Steve Gordon: Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I’m your host, Steve Gordon, and we’ve got a fantastic interview for you today. And looking forward to this one for a long time. I have known our guest for a little while. We’re in a mastermind group together and this is really the first time we’ve had a chance to sit down and have a fun conversation about her expertise. And so I’m excited about that. Today, I’m talking with Jane Sagalovich, CFA. She is the founder and CEO of Scale Your Genius and she helps experts scale beyond one to one work so that you can get back some of your time, you can have a bigger impact and hopefully you can make more money. So I’m excited about this particular topic. And I’m going to get into why in a little bit and hopefully give you some context for it, but this should be fun. Jane, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.
Jane Sagalovich: Thank you so much, Steve. I’m really excited to be here.
Steve: Yeah, it’s gonna be fun. So, you know, I’d love for you to give everybody just a little bit of your background so they have some context for how you got to this stage of your career.
Origins of the Genius Tribe
Jane: Hmm, absolutely. So I actually started with a very traditional path. My family came to the United States when I was 10 years old. And don’t worry, I’m not going to give you the whole history from 10 to now. But moving here from Ukraine to a capitalist country, I was really fascinated by all things business. So I knew I wanted to do things in business, you know, whatever that meant to a 10 year old. And kind of moving on through high school through college, my first job, it’s pretty funny. Everybody was, you know, working at the ice cream shop or McDonald’s and I was working at a financial firm at 16 years old. I did business school. I did all the traditional corporate kind of, you know, climbing corporate ladder. I had dreams of being a CFO, CEO of a major company. And I’ve worked at several really amazing companies with that being kind of my North Star. Interestingly, and if any of you listening did the corporate thing before transitioning to your own path, at some point, I realized that that path isn’t quite as shiny as it may seem on the outside. And the thing that was really missing for me was the ability of seeing the results of my work and seeing it make a difference on people. So working for big companies, I knew we were making a lot of money for shareholders, which is amazing, and I have absolutely nothing against it. But it was missing a face.
It was missing a kind of a more tangible reason to get up in the morning beyond just making myself and other people money. The other thing I felt was a big disconnect between compensation and the value I was bringing to the world. So I was actually, you know, in the corporate world higher up, we were making a very, you know, good income but I wanted that more directly tied to impact I was creating. And so six years ago now, I left to start a consulting company with a now ex business partner, really in the hopes to be able to use all those business skills I gathered over my career and help the small business owner. Specifically, I love working with people who are amazing at something other than business. So they’re are practitioners, they’re other consultants, they’re coaches, they’re therapists. They’re people who have an amazing gift and business isn’t necessarily one of them. And so I get to use my 20 or so years of business experience to really help them create their dream businesses. And now I get to really see the impact of my work on the humans that I work with. And, you know, really have that direct correlation between the value I bring to them and my compensation, which, to me feels really good.
Steve: That’s fantastic. So I know a lot of people who are listening to this can relate to being in that position where they really love what they do but they may not love all of the business side of it. So, and there have been times in my career where I could easily say the same thing. And so I think this is going to be a good topic for today. So I know you really work with people in helping them kind of find how to package their expertise so that they can go beyond just working one on one with their clients. And we were talking before we started, that’s something we’ve actually done.
I think now is a really good opportunity for a lot of businesses to make that shift either in whole or as a new piece to their existing business because you get a lot of people like I know in our case I was telling you, you know, there are a lot of people who probably need our help, you know, in our marketing agency, but may not be able to afford to do all of it, while we’re extracting a lot of what we do and we’re offering it at a, you know, a little more modest investment for people who want to do it themselves, you know? And that’s not for everybody, but for folks who, you know, maybe can’t reach all the way, you know, to that higher level. And that’s giving us an opportunity to create some scale. So just kind of with that as a backdrop, I just feel like this is a good time to have this conversation. A lot of businesses are going to be thinking about doing that sort of thing. So when you first kind of engage with somebody who’s got an expertise based business and they’re working one on one with clients, how do you begin to help them see how they can transition to something more scaled?
