Maryalice: Hey everyone I’m Mary Goldsmith, Director of Student Success here at The Speaker Lab, and I am joined by one of our coaches, Nanette Hitchcock, for part two of our Coaches Corner conversation on building a successful speaking business. We’re going to take a deep dive during this episode on building your speaking business success plan. I’m excited to jump into this, but first, Nanette, how are you?
Nanette: I am great. And this is a favorite subject of mine. I’m glad to be back for part two on this and especially talking about one of my favorite subjects, which is vision and strategy.
Maryalice: So on the last episode, which was part one, we really dove deep into the why. So if you haven’t listened to that episode, I really encourage you to go back into the Coaches Corner episodes and check that out because the why is really profound. And I believe the why really feeds the vision.
So if you haven’t listened to that, stay with us, but afterwards check out the why portion and it’ll really come together for you. So we’re excited about this because as speakers we can get very involved in the skill and the art of speaking, and oftentimes we forget that it’s a business.
So we really are on a mission to help speakers understand that this is a business and it needs to be treated and honored as such and those speakers who do that, not only perfect the skill and the art of speaking, but also run thriving, successful businesses. And that is our goal here at The Speaker Lab and the goal of all our coaches.
We are always talking about your talk and I’m not saying that’s not important, but if the vision and the strategy isn’t there, it’s going to be really hard to get on stage. And so today we really want to deep dive into that. So, Nanette, I’d love to know from your perspective, what makes a business successful? What are some of the key components to that?
What Makes a Successful Business
Nanette: Well, we’ve mentioned one of those, which is what it is that drives you, being able to really understand why you’re solving the problems, and why you’re stepping into these gaps. So that’s a very key component that sets the foundation. But another key component is vision.
I love seeing people light up when they understand how to put all these pieces together and begin to really see it as a business. So let’s just think about vision in terms of a trip. When we go on a trip, we don’t just leave our house not knowing what our destination will be. We know where we’re going. We have a destination. What can change are the routes that get us to that destination. It’s the same way with business. We need to have a driving vision, that 30,000 foot view, of where we’re taking people and this business needs to be aligned — all the channels where we’re gonna deliver the message need to be aligned with the destination of where we’re taking people.
We’ve got to understand that 30,000 foot view and what changes in that due to the nature and landscape of what’s going on around us — our own goals and what’s important [to us]. The strategies that I’m referring to can change, they can stay fluid in getting to the destination, but the destination doesn’t necessarily change.
The destination gives us something that we’re driving toward. And it’s interesting because we help put the pieces of the business together to fit that alignment. So you might prioritize a channel — meaning the place that I am delivering on my message. Or you might decide you’re going to be a workshop presenter, and deliver the message through that avenue, or it could be through coaching. But you’re staying aligned in all of that to do those areas and those things that you’re doing to get people to the destination. So it’s a key component to the success of the business to define that destination.
Maryalice: Yea – I think when we talked about the why it’s that foundational piece and answers why you’re doing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it for certain people and the impact that you’re going to make. So once that’s defined, placing the vision is really critical because there’s so many ways that your business can come to life.
There’s books, there’s workshops, there’s keynotes, there’s virtual experiences — it’s endless, but if it doesn’t support the why it can’t be part of the vision. So that’s why it’s really important to start with the why and then when you define the vision, it’s feeding and fueling that why and making it come to life.
So I know that that’s a lot to take in, but your why should be robust. It should really define all these aspects of who you are as a human. Now, when you look at that, you also have to consider time. So in order to make [for example] a hundred thousand dollars, what are you willing to put into that and possibly give-up to make that happen?
And this is where the vision comes to life. I want to make a hundred thousand dollars and I want to speak 20 times a year for “X” amount of dollars. I want to sell my book and I want to sell “X” amount of coaching packages. Now you have this vision of where you’re going in order to accomplish this specific outcome and the impact that you’re going to make with all of that is weaved in there.
But what’s the strategy? And this is so important. This is something that when I was a business coach, I drove home because burnout is such a thing in entrepreneur land. And when you look at the strategy, you have to consider that work life balance, because it’s not worth making all this extra money to give a different lifestyle with your family if you’re not there to enjoy it with them. And so you really have to think about the strategy — there’s this hustle in the business and there’s flow, and that’s where strategy is so critical.
For example, if summer is when you have big family reunions, you don’t want to be on the road hustling all summer long. You want to make sure you’re at that family reunion and you’re really at that family reunion, you’re not thinking about all the things that you should be doing.
