Interview Transcript (Draft)
Mike Zipursky: Hi everyone. It’s Michael Zipursky of Consulting Success. In today’s consulting interview we have Karyn Greenstreet with us.
Karyn is the founder of Passion for Business where she works with small businesses to help them with business strategy and to grow their revenues. She also teaches people how to create mastermind groups. I’m looking forward to this interview, so Karyn, a big welcome.
Karyn Greenstreet: Great. Thank you, Michael. Glad to be here.
Mike Zipursky: Yeah. Let’s go back. You started your career as an instructional designer. What does that even mean and what were you doing?
Karyn Greenstreet: Well, I had parallel careers in my life. I’ve always been self-employed either part-time or full-time, even when I was in college, to help pay for college expenses, and when I got out of college I started my own business and at the same time had a corporate career. In my corporate career, I was an instructional designer and basically what that means is I designed classes for corporations. I worked a lot in the software industry in over about a 20-year period, worked my way up to become International Director of Education for a software company. That was a pretty good run and during that time I had to learn a lot also about consulting because part of what I was doing was asking a lot of consulting questions in order to know what kind of training program to design for someone, and then to realize whether training was even what they needed or not needed. Maybe they needed a different solution.
Mike Zipursky: Karyn, let me just ask you. You mentioned that you became an instructional designer and worked your way up but you also mentioned that you were still running a self-employed business at the same time. What were you doing and then why were you doing these two things? If you had this career going on and you were moving off the ranks, why were you still doing something else?
Karyn Greenstreet: Let’s answer the second question first, which is I have always been a person that pushes myself. I’m always a person that wants to see what my potential is, and having a corporate career wasn’t enough for me. It was a piece of what I could do but I know there was more I could do. I graduated in May and in June of that same year I started a photography studio and it worked out really well because, of course, in a photography studio you’re working with consumers and they want to work evenings and weekends. I would do my eight to four or nine to five job, I would come home, have dinner and then I would photograph clients all evening or I would do two or three weddings a weekend. I did that for 12 years and loved it. It was two different sides of me. I was also in my 20s and had lots of energy.
Then there was just also the reality. I had ten years worth of student loans to pay off and this was the way that was going to happen, and it was going to happen more quickly than paying the minimum amount. I didn’t want that. I wanted to pay them all off in about five or seven years.
Mike Zipursky: Was that the big driver for you?
Karyn Greenstreet: Yeah, it actually was. I didn’t really want to be in a situation where I was weighed down with student loans because I wanted to buy a house. I was living in an apartment at that time and I knew that I was never going to be able to save money for a house or even be able to afford a house until I got rid of those student loans, so I had a lot of motivation to get the finances cleared away as quickly as possible, and I did. Within ten years I had my own home.
Mike Zipursky: That’s wonderful, first of all. I know this is going back some time but congratulations on that. It’s interesting and I like to hear you say this because there’s a lot of people in a similar type of situation where either they need to pay off loans or whatever it might be, but even people that don’t have something where they need to do that, I think a lot of people, this would resonate with them where they’re doing a corporate job or they have a full-time job and then they could do something else – maybe they thought of starting a hobby or starting a business on the side – but they come home and they’re exhausted, they’re tired. They’ve worked hard. They feel like they’ve done everything that they could or that they needed to that day, and then they turn the TV or they do something else, but they don’t do what you did, which is to really push yourself, to do what you really felt you needed and wanted to do.
I’m wondering, going back to that time, what was it in your mind that allowed you to do that? Was that a very tough decision for you? What was going through your mind as you considered pretty much working two jobs?
Karyn Greenstreet: Well, I think part of it was it was a habit. I know that sounds weird but for me it was always predicated on the idea that there was something I wanted. I’ll give you an example. When I was in high school, the summer before my senior year, I knew the French group was going to Paris in the spring and I knew my parents couldn’t afford it and I really wanted to go. That summer I worked two full-time jobs in order to make that happen. Even from 16, 17 years old this has just been my mindset that if I wanted something I had to make it happen myself.
