Lisa Song Sutton is an entrepreneur, real estate investor, and former Miss Nevada. She started her business career working in a top Las Vegas law firm. She then went on to create multiple companies of her own. Her first business, Sin City Cupcakes is an iconic Las Vegas treat that delights tens of thousands of locals and visitors each year.
Lisa is also co-founder of Ship Las Vegas, Elite Homes – Christie’s International Real Estate, and Liquid & Lace swimwear.
Lisa often publishes articles for Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and Business Insider on business and entrepreneurship. She’s passionate about sharing her message of leadership, empowerment, and action with various audiences, encouraging people, especially women, to take a seat at the table and make their voices heard.
Lisa continues to stay actively involved in her community serving on nonprofit boards, including StartUpNV – Nevada’s only statewide business incubator, has been selected as a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum and named a Top 10 Social Entrepreneur to Watch.
What you will learn
- What Lisa learned from being the only woman in the room
- The “big” secret behind running 4 successful businesses at the same time
- How to collaborate to grow your business
- Why you don’t have to take big risks to succeed as an entrepreneur
- How to use Yelp and Instagram to drive awareness and grow your brand
- Why it is best to not do too much different advertising
- The importance of focus
- The power of image and visual-based content marketing
- Why Pinterest shouldn’t be ignored in your marketing plans
- Why you should plan for a disagreement when everything is going well
- The wisdom of “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”.
Jeff Bullas: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Jeff Bullas Show. Today, I have with me the lovely lady, Lisa Song Sutton. Lisa and I are going to have a little chat about what she's been doing in the world of business. Lisa hails from Las Vegas and she's currently escaped Las Vegas to go and try her hand at snow skiing in Colorado.So you've got some cold weather, that's fine. But you're obviously still learning to ski and that's great. You've escaped and driven... Have you driven 9 hours to get to Colorado? Is that what you did?
Lisa Sutton: Yes. Yes. We drove it. It's a beautiful drive. It's just an incredible landscape. I'm really happy that we drove it.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, there's nothing like a good road trip, is there really? Yeah.
Lisa Sutton: Exactly. Yeah. We loaded up on the mountain dews and the FLAMIN’ HOT® CHEETOS and hit the road.
Jeff Bullas: All right. Sounds more like a food van than a car. Okay, so I'm just going to introduce Lisa. I'll tell you a little bit about her. Lisa is an entrepreneur, real estate investor and former Miss Nevada. She started her business career working in a top Vegas law firm. She then went on to create multiple companies around. Her first business Sin City Cupcakes, which from my research is basically very, very Las Vegas. They're alcohol infused cupcakes. So very Las Vegas.
Jeff Bullas: She was also the co-founder of Ship Las Vegas, Elite Homes, which is a Christie's International Real Estate business and also the co-founder of Liquid & Lace Swimwear. Lisa often publishes with Forbes and a variety of other magazines. She's passionate about sharing her message about leadership and empowerment action with various audiences. We're looking forward to having a chat with Lisa today. Thank you very much for being on this show. I hope the snow skiing doesn't get you too distracted.
Lisa Sutton: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Jeff Bullas: The working title for what we can talk about today is the story of becoming a seven figure company with no investors. Maybe let's start from that. What was the motivation to start that company after you were a lawyer? So is this something you did for a while until you said, "Well, I really want to strike out and do something in the entrepreneur space?"
Lisa Sutton: Yeah. I started my career in law. I don't have that stereotypical story of, "Oh, I hated my job and so I stuck it to the man and started my own company." I really enjoyed what I did. I really liked and respected the people that I worked with. We became by happenstance. So in 2010, I finished law school and started working in a law firm at the end of 2011. I was catching up with a girlfriend of mine, Danielle, who ended up becoming my co-founder with Sin City Cupcakes.
Lisa Sutton: We were just chatting on the phone. Danielle and I knew each other from the modeling industry. We met years and years ago. I modeled all during college and law school and so that's how we met. Fast forward, I had graduated, I'm working my big girl job at the law firm, we're catching up on the phone and she's telling me that she had made these alcohol cupcakes. I was like, "Wait, what?" I was like, "Listen, I don't know how to bake but I will tell you that that's an excellent idea for Las Vegas. This is the place where people come to overspend, over indulge, buy and do things they're not going to buy and do at home. They will spend money for alcohol cupcakes."
Lisa Sutton: I was like, "You've got to move to Vegas. You have to move here and I will help you start this company." And she's like, "I don't know." And then she took a leap of faith and moved across the country from Florida to Las Vegas and we started the company. I stayed working full-time at the law firm for the first 18 months that Sin City Cupcakes was alive and growing. I was able to do that because I had an operations partner, Danielle, my co-founder. So I was able to work my 9:00-5:00, and part of my roles and responsibilities as a co-founder and partner of the company was to help financially keep it afloat.
Lisa Sutton: So I was able to safely do that in a risk mitigated type of way, I kept my 9:00-5:00. So that meant nights and weekends, I was baking, running deliveries, helping cater. I was doing everything that is required to do. Especially in beginning, you're wearing all the hats.
