Welcome to the Executive Interview Series!
I am Jon Rognerud, your host on JonRognerud.com.
Today we are extremely excited; we have Melanie Benson Strick on the line.
We are going to do a live Skype interview. She is known as the big idea catalyst, because she knows firsthand how to take an idea and turn it into a thriving six figure business with her secret weapon; leverage.
With over 12 years in corporate project management, Melanie works exclusively with thought leaders and big thinking entrepreneurs who want proven strategies to monetize their big ideas and catapult their success without giving up their life.
Melanie’s clients are typically coaches, consultants, authors, speakers, service professionals, and information marketers typically add six figures to the bottom line while creating more time for living their dream.
Melanie is a faculty member with StomperNet as their delegation expert she is co-author of Entrepreneur.com’s startup guide to starting an informational marketing business. Her success tips are featured in magazines such as Woman’s Day and the LA Times. Melanie is a proud life style enthusiast and spends her free time in search for the best spas and beaches in the world. We are ready to go here, so listen in we are fired up.
(Listen and watch the live interview / video here:)
Jon: We are live here with Melanie Benson Strick and as you heard from the wonderful introduction, which has a lot more than I’ll cover here today but really what I want to drill down into today is the idea of Melanie is the big idea catalyst and a high performance coach leader and also the owner of Success Connections which is a coaching company dedicated to this cause of helping small business owners get out of their overwhelm, reenergize their business and super charge their results. We are going to talk about this today. I am so proud and excited to have you on here Melanie, how are you doing today?
I’m great. It’s a little hot, about 105 here today and we have the air conditioning going full blast.
Yes it is hot, and it’s getting hotter. I think we will have a hot call here today because there is so much juicy information coming right up. So I am excited.
One of the things that hits me as I’ve gotten to know you, see all your materials and learn about you is there’s a lot going on for the small business entrepreneur. You, yourself, produce an amazing amount of content through webinars, videos, podcasts, seminars, DVD’s, books and you’re members of councils and professional networks. There’s so much. The question I have for you how did you get started and how you do it all. Who is Melanie Benson Strick? We know a little bit, but maybe you can break it down a little further?
Wow – so that’s a big question. Who is Melanie Benson Strick? By day, you might say, I coach and mentor fast paced entrepreneurs who find themselves getting over whelmed in their ongoing search for more success. One of the things I personally learned in my own journey was; there was always this prize that seemed like it was way out there and I was struggling and driving myself, there is no end to the things we can accomplish as an entrepreneur, there are always new ideas and possibilities. We can make ourselves crazy with driving ourselves towards this continually moving target of where we want to be.
Along the way, I’ve been doing this since 2001 so I guess I’m 11 years in now, and I discovered that entrepreneurs really had three stages that they were in. I was no different. I would find myself in three different stages.
The more I discovered about my own journey, the more I realized I could better help my clients. I worked with all kinds of entrepreneurs, some who were trying to turn their business around and others who just want to get more power out of the business they already started. The one thing they all had in common is, just like me, they wanted to be able to achieve 10,000,0000 times more in a day than we could possibly do on our own.
So I had to start looking for, and became well known for, leverage.
Unique ways for what I call beyond optimum performance. It’s that zone we find ourselves in when we are thriving. Most people are striving, struggling, over whelmed, confused no clarity about where they want to go, maybe they’re hit and miss with cash flow. A couple days out of the month they start to look good, and then they slide down the abyss. Often, we’re in driving mode where things are going good but we’re pushing ourselves to achieve more and more. I found there were such more power and such a greater level of sustainable results when I could find and stay in the thriving mode. That really became the foundation for all of my programs and how I help entrepreneurs of all different kinds achieve that optimum state of performance which really has nothing to do with what we do, well it does a little bit, but it has so much more to do with how we approach our business.
So if you want ask someone; what’s Melanie about? They would say, she’s like the efficiency queen and she uses leverage ruthlessly to grow her business and the businesses of her clients.
Of that’s wonderful. That really explains a lot. Leverage is a huge point of discussion. I know many business owners and really to be able to understand it is one but to apply it in real life.
