126 - Getting TRACTION with Ashley Hiester - Transcription - John Laurito

126 – Getting TRACTION with Ashley Hiester – Transcription

#126- Getting TRACTION With Ashley Hiester 

John (Intro): I have been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good. After running companies small and large for the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito and I’m your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic: What makes the best leaders so good? Welcome to Tomorrow’s Leader

John: Hey, they’re Tomorrow’s Leader, so, yeah, you know, I can be tough on businesses sometimes it just frustrates me when I see businesses that should be doing certain things and could be doing things better. It all comes down to leadership. On the same end, I always love to see businesses that are doing it right. And today’s guest does it right. She is someone who is a great entrepreneur, a great business owner, and most importantly, a great leader. This is Ashley Hiester, who runs the Ashley’s Harvest Moon Bakery Cafe located in Holly Springs. I’ve been going there for a long time. This is my free plug just because I love the place and I’m like, I’ve got to find out who the leader of this place is. And just I’d love to have this person on my podcast. And so I got connected with Ashley. I asked her all kinds of great questions that I was curious to know how she did it and turned this place around in such a short period of time. And you will not be disappointed. So here we go. 

John: All right. Welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dove deep on all things leader-related, related to leaving yourself and leading others. I’m John Laurito, your host today with a great guest. And let me just set the stage for this. I want to introduce our guest in a way of my own personal experience. I have been to this fantastic coffee shop that I’ve been going through for the last six months. And I’m like, wow, this place is just totally turned around. I love turnaround stories and it always comes down to the leader. So I got in touch with the owner who we have here today, Ashley. She owns Ashley’s Harvest Moon Bakery Cafe in Holly Springs, an absolute dynamite place. So absolutely welcome and thanks for doing it. 

Ashley: Yes. Thank you so much for having me on. Excited to be here. 

John: Yeah, me too. You know, we talked. I know. And obviously, I’ve gotten to know each other a little bit. You know, as I mentioned, I love turnaround stories and I walk in and, you know, I do our Monday morning meetings at your place, we start our week and we do all of 

our business plan for the week. And it’s just this really great place, great environment, great, great service, great coffee. And it wasn’t that way before you. And I know you. You got into this last year, so I’d love to hear the story. How did you get into this business? And I got a whole bunch of questions I want to ask. 

Ashley: Yeah, absolutely. So kind of how it all started. So I graduated from NC State back in May. I was just sitting down at dinner one night having a conversation about, you know, Ashley, what would you do if you made your money and, you know, could pick anything what would it be? And I just said my dream would be to own a donut coffee shop bakery, you know. Once I made it that would be the dream. My dad was like, well, what’s stopping you? I had no answer. I was in a job at that time doing marketing stuff and kind of not doing what I was passionate about. So I went on my lunch break one day, found Harvest Moon. Me and

my dad toured it, loved it, fell in love with the people who owned it before and we were like, this is it. I’m meant to be here. So we took the leap and here we are six months later, doing awesome. And I’m glad that you guys have enjoyed it as well. 

John: Yeah. I mean, I guess we started going there in July, which is only a few months after. When was it actually that you bought the place? 

Ashley: So I came in at the end of July when I looked at it and bought it and then opened it. August 8th was our official opening day. 

John: So that might have been right around the time we started. I think maybe it was August because I moved down here in July. Wow, what a difference. I mean, it wasn’t like it took a long time. Because a lot of businesses, it really kind of ramps up. It takes a while. You’ve got all kinds of things you’ve got to do from figuring out what’s going to be on the menu to really getting the right people and training them. How did you do it so fast? 

Ashley: So I always tell people it’s kind of an acquired situation more than just, you know, opening a bakery. But I think one of the amazing parts about it was actually Covid, believe it or not. Covid is really the only reason I was able to one, afford getting in there. Two, I was kind of able to, because that was kind of closed down in that time, inch in towards learning everything. I mean, part of that business, is because, you know, it wasn’t right out of the gate that we were just flooded with people asking questions and coming in. I mean, it was quarantining and staying inside. And so it really was a blessing to be able to afford this place and to just be able to open it and learn everything as we went. 

