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Episode 16: Running Multiple Complimentary Businesses with a Balanced Life by Building a Team

In this episode, Liz and Nelson interview Shannon Olsen, owner of My Utah Stagers. Shannon shares how to buy a company and grow it into a successful business while never working in the business as a stager or driver. This episode covers not only the traits needed to grow a side hustle into a successful business, but it also covers how to hire the right talent, find the right office and warehouse space, and marketing that makes your business pop. Shannon shares insight on how she used her full time job as a realtor to help facilitate growth by spotting a need in the real estate industry. Join us for this special episode to learn how to grow a Business Greater Than You.


Liz Sears, Shannon Olsen, Nelson Barss

Liz Sears 00:01

Welcome to the Business greater than you podcast, where we dive deep into the stories of men and women who have successfully transcended the fragile solopreneur life and build productive teams with better lifestyle and income.

Nelson Barss 00:13

I'm Nelson Barss, the founder and owner of Utah Independent Mortgage Corp.

Liz Sears 00:18

and I'm Liz Sears, founder and co owner of My Utah Agents.

Nelson Barss 00:21

We're excited for you to listen, interact and grow with us. So please share your comments below. And let's get started.

Liz Sears 00:33

K K, well, I am super excited for today's episode, I have one of my favorite people in the whole world on here. Not just saying that it's really true.

Shannon Olsen 00:42


Liz Sears 00:43

Two of my favorite people

Shannon Olsen 00:44

back off. No, just kidding.

Liz Sears 00:47

So Shannon has started multiple businesses. And one of those is the business that we have. So My Utah agents, we teamed up a little over it was two and a half years ago, we teamed up and two years ago that we had our anniversary or two years ago that we started our brokerage.

Shannon Olsen 01:02


Liz Sears 01:03

And just barely had our anniversary. So the one business that we wanted to talk about because it has a different learning curve that I wasn't as much of a part of but I did get to witness from the outside is My Utah Stagers.

Shannon Olsen 01:14


Liz Sears 01:15

So would love to have you share with us a little bit about where what that business looks like today.

Shannon Olsen 01:19

Cool. Well, today we have come far since our beginnings in 2018, which it was just honestly like a little side hobby project to essentially kind of helped piggyback with a friend. She wanted to become a stager and I reached out to my own stager that I had used previously. And she goes, Oh my gosh, well, I'm actually sorry to tell you about I'm selling my staging company. And so with that, I was like, Well, I have a friend who wants to be a stager, how much are you willing to sell your product for? She always did a phenomenal job. And this is before staging wasn't even really known. Like it was right, you know. And she told me a price, which was super affordable. And I was like, well, maybe I can team up with this friend. And so with that being said, bought it sight unseen, meaning didn't even see what we were buying. I just knew she said she had three homes worth of inventory.

Liz Sears 02:15


Shannon Olsen 02:16

And a trailer to haul it all. And she was about to have more babies and her husband was sick of helping her haul it because it was her passion. Not his right. Yeah. And so ever since coming from that now we are actually we just moved into our very first warehouse, which was a pretty big deal. And it was on our docket for like a year try to find the perfect space.

Liz Sears 02:38

Oh my gosh, this space is amazing.

Shannon Olsen 02:40


Nelson Barss 02:40

Okay, hold on. I need to pause cuz we got to clarify a couple of things. What is the staging company? I think there might be some people, like if you're driving horse drawn carriages or if it's something else.

Liz Sears 02:53

Like a Wells Fargo stage coach

Shannon Olsen 02:55

No. So essentially what we do is our job is to showcase homes that are going to hit the open market. So with that being said, like one of our taglines is, you wouldn't show up to a job interview naked. So if

Liz Sears 03:10

I don't know depends on the job

Shannon Olsen 03:12

True. So with that being said, you wouldn't show a home like you shouldn't show a home that's vacant, right? Like it doesn't have a personality really behind it. I mean, don't get me wrong, like it could have a great location, a great layout, it could have some amazing finishes. But really to showcase it in its best spotlight, you want to add on, you know, all the extra charm, show the space and you know, give them a sense for the size of it. Also be able to downplay any negatives that may potentially be in the home. Give it a personality and put a bow on top.

Liz Sears 03:47


Nelson Barss 03:47

It's kind of like interior design.

Shannon Olsen 03:49


Nelson Barss 03:49

And marketing for a home.

Shannon Olsen 03:51

Oh yeah. And you're Yeah, so with that being said, most homes are found online, right? How many times have you gone online and seen a home that's vacant versus one that was decorated?

Nelson Barss 04:02

I don't see very many vacant ones anymore. I think people are smart, right? Because its ugly. Its hard to fall in love with it.

Shannon Olsen 04:07

Yeah, and you could be like, oh that kitchens cute, or Oh, I love the countertops or why like the cabinets. But when you see it for what it can be. And they actually say only 10% of people are visual. So say for example, when you're showcasing it online, you're capturing them. And some people will do Virtual Staging, which is great, because your pictures online look amazing. But now when they're showing up in person, they're like, Wait, what is this? Like? They're almost like trying to pull up the pictures to say no, where did where did they put the couch again? Like what?

Liz Sears 04:39

Oh my gosh, that's like one of the common things we hear. So how do you put the couch? Where do you put the table? You know, different things? Yeah.

Nelson Barss 04:45

So this was a complementary business. You were already a realtor. And this was an opportunity you saw to add to what you do or

Shannon Olsen 04:52


Nelson Barss 04:53

Complementary to you were already doing

Shannon Olsen 04:54

And kind of give an opportunity to a friend that you know, wanted to do it and I knew the The value of it and I have a need for it. So I was like, perfect. It's a win win.

