In the lifestyle and home goods markets, the Magnolia brand developed by Joanna and Chip Gaines is a heavy hitter. From their beginnings in the real estate market in Waco, Texas, to their hit TV show Fixer-Upper (2014–2018), the couple has built an empire of lifestyle ventures. Real estate, a craft marketplace, a partnership with Target for their Hearth and Hand line of home goods, restaurants, a magazine, and an in-the-works cable network—their ventures span huge markets and appeal to a wide audience.
Joanna Gaines has also expanded her offerings consistently and successfully. Her brand is built on a foundation of family-first values, a farmhouse-chic aesthetic, and down-to-earth relatability. Are there lessons for smaller businesses to learn from the Magnolia mogul?
It turns out that Joanna Gaines has some useful insight into not only successful business practices but also about how to marry business and family.
Managing a Team
In an interview with Darling Magazine, Gaines offers her wisdom for building confident and motivated employees. “When you can use your strength to make other people confident,” she says, “that’s when the dynamics start changing and you start seeing more growth in others.” Good management is key to retaining your best employees.
Gaines asserts that the best managers lead by example, modeling humility and teamwork. “I think when people see others walk out in strength and in their giftings, it’s inspiring. I’ve seen over the years when these actions come from pride and I don’t think that inspires people. It makes people either want to compete with you or not like you at all.”
Valuing the unique offerings of the people around her is key to instilling confidence. “We must know the importance and the value of who we are,” she says, “whether that is as a stay-at-home mom or a CEO of a large company.”
Working With a Partner
Joanna and Chip Gaines started out in a place that many smaller business owners find themselves: working as a 2-person team. Whether or not your partner is your spouse, there are valuable lessons to be learned in this 2020 Salesforce interview with the Gaines pair. One benefit of working with a partner: finding someone whose temperament is complementary to your own. “I think we leaned on each other’s strengths,” says Joanna, “in those moments of weakness where I typically would only see the glass half [empty] and Chip would see the glass half full.”
Chip and Joanna’s opposing styles of business management have melded to create a mix of thoughtful planning and creative spontaneity. Chip explains: “People think of entrepreneurs…as riverboat gamblers or something like that…There’s a huge difference between literally rolling the dice, between making just a illogical or or unadvised gamble towards something and hoping you win the lottery, as opposed to strategically, logically, and very thoughtfully adjusting as things present themselves to you.” He goes on to add that “I would say people get lost on both sides of those extremes…but to be successful, you need to be someplace in the middle. The goal is to become an expert at whatever your craft is and then to scale your expertise. You need a little gut, a little intuition, and a little business plan.”
Proving their desire to stay nimble in the face of 2020’s many uncertainties, Joanna shares how their focus at Magnolia has been to focus on improving their customer service. This reflects the relatability that they became known for while their show Fixer-Upper was airing on HGTV. “We want to make sure [our customers] feel heard, known, seen. Not just marketed to…We’re not marketers in the sense that we just want the sales…we really want to engage and interact with our customers in a really authentic way.”
Striking a Work-Life Balance
With a family-first mindset being one of the cornerstones of the Gaines’s brand, Joanna is vocal about how difficult balancing her home and work commitments can be. Speaking on this topic with Salesforce, Joanna says that “I feel really grateful for the opportunity to be self-employed. But you also have to carve out these intentional moments.” She’s made it a point to involve their 5 kids in the business—she’s released a children’s book, We Are Gardeners, with her children listed as co-authors. In addition, Joanna has published several books, including cookbooks and a design book featuring her own home, and collaborated on a children’s clothing line and furniture line.
The key to work-life balance, according to Joanna, is to be all-in for whichever job she’s working at that time. When she’s at work, she stays 100% focused—so that when she’s home with her kids, she can leave work behind at the office and give all of her energy to her children. “I really feel like it was like, no, if this business isn’t gonna run me, I’ve got to run this business,” she shares with Salesforce. “And so for me it was making, really, some key shifts. It was taking off half the week to be home, meaning I have to kill it when I’m at the office.”
No matter the industry, all business owners face universal struggles: modeling good management, working with partners, and balancing work and home realities. Joanna Gaines shows us that, while there is no easy answer to these challenges, finding what works for you is a good place to start.