Building YIKES, Inc. with Tracy Levesque

In this episode I talk to Tracy Levesque about her agency YIKES, Inc. We cover a lot of important and interesting topics, such as diversity and inclusion. YIKES truly stands out by being a deeply ethics-based business, by being a certified B corp, a certified Womens' Business Enterprise and a certified LGBT Business Enterprise amongst other things. We can all learn a lot from YIKES and I'm excited to publish my interview with Tracy.

In this episode I talk to Tracy Levesque about her agency YIKES, Inc. We cover a lot of important and interesting topics, such as diversity and inclusion. YIKES truly stands out by being a deeply ethics-based business, by being a certified B corp, a certified Womens' Business Enterprise and a certified LGBT Business Enterprise amongst other things. We can all learn a lot from YIKES and I'm excited to publish my interview with Tracy.

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Transcript of this episode (automatically generated)

Today, I'm really excited to welcome Tracy Levesque onto the show. Tracy is the co-founder of YIKES, a web design and development agency out of Philadelphia. YIKED truly stands out by being a deeply ethics based business, and we'll unpack what that means, by being a certified B Corp, a certified women's business enterprise and a certified LGBT business enterprise amongst other things, we can all learn a lot from YIKES.
And I'm excited to dive into today's interview with Tracy. You can find Tracy on Twitter at LilJimmi and YIKES on yikesinc.com. Before we begin the episode, I want to tell you a bit about Branch. Branch is my business, and the sponsor of this podcast. It's the simplest way to set up automated deployments for your WordPress sites.
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Yep. Twice as many deployments without paying, you can sign up for free on branchci.com. We started this episode with the history of YIKES. Back in the nineties. I started this company with my wife at the time and a friend of ours named Vicky. And so the three of us, we always did computer stuff for free, usually for non-profit organizations or groups that we're involved with.
And then we really bonded because really like computer stuff. And we all had a different skillset. And one day we were like, Hey, why don't we charge money for this? And that was it. Then when you started in the agency, you know, since that was a really long time ago, we went through a lot of different web technologies.
And in 2006 I had a baby and my wife Mia started a blog for the baby on WordPress. And also during that time, we were trying out different CMS and we didn't really like any of them. And then I started to hack away at WordPress for the baby blog. And realized that I really liked it. I probably did everything really, really wrong.
Cause it was the first time using WordPress, but in 2010 around, we became a exclusively, a WordPress. So we only do WordPress. Now, what were you doing before? Word press? Do you remember? We've tried everything from like OS commerce, Mambo, Joomla expression engine. All the different PHP, frameworks and stuff called fusion.
We did a lot of cold fusion work and we made custom CMS. So everything under the sun. Really? Yeah. That's cool. It's rare to see like an agency with this seniority or like the age of your agency, I think from your website, you started the same year that I started in school. So quite a long time ago, when you think about it through a couple of recessions, a couple of.com collapses.
Yeah, that's cool. So what the company looked like today, we are a WordPress VIP agency partner. So we do a lot of enterprise work, which is really super fun, but we've always stayed with our non-profit roots, probably over half. Our clients are non-profits and our biggest client is a nonprofit they're out a client.
That's been with us since the very beginning, since the nineties. And so we're, you know, a very mission-based company or a triple bottom line company, meaning. Planet people and profit, not just profit. So while we've been doing more work in the enterprise space, we still committed ourselves towards doing really good work for nonprofits.
That's really cool. Yeah. I kind of wanted to talk a bit about the business. So you mentioned already, like the kind of customers that you have. So what I would love to know is more about what services you offer to them, or is it all like one-off projects or do you have. Any sort of recurring revenue or just kind of like a little bit about like the business model or like how the business works.
First. We do mostly agency work, see like 90% of our income comes from agency work and we also do some plugins. So we have about nine plugins in the directory. Combined or plugins tab over 200,000 active installs to those plugins, the most popular ones we have either pro versions of those or paid add-ons.