Nelson Barss 05:05

And so she had three homes worth of inventory. You mean enough furniture and stuff to do three at a time? Yeah, three houses.

Shannon Olsen 05:11

Yep. Yep. Um, we show up to buy all of the stuff. And that's when we ended up realizing we probably weren't going to keep half of it.

Liz Sears 05:21

Oh, for real?

Shannon Olsen 05:22

And we worked with what we got for a while. And she would tell us how she would hide, you know, different things. So that's what's really cool is, people in this space are very creative. And right. They know what to work with what they got. And sometimes it's your own product. And sometimes it's the house is the product. And so really being able to have that eye and get creative and make the best out of the situation, which is exactly what we did. And so yeah, so now we've grown a ton since then we probably have now that we've moved out of warehouses, sorry, not warehouses, but storage units, we had four of them, because we kept growing. And then it's great when it's all out in the homes, but then also not, it needs its home of itself when it's not being used. And you have this seasonality. And so we ended up having to get go from like two storage units to three. And it was nice because they coincidentally landed all side by side. And then all sudden, we grew a ton and then all that for furniture had to come back. And so we needed a fourth one and a big one at that, which was in a different location.

Nelson Barss 06:32


Shannon Olsen 06:33

So now you're juggling furniture, you're trying to find where it's all at. It's cold in the winter time. It's rainy. You know what I mean? It was a nightmare.

Nelson Barss 06:44

Yeah, how many? How many homes worth of inventory do you have now?

Shannon Olsen 06:48

So now that we pulled it out, we thought we had about 12 homes worth? We're probably closer to 20

Nelson Barss 06:54

Oh my goodness.

Liz Sears 06:55

Yeah, her warehouse. It was so fun. You get there in the warehouse has like this reception area with the cutest desk. I dont know where you found that.

Shannon Olsen 07:03

And I didn't find it. Let's be real Nicole did. She asked for approval though. Can I get this? I'm like, yes.

Liz Sears 07:09

I love it. And so they have a window that has their name on it and everything you go in and you feel like you've just entered a home decor store, like furniture and everything. So there's giant, you know, racks and everything. Yep.

Shannon Olsen 07:21

Bryce built out shelves. We have, you know, the metal shelves in between. We have an all aisles. Nice. Yeah, the aisles. It's all organized. Everything's now tagged. We're using what's called stage force, which essentially is our own like online shopping. That the stylists now because now we have multiple stylists, and not all of them are close in proximity to our warehouse, because we staged all across Utah. from Utah County.

Liz Sears 07:21

They know what inventory to pick from

Shannon Olsen 07:35

Yeah, or what's available. And so essentially, they can kind of shop online and see what's on the shelves and then our manager, Nicole can pull the pieces for the haulers to load up and they take it to the home.

Liz Sears 08:03

Oh my goodness.

Shannon Olsen 08:04

It's just it's amazing.

Liz Sears 08:05

That is awesome.

Shannon Olsen 08:06


Nelson Barss 08:06

Okay, so I just interested, because there's a contrast here. The the woman who sold it to you

Shannon Olsen 08:11


Nelson Barss 08:12

She was doing it all by herself making her husband haul everything around,

Shannon Olsen 08:16

Which happens a lot in Utah

Nelson Barss 08:18

Sure, yeah, this is what our podcast is about is about the transition from that.

Shannon Olsen 08:23

The ma and paw like little, small

Nelson Barss 08:26

Solopreneur life, which is no fun for anybody.

Shannon Olsen 08:29


Nelson Barss 08:30

Including your customers. Right? To this team like you have now.

Shannon Olsen 08:35


Nelson Barss 08:35

So can you talk to us about that transition and how it started for you?

Shannon Olsen 08:39


Nelson Barss 08:40

Take us back to the beginning.

Shannon Olsen 08:41

It's crazy, because it's almost like a rebirth. And, you know, with that there's a death of like, your past chapter then it's like, okay, here we go again. And it's another growth mode. So when I bought it with the initial friend of mine, she had just had her second son who was really young, and we were averaging cuz, right, we only had three homes to work with. So it's not like it was a super serious like full time thing. With that being said, we were doing about two homes a month. That's decent when you have three homes of product, you know, and again, some months we did one in some months we did zero then we do two again and all of that she ended up realizing that it and her husband helped her haul, and right it's your hauling.

Nelson Barss 09:01

Who is moving all the furniture .

Shannon Olsen 09:34

For fun!

Nelson Barss 09:34


Shannon Olsen 09:35

You know

Nelson Barss 09:35

Your passion

Shannon Olsen 09:36

Because the wife loves it. The woman typically does because they're like, Oh, I get to move stuff around and make this place pretty, you know?

Liz Sears 09:43

Yeah, it looks from the outside. like it'd be super glamorous and fun, but really, it's sweaty, hard work of carrying in tables and couches and chairs.

Shannon Olsen 09:50

You're kind of glamorized movers. Like, really, you know, and what's funny is I've even told like some of our stylists along the way like let's do a video and let's do a thing. And they're like Shannon, I am sweaty at the end of this. I don't want to be showcasing this anywhere, you know. And so with that being said, Holly ended up realizing and her husband realized, you know, it's really not worth it. We weren't charging a lot because we kind of took her pricing and said, All right, that's kind of what we have to work with. Because we didn't know otherwise, either. So

Liz Sears 09:51


Shannon Olsen 09:52

A lot of people think, oh, my gosh, it you know, it cost this much. A lot of it comes in, you're buying more inventory, you're paying for gas and wear and tear on that truck. We had to buy a new trailer because that trailer was so big, and like, you know, expensive to haul and getting older. And so you have all of these costs And inconvenience. some neighborhoods, I bet it was difficult. Oh Yeah

Liz Sears 10:38

To maneuver it.