And so this is really important when you take the why, you create the vision, and then you implement the strategy. You’re able to create that work life balance that everybody throws around, and the reason why it’s thrown around is because not a lot of people have it because they’re not doing this critical work.
A Twofold Process
Nanette: It is critical work. As you defined it, we do a couple of things at The Speaker Lab in our coaching process and I’m going to put some pieces together for those that are listening.
When you come to us, what we’re doing is almost a twofold process. We’re helping you to define the strong why behind the message and we’re helping you to get clarity on the transformation that you’re bringing about for your audience and that is vision. And we actually start in module one with this statement of where you define the problem so that in your message we’re helping to define the outcome.
Then there’s the part where we work with our students not only on the message and the outcome, but also on the business. We help students identify their destination and vision for the business so they can be impactful in that area.
But ultimately they’ve got to know what impact they’re driving toward in the industry or space. I encourage them to think on the business side about how they’re going to do something. How are you going to get this message out? Are you speaking? Are there other ways/ And that’s where we get really clear and choose a couple of those business pieces.
Don’t try to do all of them. When I first started, I was really intentional in being more of a workshop presenter because I wanted to go deep with organizations. And so I was more intentional and built that. Once I had momentum in that, then I added keynote speaking and then they funneled back and forth. They provided that funnel, but I was intentional and got momentum and it helped me deliver my impact more because I was intentional. So we’re working on these two parts with the speaker, but they all drive toward the same destination.
Maryalice: It’s true — the vision and strategy of the speaking part and the vision and strategy of the business part is a similar roadmap. So it’s good practice to do both.
So when students have a clear vision and strategy vs. someone who is struggling to get clarity on this, how does that help catapult their speaking business?
Nanette: Oh 100% because — and this is where I see the light bulb come on. Oftentimes our students have been thinking about this for a long time. And so often when they come on the calls, they have a lot of great ideas of things that they want to talk about. They often say to us as coaches, “I want to talk about this and this and this.” And I think they all go together, but I can’t quite fit the pieces – it just feels like too much and there’s so many directions I can go. So ultimately they lack that clarity which leads to a lack of confidence.
So when we pull it in and we begin to first start with the why, and they’re clear on that and the problem they’re solving, then we transition those two words so that, so then we help them to be clear on the destination, outcome, cand vision. I say it a lot of different ways because we often think, I understand the transformation for the audience, but how does that equate in the same way to the vision of my business? It really is the same. It’s what you’re driving toward that destination of impact, where you want to take a chunk out of a problem where you want to make a difference in something. So you’ve gotta have that compelling vision and then we can put some pieces together.
You [a student] mentioned that you really would like to coach, you’d like to write a book you’d like to podcast — but we can’t do all of that — or you can, but what’s going to happen is the same process that you were just experiencing with all that content rolling around. There’s no alignment to that.
So instead, if you get this vision and destination, it aligns your content because you’ve always got to think, Is it getting them to the end goal here? Is it getting me to my destination? And it’s the same way in your business and it meets those financial goals that Mary Alice talked about earlier. Once you choose that strategy and you stay with it, stay committed to that strategy until it moves and until you can achieve those goals. The strategies you choose should get you to the destination you’re going toward, whether it be the financial goal or the overall impact you’re trying to make.
Establishing Systems for Success
Maryalice: Yes. And with the vision and strategy you end up creating excellent systems and operations and procedures in your business. Now, if you don’t have a vision and strategy, you’re throwing stuff at the wall and just seeing what sticks. But that doesn’t leave you with that ability to track by reflecting and projecting, what’s working. What can I continue to do? What do I need to do differently? Or what do I need to stop doing? And if you don’t have a vision and strategy, there’s no way to gauge what’s actually working.
So you have a lot of people spending their wheels, spending a ton of time in their office or working on their laptop. And at the end of the day, they think, What did I get done today? They don’t even know what they got done today because there isn’t a system and operation or procedure in their business because they don’t have that vision and strategy.
So in terms of success, every successful business has systems operations and procedures. And so when you have a solid vision and strategy you know what systems operations and procedures need to be put in place because it’s in front of you. Like you said before, the navigation is set and you know what you need in order to turn right and left and left and right.
So you put those systems in place and I think that’s what really makes a business so successful when they have that vision and strategy, because then they know it’s a rinse and repeat system. This is working. This is what we need to put in place. And so those systems come to life a lot faster.
