Bringing People Together With Technology

Bring People Together with Technology with Sophie Wright

Episode Highlights:

  • [0:54] Who is Sophie Wright?
  • [1:23] What got Sophie to turn back from being an accountant
  • [3:04] Can direct selling replace an accountant’s income?
  • [4:00] What would Sophie be going without her direct selling business
  • [5:01] What role does technology have in direct selling
  • [6:35] Technologies that Sophie use with her team
  • [7:13] What is Zoom, how does it work, and what to use it for
  • [8:30] The best use of Zoom
  • [10:34] The keys to a successful video meeting
  • [12:54] Sophie’s audio challenges
  • [14:22] Tools that Sophie and team use
  • [15:02] What is Periscope and how to use it
  • [15:42] What’s so exciting about Facebook Live?
  • [18:23] Why Sophie loves Instagram
  • [19:27] The best use of Facebook groups
  • [20:55] Why Sophie isn’t using messaging apps in her business
  • [21:39] What would a day look like without technology?
  • [23:32] Sophie’s mentors
  • [24:24] Book and resource recommendations
  • [26:22] Sophie’s “I made it moment”
Bring People Together with Technology Quote


[0:37] Jen: Today we’re excited to have Sophie Wright with us. Sophie is from a direct selling company, a party planning company in the kitchen and homewares category. Today we’re going to be talking about bringing people together and using technology. So thanks for being with us, Sophie.

[0:51] Sophie: Thank you very much for having me, Jen.

[0:54] Jen: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background?

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[0:56] Sophie: I, in a previous life, I used to be an accountant and then I got married and had kids and as most people do, and was then looking at getting back into the workforce. [crosstalk] [1:09] Jen: It’s not always easy.

[1:11] Sophie: No, it’s not always easy and you know, accounting’s really not a passion of mine.

[1:17] Jen: I can understand that.

[1:19] Sophie: Yes, so looking after something different.

[1:23] Jen: So why did you get involved in direct selling?

[1:26] Sophie: Well, it wasn’t necessarily the direct selling industry that attracted me more the product that I’m involved in and so, it was almost – I was at a stage where my youngest was about to start school and I thought, well, I keep talking about this so I may as well give it a go and see if I can sell some of it because it would be quite funny if I did.

It sort of took off from there being something that would meant to be a little bit of pocket money to being very successful quite quickly. I was actually at the stage where I was in the process of setting up my own accounting business at that stage and I was hitting a lot of red tape as obviously the legislation around that kind of thing and just having to jump through hoops.

So the two coincided. I gave the direct selling a go and was really successful really quickly. And said to my husband at the time, “You know what, this might actually work. It might be something that I can really do.” And it went from there.

[2:24] Jen: So, can you tell me a little bit about your team now. What’s going on?

[2:29] Sophie: Yes, sure. When I started with my business, as I said it took off, and then I decided to become a leader within our team and that happened quite quickly within – I started in June and the March of that year I was leading a team. And now, I’m managing an even bigger team. Within my team, there’s seven leaders that report directly to me and we have over 140 other team members underneath in my team as well. It’s a really big team, and it’s exciting, and that’s all happened within the space of three years that is when I started.

[3:04] Jen: Wow! So have you been able to replace your income now?

[3:08] Sophie: Absolutely! And what started off as being a bit of extra money on the side and a second income, I am now the main breadwinner for the family which is quite extraordinary. Certainly something that I did not anticipate happening, and we’re just about to do a full renovation of our house and my husband actually acknowledging that it’s all because of that. So, certainly, I used to look at direct sales and party plans when I wasn’t involved in them myself and think, “Oh my goodness, who would want to do that?” And it’s very funny to know, think about where I am and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Life’s so much better than being stuck at a desk from 9-5 and just going through the motions.

I’m really passionate about what I do and I’m learning and doing different things all the time.

[4:00] Jen: So if you weren’t in direct selling, what do you think you would be doing? What would your life be like? Do you think that you would be a different person to who you were?

[4:09] Sophie: Absolutely. I think – well I know that I’ll be in a 9-5 role that may have some joy at times, but it would be more very much in motion, going through the motions of going to work and going home.

In our industry, the flexibility is the main attraction and yes, I love that. To be able to take the children to school and pick them up and be there on sports days, yes, there are nights and weekends that I work, but that really works around the family and that’s kind of give and take, I guess.

[4:38] Jen: Yes.

[4:38] Sophie: Being able to do that it just means the world to my family. My children weren’t ever in day care. I was at home with them during those years and I’ve been able to flow on with that flexibility now, even though they’re all at school, and they get it. They know that yes I can’t be with mum tonight but that means that she’s coming to our school sports day next week.

