Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball

Subscription Box Operations with Amy Lockrin

June 08, 2020 Julie Ball Episode 29
Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball
Subscription Box Operations with Amy Lockrin
Chapters
Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball
Subscription Box Operations with Amy Lockrin
Jun 08, 2020 Episode 29
Julie Ball

#029 - Julie chats with one of her favorite people Amy Lockrin to talk about subscription box business operations.

Amy Lockrin is an Operations Integrator for small business owners who are ready to thrive in their business and leave behind the overwhelm of "to-do's."
Amy is the founder and head integrator of The Operations House, an integration and implementation agency. She makes things happen in small businesses so CEO’s can go back to being creative through project management, business management, and strategic business planning sessions. She focuses on the technical, the strategy, and the organization so business owners get to return to the passion that started their business!

Links:

Sparkle Hustle Grow
The Operations House
Facebook: The Operations House by Amy Lockrin

Show Notes Transcript

#029 - Julie chats with one of her favorite people Amy Lockrin to talk about subscription box business operations.

Amy Lockrin is an Operations Integrator for small business owners who are ready to thrive in their business and leave behind the overwhelm of "to-do's."
Amy is the founder and head integrator of The Operations House, an integration and implementation agency. She makes things happen in small businesses so CEO’s can go back to being creative through project management, business management, and strategic business planning sessions. She focuses on the technical, the strategy, and the organization so business owners get to return to the passion that started their business!

Links:

Sparkle Hustle Grow
The Operations House
Facebook: The Operations House by Amy Lockrin

Julie:

So you want to launch a subscription box and don't know where to start? Girl, you are in the right place. I'm Julie Ball, a subscription box coach and your host here at Subscription Box Basics, a podcast for new and aspiring subscription box entrepreneurs that want to avoid overwhelm. So grab a coffee, some pen and paper and let's have some fun! Hey everyone and welcome to Subscription Box Basics. Thank you so much for listening. I have just been just having a blast recording all of these episodes. I just love to talk shop and especially when I get to chat with some of my business besties. So today we are talking about operations and I've got one of my favorite people, Amy Lockrin on the show. Welcome Amy!

Amy:

Thank you so much. I'm so happy to be here.

Julie:

Yay. Awesome. So I'm really excited about today's conversation because Amy is on the Sparkle Hustle Grow team and she has made a huge impact on how I run my business and with her skills in operations, we really get things done more efficiently and we stay on task and we just have more fun doing it. So before we dive into the interview, Amy, will you please tell everyone a little bit about yourself?

Amy:

I would be happy to. Thank you so much for having here. I am super excited. Um, okay. This question's always fun for me because it's like which direction can you go down like the, my background, business- wise or personal. So I'll try and throw a little bit of both then.

Julie:

Perfect.

Amy:

Um , so , uh, like Julie said, I'm any Lockrin I specialize in operations and so I have loved being part of the Sparkle Hustle Grow team because it gives me an opportunity to kind of put my hands in all of the things that have brought me to this point in my career. Um, I think that systems, SOPs automations are just pretty, pretty sexy. And I realized that I am not the normal person for that, but it comes from , um, before I left and started my own company, I worked as a corporate trainer doing leadership training and um , sales and then moved on to development and was the director of development for our state zoo and really found that throughout my entire career leading up to this, the things that I enjoyed were the steps that get you to the end goal. So whether it's like fundraising for a big project, for building an addition onto the zoo or working with a management team to make sure they understand the impact that they're our customer they're like team has on the customers and things like that. It was all those little intricacies that I would get really excited about and everyone else would be like, cool, let's move on. And I'm like, this is great. And I didn't really ever have a desire to be like the person in the front and say doing all the things, but just having those like winds in the background, knowing that you're part of the team that builds it, that's like my, like my zone of genius and excitement because we're all part of a team. Um, and so those two things combined with the fact that I had two very young kids , um, and was working crazy hours. I realized that maybe this life wasn't going to be for me and I wasn't gonna like climb a corporate ladder and decided I'm going to try and make something on my own and see what happens. And then it worked really well. Then I talked to my husband, I was like, I think I want to do this. And I think it could make our lifestyle better because I'll personally be happier in the work that I'm doing. And then that just makes for a happier life internal . So I branched off from corporate and started my own company and have just kind of been growing with the people that I work with and trying to fill what I think is a gap, especially in like the online business for so many people. I think a lot of us , um , start something because there's a passion and then into the success of the business it's like, "Oh, I started a business." Like there's other pieces other than just my passion. Even though the passion is bringing in some income and it's creating a life that people like. And so I'm happy to be like the person that kind of like fills that gap.

