Tara McMullin Creates Economic Powerhouses | PoP 323

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Tara McMullin creates economic powerhouses

Have you ever thought about your business having the potential to become an economic powerhouse? Are you wondering how to better connect with your clients through social media? Do you believe in asking your peers for help or do you like to go it alone?

In this podcast episode, Alison Pidgeon speaks with Tara MacMullin about creating economic powerhouses and how small business can market themselves better.

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Meet Tara McMullin

Tara McMullin is on a mission to turn today’s small business owners into tomorrow’s economic powerhouses. She’s the founder of CoCommercial, a support network where small business owners trade notes, share what’s working for them, and connect for support, opportunities, and camaraderie. She’s also the host of What Works, a podcast that takes you behind the scenes of successful small businesses and shows you what’s working in marketing, operations, time management, product development, and more. Entrepreneur named it one of 24 top women-hosted podcasts for business owners. Tara is also a sought-after speaker, educator, and a bestselling Money & Life expert on CreativeLive. Tara’s work has been featured in Fast Company, Inc, DailyWorth, Forbes, and The Huffington Post.

Tara’s website is CoCommercial – request your invitation to join.

Find out more about Tara here:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/taramcmullinco

Twitter: https://twitter.com/taragentile

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taragentile/

Tara McMullin’s Story

Tara has been in business by herself for 9 years. She started blogging and building a following and audience whilst figuring out where her interests and skills overlapped with what their needs were. In the process of doing this she blogged and created content and training around business and blogging for the artist/maker and designer space then moved on to working with life, business and wellness coaches. Tara developed a business coaching program called Quiet Power Strategy but most recently her work has centered on bringing small business owners together and helping them trade notes and have transparent and honest conversations about whats really working.

In This Podcast


In this episode Alison Pidegon speaks with Tara McMullin about how she helps small businesses owners connect with each other in a peer to peer fashion so that they can trade notes and figure out what’s really working.

The Power Of Community

CoComercial is us doing our absolute best by creating a space and the conditions for people to get exactly what they need to help themselves grow their business.

When Tara found herself in a position where she was literally flat on her back after experiencing a fall she wasn’t able to take calls or reschedule, her assistant arranged with the community that they would take her place. This was so successful and it was a win for both parties.

Digital Marketing Trends

There is a trend toward relationship building (connecting with people) over broadcasting (how to get something in as many hands as possible).

The focus has shifted back to really connecting with people and engaging in real conversations. All business should look at how they can use the digital tools they have at their disposal to build authentic relationships and get those conversations going.

Creating Content That Comes Across As Authentic Without Disclosing Too Much

Enthusiasm breeds that sense of authenticity but its also highly attractive.

When you are enthusiastic about something it is really attractive and you are able to positively influence others. You can do this by utilizing Instagram stories to showcase a book you are reading or do a Facebook live about an event you are attending. This will allow you to create a relationship without having to cross the line.


Branding comes down to how you want to be remembered.

What do you want people to be saying about you and how is this different from others in your field.

Allow your brand to evolve and don’t expect that this is something you are going to come up with overnight. Take every opportunity to think about your brand and notice something new, whether it be networking or sending an email.

Common Mistakes Service Providers Make

  • When you don’t get help soon enough – asking peers or having a network of people you can ask advice
  • Not hiring people who are on your same team and on board with your mission
  • Being unwilling to make offers and talking about opportunities to do business


This is an exercise you do when you have a new offer (maybe a new podcast or a workshop), imagine yourself 6 months into this and it fails miserably. You should then brainstorm why it has failed. This will allow you to come up with contingencies and plan accordingly.

Goal Setting And Marketing Plans

Set your goal bigger than you think is realistic. Whatever you think is realistic is based on what you’ve done before, and what you’ve done before probably hasn’t gotten you the results that you really want.

  • Talk to other people about what’s really working for them – you can start to get creative about what might work for you
  • Ask ‘what if’
  • Think through what your customer journey looks like and what different situations are that get them to take certain actions
  • How can you help your client now

Difference Between A 6 Figure And A 7 Figure Business

You can get paid to own your business – it’s not doing about doing the work it’s about creating the business

  • 6 figure business mindset – how much can I make, offering my services and creating value on my own
  • 7 figure business –  how can my company have the capacity to create this amount of value

Useful Links:

Meet Alison Pidgeon


Alison Pidgeon, MA, LPC is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling LLC. What started out as a solo private practice in early 2015 quickly grew into a group practice and has been expanding ever since.

Alison Pidgeon is now working with Joe Sanok to provide business consulting, with her niche being adding insurance to a practice and growing from a solo to a group practice. View her consulting page for more information.

Thanks For Listening!

Feel free to leave a comment below or share this podcast on social media by clicking on one of the social media links below! Alternatively, leave a review on iTunes and subscribe!

