Transcript: Mythical Makers Episode 12: The Wonder of Systems with Dana Gervais

Note: Mythical Makers Podcast is produced for the ear and intended to be heard, not read. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that’s not on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
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Babs: Hi there, and welcome to the Mythical Makers Podcast! These are weekly ramblings from myself Babs Rudlin, Fiery Phoenix, and I’m Karen Moffett, Mama Dragon.

~ Short Musical Interlude ~

Karen: Welcome to our Mythical Makers Podcast; today, we’re talking with Dana Gervais and discussing her Biz Knit Systems and how they can help you in your business.

Babs: So welcome to our little podcast world, we tend to chat through Zoom across the planet and once a week, we release the Mythical Makers Podcast. And so today, Dana, before we dive in to systems, which I love and I can spend all day long talking about systems. Do you want to give people who don’t know who you are a bit of an introduction and overview of where your particular skill set, lies?

Dana: I’m a knitwear designer. I specialize in socks, I can knit and design other things, but socks are kind of my niche. I have also been until very recently, a Tech Editor. I don’t know, I don’t know what else to say.

Babs: Have you had business experience prior to your knitting life?

Dana: Yeah, I was um, my career started, I was a financial planner for high net worth individuals, after that, I became a non-profit credit counselor. We’ve had our own business doing rental consulting and property management and now I’m doing this.

Babs: Okay, so you’ve got a very solid business background behind, behind what you’re doing now. And also, I imagine that, that has played somewhat into the fact that you understand and appreciate the importance of systems in your business.

Dana: Yes, very much.

Babs: So, in case people aren’t a hundred percent sure what we’re talking about, if you don’t have a plan, and we all know I love to plan, then you can run amock and do a whole host of activity, but it won’t actually get you anywhere. If you have a plan without a system, you can’t replicate your plan. So if your plan succeeds, you can’t do it again easily. You’ve got to go back to square one and try and work out what worked. Whereas if you systemize things then you have a plan within a plan that you follow every single time, so you know what you’re doing when you’re doing it. If something… God forbid, should happen to you as an individual working in your business, then you can have somebody else pick up your systems and follow your systems so that you and your business are still earning money and still doing all the things that should be done whilst do you recover from whatever life throws as you that takes your time away from your business. So systems are in a very basic form a list of instructions that somebody, whether that’s you or somebody else can follow to get the same result…

Dana: It’s literally a checklist of processes, right? And in addition to picking up the slack if you become ill or unable to work, it allows you to scale your business, because if you become big enough that you decide that you need to really just focus on the creative part of your business and it’s time for you to start outsourcing and off-loading some of the admin stuff, you have systems in place, and it’s very easy for you to effect that hand off and make sure that what you were doing is done consistently by the next person, and it also makes sure that your customer always has a consistent experience because everything is always handled the same way. Every release is exactly the same, every shop update is exactly the same, every listing is exactly the same, and it’s on brand, and your customers recognize it as you.

Babs: And that is so important.

Karen: And so, it’s familiar.

Babs: It’s absolutely crucial, for that familiarity, that comfort, and just making sure that your customer’s getting high quality every single time you do something. Which is something that I definitely worry about, when I release things. When I look back at some of the earlier patterns that I released and I look back at some of the free tutorials that I did. And even, I hadn’t even got a style sheet sorted for myself, so my terminology changes out all over the place. Because I was just writing it and then I look back at it now and I’m like, “Oh, Lordy, what was I doing?” But that was because I just started. So I do plan on going back and re-visiting and making everything consistent now that I have had a standard style sheet and all that kind of thing. But these systems take it that one step further, so it’s not just what you’re outputting in terms of the wording of a pattern, it is that next step up beyond that. So Karen, you did some testing, if I remember rightly? For Biz Knit Systems.

Karen: I did, I did, when Dana first was trying to get her a system put together in a package or for people to actually purchase, she put out a call for people that wanted to beta test. And there’s a lot of different things that are available for the system so there’s a bunch of Trello boards that you can use and adapt to your own business. There are a lot of spreadsheets and things like that that you can use and Dana has got some videos that walk you through the process of using each of those different elements. And the thing that I liked about the Biz Knits was that it was, it was built specifically to be able to customize it for your business. So if you were pretty early on, and there’s only a certain number of things that you are ready to use, then you can go ahead and implement those things, and save the other things for later and… And so it was just, it’s really nice to be able to just adapt it to exactly where you are in your business at this moment in time.

