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Building a mission driven business with Alexia Vernon
Interview with Alexia Vernon
This is Natalie Doremieux from New Software Marketing.
Today, I have my dear friend and special guest, Lex Vernon.
I'm going to give you a short intro of who Lex is, and then we're going to dive right in into the interview,
Branded a "Moxie Maven" by the White House Office of Public Engagement, Alexia Vernon has dedicated her life to empowering women to speak with Moxie on stage, at work and in their personal lives.
As a speaking coach, she leads the Spotlight Speakers Collective, New York's visual speaking training programs, and she consults with companies looking to develop a strong female leadership by plane.
Alexa's inspired many audiences, Fortune 500 companies like Zappos and MGM Resorts, associations like Inbound and the National Association of Realtors.
She had the honor of addressing the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women.
Alexa has been featured by media including CNN, NBC, The Wall Street Journal Inc.
, Forbes and Women's Health magazine.
Her book, Step Into Your Moxie, will be published by New York Library, fall 2018.
So, welcome, Lex.
Thank you very much.
Well, it's so nice to have you here.
So, the purpose,
you know, of this interview is basically, I wanted to reach out to you because I am doing this interview series on lifestyle entrepreneurship, and from knowing you, you know,
and your background, and the way you run your business, and how you manage to integrate it into your life, you know, your lifestyle.
I saw that it would be very inspiring for people to actually find out how how you manage to kind of balance that if there is such a thing as balancing it.
I'm laughing as you say the word balance.
Does it ever balance- Exactly.
We just go with the flow, right? That's our way of balancing.
So can you tell us a bit about what you do,
how you do it, who you do it for, and then we can go from there.
Uh, you did a great job in the bio of giving folks an overview, but my sweet spot really is supporting entrepreneurs, primarily female entrepreneurs,
to be able to use speaking to spread their ideas, to grow their audiences, to make big impact, and ultimately to increase profit.
I also do some organizational consulting work, as you mentioned, both on presentation skills
training and around issues surrounding women's leadership.
This is my 10th year in business.
Don't want to suggest that for 10 years, it's looked exactly the way that it looks today.
Definitely the first 5, 6 years,
I was a bit all over the place.
I was definitely investing more in my business than I was earning back in my business.
You don't know this because we didn't chat about it before, but the day that we are filming this, today, is actually my husband's last day at his job,
and he is joining me full-time in the business after the weekend.
So, maybe we'll touch on that in a little bit because as somebody who, of course, works with her husband, um, that for us…
well…then we'll get into how we know each other.
It's something that I have been toying with since we did our mastermind together, and in terms of the work-life piece,
making that decision ultimately felt like the best answer so that there could be more integration between our personal lives and our professional lives.
And we can definitely touch on that.
I am actually surrounded by quite…you know how like we attract people, you know, that, you know, we connect with with.
Quite a few entrepreneurs that actually are working as a couple.
So, that that's really interesting that you say that because it's it's something we've been struggling with, and it's it's a challenge.
You have to know, you have to have common goals, and you do have to, um, listen a lot, and you have to understand that not everybody goes at their own pace.
There is also the issue of somebody being in the front end of the business, and somebody being on the back end, and still feeling valued and useful.
So, there are these all these little things that everything… I think somebody said like everything is amplified.
When you work with your your partner, everything,
the great stuff and the little things because they tend to be carried over to your personal life.
It's, it's, you know, there is no like… I tried that, to say, you know,
like, "Let's close the door, we don't talk about business.
" It's, it's close to impossible, I think.
At least for us, and I've made peace with that, so.
So, can you share with us…Let's see,
I had a couple of questions for you that I wanted to make sure we we addressed.
So, yeah, balancing life and work, there is no such thing as balancing, right? We just work with the flow,
Right? There is, "This needs to be done on the business, " we go and we do it.
There is this on the family side, we go and we do it.
But do you have any, like from your experience?
Now, I know definitely that when we met, you just had your little princess.
And, I mean, what I keep hearing was like, I want to run this business.
This is my passion but it has…
it's like no compromise.
It has to work with the way I want to raise my daughter, and the way I want to be present with my husband.
And it's not easy.
I mean, you saw it.
The 90 problems and, you know, all this stuff.
So how how did you manage Thio for that? Yeah.
I have an answer for that.
So, I'm laughing because even though it was probably three years ago, at the time, things were a little messy for me.
And what I mean by that is, although the business was scaling, and that piece was great, I was really underestimating how much domestic help I needed in my home.