Lisa Sutton: It was just a really, really fun time and then it grew to a point where I realized I didn't have to keep working full-time at the law firm, five and a half days a week. I was able to just kind of... My old boss and I at the law firm, we're still connected and he's been a great mentor and since my time there and he always laughs and jokes, he says I ghosted them. That I went from like full time salary to part time hourly and then I was per project, and then I was of council and then I just kind of faded away.
Lisa Sutton: We always joke about that. But for me, that was a great way to build the company safely and how fun, there's this little fun side hustle that we had going, who knew that it was going to grow and scale the way that it did?
Jeff Bullas: It's a great story. I can totally identify with it and well done for doing that. A lot of people think that being an entrepreneur is big bang, big start, big risks-
Lisa Sutton: Quit your job, right. Quit your job and then the next day you go start. Some people can do that and God bless them. But for me, I just think I would have been so stressed. You're already stressed building a new company. You're already stressed building a new company, you're already stressed working a 9:00-5:00. You already have stress in your life. There's no way I could have handled doing that, or quitting my job and then trying to build the company.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. It makes total sense. And so people need to understand that you don't have to blow it up, blow up the bridges. So there's no escape and basically put yourself in a very risky situation. For me too, it was the same. I had a digital agency job in business development and marketing and sales. I had a little passion project, which is the blog, I started Jeffbullas.com in 2009 and started generating revenue speaking and then other revenue streams. Just like you, I finally just went down to-
Lisa Sutton: You're like, "Oh, this is more fun."
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, getting paid to travel internationally and getting paid business class to fly. I went, "Okay." I left about six years, seven years ago. 2013. Again, just like you it was a journey of I went down to part-time and then I contracted back and then we're let out into the wild.
Lisa Sutton: Yep, yep. Exactly. Exactly. I like that way. I can tell you from experience that it works. It's whatever your comfort level is, I think.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. And some people are comfortable with big risks, some people aren't. I suppose you being a lawyer, lawyers are risk averse. That's why we hire lawyers.
Lisa Sutton: It's drilled into our brains, right. Exactly.
Jeff Bullas: That's right. So tell us a bit about how you built... Okay, so you built the product. How did you build distribution? What was the hustle you did to get yourself noticed because you needed to build awareness about the product. You got the product, now how do I sell it?
Lisa Sutton: Absolutely. Yes, exactly. In 2012, we started the company early 2012. February 2012 and during that time, food trucks, like the food truck scene, were just starting to really emerge and become very popular in Las Vegas in particular. We saw that trend kind of going on the uprise. We realized that there was a great opportunity to get in on like conventions catering. So instead of trying to sell like one cupcake at a time to consumer, why don't we go for the large orders, right?
Lisa Sutton: And so then, we asked ourselves, how can we cross promote and collaborate with people who already have a following? With other food businesses that already have a following? And so I just went to my Twitter account, my personal Twitter account and I looked up the Las Vegas food trucks that I personally followed and that I was a patron of. One of them in particular is called Fukuburger, F-U-K-U, Fukuburger. They're very, very popular. They're delicious. They're like a Japanese American burger fusion and they started out as a truck and they had this really great cult following through all of Las Vegas and now they've grown to like bricks and mortar as well and they're quite large.
Lisa Sutton: But at that time, they were just this really, really trendy popular food truck that had a way larger fan base than we did. I just hit them up on Twitter. I literally added them on Twitter, and I reached out and I said, "Hey, are you guys doing anything for Fourth of July? We would love to create a cupcake for you guys." At the time, their partners, the owners were named Colin and Mags, Chef Mags. And I knew Colin was a Maker's Mark guy. And so I said, "Colin," I said, "we would love to make a custom Maker's Mark cupcake for you guys and bring it Fourth of July. Where are you going to be? Tell us where the truck is going to be." And he was just like, "What?"
Lisa Sutton: So he tweeted back, this is the power of social media, right? Tweets back and he's like, "We're going to be over..." They were doing some catering for Red Handed Tattoo. It's a tattoo company here in Las Vegas, they have a location in the west part of Las Vegas. And he said, "That's where we're going to be. We're going to be doing this big kind of block-party style," where they're going to be having a show and all kinds of other things. He's like, "Roll through. Come by." And we're like, "Okay." We showed up on the Fourth of July with custom Maker's Mark cupcakes for the guys that owned Fukuburger and just created a collaboration. That was the first collaboration we ever did and to this day, Fuku is still a very, very great partner of ours and just great collaborators as well.
Lisa Sutton: But we were able to glom on to their following. All those people that were there for their food truck, no one was going to see us. All the people that were there for Fukuburger and for the event and for the block party and for the tattoo shop, they all got a chance to meet us and try Sin City Cupcakes.
Jeff Bullas: That's a great story. Where do you go from there? Did you go and target other food trucks? Did you target retail stores?
Lisa Sutton: Exactly, we did like all of the above. We went hard on social. We were hitting up every food business we possibly could get in touch with. We went hard on Yelp, especially in Las Vegas, which is like a service town. It's a service community. Every food business is on Yelp and so we reached out to the Yelp Community Manager. So for anyone listening, if you have a food business in particular, really any service business, but if you have a food business in particular and you live in a major city, reach out to your Yelp CM, which is their community manager. Every major city has a Yelp employee that is the designated CM for that city. The CM's role, part of their role is to host a monthly event for their Yelp Elites.
