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Banking on KC - Lisa Foley and Kristen Christian of Bee Organized

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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host, Kelly Scanlon. With us on this episode are Lisa Foley and Kristen Christian, the co-founders of Bee Organized, a company that provides organizing solutions and has successfully franchised from coast to coast. Welcome to the show.

Lisa Foley:

Thank you, Kelly. It's fun to be here.

Kristen Christian:

Yes, we're delighted to be here. Thank you, Kelly.

Kelly Scanlon:

As I said, Bee Organized provides organizing solutions. Where do you work? Do you work in your home, offices? Give us the details.

Lisa Foley:

We work anywhere people live or work. Honestly, anywhere you have stuff that needs to be organized, Bee Organized is the solution to help you calm the chaos and get organized. We actually have three lines of service, Kelly, that go beyond organization, actually, that a lot of people don't know about Bee Organized. We help people organize in their home, like I said, or their offices, anywhere from the attic to the basement and everywhere in between. We also help people through life transition, whether it be a move, a remodel, after the death of a loved one, we help them kind of clear that space. Then we offer concierge services to help with that to-do list and simplify your life, not just your hive. We're kind of a well-rounded.

Kelly Scanlon:

When you say hive, what do you mean by that?

Kristen Christian:

Kelly, well, our tagline is Simplify Your Hive. We say hive, yes, of course the first indication is your home. But, we always say your hive can be anything; your purse, your desk drawer, your calendar, your car, your head, your heart. We just always live in such a state of chaos. So it is our goal to come in and simplify all of those areas for our clients.

Kelly Scanlon:

So the hive can be any place, big, small, whatever it might be. Do you have a particular method that you follow as you try to help people get organized?

Kristen Christian:

Absolutely. Great question. We do, of course, we have the be organized method that we train all of our worker bees on and have a very robust training on that. But really at the end of the day, organizing is simple. We always say there's three simple rules, and that is one, own less, two, assign a home for everything else, and three, maintain that order that you just created.

Kelly Scanlon:

And how do you help people do that? Because I would think that most people, not all, but most people probably have the best intentions about staying organized. They clean out a closet and they say, "Okay, I got rid of all these clothes. I have everything been reached that I need. Everything else is stored here in a certain way for when I need it." And then two weeks later they're like, "Oh my it's, it looks like I never even touched this stuff." So why is it so hard to stay organized even with the best intentions?

Kristen Christian:

Right? Isn't that the golden rule? Well, we always say organization is a journey, not a destination, because life keeps coming. And with every stage in life, every week in life, it seems, stuff seems to follow. So first and foremost, we come to our clients with three beliefs of treating them with compassion, confidentiality, and completely judgment free. And I think that approach really sets people at ease. And then it allows us to meet them where they are in this journey, so then we can really work with them and create customized organizing solutions that truly are sustainable. Because Kelly, it's really important to think what might work for you in your home doesn't necessarily work for me in the stage of life I'm in or our habits. So that's a really key part to providing organizing solutions, is to come and meet people where they are, listen to them and observe their habits, and then create customized solutions that they can really sustain and keep up with.

Lisa Foley:

We will always say too, if the system's not in place, chaos wins every time.

Kelly Scanlon:

Oh, easily. I think that's not too hard to believe. So when you talk about coming in and helping people get organized and creating these custom solutions, what does that look like? Do you come in one time, work with the person, or do they just give you some general instructions and turn you loose? What happens after it's organized? Do you come back at various intervals? How does it all work?

Lisa Foley:

Absolutely, and great question. So no, we work right alongside our clients and by the time they bring us in, they're kind of so overwhelmed they don't know where to start. All of our organizing projects start with the power purge, getting rid of those items that they no longer need, want, or use. And then we work with them to customize the way they think, the way they work, the way they get ready in the morning, and how they unload their car with groceries. And then we customize setting up those solutions for those clients. But it really is working right alongside our clients to do that.

Kristen Christian:

Well, and also before that, we start every project with a complimentary assessment where we come in and ask, we have what we call setting questions that we ask to really nail down what those habits are at Lisa was talking about, so that we can really come armed with the best mindset, tools, and direction to really create that customized solution.