Creating Your Life Vision
Jane: Hmm, great question. So this has always been a big part of my work and it’s, I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into it because I’ve just got more connected to it. But the first thing we do is create a life vision. Because when you think about creating any sort of a new business initiative and a new business product, it’s going to take your business and your life in a direction. And if you don’t know what that direction you want it to take you in, then it may take you into a direction you don’t want to go. So specifically, when it comes to scalable products and courses and things like that, it’s really important to understand exactly, you know, what you want your life and your working life to look like? How many hours do you want to work? Do you want the time freedom? Do you want the place freedom? Do you want to be able to work from, you know, a beach somewhere in the Pacific?
Maybe not these days when we’re not allowed to travel, But once we get to open up again is that something you want to do? So it’s really important to understand where that’ll take you because what I’ve seen and, you know, especially, I’ve talked to course creators who’ve done it in other ways and what happens is the technology that they created something with the technology is such a big piece of it, that instead of serving clients, all they’re doing is being kind of like IT support, which is so so, so different from their zone of genius and what they want to do. So it’s really important to understand where you want this business model to take you and then create a program that takes your business and your life in that direction. So that is the foundational step that I just find so important, easy enough to do, and really, really makes a huge difference. Because I think, you know, we can use the term online programs, online courses. It’s such a vague term, and everybody may have a different definition in their mind of what it could mean. And so, there’s so many different ways to do it. How do you pick, decide why you’re doing it and where you want it to take your business and your life?
Steve: You know, you say it’s an easy step to complete. It’s also a really easy step to skip. And in my experience, most people skip over it. You know, we get enamored with a business idea or we see someone else doing something, oh gosh, that would really work well. And it’s like we get into it already without kind of taking a step back and really planning it out. And it’s been really interesting to watch. We’re going through some big changes in the world right now and we have seen, just in the early days of this as we record this, online education, you know, and that’s a big category. It’s everything from, you know, my kids are doing online education for high school and college to, you know, to people using it to retool their careers to, you know, to businesses really looking at it as a way to upgrade their workforce at a much lower cost. So, we’re seeing this migration to that way of consuming, I hate to say content, because it’s more than that. It’s almost taking people through a transformational process. And I just think it’s creating all kinds of opportunities. And in ways that maybe we wouldn’t have thought of. I mean, are you seeing that with your clients where businesses where you wouldn’t immediately think there’s an opportunity for that, they’re applying this?
Jane: Hmm. You know, what I am really seeing right now is the older generation being okay with being online. They were forced into it, right? So they were forced onto Zoom calls and people who before would just really never want to be on a Zoom call on an online, you know, some sort of an online program, have now realized that it’s not so scary and they have learned some of those basic tools and skills that they need to be able to be a client, to be able to be on the receiving end of an online program. And so what it has done is it really opened up the potential client base for a lot of companies. And so I know I’ve talked to people before that used to say, Well, my demographic is older. No way are they going to be online. You know, they’re so old school. They’re so used to being in person Well, now they were forced to shift out of that.
And they’re liking it. And so that created really a cool opportunity for people, for businesses for whom this was their audience. And this is their demographic. So that’s one way it’s shifted. I find virtual workshops and virtual retreats to be pretty cool. The ones that are well-designed. I think we’re all seeing like Zoom fatigue and zoom burnout to be a thing. And so there is an opportunity to create experiences that you’re not just sitting and staring at a screen for three hours, but that integrates, you know, little movement breaks and breathwork breaks and whatever it is for your modality that makes sense, but that really recreates the in person experience a little better in a way that is still virtual. So when things didn’t go back to normal again and we are going to be able to have live events and live retreats, there will still, you know, we now have this new model for virtual workshops for people, you know, some people who may not be able to afford to go to an in-person one or have family obligations or other reasons they can’t travel, they will still be able to benefit from some of this virtual shifts and changes we’ve had. And these days, people get to practice all these new models and really find what’s working, that we can keep for when things go back to in person again.
Steve: Yeah, and I think, you know, we’re going through with one of our clients right now, where they’re both, their business was basically built around 18, imagine 18 live events during the year. And really the last three and a half to four weeks, we’ve had to retool their entire business to do online. And, you know, part of that was they were delivering these things for clients who were contracted. You know, they had to deliver things now in a very different way. What I think we’re beginning to see is that, not that, you know, the in-person is going to go away for good but for a lot of their clients who were sending maybe, you know, five or 10 or 20 people at a time to this, you know, multi-day seminar, they’re going to be a lot happier not having to spend on travel. So some of this is going to stay, you know? And it, the question is going to be okay, where do we best use in-person and where can we scale and leverage. The other thing we’ve seen we’ve had clients and a couple of businesses that you never would have believed., you know, would embrace this stuff.
