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

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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, 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, 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.

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.

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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?

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

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

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.

Collaboration, Fierce Loyalty, and Being Boss With Kathleen Shannon

Kathleen Shannon of Being Boss on Profit. Power. Pursuit.

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Tara: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. I’m Tara Gentile, your host and together with Creative Live we explore the unique strategies that creative entrepreneurs use to take control of their lives, profit from their passions and pursue what’s truly important to them. Today on the podcast I’ll be talking to Kathleen Shannon, co-founder of Braid Creative and co-host of the popular Being Boss Podcast. Kathleen transitioned her career from graphic design and art direction and an advertising agency to entrepreneurship and branding for creative entrepreneurs.
She created the Braid Method to help entrepreneurs blend who they are with what they do. Now, Kathleen is focusing her attention on Being Boss and growing her agency to run without her at the helm every day. I spoke with Kathleen about balancing both Braid Creative and Being Boss, how an episode of Being Boss gets creative from start to finish and how she and co-host Emily Thompson planned to grow what was just a podcast into a full-fledged business venture. Kathleen Shannon, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Kathleen: Thank you so much for having me.

Tara: Absolutely. I want to start off by talking about the pursuit side of things. You’ve said you believed that creatives can best find success, happiness and a nice paycheck by blending who we are with what we do. Can you just talk a little bit about how that’s played out in your own life and business?

Kathleen: Absolutely. This is the part that it’s really probably philosophical foundation that drives all the very specific actions and behaviors that I take in my business. Really, blending who I am with what I do is really what I call personal branding and I think that we’ve all heard the term personal brand. What that means for me is just being who I am a 100% of the time. To get really specific, I found my personal brand while working a day job but I started a blog where I started talking about things like remodeling my home and learning how to cook. I was really becoming known for being a story teller and talking about also things like work and so I quit my day job and I started blogging about what it was like to become a freelancer. I do not come from a family of creative entrepreneurs.
Everyone in my family has a pension. They have 401K, they have a steady day job, they have health insurance. I was a trailblazer whenever it comes to doing what I was doing in the context of where I’ve come from. I started blogging about the adventure of working for myself and through that, I accidentally positioned myself as an expert in working for myself even though I had no idea what I was doing. With that, I started attracting my tribe of other creatives who are trying to figure it out along with me and I feel like everything in my business has really stemmed from that very first adventure of quitting my day job and really sharing the story along the way. I guess that’s what I mean whenever I talk about blending who we are with what we do is sharing the story along the way. Having your values, be your values in work and life and maybe not creating so much of a separation between what you do and who you are.

Tara: It also sounds like really finding your voice too.

Kathleen Shannon of Being Boss on Profit. Power. Pursuit.Kathleen: A 100% and I’ve been getting asked a lot lately about how to find your voice and my easiest answer is to use it. You find your voice by using your voice and you just got to mock through it and it might take years but try different voices on for size and try speaking loudly, try speaking quietly, try listening. There are lots of ways to use your voice but you have to use it to find it.

Tara: Yeah, I love that. I love what you shared about your definition of personal branding too because I think that a lot of people think having a, “personal brand,” means saying basically, “Look at me, look at me, look at me.” I don’t see it that way and it sounds like you don’t see it that way and that instead it’s about really finding out what your voice is, what your message is, what your values are and using that to transfer from yourself as a person into a brand that you have as a business.

Kathleen: Absolutely. I think that we see a lot of extroverts with personal brands and I myself am an extrovert which often I feel really out of place amongst my tribe and probably even a lot of your listeners are introverts, I know that with Quiet Power Strategy. You’re really speaking to a crowd of people who feel like they haven’t been able to stand out amongst the noise but I don’t think that you have to be a loud extrovert even though that’s what I am, to have a personal brand. I think that it really is about just knowing what you stand for and standing for that a 100% of the time.

Tara: Yeah, I mean for me as an introvert, a very pretty hard core introvert, having a personal brand has allowed me to amplify my voice instead of having to say, “Look at me, look at me, look me.” I really, really appreciate that. All right, let’s talk a little bit about Braid Creative, you started Braid Creative with your sister Tara Street. How did that happen?

Kathleen: My sister and I actually worked together in advertising. She was the boss of me. She was my creative director for five years like a traditional day job. It was something that we kept a secret while we were working in the real world in advertising. Not on purpose but there is a stigma against working with family and I decided to quit my job in advertising. I felt like the landscape of advertising was changing and as a young creative I really didn’t know the difference between advertising and marketing and branding. As I started to learn the difference between those things, I realized that my heart was with branding and that my heart was with creative entrepreneurs. In advertising I was working with credit unions and small banks.
I decided to follow my heart which I know sounds really lofty but just to get very real about it, I wanted to use my talents to help people like photographers, designers, developers, coaches, really find our voice and make sure that their insides match their outsides. Making sure that the inside of who they are matches their outside brand and identity and even logo that they are putting out there. About a year after quitting my day job, my sister was becoming increasingly unhappy as a creative director and she had a really high powered job. On paper, everything looked amazing so she was working with an executive coach named Jay Pryor who is the best at what he does. He was like, “If you could be doing anything what would it be?”
Without hesitation she said, “I would be working with my sister.” About a week later we had a business plan developed, we had our identity developed, we had our process hammered out. We worked really fast on that and out the gates started working with creative entrepreneurs to help them with their own brand and business visioning and really bringing a lot of our agency strategy and experience to not smaller industry but to the solopreneur. I mean, it has been such a ride and we’ve been doing this now for five years and I love every day of it.

