Celebrating 5 Years as Leoni Consulting Group

Published on: 16th February, 2022

In this very special episode of All Things Marketing and Education, our team got together to celebrate Leoni Consulting Group (LCG)’s fifth anniversary. We discuss what we’ve learned together and share our passions and insights from these five years. We hope that sharing a little bit about our journey at LCG inspires you to reflect on your own journey and maybe even take a risk or two, because none of our team would be here without that.


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Elana Leoni:

Hello, and welcome to All Thing Marketing and Education. My name is Elana Leoni. I’ve devoted my career to helping education brands build their brand awareness and engagement. Each week, I sit down with educators, ed tech entrepreneurs, and experts in educational, marketing, and community building. All of them will share their successes and failures using social media, inbound marketing or content marketing, and community building. I'm excited to guide you on your journey to transform your marketing efforts into something that provides consistent value, and ultimately improves the lives of your audience.

Welcome everyone to a really special episode of All Thing Marketing and Education. I'm Elana Leoni. I'm here with my beautiful team or almost all of the team, but key members of the team. I'm so excited to have this party and reflection of 5 years of Leoni Consulting Group. Such an amazing journey. We’re here to talk about what we’ve learned together, share our passions, share our insights with you all. And just have fun, and celebrate this momentous occasion. What I want to do is just quickly go around and have them introduce themselves that are here. We’ll start with Porter at the top, then we can go around in a circle.

Porter Palmer:

g Group. I joined the team in:

Anna Fields:

I'm Anna Fields. I'm a Production Manager at Leoni Consulting Group. I started about 3 years ago. I don’t know, I’m not good at this. Sorry, guys. [laughter]

Elana Leoni:

It’s funny. The people behind the scenes we throw them in a podcast, and we say go.

Porter Palmer:

You keep things moving. Anna keeps things moving and keeps us organized.

Elana Leoni:

And she thinks in spreadsheets, which is beautiful. Alright, let’s move it over to Ariella.

Ariella Hayden:

sociate. I joined in April of:

Jordan Moldenhauer:

I'm Jordan. I joined in June:

Elana Leoni:

It looks like we have about 4 members for the team here. But LCG is a virtual team, and this is just a representation of all the smart people we get to work with. We have people in evaluation that we work with. We have other account managers that we work with. We have very talented graphic designers. We’ve got tech people.

I am very, very grateful for all of you and for the people that aren’t represented on this call. Just to get started, I’ll kick it off. I would love you all to reflect, too, on your journey at LCG. For the ed tech folks listening – and even the educators because we have a lot of people that are past educators that’ve moved their career here as well – you can learn from them and look at all the different journeys you hear about on this podcast. No one has the same journey. But you can get bits and pieces of really cool advice to help you along your specific journey in education.

Just to start out, people always ask me why I started LCG. We use LCG as an acronym of Leoni Consulting Group. I think I was in a similar space from a lot of our team members that came in. I put my heart and soul into a brand in education and loved it. Gosh, I was that brand. I worked at the Edutopia at the George Lucas Educational Foundation and had the pleasure of everyday, collaborating with educators that were super inspiring.

They were writing books, they were doing podcasts. They were doing all of the things. And I was just trying to help them, but I always felt like a slacker. And they were going to school every day and dealing with these insurmountable challenges in the classroom. I did that every day. I had the pleasure of building up the community at Edutopia and all of their social spaces, which it was right before social media exploded.

We think about our careers. A lot of it is luck and timing, to be honest. You do have to have some talent and maybe some gumption to say I'm going to take this on. And this really excites me, and passion. But I had a lot of luck and timing was really good around that. I was able to help grow their presence exponentially. They are the biggest K-12 education brand in terms of online presence now. That was an amazing journey.

But at the end of it, I just felt like I'm really good at talking to teachers, innovative, Edutopia-type of teachers, and admins. But I'd love to be able to talk to more stakeholders in education. We all know in this room, we’re all very passionate about education. But the way that you truly move the needle in education is not just working with one stakeholder. You got to work together. It’s got to be collaborative. I wanted to do that as a marketer.

I also wanted to get some proper training. I was a very ground-up, grassroots marketer. Learned everything on the go. I really didn’t like marketing in undergrad and said it was all that theory. It didn’t feel like real-world or practical at all. So, I didn’t even major in marketing. I got an undergrad degree in small business management. I wanted to start my own business at that time. I was the president of the entrepreneurship club, randomly.

Then just didn’t want to leave school, so got minors in dance. Got another concentration in international business. Got a minor in accounting. Anything I did, I was in there. Fast forward to, okay, I really need to go back to school. I thought I needed more polish. I thought I needed more technical training as a marketer.

I think everyone has that in their mind. I need to be better. I need to have more formal training. Especially as educators, we take school more, and more, and more, as much as we can. I went to Cal Berkeley, go Bears, and got my MBA.

