Business Spotlight on Lara Casey from Cultivate What Matters

She’s mastermind behind the popular PowerSheets goal setting planner and the author of two books, Make It Happen and Cultivate.

She’s the business woman behind Cultivate What Matters, but she’s also a wife and a mom to three small kids. 

She leads a growing team of talented women, she’s in the process of writing her third book, she just started homeschooling...and somehow she manages to keep it all together!

There’s something about business owners who not only balance #allthethings well, but who are intentional and purposeful in what they do and why they do it.

So as I was thinking about prospective Ellechat guests this fall, Lara Casey was easily one of the first people who came to mind.

Business Spotlight on Lara Casey from Cultivate What Matters | Elle & Company

Lara is the first guest since Ellechat started back up this fall, and I’m highlighting her in a Business Spotlight series. 

This series is less topic-focused and more geared toward sharing the stories of other successful business owners and highlighting what makes them one-of-a-kind.

Because I don’t know about you, but there are few things more inspiring in my business journey than learning from those who’ve gone before me.

The exciting part about these Business Spotlight Ellechats is that I’m not the only one asking the questions - all of the live webinar attendees had the opportunity to join in and have your questions answered by Lara at the end of this live event, too!

So if you want to hear Lara’s story and learn how she’s able to cultivate what matters in both her business and her home, you’ll really enjoy this one.

Episode 11 Livestream Replay

Episode 11 Podcast

Ellechat is now available on iTunes! Listen to the episode by clicking the link below and be sure to subscribe to stay up to date on new episodes.


Lauren Hooker: Well hello everyone and welcome to Ellechat. I'm really excited today because I'm kicking off the Business Spotlight series with truly one of my favorite people, let alone entrepreneurs in this industry, Lara Casey. 

Lara Casey: Hi, I'm so happy to be here.

Lauren Hooker: So glad to have you here. Yeah, just so happy, so thrilled to be kicking off with you. I was telling Lara before we jumped on that I really think it's neat to learn from other people who've been there before, to learn from successful people in this industry and just hear their stories about how they got to where they are. Because it's easy to look at someone like Lara and think, "Oh my goodness, she has a team. She's written books. She's done so many things. But where did Lara start and her story?" And so I'm really excited to have her on today.

Just a couple of housekeeping things before we dive right in because I don't want to take too much time away from Lara and hearing from her, but, it looks like y'all have found the comment section. Feel free to say hello there. I always think it's fun to see who's tuning in live and see where you're tuning in from, too. The cool thing about these webinars is that you can tune in from all over the world. So it's fun to see where you're tuning in from.

One other thing is the Ask a Question section right underneath this screen. If you have a question for Lara pertaining to something we're talking about in this Crowdcast, or something else, if that's okay with you, Lara.

Lara Casey: Great, I'm an open book, so anything goes.

Lauren Hooker: We're going to leave about 15 minutes at the end, I told Lara I'm selfishly asking all of my questions but I want to leave some time.

Lara Casey: I probably have questions for you, too, though.

Lauren Hooker: That's good. And so we will, well Lara will answer those in the last 15 minutes. So feel free to ask the questions down there. Just a cool feature. You can vote questions up or down so if you see someone ask a question and you really want it to be answered, then you can vote the question up, which I think is a really cool feature.

Lara Casey: Awesome.

Lauren Hooker: We have tons of people tuning in. Austin, Texas, Florence, South Carolina. You don't see that very often. Awesome.

And Lara, where are you tuning in from today?

Lara Casey: I'm tuning in from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, home of the Tarheels.

Lauren Hooker: How long have y'all been there?

Lara Casey: We have been here for nine years. Crazy it's been nine years. That is a lifetime for us. My husband got a job here at the University of North Carolina right after he finished his deployment and commitment to the Navy and that's what brought us here and we won’t be leaving. It would take a lot of arm twisting to get us to go elsewhere. We love Chapel Hill.

Lauren Hooker: North Carolina is great, too. So where are you originally from?

Lara Casey: I'm originally from Washington, DC. I was born in Bethesda. Well, no. I was born in Washington DC, technically. Bethesda is right up against that little DC line and we lived in Bethesda, Maryland, until I was in fourth grade and then my family moved to Florida and then I went to college and ended up, coming on back to the south after that. So I'm grateful to be here.

Lauren Hooker: That's awesome. I'm grateful that you're near.

Lara Casey: I feel like we're near. We are near each other.

Lauren Hooker: I know we should-

Lara Casey: A hop, skip and a jump.

Lauren Hooker: Yes. And I keep saying I need to come to Chapel Hill, so I'm going to make that happen.

Lara Casey: Yes.

Lauren Hooker: So let's start, kind of at the beginning of how you started Cultivate What Matters. It wasn't Cultivate What Matters at the time.

Did you ever plan on having a business? How did it come about?

Lara Casey: That's a really good question. I'm not sure anybody has ever asked me if I planned on having a business. I don't think I ever did. Neither one of my parents are entrepreneurs, per se. They both followed pretty traditional paths but I'll say that I'm really grateful that they have always encouraged me in whatever artistic endeavor I was interested in, which I know is rare. And I certainly don't take that for granted.

But I went to college for music theater. I did not go to college for business. I don't have a degree in journalism or an MBA, none of it.

I often talk about and feel like I am getting my unofficial MBA and not to downplay MBA friends. I know that is a lot of work. So my very unofficial, unofficial MBA through lots of training and course and groups that I'm a part of.

But no, I don't think I ever started thinking, "I'm going to have a business." I certainly never thought that it would be this business. I did not grow up, first of all, loving weddings, which is really where my path began through being a wedding planner and then I started Southern Weddings magazine, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary issue. And through that, Cultivate What Matters, kind of grew out, like exploded out, of the woodworks because of a story, and not to get too sidetracked here, you stop me if you want me to stop-

Lauren Hooker: No this is great. You keep going.

Lara Casey: Alright, great. Well the long, the short version of the long story is that my husband and I, we had a very rocky marriage to begin with. And when you are a wedding planner and in the wedding business with a rocky marriage, that can be really dicey as far as your confidence goes. But we did, and we were really two ships passing in the night for most of the beginning of our relationship and by God's grace, we had a complete transformation and it was at that point of us, our lives being turned around. It wasn't overnight. I'm just telling you the very short version of the story.