[5:01] Jen: Yes. I know you’re excited to talk to us today about bringing people together using technology. Can you tell me why did you pick that topic? Why did that stand out for you?

[5:14] Sophie: It’s something that’s been very much a focus for our – for my business at the moment. Given the large number of people in my team, so over 140 and we have a quite significant geographical area so to go from one area of our team to the other probably around four hours one way, so geographically quite large and we have a lot of training and meeting.

Now, where I was at when I came into this role, and that was at the end of last year, is that yes, we use some technology but we really weren’t using it to its fullest potential and expecting team members to come into training sessions and meetings. And the reality is, we’re offering a business that’s flexible and that is the main attraction for most people and to then expect them to travel some distance that can be night time – you’re asking people to come a long way at night time meetings it’s just not practical and not really what our business is really trying to come from a place of offering that.

So, really working with that and utilising it to make it better for all those people and bring the team together for something that I’ve identified quite early on as being that something that would really drive us forward.

[6:32] Jen: Sounds like you’re a bit geographically challenged.

[6:35] Sophie: Yes.

[6:35] Jen: So technology is really helping everybody juggle their life, their family, and then this career as well.

So tell me then, Sophie, what technologies are you using to bring your team together and what are the platforms and apps that you use and how do they work?

[6:51] Sophie: Well, the main ones, Jen, Facebook. We use a lot of Facebook and Facebook groups and that’s a great way for us to communicate very quickly to a group as a whole. And then we utilise Zoom, a lot. Zoom both in training and both in meetings as well is really, really an effective tool for us.

[7:13] Jen: Can you tell me just for those people that don’t know what is Zoom, how does it work, and what are you using it for?

[7:17] Sophie: Yes, so Zoom is an online platform that’s really video conferencing and it enables you to do a lot of things, hooking up in terms of groups in a wide variety of locations hooking up together and it’s in real time.

Some of the great benefits of Zoom are the ability to share a screen and run presentations and share different screens, take control of the other people’s computer screens as well. You can also use it really easily via phone. We have a team member that might be out on a farm and they can hook into training session or a meeting by their phone it just really allows that to happen and the connections are really good, it’s all real time, there’s chat facilities as well and really just working.

And there’s been some fine tuning and I don’t think we’re still perfect in terms of where we want to be but using it how we can the best and adapting how we use it. It’s been trial and error and the continual process of improvement.

[8:19] Jen: For what purposes exactly, I know you mentioned that you have meetings and trainings. Are you also doing virtual parties, coaching, and what does it look like?

[8:30] Yes, so we do all of those things. Starting off with training, we can run training sessions via Zoom. What we find works best with those when we’re hooking up groups of maybe 10, 20, people that are all on different locations is to have short sessions. Zoom is a fabulous tool but you don’t want to use it for a session that goes for two or three hours. Generally around an hour you can get some really intense training done, but anything beyond that, we find that the concentration level can start to wane. Then you just schedule multiple one hour sessions which tend to work really well. So we do training with that in that respect.

We also have – we’re doing training on site. What we’ve been offering is we might have training in our central location which is 10, 12-20 people in a room and we’re offering one Zoom position for those training sessions. So we literally setup a laptop at the table that we’re all sitting around and that person is literally in the room. They can see everybody and we can see them like they’re sitting at the desk. And to limit that to one person at those groups means that they can really interact that way, but it also gives an opportunity on a rotating basis to those team members that might be in a geographically different location that’s a little bit challenging for them. So we use it there as well.

We also use them in meetings. We have monthly meetings that are held in a central location and we’re Zooming out to everyone that is more remote that might be individually, they might Zoom in individually or sometimes they get together as a group and we’ll Zoom in as a group. So there’s still got that interaction in our centralised point for them but they’re not travelling at such distance.

And then we also use it in a coaching capacity as well, one on one. So that can absolutely be used again, saving everybody time and just working smarter and not harder.

[10:26] Jen: Yes, connecting face to face. This is so much more powerful than say, talking on the phone or via email, text, any of those things.

[10:33] Sophie: Absolutely, yes.

[10:34] Jen: What do you think are the keys to having a successful video meeting?

[10:38] Sophie: Look at something that when we started it, and totally honestly, it wasn’t overly successful, and as I mentioned before we keep refining that process. Getting feedback, what’s working, what’s not working, how can we improve and I guess it’s like when you get feedback from anything, it’s not taking it personally like recognising, “Hey, that really didn’t work today, what can we do to improve that?”

