CEO of Mercury Mosaics, Mercedes Austin has personally experienced some of the toughest times as a leader, but she soon realized that taking care of herself would allow her to take care of her business and more importantly , of its staff. Here’s how she does it.
There has always been a commitment to never stop improving as the driving force behind Mercury Mosaics – a creative organization that is constantly changing, growing and adapting. I find that by keeping these four simple principles at the forefront, it is possible to build a business that people want to be part of without over-complicating things.
- Never create positions that you would not want to work full time.
- Stay true to your personal values.
- Be kind.
- Engage in activities outside of work that cultivate your own self-esteem.
Never create positions that you would not want to work full time.
It may seem simple, but things weren’t always like this.
Have you ever made decisions when you had less experience and knowledge – only thinking about the next few months, rather than the long-term impact of something? You have, don’t you?
Well, in business – those early decisions made with only the short term in mind, over time have been phased out as the business grows, matures and aligns itself to the four simple principles here. -above.
In the early chapters of the business, positions were sometimes created to encourage a short-term sale, which derailed the first principle. An example of this would be regarding my poor first husband when we used to glaze and sell ceramic switch covers. Our success was beginning to bury us. The process of glazing and firing ceramic switch plates (eye-catching and shiny) in the scale kiln to meet demand was inhumane. For this reason, we only let close friends or ourselves perform the process. It didn’t have any positive ripple effects and eventually, since there was no innovation to make the process something I was willing to personally execute, I dropped the product offerings.
With the mindset of creating positions I would be willing to work full time, things like systems and organization became intentional. It’s what helps me thrive and keeps my cortisol levels balanced. While these things help me thrive, simplicity builds on these systems and strengthens the organization every year: to maintain the position, evolve the position into a department, and soon evolve that department into a thriving branch of the company. That’s what it’s really about – durability and toughness.
Our new Care division is another example. Currently staffed by three full-time artisans, they take care of everything from process improvement support, post-order customer service, plant and equipment maintenance, or even bringing in innovations. to our suppliers to provide us with better supplies. These positions have reinforced the synergy on our production floor which has made a resource for our ‘Make’ team which was not present three years ago.
When specific, ad-hoc issues or issues to solve in the manufacturing sector arose, our team did not have dedicated resources to help us go beyond the band-aid approach. Add up 12 or more situations resolved by band-aids and evolve this arm of our business, close your eyes and tell me how you feel. It probably makes you cringe. With the care division positions we’ve created, there’s no need to close your eyes or grind your teeth. There’s ad hoc process improvement, training, supplier relationship adjustments, and increased engagement with customers to get to the root of issues. We just take care of this business and in turn, it feels better.
Stay true to your personal values
I’m a hard worker, I respect how hard manufacturing is, the demand for excellence, and what it’s like to start your journey from scratch. It’s not for everyone.
Until recently we were able to promote 90% from within, which means there is an opportunity for you as we are a growing and evolving organization.
Because I started at the entry level and worked my way up through several organizations, it is in my personal values to be of service to others and to build something that uplifts others, if they wish. This applies within my company and outside of it – I believe my purpose in life is to create opportunity for others.
“When one of us shines, we all shine” ~Moira Rose
Overall, this is felt through our corporate culture and when we hit walls, as all small businesses do, when we go astray, our aligned culture eventually corrects itself to maintain that vibe. That’s not to say we avoid difficult conversations, but ultimately it’s with a commitment to excellence and improvement, those personal values that drive our leadership teams on many levels fuel our progress. It’s like a team rowing together on a boat to the same destination.
One way to bring this to life to include more than a few people in the business is to intentionally build bridges to our local entrepreneurial community. Using our business resources of incredible world-class tile and mosaic artistry, we are able to use the product we make to directly impact key entrepreneurs in our community who are starting and building as a way enhance their space, adding to the marketability of their space, thereby increasing their ability to connect with their communities. Local word-of-mouth is so vital these days, so we’re extremely proud to have embedded a giving model into our operations that touches the core of who we are: creative entrepreneurs.
Sounds simple, right? Kindness is such an important element in building a business that people want to be a part of. It’s not enough to say it and want it, but having a safe environment that ensures people are held accountable is essential. When you help people understand not only their role, but also the roles of others and how the different roles within a company’s divisions work together, it leads to better understanding.
With this, it is easier to establish trust and thus you have teams that rely on and collaborate with other teams in a more fluid way. Recognition in the form of mere shouting within our culture then became the norm.
What if it becomes a norm to research what your team does well versus the toxic pattern of reporting and micro-managing in error? It has a totally different vibe.
Our goal is to lead by action and by publishing clear objectives within the various divisions of the company. It helps others rely on others and builds trust so that we are working on aligned goals.
According to research shared by harvard business review, acts of courtesy, helping, and praising were found to be related to the core goals of organizations. Higher rates of these behaviors were predictive of lower productivity, efficiency, and turnover rates. When leaders and employees act kindly toward each other, they facilitate a culture of collaboration and innovation.
When people receive an act of kindness, they repay it, research shows, and not just to the same person, but often to someone completely new. This leads to a culture of generosity in an organization.
Engage in activities outside of work that cultivate your own self-esteem.
This aspect is personal to each person, so I’m not going to tell others what to do to cultivate their own self-respect, I can only share some of the things I’ve done personally.
I remember five years ago my own feeling of drained energy because my job had mostly shifted to a computer. Look, I run a creative business and we make tiles.
However, I hadn’t been on the production line since 2010 and it was starting to really catch up with me (and my waistline). I started feeling my position and what I should be responsible for.
My own success was burning me again. I had two options – one was to blame the company and regret being in a position that (at the time) was entirely mine – choose to reinvent the whole sales process and figure it out” all that HR and benefits stuff.” The other option was to break down what was going on so that my waistline didn’t reflect my self-image (lol, still young).
I work better with stats and what I was seeing was that I was consuming more calories than I was burning. I hate counting calories, that wasn’t an option. So I searched and searched for something I could do to change my metabolism and I found bodybuilding. I found something that, not instantly, completely changed my view of physical health and due to the intensity of training, sitting is a relief (ha) instead of an energy drain . I hacked the Matrix and turned my computer role into something that complimented my lifestyle.
It was so important to me to be able to stay focused on what I was doing to continue building a business that people want to be a part of. It was my personal backbone and I’m proud to say that my respect for myself is there, as I’ve kept this discipline for over five years and it’s part of my way of life.
When you take care of yourself, you have the ability to take care of your business and make it something people want to be a part of. Build something you’re proud of, that you’re passionate about, and include others in that vibe – you can’t go wrong because you’ve built a community.
“The best education I received was working with people in the community on a local basis. Because what it taught me is that ordinary people, when working together, can do extraordinary things. ~Barack Obama
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