Lisa Sutton: So their Yelp Elites are these people who are food bloggers, people who are foodies, right. They're really, really into food and they will Instagram everything and take pictures of everything and leave reviews and they're so engaged. How wonderful you get to get in front of 50 to 100 of them in like one fell swoop by teaming up with the CM. That's what we did. We went hard on Yelp. Instead of like buying Yelp ads, we went straight to the CM and we said, "We would love to partner and host any event that you have coming up for your Elites." And they were like, "Boozy cupcakes. Fun! Of course." And so they just threw us in. And every month, that first year that we were in operation, we were getting our hands on any Yelp event that we possibly could.
Lisa Sutton: Now, you donate your product. It's not like they paid us to be there. But it was totally worth it. Because like I said, we got in front of between 50-100 Yelp Elite. So these are foodies that are extremely engaged. They have a good social media following already. They're going to leave reviews about your product on Yelp as well and Google and Facebook and everywhere else that they possibly can. So it's phenomenal marketing and a really great way to scale quickly and get in fast.
Jeff Bullas: So social was also a very important part of your strategy then?
Lisa Sutton: Absolutely. And that was just part of our brand in general. Especially with Danielle and I having met in the modeling industry and we met at a time when Instagram had just started. Facebook was popular when I was in college. You had to have a .edu address to join Facebook when I got on. And then Instagram showed up. I was part of that kind of early wave of young adults that adopted early to these platforms and then was able to build an organic following from 2006 and 2009.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, I think it's important that you got your timing right with social media because it was organic. It was much easier to build back then, wasn't it?
Lisa Sutton: It was. Exactly. Because there was such a lack of content. They were still building a user base. So photos, this is before you can put video up. It was just photos, like for Instagram, for example. Anytime that you can continue to put out content, steady content, that's the best way to build the base.
Jeff Bullas: How do you find social media today? Because that begs the question, what we've done is we've gone from organic social followings to pay-to-play ecosystem. How is it for you today in social media?
Lisa Sutton: With social, I like to stick with what I'm already proficient with, just because I feel like there's a new social media platform that pops up every month, some new tech company has created some new, whatever, name it.
Lisa Sutton: For me, I like to stick with what I'm proficient with. So that's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. And as a result, because I'm proficient with it, when I use it on a daily basis, because that's part of it, you have to be engaged and I'm following on those platforms already. So instead of me getting a Snapchat or another platform and starting from scratch, that's doable and if there's a reason for me to be on that specific platform, maybe it's an audience, whatever it is, then there could be an argument for that. But for right now, there's no need for me to build a brand new platform, build a brand new following on a new platform that I have to learn, start from scratch and it's for what? I like to just stay consistent and utilize the platforms that I already have a following on, that I'm already proficient in and keep using them.
Lisa Sutton: Even as new ones come up, I still keep using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. That's just been to my benefit.
Jeff Bullas: Do you use any paid Facebook ads, Instagram ads? Do you do that today?
Lisa Sutton: Sure, especially for the businesses. Because anytime that you can boost like for example, with the real estate business with Christie's, with real estate in particular, it's so photography and videography heavy. It's all about images. Images of beautiful properties and mega mansions. People want to see that. And so we absolutely utilize Facebook ads. Targeting is very, very important. We want to make sure that that content is getting to the eyeballs that we want to see it. But when you have a consumer product, whether it's cupcakes or even like with Liquid & Lace with the swimwear, I will say it's been really interesting.
Lisa Sutton: With Liquid & Lace for example, we found really great success with Pinterest. Pinterest of like all things. I'm not a personal user of Pinterest, but we do have a business account for swimwear. We were shocked to find that Pinterest was this amazing organic place where we didn't have to spend a lot of money on ads and yet, we were seeing return on investment.
Lisa Sutton: However, the interesting thing about Pinterest is that it's not instantaneous, where it's like... Let's say your Instagram ad pops up and you click Buy Now and then you go through it and then it's purchased. With Pinterest, what we were finding was that people were saving the swimsuit to their board and then two months later, when they were getting ready to go on their vacation to Mexico was when they bought it.
Lisa Sutton: So these people were... These women, the consumers they were building boards on Pinterest for Mexico vacation or bachelorette party or whatever the occasion was and they'd find us and they'd find a swimsuit they liked and they'd pin it to their board and then six weeks later, they buy everything on the board.
Jeff Bullas: Right.
Lisa Sutton: Right? Really interesting. And so we realized okay, so there's a bit of a delay here because of the way that the consumer uses that platform. So we went in hard. Last year for Black Friday, for example, we realized there was a great opportunity here and so we started running Pinterest ads leading up to Black Friday to do like a cyber sale. That's when we were encouraging everyone, look like if you've saved any of our swimsuits to your boards, get 40% off now. Buy it now. Get 40% off now.
Lisa Sutton: That was part of the call to action is kind of forcing the customer to have a sense of urgency. Because otherwise with that particular platform, you realize there's a really long lead time between the time that they're interested in the time you actually make the sale.
