“Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn”

career and mom in kansas city

Q&A with Rachel Sexton

This week’s Working Mom Wednesday interviewee is no stranger to the spotlight. Rachel Sexton’s professional and philanthropic accomplishments have caught the attention of local magazines and news stations over the years.

According to her company profile, she’s been honored as one of KC Business magazine’s “Most Influential Women”; named a “Forty under 40” by Ingram’s Magazine; recognized as a “Rising Star” by KC Business magazine {where she rocked the cover photo}; selected as a “Next Gen Leader” and member of the 2013 class of “Women Who Mean Business” by the Kansas City Business Journal; chosen as one of KC Magazine’s Top 100 People of Kansas City; and recognized as a PharmaVoice 100 in 2014.

While proud of her {many} accolades and the hard work that got her there, Rachel is more concerned with serving others than talking about her own awards. As inspiring as she is to many, Rachel can usually be found telling stories about the patients, friends and colleagues that inspire her. Above all, her biggest honor so far has been the role of mom.

Self-promo time. Tell me what you do.

I run VPR POP, a company that creates patient-to-patient programs so people who live well with progressive or rare diseases can share health education and messages of hope with others who may be struggling with the same condition.

You’ve worked there quite some time. How’d you get started and what’s kept you there?

I started as a writer/producer fresh out of Journalism School at MU. I’ve stayed nearly 18 years because it’s so incredibly rewarding to work with people who have been handed a scary diagnosis but have chosen to live an empowered, purposeful life. It really puts it all in perspective.

If that wasn’t your gig, what do you think you’d be doing?

Move over, Kelly Ripa! I realized during J-School that I did not have the passion or hairstyling skills to work my way up the reporting ladder, but I could totally handle a glam squad, doting audience who would appreciate semi-boring stories about my kids and a parade of celebrity guests.

What is a typical day like for you?

Wake up around 7 with a baby in my arms {I’m a co-sleeping hippie}; thank God for a husband who is a morning person and gets the oldest 3 ready for school before I open my eyes {and brings me Starbucks on the weekends}; go to the office; take someone to basketball/soccer/tennis/ballet/drawing class/STEAM camp; go to a Junior League meeting or out for a run…then do a little dance, make a little love and get down tonight {or just watch some Bravo and go to bed}.

Tell me about a professional set back.

When I started at VPR, we were heavily focused on the advertising/marketing side of health care. When the economy recessed, there just weren’t as many dollars to go into those promotional tactics. Many companies that did what we did fell apart, but we forged a new path and branched into patient-to-patient outreach.

How’d that work out?

It’s the classic lemons to lemonade principal. We looked at what was truly important to the health care industry in this changing time – the patient – and how we could use our core strengths in communication and creativity, plus 30 years of knowledge, to develop something that would help educate and empower patients. The result was something better than we ever imagined.

Rachel Sexton on the cover of KC Business Magazine

Your resume includes VP {VPR}, President {Junior League} and even marathoner, not to mention mom! How do you juggle it all?

I’m glad you brought up the marathon. It was a HALF marathon and I only did one. I did well for a first race {1:47}, but it wasn’t worth it. Training for it was such a regimented approach to running vs. my usual practice of just getting out there after work and blowing off some steam that it actually took me a few months to enjoy running again after it was over. Which answers the question about juggling – I just DON’T do what I don’t enjoy. I don’t love to read, I don’t love to go to the movies, I don’t love to cook dinner. So I don’t. I love my job, I love volunteering and I love decorating birthday cakes. So I do. It gets a lot easier to juggle when you are salivating over everything on that full plate and not trying to pick your way around the icky stuff.

So do you ever find time to relax?

I hate relaxing, but I do love recharging. Nothing motivates me more than hanging with smart, witty women who lift each other up. I am so lucky to know so many who inspire me with their accomplishments between the KC Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business, the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri and my incredible girlfriends.

How has your professional life changed since having kids?

