Lauren Eckhardt is the CEO and Founder of Burning Soul Press. An award-winning, and best-selling author and ghostwriter, she is passionate about helping impact-driven souls capture their life stories in a book-led movement that changes lives and transcends time. Lauren founded Burning Soul Press in 2020, after 12 years in the human resources field, to work with aspiring and career authors in pursuit of sharing a powerful and deeply impactful story or message.
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We’re happy that you could join us today! Please introduce yourself to our readers. What’s your story?
Lauren Eckhardt: I’m a best-selling and award-winning author, ghostwriter, book coach, and the CEO of Burning Soul Press, a book coaching and publishing company that helps soul-driven writers with an empowering story become best-selling authors who make a lifelong impact with their message and mission. I started Burning Soul Press in April 2020 as a one-woman show and within months, it quickly grew to a six-figure company with an amazing team that supports all of our global clients in helping them reach their author goals.
CEOs and leaders usually have different motives and aspirations when getting started. Let’s go straight to the beginning. What was your primary goal for starting your business? Was it wealth, respect, or to offer a service that would help improve lives?
Lauren Eckhardt: Since I was six years old, I knew I wanted to be an author. It took me about thirty years to achieve it, but what I didn’t realize until only recently, is that when you set out to achieve a dream, it’s only the door that you can see. You think you know what’s to come, but you can never fully account for what else is behind that door.
Once I became an author, other people asked for my help to write and publish their books. Every time I helped someone, my soul was lit on fire. In April 2020, I launched Burning Soul Press, a story-sharing agency, as a one-woman show. Within eight months, we grew to a team of six employees helping the most amazing writers share their stories to empower and inspire others around the world. It’s been a year of trial and error, tears, and more, but the evolution has been beautiful. I couldn’t have dreamed this at six years old, but if I never went for that dream in the first place—no matter how long it took to reach, I never would have been able to discover my soul’s purpose behind that door.
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Tell us about 2 things that you like and two things that you dislike about your industry. Share what you’d like to see change and why.
Lauren Eckhardt: I love the positive impact books can have on our lives. I mean, being an author is powerful – I believe sharing your story with the world is one of the most meaningful things we can do. Sharing people’s stories (the kinds of books Burning Soul Press publishes) can make the world a better place.
I also love the diversity we can find in books. Books are just as unique as the people writing them. Reading books expands our minds, shows us new perspectives, and teaches us new things – about others and about ourselves.
I dislike that most often in the publishing industry, 80-90% of the book’s royalties (the monetary return on book sales) go back to the publishing house and the agent representing the author. The author ultimately receives a small fraction of the profits from the book they’ve invested in and written. This has been the set-up for years: the author often pays for the publishing of their book by forgoing much of their royalties. It has always felt unequal to me, and that’s why Burning Soul Press offers a 50% split, to show the true partnership with our authors.
I also dislike that a book is oftentimes treated as a resume builder among entrepreneurs. I wish more people would dig deeper and truly share their stories – we would all connect more with each other if we embraced that vulnerability to share our stories.
Companies around the world are rapidly changing their work environment and organizational culture to facilitate diversity. How do you see your organizational culture changing in the next 3 years and how do you see yourself creating that change?
Lauren Eckhardt: Having started Burning Soul Press in 2020, we’ve always been a virtual company. All of my employees work remotely. We also don’t enforce the 9-5 schedule. Of course, we have team meetings and we make ourselves available to meet with our authors, but their time is their own.
The important cultural shift I am determined to make is to offer my team 25-hour workweeks for a full-time salary doing so. That also means I, myself have to learn how to work 25 hours per week (and not 60) to set that example and direction for our company. The values we have are reflected in everything I do, and it’s the only way to truly set the right culture for our entire company and how we help our clients.
According to the Michigan State University “An organization’s culture is responsible for creating the kind of environment in which the business is managed, and has a major impact on its ultimate success or failure.” What kind of culture has your organization adopted and how has it impacted your business?
Lauren Eckhardt: You have to take risks and you have to empower your team to take measured risks. I’m hiring people who I believe in, people I want to represent our company because of their servant hearts and passion. I want them to feel like Burning Soul Press is theirs as much as it’s mine. My own risk-taking has grown our company and I want my team to try things too and see what the result is without fear of consequences or discipline. You have to set the bar for what you expect from anyone else.
Richard Branson once famously stated “There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.” and Stephen R. Covey admonishes to “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. What’s your take on creating a great organizational culture?
