Why You Should Hire for Happiness

Why you should hire for happiness

Business owners get too hung up on titles when it comes to hiring.

“Who should I hire first, a VA or a social media person?” people often ask me.

The answer is neither.

Whether you’re on your first hire, your 10th hire, or your 100th hire, you should only look to hire people who would be insanely happy tackling the responsibilities you need help with.

That probably sounds like a pipe dream.

It’s not. 

I talked to Vanessa Van Edwards, a behavioral scientist whose recent work has focused on happiness, about engineering happy teams. She said that through “job crafting” you can help people experience happiness every single day.

Now, in our interview, she described this process as part of reorganizing and optimizing her existing team. 

But you can–and should–hire this way too.

The first step is to determine what responsibilities you need help with. Sometimes this means delegating work you’re already doing, sometimes this means assigning work that’s been going undone but could really move the needle on your business.

Next, take those responsibilities and organize them into a job description. Forget trying to assign a title to it at first. Definitely don’t assign responsibilities based on what you think a certain title or role should be doing.

Then, you can use the process Vanessa describes as job crafting to make clear who you’re looking for. Instead of just listing responsibilities, include qualifiers:

The ideal candidate would:

  • Feel happy making customers feel understood and taken care of–even when we make mistakes.
  • Feel masterful when it comes to spotting places we could improve our customer service procedures and creating solutions to those challenges.
  • Love to craft customer-focused communication and reach out to existing customers to offer them additional opportunities
  • Feel capable analyzing customer communication and surveys and provide recommendations to the leadership team.

Once you have your job description fleshed out, you can pass it around to friends. Ask them if they know people who are happy doing the things you’ve outlined–not just moderately capable. 

You might be surprised at the quality of people who would respond to such a job description who would never think of themselves as a VA, marketing assistant, customers service rep, or project manager.

Of course, if you don’t find people through your friends or network, you can post about the job publicly, email your list, or advertise the job locally.

How would your life–and your team–be different if you were surrounded by people doing things they loved?

Want more on job crafting and engineering a happy team? Definitely listen to this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. with Vanessa.

Click here to listen to the episode or read the transcript.

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How to Build a Happy Team with Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards on building happy teams with Tara Gentile on Profit. Power. Pursuit. 

40% of our happiness is genetic.  About 10% is our environment.  The rest of the percent goes to our behavior and mindset.  This is where we have a lot more control over our happiness.

— Vanessa Van Edwards

Tara:  Welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  I’m your host, Tara Gentile, and together with my friends at CreativeLive, we talk to powerhouse small business owners about the nitty gritty details of running their businesses, making money, and pursuing what’s most important to them.  Each week, I deep dive with a thriving entrepreneur on topics like time management, team building, marketing, business models, and mindset.  Our goal each week is to expose you to something new that you can immediately apply to growing your own business.

This week, we’re bringing back listener favorite, my personal friend, and friend of CreativeLive, Vanessa Van Edwards.  Vanessa is a behavioral investigator and the founder of the Science of People.  She’s also an author, sought-after speaker and trainer, and a self-described recovering awkward person.  Her recent research and her newest CreativeLive class have focused on what makes us happy.  I wanted to find out how Vanessa has been using her work on happiness to build and nurture the Science of People team.  We talk about company culture, difficult conversations, and her personal pursuit of happiness.

Vanessa Van Edwards, welcome back to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  Thanks for coming back and talking with us again.

Vanessa:  I am so excited to be back.  It’s always good.

Tara:  Awesome.  So you’ve been doing a lot of work on the subject of happiness lately.  I’m … I’d love to know what made you so interested in what makes people happy?

Vanessa:  Yes.  So it was a very personal, started as a personal adventure.  I am not one of those people who was sort of born as a happy-go-lucky, high positivity naturally.  Unfortunately.  I’m a neurotic, for sure, definitely a worrier, and so I always felt like there were, there was all these people were just like born happier than me, and I wanted to know if that was actually true from a scientific perspective, because I’m a total geek, and started to dive into it to see could I change my happiness levels as my own human guinea pig, and what would it take to do that?

Tara:  Wow.  That’s awesome.  And I can totally identify with that, too, because I am also not like a naturally happy person.  So what did you find?  Are you normal?  Or, you know, were you able to change that happiness level for yourself?

Vanessa:  Yeah.  So basically what we found is … so first, we did … I always like to start with the academic review.  So the big academic review, we looked at 246 happiness studies, and there is some basic happy math that I think everyone should know, and I was kind of surprised I didn’t know this.  It made me feel less bad about not being that happy-go-lucky person.  So here’s the happy math.  So about 40% of our happiness is genetic, and that’s, you know, directly from our parents, what our genes are programmed for our happiness expressions or happiness levels.  About 10% is our environment, and this is the one that really gets us tripped up, because as humans, we have the tendency to say, “Hmm, I’m not happy.  I am going to move to California.  I’m going to buy a new car.  I’m going to get a new house.  I’d better find a mate.”  We like have all of these things that are almost exclusively environment, but the problem is, is that’s only 10% of our happiness levels.  So we put 90% of our energy into 10% return.  Which is why we have so many unhappy people, and why I think I was unhappy for so long.  The last one is, the rest of the percent goes to our behavior and mindset.  So this is where we have a lot more control over our happiness, and the problem is behavior and mindset seems really fuzzy, and that’s where we started to dig into our research of how could I change my behavior and mindset beyond whatever Cosmo and Marie Claire article has ever told us, which is just journal more.  Just do a gratitude journal.  Just say nightly affirmations.  Which doesn’t work for me.

Tara:  No.

Vanessa:  And I think doesn’t work for a lot of people.  So that, that’s where we focused a lot of our energy was on that behavior and mindset.

Tara:  That’s really interesting, because Michael and I, before we … before we buzzed you on the Skype were just talking about how what makes you really extraordinary is this sort of crazy ability that you have to pull out really actionable, really concrete, really just, you know, take it and do it and actually run with it things from a lot of crap that is otherwise construed as woowoo.  Like you know, journal more, which …

Vanessa:  You know, I’m allergic to fluff.

Tara:  Yeah.

Vanessa:  I don’t like that stuff.

Tara:  Yeah, totally.  So that made me wonder, like, I guess, let’s just dive right into the research.

Vanessa:  Yeah.

Tara:  That you’ve done.  So what are one or two of the things that kind of surprised you about what makes people happy, and how could we immediately apply those to our daily lives?

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Vanessa:  Okay, okay, I love it.  Okay, now, we’re getting to the good stuff.  So I’m actually, like, I actually … I raised my hands up in the air, you couldn’t see, it was very … it was very nerdy of me.  Okay.  Yes, I’m excited.  So the first thing that I was really surprised about was that when we did, we did a huge happiness audit.  So we took all these 246 academic papers, pulled out the patterns that we actually thought were doable.  Like, there were patterns in those academic papers that were great, but like weren’t actionable.  I think, you know, it was like live in a happier country.  It’s like, well, you know, I can’t like do an article and be like, “Just move to Switzerland, everyone, that’s the answer.”  So we took out the patterns that actually would work, and then we created what I call the happiness audit.  So it was a free quiz that we put up on our website, and it was running for a long time, because I wanted massive data.  I wanted over 15,000 responses, and I wanted them, you know, across ages and genders.  And what we looked at was not all the responses, but we specifically pulled out the happiest people and the unhappiest people in this data set, and we looked at what was different about the unhappy group versus the happy group, specifically, and we found that they were using happiness as a skill. 

So instead of thinking of happiness as a byproduct of an action, they actually thought of it like a language or a skill.  So the way they approached their happiness or talked about happiness was like a practice, and this is the biggest difference between the happiest and unhappiest people is the happiest people go for things in their to do list, their to do lists look like this, “Answer all my emails, hit my financial goal, buy a new house, and get my business to the next level.”  Very, very practical goals, but they were hoping that happiness would be a byproduct of those professional achievements.  Whereas happy people actually built happiness into their daily life in the structure of their life.  In other words, they didn’t let it sort of be the end result, they had it be the cause, and that is how happiness works from a scientific perspective as well.  When you look at a lot of the studies, you know, lottery winners are no happier than they were a year before they won the lottery.  They’re exactly the same level of happy.  If you look at Forbes 400 richest Americans, they have the exact same happiness levels as the Pennsylvania Amish.  Exactly the same.  So more money does not make us happier.  You know, the most beautiful people, they did a study with models, supermodels.  Supermodels and fashion models are not any happier than the rest of us.  And that is all those people who say, “When I lose 10 pounds, I’ll be happier.”  The thinnest people on Earth, literally, the thinnest people on Earth are no happier than the rest of us.

Tara:  Brilliant.  So you told us what they unhappy people’s to do lists look like, and why that doesn’t actually produce more happiness.  What does happy on a to do list look like?

Vanessa:  Yes, okay, so the happiest, so happy is a really weird word, right?  It’s like this sort of thing that we think of like skipping through the meadow, and I don’t know about you, Tara, but like on a daily basis, like I don’t skip, nor do I have any meadows like nearby.

Tara:  Oh, God, no.

Vanessa:  Yeah.  So typically, actually, the happy makers are things like capability.  Things like awe.  So capability is a big one.  That is the easiest way to increase your happiness.  We don’t think about capability in terms of happiness, so when I say capability, I mean, power, feeling like you are badass at something, feeling like you are better than other people at what you are doing, and so what happy people’s to do lists tend to look like is they tend to do what’s called job crafting.  So they create their day around their skills.  So they are doing things on a day-to-day basis, and they can’t do everything like this, but they know that there are anchors throughout the day where they are using their skills that make them feel like, “Damn, I’m good at this.”

Tara:  All right.  So I want to get back to the job crafting thing in a little bit, because I think that that’s a great thing to talk about in terms of your team, which is where I want to head, but there was one other thing that I want to make sure that we talk about maybe a little bit further, which is something that’s interesting about the way you’ve talked about the research so far is that you were focused on the biggest ways you could have an impact on your personal happiness level.  Like what your personal happiness ROI was going to be, and you pointed out that, you know, the things that we think about, you know, moving to a different state, getting a car, changing your job, whatever it might be, those things are really only 10%, and so if you spend 90% of your energy just affecting 10% of the results, like that’s not good.  Like, right, the 80/20 Rule tells us that we want to spend 20, or you know, we want to spend time on the things that create the biggest output, right?

Vanessa:  Yes.  Yes.

Tara:  So can you talk a little bit more about that?  Like what does … how does that impact, you know, our daily routines or the ways we approach structuring our lives to be in that state of happiness more often?

Vanessa:  Yeah.  So here’s the good news, is that the things that make us the happiest are actually the smallest things.  So, and this … we don’t … this is why a lot of people who feel like they are either anxious or they dread their mornings or they wake up with anxiety, they fell like, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to have to quit my job or move or restructure my entire life to get happier,” and that is not the case at all.  Actually, the smallest things have the biggest impact.  So the three things that you really want to focus on, if I had to sort of boil it down into three things, it would be focusing more on capability.  So using more of your skills and more of your skills in new and different ways, and that can be as small as making an amazing breakfast, making an amazing cup of coffee, responding to an email in a really organized and conscientious way.  Whatever, you know, sort of that your capability is.  Second is hope.  Now, hope is a really kind of an abstract concept.  When you break down hope, we can easily do that by learning, and that … that I do with what I call a learning bucket list, which we can talk about in a little bit.  And the third one is awe.  So awe is the easiest, cheapest way to get more happiness into your life, and what studies show is just thinking about watching your favorite movie produces pleasure. 

Tara:  Wow.

Vanessa:  It actually increases 27% more endorphins, just thinking about watching your favorite movie.  So when I talk about awe, I’m talking about what are the very, very small things, including your lunch that you have waiting for you in the fridge, the movie that you’re going to watch this weekend with your friends, or a beautiful view on your Instagram account, those very little things are actually the things that add up to much greater happiness.

Tara:  That’s incredible, and it sounds like it’s really just sort of an ounce of mindfulness about how you can pre-plan to experience those little things that do add up.  Is that accurate?

Vanessa:  Yeah.  It’s … you know how we’re all really conditioned to like eat well?  We’re like, oh, you know, people track their calories and they try to get 30 minutes of exercise in a day and they get 8 ounces of water.  Just like you measure your calorie output, your exercise minutes, and your water ounces, you can do the exact same thing with your dopamine, your endorphins, and your serotonin.

Tara:  Well, brilliant.  I mean, that’s great news for nerds like us, right?

Vanessa:  Exactly, exactly.  And I promise for my non-nerds listening, I will break that into a much more digestible, non-geek chemical words as well.

Tara:  Yeah, okay, awesome.  So I do want to transition a little bit and talk about your team and what role happiness plays inside the Science of People, because it’s one thing for you to study it as a team, it’s one thing for you to teach about it as you and as your team, but it’s another thing to kind of engineer it into your company culture.  So let’s talk about exactly that.  What role does happiness play in your team culture?

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Vanessa:  Yeah, okay, so there are kind of four ways that we tackle happiness from a team perspective, and I actually think that talking about my team is a perfect way for you to think about your own happiness, because they are used in the exact same way.  So the very first thing that we did after doing this research, and we finished this research about a year ago, so all of these changes have happened in the last 12 months, and it’s been incredible to see the changes in productivity, in ROI, our numbers.  The ROI has been tremendous in terms of the growth of the company.