Tara: That is so awesome. What it’s like to work with your sister on a daily basis?Kathleen:

Kathleen: I get asked that a lot. It’s funny. My sister is seven years older than me and she’s pretty much always been the boss of me. Even since we were really little I would crawl into bed with her as a little kid. I hated being alone in my own bed so I’d crawl into bed with her and even on business trips at our advertising agency we would have separate hotel rooms and I’d sneak into her hotel room and watch TV and eat snacks with her all night. We’ve always really been best friends. There was a bit of a struggle and a shift that had to occur whenever it went from her being my boss to as being co-bosses together.
Many times I was paving the way into trying to do new things like creating ecourses or developing other digital products or trying a new way of doing things. We really are two sides of the same coin. We have a really fantastic short hand. I’m the extrovert to her introvert. I’m the right brain to her left brain. I’m the person who’s usually out there willing to take risks and to talk to a lot of people. She’s the person who is methodically and logistically hammering out the details. I mean, it’s been really good. It comes with its challenges but it’s totally worth it.

Tara: I love that. Who else is on your team then?

Kathleen: We’re all about blurring lines and my best friend Liz is our creative director and really just our right hand person. We couldn’t run Braid without her. She worked with us in the advertising agency as well so we raised her up into her creative career training her to pretty much be exactly like us, not in a bad way. She can do everything that we can do and then some which is amazing. She’s on our team full time. Then we have an assistant who is so much more than an assistant and really one of the best hires I’ve ever made. Her name is Caitlin Brehm. She contracts for us and just launched her own business doing SEO and content management. It’s been really great having her on our team. We also have a junior designer named Jessica who helps us with some of our daily design needs. For a while we had another designer on staff full time but she moved to New York and went on to work at another amazing place. That’s who is on the Braid team for now.

Tara: Okay, great. We’ll get to the other side of things, a little of that. How do you manage your team? Are there particular tools? Like meetings that you guys use. What’s your system for managing your team?

Kathleen: We’ve tried a lot of things over the years and what we have found works best for us is some good old Google Mail, Google Drive. We live and die by a to do list that is simply in our Google Drive. I tried switching my Braid team over to Asana recently and they were like, “Nope. I can’t do it.” They like their list in Google. What else do we use? My Google Calendar. I could not do anything without my Google calendar. Those are really the tools that we utilize in Braid Creative. Then really our own creative process so that isn’t really an application that was developed by someone else. It was our own process for working, from having to reinvent the wheel every time we work with someone new. It was a method that we knew that we could use and rely on to get the information that we needed in order to brand someone in a way that is authentic and true and meaningful to who they are.

Tara: Nice. I’m so glad that you brought up your own methodology or your own process as an important part of how you work with your team because I think a lot of people don’t elevate it in that way, they don’t recognize it in that way. I think that’s a real disservice to your business if you don’t see your own methodology as that valuable to the way you do business.

Kathleen: Absolutely. The way that I recommend to recognize your method I mean, for just a typical designer it is not anything that is particularly earth-shattering, it’s just being able to articulate it. One thing I recommend to people that I work with in finding their own method is to literally write down everything that happens with a customer from the time they land on your website to the time that you’re sending them their final invoice and what happens in between. How can you begin to efficiently collect information? Are there gaps in your process? Where are the pain points that you’re always struggling with?
I grew up in advertising as a graphic designer and that’s really what my original craft and trade was and maybe some other graphic designers listening to this may resonate but every time I start a new project I thought, “I’m not going to be able to do it this time. I’m not going to have a new idea. It’s going to suck. The client is going to hate it,” and really being able to rely on my own methodology, being able to explain to a client exactly what is going to happen from start to finish, really reassures them. It really keeps them from getting freaked out. They see my portfolio and they are inspired because they see beautiful work but they want reassurance that I will create that beautiful work for them too. That’s why I rely on my method almost as a sales tool to say, “Here’s how we’re going to get there.”

Tara: Yup, I do that exact same thing. That is perfect. How does Braid Creative generate revenue? What are all the different things you guys do that are bringing in money on that side of your business?