John: So in a way, it was a blessing almost. 

Ashley: Yes, 100%. 

John: And for people now or who like to listen to this at a different time, here we are in February of 2021. So we’re still in Covid. It’s not like we’re out of the woods by any means. But what was that, I mean, most people, did you have hesitation? I mean, that’s fearful for many people to start a business in and of itself, let alone to do it in the middle of a pandemic. 

Ashley: Definitely. Especially, you know, being the age that I am and having the limited experience that I do. I was 100% fearful. And I just thought it might be a crazy thing to do because I am 23 just coming into it and not knowing a single thing. And, you know, eventually you just kind of have to get out of your own way. You just believe in yourself. And that was the kicker for me was I just kind of got over my fears. And obviously, it was a lot more difficult than just saying I got over it. And I just went for it you know? You just got to ignore your insecurities and just see what happens. And that’s kind of what happened. 

John: Yeah. I mean, that’s you know, that’s easy to say, but it’s really hard to do. That’s the other thing I will say. When I was, and I’m always fascinated by businesses that turn around. It does always come down to leadership because many businesses have great products or services that they fail or they can apply to, and it’s because of leadership and others that grow exponentially. And you certainly have. So when I was trying to figure out with the owner was I just expected that somebody who had 20 plus years of running restaurants and businesses and whatnot, and here you are. 23 years old, you took this leap and you’ve done

unbelievably well as a leader and a business owner, which just fascinates me even more. But talk to the audience and myself about your, if you’re willing to open up about, what were your insecurities coming into this and how did you because leaders deal with that all the time. They take on a new challenge and they get a promotion or buy a business. How did you kind of reframe your thinking and get to a place where obviously you have the confidence that you need to do this? 

Ashley: Yeah, 100%? And, you know, my dad always said this to me. This is a saying that kind of helps me through and it might help a lot of people, too, is “You have what you need if you know what you have.” So I’ll just kind of talk about that a little bit. I knew that I loved people. I knew that I was, I would like to think that I’m good at loving people, serving people, and bringing value to their life. So I just kind of focused on that more so than the other little things. You know, as you said I have very little experience, maybe have 3 or 4 years in a restaurant business, but absolutely no clue how to run one. What I say, the main way that I got over the insecurities was just knowing that if I loved people, cared about them, they would follow me. And so another part of that, too, is hiring a staff that is strong in the ways that you’re weak. 

Ashley: I think that that was a huge thing for me because my staff has pretty much over 10 years of experience working in restaurants. Baking, cooking, whatever that may be. And so eventually I just had to realize, you know, I couldn’t get stuck on the little things. But first, I wanted to be perfect in every part of the business like the financial side. Learning, the I don’t know, math equations like going to payroll and stuff. And I was getting so hung up on those things, I was like, oh, my gosh, I got overwhelmed. I thought I couldn’t do it. And eventually, you know, I just realized you could use other people to be strong where you’re weak. So really the only thing I had to care about was making sure that our values were aligned and that we could really take care of people, have something special. 

John: Well, that’s interesting because a lot of leaders might have been leading organizations for 20, 30 years and they still have not come to that conclusion or maybe they’ve heard it. That they need to hire their weaknesses and surround yourself with great people that are, in essence, better than you in reality. And your job as a leader is to help make your team better than you. Your instincts told you to do that. And how is it leading people? That’s also a challenge for leaders, too. When you have people that are so talented and as a leader coming in, you might be thinking, wow, these people know a lot more than I do about this. How do I lead them? What do you do? How do you lead somebody like that? 

