This week for The Early Hours Presents, we talked to "marketing consultant" Maggie Gentry from Austin, Texas. Maggie is unique in her approach to marketing, and consulting, by marketing herself not as a consultant, but as a "thought partner". A perfect example of someone who is true to themselves and playing to their strengths, Maggie has been a fantastic thought partner, motivator, and general inspiration since I met her late last year.
My sister Catelyn was going to attend a one day marketing intensive (Own Your Why) with Maggie and based on Catelyn's praise, I decided to join. After an epic day at Maggie's house, absolutely wrecked on caffeine, I went home, went through my notes, and wrote down an entirely new business plan for The Early Hours. I started moving forward with it immediately, scheduling production for new product, kicking off this series of interviews, and more - on the very first night. After years of consistent growth with The Early Hours, but an increasing lack of direction, I felt like I remembered what I was doing again (if I ever knew...) and couldn't wait to get after it.
I've worked with marketing consultants, experts, specialists etc etc at various jobs and heard a million speeches, read a million books on the topic. They all have something to tell you. When we first sat down to talk, Maggie had a different energy - almost like she DIDN'T have something to tell me. Instead, she started a conversation, centered around why. Why does the brand exist, why does it matter, why do I care? It didn't immediately make me feel invigorated and confident - in fact, it was humbling and eye-opening. What it made me realize was that I already had all the answers I needed, I just wasn't connecting the dots, or I didn't have faith in my ideas.
If you're creating something, be it art, music, a small business, anything - you need partners. You can do a lot yourself for a long time, but no one gets anywhere alone. It doesn't matter how stubborn or narcissistic you are, no one becomes successful completely by themselves. We need these conversations, we need to talk about our ideas and receive honest feedback. We need that extra push to get started and to keep going, something that over time has become a staple of The Early Hours ideology (never hesitate, never surrender). I try to inspire and motivate people through my actions, not my words, and sometimes I forget how important these conversations can be. We're all in this together, even if we're "competitors", and it's a lot more fun to do it together. Start the conversation, no matter how small it feels, or how tough it is to talk about something. Find a thought partner like Maggie, and start opening doors you didn't even know existed. Enough of my rambling - enjoy the interview!
1. Time is the most valuable resource. Do you agree or disagree, and why?
I absolutely agree. Time is this elusive, yet incredibly powerful force. It’s something we all want more of and spend so much energy trying to determine how we can better manage it. I am currently reading this book called Be Excellent at Anything [https://www.amazon.com/Excellent-Anything-Transforming-Catherine-Paperback/dp/B00IIDGCTY], and it’s fascinating how they explain that we, as humans, are meant to pulse. We’re meant to go between states of exerting energy and moments of rest. We breathe in; and we must breathe out. We exert energy during our waking lives, and then we must sleep. But despite this, more and more of us are living increasingly linear lives.
We drink coffee to jolt us awake in the morning. Maybe we eat lunch - but it’s probably at our desk. Then we end up working late because we’ve grown accustomed to this philosophy that we must be busy, we must work harder, and we always have to be hustling. When we finally make it home, we’re exhausted, so we like drink a glass (or bottle) of wine to help us chill out before finally hitting the sack. Once we finally get to bed - that sleep is disrupted because of our drinking, and then we don’t get sufficient sleep, and the cycle starts all over.
The authors encourage you to take mindful breaks throughout the day, so I’ve been experimenting with how exactly that works for me. My hope is that by better understanding how I function best on a day-to-day basis, I can work on turning each day into an ideal day, with the ultimate goal being that this collection of individual days will turn into a more intentional life.
2. How DO you spend your time?
The majority of my work is done through one-on-one client engagements, so most of my weekdays are spent hopping between a handful of client meetings, and then alone time in between to actually get the work done. Typically I’ll have a social/networking at least once a week to attend after hours. The weekends are always a toss up between work events, family things, and good ol’ downtime, which typically means bingeing the latest Netflix series.
This year I’ve been experimenting more with rituals to see how creating habits around certain times of the day can help me feel like I’m utilizing my time better. As someone who has historically been the Yes Woman, I’ve been working hard to say no and establish more boundaries around my time. For me, this means protecting my morning ritual and not scheduling client meetings before 11am. I am most productive in the morning, and I was finding that I was resentful when I had to break that flow with needing to get ready to go to a client meeting, so now it’s become a rule for me: No client meetings before 11am. And I am so. much. happier.
