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MCCC: Chamber TV Member Spotlight with Donna Miller

Join Chamber TV as Mike Stanzilis interviews our very own, Donna Miller. Donna shares what made her pursue entrepreneurship, what over 25 years of  experience has taught her, and how she believes the Covid-19 pandemic has and continues to impact businesses. As a bold advocate for “work/ life balance”, Donna shares how she’s developed a business that gives her the freedom to intentionally pursue her purpose everyday.

 

Mike Stanzilis:

Hi and welcome to MCTVs Let’s Talk. I’m Mike Stanzilis, Vice President of Membership and Government Affairs for the Morris County Chamber of Commerce. And today we are truly blessed to have Donna Miller with us on our member spotlight. Donna started C3Workplace about 25 years ago. Donna has been with the chamber for 11 years and she’s also one of our ambassadors. So Donna, welcome to the show.

Donna Miller:

Thank you, Mike. I am delighted to be here.

Mike Stanzilis:

Well, we are absolutely delighted to have you. So let’s just jump right into it. 25 years ago, you decided to start C3Workplace. What was it that drove you to take that incredible plunge and go out on your own?

Donna Miller:

Great question, Mike, and it’s really very simple. I had two children. I still have two children, 10 and seven. And number one, I want it to be a mom and I wanted to achieve a certain financial independence, but equally important was I wanted flexibility, I wanted to be a mom first. And so 25 years ago, I didn’t see it around me and I set out to create it and I did.

Mike Stanzilis:

Wow, it’s amazing. So people say that a lot. They wanted some freedom in their lives, right? To when they start their own business. Have you found you’ve been able to get that freedom? Because we know that a lot of people who own their own businesses work it around the clock also.

Donna Miller:

Yes. I have been able to achieve that and what we do as a company is we provide space, support and consulting to help businesses start and grow. And very often we’re helping them to do what I’ve been able to achieve, which is I’ve built a company that runs without me in the day-to-day, and now I have a company that’s beginning to grow without me in the day-to-day and that did not come without lots of mistakes along the way. But I’ve figured out the formula and the formula is delegating, letting go and raising up other leaders. That’s what’s worked for me.

Mike Stanzilis:

So you just touched on some of the most amazing fundamentals of leadership. So it’s clear that you are a gifted leader and that’s how you’re able to do this, right? Delegate is the biggest thing that some people are really afraid of. 25 years in, what still motivates you 25 years into doing this?

Donna Miller:

That is a great question, and it’s a long answer. So the short answer is about 10 years into having the business, when I had been doing things so wrong for so long, I was a terrible micromanager. There was no situation I couldn’t make worse. I began the process of changing and that process of changing centered on getting clear on my values and making sure that the company’s mission values vision, we could live that out loud. So for me, what keeps me motivated all these years later, are those values. And you can sort of see them behind me on my whiteboard there, but my top values are faith, impact and community. And C3 actually stands for connect, collaborate, community. And so my faith is what drives everything forward in my life. I happen to be a Christian and I believe that we are meant to raise up other leaders, whatever your religious beliefs are, I think you’d probably agree that Jesus was a pretty darn good leader, he’s had an impact 2000 years later.

So that is what keeps me motivated all these years later, is I love helping other people, I love raising up other people and I do that with my volunteer roles. I’m also a board member for the Morris County Chamber. I do it with my team and I do it with my clients. And so I think that once you get clear on what your values are, that’s my why. That’s why I get up in the morning, it’s why I love what I do. And in the end, my greatest hope is that I will have an impact and that these companies that I’ve helped will have a ripple effect because I truly believe companies can and should be a force for good. So for me, what keeps me motivated is having everything in my life aligned with those core values of mine. And it sounds a little Pollyanna, but I got to tell you, it’s worked for me.