I think what happens, even when I was – I mean, I was 16 or 17 years old, I had tons of energy, but I have brought that forward. Now, I’m 50 and I’ve brought that forward into my life that whatever you make your habit stays your habit. My habit, if I stop working at 3, 4, or 5 in the afternoon and then I sit in front of the TV all evening, that’s what I’m going to do the rest of my life, and I can’t bear that idea that that’s what my life is, is to work and watch TV. It’s not enough for me. So you get to the habit of going to work and then coming home and maybe going to the gym, well then that’s going to be your habit. You’ll find the energy for it. For me, part of it is deciding what it is you want out of your life and then getting into the habit of it and even if it’s slowly getting into the habit of it, I don’t advocate anybody saying, “Okay, I’m going to just start this tomorrow and I’m going to work 60 and 80 hours a week,” or whatever. What if you wanted to do volunteer work in the evening or what if you wanted to go to networking events in the evening or what if you wanted to learn how to play the violin in the evening?
All these things you can do but I don’t think you’re going to do it to start every single evening or every single weekend, but maybe pick two evenings a week, and then a couple of months from now add a third evening a week. After a while you end up creating for yourself a very full and fulfilling life just getting in the habit of doing the things that you want to do and not really allowing your mind to say, “Oh, we’re so tired all we can do is watch TV.” That might be true once in a while but I bet you that’s not true all the time. As an example, Monday Tuesday Wednesday evenings, I have a ton of energy after work. Friday evenings, let’s just make it Friday evenings I’m done. I’m fried and I don’t really want to do anything other than just relax. So I think we all can find that little bit of extra energy and we can make it a habit of using it even if it means taking a little rest between your full-time job and doing that extra thing in the evening you want to do, or maybe you do it on the weekends. But I think that we all can create that for ourselves if we really want it. If you want it badly enough, you really have to ask yourself, “What is my motivation here? Why do I want to do this?”
Mike Zipursky: Yeah. Karyn, I think we could just end the interview right here and, you know, everyone’s going to be fired up because that’s such a powerful message and it’s so true. You just take action. If you really want something, put the excuse to the side, start taking action and what you said right now was just so powerful and so true. Just keep doing it. Make it a habit. It doesn’t have to be all at once. You can ease into it but the most important thing is to get started and work towards what you want and you’ll get there. That’s awesome.
All right. Let’s move on. I want to ask you. With you job, you said that you were moving up, kind of climbing that corporate ladder to a point where I’m sure you were earning a comfortable living and really accomplished a significant amount of things, done what you had set out to do within that career. Why then go from that to leaving that and getting more involved in running your own business more on a full-time basis compared to just running the photography business on the evenings and weekends?
Karyn Greenstreet: I think it was two reasons. First of all, again, for me there was nowhere else for me to go in the corporate world and I felt I had more to give than that so part of it was, “What’s next for me? What is my next place of growth and potential in my life as a human being?” Frankly, is this what I want to do for the next 15 or 20 or 25 years of my life, and the answer is, “Oh gosh.” So part of it was just a motivation of spreading my wings and seeing what I was capable of.
The other thing was the freedom. I was okay as an employee but, really, I’m not a good person for someone to be my boss. I really have a lot of ideas of what I want to do and I hate being held down by someone else saying, “Oh, that’s not a good idea,” or, “We can’t afford to do that,” or, “We want to go on this other direction,” that I thought I really want the freedom to be able to explore different avenues and not have to get approval from anybody, to do what I think is right, and you know what, sink or swim on my own terms. I was more than willing to take a lot of risks and to fail and take responsibility for that but also to create a much higher level of success, which was my own doing and not someone else saying yes or no to what was possible or what was going to be approved or not approved. It was just too much of a box. The corporate world was too much of a box, and during my corporate life of course the internet came into being and so after I got married I stopped doing photography – especially wedding photography – I didn’t really want to spend my weekends photographing someone else’s wedding. I want to spend my weekends with my husband.
So I started another business, a big website on the Internet, and of course this was back in the mid 90s when there weren’t that many websites so it was pretty easy to do. I worked for a software company so I had that whole nerdy, geeky, techy – I could figure out how to code this background so I wasn’t intimidated by it. I built up a really huge website and eventually sold that and then I started another business as a website designer because I learned so much from doing that, and then from helping other people I said, “Oh, I could charge for this.” Everything was a natural progression for me based on things that were happening in my life in places that I wanted to explore. Sometimes I was doing highly creative things. Sometimes I was doing highly technical things. Throughout it all, I was running my own business since I was 19 or 20 years old and that’s what I loved.
