{CBB 25} 2017 AMTA Conference Recap & Highlights

CBB 25 Episode Cover

Wowzers! I feel like the month of November came and went in the blink of an eye! Rachel and I were talking before recording the podcast the other day and honestly think this may have been our busiest month since moving into our new building. We have had all of the pots simmering at the same time! We’ve been so busy, but with the most incredible projects!

One of the big things we were focused on in November was attending our national Music Therapy conference in St. Louis.

We were so grateful that this year, the conference was only a quick 90 minute drive instead of the 9.5 hours it was last year. (You can hear all about our conference experience last year in CBB Episode 6).

We had a lot of new experiences at our conference in 2016 (including selling products for the first time!) and wanted to avoid some of the mistakes we made last year so we could make the most out of this year’s conference.

For those of you who have never sold products in person before, there is a lot that goes into it! Last year, we put so many things off until the last minute and ended up scrambling to get it all done and get everything loaded in the car so we could actually hit the road on time.

Selling products in person is so different from doing it online or even just handing out information. We learned that lesson the hard way and didn’t want to be up until midnight the night before leaving putting together final products and sale catalogs.

When we finally got to conference last year, we were super prepared and ready to sell absolutely everything we had created but we didn’t leave our booth and came out of the conference experience feeling exhausted.

To set ourselves up for an awesome conference this year, we started our planning months in advance! We knew we wanted to step up our game this year and actually take in the whole conference. While we still wanted to exhibit and sell products, we also feel like that’s not what the conference experience is about for us.

It’s about everything outside our products. Our conference is about the connections we make, sharing our passion, and, at the heart of everything, sharing our “why”. It’s about learning new things, exploring new ideas, and opening ourselves up to a new world of opportunities.

We knew we had huge goals to achieve so we started planning at the very beginning of 2017. We started forming our game plan for our booth last winter when Alisabeth shared her idea for a Sign Language CMTE course. We knew it would be a huge amount of work so we determined our November conference as the launch date!

Because we sell so many products and wanted to share more about them or develop more tools, Rachel and I decided we also wanted to present this year. We knew that it would be an interesting challenge trying to determine our focus 6 months ahead of time, so we stuck with a topic we are incredibly familiar with and knew we could talk about for hours: working with kids. Not only did we talk about working with children but we shared a free tool we developed just for the occasion: The Essential Toolkit for Working With Children.

Holy cow!!! We could not have anticipated the reaction we got when we presented. By sharing more of who we are and the “why” behind what we do, we created a cohesive message that brought together all of the different pieces of our conference experience.

I think it was so validating for people to hear that music therapy is so much more than just the songs we sing. We shared a list of the tools that people forget they are using in therapy, like their personality, life experience, and presence. I think everyone was able to walk out of our presentation with something even beyond the toolkit we provided.

Creating that cohesion and presence was our primary goal for the conference, but that’s not to say we didn’t have other things we wanted to take away. We wanted to make connections and have fun!!!!

The first day of our conference was exhausting and overwhelming. Between the prepping for conference, travel, setup of our booth, seeing everyone for the first time, hauling everything to our room, etc., we were done! Rachel and I decided to take some much needed time away to just unwind and grab a nice dinner together.

A lot of people think that since we are business partners that we must hang out all the time. Sadly, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I wish we could just hang out more because we always have an amazing time, but the truth of the matter is that we generally only see each other once or twice a week and in meetings.

Because we don’t get that time together, it made our first night dinner so much more wonderful. We actually got to sit and enjoy a bottle of wine and an amazing dinner and just chat for a couple hours. It was great getting to catch up on so many of the things that get lost in the daily grind.

I could go on and on about all of the other amazing parts of our conference experience but instead I’ll just briefly touch on a few of the other incredible highlights: They include:

  • The first night exhibit spectacular where we got to show off our brand new course and see everyone!
  • My reunion dinner with 20+ other Western Illinois students/alumni and professors.
  • Getting to meet and re-connect with several people I’ve either met online or only met at conference.
  • Going to sessions and learning new methods or getting new ideas that I can apply in my session
  • Debuting our NEW CMTE course!!!!! Alisabeth was like the shining star of our booth!! It was so cool to watch everything come together and see her in a different role. It was like a proud parent moment!
  • Our MTC Dinner – We got together with 6 people who have been a part of our team in some way and got to reconnect during a family dinner! It was so splendid getting to just sit down and chat with everyone!!! We <3 our MTC family!
  • Talking to podcast listeners!!! We love you all so much!!! Thank you for your love and understanding! Thank you for listening and your support! You have no idea how much meeting you mean to us!