Podcast Transcription


[Having anxiety with your website should never happen. Creating a website is a milestone for your private practice and should be celebrated like one. My friends and colleagues over at Brighter Vision know this situation all too well and have come up with a process to make your website experience as easy, fluid, and enjoyable as possible. Trusted by thousands of therapists around the world, Brighter Vision is the website solution that your private practice needs. As a gift to my listeners, Brighter Vision is offering a month off of their services. Go to brightervision.com/joe to get one month free of your Brighter Vision subscription. Again, that’s brightervision.com/joe.]
I’m Joe Sanok, your host, and welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast. I guess I can’t even use the term host today because I have experienced a non-hostile take over between Alison and Tara, who are going to be rocking it out today. Alison’s doing this series where she took over the podcast and is interviewing these three amazing women that I– I mean I don’t know how Alison got these interviews. They’re just so amazing and these women have such great insights into the world of business. You know, having two little girls, a three-year-old and a seven-year old, it makes me so excited to see powerful women that are doing amazing things that just are rocking it out that I can point to. And it’s just fun to have strong powerful women that I can send my daughters to say, “Look at these– these ladies are doing, it’s super cool.”
So today, Alison is interviewing Tara McMullin. Tara Mcmullin’s on a mission to turn today’s small business owners into tomorrow’s economic powerhouses. She’s the founder of CoCommercial, a support network where small business owners, trade notes, share what’s working with them and connect for support opportunities and camaraderie. She’s also the host of What Works, a podcast that takes you behind the scenes of successful small businesses and shows you what’s working in marketing, operations, time management, product development and more.
Entrepreneur actually named her one of the 24 Top Women Hosted podcasts for business owners. Tara’s also a sought-after speaker, educator, and best-selling money and life expert on Creative LIVE. So, without further ado, I give you the one, the only, Tara McMullin being interviewed by Alison Pidgeon.


Welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast.

Well, thank you so much for having me.

Yeah, we’re so excited to talk to you today. So, just to get started, can you tell our audience who may not be familiar with you a little bit about how you came to do the work that you do as a business strategist?

Sure. It’s been a long and winding road. But, I’ve been in business for myself now for over nine years. I started as many folks do, just kind of blogging my way around, and figuring out social media, and just building– building a following and building an audience, and figuring out where my skills, and my strengths and what I was most interested in and curious about kind of overlapped with what their needs were, and what they kind of needed from me. And then, the process of doing that, I blogged and created content, and created training around everything from business and blogging for the artists and maker, and designer space to working with life coaches, wellness coaches, and business coaches, and all kinds of other service providers one-to-one as a business coach.
About halfway through that whole business era, I guess, business journey. I developed a business coaching program called Quiet Power Strategy that I worked with a few hundred folks on. And we trained Quiet Power Strategy business coaches on that system as well. But, most recently, my work has really centered on bringing small business owners together for the purpose of helping them trade note, have really honest, transparent conversations about what’s actually working, and really getting real about, you know, what are challenges are as small business owners, what are obstacles are, what those kind of inevitable setbacks that we all run into are. And doing so, in a peer-to-peer fashion, and kind of recognizing that we all has something to learn from each other.
Beginners, obviously, have so much to learn from more experienced, more mature business owners. But, more experienced, more mature business owners really have something to learn from the way beginners see problems as well. And so, we’re really focused on CoCommercial and bringing folks together in that space. So, that they can, like I said, trade notes and figure out what’s really working. This is not at all what I thought at would be doing at this point in my life.
I went to college for Religious Studies and for Music. And my plan was to go to grad school and pretty much be a lifelong student with the title of professor. But, I stopped that journey really even pretty close to the beginning of it and just found my wat to this point by kind of by accident. But, at the same time, what I get to do today is absolutely what I would have said I would love to do for a living. When I was in college, which is simple that I get to hang out on the internet with really cool people, really smart people, and have really cool smart conversations about things that I’m interested in and that’s all I wanted to do in college.
It was certainly about other things back then. But now, it is what I get to do on a daily basis and it is sort of the heart and soul and foundation of my business and my approach to how we grow that business as well.

That’s awesome. So, you took kind of recognizing what you loved in you along the way over several years sort of figured out how to make that work for you in the age that we’re living in.


Yeah. Very cool. So, tell me a little bit more about CoCommercial because the team at Practice of the Practice actually started something similar, a membership group where, you know, we, as the consultants are helping folks grow their businesses. But, they’re also helping each other. So, what are some really cool things that you’ve come– you’ve seen sort of come out of CoCommercial that maybe you didn’t expect?


Yeah. That’s a great question. So, CoCommercial, we call it social and support network for small business owners in the digital age. And it is on its own platform outside of Facebook. We’ve got an app in the App Store, and it’s so– it’s kind of a distraction-free zone where people come with their questions and their concerns, and their challenges, but also their lessons like the things that they’ve learned and the things they’ve experienced that they want to share with everybody else as well. So, one thing that we’ve seen come out of it that I would not have expected, and really CoCommercial as its own thing is fairly new.
It’s just about exactly a year old but at the same time, it was– it kind of evolved from a community that we’ve been running for the last five years. So, I have both a lot of lie reflections on its newness and a lot of reflections that are based on its longevity as well. But, one thing that’s sort of been a persistent benefit of CoCommercial but also something that’s surprised us as it continued to crop up over the years was how much people said our community is better than Google. And I don’t mean that as some sort of brag. But, instead like this is kind of the– what the power of community is all about and why getting connected with people who are experiencing similar things to you, or who have overcome things that are similar to what you are trying to overcome now, why that’s so important.
You know, when we as business owners, we, as kind of figure outer type people, DIY-ers so that’s just naturally how we are. When we have a problem, when we have a question, the first thing we do, let’s go to Google. Right. That’s– we all do that. And at the same time, we also all know that one maybe the best place to find answers to your questions is not necessarily YouTube videos or blog posts that are written by people who don’t know your particular situation.
Maybe they’re out of date. Maybe they’re not right. How do you know if this is the right technique or the right tactic or the right framework or not, and yet, at the same time, we get sucked into the Google search, right? We go link by link by link, page by page by page looking for something that feels as resonant with us as possible, something that seems to be written for us and not for the other guy or in another community, or for another type of business. And so what CoCommercial allows people to do is actually get those kinds of personalized answers right off the bat, right, because we know you.
We know your situation, or you share your situation with us. You share the unique details and the answers that you get are crafted just for you. They’re not crafted for thousands of people, or hundreds of thousands of people, that might find them eventually on Google. And so, that’s one of the things that’s really surprised me with CoCommercial. Another one of the things that’s really surprised me with CoCommercial is how unimportant I am.