It’s like a vague idea that we all understand logically. The level to which we are implementing it is often times slippery, because left to our own devises we like to do things that are fun and the way we have been doing it years and changing our habits is not always easy. So it’s kind of a fun dance just to explore the four different stages of leverage and see what kind of power comes out of that once you put them into place. (note: read more about the Entrepreneurial Freedom Formula at http://www.successconnections.com/articles/2012/07/03/entrepreneurial-freedom-formula-leverage/)
That’s very true. I have found it to be true for me and also clients that I deal with. Thank you for sharing that. One of the things I wanted to talk a little bit more about is this idea of breaking free. You have broken free from your old world, which was about 11 years ago, that you were in more of the traditional corporate job and you were able to break free. Can you tell us what keeps you very motivated and driven in this space continuing your advice coaching courses? You create a lot of results for people, you have a lot of raving fans, what does that thing look like for you on a daily bases? We all have great days, bad days, indifferent days but what is this drive that just propels you forward?
I would actually say it used to be drive, but now it’s an inspiration. I think what pulls me forward and wakes me up every day is I am totally inspired to teach and help people get results that they never knew were possible.
(A different approach)
The way that I get people results is very different than most other coaches and mentors out there. I’m not about getting more done and doing more, I’m about learning how to shift the way we go about growing our business so that our growth feels effortless. That doesn’t mean from time to time we won’t feel ourselves or notice that we’re having to work more hours or more intently but there’s something really powerful about making the decision that we’re going to thrive in everything we do.
It starts in the mindset and the choice that we make about how we grow our business. It is executed in our habits and behaviors and it turns into strategies that when done consistently deliver predictable results.
I think what is missing for a lot of people we are feeling that the reason we are having to work so hard, get over whelmed or get stressed out, we don’t really know how to change directions or get better sales or any of the things that are up for you it’s because we don’t know what activities are actually going to generate the predictable results. If you don’t know that, it feels confusing or over whelming. You just try everything under the sun in order to hopefully make something work.
You said something about breaking free, I like to look at the fact that every day we can choose to liberate ourselves from things that feel like they are trapping us or challenging or we can say stuck. I didn’t leave corporate America after 14 total years having someone give me a secure paycheck just so that I could turn around and create another job. I wanted freedom; I wanted flexibility and the independence to create something that I love. So everyday I’m inspired. I’m inspired by the clients that I work with.
I’m currently teaching a program called Money DNA (read ‘3 steps to uplevel your Money DNA code’).
In that program, I’m watching people literally going from feeling stuck on money or success like they have hit a plateau and they can’t create anymore, to having these extraordinary break troughs and all the sudden money comes in and new levels of success and ideas that they never knew were possible. They are acting on them and they are in momentum that they never had before. To me, that’s the most inspiring thing that gets me up and says do more! Get the next thing out! Stick with it!
I love that… inspiration. That leads right into my next question. A little bit funny and perhaps a little bit sad to begin with; have you heard the expression JOB stands for journey of the broke or just above broke? It’s the idea that a job is just really a pay check for so many and yet while that is true, it’s also true that security is a big deal; security, risk, reward, this balancing act. So people who break out, finally leave, as you did it, I’ve done it, but what makes people leave that and go solo-preneur I guess? After they do that, what is the first thing that hits them in the real world, that entrepreneurial world, that they didn’t anticipate and how do you help them not lose their vision?
I think there are two levels to it. The first thing is we have to look at what is our motivation? Our motivation is, you used the word drives us earlier, but what motivates us are the the subliminal drivers for your success are different for everybody. I believe, and this is really the foundation for my beyond optimum performance strategies, is that when you understand what’s motivates you; you are unstoppable. If you don’t understand what motivates you, you’re often going to be conflicted and confused. One of the reasons people get stuck around money or consistently on the end of being broke is because their motivated to not to be broke. Instead of inspired to be wildly successful.
There’s all this baggage and all this old paradigms of what money or success means that we drag along like a big steamer trunk and then we wonder why we don’t have the spry walk in our step to jump ahead and get new things done.
