Storytime! From couch-surfer to award-winning CEO

Meet Arieann DeFazio. 

She is the CEO and founder of Kitables, a company that breaks down barriers to DIY projects by offering accessible kits and hosting social DIY project building events. SheEO just named her one of the top 5 female CEO’s in the nation.  

I got to meet up with Arieann for a personal branding photo shoot and learn what she’s all about. We talked about her humble beginnings and how she handles the ever-present “impostor syndrome”. She also shared her excitement and disbelief around this whole empire she is building. 

Q: Tell me your story, how did your company get started?

Arieann: “I was not by any means born into this life. I grew up as a barefoot redneck child in south Florida, pretty much on my own since I was 13. And yet I ended up with an almost-PhD in biochemistry and running companies. The struggle has been real for me, pretty much until I was 27. That’s when I moved to Colorado and things started to turn around. 

“I moved to Boulder as my quarter life crisis. I didn’t have a plan, it wasn’t an intelligent thought-out thing, I just had a freak-out. I was getting my doctorate in Florida and I was a competitive rock climber at the time. I know, it’s like a Jamaican bobsled team – makes zero sense. I was living in a place that I hated that did not fit my personality. I came out here to visit a friend and I just fell in love with Colorado. I put everything I owned in my car, quit my doctorate, and drove out here two weeks later.”

“People ask if I moved here for the startup scene, and I didn’t even know there was one! I stayed in a spare bedroom and needed to eat, so I spent my first few years working in a lab as a biochemist at the University of Colorado.”

Q: What inspired you to create Kitables?

Arieann: “I was working at the university as a biochemist and – fun fact – I wasn’t making enough money to live in boulder. So I went on Craigslist and worked all kinds of odd jobs – even chalking on the sidewalk for advertisements.”

“I finally wound up as an R&D scientist at Geekify, here I had my lightbulb moment. I had access to all these makerspaces and machine shops, both at Geekify and at the university so I could basically make anything I wanted. The only thing stopping me from making something was my ability to figure it out … and money.”

“Then in 2014 on my birthday weekend I was driving up into the mountains to go mountain biking and this thought just pops into my head: I make all this really cool stuff and it’s dope and I want other people to make cool stuff. But how do other people do it? I have all these cool DIY tools at my disposal but it still kinda sucks to make stuff – there’s still all this background work and planning… I can solve that – I’ll just take everything you need for a project and put it in a box.”

“I launched a Kickstarter two months later. It got funded and I pulled everything together to produce my very first kitable – a rubiks cube solving machine.”

Q: Why are you passionate about what you do?

Arieann: “What makes Kitables special is that we specifically focus on adults. We’re not an “education tech” company, Kitables was made to build confidence in people. I don’t care if you understand why the thing works, all I care about is that you realize that you built it.”

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a 35 year old with a dual masters degree freak out about soldering and then five minutes later look at me and be like “that was it”? Mind blown. That’s what we’re trying to build!”

“You don’t wake up with Elon Musk style confidence one day, there are baby steps along the way and I think building and physically interacting with things is a very big part of the way humans learn. It’s also something that is dwindling out of our everyday lives, particularly for adults. That’s where Kitables comes in. Kitables gets people interested. It’s like saying “hey, you can do this. It’s not that scary, it’s not that serious.” 

Q: What are you most excited about right now?

 Arieann: “My goal is to build confidence in people. We came up with the concept of the Build n’ Brew micro-event. It’s very similar to paint and wine nights except with drones and beer.”

“We go around to local breweries and co-working spaces and we drink beer and we build stuff for two hours. It’s in a casual, fun environment that focuses on the social aspect to bring down the scary factor. There’s a “buildologist” there to help you if you get stuck and a community of builders to support each other. It’s a great date-night activity.”

The first time we ran an event, I was like “this is it! this is the business I’ve been trying to build!” Now our big goal is expanding the Build n’ Brews platform so we can get it in many states – we even ran some in Australia! 

Read the rest of Arieann’s story and see more awesome personal branding photos on my Denver Photographer website!

5 Sales Strategies Not Found in How-to Books

How do you break through to the next level of sales and become an anticipatory salesperson? Here are six strategies you won’t find in most how-to sales books.

As a salesperson, you’re trained to ask customers what they want in terms of your product offerings. That’s wise advice but it’s incomplete. If you only ask customers what they want and then give it to them, you’re missing the biggest opportunity that has ever come in front of you – the chance to sell innovation.

Technology allows us to do things that were once thought impossible. While it is important for salespeople to ask customers what they want and then deliver on it, all that will do is keep you in the game – not ahead of it.

Chances are your competitors are asking customers the same questions, they’re getting the same answers, and they’re providing the same solutions.

So how do you break through to the next level of sales and become an anticipatory salesperson? Below are six strategies you won’t find in most how-to sales books.

1. Follow the Golden Rule of Sales

The Golden Rule of Sales is to give people the ability to do something they currently can’t do but would want to do if they knew it was possible. In other words, the Golden Rule is to help your customers be anticipatory. It’s called the Golden Rule because it’s much more profitable than simply giving clients what they ask for.

The key is that you have to look a little bit further into your customers’ predictable needs based on where they’re going. Only then you can see unmet needs and new opportunities.

2. Get Comfortable Around Technology  

One stumbling block in selling technology can be that the end user is awkward with new types of technology and related products. But another stumbling block could be that you, as the salesperson, are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the tech-driven solution you could be selling.

This is where the value of a time travel audit, one of the core components of my Anticipatory Organization Model, can prove essential.

3. Practice Anticipatory Selling

Anticipatory selling offers enormous opportunity for those who recognize that the very nature of sales is shifting and, further, that there are strategies to leverage that change.

One key strategy of anticipatory selling boils down to something I call a pre-mortem. Unlike a postmortem, which is an examination after the fact, a pre-mortem is focused on anticipating objections, problems and issues before they occur – and, from there, presolving them before the sales process even begins.

4. Raise the Bar on Trust  

You need to shift from being a vendor to being a trusted advisor. A vendor simply supplies a product. A trusted advisor supplies true advantage.

When you seek that higher ground and become a trusted advisor, your clients trust you more.

Remember that the future is all about relationships. Relationships are all about trust, and you gain trust by earning it. So never teach people to distrust you by stretching the truth or hiding some pertinent information. To differentiate, you need to raise the bar on trust.

5. Commit to Finding the Customer’s Truest Needs

When you focus on redefining what you already have, you can take your current offering and leverage it to new levels. That’s when you become a sales leader. It’s not because of some fast-talking sales pitch, it’s because of your commitment to your customers and their true needs.

So focus on relationships, trust and truth, and you’ll be able to give your customers tools and solutions they never dreamed possible. As a result, both you and your company will attain new levels of success and realize the profit potential you always knew existed.  

Want more tips for anticipatory selling? Get my book The Anticipatory Organization: Turning Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage, available now at

The Pros and Cons of Funding a Startup With a Credit Card

It goes without saying that, for startups, getting business operations up and running can have some major financial hurdles. Before starting your company you must consider how to fund business …

Selling Your Ideas Up: How to Overcome Objections and Get Your Ideas Approved

In an era of fiscal and time constraints, is it possible to sell your ideas to company leaders? Yes, but the success depends on how you frame the opportunity.

The first step is to avoid talking about the idea itself. While that may sound strange, it’s the primary sales rule that most people break. You may love your ideas, but the feeling isn’t always mutual. When you’re selling your ideas to others, you shouldn’t focus on your preferences. You must focus on the other person, and here’s how:

  • Understand the pain of the person.

Forget about how excited you are about the idea you want implemented. If you’re going to sell your idea, you have to understand where the other person’s pain is. Maybe they’re dealing with upset stockholders or perhaps sales are down. Do your research and uncover the main challenge they’re presently dealing with.

Once you know the other person’s pain, you can position your idea to sell as a solution to it. Essentially, you have to show the person that there’s a direct payoff to them if they approve your idea. If you know that the CEO’s greatest pain is a lack of communication between departments, then you have to consider your proposal and figure out how it can ease the pain and bring resolve to the situation.

Be sure to state it clearly to avoid guesswork. For example, you could say, “I know you’re dealing with poor internal communications. I’ve come across some things that I believe can help you overcome those challenges so the company can grow.”

Then talk about the new idea in terms of solving the current problem only. Don’t go into all the benefits, functions, features, or costs. Right now, you’re simply getting the decision maker on board with the idea and its problem-solving potential.

  • Solve the predictable problems in advance.

As you have this discussion, you’ll also have to address common objections. Plan for them in advance by figuring out what their objections could be and solve them before the discussion.

For example, if you’re talking to the CEO about your idea and you know budgets are tight, you can deduce that they will say, “This sounds great, but the CFO won’t approve this right now.” However, because you’ve anticipated this objection, you can reply, “I’ve already run this by the CFO because I knew it was important.”

Of course, before going to the CFO, you’ll have identified their greatest pain and presented the idea to solve it. If what you’re proposing is really a solution, and you showed how it benefits the company’s strategic imperatives with a good ROI, you will have a receptive CFO.

The goal is to overcome the potential blocks before they arise.

  • Use the power of certainty to your advantage.