I was going to ask you that.


It’s like the group takes on a life on its own and then it’s like, “Oh, it doesn’t really matter if you’re there or not because you’ve sort of created the space to have those interactions happen.”

Yeah, absolutely. So, for the first eight years of my business or so, I was really working on building a personal brand as a lot of people do when they step out especially on online business but even in local small community businesses, they tend to, even if you have a different name that’s– it’s kind of you that has the magic, right. And the last year, I just got so freaking tired of being the face of everything. And you know, feeling like my life and my perspective, and my way of thinking was constantly under the microscope. And I don’t even know who realistic that actually was but that’s what it felt like to me. And I wanted to– I wanted to not only break free of that but I wanted to create something bigger than that.
I wanted to create something that lived beyond me. And so, building this brand and building this community has really allowed me to do that and not just for the sake of me. But, really for the sake of our customers, our members as well. So, just as like a specific instance of what I’m trying to say here, a couple of months ago, it was more than a couple of months ago now, back last August, I was just getting started with bouldering, which is rock climbing, smaller rock walls, no ropes. And I was not very good at it. But, I was getting better and I was trying some harder things. And I took a tumble from the top of the wall. So, about 12 to 15 feet up, and I landed smack on my back, which was not the part that hurt.
The part that hurt was, well no, actually, I’m thinking of a different fall.

There’s multiple falls.

There’s multiple falls. I mean it’s kind of par for the course with the sport. But, anyhow, I fell straight on my back and just had like a touch of whiplash. And I woke up the next morning, feeling like absolute crap, right. I couldn’t move. I was all– I was angry because I was in pain. I don’t know if I was just in a terrible mood, but I looked at my schedule and I had back-to-back-to-back called all day long for our community. And I said to my assistant, I’m like, “I don’t know how I can do this. But, I also don’t know how we can reschedule.”
She’s like, “It’s cool. I’m going to take care of it. And she went to our community and found a whole bunch of people who were willing to take my place in those calls. And not only was it easy to find people who were willing to take my place, but our members loved it like it was such a treat for them to be able to talk to people who weren’t me. That’s like “This is amazing!” Right? People showed up. They asked questions. People got an amazing amount of value from it and I didn’t have to be there. And then, it happened again where we rolled out a new feature.
We call them Flash Masterminds, where we use that cool feature on Zoom. I don’t know if you’re familiar with this. But, you can hit a breakout room button and say, I want to put all of the people in this call-in random groups of three. And it just automatically transports to their own little video conferencing room. So, we utilize that and I– you know, when we were getting started with it, I was just kind of there toc kick things off. But, I didn’t participate it in any way.
I didn’t share any advice. I didn’t mastermind with anyone. We just let them go and the first coupe of times we did this, that’s how it worked and when they came back, the smiles on people’s faces, the immense sense of relief and excitement that they shared, kind of at when we were doing our cooldown or us debrief at the end was just absolutely incredible. And for the first time in my life, I got the sense of mastery, which is one of my number one personal values from not having done anything.
I was able to experience this sense of mastery, the sense of “This is me. This is our company at the top of our game and all we had to do was create a space.” We didn’t have to do anything. We didn’t have to give advice. We didn’t have to answer any questions. We just had to create a space. And for me, that’s what CoCommercial in a nutshell. It’s us doing our absolute best by creating the space and the conditions for people to get exactly what they need to help themselves grow their business. And it has just been an absolute joy to watch that evolve over the last year and really– and kind of watch how you know, new members come in.
They’re a little bit wary. They’re a little bit skeptical. They’re a little bit overwhelmed for sure, But, as a month goes on, as two months goes on, they really get into and they really start to see how this is absolutely a phenomenal way for them to get what they need without having to spend thousands of dollars, or without having to, you know, work through class after class, or course after course. And it’s just been an incredible experience to watch it happen and kind of realize how much value we can create by not being there, and not showing up. But, instead, just creating that space.

Yeah, that’s amazing. Switching gears, a little bit. I was wondering if you could talk to us a little bit about where– because I know digital marketing is really an are that you’re an expert in and you know, kind of where do you see digital marketing going in 2018 or in the next– over the next few years? Because, you know, things change so fast. So, do you have a sense of kind of like trends that are happening.