Mike Stanzilis:

Hey, you know, I think it’s worked for you because you went through some trials and errors, right? And you discovered this somewhat into that period. And you’d mentioned the micromanaging and then discovering of how, you know, your incredible faith, and that’s what’s really driving you. And I really appreciate that answer. That’s so important I think, for you to share that with the business and the entrepreneurial community at large. So thank you very much for that.

Donna Miller:

Absolutely.

Mike Stanzilis:

Pandemic. Okay. The pandemic, it drove the workplace future into the present. It really brought us to a place where we were sort of heading anyway. And you’ve been doing this for a long time. So you’ve been doing this long before the pandemic, leading teams remotely. So talk to our audience about some of the pitfalls and some of the successes and what it’s like for you to lead a team remotely and what you can share with us.

Donna Miller:

It’s really funny, I’m currently reading Simon Sinek’s newest book, which is called The Infinite Game. And he said we need to replace the title CEO with, which says pretty much nothing, with CVO, which is Chief Vision Officer. And I think that’s what I’ve seen my role as for quite a few years now, as it’s my job to see around corners and so this pandemic, what it’s shown me is that everything’s different, but everything’s the same. I mean, I started a company because I wanted work-life balance. So of course I offered that to my staff, a lot of young moms, who already were working at home. So I think you’re right, I think this simply accelerated the way we were going to work and as someone who offers flexible workspace, I’m also really well positioned for the future because working at home is going to work right up until it absolutely doesn’t and then you need some sort of flexible something.

So I feel that we are well positioned for the future. I think the greatest challenge has been helping to manage anxiety. I think that that’s the wave to come. I think we have to be really talking to our people, our staff, our clients, our stakeholders. “How are you? Are you okay? Is there anything I can do?” So I have to say I’ve talked a lot in the last several months on panels about managing remote teams and culture and how do you build culture in a remote environment? Well, it’s the same way you build a culture face-to-face or you lead a team face-to-face. Communication, communication and more communication. And I think that the simple things are the things that are really important, is checking in with your team on a regular basis. “Hey, are you okay? Is there anything I can do?” I never think that there are these really complex answers, I think it’s applying simple things. So that’s kind of what I’m seeing at this point and what I see in the future as well.

Mike Stanzilis:

You know, a lot of what you’re saying, though, it goes back to your earlier statement about leadership, right? And you as a leader are helping your teams get through this. And you mentioned anxiety and I think that that is a big issue that really is just … you nailed it. It’s just the tip of the iceberg if we continue in this direction. You look around us, suicide rates have gone up exponentially in certain areas and certain States, depression, domestic violence. These are all symptoms of where we are now because of the pandemic.

Donna Miller:

Yes.

Mike Stanzilis:

So, how sustainable do you think this remote workforce is? And what does the post pandemic workspace look like to you?

Donna Miller:

I read a great article in the Wall Street Journal. I think that the reason work at home is working as well as it is, is because A, we’re still working on emergency projects. We’re doing what we have to do because we have to do it. But my concern for our future leaders is that it’s very difficult to develop talent remotely. That I think is what we need to be face-to-face with and I think at various points in projects, it’s hard to recreate that collective brainstorming and genius remotely. And we’re going to be missing out on, you know, water cooler talk is a pretty important thing. You know, the small talk, there’s really nothing, you know, we talked about this at the chamber, there’s really nothing small about small talk.

So I don’t believe it’s sustainable, I think a lot of jobs will stay at home. I think there will be many hybrid situations where we stay at home some of the time and when we go into the office. But I think that as humans, we are meant to live, work and worship in community. And I think we’re going to have to find our way back to that, and I think we are in small ways.

Mike Stanzilis:

Yeah, I hope so. And I hope that you’re right and we get back to that because clearly we need it. But I think, you know, your point about developing leaders, you know, so the future of the business community, the future of this country, depends on those leaders being developed and mentored. You know, you do a lot with remote teams, how do you measure their productivity remotely?