When you’re selling your ideas, the people you’re talking to are thinking risk. Alleviate this fear by remembering that strategies based on uncertainty have high risk, while strategies based on certainty have low risk. Prior to the discussion, ask yourself, “What are the things I’m absolutely certain about regarding this idea? What are the current hard trends? Where is the industry, company, and economy going with or without this solution?”

Make your list the things you’re certain about. For example, mobile devices are quite popular. Is this a trend that you know will continue, or will people eventually trade in their mobile devices for an old flip phone of yesterday? The answer is obvious: people won’t go back. Look at sales trends, customers, the economy, and everything around you. Get clear on what’s a hard trend and what will pass.

Additionally, look at the strategic imperatives of the company and the current plan. Determine if your proposed idea is an accelerator or decelerator of that plan. You want to show how your idea can accelerate the plan and how your solution can help increase sales, innovation, and product development.

Go into your list of certainties by saying, “Here are things I’m certain about in the marketplace and in our company. Based on this certainty, here is why implementing this idea is a low-risk winner.”

An Anticipatory Approach to Selling

It’s important to remind yourself before the meeting that if you haven’t done the groundwork to excite the listener, you’ll lose them. As you’re busy talking about features and benefits, the other person is thinking about costs, risks, and uncertainties. Having a preemptive solution is an anticipatory approach to selling – you’re anticipating the problems, rejections, objections, and concerns so you can overcome them.

Anyone who has worked with C-level executives knows that leaders get excited about many things while carrying the weight of costs, controls, and constraints. Challenge those issues by making what you offer about priority, relevancy, and strategic imperatives to sell your ideas.

Selling Innovation – The Spark

Every innovation is born from a spark of creativity.  The spark can be for an entirely new product concept, refinement of an existing product, or radical re-design of a something that is already in the market.  The spark can come from years of experience in a particular industry, a dramatic personal experience, or just creative brilliance.  The one place a spark of innovation cannot come from is a vacuum. 

This is part of an ongoing series based on the highly rated book Selling Innovation, a guide to structuring a complete start-up revenue capture process.  The book is based on a day-long workshop held at the MIT Enterprise Forum in partnership with Microsoft.  Sections of each chapter will be shared here on The Startup Growth Blog.  Download the complete eBook, blog readers get a special 25% discount with code JA49Y.  

The Spark

Every innovation is born from a spark of creativity.  The spark can be for an entirely new product concept, refinement of an existing product, or radical re-design of a something that is already in the market.  The spark can come from years of experience in a particular industry, a dramatic personal experience, or just creative brilliance.  The one place a spark of innovation cannot come from is a vacuum.

  • “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”  ― US President Calvin Coolidge

Innovation is a process, a collection of concepts fused together over time, refined and refined again until the optimal set of features delivers just the right value to a customer at a price they are willing and able to pay and which makes profit for the seller.

Serial innovators know that the first spark of innovation, while compelling at the moment, seldom reflects the final product that successfully penetrates the market.  Bringing an innovation to market takes time, focus, resources, and persistence.

There are many great inventors in the world today, but only a few great innovators.

Insight and Innovation

There is a difference between an innovation and an invention, however.  An invention is a new technological breakthrough.  An innovation is a better way of doing something, a way to break or disrupt a current paradigm.  It can be a technological break-through, a process improvement, or a new object.  But no matter how clever, if it sits on the shelf or gets studied by a very small group of people it may be more of an invention than an innovation.

If you are going to become a successful innovator you must first start by identifying a high-value problem, and then build a solution that solves it.

There is no shortage of would-be entrepreneurs who believe they have created a new and unique invention.  No one needs a better mousetrap, but everyone needs a better way to solve the problem.  If you built the most effective mousetrap in the world but  found that sales of cats had virtually eradicated the household mouse problem, what is the value of your innovation?

When you‘re ready to start designing an innovation, you want to think about the larger market, so you can assess its impact in the next larger context than the one you are currently playing in.  This is the framework you will need to explain your innovation to others and eventually to sell the innovation in the market.  It enables a person reviewing your innovation to evaluate it with some familiar points of reference.  It helps your prospective buyer grasp how your innovation will solve their problem.

Understanding the context of your innovation is also important to the future selling process because it is the first indicator of optimal target market, level of receptivity, and frame of reference among potential users.  If you create a totally new, different, unique innovation that has never come before there is no frame of reference users can draw upon to make a buy decision.  While the iPhone was a disruptive innovation in the mobile phone and software industry it didn’t compare to the disruption caused by the introduction of the telephone into the consumer market in the early 1900’s.  Likewise, a Prius is an innovative new type of hybrid vehicle, but it’s still a car that takes you from point A to point B.

As you move from creation to sales, the context in which you created your innovation will be critical to convincing investors, customers, and even prospective employees of the value of the innovation and buy into your vision.

How you sell your product or service will be impacted by the foundation of your innovation.  Some products are borne from years of experience in a specific industry that yields a keen insight into a need in the market for a new or better way of doing things.  Other products come from blue-sky thinking; from an inspiration into what people might want, use, or enjoy that is radically different from anything they have experienced before.

How do you know when your initial spark is more of an invention or an innovation?  When innovations are born from a specific market need, descriptions tend to be value statements that reference the problem being solved.  Efforts to sell an invention often focus on descriptions of features and function of the product.

  • What are the changes in market dynamics that your innovation addresses?

The journey of a startup entrepreneur

Since I’ve been in the startup world lifestyle has transformed dramatically. A startup founder doesn’t have the same schedule and same priority has a professional does. Because we do stuff on their own and start a bunch of different from a solo entrepreneur who wants to provide food on his table only. Everyone wants to make money and become a billionaire. They paying bills at the same time is not obvious as we think. The difference between a startup entrepreneur and other business people is huge. Because you need to create big values for the global market, you have to be very Innovative to bring with something new on the market.

A few years ago I was attending an accelerator program with a friend of mine. He gave me the opportunity to partner with him in his venture. What I have learned it’s a very different and completely new world. Because I was working as a freelancer or solo entrepreneur doing consulting under my name BRUNER and it was pretty tough. So this business partner invited me to join our exploration program which was an amazing journey begun for me. Before I didn’t know what was the challenge for startup in such a program. I learned a lot of stuff from validating your business model, do a financial plan, meeting angels and to raise funds I wrote an ebook about.

Like a student or an apprentice, you have to start from the bottom, meaning validating your startup from the idea to a real business model. I learn it while I was building my network or net worth from business partners.

Based on my experiences, the best time to launch your startup is during your studies at a university or college mostly at the end.

For two major reasons, the first one: you don’t have bills as your own. And the second one is the access to many grants and loans available by a city like Montreal, I proud to be an ambassador.

So I started with my partner to lean and spin the business. By the way, I recommend everyone to read this book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. But during this process, he gave up. Because he didn’t find through this process was suitable for him. Well, I was continuing meanwhile I was also helping by giving my time to help the organization of the program. Just like a school, the teacher was so busy he doesn’t have time to follow up with all the entrepreneurs. They need to have coaching sessions and preparing training sessions and workshops. That where I started my learning curve.

Attending lot workshops and networking events were amazing and time-consuming. Gosh, I was having so much event sometimes I forgot most of the time about lunch and dinner. Anyway, we have mixed salad for dinner in these networking events for sure. Therefore this lifestyle of an entrepreneur may look fun or incredible, in the sense like we meet a lot of business entrepreneur hang out with them, having fun drinks. But you don’t see the hard work, overtimes and family concessions or unpaid bills just to keep the phone working. All you see on Instagram and Facebook and social media it’s only the superficial aspect of networking.

Meanwhile, in this adventure, we’ve met good entrepreneurs. One of them, an African smart gentleman who become my partner of these days. Because he was there to see how we can enjoy this program for this project he has. During that period, I started my a degree in IT governance. It’s helping me because I learn a lot about startups and be able to launch our financial technologies startup netdollar later on. That was my first ten cents for who are thinking about launching a startup. You need advisors, consultants and coachs with experience to help you grow and connect to the next level.

Why you are not a leader if you can’t delegate

Leadership cannot exist without delegation, and vice versa – this is symbiosis. A leader who refuses to delegate is not leading — he or she is hoarding.

“I should have done it myself.”
“I don’t trust anyone else to do it right.”
“I don’t have the staff.”
“I have the staff but they’re stretched too thin already.”

While these excuses may allow you to keep up the illusion, the truth couldn’t be more plain: you don’t trust your employees, and you’re working yourself to a breaking point.

Why Delegate?

By running around trying to do everything for everyone, you stress out yourself and your team. Your negative energy will permeate the workplace and with no way to help, your employees will be left feeling trapped, helpless, and probably even a bit angry.

Why? Because you keep them at their desks but won’t let them do their jobs.

Delegation Affects Morale

By refusing to delegate, you silently communicate your lack of trust to each employee. By insisting on doing their jobs, you passive-aggressively compete with them for their jobs. By consistently implying that you can do the work better, you threaten their livelihood.

Negative cycles are demoralizing and unhealthy, resulting in high turnover and low engagement.

How to Delegate Successfully

Just as in leadership, there are different styles of delegation. Those who achieve the strongest, most long-lasting and solid results are those who choose positive motivation, or empowerment.

