Feb 03, 2021

Navigating the Complexities of the Pandemic, with Rhiannon Andersen

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Rhiannon Andersen has served as the CMO and Co-Owner at Steelhead Productions, her company specializes helping some of the most exciting brands in the country produce face to face events. Steelhead has been awarded ‘The Best Places’ to Work in Nevada and appointed Exhibitor Magazine’s Top 40 Providers in the event industry. Rhiannon has guided the company through the greatest recession of our time and gone on to help grow the business by over 630%, while becoming one of Inc. 5000’s Fastest Growing Companies in America.

 In addition to her duties at Steelhead, she has served as the President of the Las Vegas chapter of the Exhibit Designer Producers Association and is the current president of EO Las Vegas, a global organization for entrepreneurs and Co-Chair of the non-profit, Make A Wish Southern Nevada. Rhiannon believes that marketing, done well, has the power to transform any business.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How the outbreak of the global pandemic had an outsized impact on the event planning industry and on companies like Steelhead, who had already weathered the 2008 financial crash
  • How Rhiannon’s leadership team dealt with the juxtaposition of winning Nevada’s Top Workplace while having to lay off workers who were like family due to the catastrophic effects of the pandemic
  • How Rhiannon and her partner were incredibly intentional in creating the organization's values to ensure that those values become a foundational part of their culture
  • Why culture is a crucial part of Steelhead's environment, and how developing a strong company culture was an intentional process that started with Rhiannon and her partner
  • Why Rhiannon believes strongly in approaching everything in life with humility and a desire to continue learning "about the best from the best"
  • What important lessons Rhiannon has learned over the course of her business leadership journey, and why she appreciates every step of the process she has gone through
  • Why Rhiannon learned to stop doing the things a business leader "should" be doing and instead prioritize what really matters
  • What "non-negotiables" Rhiannon has carved out in her life every day, and why she refuses to compromise on those things
  • Why Rhiannon believes that the key to good marketing, whether B2C or B2B, is found in understanding that we're all human regardless if we are interfacing digitally or in person

Additional resources:  

Show Transcription:

Intro: Welcome to A Brave New Podcast, the podcast all about how brave entrepreneurial companies are unlocking their business potential using inbound marketing. Here is your marketing expert and host, Polly Yakovich.

Polly Yakovich: Hi, welcome back to the podcast. I am super excited to introduce my guest today to you. Her name is Rhiannon Andersen. She's the CMO of Steelhead Productions. And Steelhead is an exhibit company located in Las Vegas, Nevada. And if you thought your 2020 was bad, you probably can breathe a sigh of relief that you were not in the exhibit trade show business this last year. And so Rhiannon and I get really into all of the good stuff and talk about what you do when you have a year in which you win employer of the year for Las Vegas, and then at the same time, have to lay off essentially your entire team of 100, and retrench to keep the business alive until things come back again.

Polly Yakovich: Her story is incredible. She's an amazing person, so much to offer you in terms of mindset and attitude and how to overcome really catastrophic situations. And probably, this conversation will also leave you feeling a little bit grateful, so let's get to it. Rhiannon, welcome to The Brave New Podcast. I'm so excited to have you on today and have people hear from you and your infinite wisdom.

Thank you, thank you. I'm so happy to be here.

Polly Yakovich: I'd love to start just for a framework for everyone. Just will you give a little bit about your bio, your career journey, what you're up to? Kind of catch us up a little bit. 2020 was wild for you. And I particularly want people to hear about that for you and how you're managing that, lack of a better phrase. But give us a little bit of a bio. What do you do? What's your story?

Sure. So I'm a second generation business owner. And in 2006, my business partner and I bought Steelhead Productions. It's an event production company, so we produce from the concrete up to the rafters, everything from a 3D perspective, having to do with large events focusing on trade shows. And in 2006, my dad was considering retirement. At the time, I was working as the marketing manager. My business partner and I, who was the general manager, looked at each other and decided that we were going to embark on our own entrepreneurial journey by extending the Steelhead footprint for as long as a period of time as we had to give it. And then in 2007, we had the bright idea to move the company to Las Vegas because that's where the rubber meets the road in reference to events.

