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Just Keep Moving with Betsy Westhafer
My guest is the Founder/CEO of The Congruity Group. I’ll let her explain exactly what that means. Congruity is a word that I love to use. Her name is Betsy Westhafer. Betsy and I had been friends for a number of years. We have an interesting origin story of how we met each other. Betsy has a classic and fabulous entrepreneurial hero’s journey story to tell you. We’re going to have a fun time in this conversation. Betsy, welcome to the program. How are you doing?
I am great, Aaron. It’s good to be here. This was something that I had on my goal list for a long time to be on your show, so I’m thrilled to death to be here.
I’m thrilled that it was a goal for you. I’m glad you’re here because your story is so interesting. Let’s start off with how we met. We’re going to go back in time. We’re going to catch up to where you are. Maybe it’s not uncommon for a lot of people out there, but for me it was a first. Why don’t you tell what happened? You had ended another career in the legal field? You were learning some new skills.
I had Cofounded an organization in the legal field and after a couple of years I sold out my interest in that to my partners. At that point, I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do and exploring a lot of different options. At that point where you and I connected, I was thinking about building some type of online business, which is not the path I ultimately chose, but that’s what I was exploring at the time. I took an online course on how to build an online business. One of the things they talked about was getting engaged through social media, particularly Twitter, which I had no interest in, no background in, no experience in. I thought, “I better do what they’re telling me to do.” Basically, they have you follow people that are in a group of like-minded people.
I found this group on Twitter called Addicted2Success. I thought, “Those sound like good people to connect with.” Every day I’d followed ten or twenty of those people. I got a lot of autoresponders saying, “Thanks for connecting. You should go read my blog or check me out on Facebook.” One day I got this auto-response that said, “Thanks for connecting. I’d be interested in your feedback on my podcast.” I thought, “That’s different. I’ll listen to the podcast.” I thought it was good. I figured out how to tweet back because that was the level of my knowledge at that point. It turned out it was Aaron Young. Aaron, you graciously said, “I’m interested in meeting you. Let’s have a conversation.” We had a couple of phone calls.
You responded back and gave me your feedback on the podcast. I started asking more questions, which didn’t necessarily make you feel comfortable. You were like, “Who is this guy? Why does he want to talk to me on the phone?”
Not knowing you the way I do, I was like, “This guy wants to have a call. He’s going to pitch me. He thinks I have lots of money to spend with whatever it is he’s selling.” I was very skeptical at that point in my career. We kept having these phone calls. It was a genuine desire to help an entrepreneur. It took me two or three calls to trust in it. It was very clear that absolutely and everything you said you would send for me or introductions you would make, everything you delivered on. You invited me to look at this one opportunity to get together in person at a conference. That’s where we met in person. It’s been an amazing relationship ever since. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve taken the Unshackled Owner Course, followed you like crazy on Facebook. It was through this random Twitter engagement that a complete novice at Twitter and I turned into this. It’s a crazy social media story but one I’m very grateful for.
What’s the takeaway from the story? I’m going to tell you what my takeaway is but I want to hear what you think yours is, whatever it is. The takeaway for me is that if we will spend less time trying to sell or convert, in other words, if we’ll spend less time trying to have transactional relationships and spend a little time getting to know who’s following us if it’s a social media thing, who’s willing to engage. What are they trying to accomplish? If you do that, then relationships of trust can be created. You were understandably skeptical about, “Why is somebody doing this?” That’s because of that you walk into Best Buy and they want to get your, “What do you need?” You walk into a car lot and they’re like, “Come on, let me show you something.” It’s immediately transactional. It’s not relationship oriented. We need to slow down a little bit and get to know the people that are willing to have a dialogue with us. That’s my takeaway from it. I never knew it would turn into such a lovely friendship.
Even beyond friendship, I totally agree with you 100%. That’s probably one of the very first lessons I learned from you was because I was so in awe of your willingness to spend that time with somebody you didn’t know, who didn’t know what she was doing. That was a good lesson for me, but also because you weren’t trying to show me the new shiny car. It ultimately ended up in a couple of things because I took the Unshackled Owner Course. I recommended it to someone who took it. Without being pushy but rather developing a relationship, two more people took your course. I continue to tell people about it all the time. That is a big takeaway. The other takeaway for me is you never know where a road is going to lead you because when I got on Twitter, I never envisioned that, but I stayed open to it. The whole concept of staying open to where a path might lead you is another takeaway for me. I’m not trying to figure out what the end of the story is before you’ve even started it.
