, you know, I don't know. I feel like I look better on zoom than I do it in real life. I've got the, like I've got that button clicked that says, like, make me prettier. So, you know, that's helpful

Simon Yost
Somebody yesterday on a meeting because on the, on the desktop version of zoom, now you do video backgrounds and they had imported all their vacation footage for their most recent, like tropical vacation. And so it was like back and forth between like these landscape, you know Palm trees and sunsets, and then like really shaky video of lizards and stuff. And it's just like, she was like, Oh, that sunset. And there's like, you know, like lizard shaky, iPhone cam, you know, like tried to follow.

Liz Hunt
Oh, that's so funny. I love it. Yeah. I love what you do videos too. It's cool.

Simon Yost
So it's easy. It's easy to, for people to paint a picture and we wanted to get practical. Right. So for folks that work in the creative agency world, I think a lot of this is going to hit home and be really helpful. There's other folks that are listening and like, I have never touched a, you know, I've never designed a graphic. I don't do creative agency. So for those folks, it's like, you know, they're, they're used to more organic collaboration. Maybe it's trying to figure out how to bake brownies together. Something like that. And one example I saw recently in st. Louis was a group called the red and black brass band. And they are a hodgepodge group of folks. I think there's about six of them and they somewhat randomly go through the city day to day. You can like donate on Venmo and they just play some stuff.

Simon Yost
The leaders from new Orleans and he, and he, the vibe is kind of like, I'm bringing this like marching band thing for girls. Anyway. They came to our street yesterday and it's pretty, it just like brighten everybody's day. And, and it was just kinda cool, like how that band came together. I don't think it was just for COVID, but you know, they've been much more active since the checks are in place. And so just as that example of kind of like not bread and butter collaboration kind of off the beaten path, like what are some ways that either you've collaborated in kind of off the beaten pathways or you've seen it recently that just have really made you smile?

Liz Hunt
So I actually sing in a band currently and it's it's for my church, but like at our campus, it's a pretty small team and well, small, there's probably about 20 people. So you know, and there's a lot of we're, we're kind of like a non traditional music type of team. And so a lot of like contemporary types of stuff. So we have electric guitars and acoustic and keys and drums and all that stuff, you know? Yeah, yes. And a violin and cello, if you can believe it. Yeah. So, you know, and I'm, I'm one of the leaders, there's three of us, but I'm one of the leaders that are in charge of this team, you know, and honestly the principles that I've kind of talked about already, I think, are similar or the same, where one, you always have to start with mutual respect of each other.

Liz Hunt
You know, this, this idea of not being judgmental about people's talents or people's opinions or people's perspectives, things like that, you know, like you can't be judgmental about somebody having differences in opinions of yours, of opinions in yours or yours. I can't, I don't know how to say that phrase, but you know what I mean? Like when they don't agree with you on things, you know, and I think that, you know, even in those moments when it's like, okay, this person thinks this, and this person thinks this and this person thinks something totally different. I'm like off the wall, you know part of my role is still facilitating all of that, you know? And so in those moments, when I'm like trying to help my teammates come together to create beautiful music, one, it's my role to like make decisions, you know, I can't be a doormat and just let everybody do whatever they want, but I also want to make sure that everybody feels like they have a voice on the team and that I value their opinions because I truly do.

Liz Hunt
And, you know, like sometimes the best ideas come from the least experienced, you know? But also sometimes they don't, you know, like, and unlike sometimes all the ideas are terrible and you can't do a single one of them, you know? And so it really is about kind of navigating those moments where you can say, Oh, that's an interesting idea. You know, like it's, it's kind of the idea of you know, in theater during, in like improv, it's always like, you know, the whole concept is you say yes and, you know, and so I think whenever you're trying to create solutions one of the first steps as a team is to allow brainstorming moments in, in that, you know, in an environment where there's no judgment and whenever you're brainstorming, I believe in not editing your brainstorms so that you can just create and like think, and then you can say, you know, somebody has an idea and I know that it's not fully formed yet.