Donna Miller:

You know, that’s great. I would answer that question differently six months ago or eight months ago. Right now, well, typically I measure productivity in behavior because you really cannot control the outcome, you can really only control the behavior. So everyone has a behavior plan, they have priorities that they work on. And so how we’re measuring that now is everyone does a weekly report, they report on the different things that they’re doing. You know, of course we look at things, we have KPIs that we measure key performance indicators. You know, what’s in the pipeline, what’s closing. But right now, honestly, emotional health is more important to me than productivity, because if I’m making sure everyone is okay emotionally, the productivity will follow.

Mike Stanzilis:

Yeah, keep them motivated.

Donna Miller:

Right.

Mike Stanzilis:

So, you know, full disclosure, you and I had a great conversation prior to this and you had mentioned to me your time blocking and how you do that. And I just love that, so why don’t you share with us what you do for time blocking?

Donna Miller:

It’s really pretty simple but people hate to do it. I write everything down. We use Asana for project management. That’s something we help our clients do. We use CRM, we use technology to manage all the things that we have on our plate. But for me, I have always used my calendar to manage my time. If it’s not on my calendar, it’s not happening. I color code my calendar to align with my priorities so that I make sure I’ve got a lot of the right colors on the calendar. But the thing that I know, Mike, you found very interesting is I print out my calendar for the day, I know what I have to do. And then, are you ready? Drum roll please. I exit Outlook. I exit email. I exit my calendar, I shut it off and I get to work on the things that I have said I need to do.

Mike Stanzilis:

Okay. Did you all hear that? And she turns off her email. It’s the simplest thing, but sometimes the simplest thing are the hardest things, but it is absolutely brilliant. Cause I know for me [crosstalk 00:12:39]

Donna Miller:

And also, from a productivity perspective, I think you have to be very clear on what your flow time is. What is the time of day that your genius shows up? And for me, that’s 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM. So I try not to disrupt that time. I make sure that I use that time for my strategic thinking.

Mike Stanzilis:

Awesome, awesome. So we’re about to close out, but since you are an ambassador and you’ve gotten a lot of success through the chamber and you’ve been here quite some time, what are some key takeaways that you can share with chamber members as to how they can maximize their membership?

Donna Miller:

That’s a great question. So I believe that my job as a professional service firm, someone who works with other business owners to help them to identify the behaviors that will get them to where they want to be and then provide a way for them to get them done, if I want to be a thought leader, I have to show up as a thought leader. And so when you join an organization, you can’t expect that organization to do for you, you have to show up and do for the organization. So I have held so many different volunteer positions in this Morris County Chamber of Commerce, which is an extraordinary chamber. And believe me, when I volunteer my time, I’m looking for an ROI and I get it because I do what I do. So volunteer, get involved in one of the councils, get involved in an event, find a way to volunteer.

You know, Mike, you mentioned that I’m an ambassador, I serve on the board. I now chair the Members Council. I’ve chaired women in business events, I participated in so many different committees. So, and there are so many new ways to get value out of the chamber. You can write content for the chamber. There is a discount program. You can speak at a council meeting. There are boundless opportunities to draw value from this now currently virtual chamber. So, I get a little worked up. There’s a gazillion ways to do it. The point is, you will have been assigned an ambassador when you joined the chamber. Talk to that ambassador. If you don’t know who your ambassador is, email, I don’t know … Collette at the chamber and email Mike at the chamber and he will tell you who your ambassador is. But that person is there to help you maximize your membership. Rant over.

Mike Stanzilis:

Outstanding. So it’s been a pleasure to have Donna Miller, the Chief Vision Officer, the CVO of C3Workplace with us today. She’s an ambassador here at the chamber and a member of our board. So Donna, thank you so much. We really appreciate you being here and thank you to all of our great members. And get out there, and as she said, “Be a giver.” Thank you, Donna

Donna Miller:

Awesome. Thank you, Mike. Great to be here.