Vanessa Bell Mumbition the Podcast


The Podcast By Mums & Co

Episode 19: How to connect on LinkedIn, with Karen Hollenbach, a LinkedIn Strategist

Karen Hollenbach

Think Bespoke

April 5, 2022
Our collective ambition has come a long way in the past ten years, and this exciting progression is something Mumbition The Podcast guest Karen Hollenbach knows well. Just over a decade ago, Karen quit her corporate job to raise the two young sons and start her own business, Think Bespoke.Back then, LinkedIn was one of the few online platforms where small business owners could connect with the broader business community without having to leave the house. It's incredible to think how many online networking opportunities we have now (including our very own Mums & Co).Karen supports small business owners to go one step further with their LinkedIn engagement by fostering meaningful business connections to create a sphere of influence in their industries.‍


Mums & Co

Georgie McCarthy

Brook McCarthy

Think Bespoke


Produced & Edited by - Morgan Brown
Interviewers - Carrie Kwan and Lucy Kippist
Guest - Karen Hollenbach

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Episode 19 Transcript

00:00:00:04 - 00:00:20:02

Carrie Kwan

When you sit back and think about it, our collective ambition has come a very long way in the past ten years, and this exciting progression is something today's guest Karen Hollenbach knows well. Just over a decade ago, Karen quit her corporate job to raise the two young sons and start her own business at that time.

LinkedIn was one of the few online platforms for small business owners to connect with the broader business community without having to leave the house. It's incredible to think how many online networking opportunities we have now with Mums & Co clearly one of our favourites among them.

Karen's early beginnings on the LinkedIn platform has allowed her to create a business that supports small business owners to take one step further with their engagement by helping them foster meaningful business connections that help create a sphere of influence in their respective industries.

Karen joins us today to share her considerable insights. Welcome to the Mumbition podcast, Karen.

00:01:00:13 - 00:01:02:02

Karen Hollenbach

Thank you so much for having me.

00:01:03:08 - 00:01:21:17

Carrie Kwan

Now, Karen, our first question to any business, any mum is always, do you hear her pitch? We feel like women should embrace every opportunity. They have to make introductions, connect with their customers or collaborators. So we'd love to hear you practice your pitch.

00:01:22:11 - 00:01:42:21

Karen Hollenbach

Thank you and thank you for the opportunity to polish this. As a LinkedIn Strategist and LinkedIn Marketing Mentor, I help change-makers and leaders navigate LinkedIn the right way.

Whether you're a business growing your side hustle or you lead a professional services business. LinkedIn is where better clients hang out. LinkedIn isn’t hard, but there is a right way and a wrong way to use it. If you are Mums & Co member watch my 15 minute video about how mums can use LinkedIn for business to help decide if LinkedIn is the right platform for you. If you've already decided you want to spend time on LinkedIn, tune into my podcast The Five Minute LinkedIn Marketer for bite sized LinkedIn marketing tips.

And if you need to tend to your LinkedIn profile, please register for my Profile Essentials Masterclass for $197 and learn how to write your LinkedIn profile the right way.

00:02:44:19 - 00:02:54:21

Carrie Kwan

Bravo. It's an exciting thing when you show up.

00:02:55:00 - 00:03:12:01

Karen Hollenbach

I spend all my time helping elevate other people and helping them share their stories. So it's actually been a long time since I've done a pitch like that, and I loved having to really think about it and redo it effectively.

00:03:13:15 - 00:03:29:23

Carrie Kwan

When we're practicing our pitch every day it’s your opportunity to share your story, share your vision, try to make impact and try to influence. So it's definitely a skill that I think is vital and you absolutely nailed it.

00:03:30:20 - 00:03:37:10

Karen Hollenbach

Thank you because, I feel like you've really kept me on my toes, and I'm very grateful for that.

00:03:40:13 - 00:04:03:17

Carrie Kwan

I want to draw the best out of every entrepreneurial woman I meet. I know they have this burning story that they want to share. So I hope it keeps you on your toes in that sense of being able to explain or share that story better and more succinctly and influence in a very brief amount of time.

00:04:04:13 - 00:04:11:16

Karen Hollenbach

It's that 30 seconds that you really have to think about, what do I want to say in that time period?

00:04:12:23 - 00:04:20:24

Carrie Kwan

Yes, make it count. So tell us what you love about your business right now.

00:04:21:12 - 00:04:39:20

Karen Hollenbach

I love that I've protected myself from the pandemic condition. So when the pandemic first hit in March 2019, I’m a glass is half full kind of person. So I said to myself, “Ok! Move your business 100% online”. I think the fact that I can be protected and deliver a lot of what I do online and to be honest pre-COVID, people had about a 25% uptake to training being delivered as virtual consults via Zoom.