So, I had no problem hiring a virtual team, and turning those business pieces over,
but I didn't want to turn over raising my child to another person.
And for a long time, I tried to Only work during my daughter's nap schedule, which, as anybody who's a parent knows, is not- ]inaudible] yeah, no.
Particularly because so much of my business has always been client facing, coaching sessions.
So, it was a process of giving myself permission to move from child care, um,
in my home.
That was the decision that I wanted to make was to keep her literally one wall away.
But we had a nanny for 10 hours, and then it moved to 15 hours and then ultimately moved to between 20 and 25 hours with my mom watching her one day a week.
But I'm not going to sugarcoat it, like that was really,
I felt like I was choosing my business over my role as a mom even though, um, I felt like realistically, I was probably more present than many of my friends who are working parents by virtue of being close to home.
But beyond the amount of hours that I chose to be with her,
I started to realize it was not about the hours, it was about who I showed up as during the time that I was with her.
And what became more important was saying, "If I am with her,
I am not on my laptop.
I am not checking my phone to see how a Facebook ad is converting.
I am going to be with her, And if I'm not in position to be able to do that then I need to have child care or
I need tohave my spouse, who's full on with her so that she doesn't feel like she's somebody's second priority.
And I found that in terms of our relationship, ultimately that mattered more than how many hours a day she was seeing me
because I think for a while, I wasn't really seeing her during those hours.
I was just checking off that I was present, if that makes sense? Yes.
I hear you totally.
I mean, we have three kids, so they are much older, of course.
But when we started the business in 2006 now, right? So, it's it's been a while.
Um, that was definitely the case.
It's like you're present
but you're not really present, right? So… and you know, you only realize that, you know, after the fact, after time has passed.
So, I think it's really important for people to understand that it's the quality, it's not the quantity, and to be fully there.
I was talking with Matt McWilliams yesterday, and he was saying that he stops his work at 5:30, and at 5:30, he's like, done.
And then he goes, does his meditation so that he can, you know,
bring himself down, the energy down.
And then he's full on for his family, and there is like no work.
And he's like, "It's only from 5:30 till the kids go to bed but it's my undivided attention,
and I know I have accomplished what I was supposed to do.
" So, I think it's really about structure and rules so that there is a time for work where you work, you know,
the smart way, focused, and there is a time for like the reward, right? The family time.
The friend time.
And it's very important that you apply this from the beginning.
The biggest mistake I made is we didn't start to do that until we started to be able to actually make enough money to,
you know, live from our business, Right? And you get burned out very quickly.
That's how you get burned out.
And to me, that is the lifestyle.
The lifestyle is whatever we want to make it today.
Like you said, for you,
if it's, you know, working you only part-time only certain days of the week, then, you know, then that's that's what it is.
So, that's basically, you know, how I feel, and I'm sure you feel the same way,
right? Yes Yeah, absolutely.
So, there is another thing that I wanted to talk to you about.
I wanted to talk about public speaking.
So, you spot like, spot like… let me see… spot like speakers.
So, can you share how… I know…
You said you're doing a lot of one-on-one work.
In your business business, how do you…Um, do you have like any other services or- Yes….
So, let me explain [Crosstalk].
I don't actually have private clients outside of my Mastermind, so I want to draw that [crosstalk]- Okay, cool.
So, the people that have one-on-one time with me are the women who are in my Spotlight Speakers Collective.
So, it's a ten month Mastermind for entrepreneurs who want to use speaking and live events to grow their businesses.
So, as a piece of that, in addition to our live retreats where we get together in the virtual training,
they each have individual sessions with me.
The only other way that I work privately with folks is via VIP days where somebody will come and we'll spend an entire day together either working on their speaking plan, creating a signature talk or a series of talks,
but you're right.
While there was a long period of time where I worked individually with people on their keynotes, in terms of scaling, that was not the best model.
And it pains me because I love,
love, love helping people create their signature talks, and I also know that there's one of me, and in terms of impact I'm able to make, I had to let that piece go.
So, in addition…
at the top of my funnel, if you will, is the 10 month Mastermind.
There's the new class that comes in each year, and over the course of the year, we really get them up and into the spotlight working on all the different streams that one can do speaking for, from doing keynotes and TED style talks to leading workshops and retreats to all of the online,
whether somebody wants to be doing webinars or having telesummits or being on podcasts and so forth.
I help them bolt the marketing pieces, so speaker reel, coming up with their one sheet, all of their pitches
in addition to giving them great game changing content.
And then people who complete that program have the option to continue on with me.
So, there's an alumni group as well.