We have baggage, of what I call unconscious success rejecters. These things literally turn off the motivation and the behaviors that would cause us to become automatic success generators. Instead we create stuckness, overwhelm or feeling broke. That’s kind of a complicated concept, but the simple thing is; motivation says moving towards something that we want more of or that we’re trying to move away from something we don’t want.
The degree to which we are inspired or moving forward or stuck or in fear of trying to get away from something we don’t want completely dictates how much of that unstoppable, powerful, passionate energy which is truly the foundation of success.
So that is one dimension, we have got to clear out that head trash and get ourselves totally clean in order to be able to make big leaps.
On the other level, we have strategy. Here’s the interesting thing, Jon, when somebody has that head trash and there’s a lot of unconscious conflicts about success we often times don’t see, recognize or act on the strategy that will deliver predictable results.
We get stubborn and we dig our feet in and do only the things we’re comfortable with or we have a filter on that says “I could never do that, that’s just not me”. Especially for some of the softer skill business owners who have a service that’s from their heart or their passion there’s a big resistance to marketing properly, so often times they cut themselves short in what they can create and what they can do.
We haven’t even touched the concept of leverage yet and what that can do to your business.
For all of that you go the inner workings, your motivation and your ability to focus on things that achieve the greatest level of success and then you’ve got strategy and picking the right strategies that match up in three areas:
- How well does it align with your genius and the things that your really truly good at and make you different from everyone else?
- How does it align with your market potential? The people that you know you want to service.
- What are their hot buttons in what they want?
So until you integrate all three of those pieces, you’re probably just throwing spaghetti at a wall hoping that something sticks. I find it a little bit of a journey to get there.
Often it takes months if not years to uncover that. Because we just get this great idea and we think “oh, the world needs THIS”, so we jump in and start doing this with no real research, foundation or clarity, if it is viable, how will it sell and what do you need to do to sell it.
Yes, it’s so much more. I guess it starts with that core; I have an idea, a vision and I want to do this, but there is a plan to be built. There is a series of steps. I can see that and it is significant.
You cover a wide range of issues and the leverage point is certainly one but for businesses; I know you work with a wide variety of businesses and successful people and more so perhaps in the businesses who are already making fairly big money and they need to break through to the next level, to get unstuck and get more traction.
I’m thinking about mindset and formula, that’s one of your specialties to not only have people apply these things but have them get unstuck by having them do new models and new things that are not just new shiny object.
How do you get them to think or move into this area to start their new venture, perhaps people who have already seen success? There is a combination here. These guys are finding it hard to break through but what stories might you share of success that you have seen either with clients, or stories where they move to the next level. I know I deal with these businesses where, “Hey, we’re fine. We’re making $5,000,000 and been doing it for the last ten years. We could probably get to the next level but I don’t really know how to.” Perhaps you can share some of these stories where you have seen these break troughs and how you have applied the mindset formula.
I think there are a couple different things. One of which is knowing how and the other is deciding is that you want to. I think there’s a pretty common internal conflict that people have. They say “I’m working so hard to get where I’m at now, how could I possibly work harder to get to the next level.” I think that is a meth that causes people to not shoot for a higher goal. They just don’t believe that it is possible. So when I’m working with someone that has already achieved a certain level of success but they either want to make more money or have a greater impact with their work, or maybe there’s a particular area or goal that they wanted to grow but they haven’t been able to.
The most important thing that we do is we uncover where their leveragability is.
What do they have that can get repackaged or repurposed or leveraged in some way so that we can create space?
The second thing that we look at is what they can do better, faster or more powerfully so that we can expand the profit potential or the impact with that program or that offer or service, the marketing strategy.
I’m always looking for the little game changer that has the hugest impact on someone’s bottom line, whether it’s making people more effective, evaluating where they’re putting their time, money and energy in their business. The reason why people turn to me isn’t because they want to spend $1,000 a month just to have some fancy coach, they hire me because I get the really extraordinarily leaps of growth very quickly. When you look at how saving an hour or two a week and being able to reinvest it in something that has more profit to your business or more impact that’s the kind of stuff that is priceless.
Let’s take for example someone who has already hit the $200,000 range in their business and they are working 60 hours a week to get there. They are thinking to themselves there is no way I want to work more, but I really want to be able to double my income this year. One of things we have got to look at are what are their highest revenue generating programs and what is the cost that it takes to get there.