Ashley: Oh, I would say what I did, and I don’t know what it’s worth because I don’t have much experience, but I think that if you love people enough to steer them in the right direction, they’re going to respect you no matter what age you are. So I think the easiest way to do that is to one, like we spoke about earlier, to come up with core values and kind of set your vision early of what you want this place to be and then, you know, help people buy into that vision and to understand what it is that this place is about, and then you can steer them in that direction much easier, and it is a complete challenge. That was probably the hardest thing. That is the hardest thing about my job now is, you know, loving my people enough, even though they have 20 plus years experience on me, is that, you know, things have to be a certain way if you want to make it a consistent experience for everyone. And so I would say definitely loving them enough to tell them what they’re doing wrong or right to support it.

John: And that’s also an important word. Love, love them enough. It’s not coming from a bad place. It’s coming from a good place. And when you’re talking about the vision and values, talk to me a little bit about the values of the organization and not just what they are, because I’d love to know what are the core values, but also how did you, how did that come about? Was it something that you put out there and try to get buy-in? Or did you do it together with a team? I mean, how did you create that? 

Ashley: Yeah. And so the most important book that I’ve read so far was called Traction. I bought a copy of it. And basically the author, Gino Wickman is his name, recommends that businesses get their team together and they basically come up with their core values. And that’s exactly what we did. So, you know, I got everybody together. One night after hours, we got pizza. Everybody sat around. My dad and his assistant were the hosts and they had the big sticky note pads hanging all over the bakery pretty much. And my question was, if you guys could clone three people to dominate this industry, who would you pick and why? So everybody went around and someone was describing, you know, each of the characteristics of that person that set for the fun that they made. And so with that, you know, we just narrowed it down to these five that we have. And I think that was a huge step for us because it not only created the values, but it let people feel like they were part of a team and that they had a hand in molding how this business was going to be moving forward. 

John: That is so important. Because your team now has buy-in because they created and think of how powerful that is. And just all the leaders out there, when you’re thinking about and you’re listening to this and thinking about your own organization, how much buy-in do you have to the value core values. Was it something somebody walked in, granted maybe the office has been around for 20 years and somebody just came into the organization a 

year ago or this year. But how much ownership do they have in that? In your case, everybody was part of creating those values. Love that. And what are they? What do they want? What did you come up with? 

Ashley: Yeah. So I can kind of unpack them a little bit more than just listing them. But our first one is Servant’s Heart. I think in any restaurant that’s very important, for any business for that matter. It’s just kind of making sure that your team loves people as much as you do and is going to take care of them and put them first. And I think that’s really important. Our second one is being a team player. You know, I think when someone comes in with a bad 

attitude, it’s very obvious and it’s contagious, unfortunately, that if someone’s bad, bad mood, you know, it’s going to surround the people that they’re with and it’s going to affect their mood, too. So I think being a team player to us means coming in, ready to be a positive light and impact that business in a good way. And not only that but their team, their other team members, too. Our third one is hard working. Like I said, in any restaurant business, you’re going to be working hard is what I learned. And it’s a good thing. But when people come in, you know, when a customer walks in that door, it’s game time. They have to be committed to serving that person and keeping the place up to the standard. 

Ashley: And my fourth one is dedicated. So just my main reason for that one was because I don’t want people to just come in and punch a clock, which is so easy to do in this industry especially. It’s just, kind of go through the motions. But I wanted my people to be invested in it. You want them to see, how can I make this place better every day? And I’ve seen it tons of times. You know, our bakers, they create stuff all the time and it’s really cool. They’re

always trying to come up with new recipes, new things. And we just came up with a new dating system for us that made it so much easier and efficient for dating food that has been in the case and stuff. And so I think that that was amazing. And finally, my last one is eager. Which to us means always wanting to grow. Right now we’re really working on cross-training everyone. And so that was something that was brought up in the meeting that everyone wants to know how to do everything in case something were to happen, which especially with Covid is really important because if something were to happen, we want everybody to be able to fill in where others fall. 

John: So that’s fantastic. Is the difference between, though, having creating values that just stick on a wall or on a sheet of paper and never go back to that versus really living those values? How do you make sure, are there times, for example, when you see people, some of the team that are not living in a living or working in alignment with that, whether it’s the attitude or dedication or whatnot, and not displaying those core values? And what do you do as a leader, how do you handle that? 

