Brittany Hardy is the owner of Empty Desk Solutions, a boutique marketing company located in Port Moody B.C. Brittany is passionate about helping small businesses achieve their growth goals with marketing solutions that are both effective and affordable.
After many years of working in retail management and then as the Marketing Manager for Canada’s largest mortgage company, Brittany decided it was time to pursue a life-long goal of creating her own business. Naturally, she likes to help others and decided there was no better way to do this than to use her creative talent to help others who want to do the same thing.
With three young children, Brittany believes in balancing work and home life and continues to find new ways to support and employ other mothers who want to start their own businesses or stay at home with their children.
Social media marketing continues to evolve for small businesses and Brittany and her team are passionate about helping these businesses navigate how they can benefit from these networks.
Brittany has been a finalist for the Women of Worth awards, the Tri-Cities Business Excellence awards, and has most recently been featured in Small Business BC and in the Huffington Post.
Hey Brittany, can you introduce yourself to us?
I’m so excited to be a part of this network and movement you are creating. Women supporting women in business is so important to me, and I’m just thrilled to even have the opportunity to speak with you! My name is Brittany Hardy, and I own ‘Empty Desk Solutions’ which is a small (but may we say) social media marketing company for small businesses. I love all things creative and like to quench my thirst for artistic by gardening, creating fun content for our clients, decorating (and re-decorating… my poor husband hah!) the house, and spending as much time as humanly possible with my three children.
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
In 2011, I started working as a marketing manager for Canada’s largest mortgage company and I ‘got the marketing bug’ I suppose you could say. I learned an absolute mountain of skills to do with traditional and digital marketing over the course of a few years until I decided to start my own business in April of 2014. Initially, Empty Desk Solutions was going to be a quiet little ‘virtual assistant network’ as I planned on creating something that I could balance alongside my current marketing role and bring in some extra income while my husband made a career shift. Well, it didn’t quite turn out this way. I was getting asked for social media marketing help on the daily at the office and I began to think ‘gee… if people are asking for this then they cannot find it and there’s something to be said for this’. So away I went to create a social media marketing company and three months after starting it as a bit of a ‘side hustle’ it was time to leave my full-time job to pursue the business because I had enough clients already to replace my salary and get on with it! Empty Desk Solutions is in year 5 of operation now and we are still growing year over year. We have a team of 3 other gals employed locally, and about a dozen contractors that we also consider part of our team that we use on a project by project basis. We have made some big moves in the past 18 months to re-brand and change our identity to step boldly in front of our business (I stole this line from the photographers that we work with – a little plug for them hah!) and we couldn’t be more pleased with the results so far. We are ready to take on 2019 = what will it bring us?
What is a day in the life of you like?
A day in the life of Brittany, that’s a tough one to answer because life as a self-employed mom married to a firefighter on shift-work looks different almost every single day. The days where I have help at home I can sneak away to the office and work for a few hours without interruption but most of the time it’s a juggling act of client consultation calls, website design, social media content planning, making breakfast lunch dinner and snacks for three kids, driving to and from school trying to look after the house and it’s chaos while simultaneously responding to an urgent email about a contest a client wants to run tomorrow. You get the idea. But my perfect day still looks pretty much the same, with the addition of maybe a hot yoga class and a bit of gardening to distract me from all the craziness and settle my mind.
What is the concept behind Empty Desk Solutions?
The concept behind Empty Desk Solutions is really rather simple. We create custom branded content (written, proofread, designed and published) that is published to social media on behalf of our clients. We create content marketing plans that allow our clients to focus on anything but social media. It can be best described still by our vision and mission statements:
Vision: To empower and contribute to the growth of Canadian small business owners and their employees.
Mission: To support small businesses and their employees by providing professional and affordable marketing solutions that facilitate growth and trust of their businesses in their local marketplace.
How is Empty Desk Solutions funded, is it bootstrapped, self-funded ect?
Empty Desk Solutions is a sole-prop set-up, and is funded by me myself and I!
Can you tell us more about your brand DNA and ethos within Empty Desk Solutions?