During that time, I used it as a way to incubate and say, if I'm going to do my own thing this would be the window to do it. Because if it didn’t work out you can go back and do whatever you want. But this is my time to innovate, and fail, and try, and start new things. So, I started LCG during this time. And said, would I like being a consultant? Can I transform this potentially into something bigger as an agency? And that’s what LCG is now.

It was the perfect time. I had a safe spot to innovate and try. I had a lot of clients that I worked with at Edutopia that were wanting to collaborate with me. So, very safe space, and I felt very mission-driven. I started it to make a difference in education and talk to as many stakeholders as possible. I think my biggest learning was, I was like, I want to do this to make a bigger impact.

But then I start working with this beautiful team of people and learning from them and collaborating. I hate working alone. I love collaborating. I think social media and community, you can never do that alone. I think it’s the antithesis of what that work is about. My greatest joy has been working with a very smart, talented, passionate team that inspires me.

That’s enough about me. I hate talking. I am going to kick it off to one of our team members, who can ask a question or share a little bit about themselves and their journey.

Porter Palmer:

I would love to answer the question of what brought me to LCG. I have a very simple answer to that, even though I will elaborate. What brought me to LCG, I truly believe at this point, was just fate. Elana and I were meant to find each other. When she was working at Edutopia, I was in a parallel position at Discover Education, building community there.

time back in, I don’t know,:

But Elana and I both left those organizations almost at the same time. She went and got her MBA. I took off on my 2-year journey travelling the country in my RV, seeing national parks. I started thinking about needing to return to the workforce. That same friend, Steve Dembo, ran into Elana at ISTE. She said, I have this project that I'm doing, working on Pinterest. I'm trying to build my team, get the right people in place. And Steve said, you should call Porter.

We had a conversation, and Elana, I’ll never forget how you said, I'm working to find the right people to have on my team. We started with just this one project, at me being 5 hours a week. And I am so excited that I was the first fulltime employee. Now I’ll let someone else speak about their journey to being the next fulltime employee. But I was the first fulltime employee.

I’ve learned so much. I love our collaboration together. I love the clients that we get to work with because they make a lot of impact in our world. I just believe that it was fate for me to find Elana and for us to be able to do this work together.

Elana Leoni:

Thanks, Porter. You had to remind me that we talked when I was at Edutopia, I remember. Because sometimes I was just going 10 million miles a minute when I was at Edutopia. I remember talking to somebody, and I couldn’t connect to your name for some reason. You were like, oh no, we talked earlier. Then I was like, no that’s another den person. It was like Patty or something.

It’s just amazing how paths intertwine. Steve was also in a parallel journey. So, so many people were at brands for 7, 8+ years. Also, my friend Katie Tess, who was on our podcast, was in the same boat as ASCD. She ended up leaving at the same time, too. Steve ended up leaving. We’re all kind of branching out and trying to figure out what we want to do on our own.

But what I appreciate about you on our call when we reconnected, and just I feel like is a motto of LCG, an unofficial one if you think about it. It’s just be comfortable with the uncertain and the unknown. Anna in particular, too. There’s so many times where Anna and I are trying to scope projects that just, I don’t think, have ever been done before. And trying to figure out how the heck do we do this? We’re still in those situations.

But with Porter, when we had that call about Pinterest, at the time I hadn’t been on Pinterest in a couple years. I got a job to do it. I was super interested. I'm that personality, as soon as I get into something I get super into it. You’re like that, Porter, too. I want to learn everything about it.

After that project, we could’ve spoke at any conference. I'm not being boastful. We just got super nerdy about it. I got mad when people weren’t talking about it right. It was like, alright, let’s get into something we know nothing about. People are hiring us.

It’s not let’s fake it ‘til you make it. But it’s kind of like the world is social and the world of community, and everything that we’re in so much, changes all the time. There’s no way you can be an expert. But what you can do is have that passion to just really sink your teeth into it. And just say we don’t know, but we’re going to figure it out together.

Porter Palmer:

To be lifelong learners. I think that’s a thing that you model. I think that’s a thing that is a core value of Leoni Consulting Group, is to be a lifelong learner.

Elana Leoni:

Well said. I think, not to bring in my Berkeley core values, but we have these core values at MBA school. One of them is students always. If you’re a student always, it helps with so much. You’re just curious all the time, especially in social when things change all the time.

When I'm interviewing people, I always try test about initiative. Will you go above and beyond what’s asked of you? Are you curious? Are you initially just curious about life? That transfers so much. Anna, I know you don’t like speaking. But in terms of uncertainties, I reflect on a lot of our times when we’re pulling our hair out, trying to really figure out how are we going to even do this project that’s being asked of us?

Do you want to reflect a little bit about those moments that we’re like, oh my god?

Anna Field:

I think what gets us through it most of the time is that we believe in the end result of what we’re doing. We believe in the cause. That’s why I switched from the various industries I was working in, to zero in and focus on education and educators. Because I know that out of any industry in the world, they have the biggest impact on changing the future for the better.