Shannon Olsen 10:44

Yeah, so with that being said, we didn't have a lot to really work with. So we didn't have a lot to work with to really compensate them to really make it worth it. So then we transition into another gal. So Holly is my first business partner in it. Then we transition over to Brandy who is essentially like a saving grace. She came in and she rocked it, she does hair full time. So she was doing it on the side, essentially. And then we actually brought in Sandy. So it was kind of fun because it was the Brandy and Sandy show. And they both have the last name Stevens, but ones with a v, ones with a ph

Liz Sears 11:22

Just to keep it easy

Shannon Olsen 11:23

Just to keep it easy. It was kind of fun. And so they did great. We were averaging like three or four homes. We were buying more furniture to obviously we were picking up demand. But I mean Brandy can't really do her best job when she's working another full time job. And Sandy had a full time job. So all of these people kind of have full time

Nelson Barss 11:45

Who's moving the furniture, Brandy and Sandy picking up couches?

Shannon Olsen 11:48

Their husbands

Nelson Barss 11:48

Their husbands.

Shannon Olsen 11:49

Yeah. And then we ended up realizing, oh my gosh, we are wearing these husband's out, we need to look at maybe paying for a hauler. So as we've kind of gone through this, holla at your girl. As we've gone through this transition phase, we ended up realizing we really need to segregate the pieces. You know, it can't always be like this husband and wife team. And the reason being is there can be some great stylists that their husbands don't want to haul or are available to haul or even have a truck to haul. So now we need people that can do that piece. So then we can have more stylists and different

Nelson Barss 12:27

I think that word stylist is cool. Did you just come up with that?

Shannon Olsen 12:30

Yeah we did. They're styling a house

Nelson Barss 12:32

Women's hair stylists anyway.

Shannon Olsen 12:34

Yeah. Yeah.

Nelson Barss 12:35

That's awesome.

Shannon Olsen 12:36

So um, so yeah. And then Brandy knew that we could, we had a lot more potential there and she couldn't do it. So then one of our stylists at that time, so it's kind of fun, because as a stylist comes on, they kind of all sudden move up. It's kind of like in Women's Council. They're voluntold of like, hey, we need your help. Are you willing to take this position?

Liz Sears 12:58

I love that.

Shannon Olsen 12:59

But it all happened naturally. And all of them like we've really grown during each one of those which was valuable, right. And so now we have Nicole, who is our manager right now,

Liz Sears 13:09

And she's your full time employee.

Shannon Olsen 13:10

She is our very first full time employee.

Liz Sears 13:14

So this is kind of cool. This is a different kind of business than any that we've interviewed so far. Because a lot of them, it was full time for the owner and then full time for each of the employees that they hired. But this is completely different where it was every buddies part time jobs. Everyone's part time.

Shannon Olsen 13:28


Liz Sears 13:29

PRN is probably better than part time because it's not even a guaranteed 12 hours a week

Nelson Barss 13:33

What is PRN?

Shannon Olsen 13:34

PRN is a medical term for as needed.

Liz Sears 13:37

So when there's extra work load

Nelson Barss 13:39

I thought it was like a title, like a professional RN.

Liz Sears 13:44

That could work too. Yeah, so interesting.

Shannon Olsen 13:46

Yeah. So when I hired Nicole, really Brandy set it up, and we knew it was going to be a full time position. And I actually had already been talking to Brandy about her quitting hair so she can do it full time. But that's a passion of hers that she loves. And she's already got a good foundation underneath her. So I've already been kind of pressuring her of like, hey, we really need this. It's already your job. Like are you willing to kind of take the leap and what's awesome is nobody's ever left me hanging. Everybody when they said hey, this business has kind of outgrown me and where I'm at in my life and what I can give it because again, it's always been a side thing. They've always thankfully have said but here's who I feel like has been the perfect fit. And so really, Nicole was working in title. She was the title assistant. And so she and she was phenomenal at what she does like one of our very best stylists and so when she said she was willing to quit her job to take this on. I was really excited and yet really nervous because now all of a sudden I'm paying a full time salary.

Nelson Barss 14:53


Shannon Olsen 14:53

Which even still to this day I cover myself but it's very it to me, it's a startup expense.

Nelson Barss 14:59

That's a scary moment. I mean, I'm sure this is the transition that we talk about a lot is going from even virtual assistants or part timers, or just, you know, doing making your wife do stuff or your spouse, all of a sudden you're taking on a salary.

Shannon Olsen 15:14


Nelson Barss 15:15

Can you talk about the stress that you felt at that time? Were you nervous? Or did you already have enough revenue and client base that it was past time?

Shannon Olsen 15:22

Well, let's just say this happened last year in 2021.

Nelson Barss 15:25

Okay. during COVID

Shannon Olsen 15:27

During, well, yeah, but that it didn't impact us on the real estate side.

Nelson Barss 15:32


Shannon Olsen 15:33

And so what's awesome is I'm also a very heavy listing agent. So I was able to feed a lot of business anyways into the company and offer that as a unique value proposition, which on my own deals, sometimes I'll do 50/50, sometimes, depending on the price, or the client, or whatever, sometimes I'll cover it all. So to me, it's almost like an added bonus. And I'm essentially getting a higher price out of the home now. And the appraisals literally all came back at value.

Nelson Barss 16:05


Shannon Olsen 16:05

Never had an issue of any home I've ever staged, which is super awesome.