We love going to our conference every year and think that it is an experience that everyone should have. Even if you can’t make it to a national conference or if you aren’t a music therapist, we encourage you find opportunities to learn, grow, and connect with other people. Even small seminars or meet-up groups can be incredibly beneficial.

Those experiences not only help you connect with other professionals and network but also help you get out of your routine, and shake things up. Learning experience and conferences are what you make of them. Seek out those opportunities and have goals for them that will help you grow.

We know that the conference would not be possible without all of the people who worked behind the scenes to make it all possible so THANK YOU!!

Thank you to everyone who severed on a committee!
Thank you to all of the conference organizers!
Thank you to everyone who volunteered!
Thank you to everyone who presented!
Thank you to all of the exhibitors!
Thank you to all of the conference coordinators!
Thank you to everyone who attended and everyone we saw at conference!

Thank you, everyone. We love you.

Be sure to keep in touch!

Until Next Time,
Katey & Rachel

{CBB 24} How to Make Meetings Productive AND Enjoyable

Creative Business Breakdown Podcast | Episode 24 - How to Make Meetings Productive AND Enjoyable

We love meetings! As gross as that may sound to most, our meeting time is actually one of the highlights of my week! In fact, we spent most of our day in meetings before recording this podcast episode. We came out of our meeting time feeling excited, motivated, and ready to take on the world!

Because we know that not everyone appreciates meetings in the same way we do, we decided to record this episode where we share a few of our tips and tricks on how you can make the most of your meetings and ideas for how you can make them fun as well! We want you to enjoy the behind the scenes part of your business (including meetings) as much as we do.

Here are a few of the tips that we shared during this episode that make our meeting time for enjoyable and more productive:

  • Procrastination Can Be Productive. I know how ridiculous and counterintuitive that sounds, but sometimes putting off conversations about big topics is for the best. We take our time to make sure we are in the right headspace before covering the BIG topics. Instead of spending weeks debating the little details of a large project we often put our conversations off until we are closer to our deadline. That way we have a better idea of what we actually want to do instead of changing our minds several times.  We take time on our own to think about what we really want.  We also have so much going on that we sometimes need to just take those big topics with distant deadlines off the table so we can focus on the here and now. Rachel and I both know that we work very well under pressure. Having a limited timeframe in which to work helps us to put our ideas out on paper with less hesitation than we normally would and stick to a plan that we know will work instead of testing for multiple ideas and wasting our very precious and limited time.
  • Let It Breathe.  If your ideas don’t feel right in the moment or you’re struggling to come up with a solution (or the right solution), give your thoughts and ideas space to breathe. Table the discussion and come back to it when you have a fresh perspective and can tackle things effectively.  Sometimes taking time to “sleep on it” really is the best solution.
  • Communication. Keep open lines of communication throughout your week, not just during meeting times, so that you can address smaller issues as they come up through a different means of communication. Rachel and I love using Slack and Google Drive to keep track of all of our business related issues. Slack is like text messaging on steroids. It is an awesome tool that we use to communicate not only with each other but with our entire team. Rachel and I are almost always on Slack.  We keep in touch by sending quick messages throughout our week so that we can get down to the real business when we are in our meetings together in person
  • Pre-planning.  We spend more time usually prepping for our meetings independently than we do actually meeting.  We create outlines for every single meeting that we have using google docs. Rachel and I each make notes within the outline ahead of time  so that we can write down our thoughts and put them down in one place so that when we get into our meeting we have a plan. This also helps us get those tough conversations started and at least out in the open so we each have time to think about what we want to say or how to handle particularly tricky situation before we sit down in a meeting together.  This tactic has proved especially helpful in meetings with our team members.  If they take time to create an outline for their supervision or meeting, we can cover a lot more ground and tackle some of the more difficult topics without the pressure of having to bring things up verbally.
  • Write it down. During our meetings we use the outline that we have pre-determined to run our meeting and keep us on track. We add to our outline with specific notes on each topic during our meeting so that we can go back and track our progress and what we’ve talked about in each meeting together. We try to write down everything even though we may not use some of art ideas immediately. That way we can look back a year from now and see what we talked about or even pull from those ideas or thoughts that we may have had. Writing things down also helps us to task out what needs to be accomplished. We will often put our names next to individual tasks as a reminder of who is going to take care of whatever the coming week.
  • Tools. We use a variety of tools to help us stay on track and organized.  Slack is used for daily messages and quick responses.  We can also share documents and pictures as well as creating separate posts. The best part is, it’s ALL SEARCHABLE!!! We use Google Docs to create meeting notes, Trello to create outlines of our podcast episodes, and messenger for all personal, nonbusiness things. I love having separate outlets for each part of our business.  It helps me stay in the right mindset!
  • Set Expectations. We hold ourselves to a certain standards during meetings we expect a certain level of standards from each other that we meet with.  We expect each other to be prepared, honest, and efficient during our meeting time together. We value our time together and want to see our business thrive.  By maintaining those 3 standards, we accomplish a great deal during a short window of time and we leave every meeting with a positive feeling and with a clear idea of what needs to happen next.
  • Have Fun! Because we spend so much time preparing for meetings, we have the opportunity to spend more time talking about the personal side of our lives and catching up!  We also try to keep a positive energy and attitude because it helps everything run more smoothly.  One of the ways we make meetings more comfortable is by making a space we love being in!  That means cozy chairs and pillows for all!
  • Reward yourself! I love our long meeting days because I know they will always end in Chipotle!  It is one of the little ways we make our meeting times feel good!  Even after a long days of talking about tough stuff, we make sure we take the time to go get good food that we LOVE! Treat yo’ self.

