Wendy Yates is a founder of multiple firms: Abigail-Elise Design Studio, Well Fit Human, and Abigail-Elise Brands. Beginning by re-launching her own design firm in Summit County, Colorado, she soon grew the business into a national firm with operations across the United States. Her work involves several disciplines, from interiors to product design, development, and hospitality, with the goal of moving onto real estate investment.
When she felt that she wanted to regain her authentic connection with other people on a human level, she decided to create Well Fit Human. The brand aims to “bridge [my] love of lifestyle design from just interiors to everything that makes a life and with a goal of adding more value in a global and personal way.” Her deep commitment to help people achieve personal growth, and to influence them positively, forms the foundation of the Well Fit Human Retreat.
Meanwhile, at Abigail-Elise Interiors, Wendy Yates has created a studio that is known for “forward-thinking design,” leading the way in introducing modern style back when everyone didn’t really want to try it because they thought it didn’t capture the spirit of Colorado design. The company follows the best practices that could contribute to the well-being of the environment, offering products from manufacturers “who are offsetting their footprint or creating programs that give back through sustainability, education or humanitarian efforts.”
Check out more interviews with multifaceted founders here.
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Wendy Yates: Abigail-Elise Brands stand out because they are more than a series of companies. They represent the ability to transform mindful business practices and partnerships into community resources and places of human connection. Through our interiors we create experiences through intentional designs. Our wellness-travel-impact company connects experiences to people and projects that work to improve the quality of life for global communities. And within our non-profit we are giving back to society in ways that make us all a little stronger, happier, and healthier. Together we are a force for good encouraging everyone we meet along the way to join in our efforts of changing the world for the better.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Wendy Yates: To avoid burnout, I challenge myself everyday to evolve into a better leader, thinker and overall person. My craving to learn from others’ success is so overpowering that there is no room for excuses. By surrounding myself with people I admire and by consistently moving into action, I am able to face challenges and keep my mental health on track. I would suggest to my colleagues to take an inventory of who is most present in their lives and to surround themselves with people they admire and set goals that challenge them to evolve into the person they have always wanted to be. After they are able to find their purpose there is only constant space to thrive.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Wendy Yates: My mother has always been supportive, even when I didn’t fully realize it. I also believe that every person that gave me a job or said something kind to me helped encourage me to keep going or to come up with a new idea. For that I am thankful.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
Wendy Yates: A “good” company is one that moves through the necessary steps to first open their doors and then to keep them open. A “great” company on the other hand, exists like a banana tree. It successfully bares fruit while also leaving its legacy behind in the form of new shoots.
Jerome Knyszewski: What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Wendy Yates: Great question. Standstill happens and I can certainly say I’ve experienced the hamster wheel that spins but doesn’t get me anywhere. The best advice I can give is to find a coach and/or a mention that has done what you want to do. Spend time doing your research and connect with someone that you truly jive with. This really helped me to shift gears, regain progress, think quicker, and move more intentionally towards my goals. A mentor can help you keep your drive on what matters.
Jerome Knyszewski: Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Wendy Yates: Profitability can certainly feel like a rollercoaster, especially when you are a sole proprietor. It requires a careful act of keeping your finger on the pulse of all the moving parts to assure that you’re maintaining traction and continuing to fulfill your target goals. Again, I suggest a coach or mentor. I personally waited too long to do this and never asked for help, which I see was once a detriment to my company’s growth. When you have other champions in your corner you realize you aren’t in this alone. Connect with other entrepreneurs and build each other up so that together you can continue forging full speed ahead.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Wendy Yates: It’s a 24/7 grind! I never really stop thinking about a client, a team member, finances, marketing, another growth opportunity, or whether or not I’m doing the right thing to move in the right direction. It can be exhausting, but it can also feel 100% exhilarating! Especially when the intensity level is turned up, your brand expands, and you know there really isn’t a true end in sight. That’s when you keep asking yourself with a smile…What’s next?
Jerome Knyszewski: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Wendy Yates: In order to create a WOW experience pay attention to the details. Listen to what the customer or client says and assure that your interactions with them are building clarity, trust, and consistency. Communication won’t always be perfect and there may be issues, that’s ok. Show up, seek clarity, regain trust, and let them know that you are truly listening. In the end people always remember how you made them feel. If they feel heard and acknowledged it speaks measures to their lasting impression of you.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Wendy Yates: Social media is a tool that can be used to build your brand, share your mission, and let a larger audience know what you are up to. Yes, there is reputational risk, but that’s true with every interaction and article you write too. I think social media channels are a great way to reflect what you want to attract and it should be handled strategically. I”m not into the “look at me” aspect of Instagram or the “look how great I’m doing” component of LinkedIn. Instead I’m all about the “how can I help YOU” and “how can WE create a better world” so that we are adding value to each other through these highly interactive platforms.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Wendy Yates: I can only really comment on my own mistakes, so I’ll share a few.
- Pay attention to cash flow. In the beginning I wasn’t as consistent with tracking or planning it out. I thought that if I just kept moving forward it would work itself out as I grew in scale. That wasn’t true.
- Clear, well written processes. I’ve learned over the years that having clear, well written processes for your team gives them a foundation to follow so that they are set up for success.
- Hire people that align with your purpose. It took me awhile to really realize that when I hire people that align with the company’s purpose we save a great amount of time and resources. Seek out employees that you see as people, not just business assets, that have loyal work ethics and you can work alongside with respect. When you do this you’ll be so much more powerful as a collective.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Wendy Yates: I am dedicated to pioneering change by showing others that companies can have a culture rooted in community and helping them overcome limited belief patterns. Founders should view their team as partners by embracing them as intrapreneurs and allowing them to be both authentic and candid. Work and life doesn’t have to be two different things, but part of a harmonious lifestyle. If more leaders could adapt this type of mindset it would be a major game changer for our future generations. A leader is only as strong as their team.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Wendy Yates: You can find me at:
Abigail-Elise Design Studio Website: https://aeinteriorsinc.com/
Abigail-Elise Design Studio Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/abigailelisedesignstudio/
Well Fit Human Website: https://www.wellfithuman.com/
Well Fit Human Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wellfithuman/
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
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