Over the past 10 years, I’ve learned to work smarter but not longer. I used to liberally apply this sentiment to tactical execution: “it will take me longer to teach someone how to do it than to do it myself”. It was really an excuse for me to be a control freak and poor delegator. Once I had kids and had no choice but to share the load, I realized that I was far from the only one who could execute up to my standards and that I was much more valuable to my company when I wasn’t bogged down in the weeds and could focus more on strategic operations. It was a win-win that I might have never realized had I not become a mommy.

They say it takes a village. Who helps you with your kiddos?

My amazing mama who watches the kids at my house 4 days a week, my mother-in-law who watches them at her home the other day, and my husband who does more than his share of everything and doesn’t make me feel selfish for not pulling my weight.

Has there been a mom-moment you’ve missed that you regretted due to work?

Not one specific moment that keeps me up at night, but I know I have short changed a lot of experiences: from being back on email hours after giving birth to working on reports during family dinners to taking conference calls from Animal Kingdom, I’m definitely not always 100% present when I’m with my family. While my family is unquestionably my top priority, after putting 18 years into my career, it’s also one of my babies.

rachel sexton career mom kansas city
Rachel with her husband, Brian King and their four children: Will (10), Grayson (8), Kitty (4) and Bibi (4 months)

What do you hope your children take away from you working?

I hope when they look back, my career is just a side note – “oh yeah, and she did some great stuff at her office too.” I hope I instill my sense of humor, healthy habits and volunteer spirit in them more than my commitment to work. I’m the product of a stay-at-home mom and a workaholic dad. They were both incredible at what they did, and equally inspiring to me. As long as my kids are contributing to society, feeling fulfilled and not asking me for money, I don’t care if they raise a family, run a company or both.

What’s your best piece of advice for other working moms?

Surround yourself with women who validate and inspire you. There’s no room for a vampire who wants to suck the positive energy out of you or the Debbie Downer who wants you to wallow in mommy guilt with her. Whether it’s a volunteer organization, a mom’s group or a professional organization, there are lots of strong, positive women out there and they’re one of the best resources we have.

Also, PLEASE don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. We can’t afford to be humble or modest. Not only are you’re sharing a message that working moms can be successful, you never know when your accomplishments will inspire someone to take that leap outside of her comfort zone.

Tell me about a goal that you’re working on right now.

I’m at an interesting point in my life: after 3 pretty intense years of Junior League leadership that have taken up a lot of my free time, I will become a Sustaining member of our 1,400 member organization this spring. The organization has invested so much into making me a leader and I feel a great hunger and a sense of responsibility to use those skills to benefit the community… but I’m not sure in what capacity. I’m open to ideas!

I’m on a quest to having it all. What does having it all mean to you?

I love your attitude. Too often I read articles about how it’s not possible to have it all or how the pursuit of it can ruin your life. NOT TRUE! For me, having it all means having a career I love, children and a husband who know I love them, giving back to the community and making “me time” to run and recharge with friends. If there was something else I wanted to pursue, I wouldn’t let my full plate scare me from doing it.

You’re right that we don’t have it all at once. “Can women have it all?” is a trick question. It’s like saying, “Can you have Mexican, Chinese, pizza and sushi?” Sure you can, just not all in the same night. Now, I’ve been to some sketchy Las Vegas buffets where you can make that vision a reality, but when you’re cramming it all into one meal, none of it is that enjoyable. With some realistic expectations, thoughtful planning and a solid support system, having “it all” is not only possible, but actually pretty delicious.

I want to sincerely thank Rachel for participating in this week’s interview. Not only did she make me totally hungry {Mexican food anyone?}, but I learned a lot about leadership and prioritizing.

Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.

Leap Day: 24 things you should do with your extra 24 hours

Leap Day too busy

How often do you claim to be too busy to take on a new project at work, join another committee, meet up with a friend, indulge in a pedicure, or even just finish simple household chores?

I know I’m guilty of dropping the “I don’t have enough time” excuse more often than I’d care to admit.

But that’s exactly what it is: an excuse. The reality is that we do make time for the things that we value the most at the moment.

What we really mean when we say “I don’t have enough time” is that the thing we’re too busy to do simply isn’t a priority.