Lauren Hooker: Right.

Lara Casey: That the heart of our magazine changed from inspiring brides to have beautiful weddings to inspiring brides to cultivate meaningful beginnings to married life. Because that's what was happening in my story.

So if you're listening, you may think that there are potentially, maybe painful or parts of your story that you think are insignificant. Those things might actually be the things that are actually fueling your business ability to help people in the deepest ways and that's what happened with us.

It was at that time that we got our partnership with Southern Living, which we no longer have that partnership for many reasons, but we did get a great partnership with Southern Living magazine at the time. We had our fifth anniversary issue came out. And the business just started to grow in a new, authentic way, to really use that word for what it is.

And a shop, which used to be called the Lara Casey shop started because we made a print, a gold foil print, back when nobody was doing that now everybody's doing that, that said "Love never fails." And that was the heart of that fifth anniversary issue. We just thought, you know, we only produce this magazine once a year. We only get one opportunity to get something physical into people's hands and we just saw this ripple effect. Like if we could get something into people's hands, into their homes, more than once a year, maybe we would have an opportunity to affect their lives in a deeper way.

And so we took this route just to say, hey we'll take a risk. We'll open up a shop with no idea how to do that. We asked so many dumb questions, which are really not dumb questions, but long story short is that that print led to any more things created that were from that same heart of if we can just get this into people's lives and into their hands, maybe it would start a domino effect. Maybe it would cultivate something.

So the shop changed from the Lara Casey Shop to the Cultivate Shop early last year, or two years ago now. Can't remember exactly. Because it started to be more about your story and not about my story anymore and we wanted to be able to tell more people's stories, not just my story and so we just kind of fought this tension like, you know what, this name doesn't fit anymore. We have it written on all kinds of letterhead. We have all these things planted.

But what was more important to us than that, than maybe losing money on that, was being authentic with it. And being able to step forward, almost like wearing a sweater that actually fits, instead of one that's midriff out in the winter. It's kind of awkward.

Lauren Hooker: That's a good analogy.

Lara Casey: Changing the name of the shop to be Cultivate What Matters has allowed us to grow and to expand and to tell people's stories. I have chills saying that. I'm just so grateful looking back on it.

Lauren Hooker: It's so neat how you're open and had open hands to your business changing and evolving I think that's something I'm struggling with right now is trying to hold so closely to what's parked in the past. Just rolling with the changes as they come and having open hands with it.

I love the new name, Cultivate what Matters because I have been working on my power sheets. I have to show y'all. They're so pretty.

Lara Casey: That's awesome.

Lauren Hooker: As I've been working on it, it really has had me step back and think what matters most. What do I want to focus on in 2018 as I star preparing for some time off. But I would love to know, too, so you started, it kind of shifted. When did the Power Sheets come along? When did you develop those and how did those kind of start?

Lara Casey: That was actually something that I started for myself. They were ... Six years ago during a time when I had so many things, I mean, I still do, we all still do have so many things on our plates, but I found myself forgetting about things. Just flat out would come to the end of the year and just say, "Man, I just wish I would have put something on a sticky note, even, to remember that if I would have made little by little progress on that thing, I could have seen that add up over time instead of coming to the end of the year and feeling regret because I just forgot about some things that should have been priorities.

So that has been very challenging to see people walk into seasons of life like that and to just feel that tension with them. That was very challenging. And so I just created a product for myself. And I thought, "You know what, I'm just going to make myself a list of things I need to tend to so I don't forget about tending to those things." And I called them My Tending List.

And that cornerstone page has become really the key page in the Power Sheets and really the key focus of what we teach, which is that overnight results don't result in anything that lasts. Truly good things do grow, little by little, over time and when we just see it, out in nature, that's where all these garden analogies come from is stuff I see outside.

If you were to see a seed and decide, okay I want to plant this really good seed in the ground, stick it in the ground and then dump a giant bucket of water on it and think, okay, I'm done. Let me see that bloom come out right now, obviously you're not going to see anything happen, right? But that's the way we treat our goals.

We think, I just want to see this result overnight instead of waiting for that rootedness, that little by little progress to add up to something that has substantial staying power. And that's what the Power Sheets are all about is number one, and not just the Power Sheets ... You don't have to get the Power Sheets to live an intentional life. I'll just say that. We have lots of free resources on our websites and everything.

But, in what we teach, it's about first of all, like you said, Lauren, I'm covering what matters to you. What exactly matters and what doesn't? What do I think matters because it matters to my best friend or that girl on Instagram who has a lot of follower? Or, and once I know what matters, uncovering the things that I've been uniquely gifted in to be able to cultivate that thing that matters. Cultivate meaning grow it. To dig into it. To prepare it. To dig in to the hard parts in that soil that are trying to hold back the growth. And so you uncover good goals and then you make an action plan and you commit to it.

And then little by little you tend to it over time and over the last six years we've seen thousands of women ... men, too, we've had a few men. They are part of this community. Not excluding the guys. Love you, men. But we've seen thousands of women across the world find success in this and it's not rocket science. Again, you don't have to buy the product to make it work, although we created it to help you.

Lauren Hooker: Right.

Lara Casey: But it's really that principle. It's so opposite of what is taught in most of the world. The little by little versus the overnight.

Lauren Hooker: Yes. That instant gratification, though, we all ask for it.

Lara Casey: Yeah.

Lauren Hooker: Especially around the beginning of the year as you're thinking about things that you want to change. Especially things like losing weight and getting healthier-

Lara Casey: Yes.

Lauren Hooker: ...And all of these business goals that we have and we just want to see quick change instead of slow growth, which leads to lasting change.

Lara Casey: And the crazy part is most of the time we end up giving up completely when we are focused on the instant gratification and the little by little actually produces faster results. Because either we just jump ship and we don't get any results at all, or, and when I say little by little, it's still action steps. Like, it's still steps forward. You're still making progress. It may be imperfect progress, but imperfect progress is still progress.