That’s why I chose to come to Leoni Consulting Group, so that I could participate in that, and support educators, and help them on their mission. I always know that we’re going to figure it out eventually. We’re going to get there. But I think that there’s just this strong motivation, too, that we’re working for the greater good. It’s nice to be in this industry and seeing that change that happens, just in the short 3 years that I’ve been here.

Elana Leoni:

When you reflected to me about your timeline, I think about timing. I worked with Anna at Edutopia briefly. I mostly was just a little scared of Anna, to be honest. Because I would walk by her office, she had all these Gantt charts and spreadsheets. She was producing all of Edutopia’s Schools That Work series, which is a big video series that goes across the nation and documents what’s truly working in schools.

Super cool series. I’d check it out if you have some time. Anna was running the trains of it all. I was like, whoa, this lady’s intimidating. I heard you came from agencies in the past, and all this stuff, so we barely talked. And we were just so busy. But fast forward, you decided to take a year. So, you took a year to raise your child. Didn’t you say you were going to do one year? And you planned it in your head?

Anna Field:

Yeah. Everything happened all at once. The opportunity to take the time off, my dog walker quit, my nanny moved out of state, my husband started traveling for work, all within 5 days. Everything just happened to me all at once.

It was amazing. It was the year before she started kindergarten. It was a really important time for us. She got through the terrible 3s. It was like this beautiful year of reading 50 books in bed while we ate toast every morning. And then going to some book reading at the library, or something like that. It was amazing.

And then Alana reached out. It was almost a year to do the day that I had taken a year off. It was 3 years ago, this week. At first, I was hesitant. Am I ready to give this up? But the timing was so perfect. There are only so many Gantt charts you can incorporate into your 4-year-old’s life. Believe me, I tried. We had a system. [laughter]

But I needed to use that other part of my brain again, and I was so happy that it was towards a cause that I believed in. It’s allowed me to volunteer 8 to 10 hours a week at my daughters’ schools and be present for that. Also be a part of this wonderful organization that’s doing things that I really believe in.

For me, it was just amazing timing. It all just slid into place perfectly.

Elana Leoni:

You did something that was bold and took time off. Porter did something that was bold and said, I'm going to be in an RV and check out all these parks. I did something bold and quit a job that people would think you’re crazy to quit and go out on your own in this world of uncertainty.

And somehow, we all just found each other. Now, we’re doing really important work with a great team. I think that’s something to be said about life, is that if you don’t take risks there’s not really that reward, even though it’s super scary.

I remember when I took that jump and said, I think I'm going to transition out. And all the advice I got was like, what are you going to do? You’re going to be homeless. As a consultant it’s horrible. You’ll tell people what to do, and they won’t do any of it. It’s really unrewarding work. How do you keep clients? Like Holy Moly, all the horrible things people tell you with anxiety.

I'm sure Porter, you got it. It was like, what are you going to do in an RV? It’s horrible what people do. I think you all need to keep listening, trust your gut, and go with what do you think will give you the most joy. Sometimes to get the most joy, you have to take that risk, that leap, that makes you incredibly uncomfortable. So what if you fail? I started businesses before LCG. I started a couple businesses. They failed. I learned a ton. You got to fail.

We talk in education all the time about fail forward and all this jargony stuff. But rarely do we actually do it ourselves. I urge you all, if you’re ever thinking about doing something, you might want to scaffold it so if you want to start a side business, do something in parallel to your current job until you get enough tractions. And then you might want to take it fulltime. But that’s a big leap.

We just had somebody leave LCG, who we love, Lily, who was an account manager for a while. She did that. She had another business for such a long time. She was always working other gigs. For us she was doing social media, which she is great at because she has an educator mind. But she’s always had her business of curriculum, and course writing, and empowering other educators to jump into the world of ed tech. But she did that smart move and said no, I just cannot handle both. I have enough work I can go fulltime immediately.

But do what your comfort level is. I am probably a little bit more of a risk taker. In reflection of it all, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love being able to work alongside everybody, and just focus on work that matters and nothing else. We get to focus on deep work all of the time and hopefully not a ton of meetings.

Porter Palmer:

I can’t say this often enough, clients who make a really big impact on lives, and that’s what’s super rewarding for me.

Elana Leoni:

Porter, since you’ve been here for a little bit, do you want to maybe reflect on when you came on as a team member? What stuff you were doing, and how we're all working together to where we are now?

Porter Palmer:

There’s a question here we’ve talked about as a funny moment. This is sort of a funny moment to me, is we are still wayfinding. We are still finding what we are really best at, and how we can best help people. In the beginning, as far as I'm concerned, I remember one time saying to Elana, if I could ever do the same thing more than once we would get really good at this. Because we were just trying lots of different ways of helping different clients, because they all needed different things.

We’ve done e-books, and whitepapers, and Pinterest, and audits, and then community things, and then social media management, newsletters, paid ads. We’ve thrown the spaghetti at the wall sort of thing, and over the years what I’ve watched us do, evaluation of programs. And even though I still feel like we are the people that people come to when they have a special project, because we are willing to say let me think about how we can help you. And we are the people who will say yes to you.

