Entrepreneurial Empathy with Jen McFarland

Will your employee go a little further when times are tough? Jen McFarland ( @jensmcfarland )talks about entrepreneurship, marketing, and living in Kazakhstan. Listen for the size 45 clown shoes. Are they European sizes, US sizes, or clown sizes?

Mentorship, empathy, marketing, and NOT being a hater! If you are an employer, this episode is for you if you are an employee, this episode is for you.

If there is one theme to hear throughout this podcast, it is this quote from Jen:
“Smart Women in tech leave because of bad management.”





Brent: Welcome to talk commerce today. I have Jen McFarland coming from Oregon. Did I get that right? Jen, Oregon? Yep. Yep. Jen, go ahead and introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about your day to day role and maybe one of your passions in 

Jen: life. Oh, wow. Hi my name’s Jen McFarland. I am a marketing coach, even though I don’t like using the word coach.

Jen: It just seems to be what people call me. I also do a lot of hands on work. My favorite thing to do in my role as a marketing agency is I work with the city of Portland’s economic development division through their inclusive business resource network and we help people of color with their marketing so that they can build their businesses.

Jen: And that’s one of my favorite things to do. I’m also passionate about travel. hang out with my friends. It’s lovely here in Portland, because right now it’s summer and I am not originally from here. So when the rain comes, that’s not really my favorite time 

Brent: and it never rains on, in, in the west coast, right in Portland.

Brent: It’s always bright and sunny, just like San Diego. 

Jen: That’s what I a lot of people get it wrong. See, it only rains once in Portland, it starts in October and it ends in late may. 

Brent: Oh, that’s better than starting in October and ending in September. 

Jen: well, that’s true. We’ve had that happen before though. That was summer was on a Tuesday and it was pretty fun.

Brent: Yes. I was in Duluth this weekend and summer’s done already there, so no 

Jen: way. I can’t okay. Checking that off the list. Not moving to Duluth. 

Brent: Yeah. Duluth is very lovely in the summer. So July some parts of August depends which way the wind is blowing. Off the lake or not. How all right. The only thing I know about Portland is Portlandia.

Brent: And so I know that you probably go to one of your local restaurants and get the name of the chicken that when you’re gonna sit down to eat, is that right?

Jen: They don’t always tell us the name of the chicken, but it’s, it’s 50 50, if you get the full lineage of the chicken. So yeah. Portland idea, totally accurate.

Jen: A hundred percent. 

Brent: all right. So Jen I know some of the topics we talked about in the green room were around certainly entrepreneurship, but how you went through the peace Corps and then got into entrepreneurship or how the peace Corps helped you get into it. Tell us a little bit about that.

Jen: Yeah. So I love travel. I am a unique person in that I did peace Corps with my husband. He also likes travel. So we went as more mid-career entrepreneurs. So we were both in our thirties and we, so when you go as a couple, you can’t go to as many places as a single person, they have to have a place for two people to live and all kinds of things.

Jen: So we went to Kazakhstan. It is it’s not like Borat he’s, supposedly from Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is a country south of Russia. It’s the largest land locked country in the world. And people there are insanely nice. So nice to the point where. It would be considered kidnapping in this country.

Jen: So I was walking, we were teachers and I had a long walk back to the host family. This is when we were training and my husband was ahead of me and somebody saw, it was like, oh, the American is alone. I want my niece to talk to the American. So basically they’re like, come on in. And I’m like I have to get home.

Jen: It’s dinnertime. They bring me in and this, I was so inexperienced that I didn’t know how long this process would be and they start cooking and I’m like, oh no, I’m in deep trouble. I don’t have the phone number to get ahold of my husband, the person I’m supposed to talk to. Isn’t in the house. I don’t know any of these people, what is happening.

Jen: I think I was there for about two hours and about halfway in this woman, young woman comes in and sits down and I can understand enough Russian at that point to understand that this is the person I’m supposed to talk to you. And she speaks English. And that is how I met my best friend in Kazakhstan so we talked, it was awesome.

Jen: We left that training place and then we ended up moving back there and living there for a year and Rahan saw me and was just like, oh my gosh, it’s you? This is so great. And that’s how we met each other. But like in America, these are things that never happened. You’re not walking along the street and somebody’s Hey, come on in.

Jen: Talk to my niece. Like you would never stop. You would never do it. And so that’s how I learned that sometimes you can take these risks that just seem insane and crazy, and it turns out really good. So this was somebody who I was really close to for that time. I miss her all the time, even though I’ve been back for a long time.

Jen: And I think business is a lot like that. Sometimes you have to take that chance. You have to be like, is this for real? I don’t know if this is for real or not. And then you. Yeah, it’s cool. And you take that risk. You take the plunge and it works that way. It just works out. And that’s really what happened.