Ashley: I think having the core values makes it extremely easy to see when someone is not acting accordingly or following those core values. And once you set them in place, it becomes really easy to tell them when they’re falling short because they helped you create those core values. So it’s almost like in those situations when people are falling short or losing sight of the vision, you can say, hey, this is where you’re falling short and you help me create this place, what’s going on? And I think at first when you’re doing it it’s tough, so tough to hear, especially when it’s coming from someone who’s a lot younger than you. You’re like, I get a lot, but why are you telling me what to do? You don’t know what you’re doing, kind of thing, but you’re looking for it in the end. And I think because it’s only out of love. 

John: And do you have some of the team themselves? Do they kind of protect those values, too? I mean, are they calling each other out or even high-fiving each other when they see those values come to life or when they see somebody off track? 

Ashley: 100%. You know, and there have been so many examples in our business now with our team. Sometimes things just happen. And there was a certain conversation that I had. And as soon as that employee kind of snapped out of the funk that they were in, everybody around him was like, hey, what happened? You’re a completely different person. Like people noticed it. And I think it changed that person’s life for the better. And everybody around him was encouraging them. OK, I love this version of you, keep up the good work. So 100%, and especially after that becomes a lot easier. 

John: Yeah, that’s awesome. I love that. So how does it look when you have somebody come into the organization, you’re hiring somebody new? You’ve already established these values in this culture and everybody’s protective over it because they were participating in creating them. How do you kind of dip somebody into that? And when does that start? How does that look? I think a lot of leaders would be interested in that. 

Ashley: Yeah. So luckily, I haven’t had to hire anybody yet after creating these values. I think that’s a good thing because people are staying there and wanting to work. But certainly in the future, when we hire people, we’re going to go through every single one of those values that we set in place and kind of make sure that that person checks off all the boxes

and that they’re aware ahead of time. “Hey, this is what we require of you. Is this something that you can commit to?f” And I think that will set us apart from other bakeries and other restaurants in the industry. I think you know, not settling is very important, especially when you’re dealing with your team. 

John: Definitely. I think that’s important. That’s something that in the hiring process, I mean, that’s really part of the interview process, I guess. Yeah. To go through and see how do they fit within that. It’s not trying. It’s just I see a lot of businesses that they’re settling on. They’re 

either doing one or two things, either they’re settling on people because they feel like they just need somebody and they know the person doesn’t fit. That’s one problem. Or they don’t really have a way to measure this person against any kind of standards. They don’t have core values. They don’t have a way to say, does this person fit? Didn’t even have that piece of it. So I see that as a really common problem. How important do you think it is just in general not even just business, but in general, to surround yourself with the right people? 

Ashley: Oh, I 100% think that you are who you hang around. I think it’s so important to surround yourself with people that are better than you. I know that oftentimes people are intimidated by others who are smarter or whatever, but there’s always going to be someone who does something better than you. And I think that it’s important to surround yourself with people that make you better, that make you smarter. And I think that’s true in business and in friendships, whatever it may be. I think it’s extremely important to make you better as a person too. 

John: Absolutely. So those people that have, and many people do have people in their life or in their business that are bad news or are not helping them or their organization get to where they want to get to, your strong belief is they don’t belong here. 

Ashley: I think, no matter how desperate you may think you are, hiring people that aren’t good for your business is like an illness. I think it’s, you’re never too desperate enough to sacrifice your values, what you believe in. 

John: Yeah. You know, I’ve seen different periods of time and I’ve led organizations for many years. And sometimes you think you’ve got the right person and they get them in and you realize, well, they’re not. And I’ve seen the damage that you had, that one bad hire or one bad person, how they can really infect the rest of the organization and especially a small business or a small organization. You know, you think if you’ve got 10 people, every person has 10% in terms of an influence, in terms of the culture or the organization. That’s a lot. It’s a lot different than if you’re bringing one person into an organization of one hundred. So even more important, when you’re building a business, you started with a really strong group of people which helps build the business. My guess is if you had even a great vision, which I want to talk a little bit about, but even if you had a great vision but the wrong people, that ultimately would have come together wouldn’t be you would be the place that is really right now, right? 