Kathleen: The bread and butter of how we make our money is with the Braid method. What that is is a two part deliverable that includes your business visioning. Really who you are, why you’re doing what you do, a dream customer profile and then we’re looking at your brand identity, what offerings you’re selling. Often times, that’s the part of your brand that will change the most especially as a creative entrepreneur, especially as you’re evolving and launching new things. We’re really trying to figure out a way to package that up in a way that feels cohesive. The word authentic gets used a lot but for the lack of a better word authentic and meaningful to who you are. We really specialize in personal branding so creative entrepreneurs who maybe are in business with themselves or one other partner who are relying on or seeing that who they are is an asset to what they are doing.
That’s really our bread and butter and our main source of revenue. Then, we work with about 12 to 15 clients per quarter doing the Braid method and then for a while I was doing one on one creative coaching. That’s really working with people who maybe are transitioning from working a day job, [inaudible 00:14:51] at their own job. Really people who just need clarity on what their business vision is and really just helping them get specific about what it is they actually want to be doing all day. I tend to see this in the coaching industry people saying, “I just want to empower women.” I’m like, “But what does that actually mean?” What kinds of conversations are you having? What are people hiring you to do?
Really, just coaching as really digging down and asking those questions since starting a podcast I don’t do as much of that and then we have a couple of other ways of making money which is the more digital product side. We have an ecourse which is probably the textbook philosophy behind our Braid method. It’s called the Braid method branding ecourse. It’s pretty much a DIY Braid method except that you’re not getting a logo and the visual aspect of what we do at the end of it but you are getting really the framework of how we gather information and you can do it yourself. That product is one that we poured our heart and soul into and really I’ve made it my primary job to push and promote that product and really get it out into the world because I feel like it deserves to shine out in the world.
Then I have a DIY coaching for creatives email subscription series which is four emails a week for four weeks and it’s really the kind of coaching process I take my clients through, the kinds of questions I’m asking them but again instead of one on one it’s a DIY product that you can do yourself. I think yeah, that’s it. We don’t have a whole lot of products. We really just wanted to focus on the one thing. We’ll sometimes try a couple of different things like for a while we’re dabbling in method making and really specifically helping people one on one make their methods. The Braid method itself where we’re branding other people tends to be the thing over and over again that gets us work.

Tara: Nice. Do you offer that at a flat fee? Do you make proposals? Is there value pricing? What does that look like?

Kathleen: It is a flat fee. Right now, it’s $6,000 for the full Braid method and sometimes for some people that seems like a lot of money. For other people it doesn’t seem like very much at all but we’re charging a photographer who is just launching their business $6,000 for the Braid method and we’re also charging Brené Brown who’s had over a 100 million hits on her TED Talk $6,000 for Braid method. It’s a flat fee and we’ve played around with changing the price on that but in order to just do our most efficient work, having that flat fee has been really useful for us. We found that staying in that range helps us really attract our dreamiest of dream clients.

Tara: Nice. Yeah, there certainly benefits to putting together proposals or doing value pricing or anything like that but there are a lot of benefits to flat fee pricing as well. I appreciate you pointing that out.

Kathleen: You know what I found is that with proposals, that’s where I started to get into dangerous territory of trying to reinvent the wheel or promising to do things that I don’t really want to be known for. What I want to be known for is branding and business visioning and coaching. I don’t want to be known for social media strategy and that’s like saying that I might start promising if I was doing an individual proposal.

Tara: Brilliant. Awesome. You also host the Being Boss podcast with Emily Thompson which is an awesome show. I know a lot of women, my clients, some team members that are absolutely obsessed with your podcast. What is it do you think about your podcast that engenders that kind of loyalty?

Kathleen: Wow, that means so much for you to say that and it’s so funny because whenever we first started recording the podcast I made a list called the Hot Shit 200 and it was 200 people that I would love to have on the podcast and you Tara were on that list. You were one of our earliest guest and I felt like it was such a huge accomplishment to have you on the show and then to hear you complimenting it and hear that your colleagues and peers are listening to it, I’m almost I’m speechless. I don’t know if you get this at all in your business because I feel like you just keep blowing up and I see you everywhere on Instagram and Facebook. It’s hard to perceive the loyalty that you’re sparking or the fan base that you’re creating but I think what really has attracted listeners to Being Boss is that it came from a really real place.
Going back to personal branding and going back to the pursuit it really is coming back to my roots of sharing the journey along the way. What happened is, Emily and I were getting together once a month anyway to talk business. I had a really hard time finding anyone who understood online business who is making the same amount of money that I was who knew how to scale in a way that I had a vision for and Emily soon became my business bestie, the person that I could confide in and ask for advice and be in it with. We were meeting once a month just casually having conversations and one day she was like, “You know what? I think we need to start a podcast. I think that basically we just need to record the conversations that we’ve been having about business.”
Those conversations often include chatter about our kids or talk about vacation and adventure and the things that we’re craving in life outside of work. We really just started recording the conversations that we were already having and I think that that kind of authenticity and truth behind what we were talking and vulnerability, really, really shines through in a way that people can connect with. At least I hope that they can connect with it.