Lauren Eckhardt: Openness and absolute transparency. When your employees feel that they are truly part of the team with equal value, they will invest themselves as deeply as you do towards your mission. We share our failures and wins and learn from them – and we celebrate everything. I am completely transparent with my team about my thoughts, my goals, my challenges, my mistakes, my wins. I don’t hold anything back from them because I want them to see everything and feel as though this company is as much theirs as it is mine. I want their input, experiences, and perspective to guide our direction as much as I would want a mentor’s to be involved. They can only have valuable input if they have full transparency at all times and we can learn from everyone’s errs and successes.
The overwhelming majority of more than 9,000 workers included in a recent Accenture survey on the future of work said they felt a hybrid work model would be optimal going forward, a major reason for that being the improved work-life balance that it offers. How do you promote work-life balance at your company?
Lauren Eckhardt: As I said before, we’ve always been a virtual company and we don’t enforce the 9-5 schedule. My team loves it because they have the flexibility to prioritize their personal life, which means we experience far less burnout than we had in our past corporate jobs. It’s also something I’m able to model for them – I have two boys and a dog at home. If I want to take the dog for a walk at 10, I do, if I want to nap with my kids at 3 pm, I do. I’m able to work around my life, and it’s liberating. I am always encouraging my team to do the same and celebrate when I hear of something fun they’ve done during the “traditional” workday. I know they wouldn’t have otherwise had that freedom, and I’m thrilled we can all enjoy it.
How would you describe your company’s overall culture? Give us examples.
Lauren Eckhardt: Transparent – I am always sharing challenges and successes within the business.
Flexible – We prioritize meetings with the team and with clients, and otherwise we work on our own terms.
Ambitious – I have big goals for Burning Soul Press, and my team is always brainstorming ways to expand our services/offering and reach those who need them. We work hard.
Collaborative – We are a small team, so there is a lot of crossover and partnering to get projects done. We have a wonderful system leveraging everyone’s strengths whether it would traditionally fall under their respective title or not.
It is believed that a company’s culture is rooted in a company’s values. What are your values and how do they affect daily life at the workplace?
Lauren Eckhardt: The company promotes the following values: Authenticity, Purpose, Determination, Empowerment, Passion. This allows employees to feel comfortable being themselves and transparent about their challenges at work, take measured risks and have decision-making power, and work with the support of a team towards a mission and goal we are all passionate about.
An organization’s management has a deep impact on its culture. What is your management style and how well has it worked so far?
Lauren Eckhardt: I am a mix of consultative and transformational management styles. I certainly seek the opinions of my team on certain paths we may take to get their feedback, but still, make the final decisions as CEO. I also encourage the team to push past their comfort zones so we are always striving for better than last time.
Every organization suffers from internal conflicts, whether functional or dysfunctional. Our readers would love to know, how do you solve an internal conflict?
Lauren Eckhardt: We sit down and “hash it out”. Our interpersonal relationships matter too much. Conflict can be healthy, but if you try to gloss over it, conflict can fester and distract the team from our true purpose. It’s critical to work through conflict, however uncomfortable, quickly so you can return to business as usual and repair relationships.
According to Culture AMP, Only 40% of women feel satisfied with the decision-making process at their organization (versus 70% of men), which leads to job dissatisfaction and poor employee retention. What is your organization doing to facilitate an inclusive and supportive environment for women?
Lauren Eckhardt: I am proud to share that the team at Burning Soul Press is 100% female. I am dedicated to supporting and empowering women – as employees, clients, and readers of our books.
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What role do your company’s culture and values play in the recruitment process and how do you ensure that it is free from bias?
Lauren Eckhardt: We only hire for heart and soul, not for the job itself. The majority of responsibilities for most roles can be taught to a person who is truly passionate about the mission and purpose. Hiring for people (and not the job) allows you to match your needs to the people who will truly make a difference and drive your mission forward, and not just clock in and clock out. It also makes people feel more invested in the organization when they feel that bringing their heart and talent to the table is enough and valued the most by their employer.
We’re grateful for all that you have shared so far! We would also love to know if there was one thing that you could improve about your company’s culture, what would it be?
Lauren Eckhardt: Right now, we’re learning and growing what works best for this specific team. I’m proud of what my team and I have accomplished together thus far, and I look forward to our future growth – in the company’s goals but also in our culture. There is always room for improvement, and I trust that when an opportunity to learn presents itself, we will rise to the challenge.
This has been truly insightful and we thank you for your time. Our final question, however, might be a bit of a curveball. If you had a choice to either fly or be invisible, which would you choose and why?
Lauren Eckhardt: Neither. Haha, I really hate either-or questions with a passion.
I believe in “and” too much.
So I’d be an invisible fly so I could fly around freely and see the world and people’s lives from different perspectives and angles, from far away and up close.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Lauren Eckhardt for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Lauren Eckhardt or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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