Ashley: Yeah. 100%. . 

John: So where do you see this going? What is your vision of Harvest Moon?

Ashley: Well certainly now I can already see that we’re growing very fast and we’re growing a lot. And I think that coming forward we’re going to have to buy new spaces, especially to meet the demands of some of our customers. We just started doing custom cakes and we’re doing them in a tiny, tiny kitchen. So you can imagine that that gets pretty cramped in there. And so certainly, especially after Covid and things start opening up again, we’re definitely going to need more space. And so that’s where I see us right now. And moving forward, we’re also just kind of I told you, I’m implementing a new system where we’re kind of tracking what’s selling and what isn’t to just kind of see what needs to be changed, what we could be doing. Could we be doing this better, more efficient? Things like that. So you’re pretty much gone right now, but I’m excited that it was a process. 

John: That is exciting to be growing like you are during this pandemic. I mean, when this whatever this is behind us and we get back to normalcy, I mean, that’s really where you’re going to see the growth of the payoff of all the great things that you’re doing. That’s terrific. So let me ask you this. Just you know, obviously you’ve had great success in a short period of time, but I also know that with great success, you had a lot of obstacles. Some of that, people don’t see they don’t see the pain or the struggle and whatnot. They had to go through. What has been the toughest thing? What’s been the hardest part of this last year? 

Ashley: I would say the toughest part is the work it takes to do what I’m doing. You know, I’ve always been very hardworking, but I never really realized how tough restaurants can be. And luckily, my team warned me of that because they worked in it for 20 years. And so I can remember on opening day, I was completely a mess, I’m sure like just running around very chaotically. And I remember it was an amazing day and we hit a huge record. We had people in right at the opening. And I remember coming home because my head hurt so bad, I threw up six times and just fell asleep because of how overwhelming that day was. But moving forward, you know, I would say the biggest challenge is just being able to believe that you are equipped to do what you’re doing. And that’s what I found for sure because at first, I was very scared, very insecure that anything would even come about this or that it would work. And so I think you just kind of jumping into it and believing in yourself and believing that your team is going to carry you through all of that is very important. And that’s kind of a couple of the challenges that we’ve seen so far is just, you know, taking care of people. 

John: Yeah. Do you have any kind of morning or daily rituals that you use to kind of get you in to your A-game, so to speak? 

Ashley: Oh, gosh. I would say well, usually in the morning, I’m a very chaotic person sometimes, especially in the morning, because I was not originally a morning person. I was more of a night owl type. So getting up at 4:45a every day was not the move at first. So my first focus was being on time and being there because I was the main baker when we first opened, so. That took some adjusting, but now I would say, I love it in the morning, it’s the best thing for me is getting up early and just getting my day started. And I listen to a really good playlist on my way to work and get my energy for the day because I definitely notice when my energy is down, people go down with me. So it’s just not an option. 

John: Yeah, that’s true. That’s a great point. You know, as a leader, it’s like your whole organization is a reflection of you. And you are in a bad mood or you’re dragging there’s no

way your people can drag you. I remember well, this just brought back a memory. I remember I took over an organization once and I remember the manager, one of the managers that worked for me, walking in with his tie and no exaggeration, dragging on the ground behind him. He was holding it in his hand and had a slump on his shoulders. And I’m like what is going on? Like, I mean, I just that’s an extreme example. But I mean, you know, people take on your disposition. And, you know, I walk into your place Harvest Moon and everybody’s friendly. Everybody’s in a great spirit. Everybody makes eye contact. They say hi, they smile even though everybody’s got masks. Well, I mean, and that’s a big difference. And when you’ve got competition out there, people have a choice because there are other coffee shops. There is another one and I don’t know anybody here. I go into your place, I know everybody there. It’s all different comfort factor and a feeling of warmth. And that starts with you. You know, you set that tone. It can be very easy for people, especially when it’s busy to just be like, you know, in their own world and not engaging with the person with the customer coming in now. 