So that's fun. I was nervous to get into the plugin world is I just imagine like lots of angry people sending mean tickets, but it's really fun actually. So a former employee talked me into it cause he was really into plugins. I'm like, okay. And I'm like, Oh my gosh, you have to do all this infrastructure.
We have to become knowledge base. We have to make platform. People buy the plugins and licensing and all this stuff and pay sales tax, which you don't have to do, you know, for an agency. And it's really fun. It's like there is way more people that are happy for your plugin and happy that your plugin helps them do their job or accomplish whatever it is then.
I mean people out there and they're going to be super mean in the forums or mean, and tickets. And it's just really satisfying. It is different, like selling a $30 plugin versus a hundred thousand dollars website. But I don't know, I guess the volume of customers and the positive feedback you get back.
And also when you go to work camp and people are like, Oh, I use your plugin. I love it. You know, I don't know. It's nice. It's fun. Um, so that's one, but it's a really tiny part of our business, but it's just a nice recurring revenue. It pays the rent, you know, and like utilities and things like that. I mean, that's awesome.
If you get it to that point, is it connected to the business in any other way? Like, did you use the plugins for customers websites or is it just slowly like another side thing? Or like, how do you think about it? I think about it as I'm not a side thing because it's part of the business, but it's something I definitely want to grow, you know, and develop more plugins.
And every year, you know, that recurring revenue goes up because people then renew their licenses. So that's a nice part. It, I love seeing this upward line of recurring revenue. So if it can pay for itself in that way or even make a profit, that's good. That's one leg of the business. And then the rest of it is like a traditional agency.
So we do projects. So client will come to us and like, we'll do a project for them from beginning to end, beginning to development launch. Sometimes they have like, you know, recurring services with us. Um, our biggest client, they pay us monthly on retainer to do everything for them. At any time they have like a direct line to ping us whenever they need something.
So that's, you know, one side spectrum and the other, one's like, you know, a smaller project like Guinea. And then once we've done, we're done and we filter it for them. They're kind of finished. Don't have more projects for us, but maybe they will in the future. And we could do that, like in a, you know, an hourly rate or maybe a new scope of work for something small, but.
That's kind of the range. And we do have like a monitoring service. So clients will pay us like a monthly fee to keep all of their plugins up to date for up to date and we'll fix it. If something goes wrong because of a plugin update. And we also like monitors their site prep time and malware and security and all those good things.
So that's recurring revenue as well, right? Yeah. It sounds like when you have a client on a retainer, it's not like it's something you try to force them into when you sell a project, it sounds like more like something organically. That's kind of like you've grown into with these clients because you have such a long working relationship with them.
Yes. Or we understand that they're going to need our help after launch. Yeah. You know, they have a lot of projects going on. They have a lot of content they're like constantly like generating and new features and new ideas, or, you know, during the discovery phase of the initial project, you realize, Oh, there's going to be a phase two and phase three and all these other ideas with features.
So those are the folks that during the time of signing the first contract, we'll put in like some sort of recurring hours for like the future for like up to a year. I'm kind of curious, going back a little bit, because I think the way you started your agency, it sounds very similar to, I think how a lot of agencies start, like, you start doing some work, you start doing it for free, then you're really, you could charge for it and you start just slowly just get more serious and more professional.
But it's always like a challenge, like going from like not charging to charging. And how much do you charge and like, how has your kind of like evolved in this over your almost 25 years doing this? Gosh, that's a good question. You know, definitely when we started this, we were all young and we didn't know anything about business and also being all women.
I think women definitely put themselves on sale in general. They don't charge what they're worth. They don't ask for the salary. They're worth a lot of imposter syndrome and I'm not good enough kind of thing. So one thing I learned and the times that I've, for whatever reason, worked on projects, where it was mostly dudes, I just kind of sat back and observed the way they behave.
They just set out to get what they want. You don't really care about how much it's going to cost and they just do it. And so, I don't know, I learned a little bit from that experience and that we cannot put ourselves on sale. We have to charge like what we're worth, because we're awesome. You know, we're really experienced, we know WordPress inside and out, like we do really good work.