That’s a perfect segue about you’re not sure where the path is going to lead. Let’s take a little time machine right back so people know where you came from. Where were you were born and raised?
Evansville, Indiana. It will be 30 years that I’ve lived in Dayton.
A huge part of your life is in Dayton, Ohio. You’re from Indiana. One of my two favorite poets is from Indiana, James Whitcomb Riley. Did you guys learn about him in school or were you little when you left Indiana?
I was not quite 30 when I left. I was in my early twenties when I came here.
Have you ever heard of him?
Yeah, of course.
Most people haven’t. They don’t even know there was a national holiday in his honor for many years, a school holiday. The kids got out of school around the country because of this poet, James Whitcomb Riley, who was the poet laureate of Indiana. He was also like a rock star of the middle 1800s. I thought of when you said, Indiana. I love that guy’s work. When you were young, when you were a teenager or college, was entrepreneurship on your mind or what was driving you?
In looking back at that time, it wasn’t anything I knew, although my dad was a senior partner in a law firm. He was entrepreneurial in that way. My mom was a real estate agent. They didn’t go to 9 to 5 jobs. I wasn’t raised in an environment where it was a 9 to 5 job. One thing I remember from early on without thinking in terms of entrepreneurship is I used to babysit in the summers. I would be doing it at a pool where we went. The parents would go play tennis or golf or whatever. I would watch the kids. I remember taking a blank check register and tracking every time I babysat and how much money I would get paid. One time I was doing that in front of the person who had asked me to babysit. She goes, “What are you doing?” I told her. She was like, “You write that down. You keep track of how much per hour everybody pays you?” I said, “Yeah.”
It was interesting because all of a sudden, she started paying me more per hour. She knows other people are paying me and I’m tracking that. It was an interesting thing. When I was in seventh grade, she and her husband had a convention in Acapulco and they took me with them to babysit their daughter. It was quite the evolution of a poolside babysitting gig to get to do this gig when I was in seventh grade to go to Acapulco and babysit this little girl. I would have to say, with the exception of trying to sell Girl Scout cookies that were my first foray into doing something entrepreneurial without recognizing that’s what I was doing.
One, if you’re somebody that is doing something different than other people, here’s this kid, let’s say twelve years old who was thinking differently than other little kids, other babysitters. What happens is that person in authority sees that and says, “What’s up with that? Why are you different? I can trust you. You’re mature.” It opens doors when people see that you’re not shooting from the hip. Don’t you see that in your life?
Showing that I was even interested in keeping track rather than going and spending that money right away got her attention. The other thing that popped into my mind, I hadn’t thought about this for years. Shortly after I moved to Dayton, we were having our kids. I was by choice a stay-at-home mom and loving it. I wanted to make a little money on the side. I started making hair bows for little girls that matched their outfit. Somebody would give me their outfit, I’d go out, find a ribbon and make hair bows, which turned into making hair bows for cheerleading squads. It was ridiculous what mothers of cheerleaders would pay for a hair bow. I was charging $15 for a hair bow and I might have $0.79 in it. It was crazy. I was doing that at home, watching TV with the kids, making these hair bows. That was another little venture that I had early on in my entrepreneurial career. I never thought about being an entrepreneur. I was like, “I can do that.” I didn’t even understand what entrepreneurship was at that point.
When I was young, nobody said the word, entrepreneur. You might have your own business. You might be self-employed. This idea of being an entrepreneur, many people are affixing some value to that. A lot of people say, “I’m an entrepreneur,” and they have nothing to show for it. There’s a feeling of declaration to the world, “Here’s who I am,” but it doesn’t mean anything. You said your mom was a realtor, your dad was a partner in a law firm, so he was an owner. She was self-employed, a commission salesperson. They probably never used the word entrepreneur around the dinner table. They knew that they weren’t working 9 to 5 for somebody else.
It’s funny how our vocabularies changed because you think about words like side hustle, gig economy and all these new words that have come in that were never words in our vocabulary growing up.
You never thought of it as you sat on the couch with your little children that your side hustle was making hair bows. “I’m a stay-at-home mom but I’ve got a side hustle.” In the old days, they called it egg money. The stay-at-home moms were raising chickens and they go sell the eggs. They’d put that away and they’d buy Christmas presents with their egg money. That was the side hustle of 1894. You never thought of yourself. You had a tendency toward figuring out, “What else could I be doing to be productive with my time? I’m going to measure it in money.” You went to school. Did you get a degree? Did you go to college?