Nanette: So you have created a system when you, when you have a destination and then you become very strategic as a business owner. And so you’re out there not only observing and paying attention to the problems and researching the impact you can make in filling those gaps, but you’re also staying very intentional. And you’re being strategic and allows you to measure the effectiveness and if you’re accomplishing milestones to get to the end goal.
Maryalice: Yes. Because it’s more than just getting booked and paid to speak as a speaker. I think that’s the easy thing to measure. And some might think that they’re failing based on that you forgot to measure all the contacts you’ve made, people who said, “Call me back in two months because we’re booking speakers then” — that is all part of the strategy and needs to be measured because it will feed you to keep motivated and inspire you to keep taking action.
And so if you don’t have that strategy in place, and you’re just measuring that one thing you might walk away thinking, I’m failing miserably. But in reality, if you have these other systems in place, you can look at your pipeline and realize, for example, Wow, I have almost 10 potential gigs in two months coming up.
So it’s really important that when the vision and strategy are clear, you have a much better measurement of the true success of the business when it comes to being a speaker.
Nanette: And you mentioned something very important here — you become more time conscious and your management of that becomes very intentional because you’ve developed a system where you’ve defined your vision and the strategies that you’re going to be intentional with in this year. And those may change, but then you back out of it and then apply it to your calendar and how you’re going to manage getting to those strategies and develop your resources within that to make it happen.
Maryalice: You don’t know what takes your energy or what gives you energy if you don’t take time to define it. You’ll just keep doing it until you are so burnt that you’re done with the whole thing. And so it’s really something we need to get with as a society that just because you’re working really “hard,” no one is going to give you a medal. Now, if you’re strategic you will get endless awards for that.
Nanette: You know, that’s right. And we both feel strongly about this, but we’ve observed, we’ve researched, we’ve worked with people over the years and just throwing the net wide and seeing what comes back doesn’t work, but intentional focus and having the right systems and clarity in where you’re going and how you’re going to get there, that’s what moves the needle. But it also creates space in your life for the things that are most important and work is one of those, but it is definitely not what’s most important. And so there are people around you that are most important. There are relationships to be built and paid attention to. And we understand that we promote that, we try to example that in our own lives and over the years, we have seen there’s a lot of areas to pay attention to.
Maryalice: And I mean, can I drop the ultimate secret? You are so deserving of having time with the people that matter to you most you’re so deserving of having time to self care. You are deserving to strap on your shoes and go for that run. Or if you like to fish, go fishing for a little while and it will actually make you a better version of who you are and you will fulfill that vision and strategy even on a more powerful level when you do those things. And I think we forget that. I think we forget that we’re deserving of time.
Nanette: Absolutely. It’s like a gas tank running on fumes. We’ve got to refuel and we’ve got to know what refuels us. We’ve got to be aware of whether we’re running on fumes, whether we have this process in place and our own disciplines and habits and best practices in our business. And another thing we need to do right alongside vision is establish some strong values that we make decisions out of each day.
And those values are just really important to us in measuring how I’m doing with my day, with my work, with the purpose, with the people in front of you, because they have to do with your character and how you are operating in your business. And so there’s a lot to a business, but at the end of the day, we’ve gotta take care of the people that matter to us. And we’ve got to keep our business lined up so that it’s not too all consuming.
Maryalice: Amen for that. So, I’m sure there’s people who are listening thinking, Okay, well, how do I, how do I do this? How do I create this vision and strategy? And like we said, definitely go listen to the episode part one around finding your why. But also when you’re coaching our students, what are some processes you guide them through to get to this vision and strategy?
Nanette: I asked a question of a team recently, and I’ve asked this of our students too – especially if they’re having trouble envisioning where they really want to go and how to get started. I think that what I find is when people have trouble envisioning or coming up with a strong vision, they’ve gotten so meshed with the tasks of the day that they’re totally task driven instead of vision driven. And in leadership, I identify it as being totally head and you’re driven to get it done. You get those tasks done, but you miss heads up and where you’re trying to go – you need a real destination, and therefore it loses its value. So when I’m working with a student I’ll say something like, “If you were looking at your 20, 32-year-old self, what do you hope that person has accomplished? What would you hope for their relationships and their impact?” They’ve got to envision where they want to be in a few years, and then we back out of that. And if you aren’t able to kind of get that clarity, it’s hard to start setting up the goals to get there.
So we start with some of that envisioning — and some have said to me, “I’m afraid to envision because what if I fail in that?”
Maryalice: It’s true. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when they’re creating a vision and you’re looking 10 years down the road, that’s really hard to think 10 years from now, especially if you’re 20 something or 30 something and thinning what am I going to be at 30 or 40?