But it is amazing how much that can build your confidence. I mean, I'm speaking from experience this past year on some goals I set. How much it builds your confidence to do it little by little. Because it really does start to add up. To give you an example, one of my goals this year was to finally get back into weight training. So I'm a former personal trainer and I haven't had a gym membership in a long time because I have lots of kids and-

Lauren Hooker: Yes, you do.

Lara Casey: ...I'd rather be home with the kids in the morning than take them all and stick them into the gym daycare in the morning and not see them. I'd rather be lifting them than weights. And there's nothing wrong with going to the gym and your kids to the gym daycare, let me just say that. But for me, I've got this small amount of time with them in the morning so I just decided I'm just going to get some free weights. I'm going to use what I have, where I am and we're just going to make it work.

I'm going to chase kids. I'm going to run up and down my stairs. I'm going to do some Praise Dance Party and I'm going to take those little weights and I'm going to do it little by little. And the former personal trainer in me was not happy about this at first. Because I started lifting those three pound weights and I was like, "Oh, man, we've got a long way to go." But I tell you what. It added up faster than I thought. So there you have it. If you're like at the beginning, the precipice of something that you want to start and you think it's going to take a long time to get there, you really might find a lot more joy in that journey than you think you will, if you just keep going at it, little by little.

Lauren Hooker: Absolutely. It's funny that you say that because one of my silly goals for last year...My husband talked me into doing Crossfit with him, which seems-

Lara Casey: That's amazing.

Lauren Hooker: Oh, it was a lot of fun and it was fun to do it together, too. I've been sick the last few weeks and pregnancy changes things so I've been taking it easy. But one of my goals when I first started, I realized how weak I was. My upper body was so weak I couldn't do a pull up. And I always wanted to do one. Never been able to do one. And so after, like, seven months, every morning I would go and try to practice. I'd start with the band.

Lara Casey: That's awesome.

Lauren Hooker: And finally after seven months, I was able to do a pull up!

Lara Casey: Alright!

Lauren Hooker: And in your summer series, like goals, I reached out to your team and I was like is this too silly to put on there? But it was really one of those things that it's such slow progress but every single time I'd see just a little bit of progress.

Lara Casey: I just want to cheer for you. That is so awesome. Standing ovations.

Lauren Hooker: So pull ups.

Lara Casey: That's fantastic.

Lauren Hooker: Simple thing. But it is, and it's fun. It's so much more rewarding when the progress is slow, too.

Lara Casey: Yes, it really is. Because it makes you re-evaluate every area of your life and say, Oh wait a minute, I'm making good progress on this through taking it slow and steady instead of expecting the impossible, which is really what it is.

I wonder how this could apply to the rest of my life. And that's when your life becomes cultivated. That's when your life starts to take on a really different direction. And that's what I've experienced. It's really not, and I love, Pamela, what you said. It's not about perfecto it's about progress, right?

You start to think differently because you really start to see the truth that that's really how all of life works.

Lauren Hooker: And one positive change in one area of your life can lead to another and another area. And I love Pamela on the use of progress not perfection because I'm very much a perfectionist, too. And so another goal that my husband and I had was quiet time in the morning, doing our bible study and prayer and I wanted to do it every single day, like mark it off my list, which I shouldn't be doing it for that anyway, but as we looked back over this past year, my husband said, "Lauren, this is the most consistent we've been."  This is a goal that we don't just want to check off for this year, this is ongoing. This is for the rest of our lives. So we miss a couple days. That's okay. But just getting in the practice of doing it every day, again is progress.

And so looking at it as maybe not even for 2018, these are my goals, but if they're habits that you want to develop or something like that, to just encourage y'all as my husband encouraged me, that it's ... Look at it long term and celebrate your progress in the long term.

Lara Casey: Ah, that's so true. You know we often look at people who we perceive are disciplined and it's really that they have embraced that little by little progress with habits and they've built these habits over time. And so it's not that they're more superior than you are, it's just that they have practiced this process of imperfect progress and standing up, you know, seven times and maybe falling down eight times, but they keep going with it and that, like you said, builds over time.

Like there have been a couple things I have worked on building as habits this year that have really been my main goals. Like bible reading every day and do my exercise, do my little weights and I'll keep those as goals for the rest of my life, but I don't have to focus on them as much in the new year because now they're habits. I can move on to other things that I can train my brain to do.

Lauren Hooker: Yeah, I love that you said that. And it's funny that a lot of the goals we're talking about aren't even necessarily business related. They're more personal goals but-

Lara Casey: Yes.

Lauren Hooker: ...But I love that, too. So as you, and it's encouraging to hear from you about establishing habits and all that, because you seem to balance having a business, running a team, writing a book, launching the Power Sheets, home schooling your three, well one child right now but you have three. And so how, when people ask you about balance and how you seem to balance it all so well, what do you say to them? What are the keys to it?

Lara Casey: Yeah, well, first I will say that I don't do this all by myself. That's probably the number one question I get asked is, "Lara, you do so much. How do you do it all?"

I don't. And I also don't do it really well sometimes. And I really believe that, I mean you and I just talked about this I think before we got on, that we are always in a continual state of growing and learning and you never reach a destination and stay there. We are creatures that were created to grow and fumble and mess up all the time, so I will say that. But I don't do it all. I have a lot of women that I work alongside who do things a lot better than I do in a lot of areas. So I have a great team that I work alongside. There are 10 of us now, I think. And growing, hiring three more people in the new year.

Lauren Hooker: Oh that's awesome.

Lara Casey: The first quarter of January. But I don't do it all. I have a wonderful team and we really do take great joy in our individual responsibilities.

I also, as far as the kids go, we have an incredible caregiver who's here in our house and helps me with the kids while I'm working. So I'm not simultaneously home schooling and answering emails all at the same time. I've tried that and it is hard. You love it, home moms. I tip my hat to you and all the other parts, too. That is a, that's probably the hardest job.

But as far as balance goes, I do believe there's balance, because, again, I see it everywhere. I see balance in the seasons. And go with me on this for a second.