Kelly Scanlon:

I'm sure that over the years, I believe you've been in business about seven years now, that over the years you've seen a lot. I mean, you go into people's homes and they have to show you basically the worst of themselves and the way they live. And in order for you to get it to a place where everything is in its place. Can you share any stories with us? Do you have a favorite one?

Kristen Christian:

Oh gosh. First of all, what we always say, we have seen a lot, but we always say it's such an honor to do what we do, that people open their homes to us. Because truly, like you said, it is so intimate, what we do, take people take us into areas of their home that they wouldn't show their best friends. So, that is never lost on us. We are always so cognizant of what an honor it is to get in and help people behind the facade that they put out to the public. The ones where the client has been just so frustrated, been through so much transition, and we come in and they literally, you can see their shoulders slumped over, they're embarrassed and they're kind of just-

Lisa Foley:

They're just weighed down by [inaudible 00:06:15]

Kristen Christian:

Yeah, they're defeated. And then when we can come in, there's one client in particular, a young mom. She had several young kids and she had literally no laundry system. And really the system was just piles and piles everywhere. You couldn't sit on her couch.

Lisa Foley:

When the front door rang, she just almost died, that someone's at her front door and can see into her house with all the...

Kristen Christian:

Right. And so it was just so amazing to help her with just some real simple tweaks and creating a solution, a system, excuse me, to help with that. And really, of course, the first was to purge because they weren't motivated to do laundry on an ongoing basis because they had too many clothes, everyone in the family did. And then what happened is then there was no system to put it away and so piles happened, and then that just really started the ball of just disorganization everywhere. And so to really come in and help her create a system that made sense for her, that was sustainable for her, and going through and purging a lot of the items so that they only had what they used and loved, and they had kind of a motivation to do laundry and to put it away, and then to see her shoulders go back.

Lisa Foley:

Well, to make her home something she was proud of and someone that she wanted people to come into. Just to see that transformation is so amazing.

Kristen Christian:

It's so amazing. We love what we do, and just to be able to go and help somebody love their home again, because we really feel that your home should welcome you and support you and be a respite.

Lisa Foley:

Now more than ever.

Kristen Christian:

Yeah.

Lisa Foley:

In today's world.

Kelly Scanlon:

Right. From work from home that's continuing and so forth, that you're spending more and more hours there than ever. So you do go in, and at intervals if the client wishes, and check on the progress or make tweaks if necessary to the system?

Lisa Foley:

Absolutely. So we really hope to educate our clients. We always say we want repeat business, but just hopefully not back in the same space. But we do go in and maintain because honestly, seasons of life change, the organizing system that we set up today could look very different to the family's needs or personal needs two years from now where their season of life is. So we absolutely have a maintenance program. We can go in and just refresh a space. We have a lot of clients that say, "I want you to put away all of my Christmas decorations because you do it so in such an organized way, and I don't want to mess it up."

Kelly Scanlon:

So you will. That's your concierge service, I take it?

Lisa Foley:

That's part of that service. Yes.

Kristen Christian:

Yeah.

Kelly Scanlon:

I realize that you put together custom programs, but if our listeners had time today to do only one thing that could help them get organized, what would your suggestion be?

Kristen Christian:

Oh, I love that question. We want people to start to organize on their own and to take control of a space. So we always say, "Start small, don't bite off more than you can chew and be realistic." Oftentimes people, they get all jazzed up and they want to do an entire basement in an afternoon and they pull everything out and then they get pulled away for carpool or whatnot. So really starting small, even get that organizing muscle and that purging muscle going with just one single drawer and pull everything out and really determine what the purpose is for that space and what really needs to be in there. And going through, Lisa mentioned the power purge, that there's power purge questions that we ask our clients. So really, it is just starting small and learning that the key to getting organized is owning less and assigning a home for everything and then maintaining that. I mean that at the end of the day, it's really simple.

Kelly Scanlon:

Lisa, I've known you for many years now. You came from the insurance business. What prompted the two of you to launch a business like Bee Organized?

Lisa Foley:

Well, so Kristen and I met in junior high in Colorado. We've known each other for years and have always dreamed and talked about owning a business together. We threw out a lot of different ideas. And when we kind of sat one day and talked about what our talents are and what we've realized, we've kind of always been doing this on this-

Kristen Christian:

And what our passion is, right?