So one thing I definitely learned is that you can't put yourself on sale. We do have a 10% discount for non-profits, which we're committed to for the rest of our lives, you know, because we are a mission-based business. But we no longer give work away for free, unless it's on purpose. Like we do have a couple of pro bono clients that we do work for, but otherwise we've gotten a lot better at making realistic, uh, proposals and just not stressing out about who is that going to be too expensive.
Like we're worth it. You know, like we do really good work and where. Where's the money we charge for it. Yeah. I think I've heard like in the salary negotiations, like it's pretty well known that men, you know, or this is like a job application situation. Like they apply for a job that they think they can do, not necessarily one that they have experience with and the women they're more likely to apply for something I have experienced with, or I know that they know for sure that they can do so I think that's kind of like ties into the same thing that you mentioned there.
And other side of hiring. I absolutely see that. It's like, you know, I've talked to some dudes who have literally none of the skills out of the box seven and the skills that we need, but just have confidence that they'll be able to do it anyway and demand like a really high starting salary. And I'm like, no, it's like, we're going to have to put so much investment in you and time and energy to get you up to speed.
And you know, it's not worth it to us, but I know there's this sense of entitlement that like, Oh yeah, sure. I'm worth that much. And you're right for women. It's the opposite. A woman will look at a list of job requirements. And if there's like one or two, they don't know. They're like, Oh, I'm not qualified.
I think that's hard. Isn't a lot of cases. Okay.
We become a VIP partner because that's the top of the workforce agencies. That's like the enterprise deals, the big projects. Well, you know, I always knew of the VIP program. And before I thought that you had to be a really big company, like the size of 10 up to be able to become a VIP agency partner. And then I learned that no, there's a shops of like three people that are also VIP agency partners.
So it's really learning the platform. Because we're pressed VIP has a certain set of coding standards. It has its funny things about VIP, like hosting. You just have to get to learn. Then we were able to do a VIP job as a subcontractor and kind of prove that we knew what we were doing. And then, um, It was just a matter of like, you know, talking to the people who run the agency partner program at VIP.
And it took a while to like over a year, I think. Yeah. And we should say VIP is the automatic enterprise testing. Do you partner with any other hosting companies? Uh, yes. We have a couple of dedicated servers with WP engine for our smaller clients. That's really cool. It sounds like a cool business. And, um, you mentioned this early on already, but I want to know more about what makes a business sustainable.
You mentioned the triple bottom line. Maybe you can talk a bit more about that and how you think about that in your business? Sure. From the onset of like our business, back in the day, it was called like socially responsible business and there wasn't a real community around it. We knew of like Ben and Jerry's, you know, and, but that was it.
And so we just. Set out to do what we wanted. So we want to have a business where we would want to work ourselves. We want to have, for people were treated fairly, uh, had autonomy, felt valued, like had a lot of freedom. You know, now you talk a lot about work-life balance that wasn't a term back in the day, but that's what we really want.
And we want people to enjoy their life outside of work. Then also enjoy work too, but we didn't want to like monopolize anybody's time. It's like, if you're a cat sick, or if your kid is sick or for whatever reason, you have to stay at home or not be available that day, we are a results only workplace.
Meaning as long as you make your deadlines, as long as you keep clients happy, as long as you're being a good team player and generally nice person to work with and, you know, Doing your best and consistently learning and trying to improve your skills. I don't care what hours your work. I don't care if you take a lot of vacations, I don't care if you have to stay home for whatever reason at the last minute, as long as you're making all those goals, I'm happy.
That's cool. You mentioned result-driven and you know, this podcast is called billable hours and with some agencies, it's like, that's the number one metric for employees. It's like, how many billable hours did you get in this week when you would make a proposal for a client? Is that also like result-driven or like value based pricing or do you look at the hours?
Like how does that actually work? Yeah, we do look at hours to do track hours as hard as we use harvest. The forecast and stuff, but for me, it's not a punching the clock situation. I want to aim any field. Like they have to punch the clock when they come here. It's like, the way I measure is like, how happy are the clients?