So the first thing is we did something called job crafting with all of our employees.  So what this is, is you look at all the tasks that you do on a daily basis, and you can do this yourself.  Make a list of all the tasks that you typically do in the average day or the average week.  And then in the column next to it, you want to write down the skills that you’re using to complete those tasks.  So you might find that all of your skill, all of your tasks, fall into the organization skill.  Or that all of your tasks, let’s say you’re a coach, all of your tasks fall into the listening skill.  So I want you to write down all the tasks and all the skills that are associated.  That might be three skills.  That might be thirty skills.  And then I want you to, on the list of skills, star or circle the ones that you feel like you are exceptionally good at.  The ones that like you’re like, “I was made for this.  I was born for this.  I love doing it.  I feel so good when I do it.”  That’s hopefully going to be only two or three, right?  We don’t … you can put modesty aside, right?  If you’re awesome, awesome at 10, cool, good on you, that’s awesome, too, but if you only have two or three, that’s about average.  So what we did is we looked at all the tasks and skills that were happening amongst our team members, and right now, we’re a team of six, and then we began to figure out which skills matched with who.  So for example, I learned that one of my employees is really, really visual.  She’s really good at graphics.  She’s amazing at seeing colors and shapes and fonts.  I’m really bad at visual things, so basically, we started to trade tasks.  So we line … I know all the skills of my employees, and we began to trade to see where could we focus our skills, and maximize the amount of I love doing this work, I feel really good at doing this work. 

That is a much easier thing than I want to do what I’m passionate about, right?  Like everyone talks about passion, but actually, you’re much better off talking about capability, and that’s an easier thing to do on a day-to-day basis than passion.

Tara:  Oh, brilliant.  Yes, I mean, I could go off on a whole tirade about passion.  I love the idea of talking about capability instead, and you know, that getting into the flow, and feeling like … Sally Hogshead talks about wellspring activities, you know, those things that energize you, and I totally agree, it’s so much easier to identify those things for yourself, and you know, tell yourself the story, remember those stories, remember those moments when you felt like that, and it seems like a much more productive conversation to have with your employer as well, but I’m sure it’s something that people can do in their own businesses, too.  So whether they have a team or not, it can be a real opportunity to look and see how could you improve your happiness?  How could you better job craft, even if you’re a business of one now, so that you better understand how you could grow a team into the future.

Vanessa:  Exactly.  And like a quick example of this is if you’re a photographer, I was just talking about this with my photographer.  So my photographer is Maggie Hudson at Honeysuckle Photography, and her skill, obviously, is photography, lighting, working with people.  She does not like editing.  She can do it.  She’s good at it.  But she doesn’t love it.  So she started building into her packages hiring a contractor editor, and that made her so much happier to take on new clients and do what she does, because she’s just putting way more energy and charging differently than she would have, because she wants to be able to know that someone else who loves editing can do it.

Tara:  Brilliant.  And okay, and so that was so important, because you said she’s so much happier to take on new clients, which means she’s more likely to do what she needs to do to sell, right?

Vanessa:  Yeah.

Tara:  And that’s one of those things that I don’t think people, especially small business owners, realize all of the personal hurdles that they have to selling.  It’s not actually selling itself that’s hard, it’s these personal hurdles that we put in front of ourselves, and that’s one of them, doing work we don’t want to be doing.

Vanessa:  And that is a surprisingly easy thing to do when you break down your tasks and your skills.

Tara:  I might be a professional educator and expert, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning.  When I’m ready to learn a new skill, the first place I go is CreativeLive.  Check out this great class.

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Tara:  I know you just had your Science of People team all together in Portland.  It was World Domination Summit weekend, and you guys all got together.  I was watching the pictures, it looked awesome.  What did you guys do during that company retreat to kind of spark happiness for your team while they were visiting?

Vanessa:  Yeah, so the next kind of thing that really contributes to happiness is growth, and the idea, and this ties into hope as well, is that failures are not … do not mean that you’re a failure, they just mean that that specific thing was a mistake or a failure, and that anything can be learned, and actually, learning provides a lot of happiness.  So the reason why I bought my entire team to WDS was because I wanted them to know that they have a lot of learning in their lives, and so we have something that I encourage all my employees to do called the Learning Bucket List.  So a learning bucket list is all the skills, lessons, ideas, and things you want to learn about in your lifetime.  And we don’t often think about learning like that, but so I have all of my employees think about what are the skills they want to learn, and how can I fund that for them.  So I will frequently pay for trainings for them.  Like if they want to learn, like for example, one of my employees really wants to learn video editing.  Fantastic.  We do a ton of videos.  I’m happy to pay for his online course to learn how to do video editing and buy the software for him.  We also have what’s called a book fund.  So any employee who wants to get a book, and it does not have to do with business, it can be any book, they just have to submit me an email for why they want the book and what they want to learn from it, and I will buy it for them.  And so that is a way that I am trying to encourage that learning on a day-to-day basis.

Tara:  That is awesome.  I think everyone should go out and make their learning bucket list now.  I think that’s incredible.

Vanessa:  What’s on yours?

Tara:  The thing that makes me happiest in terms of learning right now is copywriting.  I just totally nerd out on copywriting, and it’s something that yeah, it just, it makes me really, really happy.  Obviously, it fulfills a need in my business as well, and it’s a skill that, you know, makes sense for me to improve, but it also makes me insanely happy.  Probably the other thing, then, is, you know, my partner and I are constantly talking about me going back to school and following through on the academic goals that I once had, and I think, you know, there’s … there’s no good reason … like there’s no good financial reason for me to do that.  There’s no, like, there’s no promotion that would be in my future if I went back to school and got my PhD, but would it make me happy?  Yeah, probably.  So those would be two things.

Vanessa:  That could be an investment in happiness, right?

Tara:  Yeah.

Vanessa:  Like, that would be a pure investment in happiness, which would definitely come out in other areas.

Tara:  Yeah, absolutely.  Absolutely.  I’m sure I could find the financial ROI on that for sure.  So you mentioned failure a little bit ago, and that brought to mind, you know, one of the difficult parts of growing a team and owning a small business, which is having difficult conversations with people?  So how do you balance performance management, having difficult conversations, and still keep this culture of happiness going in your company?

Vanessa:  Yeah, so it’s … I … what we try to focus on is progress does not mean that you can’t have setbacks, and progress is actually the number one way to motivate people.  So if you look at any kind of goal, weight loss goals, savings goals, employee goals … money, bonuses, promotions, not high on the list.  Compliments, not high on the list.  The biggest thing you can do to encourage progress, I’m sorry, to encourage achievement is actually highlighting progress.  So the way that we do this is we do monthly check-ins.  We have kind of like a scoreboard, where basically, we have all of our analytics, and we’re very analytics-driven, you know.  We just hit 80,000 subscribers on YouTube, and our goal is to hit 100,000 right?  We have 100,000 email subscribers; our goal is to hit 120,000.  So we are very, very aware of those goals.  Now, a failure could be not posting enough on YouTube or posting a YouTube video that gets a lot of dislikes or not a lot of views, right?  That could be, I guess, considered a failure.  However, it did get some views, and we can look at that video and be like why is this video different than the other videos that performed well.  So we look at every single thing as a mark on the progress chart.  So it’s not a failure, it’s just a mark on the chart.  And that helps sort of reshift the … I want them to take risks, right?  Like every single person on the team owns one of those metrics.  Right?  Like Robbie’s in charge of YouTube and Yael’s in charge of our email subscribers.  Ben’s in charge of our top of the funnel getting Google organic traffic.  Lauren’s in front of, charge of Twitter.  They own those numbers.  And so I can say to them, all right, whatever you want to do to get our Twitter subscribers up to 20,000, do it.  Play, adventure it, be adventurous, as long as you’re tracking it, I don’t care.  So that’s a very different way of thinking about failure.  It’s just a stop on the progress line.

Tara:  Wow.  Wow.  Okay, so do you have those same kind of conversations individually then?  I mean, it sounds like if people have these … have this ownership over particular pieces, you know, are you having progress conversations on an individual level and kind of what does that look like?

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Vanessa:  You know, we don’t do performance reviews.

Tara:  Okay.

Vanessa:  I don’t do one-on-one performance reviews.  Which I usually will check in with people via email.  Like I’ll say, you know, how’s it going?  How you feeling?  How you liking everything?  We do something that I call start/stop/continue.  So start/stop/continue is every month, every four weeks I ask each of them what would you like to start?  What would you like to stop doing?  What would you like to start doing more of?  What would you like to stop doing or do less of?  And what would you like to continue?  So they’re very used to, and they prepare to tell me those stop/start/continue things.  Typically, they happen in a group or over email.

Tara:  Wow.  Okay, so it really does sound like everything from top to bottom in the way you manage your people is focused on making sure they’re working at their highest capability, helping them fulfill the learning, and then, you know, therefore making them as happy as possible.  That’s incredible.

Vanessa:  And I think that every … every single one of us, no matter what we do, should be doing stop/start/continue.  Just like job crafting with my employees, I think all of us, every week or every four weeks, should sit down and say what should I be doing more of, what should I be doing less of, and what should I start doing.

Tara:  Yeah.

Vanessa:  Right?  Like that is an incredibly powerful exercise for anyone.

Tara:  Yeah, and it’s also not super intimidating, either, right?  Like it leads to incremental changes, instead of like earlier, you mentioned, you know, if you’re unhappy, you might think that you have to completely change everything to create a happier experience for yourself, but stop/start/continue really gives you this opportunity to, you know, you could just stop two things, or you could stop one thing.

Vanessa:  Mmhmm.

Tara:  You know, each time you check in and little bit by little bit, you’re chiseling away at the things that aren’t making you happy or that aren’t allowing you to kind of operate at your highest capability.

Vanessa:  Exactly.  That’s exactly it.

Tara:  Awesome.  So Vanessa, what makes you happy?

Vanessa:  I really, really like quests, and that is something that I discovered I think accidentally.  It was … a Quest, a la Chris Guillebeau, for anyone who’s read The Happiness of Pursuit, is a very defined challenge or adventure.  So it could be reading every book on the New York Times bestseller list in a year, or the top 1 books in a year.  It could be traveling to all fifty states.  It could be cooking cuisine from every, you know, all the major countries.  It could be learning a language.  I have found that that is a magic, very potent combination.  One, it’s learning, right?  You’re usually doing some kind of learning in a quest.  Two, it gives you a lot of hope and anticipation, right?  Every time you think about completing the quest, you actually get endorphins.  Just like when you think about watching your favorite movie, it produces endorphins.  And third is it’s progress.  Right?  Every time you go to a state, every time you cook a dish, every time you learn a new vocab word, check, you get that off the list.  Oh, and lastly, bonus, is that you feel really, really awesome the further you go down the list.  And so I have a lot of quests constantly going in my life, both personal and professional, and that’s sort of how I gear all the chapters of my life is around them.

Tara:  That’s awesome.  What is one of the quests that you’re on right now?

Vanessa:  So one of my quests is that I want to try every single top-rated restaurant in Portland.

Tara:  That sounds awesome.

Vanessa:  I know.  And I like … and it’s basically an excuse for me to invite all my friends out, because they all know that I’m on this quest, so I have like a big spreadsheet, and I invited a bunch of my friends on it, and they just put their name down on the restaurants they also want to try.

Tara:  Wow.  That’s amazing.  That’s totally awesome.  Okay, so tell us about your new CreativeLive class.

Vanessa:  Okay, so I am … I am really, like I can’t even describe.  Like excited isn’t the right word for it.  I feel like this course is the course that I wish I had ten years ago.  The unhappiest day of my life was my college graduation.  It was one of those days where I realized that I was making all my decisions based on things I thought I should do, and nothing that I actually wanted to do, and so it took me a very long time to get off of that structure.  And we will talk about, in the CreativeLive course, about the four systems that cause us to make decisions.  And so my goal with this course is to sort of shake up the personal happiness value system that we have.  I want everyone coming into the course to re-evaluate how they make decisions.  The small decisions, like what they’re eating for breakfast and what they are going to put on their to do list, and the big decisions, like what’s my purpose here, what’s my legacy, what do I want to be remembered for.  Because I think that if we don’t stop and do that now, there’s that famous Chinese proverb that said the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, but the second best time is now.  That’s how I feel about happiness.

Tara:  Oh, that is so good.  I am definitely going to be tuning into that.  I will also be making Shawn tune into that, as well.

Vanessa:  Yes.

Tara:  And then can you tell us also about your upcoming book?

Vanessa:  Oh, gosh, yeah.  Yeah, so … so many years in the making, that book.  So I have a book coming out April 25th, it’s called Captivate, and it is on hacking human behavior.  So I love people skills, I do not consider them soft skills, I consider them hard skills.  So I want, this is the first time, I think, anyone’s endeavored to teach people skills like you would learn math or science.  So I break down conversation formulas, we talk about algorithms, we talk about basically the language of people skills from a very black and white perspective.

Tara:  Wow.  This is your life’s work to this point.