Yes. Absolutely. One of the biggest trends I see in digital marketing right now is a trend towards relationship building over broadcasting. And so, really, it’s sort of a– it’s almost a little retro, right, the way the social web and digital marketing really started off was absolutely in relationship building. The dawn of the social web was when website started allowing you to connect with other people. You could follow people. You could have conversations back and forth.
Instead of people just putting up static web pages. So, even before Facebook, before Myspace, you know, when we were first getting that ability to connect with each other, that was the beginning of digital marketing and it was all about cultivating those relationships. Oftentimes, one-on-one, you know, times many, but, as digital marketing evolved and as the market got more mature, as marketers got savvier, we really focused on broadcasting instead.
How could I write a blog post and get 10,000 people to see it? How could I write a blog post and get a 100,000 or a million people to see it? And it wasn’t about building a relationship anymore. It was instead just how can I get this in this many hand as possible? And while I absolutely think that there’s value to broadcasting, and I think that there’s value to traffic and you know, figuring out how to create something that as many people want to invest themselves in as possible, I think this trend back to real relationship building is so important because it transcends digital marketing. And it really allows us to connect what works in digital marketing, with what works in local marketing, with what works in regional marketing, print marketing, really any kind of marketing.
It’s about creating those kinds of relationships. And so, some of the most exciting things that I’m seeing right now are the things that help people connect to each other and help people get kind of a little bit more in the moment, right, because part of what happened with broadcasting is that everything got highly curated. Everything had to be uber professional. Everything had to be super buttoned up and your personal brand was so important. And like you couldn’t do anything that at all countered what your personal brand was all about. And so, it became really fake.
Even the people who said, “Well, this is me being authentic.” It’s like no. That’s not you are being authentic. That’s you being fake authentic which is not cool. And so that’s why a lot of people started to see a drop-off in following, a drop-off in subscribers, or a drop-off in traffic, a drop-off in comments, whatever it might be. And now, as we’re starting to build up things that are like, “Now, I’m just– I’m going to get on Instagram story and I’m just going to– I’m going to post my lunch like literally, I posted my lunch like an hour ago because it looked really good and I was excited about it. And Instagram stories, it doesn’t matter because it goes away in 24 hours and who cares if I posted my lunch.
Sometimes could just click through it really fast. But, I was excited about it, so I shared it, shared a sweaty selfie workout picture this morning. It’s not part of my personal brand. It’s not part of the value that I offer to my community. It’s not part of getting, you know, 10,000 people to like me. It’s just– It’s what I felt like sharing and it also tends to be something that gets people talking back to me. And so, things like Instagram direct messages or live video on Facebook, or commenting again on blog posts, like I’ve started using Medium again because people talk back to you on Medium. And we got rid of that on our personal blogs.
We got rid of that on our company websites. And so, really looking at how you can use any of the digital tools that you have on your disposal now in a way to build authentic relationships, whether those are networking relationships, referral relationships, client potential, client relationships, whatever it might be. I think those are the things that are going to carry us through 2018 and probably beyond as well. I don’t think this is a trend that’s going to go away.
It never really went away in the first place. It was just that it’s kind of got shoved into the corner where all the people who were really successful knew that was still the way to go. And the people who were just trying desperately to get ahead doing other things, so, I’m rambling on but I’m– it’s because I’m really passionate about this particular trend. And I really do believe it’s one of the key pillars of any digital marketing strategy right now.

Yeah, and I’m glad you brought up that term authenticity because I feel like especially the millennial population right now is really driving that because they’ve grown up in this age like you said that everything is so polished and they’re really seeking experiences that feel authentic to them. So, of course, that would translate to digital marketing. That makes total sense.

Yeah, absolutely. And I am a millennial just barely. So, yeah. It feels completely natural to me as well. I grew up, like I said, wanting to live on the Internet and the tools that I have now that allow people me to do that in a way that integrates really easily with my life or with my work, or with you know, whatever. It feels good and I have really gotten away from in the last year, last couple of years thinking through that process of broadcasting and just getting back to what I would consider my sort of my digital marketing or social media roots.

Yeah, and that brings up a question for me, you know, specifically for counselors who may be trying to post things, maybe on their website or on social media that feels authentic to, you know, potential clients or maybe referral sources, or whomever is viewing those things. And I think a lot of times, what happens is, you know, obviously, as counselors, we have certain ethics and you know, guidelines we have to follow because we don’t want to self-disclose too much due to the nature of our relationship with our clients. And so, you know, I think sometimes, we have to think really creatively about how we can still come across as authentic and of course, we’re a human being but we don’t want to reveal too much about ourselves. And so, I wonder if you have seen any good examples of other people maybe doing that or if you just have any, you know, tips for like how can we come across as authentic but still not, you know, share too much about ourselves?


I think the key to this is enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is, you know, whatever you are enthusiastic about, when you let that enthusiasm kind of shine in front of you, it is highly, highly attractive. So, when I’m enthusiastic, about my lunch, or my workout, or my whatever on Instagram stories like yes, this is a lot of self-disclosure about my own life and my own personal transformations, and my own personal lie this is what I’m into. But, one of the reasons that work is because I’m enthusiastic.
I’m also enthusiastic about all sorts of things. I share those things as well. And so, I think that if it, you know, kind of recognizing this– this challenge of avoiding self-disclosure, avoiding– and if yeah, crossing that line you don’t want to cross, you can use enthusiasm as a filter for what you do want to share. And so, are you enthusiastic about a particular methodology? Are you enthusiastic about a particular approach? Are you enthusiastic about a book, a podcast that you just listened to, are you enthusiastic?
What are you enthusiastic about and how can you share that to become more attractive and to kind of develop that relationship even if– even if you have to kind of keep people a little bit at arm’s length? Enthusiasm breeds that sense of authenticity but it’s also highly attractive. And this comes this idea– comes from the book called The Power Paradox by Docker Keltner. And he– in this book, he talks about five different triggers for creating power. And power in this case, or power being defined as the ability to positively influence the world, or other’s lives, and so I think that’s what we’re all here for, right.
We’d like all more power if we look at it as our capacity to influence others positively. And so, enthusiasm is the number one indicator of someone’s social power in this way. And so, if– the more you can be enthusiastic, the more you’re building your capacity to positively influence others. So, the more you utilize Instagram stories to showcase what you’re enthusiastic about that day. The more you utilize Facebook Live to showcase what you’re enthusiastic about that day. The more you use your blog or your email newsletter to showcase what you’re enthusiastic about, the more you’re going to be able to build that authenticity, the more you’re going to be able to increase your power, your capacity for influencing others positively, and then, that’s going to create that relationship without you having to get super personal, without you having to cross that line into self-disclosure that where you don’t want to go. And I think that that’s something where you know, like I said it might mean sharing a book that you’re reading, a podcast that you’re listening to, an idea that kind of crossed your mind, a conversation that you had that you’re able to share. Those are the things that are going to create connection without you having to go into a personal place you don’t want to go or have to go into.