Trust me: if you never give your employees a chance to impress you, they never will.

Hire smart, by matching personality with position using the Predictive Index. When your team is capable, qualified, and empowered, there’s nothing they can’t do. Just give them the chance. Create a company culture that breathes empowerment, self-growth, and team accountability, then watch as that culture drives you to your goals.

More Delegation Tips:

Be strategic: give the work to the person best-suited for it, and give them a reasonable deadline.

Don’t just delegate work you don’t want to do, or work that is overdue!

Follow up at regular intervals. This is especially critical at the start of a new project, as you and your employee(s) may need to correct-course until everyone is on the same page. Once you’re all aligned, you’ll be heading down the path to creating a culture of accountability.

If your employees aren’t used to your trust, they may want to check in frequently, holding themselves accountable, until they feel that they’re on the right track.

Be flexible. If your employee has a different idea of how to approach the task, or a unique vision of the final product, hear them out. You presumably hired them for their expertise, so listen to their professional opinions and recommendations. Lend them your ear, and your trust.

If an employee tries to delegate work you’ve delegated, ask them why. Perhaps another worker has skills you never knew of, but can now utilize fully. Don’t assume he or she is being lazy without hearing them out.

Delegate as a lifestyle. Nobody can do it all, all the time. You may have a team at your disposal, but what’s that worth if you don’t take advantage? You have a team, but you’re also part of a team. Being a team player doesn’t mean sacrificing control, power, or individuality.

Teamwork is more powerful than any one person, and you’ll be amazed at what you can all accomplish when you work together.

Shelley Smith is a workplace culture consultant, the CEO of Premier Rapport and the author of six books. For more information, visit

Why You Might Want To Stop Motivating The People You Manage

person holding stay focuseds paper
Photo by on

The following is adapted from The Motivation Trap: Leadership Strategies to Achieve Sustained Success

Unless you’ve been living far away from the modern business environment for the past few decades, you’ll certainly be familiar with the idea that motivating employees is crucial for success.

There are numerous different ways to motivate, but most involve one of two approaches: offering people a reward to do what you want them to do or threatening them with punishment if they fail. “Ace this project and you’ll get a raise” versus “flunk this project and you’ll be in trouble.”

This may seem straightforward. But is motivation the most appropriate tool for accomplishing what you want?

What Motivation Does and Doesn’t Achieve

I am not a big fan of motivation—for many reasons. Mostly, I am not a fan because motivation rarely fulfills its purpose: to obtain effective, positive, passion-inspiring results from competent, high-quality human beings.

I invite you to join me in not being a big fan either. Not a hater, but not a big fan.

Have you ever wondered why super-smart, talented people underachieve? I believe one reason we see underachievement in team after team is that people are being motivated to produce their results, which equates to a carrot-and-stick approach to driving results. This is the push-theory tactic. When pushed, human beings generally push back. When led effectively, human beings tend to follow willingly.

Motivation almost always involves some form of push, which is a forceful approach. I suggest here a shift from a forceful approach to a powerful approach. Consider how your team might react to being inspired by a united cause rather than pushed by the need to produce. Inspiration lives in the realm of power. In the end, force generates resistance, but power is infectious.

Whether you’re trying to motivate your sales team to hit their highest revenue target ever or get your fourteen-year-old to clean his room and complete his homework, motivating people tends to be, in large part, a waste of time.

Having spent fifteen years coaching both high-performance teams and those striving for higher performance, I know from experience that motivation gets inserted as a default tool to accomplish many tasks, most of which would succeed much better (and encourage better attitudes from the people being led and managed) if motivation was not engaged.

Team leaders have been trained (or fooled) to think that their job is to motivate, and so they engage an overused tool instead of a more effective one. It’s that simple. They push rather than lead.

CEOs and team leaders from Fortune 500 companies and venture-backed start-ups often complain that they have trouble keeping their team motivated. What if it was not their job to motivate their team? What if team members were responsible for motivating themselves and bringing their own professional, positive, helpful, best selves to work each day? What might change with this expectation?

In Most Situations, Motivation Isn’t the Most Effective Tool

It’s not that motivation is completely valueless. It’s simply that, as tools go, there’s usually a more effective one available to do the job. Doubling down on motivation is like pushing harder on a door marked “pull”. It’s exerting more effort in the wrong direction.

The challenge is not for CEOs to motivate their teams better. The real challenge is to recognize that motivation almost always shows up as the least effective tool to get the job done.

If the sales team wants to hit their highest revenue target ever, you or I can most likely list several tools that might help leaders accomplish that worthwhile goal. Here are a few: training, new habits, collaboration, mentorship, coaching, technology upgrades (for example, better sales software), and creating individual and team purpose behind achieving the never-before-accomplished sales goal.

Use of any of these tools will produce a better result for each team member, for you, the team leader, and for the organization you all work for. What will motivation do? It might get a few people buzzing for a short time. After that, it will wear off and leave the team no more coherent, productive, or intelligent than before it was employed.

The most productive organizations I coach utilize tools that work in simple coordination with how our brains and biology function naturally. Working together with more than 100 companies over the last nine years, we have learned how to get the most from people by making sure that they move toward what they want to achieve, both in their personal and professional pursuits.

This animates people in a totally different way to asking them to move toward a promised reward or demanding that they move away from a negative consequence or a punishment.

What would your team look like, and what would your company culture feel like, if every day all your team members ran toward what they wanted to achieve—on purpose, focused, and ready to accept and conquer challenges as one of the most fun parts of their job?

If that was your reality, I trust you too might become a big fan of less motivation.

– – –

For more advice on the limitations of motivation and strategies you can employ instead, you can find The Motivation Trap on Amazon.

John Hittler is the cofounder of Evoking Genius, a transformational business-coaching firm based in San Jose, California. Father of seven, happily married, competitive athlete, and dedicated volunteer in the field of domestic violence, John spends his free time dancing Tango with his wife, cooking for his friends and family, and traveling to places he has not yet visited. John can be reached at

Which Financial Indicators Must Entrepreneurs Monitor?

One of the key reasons for failure of new business is that the entrepreneurs simply run out of the cash before they reach their break-even scale.

The entrepreneurs’ mind and energy are focused on building a business. It could mean creating a product, service or a model that serves the target customers. Most entrepreneurs are not trained to be financial experts, though they have high expertise in their own area.

The stories of the initial days of struggle of an entrepreneur are not uncommon. They face an uncertain future, changing market conditions, technology change, rising costs and competition from new sources.The failure rate of new ventures is substantially high. Various studies put the failure rate of new businesses between 30% to 70% over first three years.  

One of the key reasons for failure of new business is that the entrepreneurs simply run out of the cash before they reach their break-even scale. You can’t avoid this unless you can find partners with deep pockets,like the one’s that today’s tech start-ups seek to find. If you have those funding partners lined up, you can afford to burn the cash for years; however not all businesses model themselves to appeal to the investors with deep pockets and high appetite for risk.

In the absence of access to huge cash and to financial experts, which are the key performance indicators that the entrepreneurs must track, to ensure that they survive long-enough to break-even and make it big?Here are a few which I recommend based on my experience.

  1. Cash flows: It is said that, “sales is vanity, profit is sanity, and cash is reality”. A new business will likely invest in creating capacity and hence will have net cash outflow on account of investing activities, e.g., acquiring machinery, equipment, rights to intellectual property etc. However, every entrepreneur must focus on generating positive operating cash inflows. A cash flow statement should be drawn up preferably every month, or at the least,every quarter. The cash flows should be compared to the previous months/quarters to see how the business is moving. Any sign of deterioration should be carefully examined and acted upon.
  • Product/service price: As an entrepreneur, one frequently encounters situation where the customer demands lower price. These requests are made with a promise to restore the price to the “usual price” if the product or service is found to be of acceptable quality. A higher volume of purchase is promised if the price is lowered. Lower price offered by a competitor is often quoted as a reason for inability to procure from you. As a newcomer struggling to prove your product or service, the temptation to reduce the price and clinch the deal is very high. One can’t and need not say no to every such request; if there is good enough reason, the price may have to be lowered. However, there must be a rigorous monitoring to see that the lowered price is indeed giving the result desired. Tracking the product price and profitability is therefore key. A new business can’t afford the luxury of low price that an established player with deep pockets can.
  • Fixed costs: Higher “committed” or “fixed” costs of business is found to be a key reason for many new businesses bleeding cash in their operations. These typically include lease rentals, salaries, finance costs, and payments to outsourced services providers that are not linked to volume of procurement. The ratio of fixed costs vs variable costs should be regularly monitored. As many costs should be moved to variable costs as possible. Outsource your finance and accounting to avoid having an accountant on payroll. Hire a venue for your programs on hourly or daily basis instead of leasing it for long-term. Engage free-lancers for your work; they offer higher expertise and you pay only when you have work to give. Link as much of your costs to your revenues as possible.This will help reduce the costs when the sales orders are not coming through.
  • Receivables:Extending credit is a standard business practice in many industries when the dealings are between two businesses (B2B markets). The entrepreneurs have no option to follow the industry practice. It is a must, however, that the receivables are rigorously followed up for recovery. The ageing of the recoveries should be monitored to check whether any discounts should be offered to get cash quickly and avoid potential bad debts. Money stuck with customers may lead to severe cash crunch through the profitability and sales look good on paper.