Vanessa:  This is … someone asked me recently, “So how long did it take you to write the book?”  And I was like, “Uh, 31 years.”

Tara:  Yes, that is … that’s awesome.  Well, I don’t … I don’t even know where to go from there.  I’m so excited for you.  What … is there anything else that we should know about that you’re working on that’s coming up for you in your business?  What, you know, what’s your next big project?

Vanessa:  Yeah, you know, actually, the next big project is sort of the next phase of the happiness research, so if you’re getting ready to listen to the CreativeLive Power of Happiness course, or you’re thinking about it, one thing you can do is you can actually go to our website, and take the happiness audit.  So the happiness audit will actually kind of clue you in right now, if you’re like, whoa, I don’t want to wait until October.  I know, it’s really far, I don’t want to wait to take the class.  You can go take the happiness audit now, and that also helps us with the next phase of our research.  So it’s ScienceofPeople.com/audit, and it’s all free.  Just fly through it.  You know, don’t overthink the answers, and that will not only help you give you some insight into, you know, the course and your own happiness, but it will also help us with our next phase of the research.

Tara:  Awesome.  Everyone loves a good quiz.

Vanessa:  Yeah, I know.

Tara:  All right.  Well, Vanessa Van Edwards, thank you so much for coming back on Profit. Power. Pursuit.  Thank you so much for talking about happiness and your team and yourself and your own journey.  This has been a really fascinating conversation.  I am excited about telling people about what you’ve just told us, so thank you.

Vanessa:  Thank you so much for having me.  Bye guys.

Tara:  Find out more about Vanessa Van Edwards at ScienceofPeople.com.  You can also find her new CreativeLive class, the Power of Happiness, at CreativeLive.com.

Next week, my guest is online business pioneer and social media expert, Joel Comm.  We talk about how he chooses new platforms, why he’s betting big on live video, and how his businesses have been impacted by social media.

CreativeLive is highly-curated classes from the world’s top experts.  Watch free, live video classes every day from acclaimed instructors in photography, design, audio, craft, business, and personal development, stream it now at CreativeLive.com.

This has been Tara Gentile.  Discover how to accelerate your earning as a small business owner with my free class, Revenue Catalyst, at QuietPowerStrategy.com/PPP.

That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., a CreativeLive podcast.  Download more episodes of this podcast and subscribe on iTunes.  If you appreciate this kind of in-depth content, please leave us a review or share this podcast with a friend.  It means the world to us.

Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson, who also edited this episode.  Our audio engineer was Kellen Shimizu.  This episode was produced by Michael Karsh.  We add a new episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. every week.  Subscribe in iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode.

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Collaborating to Create Remarkable Customer Experiences with Andrea Owen

Collaborating to create remarkable customer experiences with Andrea Owen on Profit. Power. Pursuit. with Tara Gentile

I think just really what it comes down to is just being really honest, even when it’s hard, and there’s always a way to bring things up from a place of kindness instead of blaming, or you know, massive insecurity, or anything like that. 

— Andrea Owen

Tara:  Welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  I’m your host, Tara Gentile, and together with my friends at CreativeLive, we talk to powerhouse small business owners about the nitty gritty details of running their businesses, making money, and pursuing what’s most important to them.  Each week, I deep dive with a thriving entrepreneur on topics like time management, team building, marketing, business models, and mindset.  Our goal each week is to expose you to something new that you can immediately apply to growing your own business.

This week, my guest is Andrea Owen, an author, mentor, and certified life coach who helps women get what they want by letting go of perfectionism, control, and isolation, and choosing to practice courage instead.  She’s the author of 52 Ways to Live a Kickass Life: BS Free Wisdom to Ignite Your Inner Badass and Live the Life You Deserve.  She’s also co-founder of The Self Love Revolution.  Andrea and I talk about the very first thing she did to get clients as a coach in training, how she changed the money story that was holding her business back, and how she collaborates with others to create amazing experiences for clients.

Andrea Owen, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  Thank you so much for joining me.

Andrea:  Thank you for having me.  This sounds so official, Tara.

Tara:  We try.

Andrea:  So profresh.

Tara:  We try.  Yeah.  All right.  So you are the author of 52 Ways to Live a Kickass Life, and the founder of YourKickassLife.com, so before we get into your business and how you have, you know, built a life coaching practice and how you’ve built an audience and programs and collaborated with people and all of that, I would just really love to find out what a kickass life really means to you.

Andrea:  Oh, my gosh.  Ask me on any given day, and that answer might change, but really, what it has evolved to is really getting to work on your shit.  Can I say that on your podcast?

Tara:  Absolutely.

Andrea:  It’s really working on your stuff.  Like really kind of getting past the behaviors like perfectionism and people pleasing and numbing out or hiding out, and control is a big issue for the people that come to me for help, so it’s really about honing in on those behaviors and finding better behaviors that work for you, like self-compassion and finding someone you can share your story with, and that’s really sort of the foundation of what I teach people through my podcast and blog and classes, etc.

Tara:  Nice.  And you mentioned, you know, helping people work through their shit.  What kind of shit did you have to work through to get to where you are right now?

Andrea:  Oh, the list is so long.  In a nutshell, it was fear.  It was fear of the unknown, and I mean, you want to work on that, start your own business.

Tara:  Yeah.

Andrea:  And you’re in it.  It’s fear of the unknown, fear of what people are going to think, fear of failure, fear of success.  I was afraid of both, so yeah.  The strategy part was really easy in comparison to actually working through the fear.

Tara:  Nice.  So what … was there a particular moment or a particular situation that really kind of led you to pursuing helping women live a kickass life?

Andrea:  Yes.  So it’s sort of funny, but not funny.  It wasn’t funny at the time, when it happened, but looking back, it was sort of serendipitous.  In 2003 is when I found out what life coaching was, and I remember sitting at the computer with my now ex-husband and telling him, like, this is so awesome that people, like, you can get paid to help people live their dreams and have these amazing lives and I really want to do this.  And I said to him, “But I think that probably what would make you a better life coach is if you had a lot of life experience.”  Like if you’d like been through adversity, and I don’t have a lot of that, so I don’t know.  And then two years later, my husband and I, my husband at the time and I were planning on conceiving our first child together.  We’d been together for many years, 13 years, and he had an affair with our neighbor and got her pregnant, and divorced me.

Tara:  Oh my God.

Andrea:  So … and it wasn’t like a, “Sorry, Andrea, please forgive me, let’s work this out.”  It was, “I’m in love with this other woman, can you go away.”  And it was horrible.  It was a very dramatic and traumatic divorce.  I spent a year, I describe it as I walked around like I was in a coma, and had another really bad relationship after that, and I found myself … I had like the laying on the bathroom floor in the fetal position moment where I just looked in the mirror and said I can’t do this anymore.  Like I know I’m destined for greatness, I just need to take responsibility.  I had to essentially take responsibility for the decisions that I had made, the relationships I had tolerated, the men I had attracted and continued to be in relationships with, which I knew were not good for me, and really work on codependence and issues like that, and little did I know that signing up for life coach training was going to sort of force me into looking at all of those things.  I had … I was in therapy and stuff like that, but I thought, well, I’ll sign up for life coach training, because I was sort of desperate, and little did I know, like, all of it kind of mixed in and really led me to be where I am now.  So I think that that experience has helped me a lot.  Just kind of, for lack of a better term, forced me to look at everything and like just shine the light on what was going on, and really, again, like what I had to take responsibility for, because I had spent a long time blaming everybody else for where I was in my life, and I had to stop doing that.

Tara:  I imagine that kind of introspection and being willing to, you know, look into all the deep, dark recesses of your own life and your own psyche has served you well in terms of being able to look at your business and all the deep, dark recesses of your business as well.  Would you say that’s true?

Andrea:  1000%, yeah.   I mean, I just … I’ve always been the type of person that didn’t like to be told what to do.  I know that probably a lot of people that you interview and that you work with have always had that entrepreneurial spirit.  I was not one of those kids.  Like, I did not have the lemonade stand, I did not sell blow pops for 50 cents.  Those were other kids.  Like, I knew them, but it wasn’t me, but I definitely have been one of those people that didn’t like to be told what to do, and so when I did start the business, it was for sure, like, this is mine, and I … I am completely and solely responsible for this.  Which is both exciting and scary at the same exact time.

Tara:  Yeah.  For sure.  So you know, most of the time, I’m talking to people about where they are in their business right now, and I think this is a great opportunity to actually kind of rewind the clock a little bit, and I’d love to know what, you know, what were some of the very first steps you took to get those first clients or to put that first website up or you know, whatever that … that beginning stage of your business looked like?

Andrea:  Well, it was back in 2010, which as we all know, in the online business world, that was like dog years.

Tara:  Totally.

Andrea:  Like 100 years ago.  It was in 2010, and I was going through certification for life coaching, and part of our requirement was to have a certain amount of clients, and so I was sort of forced to actually tell people what I was doing and put myself out there, and that’s exactly what I did.  So I did the, you know, tried and true friends and family email, where I basically told everybody what I was doing and I kind of did it by accident, but I know that it’s a smart marketing move, just to have a call-to-action, like make it really easy for people to book that phone call with me, and that’s what I did.  I told them exactly who I helped.  I told them exactly what I was doing, what I was offering, and how they could take advantage of that, and I got 11 clients, and it was a lot, and I was also charging next to nothing for it.  I think that was part of the reason that I did that. 

And at that time, I was not even YourKickassLife.com, yet.  I was, wait for it, I was LiveYourIdealLife, tada, which is very … which is very life coachy and sweet and cute, but I was also blogging at the time just about anything and everything, because I didn’t have a formal niche, yet, and so yeah, it was about putting myself out there, and then from there, I learned a lot of lessons from those 11 clients, and from there, later on, YourKickassLife was born, and the first website was … I think I paid like $600 for it, and it was just a WordPress theme, and I mean, I just wanted to throw something up to get it out there.  That’s something I’ve kind of never been afraid of, I think because there was a little bit of ignorance there.  I think that I made up that the internet was a lot smaller than it was.  I was always surprised to see analytics.  I was like, “Really?  People are reading it?”  I just felt very safe, and you know, my … it was my bedroom office back then, but things have changed in analytics and it’s very scary, but back then, it was sort of … I sort of miss that time of ignorance and just, you know, I was just excited.  I’m like let’s make a website, and I think it’s very different now than it was then.

Tara:  Oh, yeah.  Yeah.  I want to kind of reiterate what you said that first step was, which was just sending an email out to your friends and family saying exactly who you were looking for, what you wanted to do for them, and that strong call-to-action.  You know, you didn’t start building a list, you didn’t, you know, have a website button where people could click to schedule with you.  Like, it was just a simple email, and that’s so key.

Andrea:  Yeah, and it basically was “reply to this email if you want to schedule something.”  So we played old-fashioned email tennis scheduling, and yeah, and it was just … I don’t … I honestly, Tara, I can’t tell you yes or no if I would have done it if I didn’t … if it wasn’t a requirement.  I probably would have done it if I had a coach or anything, but on my own, I may have kind of, like, well, I don’t know, it’s kind of scary, but yeah, it worked.

Tara:  Awesome.  Awesome.  So what misconceptions did you have when you started your business?

Andrea:  Oh my gosh, this could be an hour long conversation on its own.  The first one that comes to mind is that it would be really easy to get clients at a higher rate.  So this goes back to when I was sitting in my coach training program, and I got out a calculator, and I was like if I charge $150 an hour and I have this many clients, I’m going to make, you know, that’s a lot of money.  I think that I thought it was going to be, that they were just going to come to me.  That, you know, it was like hanging a shingle out and it was just going to be easy.  I didn’t think that … I didn’t realize how much work it was going to be.  I also had no experience with marketing.  That’s not my background at all, and I didn’t know how … I didn’t know how to market.  I mean, plain and simple, I didn’t know how to market.  I also didn’t know how scary it was going to be to be my own brand.  I think that I didn’t understand that part at all.  Because again, like online businesses were still fairly new and like, when I went to coaching school in 2007, and I think that it’s one thing if you have a donut shop and people don’t like your donuts, because they don’t like, I mean, it is your art, but still, I feel like it’s a little bit different when, like, what I do, what other coaches do, we’re marketing ourselves, so I think that, like that whole piece, I did not realize it was going to take so much personal work on just taking care of myself and my feelings and all of that stuff, and let me try to … I mean, just that in and of itself.  What is that, like three misconceptions I had?

Tara:  No, that’s great.  I love that you mentioned that about the personal brand, too, because yeah, I mean, putting yourself out there, being seen, but also receiving the criticism and seeing people not do the work and not get the results, and like, taking that personally.  That is a huge piece of what people, like you and I, have to deal with on a daily basis.

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Andrea:  Yeah.  Before this iteration of my career, I was … my background and what I went to college for was exercise physiology and I was also a personal trainer for awhile, and there was, I had a mentor, and he told me you can’t ever want it more than your clients.

Tara:  Yup.

Andrea:  It doesn’t work.  And I … I have taken that advice with me, and here, too, it’s the same, because we make it about us, and it’s really not.

Tara:  Yeah.  Exactly.  Exactly.  All right, so let’s fast forward to the present day.  How is your business currently generating revenue?  What are all the different ways you’re bringing in money?

