Kathy Sweet dared to ask, “What if?” and then took a risk to make her dream a reality. While drive, vision and determination are critical to Sweet’s successes, she knows that people are the true catalysts of a business’s performance and growth.
In 1990, Sweet and her husband, Dave, started automätik, a training and events company that works primarily in the automotive space. Working in a variety of venues — retail spaces, hotel ballrooms and even off-road sites — Sweet often encountered unreasonable obstacles when executing events. She found herself asking, “Why are there so many rules?” and began dreaming about a venue that was user-friendly, customer-focused, employed easy-to-work with staff, provided plug-and-play audio/visual, and offered other flexibilities that would allow customers to host the event they wanted. Sweet also wanted to start a business that was focused on giving back to nonprofits, as her family strives to help make a difference in the community. With that focus, the Sweets opened an event space in 2016 and named it “because.” For every event booked at because, the event client selects a local cause that will receive 10 percent of the total amount spent. Nonprofits that book their event at because get 10 percent back to their own charity.
Sweet’s management principles balance organic and fluid against structured, with all of that governed by what seems reasonable.
“One must have empathy, because ‘stuff happens,’” Sweet says. Her approach is to “deal with the situation, be honest, make apologies when necessary, and make things right as best as you can.” She learned this lesson when her business was in its infancy. She found that being able to put herself in someone else’s situation eased a lot of stress and helped her foresee possible issues that might arise at an event. What it comes down to, Sweet explains, is to “make it about them and what they want, not about you and what you want.”
At the same time, Sweet knew she needed a level-headed approach, flexible but fair. She focused on developing the best team as opposed to trying to curate the best “family” environment — building great chemistry among them by making sure everyone understood the organization’s vision, worked toward common goals and supported one another. Those elements, with an applied focus on providing exemplary customer service experiences, is what has helped Sweet’s businesses thrive.
Along those lines, Sweet sets clear expectations. “As a leader, you can’t be afraid to inspect what you expect,” she says.
Another key strategy has been the MBWA principle (management by wandering around). Sweet has found that a casual tour through the workspace and checking in on the team goes an incredibly long way, allowing her to interact with employees, ensure teammates are working in sync and confirming to her employees that each has the support he or she needs. Staying this close to the business operations has enabled her to learn quickly when something is not working out well and to see opportunities to make a potentially huge impact by just switching up responsibilities between team members.
With her balanced approach, Sweet also knows it is important to be an example to employees as well as clients. It’s not unusual to see Sweet pitching in and rolling up her sleeves even picking up trash in the parking lot. Additionally, the donation model at because allows clients to choose which charity they donate to (from a list of seven selected by the Sweet’s). By getting clients personally involved in selecting the “cause” that receives the give back, they become familiar with a charity they may not have known about before.
From the beginning, Sweet has surrounded herself with great people and gave them the freedom to do their job. She looks for people who love helping people. But that isn’t enough; excellent communication skills are very important along with attention to detail and integrity. She tries to identify employees who will take initiative and will jump in when they see something needs to be done. “As a business owner, you just can’t do everything or be everywhere,” she says. “You need skilled, trustworthy people. There is too much to do in running a business to do your job and someone else’s.”
Sweet runs her business on what she calls “The Platinum Rule”: Do to others as they would have you do to them. “It’s not about us. It’s about our clients,” Sweet says.
because Lives Up to Its Name
With because, co-owner Kathy Sweet realizes her dream of a business that would bring the community together while also giving back. Since her 15,000-square-foot event space opened in April 2016, it has raised more than $50,000 for local charities. It has been able to do that because 10 percent of what a client spends on each event is donated to a local Arizona charity.
Clients can choose from one of seven charities because has partnered with:
- Arizona Humane Society
- Children’s Cancer Network
- Hustle PHX
- Owl Love You Forever
- Phoenix Rescue Mission,
- Vet Tix