As an entrepreneur, setting KPIs to measure these four variables and track them over time will ensure that the business doesn’t run out of cash without early warning signals.

Be a Pig, Not a Chicken



The difference between being committed and being involved is easily illustrated by thinking about that eggs and bacon breakfast you had recently.  The chicken that laid those eggs was clearly involved, but that pig that created that bacon was committed.

Success requires commitment – so be a pig not a chicken!

Starting any business venture takes a lot more than buying a URL, setting up a website, social sites, sketching a logo, drafting a plan and so on.  There’s a huge gap between those with ideas and those who execute on their ideas.

Investors are always on the look out for someone who demonstrates commitment and try to avoid those who talk a good talk, but just don’t do the work.

If you’re doing what you choose to do, you’re committed.  If you’re doing only what you must do, you’re compliant and on the short end of “involved.”

So, here’s six quick reminders on what you can do to demonstrate your commitment to success; to yourself, your partner, spouse, or investor.

  1. Do the work, don’t just talk about it
  2. Do the research, don’t just wonder about it
  3. Meet with people, don’t just create lists of prospects
  4. Network regularly, don’t just hope for a referral
  5. Take planned steps every day, don’t just make to do lists
  6. Evaluate what you do on paper, don’t just reflect on the past

Follow-up is the key to success – and if you aren’t strong enough to follow up on your own, hire someone to follow up with you every day.  It works.  Spend a few thousand dollars on reminders, and you’ll do the hard work that needs to be done.

So, commit yourself.  Be a pig!

Feeling Bad About Charging? Here’s What To Do (And What NOT To Do)

You can’t just charge higher rates if you don’t see your own value.

You’ve heard the advice about raising your prices:

“Just raise your rates.”

“Double your prices!”

“Don’t overthink it! Just do it!”

For most people, the problem with the advice above is that it doesn’t work. Even if you do dare to raise your prices by 10%, you apologise, you feel guilty. Your heart’s not in it.

So, maybe you negotiate against yourself. Before you meet the client or send a proposal, you whittle down the price in your mind first of all. Then you make some justification for it in your mind.  You promise yourself you’re going to stand firm. And then you come to the negotiation (I’ll bet you hate that word), nervous but determined.

At the slightest raise of an eyebrow you cave. You’ll cut 20%, 50% (or even more) off, because you can’t stand to negotiate. If you raise your prices, you feel bad.

woman using space gray iphone x
Photo by on

The “Don’t Blink” Advice

could tell you to tough it out. First one to blink, loses.

I could also say: “but you’re really good at what you do. Everybody says it. You should be charging what you’re worth. You’re still below market rates.”

But that doesn’t work either. You don’t feel confident, and that lack of confidence is going to be the missing plank which will sink the whole ship.


Feeling better about charging more

The reason that “put your rates up” advice hasn’t worked for you is that you haven’t interiorised it. You might have your head in it (“I know I’m really good at what I do, and my clients love me.”) But you feel like when you’re bringing up the money question, you’re leaving your heart at the door.

Let me guess: you feel like you’re an expense. You think you’re an imposition on their funds. If they spend money on you, their children are going to starve, and it will be all your fault!

At present, maybe you’re selling your services primarily to solopreneurs who – like you – see what they pay you as coming out of their pocket. I totally get their thinking because they are so close to their business, they may tend to see every expense as a personal expense.

Would You Ever Do Your Clients a Disservice?

Of course you wouldn’t!

But if you’re promising to drive them across the dessert, and because you’ve undercharged, you run out of fuel, then you are doing them a disservice.

People are paying you because in their eyes the money they spend is less important to them than what you can do for them. They’re paying for the value that you bring, the outcome that you create; not for how long you spend. You’re not running a widgets factory.

How to Bring Your Heart To Your Pricing

When you’re providing a service, you’re serving. (“Brilliant observation, Anthony!”) You’re serving with your heart and your head.

And that’s why they pay you. The money they pay you is worth less to them that the service you give them. In fact, if you choose the right clients, the value they get is going to be so great that they will be less focused on the price than you are.

I recently coached someone through this exact problem. Let’s call her Maria and say she was a voice artist. I explained that the first sale was to herself. She herself had to be interiorly aware of the need to align her head and her heart before she worried about pricing.

She was very brave (there’s a lot of fear you have to face with pricing!) And within a week of our first conversation, she told me:

Today I gave an old client double the price and said instead, “Can you do half down and half on completion?” To my delight, he didn’t miss a beat and said, “No problem.”

I strongly suspect Maria was seriously undercharging, and possibly still is, but this was a big transformation for her.

I asked her how she felt with that transformation, when her previous efforts to charge higher prices just didn’t happen. Here’s what she said:

I think it finally made it from my head to my heart. I’m so okay with it now.


From People’s Pockets to Business Budgets

As you move up market, you’re not taking the money out of people’s pockets (which is how you might see it). Instead, it’s coming out of a business budget.

The business has already decided to do some branding change, or brochures or website redesign. They may have begun a new arm of the business, breaking into a new market.

And the question they’re asking themselves is not: “should we spend money on graphic design/new website/brand strategy?” They KNOW they need to do that.

Instead, the question is: “How should we spend this budget? Where is a smart investment?”

And for even larger businesses, if they have responsibility for a budget, then if they don’t spend that budget, they will lose some of it next year. So, you’re helping them to spend their budget (not pay out of their pocket!) in a wise and fruitful way.

“Would you like to hear what Maria learnt? Get ready for a free 20-minute conversation, and we’ll see where your difficulties are. (It’s going to be tough!)”

How to Tell That You Suffer From New Shiny Object Syndrome?


You’ve just found out a new way to do whatEVER, it’s new and it’s exciting and its so much more fun sounding than what you’re doing right now. So you start on a new path, a new initiative a new thing.

What Is Shiny Object Syndrome?

Shiny Object Syndrome (Objectivius Shinium Syndromus) is defined as the attraction to objects that exhibit a glassy, polished, gleaming or otherwise shiny appearance. Something as simple as a reflection in your peripheral vision may easily distract your attention. Over time, you’ll find that your attention to said object is directly correlated to it’s shininess and your attention fades as the shininess wears off.

How Do I Know If I Suffer?

Here’s a list of characteristics associated with shiny object syndrome. This is not an exhaustive list, and it affects different people in different ways…

  • You have 100 domain names and no built-out websites.
  • You have 30+ business ideas on paper, but no businesses.
  • You sign up to loads of free webinars and have masses of notes but no plan.

Give it time

Try not to get caught in the hype

Shiny Object Syndrome

So, you might have shiny object syndrome. It really is okay as it’s not a permanent condition and it’s NOT fatal, but you do have to treat it carefully and with compassion.

Remember that successful management of this syndrome follows a process:

  1. Start
  2. Keep Going
  3. Decide
  4. Commit
  5. Embrace the process
  6. Keep Going (Again)
  7. FINISH!
  8. Repeat

Most importantly be a person of your word: Finish what you start. Take action and make it happen. Always do what you say you’re going to do and execute the plan.

If you need some help getting your business mojo back, book your Free Strategy Session with me now. Alternatively, head over to my Facebook Group where I share my free, expert advice with a bunch of like-minded business women!


The Most Effective Work-Life Balance Advice

Here it is…

STOP believing there’s one!

Work-Life balance is a lie, a myth, and unattainable. Was that too harsh? Let’s try a different approach. There’s no such thing as work-life balance (I don’t think that made it better, either). Before you click the back button or before you flag this article, read on a bit more; I assure you, it gets better (fingers crossed).

We all have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That gives us exactly 168 hours in a week; nothing more nothing less. Everyone, regardless of gender, race, nationality or income will have the exact amount of time in their hands. Isn’t it amazing? The greatest equalizer of all time is time itself. I don’t know about you but I find that re-assuring.

I suppose most of us when we say work-life, we define life as everything other than work (which excludes household chores, errands, etc.). If so, here’s and illustration of how a balanced work-life would look like for a typical working person (on a weekly basis).

Okay, almost balanced. But how do you find the table? Does it inspire you? Do you get it, now? Even if we do achieve the number of hours above, I don’t think it will give us the results we want. On the contrary, this might just make us more miserable. Who would want to constantly keep tabs on the hours and activities day in day out? And wouldn’t that alone, be a tragedy?

Pause for a moment and let this sink.

Don’t worry. Although it looks grim, there’s hope. Instead of achieving balance between work and life, why don’t we try these?

a.   PRIORITIZE our life.

“If everything’s important, nothing is.”

We need to set our priorities. If you don’t set your priorities and protect them, someone else will. Sadly, most of us allow others to set our priorities for us and then complain why we can’t have a fulfilling life.

We can take the reigns back and we should. It’s pretty simple. List down your top three (maximum four) priorities in life and then, make sure you allocate a lion’s share of your TIME, ENERGY and ATTENTION to each of them based on level of importance. Number one priority gets the most, and so on.