Andrea:  I have three main ways.  I do still take one-on-one clients, although very few, and I’m hoping to get to a place, probably by 2017, where I no longer take one-on-ones and also group programs, and I actually make money as an author.  It’s kind of rad.

Tara:  Yeah, I love that.  Do you do some speaking, too?

Andrea:  I don’t do much.  I have, and I don’t do much.  I have two small children, and my son is eight and he has some special needs, and it’s really hard for him when I travel.  I had a really hard time with that for awhile, so I’ve just surrendered to it, and if one falls into my lap, I will generally take it depending on the circumstances, but generally, no, it’s just been something that I’m going to put off until my kids are older.

Tara:  Nice.  So how has kind of publishing that book affected the way you kind of structure your business, the way people see your business?

Andrea:  It’s interesting.  That’s an interesting question, because for, on one hand, the book, and for those people that don’t know, I went the traditional publishing route, which people told me I was crazy to not self-publish, and I listened to my gut and I went traditional publishing.  I got a book deal, and it sort of catapulted me into a bigger platform.  My platform was decent to begin with, but it really pushed me out there, and it’s, as far as how it structured my business, what’s tricky with my book is that I think it’s really smart when coaches or consultants, they write a book, and then they can easily create programs around their book.  For me, the book is 52 ways, so it’s tricky, because there are 52 chapters on 52 different topics, and there is some overlap, but what I found, what I found really challenge is because of the way I structured it and I didn’t think this through in the beginning, was that when I have group programs, I can refer to my book, and say, like, I go into more detail in this chapter and that chapter, but for the most part, yeah, it’s sort of just like a supplemental kind of guide book in my programs, and you know, of course I send it as gifts for my one-on-one clients, and it’s helped in that realm, and of course, there’s people that have found me in a Barnes and Noble and started listening to my podcast or hired me for one-on-one coaching.  That’s helped a lot.  But as far as like matching the book up for programs, it’s been tricky.

Tara:  I might be a professional educator and expert, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning.  When I’m ready to learn a new skill, the first place I go is CreativeLive.  Check out this great class.

Vanessa:  Did you know that happy people make an average of $1766 more per year than unhappy people?  Or that happy employees take fifteen less sick days per year than unhappy employees?  People who have higher levels of happiness have more career success, higher income, better romantic relationships, stronger social support, are better able to cope with stress, and even have a better immune system.  Here’s the best part: we can change our happiness levels.  Research has found that about 50% of our happiness is genetic, 10% is due to the environment, and 40% is caused by our behavior and mindset.  That means you and I have 40% of our happiness to work with, so let’s make the most of it.  My name is Vanessa Van Edwards, and I’m coming back to CreativeLive to teach an all new class.  I’ve taught over 42,000 students how to change their lives by making happiness a daily practice.  Now, I want to help you, too.  RSVP for my class, The Power of Happiness, and start taking control of your own happiness today.

Tara:  What role does money play in the way you plan for your business?

Andrea:  Well, it … how should I answer this?  I think how I want … I want to answer it in two ways.

Tara:  Sure.

Andrea:  Logistically and, you know, practically and more of the woowoo.  I think something that has really helped me was to look at my relationship with money, because I think for me, you know, I had some of my colleagues, I’m in a mastermind, and they started reading books, there’s several out there, about, you know, healing your relationship with money, and they had all these stories, you know, like what’s your money story?  Like, oh, my parents, you know, talked really badly about rich people, or my parents always told me that there was never enough money and that we couldn’t afford it, and so they had these kind of like weird feelings around money, and they grow up and live in a place of scarcity around money, and I didn’t have that.  Like my parents never … money was just like never brought up.  We always just had it, so I just was like I don’t know, but I had a really interesting kind of revelation about it.  Do you want me to share the story?

Tara:  Yeah, please.

Andrea:  It’s interesting.  Okay, so I was working with this woman who does … she does family constellation therapy.  It’s very … it’s even woowoo for me.  I’m like what?  But she has us like move around the room and someone, you know, represents money, and they have to come and stand near us, and then we position that person, and so the person walked up to me who represented money and I was representing myself, and I … I told this person to stop about two arms lengths away from me, and at my peripheral.  I didn’t want her in front of me, and I’m like that’s really strange that this is how, where I want money to be.  Like I want you to be there, but I don’t actually want to look at you like in the eye.  So I had this kind of breakthrough and breakdown.  I was crying.  What I realized was that, so in my personal life, when I was growing up, my parents, you know, I had … to be perfectly honest, I had like a really charmed childhood.  I have half siblings, but they were much older and out of the house by the time I was born, and I grew up, I had a really great childhood, and then when I graduated from high school, my parents got divorced, and I had kind of like no warning, and so that was kind of traumatic, but even before that, my freshman year of high school, we moved to a new neighborhood. 

So we moved out of the house that I had grown up in, and as soon as we moved, it was a lot fancier, it was in a gated community, my dad bought a Mercedes, he had … he became a real estate broker, real estate agent, and was making a lot more money, and that, looking back, like after my parents got divorced, I started to notice, like, oh, that’s when their marriage actually started to fall apart.  So unknowingly, I had made up in my mind that wealth meant that your family’s going to fall apart.  So that was really powerful for me to kind of come to that conclusion and what my own money story was, and once I could kind of dismantle that, and just really start to know that I was … it sounds very counterintuitive.  So subconsciously, I was feeling unsafe making a lot of money, because what happens, this is interesting, Tara, I noticed that three years in a row, I made the same amount of money in my business, and my platform had quadrupled.  So it didn’t make any sense.  And even my online business manager is like, “That doesn’t make any sense, Andrea.”  You know, something’s going on.  You’re working the same amount.  So that’s what I equated it to, is I was sort of like unknowingly preventing money from coming in, and I’ve seen a significant change in my income once I dismantled that story and started to just kind of change the story in my mind and know that everything will be okay if I make a lot more money.

Tara:  Wow.  That’s a great story.  Thank you so much for sharing that with us.  So what does that kind of realization then look like when you sit down to plan for your business?  You know, do you look at your P&L more often?  Do you look at your bank statements more often?  You know, what does that look like?

Andrea:  Yeah.  I definitely, like my husband and I are in the process of I think we have about a year left and we will have paid off $60,000 in debt.

Tara:  Wow.

Andrea:  And so that’s going to be gone, and it’s really like little things.  Like, I was always afraid of doing … of having affiliates, and so I was like nope, not going to be afraid anymore.  Because I was always like oh, it’s so much maintenance, and you know, oh, I had all these excuses, so I stopped that, the excuses, and I did … I’m doing affiliates now, which is … brings in more money, and I also signed a contract for my second book, and I held my ground with how much money I wanted for an advance.  We got an offer from one publisher.  It was actually the same publisher that published my first book, and it was definitely not enough, and there was a part of me that was like, “You’re going to turn this down?  You’re going to turn down a publishing offer?  Are you crazy?  Just take the money.  Just take whatever you can get.”  And I was like nope, don’t want it, and then we got another offer, and it still wasn’t good enough, and then … then I was really scared.  Then I was really second-guessing myself, and then we got a third offer from Seal Press and it was about five times the amount of my first book advance.

Tara:  Damn.

Andrea:  I know.  And I was like … he told me what they had offered, and I said yes, and then he came back the next day and he’s like, “I got you a little bit more.”  And he said it like so nonchalantly, and I was like wait a minute, wait a minute.  I just had to repeat the number back to him.  So yeah, it was … I kind of walked around in a daze for a few days.  Like, I cannot believe someone is paying me that much money to write a book, and I attribute it … I attribute it to two things.  I mean, me changing my money story, and just the trajectory of my business as well.

Tara:  Yeah.  Wow.  So aside, folks, this is why you get an agent …

Andrea:  Yes.

Tara:  For your traditionally published book.  Please don’t do it by yourself.

Andrea:  No.

Tara:  But also, you mentioned, like, you know, you stood your ground for what was going to be good enough, in terms of money, and that made me wonder, like, how do you, Andrea Owen, decide what is good enough, whether it’s money or whether it’s, you know, the amount of free time in your schedule?  Do you have a process do you use to determine what that threshold is going to be?

Andrea:  Hmm.  I really just do a good old-fashioned gut check.

Tara:  Okay.

Andrea:  And I, I know, I wish I had like a formula, but I don’t.  I’m a life coach, come one, what do you expect?  But I … I just really … and I’ve thought … so this summer, I decided, like for every single summer that has gone by, I’ve told myself, like, I really want to take the summer off.  You know, I have two kids, I want to just go to the pool and eat popsicles, and I can’t stand not working at all, so I want to do minimal work, but I don’t.  Every summer, I tell myself, gosh, it would great to not have any … I don’t have to get on the phone with anybody.  I don’t want to have clients, I don’t want to … I just don’t.  And every year, I’ve said that, and every year I have had clients and, you know, not done it.  And so what I have done now is I ask myself, you know, if I get somebody that emails me that wants a consultation, I sit down and think about it.  Like, will I get on the phone with this person every week and feel good about what I am actually making hourly?  Like, basically, is it going to be worth it for me?  Or would it feel better if I waited until the fall when my kids are in school full-time, and so that’s really my answer. 

And I have really had to work through those feelings of scarcity.  Of oh my God, what if the money dries up?  What if something happens to one of our cars and we’re going to need all this extra money?  And truth be told, in the five and a half years I have been doing this, I have never been in that position.  I have never, thankfully, been in a position where we have been destitute.  I’ve been very blessed, and I attribute it and I thank my money, and this is, again, goes back to that relationship with money of thank you for taking care of me, money, you’ve been there for me.  Because if money were a person, I would never say, you know, like you’re not enough.  I really need you to, you know, and be like more, more, more, more, more, please.  They would leave.

Tara:  Yeah.

Andrea:  So, I mean, even my husband lost his job when we first moved to North Carolina.  It was bad.  It was bad news bears.  We moved out here for a job for him, and it ended up totally exploding, and we were fine.  We were fine because of my income, and it’s just situations like that which make me really thankful, and that’s just evidence that it’s working and it’s going to be okay.

Tara:  I love that, and I love, you know, how specific that question was, too, just you know, in your example of working over the summer.  So that’s great, thank you.

Andrea:  Well, and that’s not to say …  I want to just add really quick if I can.

Tara:  Yeah.

Andrea:  That it’s not to say that there’s not, like I’m also very, very practical.  I, you know, I look way ahead, and say like okay, if I take this amount of time off … so in September, I’m going to need X amount of clients or I’m going to have to teach a class and make X amount of money, so I think in that way, it’s just basic math for me, and my online business manager has this fancy spreadsheet, you know, where she, oh God, there’s all these formulas, and that makes my head want to explode.  I think that I’ve been doing this long enough now, I think that this just takes time and experience in your business, where you know, and spreadsheets help, you know, what’s coming in and what’s coming out.  You know how much you’re going to need to generate every month, or have saved up if you’re going to take some time off.

Tara:  Yeah.  I … so I totally agree that you do get to that point where you do know that, and I want to make sure that everyone listening to this is, you know, actually looking at those numbers, because I think so few people actually do, and then they wonder why, at the end of every month, they feel like there’s not enough left over, or they don’t know where they are.  So guys, do the math.  Listen to Andrea.

Andrea:  I just, like, that when I do consult, I do a little bit of consulting with coaches, like sometimes, that’s the very first exercise I have them do.  It’s like, do you know, numbers wise, and yeah, Excel spreadsheet, what’s coming in and what’s going out, because a lot of times, people are shocked.  Especially people like myself that have kids that have to delegate a lot, they don’t have unlimited hours during the week to do everything themselves and you know, do … be a DIYer.  So that was shocking for me.  My first year of doing this, I broke even.  I broke completely even.  I was devastated.  I was like this isn’t worth it.  But it’s kind of normal.

Tara:  Yeah.

Andrea:  It’s a lot of startup costs.

Tara:  Yeah, absolutely.  All right, let’s shift gears a little bit.  You co-create and collaborate with your friend, Amy Smith, quite often.  How has collaboration impacted your business?

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Andrea:  I love collaboration, because I love working with other people.  Like, I, and I have the greatest best friend ever, so it helps that she’s awesome, but I’ve always … it’s interesting.  Like, I always wanted to run retreats and do live events, but I never wanted to do it on my own, so I really had to dig deep and find out, like, is this because I’m afraid, and it’s really not.  It’s because I love co-teaching, and we do it so well together that it works, and also, it’s really nice to share the responsibility of work with somebody, the sweat equity, and it’s also great, too, in the line of work that I do, because sometimes, we can go really deep with people, and it’s nice to have, like, if somebody kind of, for lack of a better term, falls apart, you have someone else there.  So that, it’s just really worked for me, and it allows us to help each other in terms of audience.

Tara:  Yeah, absolutely.  So I know that something that people often wonder about when they see that type of collaboration is, you know, how do you avoid the competition piece?  You know, you and Amy are both coaches.  Have you ever been concerned that you were kind of like making nice with the competition, or have you ever been concerned you were losing out on business potentially?