John: And it’s funny, I have a couple of customers like you who come in every day. So they see me in all forms. And it’s kind of funny. I just had one guy come in on a Saturday and our Saturdays are crazy, they’re wide open. My hair, I guess was everywhere like just I had it up 

and it was everywhere and he was like, what happened to you? And I was like, oh God. so you know, it’s just funny. You can certainly tell when I’m busy. And he said, “You know, I know when your day is going good when your hair is messy.” And that seems like, you know me too well then. So that was fun. But yeah, it’s been awesome. So I would say the morning routine is just being in a good mood. 

John: Yeah. I think that’s so important. You know, and that’s you know, there are leaders that don’t necessarily understand to embrace that and realize how important their demeanor is. I always talk to leaders and there’s sometimes leaders that will say “I’m really frustrated with this in my organization”. And I always start with, well, let’s start with looking in the mirror. You’re frustrated people are coming in late. What do you do, are you coming in late? Or you’re frustrated with people that have a negative attitude, what’s happening with you? What’s your attitude like? And a lot of times it does stem from, you know, what the leaders do or thinking or saying or how they’re they’re behaving. One of the things I remember you said when we talked originally was about how you treat your staff and you treat your employees. I think the way you said it was, you treat them like you treat your guests. Is that what I remember you saying when I got back? 

Ashley: Yeah, I said that because, you know, they’re just as important as any customer that you’re going to have in your business. So I think I always try to treat them like my family and we take care of your family. And that’s really important. And I know that they are grateful for 

that. And especially, you know, we had a couple of people who struggled with stuff personally, and I just love them through it and try to push them in a direction of growth and, you know, improving themselves. And I think that goes a long way and helps keep your turnover down as well because people want to stay with somebody who cares about their well-being and their families. 

John: Absolutely. And then you also get people that really want to be, they want to see the organization succeed as much as you do. It’s not just collecting a paycheck. Do they

contribute? Do you tap into their brain power for ideas on marketing and things like that and new recipes? 

John: Oh, definitely. I tap into them probably more than I tap into my own, just because one of our bankers worked ten years at Disney. Her name’s Allison and she always has new ideas. She always brings up your perspective. She has collected over the years so many different cake molds and cake pops and just stuff that she brings in constantly. And it’s like, hey, can we try this? And then our other baker, she also tries to bring up new things. She’s leading the cake industry for us, and she’s awesome at that, you know. Travis, he’s always trying to come up with new specials and new recipes. And I think that’s all very important, especially when you want your buy-in from them. And you also your industry does better when you get other ideas and not just rely on your own. 

John: Definitely. Do you have customers that give feedback or ideas? 

Ashley: Oh, yeah. Customers always tell you what they feel for sure. Sometimes bad, sometimes good. But I think the people who know me and they know how much I want to be able to succeed. I always tell people, in fact, last time I made a cake, it was a new flavor for us. And I said, when you come back, I want you to give me the brutal honesty of what you felt about it, that I can prove it. And she was like she kind of laughed, but I was like, no, I’m serious. I need your feedback. So that goes with anything that people tell us. I remember when we first started one of our customers, she was like, you need to have a salad on this menu. She’s one of my dear friends now. But then I was like, oh, my gosh. Like, is this what’s going to be like just people telling you what needs to happen? It turns out, you know, we’re like, OK, we’ll do it. So we put up a salad on the menu and it’s one of the best-selling lunch items now. And so we named it The Ellen after her. So I think definitely feedback is invaluable for sure, especially from your customers because they feel more invested in it if they had a hand in making it too. 

John: Yeah, it’s interesting. Do you think a lot of businesses do a good job of that or miss opportunities? 