Did we meet their deadlines? Did we give them the features that they wanted? Do they feel empowered to like manage their website? Moving forward? Those are the things that I measure and I'm not the person who makes the proposals. My wife makes the proposal, she does the business development. I help, I help a little bit, but, um, I'd say it's a combination of hours estimates and kind of like base pricing for certain things.
You also mentioned you don't care how much vacation people say, and I've heard it with startups, like some stars offer like unlimited vacation and perks like that. And then in some cases like the results ended up being that no one actually takes vacation because. Yeah, because like no one just takes, you know, no, it's like, that's another part of the work-life balance thing.
And the triple bottom line, it's like, you have unlimited vacation, but if you request vacation days, you get side-eye and you get like, you know, other people like, Oh, well they're taking vacation. Like, Ugh. You know, like when folks take vacation here, we want them to be able to, 100% is connect. Like we're not going to ping you, turn off your Slack, turn off your email, turn off everything, just leave your phone at home.
Like really be disconnected. And the nice thing about that is that if me and I need to go away, we can do that too. And I feel confident that folks will want to allow us the same freedom, even though we're the bosses and still have to stay, always kind of keep an eye on things and stay connected. People work hard to not have us be paying dwell on vacation.
So that's really nice. Yeah. That sounds nice to talk about. The triple bottom line is part of the bottom line, the profit, like that's your accountant, but like he doesn't prepare a statement for your people in the planet kind of metrics. How do you measure that or think about that. Do you have like quarterly check-ins or our counselor she's by the way, but that's okay.
So triple bottom line and people, planet profit is a concept of B corporations. You're familiar with B corporations benefit corporations. So we have to do annual reporting with them. So B Corp certification is very similar to like lead certification for a building or passive house certification. For a building, it's a point system in different areas and you have to earn a certain number of points to be able to be certified, to be corporation.
So we've been certified B Corp since the second year of its inception. The first year we were kind of skipped, like what's this V corporation. Um, but then we like we're on board. From year to now. It's really great because we work with other B Corps. So other B corporations will seek out us to work with and the same way, like our fully desks, like we got new fully desks for the office and there would the corporation.
So if you work with another B Corp, is that a way to get points as well? I don't know, honestly, me, it also does that piece, man does all the hard we use help scout for our help desk Smith branch. And I think they're a B Corp as well. So I think you could find B Corp's for like different categories. You mentioned Ben and Jerry's ice cream from a B Corp.
They're famous for that. Yeah. Yeah. But now they're bought by Unilever. So I don't know if they retain their, uh, Yeah, but the thing that's nice about the certification, it's not greenwashing, you can't make it up and they actually come and audit, like they've come to our office a few times and like audited us, you know?
So it's the real deal. Yeah. I mean, you just called me out. And I noticed that even when I said, like, when I said he, when I refer to your account and it's just like, it's just all these things that like, so ingrained into our culture and it pains me, like when I say stuff like that, um, and I'm glad you called me out, but it kind of leads me to the next question because your company is certified.
A women's business enterprise and LGBT, uh, business enterprise. And those certifications mean that your workplace is like extra inclusive. Well, it does certification means that the ownership is. Yeah. Yeah. So what I kind of wanted to know was like, are there like specific things that you think makes.
Yikes more inclusive as a workplace and things that work differently than like a lot of other companies. No, me and I, from the very beginning, we have always cared a lot about diversity in tech, especially, you know, being two queer women in tech. And often being like the only woman in the room and just having the deal in the really male dominated industry.
Like we want to make this better. You know, we want to change the way the game has been played. And it, this is across the board. It's like when you have diverse leadership, you wind up organically with a more diverse team because your networks are more diverse. And you also hopefully are thinking about that kind of thing.
And we all have biases all of us, um, but maybe have some fewer biases about, Oh, well, this person is more valuable because they're this kind of person and this person couldn't possibly be as good because they're this kind of person, but. Not just that it's always been consciously on our minds, like trying to fight bias, trying to fight name bias.