The Empty Desk Solutions brand has undergone a few changes in its time but most significantly in 2018. At the beginning of 2018, we realised that we were stressed out more often than not. We weren’t loving something to do with the business, but we couldn’t actually put our fingers on what that was. Was it the service we offered? The attitude of the team as a whole? The clients? We finally realized that the people our brand was attracting (coupled with my inability to pay attention to red flags when they showed up from potential new clients) were not the people that we wanted to work with. Moreover, we were casting a net so wide that it didn’t speak to anyone in particular. The brand had very little ‘Brittany personality’ in it and we knew that needed to change. The first thing we did was redo the logo and colour palette after some branding exercises that helped us translate what we feel and want others to feel into our brand itself. We came up with something that we want to feel soft and approachable yet still fun. We wanted the overarching theme of everything to be a kindness. If we had to describe who we want to work with and what the brand represents in its simplest form that’s the one word that would be left. Kindness.
Can you tell us how you are taking the hassle out of the social media marketing aspect for your clients?
For most business owners, the time spent on social media falls in to one of two categories. The first one is creating content, and the second on is managing their actual presence (responding to things etc). Business owners often get stuck in trying to decide or come up with ideas on what to post, where to post it, when to post it, how to design it, what tools to use etc. This leads them to either having really sporadic non-consistent content or no content at all! It also leads to content that’s not cohesive to their actual marketing strategy which of course doesn’t help anyone either. This is the big thing that we take off of the business owners plate. We come up with the content from A-Z. All they have to do is sit back and wait for the content doc to arrive each Thursday to approve what we will be posting for them the following week.
Can you highlight 3 marketing tips for SME’s?
I wish I could pick 10 or more tips for SME’s because there are just so many things I could give advice on for social media! But, ok fine, I’ll pick 3.
- Plan. Make a point of planning your content in advance so you don’t get stuck. Try to come up with a theme for the month or week and break it down in to smaller chunks to get you going.
- Docment. As you create and publish new content, keep a library of it. At some point, you will have enough content that you can recycle and repeat things, the work will become easier.
- Systemise and revisit. Keep track of how you do everything and document the actual steps. This will allow you to delegate this task to someone else when you are ready. Don’t forget to revisit the social channels all the time (at least monthly) to see what’s working and what’s not so that you can keep improving your strategy.
Who does the team involve behind you at Empty Desk Solutions?
On our team we have myself, Sherilee Baker (operations assistant), Erin Mullen (social media manager), Hallie Jacobson (social media manager and marketing assistant). If you want to snoop more of the team we list everyone here.
Where can you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?
In the next 3 years, I think I will still be heavily involved in the day to day operations of the business as I create and optimise systems to make the business run more independently of me. At the 5 year point, I will be in a position where I can grow the roles of the current team to more management level so that I can spend more time in other areas and provide more leadership where it’s needed. I am also very interested in real estate investing and plan on continuing that path while I grow my business – the creation of systems is very key for me to be able to focus efforts there.
What strategies do you have in place when looking at the expansion of your business?
At this time we are really looking at creating systems for running the business as smoothly as possible and expansion is something that has just sort of happened organically for us as people talk about who we are and what we do to others. As systems evolve I think the natural progression will be to increase our presence in the USA as we have mostly Canadian clients at the moment.
Can you tell us what areas you have struggled in professionally?
Professionally I have struggled in the exact same places that I have struggled in my personal life. I’ve always felt like a bit of a push-over and have a really hard time saying no. I also have always avoided confrontation at all costs and I’ve learned that in business you have to have a bit of a thicker skin to look past certain things and focus on the stuff that really matters.
Have you ever had any other mentor? If so how has this benefitted you to grow?
I have had a number of people in my life that I have considered mentors even though it was not an official mentor relationship. I had two very important people in my previous role at the mortgage company and both of these people changed my life in big ways. The first was my former boss who patiently and enthusiastically taught me everything I know today about marketing fundamentals and how to build things with the future in mind. He gave me confidence and helped me build myself up from a place where I was so far from confident it wasn’t even funny.
The second person was someone I had actually only met a handful of times and she worked for the same company but on the opposite side of the country. She would frequently call to give me pep-talks and would poke me to stand up for myself. It is because of her that I truly started to see my worth and it was her that pushed me to go in another direction, one that ultimately led me here!
What outlets do use to market Empty Desk Solutions?
We market Empty Desk Solutions almost exclusively on social media. We have a small email marketing and local marketing campaign but they still tie back to our social media marketing content strategy.
What do you believe are the common misconceptions about marketing and how are you using your platform and voice to educate people more?
There is no shortage of misconceptions about marketing in general, but I’d like to comment on a misconception about social media marketing specifically. Business owners tend to think that they will hire someone to do content (or do it themselves) on social media and it will instantly result in sales. This simply isn’t true. Even more, using social media as a giant mountaintop to shout your products and services doesn’t work either. I guess what I am trying to say is that social media isn’t a giant wasteland of advertising. It’s ‘social’ just as the name states. It should be used to create connections and share value with your connections and potential customers in order to gain the trust needed in todays ever-changing marketing space. We use our own social media channels and blog to talk about this often!