Then I have my online programs,
and I'm in a bit of flux with what that will look like, meaning I have one program called "Your Spotlight Workshop", which takes folks…it's an eight-week coaching program, and it takes people through the process of really developing the mindset, the marketing and the workshop facilitation moves to use intimate live events to be able to attract the right clients into their business.
Then I've had a program, which you are familiar with, Natalie, called Your Spotlight Talk, and I'm currently in the process of redesigning what that looks like to make it not just focused on the talk but more of those marketing pieces, and that will relaunch, um, in early 2018.
So, I think that this is actually something that, um, a lot of us are going through is like when we get started, you had to do this one-on-one work knowing that it takes a lot of your time, and it's probably not like the lifestyle that you want.
That was like a necessary step for you, you know, to be able to grow into being, you know, where you want to be today where you have this mastermind, and you do, you know, a lot less one-on-one work so that you have more of,
I want to say like working on your own terms, right? Where you have more of these programs and services that can scale, where you can reach a lot more people, and it's not so much linked to basically your calendar.
So, I think that's also important because there is where we want to go,
where we want to be, and we tend to compare ourselves to, you know, where people, you know, that are successful, and say, "This is what I want, " but sometimes we don't see what they had to go through.
And certainly, I have seen it with you, you know,
the struggle of figure out, "How can I make this work? How can I help these people, and at the same time, you know, have, you know, the the family and the lifestyle that I want? " So, I think that's also important for people to see that it's a work in progress,
right? It's never perfect.
Like you said, there is no balance.
Sometimes it's chaos.
It's always reevaluating, and things are changing.
So, you know, you know, you think like you're on the right,
you know, path, and things are working, and then something changes, you know.
An opportunity comes up or something, and then everything is, you know…you put everything in question again, or kids…
suddenly, two kids go to college, right? So, it's a different story than just one, for example.
So, you have to plan for that, you know, this type of thing.
So, I think it's really important
to realize that, you know, even like you feel you're living your lifestyle, it's still the structure, the rules and being flexible, and sometimes just to give in, you know.
Things like well, you know, sometimes you can't take that weekend that you wanted to because there is a launch, because there is something that's happening, and that's part of,
you know, the lifestyle that you choose.
So, it's really on your own terms.
I appreciate you coming back to this idea of knowing the lifestyle that you're choosing, and not feeling like you have to fall into a structure because that's what you see in everybody's Facebook ad, and recognizing that you get to ultimately create what your business and your lifestyle surrounding your business looks like.
There was a period of time to early on where I had given a private coaching.
As a result of that, I saw cash flow dip quite a bit because… and I still say this to a lot of my clients, that you could build a really nice six, even low multiple six figure business with premium one-to-one coaching.
And for a lot of folks who jump online to quickly… with offers that are a lower price point offers, sometimes you can actually be busier, and you can have less cash flow that way- Absolutely.
…depending on what the focus of your business is.
When I gave myself permission to bring back private coaching, and to do it in a more premium way while building my online offerings.
And I also do a lot of face-to-face live events.
I'm a speaker,
and I love bringing a bunch of people in the room, and doing that kind of training, and being able to coach people to deal with the sensation that they're experiencing as well as with their delivery.
But in many ways, I felt like I was creating my own model, and then that's when both pleasure returned
but also profitability really took off because I stopped feeling like I have to do what everybody else told me.
It's different than saying, "Screw what everybody else is saying, and I'm just going to do my own thing where… then you're not following any of the best practices.
But there's a lot of best practices,
and many contradict each other, so it's learning how to curate in service of the kind of business that you're seeking to grow.
And I have to say that in the last year, I have done a better job of working less hours than I did two or three years ago, and my income has doubled.
So, I don't also buy the whole if you want to earn more, you have to work more hours.
In the beginning, no matter what your business looks like, sure.
When you're laying the foundation and you're doing everything for the first time.
But one of the things that held me back for so long, and I think a lot of other creative entrepreneurs fall into this, is that I did not rinse and repeat anything.
I loved being visionary and coming up with something for the first time, so I was constantly in beta.
I was constantly launching something new rather than saying, "Okay, how can I be creative within the structure of what I've I've already created? "
But if it's good and people like it, darn it, just stick with it.
Stop trying to do so many different things.
So, a big piece of this last year has actually been letting go of a lot of things that I had to focus more deliberately on a few key programs.
I mean, I think there is the things where they say, you know, you have to listen to people, you have to have your network, but as you said, there is also a lot of noise out there.