And I don't know. And when you have like a direct diverse leadership, then people also want to work for you. Yeah. So it's been just a very conscious effort on our part to have a diverse team. And we've always had a diverse team, you know, since the nineties, but most has been really organic. We haven't had a situation where five years in, we're like, Oh my gosh, we're only all white guys.
We should do something about this, you know, and then try to fix it right. Yeah, but then also just not know what to do. And there are a lot of hand ringing and what do we do? And, you know, we didn't have that hurdle, you know, we've always just thought about this and wanted to have like an diverse and inclusive workplace.
Yeah. I mean, the signaling is different when your leadership is more diverse. That totally makes a lot of sense. Like, I'm wondering, so I'm starting a startup here, right. And I'm a white dude, so like I'm not like underrepresented in any ways. I can't do what you did necessarily. I think your behavior also is a signal as well.
Right. And the people you work with and stuff like that, do you have any. Tips around like recruiting. Are there mistakes you see, people make like, not respecting pronouns and stuff like that? Definitely. Yes, but let's reel it back, you know, before like pronoun level. Uh, the number one thing I think is that people start companies with a very homogeneous team and then you keep going.
And then, like I said, like five years down the road, you're like, Oh my gosh, Oh, wait, we've created like a. To leave onto this team. What do we do? What do we do? How do we fix this? Oh my gosh, how do we, then you feel like, Oh, we have to hire somebody. And then it feels like tokenistic, you know? Um, so number one, I think people need to understand when you're creating a business.
If your team is not diverse, you are at a disadvantage. Productivity wise, problem solving wise and profits. It's like, if you look at the research with diverse teams versus matches teams, diversity and Jack perform every time. And that's outperform, not just speed it's quality of product, because when you have a group of people who are all like minded, even if you have a group of the best of the best, but they're all the same kind of person, right?
You have all the rock stars and the ninjas all together in one room. They still won't do as good a job as like a diverse group of people with different skill levels, because they're all coming from the same place. And so the problem solving ability is just better. The products that you make are better because you have folks anticipating, Oh, well this is going to be a problem for this person, because this is stupid or whatever.
I think there was a study with something to do with surgery and like, Being too big for what the tans. And it was like, now you've gotten to market with this product and it's not good for everybody. If they study like bigger businesses, like huge businesses and their level of diversity, especially in leadership down the line, the ones who are more diversity, more profits.
So it should be part of your business model, not just the right thing to do a part of your business model to create a strong team. A strong team is diverse team, a homogeneous team, not as good, it's obvious in so many parts of society, like who built the system that you're interacting with. And I obviously see it less because I'm like part of the non underrepresented people.
Like another thing that this made me think about is like accessibility. And disability is a part of diversity. It's like one fun people identify themselves as having a disability of some kind. So that is a huge percentage of the population that you're under-serving if your products aren't accessible.
Yeah, exactly. And like, even, I don't know if people get near this, but like my six week old babies crying in the background right now. And like, you know, when you're breastfeeding a baby or holding a baby, like you only have one arm. And you know, my wife is doing that because she's in a maternity leave. So she's holding a baby all the time for like the next six months or something like that.
And just in general, like it just I'm realizing, pushing the stroller around and stuff like that. So it's not a wheelchair and like, it's much easier of course, but like you just realize there's just so many places. Yeah. Like the people who built this system or like came up with this solution here, like clearly didn't have any of these issues.
Yeah. These folks weren't on the team who built these systems. So that's number one. It's like realize that you're putting yourself at a disadvantage. If you're not thinking about this from the very beginning, in addition to being the right thing to do. Right. So when you realize this, like there's many things, meritocracy is a myth.
Meritocracy meaning, Oh, the most qualified person gets the job, but because of unconscious bias, it's like some qualified people never even make it past the initial cutoff point and they don't even make it to the interview stage. And this is not to make anybody feel bad. It's just something that's been researched.