But a CPA who is now taking the opportunity to in a group setting, deal with kind of teaching their clients how to think like a CFO. So it’s not about the accounting and bookkeeping, it’s how do you do decision making with, you know, with your financials? And, you know, we’ve got a client who’s in financial services who is taking this and doing kind of a group exit planning consulting via Zoom. And he was kind of doing this anyway locally, but all of a sudden he’s like, they all love doing it online. I can do this for anybody anywhere in the country now. So it’s been interesting to watch how it has opened up new opportunities for people. And I know I keep coming back to that, but I think it, for a lot of people haven’t thought that way, seeing examples of it almost helps them, you know?
Jane: Exactly. It’s the people who, it’s funny. It’s people who used to always say, Oh, this will never work for me, I would never do it. Well, now that they’re forced into it, They’re like, Hey, this is not actually that bad.
Steve: Yeah, exactly. So you take somebody through this sort of, you know, life plan so they understand this new, either new business or new part of their business is really going to be something that serves them as an entrepreneur. Where do you go from there? What’s the next step?
What’s the Problem You Love to Solve?
Jane: Yes, so the next step is, so one of my rules for successful online courses is that they have to solve one problem for one ideal client type. So I know when experts come in and they have such a breadth of expertise and they’re good at, you know, various things within their topic area, they kind of want to go broad. They want to create this like, mega course of here’s everything I know, here’s everything I do with all my clients. And the first thing we do is really, really, really narrow that down. And so we pick one problem. What’s the favorite problem that they love solving? If they can, you know, if they can help their clients one thing, what would it be and who is that person? And so we really, really clearly define that.
And what’s cool about defining the problem that they’re going to solve in the front end is they will create a course and marketing at the same time, both tailored to that problem. So it really ensures that there’s integrity in marketing, meaning that the things that they’re saying their course is going to solve is the thing that the course is actually going to solve. So it’s a little, it’s kind of a double prong approach, starting with a problem that allows them to create the course and market the course, in, you know, speaking directly to that person.
Steve: That’s such a smart approach. That’s the, you know, it’s the same thing we advocate when we’re working with a client on their marketing. I mean, if you don’t get focused and narrow, it’s so hard to solve the problem. It’s too broad and too diverse. And so when you take someone who maybe has, they’ve got all kinds of expertise, they’ve solved all sorts of problems because they’re an expert at what they do. How do you get them to embrace that and pick one area? Is there a formula for doing that?
Jane: A little bit of art and science. So it’s what, you know what, in the course for which of their topics because of course, has to have a teaching component, right? So if we think about some coaches that really need a lot of one on one kind of in-person or group in person time or online time, that’s not the best topic. So what topic has a bigger educational component? Because the course, you know, the point of a course is to stop saying things over and over again, is to kind of clone yourself. So which of the topics have a bigger teaching component? That’s one of the checkpoints. Which ones are you excited about? Which one do you want to like scream off the rooftops? A lot of people I work with, don’t do as much marketing today, because they don’t need as much, as many clients in their current model as they will when they have a course.
So their marketing efforts naturally have to increase. And, you know, we know a lot of experts don’t love marketing, and that’s okay. And so they’re gonna pick a topic that they are going to be more excited to talk about. So that helps, too. And then the other thing I tell them, this is their first course, they can create 50 more courses after this one. So this is not the end. This is not like the only thing they’ll ever get to do.
Steve: Yeah, and I think that’s the key there. I mean, you end up learning so much as you go through the process. You know, it always almost leads to the next thing, particularly if you think about it kind of strategically, you know, where you’re solving one very specific problem but that same group of people likely have other problems that you solve. And so you can sort of lead them through a succession of things, which is great for the business. You begin to create, you know, repeat customers and build real relationships over time. So that’s always good. So you’ve gotten them to that point where they’ve decided on kind of a topic and you’re taking them through the development of that. Are there any kind of roadblocks or kind of gotchas they need to think about to avoid?