Jeff Bullas: That's very interesting. Look I've been in Pinterest for a long time. I haven't checked in for a long time. I think I had, I don't know, 7-8,000 followers on Pinterest.
Lisa Sutton: Great.
Jeff Bullas: But I haven't really used it for business. Let me ask another question. Let's go back to Sin City Cupcakes. You've got attention, you dived into social media. That's helping you. You basically use distribution of the food trucks, the popularity there and food trucks were certainly quite popular. I don't know if they are still today at the same level, maybe not. There was a lot of conversation about them seven, eight years ago. You were doing it all. It sounds like you were cooking, you're marketing.
Lisa Sutton: Yeah. I was wearing all the hats along with Danielle. We literally did everything in the beginning, before we were able to have some funds to hire pastry chefs and get some help in the kitchen.
Jeff Bullas: So that's the next question I was going to ask is, so the heart of successful business, once it gets past doing it all yourself is creating processes and systems.
Lisa Sutton: Oh my gosh.
Jeff Bullas: Tell us a little bit about that. Because cupcakes are perishable, they get crushed. Tell us a little bit about your processes for scaling a business. That would be interesting to hear.
Lisa Sutton: Yeah. So of course... You've got kind of... Back of the house, which is the baking, just production. Just baking production. This is not customer facing, this is not taking orders, it's not running deliveries, not setting up events. Just the production side. And then you have the front of the house, which is taking orders, customer service, even delivery is part of the customer service because oftentimes it's straight to the customer and then we have an event side where it's convention and events catering. Oftentimes over the years, we've been asked to supply like promo models that are there, handing out the cupcakes as part of the booth or the setup.
Lisa Sutton: So you have an entire team that has to be run based on just customer service and promotional modeling almost. It has nothing to do with the ability to bake. We had to build processes out for both of those kinds of larger buckets. And then internally, realizing kind of who's good at what. When you're bringing in staff, we have amazing team members who have pastry degrees for example. So they're very, very good at production. Some of them don't want to deal with customers.
Lisa Sutton: That's just not their forte, it's not their comfort level, that's not what they want to do. That's okay. You, as an owner, you as a leader have to also listen to your staff and place them in a place where they can be successful instead of forcing them to do something, put them in a place where they can grow and learn and be very comfortable because that's when you're going to get the highest level of productivity when it comes to your business. So we had to build out SOPs for all of that.
Jeff Bullas: Okay. Where's Sin City Cupcakes today? You've built the machine, you've done the marketing, you've kicked it off. Where's Sin City Cupcakes today? You obviously...
Lisa Sutton: Heading into COVID year, we were totally kicking ass. We were doing great. I think 2020 has thrown everyone for a loop. Certainly with Sin City Cupcakes, the majority of our clientele are tourists. Anytime the strip is busy, the Las Vegas strip is busy. We're busy, right? Every convention, every golf tournament, pool party, name it. We got to be part of that. And so heading into 2020, we're flying high. Everything's good. Mid March, like the second week of March, when the governor closed the strip, he closed it. Bellagio had to board up their doors because they don't have the locks. They have no locks on the front doors of Bellagio because it's never meant to be closed, right?
Jeff Bullas: That's right.
Lisa Sutton: Everyone was just like, "What is happening?" That was a lesson for me that I was so grateful that I diversified. I've got shipping, I've got eCommerce and I have real estate and for as hard as hospitality and food and beverage took a hit this year, real estate and shipping just went through the roof. Gangbusters out of control, super, super busy.
Lisa Sutton: It's been a blessing to be diversified because had Sin City Cupcakes been my only business and been my only stream of revenue, this year 2020 would have been much harder. It would have been much harder and there are a lot of other companies that have had it way worse than us. That's for sure. But hospitality, food and beverage, especially in Vegas took a major major hit unfortunately.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. That raises another question is that you've got Sin City Cupcakes running, what made you decide to start other businesses. So then you got into Ship Las Vegas, you've got into Elite Homes and then you also created your swimwear business. Tell us a bit about what your thought processes around basically creating different revenue streams and running multiple businesses. How'd you do that?
Lisa Sutton: With each one in growing them and the idea even coming was totally organic. I always have an ear out for opportunity. At a base level. I knew that I wanted to make sure that I had different streams of revenue. I saw it with my parents. My father is retired military. My mom owns a hair salon, but they are also real estate investors.
Lisa Sutton: I saw, especially through the work that my mom did that, she was all about having different money coming in from different places. Ideally, if you can have money coming in while you're sleeping, that's an ideal. I saw that growing up. I think like most kids, I didn't pay attention at all. By the time I'm in college, I was like, starting to pay a little bit of attention. But I liked the lifestyle that that afforded you and also the financial security that comes with it as opposed to relying on just one stream of revenue, whether that's one W-2 job or one company, or whatever it is, it's just one stream of revenue, it's a bit of a gamble, I think. It's a bit risky.
