️Episode 065 – Lessons Learned from Restarting a Consulting Business with Nicola Kastner

In this episode, I interview one of my independent consulting business owner clients, Nicola Kastner. 

Nicola Kastner is the founder of The Event Strategist, a boutique consultancy firm that offers event strategy advisory services to global brands to help them successfully optimize their event experiences to drive bottom-line results

Prior to launching her consulting practice, Nicola held various roles on both the brand and agency sides of the business, including most recently as the Global Vice President of Event Marketing Strategy for SAP, where she was responsible for designing and optimizing event strategies for events ranging from 25 to 25,000 people.

Nicola has designed event portfolios that capture new audiences, drive accelerated business performance, and add customer value across the world, as well as led teams through strategic reinventions of event portfolios as they shifted their approach from only in-person events to integrated portfolios that include the appropriate mix of physical, digital, and hybrid events.
She has won numerous awards for her work including induction into the Canadian Meeting Hall of Fame, named as a “Top Woman in Events” by Event Marketer Magazine, named to the Event Marketer “B2B Dream Team” and named to the “2022 Top Event Marketers” list by Eventible. 
Nicola resides in Toronto, Ontario Canada with her husband and two teenage children.

Listen in as we discuss her journey as an independent consulting business owner and her unique perspective having done this twice. She will generously share all the lessons learned and what she’s done differently in the 2nd launch of an independent consulting business to create a much more sustainable, fulfilling, and predictable business for herself.t. We cover a lot of ground so I know this episode will be extremely valuable for you. Enjoy the conversation!

  • [00:28] What to expect from this conversation
  • [03:15] Meet our guest, Nicola Kastner
  • [04:52] Nicola’s journey from corporate to IC business owner
  • [07:41] Lessons learned from her first attempt as an IC  business owner and how she is applying it to her business now
  • [12:33]Tips for lead generation
  • [13:57] Why you should focus on being genuine and providing aloe vs selling 
  • [16:13] Recommendations for building out a sales process 
  • [18:12] How to create more depend in your business
  • [20:07] How to maintain consistency with marketing your business
  • [21:33] How to set up your business in a way that protects your work-life balance
  • [23:26] How to structure your positioning   
  • [25:17] How to manage your workload capacity 
  • [27:15] Productizing your deliverables 
  • [30:17] Knowing what to outsource and tactics to use
  • [34:17] How coaching can help you with your IC business
  • [40:32] Nicola’s biggest ah ha moment in her business after her relaunch
  • [44:17] What’s next for Nicola and her business in the next couple of years
  • [47:14] Final words from our guest
  • [47:38] How to connect with our guest

Nicola Kastner, Founder of The Event Strategist
Website: https://nicolakastner.com/
Twitter: @nicola_kastner
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicolakastner/


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**note: This is an automated transcript, so please ignore spelling errors and grammar mistakes*


All right. Excellence writes to you. She likes a little bit of sight dead air at the beginning here. So we’ll wait a few minutes or a few seconds, not minutes


Okay, let’s get started. I’m so excited to introduce you to one of my clients on today’s episode, Nicola, and she is an incredible client and such an inspiration, I think, to so many will be such an inspiration to so many independent consultants, as she’s sharing her story today. So, Nicola Kastner, welcome to the podcast. I would love to start off with you just introducing yourself and tell it to tell us all about you and how you became an IC and anything else you want to share?


Sure, well, thank you for having me. I’m thrilled. I think many of you will learn today that I’m a total fan girl of Melisa, I am not only an American lion, I listened to every podcast and take notes. I’m like, a total nerd, and I’ve learned so much. So thank you for this opportunity. It’s super exciting. So to answer your question, Nicola Kastner. My company is called the event strategist, I actually just relaunched my consulting practice in January of this year, after spending five and a half years on the corporate side, we’re inside working for SAP, large technology, company, and leading event marketing strategy for them. So based in Toronto, Canadian girls just come off the long weekend. And my company is really focused on providing event strategy, consulting services, or advisory services for companies just to help them optimize their event investments really to drive bottom-line results.


So excited to have 1000s of questions that want to answer our ask you today, but we really constrained at downtown. But let’s start off and tell us why you left corporate again and became more focused on your consulting business now.