And proven that named bias is a thing. So they did a research study at a university where they reached out to some professors at different universities and they sent them all fictitious resumes. And they're all identical, except for one thing, one half had the name, John and the other half had the name Jenny.
And of course professors offered. If they were to offer Jenny a job, they offered her less pay, lower salaries for the job. Identical resumes. Identical. Yeah. That's just the horrible. And then there was another study where they went to like the Chicago Tribune and they answered job listings and they sent in resumes again, all identical, except some of them had like black sounding names and some of them had like whites on the games, same thing.
And then what they did was they raised the quality of the resumes with the black sounding names and they made these folks appear to be. Overqualified. And it only resulted in like a 3% raise and response rate. They've measured success as the people offered this person an interview. So keep that in mind when you're, you know, when you're going through resumes, when you're looking over at potential hires, like, why am I thinking that person's not qualified?
You know, you can even anonymize, you can have somebody and just like hide the names. Um, and just look at skills and qualifications. So just keep that in mind when you're hiring and also like the job listings that you do, right. It's like make sure that they're inclusive and welcoming to marginalized folks.
Like a lot of language, like if I see a job listing is like, we're looking for a rock star and Ninja and you use all these words that are very aggressive or kind of like, dude, bro, like signaling. He's going to turn people off and they're not going to want to apply for your job in the first place, or they're going to think like, Oh, the company culture, there is not for me.
Yeah. Like the company culture, like it reminds me of like, so I've worked for many different startups and been involved in a lot of startups, especially here in Denmark where I'm based. And it's like, it's really common and to like have beers on a Friday afternoon or something like that. And it's like, that's just such a big risk of not being a very inclusive environment.
Like, first of all, like there's alcohol involved and like, there's just so many people where for many reasons, like they don't drink alcohol, it could be religion. It could be, they could be breastfeeding, they could be pregnant. Maybe they don't want to tell someone. Right. They can just not like it. They could be sober.
There's a million different reasons why people wouldn't want to drink. So like alcohol is like a big thing I've seen. And just in general, like expecting people to hang around, like outside of work hours is also like hard for a lot of people. Like easy for a single dude. The thing to think about, like, I do a talk on diversity and I have one slide.
That's my way of saying no one gives a shit about your beer pong Fridays. You know, and that kind of culture may not be welcoming to some folks or you're just maybe telegraphing, like, Oh, I don't know if I feel welcome there and included. Yeah, I guess it's okay to have like social events. You could have them within like, Your work hours where people are getting paid to be at their job, at least in my opinion.
Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I think I would never forced anybody to do like team building exercises or something, but I like things that are celebrate Tori. And I also like being part of events that help the diverse tech community. So tech week is the thing that happens every year. It didn't happen this year.
It would happen virtually this year, but. Um, often we would participate in a couple events that are like focused on diversity inclusion. And if people want to go, like they can go to that and we have sponsor. And, but you know, if there's going to be something with alcohol, we always try to have like a mocktails or like alternatives and make sure there's plenty of it.
And also just not encourage people to like drink too much because that's when people make bad decisions and. It's just like a side. I do agree. It's like, there's something about like drinking and the tech scene that just go hand in hand. And I think we really need to just be really conscious about that and make sure that we're being careful.
We're talking a bit about like practical tips now for diversity and inclusiveness. We didn't talk so much about accessibility. Is that something you think about it? Yikes, definitely. I mean, my wife and I bought the buildings that we were in. At the offices in, and we did a lead platinum rehab, which is also part of our triple bottom line stuff, the environmental stuff, it's all wheelchair accessible, but you know, the work we do, we just actually worked with a client who went through a really serious accessibility audit for our theme and learned a lot.
And I'm also a big proponent of captioning video. Like all of the more popular talks that I've done, I've sat in like, Done the captioning for them for deaf and hard of hearing people. And also, you know, whenever I've been involved with events, always try to get an ASL interpreter or card captioner for the events.
