In Conversation with Domonique Townsend of We Optimize Work
Describe your business in a few words.
We Optimize Work is passionate about helping working moms create systems and strategies to succeed in both their professional and personal lives without sacrificing their sanity or compromising their business goals.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I found myself needing to pivot in early March 2020. The sudden stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19 meant an increased demand to manage virtual schooling needs for my oldest three children. It also required shifting my business model, because my revenue previously solely relied on in-person coaching and consulting services. The challenges I experienced were immediate. My need to separate my work from my home life was increasing. Before I could even focus on my business, my children needed me in more ways than usual. I reached out to working mothers in my network, and their challenges were similar but often more complex because they had managers who lacked empathy or simply did not have the knowledge on how to best help them. To support other moms, I hosted virtual coworking sessions and offered free strategy sessions to help them to thrive. Their improved success led to the facilitation of webinars for companies who sought similar strategies for their working parents. Each of these opportunities evolved into the work I’m doing today!
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I’m a working mom of four and previously worked as an engineer, I decided to combine my corporate experience (a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and a leader in creating initiatives that saved over $3 million in improvement projects) with my passion to position working moms for success to create We Optimize Work.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Yes! Ever since I was a child, I always saw myself creating and selling products and coming up with creative ideas that would allow me to make money and give opportunities to my friends. I used to purchase kid entrepreneur books in the bookstore, circle my favorite ideas, and get to work. I designed T-shirts and sold them to my friends in school; I designed dresses during prom season so people could have customized patterns to provide to a seamstress; I even styled hair on the side. The urge to be an entrepreneur increased even more when I entered the workplace. I quickly found myself wanting to create an environment where people who looked like me did not have to face adversity or feel like they were overlooked and undervalued. I had great experiences throughout my career and was able to make phenomenal changes, improvements, and impact, but I saw a greater opportunity to have a larger impact in the lives of others through entrepreneurship.
Take us back to when you first launched your business. What was your marketing strategy to get the word out, and did it go as planned?
My marketing plan when I first launched my business included reaching out to every single person in my professional network and posting frequently on LinkedIn and social media. For the most part, my marketing efforts went as planned. However, I gained more traction when I got more intentional about finding my niche and targeting that market.
We always learn the most from our mistakes. Share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it.
When launching my business, there was one clear plan of action that I wanted to pursue and turn into a product offering. However, I attended a session hosted by an investor, and he spoke about not putting too much focus on a product that can’t bring money in today. The product that I wanted to offer would have taken a lot of time before onboarding my first customer for it. So, I took his advice and neglected my instinct. I put my plans for launching this particular product on hold and busied myself with other services. This decision shifted my ability to feel fully aligned with my intention for starting my business, and it kept me from feeling at peace with my products for quite a while. From that experience, I learned that people provide advice and insight from their own perspectives. It’s fine to take their pieces of advice, but it’s also fine to follow your gut. You know best where you want your business to go; only you know your unique business circumstances. It’s not disrespectful to listen to advice but not take it!
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I’m proud of launching a platform after I pivoted my business focus in March of 2020. When I pitched the idea initially, the concept wasn’t fully formed. I started my platform off of the services I was providing for working moms as a response to the disturbing data around the disparities that working mothers were facing due to COVID-19. I am so pleased that today, the platform is functioning better than ever! I’m glad I took the leap.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please include any hiring tips you can share from your experience.
I recently onboarded a team that currently works part-time. When going through the hiring process, I provided a Cliffs StrengthsFinder assessment for each applicant to take. There are key natural attributes that I am looking for that may not be highlighted in an interview discussion. During the interview itself, I like to have a casual interaction to get a feel of our chemistry. I gain an understanding of their goals, past experiences, and what leads them to feel that they can perform optimally for the position I am looking to fill. I currently assign projects to determine how they adapt to key needs for my business intentions and goals. I evaluate their performance and how it aligns with our company values.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Data shows a predicted $341 billion loss in productivity in the US workplace due to challenges employees face during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most impacted demographic are working mothers, parents, and caregivers. As a result of COVID-19’s impacts, working moms and caregivers are leaving their jobs at alarming rates. This will lead to a 50% gender gap increase in the workplace if support is not provided for them. Work Life Success offers solutions for both working moms and businesses who want to provide better frameworks for their caregiver demographic.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
This year we’re so excited to launch our Work Life Success Cohort, a membership program that is strategically designed for ambitious working moms who want to build better business strategies in order to streamline their processes and regain quality time for themselves and their families. We’re also increasing our number of webinars and collaborations with like-minded businesses across the U.S.!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
We own our own pivots. The permission and validation we commonly seek from others was removed in 2020. We faced a challenge that impacted everyone in sudden, unexpected ways. Our response — how we adapted and pivoted — required no explanation, because what we experienced as a nation and as a world was unprecedented. The year 2020 taught me that how we pivot, respond, and make decisions should have been for ourselves all along. We never needed to explain making decisions that we see as best for us; we always had the option to just go for it! I’m glad I did!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I wish I had known how to create my services in a way that worked best for others. I can teach about processes, operations, and systems all day long….and sometimes I did! It overwhelmed my clients. I found myself working with them long after I provided the service to clarify what I meant, and I fixed their small issues rather than looking closer into solving their main problem. I now focus each service on solving one key problem to prevent clients from feeling overwhelmed and to provide more clarity and value in our sessions.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I remember that my business and even my personal life is bigger than me. When I show up for my purpose, I am helping my children remember that they can accomplish anything they desire in life, even in the middle of difficult circumstances. When I show up in my business, I provide solutions to problems that have plagued working moms and Mom CEOs across the U.S. for years. I can stay grounded because I know that my purpose is bigger than just me.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Helping moms find balance between work life and personal life is one of the main goals of We Optimize Work! When I’m helping mamas achieve balance, I encourage them to analyze their true available capacity, eliminate “triggers” that distract them from focusing, and seek help when they need it.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
People often see me speak about operations and everything systems and processes, but they never see that I LOVE to dance! In fact, I consider myself to be a virtual backup dancer for Beyonce. (I mean, Beyonce doesn’t know it yet, but I am ready whenever she needs a dancer for her next video.)
What are your top three tips to stay productive each day?
- Eliminate “triggers” (distractions).
- Plan out your week in advance so you know what needs to be done each day.
- Know your best times for getting work done and really focus in during those times.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
To me, being an Entreprenista is being a female who intentionally chooses to thrive. She pursues her entrepreneurial goals to pave the way for her generation, her children, and even people she hasn’t met yet to let them know that they too deserve to reach their goals and dreams as business owners.