Andrea:  Yes and no.  So I think that that came up for, you know, and I can’t speak for her, I can only speak for myself, but it definitely has come up for me a couple of times, and luckily, it sort of, you know, a career hazard that since this is what we do for a living, you know, we teach people how to communicate.  You know, she’s the queen of communication.  We sort of have to walk our talk.  So anytime it does come up, like I’ll give you an example.  It came up a few months ago.  We had someone, a student who was in our group class together, and she PMed both of us on Facebook, like in a group message, and said, which I think was a little bit inappropriate, she said, “I’d really love to work with one of you one-on-one, I just don’t know which one.”  And I was like okay.  I really wish you would have just gone to our respective websites and then she or I wouldn’t have known, but she ended … I don’t even remember what ended up happening, but I told Amy, and I’m like, “I’m going to feel like crap if she picks me, and I’m going to feel like crap if she picks you.”

Tara:  Yeah.

Andrea:  So I … it’s just a matter of transparency and she was upset with me one time because I wanted to throw a speaker page up because, just for the sole, just for having one, because my book was coming out and she had a really amazing one, and I told my web designer, “Can you just follow the template on this one?” and I didn’t even realize she made it look exactly the same, and then Amy saw it, and she was upset with me and she was like crying.  She was like, “It shouldn’t be a big deal, but it was kind of a big deal,” and I’m like it’s a big deal if you’re that upset, so … but we have such a great, strong friendship that we can talk about that kind of stuff.  Is it easy to talk about?  No.  And we’ve had uncomfortable conversations about workload, and but it’s really, again, just us walking our talk, and then we have great examples to give in our group program together when we’re teaching students.  But it just, for me, it’s I think just really what it comes down to is just being really honest, even when it’s hard, and there’s always a way to bring things up from a place of kindness instead of blaming, or you know, massive insecurity or anything like that.  So it’s been tricky, but it’s worked.

Tara:  Brilliant.  That is such a great example and such a great kind of case study for people in terms of collaboration.  Thank you for sharing that.

Andrea:  Mmhmm.

Tara:  So you’ve mentioned you have an online business manager.  Can you tell us a little bit about the people on your team?

Andrea:  Emily Kristofferson is my online business manager, and no you cannot have her, anyone listening.  She started out as my VA.  I think we’ve been together for about three years, and she was about my fourth VA.  I had some that didn’t work out, and as it happens a lot in this world, and she was just really great, and then she sort of moved into more of an online business manager for a role.  She still, for a long time, did a lot of VA tasks, and then recently, within the last six months or so, we’ve brought on an additional VA who is starting to take on more and more of the admin tasks like my scheduling and things like that, and you know, campaigns and mailing stuff like that.  And then I also have a podcast, so I have a producer who I send the audios over and he does all of that editing and putting it into the back end of all of the places that I don’t even know exist, and then I also have … I have someone that does my show notes, because that was something I started doing myself and I wanted to gouge my eyes out.

Tara:  Mmhmm.

Andrea:  So it was definitely worth it for me to pay someone to do them.  And then of course I have a web designer and a developer.

Tara:  Brilliant.  Can you tell us a little bit more about what your online business manager actually does for you?

Andrea:  Every time someone asks me this question, I’m like, so many things.  So she does, like, I’ll just start naming things.  You know, she completely takes care of my schedule.  So if I also have a new client, she also does, like, any email that comes through my site, they go to her.  Anyone who’s interested in being a one-on-one client, she deals with them first, sends them a questionnaire, they fill it out, she sets up the scheduling.  If they come on as a client, she does the paperwork, the contract, sets up the payments, and that’s more of like VA stuff, but as far as, like, online business manager, so if I’m going to promote a class, so I run something called the 7-Day Courage Challenge.  I run it a couple times a year, and it’s kind of a big deal.  Like we do a contest and there’s a giveaway and we do Facebook ads.  She does all of that.  She sets all of it up.  She also sets up, I just have a Google Doc where I put all of my promo email campaigns with the date and a subject line, and she puts them all in for me.  Because, I mean, that’s kind of one of those things where I’ve had some of my colleagues go, “I cannot believe you pay someone that much money to copy and paste.”  And I’m like to me, like it sounds ridiculous, but it’s so much easier for me to go into one Google Doc that’s 14 pages long and just do all of my campaigns, because sometimes MailChimp or Aweber or whomever you use, sometimes they can get glitchy, and sometimes stuff happens, and you’re like two hours in, like, and I’m like, “Nope.  Nope.”

Tara:  Yup.

Andrea:  I’m not going to risk it.  It’s not worth it.  She does all of that, and then any, like, tweaks to sales pages.  You know, we have to make like a different sale.  I’m giving you like the nitty gritty because there’s just so many things.  Like a duplicate sales page because there’s, you know, a certain group of people that are segmented that get special bonuses.  She does all of that.  God, what else does she do?  I just, I feel like there’s so many things that I’m forgetting.

Tara:  Does she help you with planning?

Andrea:  Yes.  So we meet on the phone, and so she always knows what’s coming up for me, and she also knows, she actually also lights a fire under me, too.  So if I’m, I mean, there are times where I’m just like, “Oh, I don’t want to do this.”  You know?  And she’s like, well, she has such a sweet voice, “Well, you know, you don’t, you know, so and so is ending a one-on-one client, so you can mention it on your podcast that you’re going to have an opening for a one-on-one client,” and I’m like that’s really smart.  You know?  Like just things that I know but I don’t do, she reminds me of that.  She keeps me on my toes a lot, and that’s what I wanted.  So that’s, to me, what the difference between an online business manager and a VA does.  So yeah, she helps with all of the planning and I should have been more prepared for this question.

Tara:  No, I think that’s really, what you’ve shared is really helpful.  I just, I think it’s so important to actually talk about what these people do that work with us, because it seems like such a sort of in-the-closet thing.  Like yeah, we’ve got a VA or yeah, we’ve got an online business manager, but nobody knows what that means, so when they …

Andrea:  They actually do.

Tara:  Yeah, and when they think about actually hiring, they’re completely unprepared.  So that’s one of our missions here. 

Andrea:  Yeah, she also, one of the other things that she does is anytime, well, like I’m using affiliates now, and so she manages all those people, because that was really overwhelming for me.  And so she said, “All you need is get copy for them to use and maybe some Facebook posts and tweets and I will send them the images, I will answer any questions they have,” so she does all of that.

Tara:  Nice.

Andrea:  She also has helped with SEO, making sure that we have all that down, and she also tracks my analytics, because that makes me crazy.  I don’t … I don’t like it, and so she just kind of gives me an update, and then she’s also tracked SEO for me, and also what she’s done is she’s pulled all of my most popular posts, like what people are Googling that they land on, and we’ve done content upgrades in those posts to help build my list.  So she has helped me with a lot of list-building stuff as well.

Tara:  Nice.  So lots of business development stuff then, that’s great.

Andrea:  Lots of business dev, yes.

Tara:  Cool.  So you mentioned that you’re a mom, and that means that you do not have unlimited time to work on your business.

Andrea:  I do not.

Tara:  So can you tell us kind of how you go about managing your time, how you make sure everything gets done?

Andrea:  I’m a slave to my Google calendar, and I have … I have everything color-coded, so I know like what’s personal stuff, what’s business stuff, and I also use Google tasks, so it’s an app on my phone and on my calendar, and I just … I have to … I’m a really, really good planner.  I have to be careful, because sometimes I can use it like as a numbing mechanism, because I don’t drink anymore, I don’t, you know, I don’t do bad love anymore, so like my … my thing can be busy and planning, but I love it.  I love planning, I love making to do lists, and it’s really … I’ve become masterful at it, so I’m pretty good at knowing how long something is going to take me, and I mean, I have to do lists planned out for the next several weeks, and that allows me to, you know, take my kids to swimming lessons in the afternoons and you know, Girl Scouts, and you know, take days off.  Like it’s the end of the year now, and we’re doing all these like end of year parties and field trips.  I can go on field trips, and because I know ahead of time of what I need to get done, and I have to have a system, and Google Calendar works for me really well.  Sometimes, I get thrown curveballs, but for the most part, it’s a lot of planning.

Tara:  Awesome.  It sounds like that takes a lot of weight off your mind, too.

Andrea:  It does.  And I think it’s something else that’s really helped is that the point that I am in now in my business, thankfully, I’ve been waiting for this for, you know, five years, is that I’m now at the point where I have signature programs that I repeat.  So all of that is done.  Like the campaigns are done for the most part.  I adjust them here and there, but all the branding is done for the classes, the content is done for the classes, and again, I tweak that and make it better, but that has been extremely helpful, and actually, one thing that I wish that I would have started earlier in the business.

Tara:  Yeah, yeah.  Awesome.  All right.  So as we start to wrap up here, one of the questions that I often ask our guests is how do you balance the roles of creative and executive?  And I think even in a business like yours, which may not fall into the traditional creative field, there’s still, there’s a lot of creative effort that goes into it.

Andrea:  Mmhmm.

Tara:  And you have to be able to feed that part of yourself, and then you also have this executive side.  You have to be running the business as well.  So how do you balance those two roles?

Andrea:  I think it’s been, I won’t lie, it’s been tricky, because there’s been times where I … anytime I feel overwhelmed, I get kind of like mad at the executive part, and I’m like I don’t want to do any of this anymore, and I just, you know, when, you know, I have a lot of friends that are life coaches, and they’re always asked the question like what could you do if you … like, what would you want to get paid for and that’s all you could do?  And for me, it’s write.  Like, all I want to do is write, and sometimes, I get a little bit, you know, entitled, and I’m like, meh, that’s what I should only be doing.  I don’t want to have to do all this other stuff, which is dumb and selfish and it’s just not really how it works.  So I get over that pretty quickly.  I think that how I’ve managed is … it’s tricky, because I will block out hours of time in my day.  So for instance, I’m writing my second book, so I’ll have these chunks of time, like on Thursday and Friday, where I can write, and there are some days I sit down to write and I got nothing.   And then there … I typically get really motivated and inspired when it’s about 30 minutes before I have to go get my kids, and I heard this is common, so frustrating.  So when that happens, I just give myself permission to put off whatever task or to do list I have, as long as it’s not a fire that needs to be put on, which rarely it is, to sit down and write.  Even if it’s, this is the tricky part, even if it’s doing something creative that isn’t in service of my business, because at the end of the day, it still will be, and that was something I had to learn.  I have a friend who’s a screenwriter, and we were talking about self-care for creatives, and she said, she asked me, “When was the last time you wrote just for you?”  I was like, “You mean like and not put it on my blog?”  And not put it as a witty Facebook status update?  Like never, and so that was my assignment from her is that, she’s like, that is self-care for writers, and I mean, for any creative person, is you know, I know you work with a lot of designers, like when was the last time you designed something that you weren’t going to sell?

Tara:  Wow.

Andrea:  That’s was either just for you or for no one. Just create for just the sake of creating.  I think that has been huge for me, and healing, too, in a lot of areas of my life that I didn’t even know needed healing.  So whenever the mood strikes me, I do the best I can to drop everything and honor it.  Doesn’t always work out, but a lot of times it does.

Tara:  I love that.  We always get such different answers for that question.

Andrea:  I bet.

Tara:  I love your perspective.  So what’s next for you business-wise?

Andrea:  This book.  I think, I asked my friend after I wrote my first book, you know, I was … writing the book was easy.  Book promotion damn near killed me.

Tara:  Yeah.

Andrea:  And I asked my friend, Debbie Rieber, who’s been published like 7 times, and I said, “Is writing a book and publishing it like having a baby?  Like you forget how much it hurt and how hard it was in the newborn phase and then you go and have another one?”  She’s like, “It’s exactly the same thing.”  So luckily, I know ahead of time how much work it is, and so I am scheduling out plenty of time.  I didn’t do that the first time, and I was sort of like the creative martyr who was like, “Oh my God, I’m dying writing this book, and I want everyone to know how hard it is for me.”  I don’t want to do that this time.  Not to say I’m not going to complain publicly about it, but I’m very dramatic that way, but I’m going to set myself up for success, and that means carving out a lot of time.  So that … that’s going to mean working, going to Starbucks some evenings after my husband comes home, and you know, working some early Saturday mornings for a few hours, and yeah, that’s it.

Tara:  Love it.  Love it, love it.  Andrea Owen, thank you so much for joining me.

Andrea:  Thank you for having me, Tara.  This has been such a great convo.

Tara:  Find out more about Andrea at YourKickassLife.com.

Next week, I welcome back friend-of-the-show, Vanessa Van Edwards, to talk about happiness.  We’ll discuss company culture, difficult conversations, and her personal pursuit of happiness.

CreativeLive is highly-curated classes from the world’s top experts.  Watch free, live video classes every day from acclaimed instructors in photography, design, audio, craft, business, and personal development, streaming now at CreativeLive.com.

That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., a CreativeLive podcast.  Download more episodes of this podcast and subscribe on iTunes.  If you appreciate this kind of in-depth content, please leave us a review or share this podcast with a friend.  It means the world to us.

Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson, who also edited this episode.  Our audio engineer was Kellen Shimizu.  This episode was produced by Michael Karsh.  We add a new episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. every week.  Subscribe in iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode.