Jen: I would say then when you fast forward and I’m an executive at the city of Portland and I decide to leave, but I don’t really have a parachute really set for myself. I knew I wanted to have a business, but I hadn’t really set it up. And I was like it’s gonna work out. And it has, it’s just crazy sometimes how.

Jen: works that way. You have to have a certain degree of trust in order for it to really work out and Peace Corp was we loved peace Corp. It was super great. 

Brent: Yeah, that’s good. So the peace cor in Kazakhstan. Wow. I have I’ve and you lived there for a year. Tell when was this? When did you do this? 

Jen: We lived there for two years.

Jen: Two years. Okay. It was in the early two thousands and it’s cold. it’s really cold there. I would say that the weather is probably similar to Milwaukee Wisconsin, except there’s no central heating. I remember sitting next to, we had, I don’t know what you would call it. It was technically supposed to be a heater, but it was like these bare wires that would just heat up I don’t know.

Jen: It was so cold that I sat so close to it, that I set my pants on fire and I didn’t notice it for a minute and I. I was like, do you smell smoke? It was breakfast. And I was talking to my husband. He’s like something smells funny. And I looked and, but I was like, I also felt warm, so I wasn’t complaining and then I looked down and I.

Jen: oh, I just burned a hole in my pants. I like you just no, it it’s a different experience there because it’s very cold and very snowy and like the vitreous fluid in your eyes freezes, and so you’re blinking a lot and it, it’s just an interesting experience.

Jen: And then it’s like insanely hot in the summer. And I think Milwaukee’s kind of that where, Minneapolis is like that too. Except you have a lot of mosquitoes there compared to Kazakhstan. So it’s a lovely, wonderful place that nobody’s ever heard of. And it was just a wonderful experience and it was very hard and also awesome.

Jen: We only had running water, I think about. we would leave the tap opened, cuz we weren’t sure when the water was gonna come on and we would fill the bathtub and then use the water. We had a water distiller, so it would be clean and everything. So it was an interesting time, an interesting experience.

Jen: And I think that’s why, my husband and I have weathered COVID really well. I weather uncertainty a lot better. I think that’s. I think that’s why people call me a coach, even though I’m really a consultant. And I do a lot of hands on marketing for people. It’s because I have this really grounded oh, it’s gonna be okay.

Jen: And I think after you have some of these experiences, like I’ve had experiences at the enterprise level where like we melted down entire. Servers and everything came to a grinding halt, and we had to match data among like hundreds of thousands of people. And we’ve, and I’ve lived in countries where I didn’t have running water.

Jen: Like it just, everything always works out. And I think that grounded feeling I have about things is really because I’ve lived in places without any creature comforts, I’ve had all kinds of experiences and at the end of it, it’s great. Everything works out. Everything works out in the end. 

Brent: So two comments, number one, I’m sad to hear that you associate Minnesota with mosquitoes, which we have a state bird. It’s not the mosquito number two. I did spend a lot of time in the eighties watching the show, Laverski and Shirliova. It’s a Kazakhstan program about two ladies in a beer bottling plant that in nevermind.

Brent: It’s a, that’s a tie back to Milwaukee Laver, Shirley and Milwaukee. Yes. I know I’ll stop. So do you please, do you think there’s a special risk factor or no, maybe not risk, but there has to be something in you or. Something you can’t quite quantify to be able to leave your job as a public employee or a city employee, and just jump off and go for it.

Brent: Do you think there’s something that most people can’t quite identify with? 

Jen: I don’t know. I certainly had the golden handcuffs on if that’s what you mean, had every, I was paid I had. still have my retirement from there. Certainly if you know all of the security in the world, I don’t think I was actually gonna lose my job.

Jen: But it, I wasn’t happy. So I think that when you look at your life and you’re like, this isn’t really what I want. I, I don’t know. Some people will decide to. and be miserable. And I just, that, wasn’t what I wanted for myself. And I wanted something different. I also have the experience that when my dad was around 50, he was being worked to get to death at the state of Idaho and had a bad situation.

Jen: And he ended up having a heart attack. And I was like, I don’t wanna be like that. He didn’t want that. And so I think that as I, got into my forties, I was like, yeah, I Don. This is not the road. I know where this road can lead because I had seen it with my dad. And I was like, I don’t want that road.

Jen: And I have been so much happier since taking the risks since doing something. But certainly I would say a lot of people don’t do it because maybe they don’t have the same sense of adventure. They don’t have these experiences where they’re like, Yeah, I’m just gonna go move to Kazakhstan now, ha that’s crazy.

Jen: Most people that’s crazy. So I do think that there’s a part of me that is really adventurous and willing to take these chances and take chances on myself. And I would say certainly I’m the person who gets the LinkedIn email, the little messages and I’m like, is this real or not? And I’ll actually research things that don’t.