What is the investment of time, money, team, whatever that allows them to generate that income?
Then look for ways that they can do it cheaper, faster or more profitable. Then we start to look at what else is in their business. That is one level that we work on. There are probably about ten different levels that I evaluate with my clients from the mindset, what kind of resources that they have to how they have setup their business.
It is as simple as this, you mentioned Joshua Bell thing when we were talking earlier, do you want to tell the story real quick?
(The Joshua Bell story…)
This is great. Joshua Bell is an award winning musician and violinist. Last year he did a street performance in Washington DC. He played for a few hours and made about 40 bucks. Yet a week ago, he packed the seats at the Boston Symphony Hall at $100 per seat and he made 10’s of thousands of dollars. His stage was certainly different. That is the story of Joshua Bell and how he positioned himself from the street level up to the Boston Symphony Hall.
So what I took out of that metaphorical story, if you will, when you hit a certain level of success and I truly believe that this is important from the minute that you start your business, but most people don’t catch on until the premium of their time is gone and they just don’t have time and you really need to start looking at this differently. You have to evaluate every opportunity where you’re going to invest your time.
Again, three really important factors:
- What’s it going to take for it to be profitable?
- How much time will I have to invest to make it profitable?
- Is there anything else that I could be focusing on that is more profitable and impactful?
If I say yes to this would I lose another opportunity? We call this opportunity cost. Now I add other factors in because I truly believe that you have to enjoy what you’re doing and it has to allow you to thrive but those are really the three core things that we have to evaluate every opportunity against.
What I find is, we get so catch up with people inviting us to speak at events, we are doing interview, maybe you’re on a tele-seminar, and we could spend all day long every day on opportunities. Learning and investing in all kinds of stuff but unless we have a filter for how is this going to move me along towards my goal then you don’t know if it’s a good opportunity or not.
I teach every one of my clients to create what’s called an opportunity filter.
You have to decide what your criteria are for saying yes to something. Then you or someone on your team has to diligently evaluate every single thing comes in against that opportunity filter before you say yes. When I work with people who tend to be “yes” people, and they just say yes no matter what it is, “I don’t care what it is, it’s fun, I’ll just say yes right now”. If you’re not getting results and your business isn’t growing and your frustrated or overwhelmed you can’t afford to take that pattern. You have to really hone in and filter the things that are important to you.
Is this also in the pattern of the classic 80/20 or 90/10 rules of production or results?
(Cornerstone of leverage)
I heard a statistic the other day that we spend 80% of our time that generates only 20% of our results. Most people are happy with that and don’t understand that it could be the reverse.
You could find ways to spend 20% of your time getting 80% of your revenues. That is what you want. You want to make sure that everything you are touching, and this is really the corner stone of leverage, when you focus your most valuable time on the things that have the greatest impact to your business things get easier. That’s where the trajectory or boost that we’re all looking for takes place.
Yes, that’s so true. People forget, we get busy and things happen, new ideas like this come to pass. How am I ever going to have time to do that? So you get stuck big time.
I’m going to branch a little bit, we talked about Success Connections. Is that your hub for information? I know New Era Success TV which we covered here also, is an outlet. One is a video based, and one is sort of corporate based?
Yes, successonnections.com is our hub, it’s where we have a portal into everything we do. You can find the TV show from there, you can find our blog, and we have an extraordinary database with valuable tips. You can jump on to one of our free webinars, we always have webinars that we teach. Helping people really take these concepts and putting them into motion. Our coaching programs and all of our products, it’s all on that main site so that’s the best place to go.
You bring up New Era Success TV. What I have found is that video, just like we’re doing right now, is an extraordinary way to really help people when it feels more like I’m coaching them. Every week I have a video lesson that I send out, that video lesson is what we call our TV show episode.
I’m covering all kinds of things that help people think with a whole new paradigm of success strategies. Rather than doing what we have always done and continuing to create over whelm, frustration and exhaustion we really want to energize our business and get new results. I say we have to put on a whole new paradigm of thinking; we have to be willing to stretch outside of our comfort zone. So that’s what the TV episodes do, kind of provocative and valuable tips on how to grow your business with less stress.