We’d love to hear more from you on how you make meetings more enjoyable! Let us know if you have any questions or topics you would like to hear us cover in the next episode.

Until Next Time,
Katey & Rachel

{CBB 23} Managing Stress & Anxiety

Creative Business Breakdown Podcast | Managing Stress & Anxiety

Going into our meetings the other day, Rachel and I were both feeling a little off. Everything felt unbalanced and like all of the different plates we had spinning could quickly fall to the floor. We were both feeling on-edge, frustrated, overwhelmed and anxious. We initially had no intention to record and episode.

However, we decided that instead of avoiding all of the different feelings we were having, we were going to open up and be incredibly honest and vulnerable by sharing our thoughts with you.

Rachel and I are both dealing with a lot of things at both work and home. We both have our individual personal stressors on top of everything we have going on in our work life together. Usually, handling things within our business or even personal lives isn’t a problem because there are specific things we can do to handle most issues and resolve them quickly.

This week, though, things felt different. When we met, we quickly realized that the stress we were both carrying was surrounding things out of our control. The issues we are facing don’t have specific task lists where we can just check things off. Instead, we have bigger issues that will have to resolve themselves over a longer period of time. While we we wait, there’s not a whole lot we can do.

Rachel and I both tend to be very action oriented people who like to get things done and see progress. When we have situations where we have to trust other people to take actions, wait for things to pan out on their own, or put off decisions because we don’t have the right information and can’t get it ourselves, we tend to get a little more anxious. We both tend to think about the worst-case scenarios or outcomes and worry more when things are out of our control and there’s nothing we can do about it.

When things feel out of control, it’s easy for my anxiety to skyrocket and get the best of me. Rachel and I have both dealt with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression and understand how important it is to develop coping mechanisms and simply discuss this topic. Throughout the episode Rachel and I talk about our individual stressors (both positive and negative) as well as some of the ways we deal with anxiety.

Here is a brief description of some of the points we covered when talking about how we personally deal with anxiety. Check out the full episode for a more in depth explanation of how we use these techniques.

History. First, we recognize that everything’s going to be ok. We take time to look back and reflect on similar moments that have had positive outcomes. This helps us realize that it WILL all work out.

Mantras. We use mantras, affirmations, and positive reminders to get us in the right mind set.

Reframing. When Rachel’s stuck in a negative headspace, she tries turning her view of the situation around and thinking about the best possible outcome. When you focus on the positive outcome, you end up working even harder toward your goals.

Accountability. Rachel and I act as each other’s accountability partners. We work together to always keep our eye on our goals and recognize the achievements we’ve already made and the goals we are currently reaching. We point out the positive things that have been accomplished already.

Venting. We create a safe space together so we can have some relief and feel a little validation by simply opening up and getting things off our minds.

Honesty. My anxiety compounds when I haven’t been honest with the people around me or I have to have tough conversations. Being as up front and honest in my everyday interactions helps me to keep my anxiety to a minimum.

Presence. Being in the moment and dealing with things as they come my way helps me to feel less overwhelmed and more in tune with everything around me. Realizing that you only have this moment and that you get to choose your mindset it liberating. I remind myself to, “Do what you can and do it right now.”

Get it Out. Whether that looks like journaling, blogging, podcasting, talking to a friends, etc., getting things out of your head helps you to process in a more appropriate and objective manner.

Do Something Different. Creating a change in your physical state or environment is a great way to get out of your own head or change your mentality. Engaging in a different activity or moving on to a new project creates a shift and helps break a negative cycle.

Create Space. Put distance between you and whatever may be causing you anxiety by creating time for yourself and realizing that what ever you are dealing with does not define you.