You're gonna ask 10 people,
10 people are gonna have 10 different ideas, right? So, I think it's important to listen, but also to make your own path and just follow it all the way.
Like like you said,
trying too many things, you end up with actually nothing, right? And I think it's it really comes down to a mindset.
I mean, we've talked about this, you know, when we first met, you know,
that that was a big thing is like the mindset, giving ourselves permission, permission to fail, permission to try things, uh, and tweak them, you know, until they work.
And this is really marathon, right? It's not like a sprint.
So, it's got to be something you're passionate about, and something that you're willing to learn every time you make a mistake and then you work on improving, right? But if you keep changing directions all the time, and you have like too many offers
then you're not going to get, you know, you're not going to get very far.
That's what a lot of people are doing.
"Oh, I'm going to create a one-on-one, and I'm going to create this, and I'm going to do that.
Oh, somebody said I should do a challenge.
Somebody said I should do webinars.
" Instead off doing one and just doing it well and focusing on just that.
And it's so hard when you're surrounded by people that do many different things.
So, I think that's that's really important.
I mean, for me, the key was really to have one coach, one mentor that would guide me,
and would just say, "Do this.
" So, I know not everybody needs a coach.
I do need someone to tell me, "Don't just do this thing, " you know? That's really important I think.
And it's interesting.
We go through seasons where we need different things,
and I currently have two coaches and mentors, but the relationship is not where I have a lot of one-on-one time.
It's programs but for me, at this season, I realize more than that one person at the helm, what has been very helpful has been having a community of people who I feel very close to professionally,
to be able to bounce ideas off of, and particularly to make sure that I'm community with other people who have Children because for a long time, I would look for mentors and coaches who didn't have kids.
you know, it's a different mindset when you have, well, first, a spouse but also if you have little ones.
And having somebody who understands what that push-pull is has been really helpful.
And you know that… I don't know if you felt that but for a while there was this…I think people were like, not afraid but, um, kind of had this sense that it looks unprofessional.
Like if you say you have little ones, and maybe you're going to show up, and they're gonna come on your lap, and things like that.
I don't know if you remember that, but it was like, Oh, yeah, that's not, you know, we don't want to do that.
Now, as people, you know, especially with Facebook Live, as people show up more of the way they are.
I think this is a lot better because it's showing people that you can have a business.
You can be successful, You can be taken seriously, and you can have a family because if you're doing this at home, and it's not a school day, right, and your kid is going to come running around, well,
That doesn't mean [crosstalk].
It's the reality.
It is the reality, and it makes you more likable because you just show up, you know, as you are, and people can identify with that because they're like, "How am I going to create a business? You know, I have the dogs running around, and then
my kid can show up at any time.
You know, I can never do that.
" So, I really like, you know, the way things are changing in that way at least because it makes it so much easier.
Just be yourself with your imperfection.
Certainly, Having kids is not an imperfection but, I mean, you know, showing up the way you are.
Don't feel like you have to wear makeup.
and, you know, all this stuff every time you show up.
All about authenticity and building that relationship.
I mean, for you, because you do a lot of live events and a lot of,
you know, videos and things like that, I think you'd appreciate that as well that, you know, it is actually okay to just be yourself.
You can look professional, of course,
but just stay true to yourself.
It's so much easier than to try to pretend, you know, to be somebody else.
So, can you tell me how people can learn more about you and your program, and maybe see you on stage? I don't know if you have something coming up.
Maybe a TEDx or a TED Talk or something? I actually do have a TEDx coming up.
It's in Wilmington, Delaware.
It will be November but I will certainly have that on my website after the video is live.
So I'm looking forward to that because I've coached…
Gosh, I've played a role in over 100 different TEDx talks.
As a speaking coach, I used to, as you know, produce and co-host a TEDx but I have never given my own TEDx talk, so that's exciting.
of course, working on my book, Step into Your Moxie.
So, I'm on deadline to get that manuscript in by the beginning of January.
But the best way for folks who are interested in speaking either because you know that speaking is something that can help you be ableto reach a bigger audience, whether that's virtually speaking or whether that is producing your own live events or speaking in other people's events.
I have created a free video series called hotshotspeaker.
com, and it's Evergreen.
So, that's another thing.
That breaks every rule.
You should only have your free video series live when you're funneling people into a program.
So, that doesn't funnel people into a program.
To me, it's just the best way to give people a sense of my spirit and my approach, and so I keep that live all of the time.
And it's equally good for people who just feel a lot of discomfort at the thought of speaking.
I give you some exercises to be able to work through some of the mindset as well, some of those physiological pieces.