Review your list daily and protect them. If you know your priorities, you will have the ability to say no to a lot of other things and live with it. If they don’t matter much, they should have the least amount of your time, energy and attention. Common sense? Yes, but usually not common practice.

b.  INTEGRATE work and life.

“We work to live, not the other way around.”

Whether we like it or not, work is part of our lives; just like our relationships, hobbies, other things. If we go back in history, work has always been a family endeavor. In fact, this still holds true in some areas around the world.

Unfortunately, this changed during the industrial revolution, when fathers and mothers had to leave their families to work at factories. Thus, alienating work from our personal lives. This wasn’t how it used to be when families worked together to earn a living.

Don’t you find it funny, those who earn from illegal means usually have no problems involving their families in their line of work while those earning from decent jobs most of keep their families from helping them? How about you let your son, daughter or spouse do some of your paper works? Bring them to work, train them, show them what keeps you busy. Let them in on the fun. Ask your boss and HR to include it as part of the company policy. You get to share the load, your family gets to know you more, your company gets more workers for the price of one. It’s a win-win!

c.   BE PRESENT at the moment.

“You cannot be in two places at once.”

Whether you’re at work, home or vacation, be there, be present, 100%; body, mind and spirit. How many of us daydream about a perfect holiday at the beach while at work; and think about work (worst, do work) while on a perfect holiday at the beach? Please raise your hands.

The only way to enjoy the moment and make the best out of it is to be present at that moment, period. Stop checking on your phone when you don’t have to and start connecting with the person across the table or beside you. Resist the urge to open that laptop while you’re in your swimsuits; it only looks cool in commercials, not in real life.

Think about it, if all of a sudden, you disappeared from this world, what would happen to the work you leave behind? Yes, someone else will take over it; even if you’re the CEO. Small steps go a long way.

You may find these three too idealistic; they are, but they are also doable and practical. I have personally adhered (although far from being perfect) to them and it has done wonders in our lives. That’s why I’m sharing it.


For more thoughts and tips, follow the hashtags: #Leadingwhereyouare, #Leadingwithapurpose, #JeffManhTalks

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Snap, Crackle, Pop

group discussion

Prepare For That First Impression Before You Need It!

You’re going to network, right?  You’re going to dialog with strangers that may become colleagues, prospects, clients, audiences, even friends.  You’re going to do this face to face, in digital or print, on the phone, in front of ad hoc or planned groups and even large audiences.

Your career success relies on your communications skills!

Actually, it’s been long considered that 75% of a person’s compensation is based on their communication skills.

So, have you noticed how many people are great engagers of others, and how many aren’t?  Have you seen people in an audience stop using their smart devices to pay attention to a speaker and in other settings see people focus only on their smart devices?

And, be honest, how would you measure your own skills, and in which settings?

Are you prepared for any discussion, any time, anywhere and on any subject?

Here’s a trick that can help you punch up your skills before you feel like you just took a punch in the gut for not being ready.

Snap, Crackle, Pop – Before, During, After – Past, Present, Future

  1. Outline a list of topics you may have to discuss in the future. These can be anything from current events, history, your line of business, a prospect’s problems, whatever you want – just outline a list of topics, shoot for ten.
  2. For each topic on the list, outline a “past” “present” and “future” question.
  3. Practice the questions until they become a habit (note: through research and practice, I calculated that it takes me 91 tries to change or create a habit)
  4. Challenge your development of the habit – can you jump into any discussion, answer any question, in any individual or group discussion and on any topic? (hint – this will take practice; 91 tries took me 13 weeks)
  5. When you think you have those ten topics down, do another ten, and then another – you will know you’re prepared to make the kind of impression you want to make in any setting – when you’re ready!


You will likely attend a mixer of some sort, with colleagues, clients, prospects, fellow club members, whatever.

At some point you will have the opportunity to establish an impression.

First, simply ask the others in the group a question about the past.  For example, “that’s interesting, can you share some of the history of how that developed?

Second, move your question forward to the present with, “Ah, I see, so that’s how you determined the steps you’re taking today; tell me, how are today’s circumstances stacking up against those earlier stages?”

Third, future “…and how do you see this changing over the course of time, say the next five years?”

Practice will turn you into the most prepared conversationalist, speaker, engager – anywhere.

Good luck out there!


Are You Inadvertently Sabotaging Your Success?

In a meeting with a coaching client this morning, I asked what the new entrepreneurs intentions were with his business and with our coaching, as I ask all of my clients when we start working together. This particular client who is branding himself as a content provider and copywriting said he wanted to improve his skills and what he offers his clients, to grow his business by finding new clients and by improving his pitching success rate.

Regardless of how long one has been in an industry, improving skills and staying atop new developments is crucial to one’s success (as an individual and in our businesses). Yet, carving out the time it takes to do this on a regular basis is one thing that loses priority when we end up in the hustle of product, promotion and customer satisfaction.

My client mentioned low-cost online courses he has been taking to stay on top of search engine optimization (SEO) requirements, the latest in digital marketing techniques and the best practices for social media sales. But keeping sharp in our skills and industry knowledge doesn’t have to mean taking a class. In a 10-minute time block per day, we could read business or industry news, listen to the latest audible business book or peruse what is happening in our professional organizations. Making learning a priority not only helps us grow ourselves and our businesses but it also gives us conversation starters for current and potential clients.

Which brings me to how we introduce ourselves to clients or potential customers, especially in this age of electronic, worldwide interaction. Every day I receive messages on LinkedIn from marketers who claim they have the perfect solution to help me grow my businesses. I believe most of the letters are the same template they send to everyone, since no clear identifiers are within the text of these letters, no words that they’ve spent any time understanding me or my business.

When I asked the client to send me his pitch letter, I found something similar to all of the other letters I receive (and to which I don’t respond): the letter is almost solely about him. A summary of the letter is basically: Hi, I’m ____________________. I provide X and I do Y. I get my clients results by Z.  I’m sure you could use my services/product/whatever.

Successful marketing is a lot like successful advertising in that the initial thing it does is draw attention to itself (quite literally) by tapping into first a truth and second, an emotion. After that, you need a quick story. All of these are so people can relate to you and your products on a very human level, and then it is that connection that will lead you to sales success.

In Sophia Amurosa’s book Girl Boss, she tells readers that if they want to work at her company (or at any company for that matter) to not spend their whole cover letter talking about themselves and how awesome they are. Amurosa says, instead, to tell her how her company’s problems can be solved, genuine things the applicant likes about the company, why the applicant wants to work there. The “how great one is” should come through in the resume or CV or supporting documents.

This should be the same when we pitch a potential client. We need to show we know a truth: an understanding of who they are and what their needs are (without bashing them) and then connect why we are the best person/company/product to help them resolve or solve an issue by providing a story example of how we helped someone else. And then our closing should be asking for a few moments of their time to discuss it; not providing a link to your calendar and asking them to pick some time (as that is again very impersonal).

Doing these simple things—prioritizing lifelong learning and growing and then connecting to others in a genuine way by starting with a truth—will keep your current clients closer and will increase your pitch success rate. After all, we’d rather do business with those we feel “get us” than with some stranger who doesn’t.

Selling Innovation

This is the first in an ongoing series based on the highly rated book Selling Innovation, a guide to structuring a complete start-up revenue capture process.  The book is based on a day-long workshop held at the MIT Enterprise Forum in partnership with Microsoft.  Sections of each chapter will be shared here on The Startup Growth Blog.  Download the complete eBook, blog readers get a special 25% discount with code JA49Y.  


By John Harthorne, founder & CEO of MassChallenge

The world needs innovators and entrepreneurs who can sell.

Entrepreneurs are our value creators and problem solvers. Their nimble, high-growth companies create most of the world’s highly innovative technologies and groundbreaking solutions. More often than not, it is a startup that first determines how to extract energy from high altitudes, or from the ocean’s waves, or even human waste. More often than not, it is a startup that first figures out how to teach kids math using basketball or how to build the most intuitive mobile games. They build off-road wheelchairs, grow farms in freight containers, track migraines with cell phones and draw clean water out of slightly humid air. Take any problem in the world, and you can be certain that numerous entrepreneurs are working tirelessly on solving it, and that a few of them will end up revolutionizing a long-established industry.

Startups are also creating jobs. Early-stage ventures are responsible for virtually all net job growth in the United States, as confirmed by The Kauffman Foundation: “Net job growth occurs in the U.S. economy only through startup firms.”  Since 1977, established firms have lost 1 million net jobs per year, while startups in their first year added an average of 3 million jobs in aggregate. This trend has spawned scores of innovation centers and business plan competitions as governments, educators and the private sector world-wide work towards supporting this critical part of local economic development.  We need job growth, we need it now, and startups are the solution.

But launching a startup is difficult. Many innovations never get to make that impact and generate those jobs because too many innovators struggle to find the right resources before running out of time.  To succeed, entrepreneurs need access to advisors, talent, suppliers, lawyers, office space, equipment, funding, and other resources. Most importantly of all, though, startups need customers.

Customers are almost always the single best source of funding and growth. Customers are demanding. They force you to build what they want, rather than investing in the development of a large, complex “science project.” They keep your company alive and focused and, if they like your product, they buy more. Customer money is the cheapest, most productive form of capital on the planet.