Nelson Barss 16:09

That's lame.

Shannon Olsen 16:09

And so I'm kind of kind of compensating for it in my Commission's which then is covering salaries.

Nelson Barss 16:16


Shannon Olsen 16:17

And so to me, it's like a win win. It's like one's kind of essentially feeding the other and they both benefit. Was it scary? Yes. Because that salary is due no matter what. But last year, we had a record breaking year as a company. You know, I did one of my best years and the past few years on within my Utah agents that helps pay for that. So

Nelson Barss 16:41


Shannon Olsen 16:42

And Liz knows this to be true. I thrive under pressure. I thrive with that fire.

Nelson Barss 16:46

You're not afraid to take some risks.

Shannon Olsen 16:47

No. If you are I wouldn't be an entrepreneur.

Nelson Barss 16:50


Shannon Olsen 16:50

You know

Nelson Barss 16:51

Yeah, well, I get nervous every time I hire somebody, like, it almost feels like you're just one step higher on a tree, and the limbs are getting smaller and smaller. And you almost feel like you've outgrown your stability. It's, it's every hire gives me anxiety. And I have to like recognize the fear of self sabotaging myself and backing up and just face it and step into it. We've hired lots of people, right. And I think part of the fear for me was that it wasn't gonna work out. I wanted to hire the perfect person. I wanted it to work. I didn't want to fail at that.

Shannon Olsen 17:28


Nelson Barss 17:28

And now that I failed at that enough times, it's like, well, it happens enough.

Shannon Olsen 17:32

Knock on wood. I felt that in our real estate company. Absolutely. For sure. I feel like in the staging company, I've lucked out on who it is that they've kind of transitioned and rolled into it just happened really naturally, that every single one was the perfect, you know, next step. With that being said, though, I would have to say, I will agree with you that when and I know at the end of the day, when I'm paying somebody that salary, it's essentially so I don't have to do it myself. And I don't have the time to do it myself.

Nelson Barss 18:06

Yeah, that's a great thing

Shannon Olsen 18:07

So that's worth it for me is to buy back my time and the balance that I have to where I can feasibly run both businesses at the same time and still have a great home life and still go on vacation, and do the other things that are important to me with like my friends. And you know what I mean, my family? So I knew if I didn't do that, it would fall back on me. And then all of this would be for?

Nelson Barss 18:30

Yeah, it's not a very attractive choice

Shannon Olsen 18:32

No good reason, right? Like the whole quote, "you didn't come this far, just to come this far."

Nelson Barss 18:35


Liz Sears 18:35

Right. And you have three currencies to work with, you know, like we've talked about before, you've got your money, you've got your time, and you've got your skill set. And when you're lacking one, you'll usually spend the other two to get it.

Shannon Olsen 18:45


Liz Sears 18:46

And so you spending your money to get back your time. And then using your skill set that you've already got, and bringing on people with the skill set to help compensate that. That's what makes it possible.

Shannon Olsen 18:54

And it seems like and maybe you'll tell us more of the story. But maybe part of the reason that there wasn't as much anxiety on that business is because it was it was like a side stream. It was a secondary stream for you. And it was naturally growing. organically. You weren't trying to push it and take huge risks. It was just happening. Because let's be real, I am not the designer behind the scenes, like these girls are phenomenal. They are way better than I am like, I pay them to come into my house to dress up my thing. So and I have like, I have a big vision. But I'm more on the business end. And I'm very like, you know, I have my one way they can see 10 different ways on how this house can be laid out and styled. And, you know, I'm like, You guys are amazing. I Yeah. So Yeah

Nelson Barss 19:25

As it went, right?

Shannon Olsen 19:38

Yeah. I think I was very focused, but intentional on the growth meaning like I never wanted to push ourselves too far too fast. Because it was a side thing that I knew I wouldn't be able to handle or be the one to really drive it forward.

Nelson Barss 19:55


Shannon Olsen 19:56

And so yeah, I think that's it's been a very nice actual, like, maintainable, sustainable growth pattern that just kind of happen

Nelson Barss 20:06

Yeah, smart.

Liz Sears 20:06

So I want to ask you this, because some of our listeners watchers, I always forget that we have people on video too. Nobody's watching is that quite a few of them have their main job that they work that they put their 40 hours a week into. And then they have ideas of starting other businesses, too. And so how do you balance between them? How do you time block? Yeah, I know that's part of it. Yeah, but but explain how you have the balance between your your main job and this great, lucrative side job. Eventually,

Shannon Olsen 20:37

Yeah, eventually. I'm like, trust me, I keep track of what when the business because we're getting to that tipping point that I'm really starting to see this could eventually get back to me, which will be really nice.

Liz Sears 20:50

In fact, there's two parts that I want to mention. So let me remember if I forget is one how you balance the time wise, and then to what you do for your books.

Shannon Olsen 20:58


Liz Sears 20:59

Because I know that's one piece that you really have a great approach to that sets you up for success that a lot of people

Shannon Olsen 21:05

My books?

Liz Sears 21:05

Yeah, like your financial bookkeeping.

Shannon Olsen 21:07

Oh, yeah yeah.

Liz Sears 21:08

How you track your budget.

Nelson Barss 21:09

I was like which books do you decorate with? Do you put them backwards on the shelf?

Liz Sears 21:13

Tell me about children's picture books. Because that's your other job.

Shannon Olsen 21:15

Yeah, well, and we do read a lot of books. Both you and I.