Julie:

Right. Because so many of us are like visionary CEOs and we don't realize what all has to happen on the back end to get from point a to point B.

Amy:

A hundred percent. I think. I think it's even more like I obviously Julie , I work with you one on one. You know what you need to do and you know all this stuff. But it's giving a visionary the space to spend time and creative mode and connection mode and things like that to take it off of the weight that you carry. And that's such a big pivotal point for so many business owners that like once you get to this point it's like I could do it all but should I do it all.

Julie:

Right.

Amy:

And just the openness that it creates in your business when you, you kind of like let those things go to somebody else.

Julie:

Okay. So the name of your company is The Operations House. Tell everyone what type of businesses that you work with in your business. Um, I work with small businesses who are interested in scaling to the next level so that can look like a variety of different things cause we're a full service agency for small business owners where somebody might want to come in and have a project completed, like creating an online course or have that moment where you realize when you sit down to your desk you're like, "Oh this is exhausting to me." And typically that's because the backend of the business is messy and everybody's back into their businesses messy. No one's sitting here like completely systematized and automatize and like everything's going great. But when you hit that pivot point where like I'm spending more time worrying about the business, then I can't scale the business.

Amy:

It's usually where we like to come in and create a customized plan for somebody to either work with our team, longterm, their team longterm, and provide some training. So...

Julie:

Cool. Awesome. Okay. So let's talk systems since they're so sexy.

Amy:

Everyone just, maybe people just don't know them as intimately as I do.

Julie:

Okay. So you've been with Sparkle Hustle Grow for for quite a while now. What? Almost two years? Um , think right?

Amy:

Yeah. Close. Yeah .

Julie:

Yeah. So since you've been working with us, what, let's talk and break it down to three things that you feel have made the most impact on our systems as a subscription box business.

Amy:

Okay. I think number one, and you actually brought it up, the beginning is SOPs, which are standard operating procedures. Being able to come in and as someone who had obviously never ran a subscription box business, but realizing there are replicable tasks that are happening that potentially like too many hands were in because it was like a checks and balances situation. We could create some SOPs that are like the rules to live by as a in a business. And um , that was probably one like the first big project we worked on together , um , to create those for the business. I think that's definitely going to be number one for me. Okay . Number two would be project management as a whole. Um, so a lot of businesses will talk about, you know, "Oh yeah, I have a project management system." So whether it's I'm put all my work in Trello or ClickUp or whatever, have you. Project management is the organization of those things, the place to live in it. And then also the team aspect too. And so I think coming in and being able to take it off your shoulders and look at how does the team work , when does the teamwork and um, what steps do we all need to be able to be comfortable to know that goals are getting head each week.

Julie:

Okay. And what's the third one?

Amy:

The third one is just like a personal one for me. And so I think that in this type of role, especially when you have a whole team that's virtual, being able to be here as support and encouragement and provide like a team morale is something that a lot of people don't think is important, but in operations, it really is the work that you do and Renae does and the rest of the team is mindful and that most people probably would not, never realize it actually happens in the back and a sparkle, hustle grow. And so being there to not only like create the steps for what we need to do, but also to support and , um , help own it with everyone. I , I think that's, at least for me, that's a personal win for , for us .

Julie:

I think, I mean, that one really resonates with me because when I first started my business back in 2016 I was a one woman show and there were so many questions I had. So many tasks I had on my to-do list and I felt like I was on an Island a lot of times. You know what I mean?

Amy:

Yeah.