Fall In Love With Your Customers: My Favorite Business Design Hack

Structuring Your Life & Business For Success with Melanie Duncan on Profit. Power. Pursuit. with Tara Gentile

When I asked Melanie Duncan what she thought separated 6-figure businesses from being 7-figure businesses, she said:

“When you have a seven-figure business, you are not just in love with your products, you are not just in love with your services, you are in love with your customers, because to have a seven-figure business, you’re serving your customers or you’re serving your clients in more lateral directions.”

I would like to give this a big ol’ HELL YES.

And, it’s the key to one of my favorite business design hacks: The Customer Journey.

The Customer Journey -- Tara Gentile

Are you in love with your customers?

Now, I know you: you love your work. You love the service you offer or the product you’ve created. You love the ideas you get to play with on a daily basis and the conversations you get to have.

And… I know you love your customers too.

But, your customer love probably isn’t what’s driving your business development. That’s how you miss opportunities to design your business to earn magnitudes more.

Instead, all your cool ideas are driven by your passion for the work you do and the concepts you get to play with.

I know this because I’ve been there too.

I’ve been in love with a new idea. I’ve been obsessed with why my customers need it. And… I’ve often been foggy on why they would ever care about it.

As a result, those ideas were hard to communicate, even harder to sell, and ultimately, winded up in the waste basket of my business.

When you fall in love with your customers and get obsessed with their needs, you see a different way to design your business–one that makes it much easier to design a business that can generate the 6 or 7-figure revenue you’re looking for.

Here’s how to use The Customer Journey to get started:

First, determine when and why your best customers start looking for something like what you do.

Usually, this starts with a Google search: Natural ways to boost my energy, How to get divorced and stay friends, How to start a business, Why aren’t I getting promoted, etc… Don’t overthink it. If you need to, ask your best customers what they were googling when they started down the path they’re on.

This gives you the context for their motivation to buy. Not your motivation for them to buy. Their motivation for them to buy.

Next, figure out where your customers ultimately want to end up.

This is usually a brand new identity they’re looking to assume: Highly productive mom, Independent woman, Confident business owner, High-powered executive, etc…

Your customers want to know you’re taking them in the right direction. Using a clear goal is a great way to rally them and help them know they’re in the right place. Every offer you make can point back to this ultimate goal and that helps keep your business focused in the mind of your customer.

Finally, consider what frustrations, goals, and questions come up for your customer on his journey from initial Google search to ultimate goal.

As your customer learns more, experiences more, and creates changes, his frustrations, goals, and questions will change. After all, when you learn something new, it often just sparks a new question, right?

These are your opportunities. A business that’s designed to produce more revenue guides customers through these changes. It anticipates what customers need next and provides it.

Sometimes that’s with another offer, sometimes it’s with content marketing, sometimes it’s with an affiliate offer, and sometimes it’s just with goodwill. But the business is always there, providing an answer or easing a frustration.

The business becomes a partner for the customer on her journey.

That’s what Melanie means when she says a 7-figure business is serving the customer in more “lateral directions.” Your high-producing business is on the journey, meeting customer needs before they come up.

Give it a try. Plot out your Customer Journey and see what opportunities you spot for redesigning your business to earn more.

And, if you missed this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., click here to listen to my conversation with Melanie Duncan or read the transcript.

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This is the Difference Between a 6-figure Business and a 7-figure Business

What NaNoWriMo has to do with the difference between a 6-figure business and a 7-figure business

When Sean and I moved back to Pennsylvania a year ago, he quit his job to pursue his creative interests including fiction writing.

He’d dabbled in writing for quite some time, working on character development or penning short vignettes, but he’d never devoted himself to it. He couldn’t find the discipline to take a single idea from start to finish.

And he knew that no matter how many days he worked on character development or short vignettes, he wasn’t going to end up with a completed novel until he changed the way he was approaching the whole pursuit.

So he gave himself a massive challenge…

…he decided to tackle NaNoWriMo.

If you’re not familiar, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and it happens every November, right alongside No Shave November (for which he is also a faithful participant). The goal is to write approximately 1650 words every day of the month so that you end the month with a 50,000-word manuscript.

You do it knowing full well that the manuscript will likely be terrible…

…but at least it will be done.

This was going to be a real test: going from a scant 100-200 words per day to 1650 words per day? How could he manage it?

Well, he did. He actually finished early and proudly printed off the entire 50,000+ word manuscript on November 30.

The reason he accomplished it was simple…

He made structural changes to the way he approached writing. He was no longer just trying to get in some writing 100-200 words at a time, he structured his day around achieving the necessary 1600 words.

It wasn’t a matter of time or hustle. It was a matter of design:

  • He stopped writing in a notebook and started writing in a Google Doc.
  • He stopped writing at the pub and started writing in an office.
  • He stopped putting it off til the end of the day and started prioritizing the action first thing.
  • He stopped second-guessing every artistic choice he made and started moving through the plot bit by bit.

These 4 simple changes meant that he octupled his production in largely the same amount of time he was spending on writing before. Not only that, but he actually set a goal and reached it.

Now, you might be wondering what this has to do with the difference between a 6-figure business and a 7-figure business.

Just like with Sean’s success and NaNoWriMo, what separates a 6-figure business from a 7-figure business is a matter of design.

A business that generates 6-figure revenue is rarely an underperforming 7-figure business. 

Just like Sean wasn’t really an underperforming novelist before he tackled NaNoWriMo.

A business that generates 6-figure revenue is one that’s designed to generate 6-figure revenue. A business that generates 7-figure revenue is one that’s designed to generate 7-figure revenue.

Of course, it’s also true that a 5-figure business is rarely an underperforming 6-figure business. A 5-figure business is most often designed to earn 5-figures.

No matter how much you hustle, no matter how much time you devote to it, no matter how many new skills you learn, if your business isn’t designed to reach your goal, it won’t.

What exactly do I mean when I say the “design” of your business?

  • Your prices
  • Your business model
  • The structure of your offers
  • The way you nurture prospects and customers
  • Your campaigns
  • Your team
  • Your brand
  • Your time management
  • Your project management

It all has to work together and be aligned with your goal–no matter what that might be.

There’s a good chance–whether you realize it right now or not–that your business design has had more in common with Sean’s 100-200 words per day than it does with the NaNoWriMo guideline of 1650 words per day.

You’ve been putting in time and energy… but it hasn’t been in the pursuit of a clear objective.

The reason NaNoWriMo’s 50,000-word goal works so well is that it’s easy to figure out exactly what you need to do to hit it. You take 50,000 and divide it by the 30 days in November. Then you make the structural changes to your routine to allow you to accomplish it day in and day out until the goal is met. 

Your business works the same way. You choose a goal and the adjust the design of your business accordingly. 

If you don’t choose, you’ll keep just getting by. If you don’t adjust, you’ll get down on yourself for never even getting close to where you want to be.

Choose a goal (maybe your next goal  is a 7-figure year) and adjust your design.


This week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. features Melanie Duncan, a serial entrepreneur in both the e-commerce and the information marketing spaces. 

The question of structure and designing your day, life, and business for success were the key themes of our conversation.

If you liked this story, I know you’ll love this episode. Check it out:

And remember…

…just because you haven’t reached a previous goal (say $150,000/yr) doesn’t mean you can’t set a new goal (say $750,000/yr).

Your past performance doesn’t change your worthiness. Nor does it change your ability to design your business to reach a higher goal now that you understand what your effort fell short. When you decide to set that new goal, go big.

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Designing Your Life & Business for Success with Melanie Duncan

Structuring Your Life & Business For Success with Melanie Duncan on Profit. Power. Pursuit. with Tara Gentile

“The way I structure my day is my creative work is always first, so if I am doing interviews or I’m outlining a new program or I’m copywriting or writing emails, creative work is first.” — Melanie Duncan

Tara:  Welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  I’m your host, Tara Gentile, and together with my friends at CreativeLive, we talk to powerhouse small business owners about the nitty gritty details of running their businesses, making money, and pursuing what’s most important to them.  Each week, I deep dive with a thriving entrepreneur on topics like time management, team building, marketing, business models, and mindset.  Our goal each week is to expose you to something new that you can immediately apply to growing your own business. 

My guest this week is Melanie Duncan, a serial entrepreneur with businesses in a variety of industries from apparel to customized home decor.  She now runs a multiple seven-figure empire with her husband, Devon, and lives the work-from-wherever lifestyle that so many dream of.  Melanie has also translated her passion and experience into her role as an online educator, helping thousands of people start and grow successful businesses of their own. 

Melanie and I talk about the role of digital marketing in product-based businesses, how she manages working with her spouse, and the importance of company culture, whether your company is large or small.

Melanie Duncan, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  Thank you so much for joining me.

Melanie:  It is an honor to be here.  Thanks for having me.

Tara:  I’d love to start off by talking about the two ecommerce businesses you founded.  Can you tell me how you and your now husband got the idea for that first Greek college apparel company?

Melanie:  Yeah, so we have a business called Custom Greek Threads that creates customized apparel for sorority and fraternity members.  So those organizations and groups in college here in the United States, and the funny little side note about that is neither my husband and I are in the or were in the Greek system.  So what happened is we were in college, and noticed that a lot of people were spending, my husband’s sister in particular, spending a lot of time and money and effort into these really cool, customized tote bags and sweatshirts and all sorts of sweat pants and gifts for their fraternity and sorority sisters and brothers, and there was really no one offering it very well online, so they were having to drive off-campus, bring in their own sweatshirts, find stuff, bring it into some little, you know, quilt shop or something, and kind of hodge podge together these creations.  We decided to bring it online and create a fully, customizable website, where you could come in and basically design the dream Greek garment that you wanted to create for yourself or someone else by selling direct-to-customer, and by using and learning online marketing principles, we were able to scale it into a multi-million-dollar business in a very niche market.

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Tara:  Yeah, that’s fantastic.  I love how that story really starts off by you guys identifying a need in the market, you know?  Not necessarily something that you had expertise in or even experience in, but something that you could see as a clear need and starting from there.  That’s something that is so important for people to hear and to recognize.  Let’s dig a little deeper here.  Can you tell me where you got the money to start up that first business?

Melanie:  Yes.  So that is, you know, the kind of ugly side of business, and don’t let me forget to tell you about Luxury Monograms, also, because there is another ecommerce business, but yeah, that first business was really kind of a terrible business to start with, to be honest with you, because to create these garments, we identified there’s screen printing, which I’m sure a lot of people in your audience are familiar with for creating garments, and there’s embroidery, and embroidery ended up to kind of be our sweet spot in the market, because there were less people doing it, there was less competition, and it was easier to create one-off garments, instead of screen printing a lot of times you have to do really big runs, and since we were offering, or are offering a very customized, one-off type of item, embroidery ended up being our sweet spot.  But embroidery machines, at least the ones we needed to do the type of we were doing, you know, crests and all the sort of really cool customization, thousands and thousands of dollars.  I think our … the machine we bought, the first one, was $13,000, which we did not have the money for, so we just leased everything.  So we leased this machine, and actually, I think it took us ten years or something to actually pay it off.  They wouldn’t, once we started making money, they wouldn’t let us pay it off.

Tara:  Oh, no.

Melanie:  Yeah, so that one machine ended up being, we ended up, now, I think we have a couple dozen of these embroidery machines that we all paid for in cash after the business turned profit, but that one machine, the time we were actually able to pay it off, it was this big celebration, because they wouldn’t let us pay off that machine, but to answer your question more directly, we, it was very much bootstrapped.  We leased everything that we could.  You know, I don’t like saying this, because I don’t recommend this as what you do, but you know, we did whatever was possible.  We tried, we used some credit cards, but really, we just, we were in college, so we kind of had the beauty of having really low personal expenses.  I will probably never do this again now at this point in my life when I have a home and a child and all of those things, but you know, we had our rent covered, luckily, by our parents at that time, so any money that we made, we didn’t pay ourselves for years, it just kept being reinvested in the business.

Tara:  Oh, wow.  That is amazing.  Where do you think that kind of vision came from for you?  You know, to be able to say I’m going to lease this stuff, not pay myself, put this money back into the business, I think that takes an amazing amount of vision, even foresight, to be able to work towards that kind of goal.  Was that kind of vision something that you always had?  Something that just kind of got sparked by this idea?  Where did that come from?

Melanie:  Well, I think a really important part of it, and this was something, you know, when … when you’d sent me a lit bit of some ideas of what we might be discussing today about, you know, what was something that had a really disproportionate influence on my success, it was definitely my business partner.  So as you mentioned, my husband, Devon, we work together now.  We’ve worked together in every business we’ve ever operated together, but it was having someone by my side that whenever one of us said this is too hard or I don’t want to be working in a warehouse until 4:00 a.m. in college when everyone else is off at parties.  It was having that anchor, that other person that was like yes, we can do this, you’ve got this, and that honestly is what … we kept each other going, and we had, you know, big dreams.  I don’t want to get all like mushy on you, but we had big dreams for what we wanted our lives to be and what we wanted to be able to accomplish and the freedom we wanted to have.  I mean, I was able to graduate and immediately go into working for myself.  We were able to take a three-month honeymoon around the world, because we made that investment, we knew what we were working for.  We didn’t want to have to graduate college and just go into some, you know, corporate job.  We had big stakes ahead of us, and we knew that.