I graduated from Western Kentucky University with a degree in journalism and a minor in business administration.
What was your hope?
My goal in high school was to become a photographer and writer for National Geographic. That’s what I thought I was going to do. It didn’t turn out that way. I ended up getting married right after college and started our family right away and made the decision to stay home. I did a lot of freelance editing and proofreading for ad agencies when my kids were little. I was using those skills as writing skills. It was a great job because the ad agencies would courier me the work. This was before we were doing everything online, so it was all hard copy. They courier it to me. After the kids go to bed, I’d work. This was several years ago when I was making $30 an hour. It felt like manna from heaven at that point to do these documents. These were like annual reports for Disney and cool projects that I was getting to edit. I would courier it back. It was a perfect job for a stay-at-home mom to freelance like that.
When did you start your first business where you had other people involved?
That would have been my first what I would call potentially scalable business was the business in the legal industry. That was an organization that helped law firms with operational technology type of stuff. We built a team. A couple of years after we started, we signed a seven-figure deal with the New York State Bar Association. It was definitely going, but I could tell I wasn’t in the right place. I took that opportunity since things were going well to sell my interest in that business to my partners. That was May of 2015.
I thought I met you while that transaction was in process. What happened? You were raising kids. Did you remarry during this time?
I did in 2006 remarried.
You could understand all his crazy ideas. You raised your kids. You were finishing raising the kids when you were in the legal business. You sold it with the expectation of what? You wanted to be in a different place. You’re going to have some money coming in. You’re married. What was that moment? What was that phase which was a transitional phase? What was that like? What were you thinking? Did you think you’re going to be able to sit back? Did you think, “I better hurry up and do something new?” What was the driving thought at that time?
That’s about the time I met you. I was trying to figure things out. I had a passion for nonprofits. I had a passion for coaching. I explored a lot of different things. I supported a few other people that were doing cool things while I was trying to figure things out. One day I was having this conversation with a former colleague of mine and I said, “I can’t get my legs under me. I don’t know what to do next.” I did have some runway after selling my business or my part of the business. It wasn’t an endless runway. We were starting to feel a little bit of time pressure. I said, “I don’t know what to do next,” and nothing was hitting the spot for me. She said, “Out of everything you’ve ever done in your career, what did you enjoy most?” Part of the story that we skipped over was that I worked for a firm that did executive level customer advisory boards for three years.
It was a very cool job. I was traveling all around the world working with big companies, Dell, Verisign and some other cool tech companies, however, I was traveling so much. I did still have kids at home at that time. I didn’t want to be gone as much as the job was going to require us, the victim of my own success because they kept adding more and more good things for me to do. I remember one international trip, I was gone for sixteen days, which is hard to do when you’ve got kids at home. I left that job and did a few other things. She asked me, “Out of everything you’ve ever done, what did you enjoy the most?” Without a doubt, I didn’t even have to think about it, customer advisory boards, it was my favorite out of everything I’ve done.
When I met you, you were trying to build a group, accountability coaching business. I referred you to that networking event, CEO Space. I was teaching there. You came. They eventually wanted to plug into you and have you build a coaching system for them. You were doing that. You were doing your own thing. You were doing it with them in the hope that maybe we’ll get a bunch of people to sign up for this coaching. I can do that. You met another person who made you of digital publishing. The reason I want to bring this up is that when I met you, you were trying to get this and it wasn’t so much like coaching as my wife does coaching. It was more accountability of projects and stuff. Is that true or not true?
It was small mastermind groups with a focus on accountability.
You did that on your own, then you’ve created another hybrid of it with CEO Space. Because you had gotten a degree in journalism and writing, you wanted to try the magazine. I’ve watched you through all these iterations. This is super important for the audience. Betsy and I have known each other for about four years. During that time, I’ve watched you have an initial idea, go get introduced to a whole group of people through this conference, get attention. Betsy always gets attention everywhere she goes. Everybody is like, “I want to work with Betsy.” The president of the group of CEO Space wanted you to help put something together, which you did.