Looking back with what happened recession wise in '08, '09, and '10, relocating a business in 2007 wasn't awesome, but we made it through and had since, up until 2020, as you mentioned, it has been really crazy. But we had been working really diligently on growing the business. And so over the course of our ownership, I think we've grown around 830 plus percent of the period of time that we've been at the helm, so we're really proud about that.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. And you've won some big accolades along the way. Tell us just a few of those, especially in recent years.

Okay. Good. Thank you. I feel so shy just talking about our successes.

Polly Yakovich: Oh, my gosh.

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah. We are. We're really proud. So we were awarded Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Company in America in 2017. We've been awarded the best of top 40 in our industry multiple years throughout our ownership, People's Choice Award in our industry, and then the most recent and one that I am particularly the most proud of is The Best Places to Work Nevada for Businesses Under 150 Employees.

Polly Yakovich: And you won that in 2020.

Rhiannon Andersen: Yes, we were awarded the award in 2020. And it was really through the effort and surveying of our people in 2019 that put us in position to receive that award.

Polly Yakovich: So I'm kind of setting the audience up a little bit, but you have a growing company. You have two super thriving entrepreneurs. I want to talk with you a little bit more about what you do outside of work. But you have been the president of EO Las Vegas. For those who don't know EO, we'll talk about it in a little bit. So thriving, growing company, beautiful culture, I want to talk about all those things. And then describe what 2020 has meant for you all with COVID because the events business, a lot of people were able to pivot, and limped along, and sort of scaled back. But what do you do when your entire industry just goes quiet?

Rhiannon Andersen: Well, just in total transparency, and just to kind of share my soul in its essence, it was complete and utter destruction and devastation for really our entire industry and every supplier associated with the event industry. It's a hundreds of billion dollar in the United States alone industry, and it was brought literally to its knees. I mean, just for some context so that your audience understands our inability to limp along, we went from having the best quarter ever in our company's history, we had the biggest event ever in the company's history, 100 employees, a $9 million quarter, a $7 million month, and these numbers for us were exponentially larger than anything we had ever experienced. We had 100 employees, near 100, 75 full-time Steelheaders, and then a bunch of subcontractors to help us execute the work that we were so fortunate to be awarded. That was in February.

Rhiannon Andersen: And then March, April and May, we just proceeded to lose our asses, no revenue, a constant barrage of events being canceled, and weeks where I was laying off 10s, 20 people at a time. And it was just heart wrenching. It was so hard. So here we stand almost a year later. We've literally had near zero revenue. We tried to do some pivoting to the virtual side.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah, especially when you didn't know how long it would be.

Rhiannon Andersen: Truly. Yeah. And we can talk more about the pivot to virtual and its success or lack thereof, if you are inclined. But now we stand almost a year later, we have seven people on payroll who are all part-time, me included. It's mostly our executive leadership team, and not events currently on the docket. And we haven't executed an event since February, I believe, so it's been really challenging. Yeah.

Polly Yakovich: You're just riding it out.

Rhiannon Andersen: We're riding it out. Yeah, as I mentioned, we're innovators and we like to work, and we love supporting our customers. And so once it became clear that events were at a full standstill for an undefined period of time, we pivoted really hard to create virtual engagement solutions for our customers so that they could too, stay connected to their customers. And it was received with a lukewarm welcome. And we really attribute that to people not wanting to do that. They love events. They love trade shows. People love people. It's a human being way, and so to just be fully remote from all of our offices and having to be on the screen constantly, we really felt a lot of pushback. And that pushback is still existing. People are doing it because they have to, not because they want to.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. 100%. So how do you ... Because I think this is one of the things that I admire so much about you, and I know that this answer isn't just a pithy, one, two, three equation. But can you ... I think for a lot of people listening, they've run the gamut of what 2020 and COVID has done for business, and obviously, you're on the far end of catastrophic for your industry. How do you do that well? How do you do that in a healthy way for your mind? How do you do that in a loving way when you're laying off employees? What has that meant for you as an owner and entrepreneur, especially at a time when you're, I think also, you're sleeping and going to planning to come back strong as soon as you can? How do you do that for yourself? How do you maintain your cultural values even as you're making those hard decisions?