Tara:  Oh, wow, that’s incredible.  Is there anything that you do today to keep that vision moving forward?  To make sure that you’re always moving closer to that goal? 

Melanie:  You know what’s so funny is that, you know, I definitely teach a lot about goal setting and read a ton about it, but to be completely transparent with you, after doing this for 10+ years, it honestly has become almost second nature, where there’s just nothing that’s unrealistic and there’s nothing that’s kind of out of sight, it’s just about identifying what you want, and then working backwards.  Okay, you want to make $10 million, what does that mean you need to do in the next three months to like create that first step to get there?  So everything we do now is whenever we have a big vision or a big goal, something we want to accomplish, we just break it down section by section.  What are the projects that are going to get us there?  What is the timeline that needs to be implemented if we need to hit this by a certain date or by a certain time frame, and it’s just taking those bigger visions and not trying to play too small.  I think that’s honestly the biggest mistake I see with the clients I work with is their goals aren’t big enough, or if they’re big enough, they’re too general and not specific enough.  Make really big, specific goals, and then just work backwards.

Tara:  Oh, we are so on the same page with that, and I do want to talk about that a little bit later on, but you did mention your luxury monogram business, and I want to find out more about that.  Can you tell us how you got started with that business?

Melanie:  Yes, thank you.  Another … another funny story.  So the Greek apparel business, we created, we had always built that business with leaving in mind, not just necessarily in selling, but we wanted it to be something that we didn’t have to personally have our finger on top of, so after, oh let me get the timing right, I think after about three and a half or four years after we started that business, and it was not all rainbows and roses, so don’t let me give you that misrepresentation, but after four years of a lot of very hard, very specific and strategic work, we were able to move to New York City, which is where we ultimately wanted to end up and leave the business in Southern California and manage it remotely.  So once we did that, there were a couple of different factors that came into play.  I started making friends with a lot of different really dynamic business owners in New York City.  A lot of them happened to be interior designers.  I got very interested in interior designing. 

The second part of the equation was our Greek business, we were having a really big challenge where there were very big spikes and valleys in the revenue, because we were very, very busy in spring and fall, which is right around when recruitment is in the Greek system, so a lot of people buying stuff, really engaged, but then we were dead, dead, dead in the summer, and having a huge facility, having lots of trained staff, our overhead was nuts, and we were basically dead in the summer, so we were testing out different ideas.  We kind of dipped our toe into the souvenir market, creating, you know, like the San Francisco, or you know, different novelty items, because we do all of our own manufacturing, but that didn’t really pan out.  What did work, though, is I created a site called Luxury Monograms, which following the same vein in terms of our offering, it created customizable home items.  So home decor, whether it was placemats, pillows, napkins, using our same machinery, our same staff, our same facility, everything, but we … the booming season for that is in the summer, because there’s a lot of bridal showers and a lot of weddings, and monogram gifts are very hot for bridal showers and weddings, so that enabled us to kind of round out the overall demand on our resources for those two businesses.

Tara:  Oh, man, that is serious leverage.

Melanie:  Yeah.

Tara:  So, can you tell me something that surprised you in starting up the luxury monogram business when, you know, you’d already been so successful with the Greek apparel company?

Melanie:  Yeah.  What really surprised me was how hard it was.  I think that, I don’t know if this speaks to anyone else that may be listening that has started more than one business, but I think I was a little over cocky.  I had started one business, so I thought, oh, this’ll be, and you know, in a very similar vein, I thought this’ll just be rinse and repeat, but I kind of forgot that I was essentially building an audience from scratch.  I mean, we had a tiny bit of crossover, some, you know, Greek people that were into monograms in the south and that sort of thing, but essentially, I was targeting a very different type.  I was, you know, selling $75 pillows, so I was needing to go after a more luxury market, people who were more into home decor, entertaining.  We have a lot of interior designers that purchase from us, so building an entirely new audience in a different industry was more challenging.  You know, we were able to do it, and it took a lot of, you know, testing a lot of different things, staying flexible, and being very persistent, but I was able to kind of crack the code again with online marketing and got our company featured on Good Morning America and on NBC and figured out how to get a lot of press for that business without using a PR agency, and that was really what got that company up and off the ground.

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Tara:  Okay, so now I want to talk about the online marketing and the online marketing space since you’ve mentioned that a few times.

Melanie:  Yes.

Tara:  Eventually, I want to talk about it in relation to the business that you have now, which is an information-based business, but first, I’d love to know what specific online marketing techniques or practices you use to build your two ecommerce businesses.  What specifically were you doing to market those businesses and grow them?

Melanie:  Yeah, so believe it or not, you know, when we started Custom Greek Threads 10+ years ago now, it was still kind of the wild, wild west of the internet, which makes me feel really old, but I still remember, you know, we were, when we originally started that business, we had an online business, we had an online website, we were taking all of our orders online, however, we were not marketing online.  We were still cold calling different Greek organizations, going door-to-door on Greek rows around the country.  We were setting up exhibitor booths at all the big Greek conferences.  We were not marketing online, which sounds just kind of asinine at this point, but you know, I think it was eleven years ago, so when we made the switch, we start reading … My husband, actually, I still remember him buying SEO for Dummies and Google AdWords for Dummies, and just reading all these … all these pages of books, and we thought, oh, that’s so crazy, and I still remember our first sale we got from Washington, D.C., and we both looked at each other and went we’ve never done any conferences in Washington, how did we get a customer in Washington, D.C.?  And it was because we’d paid some guy $500 to search engine optimize our website, and we started getting ranked for terms like Greek sweatshirts or, you know, Delta Gamma tote bag, and that really, that was the first piece that made a big difference in how we were able to scale that business into the, not just success, but multi-million-dollar realm.

Tara:  Oh nice.  And have you branched into social media marketing with those two businesses as well?

Melanie:  Of course, of course, yes.  So SEO is really what we kind of got our hook in, and then since then, we started with, you know, okay, our customers, I still remember my husband and I, we were on our honeymoon, and we were sitting in the gardens outside the Louvre in Paris, and I looked at him and I said, you know, when we were in college, we had just graduated, we spent a lot of time on Facebook.  I bet our customers, and again, this sounds so stupid now, but I go I bet a lot of our customers are on Facebook, too.  I think we should try Facebook ads.  And my husband goes okay, well, you know, I don’t really know anything about them, which is hilarious, because now, he’s like a Facebook ad ninja, but back then, he’s like, well, I don’t know, why don’t you just take a stab at it, and so I started running our Facebook ads accounts, and yes, we now spend, I mean, just a … hundreds of thousands of dollars a month on Facebook.  Not just for the Greek business, but across all of our different businesses and on paid traffic strategies and yes, we definitely use social media a ton.

Tara:  Ah, how about email marketing?

Melanie:  Of course.  Of course.  Another thing that, you know, like, we talk, I do teach all of this now, but it’s so funny to think about I still remember we had Custom Greek Threads for I think a year and a half before we ever started building an email list.  A friend of ours that sold surfboards online said hey, you know, like you should really be doing this thing called getting your customer’s emails, and then you can, you know, like remarket to them, and again, it sounds so silly now, but yes, email marketing is really the foundation of all of our online businesses now.

Tara:  Awesome.  So I will totally admit that I’m asking, you know, leading questions, because I think so many people forget that whether it’s Facebook ads or your Facebook page or Pinterest or search engine optimization, you know, all these different things apply to different kinds of businesses, and those different kinds of businesses may use them in different ways, but they’re still using them.  So whether it’s Greek apparel or luxury monograms or an information-based business, these are the things that move the needle on sales and growth.  Now, kind of speaking of which, one of the conversations I often have with clients and with my audience is, you know, that the struggle to see how online marketing for information businesses and online marketing for product-based businesses is actually pretty similar, and you have such a unique perspective on that, in that you are both.  So can you talk about the similarities and differences between how you market the information side of your business and how you market the product side of your business?

Melanie:  Yes, and I will say, actually, that I think this is probably one of the most challenging areas is there is so much information out there now for marketing online and online information business.  So how to use webinars to sell your programs and all that type of stuff, and I think that a lot of ecommerce owners, at least … I don’t know your audience specifically, but mine is really underserved, because yes, they should be using a lot of the same platforms, and yes, the overall concepting of how to serve an audience and how to serve a customer is the same, but I can tell you, they are two totally different animals.  I mean, running an ecommerce, physical product business and selling something like a pillow is totally different than trying to sell a personal brand, trying to build a personal brand, and trying to position yourself as someone that people should listen to as an expert, and I know that all too well from, again, being overly cocky, and when I transitioned out of having ecommerce … I mean, I still have ecommerce businesses, but working in them day-in, day-out, and then trying to position myself as an online educator, I didn’t understand how difficult and different it would be to sell information and vice versa.  I think a lot of people who teach online marketing but have no experience with physical product businesses don’t get how different and difficult it actually is.

Tara:  Interesting.  Interesting.

Melanie:  Mmhmm.

Tara:  So let’s transition a little bit now.  You’ve mentioned your husband a couple of times.  Can you tell us what it’s like working with your spouse?

Melanie:  You know, it’s really, really wonderful.  It definitely comes with its own challenges, but I think it’s actually so much more of a benefit than anything else as long as you structure it properly.  Something that has just been very helpful is my husband and I are very different and we have very different skillsets, so he owns the things.  Like, he runs our programming team.  He runs all the backend logistics and a lot of the more metrics-oriented type things, where I get to focus more on the creativity and the copywriting and the branding and the marketing, and so it’s kind of a dream situation for both of us.  The only time we butt heads is when one of … we try to step into the other person’s realm, but other than that, it’s really a beautiful partnership.

Tara:  Well, that sounds like a lot of non-spousal partnerships then, too.

Melanie:  Exactly.  Yeah, you just gotta be very clear about expectations and letting that person own their own roles and responsibilities. 

Tara:  And then is that reflected in your personal life as well?  Do you guys have really specific roles and responsibilities at home?

Melanie:  I don’t think so.  No, not specifically.  I mean, when we’re at home, you know, I’m very much of the little bit more European mindset.  It’s like, you know, you’re just as capable as I am to throw in a load of laundry or change Olivia’s diaper, so there’s not … I mean, I love to cook and he doesn’t, so there might be that division, but no.  I mean, we both run businesses and work full-time, and we both run our family and our home full-time together.

Tara:  Hmm.  Awesome.  I love that.  So you know, while I was preparing for our interview, I was talking with my producer about, you know, what you’re all about, and said that one of the things he admires most about you is your eye for details.  Can you tell me how you keep track of all the details that are involved in bringing together a brand, bringing out a new product, creating a marketing campaign, things like that?

Melanie:  Yeah.  I mean, there … there are a lot of details to business, and I am a very detail-oriented person.  I think that that honestly just comes back to systems.  When there are so many moving pieces, and you know, as you’ve referenced, I do run multiple companies at this point, so that means managing a lot of different pieces and people and processes, so you know, I really have to reply upon I’m only as strong as my systems.  So we use Asana for our project management, and I’m in that every day, but I also am very, very devoted to my own personal processes, my routines, how I structure my time, if you want to talk more about that, but that’s the foundation for my success.

Tara:  Yeah, actually, let’s talk about that, because that’s one of the big questions that I get requests for our guests, which is you know, how do these amazing people structure their time?  So what does that look like for you on a daily basis?

Melanie:  And I do, I kind of hate to say this, and to be honest with you, throw up in my mouth a little bit about morning routines, because I feel like everybody talks about morning routines, but you know, if everybody’s talking about it, there’s probably a reason why.  My morning routine is non-negotiable.  Even, you know, I mean, does this happen every single day?  No.  You know, if my daughter has a fever, like no, my morning routine goes out the window, but the days I work the best, the days that I’m the most productive, the most fulfilled, and create my best work are the days that I follow my routine, and I get up every morning.  It’s a lot earlier now that I have a baby.  It used to kind of be whenever I woke up, but now I make sure to get up in enough time that I can have a good breakfast, I go, I work out even if it’s just for 20 or 30 minutes in my apartment, and I always read at least three pages of a book every single morning, and the way I structure my day is my creative work is always first, so if I am doing interviews or I’m outlining a new program or I’m copywriting or writing emails, creative work is first.  I break my day in half at noon or 1:00 for lunch.  I take a good lunch where I actually do not work during my lunch, it’s not allowed, so I go out or I spend my time with my daughter and have lunch with her, and then my second half of my day is reactive, so that’s when I’m going into Asana, I’m having my team calls, I’m answering people’s questions, I am reviewing my team’s work, but creative work is first, reactive work is the second half of the day.

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Tara:  Oh, that is a really good philosophy to follow, and I love that you called out that you’re prioritizing your creative work every morning.

Melanie:  Yes, or else you just don’t get to it, and that’s the most important work to be doing.

Tara:  I might be a professional educator and expert, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning.  When I’m ready to learn a new skill, the first place I go is CreativeLive.  Check out this great class.

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Tara:  Okay, so I’d love to talk more about, you know, this philosophy idea, because you have a philosophy for your business that you lay out really clearly on your website, and it’s clear in that philosophy that you think a lot about company culture, which is a topic that I love, and one that I think gets real short shrift in online business circles.  So why is company culture so important to you?