Treat Yourself. Do something special, just for you, that makes you feel like your most amazing, boss self.

Awareness. Know what your triggers are and what your anxiety feels like so you can learn how to best deal with it. Know your boundaries and what your personal limits are so you can best handle situations that may cause you to feel anxious.

Practice. Realize that big changes are not made over night. Choosing a different mindset, using new coping mechanisms, and dealing with anxiety take a huge amount of practice and patience.

Be Proactive. Being proactive in your self-care and mental health care instead of reactive sets you up to be the most successful. Do what you need in your life to make yourself feel the best your possibly can.

Taking care of ourselves and managing our stress/anxiety is so important, especially because we work with so many people and serve in a variety of roles for those people. We know that the way that you are feeling impacts how you interact with everyone around you. You cannot fully show up for the other people in your life unless you are dealing with your own “stuff”.

We hope you found this episode helpful and relatable. We’d love to hear about your coping mechanisms and what you do when you are dealing with stress or anxiety.

Until Next Time,
Katey & Rachel

{CBB 22} The Role Our Personality Types Play in Work & Life

CBB 22 - The Role Our Personality Types Play in Work & Life

Episode 22 of the Creative Business Breakdown podcast is quite the departure from the topics and content we typically cover. Instead of talking about the nitty gritty business details, we decided to cover one of the more personal topics that has been coming up in our office a LOT recently.

A few months back, Rachel and our employee, Alisabeth, were having a conversation about being introverted and how that can really impact their work, especially in our very people-centered work environment. That conversation encouraged Rachel to delve deeper into the topic, and ended in her creation of a new continuing education course, The Introvert’s Guide to Thriving in an Extroverted Career.

With all of the conversation surrounding this incredible course and what it means to be an introvert, we all got a little more curious about personality types, especially how they impact our daily work and how we function as a team. Our intern, Rachel P, was so interested in the topic that she dedicated one of her weekly blog posts to talking all about her personality.

Within a week of publishing her post, our whole music therapy team had taken this free assessment and shared our individual results in our shared Slack channel. The results were fascinating! They were such an accurate depiction of each of us! It was interesting to read about the different personality types we each bring the table and learn more about the specific personality traits of each member of our music therapy team.

I’m going to be honest. I avoided taking the test when the topic first came up. I knew going in that my results were going to be different than everyone else on our team and that they weren’t necessarily going to be what I wanted. There are parts of my personality I’m not totally thrilled with and things that I’ve wanted to change about myself, so it took me a little extra time to get on board.

Now that I have my results, I’m so grateful I took the test. Yes, there are things that are part of my nature that I’m not necessarily proud of (ex. Being a messy person or being louder and more attention seeking), BUT I know that my personality is perfect for me and is so helpful in balancing our team and making our business run as smoothly and effectively as it does.

Seeing and understanding not only the results of my personality test but also the results for our team members helps me to be more aware of what our team needs, and sheds light on things that may need a little more attention as well as traits that help each of us shine. It helps us to understand each other on a much deeper level and communicate in a new way that makes our team function even more effectively. Knowing how my personality differs from those around me also alerts me to the fact that sometimes I need to reign in parts of my personality in order to best serve the people with whom I’m working.

One of the most interesting parts of the whole experience was finding out that Rachel and I are polar opposites when it comes to our personality types. You’ll have to listen to the episode for the full details, but it was enlightening to learn more about each other and really come to realize that our unique personalities are precisely why our business works so well.

We may be polar opposites, but our very different personality types are what help bring balance to our office and allow us to divide and conquer with ease! We each have unique skill sets that nicely fit our individual personality types, and we are grateful that we have been able to put those to use in managing and further developing our business.

Dividing out tasks and responsibilities has never been a challenge for us because there’s usually a clear fit for who should be handling things based on the nature of each item! Knowing more about our traits helps us to be aware of our own personal limitations, but also helps us both to push each other and challenge one another to grow in new ways.

Even though our personalities are so different, we hold most of the same values and have high standards that we keep for ourselves and the people around us. That means that we are almost always on the same page when it comes to business matters, but have unique perspectives and plans that help us accomplish amazing things quickly and effectively because we balance each other perfectly!

I’m not going to share too much more because I think this episode is a MUST-listen, but I am going to encourage you to go take your own personality test. I have loved delving further into the topic and learning more about how I can best take advantage of my unique personality and how I can better work with others based on their individual traits. We’d love to hear more from you and how your specific personality traits are benefiting your business!