Yeah. I think that’s great advice and I’m really glad that you said it that way because I hadn’t thought about it that way before but I think you’re right like anything, you know, especially related to the kind of work that you do in therapy could be something that you’re sharing about because, you know, a lot of us are, you know, reading books and things in our spare time to help us become better counselors. So, you know, that makes perfect sense. Like, you could share some of those things and it would still be appropriate.

Yeah, absolutely.

One thing I wanted to ask you about that I see our consulting clients really struggle with is branding, you know, because we go to graduate school to become counselors and psychologists and not to learn marketing or branding, and so, I think especially branding can be kind of a hard concept to wrap your mind around. And so, like if somebody was just sort of starting out a new, like, “Okay, I need to brand my practice somehow.” Do you have some kind of tips for them or maybe even just talk about kind of what elements make up a brand specifically for a business like a private practice?


Yeah, absolutely. So, branding comes down to how you want to be remembered. My friend, Bridget Lyons, who’s a PR consultant and a media strategist loves the question what you want to be known for. And I think that that question is excellent for branding as well. And really PR and media are all about building up your brand so that makes a lot of sense. But, what do you want to be known for? When someone talks about you as a counselor, therapist, a provider of services, what do you want them to be talking about?
How– what are they going to be enthusiastic about when it comes to you and what you have to offer? When the– you know, when you get written up in the newspaper, what do you want that story to say, what is it that– what is that fine point that you’re going to put on that story. So, that people really understand this is what they’re really good at. This is what they’re known for. This is particular message. Now, the challenge here is that I think it’s really easily, especially in a field like counseling or therapy where what you want to be known for kind of blends in with what everybody else wants to be known for as well.
You want to transform lives, you want to help people live their best life. You want to help people move past trauma and that’s all really good like I want you to want those things to. A part of branding is also differentiation. So, what do you want to be known for and how is that different from others in your field? It doesn’t mean others are bad. It doesn’t mean others are wrong. It doesn’t mean others aren’t helpful too. But, what do you do that’s different? How is your approach different?
How is the relationship that you have with your clients different? How is their experience in your practice different? And it could be something really small. But, something that’s meaningful, something that’s meaningful both to you and to your clients. And so, when I think about branding those are really the two things that I’m thinking about. I’m not thinking about color schemes, and websites, and headshots. Although, those could be symbols of your brand.
Your brand is really about what you want to be known for and how that’s different from others in your field. What’s that unique differentiating that you have. So, that– those are kind of the two things that I’m always thinking about. It doesn’t matter what field you’re in, doesn’t matter what industry, what type of business model you have, when it comes to your brand, those are the two, those are the two sides of it. And it takes time to develop those things.
It’s not something you can force yourself to sit down for three hours and then “Aha”. At the end, you’ve got this idea of what your brand is. Allow your brand to evolve. Allow your expression of it to evolve, to change overtime, allow yourself to find sort of new angles on it, and new depth to it over time. Don’t expect that it’s something you’re just going to have an Aha moment about one day and then that’s it. And I think that’s another mistake that people make as well, as they try and force it instead of allowing it to evolve. So, you know every time you have an opportunity to talk to someone about what you do, every time you sit down to put something up on social media or to write a blog post, or write an email, every time you go to a networking event, every time a client walks through the door, you want to be thinking about your brand a little bit because each one of those experiences is an opportunity to hone in on it a little bit further, to notice something new, to get curious about how you might be approaching that– for that situation, that relationship, that perspective differently than someone else, and how that relates back to what your core message, your core this is what I want to be known for actually is. So yeah, so, keep that in mind.
It’s what you want to be known for, how that’s different from everyone else, and then, even maybe most importantly, how that evolves over time and how you become more and more aware, and more and more curious about what that brand really is.

I think that’s a really good point because it’s a living, breathing thing, right. Like, yeah, you know, the world is always changing and so you’re going to have to change your practice over time to keep up with, you know, normal changes that happen. So, I think that’s a really good point and glad that you brought that up. One of the things that I like to ask people about is mistakes. Because I like– we all learn. I know I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes. And so, I wonder with all the work that you’ve done with different business owners, when you’re working with service-based business owners, what are some common mistakes that you see them make?

Oh man, so many, you know I thought, I thought at first, you’re going to ask me about mistakes that I’ve made and so I think I’ll actually start there. But, because it’s also a mistake that I see a lot of service providers make, and that’s not getting help soon enough. And by help, in this case, I mean two things, one just asking peers for help having a relationship and network of folks who you can go to and say, “Hey, this isn’t working. What do you see that’s going wrong here?” Or, “Hey, I’ve got this idea, can you help me make it better?”
Getting help that way but also hiring help and hiring people who are on your same team, not just outsourcing things, not hiring independent contractor here or there, but really getting people onboard with you, getting people with your mission, on board with your clients, or your customers, and really utilizing that support as much as possible, leaning on that support. So, you know, I think a lot of service-based businesses, they start lean and mean because they can and because it makes a lot of sense. And because like I said earlier, they’re– you know, people who are used to figuring things out on their own.
They’re used to DIY-ing things. And that’s great. And how I totally applaud getting started in that lean and mean fashion. I don’t think you should have to wait to get started until you can hire a staff of people. But, I think you should have as a priority bringing on help as soon as possible, and I wish more people who start out lean and mean would realize that getting help should be part of their initial plan because it affects every other way you do business. When you’re looking to get help as quickly as possible, you price yourself differently.
You price your services differently. You look at your systems differently. You document more things. You think about the process behind things and sort of just– instead of just like checking things off of lists willy-nilly. You look at your marketing differently, your relationship-building differently. And so, it really just colors the whole way you start building your business. And in doing so you create a much more sustainable foundation right off the bat whereas a lot of times those lean and mean businesses are running on the verge of collapse at all times. And so, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to hire someone in the first year, the first 18 months, the first three years maybe. But, if you’re working toward that, you’re going to do things differently at the beginning that give you a much more sustainable business.
I wish I would have done that, and I wish more service-based businesses would do that too. I think another mistake that folks make is not being willing to make offers, not being willing to say, “Hey, I’ve got a couple of openings next week.” Or, “Hey, I’ve got a new workshop that we’re doing or we’re starting a new group, and actually talking about opportunities to do business with you.” And I know that, you know, that could look very different when we’re talking about counseling and therapy businesses, but I still think that making offers, talking about what you have for sale, it is not a turn-off. You know, making a sales pitch, talking about what opportunities there are to work with you shouldn’t be it in– an isn’t to your customers.
It’s not a bad thing. It’s a problem solver. Every time you talk about what you have to offer, that’s a potential to some– solve somebody’s problem. So, don’t shy away from that. Don’t worry about turning people off. Don’t worry about losing people on your email list or losing people on your Facebook page, or your blog subscribers, or whatever it might be. Look at that as an opportunity to bring into the fold the people who need you right now. And the more you can do that, the more people you’re going to help. But, also the more money your business is going to make, the easier it’s going to be to make those sales on a regular basis, the more people are going to understand your brand, and understand what you have to offer, and that’s only going to serve you for the long term. So, those are two I think of the kind of the big mistakes that I see service-based businesses making that can really just completely transform how you do business and how successful you feel at it.