Tara: Yeah, I mean sometimes the best strategy I think is almost to, this is going to sound terrible from someone who prides themselves on strategy but I think sometimes the best strategy is almost having no strategy. It’s not that you didn’t have a strategy because making the choice to say, “We’re just going to record what we’re already doing and we’re just going to be ourselves,” is absolutely a strategy but I think people when they are trying to come up with a strategy they think they have to invent something, to create something artificial. You guys created something that was totally real and you did so intentionally and by choice.

Kathleen: Yeah, I would be so curious to hear your thoughts on this, Tara, if you don’t mind me picking your brain for a second.

Tara: Sure.

Kathleen: What’s fun is we really did start it from a genuine passionate place, right? That’s real fluffy and good. I never expected for it to turn into a full on business. We’ve been doing operating agreements now. We have bank accounts. We have LLCs. We pulled in more money than I ever expected too so it’s become a full-fledged business and now we are getting very strategic and very intentional about it. In fact, tomorrow we’re launching our new website that will come with a blog, we have events. The website is now We’re launching a clubhouse. I mean, we’re ready for this to be the thing. It’s funny though because starting it from a really organic let’s just record our conversations and see where it goes to something very strategic, I’m so almost fearful of it losing the original flare to it. I’m afraid that what’s worked for us so far has been flying off the cuff and just being organic about it. If we get strategic about it, is that bad luck? It’s almost like superstitious how I’m feeling right now.

Tara: Yeah, I totally understand where you’re coming from on that. I’ve had a lot of clients that have dealt with that as well is that early success often feels like almost like a fluke because you’re not expecting it, you’re not planning for it. Then, how do you go on building on success that feels like a fluke. I think first of all you have to recognize it wasn’t a fluke like I just said I think you guys made really intentional choices about what you were doing even if on the surface level they didn’t feel strategic. Then, the next step of things is I think that you have to have a real strategic framework and that just simply means making a simple set of choices that define what you’re willing to do and what you’re not willing to do.
I don’t think that being organic and creating things off the cuff is a bad thing. I think you just need to create a framework for it, a container for it. The four questions that I use to get people started on a strategic framework are, what do you want to create? How do you want to connect with people? Who do you want to create for and how do you want them to respond? What’s that value that you want to put out into the world with the change that you want to see? How do you want to help people become? Then, what are the ways that you guys connect best with people?
What are your natural strengths and advantages? Who are the people that you actually want to connect with and create for? That’s an easy one. You guys have that one down. Then the last one is more about, what action do you want them to take? I think if you answer those four questions really specifically, you create a space where you can be spontaneous and innovative and creative and off the cuff without it interfering with the strategic play that you’re making because it is the strategic play that you’re making. Does that make sense?

Kathleen: Totally. That reassures me. I feel like we’re on the right track because we have gotten very serious about doing this but then keeping those values in place that really come from those questions that you ask. A very specific example of this is part of Being Boss we created a Facebook group for our listeners and it quickly grew right now it’s at about 9,000 people in this Facebook group. It has exploded into something that I can’t keep control of. It’s gotten really spam-my but the original vibe of it and the reason why it’s grown so much is because it had that same kind of vibe that listening to our podcast does where this is a place where we’re in it together.
We can ask each other for help, very mastermind-y, very transparent, very open but at 9,000 people it’s almost impossible to manage that same vibe. Being willing to let go of the number is something that we’ve done and so that’s part of opening this more exclusive clubhouse that people often pay to join. I think that that’s us reconnecting to what is it that we want people to do and how do we want them to feel.

Tara: Yeah, absolutely. I love that. The Facebook group is definitely something that I know people are also obsessed with in addition to the podcast. I mean, seriously people tell me about the conversations that they have had in there. Like you said, these things can grow out of control very, very quickly and creating a space and putting a price tag on it where you can set expectations and you can say these are the rules and this is what you can expect from this group is something insanely valuable. I think you guys are going to be a smashing success with that.

Kathleen: Thank you. We’re really excited about it and really getting those good conversations about what are you reading, what are you learning about email marketing or content marketing. All the different things that we love and heard about. We’re excited to be having those conversations in a place that feels a little more not safe but just I mean, maybe a little bit more private.

Tara: For sure. I want to get a little bit more into the nitty-gritty of Being Boss in just a minute. You mentioned meeting with Emily on a monthly basis before you guys even started the podcast. You mentioned the Facebook group feeling sometimes a little bit like a mastermind. Is masterminding either in the traditional sense or in a more creative sense? Is that a part of the way you work, that way you think about your business?