We’ve all wished for just a few more hours in the day, but have you ever thought about how you’d spend that time if you actually had it?

Well, every four years we get our wish on February 29. Leap Day quite literally boosts our year with an extra twenty-four hours. Are you making the most of your bonus day?

Here are 24 things I’m going to do today that in a typical 365-day calendar year would probably fall off of my to-do list. {Hint: saying, “I don’t have enough time” isn’t one of them.}

1. Wake up early

If I’ve got an extra 24 hours to get things done, I’m certainly not going to waste it sleeping. As my husband would say, “Carpe Diem.”

2. Meditate

If you know me, being still and quiet takes some serious focus. It means clearing some time in my schedule when I can be by myself. While I rarely create time and space for this, the reality is that it leaves me more calm and more creative.

3. Research a house project

Neither my husband nor myself are super handy when it comes to housework, plus it would take us triple the time it would take a professional. So for today, I’m going to prioritize which project needs to come next {likely freshening up our exterior paint job} and start researching the man {or woman} for the job.

4. Listen to a podcast

I love Podcasts. I think it’s a great way to sneak in some professional development. If I’m honest, I actually do this most days anyway, but I’m typically multitasking while I listen {either cooking dinner or jumping on the elliptical}. Today I’m going to sit back and relax while I check out this new podcast a friend recommended.

5. Read a book

My husband loves to read. He works much longer hours than I do outside of our home. Then he has to pay bills, take out the trash, help with bath time, play with the kids, fix the broken toys, etc. when he gets home. But he always makes time to read. Because for him, it’s a priority. I, on the other hand, am the worst at making a date with a good book. I’m going to snuggle up with a new read {it was a Christmas present I have yet to begin} with my extra 24 hours today.

6. Go out for lunch

I’ve always been guilty of eating lunch at my desk. While this is a habit I will likely return to tomorrow for productivity’s sake, today I’m heading out to a restaurant and fully intend to enjoy my time away from my computer.

7. Put laundry away

Based on conversations with other moms, I’m doing okay in this category. Regardless, my lag time from dryer to laundry basket to dresser drawers is still about 1.8 days. Some families do just fine ditching the drawers altogether, but this mom is going to set aside some time to put the laundry away while the kids are at school.

8. Enjoy a cup of coffee outside

If you live in Kansas City, you know the weather has been absolutely gorgeous lately. With another cold front on the way; however, this morning I’m going to soak up the sunshine with a cup o’ joe on my back deck.

9. Take a bath

I love to take baths, yet I probably only do it a handful of times a year. Maybe it’s because our children use our bathtub and so it’s filled with toys and God knows what else, but today I’m going to light a candle, grab a glass of wine and relax with some bubble bath.

10. Drink a glass of wine

See No. 9. {Sauvignon blanc, please.}

11. Light a candle

See No. 9. {I usually only light a candle when we have company coming over and I want our house to smell cleaner than it really is.}

12. Support a cause

I mailed a gift to a local charity that’s close to my heart. It wasn’t the hands on approach I wish I’d planned for today, but having worked for a not-for-profit, I know that every gift matters.

13. Call a friend

I got a jump start on this over the weekend, but plan to follow up today. If you have a friend who lives in a different city than you, it’s time to pick up the phone and call them. Leave a voicemail. Follow up with an email if you need to. Just remind them how important they are in your life with something a little more personal than an emoji text or Facebook post like.

14. Stretch

Whether I pop in a yoga video or just do some simple stretches, this activity brings me the same calming benefits as meditation while making my body feel stronger and more bendy. While stretching is something I know is good for my body, it almost always gets overlooked.

15. Throw a dance party

Kind of like the podcasts, this is something my family does almost everyday anyway. We love to turn up the music and just be silly together. It gets us moving, interacting with each other and having fun. Every family should throw a dance part every single day!

16. Give a compliment to a stranger

The great thing about making other people feel good about themselves is that it has the powerful ability to make you feel better, too. I plan to fill my extra 24 hours with a lot more warm and fuzzies.