Ashley: I would say missed opportunities. You know, a lot of, just from personal experience, when I go to places or if I hear somebody suggest something most of the time, you know, they say, OK, and brush it off and never give it a thought again. But a lot of times when people ask for things, it’s because they want to invest in it and they want to purchase those items, whatever it is. And so I think 100%, it’s a missed opportunity to not listen to people’s feedback. 

John: You know, there are some businesses that just don’t they don’t put themselves out as being approachable to even receive any kind of feedback. But there’s nothing worse than the ones, and I’ve given feedback to a lot of businesses. Hey, you know, you should do this or this is kind of a strange policy that you have. Or, hey, here’s a way to generate more business. And a lot of times they’re like, wow. Yeah, that’s a great point. That’s great you know, that’s a really valuable point. And then nothing changes. So it’s like, I guess they didn’t think it was. Yeah. So you can get a lot from your customers and your clients, I’m sure. 

Ashley: Oh yeah. That’s where I get most of my insight.

John: And then also just that’s how your business builds. Because when they feel good and they feel like, you know, when Ellen puts a salad as an input impact and input and ultimately gets salad on the menu, then that’s kind of cool. And she feels part of the place and then she 

refers to people and that’s how you build. You get better and you get more referrals and people come in based on recommendations. 

Ashley: She comes in all the time. 

John: So what about social media? Like is that a big part of what you do, good and bad. You know, what does that look like? 

Ashley: Yeah. So before I got started into the bakery, I was actually in a marketing job before that and it was actually a huge stepping stone towards what I’m doing now because I was able to learn, you know, all the little tricks that you do on social media to get more, to get more traffic on your sites and stuff. And so that was a huge milestone for me. And I didn’t even realize it because at the time it wasn’t what I was passionate about. I was sitting at a desk designing things, and I just wasn’t happy doing what I love. And so I took whatever I learned there and brought it to our business now. And I think that was a huge turnaround for us from the previous bakery that was there before is, you know, they didn’t have enough time to be present on social media. And so I think it’s just making that a huge priority. Made all the difference for us. 

John: Does it really? It makes that big of a difference for you? 

Ashley: It really does, because, you know, everybody has probably a thousand give or take friends on Facebook and Instagram and they post us. And I think that you know, we get a lot of customers that come in saying, hey, I saw you online or hey, I saw so and so’s post on Next Door and we had to just try you out. So I definitely think that made a huge difference for us. 

John: So it’s interesting. You know, it’s challenging for some people just to have the know-how of how to do social media, that sometimes there’s even discomfort with it. People are vulnerable, feel vulnerable, putting things on social media. But you found it’s a brand builder and also a way to add an element of communication with people that love your place. 

Ashley: Especially I mean, when you’re all in on a budget, as I am all the time, you know, it’s free advertising and it’s just so accessible to you to use that. It’s crazy not to. 

John: That’s true. What’s the bad side of it? I mean, like when people get you to know when you get bad reviews or anything like that, I mean, there’s an element you can’t control there. 

Ashley: Oh, yeah. We’ve gotten a couple of reviews that are bad. And, you know, it eats at you at night. But there comes a time when you got to realize, you know, you’re not going to please everyone. There’s always going to be some people that just will never be pleased. And that happens. I think that’s just part of life. And you just gotta roll with it and take the ones that are really valuable. And someone actually has a bad experience, you approach them, contact them as much as you can and try to fix it. But that’s certainly the negative when people start to leave bad reviews. And some of us have just been different things from up-charging a little bit on an item or I don’t know. But every single review we’ve got is like

your stuff is amazing. So I think a little bit of positive in all our negative feedback. So that’s really good. 

John: Well, the good thing is, you know, everybody that I’ve talked to and everybody that has been there, there’s always such positive things that people say and it’s like unsolicited. It’s not like, hey, what do you think of Harvest Moon? But it’s always an amazing place and it really is, you know, and every time I go there, I’m like, the parking lot is more and more busy. It’s packed with more people in there. And it’s like, you know, that’s a sign and it’s new. So people still, it’s a new business and it’s not like everybody in the surrounding communities may, even though maybe hopefully this gets even the word out a little bit more to New Orleans. Yeah, I hope so. We’re broadcasting 53 countries. People listen, but the largest is in the Holly Springs area and surrounding areas. So that’s pretty interesting. Do you feel as a business owner and as a leader, how much of your role is marketing versus managing the operations and everything like that? 