Yeah, and I love that you brought that up because I see a lot of pushback from folks when we suggest like, “Oh, you need to hire an assistant to answer the phone.” Like, they– I am always amazed at like why wouldn’t you want to help and like…

I know.

Yeah, I don’t understand.

I know. I mean with a lot of my folks they’re like, “Well, I can’t have an assistant answer my email because my customers expect my answer my email.” It’s like, okay, why do they expect you to be the one that’s answering the email because you’ve set that expectation. They don’t expect Jeff Bezos to answer their email if they email Amazon like come on people. This is an expectation that you have created and it’s absolutely an expectation that you can change as well, and you will be so much better off.

Right. Right. In the same vein of talking about making mistakes, I know one of the things that you talk about is doing a pre-mortem when your kind of launching a new project and can you tell us a little bit more about what that means and how you actually do that?


Yes, a pre-mortem is like the most depressing realization exercise that you can imagine like I know other people really good at positive visualizations. My ting is always negative visualizations. So, what a pre-mortem is essentially when you’ve got something new– a new offer, let’s say maybe it’s a workshop or it’s a package or a group offer that you’re putting together, maybe it’s a new marketing initiative like a podcast, or a maybe it’s a new blog or a new website, anytime you’ve got something new, before you get too far into the project, and so like really early on, in the planning stages, you want to ask yourself.
You want to imagine yourself three months out or six months out. However long it’s going to take you to get this thing off the ground and you want to image that you are on the cusp of it coming to fruition and that for some reason, it fails, and fails miserably. It dies. And then, you want to brainstorm all of the reasons it might have died. And so that can be anything from like force of nature, or you know, a natural disaster to things like well I didn’t email enough people or I didn’t promote it heavily enough, or I didn’t spend enough on advertising or I didn’t get enough help with this, or I didn’t have enough people look at the sales page before I put it up.
It could be anything. The more things you come up with. The more you can build those contingencies into your plan. So, then you say alright. Well, if I didn’t, if I didn’t get enough help with this. I’m going to look at all the plans that I’ve created so far and I’m going to look to see where I could get help on these things. Where could I have a team member contribute? Where could I ask for help from my audience? Where could I have a cup of coffee conversation with three colleagues who’ve done something similar and ask for their input on my own plans. And then, you literally take every single or as many as possible of the things on your brainstorm list and you work them back into your plans. So, that you are creating contingencies or opportunities to adjust your plans instead of abandoning them before you actually even start work.
Another way to think about it is, you know, we know, as business owners, as people who live life, that anytime we embark on a new project or a new plan, we’re going to hit setbacks. There’s going to be challenges, nothing ever goes exactly the way we think it’s going to go, or the way we want it to go. And because we’re not 12 years old anymore, we’re actually pretty good at dissipating what these things are going to be. So, you can kind of look at forward facing as well.
Definitely, look, you know, from the back to the front, but then, look from front to back to, where do I think I’m going to hit a setback? Can I look at my calendar and say like, “Oh, I thought I had this much time over this many week, but I actually don’t.” Like, that sounds really simple but how many times do we make mistakes like that. So, what are those setbacks going to be? What are those challenges? What snags do we run into in the past that are probably going to come up with this particular plan or project as well. And again, how can I build contingencies into this plan now? Or, how can I make adjustments now so that I don’t have to abandon my plans halfway through or I don’t have to sacrifice the quality of this project in order to get it done.
That– Yeah, if you take anything away from this conversation, doing pre-mortems and just thinking about where you know you’re going to have problems will completely transform the way you work and the way you plan for your business and you will be better for it.

Yeah, I think that’s really brilliant because I think we all know we’re supposed to be setting goals and we’re supposed to be developing marketing plans and all those kinds of things, but I think that’s where it ends. We make this plan and then we don’t think like what could go wrong, or what am I going to do if, you know, his plan A doesn’t work? And then, people don’t have a plan B and then they panic.

Yeah, exactly. I’ve done a lot of kind of workshops and webinars on goal-setting over the last few months. And the number one question I got asked is how do I create a plan I can actually stick to? There are thousands of people in my audience and I’m sure there’s probably thousands of people listening to this that their biggest problem with planning isn’t creating the plan, it’s sticking with it. And the biggest reason we don’t stick with our plan is because we run into one bump into the road and we think, “Well, that’s it. It’s over now.”
When that really should not be what derails you. You know you’re going to hit a bump on the road. You know there’s going to be some sort of detour in front of you. Literally every single plan has detours. So, instead of thinking like there’s only one way to get from point A to point B, you need to have a full roadmap. So that, when you hit a detour, you know, alright well, I can take this street and then street, and then this street, and I’m back on track. Or, you know, I can avoid all the tolls on this highway or this bridge that’s washed out.
If I just go this other way, instead of the way I thought I was going to go, we do it literally very single day in our cars and we need to start doing it in our businesses to.