17. Take a different route

Driving down the same road everyday is incredibly mundane. My children’s school, dance class and grandparent’s house are all down the exact same road. Today I’m going to switch it up, even if it takes a bit longer. Plus, it’s actually good for your brain to take different paths!

18. Paint my nails

I don’t typically splurge on pedicures. The problem is that I also rarely take the time to properly self groom. With spring just around the corner, I’m going to spend some time polishing my piggies before someone notices the same coat of paint from the last time I wore sandals.

19. Try something new

I’m not exactly sure where I’m going to squeeze this in today {maybe I’ll order something I’ve never had before at my lunch out today?!}, but getting this extra time seems like the perfect opportunity to try something new.

20. Plan a vacation

I have a jump start on this one. My husband and I are heading to California this May for a close friend’s wedding. The plane tickets have been bought, but that’s about it. Oh, and we’re flying out of a completely different state than we’re flying into. Road trip! Time to start working through some of those details…

21. Learn about my city

Kansas City is an amazing place to live. Because I’m from here, I’ve always told my coastal friends what a great city we have here in the “flyover states,” but the truth is that I’ve only experienced a fraction of what KC has to offer. I’m going to spend some time researching my hometown and plotting our next date night or family outing.

22. Get involved

That’s right. This blog post started with me saying how busy I am, but I’m going to get more involved. Let me explain. My husband and I joined the Kansas City Chamber last fall, and I’ve only been to one event. What a waste! As an overly involved individual, I should know first hand that you get out of any organization what you put into it. It’s time to get involved.

23. Get ahead

I love to-do lists. I’m going to pick something that I hadn’t planned to work on until later this week and tackle it today. Man it feels good to get ahead!

24. Reflect on the day

I’m excited to find out if any of these activities make such an impact today that they stop being something I’m too busy to do moving forward.

Well, I’ve got a lot on my plate so I better get started. I want to know, how do you plan to spend your extra 24 hours today?

5 ways to actually achieve your goals this year

tips for accomplishing your goals

Monday is February 1st, which marks one month since you blissfully resolved to make this the best year yet. How are you doing on your resolutions or goals thus far?

I recently read that by Super Bowl weekend only 20% of goal-setters are still on track. And by Christmas? Only 5% will waive a victory flag.

But I’m here to tell you that I believe you’re a five percenter. The thing about goals is, if you do them right they can be an amazingly powerful tool to inspire and guide you! Plus, you’re in control of your own success {or failure}. We’ve already 1/12th of the way there, so let’s not waste anymore time.

1. Set smarter goals

We’ve all heard of SMART goals, but thanks to a fashion blog I follow I’m not making my goals SMARTER. If you know me personally, you know I’m probably not following it for the style tips {I live in yoga pants} but for their incredible business savvy. They put the “er” in “smarter” and I think it adds an extra dose of motivation. Who doesn’t want to be excited by their goals and rewarded for reaching them?!

Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timely, Exciting, Rewarded

Example: By December 31, 2016 (T), we will have 100 (M, R) new business members (S) join Femfessionals Kansas City (A). This goal excites me, because I’m passionate about growing a community of working women (E). When I achieve this goal, I’m going to throw a free event for all of our members (R)!

2. Look at it

A goal you can see is massively more powerful than a goal you keep hidden like a secret. Are you the creative type? Try making a vision board using magazine clippings. Now that you can literally see your goals, it’s time to tell someone else about them. Making yourself accountable to your friends and family is one of the best ways to stay on track.

3. Break it up

Many people abandon goals because they’re just too dang big. If you’ve done this to yourself, stop now. Change your game plan.
Select mini-milestones that all work toward your main goal. Let’s say your goal is to gain 100 new clients this year. That sounds a bit intimidating, doesn’t it? But if you break it into a monthly goal of 8-10 clients per month or about 2 a week, it becomes a more manageable goal. Split your big goals into bite size chunks and conquer it one sweet victory at a time.

4. Commit to yourself

There’s only one person in this goal-setting process that matters. You. Commit to yourself now and be prepared to recommit over and over again. The thing about achieving goals is that it’s a bit like riding a horse. You’re bound to get thrown off a few times. Commit to yourself so that you’ll climb right back on that saddle.