I feel like we’ve started to hone in on a handful of things, plus some extra things that we’re always open do going and learning new things. But we’ve gotten to where we do some of the same things more than once. That’s a thing that I have seen evolve over time. So much so that we’ve brought on Jordan and Ariella, who I would love to hear from them about how they found their way here.

Elana Leoni:

If I could just piggyback off of that, and we’ll get to them. When I first started, even just solo, I was saying yes to everything. Because I just wanted to know what I liked, and I didn’t like. I think that’s something that you all, potentially, that might be wayfinding in your own business and product lines or even as an educator transitioning, is you just want to see what you like doing and what you’re good at, and what you would like to do over and over again.

So, I was saying yes to all sorts of things. I mostly said yes to the people and the products. Or the impact, what I thought the products or services were doing, and less on the project itself. It was always in marketing. But as soon as you got a relationship with them, it was a spiderweb of things. Like hey, your website’s not great. Let me work on that.

Porter Palmer:

Oh yeah, the within-site optimization stuff.

Elana Leoni:

Yeah. It’s just, hey let’s do some landing pages. Let’s do some email marketing. I would just jump in and revamp everything around it because I really enjoyed the relationship, and I knew it would help that company. Then I slowly started realizing this isn’t scalable at all. It’s kind of burnout-y.

Like you said, Porter, when you told me that, it really hit home. Because that is true. I wanted to get better at everything. We would do this monster project. And it would be like okay, we’re probably not going to be able to do that, replicate it again, because it was so unique. And I know how a lot of agencies work that way. Where they’re like custom projects, and they’re amazing.

But I don’t think it’s scalable. I think all of our mindsets, we just want to tweak, and tweak, and tweak, and get better, and like you said, way find. With our community offerings now and with social, we’re constantly wayfinding to try to figure out what’s the best offering to make sure that when we’re working with education brands, we’re helping them to become relevant, timely. They’re connecting authentically to educators. All of those things you got to change all the time because all the mediums change all of the time.

The one thing that I will say is that when COVID happened and the pandemic, and we ended up losing one of our biggest clients, really all at the same time, it put me in a crisis again. And trying to figure out what value can we add to ed tech people that are just scrambling. I remember having 3 or 4 business development calls a day with prospects. They were like, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I have enough money. What can you help us – we need leads right away. Our offerings didn’t do that.

I believe in the long-tail game. When you are starting ed tech or a business of any sort, it’s about the marathon. It’s not about the sprint to get one inauthentic lead, and that you can put on. But everything that we do, it helped me focus in on what do we want to do, and what do we don’t want to do? COVID helped me with the art of saying no and the art of focusing.

Right now, I have an email template when people come into me. We try to make the website really be clear on, we do 3 things really well. Talk to us about other things, maybe. In general, these are our three lines of business. Really, it’s just two lines, with a bonus line for clients. Is what Porter runs, our community offerings. We build up communities all around the world of education, educators, parents, education admins, students, whatever you are in the world of education, we will help brands create communities that are engaged and matter.

That’s the one big offering that we are still building up. It is the most rewarding work, Porter. Watching you do that, I’ve learned so much. Sometimes I talk, and you’re like gosh, good job, Padawan.

Porter Palmer:

It’s a real passion for me. I really do feel like connecting people is a thing that improves lives. That’s the business we wind up being in, is helping organizations matter to people. And doing that by improving their lives. Whether it’s our social media work that might be providing a key resource that somebody, a professor, needs, or a teacher needs, or a parent needs.

That’s improving their lives by seeing them and providing information that they need. Plus, you have the community work, too, that connects people to each other. That’s exponentially valuable.

Elana Leoni:

It was like honing in on our passions and our expertise even more so and saying we can build communities. We can find ways to scale the process to make sure we’re doing work that we know makes a difference, and we know we can inject ourselves and see us significantly help the organization.

On the community side, and on the organic social media management, how do we do this and help brands? I had to say no to all those calls that wanted those leads right away. Because building an organic social media presence takes time. If those brands would’ve said yes to us a year ago, they would be reaping the rewards today. But they’re scared because you might’ve only had 3 to 6 months of runway of cash. It was a scary, unknown time.

But it helped us way find to our passion, and really refine our offerings, to building up social media presence in an organic way of how do we create this pulse of valuable, high quality, timely content that hopefully will create relationships? But not the level of relationships that we can do on the community side, when a brand is ready to build an online community around their brand offerings.

The third thing that we do offer that I'm kind of downplaying at the moment, I really want to hone in on those two things, is creating content. Porter talked about some e-books and all that. My passion is content marketing strategy as well. How do we create content to complement these efforts? You are not just your product. We do that, but only offer that to our current clients.