Then across social media…my primary website is alexiavernon.
com but across social media, it's also Alexia Vernon as well.
Well, I'll definitely put the links below.
I think one thing I want to mention is that, I mean,
I've always loved listening and watching you speak.
I think it's, uh… you know, every time I see you live, you know, I have to stop and listen because I think you really, you know, I really,
really like to listen to you.
But one thing I would say, though, is that it can sound intimidating.
I mean, for somebody that has never been on video and has never spoken, it sounds intimidating.
And I think that it really comes down to, you know, when we grow, we have to step out of our comfort zones.
And I think at least giving it a try and see what it could look like, and what it could bring to your business
is really worth a shot because, you know, for me, remember when I… I mean, you weren't there, but when I spoke at Off the Charts, the year before, I was at Off the Charts, and I saw the people speaking on stage, and I was like,
"Well, if there was one thing I will never do, it's just that.
" I was like, "Well…" That piece I was sure.
Little did you know, one year later, Nathalie had asked me, and I went actually on stage.
And I was not even scared because I was more excited about sharing my story
than I was scared about making a fool of myself.
So, it all comes down to why do you want to do it? If you feel that this is something that is going to help you send your message, get your message across,
then I'm not saying the path is going to be easy, but definitely check out Lex Vernon because she definitely knows her stuff.
She has helped tons of people, you know, go through that.
And I can see some of the people, you know, that even I've met at Off the Charts that were working with you, that still work with you today that do great live shows.
And I know you're helping people right now that are going to do TEDx as well,
You've coached several of them.
So, I can definitely see the results and the progress that they've been making.
Like Andrea, for example.
I'll just say her first name, right?
I can see, you know, how she was before.
I remember talking to her.
We were in the same… we were sharing a cab, and what she does right now in Live,
this is pretty amazing.
And that all comes to, you know, a lot of work and a goal, a drive, you can definitely see it.
But also great coaching and mentoring from you.
Can I leave folks with one thing? Sure! If they are in the phase of like, whoa, it feels like it's too much.
They want to throw up, Yep! I know the feeling.
you know, we didn't talk about this, but I'm not somebody who comes naturally to public speaking at all.
For the first really two thirds of my life, I was that person who was terrified.
So, this is not coming from somebody who inherently has unshakeable confidence.
But what I've seen with my clients is the first thing that starts to shift everything, um, is spending some time looking at themselves in the mirror and out loud, saying,
"I'm grateful to myself for.
" "I'm grateful to myself for my kind heart.
I'm grateful to myself for my resilience.
I'm grateful to myself for eyes that allow me to be seen, " and spending, initially, 30 seconds.
And then doing this over the course of a few days and upping so that the next day, you might do one minute, and then the next day, a minute and a half.
And trying to get up to five minutes.
And here's why
it's so transformative.
When we feel discomfort about getting on stage and sharing our message, at the core, the discomfort is coming from the idea that people are going to see us.
And when we can get comfortable seeing ourselves without crumbling,
that's going to open up the pathway for us to be comfortable with other eyes on us.
But if we won't give ourselves the private opportunity to just be in communion with our own image, it's gonna be a lot harder to get on stage.
So, I give you that exercise.
I've seen remarkable things, and it's work that I still do when I feel like, "Wow, I'm pushing myself to my edge.
" I did it before I had to speak at the United Nations because that felt really big.
And it's something that I'll do even before a launch when I know that I'm gonna be doing webinars where I can't actually even see the people I'm talking to
but I just have to create the mental and physical space to be comfortable with that many eyes on me.
So, hopefully, that is useful to you.
I think that's a great, great tip.
check out Lex Vernon.
I will be posting the links below.
And, you know, when your book is out, when your TEDx is out, I will definitely be updating it as well as people will be able to keep getting access to this, uh,
Thank you so much for coming, Lex.
It was a true pleasure to catch up with you, and to learn more about public speaking and how you managed to, you know,
to get to that lifestyle that you have today.
And so congrats to bringing in your husband.
Yeah, and, yeah, I think just being open to the way that people grow at different phases, and that one thing that we're starting to do now is we are going to both go to live events.
like, we're going to the [inaudible] Summit in, um, in London together because I felt every time I went somewhere, I come back, I have all this excitement, and he's like,
you know, like so what? Didn't have [crosstalk] to share with, that makes sense.
So, that kind of brings a disconnect, and the momentum is not the same.
I hope… I'm sure it is going to work out, and I'm excited for this new journey.
Please keep me updated- I will, thank you.
…and thank you so much, and I'll see you next time.
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