(How to create and plan content)
I have been watching that, kind of fun too and great interviews. I’m looking and there’s categories of goal setting, business strategy, leadership, life style, marketing, outsourcing, mindset, time management, and wealth building. You have a lot of great articles here; Two keys to tackling big projects without stress, Dealing with Business Disappointment, How to get the right clients, Genius work feels like play, Three steps to financial turnaround plan, Four ways to get your audience engaged, Five lessons learning about failures, success and love, Three tips for remarkable networking results. There is amazing information here, Melanie, that not only by virtue of these headlines draw you in, but also the content. When I think about the content, and all that you produce, you are obviously very smart about leverage because you’re applying and sort of eating your own dog food, as I say.
How do you produce so much excellent content? Also how do you get it done and how do you plan it out? Is this from your own research simply or from the field live or how does that all work? I’m just curious.
Planning out the content; there are a couple of different ways that I do that.
- One, I look at what are the biggest questions and challenges that my clients are bringing to me in our coaching sessions. Often I will turn those around into content pieces that everyone can benefit from.
- The other is that often times I might be more strategic, where I know there are offerings or programs that we are developing and I want to start getting people aware of the factors involved in that program.
So if they are dealing with the challenges or if they have those goals in mind that that program might help them achieve, I might plan some content around that.
I have both ends, normally I have a content plan but truth be told, I usually create a few of those videos at the same time while I’m inspired so we might plan a few of them at a time. I want to cover stuff that is really relevant. I’ll get a couple of ideas and get downloads and I’ll have a conversation with a client and we’ll have a video day and I’ll record a bunch of them at once. Part of the way I get so much done, and I’ve been asked this question for years, some people go you must be a work horse and work all hours.
That’s not really my style; I don’t care to work that way. I kind of gave that up when I left Motorola. I create most of the content myself or we extract it from other pieces of content that I have done.
90% of the content is my content, but I have a system where there’s a day every week that I typically will do content creation, there’s a day every week where we do production, a day every week that I coach clients.
So there’s a system so everything is predicable, we always know when things are going to happen.
We’re pretty good at planning. A lot of entrepreneurs are flying by the seat, so there’s a lot of reactive approach to running their business which is very costly. We tend to flip that around were we have more planning.
I do a turn around with every one of my clients, were we are going to plan six to twelve months of cash flow.
You need to know where things are coming from for that period of time.
What I find is your more powerful, focused, clear, you get greater traction and greater momentum when you know what you can count on and what you’re working towards and you can leverage your time, money and energy more powerfully. That’s really what it’s all about; how can we leverage our time, money and energy so that there is an abundance of it to invest rather than a shortage of it and we’re feeling burned out and over whelmed.
So true and also drawing content from your own experience and clients but also knowing that you have a strong network of people and prominent players; do they also help you drive some of this?
Sometimes. Once in awhile I’ll be talking to a colleague or friend and there will be something really inspiring that comes up in our conversation, so I’ll do an interview with them. I would say 90% of the time it is coming out of me. I use life in general; I can’t go to the grocery store without some kind of coaching metaphor coming out!
I’m one of those people, you could leave me in a little room and I can be comfortable with who I am and what I’m doing for a long period of time. So when I want to up my ante I have got to take myself out of my comfort zone and challenge myself so I can get new perspectives and open myself up to a new level of creativity.
You put me on autopilot and I can be on autopilot, which is part of the magic of how I get so much done.
One of the episodes that we did earlier this year, my private mastermind and I had gone rock climbing and the sparks just went flying of all the ways each of the members of my mastermind were kind of using their analogy of life on that wall. I got an idea for a lesson and I had to go record one on the mountains, so that’s how they come.
Creativity, passion and insights from real life. We are coming towards the end here, but I wanted to ask you in this closing with thinking a little bit about the Joshua Bell story, the stage, the frame, the positioning that people have of themselves. If you were to give one tip, I would like to close with this, if somebody is in that position of being stuck and perhaps comfortable which I think is the premise of the Good to Great book, “hey I’m good which probably means I won’t need to go to the next level”. But if you could actually nudge them what could they do today or this week to get that going.