Rhiannon Andersen: I'll just start by saying it wasn't easy. And it took a lot of mental processing to land in the place that I'm about to describe to you, which is really where I find myself and where I've been for the majority of the journey, sync the universe. But everything I had worked for professionally, which really carried over heavily into my personal life as well, because when we talk about culture, I can expand on my feelings towards the Steelheaders. But I was just watching everything that we had created literally be deconstructed right in front of my face at a pace that was head spinning. It was just craziness. And the way that I made sense of it was, one, personally as a woman, was just a ton of self care, just putting time aside for me to kind of get my foundation built with the resources I could control.

Polly Yakovich: And also, for everyone listening, when Rhiannon says, "As a woman, self care," she's a business owner. She's a mother of two, she has all the responsibilities that all of us have, so I want to make sure that we all hear what she's saying through the lens of she is pretty busy inside and outside of work too. So I think Rhiannon and I talk a lot about self care, but I think it's worth definitely not skipping over for those of us who are like, "Oh, well, maybe she has time for that." She doesn't. She makes time for that.

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah. And it's not like, "Oh, I'm getting a massage." It's more I'm tending to my mental state through very intentional time that I set aside to just get myself together before I venture into the world that I was dealing with and still dealing with, which just total chaos. But I had an epiphany, and it really changed my perspective that 2020 wasn't because of anything that we had done wrong. We didn't mismanage our business and find ourselves in a cluster fuck. We literally were handed, and excuse this word, which we're all publicly sick of, but this very unprecedented situation.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. You were handed a nightmare.

Rhiannon Andersen: A nightmare, and not one of my own creation, and not one that was at the hands of bad karma, or my business partner having done something wrong. We were literally dealt an anomaly. And everybody was going through difficulty, everybody really in the entire world was on some level compromised by what was happening. And I realized in that moment that the only way that I could lead was by coming from a place of love and compassion for everybody, for my vendors, who I couldn't pay, for my friends, who I was literally having to let go out into an abyss of unemployment that was unlike anything anybody had ever seen, for my business partner, who had bad days, and couldn't rise to every occasion with the amount of gusto because he was also hurting and suffering because of what we were going through.

Rhiannon Andersen: And it was just deciding to handle everything by loving more. Just let me love. Let me just feel compassion for all of the circumstances that I'm being presented with because none of us asked for this, and I didn't do anything wrong. None of us have done anything wrong, and it was just really kind of this mantra that I had in my mind that kept my mind right as I was navigating. You know?

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. And I think I want to kind of step back and talk about culture, but I think that mindset is an extension of who you are and why you built such a tight, close knit culture. I see your Instagram posts now. You're hanging out with your team, who's obviously not working for you right now, but you're all so very close. Why is culture so important to you? What do you feel like if we for a moment put this year aside and look at before and after this nightmare is over? What does culture add for your business, practically and otherwise?

Rhiannon Andersen: Sure. So first, because I'm just revealing all the good [inaudible 00:14:41].

Polly Yakovich: I love it.

Rhiannon Andersen: But the want for culture is super selfish.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Rhiannon Andersen: It's super selfish, but it has a positive outpouring I think for everybody that's involved with our organization. But it really starts with my desire to work in an environment that feels awesome. I want to love it because if I'm not loving it, how the leader goes, so will go the rest of the team.