What would you like to see changed for millennials in business?
I have never thought of this question before. I think that millennials face the same challenges as any other generation in the business. Every time I see the word millennial I cringe because I’m so tired of seeing the millennials are lazy or millennials are entitled type messaging everywhere that is just simply not true. Every generation will have pockets of people that fall in to different personality types or ways of interacting in general so I have no idea why we have this obsession with millennials haha! If I rephrased it to what would I like to see changed for young people in business then I would answer differently. I would say that I hope that entrepreneurship in general is more widely taught and accepted at a younger age so that kids are not afraid to follow passions that they have but might be nervous to explore.
What is the best piece of business advice you have received to date?
“Just keep swimming” (Dori from Finding Nemo). Wait, does an animated character voiced by Ellen count? I actually can’t think of a piece of advice really that has stuck out. Actually, there is one. On a call I was on just last week a coach said ‘”You will go where your head is looking.” It was in regards to a quote his snowmobile trainer gave him about avoiding obstacles.
Basically, if you focus on the one thing you don’t want to drive in to, you will hit it. So when we relate it back to our business, it we are looking at things that might seem important but are not, we will get distracted by that. If we see something negative, more negative will come if that’s what we focus on. But if we create goals and keep looking to them that is where we will end up. For some reason, I can’t stop thinking about this analogy. I just love it.
What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned in your career so far?
The number 1 lesson I have learned maybe isn’t your typical ‘get up again when you fail’ type of thing its more about staying true to yourself and accepting limits. It’s so easy to get caught up in what success is supposed to look like according to this person or that person. Success doesn’t have to mean a million dollars a year or fancy cars and trips. Success for me is having a business that sustains our lifestyle and affords me things like planting tulips in the spring with my kids and relaxing while doing it because I know the business is running behind the scenes.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
If only I had the secret recipe here! I don’t even know if there is such a thing as evenly balanced work and personal life but I know I feel the closest when I really pay attention to my agenda and stick to it. If I map out my day and only do the things I put on the calendar in certain time blocks then I feel balanced. The moment I get distracted and stray form the plan stress tends to set it. I find that keeping a gratitude journal (even though I am guilty of forgetting to write in it 50% of the time) makes me feel more balanced because I write down simple things I am grateful for and it reminds me that even that morning hot shower was time for myself!
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
I’m not sure I’ve ever known ultimate career satisfaction until I experienced ‘unplugging’ from the business this holiday season. My business is finally at a point where I can delegate the lion share of the work if I need to in order to take time for myself and my family. This time of rest and relaxation is as close to ultimate career satisfaction as I think I might ever get until I don’t have to work at all anymore.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
I look at other friends in business and they all have someone that they look up to in business and admire for one reason or another but I don’t actually have a figure I look up to. I don’t know why either? I’ve never truly idolised anyone (well, unless you count Paula Abdul when I got my first CD player as a teen). The person I admire the most is not an entrepreneur, he is my own husband. I like to think of him as the entrepreneur of our home. He works tirelessly to take care of the family with me and gives back to the community and I strive to be more like him. He created routines and makes the hardest things look easy, I’m even jealous of his ability to jump out of bed without kitting snooze. Someone needs to teach me how to do that.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
The last book that I finished was called ‘Essentialism’ and it was recommended to me by a client and a friend. I loved it! It really made me think about things differently and if I should actually give them energy or not. I highly recommend it!
How do you define success?
Success to me has nothing to do with money and everything to do with time. When asked many years ago when I was on my own with my kids what success was I said “to pay my bills and not be afraid of where the next cheque will come from for food or rent.” Now I would say if success had to have a monetary attachment it wold be only to pay the bills that we currently have without needing anything fancy. Success to me now is having a business that operates well, supports the team working in it, and affords me a lifestyle of freedom where I can truly be present in the lives of my children, family, and friends.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
#BEYOUROWN to me means… ‘be your own’ in all areas of your life. It says to me ‘be your own boss’, ‘be your own person’, ‘be your own kind’.
Finally, what can we expect from you next?
I guess we will all just have to wait and see! I will be continuing to build my business to run more freely of me so I can continue to put more energy in to my family where it really matters.
Website Link: https://www.emptydesksolutions.ca