Having that focus has been so freeing for us. People say, oh you’re going to lose money by doing that. There’s another fallacy. Everyone told me when I first started, don’t just focus on education. So many people told me that. They said there’s not enough business there. And I'm like, there’s so much business there if you have the right focus, and you’re known in the industry, and you are good at what you do.

Not only are we just focused on one small niche industry. We’re focused on just a core few offerings. People appreciate that. How many times have we all been on prospect calls, that I said we're probably not right for you right now? Here’s what we offer, and here’s what we don’t do. I'm not going to say we’re experts in SEO because we’re not. You have to do that every day to do things like that.

Anyways, I just wanted to piggyback off of what you said, Porter, before we jump over to Jordan and Ariella. I’d love to hear from you two as being newer members of LCG and just your experience so far. Maybe take people on the journey of where you started. What you’re doing now.

Ariella Hayden:

I could go. I started last April at LCG. I actually started as an intern. This circles back to that theme of uncertainty, because I was approaching graduation of college. And I was so determined, I need to be fully employed when I graduate. I found LCG and I started as an intern here. I was asking, do you think I could become fully employed? And I was told it’s a maybe.

I just found that I was in this environment where I got to do what I love, which is social media. And I was working with people who I loved to work with. It was such a collaborative and supportive environment. I always felt like I'm happy here. I going to wait it out. I'm going to keep doing what I love to do. We’re going to see what comes of it. Look where we are now. Now, I'm fully employed, so everything worked out, and I'm really glad that I stayed.

Elana Leoni:

I think it’s so important what you said. We all have these weird things that we put in our head, like this linear path. I got to do this by this time. I got to this. I threw that out the door, too, when I started LCG.

I don’t know, I just want to see. If this feels right, I want to stay. I think that’s what I'm hearing you say. And that brings a smile to all of our faces because we don’t get to hear you say that very much, because you’re hard at work a lot.

Anna Field:

I don’t mean to sound patronizing, but it’s good that you found it out at your age. To be honest, I was running on a treadmill for 20 years. And then I’d switch industries and run on that treadmill for 5 years. I was successful, and I would climb, but it wasn’t ever my intention. I just kept running and running.

It wasn’t until I paused, and that was, I think – most of my friends weren't saying you’re crazy for taking a year off. They were like thank goodness, she’s finally taking a break. Then I could focus and zero in on what I thought was important.

Now, it’s so much more gratifying to work because I believe so much in what we do. And it’s just a very different experience for the last 3 years. It was life changing for me. We still race and run and work hard. But there’s this balance and this gratification that you get out of what we're doing.

I think the younger people now, they realize that sooner. And they don’t have to wait until they’re in their 40s until they realize how important it is to make sure you have work-life balance, and you’re getting more out of what you’re doing. I think it’s great.

Porter Palmer:

I would add to that we’ve had conversation, Anna and I have, that Jordan and Ariella, y’all are ruined for the rest of your career because you’ve gotten to work with Elana. I hope that you just stay here forever and are super happy. We also think about you do have a long work life ahead of you.

I'm an old woman now and have worked lots and lots of places. This is one of the most supportive and collaborative environments I’ve ever been in. I'm sorry that she’s ruined your work forever. [laughter] You’ll never be able to work anywhere and not think oh my gosh, I had such a great CEO and founder.

Elana Leoni:

I just want to thank you, but I think it’s about the team and the culture, too. I felt like we were all in similar mindsets. I want people that are passionate about what we’re doing, but also knowing that we're humans. I want to put us all first.

Somebody said work-life balance. I think Anna was bringing that up. People thought I was crazy, but I said I'm starting a company to have some work-life balance. And they laughed because that’s usually like, you start a company and you’re working 80 hours a week. You’re building it up. And sure, there was a lot of sweat equity put into this. There was a lot of stress, a lot of uncertainty of what I want to do? How do I fit in this mix of ed tech people and consultants, and all of these things?

In the midst of it all, I tried to never work more than 45 hours a week. Generally, I never work more than 40 hours a week. We’re all really good. I get mad when I see you working on the weekends. I don’t get mad at you, Ariella, but I see you working later at night. I'm like, I hope she’s taking time for herself in the day. It’s really important that we fuel ourselves and we don’t burn out, even before all this pandemic.

Especially when you start in the beginning of agencies, in the junior levels, they will work you. They will grind you. And that’s what they’re notorious to do. I think that’s horrible. It’s absolutely horrible.

Jordan Moldenhauer:

I can talk a little bit about where I was when I found LCG. It was a definitely organic job search after I graduated, because I majored in poetry. And generally had no idea what’s next. It was, yeah sure, I like writing poetry. But do I want to do that for money? I don’t know.

I worked every job under the sun. I’ve worked in retail. I worked in food service. Then I was kind of doing freelance work. This opportunity came to me through a freelance client I’ve been working with since high school. Because education has always been a really big part of my life. All of my family members are teachers. Everyone’s involved in education in some way. I worked in a preschool. I’ve been babysitting my whole life. I worked with HyperDocs, and I absolutely loved ed tech, and the ability to work with educators.

