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How being tenacious helped me grow a 7 figure business.

How being tenacious helped me grow a 7 figure business.

Great teams have some things in common. When we ask people about their peak team experiences, one thing always comes up. They are able to press through the challenges with tenacity, because of a great belief in purpose. Every day, week and month are filled with tough choices, mistakes, obstacles, but great teams always seem to persevere the storms and not look back. They remember the lessons and learn from them, instead of dwelling on them. 

I often say that running a multi-million dollar portfolio for a large company was easier than being the CEO of a startup. It’s easy to hide from your mistakes in a big company when you don’t have to worry about how your decisions affect your ability to make payroll. In a startup team, you are faced with your own demons dead-on. Make a mistake, and it’s back in your face before you know it. There’s no one else to blame so you have to face it and change. The only other choice is to give up and go back to corporate life. And after you’ve tasted freedom, that’s just not an option. But starting and building a company is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. 

Clients sometimes fantasize about leaving and doing what I’ve done. I always tell them the truth, that it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And not to underestimate the value of that big salary popping into your bank account each month. As I think back, I often wonder if I would have done it again, had I known what was ahead. My answer is always, and unequivocal “Yes!”  

But here’s the deal. I had a burning passion to bring more character intelligence into the world and that’s what has kept me going through the hard times. If you don’t have a passion that compels you to start a business, I don’t think success is possible. In a way, you have to be pissed off about something that isn’t right in the world and a burning desire to make it better. Hope and optimism are the driving force behind purpose. Without it, I wouldn’t predict success. 

I remember when I left my cushy corporate role as an RVP with all the perks. I also remember attending my first coaches conference where I was told that the majority of coaches were only making meager fees and weren’t very serious about building a business at the time. That was 1998 and very few people had even heard about this new profession. That was scary. But I took the big leap anyway and trusted myself that I would figure out how to make at least six figures the first year. Only 1% of coaches accomplished that, but I formed a strategy and executed my plan. After success in year one, I had earned my credentials and started to think about how to scale this new burgeoning business, so I started subcontracting work to other coaches. That was two decades ago. Since then, I’ve founded three companies and am driving the third one all the way. We have a great team. We are committed. And we care about making the world a bit better through our work. 

Along the way, there have been huge bumps in the road. I remember a lot of years where I didn’t sleep much at all. Waking, worrying, creating in the middle of the night. I almost gave up at least three times. I found out I needed more education and went to grad school in the middle of all of it. If I saw a gap in my psychology or my skills, I invested in learning it. I learned how to change hats 20 times a day, as I had to do so many jobs. I had to learn lessons about how to hire for startups which is very different than hiring for an established corporation. The hard way. I followed the advice of advisors sometimes at my own expense because I thought they must be smarter than I am. Then later found out that I should have trusted my gut more. I was the visionary. I was the best strategist. And I was the one who cared about the means to the ends. I learned that advisors and investors often care more about the ends than the means, which is contrary to our mission. 

Eventually, I learned to trust myself and my hunches were informed by years of work and study, so that’s also when things finally started turning around. I learned how to hire the right team, work in an agile way, and most of all, apply constant tenacity and grit to every day. One day at a time. To focus on right now. Not the past, not the future. What can we knock out right now? As a result, we’re prolific producers and we have built a great culture of agility. 

The last two years we’re finally growing in exponential numbers year over year. We have a few more things to accomplish before we can truly scale. But in the meantime, we’ve accumulated more science and have an even more compelling story to tell. I’ve started thinking of us as scrappy and passionate and productive. We are having so much fun now too. 

As I think back four years and remember sitting at the counter in my kitchen. The moment I almost gave up. We had been approached by one of the most credible companies in our domain and had been in talks with them about an acquisition for months. It was going so well and we really liked the people involved so much. I couldn’t think of a better company to take our mission to greater heights. In the end, however, internal company politics got in the way and the deal fell apart. The CEO called me himself, which I have never forgotten. That was a kind gesture that took character. Which made it doubly painful to let go and move forward. It hurt. What now?

That was the moment when I had to choose to believe in myself most of all. As I looked at a future where I had given up on my vision, I just couldn’t live in a world like that. Within a couple of days, I refocused on what needed to happen next. Employ what I had I learned from them in the process. And trust my own gut instincts about what to do now. This was the turning point. I decided to do what I had been avoiding, build another product that I had resisted building. The world wanted another typology tool from us. I wanted to break the paradigm that we are a “type” and help people be whole and expansive, way beyond a type. But I also had to face that people can’t initially understand complex thinking unless they first grasp the simple concept. I chose to be creative and do both. That’s the summer we doubled down and built the True Tilt Personality Profile, incorporating different language that included an invitation to your whole self. Not just parts. And making that personality assessment was the one thing that has made all the difference. It became the viral product. It became the one that can scale, the one that takes personality theory to the next level of evolution. More relevant than ones built during the boomer generation of work. 

So, today as we make our next milestone this year, I can say that I no longer lose sleep over payroll. We have a solid bootstrapped business that has been profitable and is growing at ever higher percentages for the last two years. What have I learned? Mostly that scrappy, tenacious teams leave everyone else behind. They navigate the bumps and never give up. The temptation of giving up can be so compelling when it’s hard. I’ve learned that when things go wrong, think bigger. Maybe I wasn’t thinking expansively enough. Go for something even greater. And that has made all the difference. 

Our current compelling mission?  To help other teams like ours. To give them a hand at building a great culture that helps them have a plan for how to navigate those bumps. Whether they are in a large organization or a startup like us. We want to be there for them. We teach them how to develop agility during the storm. 

That’s what we live for and we’re passionate about helping others achieve their dreams. If we can do that every day, we trust that ours will unfold organically. 

Learn more about our story and ask us for help.