Lisa Foley:

And what our passion is. So we talked about this concept and started really looking into what was happening in this industry, in the Kansas City area. And we found that there were a lot of people doing it, but really just kind of as a one woman show. So we determined there's really not a business out there that's doing that. So we took the leap and started it back in 2015.

Kelly Scanlon:

When you had this concept, how is yours going to be different?

Kristen Christian:

Well, we really came, one, there were two of us, and we wanted to approach it in a team way. And so 95% of our jobs have two worker bees or more on a job, simply because there's such a synergy that happens with team, team work and efficiency, safety, creativity. And then also, we right out of the gate knew that we wanted to work right alongside the client. So when you've got two worker bees and the client working, it's amazing what you can do, a lot in a short amount of time, but also that customization that you can do because you've got the client there. And we also just came out of the gate professional. This was a true business. This was not a hobby to us. And so that allowed us to open doors to referral resources such as realtors and senior living communities that really saw us as a legitimate business that is here to stay.

Kelly Scanlon:

So you grew your business, by number one, having a business mentality, mindset, and number two, by working with referral resources. The way that you really grew coast to coast though, as I mentioned when I introduced you, was through franchising. Why did you choose franchising as a model for growing your company? What was appealing about that?

Kristen Christian:

There's so many elements to franchising, but I really think we knew that we had created a model that made sense and it was replicatable. And with that, you mentioned that we came to this, the business mindset, we are strong believers in systems and processes. So as we were building the organized Kansas City, we came up with the how-tos, the best practices of systems in the processes. And that right there is truly what people are buying when they buy a franchise, is the how-to, how to run this business. And so it was more than the branding, although I think the branding definitely helped us as well in our franchising efforts, but we really saw that we had created something that we could kit up and pass along to others to have the same business in another market.

Lisa Foley:

Well, and offer the value to business owners that they don't have to walk through the landmines that Kristen and I did in the beginning. We gained so much experience and knowledge in this industry of what to do, what not to do, and that is what we're able to pass on to a franchise owner, that buys a franchise at Bee Organized.

Kelly Scanlon:

Yeah. What do you think was one of your biggest learning curves? What was one of your biggest lessons that you learned?

Lisa Foley:

Gosh, well first-

Kristen Christian:

There's been so many.

Lisa Foley:

...I think we changed our rates like five times within the first year.

Kelly Scanlon:

That's always so hard is the pricing, getting your prices right.

Kristen Christian:

And then just ways to work smarter, not harder. When you're building a business, there's so many hats to wear and you could lose an entire afternoon, an entire day figuring out how to put the signature picture on the bottom of your email. So it's all the minutiae of little things that get so caught up that we had already created and done. We wasted a lot of time, energy, and money in the beginning doing stuff like that.

Lisa Foley:

Well, and both of us come from the B2B selling to businesses. Selling to a consumer direct is so different. So we've learned a ton of how to get to the consumer through referral partnerships, through social media, through different avenues that we've learned a lot of what works and what doesn't work. And I think we re able to pass along a pretty good playbook now, to franchise owners.

Kelly Scanlon:

How does a business owner know whether their company's a good candidate for franchising?

Kristen Christian:

If you can replicate, if it's easy to replicate, and that comes from real hard, sitting down, black and white, how you do what you do. You have to have a pretty impressive playbook. So many businesses, running a business, your hair on fire, drinking from the water hose a lot, and you have to have it all in a system, in a process, an operations manual if you will. And then if you can control the quality as you replicate, as you grow. And that, to me, is probably the Achilles heel of franchising. And so our goal with Bee Organized is that if somebody uses Bee Organized Miami and they moved to Seattle, they can call on Bee Organized Seattle and have the same exact service and the same process and experience.

Kelly Scanlon:

So how do you guarantee that?

Lisa Foley:

We have an annual Hive Summit where all franchise owners come together. In fact, we just had hosted it here in Kansas City last month. We also have monthly pow wow meetings with each owner. We have just an amazing communication system out there. And then we have a corporate team that really is following and watching each market and there to support them with issues that come up so we can kind of stay consistent, market to market.

Kristen Christian:

Well, and we really become a partner of our franchisees. We sit at their table and they sit at our table, as we say. And so with that partnership becomes trust. I think also, first and foremost, we are very elective on who comes and sits at our table and joins our team and flies that Bee Organized flag, because we need to make sure that they're head and heart are in line with our mission. And then that we communicate that mission over and over in multiple times and multiple ways so that we know that we all have the same goals. And so yes, occasionally you're going to have something that's off brand or that isn't in line, but we have systems and processes set up for communication that we can nip that in the bud really quickly and that we all are in line with the overall arching mission of Bee Organized.