I'm really passionate about education and equity in learning. That passion is what brought me to the job application. In the interview, it was like, we don’t really know what we want this job to be yet. So, what do you want to do? It was like we might have you do a podcast. We might have you do some content marketing. It was the perfect opportunity for me at the time because I don’t know what I want to do.

At the beginning of my internship, I was able to try so many different things, and over time have focused myself through LCG. It’s been a really supportive learning environment for me to figure out who I am in a professional environment, and what I want to do in my career. With people who value mission first impact, work-life balance, things that I definitely do not take for granted, and I don’t think you get at every company, especially at your first real job.

Anna Field:

I think it’s interesting because I worked in animation and visual effects, and advertising. I was always working in a role like production manager, a department manager, managing the team, making sure they had the resource that we needed.

But I would work with producers producing content. They were more involved creatively, while still paying attention to the budget, and the schedule, and the management of things. But it was much more creatively involved. I really see that as the direction that you’re going in.

It’s exciting to see the balance you have, and how much you’ve done in less that a year. It’s pretty amazing what you’ve been able to accomplish. I see you as a producer. I wasn’t sure what you see yourself as.

Jordan Moldenhauer:

I don’t really know, to be honest. I really do like doing the production. I feel like being on the content side of LCG, I am the one who almost gets to do the most reflecting on LCG, and what we get to talk about, and who we are. Because that’s literally the main focus of my job. It’s really interesting. I love learning about it.

Porter Palmer:

I’ll say that one of my greatest joys is having the opportunity to work with Jordan and Ariella. More than taking on an intern, which always to me, I’ll be honest, feels like extra work because an intern is somebody who a lot of times stays for a short period of time. You try to give them things to do maybe to teach them, but also lessen your load. But then they leave you. Y’all haven’t left. You’ve stayed on. So, it feels like it was this commitment.

One of my favorite things is when you’ll ask, because I help with engagement, and there’ll be things in social where there’s, what do we do about this situation? One of my favorite things is to talk you through the process of how you know what to do next time. Instead of me just going and doing that work, being able to say here’s my thought process.

I can think of examples with both, Jordan just recently, and Ariella, of being able to say let’s talk through what your reaction to this is. There’s been great joy in being here for the beginnings of your careers.

Jordan Moldenhauer:

One thing I want to add on that is that it’s very agency building. On behalf of both the company and for me personally, you guys giving the guidance of how to make more decisions on my own gives me the ability to do more work for you, and takes some pressure off of you guys.

Elana Leoni:

I have a community agency founders and consultants in education. I feel very blessed to be a part of that, all women owned. We talk about the challenges of creating cultures that are accountability based. How do you move people that are empowered and know what decisions they can make on their own, and when it’s best to collaborate?

I think the nature of what we do is very collaborative. I always tell you all, overcommunicate. Because you never know when people will jump in and help you, and we have a better product as a result. I hope that you all are seeing this, the newer people on the team, too, that what we do isn’t magic. It’s just smart people coming together and dealing with problems that we probably haven’t dealt with before.

Even in the engagement world, Ariella, you’re seeing it now a lot, but how do you deal with a comment like that? We recently had someone complain about how they were debited for money to a client that we’re managing, and they now can’t pay rent as a result. How do you deal with that? Somebody who’s so frustrated that they’re getting charged, that they now can’t pay rent?

How do you deal with people who have had 5 glasses of wine and are screaming at you? Or people that are maybe yelling at you around science issues or whatever it may be, how are you as a human able to respond to them and help them, recognize them, see them? Engagement is hard.

Porter Palmer:

One thing that comes to is someone who is questioning the business model of one of our clients, who wanted to know why something wasn’t free? Being able to talk through that, how do you communicate with somebody about a really deep question, and humanize yourself? Part of the advice was make sure we attach our names to this direct message, so they know they're dealing with a real person, and help humanize the brand itself.

Anna Field:

I'm constantly watching the threads of the conversations that you guys are having. I'm not involved with that part of the business really. I always find it interesting the things that get flagged and the conversations, and the effort that gets put into every response. I think that's really interesting.

I was even having a conversation with my 7-year-old because she overheard my husband and I talking about trolls. She was like why are you saying trolls? What are you talking about? We were like it’s when someone goes online, and they say mean things.

She was like, online bullying, I’ve heard about that at school. They taught us about how it’s not appropriate, and blah, blah, blah. It’s just really interesting that children are well aware of something that I'm still trying to grasp and understand.

Elana Leoni:

It’s a different world for sure. I do want to round out this episode and bring it back to reflection. It has been 5 years. Not all of you have been here for 5 years, but you’ve come in at various times with LCG. I think I'm the biggest critic of myself and this journey. One thing that’s always stayed to me is, I'm not about growing for the sake of growing, so I can boast numbers about this or that.