Babs: Okay, so Dana, which part of somebody’s business if they’ve not systemized anything at all, what aspects of their business do you think is the most crucial for them to create a system around?

Dana: I think that you need to start where you are. So whatever the next thing you are about to do in your business is the thing that you need to systematize. So if you’re planning to sit down today to write a blog post for example, as you’re doing it, sit down, and write out every single step. Right? Like: Open Google Doc folder “Blog Posts,” create new doc, create outline with bullet points. Right? Turn bullet points into sentences, have thing proof read, create graphics. Like, whatever you have to do. Open Square Space, that happens to be the web host that I use, uh, you know, click on blog, click on new, format blog post, insert graphics, you know, add links, confirm that links are working, and thumbnail image. Every single thing that you do, it literally takes you five minutes extra while you’re doing the blog post. Find a permanent, consistent home for it. That is a home that you can share with other people, whether that’s in Google Docs, whether that’s in Trello, whether that’s in Evernote, whatever online portal you like to use to keep information, and boom, you have a blog posting system. So start where you’re at, right? If the next thing you’re about to do today, is do a shop update for your yarn business, then write down every single thing you do when you do your shop update, where you promote it, how often posts should go out…everything.

Babs: Yeah. Okay, no, that’s really cool. ‘Cause again, I think people get confused with thinking that systems are technical things as against the process that you followed to make something happen. I think sometimes people get a bit scared that they’ve gotta go out and play for some complicated IT solution, when actually what they need at the very basic level is a pen and paper…

Dana: Exactly.

Babs: …and just write down every single step. So that if you can’t do it, someone else can do what you need to do.

Dana: It’s like a super mundane step. Write it down, because if the day comes when you do have to hand that off to somebody and it says, you know, upload blog post to website… What website? Where? Where is it hosted? How do I get in? Right? So it just takes two minutes to write all of that down, and what I’ve learned is if I can spend five minutes, making you know, bullet points and then turning that into a couple of paragraphs or even dictating into a microphone I can have a blog post that’s branded, and consistent and goes up on time, which is, you know, when you, when you make a commitment to do things consistently, whether it’s release pattern once a month, or update your shop once a month, or put out a blog post once a week, or put out a newsletter every other week, you’re making a commitment to your customers and it’s important that you show up.

Babs: Yeah.

Karen: Mmmhmm.

Dana: Right? So instead of not showing up, if you have the opportunity to get help or whatever, having processes in place, makes sure that that goes on, makes sure that the experience is consistent, makes sure that you’re showing up and keeps you in everybody’s mind.

Babs: Yes.

Karen: And I think that if it’s a portion of your business that particularly stresses you out, if it’s something that gets you kind of ramped up if you already have that system in place and you’re ready to go and you’re like, “Okay I know that I’m not going to miss any crucial step along the way because I’ve got this list here that I can refer to, that really helps to kind of alleviate some of that stress especially like, for launches or whatever it is that gets you stressed out in your business.

Dana: So I find most designers anyway, will tell me the thing that stresses them the most is social media. They either don’t know what to post they feel being, that they’re being too pushy if they post too often, then they aren’t sure that their, the content that they’re posting to social media is curated enough. So, one benefit to having a system is, it’s really nice if you can sit down once a month or once a week, get everything ready to post, get it scheduled to post, and then not think about it.

Babs: Yep.

Karen: Yeah.

 

Dana: Other than maybe going into whatever social media platform you use once a day and commenting on other people’s posts so that you are present and engaged, but you don’t have to sit every day and worry, “What am I gonna post, now?” Like, I just posted a picture of my, my work in progress yesterday, like, I don’t wanna write, what am I gonna post? So to have that done and not have to think about it for a week or a month is pretty freeing.

Babs: Yes.

Karen: Yeah, definitely.

Babs: Also if there is something that you particularly hate doing, (Karen chuckles) that would be, Karen knows the answer to this already, that would be testing. I just, I have such a mental thing about it. I love supporting people through tests, I love seeing their, their work for the tests. But I hate setting a test up and starting that process of finding testers. So if I know that these are the steps that I need to go through then I can just find somebody else to do that bit for me, and I could do all the suppporting stuff quite happily, but someone else can do the setting it up and getting it kicked off and initiated. And so if there’s some other process that you absolutely loathe and you find that you have a smidgin of budget available that you can get yourself a VA to do one task a month for you, you can hand off that task that you loathe, which will make you feel so much better, especially if you’ve already documented it and you know that it’s really simple. You just send them this document or point them to this directory and then they’ve got all the information they need to go and do this, this is the one thing that you hate on your behalf.