Making sure things, really basic things like you’ve got a good Wi-Fi connection. We’ve tried Zoom sessions where our regular venue had some issues so we had to use like a tethering to different devices to Zoom and the connection’s just not great. It’s just you’re on the back foot to start with. So making sure that you’ve got strong internet connection. Interestingly, having said that, some of the challenges we’ve found in remote areas is that their connections are just unstable. So while Zoom and these sorts of platforms are fantastic at joining people together, you have to keep in mind that internet everywhere isn’t brilliant either. So, that’s another challenge but we do what we can with that.

Audio, making sure devices are located in a way that they can hear audio. We’ve found in our large meeting sessions where we run Zoom and we have a lot of people Zooming in together that when we set aside, nominate a sort of a person that monitors the chat and they really – so our leader will take that responsibility, they’ll be in the room with us but they’ll be monitoring the chat so that they can directly answer to Zoom questions to all those that are Zooming in.

In the early days, I was kind of running and meeting and running the Zoom at the same time. And you just – you can’t focus on both. A lot of people in person, a lot of people on Zoom, so delegating those roles out and having those responsibilities means that people can interact really effectively. And when we do a training session it’s kind of those meeting so we might break off and do some real planning or an activity together. The Zoom people will actually have their separate session together and a leader will coordinate them, at the same time as the everyone else is breaking off to do their work. So, really being mindful that it’s a group of people and to treat them as such and make sure that their interaction is there.

[12:54] Jen: What about audio? That can be difficult when there’s a lot of people talking at one time in one room. Do you use anything besides the actual in built audio for laptop or fine using like a microphone or headset?

[13:06] Sophie: No it’s very funny that you mentioned that, Jen, because it’s something that I’m investigating at the moment. What we find is when we got a lot of people Zooming in, we run through at the beginning of the meeting or the training sessions the etiquette or what’s expected of everybody. We expect, them to have their microphones off until they wish to contribute, which is always, you kind of need that because there can be too much background noise and videos off.

[13:30] Jen: Especially when you’ve got women. [Laughs] [13:31] Sophie: Absolutely. And often it’s children in the background or just noises in the background so videos, microphones off unless you’re talking. There are occasions when we say, “you need to have your video on” because some people will just say, I’m zooming into a session today and may not actually participate.

[13:49] Jen: Right.

[13:50] Sophie: Having that interaction as well. Getting back to your microphone question, yes, when we have a large meeting room that can also pick up the background noise so I am at the moment investigating using a microphone with the laptop to enhance that audio experience. Although, to be perfectly honest, it hasn’t been something that’s been a huge priority so far. We seem to be managing to place the device close to the front of the room that’s being presented to and it’s worked fairly well.

[14:22] Jen: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, they’re all incredible tools that companies and consultants are learning to use to as they build connections with their customers and their teams. There’s other apps such as Periscope, and Google Hangouts that are becoming popular. Are you using any of these tools?

[14:38] Sophie: I’m fairly familiar with Periscope and it’s something that we can definitely look into using. It hasn’t been a necessity for us, yet, but it’s an interesting platform and I think that the more – more things that come about the easier it’s going to be for us to connect with everybody.

[14:55] Jen: How do you think that you could use Periscope?

[14:58] Sophie: Periscope would be a great one when we’re doing something live.

[15:02] Jen: So for those people that don’t know, can you share with everyone what Periscope is?

[15:07] Sophie: Yes, so Periscope is like an online instant video streaming, I guess, where you can connect. You can connect to all sorts of random people all throughout the world if you really want to, and periscoping on all sorts of bizarre topics. The potential could be for Periscope is when we want to demonstrate a particular part of our presentation and have people access that and view it at the same time. That could be a really beneficial way to do it. You get the chat interaction without the video and audio interaction so it could be something that would work where that’s really applicable.

[15:42] Jen: We’ve just seen Facebook launch Facebook Live, have you used that at all, go live?

[15:46] Sophie: No, but I’m interested to try it out. For the first time, actually, last night, we ran a – it’s not a training session but it was an interactive session via Facebook events which was a lot of an hours event where our teams were making phone calls and we’re interacting on the events page supporting them in that Hour of Power. And it did cross my mind that Facebook live would be really great to use there in a kind of support mechanism and I needed to be mindful that they are also on a phone. But absolutely, Facebook Live adds something an excitement when things happen could be really, really useful feature.

[16:25] Jen: I’ve noticed direct selling companies using it to – I mean in your category, the homewares, kitchen and homewares category, I’ve seen direct selling companies using it as a tool to demonstrate new products and then have consultants and customers then going into the chat and commenting live and they’re answering the questions and the suggestions that they have through the demonstration and it’s been very popular lately, I’ve noticed.