I loved marketing. I loved business strategy. I was crazy about the stuff and I thought, “Gosh, what a nerd I am!” But I really did love it.
Mike Zipursky: Yeah, and I have some questions for you. I want to dig in a little bit to those other businesses, but before we get to that. One thing that you mentioned that stood out to me – and I want to just get some clarification from you on – is you were talking about that you really were thinking as a human being, you know, what’s that next thing that you want to work on. A lot of people, they can understand that and that’s a question that probably all of us face at one point or another, where we may be doing something but we’re feeling, you know, “Is this the right thing that we’re doing? Should we be doing something different?”
So you’ve moved around a few times. You’ve changed businesses, you’ve switched up from the corporate life to the consulting lifestyle. What would you suggest? How should people global thinking, kind of analyzing when is the right time for them to make a switch and how should they also consider and then find out what they should be doing? There are a lot of things that people consider but from your experience, what should people really try and hold on to as they’re considering all the different options? What should they pull on to think ‘that’s probably the best direction that I should go, that’s what I want to be doing as a human being as my next thing’, as you said? What are your suggestions in that area?
Karyn Greenstreet: Yeah, absolutely. I have actually done classes around this topic because I think what happens is, for all of us, we get to a place in our life where we’re saying, “What’s next,” or we’re saying, “This can’t be all there is. What’s next?” Either way.
What I find is that people need to first come up with a definition of what it is that is important to them. Where are there values – let’s just say they think they’re going to create a business. They need to say, “Well, what does this business need to have as part of it in order for me to feel like I’m really getting the most out of it?” It can’t be just, as an example, it can’t be just that it provides a livable income or even more than a livable income. How do you feel about the number of people that you want to work with? Do you want to work with people 101 or you really love to work in groups? Do you want to reach a large number of people cross the whole planet or do you really just want to stay local in your area? Do you like to use a lot of creativity in your work? Do you like to collaborate with other people?
All of these things you need to come up and say, “What’s my criteria for a perfect business?” Then when you’re looking at alternatives you can compare them to this criteria list to see whether they’re going to meet your needs. There’s no point in changing what you’re doing if that new thing isn’t going to satisfy you more and give you more of what you want out of life. You might say, as an example, one of my criteria is I only want to work 20 hours a week because I want to have a bunch of free time to learn how to – I don’t know – sail a yacht, whatever it is you want to do. Then when you’re looking at opportunities out there, you can take a look and say to yourself, “Well, compared to my criteria this one works really and this other one is not going to do that for me.”
Mike Zipursky: Yeah, I think that’s a great food for thought for people because a lot of us, we start doing what we think we want to be doing and then a lot of people end up in this place where they wake up and all of a sudden they realize that they built a business that they’re not necessarily that passionate about and that isn’t aligned with who they are and where they want to be going, and then they have to figure out how to kind of re-engineer that and shift things. But what you’re advocating is that people from the get-go really create this list and then as they look at it from business opportunities and think about even in the world of consulting, for all of our listeners as consultants, just even thinking what type of consulting you want to get into and what type of structure, what type of clients, what type of setup, and you use that as a bit of a guide to develop their business and how they go about it.
Karyn Greenstreet: And even within your own business, you might find that actually your business general concept is good but your business model needs to be reinvented. As an example, one of the criteria for my perfect business – my new criteria – was that I want to reach more people and I want to work with groups of people. Within this context of my business model I started mentoring groups. Instead of working with people one on one and consulting, I work with a group of maybe six people at a time, all around a similar topic, so then I was reaching a larger audience and that really helped me. Then if I said, “Well, I really want to reach an international audience,” then I had to change my marketing model to try to reach a larger audience worldwide.
You might say, “Wait a minute. My business itself is okay. It’s just the way I’m doing business doesn’t satisfy or doesn’t match my criteria.” It could just be that your criteria has changed. It’s not like you’ve been living a lie all your life. It’s just, you know what, as we grow as human beings, you might say, “You know what, what I used to do ten years ago, that was all well and good, but it’s not enough now.”
Mike Zipursky: Right. I think that’s good for people to think about, some really good advice and thoughts there. Let’s switch for a second here, Karyn. You told me that your large network helps you to get your first clients in your current business, but also that speaking has been one of the biggest areas of impact for you. What has speaking really done for your business?