Liz Sears 21:18


Shannon Olsen 21:19

Okay, so time blocking. I have faithfully every Friday to check in with My Utah Stagers. So I check in with Nicole. Normally, other than that, it was just as stuff kind of happened and came up, I've had always that person in charge, that was always communicative to me. So as things happen throughout the week, they would reach out, they would, you know, get the guidance, ask the questions like, you know, whatever it was, or they would just make, you know, the decision and tell me, Hey, hopefully, you're okay with us. This is what I did.

Liz Sears 21:52

So a certain amount of empowerment that you gave them to make decisions. And if it was above and beyond that, then they came to you, or, and kept you in the loop as they made decision.

Shannon Olsen 22:00

Yeah. And I've had to give training and feedback, like, because sometimes say, if somebody's upset, the first thing you want to do is immediately like say, oh, we'll, we'll knock this off. And I'm like, we don't have a lot to give when it comes to financially like, let's be real. Yeah. So really, on the financial side, they would typically always refer that back to me, like, hey, we're maxed out, we have all these jobs out. But we have two more calls coming in. And two people are you okay? And so we would just kind of set a budget to say, Okay, here's how much you can spend on each home. And then they would go shop online, which they love to shop, that's filling up their cup, you know, and now we're able to go do another job, because my whole thing is I never wanted to tell somebody No, that we can't do their job. Because essentially, now that's creating a relationship and a tie with somebody else.

Liz Sears 22:46


Shannon Olsen 22:47

Especially like, that's first and foremost. But even more, especially when it's a repeat client,

Liz Sears 22:53

Right? And you want to keep them loyal to you, and you want them to know that you're there for them, if they call you

Shannon Olsen 22:58

A core value as you can depend on us. Even if we don't have the product, we will figure it out. We're gonna make it work. So you can depend on us. And so with Yeah, with that being said, it's just intermittent communication throughout the week, and then, literally only about 15 to 20 minutes of kind of checking in behind the scenes on Friday.

Liz Sears 23:18


Shannon Olsen 23:19

And then now that we are growing, because I do feel like when I hired Nicole on as a full time manager, I was like, Kay, this is a legitimate business now. No longer a side thing. And then that's when we realized, Okay, now we need an actual warehouse space, like a home, an office, we need to make this better for everybody. There was a lot of pain points at that point in time. And so we were like, you know, what's going to solve it, it's going to be getting a warehouse. So now that's my next big risk I have to put on the line is a lease agreement, having utilities that we've never paid for, you know what I mean? And we've consistently even had trailers, yeah, the insurance and building all the shelves, which right now lumbers really expensive, you know, and the metal ones were even more expensive. So, anyways, with all of that being said, now that we are even still in the growth phase, I have now done more leadership training with Nicole, because she's never been in a manager position.

Liz Sears 24:17

Yes. So how did that transition happen? Because I know, the first time you put people in leadership positions, they're not perfect,

Shannon Olsen 24:24

Yeah no. And even we're still not.

Liz Sears 24:27

Weird Right? Um, so anyways, she she would tell me what she was kind of facing, and I would give her feedback on how to approach it. And then obviously, when she came up for our team retreat, she was learning more about just like that abundant mindset, you know, really feeling empowered, getting behind the reasons why people are, who they are and kind of how best to approach it. So we've done that we've also done a big kind of financial review because to me, it's not good for me to keep all of that behind the scenes. With her as a manager, she needs to know what how am I invested in this? What risk do we all have on the line? What do we need to do because it's very much a team. She's a lot of the boots on the ground. I'm a lot of the financial backing but we got to work well together for this business to play out to where, because it's our goal, just FYI to be the number one staging company in Utah. Within about two years. That'd be amazing.

Nelson Barss 25:26

Sounds great.

Shannon Olsen 25:27

Yeah. Okay.

Nelson Barss 25:28

So we stopped you at Nicole.

Shannon Olsen 25:30


Nelson Barss 25:30

Talk more about after you hired her. How many people do you have now? Are they all like, piece pay commission type of pay.

Shannon Olsen 25:39

So besides Nicole, everybody's paid per staging job. So we pay the haulers to essentially go drop off. And then we pay the stylists to style everything that was dropped off. And then we pay the haulers to go back and pick it up and bring it back. So we have one manager whose Nicole, we have two haulers, which we're needing more haulers because even for the haulers, it's a side job. And we have about five stylists right now, and we have a stylist in Utah County. We have some in Davis County, Weber County. And again, they'll go any from Cache Valley to Utah County, we did start charging a travel fee. Because obviously gas prices like here they are almost reaching $5 per mile.

Nelson Barss 26:25

It depends when the episode goes out, it might be about five.

Liz Sears 26:29

Yeah. No, we don't release these episodes as soon as we record them. So

Nelson Barss 26:32

Might be a while.

Liz Sears 26:33

I know I talked about our anniversary being last week. And I'm like, that might date us a little bit.

Nelson Barss 26:38

I love what you are doing. This is all so in my business, we ended up with just a ton of fixed costs, right salaries, lease, you've got Nicole, you got your warehouse, those are fixed costs, but everything else it seems is a variable cost, right? You only pay it when you have revenue to offset it, which is a brilliant business plan.

Shannon Olsen 26:56

I think our next level is hiring like a warehouse manager and probably a full time hauler. Like somebody that can essentially work those two pieces. So Nicole can be the manager and also this, you know, more of a marketer in sales and get us more jobs, do more marketing, that sort of stuff.

Nelson Barss 27:14

I was just gonna ask you, Who does your sales? Who's doing it Now? She's doing all of it.

Shannon Olsen 27:18

She does all of it. She does all the scheduling.

Nelson Barss 27:21

Does she go out and sell or she just inbound kind of taking the demand?

