274 MINISODE Kelsey Ramsden: Your “FUNeral”

Kelsey Ramsden is a serial entrepreneur in construction and real estate who builds highways, airports, bridges and communities. Along the way she’s learned why it is vital to “play all out”, live a full life without regret and die so happy you have what she calls a “FUNeral”. Twice voted Canada’s top female entrepreneur, Kelsey is also an investor, cancer survivor, mom of three and the author of the bestselling book, Success Hangover. We talk about the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, how to get the most of your time and spend it wisely, and never run out of cash!

Melinda Wittstock:         Kelsey, welcome to Wings.

Kelsey Ramsden:             Thanks for having me.

Melinda Wittstock:         I always love to talk to another Canadian. I’m transplanted in the United States. A lot of people don’t know I’m Canadian so I always kind of … I just get excited to talk to another Canadian. So thank you for coming on and I always want to start these minisodes with what’s inspiring you right now?

Kelsey Ramsden:             Yeah, I wish I could say it was something tremendously positive, but at the moment, I am really inspired by investigating the contrast between our highest highs and our lowest lows. And because right now, I’m on a big high. And inevitably that comes with a big low. And that’s just how it goes. You don’t stay here forever. It’s impossible that I’m going to ride this high from age 42 to 104, which is when I intend on passing away.

Melinda Wittstock:         So I love that you have a date. You have an age.

Kelsey Ramsden:             Yeah, I’m 104. Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s the idea.

Melinda Wittstock:         Okay, I’m going to outlive you. Because mine’s 110.

Kelsey Ramsden:             Okay, good. So you can come to my funeral. It’s going to be a party. I’ve got it all planned out. It’s actually called the “FUN-eral”. It’s not a funeral.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, that is awesome. Okay.

Kelsey Ramsden:             So what’s inspiring me is really looking at that … My own self and how I’ve come out of those post high places. And being reminded of my own pattern. And everyone has their own. So I’d say for anyone who’s listening who’s looking for something inspiring, I would say actually look to yourself and your own cycle of creation and production and how you came out of that thing, that time is always going to lead you back into how do you get going again. How do you get the success again. I think a lot of times we look to everyone else for it. But usually, if we are willing to look at our own cycle and how we burn ourselves out, there’s some really great tips in there.

Melinda Wittstock:         I think if … I look back at my own career. The high highs, low lows. And we’ve all had them, right? If you’re an entrepreneur, you totally get this. I honestly with myself, I’ve learned more from the low lows. Whenever I’m out of my comfort zone or wherever something is shifting out from underneath me, it’s usually an opportunity for growth. I’ve come to see those moments as opportunity. That’s that kind of uncomfortable feeling where say nothing’s working in your business anymore, it’s because you’re getting to the next stage of the business. Scaling. Or perhaps you’ve outgrown that business. It’s time to sell that one and do something new. Have you found that too that the challenges are actually opportunities?

Kelsey Ramsden:             Absolutely. I mean, I don’t know who said this quote or maybe it was even just my husband telling me. And he’s told me a lot of times so now it’s become a quote. But this idea that success only takes our shortcomings and amplifies them. And challenges take the depth … The kind of deepest parts of our integrity and allows that to be amplified. And I just find that so kind of romantic. This idea that it’s only in our most challenging times that we draw on the best parts of ourselves. And then in our most successful times, we oftentimes don’t draw on the best parts of ourselves. It’s easiest to succumb to the weakest parts of ourselves. Whether it’s gluttony, or excess, or whatever we do that we’d rather we didn’t. We’re provided the freedom to do that and success.

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative). I got chills listening to that. Oh my gosh. Who’s your husband? That’s awesome.

Kelsey Ramsden:             He’s amazing actually. I don’t know. I actually hunted that man. I have to say. And I did the right thing. That poor fellow. He had no idea. It was like a foregone conclusion. I saw him. I was like, “That’s the guy. Alright. Engage. Let’s go. Let’s get this guy.”

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, that’s awesome. An entrepreneur speaks.

So what are some of your challenges right now?

Kelsey Ramsden:             Oh, gee. I mean, personally, I would say my greatest challenge at the moment is actually figuring out that I have been creating a lot of excuses for myself about having to be a lot of places and people that I didn’t actually need to be. That’s just being totally candid about it. I’m a mother of three children. Clearly, I have a husband that I was talking about. And I created a narrative that made me a lot more needed by them than I actually am. And that gave me a place to kind of hide out. And on the tough days at work, I got to go and do this kid thing. And even though I had to, I probably could’ve worked for another 15 minutes and sent the hard email as opposed to going 15 minutes early to pick them up and talk to a moment in the parking lot. Candidly.

So I’ve seen that and now I’ve changed it. So what’s hard is sticking with the change. It’s like anything I think when you go on a diet and you lose 10 pounds. It’s like, “Woo hoo, this is great. It’s working.” It’s so easy to kind of go back into this complacency of old patterning. And so my challenge right now is breaking that old patterning. Really being honest. Do I need to leave work right now? Or am I … Just don’t want to send out the tough email. So I’m going to pick the kids up. Do I really need [inaudible 00:05:59], you know?