Karyn Greenstreet: Speaking is massively huge. I want to just pause and say I know that a lot of people really hate public speaking but if you can find a way of learning how to do it and learning how to do it well and finding some way of enjoying it and getting over your fear, I strongly, highly recommend it. Public speaking, teaching, anything where you’re out in front of a large group of people talking about what you know and what you’re an expert at really does build a level of rapport and trust with your audience and gets you known, because not only are you known to that audience but they go back and talk to their colleagues and their friends and say, “Oh my goodness, I saw Karyn Greenstreet speak and she said this and this and you should check out her website.” It’s incredible for word of mouth.
When I first started, I had my corporate career. I was running four education centers worldwide so I had a ton of frequent flyer miles that I could use. I have to admit I had one asset that I was going to use. The first two years of my consulting business back in the mid 90s, I flew to all these major cities and gave speeches at professional association meetings. I might have maybe 30, 50, 90 people in a room – it wasn’t thousands – but that was a way of getting known for the work that I was doing and what I was really good at.
Mike Zipursky: What did that do for your business? Did you get tangible results? Did you get clients? What was the actual result of doing all those trips and staying in front of the podium and talking to people, to those groups?
Karyn Greenstreet: Absolutely, dead straight, you’re going to get clients. When I was giving a presentation I could count on anywhere between 10 and 15% of the audience coming up to me afterwards and wanting to speak with me and hiring me, so 10% hiring me in an audience of 50, I was getting five new clients out of that, and I knew that. I wouldn’t do it if I was going to get work out of it.
But then the other thing is I got people on my mailing list who I could do some lead nurturing and marketing too and they would eventually hire me or they take one of my classes or they’d buy one of my products, or they’d join one of my mastermind groups. I found that out of a group of 50, maybe 30 of those people in some way would purchase something from me over the course of about maybe a couple of years – it takes time to nurture them – but you can get immediate results. I have to tell you, of course, during the recession that was not true. We really got hit hard in the United States from 2008 to 2011, but I kept going out and doing speaking because I knew the recession had to end eventually and when it did those people would remember me. You can’t give up doing it when economic times are hard. You just have to keep doing your marketing the same way you’ve always done it because economic times will get better at some point and you still need to be in front of those people. You need to be top of mind.
Mike Zipursky: Definitely, yeah.
Karyn Greenstreet: Yes. When you can get in front of groups of a thousand or 1200 people, that’s extraordinary, and you really are influencing a lot of people and you’re really sharing everything you know with a huge number of people. That’s just icing on the cake when you can get that.
Mike Zipursky: Karyn, let me ask you. Let’s say people are now sold on that idea. They think, “Yeah, I can do that. That’s great. I think I can benefit from speaking as well. I want to get 10 to 15% of the people I talk to to become clients.” If there was just one or two, three things maximum, that everyone listening to us could do right now, what should be the first steps if you’re going to speak? Beyond actually preparing the presentation and so on, what did you do and what should people do if they want to get speaking gigs?
Karyn Greenstreet: Besides having a well-written and a well-formatted presentation and beyond being good at being a professional speaker, the first thing you have to do is figure who you’re trying to target, what is the size of the audience that you want to work with. As an example, say that you’re a consultant to not for profits. Where are those non-profit organizations congregated? What conferences do they have? What big meetings do they have? How are you going to get in front of them? If you want to work with corporate people, how are you going to get on the door? Who are the gatekeepers?
Part of it is knowing who your audience is and then how to get in front of them. There are a lot of resources for this. On the corporate side, I highly recommend thinking about being connected to speakers’ bureaus because they do a lot of that work for you. Yes, they’re going to take a percentage of your fee but the fact is that they are doing huge piece of work for you and that frees you up to do your own work better because you’re not having to worry about booking speaking gigs. On the other side, there are plenty of resources even in your local library to find listings of non-profit organizations, charitable organizations, small business associations, professional associations, and national conferences. There are plenty of resources in the library – literally physical books – and of course there’s just good old Google. Go out and type in ‘non-profit organizations in Vancouver’ and then you’ll get a list out of Google and then you’re going to need to do some cold calling and find out who is the person who hires speakers.