Jen: real. And then that’s how I ended up I had a film crew at my house earlier this year because they read one of my blog posts and they’re filming a documentary and they wanted me to be in it. And it was just a random request that came into LinkedIn, but I’m willing to take the risk that that could work out.

Jen: And it did, it was fun. It. Unique. Doesn’t happen every day that I have a film crew at my house. So I do think that we have these opportunities as entrepreneurs where we can either be like, oh God, I get so many LinkedIn requests all the time. I’m just gonna ignore all of them. I don’t even know these people.

Jen: And I’m that. Odd person. Who’s oh, is this looks neat. If this is real, then I’m gonna pursue it. And I think that we have these opportunities all the time in our lives, and we have that choice. We have the power to make the choice about how we’re going to navigate and proceed. Do 

Brent: you think it gets more difficult as you get older to make that decision?

Brent: And I’ll just back that up with, I started as an entrepreneur in college, I went to college for eight years and decided. I wanna do something different. So I dropped outta college sure. After eight years and I started a business. But I really didn’t know what I was doing or getting into at a younger age.

Brent: Sometimes you can jump into those things and it just happened, whatever that I got some traction and it worked, but some people as they get a little bit older might think I’ve got a career and I don’t know if I want to, chance on not having a paycheck. Do you think it’s more difficult as you get older?

Jen: I do. And I would say that, at the time I was leaving my executive role, that all played into it as okay how much runway do I have? The truth is I had more runway because I had more savings. had more experience it. It was a different runway than if I had decided to do it right outta college.

Jen: Like you, that would’ve been a disaster for me. I know who I was and where I was at that stage that would not have worked for me. It was also not on my roadmap. Peace Corps was a hundred percent on my roadmap coming outta college, having my own business. That was something that kind of simmered later on.

Jen: And I think that you have to have that entrepreneurial mindset, that entrepreneurial spirit, and I guess I had it all along. I just didn’t identify it as that ability. Be adventurous and take the plunge. I don’t think that’s for everybody. I don’t think that everybody feels that way about life.

Jen: about what they want for themselves. Everybody’s different. So I do think that those decisions become a lot harder because we have families, we have more complicated lives than we do out of college or when we’re younger, there’s just not as much complexity. Maybe we don’t have a house. I had all of these things I had to worry about.

Jen: We have a house, we have, I have a marriage. I can’t just run off and join the circus. I could, but there’s not really a lot of circuses anymore. Size 45 clown shoes in case anyone’s curious, but I can’t do that without talking to somebody. I can’t just run. And do whatever I want anymore. So I think sometimes we get lost in that complexity and we decide it’s just not worth it because there’s too many elements to work out.

Jen: So I think that can be a hard stop for people when there might be gold there. If you did take that plunge, if you did go out there and do something new. 

Brent: Yeah. I can think of so many, like be your own boss. Do your own business. There’s so many people like that are pushing franchises or something like that.

Brent: And I think there’s a distinction between taking somebody else’s dream and going with it and doing your own dream. Maybe it’s harder to do your own dream because especially as you said, as you go along, you have more entrenched things that you want to stick with. And part of it being an entrepreneur is being able to let some of those things go and embracing change.

Brent: Oh yeah. You had mentioned earlier about being an accidental entrepreneur. How do you, how would you relate to that?

Jen: I said earlier that I wasn’t gonna lose my job, but my job was very uncertain. It was a year to year deal where I had to wait for the budget to go through, there was a lot of uncertainty around that and I was really unhappy. I really, at one point thought that I would bounce around at different roles at the city.

Jen: And it became clear that this role I was in was that was where I was gonna be. And I. Like it. I created the job. I created the entire department. I had been doing a lot of projects. That’s really what I would do that was my role at the city was I would create new programs and places and policies, and I would move around a lot.

Jen: And I became clear that this is, this was it. This was the landing spot. And I was like, oh no, this is not interesting to me. as I was making this entire. role and crafting this program. I was like, wow, I wonder who’s gonna have to do this all the time. And then it turned out to be me and I was not happy. So what happened then is in life outside of my work, I had a friend who had their own business and I began to see how I could help other people in smaller roles in smaller businesses.

Jen: Where it wasn’t an enterprise large business situation. And I started to realize that some of the things that I took for granted and thought everybody knew they didn’t, about marketing, about technology, about how to get all the pieces to fit together. And so I started helping people as side hustle, is what people call it now.

Jen: And. from that experience. I was like, I could really do this. It wasn’t the intention. It was all by accident, helping somebody in need. And then it became another person and another person in the meantime, during the day, I’m in a role that I’m really unhappy with it’s budget season. Again, do I want to go through another.