[16:56] Sophie: Yes, and I think with everything new, people want to jump on board and see how it works. So I’d love to see it worked. I mean, Facebook’s really a great platform for us and something that we could integrate very easily without sort of having to learn new forms of technology which can be challenging. We’ve got team members from a wide demographic and you need to keep that into consideration when you’re implementing too many different technologies. So, if you’re using something that is already a basis for a lot of people that can really assist that.

[17:28] Jen: Yes. Funny you know I was only just telling somebody yesterday that my dear mom jumped on Facebook probably about a year and a half ago now and there’s a little box on there that says, what are you doing where you’re supposed to your status and my mom wrote, who is this? [Laughs] In the box and I just had a bunch of girlfriends screenshotting it and sending it to me and saying, look at your mom, hahaha. [Laughs] She’s like who’s talking to me? It’s just great. She’s learning, she’s learning.

[17:59] Sophie: Absolutely, and you got to give them credit when they’re learning. And we have a lot of team members that are at that stage and I think that the technology is coming such a long way that it’s not hard to grasp.

[18:12] Jen: No. You can kind of learn one and then you’re good to go for the rest. It’s very user friendly. So, are you on Pinterest or Instagram? Do you use any of these?

[18:21] Sophie: I use both of those, yes.

[18:23] Jen: You do? Can you tell me about what you’re doing? How you use it and what’s your objective? What kinds of things are you sharing?

[18:28] Sophie: Pinterest is more, I guess a personal resource for me at the moment where I’m collecting things that I might be interested in. I seem to have a lot of people repinning what I’m pinning because it’s just naturally, a lot of that is related to my direct selling business as well. Certainly it’s not a platform that I use to enhance my business with that in the forefront of my mind.

Instagram, I really love Instagram and I’ve used it in a couple of different scenarios as well. And I think that Instagram is really growing and I think it’s the platform to watch, particularly in terms of marketing a product. I think that it’s a lot – the visuals on Instagram are a lot more attractive.

You really ways to scan and like and follow people.

[19:22] Jen: Yes, it’s easy to look through images and stuff that you’re interested.

[19:26] Sophie: Absolutely.

[19:27] Jen: Look, I know we talked a little bit about the fact that you use Facebook and you’re using it in Facebook Groups, can you tell me what exactly are you doing in these groups and is it successful? What’s the best part about it for you?

[19:40] Sophie: Yes. Facebook Groups work really, really well. We have a lot of close and secret groups, not to be secretive, but just as different work groups intends within our business. And that works really, really well. I think with emails things tend to go here, there, and everywhere, and it’s all about using those groups smartly. So we have our main larger team page. It’s a constant feed. There wouldn’t be a day when there’s not a large handful of posts and a lot of interaction on those posts as well. So really great. It’s kind of like a [crosstalk] [20:18] Jen: Is this for both customers and consultants or is this separate?

[20:22] Sophie: Yes, I use it in both terms, so both within the business for our team members and also for customers as well. There are a lot of public pages and if you look at customers, there are a lot of public pages for our line of business which is great. You will find that a lot of the people that work in our direct sales business will actually have more private or closed groups on Facebook for their customers only. And that can be really nice way to support your own customer base and share our different promotions that come out specifically of interest to them.

[20:55] Jen: So what about messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, do you have any of these?

[21:00] Sophie: Look, I don’t use those in our business but I know that there are other teams that use WhatsApp very successfully and TeamApp as well. TeamApp is something that we’ve looked at then given the success of our team’s Facebook we’ve decided to stick with that which is the platform that we have. Ninety eight percent of our team members are on already.

[21:25] Jen: So are you using any other bits of technology to run your business or bring people together?

[21:29] Sophie: Oh, let me think. Emails, Facebook, Zoom, Zoom would really be our main one that we’re using.

[21:39] Jen: And without technology what do you think your day would look like and how different would life be?

[21:44] Sophie: It’s probably sometimes be quite a bit slower. You know, it’s just instantaneous.

[21:51] Jen: We live quite a drive from each other so to have this interview today

[21:55] Sophie: Exactly! It means I don’t have to fly up to you, Jen, which would have been quite nice today.

[22:00] Jen: It would have been nice actually. [Laughs] [22:02] Sophie: It’s all about that working smarter and it enables us to do that. I think I really do believe that we’re all probably working a lot harder in terms of the fact that we are so available and so accessible as well. And I think whenever you’re using technology and wonderful as it is and enables that connection, you need to keep in mind that you need to have a life and there’s still times that you need to switch it off.

