Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Rachel Gertz, co-founder, and CEO of Louder Than Ten, located in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We help underemployed, marginalized, and racialized people get better-paying digital project management jobs in tech through digital project management training. We are also up-skill existing PMs so they can think like mini COOs and help smooth out cash flow while keeping their project teams sustainable.
Even though PM skills are extremely valuable to have, what this training is really about is teaching workers how to create more democratic collaborative processes, so they have the voice and power to get their work done in an equitable environment.
We've hit a time when companies must compete for talent globally—the senior talent pool is dry, so not only is opening up your company to junior talent the most just and equitable thing to do, it's a smart business decision to boot. Companies who trust and pay their people to improve their systems and tie projects back to bigger company goals keep their workers. And retention is worth 250% of your mid-levels salary.
Employees are demanding an environment that actually stands for something real, not just one that touts free lunches or laundry service. The creative companies who get this are the ones we want to partner with and support through PM training.
Tell us about yourself
We launched our company as a design and development studio 13 years ago. Over time we specialized in digital project management consulting and training because we saw how pivotal it was to launching successful projects. My background is in education, psychology, and content, but I have a deep love of systems learning and people. In another life, I'd probably be a sustainable systems analyst or consultant. I guess I am!
I spend most of my time coaching, consulting, and doing custom training for companies that need PM and Ops tune-ups and support. This year, we began transitioning our company into a worker-owned cooperative, so you could say we're applying this concept of worker democracy directly and putting our money where our mouth is.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I'm very proud that we have supported over 130 coordinators, project managers, and digital producers in changing their work environments as they take charge of their projects and systems. With modern-day business structures, most companies still run like dictatorships (a holdover from the influences of Scientific Management, which evolved out of slavery and the Industrial Revolution) where individuals get very little say beyond their basic rights. Our model is about sharing practical ways that project managers and their teams can deconstruct these roots by doing things like introducing four-day workweeks, rallying for more reasonable timelines, and setting healthier client boundaries.
Our community is made up of a compassionate group of folks who advocate for each other and share stories of how they took back some of their power. I love seeing folks show up in their power like that. It's incredible!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Business owners wear a minimum of 7–10 hats at all times (especially as a small business). It's been tough to ruthlessly prioritize our roadmap, knowing that we COULD do so many incredible initiatives, but that we have to reduce these to a couple a year or we risk distraction. There is also a general lack of support and funding out there for small businesses who don't just want unicorn status and 10x Silicon Valley-style growth. We are scaling and looking at grants to support R&D efforts to help us partner with larger orgs that have a similar mission in training underrepresented candidates.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
By 2023, more than half of us will be business owners of some sort (whether that's small businesses or gig work as part of the precarious economic future ahead). My advice to folks starting a business today is to seek out support and mentorship from established business owners so you can avoid some of the early tripwires that bleed out cash within the first year or two. There are some fantastic communities out there like The Freelancers Union and numerous incubators that don't necessarily want to blow up your company for a big return. It's okay to ask more of the startup world. It's basically in its infancy, and you only live for a short period of time. Maybe think about what kind of business you could run that could last well beyond your own lifetime. We, earthlings, have big problems that need solving right now.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Join us for our upcoming classes in May 2022. We'd love to support your PMs or your full team with some custom training so you can sail through this year knowing you are putting your folks first and holding a light to what a more ethical and sustainable creative business could be.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.