Polly Yakovich: 100%.

Rhiannon Andersen: And so, yeah, I wanted to be stoked to go to work, and I want to high five and hug my employees, and I want to laugh. And I want to go good, great, stressful work with people who I know have my back because they care about me. And yeah, so from that perspective, it's first and foremost me as a human being, I want it. So I have been so fortunate to be in the position to create it with my business partner, and so that's what we've done because being around awesome people matters to us as humans.

Rhiannon Andersen: I think then it just has a major ripple effect out because we want to care and love about our Steelheaders. And then that's reciprocated. They love and care about us. Right? And then because they're loved and cared about, then they want to take good care of the customers who fuel the economic engine that keep kind of the awesomeness afloat. And then they will care and love on the vendors and suppliers. And so it really just has this compound effect that is magnificent. It is just sheer awesomeness. And then the whole thing kind of wrapped up into this ball just becomes an energy of its own, and it's its own vibe. It's not just Rhiannon being the cheerleader, or Sean, or the other great people who are involved. It just becomes this collective of people who all love what they do and love who they do it with. And it's just really, really cool to be able to. I don't even say I created it, but yeah, maybe we were the catalysts at the beginning. But now, it's like I have just been so blessed to be a steward of it, and man, it's awesome.

Polly Yakovich: I think it's so important because you live it. Right?

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah.

Polly Yakovich: And it's almost like I compare it sometimes to parenting. It's like you can say things all day, and your employees and your kids and whomever else in your life will do the things that you do. They'll copy what you do. They'll live into the vibe you're living out. You can't tell people to love your clients. You have to demonstrate it. You have to make that part of the air that you breathe.

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah. And I'll tell you one huge shift for Steelhead. So we've been, as owners, Sean and I, one of our first exercises, because we read the book, Good to Great.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. Great book.

Rhiannon Andersen: And the subsequent books that followed thereafter, but we put in place values. And they weren't just words like positivity, and then not live it. We really sat with it and took it super seriously. And it wasn't just about having them displayed throughout. It was like, "How do we live and breathe these values inside the organization?" And they had been a great beacon for us for many, many years. They were just this good kind of point of light to reference back to. We had some personnel changes happen a few years ago, and we decided, and we realized that some of those shakeups that occurred, really because happened in retrospect, because we weren't living the values fully. Superficially, and I think a lot of companies, it's easy to say, "Optimism," and then you could put some great Insta posts about that. But when you're feeling shitty, is your value going to shift your being? Right?

Rhiannon Andersen: And so when with had these shakeups, we decided we're going to really double down on our values, straight up, and we're going to integrate them in every way possible. We're going to hire. We're going to coach. We're going to part ways with based on our values. And when you choose to double down on values, you realize that your values aren't for everybody. And though some parting of ways is difficult, it also then filters out those that really want it and are all about it. And then you just get a tighter, more condensed essence of it, which is what happened. And you part ways, and you just kind of wish people to find whatever it is that's going to make them tick. But then our culture became stronger because of it, and our business grew because of it, because now we just had a group of very impassioned people who were going to fight for Steelhead, and that's so awesome.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. Can you think of anything else that you intentionally did as part of that process?

Rhiannon Andersen: The values?

Polly Yakovich: Yeah, yeah.

Rhiannon Andersen: The values building?

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah, yeah. I can say a few things, actually. So when you make a statement that your employees are the lifeblood of your organization, and that we're going to run this values based company, and you really, really commit to it, then you ask yourself, "How can we fully embody sustainability as one of our values?" So it's easy to say, "We're going to recycle, and we're going to put bins, and we're going to do these things and give everybody water bottles." And then it's like, but when you choose for it to be the way you exist in the world, then you start asking, "Okay, outside of the standard, what are other things that we can do on a larger scale to bring our values to life? How can we take it from inside the organization? And how can we expand it out into the world?" And really, that pursuit led us to applying for B corp, which we're in the process of being a certified B corp company. And I'm so excited. I'll be announcing, hopefully, our receiving of that delineation sometime in 2021.