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, I do. And I love the consciousness of that. Because again, real growth comes when we’re really able to look at all parts of ourselves. The good and the bad. And that kind of accountability or radical accountability comes Fromm really being transparent and honest with ourselves. So beautifully said. I mean, I think we all have things like that to work on for sure. Because we’ve all had patterns all the way through our lives.

Kelsey Ramsden:             Totally. And the truth is whatever our pattern is … is like how you do one thing is how you do everything. So how that shows up in my business, which is the second piece, is my challenge for a long time has been an incomplete email inbox. I don’t know if … I think everyone suffers from this to some degree.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh my god, you should see mine.

Kelsey Ramsden:             Oh my god. But really that’s avoidance.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah.

Kelsey Ramsden:             It is. No, but let’s just call a spade a spade. It is. Those are emails I either have not responded to or I’m avoiding telling that person I’m not responding to this. And so these are all loose ends. And so what I’m finding is I’m addressing this kind of hiding out stuff in my own paradigm. I’m finding my loose end meter, which is my email inbox is decreasing. So let’s do a little bit of totally straight up honesty. Right now, I have one … Okay, one of these is from you for this morning. So let’s not count that.

Three, four, five, six, seven, eight. 14 emails in my inbox. That’s pretty [crosstalk 00:07:39]

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s good. I mean.

Kelsey Ramsden:             I think I’m killing it, actually. I think I’m killing it.

Melinda Wittstock:         I think that’s pretty amazing, actually.

Kelsey Ramsden:             Yeah. But what that means for my business is if I leave loose ends undone, they get done. Time marches on without us in our business. So either you drive it or it drives you. And so my challenge in my business is being getting back behind the wheel because it’s doing okay and I don’t have to be as diligent. But the truth is, it’s my responsibility to be that diligent. I employ a lot of people whose under their Christmas tree depends on those people having jobs, which depends on me showing up and doing my best work. So kind of just got to get my shit back together.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, oh God, beautifully said. And so, what a great segue into our advice part of the Minisode where you get to tell us your top three go to pieces of advice. What are they?

Kelsey Ramsden:             Yeah. So I’m going to lead with what I think people think is the most obvious, easy one but that no one actually … Very few people actually do, which is understand your math. Please understand your math.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, know your numbers. Know your numbers. Know your numbers.

Kelsey Ramsden:             [crosstalk 00:08:58] cash flow. I’ve run out of cash more times than I would like to admit.

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative). Me too.

Kelsey Ramsden:             And I’m a relatively intelligent person. And it’s usually when your business is killing it, you’re doing so great then all of a sudden your accountant comes is like, “We don’t have payroll.” What?

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. That’s always been the time when I’ve almost missed payroll. In other business agencies. Exactly that time where you’re crushing it and you sort of stop looking. You think it’s all working. But in those growth moments, you obviously have other [crosstalk 00:09:31]

Kelsey Ramsden:             Your spending.

Melinda Wittstock:         And you’re starting to get into that thing about receivables, and payables, and do they line up, and oh my gosh that scale. It becomes … It’s not a different problem, it’s just got more zeros around it.

Kelsey Ramsden:             Yeah. And it involves more people. And so back to this idea of being responsible for your business and responsible for the people you employ. My number one piece of advice is if you don’t know your numbers, if you’ve not talked to your accountant … It’s like having cancer. It’s there. If you’re going bankrupt, you are. The fact that you did or didn’t open that envelope is irrelevant. And if you’re making money, you are. But wouldn’t it be great to know about it so you can do something about it? So that would be my first one is just get jiggy with the numerical enlightenment.

And then the second thing is be really honest about what it’s like to work for you. I spent a lot of years hiring people, and firing people, and being tremendously dissatisfied, and constantly in this … I remember coming back to my husband one day coming home and talking about my assistant and just saying, “I don’t know what the hell, she’s driving me insane,” whatever the case. And he said, “You know, Kelsey, you have notoriously high expectations.” Notoriously high. And I thought, “Notorious? That means that something precedes me. That means there’s a narrative about me. Oh my god, is that accurate?” And upon deeper reflection, the truth of the matter is I’m not an easy person to work for. Because I see what people can do and I just want them to do what I know they’re capable of.

Melinda Wittstock:         Well, the standards. Yeah, so the standards you apply to yourself, right? You want everybody else to live up to those standards. And gosh, I think-

Kelsey Ramsden:             We assume they want to. [crosstalk 00:11:35]

Melinda Wittstock:         We assume they want to. So it was really funny. Okay, I’m going to tell a story at the immense expense of myself. I got into a cab. It was actually in Toronto, okay? And the cab driver didn’t know where he was going. And I was like, “Don’t you know,” and I had this … “Don’t you know how to find Bluer and Avenue road,” right? Which is kind of an area in Toronto that you think everybody would know. Okay? And my partner was so funny. It’s like, “You know, Melinda, he didn’t grow up deciding that one day he was going to be the best cab driver ever.”

