Q & A with Katie Outon

What was your worst business experience?
I ran a small chain of dog kennels for years and was really wowed by how devoted many of our clients were to their beloved dogs. One of the hardest things I ever had to do was tell a family who had just returned from vacation that their dear old dog had died in our care that morning. It wasn’t just emotionally taxing, it was also terrifying from a business perspective—a potential PR nightmare.

Tell us about your best employee.
The memory of one employee really sticks with me because she taught me something that became really critical in my personal growth. Although she was conscientious and hard-working, she also made a lot of mistakes, and she never seemed particularly upset or guilt-ridden when I pointed them out. As a born people-pleaser, I remember being dumbfounded by her ability not to personalize any critique I offered. She became my mental model for the kind of sturdy self-esteem I wanted to cultivate in myself.

Which business book influenced you the most?
“The Fifth Discipline” by Peter Senge taught me an enormous amount about systems thinking and how organizations can learn to improve.

What is your guilty pleasure at work?
When I need to focus, I like to put on my headphones and listen to 90’s hip hop.