Polly Yakovich: Nice.

Rhiannon Andersen: But it led to that. When we have things like gratitude and having a committee to help give back, and then really just extending that out to the full Steelhead community, it really just starts to kind of get, your values get a life of their own. And then people aren't just excited about the work they do, they're excited about the type of company they work for as well, so it just really has a great compound effect to it.

Polly Yakovich: Did you use that too, to build your company initiatives around? Because talking about sustainability as a value leading to a massive project to become a B corp is a huge thing. And I know that you do a lot of community outreach events and are very philanthropic. So was it helpful for you to put sort of timely pieces, or committees, or plans around those values?

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah, absolutely. We look to the values to drive all of our behaviors. And in getting bigger, because now we're really not a small company. Well, now practically, we are, but in 2019 and early 2020, our ability to execute on a larger scale requires leaning on our people and decentralizing the effort, so that not everything having to do with culture is coming from me as the CMO, so really creating accountability groups, which is a great way. It has proven to be a great way to get our employees involved in other things that they care about because so many, I mean, all of us are multifaceted human beings, and we all have passions outside of work.

Rhiannon Andersen: And if your place of employment can help fuel something outside of what you do every day, it's really quite awesome. It's an awesome opportunity for our employees. So we have people on the committee for giving back. And then we have people on the committee for sustainability, and people on the committee putting together wellness events. And it helps fuel them personally and professionally.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah, that's incredible.

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah.

Polly Yakovich: I want to pivot a little bit to talking about you as CMO. It's hard to cover all the hats you wear because you do a lot.

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah.

Polly Yakovich: But one of the things that I really admire about you and probably admire, I have the same inclination, but admire that you actually take the time to do this much more than I do, is what an avid learner you are. You're always reading probably 10 books at once. So talk about that desire for learning and how it's really fueled you as a CMO. How do you use it to expand your skills and your leadership and give you new ideas? What does it do for you?

Rhiannon Andersen: Sure. So I am humble in my humanness, and I know that there are a lot of people who have mastered areas of my life that don't necessarily come so easy to me, or that I'm not super passionate about, or really haven't been exposed to. So in that kind of humility, I approach most everything in my life with a student mindset. And I don't claim to know all of the things. And so A, I either want to be surrounded by the people who are experts in their area of expertise, or I want to read about it from people who know it much better than I do. And I don't really know where that desire comes from, but it has been a desire that I've had for as long as I can remember. And it absolutely does fuel me, and I believe that it makes me better. It makes me a better mom, a better partner, a better CMO. It's not just reserved to my professional existence. I just want to learn about the best from the best, which requires me to extend myself out for sure.

Polly Yakovich: Do you find yourself just always taking away something from whatever you're consuming that you can bring back to your team? What is the balance between how you sort of incorporate that back into your life without getting overwhelmed? Because I feel like there's so much out there.

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah. It's just the nuggets and a micro movement. So if I read a book and I get one great idea, just recently, I'm reading a book about parenting. And I'll have one takeaway, and I'm like, "That's it. That's what this book did for me." And it made me incrementally better in motherhood, and that's awesome. And if we just have a bunch of micro movements in the right direction, we will find ourselves on this trajectory of growth, and in every area of our life. And so really, that's just what I try to do, is just kind of, I'm not looking for the silver bullet. You know?

Polly Yakovich: Yes.

Rhiannon Andersen: Just all the little exposures that will help me be the best version of me.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. I think what you're describing too is something that's obviously a scientific principle, but I've come to appreciate it more and more, which is just inertia.

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah.

Polly Yakovich: Taking each little next step gets you in the flow, and then it becomes easier with all those little steps to stay in the flow to get out of the flow.