Liz Hunt
Or like, like we could probably use like 20% of their idea and then the rest would have to get rid of, you know, instead of saying, well, I don't know about that. Like I would say, Oh yeah. And we could try it like this, you know, or what if we like this? You know? And so I think, you know, it's my job as the facilitator of all those opinions and ideas and, and solutions to navigate through, you know, like how do we all get to the same goal together? It's my job to make sure that we're all on track for the same goal, but then it's also my job to take care of the team while we're doing all of that. And so in that time, what I do is I try as much as possible to do the yeah, and we could do this, or like something like this could work really well. That's a great idea, but what if we morphed it into duh, duh, duh, you know, or whatever it is. So I think it's a lot of like using positive language, creating an environment where people feel like they have a voice, because I just think that that is like such a key thing when you're on a team. And I think it's especially true of the person who is ultimately in charge, whoever the leader is in that group, it's their primary job to make their people feel like they're empowered.

Simon Yost
One of the other things that came to mind you've used the, the term or the phrase several times, the people having a voice and correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you'd categorize yourself as an introvert. Oh yeah. A little bit introvert and a high functioning introvert. And so talk about what it looks like to give people a voice as an introvert, because I think when you say that to extroverts, it's like this idea that kind of like this attention thing, like right. If, if an extrovert is going to be given, given a voice and quotes, it's like, I'm going to recognize them because there's already stream of consciousness that's coming out of their mouth. You know what I mean? But if I, if I, as a leader, need to try to help facilitate a introvert, having a voice, I mean, that might even be that I need to try to help pause the stream of consciousness from an extrovert and, and give the introverts some space. How has that happened,

Liz Hunt
Basically, exactly. Like what you just said, I make a point to call them by name and say, Ross, what do you think of this? You know, and I always try to be aware of like, in our brainstorming sessions or in our team, you know, conversations, I always try to take note of who's talking and who's not. And then I always specifically ask the person who's not talking, you know, because I am an introvert. I'm aware of those things, you know? And so I specifically say, Ross, what do you think? And then a lot of times they'll say, I don't know, probably the first four times you ask them, but then maybe the fifth time they finally come in with their opinion, or they finally come in with like, well, I think we should just do it like this. And then I'm like, great idea. Let's do that. You know? So like, it really is about taking, taking the time for them because, you know, as an introvert, I know that sometimes it takes us a while to like process through our thoughts and like process through, you know, the information that's coming at us, you know? And so I try to make sure that when I am giving them a voice, I'm actually taking time to allow them to speak. You know,

Simon Yost
Maybe last question is a lot of this that we're talking about, takes a little bit of courage and courage is something that doesn't come easily or cheaply. If somebody listened to this and it's like, I, I would, all, this is interesting, but you know, I have a courage shortage or have a courage problem. How would you

Liz Hunt
Yeah. Speak to that. That is a good question. I have many, many layers of things that I could talk about for courage because I am intimately I'm intimately aware of fear. Like I know what fear feels like. So the first thing I would say is that I am a person of faith and I believe that God always has my back and that I can be confident in my faith because I know that he's going to give me everything that I need to walk out my day. You know? The other thing that I would say is kind of what I said earlier, which is, so have you ever seen Sumo wrestlers fight? Okay. So the whole concept is that their inner ring, right? There's like this circle on the ground chock or something. And then, you know, they were the cool outfits that covered nothing. And then they, the whole idea is that they like attack each other head on, you know, like shoulder to shoulder and the, like the goal is to push the other person out of the ring, you know? And so I like to think about my fight with fear in kind of those terms, the Sumo wrestler terms, where it's like you keep pushing and pushing and pushing, you hit your fear head on until you knocked it out of the ring and then you own that ring. So what I say,

Simon Yost
I feel like I'd tell that analogy. If we were going to start off with, you know, the podcast with it all started with alcohol, but I think the Sumo wrestling analogy just bumped it.

Liz Hunt
I actually wrote a whole talk around fear because I do some like teaching it, like I do some like afterschool programs for girls at middle schools around town and I'll go and like talk to them. And one of my presentations is all about fear. And so, yeah. Yeah. And that's, that's kinda how I think about fears facing your home. Oh,

Simon Yost
Man. Talk about something that's apropos today. And I mean, probably somewhat timeless, but man people really like to act like fear doesn't exist sometimes. And it's like, we're either gripped by it or it's

Liz Hunt
Kind of one of those things. I think that it can, it can like veil itself in like wisdom or being smart or whatever. When actually you're just scared or actually you're just, you know, you're just afraid. And I think that it's, it would behoove us to just be self aware at least like call it what it is, you know? And honestly that's half the battle is like recognizing it, like saying that's fear inside of me. And once you know that that's when you can jump in that ring and face it, head on.

Author Bio

Liz Hunt
Liz Hunt

Founder of Daycloud Studios