So like those things are accessible, but I have to say, uh, captioning your talks. You really. Learn your vocal ticks and like everything, it's like terrible. It's like, it's painful, but it's also a very good exercise and it helps you become a better speaker. Yeah. And you know, we were talking about a recruiting and stuff like that now.
And we talked about startups a bit in, and I'm a startup. So I kind of want to like, get your take on this. Or maybe you just call me out again actually. And we'll see, but branch is a small startup and we have a little bit of funding, but not that much. And no, it's definitely not profitable yet. So like, I think what often happens in startups is like, you don't work for free and brain, but we don't have like an amazing salary by any measure.
And also like, if we were to hire someone now, like we wouldn't hire someone full time because we couldn't afford it. And you know, you would also have to be a contractor because we don't really have the set up right now to have proper like employment we're US-based but like I'm in Denmark and like in the U S you have to like, Think about health insurance and all these kinds of things.
So it's like at job for like working for branch right now might not be a very good job for someone who actually just needs like a real job. Sometimes it can be hard because like, if you looking for someone who can work on a startup part-time as a contractor for not that much salary or whatever, a lot of the people, you know, that can do that.
Are like someone, you know, who's in school or like who has extra time who can afford it basically. So it makes it harder. I think, well, assumptions don't need to be made about like, who is that person who can afford it? Who can have the time, you know, just put that out of your mind. And what you have to do is you have to cast a wider net, like, especially in the WordPress space, we keep swapping employees among essentially agencies just keep swapping them.
We keep advertising and promoting. Are jobs in the same spaces to the same people, like one part of fixing it and making it better. And also, you know, making yourself better is to like, just stop networking with the same people. And it'd be in the same echo chamber in a baby step. You can take, if you're on Twitter, it's like, who are you following on Twitter?
Are you falling like dudes look just like you, you know, whoever you are, people who look just like you, are you staying in this little world, um, big, diverse WordPress out there, and you can find those folks and you can find those accounts and just start following them and just get into with like, what are those folks talking about?
You know, what are the problems they're having? It's the good times that they're having and, you know, just like things are concerned and you don't have to insert yourself into the conversation, but you can at least like absorb it, you know, just be a good listener and just. Get out of the bubble you're in.
And then in real life, like before COVID, you know, there's lots of diverse networking groups or diverse chambers of commerce. And as a business, you can join a chamber of commerce in a Hispanic chamber of commerce, LGBT, as you know, as an ally. And the great thing about those networking events is people are there to make connections and to drum business up for themselves.
I think it's a pretty like welcoming space because people want to know make deals. They want to meet people, um, and go and not with the intention of just. Being like a person collector and just, you know, making all these superficial connections, but actually connect with people, um, and become friends and like widen your network and do a lot of listening and not a lot of talking.
And then you'll find new ways to like advertise your jobs or just reach out like. The bigger your network is, the more folks can reach out to you when, you know, there were opportunities that you want to offer people. And that's even like when it comes to putting together conferences and speaking, and panels or jobs or whatever it may be, or if a podcast.
Right. Exactly. Or if, you know, you need business services, like supplier diversity is also really important and another way to open up your network. So it's like, okay, We need the floors refinished in our office, or we need the walls painted. It's like, Go to these diverse chambers of commerce and look at their business listings and like find people like diversify, whose services you paid for, and then just you open up your world.
And it's great. That's the fun part for me. It's like, I think people get so scared that, Oh, I'm going to be seen as an intruder people. Aren't like me or they're going to judge me. And it's not the case, especially with business. It's like people want to network. People want to make money. People want to find potential clients.
So I think those are really safe spaces to network in, you know? And you make friends and that's fun. Right? Making new friends. Yeah. That's really good advice. I want to call out Ellie Nimmons. She created a Twitter list for every Oh yes. Yes. I love that. That's great. Even actually, before I found that list, when I was starting to like, think about this podcast I wanted to do, I realized that.
Especially WordPress. Like I wasn't following a very diverse group of people. Um, so I just started like looking for people that look less like me. And honestly it didn't take very long before Twitter noticed. So like the algorithm, you know, it just more and more people just came on my radar. So it's definitely a good place to get started, I think.