To whatever marginal level of success, you did it. They wanted to work with you. Another guy, Dave said, “Let’s do this digital publishing thing,” which you worked on with him. That wasn’t a great fit either but then you did your own thing. I know because I was the first cover of your digital magazine. All of these things you are trying based on meeting people, trying to take your skills and apply them in a way that seemed logical. There were little windows, tiny cubbyhole doors were opening up for you to try stuff and you were trying them, in my opinion even at the time, trying to put that square peg in the round hole. Is that true?
I would completely agree with that. The biggest lesson for me throughout that whole thing is a lot of self-awareness because I am a very trusting person. I’m a very optimistic person to my detriment, in this particular type of frame of my life. I wasn’t mindful about my decision. I was like, “That sounds great. That could be a great opportunity. I like these people.” It wasn’t intentional about, “What am I going to do next and is this a good fit for me short-term and long-term?”
It’s also easy to start looking up to people when you don’t know all about them. Sometimes people that we meet, especially if they’ve been lifted up onto a stage, the only thing you know about them is the bio that they wrote about themselves. It’s the best possible press release they can make about themselves. When that is your perception, it’s very easy to become enamored of somebody and want to start working with them or that they’re paying attention to you is a cool thing. Isn’t that true?
That’s true. At that point, my confidence wasn’t very high because I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to do. That makes that worse. I don’t want to give the impression that these aren’t great people that I associated with.
They’re great people but that’s not the point. This is teaching entrepreneurs about the pitfalls and how to overcome them. Those little moments being tapped on the shoulder to say, “Would you put together this 30-year old organization’s coaching program for us? Would you consider being on the board? Would you be in a mastermind with me? Would you work with this guy who’s worked with all these big sports teams?” It’s intoxicating.
I learned a lot throughout all of those journeys. From that aspect, I’m very grateful. However, it was a long, hard road, a lot of tears, a lot of conversations with you and a lot of shaking of my confidence and my core beliefs in what I’m capable of. A lot of entrepreneurs go through that. Sometimes that window is months. Sometimes it’s multiple years. I can’t explain this probably correctly. I always had this belief that eventually I’d figure it out. I never gave up that belief that I would figure it out. It got to be embarrassing that I was trying lots of different things. In retrospect, I no longer apologize for that because I got exposed to some cool stuff to a lot of cool people. At the time, it felt like one more failed attempt at being an entrepreneur. I had something in my gut that would tell me, “Eventually I will figure this out and figure out where I belong.”
I remember when you came to me and said, “If I’m being honest with myself, the thing that I did that I loved was these advisory boards.” Tell us about when you decided, “I’m going to try to do this.” What were some of your concerns? What were you excited about? What were the challenges of getting started? You were swinging for the fences.
When I did this work before, I was an account manager. I wasn’t a consultant. I was supporting the consultant. Even though I had been exposed to it and I had facilitated some small group breakouts, I had never led the whole initiative as an executive level consultant. That was my biggest fear like, “Could I pull this off?”
Tell us what it is, what pull what off?
The C-Suite executives of our clients, we help them engage in strategic conversations with the executive leaders of their key customers. We help recruit those people. We build agendas. We build the sessions, document everything and figure out, “Out of all these insights, what’s actionable? What can we do about this? How do we build deeper relationships with these key clients and customers of our clients?” We meet face-to-face two or three times a year, do a couple of calls in between. It’s an ongoing strategic initiative direct from the CEO.
When you decided you were going to try to do this, you weren’t thinking big names at that point. You were thinking, “How can I find somebody that will take a risk on me?”
That’s a funny story because the first client I met, it’s going to sound terrible, but I met her at her uncle’s funeral. We went to this after the reception. Somebody introduced us and she was like, “Nice to meet you. What do you do?” I started talking to her. She was like, “We’ve been looking to do something like that. We should go have coffee.” I walked out of there and I had no clients at this time, just a concept. I walked down and I told my husband, “I think I may have gotten my first prospect.” His response was, “Betsy, is there a room you won’t work?” I was like, “I wasn’t working the room. I promise I wasn’t working the funeral,” but it worked out. It was a casual conversation. A lot of times you get a lucky break.