Julie:

Having someone, having a small team now and seeing like when we rally together, if we have big goals or you know, if we have to put our heads together, if there's a problem and we need to fix it, it makes so much difference now. It doesn't always have to be like if you're a, if you're listening and you're like, well I'm a one woman show right now. That's okay . You can still find, you know, sub box besties in the, in the industry. Or you can find other business besties in Facebook groups to have to kind of provide some of that support and some of that encouragement. But I think you've done such a good job. You, I always say this to you guys is Renae is my yes girl. She's that one that's like, "Yeah, yeah, let's do this." She's everybody's cheerleader. And then you're , you're like that voice of reason where you're like, "Yes, let's do that. But, have you thought about it this way and how are you going to handle it when this happens?" And that's just one of those people that I need in my life because I'm very ambitious and I'm just like, run, run, run. And I love that you sometimes are like, "Hey, slow down for a second. Let's talk this through."

Amy:

I appreciate that you appreciate that. I think it's one of those things that I agree with you, whether you're just starting, you've been going for five years and you're still like a solo person. Anybody can be your business bestie. But I think one of the big, like the amazing things about how Sparkle Hustle Grow has grown and evolved in the brand that it is, is because, I mean, I personally wouldn't work with somebody that I don't fully believe in and want to the success to be more so than my own. And I think that that, well it's true and I mean it's not everyone's like, "Oh gosh, we're going to go on a gushfest here," but I consider you and Renae two of my closest friends now. And it's from those conversations that started as, "okay, what's the process here?" And then like a win and celebrating together and then just becoming a true team and not just a business. So yeah.

Julie:

Oh, 100%. so that's, that's, we'll stop the gushfest there. Let's , let's go back to the sexy systems here and I want to talk a little bit more about SOPs because that was something that it was like, you just, you don't know what you don't know. And while I did know that there was, you know, a rhyme and reason to the things that I did, you helped me by creating these SOPs, which again means standard operating procedures. Think of it as just like a list of how to get from A to Z when you're doing a task or when you're doing a project. And like you said, that was one of the first things we work together. Let's talk about a little bit deeper about what an SOP is, how you put one together and like why, why you'd even bother.

Amy:

Okay. This is great cause this is a question that I get a lot, especially from people that are like a one person show. Like what's the point? I know what to do. And the goal would be that you're not the person having to do everything. So one of the things I always challenge people on is to make your list of like everything you do every single day, which is a daunting task, but just keep a pad of paper next to you and like, okay, "I'm checking email, Oh I'm doing this." And then as you're looking at your entire list of things you do as a business owner, you're probably going to sit there and be like, how do I even wake up in the morning and get it all done? What happens is when you're running the business and you know so intimately, all of the steps that it takes to get from point A to point Z, like you said, are just, it's part of you , your like innate like checklist . You don't even think about it and when you make the SOP you actually think about each and every step. And so that's what I love working on it because it's not just like if I'm going to manage my email and my customer service this way, then I might have to go in and I check it and then I respond to somebody that's like the top layer. But then you start adding in all the different pieces. Well what if A happens? What if B happens? What if we've contacted this person before and get all of those things out and you basically have created a map where as soon as you're ready to scale, somebody can come in and be a mini you , which is what you want at this point. You want someone to be able to emulate you until you know, like, and trust their version of running the business. Like in that way. Um, so that's like SOP is in a nutshell are basically like anything that could possibly go through your mind when you're trying to do a task and putting it in a process that somebody else could follow. So this will be important for maybe you're going to hire a virtual assistant to help you with your customer service or maybe you're going to pass off another task.

Julie:

It's, it's funny I liken it to when I was in corporate America I was asked to create, have you ever heard of a bus book?

Amy:

No.

Julie:

Okay. It's basically if you got hit by a bus today, how someone do your job.

Amy:

Yes.

Julie:

It sounds so terrible, but I did it in corporate America and why I didn't think to translate, you know, some form of that into running my own business. I guess what you were saying is when you run your own business and you're like, "Oh, I already know how to do what I need to do."

Amy:

You're just trying to get to the next task so quick cause there's so much to do.