Lisa Sutton: I knew at a base level, I wanted to make sure I had different streams of revenue coming in. And so after starting Sin City Cupcakes in 2012, I had an opportunity to start Liquid & Lace with my partner Tim and so that was started in 2014, just as an online eCommerce brand and then with the real estate, again, the real estate, that came about because we had a pipeline of clients at the law firm and I saw an opportunity. I said, "Hey, why do we keep referring this business out? I could team up with someone who does real estate full time, a full-time broker, and I will say, 'Hey, look like I've got a pipeline, let's team up and split these deals.'" And that's what I did.
Lisa Sutton: And so I was with Sotheby's for five and a half years before bringing Christie's to Las Vegas. But with real estate, in particular, I would encourage anyone out there, if you even have a mild interest in real estate, get your license. At least in the United States, it is not difficult to get your real estate license. Take a couple of courses and a couple of tests and you've got your license. Absolutely, I would encourage anyone who has some even mild interest in real estate, dabble if you can, because you never know what it can turn into.
Jeff Bullas: You got your real estate license?
Lisa Sutton: Yes, yes. I got my real estate license with no intention of like, "Oh, one day I'm going to own a brokerage." That wasn't the end goal. It was, I identified an opportunity of, "Oh, I've got this pipeline of clients who need service with real estate. I don't have time to service it full-time. Who can I team up with, that has time to service it full-time that I can still get a cut on and bring value and help?" That's part of it too, is like, you don't have to do any of this alone. You don't have to start one company alone. You don't have to start four companies alone.
Lisa Sutton: I'm a big proponent in having operational partners, because that allows you to bring just the core things that you're good at and plug-and-play every time. It doesn't matter if it's in food and beverage or shipping or real estate or whatever the industry is. You can plug-and-play your core things that you're really, really good at, and just replicate it over and over and over.
Jeff Bullas: That's interesting. You being a lawyer, this raises another question for me, when you mentioned that you've got a lot of partners. Partners are great when it's all running well.
Lisa Sutton: Sure.
Jeff Bullas: And effectively writing a contract between partners is essentially writing a disagreement. In other words, you only need that contract-
Lisa Sutton: When things sideways. Yes.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah.
Lisa Sutton: You've got to have it. You've got to have one. Essentially, you're planning for a disagreement because that's potentially what could happen. You're actually not crafting an agreement, you're crafting a contract for a potential disagreement, which is one of the words I heard before.
Jeff Bullas: Tell me a little bit about how you see that and do you keep it as simple as possible? How do you craft these agreements between partners?
Lisa Sutton: Partnership agreement and certainly operating agreement, if it's an LLC, but partnership agreement for sure, it's a must have and do it at the beginning. When everyone's excited and it's all roses and you're all high-fiving each other and like drinking champagne, do it then. Do it then and have that hard conversation then and talk about roles or responsibilities and also realize that the roles and responsibilities can change over time, with the partners upon mutual agreement, of course, but like, realize it doesn't have to be set in stone, but at least for today and the foreseeable future, these are the roles and responsibilities that we're each contributing to this company and then have that discussion around. What happens if one of us gets hit by a bus tomorrow? What happens if one of us wakes up and just decides we don't want to do this anymore?
Lisa Sutton: Have those different discussions so that way you can lay out what the succession plan is. Who's entitled to what? It's interesting when you sit down and have these discussions, you and your partner need to be aligned in relation to, "Oh, I see this as a legacy company and this is something I want to pass down to my kids," versus, "I just want to build and sell this baby. I want to get as large as we possibly can and then exit in four years or whatever the timeline is." You and your partner need to be aligned at least on that because that will dictate how the company is run from day one.
Jeff Bullas: That's very good insights and a lot of people need to know that because the reality is we're all humans and there is going to be disagreement. There's even going to be terrible things happen such as death. There'll be other little things that happen. A divorce etc. In other words, there's going to be partners of your partner who are going to be part of the challenge as well. Yeah. So you're running four different businesses, or part of four different businesses. Sounds very busy to me and very complex and potentially confusing. Tell me a little bit about your routine to make sure that you keep on top of all those four businesses that you're currently managing, working in, overseeing? Tell us about your daily routine.
Lisa Sutton: Certainly. Well, number one like I said, I don't do it alone. It's not like I'm running these four companies all by myself and wearing all the hats. That's literally impossible and a terrible idea. Number one, I don't do anything alone. I have amazing operational partners that really like step up and they're a part of the day-to-day. That's part of our agreement anyway, but they are part of the day to day. And then we have great teams, great systems, great processes. You have to have all of that otherwise, every little thing all of a sudden becomes an emergency.
Lisa Sutton: You've got to have the processes, you've got to have the handbooks. For example, at Ship Las Vegas, we have a binder that we literally just market how-to and in this binder is everything you could possibly need to know whether it's how to open the store in the morning or how to send first class mail, how to... Whatever how-to that you can stick in front of it, we've created a process for it. It's a one or two-pager and it's stuck in that binder. So anytime that you can build that out, that will help as an owner on your day to day. So that way, the big things get escalated up to you. But you don't have to deal with the minutiae because you should have competent partners and teams and staff in place that are able to handle the running of the day to day.
Lisa Sutton: Back to your question though, of like, what does my day to day look like?
