August 25, 2015

An interview with Erin Schuler-Van Gilst

By Jacki Hart CLP
Prosperity Partners program manager

Last month at the Green Trade Expo in Ottawa, I met with Erin Schuler-Van Gilst, owner of Create It! of Williamsburg.

A few years ago, I featured a new Prosperity Partners member in each column throughout the year. Erin was one of them, with her young business just getting started. In fact, when Erin took her first Prosperity Partners seminar, she hadn’t actually started her business.

I thought it would be fun to meet with her to see whether or not she is still using the tools in her business that she received from the Build Your Prosperity seminar. Here’s what she had to say in an interview with me.

Jacki How has the Prosperity language helped you be intentional about how you run your business?

Erin It’s made me visualize my strengths and actually write them down. It’s helped me put down concrete things, like my goals for every year. I use it as a basic outline every winter. It helps me to ask lots of questions of myself about what I’m doing and the direction I’m going.

Jacki Can you give me an example of the type of questions you ask yourself as a result of the Prosperity Partners tools?

Erin I asked myself, ‘By taking on this contract, am I keeping in line with what I am passionate about and have expertise in?’ The tools I’ve taken from the Build Your Prosperity seminar have helped me stay focused, and realign myself. It’s really helping me to be as you put it, ‘intentional’ about pursuing excellence.

Jacki How does what you’ve learned through the Prosperity Partners program help rejuvenate your interest and passion, and keep you engaged?

Erin The power of networking really hit home for me in the first seminar. I realized way back then (it’s been five years since I took the first Prosperity seminar), that networking keeps me rejuvenated and engaged. It gives me the confidence of knowing that I have my expertise, and access to lots of additional information when I need it. I also feel really engaged and rejuvenated when I have knowledge to share and offer my peers. It makes you feel good to meet with peers for the mutual improvement, which Tony DiGiovanni always talks about.

Jacki I understand that you’ve just been elected to the Ottawa Chapter board. Congratulations! What is it about being involved with your chapter that keeps you engaged and rejuvenated?

Erin Even though our chapter meetings are just an hour or two a month, going to them keeps me enthusiastic because everyone else is. Everyone enjoys sharing common interests and challenges, and dreaming for a common goal for the chapter. I believe that in order to do something good and be successful, you have to keep yourself engaged and enthusiastic. At our chapter meetings, there are a lot of great people who keep me engaged and enthused. It goes around, because it also gives me a chance to give something back.

Jacki What do you hope to get from your career by being on the chapter board?

Erin To grow, in terms of my professional network. I want to learn what is in the inner works of the chapter. I’ve always had passion to be a teacher. I would love to teach any age and perhaps by broadening my knowledge through the chapter leaders, I could get involved in industry teaching (at Kemptville college, or LO). I love mentoring fellow members. Last month outside of the chapter meeting, I had a coffee meeting with a peer wanting to know how to professionalize her business. I used the Prosperity content to give her some ideas and structure. It made me feel really great.

Jacki Most recently, what specifically has the Prosperity Partners program done to help you with your business and work-life balance?

Erin Prosperity is the language of how my business runs — it’s that simple. On the Congress Warm Up Monday, I took the Effective Management Short Course. It was a great day to focus on my skills as a manager. I’m at a point in my business where I can begin to step away from the job and do consultations, sales and manage the moving parts. The workshop gave me some new skills and helped me define where my business is lacking.
Jacki Can you give me an example?

Erin I’m struggling with right-fit employees. Some are the right fit for quality, but don’t have the people skills to interface one-on-one with my clients in an appropriate way. My clients love the miracles I create, but it’s the little things that build relationships which are key, and an ability to communicate in an engaging, confident way. I need my people to be able to do the same. The Short Course gave me some food for thought going forward. Jacki, as you put it, you can teach people to do the hard skills, but it’s pretty hard to teach them to smile and be comfortable making eye contact or speaking with confidence and clarity. Your advice to hire the soft skills first, the hard skills are easier to teach, will go a long way for me.

Jacki What did you like the most about the Effective Management Short Course?

Erin Definitely the group interaction was the key for me. It was the whole structure of the day. We had tasks to complete as a group/team. We had to be task oriented and time focused. It was hard core management stuff, and got us very quickly to the point of specific skill development as managers.
It was great. I took a lot from it. It would be really cool if the Short Course was held quarterly to revisit with the group. The beauty of how the day was structured is that there’s always something to learn from everyone at your table.

Jacki I’ve had lots of feedback on the Short Course. What are your thoughts on the value of breakout sessions/networking in a seminar?

Erin It works when people have something positive to say. It’s better to not allow a bitch session. Focus on what’s working, and define what’s not. The tight timelines made the difference of being effective to solve problems. We had no time to drift. The format kept dominant people in check and encouraged quieter people to participate. It was great!

I’m grateful for Erin’s time, and invite other graduates to drop me a line to share their Prosperity story with you.

Jacki Hart may be contacted at