Innovation can provide solutions to many of the world’s most challenging problems. Selling that innovation is what reifies the founding vision, establishes the desired impact and initiates serious growth.

The world needs entrepreneurs and innovators, and they must be great at selling their innovation.

Embracing Change – What’s Your Long-Term Business Plan?

Undoubtedly, as the politicians continue to disrupt business confidence, we are all sitting and contemplating the future for business in the UK. It is a stigma and situation the country seems to adopt all too readily; the media-fuelled debate or debacle has many of us watching on with a slight element of trepidation around what the future holds.

For many of us in business we have been through both strong and difficult economic periods and, undoubtedly, each of us has positive and negative stories to tell. However, the interesting aspect of terms like ‘slow growth’ or even that horrible ‘R’ word is, in reality, quite miniscule compared to the technological evolution we are experiencing now. Economic conditions in the UK fluctuate in minute terms in comparison to other global economies and that is of huge benefit to businesses in the UK.

Opportunities are most certainly available to business in most economic situations. We may feel that there are many instances in business where we don’t feel in control and market forces is certainly one of them but to lose sight of goals because of fear isn’t, and shouldn’t, be part of the nature of an entrepreneurial nation of business owners.

My personal thoughts are not to ignore but to embrace. If growth drops by 1%, this in reality taking it on equal terms, meaning each sector drops by 1%. This percentage has a significant monetary value and will see casualties but it can also see huge amounts of opportunity develop in the same way as a period of exceptional economic growth. Each market sector has the ability to change and evolve well beyond economic conditions through technological progress and innovation. The key denominator for business success, no matter what the economic situation, is building financial strength, strategic planning to stay ahead of your competitors and not being lost in the fear of a media-fuelled irrelevance. That is to say embrace change, continually evolve your business model, and lead from the front.


A great example of where leadership has failed is perfectly demonstrated by some past and present well known high street retailers failing to fully embrace the opportunities the digital world as to offer. This could be deemed as a reluctance to change, poor forecasting, expecting the move towards online retail to be a temporary glitch, or indeed pulling a few loaded bags of wool over their eyes. The world of business is an ever-evolving machine and the technological evolution is set to gain even more momentum in decades to come. UK businesses that lead, innovate and manage their own evolution will be the winners in the long-term. The leaders will create long-term plans and a vision for their business, predicting market trends and embracing opportunities as they arise.

As a business coach, I find this part of the work I do fascinating and incredibly exciting. The new products, services and continuous level of innovation which are being created to meet the demands are purely dictated by change and we, as business owners, need to be focusing on this in the long-term. Without exception, every marketplace has these opportunities. It could be fundamental changes or small incremental differences that dictate how we evolve but each element of business evolution provides us all with opportunity!


One of the interesting aspects surrounding change is also how we function as a business on a daily basis. I mentioned how some retailers have been reluctant to change their business model. Being assertive with our decisions based on planning and greater understanding is incredibly important but many businesses still adopt a mentality that sees no need to change. The old adage of ‘we have always done it this way, so why change it’ really doesn’t work in business today and especially cannot work in an environment where technology evolves so quickly. For example, it could relate to a company’s own internal technology, the systems they run, the equipment they use to manufacture, or could be the process of marketing and sales and how they use technology to enhance their profile to an interested audience. Standing still in any of these situations is probably the biggest negative I have experienced in business coaching. Little or no action to change the situation far outweighs anything the media can bombard us with.

My advice to every business owner is to continually embrace change, seek out opportunity, explore your market (and new associated ones) and never take what you have now as the standard. You simply cannot afford to!

If you have concerns around the future of your business, want to focus on how you can evolve your business and become the lead amongst your competition, my two-hour free introductory meeting can certainly kick-start that process. Contact me today to arrange an appointment.

Why Entrepreneurship Matters: Meet Kaley.

Kaley had it all… or did she?

Kaley is an inspirational client of ours at . Coach LLC. Nobody embodies better the principles we stand by as a company better than her.

Kaley Zeitouni began her career at 14 years old when she founded the nonprofit organization Youth Against MultipleSclerosis (YAMS).

As a natural born leader with an unwavering passion to make an impact, Kaley has inspired thousands across the globe as a motivational speaker sharing her experience being diagnosed with MS at age 12.  After twenty years living with the auto-immune disease, Kaley healed herself from MS and now coaches others with chronic illness to also experience relief from illness, transform their health blueprint, and live healthy lives.

While living with and curing herself of a chronic illness would seem like enough to keep someone busy for a lifetime, Kaley’s passion doesn’t end there. Life threw another curveball in 2016 when Kaley’s fiancé died suddenly at 29 years old. Today Kaley speaks openly about her experience with grief and loss and developed a coaching program to help others who have lost a spouse or partner to truly heal and restore a sense of wholeness in their lives.

Kaley combines her professional skills as a Marriage and Family Therapist with her personal experiences facing life’s biggest challenges to lovingly and empathically help others to achieve what society deems impossible. Kaley is a published author and continues to empower and inspire others to heal from within, whether from loss or illness.

The following is a real-life account of what growing a startup really is all about. It is raw, genuine and filled with inspiration. Enjoy

Last week, I left the office where I had a“good job” for the last time. If you asked me a year ago, that image would have been terrifying, but when the day finally arrived, it was the greatest feeling ever. 

For years, I had what society would call “great positions.” I had the title, the salary, and I was always extremely good at my job. So you can imagine everyone’s surprise when I gave notice without another full time “job” to go to. Instead, I left to grow my coaching business, working with people experiencing the loss of a spouse/partner to heal and transform their lives.  

Two years ago my fiancé died suddenly. I was broken. The pain was so excruciating, there were moments I thought I was going to physically just split down the middle.  Having had a previous career as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I knew that weekly therapy wasn’t going to be enough to heal. I called upon my mentors and coaches to get me through this time, along with others who had had similar experiences. I came to hate the phrase “time heals,” which people repeated constantly during that time. If I was in so much pain why would I wait for time to heal. Through hard work and finding every possible resource, not only did I heal, I discovered a new me and a new level of happiness I didn’t know existed. 

I started sharing these tools with others facing loss, and I was amazed by the results. I saw that it is possible to proactively heal rather than wait for “time” and to do so in a healthy way without letting go of your loved one. I felt called to do this on a larger scale but didn’t know how to monetize it not to mention all the fears about leaving the seeming security of my job. 

I had heard about coaches and authors who were making six or seven figures but part of me didn’t believe that was possible. It also just seemed like a far-off dream to be able to spend my time helping people in a way that felt aligned with my soul, and earn enough to not work80 hours a week.

Turns out, I was wrong.  About eight months ago, I found two amazing coaches, Sai Blackbyrn and IgnacioPerez, who helped me see that my dream was not only possible but that I owed it to the world to live my best self.

There is an important Jewish teaching that states that when we die, the Creator will not ask us why we weren’t more like Moses or any of our other leaders. Instead, we will be asked why we weren’t more like Kaley. Sai and Perez hit that message home for me on a daily basis. 

They coached me through the exact steps of building my business which I did alongside my 12 hour day job. Word of mouth kept spreading even before I had a website up, so they coached me through each prospective call in order to attract my ideal client. Within a couple months the scales tipped and not only did it become impossible to keep doing both, I realized I didn’t have to. 

With every passing day, I feel honoured to be a companion for others experiencing grief and I am grateful for the opportunity to live life on my terms rather than the hamster wheel I was stuck in for years. The idea of creating my own business, being self-employed, seemed so daunting. I thought it would take years to get here. I always knew I was born to be an entrepreneur but I could have stayed stuck in the fear for years. Having the right guidance and focusing on the results rather than getting stuck in the details allowed me to turn my life around in just six months and now I get to focus on the adventure ahead.

To me, coaching is all about giving back. It is about being a role model — maintaining my own integrity in the face of adversity. It is honouring someone’s journey and empowering them to heal from within and in turn manifest their full beauty in the world.

Today I live a dream and it is because I took a leap of faith and believed all would work out.

Kaley Zeitouni 

It did.

So take the leap.

You’ll thank me later



Are investors shrugging off?

“I just don’t understand, why these investors do not come forward to help startups. We have been meeting them, delivering investor pitch, time and again, and yet no one shows any commitment to invest”.

Little more nudge and the frustration comes outpouring. The founder is convinced and emotionally profoundly attached to the product that has been developed after months of hard labour. Nothing can be better and state of the art regarding technology.

So the question is why is the product not selling? The response – if investors give us money, we will sell big numbers.

So why are they not funding? Don’t know. Hold on, did they just shrug off? It seems that your story has made little sense to them.

So who made the pitch? Pat came to the response I made.

Anyone else besides you? “No. They are not business savvy and do not have communication skill”.

Speaking to a seed investor and a Venture Capitalist, I learned that they pay extraordinary attention to the startup team. They look for alignment, a conviction in the product or service as a collective whole. Assessment is made on the level of energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to make things happen. What is not appealing is a show of a team like statues behind the founder.

Remember, interest is an emotional trigger to listen and pay attention. Before you bombard the investors with data and logic and rationale, pay full attention to risk perceptions that get built based on over-reliance on a single founder.