I’ve also been learning more about the moon phases and how that affects us energetically. The last week before the new moon is a time for reflection, rest and release. In January, I realized the week where I was not feeling like getting any work done, was also the same week of the waning moon in between Last Quarter Moon and New Moon. I didn’t want to produce from that state of desperation, so instead of pushing through it like I normally would have in the past, I let myself rest.
I have the luxury of working for myself, so I’m experimenting with the flexibility I have around deadlines and time, trying to schedule big projects during the waxing moon period. It’s also been interesting to tune inward to see how I’m feeling, or what I’m craving, and then making an active decision of how to spend my time based on that. I’m trying to cut down on procrastination. If I’m not feeling it, then I’ll go for a walk or take a nap instead.
3. Ideally, how WOULD you spend your time, if money were not an issue?
As cliche as it may seem, if money were no issue, I would travel more. I feel extremely lucky to have a job that I love, so I wouldn’t change what I do on a daily basis. But it would be nice to be able to feel like I could afford an international trip a year. In the dream of dreams, my husband and I would move abroad. It doesn’t seem likely in our exceedingly connected world, but if we could fund a transfer for a few years, we would do it in a heartbeat!
Outside of the dream scenario of one international trip a year, if I had more money, I don’t think it would drastically change how I spend my time. I would like to have more money to be able to better support other small businesses and charitable organizations - especially in this scary Trump era we find ourselves living in.
4. How do you plan to get from where you are, to where you want to be?
My philosophy has always been that the slow burn will get you farther than the flash in the pan, so I am trying to take it slow. I want to grow my business with meaningful connections and intentional collaborations. Focus on relationships rather than revenue. Since my business is also highly personal and very specialized, I have to make sure that I’m my best self in order to best serve others. Because of this, I am trying to be increasingly introspective so that I can better determine exactly what it is that I want and need, and then set an intention to go after that. I do believe in the power of manifestation, so I have been speaking my intentions out loud and posting them on my wall to serve as a daily reminder.
The other interesting piece to this is that I don’t really know where that end point is for me. I’ve never been good at those “Imagine yourself in 10 years” exercises. I can’t seem to think that far ahead, so I’m doing my best to take each new step with purpose, and hope that one day looking back, it all leads to where I was meant to be.
5. What is the one biggest time wasting habit or thing you endure in your life? Could you reduce the impact of this if you wanted to spend the time doing something productive instead?
Instagram. Since it’s also a tool I use to market my biz, it’s hard to not justify spending time in the app. I have been getting better about using a tool to help me organize different groups of people so that I can interact with those select people without having to scroll the app and get distracted. I’m also trying to limit the days per week where I aimlessly scroll through. If I weren’t in the app so much, then I would absolutely read more.
6. What one thing do you indulge in that takes significant amounts of time that others might see as a waste, but you see as a blessing or integral part of your life?
I mentioned earlier that I don’t schedule client meetings before 11am, and that’s because I have an entire morning routine that is now the key for me to have a good day. Without it - I will go through the day feeling like I’m not firing on all cylinders. So for this morning routine… I get up at 6am, have coffee with my husband in bed, in the dark, so we can have some dedicated time to chat and ease into our day. Then at 6:45am, I’m at my desk, pull a tarot card for the day, journal for a bit. Typically around 7:15am, I’m diving into work to get things accomplished that are just for my biz. I’ll do that for an hour and a half, so around 8:45am is when I’m getting in the shower and getting ready for the day. Around 9:30am I’m ready for another 90-minute working session, where I’ll start to work on client things, and be ready for a first meeting around 11am. Some people think it’s crazy that I feel like I need 5 whole hours to be with myself before interacting with others, but it’s what works for me, so I’m sticking with it!
A special thanks to Maggie Gentry, again, and to Chelsea Frances and Kevin Garner for the photos! You can find her website https://www.maggiegentry.com/ here, and you can follow her day to day on instagram here. Even if you're not ready to sign up for one of her classes, digital or in ATX, she hosts free "open office hours" on Skype and GChat Tuesday mornings from 10-11:30 am CST, or Wednesdays 5-6:30 CST. Give her a shout and tell her we sent you :)
Never Hesitate, Never Surrender