Kathleen: No, actually it’s not. I’ve been invited to join a few masterminds and none of them felt quite right especially locally in person where I live because I run an online business and the needs of an online business are so different than the needs from a local retail store. I’ve always had a hard time finding a mastermind and in fact, Tara, I’ve stalked a lot of your different products that you’ve had and I’m like, “Okay, maybe this is going to be the year that I really invest in this higher learning and higher connection.” I’m still super interested in joining a mastermind. If anyone has any recommendations let me know.
For me, it just feels really risky. A lot of them are really expensive. Probably more so than creating a mastermind I want to create a community. Maybe if I join a mastermind or couple of masterminds and really see how it works, it’s something that Emily and I could create down the road but for now it’s really just traveling to hang out with people at conferences, traveling to hang out with people just as friends. For example, last week I was in Mexico with Sara VonBargen and a few other online buddies and we’re just talking strategy, we’re talking business but we were really enjoying it. The kind of impromptu masterminds and impromptu business buddy relationships have really worked well for me.

Tara: Yeah, that had worked really well for me originally as well and then the end of last year I realized how my network had stagnated. Part of that was my fault. A big part of that was my fault. I’ve named 2016 the year of the mastermind for me. We’ll chat after the show then because I can give you some recommendations.

Kathleen: Yes, thank you.

Tara: Yeah, awesome. Sweet, maybe we’ll tell people what happens later afterwards.

Kathleen: Perfect.

Tara: All right. How are you and Emily generated revenue with Being Boss right now?

Kathleen: Right now we’re generating revenue from sponsorships. FreshBooks, Cloud Accounting and Acuity Scheduling are our premier sponsors and they have been very generous with us. It’s so funny because I had never had sponsors before. I’ve been blogging for a long time and I always felt like that was selling out or that it was deluding my own brand but really engaging in those sponsorships have done nothing but give our own brand credibility and really the funds to make it happen the way that it has. I’m so grateful for them. What’s really cool about our sponsorships with them is that it actually converts. Our listeners are really using FreshBooks and they are really using Acuity Scheduling to be better bosses.
Earlier as part of your four questions, one of the frameworks we’ve given ourselves for taking on sponsors is will it help someone be a better boss. We’ve had a lot of people approach us and the answer was no. We said no to them. That’s the way that we generate revenue it’s with sponsors. Another way that we generate revenue is we bundled up my DIY coaching product with one of Emily’s email products called, “Get Your Shit Together.” We sell that on our website. We’re going to be launching our clubhouse which is a year long membership to basically a slack group. That also comes with things like secret episodes and custom worksheets just for our clubhouse members. Then other than that we’re working on a product with Paul Jarvis and Jason Zook right now.
We’re interested in building products but I recently talked to a friend of mine, Meg Keene who runs A Practical Wedding which is one of the biggest wedding websites in the world. She told me the sun is shining on you as sponsorships. She goes, “You need to really just focus on building that a little bit more and really building your brand and then you guys can make products in your sleep, right?” She said, “Maybe wait a year to make more products,” I thought that was just such genius advice because for me it was really scary relying on sponsor money whenever I could create something myself. It’s allowed us to create now a new website and launch that.
Launch the clubhouse. The main way is with our sponsorships. We also do yearly events so we’ve been to New Orleans and invited 75 bosses to come with us. That was last October. In April we’re going to Miami and another 75 bosses are coming. We decided to rent a yacht and ask FreshBooks if they’ll pay for it. They generously said yes. Basecamp is also supporting us there as well as Acuity Scheduling. Again, a lot of that is sponsorship driven but our guest do pay a little bit of money to help just pay for the logistics of all of it.

Tara: That is awesome. That is so cool. I love that you said about focusing on what’s really working right now. You’ve got it in your mind what the potential downfalls are of what is happening to be working right now but so many people worry for no good reason or let that worry make them unfocused or scattered. I love that while you’re keeping that in mind you’re also charging ahead with what’s really working and making the most out of it. I think that’s hugely important.

Kathleen: Exactly. I should also mention that Being Boss still goes hand in hand with Braid Creative and Emily’s company, Indieshopography. Honestly, it’s funny because now Braid Creative almost feels like my day job and Being Boss has felt like a side hustle a little bit. Braid Creative is now very much funding me personally like I still get paid a salary from Braid Creative even though all my intention and focus is going to Being Boss. On the back end of things it’s a little confusing and it’s included a lot of conversations with lawyers and accountants and business partners but my sister and I still split everything. I still split all my Being Boss income with her and she’s still splits everything in Braid with me for now. That’s another benefit of being sisters in business is that at no point am I like, “Is this unfair?” Because we’re sisters.

Tara: We talked about moving from a freelancer role to an entrepreneur role or a business owner role but included in that business owner role most of the time that we’re talking about that, we’re really saying in a CEO role but it sounds like you’re moving from a CEO or COO or CCO role into an owner role where you’re a little bit more hands off on the Braid side. Am I hearing that correctly?

Kathleen: That’s correct. My role in Braid Creative was the high end creative direction and coaching aspect of things. I do really great job of facilitating our conversations and getting information out of people. Then I do a really great job designing their brands and that’s something I don’t want to … It’s sad leaving your craft behind, leaving your roots behind but there are still tools in my tool box that will help me grow Being Boss in a huge way but yeah, I’ve definitely shifted from being one of the doers in Braid Creative to being an owner and now I’m doing more over in Being Boss now. Really learning how to delegate to a team so you’re asking about my team with Braid Creative, I definitely have a team of people at Being Boss too that help us get everything done.