Can you imagine doing, like, two springs in a row. And even proverbially think about it. That's two seasons of growth in a row. It's going to burn you out, right? And how many times do we do that to ourselves. And it's the same with our lives as it is in the same in the seasons. Like we were created for seasons. Not just in our years, but really in the minute parts.

For instance, seasons in our work. Seasons of growth and rest. So for me, writing books meant that I had to completely shut myself off to a lot of other activities and a lot of things suffered. There is a balance there. There has to be. Like you literally can't fit, like if I were to take ... I have this really, my favorite candle right here. If I were to take this candle and fill it up halfway with water, and fill it up another halfway with water, I can't fit any more water on top of it, right?

I don't know that that's the best analogy, but you get my point.

Lauren Hooker: Yeah, I get it. I get your point.

Lara Casey: You have to have balance. And so I work very hard in, and again, I fail at this all the time, but it's okay because I feel like the pursuit of it is worth it, trying to build balance into my days, my weeks, my months, and my years. And you have to step ahead of yourself on this because where you get imbalanced, or where things start to fall to the wayside and you have less time to dig into what matters, are the times when you have not prepared well. And I use that word, prepare, on purpose because that's what cultivate means.

Cultivate means to prepare soil for growth. So, for instance, something new that I'm considering in the new year is taking two days with the kids away from work to be with the kids. I'm not calling them two days off because it's not. It's two days on but just in a different way. And that's a sacrifice. I have to figure that out but I think that that would be worth it. So I'm trying to go ahead of myself and prepare my calendar, cultivate my calendar so that I can build in more margin and so I do believe balance exists. And a lot of the time it's a whole lot of surrender and humility.

I mean, just this week, I cried at my desk a couple days ago because I just thought I have no idea what all these terms mean. I'm getting a new education in a whole new side of business. And my brain can't handle it all so in those periods of overload, though, which are inevitable, so if you've felt a period of overload, just know like that's' natural. You should feel that way if you're growing. You have an opportunity, though. You can either crash and burn or you can look at it and say, this is an opportunity for me to find balance here and let something go to make room for this growth.

And I think that's where we've found a lot of freedom. You mentioned before, like, you said something about how you perceive we're so good at allowing the growth to happen in our business, i think it's more that we look at challenges as opportunities and think how could this challenge be redirected in a better way. And so long answer to your question but all that to say that I do believe balance exists, it just doesn't stay there for very long and you have to continually redirect and continually ask yourself, does this matter? Is this right in the particular season for me? And can I go ahead of myself and prepare well so I can love other people better.

Lauren Hooker: That's what, I feel like I’m at a place in my business as well. I feel like ... there's a little echo for me, so I'm going to plug this in, just in case.

I feel like I'm in that spot of my business right now where I've taken on so much and so now it's refining. What are the most important parts of my business that are non-negotiables? Especially as I prepare for taking some time off for maternity leave in the spring. What are the non-negotiables? What matters most? And your Power Sheets are so helpful for working through that. What do I want my life to look like, you know, when I'm 80, when I look back on this season? What's really going to matter? Is it writing three blog posts a week? Or is it making a difference in people's lives through my business and other ways? Is it spending time with my family? Is taking time to rest and love my husband well and my family ...

Like those things that matter most, how can I serve my team better and so I'm really grateful for your Power Sheets. I told Lara, before we jumped on that I spent the last week kind of going through and taking December off from the blog and other things and just poring into it. And just learning that I can't do it all and do it all well. And like, what you said about balance, jut sacrificing some things for the good of other things, for more important things.

Lara Casey: It's pruning. To use the garden analogy again.

Lauren Hooker: I love it.

Lara Casey: You can't help but think that when plants are pruned, when literally, arms are chopped off sometimes, it's for the good of the plant. It's for the good of the fruit. And, I mean, when I'm out there trimming on my tomatoes, I think man this plant looks pretty bare right now, but then the next day sometimes there are big ripe red tomatoes on there that have gone from green to red because the nutrients now can get to the right spot and they're not spread thin.

And that's what we do with our lives, with our businesses, so often is we perceive that everything is necessary. That nothing can go, so I like what you said, Lauren. It's such a good reminder that you have to constantly put the filter in front of your face. Where do I want to be in the big picture. Where do I want to be when I'm 80 years old, or whatever that number is for you. If you're 80 and you're watching, we love you.

I've often spoken to audiences and they're like, "I'm 80."

Lauren Hooker: Which is awesome.

Lara Casey: No, but it's true. No matter what season of life you're in, think about the big picture. Think about what's going to matter to you then. And if you have a hard time answering that, what's not going to matter to you then? And I've asked this question of thousands of women for the last nine years doing the Making Things Happen conference and the answer I always get, the thing that is going to matter, centers around relationships. It's just like what you just said. It's am I going to be loving my team well, my family? Am I going to be doing things that really serve people and help people? No matter what job title you or anyone else has, that's your purpose. Like, you're not going to lose that if your newsletter crashes for the day. You know what I mean? You still have the ability to use your purpose and make progress toward that big picture.

Lauren Hooker: I love, too, that you talked about outsourcing and basically saying it's okay to ask for help and bring on help because you can't possibly do it all while ... When you started building your team, and again this is sort of a selfish question for me but, when you started building your team how did you start to delegate and just have open hands? How did you ... What are some tips there for just asking for help and bringing people on board?

Lara Casey: Yeah. There's a great book that we've been going through recently that I think summarizes some of what we've practiced and we've practiced it very loosely, just sort of by intuition, I guess. Is a book called Traction. And this book starts with core values and I think that's the thing that we have done well from the beginning, granted we've learned so much more since then, but is knowing why you're in business. That's how you're going to attract like-minded people first of all. So you have to be able to attract people who share your core values and now we know so much more about that. That is really the number one thing.

People like to say, "Oh I have to have all these other things in place first." No. Start with your core values. Start with the innate behaviors in your company or your organization that you want to grow.

I'll give you our examples. We just formed a new core value that we discovered in our team which is innovation. So innovation is one of our core values, always wanting to improve ourselves, improve our company. Integrity, which is honesty, humility and being genuine, being willing to say, I'm not right and there's got to be a better way to do this ... And why am I forgetting them all right now?