So I'm incredibly grateful. I love that I can be present for my children. I can be present for everything that needs to be delivered to the home because sometimes operating within restrictions can make everyday life a bit harder. I'm at a point in my business where I know who I do my best work with, and I know whether the chemistry for a relationship is there.

I also have a beautiful network of people with who I can recommend that potential clients work with. Especially Iif I don't think I'm they are the right fit or they actually need something I can’t offer. After the have that intro chat with me, I might say, “Actually think you need to tend to your website because there are things that you need to get on top of in your business before LinkedIn”.

I'm really grateful for the beautiful community around me, and with so many of us as corporate escapees, we are really trying to play a proactive and thoughtful role in the peoples lives around us. I'm loving the fact that hard work pays off.

There's this really interesting quote, “It takes ten years to become an overnight success”. Success for me is the right clients knowing about me and inquiring about my services and wanting to work with me. I feel like all the hard work I've done, building my reputation and doing great work with clients who are happy and getting results is really paying off in my business right now.

00:06:36:05 - 00:07:00:05

Carrie Kwan

That's a great way to frame it. Your metric of success is how amazing this digital transformation has been over the last 18 to 24 months. I'm really glad you were in that sort of digital mode beforehand and you have the flexibility to grow your business that way.

00:07:41:09 - 00:07:58:21

Lucy Kippist

You’ve just touched on what my next question was going to be about. How you make your business and your life fit together, but what you've just explained there about how you've almost managed to find that perfect combination.

So I'm just wondering when you started, it was about how you make business and life work but I guess that might look different now. Your business is more established and you've got so much experience. So what is it now that you've had to kind of stop doing to ensure that everything keeps moving in the right way?

00:07:59:21 - 00:08:17:23

Karen Hollenbach

Coffee catch-ups, I’ve stopped those. I'm really ruthless about how I spend my time. So now I digitise coffe catch-ups. I now have the 15 minute intro chat where I'm extremely generous within that 15 minutes and I point people to resources.

It's not about booking me, it’s a sort of random and open coffee catch up. I've also had to say no to general networking. So rather than attend broad general networking events, I've really moved into focusing on business women's communities.

It took me ten years to work that out. I think because I'm a mother of two boys and I work with so many men, I ignored the fact that I could really need my networking.

I was very general in my networking efforts, so I've really said no to being at events quite regularly. I get invitations to more general networking events that absolutely play their role and I'm not suggesting for a minute that they're not going to help some people's businesses.

I started to really understand what networking opportunities I enjoyed and what connections looked like for me. So it's not that I don't catch up with people for coffee or see people in real life. I just tend to do it through physical activity now and not through a sedentary meeting. So I’ve replaced coffee catch-ups with walk and talks.

00:09:29:24 - 00:09:41:24

Lucy Kippist

Do you think have you noticed any difference in your ability to come up with ideas? I know you're very good at ideas, but I'm just wondering if that movement helps? You read a lot about that when your body's moving, your brain is working.

00:09:51:03 - 00:10:06:07

Karen Hollenbach

I know I've been more productive throughout the day. Because there's more physical activity in my rituals, it means that I don’t get that 2:00 or 3:00 slump that I used to get.

I'm effectively working shorter days and I'm more productive in the time that I do work. It's been a really interesting insight because I always had a goal to work as little as possible for as much as possible.

It's all about how productive you are when you're working. You can't as a business owner, expect all of the hours that you do to be billable. You have to be really mindful of when you are working, that you're on the A-game and that the things you are working on are important.

It's this lovely, self-fulfilling prophecy that if you take the time to not be working and to be walking and talking and doing something different, you’re activating your brain differently. Stop and look at the trees I've read that it helps just being out in nature. We all know the things we need to be doing to create the habits that help us. I think it's different for everyone.

00:11:11:16 - 00:11:19:21

Lucy Kippist

What have you found to be the most transferable skills between being a mum and being a business owner?

00:11:20:17 - 00:11:38:23

Karen Hollenbach

I think listening to both of my children and I also have to parent them both differently. They have very different personalities. So it reminds me of when I managed a team or when I went to having a virtual and remote team based around Australia.

So listening and really understanding where that person was coming from and what they were really saying. That listening part really relates across all types of relationships you have in the business and with parenting.

I have a really different conversation with one son than I do with the other. So the ability to listen and adapt is important when adapting to different clients.

The things I've learned about parenting I apply to my business and the things I've learned within my business I apply to my parenting. It’s that tailored approach that is the very nature of a bespoke service.

While we do have different programs that we run that are very set, they also have the ability to be bespoke and be tailored. I think in the same way children need that structure but also a broad sense of freedom with very clear boundaries. I think there are lots of parallels and crossovers.

00:12:50:15 - 00:13:16:07

Carrie Kwan

There are so many analogies and so many relatable experience. I hear both customisation and a very human-centric side to what you offer. Could you tell us a little bit about your Co and how they support you?