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah, absolutely. No, 1000%, yeah. And I think 2020-

Polly Yakovich: Really got a lot of us out of the flow.

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah. No kidding. It was like the momentum stopped.

Polly Yakovich: Oh, my goodness. Yeah.

Rhiannon Andersen: And we're all just as a collective restarting our engines. Right?

Polly Yakovich: Yep.

Rhiannon Andersen: And it was really important to me throughout 2020 not to come to a full halt. I don't do well like that. And so I realized that kind of early on, thanks goodness, but just kept pushing myself, even though it was super difficult.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. Talk a little bit about, and this can go wherever we want it to go, but I'm really interested in hearing from women talking about their leadership journey, and just really some of the lessons you've learned along the way. I think for me personally, a lot of the things that I've learned from Rhiannon that have been very inspiring, and that I think about a lot are about how she, and I don't like the word balance because I don't think it really exists, but how she sort of juggles and ebbs and flows all the areas and responsibilities of her life and the way that she chooses to spend her time. So talk a little bit just about what your leadership journey has been like and sort of what you've come to ... What advice would you give for people who are growing in leadership, but also have all the responsibilities outside of work that they have as well?

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah. So it has been a journey because here I find myself at 44 with a five year old and a 20 year old, and a relatively good sized business, and as you mentioned, I've done all the things, been on the boards and been president of organizations and things like that. And kind of I think where I find myself now, one, I don't hate on any part of the process that I've gone through because when I was in my 30s, I was so trying to prove to the universe that a curly haired tattooed Puerto Rican girl could make her way professionally. And I did it with this really rebellious nature, and I was fighting against a lot of norms that existed in our industry, which is very corporate. It's very white collar. It's very male dominated from an upper executive level. And here I am, the owner of a company, and it's surprising to people.

Rhiannon Andersen: And I just did it with a little bit of an attitude. And I don't hate on myself for that, but I look back and I'm like, "I don't know that was really all so necessarily, just being this black sheep." And I just embodied it. I remember going to this big industry event, and I just had a blonde Mohawk. And I'm like, "No." I'm rolling up my dress shirt sleeves, blonde Mohawk and tattoos. That's just how I'm going to show up. And not because that's just who I was, but I was really trying to be rebellious. And now I laugh at that version of myself because I don't really care about that anymore. But it's been fun.

Rhiannon Andersen: One piece of advice, and just maybe not even advice, but something that I've learned, I did a lot of things because that's what somebody like me as a CMO and owner of a bigger business should do. And I sacrificed myself and I sacrificed time with my family because that's what I should be doing. I should be the chair of the board. I should be the president of the organization. I should have a full-time nanny. I should go to work when it's dark. I should come home when it's dark. And I did that damage to myself, and it just ... I learned a lot about my ability to sustain that level of sacrifice. And for me, and this is a completely individual statement, it is not worth it.

Rhiannon Andersen: It is not worth it to literally kiss my two year old while she's sleeping, and come home and put her to bed. It just, no amount of money. And I realized ultimately, having kind of ran myself into the ground and then figured out how to decentralize the work and give people a little bit more accountability and let go of the reins a little bit, I realized I could continue to be as successful without the amount of sacrifice that I was sacrificing. And it was a lesson that I learned, but I really had to hit the skids to decide that sort of being wasn't for me.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. I like that somebody put it this way because I am also somebody who likes to do a lot of things. And you can find one of those things, particularly when it's your business becoming like a monster that needs just constant feeding until you make some of those choices. And somebody described it to me as like your portfolio. Right? What percentage of time? And you know, and I think lots of people know that my husband Kevin and I own another business as well, a butcher shop here in Seattle, and so it's like when you think about your portfolio, it's like, "What percentage of time do you want to give your home life?" Realistically, what is that percent of time? And then what percent of time can this business take? And you only have the hours in the day that everyone else has.

