Michelle Mundy | [Top Agency Series] Standardizing Business Processes for the Creative Services Industry
Smart Business Revolution

Michelle Mundy is the Founder of Onpar, a startup agency focused on solving business operational challenges within the end-to-end creative and technical production process. Onpar helps standardize the way agencies operate through process implementation and delegation. Michelle is also the Founder of Solo Entrepreneur, an organization dedicated to helping business owners kickstart, grow, and operate their businesses through community.

Michelle Mundy, the Founder of Onpar, joins John Corcoran in this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast to talk about standardizing business processes for the creative services industry. Michelle shares her experience being a wedding photographer’s assistant, the lessons learned working at Intel Corporation and Left Field Labs, and why she started a community for solo entrepreneurs. Stay tuned.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Michelle Mundy’s experience being a wedding photographer’s assistant
  • Why creative entrepreneurs need business processes and systems
  • The benefits of systematizing a photography business
  • Michelle’s transition to work at Intel and Left Field Labs — and the challenges she faced diversifying service offerings at Left Field Labs
  • Why Michelle started a business to help clients improve processes
  • How the pandemic influences the need for business systems and processes
  • Michelle talks about launching Toolkits and a community for solo entrepreneurs
  • The peers Michelle appreciates for their support

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here, host of the top business leaders show where we feature CEOs, entrepreneurs, and top leaders in the business world. And today, I’m excited because our guest today is Michelle Mundy. And she is the Founder of Onpar, which serves the creative services industry. What they do is they help standardize the way that agencies operate through process implementation and delegation. I know that’s the most sexy topic that you’ve ever heard of in your life right now. Oh, they’re just putting things aside. They’re like, Alright, I’m going to clear my next hour to make sure to cover this. But this is really important stuff. And on my podcast episodes, I’ve tried to cover the gamut of all kinds of important things. And I will say that as we’ve grown our business process implementation, while it maybe doesn’t sound sexy, is really kind of the backbone of creating a business that can grow and that can expand and can scale. And that’s what everyone wants to do, right. So important.

And I want to give a shout out to Melanie from WeConsult.io, who’s a friend, been a guest on the podcast. And also give a shout out to our buddy Carl Smith at Bureau of Digital because Michelle and I are also in that community as well. And of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25, our company where we help b2b businesses to reach their dream 100 relationships, connect with more clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships, and get our ROI through done for you podcasts. And if you have a b2b business, want great relationships, there’s no better way than to connect with and profile the people and companies you admire on your podcast. To learn more, go to rise25.com, and you can learn all about it. Alright, Michelle, let’s get straight to it. I’m excited to have you here. And I want to start with your story of how you kind of dipped your toes into the world of business, you became a wedding photographer’s assistant at 17 years old. So imagine you’re in high school. And then on the weekends, you’re going out to weddings, which are generally debauchery, if you do it, right, right, release tail end of the night. And you’re what a great marriage of a creative world and also the process driven world. So tell me a little bit about that experience. And if there are nuggets that you learned from that experience you bring to the work that you do today.

Michelle Mundy 2:59

Yeah, it was an interesting job to have at such a young age. You know, while all my other friends were working in retail at the gap, or you know, at a pizza joint, I was working as a, you know, creative professional already, you know, at 16 17 years old. Um, yeah, it was a, it really threw me into working with being able to work with a small business like that it was owned by a couple. And so I was really, like, engrossed right away into how do you monetize some of this creative work? And how do you make money doing it? How do you you know, and so the the business side of it, but then also, obviously, the creative side of it, I had been doing photography, I learned digital photography in high school when oh my god, I think Photoshop had just come out maybe it was like it was like version, like two Dotto or something like that. And so I was just learning digital photography, and to be able to only about a year into even using a digital camera I was able to work with and work with this really amazing wedding photographer. And yeah, it was just it was just a great experience to be that young and be able to be working essentially with an entrepreneur in the creative world. And so on the weekends, I would go to these and they were crazy, especially for being only 17. And yeah, on the weekends, I’d have to get up super early. We go to San Francisco from Sacramento to go to these weddings and they would last I mean, I don’t know if anyone anyone who has been a vendor at a wedding knows how exhausting it can be. You think it’s exhausting being you know, in the writing room. Yeah, all day. I mean 1516 hour days easily because people you know those till the wee hours of the morning sometimes so, yeah, it but it was such an amazing experience. And really, you know, I was such a I was a math kid. I was really, really great. at anything that was like logical and process driven, I was not I never considered myself a creative person until I learned sort of Photoshop and digital photography. And then I started to kind of put the two together. So that was also really interesting experience for me is just learning that, hey, you can you know, creativity comes in a lot of different ways. And, look, you might not be able to draw or do anything that was like, you know, traditionally considered creative, but you’re really good with a camera, and you’re really good at editing photos. And so it was, it was an exciting time in my life. It was definitely one of the times I look back and I’m like, Oh, God, that was so fun. What a great opportunity that was,

John Corcoran 5:42

right. Or there’s ways in which you can exercise the analytical side of your brain and the creative side of your brain and kind of marry the two which makes a lot of sense for what you do now. Yeah. Before we get into more of the business lessons, though, I have to ask, what was the craziest story from all that experience? All those different weddings? Hopefully, something that’s

Michelle Mundy 6:00

not too edgy. Yeah, I mean, I’ll keep it PG. Um, what was the craziest story? I’ve had? I mean, I’ve had one time the maid of honor forgot the ring. So that happened, that was a phrase and they realize it in the middle of the ceremony? Oh, yeah. In the middle of the ceremony. Yeah, that was an experience. And then we couldn’t find it for a long time. I one of the most lavish weddings ever went to was in Tahoe at Lake Tahoe. And it was the gentleman was a some worked in the jewelry industry and his bride to be had real flowers sewn onto her dress. And it was just this gorgeous gown that they had to basically build in the morning. And that was that was a very lavish wedding, but really, really beautiful. I’m trying to keep it PG. So I could go, I could go get from some of the drama,

John Corcoran 6:59

to the raunchy ones that

Michelle Mundy 7:02

won. The maid of honor and the bride gotten to like a physical. Oh, half the reception.