Jen: Will I, or won’t I have a job, even though I think I will. The program, it’s been years now and it’s still running, so yes, I would’ve had a role. So it all happened. Like the kismet, like all of the things started happening and I was like yeah, it’s time to go. I need to go.

Jen: I wasn’t happy. There were a lot of reasons. so I took the plunge, but it wasn’t some grand master plan. I think a lot of times when people go into, should I have my own business or not, they’re looking for some sort of bright light that they run to, or all kinds of certainty and knowledge about how it’s all gonna turn out.

Jen: it’s not like that. it just doesn’t happen. I don’t think for a lot of people, maybe some people do have funding set up ahead of time, or they have banked a ton of clients. That’s certainly not what I was in when I decided this is what I’m gonna do. This is what I enjoy more. And there’s just a lot of factors that go into it.

Jen: So it was accidental. And it took a little bit of time to decide that this was what I was going to do. 

Brent: If you were to think between say the employer role and the employee role you talk a lot about how you’ve helped others as an employer, do you want to encourage your employees who you recognize could be good entrepreneurs to chase their dream?

Brent: So basically you’d lose them, but they would have their dream. Is that something you think as a good entrepreneur, you should be doing? 

Jen: Absolutely. My role in companies, when I go work there is to work myself out of a job. I’m not real big on the whole, have a retainer for life kind of deal. Like I like people to move on, get out of my nest and move on.

Jen: And I feel the same way about the people who work with me, who work for me. Part of what we’re doing is we’re fostering the growth of others. And in that we have to allow them to blossom and grow. And one of the reasons I feel that way is because that wasn’t something that was an option to me at several different points in my career.

Jen: So I don’t want to inhibit the growth of somebody else because I know what that feels like. 

Brent: I can remember people that have helped me and people that have hindered me in the past. And certainly maybe the ones that have helped me the most are the ones that are more confident in the abilities for them to succeed in their own roles, knowing that they’ve now fostered somebody to go out and chase their own dream. Is there any advice you could give an entrepreneur to help them, maybe it’s insecurity where somebody feels as though that they wanna retain this person for the rest of their lives.

Brent: And I’m not saying that it’s bad to have an employee who’s gonna be there for the rest of their lives, because there are people that simply want to be an employee that are not interested in being an entrepreneur. Not everybody is cut out for that. No, but I do feel as though. Some employers could be a hindrance to somebody’s upward career if they were to, I don’t know, a stranglehold or something 

Jen: well, I will say that I haven’t had as many mentors as other people have.

Jen: And I think that sometimes what happens is, and by mentor in this specific case, I know that you can have mentors that. Anywhere. But a work mentor, like somebody who was above me in an organization, mentor me and helped, find another role somewhere else. I work really hard. It’s one of the things that I do.

Jen: So I didn’t tend to attract mentors who wanted me to leave. So they wanted me to stay there because they knew. Whatever they needed, it was gonna get done because Jen would do it. And I can tell you, by the time I left the city, there were like four people doing what I was doing. Like I was taking on so much and I would just get it done.

Jen: That’s what I’m good at. I’m an implementer, get stuff done. I can say that just because somebody is working really hard. And I think that we’re seeing it now with the quiet quitting is what they’re calling it, where it’s basically people who have really good boundaries. And they’re saying, I’m gonna come in.

Jen: I’m gonna do exactly what you want me to do. I’m gonna leave on time. I’m gonna turn my phone off. I’m not gonna answer your. And people are really upset about it. And I’m like, why they’re finding that you’re gonna pay them the same, regardless of what they do. If they work extra or not, and they’re not interested and you’re not helping them grow because they wouldn’t be doing, if you’re doing it, if you were actually fostering a better relationship, For entrepreneurs.

Jen: Yes. It’s hard to have somebody leave. I get it. You don’t wanna have to train a new person. It means that you have to take on more for a while you find a new person, train them and get them to that next place. I will say though, that in the long run, you have to think about all of these things in the long game.

Jen: If you foster somebody and send them on their way, and you have a really good relationship with them, meaning they don’t quiet, quit. There’s not a big argument. And they leave . That is a partner that you have in the future. That you can be working with. This is somebody that you can join forces with maybe at a later date, but you are building a community of people who are going to sing your praises, their potential contractors later on down the road.

Jen: You don’t know where that’s gonna lead, but you do know where it’s gonna lead. If you burn somebody out and don’t help them grow, that never ends well. Never. 

Brent: It leads to resentment and things that aren’t happy. So on the on the flip side of that is the employee relationship.

Brent: We talked about the entrepreneur, the employee how as an employee, do you see ways that you can encourage your employer, maybe to have this fostering role rather than working you to death. And I do agree that now today’s new world that they want to have that time to themselves.

Brent: And the motivation to just work for the sake of work is not there anymore. 