You just gave me about three different ideas there. I got a couple thoughts. Let’s talk about that Good to Great concept for a minute. I think many of us are complacent because we feel like we have enough.
There’s one thing to be in the moment and really enjoying your life and there’s another thing to be accepting intolerable results. We have gotten conditioned to them.
I would ask you, are you accepting less than tolerable results because you have grown conditioned to it being that way or are you really in love with your life and you’re just happy? That’s a question only you can answer. You have to ask yourself that before you look at your positioning and you look at what you want to do next.
I have people coming to me all day, who have enough, but they are driven for more and that drive is causing them to make themselves crazy and get overwhelmed and lose out on other parts of their life.
I have young parents coming to me, I want to see my child for a few hours each day I don’t want to be trapped in my office trying to get more done, so how can I solve this problem?
Then we have to ask ourselves the second level which is; what do I really want to be known for?
What’s really important to me and how can I rearrange my life so I spend the greatest amount of time with the things that really are the most important to me. Sometimes there are short term things that we drive ourselves knowing that when we get to this goal that we’re going to shift gears.
That might be our business is not financially performing and we need to kick it into gear and get some better traction.
We might have to look at your brand positioning or how you’re charging for this.
I have a client right now who is working 14 hour days and it’s because she has been charging way too little for far too long. So I reorganized her entire business model, I taught her how to sell to the clients who would eagerly pay what I think is still a very reasonable rate and she’s generating five times the revenue she was making when we first started.
It’s not hard, you have to be willing to ask yourself at what point are you willing to stop tolerating what you’ve been accepting. Then it gets easy.
That is interesting. Actually you reminded me of an interview that I heard with Brian Tracey where he was asked what is the common thing that people come up and tell him after all his millions of people he has touched. Well it’s this “you have changed my life”. He says no I haven’t changed your life I have just turned your head to point in the right direction and you changed your life. This is what you do in such a stellar way to really show them the new direction and to really have them follow a plan that gets them unstuck.
Let me ask you this in closing, if people want to follow up with you are there an specific programs or anything that they should seek out that they can get access to and where they should go.
There are a couple different things that I think could be really valuable.
I highly recommend that you start with a free coaching program I have. It’s called Eighteen Tips to Reenergize Your Business.
**CONTACT MELANIE BENSON STRICK – AND GET FREE TRAINING**
You can find it by going straight to my website at successconnections.com/reenergize you will go right to that page.
It’s an extraordinary series of tips, strategies and techniques to take a look at where your business may not be up to pare or the way your approaching your business may be causing you to suffer and struggle.
So that’s one thing that I think everyone can do.
I also encourage you to check out a webinar that we do on cash flow, money or you find that you are tittering on the edge of not being able to achieve a higher level of success. If you head over to successconnections.com and you look at the button that says free webinar. Another thing that we can do we can hook you up with a free webinar on How to Permanently Stop Unconsciously Rejecting more Money and Success. It’s a very powerful look at the simplest way we can change the money and success coming into our life.
That’s wonderful and we’re definitely going to following up on that. Any final words or comments that you want to state before we close out? This has been so great.
I guess the last thing that I would say is what we focus on expands.
I always tell people you really have to look at what it is that you are focusing on because everything your saying yes to means you’re saying no to something else. Maybe even spend a week, every activity you enter into ask yourself; is doing this the best place for me and my business or am I unconsciously sacrificing an opportunity to do something that could be a greater result to my business.
I spend a good portion of time every month with my team evaluating; are we really spending our time in the most powerful things? As a matter of fact in our staff meeting this morning, one of my team members said “Melanie, what do think about changing this one thing, it will free up five hours of my time and I think if we invest it in this other area I’ll get better results for us right now.” I love that my team is so wired that way because that’s how we get better results and that’s how you grow fast and put yourself at the top of the mountain instead of the bottom.
Great final words! This has been fantastic spending time with you here live in Los Angeles getting hotter by the minute today; I really appreciate it very much. Thank you again Melanie.
Melanie: Bye everyone!