I totally disagree. It’s not a lucky break because for one thing, think about Thoreau’s quote, “When one advances confidently in the direction of their dreams and endeavors to live the life, which they’ve imagined, they’ll meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” You had to have one that said, “You had no prospects, you had no business. You didn’t even know if you could do it.” When somebody said, “What do you do?” You had something to say. We love our relatives, but maybe an aunt and uncle, unless they’ve helped raise you, it’s not the same as your mom and dad. I don’t want to underplay the significance of the event that you were at for this individual. They were going, “Let’s have a real conversation. I’m not over here grieving. We’re having lunch at the church or whatever.” You had something to say when someone asks you and could say it with enough conviction because of your forethought about it. It wasn’t like, “I’m hoping to someday maybe start a business where I could hopefully help some companies of maybe this tiny size to advisory boards so they can have a better relationship with their clients or vendors.” You said, “This is what I do,” and she was like, “I need that. Can we have coffee?”
It’s a good illustration of that quote. It was very uncommon hours at that point. I stand corrected on the lucky break.
You could have knocked doors or gone to a bunch of chamber meetings or sat there and taken all kinds of other classes on Instagram or other social media now hoping never to have to talk to anybody, but keep preparing, do everything around what you need to do but not do it. That’s not how Betsy works. Like the hair bows and everything else that I’ve seen you do, you jump into the middle of it. You do it. You did get your first client, is that right?
I did. We’re doing our second meeting with them.
You don’t have to give up names or anything. Give an idea of the size of that first prospect because I know I have an idea of where things have gone. Was this a great big known company or was it a company that was doing a lot in Dayton? What was the deal?
They’re known in the sense that they’re one of the fastest growing companies that get on lists for that thing. I’m not 100% sure, I think they were about $50 million in revenue.
It’s not huge but a good size company.
The next client I met at a conference, I sat next to this gentleman twice in a row at a workshop thing. We got chatting and that company is $1 billion in revenue. That was a big jump for me. Things are working so well with that client in the US that I am in conversations with their European counterparts helping me to get more global. The same thing has happened with another tech client. We’re going to be doing a Middle East board. Getting the clients and then growing those accounts has been beneficial.
When was that funeral? How long ago?
It was probably 2017.
2017, you said to the first person who responded back and I’m surprised. It seems shorter than that to me. You would know better. That was a prospect which took a little time to develop. When did you do the first meeting for them?
It was September of 2018.
What’s the progress been once you saw that somebody would say yes? What’s that trajectory been? You went from, “Maybe I’ll do accountability coaching. I’ll do it for CEO Space. I’ll work with Dave. I’m going to start my own magazine. I’m at a funeral and I’m declaring to the world that I’m going to do these customer advisory boards months ago.” What happened since then?
Since then I made some hires, which is exciting. I had moved into an office. I’ve built an infrastructure. I want to talk about the impact of Unshackled Owner on how I’ve gotten to where we are.
I’m talking about client-wise, what’s been happening from a business growth perspective?
It’s been incredible. We’ve got some of these technology companies that we’ve been connected to. They’re big companies. Some of them are not big, but they’re growing because they’re funded by private equity. They have the backing to grow very quickly. We’re exponentially growing those accounts into other regions in the world. It’s been very exciting to start feeling the momentum of what we’re doing. With that, the revenue goes up because I have so much more confidence to charge a lot more than I did with the one that first took a bet on us.
It’s great to charge less money when you’re getting started. It’s not because you’re trying to be cheap, but you need to be reasonable. If you’re going to be learning on somebody else’s nickel, it’s reasonable to charge less money. Once you’ve learned, once you’ve got demonstrable results, then all of a sudden you can start charging more. Depending on how busy you want to be, you can charge even more because you’ll slow down the small ones. You only get the big ones. You’ll get paid more to work with companies that are going to be more lucrative to work with over time.
What I’ve noticed in the time I’ve known you from being very nervous, you were unsure. You didn’t know this territory. You were trying not to move too fast. You didn’t want to not take advantage of opportunities. You were doing stuff because you and I started off with a relationship of trust. You did come to me a number of times to ask questions about things. I will say in retrospect, maybe I should have been bolder in some of the things that I said to you. All I wanted you to do is be true to yourself, which as soon as you figured out what you loved, it didn’t take very long to go from zero to pretty big contracts with hundreds of thousands or millions in the pipeline.