Jen: That’s true. I think a lot of it is that the new younger generations. Relate to work differently. And I think that they get just as much done as anybody else. , it’s just how they do it looks differently. I have, I’m still seeking a mentor from, generation Z.

Jen: I wanna know exactly how people feel and very curious, because it’s not my generation, but I will tell you. . If you come into an organization, you have to understand that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. So that’s the first thing, right? You don’t go. You ask questions, you go in and you ask a lot of questions.

Jen: So you can be really clear about the role. You can be really clear about what the environment is like. You talk to other people who work there. That’s the starting point. If they pass over. Hurdle then the next hurdle is then you make it clear about your future goals. Like where is it that you see yourself going and you need to start having like conversations with the person you work for to help build those skills so that you can make it to the next place.

Jen: And I think that you will find people who are very open to that. You will also find a lot of people who are very, not open to that. And I think that. It really is about having those conversations early. It’s about meeting with your boss and talking through problems and solutions and what that career ladder can look like for you.

Jen: It does mean being brave and a little bit bold and. These things don’t happen overnight. and I know that we all want it. I remember when I was younger, I thought I knew everything. I thought that I should have this, and I should have that. Sometimes these things take time, not as long as your boss wants it to your the entrepreneur wants you around as long as possible.

Jen: So it. There is a little tension in that conversation, but I think it’s worthwhile for both parties to start really having these mentor mentee conversations, help building skills, because they’ll be a better employee up until they leave. Anyway, if you just open the doors and sometimes people will go, oh, there’s a lot.

Jen: I don’t know. And you might end up having them longer. The more, you open the curtain so they can see the mess of everybody’s business. Cause none of our businesses are perfect. You might actually find somebody who can help you in ways that you don’t know. If you start to give somebody more responsibility and teach them as much as possible.

Jen: And then as the employee you’ll wanna stay longer because you’ll see more and you’ll learn more than if you go elsewhere or if you go and embark on having your own business. 

Brent: I think. What you said earlier about burning bridges that applies even greater for the employee, because if you can leave on good terms yes.

Brent: And you can provide value to your previous boss. Now that boss becomes a conduit for you for your next job or your next role or whatever you’d like to do. What advice would you give to a a younger employee who’s trying to navigate learning how their boss is gonna react to, Hey my timeframe is 24 months and I’m gonna be leaving.

Brent: Right. some bosses are gonna say they’re gonna say to themselves, that’s great. I’m gonna look for a new person already, cuz I know in 24 months they’re gonna be gone or the boss may just come out and say, that’s not gonna work for me. There’s a certain amount of rapport that has to be there in the beginning.

Brent: But then there has to be. almost there has to be some not psychology, but there has to be some way to learn and feel out where each person lies without necessarily giving out your entire hand. 

Jen: Absolutely. This is about relationship building and a lot of what I believe in is honesty and transparency.

Jen: building those relationships over time. Now, as you begin to get to know your employer, , you might realize that they’re not interested in what it is that you want, and you may not be able to be all the way to look, I have a 24 month window here. Like you might not be able to share that part that might be too much for that person to handle.

Jen: So you need to. Feel it out. This takes time. You don’t know the person as well, as you think, particularly in the beginning when everybody’s on their best behavior, like things change and evolve over time. So certainly you have to be careful and strategic about it, but being honest, it, it really does pay off.

Jen: So you’re not just shocking somebody because that can be part of burning the bridge too, is if you’re just like, whoa, piece out and it’s over, you have to give, you have to have open communication. And that’s part of it is if Y and part of it can be covered in the interview process. If you’re getting a sense of, they don’t, they’re not really interested in having any sort of.

Jen: Mentorship type of relationship with you. If you are not getting the sense that this is a growth opportunity, that’s gonna be very telling and you have to be strategic about how you ask about those things as well. But it is something that I think you can feel out early on, and hopefully you can talk to other people who work there.

Jen: You can also look at things like Glassdoor and stuff to see what former employees say. It depends on how big an organization is. All of which to say, it’s not an overnight thing, no matter what, no matter how open somebody is, but you also have to take care of yourself. You can’t just stay somewhere because somebody needs you.

Brent: Do you think it’s a red flag as an employee that, if your boss clearly doesn’t care at all about you or your personal life, is that a red flag for you? You as an that’s a rhetorical question, isn’t it? I don’t even know why I asked it. I can say that as an employer, I’ve gotten much more aware of the fact that I need to know about my employees and there is a world outside of their job.

Brent: And simply asking some of those questions and being interested in what they’re doing helps you as an employer to build a better relationship with your employee. And it just does go vice versa. Is there anything that you can say to extract some of these things out of an employer as an employee?

Brent: I don’t think you can ever teach anybody to. I think somebody has to make that revelation themselves, as an entrepreneur, as an employer, if you’re narcissistic and you only see anything other than the end of your fingers, then you’re never gonna move past that point.