{CBB 21} Rising From the Ashes

Podcast Episode 21: Rising From the Ashes

This episode is a follow-up to Episode 20, in which we talked all about the Summer(s) We Didn’t Get Paid. Those summers were devastating for us. We were exhausted and knew that if we wanted our business to continue even another year, we would have to make some big changes. We knew that we were going to need a business overhaul in order to make things work.

In Episode 21, we cover one of the biggest areas of change, our billing system. Making this one change allowed us to “rise up from the ashes” and completely revitalize our studio/private practice, so in this episode we’re giving you all the details of exactly what it is, how it works, and why it has been such a game changer.

Before we get too deep into the changes we made, we first need to give you a little information what our old payment plan looked like.

We were operating within a solopreneur mentality, and using old billing principles that worked (mostly) when Rachel and I were still woking on our own. Families would be billed only for the services they attended and at the end of the month. Come the last day of the month, they would receive a bill for only the time that we saw them; all cancellations were left off the bill.

This meant that sometimes we were getting paid only a ¼ of our potential income when clients canceled ¾ of the month because they joined a new sport, went on extended vacations, or got sick. When we took on team members and moved into a new building with higher bills and clients weren’t showing up or simply weren’t paying their bills, we still had to pay our rent or pay our teachers/employees. On top of that, we had no way to budget because we couldn’t predict how many lessons/sessions our clients would actually show up for.

We knew that things had to change, but we didn’t want to rock the boat and ruin the beautiful relationships we had built with all of our incredible families. We were scared, but knew that in order to continue in our business, we HAD TO do something.

Within our business, a new school year is like the start of a brand new year all together. With the start of the new school year comes new commitments, big changes, and a shift in scheduling for everyone. We figured there was no better time to make a change that would affect our families/clients than during a time already packed with changes 😉

We spent months doing research. HOURS upon hours of research trying to find the right solution for our business and figuring out what would be the most sensible and economic answer while still providing a smooth transition. THANKFULLY, we found the perfect solution through our bank! We had overlooked a simple solution available through our bank.

Prior to our billing change, we had collected the majority of our payments through PayPal, which was super simple but also incredibly expensive. Handing over lots of money to a 3rd party was not a mistake we wanted to make again. We found a system through our bank in which we could setup auto-withdrawal from clients’ checking accounts with a minimal set fee per transaction (like $0.30 per transaction).

We made the decision to set a monthly tuition rate as opposed to sending a per-lesson or per-session invoices. That means the families we work with pay a set fee whether they choose to attend or not. We debated the cost and fee structure a great deal, and decided on a fee that was a slightly reduced rate from what a family would pay if they attended every lesson. In fact, we looked at the attendance rates we had been tracking and figured that with holidays, vacations, and illness, families missed approximately 12 lessons per year (one per month). Some canceled more and some less, but we used that average as a way to create a fair monthly fee already in line with what families were paying.

If only deciding a fee structure, rewriting 10 pages of policies, and deciding on a new payment method were the hardest part of the process…

After making those incredibly difficult decisions, we had to actually break the news and ask 100+ families to completely change the way they were used to paying us. Rachel and I were both filled with anxiety throughout the whole process, but nothing was as difficult as drafting the perfect email to inform everyone of the change. We wanted to answer as many questions as possible with that first contact. We wanted to create the perfect path to transition. We knew there would be resistance and push back.

After hitting “send” we both took a deep breath and waited. Email replies started to come in. We were both shocked and overjoyed when the first responses we received included words like “why didn’t you do this sooner” and “thank you”. Of course, there were dozens of emails with questions, but the incredible thing is that we didn’t lose a single client due to the big billing change we were so scared to roll out. NOT A SINGLE CLIENT LEFT!! In fact, people were grateful for the convenience, and the new policies encouraged families to attend more regularly, meaning our teachers got paid more as well!!

We spent a solid month making the transition to the new system. It took weeks to simply gather and input all of the data correctly and to get everyone on board, but we made it through. We have since streamlined the onboarding process for new students and clients. We’ve worked out most (if not all) of the little kinks in our process and made everything more simple and straightforward.

It wasn’t always an easy transition, but since we made our big billing change, Rachel and I have gotten paid EVERY SINGLE MONTH and more than in our previous “good” months. It’s been the most incredible experience and made such a huge difference in our company and in our personal lives. On top of the financial difference we have seen, we have saved so much time and energy moving to an auto-payment system.

We know that our methods won’t work for everyone, but we are so glad that we have found the right solution for us. We are thankful to everyone who listened to us, encouraged us, and helped us along the way.

If you’re in our shoes and need a change, let us know. We’d love to hear from you. What decisions or big changes are you struggling with? Do you have questions we can answer or things we can help you work through?