The power of one. That has been one of our core values since day one. So believing and acting on the fact that one person's life is just as important as thousands of people's lives. I could go on, but when you have those core values really clear and you're living them all the time, you're first of all, like I said, going to attract like-minded people who share those core values and you're going to be able to reward and hire based off of those core values.

So I know right off the bat when I read someone's cover letter or their resume if there are little, like, highlights and like bells that go off that make me say, "Oh they totally get that core value. They totally get the power of one. I'm interested." So that's a huge help. You've got to know the heart of why you do what you do, so you can attract people to do the same.

And then there are so many tips I have on hiring the right people, but, the other one would be to interview, interview, interview. Because of that. Because you want to make sure that the core values are a fit. Dave Ramsey, great book, EntreLeadership, I know you know all about it. But his hiring philosophy is what we follow. Just the constant check ins. You'll find out so much more about people once you interview them many, many times. When I say many times, I'm talking like 10 times. A lot of times. More than that.

But the think that's helped us to grow over time is to look ahead at the growth and try to prepare for that growth and that's the season we're in right now, is taking big leaps of faith, but also coupling that with really good analyzed data and whether you've been in business for six months or 16 years, the same can apply to you. Looking at like how is our growth track going? What is our growth in different key performance indicators? And that would be, and I'm probably speaking a crazy language right now, but they're really easy. For us, that's things like how many newsletter subscribers do we have? That is an indicator of where our profit is going to go. How many click throughs do we have on certain things? One of our KPIs, our Key Performance Indicators, is also blog traffic. The more people we get to the blog, the more people are going to go through to the shop and, you get my point, right?

Lauren Hooker: Yes, absolutely.

Lara Casey: So looking at those key performance indicators has really helped us to see our growth track and to know, okay if this is where we're heading, this is how many people it's going to take to man this ship well. And it is never a not scary thing for me. I used a double negative on purpose. It is just always scary to hire new people.

Lauren Hooker: Yeah, and it seems like you hit a place where you can't keep going if you don't bring on the help to get there.

Lara Casey: Right.

Lauren Hooker: And so that's where I'm at and I'm just learning it's okay to not have to do it all myself. Actually, it's a blessing to bring other people on and allow them to use their gifts and ...

Lara Casey: Yeah, and you really have to hire 10s. So that's also a hard thing is to not hire people who you're just comfortable and safe with, but to try your very best to hire people who are smarter than you. And that's scary. And I did that with Emily Thomas, who has been with me for eight years now. I remember the day I hired her I was like "This is so overwhelming. She's so much smarter than me. She's going to run circles around me."  I'm so glad I took that risk.

Lauren Hooker: Yeah.

Lara Casey: And there's so much more, but investing in your people, too, and training them. I think it's mostly hard for us to delegate to people because we haven't spent enough time helping them to feel equipped in those tasks. We get frustrated the first time that somebody messes up on something. You think, "Op, I made a total wrong decision here. I should just take that task back from that person." But you've got to let people mess up. And you have to train them more than you think you need to. It's like over training almost. And that ensures your success in the long run.

It's just we talked about with goals, or just like we talked about with goals. The more you let those things take root, over time, the more you give your people time to really sink in, the more it's going to be beneficial for you in the long time.

Lauren Hooker: Yeah. No, I think that that's great. I love, too, that you even said for your kids, you brought in the help of a caregiver. That, in business, in order to keep your business running well, not only  people for your business but people for your personal life, too, who can help you and who you can delegate.

I remember going to a conference one time and Rachel Brinkey, who is a lawyer/photographer was talking about how she has someone come and clean her house. And she was like it used to be a point of pride for me to do it all and clean my house but I figured in the two or three hours that it would take me to clean my house, or maybe even more to deep clean it, I could be working with clients, spending time with my kids, and so just that whole perspective change that it's okay to ask for help.

Lara Casey: Yeah, and I think it's ... It is a false assumption to think that if you're newer to business or you don't have a team right now. Maybe you're listening and you're thinking I have no money to hire somebody new, like housecleaning schmousecleaning. How am I even going to do that, you know? I have felt that way many times. And it is a false assumption that you have to bite the bullet and hire a full-time person right off the bat. You don't. There are so many amazing options right now for virtual assistants, for even just a little bit of help here and there. Like maybe you just start with someone who is five hours a week. And even that five hours a week might be a game changer for you to be able to, like you said, Lauren, take that housecleaning time and turn it into time for you to be able to produce more revenue and also bless that person who's cleaning your house.

Lauren Hooker: Yes.

Lara Casey: Like that's how we do. We don't do it every week, but every few weeks we have someone come, a team of women come, and help clean the house and honestly, we mostly do it because we love blessing them and they are just the nicest people. And we've known them for so long. And it allows us to do the things that we were created to do, too.

So if you're overwhelmed by these thoughts of delegating, just know that you don't have to do it in giant chunks. You can do it little by little and take some risks when the time comes.

Lauren Hooker: Yeah, I love that. Such good advice. I needed to hear that

Lara Casey: I'm so glad.

Lauren Hooker: So we were talking about this before we jumped on. I asked Lara is there anything on your heart that you feel like is relevant to just spend a week with her team planning for 2018 and, Lara, do you want to talk about that a little bit more. What's, what's just been on your heart this last couple of weeks?

Lara Casey: Yeah, so we had our, like a quarterly team summit, which really is just a time for us to be in person together because half of our team is remote and from different states, so it's really just a sweet time for us to be together in person. We talk every day. We use Zoom with meetings for video conferencing and so we're always talking but being in person, there's nothing like that.

And we did our Power Sheets prep together this past time that we were together. And y'all, it brought so much clarity and fire to us. I have chills thinking about it. What we talked about is the fact that the things that fire you up, the things that point to your purpose also tend to be the things that really make you mad.

And the first thing that came to mind when I thought, what really makes me mad in my work, is distractions. I get so mad at marketers for distracting people and feeding people junk basically. There's so much noise out there and I feel like I can't help but get on my soap box here, but there really is so much noise out there that's trying to pull you away from your unique path. And from doing these really good things that you're meant to do for other people and they're winning in a lot of ways. But you know what? We can make the choice to not let them win. And so that's been on my heart so much, too, as I move into the next week where I'm going to start my seventh annual goal setting series, which is crazy, it's been seven years.

