Stephanie recently had the opportunity to spend some time on the Your First $100K Podcast with the amazing Joseph Warren, who has a way of drawing important and incredible lessons out of his interviewees. And Joseph drew a story of inspiration, motivation, and encouragement out of Stephanie that is meant for startups and entrepreneurs working on getting their business going!
I want to take us to the first five months of Grow Disrupt, your company. As you said, you replaced your corporate income in five months with your side business.
So many of my listeners are in the exact startup space that you were in those five months, except they’re still struggling. They don’t know why the side business isn’t going the way they thought and haven’t been able to leave their corporate jobs because the side-job has dragged on at a slow pace for years. They’re sitting here wondering how people with stories like your did it, because it sounds so easy from this side and are crushed and wondering why it isn’t working for them.
Some of them are maybe wondering if there’s something wrong with them as an entrepreneur. Can you speak to them and explain how you did it and what made it happen?
For sure! I was hoping we’d dig into that, because it was probably the hardest part of my business.
And when I say hardest part, I really mean the hardest part.
My day usually started around 5 AM.
I’d get up, get dressed, and drive to work so I could sit in the parking lot to do prospecting on LinkedIn from 6:30 to 8:20. At 8:30, I’d walk into my job and work until 12, at which point I’d march back out to my car to make sales calls (yup, it was all cold calling) after scarfing down lunch (Always a packet of Sunkist tuna and a bell pepper). At 12:50 I’d walk back into my job until 5 PM. Back out to the car, cold calling for an hour, drive home and have dinner and change from 6:30-7:00. And from 7 PM until 11 PM I’d do more prospecting, go to bed at 11, and start it over again at 5 AM the next morning.
And on the weekends, I would spend anywhere from 6 to 8 hours doing social media content creation for the week and pulling together lists of people to cold call.
The cold calls were honestly brutal. I’d make roughly 25 calls before someone would even pick up, and then only one in every 4-5 people would be interested in having me come out to do the free training I was offering.
One of the most common places that people end up coasting and falling off the band wagon at is the one moment I got to shortly after starting my sales training business (that would eventually become Grow Disrupt).
The Demoralizing Part Of My Story
I remember speaking to a construction crew’s boss, telling him I’d love to come give them a sales training session.
His first response was, “Are you sure? You’re gonna come to our office?”
It was one of my first conversations where someone was interested, so I said “Absolutely!” and we scheduled the training.
Later, I realized I should have looked up the office prior to saying yes because it was 4 hours away.
Especially since I had to take vacation days to run trainings like this, and I was burning through my vacation time insanely fast because of that. (Actually, anything I wanted to do for my business required vacation days. From training events, to speaking gigs, to networking events.) But I am a woman of my word, and I refused to cancel just because it would give me an 8 hour drive atop the actual training. Plus, I’d had a huge blowout with my boss and told him that I’d be gone by October so I had to do this.
It took two weeks to prep the presentation, and then I spent the four hours to drive up there. When I got there, I discovered they’d forgotten I was coming and the “office” was a house. They gathered the construction crew into the living room, and I delivered an hour long presentation inside of 17 minutes.
It was the worst presentation I ever gave.
I talked insanely fast, the poor construction guys were staring at me blankly, and I made the biggest mistake at the end by asking if anyone had questions. The boss of the company used the opportunity to try and rail on his team for poor sales through me, and it was the most awkward thing ever. To top it all off, the end of the presentation didn’t go even remotely like planned.
See, the whole point of the free training was for me to talk to the owner afterword about buying the online course for his people. But as soon as we were finished, the owner disappeared and I was told he “got called into a meeting.”
Needless to say, it was a bad day. It didn’t help that I had a four hour drive to stew about it on the way back.
Here’s why I tell this story: everyone has a moment like this.
We spend weeks prepping a presentation or getting a package together, we do our best to prep, and it just falls flat. It goes wrong in every way possible. It’s what we do with that moment that defines us and our business.
The smartest thing I did that day was to call a mentor on my way back from that failed training. Admittedly, it took me an hour to stop pouting before I did. But we spent an hour dissecting what went wrong and how to learn from it.
What that did for me, was allowed me to get my first sale at my next presentation. And another after that, and continually until I made five sales at my 3rd presentation.
But it didn’t happen overnight.
I’d been cold calling for 2 months before I got that presentation gig, and there was a crushing failure right before the successful sales. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like you’re failing. There’s nothing wrong with having legit failures. It’s the continual perseverance and refusal to give up that matters. It’s the continual analysis of what you’re doing, and taking those constructive criticisms with you as you move forward to do a better job next time.
I think people forget that it’s not an overnight thing. I’ve had so many people walk away when it got hard, forgetting that I had a huge crash and burn before I got successful.
I also planned for the future with every moment.
Something I’ve told very few people about before is that I was constantly setting aside money for a rainy day, and I ended up using it. All the extra income that I was getting got set aside. And in October, when I had my going away party at my job, I was facing all the income in my sales training business drying up. Texts just kept coming in from clients saying they were canceling (one person’s husband was leaving the country, another one’s dad passed away and she had to take in younger siblings, etc.) for good reasons, and I felt a pit in my stomach.
But I managed to not freak out too bad, and I made it through the next couple months on the money I’d set aside. And inside a couple months I managed to rebuild that income, but only because I’d set things aside and didn’t give up when I experienced failure and difficulty.
It was tough, which is why the indomitable spirit is so important for entrepreneurs!
Startups, take note of what Stephanie is saying!
This is a picture of what it actually looks like to cross the $100K mark (which she did inside 18 months). Unless you have some fancy, revolutionary new technology that people can’t keep their hands off of, you’re in for a rough ride. This is what it looks like to get past $100K: work. Don’t let it discourage you, but know that work is what it takes to get where you want to go!
About the Ghost Writer:
Susannah Scheller is the Technology Director and Engagement Curator for Grow Disrupt, and was the first permanent hire made by Stephanie! She has spent countless hours studying the world of business under Stephanie, and has over 5 years of experience in content creation and Technology Execution. Having recently completed her Bachelor of Music, she has begun devoting her focus to the creation of content that helps to support small business owners company growth the world over.