Julie:

I had an eye opening moment one time, a friend of mine , um, Michelle, she was asking me questions about digital marketing and that's a lot of my background. I have a master's in internet marketing and she was like, "well, how do I do this?" And I said, "Oh, you just do X, Y, Z." And she's like her, she's just like staring at me blank face. Like , um, "You need to remember that. I don't know how to do what you do." And that was one of those moments where I was like, "Oh, this doesn't come second nature to everyone. Oh, everyone doesn't know SEO or how to write a call to action or something,". You know what I mean? Just these things that would were coming second nature to me because I had studied it and I had worked in marketing for years and when she said, "I don't know how to do what you do" as like, "Oh, okay, so let's, let's like write this all down and figure out how this can translate to your skills." So yeah, those were, that's where the whole operations thing kind of made sense to me. I knew I needed those SOPs and like for other people to understand what to do.

Amy:

Yeah. I mean cause in a subscription box business there's so many steps and so many things that happen and it happens monthly but things can push it like all the way down the left side of the field in a second. If you don't know what the goal is. You know what you said about the bus, the bus book that just remind me, I completely forgot about this. My first job at a college, they, my director, I was in nonprofit down in Florida and her thing that she would always say whenever conversations would get heated about like what's gonna happen next is she's like, "You all need to plan like I'm not going to be here tomorrow like that. I like, I should not matter to this company. I should be able to remove myself and it still go on." And it really, I mean it had a huge impact on me because that's how I had to set everything up. I worked in the marketing department back then and it was just like, well, if not going to be here, we need to be able to move on. And that's really like the whole basis of operations too . If something happens and you say like, you know what, I need to take a month off, your business should be able and it will grow and flourish even. And I think that's really where it all boils down to.

Julie:

Yeah. And the beautiful thing about subscription boxes is the business model is that it's like a 30-day cycle that continues to just repeat itself month after month after month. So yeah, there's a lot of tasks that we repeat. We do the same thing over and over and over. So it just makes so much sense to write down all those repetitive tasks and really get that workflow behind it. And I think it's important to say that like when you came onto our team and you started pointing out, you know, having me list all the things I was doing and all the steps , um, there were places where you could clearly identify that I couldn't identify. But you looked at them and said, "Oh well that doesn't look efficient. Let's, let's talk about how we can tighten that process up." And I'm sure that's just your happy place.

Amy:

It really is. And it was really great because I mean, like I said before, I clearly have never been in a subscription box business before, so it would take you having to explain things to me in a layman's term to be like, okay, this is how this works and if I don't get it, then we can assume somebody who isn't you probably isn't going to get either. It's like what things need to be broken down.

Julie:

Yeah.

Amy:

And then also a big, an important part about an SOP just from like a super technical point is there always has to be like a level of understanding for anything that you're writing. So like if you want someone to follow this steps, what do we need to assume that the person already knows? Do they already need to know what your current marketing plan is for the year or something like that before you just like go into the steps. Because then it's a really good checkpoint for should this person be following this process or do I need to do additional training for team members because they aren't even ready for the SOP that you've created for them.

Julie:

Yeah, I gotcha. Um, so real quick on the fly here, like if someone was listening to this podcast episode and they're like, okay, I want to create an SOP. Let's real quick explain what that might look like. So what we use Google docs and we break down all the steps of a specific project or task, um , in order. Sometimes we use Loom and Loom is a screen sharing screencasting tool so that you can...And so I'm trying to explain this how, what's the best way to explain it? It's like if you're doing a task that is software-based , for example, you can share your screen and it will record it as you walk through those tasks.

Amy:

So it's like a over the shoulder feature, so like sitting right next to where you can't train them in person so they can see everything you're clicking, you can talk through and they have your screen the entire time.

Julie:

So we use that as part of our SOPs. We break it down in words on a Google doc, but we also incorporate um , these Loom screencasts. What else? I'm trying to think of what else we do with our SOPs.

Amy:

We do a bounce and checks on them. So we create an SOP and then we say, okay, this is what we think it's going to look like. Let's see how it works following these steps for the next two weeks and then come back into it. Because if there's anything that was like, "Oh, I still had to check in about X or I wasn't sure this was going to be done." It means a step's missing. One recommendation I would give for somebody who maybe doesn't have a team or somebody who's operations focused would be, as you're trying to think all of it, just use the voice recorder on your phone and talk to yourself about the process. So like you're talking to somebody else. And then when you listen back to it, if you like type out and just like one, two, three, four, everything you're saying, you'll probably realize what you think is like a simple step actually might have like 24 pieces on it when you read over. And then always send it to someone who isn't in your business or someone like even your mom. Like just be like, "Hey, does this make sense when you read this? Would you kind of understand if you knew these things?" And they're like, "Oh yeah, I can follow them ." I mean, you've created an SOP that's gonna work for you.

