Leadership Edge - Doing it all

One of the benefits of having large employers in the Triangle is the wonderful entrepreneurs who emerge as a result of this foundation. Nancy Piepho, Founder and CEO of Expedite Group is a great example of this phenomenon. What makes Nancy's story unique is that she started her company and her family at the same time. We thought it would be interesting to learn how Nancy has managed to successfully grow both a company and her family.

W.E.: How did the idea for Expedite Group come about?

Nancy: In 2000 I was working as an area manager for Manpower, putting in a full day's work and then still had personal commitments to fulfill. I quickly began to realize I wasn't the only person trying to juggle professional and personal commitments and probably wasn't the only one who wished they had someone to make the necessary phone calls or do the required research to get things done. Preliminary research showed national concierge companies existed, but none had a presence in the southeast. And of course, none of them were structured quite the way I would want them to be. After a few months, the idea for Expedite Group was formed.

W.E.: What is your leadership philosophy?

Nancy: I believe in servant leadership. Leaders have to be willing to do whatever they ask their employees to do. When we first started, that meant doing whatever it took to ensure our success - answering incoming calls, filling requests, running errands, emptying the trash.

As our company grows I realize that it's my responsibility to not be a "lazy leader." It's my responsibility to make sure that we set clear strategic goals for the company and that each person knows how they can help us achieve those goals. It's my responsibility to develop a strong management team and provide them opportunities to develop along the way.

I also believe once you've determined that a person is capable of doing their job - get out of their way. Be there to support them - provide answers when necessary or just be a sounding board. But you've hired them because they are good at what they do - let them do it.

W.E.: After adopting Caleb in July of 2003, in a little over a year you became pregnant with Zach (and now you've recently added Emily to your family). What was your biggest challenge in managing your growing family along with a successful business?

Nancy: I think one challenge I still face is making sure I am not "just there" for my family or employees, but am truly engaged. Before children, it was easy to work as much as I wanted, when I wanted. Now, my family needs me - especially around dinner time and bedtime. I have to discipline myself to manage my time better and watch the clock. (I won't say I've conquered this, but I am getting better.) When necessary, I'll work later evening hours so I can pay attention to my kids if I am at home or my staff if I am at work.

W.E.: What other advice would you like to offer our readers who are wondering how to juggle both their work goals and their family goals?

Nancy: Take the time to figure out what's most important to you and be protective with your time. I hired a wonderful business coach, Diane Craver, and she worked with me through "Your Best Year Yet." It helped me realize what I needed to focus on and when. Prior to the birth of my daughter I knew I needed to establish some systems so when Emily came, I could shift my focus to my family and not worry about work.

I also think technology can be a great asset to managing work and family life - caller ID, emails, instant messaging can all help you stay connected with work as well as set up play dates. But don't let technology rule your life - carve out minutes of quiet time - the shower, the car - use that time to identify what the most important business or personal item is. Taking time to prioritize things in your head helps you focus and therefore engage in your upcoming "role."

Certainly don't be afraid to ask for or get help. Home-made dinners are just not my strength. It's taken me a while, but I've gotten over that. I realized how much stress that put in my life. Thankfully, businesses like Dream Dinners or stores like Trader Joe's have made the "warming up hour" much easier. Establishing a certain day to do certain chores also helps. I don't worry about the laundry on Monday, because I know I'll tackle it on Wednesday.

My final piece and perhaps most important piece of advice before leaving work and coming home to a houseful of kids is to make sure your stomach is full and your bladder is empty. Hugs last a lot longer that way.

About Leadership Edge
Leadership Edge is a monthly column that explores leadership qualities as exhibited by Triangle area business women. To offer suggestions of women to be interviewed for this column please contact patti@elinvar.com.

About Expedite Group
Expedite Group, headquartered in Cary, North Carolina, is a national corporate concierge company that provides in-house, on-site, virtual concierge benefits designed for companies who recognize their employees are struggling due to the growing number of demands, both personal and professional. For more information, visit www.expeditegroup.com.

"It was very difficult for me to orignially use Expedite Group because I normally feel like I have to do everything myself and don't like to inconvenience others. However, after I used your services one time, I realized what a huge benefit was being provided to us from our employer. The people have always been very responsive, cordial to deal with, and reliable. I am thrilled with your services!"