Tara: Awesome. Let’s ask about that now. Really the question that I had about this is if you could walk us through, how an episode gets created? Not necessarily obviously not the how to but the step by step. How do you go from idea to reaching out to a guest, to editing, to final release? Maybe you can tell us who the different team members are you have that touch each episode as you go.

Kathleen: Yeah, sure. It might be easiest to start this chronologically when Emily and I first started Being Boss. Then talking about how we hired on to get help in some of the areas that we need help in. It started with Emily and I sitting down and it still works this way. Brainstorming a list of topics that we want to talk about and we maybe do quarterly planning like his. We’re about to move it to weekly but quarterly planning where we talk about basically our editorial content. We have a bucket list of things that we want to talk about. Then, about a week maybe three to five days before we record an episode I’ll shoot her a slack note and I’ll say, “Hey, what are you feeling this week? I’m thinking about either talking about partnerships or money.” I’ll give her a couple of options of things that we could talk about and we really see what we’re feeling.
I think that’s an important note is that we’re still talking about things that we want to be talking about. We’re not forcing ourselves to talk about things that we’re not interested in. Then we sit down. I put together an agenda so I outline the day that we’re recording. I outline when the launch date is. I outline what sponsors we need to have ads for and then really just a bucket list of topics and questions. If there are a few things I really want to make sure to hit on like maybe starting tweetables or ideas. I’ll type those out in full sentences just so that I can stay articulate. Otherwise, it’s just us having a conversation.
We started getting a lot of the guess that we got by we’re just naturally mentioning people that we admire and look up to. What we started doing is we had Emily’s assistant start emailing the people that we mentioned and just telling them, “Hey, we mentioned you in an episode of Being Boss. Would you like to come on the show?” We’ve gotten so many amazing guest including yourself, Tara, by doing that method. What’s cool about that too is that it eliminates the fear of rejection because someone else is making the ask for us which is pretty cool. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve certainly asked some people myself to come on the show based on personal relationships or whatever. We’ve gotten amazing guests in that way then after we record this show we hand off our audio to our sound engineer who is also our web development and his name is Cory and he’s on Emily’s team over at Indie Shopography.
He edits everything together. Then my assistant Caitlin who is an SEO specialist and overall just genius. She writes out the show notes. She pulls out some of the tweetables. From there I design Instagram graphics and Facebook graphics really social media sharing graphics. I’ve recently started handing that off to our designer Jessica. Now she’s handing all the graphic components of that. The day that we launch we have to upload the files to iTunes, Sound Cloud, and Stitcher. We make sure to do all of that. One of our assistants does that for us now. The episode goes live.
We send out an email to our newsletter list and I recently took that over so it was one of our assistants writing it but I really want to cultivate and grow our newsletter list. I’ve started writing the emails myself and really talking about the key take aways I got from the episode and really why people should listen to it. Then we plug everything into our Edgar accounts which is like a social media library for Twitter so that those episodes never really die. That they are always being recycled out into the universe so that people can listen to them.

Tara: Nice. I just want to say we had Laura Roeder on I don’t remember what episode number but it was one of the first ones.

Kathleen: She is so great. I had her on Being Boss and right after we hung up with her, I said, “I need Edgar in my life.”

Tara: Yeah, Edgar totally changed my social media habits, my life, my traffic, everything. Elizabeth has just told me it was episode 14. If anyone wants to find out more about Edgar and Laura Roeder and how Edgar works and all of that good stuff you can listen to episode 14 of Profit. Power. Pursuit. I will link up to whatever episode of Being Boss it was.

Kathleen: Awesome.

Tara: Perfect. Sweet. Let me figure out where I was again. That was perfect. It sounds like there’s a lot of overlap then between Emily’s team and Braid’s team and the Being Boss team.

Kathleen: There is so much overlap and in fact we had to recently hire the same accountant and the same lawyer just so that they can have a full picture of all of our businesses and how it all works together. Really we think of Emily and I own Being Boss but we think of it as Indie Shopography and Braid doing all the work. Being Boss cuts Braid a check and Being Boss cuts Indie Shopography a check. That’s how it works so we had to explain to our accountant like yes this has its own LLC but it’s like a big Brain and Indie Shopography project. It’s really interesting but recently Emily and I had a big conversation with our team about our roles because we’re starting to find that we’re feeling a little chaotic and we didn’t really know who should be doing what.
Using systems like Edgar, Asana, we live and die by our Asana account in Being Boss. Using things like convert kit and Acuity Scheduling and really automating a lot of stuff and one thing I was really worried about is losing the human touch and losing the power of doing it all myself or the control of doing it all myself. I think that’s part of going from freelancer to business owner to CEO mindset is just really being willing to rely on the system that you put in place and being able to rely on your team.

