We had the good fortune of connecting with Kathy DeCocq and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kathy, work-life balance is a hot topic right now, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Coming from a global corporate company, my life didn’t have balance, and I paid the price for that by becoming very physically ill and falling into a deep depression. I justified my crazy hours and the unhealthy priority I put on work by telling myself things like “They can’t survive without me, not even for a day,” “I need to be there to help my team,” “If I don’t do it, no one else will,” “Long hours are ok, it’s only temporary.” My body forced the issue and all these statements were invalidated overnight. After taking extensive time off to heal, I vowed that I would NEVER let myself get that extreme again, that I would pay more attention to work-life balance.
I slowly tried different techniques to carve out a healthy space for work in my life. I refused the late evening meetings. I took control of my schedule by telling my boss when I could complete a task and not allowing him to dictate a due date to me. I was maniacal about my to-do list and I blocked my calendar time to ensure I could take 30 minutes to eat lunch and walk my dog every day. And guess what? I was still a high performer without slowly killing myself in the process.
These are the practices that I teach my clients – taking the first step towards releasing the death grip that their business has on their lives. Even today, I am continuing to evolve my views on work-life balance. A colleague of mine, Carlos Hidalgo, introduced me to the concept of “work-life boundaries.” Striking a work-life balance is a fuzzy concept. For example: it may sound acceptable or balanced to agree to work on a typical non-work day, if you trade that day off for another that week. But what the balance concept doesn’t account for is the ripple effect of your decision, in this example, to work on a typical day off. Not only are you throwing off your own groove (i.e. schedule and routine), but you are affecting everyone else in your household who was hoping to spend Saturday with you fully present, not working. And you taking the following Monday off to “balance” that Saturday out for yourself doesn’t have nearly the meaning and impact as if you had spent Saturday with your family.
Boundaries, on the other hand, are more rigid – you can see/feel them, quantify them, know when you are meeting them, and they involve other people in your life so that maintaining them feels important. If you’ve made an agreement with your wife to take a hike with the dogs on Saturdays, you’re much more likely to say no to any work that pops up on that day, knowing she’s counting on you too. I practice setting work-life boundaries in my own life, and I am pleased to say that I still get just as much work done (if not more) and I’m enjoying my life outside of work more than ever!
What should our readers know about your business?
I see entrepreneurs as Super Heroes, and with Savvy Maven, I help small business owners fight the cryptonite and unleash their superpowers, all without sacrificing their sanity! I am most excited when my clients experience success, no matter the size or scale, when I see the smile on their face and hear the relief in their voice that says “it’s working!”!!
What sets me apart from other small business coaches is two-fold: my approach and my attitude. Firstly, my approach is not “one size fits all” – I don’t have a specific system that I expect my clients to follow, no magical “four-step program” that will deliver “instant results”. I listen to what my clients are telling me about their business, what’s working and what isn’t. I ask what tools they are already using – which ones they like, which ones they despise, and why. I use this information to tailor a personalized success strategy that will help that entrepreneur improve their lives and their business. For me, coaching is about balance – being realistic, knowing when to push, recognizing and celebrating success, identifying when something isn’t working and we need to re-tool.
Secondly, I am a very optimistic person by nature, and I know inherently that every client can thrive. It’s my job to ask probing questions to tease out why things really aren’t working for a client, and then get to work on coming up with immediate steps to take and a long term strategy for success.
I started Savvy Maven so that I could help entrepreneurs in my community. Having met several small business owners at networking events and craft fairs, I started to see that they were feeling burnt out, just like I was at my corporate job. When I talked with them and dug a little deeper, they were struggling with things like expanding their business, hiring employees, and letting go of the “Chief Everything Officer” role that they embodied to get their business up and running. They felt out of control, that they were a slave to their business. And I thought to myself, they just need a few systems and processes to help relieve the choke hold that their business has on their lives.