Hear How Your Message Lands
Jane: I’ll answer it a little backwards. But one of the guideposts that they have to go through is because we develop messaging around their topics so early on, they have to start talking to people and they have to start talking seeing how it lands. Because as experts, we can think something is the best idea in the world, but if the audience isn’t responding to it, then pivoting early is a good idea. So they start talking.
Steve: You mean they have to actually talk to people?
Jane: They have to actually talk to people and see how the messaging resonates. And then this could be with my support, this could be on their own, they get to see if it’s not resonating, is it because of the messaging or the topic? So what, you know, cuz sometimes it’s just the messaging, right? Their topic could be amazing, but it’s just the way they’re talking about it is not resonating with people. Or they pick the bad topic, and now it’d be a really good time to change it before they spend all this time on creating and trying to launch the course.
Steve: Yeah, well, I think this is where it’s really valuable to have someone objective on the outside who can look at all of this because we both know people who are really smart and they’re the one you want to solve that kind of problem that they solve for you, but they’re in love with the problem and they’re in love with the way that they solve it. And sometimes, the way that they’re communicating, it just doesn’t land. They’re too much into it, you know, wrapped into it. So I mean, for somebody like that, having you there to sort of yank them by the back of the neck and say, you know, no, we’re going to go in this different direction. I would imagine that’s probably one of the more difficult things that you do, but also probably one of the most valuable things that you do.
Jane: It’s, you know, it’s it is absolutely valuable. I haven’t found it difficult because we have, you know, I’ll get on the phone with them on the Zoom call on the phone with them and we’ll talk through the messaging and I’ll give them ideas and their eyes light up. They love it too. They’re like, Oh, wow, I didn’t know it could be this simple. Because as, you know, as experts who are really amazing at what they do, they will overcomplicate this and they don’t, they just don’t even know how to put it in simple terms, but when it is reflected back to them In simple terms, they love it too. They’re like, Oh yeah, this will, this works. And they get it.
Steve: That’s awesome. So fast forward for us. So if somebody has been through this process, and I know you’ve worked with a lot of folks who’ve really had a lot of success coming out of it, What is their business end up looking like at the end? What are some of the possibilities for people?
Jane: Whatever they want. So one of the things I love about my particular model is I help them create something very custom. I am not a fan of cookie cutter approaches because I just don’t find that they work for, you know, one size fits all is never one size fits all. If we ever tried to buy like pants or clothes that are one size fits all, it may fit you it may not. So I kind of look the same with the business model. So grew like amazing group programs. I have a client who, a past client who’s a relationship coach who has an amazing group, a year-long group program for women who want to meet their partner. There are more typical just kind of what we think of as an online course that is more of a passive income model. These days, a lot of people like it coming into the pandemic. Safety is a word that I keep hearing a lot from people and adding new revenue streams and more passive income is something that people are really looking for.
So something like online courses can add new revenue streams to their business models. membership sites is a model that I really love working with. And, you know, something for my clients when they are trying to decide between the two, a course has a beginning and an end. So it is an actual transformation. It’s an actual problem you’re solving for experts whose topic, who do you want to go broader and really want to support clients on an ongoing basis. I love having them create membership sites. Again, that passive income, that recurring revenue, a little bit of a different way they need to show up to deliver it and create it, but the result is still the same. It’s serving more clients, getting out of the time for money trap. Most of my clients, past clients have kept a one on one work. They love it. They want to do it. They want to keep it. They have just dialed it back to a place that’s more sustainable for them. I know recently, since, you know, the shutdown in the isolation, people who’ve switched from in person to Zoom calls kind of to serve their clients are getting really burnt out faster. They can’t serve as many clients in any given day that they could in person, just the energy of it is so different. And so they’re really looking to scale back the number of people they work with on a one on one basis. And that’s some of the results they’re being able to get.
Steve: You’ve talked about passive income a number of times. How, when you say passive income, what is passive income actually look like? Because I’m pretty sure it’s not just sit on the couch and money’s deposited in your bank account.
Jane: Hmm, yeah, it’s a good point. There’s, off the top of my head, I’m going to say there’s just never, there’s just no such thing as passive income ever anywhere. I mean, dividends, I guess, are passive income, but it’s passive income in the definition of it is not tied to your time. I think that is the best way I would explain it is instead of hourly, you know, even when someone says I have, you know, either they do hourly work, or they say, Well, I have a package of five sessions with me for, you know, $500, that is still a time from money transaction. So passive income, and that’s probably not the right term, but it is where that relationship is removed, where it is no longer I’m giving you X amount of my time for X amount of money.