So it’s hard to conceptualize 10 years from now, but I think one of the biggest mistakes, and I would encourage anyone that’s listening to this, is to dream really big. Sometimes people say, “I don’t wanna be materialistic or I don’t want to be selfish like that.” There’s no time for that right now.
Usually if you want a beach house or a bigger house — it’s because you want bigger memories for family and friends to come and gather.
You have to go big with this. And as soon as you say to yourself, “Oh, that’s kind of a stretch.” Then write it down, write it down in big, bold letters because that’s what you want. You want the stretch.
No one wants to stay the same for the rest of their lives, right? We want life to present opportunities and growth and evolution. And so make sure when you’re doing this vision exercise, you are dreaming really big.
Nanette: So true. We get lost in the tasks of every day. And many things happen in life that sometimes still have this compelling vision where we’ve lost some of our sense of dreaming.
I remember I did an event and the theme of it was to reimagine. I wanted participants to understand the idea that even if one dream had failed, that they could reimagine that they could still reach for something that we could be. We don’t dream big enough and we don’t have a big enough compelling vision.
I want to mention a study by Daniel Pink that he did on regrets. He talked about how those that took risks and failed — they never regretted taking that risk, but those that never took the risk were the ones that had the regrets.
And so regret is something that shouldn’t keep us from reimagining. It’s something that should inform our decisions where we may do it differently and so we reach for something different and we can reimagine, and there’s so much potential within each person and as coaches we were built for this. We love seeing that potential in people and helping them to dream big.
Maryalice: We’ve all had this experience where we’re coaching someone, we’re pulling all this amazing stuff and it’s just flowing out of them and I call it their “zone of genius.” They’re just in their zone of genius and they’re so connected to who they are. I’ll repeat something and they’ll say, “That’s really well said.” And I tell them, “Well, you just said it!”
All of our students know it’s inside of them, but when they have someone holding the space and asking these specific questions and really guiding it out of them, they have these “aha” moments.
Nanette: I love those moments and we kind of live for those in our coaching with our students — we love to see those light bulbs come on and for students to know they can move forward successfully.
Maryalice: Yeah, it’s true. And, and I’m sure we could talk about stories all day, but if we could leave our listeners with something today who are thinking, I probably do need to get more clear on my vision and I probably do need a strategy. What’s the one thing that they can do to start that process outside of working with us?
Nanette: Absolutely. I think we’ve mentioned two components where it’s a good starting point for them. I think that they look around them and they kind of observe what gaps, what problems are they seeing?
Determine where you want to step into that and make a difference in this and then make sure there’s clarity on the ultimate vision that could happen.
What picture can I create for the people around me, for myself? What is the picture of what could be? And they can start envisioning in their business what they want to drive towards better and it creates thriving environments at work. They’ve got to define where they want to take this business and their audiences. And then in that, those two things of why this is important to solve this problem, and then what the ultimate outcome is and the impact — and all the pieces flow from that.
Maryalice: This is something we are so passionate about that we have added it to the course content of our SPEAK framework. And it’s something that we’re going to be talking about now from module one, really defining the why of the business, and then in the last module, building out a complete vision and strategy for our students’ businesses. We do this so that when they finish the SPEAK framework and our Elite Booked and Paid to Speak program, they not only know their talk and their marketing and they have their demo and they have their website, but they actually have this resource that becomes like the Bible for their business.
And this is the measurement tool where they can reflect and say, okay, “I hit that mark.” So that every 90 days you’re going to recalibrate and start a whole new 90 days of implementing this vision and strategy.
I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs ask when they should hire someone and who to hire first. Well, when you have this vision and strategy mapped out, you know exactly when you’re ready to hire someone and you know exactly who you need to hire, because whatever is zapping your energy, but needs to get done in the business, that’s your first hire.
And so we even talk about a whole master delegation list of tasks for you so you know what is taking your energy and what you need to delegate first.
It’s a real deep dive into the whole scope of your speaking business and what it needs to look like over the next three years for you to hit those marks from your 30,000 ft. vision. It helps you get there in three year increments and then breaks it down into 90 day increments, making it very doable and also teaching you how to balance the hustle and the flow which is very important and something we also teach our students.
I love coaching on it. I know you do as well [Nanette]. And I think it’s going to be super advantageous to our students.
I thank you once again for your time, Nanette, you are incredible. We’re so lucky to have you.
Nanette: It’s just a pleasure to talk about these things that I know are important to our students and to be a part of the tools that support a strong business.