[22:29] Jen: So do you have a set time of an evening or maybe once a week where you turn off all technology? Do you go that far?

[22:37] Sophie: I would love to say that I practice what I preach. One of the areas that I’m really working on at the moment, Jen. Certainly, at dinner time when I have dinner with the family there’s no technology. The phones are away, everything’s away. That’s the time that [crosstalk] [22:52] Jen: It’s important.

[22:52] Sophie: Yes, absolutely! It’s off. The phone rings in the background and we’d all just ignore it or an email ping or something, it’s all ignored. And on the weekend being really quite conscious of, “Okay, I don’t need to work for the next three hours, the laptop is going away.”  Because there’s this tendency you can work 24/7. You’re accessible 24/7 and being mindful of when you connect into both customers and team members doing those in hours that you wouldn’t mind being contacted either. I did have one team member that used to call me about [6:30]am every morning because she knew I was awake, however, that wasn’t really appropriate so you shouldn’t be doing that.

[23:30] Jen: No.

[23:30] Sophie: But, that’s another expectation.

[23:32] Jen: Do you have a mentor or someone that you look up to that helps you?

[23:35] Sophie: Yes, I do. Lots of different mentors and within – largely within our business and we have so many amazing people. I’ve worked in corporate and in government and I had never felt that willingness to learn and develop myself and be surround by such supportive people. So absolutely, two of my managers, also one of my manager is absolutely a mentor for me and her colleague as well at the same level has been an absolutely wonderful support.

I look up to everybody that I work with different skills and it’s quite varied because everybody really shares and is very encouraging when people have questions and want to develop themselves it’s a very sharing environment.

[24:24] Jen: So what about books and resources, you know, a lot of direct sellers use sort of those self-development books and resources that help them build their businesses and themselves. Do you have any must-have?

[24:37] Sophie: I’m a bit of self-development junkie, Jen. [Laughs]

It was interesting my car radio recently played up and the aerial fell off, so I was listening to a lot of podcast. I do a lot of traveling still. That’s the nature of my role. I do a lot of traveling. I really got into a lot of podcasts and so while this podcast is obviously a type of resource, there’s so many other great podcasts as well. And I’ve learned so much by listening to those and really get enjoyment as I get into the car knowing that I’m going to be learning something along the way.

[25:13] Jen: Yes, so what podcasts are you listening to?

[25:16] Sophie: Ahh, do you want [crosstalk] [25:17] Jen: This one of course!

[25:18] Sophie: This one of course and there’s a guy called, he’s got a very funny surname, David, oh I can look it up, Jen. I have to maybe look it up and get back to you. Two leadership ones that I listen to all the time and it updates automatically via my phone and notify so really, really great sessions there. And also, I get a lot of resources from the books that they mention on the podcast. If ever like, I’ve got to stop and write that down so that I can look up that book.

I recently read the – I don’t know if you’ve read the “Thank You Chapter 1”. Have you read that book?

[25:53] Jen: No.

[25:54] Sophie: It’s fantastic. So the thank you story, and they do some amazing things and books like that that are not necessarily specific to our industry but are about people achieving amazing things and taking different approaches to their business, are all something that I learned from those things all the time. I have a great library that I share with my leadership team and we – borrowing things through that, so lots of really great resources.

[26:22] Jen: Can you share with me, just in summary, what it felt like for you when you first experienced that I made it moment when you made that jump from being an accountant into this business that was just supposed to be something for a little bit of pocket money. When was that moment where you thought, you know, I’ve done this, I’ve made it. I’ve made it happen. What does it feel like?

[26:42] Ahh very warm and fuzzy. A real sense of achievement. My father has his own business as well, multiple businesses. To be honest, never been overly successful. That was something that I always wanted to prove to myself, I guess, and to experience that success and realise that you actually can do something that you set your mind to and be very successful at it. That is a huge sense of accomplishment and to experience that myself with a huge buzz moment and it still happens all the time, and then to see team members go through that as well is quite extraordinary.

When one of them turns around and says, I’m now going to leave my other job to do this. I can, of course you can, and you share that to see other people go through that stage as well is one of the biggest gifts I think that we experience in this role.

[27:40] Jen: Thank you so much for sharing your insights on using technology to bring people together. I think we’ve talked about bringing people together and we’ve also talked about using technology to grow your business. I’ve enjoyed listening the things that you’re doing and your team. It sounds like you’re really making use of the tools that are available to you. I hope that our listeners can learn something from you and we can all jump on board.

[28:04] Sophie: Yes, absolutely. And thank you, Jen. Thanks for inviting me take part in this today.

[28:10] Jen: Thank you.

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