The point I would make about that in thinking and speaking to your audience about finding what you love, I loved the magazine work. It doesn’t mean it’s good business. I don’t love selling advertising. You have to look at the whole thing, not the work you get to do. I loved writing the stories. I loved interviewing people. I loved putting them into a cool format. That doesn’t mean that’s good business. You hear so much about, “Follow your passion.” I love to write and I love to interview people. It doesn’t mean that it was the right avenue for creating a business. It certainly would not have been scalable if it was solely dependent on my skills as a writer. I’ve always had this passion for wanting to scale a business. When I was looking at the opportunity to get back into advisory boards, I thought, “Is this something that I can scale?” Even though I was a one-off person with no clients, that’s why I still took the Unshackled Owner Course because I knew I wanted to set it up in a way that eventually I could be an Unshackled Owner and scale this company. You and I have talked about this, I wasn’t a candidate for your class.
We went back and forth on it because it’s me voting with their pocketbook, which I shouldn’t do, but I am hesitant sometimes. You and Chris took the class. I was worried about you. I had a desire to want to take care of you and your money. You took the class. What would you say the value is? This is never meant to be a big commercial for Unshackled Owner, although it freaking works, this stuff that we teach. The question for you, Betsy, having that education coming into the advisory board business, how did that help?
I think a couple of things. The first part is going into it with the right mindset that it is possible to create an asset rather than a job, which are your words. I wanted to create an asset. I thought I could wait until I’m big enough to have the right credentials to be in a course like this or I could learn this right out of the gate, whether or not I can implement it right away, it doesn’t matter. I want to learn what this path is so that I don’t make mistakes as I’m building it. That’s one of the biggest key takeaways for me was getting in the right mindset of eventually becoming an Unshackled Owner. The course material itself was very practical and applicable. I learned so much from that. I’m in a position where I want to retake the course. I want to revisit all of those notes. I took copious crazy notes during the course. I feel like even though I was too small at the time, it was an incredibly valuable experience for me to invest the time and money to take it because it set the foundation for how I’m building this.
You’re off, you’re running and you’re getting lots of opportunities. It’s one thing to try to take what you think you want to do and force it on people. It’s a totally different thing to find out what other people need and see if you can provide it for them. That’s the perspective of between successful and unsuccessful is some people are trying to force things on the market, other people are seeing what the market is asking for and then providing it.
Being able to clearly articulate the value of what you do, that’s where I think my biggest leap has been because you can say, “I have this cool X, Y, Z and it does this, it does that and feature function conversations.” Unless you can tell somebody the difference it makes for them and the value, it’s hard to get people to even engage with you. That’s what I’ve been able to do because we’re getting these phenomenal results for our clients very quickly. It’s been helpful plus I’m learning a lot. We had a board meeting held at the Harvard Club in New York, which was super cool to see. The client team was showing some of their product and stuff.
This one gentleman who’s a very high-level executive said, “I don’t care about that. I want to know three things. One, how am I not going to get a call in the middle of the night? Two, how am I going to get to spend the weekend with my children? Three, how am I going to keep my job? You tell me how you’re going to help those three things happen. That’s what I want to know.” I have an article coming out about the same thing and how you get to that ultimate why. It was eye-opening for our clients. As a result, they’ve changed their messaging. They’ve changed their marketing to understand what it is that matters to our customers and how do we get to understand that.
It’s a tremendous service that you’re providing. It helps all of us as consumers who want to work with these companies. You’ve mentioned some brands to me that we would regularly see on television, hear about it on the radio and see in some of the magazines. I get like Esquire and so on. I see ads for some of these companies there. You’re working at a high level with successful companies, but the thing that people want, these owners of these companies or the leaders want the same thing that our audience wants. The same thing you wanted like what you described, “I’d like to have the money and the success that I need for my business. I don’t want to lose my job or my business. I want to have time to spend with things that I love. I don’t want to have to be connected to it 24/7. I want to be able to relax and sleep through the night without having to worry about something going wrong somewhere.”
You know Tony Bodoh. He’s a co-author of a book that we wrote. I posted something on LinkedIn about the ability to hone in on what it is that matters most and how you get to it. It all comes down to the human experience. There’s the talk of customer experience, user experience and employee experience. If you’ve changed those words out with the word human, then you get to the real root of what those experiences need to look like.
I’m going to be shameless here, but what I heard you saying about that human experience of what that one high-level executive expressed was that he or she wanted to be unshackled. Unshackled doesn’t mean retired. Unshackled doesn’t mean you don’t work anymore. It doesn’t mean you’re independently wealthy. It doesn’t mean you’re sitting on the beach all the time. The idea of becoming an Unshackled Owner means you can run your business, you can start something new, you can go do family stuff, you can go take care of things. You can volunteer, serve on boards, go on extended trips and do things like you want because the business will run whether you’re there or not. Several businesses using that same formula can run without you having to be there to be the most critical employee.