Brent: But there has to be some growth on both sides and as an employee, It is a delicate art to try to coax that out of people.

Jen: Absolutely. And I’m laughing because I worked for somebody who absolutely didn’t think anybody should be friends with people from work. And I will tell you that it wears on you after a while they’re talking about themselves and they have no care about what’s going on in your life.

Jen: I’ve worked for people like that. And I can. . I said, I worked hard and I do work hard, but after a while, you don’t wanna run into the fire with that person. If they don’t care about you, you will not run into the fire for that person. As the employee, you will go to a certain point and then you’ll be like, I’m done.

Jen: I’m out. This is hard. And because when it gets hard, you want to have somebody that is with you. and if you don’t care about anybody but yourself, and everybody’s just there to support you, but you don’t care if they like to go hiking or if they have a boyfriend or not like that’s, it’s gonna be game over sooner rather than later, because we all have lives.

Jen: We all have things outside of the business, outside of whatever it is that you’re expecting somebody else to do for you. 

Brent: Yeah, that’s a really good perspective. I make a point of in my day job, I make a point of interviewing or at least talking to everybody every quarter.

Brent: And I think it’s about 65 people that I do my best to talk to every quarter. Yeah. And I’ve gotten to the point of saying, are you happy? At least, I’m trying to build a relationship and I’m trying to learn more about. But I think that’s a good question. Do you think that I would go with you into the fire to take something out?

Brent: That’s a hard question to ask cuz they may not answer it truthfully and you don’t wanna say, would you come with me? Cuz of course they’re gonna, yeah, of course they’ll come with you. But that’s not the real answer either. You wanna somehow build that? As the employer, you wanna support your employee. You don’t wanna force their support on you. You would like them to support you because they enjoy their job. And they would like to continue on and build this momentum that you have as a relationship. And as an employee, employer, you don’t wanna say you have to run in there with this, into the fire regardless.

Brent: You would like it to be voluntary. . 

Jen: Yeah, okay. So this is an eCommerce podcast. We haven’t talked about that this is marketing people don’t buy from you unless there’s no and trust they’re buying in to what it is that you are selling. So as a leader, why isn’t it the same thing?

Jen: Why is it that we expect people to just do it? Because I’m paying you, they’ll go with you because you’re paying them. I’m talking about will they go a little bit further when times are tough? When things go sideways, are you nice mistakes happen? It, there are all of these opportunities that you have to really build that relationship so that your employees know can trust you.

Jen: And when things go bad, cuz they always go bad. Nothing’s perfect that they will say, yep, I’m here for you. I’ll stay late. I’ll do what it takes. Let’s make this happen. Let’s make the magic, let’s turn this around. And that’s really what it comes down to. It. It is that you have to build those relationships in the same way that you would with a customer who’s paying you.

Jen: It’s a two way street. And I think oftentimes as employers, it can be forgotten because we have so many things to do, but it’s really important to surround yourself with the people who are. going to support you, who are gonna help you and who are going to help you bring the people in that you need to keep the thing going.

Jen: And you have to look at that holistically. And if you can’t do that and people are leaving, sometimes that’s a you problem. It’s not always that everybody there’s that nobody wants to work. It’s that’s not always the answer. It’s that? You’re not providing a safe community for people to work in. 

Brent: I’m just gonna write that down safe community to work in.

Brent: That’s a good one. You, I would like to talk about let’s I would like to talk about your podcast. So women conquer business. Yeah, can we, and we were gonna talk about marketing too, but now we’re already at, we’re already at 38 minutes. I know. Do you want to take a little bit of time and talk 

Jen: about that?

Jen: Sure. So yesterday we recorded our hundred and 50th episode. I’ve been a podcaster since 2018. I will say that I’ve had probably four or five shows in that time. I used to do. interviews don’t do interviews anymore. I used to talk about all different types of things. Now we just talk about marketing it’s I think that over four years you change a lot as an entrepreneur.

Jen: What you talk about changes. and certainly the show is a reflection of that. So now what we’re doing are marketing howtos. So I help people understand concepts that can be somewhat challenging and drill into the essentials. I think yesterday we talked about course platforms and how to find a good course platform if you’re just getting started with online courses.

Jen: So a lot of my bread and butter. would be, if a CMO was, somebody came and said, we wanna do this thing. And you’re like, I don’t really know what that is. I can talk people through what something is and help them. And that’s really what the podcast is about is if you wanna do X here’s, how you get started or, and it can be at different levels of complexity.

Jen: So that’s really the bread and butter, and that is. And one of the opportunities. So when I was talking about opportunities, one of the opportunities I had really early with my podcast, I was approached by an organization I’d never heard of. And they said, we really like what you’re doing. Can we repurpose your show and pay you?