Tara: Yeah, amen. I’m hearing you say a lot about systems and a lot about communication. The way that you manage all of these different ventures and the way you manage your time is largely influenced, motivated, driven by systems and communication.

Kathleen: A 100%.

Tara: Perfect. Awesome. All right I’ve got a couple more questions for you before we wrap up. One, was there any one decision that you’ve made that’s had a disproportionate influence on your success?

Kathleen: Yeah, starting the podcast. I had no idea what kind of influence that would have in the world so that’s been huge. Another really small thing that happened it’s like Sliding Doors right whenever that movie …

Tara: I love that movie.

Kathleen: Whenever you think about how that one small thing. You start to even rewind it all the way back to the very starting point so one of the thing they did that felt very risky in my life at the time was I was invited to go out to Mighty Summit out in California with a few other women. It’s so funny because I was just concern about, the thing is totally paid for by Mighty Summit and I was concern about how much the plane ticket cost. Now, I wouldn’t even bat an eye at the plane ticket to have that kind of opportunity, right? It felt very risky at the time to last minute spend $700 on a plane ticket to get out to California but I went and in my swag bag was a book called Daring Greatly by Brené Brown.
I read it. It changed my life. I did a book review on it. I tweeted up Brené Brown saying, “I did a book review, your book changed my life like many others.” She ended up hiring me to do all of her branding. I still work with her all the time on all of her stuff that she does. Making that book review, putting myself out there having a blog has been huge for my success. Particularly that relationship with her has changed my life just even from a mentor relationship because she’s very knowledgeable and wise and had supported my business in amazing tremendous ways.

Tara: That’s incredible. I love your Sliding Doors reference because seriously it’s one of my favorite movies which I don’t know what that says about me but whatever. Because not only was there that moment that you decided to go to Mighty Summit but even smaller than that, a smaller choice that you made was not just writing the book review but actually choosing to tag her and to say, “Hey, I did this. Hey I want to share this with you.” I know so many people who they do write the book reviews or they quote their favorite people or they write responses to their favorite people’s work and they fail to make that tag, they fail to make that mention because they are nervous that the other person is actually going to see them. They don’t think it will matter. I’m so glad that you shared that that small decision has been a huge part of your success as well because that really can make all the difference in the end.

Kathleen: Really I mean just relationships in general and I feel like if 2016 is the year of the mastermind, as a year of really recognizing and acknowledging the impact that your relationships have on your business, personally and professionally. All the relationships that I’ve had it’s just so funny thinking about how I met these creatives seven or eight years ago and how the tide has really reasoned together and watching all of us do these crazy amazing successful things is so, so cool. Even getting the invitation to Mighty Summit had spurred from choosing to go to another conference where I made a friend. You know, even having read your books, Tara and becoming such a fan of them and writing about those on my blog and even just hitting reply to some of your tweets, I mean I wouldn’t be here now if we hadn’t started a little bit of an online relationship, right?

Tara: Absolutely.

Kathleen: Relationship is everything.

Tara: Yes, don’t you miss the days of Twitter when an @ reply make those things happen? I missed it so much but you can do it on Instagram now so I guess it’s okay.

Kathleen: Exactly.

Tara: Last question. This is a question that I’ve asked so many guests and that I get so many different answers. I can’t wait to hear your response. How do you Kathleen Shannon balance the roles of creative and entrepreneur or creative and executive?

Kathleen: Good question. I don’t really think of them as separate things at all. I guess that for me you know what’s interesting, in the business partnerships that I’ve developed, I’ve really been able to shine on the creative side whereas my business partners are really good at handing the management and executive side. I’ve never had to fire anyone. I don’t really determine when someone’s getting a raise. My business partners are really great at handling the more administrative and executive side of things. Not to say that I couldn’t, I can definitely get in on that stuff but I would say where my executive skills come in is implementing a lot of the creative ideas that I come up with.
For example I want an ecourse. All right, we need to execute that. Here’s the plan that we need to get in place but I definitely rely on my business partners for a lot of that execution. I almost feel bad saying that because I don’t think that business partnerships are always the answer and I feel like a lot of people are looking for a silver bullet of a business partner to figure it out for them which is dangerous. That silver bullet does not exist. Yeah, I guess I balance it by relying on other people to balance it for me.

Tara: No, I think it’s fantastic because frankly we’ve talked to some other people like Sue Bryce who’s an amazing photographer and she said, “I don’t” I think that’s a really either answer is a really powerful answer. You’ve built infrastructure and you’ve built relationships that allow you to shine your light on your strengths and your creative advantages so that you don’t have to balance those two roles. It does sound though like you have amazing executive skills at the same time.

Kathleen: Thank you. I’d like to think so but as I’ve grown in my business I’ve been able to rely more and more on other people for those things.

Tara: That’s fantastic. What’s coming up next for you?