John Corcoran 7:10

Oh, geez, man, crazy craziness. Yeah, you grow up quickly at 17.

Michelle Mundy 7:17

I know it was an experience. It’s

John Corcoran 7:18

interesting. I was just at a conference last week. And one of the speakers on stage. It’s funny because a sitting next to a friend and client of ours, a de clavate. Who who also similar to you, does similar types of work helping companies with with processes implemented processes. So she’s, needless to say, big fan of implementing processes, which so many businesses need help with. And this person, I had a lot of respect for them. They had worked in, in Hollywood and entertainment industry for many years, but they sat on stage and this person said, creative companies should never have a process, they should not have a process at all the creative, you know, mind demands a lack of process. And I just looked at her readers who kind of elbowing each other. Needless to say, this was not someone who had grown a business who’d had to put pieces in place, but what do you say to people who say something like that?

Michelle Mundy 8:15

Oh, my God, that’s such a good question. Because I get this constantly, I dealt with this this morning, actually making this argument. Um, I agree, I agree that the creative process is very fluid and should remain a very fluid like process, you know, it is a process. But I do think that when it comes to the actual creative work, there should be room to explore to ideate. And to, you know, essentially, provide creative thinkers with the space to build, right. But I will say if you are running a business, and you are turning that into some sort of, you know, commodity that you’re selling, and whether it be a service, a product or whatever, there there needs to be a framework that you’re that you’re operating with, in order to be successful in that, you know, and I think that I think that a lot of times and I’ve dealt with this I you know, I have the utmost respect for creative directors, Executive Creative Directors. And it’s funny I actually think we’re really like we’re, I’m the Yang to their Yang. I don’t know what it would be. But you know, if you can find a really out there creative thinker, I think actually having someone like me to partner with to help basically see their process and create some sort of generalized framework around it can really help focus them a bit more and hone them in on on a more successful way of doing business like the operation side of it. But I say a lot of what I suggest is there are a lot of the solution. Things that I offer on with Onpar are very geared towards operational processes I’m not dipping into this is how you should design a logo or this is, you know, it’s all about how you the project lifecycle of selling it, how do you onboard it? How do you kick it off? How do you resource it? How do you estimate what you’re doing? How do you measure it against what’s actually happening, things like that. So, you know, to me, I think that it’s a valid point. But it’s also it’s also one of those things where, if you want to make it a business, you’re gonna have to, you’re gonna have to create some sort of structure to it in order for it to be successful, because you can’t operate a business that way. So I’m also though on the flip side, I believe I really do and I probably shouldn’t have be having this on a recording. But if anything can be standardized, I really do like, I actually love the game of someone being like, there’s no way you can standardize this. And I’m like, Well, shall we figure out a way to standardize,

John Corcoran 11:01

right? And actually, you know, a past client of ours, built a cell radio podcast, John Warlow, Greg wrote a great book that was really about that. It was about a business that needed to systematize. And they used it as an example was the the process of creating a logo, and like creating a system and a process around it. But for you reflecting back to your experience with the photography, what were some lessons around that either good or bad around ways in which that photography business was systematized? Like maybe first we do the shots, the glamor shots in the morning, then the wedding happens, then we do you know, there’s usually a rhythm to it. There was yeah, there is such a rhythm. Yeah, and so good and bad. What were your reflections on that experience?

Michelle Mundy 11:45

Um, I think planning ahead of time is so important with, with that kind of service. Many, many times, one of the pitfalls was we were there too early, or we were there too late, I had situations where we got there, and no one was there for hours, you know, and they wanted and we didn’t really clarify fully the schedule of when would you be here, you know, when do you want getting ready, pictures, that kind of stuff. So getting that really set up upfront, but also recognizing that it is never on time. And so you got to be flexible, and you got to figure out faster ways of doing that. Really understanding what you can, what are necessary shots, you know, like, you gotta get at least one picture of them doing makeup, at least one good picture of them putting on the veil, you know, and then you’ve got to, you’ve got to get pictures of the rings and pictures of the bouquet and the dress by itself. And then, you know, and so there are like, it’s interesting, because you wouldn’t sit there with like a checklist necessarily, but there, there is such a rhythm to it, that if you if with experience, it actually makes you an amazing photographer, because and this is really similar to what I you know, I’m saying about the, you know, creatives on an agency side, too, it gives them the space, the more you can just kind of automate your process. And even if it’s in your head, or have a project manager, audit your process as a creative, the more you’re gonna have creative space to actually think more outside the box, you’re going to be able to and even as a wedding photographer, once you get like all these shots, then you’ll start being like, Oh, I’ve got, you know, I’ve got an extra 15 minutes, let’s do something cool like this, or let’s do this. And next thing you know, you’re like, coming up with some of your best ideas.