It literally changes each day and it's totally dependent on what I have going on in my appointment book for that day. But ideally and you'll see right now, I'm in Colorado, so none of my companies are here. I clearly did not go into an office or store or a bakery today that I own. Part of the joy of having your own business is that you should be looking at it long term in a way of how do you scale up and scale out? How can you scale yourself out of your business? How can you become replaceable in your own company that you own?
Lisa Sutton: I think if you approach starting the company with that mentality, you'll be able to make the right hiring decisions, the right process decisions, even the right partnering decisions because you're going to look around and say, "Who's on the team, right? Who's here that I could trust? I could leave town and know that things are not going to go sideways the moment that I leave?"
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. Process is a very important part of it, so you can scale yourself. Essentially, it's almost like buying time. If you buy people or rent people or hire people to look after that, it's day to day and look after the processes.
Lisa Sutton: Sure.
Jeff Bullas: How does a daily routine in terms of a personal basis like health, looking after your mind, looking after your body, looking after your health. How does that look like for you as a busy entrepreneur?
Lisa Sutton: Yes. Oh, that's so important, too. I think we neglect that often. I've certainly been guilty of that. I like to get up in the morning. I'm not someone who craves to sleep in or wants to hit snooze time and time again. I like to get up early in the morning and just kind of start my day with the morning as my time. I'll take my time, do my hair and makeup, check emails. I like to text my mom and say, "Hi, good morning." Have a great day. It's kind of like a cheap gratitude journaling of just starting the morning off with a positive intention.
Lisa Sutton: I'll stretch a little bit. Some people workout and go to a six mile run and all that kind of stuff. That's not for me, but you know, I'll do a little bit of stretching and just kind of like get myself warmed up for the day. I'm a big coffee person, so I like to help my coffee and then just kind of get set for the day. In the morning, that's my time. And then the rest of the day, I'm running and gunning. I like to take appointments whenever it's needed. I'll do breakfast meetings, obviously lunch, I'll do dinner meetings. Whatever it is, for me, there's no like, hard cutoff of like, "I have to be done with work at 6:00 PM every day." I like to just keep going until it's not necessary to keep going anymore.
Lisa Sutton: I also put my eating schedule around that as well. Like I said, I'll start my day off in the morning with caffeine and then I'll fast through the day. I generally don't have things like this, "Oh, mid morning snack and then a lunch and this and that..." I like to power through and get hungry, maybe around like 4:00 or 5:00, six o'clock in there. And then I can eat whatever I want for dinner, I could have pasta, I could have a burger, I could have whatever and then one, not feel bad about it and two feel like...
Lisa Sutton: That's what's worked best for my body, at least during my adult life. And so I'll just continue doing that until it doesn't work anymore. But everyone's different. You've got to listen to your body and figure out what's going to work for you.
Jeff Bullas: You do. And it's very important to do that. And also, as you age over time, your body chemistry changes and then you've got to listen to that and work out what works for your current...
Lisa Sutton: Hopefully no aging here.
Jeff Bullas: No, well. It's just been happening here for a while. It sounds like you almost do... Is that what you call intermittent fasting? You don't eat until the middle of the day? Is that what you're doing?
Lisa Sutton: Exactly. Yeah. I had read... One of my girlfriends had sent me this article about fasting and I was like, "Wait, this is what I do." I was like, "I already do this." Because she was like, "I'm going to try this." She's like, "It sucks." Like, "I'm hungry." And I was like, "I think I already do this." That's what I'm saying. Listen to your body. It's going to tell you when it's hungry. And it's going to tell you when it's not hungry, right? So just listen to... It's going to tell you when it's fatigued, or when you're tired, or dehydrated or whatever. So listen to it.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, it's... Well, intermittent fasting is something that I've been doing for the last 12 months. But I don't see that as a diet, I see it just a way of eating. I don't call it a diet, I call it this is the way I eat. But I was very close to that anyway before I put it in a little bit more formally. I'd have a coffee, I'd be writing in the mornings, planning my day. I'd have... Having coffee and then I'd maybe eat breakfast around 10-10:30. I went, well, I'll just extend it to 12:30 then we're fine. So I'm actually the same as you. I will eat anything between literally midday and 8:00 PM at night. I've recommended quite a few friends. And one of my friends I caught up with the other night and she said, "Oh, I've taken your advice. I've dropped four kilos just like that!"
Lisa Sutton: Oh my gosh. That's great.
Jeff Bullas: But yeah, I certainly... But it's not for everyone. I recommended it to my brother and his partner and it didn't do a thing for them. So there you go.
Lisa Sutton: Yeah. Exactly. It just depends on your body and what's going to work.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, exactly. So let's move on to another topic of interest, which I'm sure a lot of people want to hear about. You've listed here, five unexpected lessons you've learned for being the only woman in the room. This is very much of interest to me and a lot of other women, especially as they try and break through the glass ceiling. So tell us a bit about your strategy and approach and your experience in this space.
Lisa Sutton: Certainly. Well, it started in law. That was my first career. That was my first career as an adult out of school and especially in law, it's such a male dominated industry and even especially as a young professional, as a young associate, I was 25. Sometimes you work with clients who don't want to work with you. They want to work with the male attorney, or they're just more comfortable working with a male attorney. And I encountered that when I was working at the law firm. I'm really glad that I had that experience then at the age of 25, because it just taught me such valuable lessons that kind of were with all since then. Because after that it's food and beverage, real estate, shipping, again, all male dominated industries.