So work on a shared story, how each one is connected and what does success mean to each member. Are you paying attention to body language aspects while presenting to the investors? Remember enthusiasm and energy creates the magnet of appeal.

The Top Foundational Qualities Of The Best Leaders

“We are social animals and we respond to the environment we’re in. Always. Our very survival depends on our ability to trust and cooperate with the people we live or work with. Leaders are responsible for that environment. And Leaders forget that, they think they are responsible for the results. There’s not a leader on the planet who is responsible for the result. Leaders are responsible for the people, who are responsible for the result. And if you take care of the people, take care of the environment, things go just fine.

— Simon Sinek

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Imagine for a moment that the role of an executive leader is, at its core, to create an environment that inspires and supports people to collectively contribute towards a greater future for the organisation.

Got it?

Ok then, if that’s true, then what are the keys to success? What tools do leaders need at hand for this mission? What mental models must they run through daily?

Leading others is a great privilege and responsibility. As our awareness grows and we learn more, we may discover more and more evidence that we are living in an incredible time in human history. There are tremendous challenges in poverty and privilege, sickness and health, freedom and imprisonment. Right now the world needs you to step up and lean into your leadership, it needs your unique gifts, wisdom and talents- that only you have. And it’s right there within you.

The power to make a difference.

By bringing out the best in yourself and your people, you can make a positive difference. You can start simply with changing yourself- those effects ripple out and compound. The best way to start is with strong foundations. So today I want to encourage you to come back to leading from these three guiding principles – Trust, Service and Love. We know from hundreds and thousands of hours of research, learning and development that these are the proven and foundational qualities to top executive leadership.


The depth to which your people trust you is at the root of how they will show up, what you can ask from each other and how you and your team perform. When you are surrounded by happy, creative, engaged and inspired people, it’s no surprise that it pushes you to even greater depths and heights of achievement. The way to draw this out of your team or attract the right members to your team is to go first.

It’s extremely difficult for a selfish leader to gain someone else’s trust. Once people know you are “in it for yourself,” they’ll only trust you to do what’s best for you – meaning they know you won’t look out for them. Gaining the trust of other people requires that you consistently (consistently- not constantly! You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be consistently making progress) take into consideration your team’s needs when making decisions, and stand up for them if they do what you ask, especially if things don’t turn out as planned. Once people know you have their back, trust develops naturally.


Appearance and Confidence– As obvious as it sounds, your professional appearance and confidence in yourself is one of the key reasons people will or won’t grant you their trust. So dress like today is important because as far a you can guarantee today is the only day that you can live in. If you dress for each day expectantly, importantly, beautifully, then each day will become that. People will react differently to you if you dress as if it matters.

Reliability– Be someone who can be counted on, show up on time to meetings and work, be prepared, underpromise and overdeliver, be conscious of what you say yes to because when you make a commitment, follow through. Close the loop on all expectations and if sometimes you fall short, do whatever it takes to make it right.

Credibility– Know yourself: your strengths, weaknesses, personality and leadership profiles.There are many tests you can take: Myers Briggs, 16 personalities, DISC, Enneagram, the Demartini Value Determination test and many others. Most of these tests rely on your self assessment of a set of questions- which is completely subjective. So let me share with you the one test that I’ve found which doesn’t rely on subjective guesses but objectively measures your true ability.

One of the most valuable tools I’ve had the privilege of experiencing is the work by Natural Ability. Using the Highlands Ability Battery- a gold standard aptitude assessment tool, Natural Ability helps you understand your unique natural abilities and the role your abilities play in how you can find happiness and success in major life issues like career planning, career change, team building and team dynamics and relationships.

Natural Ability delivers an Individual Ability Identity program which includes world-class aptitude testing, personalised reporting, 12-month email support and a 2 hour one-on-one counselling session in person or over Skype/ phone.

Having gone through the process myself, I was so impressed by the value of the test, Robert’s support and the clarity this world-class test delivered that I partnered with Natural Ability.

Right now…

Exclusive to the Theresa Liew Coaching Inner Circle… You can book a complimentary consult, AND using the code “TLC0518” receive a stunning $200 off the price of the complete package – normally $495.

Bring value to the table:know what you’re supposed to know and do what you’re supposed to do. Learn all you can about your business and industry, step up when needed. Be congruent in your words and actions: it’s ok to say you don’t know but you will find out.

Connection– Make your presence felt, and add value. Build rapport and relationship with others, learn something from them or about them every time you interact, find out what matters to them and help them get it. Listen, understand and give.

Transparency– Build and encourage openness and honesty in your team and people. The old ways of hiding information and keeping employees in the dark are dead. Life exists in the leaders and teams that demonstrate transparency and open communication, people respond to what is real and true. People have grown tired of leaders who hoard what they know to consolidate their power. They want leaders to be proactive in sharing where the organisation is headed and forthright about its future. Really people just want transparency so they can plan and protect themselves, don’t you? The world is changing rapidly and trying to control what people think and know is a losing battle. It’s far more powerful and enjoyable to build relationships and engage so people can decide for themselves if working with you in your organisation is in alignment with their personal values, skills, talents and expertise. This is what will build a healthy, collaborative and innovative work culture.


If you can lead from where all your choices align with two principles, earn trust and serve your people, then you will be able to dive past your own fears, insecurities and doubts and deeply access your true state. Your true self is a being of love, connection and peace. And when you remember that you’ve always known this, then you realise that you’ve forgotten this truth. And the truth is it’s not about me, it’s not about you, it’s not about them.

It’s about us.

It’s important you remember this because as you gain more power and influence, unless you’ve built or come into a strong positive culture of trust and where openness and honest feedback is encouraged, powerful leaders seldom get useful feedback in their organizations.

Your teammates and those you manage are loath to give bad news or critical feedback, and many boards are not diligent in seeing feedback for performance improvement, particularly relationships, as important as other things, such as financial results. There are enormous stresses on your shoulders and the critical mindset that sets you apart in being a Leader, instead of an authority figure, is your awareness of yourself and your ability to serve your people. Without that awareness, it is all too easy to become blind to what is really happening in your team and organisation or to feel as though it is you alone who can get things done right, who must make all the decisions and you may fall into the trap of trying to ‘look good’, of looking out for your own interests (which may be disguised in a statement that you are looking out for the ‘organisations’ interests), of trying to manage and control what your people think, do and say in order to preserve your own and your organisation’s reputation, which is really your ego and sense of worth and importance.

You might feel that since you are in charge, you get to make the decisions and people can follow or leave. But what actually happens when leaders and managers in companies start putting power and profits over their people, is that it immediately starts undermining morale, performance, engagement and eroding organisational culture. Think about it. Have you ever worked with someone who:

  • Dominated meetings in an attempt to force his or her ideas on others?
  • Stole ideas to appear better in the eyes of others?
  • Took sole credit for things that required a team effort?
  • Didn’t have your back and worse, shifted personal blame onto you or others?
  • Was ‘always right,’ therefore making his or her opinion the only relevant one?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above, you know firsthand the havoc a leader who puts their own ego first wreaks on the environment.

Realise that leading from us, where it’s about our collective human family, moves you out of your ego and small self and into miracles, magic and synchronicity. Where you are not afraid of being wrong or looking bad, of not knowing enough or being unworthy because you are focused on your service to others and the vision.

Yes. Here, this space.

Here is where you can do what needs to be done to inspire people to do what they’re capable of doing, learning and becoming. Serve your people by helping people grow and set a course for them to succeed. When you help others get what they want, you will find that you get what you want.


It’s so important that you are working in the right environment with the right people who value working together as a team and have each other’s back. No matter who you are, if you are in an environment that supports you, surrounded by successful, supportive people with growth mindsets, together you will achieve anything you set your minds and hearts to.

Great leaders make people around them successful. They are passionate and committed, authentic, courageous, honest and reliable. That’s why in today’s high-pressure environment, it is critical you have the right people on your team. I respectfully suggest that if you are a leader of people and are looking to grow your influence and impact, you need a confidante, a coach, someone you can trust, to help you gain the perspectives and support to take yourself and your teams and organisations to the next level.

In order to do this you need to authentically and genuinely love what you do and who you are surrounded with. It starts by understanding yourself and knowing what your values are so that you are clear around where, how and with whom you would like to spend your time, energy and resources. Here are 5 questions that will support you with clarity on falling in love with your life and work:

  1. What are your natural strengths and gifts as a leader and as a person?
  2. Who do you love spending time with and what impact are you having on others?
  3. Why do you work so hard?
  4. What are your values? And if they were a guidance system, on a scale of 0-10 how aligned is your life to your values?
  5. Where are you spending the most amount of your time and is it on activities you love?

I know it’s not easy to question yourself, to examine your life, thoughts and beliefs and to take radical responsibility for everything that is happening in your work, life and business. Even harder to change your habits when they have worked to get you to where you are today. When you have reached a certain level of success and responsibility, often the pain of growth and the risk of failure may initially appear to outweigh the benefit of taking new actions. How can you control the outcome, predict the return on investment when you don’t know what it could look like or what could happen? It’s a step into something new! And the truth is, that what got you to where you are isn’t what’s going to take you to the next level. Einstein once said that “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”  To grow to your next level of leadership you will need to embrace a learner’s mindset and fall in love with the process, as confronting and challenging as it may initially feel.