Ashley: I play, a lot of it is dealt with marketing, but it’s an even bigger part, too, includes word of mouth marketing and building relationships. I think that’s something that I pride myself on and that I like to pride in my team is that I try to encourage them to always make a connection with the customer, whether it be “Are you doing anything fun today” to “Hey, how’s your kid doing from when he fell down?” You know, down to the specifics? And I really tried my best to learn someone’s name, and I try to help my team learn their name and just things about them that make them feel like they’re part of our family there. And I think that’s pushed us a long way. It’s just when someone comes in and say, hey, John, or whoever it is, and it just makes a difference. And I think that sets us apart from most places. It’s just the family aspect. 

Ashley: How do you remember everybody’s name? That’s a lot. 

Ashley: I have no idea. That’s a skill I didn’t even know I had until I got here. Usually, I’m horrible at it. And as soon as masks go away, I’m going to forget who everyone is and what they look like. 

John: Well, that’s I think what makes it even harder, like masks. I walked by a friend of mine at a lacrosse game recently and I went back and I’m like, Mike, you know, you can’t even tell with the mask on. I’m just looking at eyes. 

Ashley: And I always taught my team the Smeyes, which I don’t know if this could be a valuable skill with smiling with your eyes, especially with the mask. I know for me when I go to places now, it’s like there’s no interaction whatsoever. People, especially in food, you know, you just you’re wondering why did you pick it up or they don’t make conversation with you. And I think, you know, trying to make those connections is important, especially right now when people are just dying to have some kind of human interaction and come into a place, especially ours, where you sit inside or outside. And, you know, that’s why I always push my team to talk to people and introduce themselves. 

John: People need that for sure. That’s the disappointing thing that’s happened with masks as people seem to be less social and don’t want to look at each other and interact at all. So I appreciate your efforts in bringing it back. It’s not lost on Harvest Moon, so. Well, this has been absolutely fantastic. I know where we’re at the end here. I can talk to you for hours

because there’s so much good stuff that you’re sharing. And I know the audience is learning and the wheels are turning. In just in terms of like maybe the last thoughts or maybe one last message, because you’ve got a lot of leaders out there that are listening, that are running organizations, but you also have people that are thinking of starting a business, maybe they’ve been thinking for a lot of years about starting the business, they’ve never done it. Any last pieces of advice you should leave them with? 

Ashley: My last words are, do it. I think the best thing I ever did for myself was leap. Take the risk. Once you believe in yourself, you can literally do anything that you set your mind to. I think people are all equipped to do wonderful things. They just have to believe in themselves. They’re able to do it. So do it! 

John: I love it. That is a great way to end this show. This has been an absolute pleasure. Honestly, and I hope we can do this again sometime. I’ll obviously be seeing you a lot. So this has been a lot of fun. I appreciate you joining us today. 

Ashley: Awesome, thank you so much for having me. 

John: Yeah. And thanks to everybody for joining us today. We met here with Ashley Hiester, owner of Ashley’s Harvest Moon Bakery and Cafe, right in Holly Springs. If you have not been there, if you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. It’s phenomenal. If you have not been there, you’ve got to pay a visit. I don’t even care if you live in North Carolina or not, make the trip. It’s worth it. They are a fantastic place, great service, great people, great food, great drinks. So thanks for tuning everybody. Hope you enjoy today. Make sure you give the thumbs up, like, share, and comment, all that kind of good stuff. Subscribe and go down below. Give a five-star review. I greatly appreciate your feedback and look forward to seeing you next time. Thanks, everybody. 

John (Closing): Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions, or inquiries, about having me at your next event, or personal coaching, reach me at john@lauritogroup.com Once again, that’s john@lauritogroup.com. Thanks! Lead on!


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