Lisa Sutton: Even in Las Vegas, our Christie's brokerage, Christie's International Real Estate, myself and my partner Kathy with Christie's, we're the only female-owned female-led luxury brokerage in Vegas, in all Las Vegas. The rest of our competition who are international luxury brokerages or just luxury brokerages, they're all owned by men. It's different... It's a different playing field. What I always tell young entrepreneurs, especially women, you have to know your stuff when you're heading into a room because the way that you prove your value and kind of prove why you're there is because you're there to get the deal done.
Lisa Sutton: You're not there to hang out, you're not there to make friends. You're there for a specific goal and reason. Prove that. Don't go in scared, don't go in intimidated because they're already expecting that of you. And so it's interesting, that the bar gets set so low sometimes. Sometimes there's such low expectations. When you come into the room, especially if you're young or if you look young or if you're the only woman there, there's a set of expectations that get overlaid and oftentimes they're very low. And so surprise, surprise, if you just know your stuff and you do your job, people are blown away.
Lisa Sutton: They're like, "Oh my god. She's amazing." And you're like, "I literally just did my job." It's nuts. Just make sure that you know one, why you're going in, and two, I think it's really important to remember just not to get easily insulted if that makes any sense.
Lisa Sutton: For example, 2013, we had tried to get our cupcakes into the MGM and so it was this really big meeting that we had with the president at the time of MGM, the President and his head pastry chef and we were in this big, intimidating boardroom on the property. Danielle and I we got there early and like, we bought our blazers on, we're like ready to go, we're all businessed up and we're sitting in this boardroom and the President of the time came in, along with his head pastry chef and he walked in and he was like, "You girls are cute. Are the owners coming?" We were like... You know what I mean?
Lisa Sutton: Can you imagine? I was 27 at the time and so we were just like... We just looked at each other. We didn't know what to say or do for a second. That meeting could have gone two ways. It could have stirred up and been like, "Listen, asshole. We're the owners." And gone that route of, I don't know, putting him in his place or whatever and then what? Either we sit down and continue with the meeting and now it's really awkward or we storm out or we do what we did, which was we looked at each other and then we looked at him and I said, "We are the owners." And we laughed, and I was like, "Asshole." I said it under my breath. And the pastry chef heard me. And I was like, "Huh!" It broke the ice because there was this terrible, awkward silence and then everyone busted up laughing.
Lisa Sutton: That broke the ice and then immediately, we had our rate chart of wholesale pricing, what we recommended for retail, here's our plan for what they should do for the pool parties. We just jumped in. We just jumped in with numbers and got to it right there. No niceties of like, "How are you? Where are you from?" We just jumped right in. As soon as we started discussing numbers, his demeanor changed. Like he was like, "Oh, you ladies know your stuff. Okay, I'm listening."
Lisa Sutton: That was a great example for me personally, of okay, Lisa, as long as you know your numbers and you know why you're there, you know what the objective is, you know what the goal is and you're there to get it done, you can just jump in. And lead with that you don't have to worry about what are awkward conversation starters or what am I going to say, if they ask me this. You just need to jump in and talk about why you're there.
Jeff Bullas: So there's a couple of things I've learned from what your insights and experience are on this. Number one, you've got to really make sure that you know your stuff. In other words, be better than the next person in the room in terms of preparation and the other one is, don't be too sensitive about it either. Just be assertive, and maybe don't swear under your breath like you did last time.
Lisa Sutton: Oh my god. Don't do that. Don't do that. It's one of those things where it's like you have to decide what your comfort level is. And not everyone's going to handle that situation the same way that we did. But again, if you can just kind of keep your eye on the prize, like what's your overall objective there? We still want to get the deal done and so if this is the person, this is the gatekeeper, if this is who we have to go through, how do we work with that person?
Jeff Bullas: What are some of the other lessons? We've covered two. What are the other lessons that you learn from being the only woman in the room?
Lisa Sutton: Certainly, learn how to speak their language. When I was working at the firm, as I mentioned, sometimes you have clients that only want to work with male attorneys. This particular instance, it was an older gentleman who's in his 70s and just was really staunch. Only wanted to work with male attorneys. So I didn't have much interaction with him.
Lisa Sutton: Okay, fine. One day, my boss came to my office, knocked on the door and he was like, "So I know you don't want to but you've got to take this guy's deposition. No one else can do it. Everyone else tied up or they're in court. It's going to be super easy. It's less than an hour. He already had the questions prior. Here are the questions. He's waiting in the conference room. All you have to do is hit record and then ask the questions." I was like, "Okay." Now I'm nervous because I'm like, "Oh, this guy doesn't like me."
Lisa Sutton: And so I go in and I sit down, and he's seated across from me from this conference table, recording device in the center and I've got my one pager. I think it was like 22 questions. Okay, fine. I just asked out of courtesy, I said, "Do you need anything before we get started?" And he said, "I'd like a cup of coffee." I was like, "Sure, no problem." I buzzed in the admin, she brought coffee, set it down. As soon as she left, he said, "I want you to go get me a cup of coffee."