Melanie:  Well, let me ask you a clarifying question.  What do you mean by company culture?  Just in terms of like the way that my team and I work together or like what I project outwards?

Tara:  You know, I think for me, it’s a combination of both.  It’s that … it’s how your insides match your outsides and how the way you represent your brand also reflects back on how you work with yourself, how you work with your spouse, and how you work with your team members.

Melanie:  Yeah, at the end of the day, you know, something that I always keep in the front of my mind is, you know, I started my own business not just to have a job.  So any time that my work feels like a job, I’m doing something wrong.  And that’s not to say that it’s always like that or that it’s like that in the beginning, because in the beginning, you just do what needs to get done, and if you’re avoiding important work because you don’t feel like doing it, you’re probably, at the beginning, unless you’re at a point where you can delegate it to someone else or find a way to eliminate it, you need to be doing everything that needs to get done, but when you get to a certain point in your business where you’re breathing a little bit of relief, you’ve got some consistent clients or customers, you really have to start making strategic decisions about business being a marathon and not a sprint.  So how are the choices that I’m making?  Like I don’t work one-on-one with very many clients.  I have a ton of demand to work one-on-one with people, but it really limits my own freedom in getting to choose to do what I want to do when I want to do it. 

You know, if I wake up and I don’t feel like working, my nightmare is that there’s something that I have to work on that day.  I enjoy a lot of freedom and flexibility to work on Monday or work on Sunday depending on where I am and what I feel like doing, and that’s not something I want to compromise.  So that’s just something I think you have to constantly be asking yourself, and I do a lot of … again, I feel so ridiculous saying this because I’m not a very woowoo person, but journaling is really helpful.  I always try and focus on every morning, not just what … I try to think of something I’m grateful for, but I think about what would make today great?  So I try and think of one thing, and it’s always hilarious, because usually, it’s not that big of a deal.  You know, it’s like I’d really like to go for a run in the park today.  I live right by Central Park.  Or I would really like to meet a friend for lunch.  Like, you know, what would make today great doesn’t have to be like oh, I’d love to go buy a $10,000 handbag, but you know, just sometimes, you think about what would make today really a good day, and it’s something very attainable.  But the second part of that is I review my day at the end of every single day, and I think about what made today great and what could I do to make tomorrow better, and by asking those two questions, you start to become really aware of the things that you enjoy doing in your business and the things that you don’t enjoy and how to be responding and editing and kind of changing things around to improve the experience of your work each day.

Tara:  Hmm.  And is that something that you encourage your teams to do as well?  Or is that more just kind of your personal way of working?

Melanie:  No, they have to do everything I don’t want to do.  No, I’m kidding, no.  Very much so.  You know, something that, particularly when you’re trying to attract and keep top talent, which I would really encourage you to do regardless of what phase you’re at in your business.  It doesn’t mean that you have to pay a bunch of money.  You know, people will … the best people in the world will work for free if they really believe in what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and so I always really try to … when you’re attracting top talent and working with them, a huge part of it is making sure that they are feeling challenged, appropriately challenged.  Challenged enough but not too much, but also creatively fulfilled by what they’re doing, so I’m always checking in with my team on, you know, what are you liking?  What are you not liking?  You know, what type of the work are you really enjoying?  What are you enjoying about it?  How can we get you doing more of that?  Because when you get great people on your team, you want to keep them, and you want to figure out and really zone in on their sweet spot, and figure out how you can shift assignments around so that’s what they’re working on, because that’s how you’re going to get the best work out of them and how they’re going to want to work for you forever.

Tara:  So good.  And that really just kind of leads me right into my next question.  You know, you say right on your website that you value people who can handle their own business.  You say we’re a team of leaders who can self-manage, work independently, and collaborate, and I love that.  I love that that is a guiding principle for your company, and I think that that’s something that a lot of other people should really be incorporating into their teams as well, but how do you structure your team to kind of facilitate that kind of independence?

Melanie:  Oh, well, it’s a big part of what goes into hiring, and to be honest with you, that could be like a totally different interview, because it’s … it’s really in-depth how we do our hiring and our marketing processes for our team, but it is … I do very aggressive interviewing and trial projects when I bring on people, and they have to be fiercely independent.  Most of our employees, they end up working for themselves, eventually, within a few years, because we really attract a lot of people that are very entrepreneurial, because I am not a hand-holder.  Like to a fault.  Like people have to be able to come on and like really own their role and their position.  I only do one call a week with my team.  We do it first 10:00 Eastern every Monday.  Other than that, I maybe talk to them a couple of times, like for feedback on Asana, but they are very much remote workers, and because of that, I have to pick people with the right personalities that will actually thrive in that situation.  We’ve hired people from corporate backgrounds before that are used to, you know, the meetings and getting connected with people every day and getting constant feedback, and it just doesn’t work in our environment, so we have to be very clear about that from the beginning to attract the right people.

Tara:  Interesting.  So continuing this topic of philosophy or philosophy of business, you also say right there on your website that, quote, “We believe in creating the best.”  How do you and your team measure that?  How do you set that standard for yourself and make sure that you’re measuring up to it on a daily basis?

Melanie:  That is such a good question.  That might be one of the better questions I’ve ever been asked.  You know, I don’t know that I really need to qualify what that is.  I think that that statement does exactly what it’s supposed to just by putting it out there, because there are two types of people.  The people who are looking to kind of do the bare minimum to get by and, you know, get that paycheck, and there’s the people who, when you say that, they get excited, and they say yes, push me, I want to grow, I want to be challenged, and that’s why that is there is to get those people’s attention.

Tara:  I love that.  I think that’s a perfect answer to that question.

Melanie:  Oh, good.

Tara:  So last one now on this philosophy stuff.  You know, you say you measure output, not the time spent working on a task.

Melanie:  Yes.

Tara:  So what kind of systems do you use to assign work, manage expectations, and insure that the output meets or exceeds your needs?  How are you measuring output so that you’re not having to focus on the time spent working on a task?

Melanie:  Yeah, so one of the …  I was a psychology major, so I’m kind of into mind games.  One of the … one of the trial projects when I’m going through an interviewing phase with candidates is I usually do it in groups of like 20 to 30 people if it’s for a particular position, and I’ll give them all the same assignment, and I’ll say … well, I do a couple of things where I say you’re allowed to ask questions, but you will be evaluated based upon the number and the quality of questions that you ask, because again, I’m not looking for someone who’s going to be, you know, messaging me every day with a bunch of silly questions, but I don’t give them a deadline for the project.  I say please submit the project when you feel it’s been done to the best of your ability.  And I like to see and compare and contrast what quality of work people are able to get done within what time frame.  Because there are some people who will turn in something super-fast, but they cut corners.  There’s, you know, grammatical errors, it’s not well thought out.  There’s some people who turn in great work, but it takes like three and a half weeks, and it’s just like, oh my gosh, like the world has changed in three and a half weeks, it can’t take that long. 

And what I’m looking for is the people in the middle who can do really great work but are also very conscious of getting things completed, getting things done, and not too much … I don’t like working with perfectionists.  I like people who do great work, but who get work done.  I think perfectionists sometimes get too hung up in the process, and ultimately, as a business owner, you know, I can’t make money, we’re not producing revenue until something is shipped, so you’ve got to be able to get it done.  So that’s how I kind of evaluate that specifically in the hiring process is what quality of work people are able to get done and within what timeframe, but when it comes to … when it comes to my team after actually on it, I don’t enforce a lot of deadlines.  Most of the projects are done, they’re so planned in advance that I don’t, it’s not like I need them on Monday because we’re sending out the email on Monday.  It’s more so like here are the things you need to get done this quarter, and because I’m choosing people that I’m confident in their ability to be able to produce great stuff quickly, I don’t have to be as … as much of a governing force in terms of when they get things done.

Tara:  Oh, yeah.  You know, that planning piece is just so huge.

Melanie:  Yeah.

Tara:  You know, you can work with so much less stress if you just know what’s coming even a month or two in advance.

Melanie:  It’s all on the front end.  Our hiring process is normally anywhere from six to eight weeks.

Tara:  Wow, that’s great.  Awesome.  So let’s shift gears a little bit as we start to wrap things up here, because I would love to spend some time on the topic of money and profit, and I know you’re not shy about saying that part of your mission is to help business owners push past the million-dollar revenue mark.  You know, but I know from my own work that many business owners, women especially, have mental blocks around this number.  Why is the seven-figure or even eight-figure mark important to you?

Melanie:  Well, it … You know, honestly, it came from a place of I have multiple million-dollar businesses, so it just seemed natural that I could speak to that type of business, because that’s what I operate within.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t relate to a six-figure business or a five-figure business or a zero-figure business, because I’ve been there.  We’ve all been there, but I speak specifically to the million-dollar mark, one, because I like the type of people that attracts, the people who are thinking bigger and pushing bigger and planning bigger.  It’s also something that I just feel very personally, I guess very personally passionate about, because I think that we do need more women thinking bigger.  I think that it’s too easy to limit ourselves and to think, oh, well, you know, I’m going to start a family, so I’m not going to be able to dedicate that much time.  It’s not always a time issue.  It’s about if you’ve got that bigger goal in mind, it’s about working backwards, like we talked about.  Figuring out what does that mean?  What does that look like in your life and your business, and what you need to be thinking about in terms of how you’re going to scale and how it’s going to affect your offerings.  But I mean, a seven-figure is more money, it’s just more impact.  So whether, you know, maybe money’s not your thing.  Maybe you want to change the world and help more people.  Money’s just the vehicle to help you do that, so it’s not about, you know, having a closet full of Prada purses.  It’s about giving you the freedom to choose what that ultimately looks like for you.

Tara:  Yeah, and I love that you said that ultimately, it’s not about time, it’s about how you structure your business, how you make those plans, and you know, what you’re really working towards, and you can do that.  In the same amount of time it takes a five-figure business, you know, you could be building a seven-figure business if it’s set up properly.  And that kind of leads me into a perfect follow-up question, which is in your experience, what separates a five- or six-figure business from a seven-figure business?

Melanie:  So separates a six-figure from seven-figure?

Tara:  Yeah.  What do you see?  Is there a mental block?  Is there a structural issue?  What do you think separates a six-figure business from a seven-figure business?

Melanie:  That’s a really great question.  There’s probably quite a few things.  There are different ways I could answer that.  One thing that I think could be just really helpful for everyone listening is a big difference between a six-figure business, you can run a very successful six-figure business doing what you love, being in love with your products, or being in love with your services.  I think when you’re a seven-figure business, you are not just in love with your products, you are not just in love with your services, you are in love with your customers, because to have a seven-figure business, you’re serving your customers or you’re serving your clients in more lateral directions.  So it’s not just about creating that great signature product, or it’s not just about having that great signature offering, but it’s you’ve become so obsessed and so centered on the people you’re serving that literally the sky is the limit in terms of what you can create and how you can help and what you can offer them.

Tara:  Well, that was a phenomenal answer.  I hope everyone was paying special attention to that.  So Melanie, what’s next for you and your companies?

Melanie:  Well, you know, right now, I’m at a really beautiful place.  I just had a baby girl about five months ago, so I’ve actually gone through a process of a lot of clarity, for lack of better words.  Where before I had her, I was working on a lot of different things, launching a lot of different programs.  My ecommerce businesses are now fully automated, so I don’t spend a ton of time in the day-to-day of those anymore, but really, what I focus on, I have a program called Business Class that’s become my flagship program.  It’s a monthly membership community, and I work with business owners on scaling their online presence, on scaling their revenue, on scaling their offerings, and that’s my focus right now is I work inside that community with those people, and we work on teaching them how to expand their exposure, how to work on email marketing, social media, everything that I have learned specifically in my own businesses, I take that experience and that platform, and I use it to help them leverage what they’re doing.

Tara:  Well, fantastic.  Melanie Duncan, thank you so much for joining me.

Melanie:  It has been a pleasure.  Thank you for having me.  I hope this is helpful and inspired and been insightful for everyone.

Tara:  Find out more about Melanie at MelanieDuncan.com, and find her class, Unlock the Power of Pinterest, by going to CreativeLive.com/business.

My guest next week is author and coach, Andrea Owen.  Andrea and I talk about the very first thing she did to get clients as a coach in training, how she changed the money story that was holding her business back, and how she collaborates with others to create amazing experiences for clients.

CreativeLive is highly-curated classes from the world’s top experts.  Watch free, live video classes every day from acclaimed instructors in photography, design, audio, craft, business, and personal development.  Stream it now at CreativeLive.com.

This has been Tara Gentile.  Discover how to accelerate your earning as a small business owner with my free class, Revenue Catalyst, at QuietPowerStrategy.com/PPP.

That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., a CreativeLive podcast.  Download more episodes of this podcast and subscribe on iTunes.  If you appreciate this kind of in-depth content, please leave us a review or share this podcast with a friend.  It means the world to us.

Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson, who also edited this episode.  Our audio engineer was Kellen Shimizu.  This episode was produced by Michael Karsh.  We add a new episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. every week.  Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode.

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Tara Gentile helps idea people create the income, influence, and impact they crave. She's the creator of Quiet Power Strategy® which offers hands-on business training and support to idea-driven entrepreneurs. She speaks around the world on marketing, entrepreneurship, and money.

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