5. Start now

You know the saying, “Never put off for tomorrow, what you can do today.” They weren’t talking about folding your laundry {but don’t procrastinate there either or your clothes will be all wrinkled}. When it comes to going after what you want, you have to start now. So if you haven’t figured out what you want to accomplish this year, this month or this week, it’s time to go for it.

Big growth is just around the corner. What is your number one goal for this year?

5 New Year’s resolutions for a successful 2016

New Year Oprah

It’s hard to believe 2016 is a day away. When I was a kid it sounded so obnoxious to hear older people talk about how time seems to speed up each year, but now that I’m a parent I am starting to see some truth to it. With a one and three-year-old the days can seem {painfully} long at times, but I seem to have blinked and here I am at another year. With an almost four-year-old. Which can’t be right since I was practically just in college. Until I realize that it’s almost 2016 and I graduated nearly eight years ago. How did that happen?

While a new year makes me feel a bit sad that my kids are growing up so quickly, it’s also a great time to do some self reflection. My husband and I are big into setting goals, making resolutions and adding things to our bucket lists. We actually sit down once a year and write each of these into a Google Doc that we share so we can check in from time to time. This process has been a great road map for our life together. In fact, both this blog and my husband’s business were dreamed up in goal-setting sessions and become our reality!

We aren’t getting any younger, which means {if the old people are right} that time isn’t getting any slower either. With time passing so quickly, you may miss the chance to get what you want out of your life if you don’t take time to figure out {and write down} what those things are.

Here’s my list for 2016. Do you share any of the same resolutions? Tell me about yours in the comments.

1. Say yes more

When you have young kids, it is so easy to become a total home-body. A night out with friends or lunch with an old classmate seems like so much work when you have to align a baby sitter or just muster up the energy to change out of your yoga pants and take a shower. The problem with acting like a recluse is that you may actually start to lose touch with some of those friends when they stop inviting you out when you always stay in. 2016 will be a year of yes as long as you aren’t asking me to stay out too late {some of us still have to get up at 6 a.m. with the toddlers, k?}.

2. Put down the cell phone

I hope my husband adds this one to his list, but I’m not exactly proud of the hours I’ve clocked tuned into technology during family-time either. It’s so tempting to get look at your cell phone each time you hear an email arrive in your inbox. This year I hope to stay true to my time blocked working hours and save the social scrolling until after the kiddos are in bed so I never have to hear my daughter say, “mommy, please get off your phone” again.

3. Build my girl squad

As the president of our Kansas City chapter of Femfessionals, I have huge goals for our new community to flourish in 2016. Selfishly, one of these goals is to build my own power network, as well. I’m entering 2016 as a first-time, full-fledged business owner and I see the women in this group as a wealth of support and information. But like most things in life, you only get out what you put in. I can’t wait to get to know the women in this network better.

4. Quit comparing

Women spend an enormous amount of time comparing themselves to others. I have two thoughts on this. First, sometimes what you see isn’t even reality. Think about it, do you put your really embarrassing or sad or angry self on social media? Probably not. Neither does she. So when her life looks perfect, just remember everyone is going through something. Second, we aren’t all looking for the same things on this journey through life and that’s okay. Sometimes I see pictures of my stay-at-home-mom friends with their children throughout the day and I wonder what the heck I’m doing in the office. But then I remember I chose to do this work that I love and my children are thriving in their preschool. In 2016, I’m going to stop wasting my time worrying about how your life compares to mine and make sure I’m doing my personal best instead.

5. Get political

In case you’ve been living under a rock, 2016 is an election year and things are bound to be interesting. Sometimes it’s easy to sit back and coast on your political affiliations or stay out of it altogether, but as someone less than impressed with all of our presidential candidates, I really want to take the initiative to learn more on the national and local level this year and maybe even get involved. {Heck, even my husband joined our local HOA Board for 2016.} It really does matter, so I hope you’ll get inspired and join me.