Karen: Mmmhmm.

Dana: Yeah, or if there’s a task that you just can’t do. Like, I cannot do behind the scene stuff on my website. I cannot. I could learn, I could watch all the YouTube videos, I could ask for help, but the time that I would have to invest in doing that, I can spend designing. Which is…

Karen: It’s just not worth it to you, mmmhmm.

Dana: So I would much rather ask for help and pay someone to do the behind-the-scenes website stuff for me. It’s just not worth my while to learn that, right now.

Babs: Well besides, designing is more fun as well.

Karen: (giggles) Of course! That’s what we’re in it for, right?

Babs: Yeah, as somebody who spent far too many years working in IT, I can tell you that the designing is far more fun than fiddling with the back in of your website, I promise you. So yeah, that’s all really, really cool. So when did you decide that you were gonna bundle your systems so that other people could use them Dana?

Dana: Well, I get asked a lot by other designers and sometimes newer designers, “How do you put out so many designs, how do you do all the things consistently, all the time?” And they say things like… But I don’t have full time hours, I have a full-time job, or I have a family and I don’t know how to do it, and I realized, you know what, my systems already exist, so it’s not, it’s not like it’s taking me a lot of time and energy to create them. All I literally have to do is put them in a format that’s shareable and then other people can use them. So now when people come to me and say, “How do you do this, how do you do that?” I say, “Well I have a system for everything, like I literally only work a couple of hours a day at my computer because everything, I always have a list I always know exactly… I have four to six projects on the go at a time because I release 24 patterns a year. So I always have something in some stage of production, so I have a Trello board where I can look at every project, I can see exactly where we are with that project, I can see what the next step is for everything, and because everything is systematized I don’t have to look for the next step, I don’t have to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing today. It’s like all done… Like, I literally just sit down and do it, tick it off, and then it just kind of happens auto-magically now…

Babs: Yeah.

Karen: Mmmhmm.

Babs: If you’ve got a way of actually putting due dates in and then everything else back fills because your systems just automatically back fill, for the Trello boards for example, so you…

Dana: Yeah. And that’s how it works. It starts with a release date. So I know that if I have a release coming up on September ninth, and it takes me two months to put out a sock, I have to start working on that sock July ninth. And the first step is sketching, swatching, identifying yarn, right? Like I know what the steps are, so every step of the design process gets filled in with September ninth in mind.

Karen: Mmmhmm.

Babs: Mmmhmm. Excellent.

Karen: And I think it’s doubly important, if you, you were talking Babs about people who are doing their design business as a side hustle, you know the (makes air quotes) “side hustle,” if you’ve got another full-time job that you’re working and you’re trying to just shoe-horn in ten minutes here and twenty minutes there and whatever, it’s so much easier to be more productive in those really, really small time windows if you have a plan of… I know this is only gonna take me ten minutes to do so this is something that I can sit down and do in this ten minutes I have available.

Dana: And nothing gets forgotten. Like I said, the customer experience is consistent, because every release I do is the same. Like, every blog post I do is the same. Like, nothing…I mean, I’ve got over 80 patterns out or almost over 90, I don’t know. But I still use the checklist, the design checklist for every pattern and the pattern release for every, checklist for every pattern, the newsletter checklist for every newsletter. Like, I still use them and if I didn’t, there would be one or two little steps that I would forget. Like, I’d forget to pin the thing to my Pinterest boards or I would forget to promote it on a specific social media channel or whatever.

Karen: Yeah.

Babs: Yeah, no, it’s nice. If you can have something that becomes a mindless process to follow so that you can just put your mind elsewhere where it’s more productive, that is so much better for someone who’s running their own business, and it can actually do the work of about five other people. (Karen chuckles) Just quietly, in the backgound, rather than you running around trying to remember everything, it just sort of…

Dana: Yeah. There’s more than one way to scale a business. If you don’t have a money to hire help, or if you don’t want to hire help, ’cause some people want to be a solopreneur, and they don’t want to involve anybody else. You can absolutely scale your business using systems and using technology.