Polly Yakovich: And I think that some of those percentages ebb and flow. But how do you now think about, and maybe now being when you're working and having decentralized and let go of some of that stuff, how do you think about that balance for yourself? What does that look like for you just as an example?

Rhiannon Andersen: I'm so not set up to think like that, as just this loose thinking, flowy creative person. So thinking about life in buckets is really hard for me because I just want to have work life integration. And I want work to feel so good that it just doesn't feel like work. That's truly my goal. Right now, I could say, "I'm talking to my friend, Polly. Or I'm on a podcast, or both." You know?

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Rhiannon Andersen: So this feels really awesome, and I want my ... I'm working for my existence to just feel like that. And so it would have no boundaries. It would have no bucket. It would have no part of a piece on a pie graph. I don't want to think about it like that. I'll tell you that there are some things that are really important to me, and maybe, and these are my non negotiables. I need time for myself in the morning. I have to have it. I have to have it. I like to make breakfast for my family. I like to be with my kids when they wake up, to hold my daughter when she is all kind of clammy and has frizzy hair. I just, hmm, it's so yummy. And I don't need two hours of it, but I want a piece of that. And then I like to be home with my family for dinner. I like to cook. I like to have music on and candles going.

Rhiannon Andersen: And so if I can have those pieces that now I've figured out are just critical for me to have more nights than not. If I start to give away those things, I lose my center. And so if I can have those things, and then I can have this, I love what I do during the day sort of vibe, then I'm just a really happy human.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah, wherever you are, because you're traveling a lot, and you have a very nomadic life, in the nicest possible way, because you love to travel, as I do, so those are kind of things I think you can take with you, which are beautiful.

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah, totally. And they're just vitally, vitally important to me. And I've learned how important because I went a while without having them and realized that's where sadness and frustration was coming from.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. Talk to me a little bit about, this has been so fun, and I just have a couple things I want to ... This is personally, I just am always curious about how Rhiannon's actually doing all the things that she does, and gain those nuggets of inspiration from women that I really admire. Talk to me just a little bit about what your advice would be for either entrepreneurs or women coming up in marketing. Sort of what are the things that you think are the things to focus on? What are the takeaways and your advice for people in those positions who are maybe starting an event business?

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah. Just in general, so well, two things that have understandings that have proven to aid in my success as a marketer. One, it's the understanding of just innate human behavior.

Polly Yakovich: Yes.

Rhiannon Andersen: Like freaking humanness, man. We're all human. I am in charge of a business, running a business, that is a business to business entity. But I am marketing to human beings. I am marketing to women that go through the same things that other women go through. And so it's to remember just that we're all human beings, and when we understand what drives humanity, I think we will be better at marketing.

Polly Yakovich: So much better than a chart, or a report, or anything that you could look at.

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah. Absolutely. And it's hard because we're so trained, technically trained, to stay really focused on: What's that activity on that web page doing? Or how many downloads, or whatever? And we're just all humans, and so that's one piece. And then the other is to really recognize, and whether you like it or you don't like it is a completely different part of the conversation, but that we are an integration of human and technology in the digital space. The amount of screen time, if we just were to calculate the way we're being human, we are more virtually human than we are real humans because we just have a screen and that's where we engage all the time. And so you all have opinions about it, but just that's a fact. And so if that's the fact, then understanding that medium is probably the most important thing for marketers today to understand, to understand that we are humans, but this is our interface, hands down.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. That's going to be a challenge for quite a while I think.

Rhiannon Andersen: It just may be forever.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Rhiannon Andersen: I don't see it switching gears any time soon.

Polly Yakovich: It's so true, especially with AI and all the virtual reality developments, it's going to be such an interesting time, and an interesting time for events when they come back. Are you looking ahead to any trends? Or are you sort of just pausing and seeing what the world looks like when you return?