00:13:21:14 - 00:13:39:12

Karen Hollenbach

My Co has to start with my darling husband. We celebrated 21 years of marriage. We've had two wedding anniversaries in lockdown. We were high school sweethearts and we’ve also known each other for nearly 31 years. That sort of blows people's minds. I think having my best friend by my side the whole time is amazing. He's always wanted me to be successful on my own terms it’s ground breaking.

I'll say to him, “You know you're a feminist”. He says, “What are you talking about?”. He does a lot of the cleaning around the house, but he also runs his own business, a Power Restoration business, he cooks a lot of meals. And on a Sunday night, it's all about what's going on in your business this week, what's going in my business and we leave it to open.

It's just this general acceptance that we're in this together. And what's the game plan? If I think back to when my children were a lot younger, my children are now 13 and 16, but when they weren't at school and when they started primary school, I don't think I could have established my business if it wasn't for my mother in law. She played such a critical role in those early stages.

She took my boys two days a week when I was studying, and I had to get all of my post-grad studies done within those two days. My son's view her like a second mother, is absolutely beautiful. It's the most beautiful thing to have that relationship with her. My sister during the school holidays, we would have an arrangement where my boys would go and stay for two or three days. And just spend time with their aunt, while I got to sort of do a block of work and then I would participate during school holidays as well.

And then of course, my children, I'm really proud to say that my community also includes my children. They understand that if they want to go on holiday, or if they want to get a good education and get their favourite brand of sneakers, that mum works as well to pay for these things. So they see me working.

It’s been a whole learning experience for them because they get a real insight and they understand I'm being interviewed for podcasts now. I'm delivering training for 120 people who don't come in. It’s me telling them don’t use the Wi-Fi, I'm doing stuff. So they see exactly what goes on and what I'm doing to show up in my business. They're really good with chores. They know they are a member of this community, and in this little bubble at home you need to be doing your job. So really, it's family. I do also have a beautiful inner circle of other business women who we sort of rotate in and out of each other's lives for a variety of different reasons as well. But I'd have to say my absolute cornerstone are the family members that I've just mentioned.

00:16:30:16 - 00:16:52:08

Carrie Kwan

Amazing, and I love that you are being a role model for them. I think that's a big driver for a lot of working parents and certainly business owning mothers. That they are setting a great example to both their daughters and their sons. They can see that both parents are both contributing to the household income and they're both working on their own aspirations and ambitions. Let's go into LinkedIn world!

00:17:14:23 - 00:17:17:08

Karen Hollenbach

Yes, let's go to my favourite platform.

00:17:17:15 - 00:17:31:24

Carrie Kwan

Yes, your happy place. I know from your page that you're a passionate supporter of women in business and use social media to leverage your impact. What is the first thing that you would look for in a potential connection on a LinkedIn page before you connect?

00:17:34:00 - 00:17:53:04

Karen Hollenbach

Their geographic location would be the first thing. I am interested in predominantly the Asia Pacific. So I would look at where are you based? That's a really good conversation starter at the mument. The next thing I look for is mutual connections. I'd be looking at who do they know, that I know. People often say when they meet me in real life is, “Please don't judge me by my little profile. I haven't tended to my LinkedIn”.

Trust me there's no judgment here. We're all a work in progress, right? And LinkedIn may or may not be a priority for everyone, like it is for me. At the end of the day it's not so much the way a profile is written. It's geography and mutual connections because it's about relationship building, first and foremost.

00:18:53:23 - 00:19:18:13

Carrie Kwan

That's a fascinating way to begin building rapport, it’s like asking a question that is non-confrontational? Everybody is happy to talk about that where they currently, but it's more prevalent than ever with lockdowns and the fact that we don't get to travel like we used to.

00:19:18:13 - 00:19:19:23

Karen Hollenbach

Thank you. There is something weird that happens on LinkedIn and that is that people move in to some sort of transactional mode. I don't know why. I'm unclear about why people do it, but LinkedIn is not social media. They go straight to what do I do? What am I going to sell? I think people miss the fact that it’s human first.

00:19:42:11 - 00:19:48:05

Carrie Kwan

Can you just expand a little bit about what you mean by that transaction mode?

00:19:48:17 - 00:20:11:21

Karen Hollenbach

A lot of the clients I work with will say to me, “I want to use LinkedIn for lead generation”. And my response will be “I'd like two weeks in the Bahamas”. It's natural from a commercial perspective to see LinkedIn as a great way to reach prospects.

And ultimately, it is. But that's not how business is done on LinkedIn. And that's also not how business is done in the real world. If I met you at a networking event in real life I would say, hi, how are you going? That's the way you should approach LinkedIn.