And that list is really good. As you mentioned, it's a great list. Put it in the notes for the podcast. Yeah, definitely. We will.
So the other piece that we haven't talked about so much is inclusion. A company's going to put an effort into diversifying their workplace, but still do not have things in place for inclusion. So if you hire somebody and they don't feel included, or like there's a. Future for them there. And they're not going to stay.
If they look at the leadership and the leadership is completely all the same kind of person it's like, you can't have one without the other. You can't have true like success, um, in building a diverse team without inclusion, you know, there's different factors. That research have identified to help with inclusion.
And one is inclusive leaders. It's like if folks do not have leadership to look up to as like an ally or a mentor, or like somebody that's going to listen and take advice and implement feedback and give actionable feedback and share credit for team success, that kind of thing, you know, the place makes you feel like a diversity hire.
Which is not a thing I don't believe in diversity hires, actually thing it's because diversity makes your team better. But if you make somebody feel that way, they're not going to stay and nothing is authenticity. It's like, do I feel like I can be my true self at work? Like if I have to hide a part of myself or tone down a part of myself that other people don't have to, then I'm not gonna feel good coming to work.
Like if I feel I can. Put a picture of my wife on my desk, but other people can put their opposite 6,000 on their desk. Do I have to wear my hair a certain way? Do I have to whatever it's like, then you're not going to feel welcome there. And then networking and visibility. It's like, is there a mentorship within the organization?
You know, are there senior employees that you can look up to you and can help you? Like. Climb the ladder of the organization, whatever that may be. And then also clear career paths. Is there like the secret game that has to be played to like get ahead at a company and do you feel like, Oh, I unblocked out of that game.
I can't play it. I don't like that about businesses in general. It's like, I really love transparency. I like people supporting each other. I like a no drama workspace, you know, and I think that's just like healthy and good for a work environment. Anyway. Have you had to call that out sometimes and just like shut it down.
I hope not. And then we're very small to like manna. Yeah. We set the tone, you know, I try to be as transparent and I try to elicit feedback from employees. And if somebody has a good idea, I'm a hundred percent open to it. Even if I've been doing it a different way since the nineties, you know, I try to be super open-minded and just like receptive to feedback.
Even if it's something that I'm doing, it's not the best way to do it. And also just making sure people get. Props. Like, I think something as small as when I'm communicating with a client, because I do a lot of the project management and communication from client to the dev team. Like I always say like, who fixed the thing instead of like saying like, Oh, we fixed that.
It'd be like, Oh, well so-and-so fixed that thing. So they're getting proper credit. I'm just trying to really be conscious of like, if I'm. Interrupting people. There's a thing where you can amplify somebody or you can kind of like take credit for what they said. So things like that. Like, I think all those little things, um, as a boss or a manager, whatever, like they matter, they absolutely matter.
Yeah. I think there's so much like in your language, like, instead of just always saying, we, like, you could actually call out the person who did it give them credit. I've also like something I really hate is business owners. When they talk maybe to a client or something, they're like, My developer did this, or like, it's not your developer, it's not your person or your colleague or a teammate or whatever.
So many small like nuances in the language that I think people can start to think about. Right. You know, as business owners, you start a business because you have an idea, you don't have a master's in business or anything, and you don't have all this diversity training and lead management training. You just start a business.
And now you're here and it's years down the road and kind of like never laid the groundwork for those. Sorts of things. So I think it's really good from the beginning to have that in your mind, and to lay the groundwork for, you know, that path to have like a inclusive workspace. Tracy, I really appreciate you taking the time and sharing all these tips in your story.
If people want to check out your company, maybe some of your plugins, maybe some of the stuff you're doing, like, do you have anything you want to block? Or like anything you want to mention where people can go learn more? Well, you can always go to our website, which is geisinger.com. You can follow me on Twitter, little Jimmy.
Um, it's L I L J I M M I awesome. Tracy, thank you so much for taking the time. I'll talk to you later.
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