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah. It's difficult I think for anybody to predict because just everything changes every day. I am itching to be with people. And I still have, I'm a little bit of a rebel in that way, but I need it to feel good. And I try to feel good with people as much as, so that I'm not super judged about it. But I think people are, once it's the green light, I think people are going to want to gather. People are going to want to go to dinner, and they're going to want to go to events, and they're going to want to travel. And I can imagine that there will be, once the green light is really, really clear, I think that there's going to be a resurgence. I hope for it. I want it as a business owner, but I want it more as a human being.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. I agree.

Rhiannon Andersen: Yeah. And what that looks like, I don't know. It could be a trickle, or it just could be this floodgate that's opened. But yeah, that's what I'm hoping for.

Polly Yakovich: So I close every interview asking this question that I got off a research friend that I love so much. And that is just to say, "What do you think your superpower is?"

Rhiannon Andersen: Well, I spoke to it earlier, but thank you for peppering me with some questions beforehand because if you would've just sprung this one me, I would've been mad. [inaudible 00:40:29] thinking. But I think approaching life as a student has just served me more than any other way of being, truly. I'm a student. I want to learn. I want to learn about everything. I want to learn about business and all of the ways I am as a human, I just want to learn about that from as many different perspectives as I can. And it has influenced me in great ways. And so yeah, being a student.

Polly Yakovich: That's incredible. I think that's such a gift. That's an incredible superpower. I love that one. So I know you're a little bit quiet on the business kind of front right now. Where can people learn about you, stay in the wings? I know steelhead.com has so much. That's not. It's exhibithappy.com. Is it?

Rhiannon Andersen: Both. Steelhead Productions, steelheadproductions.com, Exhibit Happy, yep, they go to the same spot.

Polly Yakovich: There's a lot of you and Sean's thinking both about events and things like that. What are you doing right now? Where can people keep up with you? You have a really cool new Instagram that you've been working on.

Rhiannon Andersen: I do. Instagram is the platform that I like to play around on personally. And so I've actually kind of created a passion project. It's called Hello Rituals, and it's a representation of the process that I've gone through as a woman, just to kind of keep my equilibrium. I'm sharing all of the ways that I've nurtured my own soul through really one of the most difficult periods of my life. And so I have a website. It's hellorituals.com. I blog. I share my favorite products. I post a lot of inspo sort of things on Instagram. It's my, I would say, it's the recipe that I've used to keep my balance. And I want to share it because I think a lot of women, though it may not be as extreme as what I've gone through in 2020, but I think on some level, women lose their footing and aren't living from the inside out. They're living from the outside in and feel super depleted. And it's just me simply kind of sharing the journey that I've been on, that I am on, actually, continuously. Yeah, but I love it. It's a good juxtaposition to this corporate endeavor. And then there's the soul of the person who's going out into the universe and doing a lot of these hard things, so yeah.

Polly Yakovich: I will say personally that I smile every time I see a post. It really does lift up my day. Rhiannon's out there curating things that are really going to give you life and meditations and moments, and reminding us to stop and breathe. It's really a beautiful expression. And I've always looked up to you, but I really look up to you as somebody who really lives out that culture that she builds with her our team and our family and our friends, and just lives the life that she wants to see everyone live. And so thank you for sharing it with us.

Rhiannon Andersen: Oh, my gosh. It is absolutely my pleasure.

Polly Yakovich: Thanks for coming and chatting with me today. I want to do it every day, but thanks for coming in.

Rhiannon Andersen: Polly, we have to have wine.

Polly Yakovich: Yes.

Rhiannon Andersen: It's our time, soon, soon hopefully.

Polly Yakovich: Yes, yes. All right. Thank you so much.

Rhiannon Andersen: You're welcome. Thank you.

Outro: Thanks for listening to this episode of A Brave New Podcast. Go to abravenew.com for more resources and advice. If you enjoyed this episode, show us some love by subscribing, rating and reviewing A Brave New Podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts.


Polly Yakovich

Polly Yakovich



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