Kelly Scanlon:

You obviously have experienced great growth, as we say, coast to coast, because of the franchise model, but how has franchising changed your roles in the company? So often founders start out wearing many hats and doing all kinds of different things. And as a company evolves, in order for it to continue to grow, the owners have to change, the founders have to change as well. So how have you changed?

Lisa Foley:

Oh, my gosh. We've evolved so much. To think that we both started just the two of us as worker bees and organizing people's basements in an apron to then hiring bees in Kansas City to do that job. We've then moved away from organizing and then now to franchising. We've really moved away, even from operating Kansas City, so we can be in the role to support our franchisees and their success. So yeah, it has changed and that actually, Kelly has been the biggest surprise, I think to me, that we started this with the passion of organizing, obviously. I have such a passion for the business side of it and watching our franchisees become successful and grow as individuals grow in their own business, it's such a joy and an honor to be on that journey with them. I've loved it.

Kristen Christian:

It absolutely is, and we still wear several of the hats, but it's been awesome to be able to share the responsibilities of running Kansas City and running Bee Organized enterprises, the franchising side. It's constantly changing.

Kelly Scanlon:

You also do a lot of speaking engagements.

Kristen Christian:

Well, if there's anything we love more than organizing, it might be talking about organizing. We love it. Because there's so much, We love the philosophy and the psychology behind why people struggle with organization, why we all struggle with organization, and then you marry that with American consumerism. And the fact that we are all running Mock 80, it really, we are just so passionate about helping people look at their habits differently, looking at their relationship with their stuff, and how, if we kind of pull back the layers of that onion, how we can really make some very simple changes in our lives to reap huge benefits through the art of being organized.

Kelly Scanlon:

Your purpose has become bigger than just organizing, it sounds like. If you had to say now, what your purpose is, I'm sure it would be very different from what it was when you started the company. So what would you say it is these days?

Kristen Christian:

Well, gosh. Our purpose is twofold. It's to provide our franchisees an opportunity to achieve the American dream of becoming business owners, entrepreneurs, their own boss, to be in control of their destiny and building a business and scaling a business that at the end of the day has street value. I mean, that is just such an amazing purpose, is just helping our franchisees build this business and achieve their dreams doing something they love. And then on the flip side, and that, along with our worker bees too, allowing our worker bees to work their passion and share their gifts and talents.

Lisa Foley:

And channel their talents.

Kristen Christian:

And then with our clients and with those who stop to listen to us talk, it is realizing the life changing benefits of being organized, and then it truly allows us to be more intentional at peace, and to just slow down and have a better life through organizing.

Lisa Foley:

And to make that impact in homes across America is pretty fun and fun to think about. Pretty cool.

Kelly Scanlon:

Well, it sounds like you have found what brings you joy, what brings, how you use your passion to bring you joy and to also create a business. And when your purpose aligns like that, it's just a really beautiful thing. Thank you both for being our guest today.

Kristen Christian:

Yes.

Kelly Scanlon:

And the way that you're also showcasing Kansas City, whenever you bring people in for a conference, it's wonderful to hear that too.

Lisa Foley:

Absolutely.

Kristen Christian:

It's a great place.

Lisa Foley:

We love our city.

Kristen Christian:

Easy to showcase.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, president of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Lisa and Kristen for being our guests on this episode of Banking On KC. Much of the discussion around entrepreneurship focused on the company's growth, what adjustments can be made to acquire more customers, to expand products or services, to create more profits. But there's not as much conversation about the growth of a company's owner as the business scales, about the ability to transition from a hands-on, wearer of many hats founder, to a focused leader of a growing team. Some of the most successful startups owe their longevity and ongoing profitability to founders who understood they needed to evolve and grow with the needs of their business, as Lisa and Kristen have been able to do. At Country Club Bank, a bank built with an entrepreneurial mindset, we welcome the opportunity to discuss your company's growth goals, including the resources you need to be successful in an ever-changing ownership role. Thanks for tuning in today. We're banking on you, Kansas City. Country Club Bank, member FDIC.

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