This is not unique to closely held one owner companies. This is being felt all over the place. As I get more people from Corporate America talking to me, it’s that idea of Unshackled does not have to be somebody who owns a business. It could be somebody who’s in a leadership position, who has responsibilities and stewardship, who can’t leave it at 5:00 PM. Who’s always got that, “How can they rethink how their kingdom, their stewardship is reoriented so that they don’t have to get calls in the middle of the night. They can spend the weekend with their family and their job is still secure.” These lessons are universal and they’re valuable. Good for Betsy Westhafer who wanted to learn new skills while there was a void, while it wasn’t super busy.
I have a moment. I have a season where I can take on some new skills that will help me with the next big thing I’m going to do. Once you keyed in on what people want, you were off to the races. I don’t get the calls so much anymore, but I remember when you were first getting them, where things were starting to click and you’d send me a text or you’d write to me and go, “Guess what happened?” We all get excited when it starts to work. Every one of us, I do, Betsy does and all of you do too. Betsy, if somebody is in that the doldrums, the Eddie, they’re doing stuff, they’re busy but they aren’t in the current. They don’t have the wind in their sails but they’re trying hard. What’s your advice to them?
I didn’t know this at the time and I wish I’d had this counsel when I was in that area of my career. For me and looking back, I wish I would have relaxed a little bit more and enjoyed the learning process and know that everything was a building block that was eventually going to get me on the right path. You don’t always know where it’s going to take you but staying open and being calm. I’m a person of faith. I pray a lot. I had faith that eventually this would work out. Relax and enjoy the privilege of being an entrepreneur because it is a privilege. A lot of people don’t have that opportunity to even try their own thing. Be grateful for the privilege of being able to try different things and fail at some of them.
Betsy Westhafer from The Congruity Group. Where can they find you, Betsy? Where can they look you up?
Thanks so much for being on the show, Betsy. I appreciate it. She said, “I wish I’d known to relax.” We both know that when you’re not sure what’s going on and where the next $100 is going to come from, it’s hard to relax. I’m going to add on, not contradict, onto the good counsel you gave and say, “You never want to stop thinking and working.” In the horse world, we say, “You’ve got to keep their feet moving.” If you’re trying to teach a horse something and they locked themselves in place, no progress is going to be made, no physical progress and no educational process.
If you can keep their feet moving, they get over their fear and they don’t know what exactly is happening to them. We don’t always know how the things we’re doing are going to help. All of a sudden, the lesson kicks in. The progress starts to be made and then you look like an expert. You look like a genius. You look at John Wayne on that horse where before the horse was beaten up on you. Sometimes life will try to make us look silly. We’ll do silly things. We’re embarrassed to talk about our failures. We feel funny saying, “I’ve done three different things in the last eighteen months.” Don’t get freaked out by it. This is the journey. When you are lucky enough to finally have something click like it has happened for Betsy with the thing that she has a gift to do to facilitate these high-level executives in significant conversations to help huge brands make progress, Betsy has a skill for that.
Once she was able to move around enough, talk to enough people, no matter what room she was working, she was telling what she did unabashedly. It finally clicked. When it does for you, you’re going to be amazed looking backward at all the things that conspired for your success. They conspired together to lift you into a new place. You never see it looking forward. You only see it looking back every single time. Know that as you go out and go back into the world, go back out into the struggle or into the success, into the individual. I’m working my butt off to learning how to scale. If you want to learn how to do that, I encourage you to contact me and let’s talk about the class. I’ve seen it now about 200 times with different companies. The class will change your brain, it will change your business, it will change your life.
I would say I also have learned to take counsel from people who have done it. Aaron, you’ve done it how many times that you know what you’re talking about. You know it works. I spun my wheels many times going down a path with people who either said they’ve done it or want to do it but haven’t done it. Ultimately my long game, what I would like to do eventually is scale this company, sell it, then become a coach on helping other people scale businesses. I love the whole concept of scaling and using the Unshackled Owner as a foundation. That would be amazing. That’s what my long vision is because I can’t do that for people until I’ve done it myself. I want to learn how to do it myself and then teach other people much as you’ve done.
Thank you so much. We’ll look forward to seeing you again on the Unshackled Owner show.
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