Babs: Yes.

Dana: Right? You can use a Buffer or a Later or a Meet Edgar to schedule social media for example, instead of hiring a VA, and have the same effect. Right? You can use a really good calendar program with reminders to remind you of due dates and the next step in a process without having to hire somebody, or go outside of financially go outside of your business.

Karen: Mmmhmm. And that will prepare you if you are, you know, hoping to go from doing it as a side hustle to making it your full-time business, that allows you to do that and know when you’re actually ready to do that, to make that leap.

Dana: And if your goal is to have a team and you’re gonna have like, a huge company with departments and people before you can hand anything off you have to know how, you have to have a process yourself. So yeah, I’m going to hand off, you know, the pattern layout for example, I need to know what my pattern looks like, I need to know what programs I use, I need to know how long it takes. So that I know if the person I’m handing it off to is doing it in a reasonable amount of time and is doing it the way that I would want it done.

Karen: Because, again, you’re looking for that consistency.

Dana: Yeah, you know, everything that I put out, it needs to look like I did it.

Karen: Yeah.

Babs: Yeah, absolutely. The key thing is that you spend your time in your zone of genius, as against you spend your time just slogging through all the other stuff.

Karen: Right.

Babs: Because if you are in your zone of genius, then you’re earning money. You are earning money from the activities that you’re doing.

Dana: Exactly.

Babs: You know, fiddling about with the backend of a website, whilst it might make a prettier website, is not actually gonna earn you any cash in your bank balance.

Dana: Exactly. And it frees you up mentally, when you know you have a trusted place where everything lives, you don’t have to think about it. So you don’t have to constantly think about, I’ve gotta get that newsletter out, I have a news letter that’s gotta go out on Thursday, I have to get that newsletter out… Because you know that you’ve already got a process, it, it’s coming up daily on your to-do list, so that frees you up mentally to design the next thing, to dye the next batch, to do whatever it is that you need to do, strategically to keep your vision moving forward. You don’t wanna get bogged down working in your business, it’s about freeing up the mental capacity to work on your business if that makes sense.

Babs: Absolutely.

Karen: Mmmhmm.

Babs: Yeah, absolutely. What we’re gonna do is we’re gonna include in both the podcast and the description for the video, the link through to the Biz Knit System so people can go and get the whole system. Are you able, off the top of your head? This is a big ask, I know, to list off the different portions within the system, just the…

Dana: I’ve got quarterly goal planning, ’cause I never plan anything more than three months in advance, so I’ve got quarterly goal planning, social media content planning, pattern design workflow, pattern release workflow, sample knitter workflow, a book keeping, I think blog post and newsletter work flow. I can’t remember what else is in there. I don’t, I know I didn’t do one for test knitting, just because it’s so individual, the way every designer does it. Some of them use Facebook, and some of them use Ravelry, right? So I did not do one for test knitting, but I’m trying to think of what else there is and I can’t off the top, I mean, it’s early here. I can’t… (everyone laughs)

Karen: The brain is not fully awake yet.

Babs: Okay…

Dana: I haven’t had a shower, my kids are still in bed, it’s early.

Babs: As you can see, that’s actually a massive list of work flows and to-do lists and charts that just flow one through the other and the Biz Knit System is, is gonna give you a whole host of answers, for What do I do next? How do I do this? What do I need to think about, if I’m doing a pattern launch? You know, where do I need to share it? What sort of content do I need to produce? How often do I need to send newsletters? And of course, you can tweak all of those things to work with your release schedule.

Dana: So, it’s designed to be tweaked. It’s designed like a launch pad so that you can take from it what works for you, build on it, ’cause you know, everybody does things differently. There’s gonna be things that I do that you don’t, you’re gonna instantly delete, and there’s gonna be things that you’re like, Why wouldn’t she have put that? That you’re gonna instantly add. And that’s exactly what it’s designed for… To be a framework so that you don’t have in the time and energy creating the framework, the framework exists.

Karen: Yeah, that’s one of the things that I liked best about it is that I don’t have to do it exactly the same way that you did it, but I can see the way that you did it and go, Okay. I think this will work for me, and this maybe not so much. I think I’d rather do this step in this manner, or you know, change the order of things, or whatever. It’s very customizable. That was one of the things that I liked the best.

Dana: Good, I’m glad.