When Anna and I do planning and forecasting of revenue and stuff, and I talk with Jen, who helps with HR and Ops, too, on our team it’s not about this linear growth. I think that was one of the themes for all of us, in even our careers. It’s about what makes the most sense, what feels right. All the other stuff will come. And we’ve had it.

I’ve been lucky enough to say that we're profitable, we're growing, we're building the team. But it’s not for the sake of, hey we're going to have X amount of clients, and we’re going to do this. It’s about what do we feel like we're doing that works?

I don’t ever want to feel like I'm asking you all to do more than you’re able to do, that we're struggling because the workload’s too high. Leading with heart and intention, and I know that sounds touchy-feely, but that's what I’ve been able to do, and it’s worked for us.

Porter Palmer:

There’s nothing wrong with touchy-feely. That's why I want to work with you. You’re not seeing us, but the people who are on mute are nodding right now to that. There’s nothing wrong with growing a business with love. No industry deserves that loving care more than education. For you to be leading with that, Elana, is a reflection of how it should be.

Anna Field:

It’s also leading with growth. Because I was in the military. Sometimes when I first started working here, I’d be like what do you want me to do? And you’d say, what do you want to do? I want to make sure you’re doing the things you want to do. In my mind I'm like, I want to do what needs to be done.

I’ve learned over the last three years that there are things that I'm not as good at, or that someone is naturally just better at than I am. I shouldn’t try and pick up that burden just because it has to be done. Because someone else might really enjoy doing it. Just having you ask that, and me realizing the things that I do enjoy and do well, is really nice to focus on that. And then grow and learn more about accounting.

The financial side, I’ve always kind of avoided. I stuck to resources and timing, and managing that type of thing, and not diving into the finances usually. Even though time, and people, is money. I’ve enjoyed going into that more with you, and you allowing me to help with that side of things. I really like it.

Elana Leoni:

It reminds me of, if anyone follows Michael Hyatt. He’s a big podcaster. He’s written books about focusing. He has something called the Full Focus Planner. He talks about this quadrant of work that you do. When you’re starting a business, you’re doing it all, whether you like it or not, you’re doing all the things you’re good at, you’re bad at. You have to do it.

When I started, I was doing all the books. I was doing every single thing you could manage. But in my mind the way that kept me sane is, as soon as we get bigger, I'm going to hire someone to do this. As soon as we get bigger, I'm going to hire someone to do this, too. I knew it was a stopgap solution. I think it’s important when I bring on team members, what do you actually like doing? Where’s your passion?

I can give them feedback, and say here’s where I see you shine, too. That’s that part of the quadrant that Michael Hyatt talks about, and maybe we can put it in the show notes. It’s the stuff that you do well that brings you joy. That you do well exceptionally above everyone else. There’s stuff that you might do well that you actually don’t like doing and doesn’t bring you joy.

I'm good at accounting. Oh my God, I hate it. So, I don’t want to do it. That doesn’t bring the best value to the business as well. Where we're at in this stage of LCG is, we’re trying to bring on experts, people, anyone that does things well that also it brings them joy to do so. Then we get more specialized as a team. So, that’s where I'm hoping to bring the team.

As we round out, I’d love to go around, and either talk about a funny moment, or a moment that impacted you, or something that you remember. Maybe I’ll kick it off. This was a long-time moment, but I love our collaboration and our times when we're like I have no idea how we're going to do things.

I’ve had so many moments with you, Anna, where I just pulled out my hair, and you calmed me down and said, we can totally do this. [laughter] I said okay. I trust Anna. Porter, even when we're joking about things, when we have things that we're like I don’t know how we're going to fix this. One of those moments where we we're cleaning up a client’s Pinterest board.

Do you remember that? We looked through this giant list of Pinterest boards that they had. I just couldn’t stop laughing at all the Pinterest boards that were created with 1 or 2 pins in it. It was like Native American stenciling for the 18th century. It was so niche.

Porter Palmer:

It was so specific, yes. You stole my funny moment [laughter].

Elana Leoni:

But being able to talk about things, and just not taking ourselves so seriously has just been a real joy. Especially when we're dealing with such hard stuff.

Anna Field:

This isn’t necessarily when I was here, but it’s funny to hear you say you thought I want intimidating from when we worked together in the past. Because I felt the same way about you. I remember on meeting, going to with you, and my boss was there. I was so nervous about talking to you [laughter]. Because I'm like, this woman has her stuff together, and I’ve got my hair in my French twist mess, leftover from my military days, that I never quite figured out.

I don’t know, you were not the person that I thought that you were. And definitely no one to be afraid of. But you just have this confidence and knowledge. I just wanted to make sure I was bringing my A game when I went to talk to you before.

And then when you reached out to me, I was like I don’t know. I got to make sure I don’t slip into my old ways. I'm kind of like a workaholic. And I don’t want to go back to that lifestyle again after taking a year off. And you said, oh, this company is made up of recovering workaholics, is what you said to me.