Mike Zipursky: Is that the approach you take? Do you usually pick up the phone and call people or do you send an email? What’s your recommended method?
Karyn Greenstreet: My recommended method is an email followed by a phone call. I don’t think anybody likes to receive a cold call. You’re not prepared. It could be at an inconvenient time. It feels like a sales call so they don’t like that. Instead, I would rather send them an email with my one sheet attached. One sheet is basically a PDF file that talks about the presentations that you give and maybe some testimonials from audience members. By the way, don’t forget to include some testimonials from the people that organize the events, because the person you’re selling to is an organizer of an event. They want to know how easy are you to work with. Then of course, they want to know, “Are you going to be good for our audience?” But really what they want to know is, “Are you going to be a pain or are you going to be really great to work with?” So two kinds of testimonials, and contact information. I like to send them a short email saying I do presentations for this kind of audience on these sort of topics, are you looking for presenters, that’s the first way.
The second way is through conferences. You need to create some sort of a little database or spreadsheet for yourself. List all the possible conferences you could speak at. List the typical month when the conference is held and then try to find out when their call for speakers goes out, which is usually six to nine months before the conference is held each year. You might have missed the deadline for this year but you put it on your spreadsheet for next year. You don’t need to contact them. They say, “Fill out this form and we’ll tell you whether you’re accepted or not.”
Mike Zipursky: Some people wonder, “Should I go to a conference or a local professional organization or a non-profit and talk for free, or should I be trying to get into these types of venues and be paid for my time?” What would you say to those people?
Karyn Greenstreet: I think it depends on what your purpose is for speaking. If for you speaking is a revenue-generating process, then go after getting paid. If for you speaking is a marketing process, then I have done three speeches for years, even to really large audiences, because I know I’m going to get business out of it.
Typically, what I do is there is if it is not local for me then there’s a fee involved. There has to be because if I’m going to be taking two or three days away from my office to fly out to Las Vegas to give a presentation I can’t do that for free. I’m not going to get enough work out of it for the amount of time I’m going to be out of my office.
Mike Zipursky: Right. As you developed your current business, what do you think is one of the biggest challenges that you faced and how did you overcome it? Is there one that stands out with your current business that just thinking that maybe its’ something that other people might encounter as well and they could learn from?
Karyn Greenstreet: Yeah. There are two big challenges. The first one is being a good consultant, learning consulting skills and being really excellent at what you do. It’s not enough to be an expert in your topic. You have to know how to be a consultant and it’s different than just being an expert in your topic. You have to learn coaching skills, listening skills, questioning skills, people relations skills, all kinds of analytical skills. All of those things you need to learn and they’re all learnable. I don’t think anybody with a reasonable intelligence can’t learn how to do that. That’s one big hurdle.
The other big hurdle is that you need to have a really savvy sense of your business. You need to have a vision for your business. You need to know how you want to increase your reach and your revenue, and you need to figure out some way of doing this efficiently so you don’t feel overwhelmed all the time. I can’t tell you the number of people that just feel completely overwhelmed by their to-do list. If you can build your skill level on one side and figure out a business model for yourself on the other side. Those two things are really the big trigger points.
Mike Zipursky: That’s what you face in the beginning, as you were building your business, were those two?
Karyn Greenstreet: Yeah, absolutely, because as you’re building your business at some point you say to yourself, “I need to either learn this consulting skill or I need to hire this person to do these certain things for me to free up my time.” You have to make these growth decisions incrementally as you go along based on what your priorities are. You don’t need to be perfect in everything at the very beginning but when you start hitting a roadblock you need to stop and you need to analyze it for yourself, and you need to be willing to make some changes along the path of your journey as a consultant and not think you know everything. If you could have continual growth, continual education, that is going to be the best thing you can ever do, it’s just being flexible. What’s the point of owning your own business if you can’t be flexible? Isn’t that why we do it?
Mike Zipursky: That’s nice, a huge factor. Let’s get into today’s action bite. I know you mentioned you’re going to touch on when consultants and how consultants would use a different marketing strategy based on whether they’re going after a local market or a national or international market. Can you talk about what the differences might be for people? There are obviously some differences but I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on it.