As opposed to a transactional approach. Where you stick your flier in my face and tell me why I need your services. That's the transactional approach. What that looks like on LinkedIn is sending an invitation to connect without personalising the invite. Once we are connected you then extract my email from my LinkedIn profile and put it into a marketing email without my permission.

Then sending me a sequence of follow up emails telling me why you're so fabulous and why I need your services, and then wondering why I remove you as a connection or block you. That's how to be transactional and there's plenty of it on LinkedIn. There are people out there that make promises to be able to generate 25 leads for you every month.

It's a numbers game. If you're reaching out to enough people, that transactional approach will convert about 1, 2 or 3%.Whereas I think reputation is built over time. And relationships are what are going to get you better clients and good referrals.

I'm also a content marketer by trade. So what that means is I give value first before I ask for the business. In saying that I never ask for the business, because most people see the value I offer and you will come to me.

00:22:07:24 - 00:22:31:11

Carrie Kwan

That's such a useful and powerful way to frame it. Business is built on relationships. There are some things you can automate and there are some things that you really need to customise and to get those deeper connections with.

Transaction versus relationship building. I love how you perceive that our reputation online is important. It's definitely a factor when looking to connect with other business owners, particularly online as well. In what ways does your focus on building business relationship building help you shape your relationship to risk?

00:22:55:05 - 00:23:17:24

Karen Hollenbach

Well, it's funny because it's about being brave and about being clear about what I believe in. I do talk a lot about relationship building versus transactional behaviour, and I feel it from a competitive perspective. If I look at my competitive set, I'm a bit of an outlier from that point of view.

I shy away from talking about religion. I think for me, building a reputation and connections has been about being very careful about what I talk about. I'm a very open networker, but I'm very careful about how I navigate new relationships, and I don't mean I'm tentative and uninteresting.

I mean, I see it as a privilege if someone wants to send me an invitation to connect. I don't see that as an opportunity to sell. I will ask, how can I help? You are in a power position. So I think in terms of connection, I'm just human. Then I will look at the person's profile, and be really clear about starting a conversation that's relevant to them, not an automated response.

In terms of building a reputation, it's this helpfulness that is a big part of my personal brand. Someone asked me once if I did some sort of a planning session with a marketing guy. A colleague of mine was sort of workshopping all this stuff, and he views things from a transactional perspective.

That was one of the reasons why I wanted to do the workshop because I knew he would be really pragmatic. I referred heaps of clients to this workshop because I've given you so much. He turned to me during the workshop and said, are you a for-profit or a not for profit business? And I said, “Well, you know, it's a really good question”. So I've decided I'm an 80% for profit business and that 20% of my time, I'm really comfortable being what you can call me.

I know that 20% of giving and helping is going to build my reputation over time. And if someone says anything, if they have any questions relating to LinkedIn. They will refer me. They will say, “I you need to talk to Karen”. And that's everything to me, absolutely everything. No amount of Facebook advertising, LinkedIn advertising, Google Advertising is going to buy that for you.

00:25:30:12 - 00:25:56:04

Lucy Kippist

I love that. I was just listening to you speak about that 80/20 rule. At Mums & Co we talk about harmony being a triangle of your ambition and then your livelihood and well-being. Could you describe what the shape of a good life looks like for you?

00:26:03:08 - 00:26:22:10

Karen Hollenbach

This is a beautiful question. I think the most the biggest asset in anyone's life and business is time. So for me, it's time to do great work. Time to be the same. You know, time to just smell the roses and enjoy the fresh air. Enjoy the sun on my face and then time to connect with loved ones. Life shouldn’t feel rushed.

00:27:01:06 - 00:27:09:19

Carrie Kwan

In the spirit of women supporting women who are the mumbitious mums that you would like to say hello to you?

00:27:10:23 - 00:27:26:11

Karen Hollenbach

All right. Well, firstly I want to say hello to Lucy. She's a fabulous human being for so many reasons. And Georgie, who I think is also part of the mums. She is a fabulous copywriter and storyteller and lives just around the corner from me. We've just started regular walks together, which is beautiful. I think she's how I may have originally even discovered Lucy.

Then the amazing Brooke McCarthy. Who has played such an important role in my business. I was part of her mumentum program for some time last year. For a period of time, it was great. She's such an incredible operator, and has given me so many tips on how to not only maximise my business, but also maximise my time.

00:28:13:19 - 00:28:39:10

Carrie Kwan

We're so glad that you have these amazing women who are unapologetically blending their ambition and motherhood beside you. It's amazing. I'm sure they'll be happy to have that shout out. Now Karen thank you so much for the amazing insights on LinkedIn and it’s definitely something for us to think about for our business. Thank you so much for joining us today and thank you for your company.

00:28:44:00 - 00:28:45:24

Karen Hollenbach

Thank you so much for having me, I really enjoyed it.