Kelsey Ramsden:             Right. Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         And I was just like, “Oh my god, right.” You know?

Kelsey Ramsden:             It’s like that person who races up beside you when you’re driving and you’re like, “Buddy, what is your emergency? Chill.” But I am that person some days. I’m like, “Don’t you know?” [crosstalk 00:12:31]

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, right.

Kelsey Ramsden:             Right? It’s like, [crosstalk 00:12:33]

Melinda Wittstock:         I’ve had to … Oh, god. I totally understand what you’re saying. I am still a work in progress, but really have had to retire a lot of that stuff. Because I think if we’re perfectionists for ourselves and women really are very prone to perfectionism. So nobody really wants to work for a perfectionist.

Kelsey Ramsden:             No, no they don’t. I mean, I was such a jerk. I used to say things like, “I don’t employ you to tell me what the problem is. I employ you to solve it.” Like when people would come in and state, “Well this is going on.” I’m like, “I don’t really … What? Why are you here?” That’s insane. What a terrible human. I can’t even … It’s so bad. But now … And so after a series of firing a bunch of people, I kind of realized, “Oh my gosh, this was me. This is me? This isn’t you. This is all on me.” And so now when I hire people and this is the kind of roll in to the next, the final thing. But now when I hire people, I’m really clear about expectations. So I’ll say things like, “If you come to work for me and you want to send me a three paragraph email, I can guarantee you I won’t respond and here’s why. Here are some of the dark sides of working for a person like me that will come to annoy you.” I want you to know that up front because it’s a bit like getting a prenup in a marriage. Let’s just talk about all the dirty stuff first.

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s smart.

Kelsey Ramsden:             Yeah, and some people who I wish would’ve come to work for me choose not to. But it’s probably better that way.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s better. It’s better for them and it’s ultimately better for you because you want people to really want to be there, right?

Kelsey Ramsden:             Totally. So I think that be real honest about who you are and what it is like to work with and for you. And I think you’ll find a lot more alignment and you get a lot more done. So that rolls into the final thing. This what I wish I knew when thing. Which is really about relationship. And when I started out, I thought less about networking in a human way. I thought more about it in the very traditional how can you benefit me way. And I think … Well, Melinda, you would totally … You’re totally this person. Connecting with human beings for the sake of humanity. I’m a human involved in business. Who are you? I don’t know how you can be of service to me. But let me think about how I can be a service to you. And when that changed for me and I really took that on, the people I surrounded myself with automatically ten fold more in alignment with where I was going. I got so much more out of all the people I was around, that I almost felt guilty. I was like, “Wait a minute. I’m not even …” It turns out these people are giving me all this stuff, but it wasn’t a strategy. It wasn’t me in the corner going, “Mwahaha. They go through my Linkedin and see …” It was just me looking at who can I help for nothing.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. My life changed radically as soon as I had that.

Kelsey Ramsden:             Did it?

Melinda Wittstock:         Radically. Everything became about giving forward, how can I help? And when I was selfless in that sense, just genuinely caring and really just going for that connection and seeking to help, suddenly yes. A couple things happened. It was that alignment where the right people start coming into your life where you are … Some people say you’re vibrating at the same frequency. But however … That sounds a bit woo. But however you describe it, I mean, there are just people that are the right people for you. And things became more effortless. Things manifested. Opportunities presented that I would’ve thought I would’ve had to work hard for in the past. But they just appear.

Kelsey Ramsden:             Because it’s humans, isn’t it? It’s humans helping humans. That’s what all this … You know what, Melinda? Can we do a fourth? Because you just [crosstalk 00:16:45] idea that I have to share.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yes, okay. Okay. Yes. For you, a fourth.

Kelsey Ramsden:             Thank you. Which is … And we talked about it before we went live here. This idea that really … Everyone who is listening, I want you to hear this piece which is so much of this is the head game. We thing it’s about working harder, or smarter, or all these tips, and tricks, and strategies. Those help. But if your head’s not on right, by that I mean if you’re not in the right mentality to actually be present, to be of service, to be … If you’re in this lack mentality of constantly grasping at how am I going to make it, how can you help me, what are you going to do for me, who’s going to screw me, I can guarantee you, with … Unequivocally, I believe this. You will get no further than you are today.

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely right. And so well said. Oh, gosh. So Kelsey, I mean, how can people find you, and work with you, and how can they get your amazing book, and all those great things?

Kelsey Ramsden:             Yeah, cool. So they can find me at a few places. Mostly I hang out on Instagram. So I’m @KelseyRamsden over there. R-A-M-S-D-E-N. And they can check out the book, Success Hangover. You can get that at Amazon or all good places where quality books are sold. And they can check out my podcast, The Future Proofing Podcast. So those are the places you can find me.

Melinda Wittstock:         Fantastic. Thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today.

Kelsey Ramsden:             Oh, it’s been a blast.

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