Shannon Olsen 27:25

More inbound? Thankfully, for me being in real estate so long, I have a lot of great relationships with other colleagues. So essentially, I'm tagged all the time in private groups, or people are reaching out to me directly, and then I just refer them into Nicole's

Nelson Barss 27:42

Very cool

Shannon Olsen 27:42

Yeah. And then we just became an affiliate for the Women's Council of Realtors, because honestly, I wouldn't probably have this job. And this sort of confidence to take on two businesses, without Women's Council having brought me up as a leader in the industry. So I want to give back to that organization and support the way I can. And hopefully we can build and nurture even more relationships that it'll be a win win that. Yeah.

Nelson Barss 28:11

So you're deciding, I want to get back to the accounting and the fixed cost and the variable costs.

Shannon Olsen 28:15

Yeah because you have books here.

Liz Sears 28:17

Wrote it down

Nelson Barss 28:18

But the variable costs, you're talking about changing some of those to fixed costs, right? What's the reason you'd mentioned for Nicole sake for her to be able to do more sales? Is there a financial benefit for you to switch them to fixed?

Shannon Olsen 28:34


Nelson Barss 28:34

Is it gonna cost you more?

Shannon Olsen 28:35

It'll probably cost me more. But how I see this all is as startup costs, even though we started off in 2018. And now it's 2022. Even in right, the days are long, and the years are short, yeah, we have grown substantially in that amount of time. And again, I feel like the whole balancing act as far as like, you know, the scales are starting to tip more in our favor. And I do feel like that's going to be our next best hire, for the company to really grow to the next level that it's very capable of doing.

Nelson Barss 29:09

Sounds awesome.

Shannon Olsen 29:10


Liz Sears 29:10

And so that's what we did. And after that I was like, Oh my gosh, so I've become a proponent for it. And is that the right word? That's an interesting thing, too, with the watching the way the industries trend. And so like you had mentioned before, when you got into the staging in 2018, it was kind of a newer concept. There are a lot of realtors who did not see the value in it. Even I was brand new, I had just my first couple of listings that I had done staging for it. And the reason that I chose to even look into it to begin with as I had a unique layout you walked in, and there was literally a dining space, kind of a walk out to the deck living room space that had no separation at all. So people would walk in and be like, what do you do with this giant space? I don't get it. And the only way that we could get people to see the vision of this kind of higher end home was to stage it.

Shannon Olsen 29:22


Liz Sears 29:23


Shannon Olsen 29:25


Liz Sears 29:26

Advocate. So then I As, as watching that industry become getting more of a foothold inside of real estate, that is another thing to watch for. Whereas if getting into print advertising right now would probably not be a good idea considering where print advertising has been going in comparison to

Nelson Barss 30:16

Just imagine to I mean, you're in a, you're in a very hot seller's market.

Shannon Olsen 30:20


Nelson Barss 30:20

Right. Now, imagine the value when that switches and it's a buyers market and sellers have to compete for buyers.

Shannon Olsen 30:27

I know. And I've even had people say that, well, what's the value? If the homes gonna sell?

Nelson Barss 30:31

What's the point right now I just put them sign up, and we're gonna, have offers.

Shannon Olsen 30:35

We're like, instead of five offers, you might get 10 offers?

Nelson Barss 30:39

Yeah, okay.

Shannon Olsen 30:40

And, you know, with that being said, the more offers you have, and the more they know, more offers are on the table, the higher and the, you know, the anty gonna get to where then the prices so then we do have a package that you can just do it essentially for one week, where essentially, it's like, you know, it's a cheaper package more affordable, but then that way, you get your photography, you host your open house that looks good and offer, then you can take it out

Nelson Barss 31:04

That's smart.

Shannon Olsen 31:05

But what's even smarter is when you pay for the one that's going to leave it in essentially three weeks to four weeks for the appraisal, because that's what we do on our own listings, is we want to leave it in, because that's who essentially has the final say, of the value of the home. And trust me, it makes a difference, even for them, even though it's not real property. It's still how you're showcasing that property compared to somebody else who didn't even clean up their house, because now they're under contract, right? Some sellers just kind of let their houses go or a vacant home sitting there. Which one do you think they're going to lean more towards? As far as like, oh, I can see why somebody wanted to pay this price for this home. And stamp of approval on it.

Liz Sears 31:46

I love how your unique value proposition includes all of the clients, all of the customers in a situation. So you have your listing agent, your realtor, you have your seller, you have the potential buyer, and then the appraiser and how your product hits all of those. And so taking advantage of that with how you market your company. Yeah, it's pretty awesome.

Shannon Olsen 32:04

Yeah. And then I would also have to say too, when it does start shifting right into more of a buyers market, who knows when that's gonna happen.

Liz Sears 32:16

Not for awhile still

Shannon Olsen 32:17

Not for a while, but with that being said, we know, right, I remember back during, you know, 2011 12, 13, if somebody were to put in a like, have a home that showcase compared to the 30 other homes that I went and toured, I mean, it was hard back then even find something like decent. So I already know right now we have limited inventory. And we're already doing the most amount of stage homes we've ever done, which is 115 last year. And now we're going to probably double that this year, even with a limited limited inventory in a seller's market, I can only assume that when things start shifting, more and more people are going to see that value to say, instead of reducing it 5000 below the competition, I'm going to spend X amount towards staging and also showcase that before it sits on the market too long. And now I have to reduce it. 10, 15, 20,000 you know, not saying that's gonna happen. That's pretty dramatic, but it did it used to happen.

Liz Sears 33:15


Nelson Barss 33:15

It could. I think you're poised. I think you guys are so poised for whenever that happens if you're growing this much now.