Babs: Cool. Do you have anything else that you want to say or discuss, Dana?

Dana: Not that I can think of.

Babs: Like no, that’s the thought! It’s still early. Do you have any other questions for Dana, Karen?

Karen: I don’t think so.

Babs: Now, I think we’ve been quite thorough. We’ve grilled her today. We’ve grilled her this early in the morning. As I say, we’ll put links down below, and what is the name of your sock designs? What’s the brand that people should be looking for, Dana, when they’re going…

Dana: Dana Gervais Designs. Dana Gervais Designs dot com.

Babs: Lovely. And we’ll get links to that, put in there as well, for people so that they can take a look because your socks are stunning. They are gorgeous. I’m a complete sockophile, is that word? I don’t know, but I love socks. (Karen laughs) I love wearing them, I love knitting them, I love everything about socks.

Karen: I’ll ask you a question, Dana, what’s your favorite heel?

Dana: To wear personally, heel flap and gusset or strong heel, because I have a high instep.

Karen: Ah, mmmhmm.

Dana: Yeah.

Karen: And you like, do you like to design with that one?

Dana: I like to design with all of them, I like to change it up a lot because I knit a lot of my own samples, and I don’t, I don’t wanna get bored, always getting the same heel, and…

Karen: That makes sense.

Dana: Why stop to get bored always knitting the same heel. And I’m now trying to also put in a lot of modification like, I’m now including instructions to add gussets to a short row heel or an afterthought heel because high instep people, we wanna be able to wear those heels too. So yeah, I’m always playing with heel construction. I’m doing a lot of arch shaping right now. I like to play with that type of construction.

Karen: Cool.

Babs: Awesome. Yeah, as somebody who struggles with tube socks, they might have pretty heels, but tube socks don’t seem to want to go on my feet very comfortably.

Dana: Well, they’re not, they’re not foot shaped.

Babs: (chuckles) No, they’re not!

Karen: Yeah, right, exactly.

Babs: Yeah. And so, a single cylinder with a fancy heel just doesn’t cut it. And whilst I don’t like the word gusset, as Karen knows. I always seem to get embarrassed whenever I say it. (Karen laughs) It’s utterly ridiculous. I do love a heel flap. And then it just fits so nicely.

Dana: I actually love gussets. I think they’re one of the most amazing looking parts of the sock. Like, a properly done gusset is absolutely beautiful to me. Ditto for thumb gussets on mitts.

Karen: Mmm, mmmhmm. Mmmhmm.

 

Dana: Yeah, like I love a good gusset.

Karen: Yeah, we’re just gonna keep saying it, until you get used to the word. (everyone laughs)

Babs: Oh, dearie me. Right, thank you very much everyone.

Dana: Thank you.

Babs: Hopefully this has explained why we like a good system and how it can benefit you not just today, but as your business grows, as you have more time to spend on your business, you can then use that time more effectively by following systems and also if you find that the time that you have available reduces, you can outsource very effectively and far more quickly and smoothly if you have systems in place and it should be invisible to your customer, to your end customer, if you have the correct systems in place. So that everything that goes out is consistent, it’s on-brand and it looks like it’s you all the time, which is what you want for your customers at the end of the day. So a massive, massive thank-you to Dana, for sharing your information about systems and your knowledge of socks, and gussets.

And we will catch up with everybody in a future podcast or video so if you have any questions, please put them below the video, or in the podcast, and we will do our best to make sure that they are answered for you all.

Dana: Great, thank you very much for having me.

Babs: Oh, you’re very welcome, Dana.

Karen: Thanks.

Babs: Bye!

Karen: Bye-bye!

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Please leave your feedback and comments so more yarn enthusiasts will be able to find the podcast!

 

Bye for now,

Babs    &  Karen 

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Links mentioned in the episode:

In addition to the suggestions given in the podcast Dana is also offering a special package for the Biz Knit System for our community.

The first 10 who buy the package will also get a bonus of a free call to discuss how to implement for your business.

Check it out at https://www.bizknitsystems.com/yarnacademy

Tell us of any systems you have created in the comments!

 

In addition to the suggestions given in the podcast Dana is also offering a special package for the Biz Knit System for our community.

The first 10 who buy the package will also get a bonus of a free call to discuss how to implement for your business.

Check it out at https://www.bizknitsystems.com/yarnacademy

Tell us of any systems you have created in the comments!

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