Steve: Yeah. And I think it’s just important for people to understand that. It’s, because I hear this a lot, people talk about oh, I want passive income, passive income. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I think I’m reasonably good at it, and I have yet to find, other than dividends, and that’s about the only passive income that I actually get, and even that there was a lot of, you know, a lot of sweat equity that went into create the money that bought the stock that created the dividend. So do you know Danny Iny? Yeah, I’ve known Danny for a while and years ago, he said, you know, that this whole idea of passive income is, it’s all just a myth. And even the, you know, disconnection of time and money he’s like, and he’s created very big courses and built a successful company doing it. But he said, you know, all it is, is there’s still, you’re still putting in time to make money. You just got, you’ve got better math around it, you know?
And so that’s the way I always like to think about is, how can I, I’m never going to get completely passive, but how can I really am prove the math? So instead of it, I’m putting in this hour to get one, you know, number of dollars and I have to put it in another hour to get that number again, how can I put it in once and then with small additional inputs, I can multiply the amount of money that comes in. Because the thing that people forget about with these and I’ve worked with a number of clients who do this at a really high level, the work changes. It really goes up a level. So instead of it being one on one with clients, now you sort of elevated yourself, but you’re still putting in a lot of work to marketing and sell these things and attract people to them. And so it’s much more leverage, but I think that’s the way for people to really be thinking about it. And I know that that’s really what you’re describing through here, that passive income thing that people latch onto that and they think, Oh, it’s the panacea. I’m gonna be good. You know, I’ll never have to work again. And I haven’t seen it work like that yet.
Jane: Yeah, you know, scaling is the better terminology for what we’re talking about here, right? It’s like how do you leverage your time to make more money per minute of your time? And, you know, it’s step one, raise your prices. And then you go from there.
Steve: Yeah. And raising your prices, you know, there’s often a practical limit to that. So I think this is a fantastic way to either bolt on something to your existing business, to serve different clients in a different way or to serve your existing clients in, you know, in a new way. And it’s also an opportunity to look at, you know, can I go and create something completely new? And there are gonna be a lot of people looking at that, you know, right now, given what’s going on in the world. So, you know, as people are listening to this, they’re going this is all great, but they need to figure out, you know, where they get started and how they think the first step. I know they’re going to want to reach out to you. What’s the best place for them to find you and connect with you and get all the great resources that I know you’ve got out there.
Jane: Yeah, thank you. So I have a Facebook group called The Genius Tribe. And you can actually type in thegeniustribe.com into your browser and it’ll just redirect you into your group. That is where I, that’s where this, that’s where I have awesome interviews with experts. I know Steve, you’re going to be one of the experts coming up on our show too.
Steve: I know. I can’t wait.
Jane: Yeah, yeah, it’ll be amazing. So I have some really, like, that is the place where most of my high-value free content goes. If you are thinking of creating a course, I have an awesome freebie to how to pick your profitable online course topic. And as we were talking about earlier in the show, picking that topic, picking that one problem is really hard for a lot of people. So I created a super simple cheat sheet to be able to do that. It has a video walkthrough supplement if you do want to go a little deeper into the topic, but the cheat sheet itself in three minutes, you’ll be able to create a topic, to pick a topic in your area of expertise. So that you can find at scaledgenius.com/profitable-topic-cheatsheet. And I think, Steve, you’re gonna have that in the show notes.
Steve: Yeah, we’ll link all that up in the show notes and so you’ll be able to just get it one click. So if this is something that you think might fit your business, you know, either as an add-on or something completely new, I really think you need to connect with Jane and get the cheat sheet and get moving on it. You know, as I said earlier on the show, we’ve recently done that just as a way to serve a different group of people with, you know, with our expertise. And so there are tons of opportunities out there to do that. So, Jane, thanks for coming on today and investing a little bit of time with me and sharing all of your wisdom. It’s been a lot of fun.
Jane: Thank you, Steve. This really was a lot of fun. I hope everyone listening got a lot of value and some entertainment.