Jeff Bullas: Wow.
Lisa Sutton: I'm staring at him and I'm just like... My heart is like beating out of my chest. Because I was just like, "Oh my God. This is really happening right now." This is crazy. I'm looking at him and I was like, "Okay. There was a part of me that was like, do I just go get it? Do I go get this guy a second cup of coffee? This is crazy." I didn't know what to do. I was frozen for a second. I'm sitting there and I'm just kind of staring at him. Then I said, "I would be happy to go get you a cup of coffee. I bill out at $450 an hour and it will take me about 15 minutes. Do you want me to go get you coffee?" And then we just stared at each other. He just stared at me like... And so then I was like, "Well, I can't blink. Because if I blink then I lose."
Lisa Sutton: So we're just staring at each other. Finally he just waved his hand dismissively, waved his hand like grunted and I just took that as a sign to proceed. I hit record and jumped in the first question and then we finished it and I walked out and I went straight to my car and I called my mom because I was crying. I was so pissed. I was overwhelmed and pissed. But I'm so glad that happened to me early on because I realized you've got to speak their language. If there's anything this guy cares about, it's going to be paying $120 for a cup of... At the very least, it's going to make him think. Like, "Am I going to pay $125 just to be this little person right now?" Maybe.
Lisa Sutton: If he would have said, "Yes," I would have been like, "Okay." I still would have felt better about it at least right. I'd have been like, "We're billing him 120 bucks for this stupid cup of coffee." But you've got to find a way to speak their language. And again, just remember why you're there. You're there to get a task done or a job done or negotiate or whatever it is, just try your best to keep it in that direction. Keep it going in that direction.
Jeff Bullas: That was a great answer. I love it. That raises another question, which I'd be interested in your answer to it. Do you find that the older males struggle with this versus the newer emerging 20, 30-somethings? Is there a difference between the older generation and younger generation, their attitude to women in places of power, where they should be as far as I'm concerned because any country or culture that wants to remove 50% of the brain power or more because they want to keep women hidden, I just find dumb. Do you find a difference between older men and younger men today? How does it come across?
Lisa Sutton: I think sometimes there is a difference, more found so in the kind of older generation, but I will say there's kind of two camps of that older generation. You have a certain camp that they're so traditional, that they just can't even wrap their head around the fact that there are women or young women in these certain leadership roles where they're just like, "But how did you get here?" Like, "What did you do?" And they can't wrap their head around it. And then you have another camp, again, of the older generation but you have this other camp that is truly embracing it and encouraging it.
Lisa Sutton: I'm blessed to have some great mentors that are 50 Plus and they've put in their dues and built from the ground up and they see just kind of how the world is going, right what direction the world is going. And so as a result, you have to be forward thinking and you have to be supportive of the future and you have to be supportive of what modes and trends are coming up and coming along. I think that that camp of traditionalist, very, very traditional, where they just can't wrap their head around it, I think that's becoming less and less simply because there are so many amazing women who are building amazing, amazing products and services and companies and there's a different level of collaboration now, I think then there was. Certainly from that generation and they see the value that that brings.
Lisa Sutton: I think it's trending in a positive direction and those that kind of stick to their traditional ways, I think they're literally and figuratively dying off.
Jeff Bullas: I think you hopefully you're right. Because hopefully, the dinosaurs are dying and heading towards extinction because we need to have more women in the boardrooms, we need to have women running businesses. If you're, as a male are afraid of women, well, that's not good. As far as I'm concerned, we really want to get more women into places where they maybe won't start wars like some of the crazy male bastards around.
Lisa Sutton: Or at least take ego out of it. Right?
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. I'm aware of your time because I know you want to go snow skiing and down the slopes. So let's ask one more question to finish up. You've done a fantastic job of balancing four different businesses.
Jeff Bullas: You've done it in a very risk averse way and that's fantastic and I really admire that I think a lot of our listeners will as well. What are a couple of big lessons that you would like to share just to finish up to share with our listeners?
Lisa Sutton: Sure. Well it's a quote that my parents told me when I was little, and it's just something that has stuck with me ever since, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." I have found that to be true time and time again. I think certainly especially in the entrepreneurial space, it's so easy to get caught up with, "Oh my gosh, we'll look at how well they're doing and how much they've raised and this is what they've done." Because everything's prevalent on social media.
Lisa Sutton: Social media is the highlight reel of everyone's personal life and everyone's business. Of course, it's the highlight reel. So we find ourselves comparing our lives and our businesses to everyone's highlight reel on social media. It's just for me a comfort to know that one of the things you can control is your work ethic and how much effort you put into something. Whether it's your business, whether it's your personal relationships, whether it's a new project you have, you have total 100% control over how much effort you put in. If hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard, you have a chance, you have a chance to win.
Jeff Bullas: I think that's a fantastic way to segue to the finish line. Thank you very much Lisa for your time.
Lisa Sutton: Of course. Thank you.
Jeff Bullas: I love the energy, I love what you've done, and also an example is shown to other women around the world. And hopefully your highlight reel continues to get longer. Thank you very much for your time. It's been an absolute pleasure.
Lisa Sutton: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
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