But I'll be writing more about this on my blog but man, it's just been burning in my soul thinking about how much noise there is that we allow ourselves to listen to.

So yeah, that's my encouragement to you all as we move into 2018, and this year is not over yet, either, there's still this time to make this year you best year yet, even if, up until this very moment it has been the hardest, most challenging year of your life, there is still time to turn this around.

And yeah, Olivia, you said you've fallen for the marketing trap so many times. And that's the thing. We have to be so intentional, and intentional means to take action on something too. We have to take action and turn down the noise. So maybe that means taking a low-tech vacation for the next two weeks. When I say vacation, I really mean, just your brain and your soul and your heart are on vacation. Not necessarily you're stopping your work because I know I have a lot of work to do in the next two weeks. But maybe it means turning down the noise on social media.

Yeah, like you said, unsubscribing from all of these promotional newsletters. We do so much of it to ourselves. Give yourself less information, less stimulus, and just see how much that opens your mind and your heart up.

Like sort of unintentionally I took the last two weeks off from social media and I did it because as I started like you, Lauren, to dig into my Power Sheets and I just thought, wow I really need to tune out all the noise. I need to make sure I am not listening to anybody else's voice as I set these steps for my goals I had. Because they affect other people. So I'm going to hop off my lovely soapbox right now but I'm very passionate about it because I see it and to not put it lightly, I see it ruining people's lives. I see it distracting them again from doing good things that they were created to do. I've been in that boat. I've been in those shoes. And I'm hoping to encourage people to pave their unique path.

Lauren Hooker: And, yeah, this pressure that all of us feel at some time or another of trying to keep up and trying to do all the things and there's no way you can do all the things well.

I've been, I was telling Lara this before we jumped on, I just felt this pressure of I have to keep blogging this much because I've always blogged this much. Or I need to send out this many emails because I've always sent out this many emails. And just really thinking back to, and I told Lara, my word is in Power Sheets. Focus on a word for your year or even every month or every quarter. Just thinking about word to focus on, to bring everything back into perspective and my word has been purpose.

So thinking okay well what is the purpose of the blog? Why am I doing this? I'm going to keep blogging but, just, you know, approaching it differently. Or, you know, what is the purpose behind social media? Why do I feel like I have to do all these things? Is it to keep up or does it actually serve a purpose somewhere? How can I put my own spin on it?

And so I've kind of taken December off and just really poured into the Power Sheets and making progress on the things that I want to do with my business that do fire me up and it's been so, so good. So I'm so glad that you said that about the noise because that's just been something I've been dealing with a lot this last-

Lara Casey: I just love the example that you're giving to people right now, even. Just the fact that you intentionally took time away and time in what others might perceive as silence and it actually is helping you use your voice in such a better way moving forward. I love the thought, too that you're questioning everything. Like that, to me, is the best place to be in life. When you start thinking like wait a minute why am I doing things that way and why am I doing it this way, and that could change, that could be better, I love when I'm in those places in life because it just means that we are really seeing what's there and we're also feeling the effects of growth.

That you've grown, maybe you don't need to do things the way you've always done them. Yeah, that's exciting.

Lauren Hooker: Yeah, it is and exciting and scary place to be. But as I looked back, in other, other people that I've followed, make a habit of questioning things like you said. Why am I doing this? And any time that I've been like, I'm not doing that that everybody else has been doing. I'm going to do it this way. Yeah, it's always been so much better. I'm seeing a lot more success through that. And I love that Kyla said that she's been playing the Christmas Peaceful Piano on Spotify. I've been doing that, too.

Lara Casey: That's awesome.

Lauren Hooker: It is. It's the best. I love when y'all tune in on the comments. It's awesome.

Lara Casey: Did you know that that is a good point. That I was just talking to Lauren before about how we have these very competing seasons that happen around this time. We have this rush of the holidays and get all your shopping done and prepare for seeing in-laws or whatever it is. And we're also trying to finish our work. We're trying to finish this year strong. There are things to get done, right?

And there's this Christmas holiday time in between where you want to let go, and you really want to rest and then it's like full speed ahead into the new year. So how do you merge all these things together to make them feel peaceful? And to make them be peaceful. And I think the fact that you guys are even listening to this live webinar right now is a really good sign. It means that you want something to change, and you want to do it well.

And the fact that you are listening to Lauren, too. Like I think just the fact that you're putting yourself in the presence of people and things that are about intentionality. I just want to encourage you that you're probably doing more to help yourself than you think you are.

Lauren Hooker: That's awesome. Thank you, Lara. This has been so good. I feel like selfishly, for me, it's been so good, but I'm sure that you all-

Lara Casey: I feel the same way, too, though. I'm so grateful. I'm glad I got to chat with you.

Lauren Hooker: I know, it's been, well I have to let you all know about Lara, too. When I talk about the reasons that I wanted to invite her on is I've followed Lara for years and years and admired what she's doing and how she's grown a team and run her business and balance things so well and in the meantime, I don't even remember the first time, but many times, Lara has reached out to me just to encourage me through and email.

Lara didn't even know me and reached out to me to encourage me and continues to do this, even though her life is so busy. Making time and really living out that core value that you talk about with the power of one.

Lara Casey: Well that means a lot to me.

Lauren Hooker: Building up one person…

And I think so often we look at people who are further ahead than us, or people we look up to as being far off. And you do an awesome job of really being approachable because you care about people. So thank you for the way that you've mentored me without even realizing it.

Lara Casey: That's really kind.

Lauren Hooker: You’ve encouraged me. It's meant more than you know. So Lara is the real deal.

Lara Casey: That's really sweet.

Lauren Hooker: It's already after about 45 minutes with her on this webinar ...

Lara Casey: She is so encouraging. No I remember the very first time that somebody left a comment on my blog for the first time and this was back when blogging was not a mainstream thing at all. In fact, if you were to say, "blog" to someone they may have thought you were talking about, I think it was a 1960s movie, the Blob. I remember saying that to my parents, and they were like Blob? No, Blog. It's this thing on the internet on the World Wide Web. 