Jen: I was like okay, is this for real? I don’t even never even heard of you. So a lot of early solo shows have been repurposed and sold on another platform. I retained the rights and. that is how my new business epiphany courses was born. Like I have a lot, even though I don’t work at enterprise all the time, a lot of my content that I create and share is sold to enterprise companies as part of an eLearning platform.

Jen: And that is the baseline for epiphany courses because we know that all of that information and that content has been vetted. And is very popular among you. Fortune 500 fortune, 100 companies that are consuming it on this other learning platform. So we’ve started making a learning platform for small business owners where they can also learn in this container and get that information and then supply a community for people to talk through it.

Jen: So that’s really the essence of what I do around the podcast. They’re really these lessons. That then get repurposed elsewhere that then we turn around and make courses around. It’s an interesting concept. I never thought that what I do would evolve in this way. I think that when I started my business, if somebody had said you’re really gonna be into creating content.

Jen: I would’ve been like, I don’t even know what that. I didn’t, it was never on my radar, but as you can tell, I like to talk. So it seems to be working out for me. 

Brent: Yeah. I think that’s such a great way to look at marketing as well is repurposing content. And I now, there’s this content driven eCommerce and everything is around.

Brent: eCommerce and even no UX eCommerce, where it is all about a conversation. You’re gonna talk to somebody in WhatsApp and they’re gonna place the order for you or whatever. I think that you’ve taken the opportunity. You’ve taken that risk and that challenge and. Stepped up on it.

Brent: So one of the things that I’m on the entrepreneurs organization board here in Minneapolis, and I’m on the DEI diversity committee. Yeah. And we in Minneapolis, we’re not incredibly diverse. And in, even in the entrepreneur C. I think we’re 15% women and 85% men.

Brent: So if the math is right, is there a particular struggle that women, this is a rhetorical, I’m sorry, I don’t know how to phrase this, but , I know that there’s struggle in, in people that aren’t white, bald males to break into the entrepreneurial community.

Brent: Through all kinds of factors. . Do you talk about that, those struggles in your podcast? 

Jen: I did. I talked about that a lot early on as a woman in tech at a large organization, meaning the city of Portland. I experienced a lot. I had a lot of days where I felt like I should just walk in with a helmet on, I had people.

Jen: Call me, Jenny, like as a way, a very pejorative way of little girl I’m gonna pat you on the head and stuff. So it was . I dealt with a lot, and I have a bank of content that really talks through some of those struggles and how to get through it. And all of that.

Jen: I think that a lot. what I have learned is, if you go to my website, I there’s nowhere on here where I’m saying I’m gonna empower you because empowerment comes from within. If you even look at like the definition of it. So the truth is we can talk about it a lot, and I’m glad to talk to people about the struggles of women in entrepreneurship.

Jen: Certainly, I would invite that and also. we just have to put on our helmet and go in and do it. Anyway. I was at a networking event once they brought me in to speak. It was a small group. I was my friend who invited me and I were the only women. There was a man sitting next to me. I handed out my business card and I saw him playing with it the whole time.

Jen: He, I hate to say it, he was a bald white guy. So no offense to bald white guys. I. Including you, Brent. He was playing with it and all kinds of stuff, and we got to the end and he was like, I just, I gotta tell you, I’m never gonna send anybody to you because of your business name, women conquer business.

Jen: And I was like, okay. And I was really taken aback. And in the moment, I didn’t know what to say. I was like, really, I had just spoken. as you can tell, I’m fairly friendly. There’s not a lot here to really be angry about, I didn’t think. And I got home and I was like, you know what?

Jen: That’s really good marketing, cuz I didn’t really like that guy either. So if he doesn’t wanna work with me, like that’s an example of good marketing. And I think that women have to find those corners where we fit and people are willing to help us because there certainly are corners where people.

Jen: Aren’t. And I think though, that’s also the case with men. I think that’s the case in the transgender community. I think that this is fairly universal. It’s just that for women, there are a lot more corners where we don’t fit. And I think that really stunts the growth a lot is that, and so when we talk about, we’ve talked a lot about mentorship.

Jen: I do think that sometimes as women, we. men to be our mentors. They need to come and they need to say look this, Jen’s really cool. Like she knows what she’s talking about. Let’s how can we support you? I think that’s part of it. I think also as women, we need to say, you know what, a lot of people don’t like us, they’re gonna hurt her feelings.

Jen: Oh when we just have to keep going. So I think that it’s really hard and it’s difficult and. Over time. I have really strengthened my own helmet, to where I just don’t care as much. about, I don’t focus on the people who don’t like me anymore, because I have a hater every time I put something on YouTube, there’s one person that dislikes it.