Karyn Greenstreet: When my clients come to me who are consultants and they ask me, “What should my marketing plan be,” I think they have an idea in their heads that there’s this perfect marketing plan for a consultant, and it’s not true. The fact is, my first question to them is, “Well, who are we trying to reach and is it going to be local, maybe within 50 or 100 miles of your office? Is it going to be national or it is going to be international?” Because it makes all the difference in the world. Local marketing will include a lot of what I would consider traditional marketing and maybe some email marketing and social media marketing and, of course, always a website – that’s a given – but you’re not going to need to do the kind of things you want to do if you want a national or international reputation.
As an example, when I was creating my consulting business, immediately I knew I wanted international clients. I wanted to be able to reach all the English-speaking countries that I could and I knew the Internet was going to do that for me. So I was much more willing not only to seek international events and to search those out but also to use things like Google ad words and to get on radio programs and to do things that were going to have a larger appeal. If you were going to stay local then you would scale that down to be just in the area where you want to work.
As an example, if you’re a consultant in New York City, yes, there’s a lot of competition in New York City, but the network there is so tight. You could do a lot of networking and a lot of word of mouth referrals and a lot of local advertising, and you wouldn’t have to do the whole Internet marketing thing because the networking is so tight there. If you’re trying to go all across the Canada as an example, well, now the network’s a little bit loose there so now you’re going to have to re-think your marketing strategy and say to yourself, “Okay, which marketing techniques can I use? Can I speak at conferences on the other side of the country to get known to those people? Am I willing to fly around and teach classes in other places? Is there a national radio program I could get on? Is there a national press that I can get in? What are all the different ways that I can get known?”
What you might decide to do is then pick a niche inside of your national or international goal and say, as an example, “Okay, I only want to work with the restaurant industry in Canada.” Now, you can really, really focus and say, “Okay, where can I get national attention? I’m not going to go and go to my local restaurant owners group unless that can get me to their national conference.” If you don’t do a local event, you try to do the bigger events.
Mike Zipursky: Yeah, and it makes a lot of sense. What you’re saying here, just to review, is that people should not just start off marketing for marketing’s sake and then doing whatever it is because they hear someone else is doing it and because someone they know is working for someone else. What’s important, what you’re saying here – and I completely agree – is to really start off and think about who are your clients, how do you want to reach them, where are they located, and then build your marketing plan based on that because definitely there are going to be certain ways that are going to work better. As you mentioned, Karyn, doing certain things, you’re not going to get the type of results you could. Something’s better suited for the international market or it’s just better suited for your local market but you’re doing that hoping that it’s going to work for you to attract international clientele. You’re kind of treading water and really climbing a hill where if you took a different approach and really chose the marketing strategies and approaches that are conducive to reaching your target audience in a better way, then you’re going to see much better results.
Karyn Greenstreet: And there are so many different choices. As an example, say that you can’t fly around and give speeches but you want a national audience. What about giving webinars? Maybe you want a local audience and one of the ways of showing your expert level of knowledge, your expertise that is, is by writing. Well, for a local audience, what about writing a printed book versus an ebook? Because they’re local, you can take the books with you when you go to meet with them and you go to speak to them. There are so many different marketing techniques. There are probably over a hundred marketing techniques, but within each marketing technique is what’s the best delivery mechanism for the audience I’m trying to reach and what will work best for the scope that I’m trying to reach. If you’re really trying to reach 300 million people then a printed book is probably not the smartest technique, but if you’re trying to reach 30,000 people maybe that’s the way to go, so part of it is being savvy about choosing your marketing techniques, even choosing sort of subsets within your marketing technique based on your audience and based on your skill set.
But I think the whole point of marketing is to get out in front of your audience and to show them you’re an expert at what you do, so whatever technique you’re using it’s to show your expertise. That’s why I love speaking and writing and interviews and any place where you can get out and say, “This is what I know,” because people will say, “My goodness, if they know that, if I paid them, what else would they share with me?” That’s why I’m so crazy about speaking in webinars and teleseminars and books and writing articles and teaching and any way that you can get out and show what you know.
Mike Zipursky: Yeah, I think that’s a great way to end this interview. Everyone listening, a lot of food for thought there and some great advice around marketing and considering whether it’s local, national or international. Karyn, thanks so much for your time today, much appreciated. Again, thank you for sharing with everyone here.
Karyn Greenstreet: Thank you, Mike. I really enjoyed it.