For over 20 years, I helped multi-million dollar corporations become more efficient so they could save money. Creating efficient processes and finding better ways to do things is what I do best, so for a while, I really enjoyed my job. But when the projects became less about increasing capacity so the company could take on more business and more about cutting payroll by X%, the joy evaporated and I was extremely burnt out. I couldn’t stomach the fact that my work was resulting in people losing their jobs, that these dedicated employees were only seen as numbers to reduce. The interactions were cold and calculated; there was no “human” left. The work was slowing chipping away at my soul, affecting my physical and emotional health.
I knew something had to change. I created Savvy Maven so that I could use my skills and experiences as a force for good in the small business community. I get to do what I was put on this planet to do (make processes more efficient) but in a very personal and human way. It’s my greatest joy to show small business owners that it’s possible to enjoy both business AND life without sacrificing sanity, health, or suffering the debilitating burnout I experienced.
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way is that small business ownership is a marathon, not a sprint! I am highly impatient and I want to see near-immediate results in all that I do (it’s why I love things like vacuuming so much – you instantly see the fruits of your labor!). But that’s not how starting any business works! I have learned how to stay motivated during the marathon by using visual goal charts, for example, and by looking for and celebrating all the wins, big or small, along the journey.
I have surrounded myself with an amazing tribe of supporters who help me with this, especially in noticing the little wins along the way. Learning how to develop the skill of self-motivation has been absolutely critical to keeping my sanity and not giving up! If there’s one thing that I hope readers take away from this interview, it’s that I truly enjoy helping people succeed! There’s nothing like that feeling of accomplishment, and having partnered together with a client to improve their business and their lives. It’s the reason I get out of bed every day!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
For me, it’s all about the food, so let’s start there! We would definitely have to eat breakfast at all of the following places: the Hen House (biscuits and chorizo sausage gravy, need I say more?), SunnySide Breakfast Lounge (after a hike, for sure), Original Pancake House (dutch baby pancake and thick sliced bacon – drool!), Randy’s (a Scottsdale staple, serving up comfort food hot, fast, and at great prices), and Bergie’s Coffee for some caffeine and cinnamon rolls.
For lunch, AJ’s sushi is a delicious, well-kept secret, sandwiches are the bomb at Dilly’s Deli, True Food is a tasty organic option, and we if we were feeling like eating something a little heavier, we would go to Gadzooks where we can make our own enchiladas to order!
And dinner, holy cow, where do I start – we only have a week?!?! Ok – Jalisience for the most amazing traditional Mexican food, Blanco Tacos for street corn, rice, and tacos, Firebirds for steak, Bandera for anything wood fired from chicken to salmon to steak (and their amazing corn bread), and Hula’s Modern Tiki for some island fare.
Dessert (there’s always room for dessert!) would be at Handel’s ice cream, Toasted Mallow for make-your-own smores, DoughLicious for edible cookie dough, True Food for flourless chocolate lava cake, Crumbl for gourmet cookies, and Oregano’s for a pizookie (cookie dough baked in a pizza pan and served with ice cream).
We definitely would have to be very active if we plan on eating all of that food and not rolling my bestie out of town when it comes time to leave! I could go to Butcher Jones to hike and paddleboard every day! We could also take a walk around the Riparian, play tennis and ride bikes at Freestone Park, go walk around the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, and maybe do some more hiking at Papago Park! If that wasn’t enough to do, I would dial up some amazing houses and neighborhoods to tour – just in case my bestie wants to move to town now that she’s seen all the fantastic food and things to do here!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I owe quite a bit of my success and sanity to my wife, Diane. She is a relentless supporter of mine, and she encourages me to bet on myself at every opportunity. If not for her support and perspective, I’m sure I would still be slaving away in corporate America, dying inside because I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing and I wasn’t fulfilled by the work. To make a small pivot, but take a huge leap out of my comfort zone, into helping small business owners in my community was, to me, a big risk. But Diane made it feel as easy as choosing what I wanted to eat for dinner, and if I didn’t like it, I could just do something else! I couldn’t have made this change in careers without her, and I am so excited to see what the future brings! Thank you, my love!
Ali Hohn, Diane DeCocq