Jordan Moldenhauer:

It’s not necessarily super funny but it has really impacted me, the amount of times I ask a question. And the question I get back is I don’t know, what do you think? I guess I do know the answers. It’s just not something that I would’ve thought that I had the decision-making authority. It’s made a really big impact on how much I take initiative in some of the other things that I do. So, thank you for that.

Ariella Hayden:

I have a moment that impacted me. It was a bit recently. We were in our weekly roundup meeting, and I had just had one of my first client calls. I was like oh my gosh, I was so awkward in front of the client. Anna gave me some good advice. She was like, you know, I get nervous talking about myself, too. But think of it as if you’re presenting about yourself. I really appreciated getting that advice from here.

Porter Palmer:

I love that. So, Elana just stole my funny moment. So, I'm going to answer a different question, and that is what I'm looking forward to. Elana, you’ll help us tidy this up I'm sure, but in closing, the thing that I'm looking forward into our future, and that I'm really excited about is, that just recently we have created a foundation, the Leoni Consulting Group, the LCG Foundation, which is a nonprofit wing of our work. Where we are supporting teachers and other educators, and lots of other great things in the future.

We’re at the very beginning of this part of the journey. I am super stoked about the opportunity not just to continue our for-profit work but also the nonprofit work.

Elana Leoni:

It’s funny because when I'm telling us all, focus, focus, focus. We're doing these two lines of business, and we offer some content. And then we get this opportunity to form a foundation and help distribute funds directly to teachers themselves when they need it most. We couldn’t say no.

So, we now, as Porter talked about, we have a foundation called the LCG Foundation. I'm excited to see where this grows. Right now, we're going to be using it to directly distribute funds to teachers. We’ve always donated a significant amount of our profits to nonprofits in education. I'm seeing that there’s a bigger role for the foundation to play in that.

We're big supporters of the EduColor movement. I was a former board member of the Prison University project, now known as Mount Tamalpais College. Shout out to them, they just got their final accreditation. They're the first ever accredited college to be based inside a prison. I was with them with that process. I never want to go through that again. It was a very hard process to get accredited. All of the thanks and gratitude for the people who did that.

The foundation itself, we want to be able – Salesforce back in the day inspired me. They got a bunch of companies to say 1%. Donate 1% of your company’s time to volunteering. Donate 1% of your companies profit to causes that you care about. We obviously do way more than 1% because we’re not a big Salesforce foundation. But I'm excited to see where this shapes up, and how it complements our role in working with ed tech, and the education brands that we get to work with on the LCG Consulting side.

Way more to come. Is there anybody that want to talk a little bit about the future, or anything that they’re excited about, to ramp it up, or roll it out? It sounds like we’re all just smiling. I’ve loved talking with all of you. I hope that this podcast episode was helpful for many of you that are stuck at the home, too, in ed tech companies.

It’s hard what we're doing, whether you’re an educator in the classroom, which is extremely hard right now, know that there are people on the other side trying to work with brands to always get your viewpoint integrated, to always have them see you, to always have your voice be heard. That is truly our role in everything we do.

We want to help support you in this arduous time. It’s not going to get any easier right now. Education is challenging. It’s nebulous. It’s all of the things. Our hearts go out to you. Know that there are compassionate people that see you. For us, we just want to be on that side. Know that we're here. I can’t talk anymore. Someone finish me.

Porter Palmer:

If you’re a teacher, we love you very much. If you are in the educational technology space, go love teachers.

Elana Leoni:

For those of you that are thinking about starting your own thing, or are in the entrepreneur journey, or you’re working in ed tech startups, know that all of this is hard. And reach out to all of us, because we might look like we have it all together. But it’s just wayfinding, and leading with passion, and joy, and probably, hopefully, building a team, because that’s what gives me joy.

There are some people that just like to be one-man shows, too. I hope that sharing a little bit about our journey at LCG has inspired you to be more transparent, to really rethink what you’re doing as well. And maybe take a risk or two. Because none of us would be here without that. So, thank you all.

Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode. If you liked what you heard and want to dive deeper, you can visit backslash podcast, for all show notes, links, and freebies mentioned in each episode. And we always love friends. So, please connect with us on Twitter at Leoni Group. If you enjoyed today’s show, go ahead and click the subscribe button to be the first one notified when our next episode is released. We’ll see you next week on All Things Marketing and Education.

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About the Podcast

Marketing and Education
A podcast about social media marketing, community-building, and content marketing strategies.
What if marketing was judged solely by the level of value it brings to its audience? Welcome to All Things Marketing and Education, a podcast that lives at the intersection of marketing and you guessed it, education. Each week, Elana Leoni, CEO of Leoni Consulting Group, highlights innovative social media marketing, community-building, and content marketing strategies that can significantly increase brand awareness, engagement, and revenue.

About your host

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Elana Leoni

I'm Elana Leoni. I've devoted my career to helping education brands build awareness, engagement, and revenue and I'd like to show you how as well. Every week, you'll learn how to increase your social media presence, build a community, and create content that matters to your audience.