Shannon Olsen 33:21


Nelson Barss 33:22

In such a hard seller's market. I can't imagine how it's gonna blow up when it switches.

Shannon Olsen 33:27

Yeah, and we've had people that have used us that then they went to, like a mom and pop shop, because they were more affordable. They were cheaper because now we're like, hey, we can't lose money on this. You know, we're not making much of anything. But with that being said, those people really only lost in the industry, maybe one or two years, their competition, and then all of a sudden they realize again

Nelson Barss 33:49

They burnout

Shannon Olsen 33:49

They burn out. Husbands are sick, of hauling inventory gets old now you have to replace it. And you really didn't make any money on the inventory that you had at that. And now you got to sell it. You know what I mean? Yeah, so

Nelson Barss 34:02

I'm impressed too, that because this has been a side thing for you. You never were able to get so in the weeds that it was hard to extricate yourself, right. It's like almost,

Liz Sears 34:15

You began and still are extricated.

Nelson Barss 34:18

You were never intricated but I think so many people they start a business

Shannon Olsen 34:24

Are you saying I'm excommunicated.

Nelson Barss 34:28

I'm saying so many people start a business this is this is a flaw I have is like I do it all myself. 100% And then I'm gonna bring in a person to take off a piece.

Shannon Olsen 34:36


Nelson Barss 34:36

So take off a chunk. And every chunk is hard for me to let go of it's hard to trust and I think they feel inferior and you did the reverse of that with this business.

Shannon Olsen 34:45

And literally, it was just by luck. So I think it's good because normally I am controlling, normally I am like

Liz Sears 34:51

What? You controlling?

Shannon Olsen 34:53

It's true though, right? If I know I can do it and I know I can do it well and I can do it better than most I'm going to do

Liz Sears 34:59

And faster. I mean, a lot of times since we have the vision in our head of what we want it to look like, executing it quickly. Exactly right. Is easy.

Shannon Olsen 35:06

Yeah. To be honest, over all of these years, even when we were in a pickle, and I ended up having to stage Bryce even had to haul Yeah, I probably can only remember about four, maybe five homes in four years that I've ever actually had to do myself.

Nelson Barss 35:21

That's impressive.

Shannon Olsen 35:22

So, to me, it was never my responsibility. But am I too good to get in the arena and do it if need be? Absolutely not you know?

Nelson Barss 35:30

Yeah very cool.

Liz Sears 35:33

It's all about just keeping the priorities of number one option is find some someone else to do it. Number two option is try harder. Number three is do it yourself. And honestly, again, I know there's other people that can do better than me. Yeah. Like, I don't get me wrong, my house is cute. I have good stuff, you know, like in our product makes it kind of easy. And even two out of those, like four or five that I've done were new construction and they turned out amazing. But holy crap, like rearranging the mantel and the decorations even on the mantle above the fireplace seriously for like, 20 30 minutes. I'm like, I am so overthinking.

Nelson Barss 36:09

Like, me with graphic design. I can do this. And then five hours later, why am I doing this? Never mind, hire someone.

Shannon Olsen 36:14

So I'm like, you know, they can go into a house. The stylist can in about an hour, hour and a half and be completely done with a whole home. You know, and here I am taking 20 to 30 minutes on a mantel. Not my best use of the time. Yeah.

Nelson Barss 36:29

Great. How do you find the stylists?

Shannon Olsen 36:32

Um, well, normally. So the first one was a friend. Right? And then Brandy, I can't remember how we got Brandy. I think she, she I think she saw my stuff on social media. Actually, if I go back and remember correctly, and then Sandy started seeing our stuff. And Sandy, I used to play Bunco with way back in the day, like literally hadn't seen her in like, eight years. So then all sudden, she's like, I love decorating. I'd love to do it. And Brandy was busy and like to share the workload. So she's like, do you have a hauler? She's like, Yeah, my husband will haul and so it kind of was like the dynamic duo there. And then I think people just naturally saw it and started reaching out to us. I have other realtors that have reached out and wanted to work for us. Other just stay at home moms that like to do it. And some of them don't have haulers. And so that's why we're like, Hey, how can we bring that talent in and still make this happen? Even though they don't have a husband that wants to haul, and I don't blame them. You know?

Nelson Barss 37:33

It's cool that we're naturally comes up again, right? They just kind of have come. Naturally, the growth has all been natural, which is always the strongest. That's lasting kind of growth. Right?

Shannon Olsen 37:42


Nelson Barss 37:43

Cool. Yeah. Well, are we ready for a fire round? Or do you have more questions for Shannon? Oh, the books,

Liz Sears 37:49

The books

Shannon Olsen 37:49

The books

Nelson Barss 37:50

The books.

Liz Sears 37:50

So how do you, so I'm running a business. There's a ton of entrepreneurs solopreneurs who that doing their books, their bookkeeping, knowing their budget, their money is scary to them. And so they just avoid it.

Shannon Olsen 38:02

And I love I love numbers. Right. And I love spreadsheets

Liz Sears 38:06

So share how you do that.

Shannon Olsen 38:09

And we are transitioning. Now we actually have an outside bookkeeper. SBS is doing now this year starting.

Liz Sears 38:16

Streamline bookkeeping services. They're amazing.

Shannon Olsen 38:18

Yes, they are. Really amazing. So I am. So Holly was tracking it. And I would just review it, essentially. And I like to break out what's our labor costs? How much so then we know what's our net on that actual staging job, right? So like, how much did they pay? How much those are hard labor costs that immediately go back out? Because we pay him like on the spot, right?