Yeah, that’s great advice. Excuse me. One other thing I wanted to ask them along the lines of goal-setting and marketing is if you know, I know you’ve had experiences working with therapists and counselors, and we’re just curious if you had some general kind of tips or advice for, you know, maybe folks who are struggling with the marketing piece related to their practice.


Yeah, in terms of goal-setting?

Both. Like goal setting, I think one thing I see people struggling with is, you know, they’re calling us for help because they don’t know necessarily how to write a marketing plan. And so, obviously, that’s a lot of goal-setting, right, like figuring out what marketing activities you want to do and then like scheduling them out and making different goals about, you know, different activities related to marketing. So, yeah. I think that like maybe even– maybe some general tips about how do you set up a marketing plan and then also what are some of those strategies that you’ve seen work for other counselors?

Sure. Sure. So, the biggest tip that I have in terms of building a plan for marketing is set your goal bigger than you think is realistic because whatever you think is realistic is based on what you’ve done before. And what you’ve done before probably hasn’t gotten you the results that you’re really wanting, right. And so, we tend to set these little incremental goals and then we just tend to try to work harder. Well, working harder isn’t the way you get ahead.
Working harder is how you get behind. Right. It’s how you drain yourself, how you exhaust yourself. It’s how you exhaust your email list, how you exhaust your Instagram followers, whatever it might be, it’s just exhausting. So, set a bigger goal than you think is realistic and then ask yourself, what if I was capable of doing that. What would I do differently to hit that goal than what I’ve done in the past? And then, talk to other people because like I can tell you, I can give you examples of things that have worked well for other folks.
I know podcasts are working actually really well for counselors and therapists right now. And I think part of the reason is because it’s a place where you can be enthusiastic easily to kind of bring things back full circle. It’s something where you can kind of talk shop but in a way that you’re able to make it really accessible. You’re able to geek out a little bit. People love that. It’s really attractive and it gives people a better perspective of what their relationship is going to be with you if they become your client. But, you know, there’s only so much I can tell you.
There’s only so much, you know, that I can– that there’s only so many different tactics or techniques that I can share with you. And instead, if you talk to people about what’s really working for them, you can start to get creative about what might work for you. And so, the other thing that I would start doing when it comes to marketing is start asking yourself “what if”. Alright. So, you see someone else has a Facebook Live show, maybe Facebook Live doesn’t really float your boat.
Maybe you don’t really want to be on video on a regular basis. But, you say, alright well what if I came up with a way to market my business that allowed me to have that kind of interactive intimate experience with my audience, but it wasn’t Facebook Live. What would that look like? Because clearly, the part of this that’s working isn’t the Facebook Live part. It’s the intimate interactive experience with my audience. And so, for you, it might be a podcast where you ask people to call back in and have a conversation with you. Or, it might be a blog that you put up on Medium where people are talking back a little bit more. And maybe you commit to doing that on a daily basis. But, you start asking yourselves this what-if question a lot more and you’re going to get more creative about what’s going to work marketing-wise.
You know, I think that another thing that can work marketing-wise, for thinking through planning for marketing. Again, maybe not necessarily exactly what tactics are going to work for you. I think that’s a process of experimentation, seeing what you like, seeing what actually works, seeing what’s worked for others. But, I always encourage people to think through what their customer journey looks like. When do people start looking for help? When do people start googling, you know, who’s a counselor in my area?
Who’s a therapist who could hep me with this particular problem? What do three steps it before that look like? And what do the steps in between them googling for potential counselors, or potential therapists? What are the steps between that and actually booking a consultation with someone, booking that first session, and exploring that relationship? What are those steps look like and how can you use your marketing to meet people at whatever stage of that journey they’re in? And ideally, how can you use your marketing to walk them from step-by-step-by-step through that journey up to the point where they’re ready to pick up the phone and give you a call and schedule that first session, or come to your office for a workshop, or a get-to-know-you-day? So, you know, really thinking through what it– what does that journey look like, what are the different stages people are going through?
What are the different situations that get them to take certain actions? And then crafting your marketing around that, that’s going to help you create a plan that’s a lot more fluid and that’s actually based on what your customers are experiencing and not just, you know, whatever whim crosses your brain at that moment.

Yeah. I think that’s great because you know, people tend to wait a long time to come to counseling. And so, you know, there’s this process, I think, that a lot of us forget about that. You know, they may need to sort of interact with you or become familiar with you. Maybe over a period of months, before they actually feel comfortable enough to pick up the phone and I think because, obviously, we’re focused on. Oh, we need new clients in the door. We forge that, like, this is a process that may take a long time.

Yeah, absolutely. That said I will also say that when people are hurting, when they have a question that they just can’t get off their mind, they want answers now. And so, kind of to go back to your question about what mistake I see service-based businesses are making, one of them is assuming that it’s going to take four to six months for someone to turn into a client. When often, when they Google, when they, you know, when they start actually voicing the problem that they have taking action on trying to solve that problem, the time for them taking that initial action to actually purchasing something, to you know, investing in the solution can be very short.
It can be 48 hours. It can be 72 hours. It can be 10 days. And so, I always invite my clients, the members at CoCommercial to think through both sides. What would it look like for someone to go on that slow track with you over four to six months? And also, what are you doing to get to help people get help now? Right. They want help when they’re joining your email list, when they’re liking your page, they want help they’re Googling. Googling is a huge indicator of intent.
That’s why Google AdWords works so well. Right. So, when we Google something, it means we want a solution now. And one of the reasons it can take four to six months for us to nurture a client is because we just don’t make enough offers in that period of time. And so, it takes four to six months for them to be like, “Oh, oh, I see what– how they can help me now.” Whereas if you make that– if you make that process of finding out how you can help that potential client, if you can make that happen in 48 hours, 72 hours, 7 days, 10 days, you are much more likely to be able to turn that into a sale much more quickly.