Jen: I’m like. What it’s just, and I think it’s the same thing. Like they just, maybe I said something one time and I’m like, I could focus on that one person, but then I’m ignoring all the people who I could be helping. And I’m ignoring all the people who like me, if I just focus on the one hater.

Jen: And I think that as women, it’s a lot easier sometimes for us to absorb that criticism and focus on that when the truth is we have to focus on. all of the other people who are helped by us who want to help us. And I think there’s a lot more of that than the other. 

Brent: Yeah. I think a good lesson for every, a male, whether they have hair or not is empathy.

Brent: Because if as an example, that person that made that judgment based specifically on a name that maybe they lack some empathy, but if you have empathy and you put your, if you could put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and I run for a team called mile in my shoes where you’re running with people in homeless and people coming out of prison, that if you could put yourself in their shoes for a mile.

Brent: You can empathize with them. And I think there’s a tieback as being a good employer to have empathy for your employees because they’re going through their own struggles and you can’t thrust upon them your own. Like I can’t thrust upon. Anybody my own things without having some buy in from the other side.

Brent: So I’m trying to navigate the whole subject. And I believe that talking about it is better than not talking about it. I agree. 

Jen: And I think that there has to be some realities out there and, may speak to the male listeners for just a minute.

Jen: It’s easy to say we’ve made so much progress. That’s not really a problem anymore. The gendered issues, the differences in pay, so many things that are going on. And yet I can tell you that I’ll go out on Quora. And there are like executives from Google who are like women don’t like tech, so they don’t need to have jobs in tech cuz they don’t like it.

Jen: The truth is we leave smart women in tech leave because of bad management. because we’re smart. we don’t wanna put up with it. So we are interested. We’re interested in everything. We are smart. We’re capable. We can do all of those things. We’re not there yet. We still need. empathy and we need compassion.

Jen: And just like you do, I think men need it too. I think that those are the things that we need to realize is yes, we’ve made so much incredible progress and things are looking so much better for women and people of color. And we don’t have equity yet. We’re not there yet. So we just need to have that compassion for each other and build those relationships and we’ll go a long.

Brent: Yeah. So I, we are running up against the clock and I feel like we need to have a follow up conversation about marketing specifically. We’ve talked about a lot of great topics and I thank you. I know we talked earlier about my free joke project and I don’t want to, I this is a terrible segue, but let’s just talk about the fact that. My free jokes land very poorly. And you had a much better joke with the size 47 or 45 clown shoes. cuz I said 17 and I was just thinking American sizes, but you said 45? Yeah. And you weren’t thinking European, you were thinking clown sizes. That’s even better.

Brent: I appreciate that. And you caught me off guard so I’m gonna tell you a joke. And the goal from the joke is just to know if I can charge for it or if it should remain free. okay. All right. 

Brent: What did the tectonic plate say when it bumped into another, sorry. My fault.

Jen: I do like that. 

Brent: I have one more. 

Brent: My doctor says I’ve developed a German sausage phobia. I fear the wurst. Oh. I know that was just a, that was a free one. That’s a free one. The first one, I think the first one should it be chargeable or not? Yes, it should be. Wow.

Brent: All right. Yeah, I’ll 

Jen: give that an a plus. They’re both great, but I love dad jokes, 

Brent: all right, good. Jen at the end of every podcast, I give my guests an opportunity to do a shameless plug about anything you’d like, what would you like to plug. 

Jen: I would like to talk about epiphany courses. This is our new project.

Jen: It’s at epiphany courses.com. It’s a course platform and a community where we talk about marketing and we’re focusing on service based businesses in particular people who are coaches, consultants, all types. I have acupuncturists, I have intuitive coaches in there. all different types of people who are building all types of service based businesses.

Jen: And we talk. marketing and how to build your marketing platform. How to we answer questions. We have some mini courses, our bread and butter are courses that are under an hour. Hence epiphany. We wanna give people in as brief amount of time as possible, all the information that they need so they can make a decision about whether or not it’s even a viable marketing tactic for their business.

Jen: And that’s all at epiphany courses. 

Brent: All right. And I will put those I’ll put the links in the show notes and and what’s the best way to get in touch 


Jen: you. Oh, I’m all over social media, but yeah, you can find me at LinkedIn on LinkedIn, Jen McFarland on LinkedIn. And then also through my 

Brent: websites.

Brent: All right. Thank you, Jen. Thanks so much. And I’ve enjoyed this conversation. 

Jen: Thank you.


  • Brent W. Peterson

    Who is Brent Peterson? Brent is a serial entrepreneur and marketing professional with a passion for running. He co-founded Wagento and has a new adventure called ContentBasis. Brent is the host of the podcast Talk Commerce. He has run 25 marathons and one Ironman race. Brent has been married for 29 years. He was born in Montana, and attended the University of Minnesota and Birmingham University without ever getting his degree.

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