Julie:

I like that. That's really good advice. And so for our listeners, I'd say just start with one SOP, right? Like think of one task that you do , um, either on a weekly basis or a monthly basis in your subscription box business. And start there.

Amy:

I always recommend , um , because it's something that happens regularly and it has a high customer focus, either your email process, so your client service experience through email or you're on the branding side of things, your social media because that's where new clients come from. So, and those are two things that typically just talking to business owners over the past few years that feel heavy. Like that's just like email management and having to put something out on social, which to grow up business is, it's commonplace now. Um , if you get those down in words, I will put myself on the line and say immediately you will feel a sense of like relaxation because it's , it's out there. You know what you're following now.

Julie:

All right listeners , you know what to do now, right. Awesome. Okay, so moving on from all the sexy systems I want to get, I just want to ask you one more question.

Amy:

Yeah.

Julie:

What's one of your favorite things about working in the subscription box industry? Cause you were new to this when you joined our team. Um, but they always say you need to hire people who can do things you don't know how to do. So I hired you because you could do operations and that wasn't my strength, but I introduced you to this wonderful world of subscription boxes. So what is your favorite thing?

Amy:

I think I'm interested if you're going to be surprised by this. Um, I think for me this industry as a whole, regardless of any subscription box you get or that you're building and everything, there is a positivity to this industry that I just don't think you see it everywhere else. There's a unity , especially the way that Julie teaches a community aspect of building a subscription box. It's actually going to thrive and to know that all of your customers love you enough, love what you're creating enough to stay longterm and to get a monthly shipment and things like that. That's building something that we don't see in a lot of other places. And it's really been, it's been eye opening to me and it's been a reminder of like these are the types of things that are important. Whether it is you get excited because of office supplies, chocolates, trainings, whatever the box is, you're creating your own group of likeminded people that are lifted up by the things that you're lifted up by and that is phenomenal to experience and watch. I am also a fan of fanaticism, so like whenever somebody's like, I might not like it at all, but if somebody loves something and you see, hear the passion and see it in their face, I'm just like, "Yes, yes, that's it." I don't have to agree, but I just love that they love it so much and that's so prevalent in the subscription box industry.

Julie:

I think too . Um, I know you love happy mail. I know you love to get things in the mail. So I think having that added bonus of a physical product coming to you that compliments that tribe in that online community that you're building or that you're a part of. I think that that is super fun to have that part of it. The physical side.

Amy:

Oh a hundered percent. I mean, I think it's so funny because I was actually just telling my husband about this. I was like, it's amazing because I know my Sparkle Hustle Grow box. I like, I know when it comes, I'm part of the team. Like I know it's , and still every time if I open up the mailbox or one of my kids bring it up to me, I'm still like, "Whoa, like here it is!" And like just experiencing it. And it's not because I'm trying to experience it from a customer perspective because it makes me that excited. So...

Julie:

Oh yay!

Amy:

I mean it's just, it's amazing. It's an awesome place to be.

Julie:

Awesome. Well, thank you so much Amy for your time today. It's always fun chatting with you. And where can people find more information about you? How can they follow you in The Operations House?

Amy:

Um , you can go to TheOperationsHouse.com. That's my website. There's a contact form there. Um, or you can find me on Facebook with, it's just ops with Amy. Um, and I, if you had , I would just say anyone has any questions? I'm an open book. I know operations is probably for any creative individual, the scary side of things, but it's just simple steps that we break down together. So happy to help.

Julie:

Right on. Well, thank you so much.

Amy:

Thank you.

Julie:

Well guys, I hope this episode really left you feeling inspired and gave you some action items to put together your SOPs and work on your operations. If you're feeling inspired from it and you're loving what you're hearing week after week, we'd love for you to rate and review us as it helps more people find us. Thanks so much for listening as always, and we'll see you in the next episode.