But I do. I vividly remember getting the first comment on my blog, and I remember two bloggers reaching out to me when I first started my blog. I was nobody. I'm still nobody. But the fact that someone out there in the interweb that I did not know in person wrote something on my blog, it is never lost on me, so I love paying back that favor and leaving comments on people's blogs and replying to as many blog comments as I can. Because I just remember how much that changed me and how much that meant.

Lauren Hooker: It makes a huge difference.

Lara Casey: It does. It really does. Just down to the brass tacks. You never know how your encouraging words, whether it's in a blog comment or on a text or whatever it is are going to change someone. I think there's power in words and so I'm grateful you share really good ones.

Lauren Hooker: Well, thank you, you've been a huge encouragement to me.

Okay, we have some questions and I want to get to them before the hour is up and respect your time, too, because goodness knows you have so much going on.

But Ronnie asks, "First and foremost..." Oh someone already answered it. Who the author of Traction is. Do you know-

Lara Casey: Gino Wickman. You got it.

Lauren Hooker: I want to read that one, too. I'm adding it to my list.

What are a few other books on your list of books to read, Lara, do you keep a list?

Lara Casey: Well it depends on what realm. But I'd say in the business realm there is a book by the former HR director of Chik-Fil- A, it's called "It's my Pleasure" and I really enjoyed reading that. I love their culture, I love the way that they love on their employees. All of it, so that was a very insightful book from someone who was within that company in really the operations of that company. Dee Ann Turner, I think, is the author of that book. 

Lauren Hooker: That's awesome.

Lara Casey: Other business books ... I'm in the middle of reading one right now and it's a thick one but it is really good. It's called "What's Best Next" and it's by Matt Perman.

Lauren Hooker: I like that one.

Lara Casey: You've read that? Oh it's really good. It's really, really good. I mean it centers around that question, what's best next? And that has helped me think bout productivity in a very different way. And I started to read that in like the second quarter of this year right when I was starting to formulate new thoughts on how our business could be run, so it really just changed me. So I'm not done with that book yet, but I have learned a lot and implemented it.

Lauren Hooker: Yeah for a productivity book, it's funny because it is very thick so like I really want to get through it but it is, it's really good.

Lara Casey: It's really good. And then just the EOS Principles website and it's connected to the Traction book. If you Google EOS Principles. I think it's or .org or something. But the founders of EOS are the writers of Traction and their newsletter is great. It's really more geared toward businesses with teams but to me, there's a lot on there for businesses that don't have teams. So highly recommend.

Lauren Hooker: That's awesome. Good to hear.

Olivia asks how do you gauge how long a goal will take when planning ahead, i.e. three weeks, three months, one year. It can be overwhelming to plan a year in advance but it seems like as business owners we have to live a year in the future.

Lara Casey: That's a good question. Because I think there are two types of goals. Well, three really. There are some that are habits that are perpetual, like maybe it's something like what you talked about that you want to grow over time. And then there's a business goal that's really like a big picture rock that you're trying to hit. And then the other category would be things that you're not actually sure when you would hit that goal, but the pursuit of it and the cultivation of it is really part of the benefit. So yeah, I'm not sure. I'd say that if we're talking about the types of goals that have more of a metric to them, like a business metric. Like say your goal, and we'll just do something really simple here, maybe your goal is to grow you newsletters subscribers by 1,000 subscribers or something like that. You're trying to grow one of these KPIs.

Then it needs to be realistic and you should look back at your history and say to yourself, okay how did I gain this number of newsletter subscribers so far and is it realistic for me to grow at that same rate or just a little bit more? And then kind of track that out.

It's really not rocket science and I am not a numbers person, and I am not the guru on the data, but to me, even that type of example is easy to chew on if you just write it out. So as far as an end date goes, I think you just have to work backwards. I think you have to first look at what's possible and then you also have to look at why in the world you have that goal in the first place.

For us, our newsletter subscribers are directly tied to our ability to reach the goals that we have in a lot of different areas, so we do have that number there, but we also know the pacing and what it's going to take to get to that. So I don't know if that made any sense or if that helped at all.

Lauren Hooker: Yeah, that's great.

Lara Casey: I think it depends on the type of goal.

Lauren Hooker: Yeah and some of them I've found that I need to put a time line on or else I'll never really follow through with it.

I need this to happen by this date to kind of give me a little push to actually take action.

Lara Casey: Yes. And I think the place where most people get stuck is in the starting steps of something, too. And it's usually the putting it on our calendar that causes us to do the starting steps but that's why in the Power Sheets, for instance, and what we teach, we don't talk about just making an action plan for like an entire year. We allow you to refresh your goals every season or every quarter based on your progress because we know that, again we were created to grow and change and as we grow and change, our goals are likely going to grow and change, too. And we do the same thing in our business.

We have these larger big picture goals but the way we get to them might completely change as we go quarter to quarter. So, you have that freedom and flexibility too. You don't have to map out every action step. Just know your starting step and know your why that's connected to the big picture.

Lauren Hooker: Yeah I love that you map those out in there, too. And I love that you even said, it's okay to write down these goals in this space because you can come back to them, and I saw further on in the Power Sheets where you do come back to them every quarter. Because like for the perfectionist in me that's like, "No, these are the goals that I'm going to reach in 2018." It was good to say, okay I can write it down because I can change it later.

Lara Casey: It's so relieving isn't it.

Lauren Hooker: I get it.

Lara Casey: Okay, I'm not tied to this. We naturally fight that because it's true. We should not necessarily be stuck to something for that long. We're going to change.

Lauren Hooker: Yeah, and it's like you're reading my mind, too. It's like, Lara knows me. She wrote this for me like you're reading my mind. Like if you're a perfectionist you're going to struggle with this.

Lara Casey: We are one and the same. That's probably the reason why.

Lauren Hooker: Which is the best.

Shea said, "Who is someone that inspires you in your life?"