Liz Sears 38:42


Shannon Olsen 38:42

And then how much does the business have to retain? Then I would just keep track of like our seasonality and where the business came from? Was this a past client is this, you know, referral, what county was it in? Because now I'm trying to figure out where our demand is. So I know, okay, do we need to hire somebody more local to that area?

Liz Sears 39:01


Shannon Olsen 39:02

So that was working out. Brandy was doing the books thereafter. Nicole did it for literally just an interim. And now I'm like, Do you know what, we just need to take that off, the managers plate and we just need to do an official streamline business solution that they do our bookkeeping now. And we're gonna do monthly reviews, because I know how much that helps you. And I

Liz Sears 39:23


Shannon Olsen 39:23

And just kind of you have to inspect what you expect. And I know how much money I've invested in this company. And I know the growth we're about to have, I want that completely off of our plate, but also as to still have an eye on it.

Liz Sears 39:36


Shannon Olsen 39:37

So any other questions?

Nelson Barss 39:38

Do you wish you had done that sooner? hired a professional bookkeeper?

Shannon Olsen 39:41

I felt like it was needed, because they're more expensive than what I was paying. I even had Holly come back on and do some of that. Just yeah. Because I trust her, you know, with my finances, she log into our, you know, bank account and Venmo and all these different places and compile it all. She used to do it for a contracting company. So she's got the experience. And she just kind of show me a little snapshot of where we're at.

Liz Sears 40:07

So did you always do Excel or spreadsheets previous?

Shannon Olsen 40:11

Sheets, just Google Sheets.

Liz Sears 40:13

Keeping track

Shannon Olsen 40:14

Just keeping track all the different tabs?

Nelson Barss 40:16

No, Quickbooks?

Shannon Olsen 40:17

No, no QuickBooks?

Nelson Barss 40:19

Basic. Keep it simple.

Liz Sears 40:21

Yeah. All right. Okay. Anything else you want to share with anybody about transitioning from a solo to? Well, you never really were a solo. You are like a business purchaser creating.

Shannon Olsen 40:34

Yeah. I know. This one's a little different.

Nelson Barss 40:36

I love it.

Liz Sears 40:37

I love it.

Shannon Olsen 40:39

I always value teamwork. Hence why we're partners.

Liz Sears 40:42


Shannon Olsen 40:42

You know, like, I just, if you find the right people, and you align well, and you have the same vision for the future, why you make it harder on yourself? Do it together.

Liz Sears 40:51


Shannon Olsen 40:52


Liz Sears 40:52

All right. So now

Nelson Barss 40:55

The rapid fire round, one minute,

Shannon Olsen 40:58


Nelson Barss 40:58

Four or five questions. Quick answers. We ask these questions to everybody on the podcast.

Liz Sears 41:04

All right, here we go. Rapid fire. What is your favorite podcast

Shannon Olsen 41:09

It is Becoming Relentless by Ed Mylett. He is so good.

Liz Sears 41:12

I love his. Alright, what's your favorite business book?

Shannon Olsen 41:15

I have two of them Essentialism and Blue Fishing.

Nelson Barss 41:18


Liz Sears 41:19

I haven't even read Blue Fish. Sorry, I shouldn't get sidetracked. Okay. How many hours a day? Do you work?

Shannon Olsen 41:23


Liz Sears 41:24

How many do you want to work?

Shannon Olsen 41:26

Seven. With one hour of thinking time

Nelson Barss 41:29

I thought you said four?

Shannon Olsen 41:31

No, I really would. I would go stir crazy. I would probably go

Nelson Barss 41:34

Seven with one hour of thinking time. I like that.

Shannon Olsen 41:36

I would feel like very unproductive.

Nelson Barss 41:38


Shannon Olsen 41:38

I'm a little addicted to work.

Liz Sears 41:41

Who do you really look up to in the business world as a role model? And why?

Shannon Olsen 41:45

Oh, this one's a hard one. Because I have a lot of people. Yeah. So you're going to be one of them. I'm going to say Spring Benson. I'm going to say Nadia Rivera, and We had Nadia on our podcast. Oh, she's great.

Liz Sears 41:58

She is amazing.

Shannon Olsen 41:59

And outside of that, I wouldn't say I have any others. It's all people I personally know. Yeah.

Liz Sears 42:07

Awesome. I love it. All right. And what's the one best piece of advice that you could give our audience

Shannon Olsen 42:12

Ask questions early on, and ask for help.

Liz Sears 42:16

I love it. Yeah, brilliant. All right. So if people want to get in touch with you, where's the best place to go?

Shannon Olsen 42:21

You can reach out to Nicole at my Utah stagers 358-205-9560. Or follow us on Instagram and Facebook. My Utah Stagers.

Liz Sears 42:31

Well, that's very pertinent. Yeah. I love it. Well, thank you so much, Shannon. Thank you for your time.

Shannon Olsen 42:36

It was Great. I know thank you.

Nelson Barss 42:37

You've been listening to the business greater than you podcast with Nelson Barss. And Liz Sears. Our mission is to help lenders and agents like you

Liz Sears 42:45

If you're either already a full time realtor or looking to become one and you desire to be highly successful. If you're both a learner and a doer, a hard worker and a total team player. We would love to chat with you about joining our team visit us at

Nelson Barss 42:59

If you're a loan officer would like to be one. We have a path to help you learn the business and develop the skills needed to lead a high performance origination team for better income and lifestyle.

Liz Sears 43:10

And lastly, if you would like to work with either of us, we would love your business.

Nelson Barss 43:14

Do you have a question for a future show? Would you like to be considered as a guest on our show? If so, please call or text our listener line at 801-871-9130


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