Kathleen: I mean, the big launch. It’s launching tomorrow so by the time this goes live it will be available so Being Boss, the website is now We’ve got Miami coming up so we still have a few spots open for people to attend Miami which should be a blast. Other than that just keeping my head down and grinding away. I’m also looking into really amplifying the Braid method ecourse and really figuring out a way to push that into the world. Just really thinking and focusing on reaching and impacting as many people as possible.

Tara: That is awesome, Kathleen Shannon, thank you so much for joining me on Profit. Power. Pursuit.

Kathleen: Thank you for having me. It’s been so much fun. Such an honor.

Tara: You can learn more about Kathleen Shannon and Being Boss at or on iTunes. Next week we’ll talk with the founder of Plum Deluxe, Andy Hayes about the windy road he took and finally find the business idea that would work. What he’s learned about growing a business with a physical product and the unusual way he’s finding new subscribers.

What can boost your credibility, woo new clients and bring in more cash for your business? Publishing a book. Luckily, you don’t have to wait for a big name publisher to tap you on the shoulder. In my brand new Creative Live class, I’ll guide you through writing and publishing your book faster than you thought possible. Find it at
That’s it for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. You can download other episodes of this podcast and subscribe in the iTunes store. If you enjoy what you heard, we appreciate your reviews and recommendations because they help us reach as many emerging entrepreneurs as possible. Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson who also edited this episode. Our audio engineer was Jamie Blake. This episode was produced by Elizabeth Madariaga. You can catch up on older episodes in the iTunes store where new episodes are added every week. You can learn more by going to

the case for collaboration – or – why a goat rodeo might be the thing your business is missing right now

I’ve always had a fear of working with people. The most terrifying words a teacher could utter to me were not “pop quiz” – puh-leaze, I’ve got that in the bag – they were “group work.”

Oh how I despised having to compromise my vision for a group of people with little more shared purpose than “let’s not fail.”

Now, as an entrepreneur, I’ve carried this over into my own business. Better to be small & successful than take a chance on working with people to do something bigger, right?

This is changing rapidly. As I’ve honed in on my strengths and my mission, I’ve discovered that the vision I have is much larger than one person can handle. And I’m okay with that. Funny how that’s something that needs to be “discovered,” huh? In order to truly create the art I want to put in into the world, I need to collaborate.

So I’m learning…

Which is why I found this video, Inside the Goat Rodeo Sessions, so intriguing. It’s a brief interview with 4 amazing musicians about an awe-inspiring collaborative project. Watch it below or read on to discover my takeaways.

View the video here.

1. Collaboration is about expanding boundaries.

As individuals, we each have boundaries, self-imposed limitations. The very self-aware among us understand what these boundaries are and do their best to challenge themselves to move beyond the lines. Most of us, however, maintain a bubble that keeps us rehashing the same problems over & over again, finding stumbling blocks at the same places, and generally living without the benefit of what’s on the other side of the fence.

In The Goat Rodeo Sessions video, Stuart Duncan & Yo-Yo Ma discuss how they approach the music differently. And even how the convention of “genre” could have kept them apart as musicians. But:

It works because its just music.

Your business – your creative goal – your life pursuit may not be the same as your collaborator’s. All the better. People who connect intimately over the passion of purpose need not be defined by genre, industry, or methodology. Collaboration forces you outside of these arbitrary boundaries and into your mutual brilliance.

2. Collaboration is about the mystery.

This is about a happy blend of personalities. There was nothing to ensure this was going to work out.
— Yo-Yo Ma

When you’re working by yourself, it can seem like – through sheer act of will – you can make even the worst ideas work. And sometimes you have to. You get tied down to busting through projects that have no business being completed. You tend to learn very little about what went wrong because you’re so fixated on making them go right.

When you’re working in collaboration, you are thrown into mystery. Your partners may or may not do their own work. Their style may or may not mesh with yours – regardless of how well you know them.

But that mystery is where great beauty comes from as you explore each others process & perspective.

An artist is never truly working alone – so why pretend? Embrace the mystery of collaboration.

3.) Collaboration is about people not projects.

We chose this group of people based more on who the individuals were and their voices – and less on what would make the best instrumentation.
— Edgar Meyer

If you don’t have insane chemistry, deep mutual respect, and hearts that are in awe of the people you’re working with, it’s not collaboration. It’s division of labor.

Your collaborators are going to find you at the heights of your strengths and the depths of your weaknesses. They’ll witness your failure alongside your success. They will participate in the birth of new ideas. You want to concentrate on finding the right people to collaborate with, not the right project for collaboration.

As I look towards my personal vision & business goals for 2012, I see much collaboration on the horizon. I see dreams that couldn’t have been dreamt even 6 months ago coming true. And best of all I see the soul-filling beauty of co-creation.

How are you – or could you – embrace the mystery of collaboration in the New Year?

Please leave your response below!


Want to see inside one of my own personal collaborative projects? Find out how Adam King and I are reclaiming wealth.