That’s brilliant. I love that. You’ve sort of point out there’s kind of two different types of people.

Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

One question I had about an article that you had written, I think it was over a year ago now, you talked about kind of the differences between a six-figure business and a seven-figure business. And then, really, the only difference is how it’s designed. And that really captured my interest because I think a lot of times, we think, “Oh, if I’m, you know, if I’m setting out to create this seven-figure business, that means I’m going to be working crazy hours and you know, my life is going to become the business and I don’t want that so I’m not going to, you know, reach for that goal.” And I think the way that you know, captured that in that article made perfect sense to me.
I’m just sort of curious like, I know this is probably something we could spend an hour talking about. But, what do you think are some of those key differences between a six-figure and a seven-figure business?


One of the key differences is capacity. People who build seven-figure businesses think in terms of building seven-figure capacity whereas people who build six-figure businesses tend to think in terms of how much can I make. So, how much can I make offering my services doing the work? You know, creating value on my own, and people who build seven-figure businesses tend to think in terms of how my company can have the capacity to transform these many lives, to sell these many packages, to see these many clients, to create this amount of value. And just that kind of identity difference between what it is– really, between what your business is and what you are capable of and have the capacity for is one of the absolute, biggest, most important differences between a six-figure business and a seven-figure business.
Most often, people who have built six-figure businesses have, or who are plateauing in that low to maybe mid six-figure range. They’re people who aren’t on a trajectory moving toward that seven-figure is they’re thinking about their business as their job. And this is totally understandable and totally normal right because we’re used to jobs. Jobs are what people have especially middle-class people are of a middle-class people. That’s what we have in the 21st century, right.
We have a job. We do the work. We get paid for it. That’s not how business ownership works. You get– you can get paid to own your business, right. It’s not about doing the work. It’s about creating the business. So, a seven-figure business, that business owner is thinking in terms of how I am building the value, the capacity, the systems, the processes of this business, and how am I using that then to benefit my customers or my clients, or my patients. And so, that’s one of the biggest differences, I think that, similarly, another one of the biggest differences is being able to get help and thinking through what help you’re getting.
Are you the bottleneck? In a six-figure business, most business owners are the bottleneck in their own business. Their all the decisions have to go through them. All the okays have to go through them. All the approvals have to go through them. All of the delegation goes through them. In a seven-figure business, the business owner is not a bottleneck. There are other people who are managing other people. People have ownership and authority over the work that they’re doing.
They are empowered to create value for the company. So, that’s another big difference. And one more and this goes back to the identity piece as well, business owners who plateau or get stuck in that six-figure range tend to believe the adage that you’re the only one who can do what you do. And it sounds really good, right, like we all want to be a special snowflake. Say what you will about special snowflakes. You know, in 2018, but, we all want to be that special.
A seven-figure business owner absolutely knows without a shadow of doubt that they’re not the only person who can do what they do. They might be the only person who can build that company in that same way. But, the work that they do, the service that they offer, that’s something that they can train other people to do. That’s something they can empower other people to do. And the way they build their company is it– it is built in a way that allows other people to do that work. And then it is excited about allowing other people to do that work. So, those are just three of kind of the differences between those two things and it really by and large comes down to mindset.
When you get the mindset right, when you realize the kind of the core differences between the six-figure businesses and seven-figure businesses, when you realize the core differences, between how you show up in a six-figure business and a seven-figure business, and you get on board with that seven-figure mindset, or that eight-figure mindset, or that nine-figure mindset. It is– you build your company differently. You build your business differently.
You show up differently on a daily basis and you make different decisions. And that, in a nutshell, then, is how you design that business differently as well.

Right. Because then, you’d be designing the processes very differently. If you were shooting for seven figures rather than six figures.

Yup. Yeah.

So, one last question, Tara, before we go. Something we always ask everyone is if every councilor in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?


Oh, that’s a big one! You don’t go out easy. If every councilor in the world was listening right now, I think I’m going to go back to what I said about making more offers more often. And I’m going to go also– go back to the idea that we can help people faster. We don’t have to wait for months and months and months for someone to be ready. When they come to us, they’re probably ready. They’re ready to make a change. They’re ready to get help. And yes, they may need to learn some new things, or experience some new things first. But, when they express that intent, when they’re in that mindset of “Okay, I’m ready to make a change.” Let’s start showing up in a way that allows them to do that instead of saying, “Oh no, no, no, you have to read these blog posts and follow my Instagram feed first.”

Yeah, I think that’s great advice. And it, you know, sort of like capture that client when they’re ready. Don’t be afraid to say, I’m here and I’m offering this service.


Yeah, that’s great. Well, this has been awesome, Tara. I’ve actually learned a lot from what we’ve talked about today. And I really appreciate you coming on the podcast.

Well, thank you so much for having me, Alison. This is a great conversation.

What a great interview. Next week, we have Lacy Boggs, who’s going to be interviewed by Alison Pidgeon. Let’s hear a little bit from that interview.

So, by giving us stories or your own personal stories, your own like, “I overcome anxiety by doing XYZ. That really worked well for me.” That makes it more personal and that you, nobody else can touch, right.

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