Building Moxie, Leah Thayer and a Comfy, Comfy Chair :: An Interview with this Remodeling Business Editor
Barry and I had the opportunity to send Leah Thayer some questions recently. Leah graciously answered them, and here we go. Enjoy. jb
Building Moxie: Who is Leah Thayer?
Leah Thayer: Mother, partner, daughter, sister, friend. Builder’s daughter. Verging on middle age but forever nine or 10 at heart. Die-hard Washingtonian raised in the woods of western Fairfax County, Va. Obsessed with my childhood home and real estate generally. Reader, writer, browser, dilettante. Slacker, workaholic, hedonist, homebody. Inveterate idea person. Minimal mechanical/financial aptitude.
BMoxie: How did you get here?
LT: “Here” as in … ? Well, I got to know you through Twitter. I’ve met some fantastic people and made some really good business relationships through Twitter. Seriously, online social media has opened a window into all kinds of worlds of opportunity and goodness.
BMoxie: What is Daily 5 Remodel? Tell us about your staff.
LT: daily5Remodel is the first in what I hope will be a family of industry-specific, web-based dailies and online communities for small-business professionals.
Here’s a summary that I wrote about a year ago, when the whole concept was entirely in my head. Thankfully, it pretty much stands up to reality now that we’ve been publishing for three months:
- “A web-based business media model for the daily delivery of actionable business advice and peer-to-peer engagement to motivated business owners in discrete industry niches. Each weekday, five categories of strategic business insights, actionable advice, and peer-to-peer engagement, delivered via email. A mix of exclusive content (including webinars, video and other multimedia) and expertly curated aggregated content from elsewhere.”
“Our” staff is mostly me, but we’ll be hiring in 2011. In the meantime, I have a fantastic development team that I speak with almost every day, and a great group of informal advisors. Also, don’t forget that I’m not generating all this content myself. In the great wiki tradition, my hope is that d5R will become mostly user-generated over time.
BMoxie: What motivated you, a business journalist and remodeling writer/editor at a top industry publication, to step out on your own?
LT: I was really lucky to be in the magazine industry, with a great B2B company, at a time of huge change in media and in the residential construction sector. When I started at Remodeling magazine, I had already written about just about every kind of business challenge that exists, but it wasn’t until I started to talk with remodelers every day that I realized how much I liked and identified with the small-business mindset.
I’ve always been kind of entrepreneurial and very comfortable working independently (I freelanced for more than eight years before starting at Hanley Wood). The longer I worked in the print-publishing cycle, and the more I relied on the web for finding sources and making connections, the more I felt that a monthly magazine with long lead times and page space that hinges largely on advertisers was short-changing the really dynamic and intelligent world of professional remodeling.
It became pretty clear that I wasn’t going to effect much change at Hanley Wood, so I figured — what the heck, you only live once.
BMoxie: Can you give us any insight into how you are juggling a very demanding *daily* editorial calendar? (Five buckets: Benchmarks, Best Practices, Snapshots, Answers, Innovations.) How does this differ from what you have done previously?
LT: I don’t sleep nearly enough, except for on weekends, when I’m typically the last one up. I’ve always been a media junkie, so reading lots of newspapers and magazines is pure pleasure. Tools like Google alerts and RSS feeds save me tons of time by delivering the kind of information I’m looking for. And in whatever I’m reading, whoever I’m talking to, wherever I’m going, there’s a part of my brain that is always looking for topics of interest to my audience, including actual remodeling best practices.
BMoxie: Could you provide a key moment in your life that sent you down your path?
LT: Ummm … how about a still-accumulating series of moments?
BMoxie: What do you love?
LT: Family, friends, home. Meeting people who are fascinating and/or kind. Mind-expanding ideas and big thinkers. Fireplaces and front porches. Long walks in old cities. Winding alleys and grand boulevards. People who work with their hands and love what they create. Great food. Long conversations over coffee and wine. A full kitchen.
BMoxie: Leah Thayer seems all biz – who are you off the clock? How do you stay connected to what you love?
LT: You might get a different answer from people who don’t know me professionally, but I think I’m pretty much the same person on and off the clock — and that’s because I’m rarely entirely off the clock. I guess that’s a risk for all entrepreneurs, especially home-based start-ups. Then again, I love my home and everything it stands for.
I get out and walk the city whenever I have the chance, and duck into Rock Creek Park (just a few minutes from my home) when I can find an hour or two. I love to lose myself in movies and music. My family and I travel as much as we can comfortably manage — quick weekend getaways to the beach or mountains, and longer trips abroad when we can swing it. It’s amazing how refreshing a day or two away from the routine can be.
BMoxie: How do you stay connected in what you do?
LT: I try to stay mindful of my audience at all times, in part by talking with them as much as possible. Hearing about their concerns and goals, and seeing how they run their businesses, motivates me to want to provide them with information that can foster their success and help them feel more connected to their peers.
BMoxie: Is there anything you want to tell us about that may be on d5R’s near horizon?
LT: We’re taking a holiday break for the last two weeks of December, and when we relaunch on January 3 we’ll have a few cool changes.
One is that everybody will automatically receive a free 30-day trial as a Premium subscriber. That means you’ll be able to access all kinds of good stuff, including a growing list of webinars in our premium library and other benefits. Another cool change is the launch of a series of Q&As with “expert panels” — folks with expertise in everything from lighting design to lead-generation to green remodeling.
We’re also going to be working much more closely with a few affiliated organizations that also serve the building trades, including BuilderLink (http://www.builderlink.com).
BMoxie: How do you maintain such an outwardly positive attitude in all of your professional interactions?
LT: Did you ever see that old New Yorker cartoon, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”? http://www.unc.edu/depts/jomc/academics/dri/idog.html
Note from the hosts: I guess I could tell you about the time LT and I met up for lunch . . . and how I felt like a major klutz, but I won’t. Instead . . . I’ll tell you , and picture this >> dueling little black notebooks. What I mean — we were not actually sitting in the same room for this interview. << Yah! I guess you probably guessed that.
Leah answered these questions from the comfort of her comfy chair some 50 miles away. And yep, I am kinda new with this (interviewing someone from a distance), my questions not so succinct maybe . . . . Leah’s responses, though, I left as is — I think displaying just how open and accessible she is.
Many thanks to one of my oldest twitter contacts — Leah Thayer, a top notch individual who I hold in the highest regard. Please check out, subscribe and support http://daily5remodel.com << good stuff for sure. Thank you again LT! Out. jb