Lara Casey: Oh man. So many people. I'm going to give a specific one though. Let's see. Okay, this is the first person that came to mind. Nancy Ray inspires me. She is a photographer. She's a momma but she's also been a longtime friend and the reason I choose her is because she is a prayerful, faithful person and a very selfless person and just to give you one example.

Like when, in a season after we adopted our daughter, Sarah, I had just had a baby, too. It was a crazy time for us. We had two babies within six months of each other and I was nursing Joshua and trying to pump for Sarah at the same time and pretty much freaking out about all the things and just couldn't do it anymore and just one day she showed up at my house with a huge ice chest full of frozen milk from her, from friends, and it was something that I will never forget. I'm trying to fight the tears.

But she's just like that. And I want to be like Nancy Ray when I grow up. And I probably need to text her after this. But it's just someone who puts others first and it really makes a difference in the small things, in the big things. When she says she's going to pray, she prays. She's a woman of her word.

Lauren Hooker: That's awesome. I don't know Nancy personally but I've follow on her forever and she just seems so sweet and so thoughtful.

Lara Casey: Love her. Absolutely.

Lauren Hooker: That's a great question, Shea.

Let's see, I'm trying to differentiate some of these questions.

Kyla says when you each started your businesses, how did you know when it was time to press Publish and share it with the world. I've been writing a business plan and I want to be discerning about when to launch it.

Lara Casey: I have an easy answer for you. Sort of. One is pray about it. I know you're a praying woman, Kyla. So pray about it. If God says go, you should just go. But the other part of that is thinking if what I am holding right now could help someone right now, why not now?

Did you follow me on that? If what I'm holding right now, even if it's in its raw form, could help somebody, then why not now? And that question of why not now has helped me so much and has been really ringing in my head for the last three days. We so often sit on gifts and we sit on these seeds that we're holding in our hands because we think we have to have the perfect timing, the perfect circumstances, we have to have the perfect website, the perfectly written copy, the perfect business plan, marketing plan. No. You just have to have something good in your hand and you need to just put it in the dirt and to plant a seed you have to actually get your hands dirty.

You don't just throw it out and it's this beautiful thing. That's how I feel about it. There are many times when I am so grateful that we are not a large corporation because we don't have to go through the bureaucracy or the hierarchy to take an idea and make it happen. We can just make it happen. We can just do it. Even if it's imperfect. Done is better than perfect. Pray about it, make sure can go with it. Make sure that the thing you're putting out there is, has integrity but just do it.

Lauren Hooker: Yeah, I love that you say that, too, because I'm reading Donald Miller's Story Brand book. 

Lara Casey: Yeah, it's good.

Lauren Hooker: It's been a perspective changer for me. But one thing he says is why are you ... Basically why are you afraid to sell things? Because you really believe that your products or what you're offering are making a difference and other people aren't doing you a favor by purchasing it, you're doing them a favor. That's just a perspective changer for me. Because that's always something I've tried to do in my business is to help other people and put other people before ever trying to sell something and then shy away from selling things. Or shy away from starting a new product or launching it to the world, when instead you're kind of robbing people of your gifts and how you can help them.

Lara Casey: So true.

Lauren Hooker: I love that you said that.

Awesome, awesome answer. That's one I get asked a lot. And that's great perspective.

Olivia says, and this will be the last one because we only have two minutes left. Sorry guys that we weren't able to get to them all. Olivia says, "Have you ever started a business endeavor only to realize that it wasn't serving your purpose? When do you decide to call it quits on a project or shelve it?"

That's a good one.

Lara Casey: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. You know what, we all have permission to change our minds and to change course. And there have been so many times when we've had a project and we, just this last year, decided to embrace this thing that we've been doing all along which is, it's a fancy name but it's an Agile Development Principle, which, the one we chose to embrace, which we've been doing forever, is being willing to change something in late stage development. Meaning if it's not working, you should just throw it out the window. Even if you've spent thousands of hours on it. If it's not working, just redirect. And use it as an opportunity to find something better.

So we've done that with projects. I did that with a book and it wasn't really my doing, I guess, but it was a blessing in disguise. The book I just released, Cultivate, I finished writing it early in the spring of this year. Oh my goodness I can't believe it was this year. And, or maybe it was before that. Maybe it was last spring. I turned it in and they said, you need to start over for very many reasons. And I was devastated. I mean I had spent almost two years at that point writing this book, but when I pulled my boot straps up and looked at the big picture and realized this is going to make it better, even if it takes me another year, which it did, and it made it better.

It was a totally different book and I hadn't even lived the parts of my story that I wrote about in that book, so God knew. But I hope that helps answer the question. Yes, there have been many times and I feel like I've learned so much more and we found more fruit in letting go of things or in canceling projects or just saying well, that's a wash, you know. And just moving on to the things we know we can do well.

Lauren Hooker: I love that. Great answers. I wish I could keep Lara here all day long.

Lara Casey: I would actually love to stay here. You guys are asking great question. I love chatting with you, Lauren.

Lauren Hooker: It's been so fun. Thank you so much for taking the time not only to reschedule after we had to reschedule last month. But just taking the time to share about balance and all these things that we talked about, it's been-

Lara Casey: It's been a joy.

Lauren Hooker: Yeah a joy.

Lara Casey: You've been awesome.

Lauren Hooker: And guys, if you're interested in the Power Sheets, which I highly recommend them. I've been using them for a couple years now and they've been so helpful. I created a little link down here. It's a green button.

Lara Casey: You are so kind to share that.

Lauren Hooker: Oh it is my pleasure. And follow along with Lara's goal setting series next week and even go back to this past, maybe it was last week, for working through the Power Sheets. I found that series to be so helpful.

Lara Casey: I'm so glad.

Lauren Hooker: If you haven't gotten your Power Sheets yet, go back to that because it was so helpful to me, too.

But thank you Lara.

Lara Casey: Thank you and I hope you all have happy holidays and Merry Christmases.

Lauren Hooker: Yeah, Merry Christmas. And this is the last Elle Chat for 2017, too so we'll see you again in 2018 we'll come out with those dates so that y'all can mark your calendars and I hope to see you in another Elle Chat very soon. Thank you again, Lara, and bye.

Lara Casey: Thank you, bye.