You are here for more.

Leaders, I want to promise you if you commit, do the work, grow and lead from this space, the expansion of all that unfolds in your life is more beautiful, humbling and magical than you ever thought possible.

Top Ten Reasons To Become A Coach Now

Kamy Ahmed shares 10 reasons why anyone should consider coaching as their next career move based on his experience as a respected strategy expert for coaches

As more and more people are becoming sick and tired of the 9-5 grind, more and more people are deciding that they want to step away from the traditional ways of making a living and instead are opting in to become highly ‘credible’ coaches. Ultimately this has given a huge surge to the coaching industry as more and more people are becoming aware that they are able to start a very profitable business using a laptop and an internet connection. the rise of the coaching industry has been phenomenal. It is estimated that by 2020, the coaching industry will be worth well over $2 Billion dollars and being able to work with coaches on a daily basis, here are my top 10 reasons for becoming a coach.

1. Have Total Life Freedom

Have you ever dreamed about working from anywhere in the world? Not having to answer to a boss or anyone for that matter? Being able to go wherever you want, whenever you want, how often you want? Well, now you can. With coaching, you’re able to have that complete life freedom and as long as you have a laptop and a internet connection, you’re able to provide tremendous value to your clients.

2. Doing more fulfilling work

Every single day, I speak with people who are completely unhappy in their jobs. They are miserable because they’re doing the same things over and over again, not going anywhere, staying comfortable because it pays the bills. Becoming a coach helps to get rid of that sense of unfulfillment by helping others get results every day. When you see others succeeding and you were the catalyst in their growth, there comes a true sense of fulfillment because ultimately your clients success is your success. No more feelings of being unfulfilled.

3. Becoming The Best Version Of Yourself

When you push clients further than no one else has pushed them and they get the results they’re looking for, ultimately it motivates you to push yourself. Just imagine everyday you are striving to be the best version of you. Soon enough you will see tremendous results because now as you grow, your clients grow and vice versa. The cycle is definitely one which you want to be stuck in.

4. Financial Freedom

Having true financial freedom allows you to make as much money as you want. No more worrying about how to make ends meet until your next paycheck. With this new found freedom, you now have options, the option to fire your boss instead of him firing you.

5. Become The ‘Go-To’ Person On A Subject

As more and more people are becoming sick and tired of the 9-5 grind, more and more people are deciding that they want to step away from the traditional ways of making a living and insteading are opting in to become highly ‘credible’ coaches. Ultimately this has given a huge surge to the coaching industry as more and more people are becoming aware that they are able to start a very profitable business using a laptop and an internet connection. the rise of the coaching industry has been phenomenal. It is estimated that by 2020, the coaching industry will be worth well over $2 Billion dollars and being able to work with coaches on a daily basis, here are my top 10 reasons for becoming a coach.

6. Have Total Life Freedom

Have you ever dreamed about working from anywhere in the world? Not having to answer to a boss or anyone for that matter? Being able to go wherever you want, whenever you want, how often you want? Well, now you can. With coaching, you’re able to have that complete life freedom and as long as you have a laptop and a internet connection, you’re able to provide tremendous value to your clients.

7. Doing more fulfilling work

Every single day, I speak with people who are completely unhappy in their jobs. They are miserable because they’re doing the same things over and over again, not going anywhere, staying comfortable because it pays the bills. Becoming a coach helps to get rid of that sense of unfulfillment by helping others get results every day. When you see others succeeding and you were the catalyst in their growth, there comes a true sense of fulfillment because ultimately your clients success is your success. No more feelings of being unfulfilled.

8. Become The Best Version Of Yourself

When you push clients further than no one else has pushed them and they get the results they’re looking for, ultimately it motivates you to push yourself. Just imagine everyday you are striving to be the best version of you. Soon enough you will see tremendous results because now as you grow, your clients grow and vice versa. The cycle is definitely one which you want to be stuck in.

9. Financial Freedom

Having true financial freedom allows you to make as much money as you want. No more worrying about how to make ends meet until your next paycheck. With this new found freedom, you now have options, the option to fire your boss instead of him firing you.

10. Become The ‘Go-To’ Person On A Subject

Just imagine what life would be like if you were seen as the ‘expert’ on a subject? What if people were to pay you large sums of money for your advice and expertise? How about if you were seen as the ‘Tony Robbins’ or the ‘Zig Ziglar’ in your industry? All of these things are possible when it comes to coaching. Once you truly stand out and differentiate yourself from everyone else, you become the undisputed king in your field and people will want an expert’s advice, which will be yours.

Kamy Ahmed

By Kamy Ahmed

Kamy is a Strategy Analyst specialised in healthcare, pharma and big data. He works at Dot Coach and Co-Founded How Did He Do It? a strategy non-profit whose mission is that of providing good business strategy to those who can’t afford it.

“I’ve Sent A Proposal But They Haven’t Got Back To Me.” Try a PRE-posal instead.

It’s so frustrating. You worked for hours (maybe even days) on a proposal. You sent it through to your client. And then … silence.

Are they ghosting you? When should you email them? Should you leave a voice message?

And if you don’t hear from them, should you just show up at their office? What if they’re on the other side of the world?

Don’t propose until you know they’re ready

What’s the proposal for in the first place?

This article is about smaller proposals, such as a solopreneur or small agency might send. It’s not about the RFP (Request For Proposal) process which usually happens when working with bigger companies on bigger projects.

So, why did you send a proposal in the first place? Were they expecting it? What was it that was in the proposal that you didn’t already have verbal agreement about? (Hopefully the answer to that is: “nothing”.)

Try a Preposal Instead

There are a few tactics which will save you a lot of grief around prospects not responding to your proposal. Most of them happen before you even begin writing a proposal.

Let’s call them preposal tactics.

You need to be sure that they really want a proposal, and aren’t just using that “send me a proposal” as a polite way of telling you they’re not ready to decide on anything.

Why would they do that?

Well, some people find it hard to tell you “we’re not really interested” or “we’re not serious about this.” Asking you for a proposal doesn’t cost them anything and – who knows? – it might actually tempt them.

Even more: the proposal will probably give them some high-value strategic or tactical ideas which they could use.

This situation is a fundamental imbalance in the relationship, because you’re giving everything and they’re not in any way committed. This is not a recipe for a strong long-term relationship. You want to be growing together, growing in mutual trust, mutual contributions to the successful outcome.

So, how could you handle it instead?

  1. Get them to agree first that they want you to give them a proposal. (I know, this seems obvious, but you can’t surprise them with a proposal like you’re throwing a grenade over their wall. I’ve made exactly this mistake, and put potential clients in an embarrassing situation where I had effectively offered an engagement ring when we had just first met.)
  2. Book a follow-up call before you start the proposal. You know that after they receive the proposal, they will want to discuss this with you. Book the call in now. “Hey, I’m going to send the proposal on Monday by 3 pm. I’m sure you’ll have some questions about it. Can we book in a follow-up call for, say, Wednesday morning?” This means you’re both clear about what the next step is.
  3. Make sure you’re talking to the right person. Prospects can be enthusiastic. You may think you have the deal in the bag. But then if you get back to them and then you find out they didn’t have budget, or they need to speak to someone else, it’s frustrating for you.
  4. Present the proposal; don’t send it. This may mean presenting the proposal in person, or over a call using a video chat (such as Zoom). This is a better variation on the follow-up call in step #2 above, as you can answer objections and walk them through the reasoning behind the key elements of the proposal.

There’s a lot more to be said about proposals, and whether to send them at all as part of your business. But the key thing here is to remember that you’re taking your client through to an outcome, and sharing them a roadmap along the way stops them from thinking it’s all up to them. (That’s where the wheels can fall off.)

I’m Anthony English and as a business coach, I help first-time business owners to get the business acumen they need to find better clients. Learn more at

What Role Does Your Attitude Play in the Success of Your Business

There are many distractions that business owners are faced with on a day to day basis. The challenge is when business owners get distracted by external elements they lose their focus and their ability to build and/or sustain a successful business.

Allowing distractions to control your actions can be a recipe for disaster whether the economy is thriving or suffering.

So today I would like to share with you the number one key that separates successful business owners from unsuccessful business owners.

What is it? Attitude!

No it isn’t earth shattering. And I know that you already know this. However, it doesn’t matter what you know, it matters what you do with what you know.

Why is attitude so important? Very simply put, life changes when you look at it differently. Instead of focusing on all the challenges you are faced with and telling yourself and others why you can’t be successful right now, how would you benefit from asking yourself, “How do I make my business work in this economy?”

In order to do this you need to follow three fundamental principles of success: Ownership, accountability and responsibility.

Moving forward you must take ownership of your life, hold yourself accountable for your actions and take responsibility for your results.

How good are you at taking ownership of your life, holding yourself accountable for your actions and taking responsibility for your results?

If you find yourself blaming others, making excuses and living in denial then you have plenty of room for improvement.

As soon as you are committed to taking action to improve your attitude and the success of your business, please contact me or the nearest ActionCOACH directly. Your success is our business!