Yeah, so so for a little bit of context, I, in 2012, had moved from the agency side of the event marketing business to start my own practice and ran that for I guess, about four years. And I’m sure we’ll get deeper into this in a little while. But, you know, one of the most important things, when you’re running your business, is investing as much time into building the business as doing your client work. Unfortunately, it’s not the lesson that I learned the first time. And so after coming off a 15-month assignment for a client where I essentially worked as a full-time employee, I realized as my own accountant, and it and sales personnel, all of those things, I hadn’t done any of those things. So two things happen, the nest egg that I had built up, you know because you make hay while the sun shines as a consultant had gone away because I hadn’t done my taxes on time. And my accountant can do his magic. So sort of any opportunity that he had was gone. So so that took away the nest egg, and I have no pipeline. So, I decided that I would eat I would look to rebuild my business or look for a full-time job, and whatever happened, what happened. And actually, a full-time job happened at SAP, so it was there for five and a half years. Superfast one week. So my business Steven wouldn’t even have time to catch up. So spent five and a half years there. And you know, it’s just working in corporate, especially big, big corporate, it’s exhausting. It’s mentally exhausting. And I actually just realized that I didn’t like getting up to go to work anymore. I wasn’t happy about what I was doing. My, I’m not sure if I could swear. So I’ll do the PC version, my BC filter or OBS filter was at zero, which is a very dangerous place to be in the corporate world. And so really just decided, you know, like, what did I want to do? I spent a lot of time thinking about it while in the last year when I was at SAP because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a sort of, I wasn’t just jumping for the sake of jumping to run away that I was actually going to do something that would make me happy and then it wasn’t maybe a COVID impact, right, you know, you know, working in events, events will go on during COVID. So my entire discipline changed was that was what was making me miserable and it really wasn’t so you know, that sort of was the impetus for me to make the leap. And sort of the first time I tested the water with a former colleague, she had reached out and said hey, do you know anybody that does event strategy support on a freelance basis and I was like, Well if it was January, be me, but not not not so far. It’s like, well consider us your first plan. And I was like, well if it’s gonna be that easy, I’m gonna do it over after all. So that was the beginning.


That’s amazing. So tell us kind of going back, to that first experience as an independent consultant. You touched on that briefly, tell us a little bit more about what lessons you learned after that first initial round and how you’re applying that to your business right now. Yeah, oh,


my gosh, and a lot of it, I have to say, is I learned from you. So this isn’t your question. But I’m going to start with this is I knew, so as I, as I launched the business, I knew that I wanted it to be a sustainable business, I knew that I wanted to, you know, not kill myself working 24/7. And I wanted to do work for clients in the right way. But I also needed to provide a lifestyle for my family and for myself, and so forth. So I so you know, I think about it when I was in the corporate world. We had advisors, we had people that we worked with, we had coaches, we had all of those things, they were always available to us. And so I decided very early on to start to find a coach, I found you through your podcast, though, I was searching for content for my LinkedIn post, to tell people that I was starting my own business and came across you through that search and listen, got hooked. And so there was to be no question that I should work with Notley I didn’t even look at anybody else. It was like I said, I’m a fan girl. So was I was yours instantly. But to me, you know, and you’ve taught me these lessons, I think is a long way, a winded way of, of where I’m getting to with answers to these questions. But I think the first of all, was in the past. I, I almost operated as staff augmentation, you know, I would come in and I would put, I would take on long term contracts that were 15 months dedicated to one company two years as an implant in an organization, which were based on our lease sales, versus value-based projects and offerings, which I could offer, you know, as one of the benefits of the great resignations, so to speak, or why what I prefer to call the great realization, as companies are embracing freelance talent, they can get top tier talent for a fraction of the cost really, that they would pay, if it was a full-time employee where they’d have to pay the salaries and the benefits and so forth. And so I really thought about, you know, one of the others the value that I am going to bring to my clients, and then how would I charge for that? And that’s not hourly. That’s, that’s output. So that was number one. And then obviously, I touched on it before, when you’re your own business, you’re everything right. And so certain things I have outsourced that I can, but I also have, I carve out my week, not literally, because I’m not one of these disciplined people that, you know, have their day structured, but I make a conscious effort to invest time each week in my business. So sort of three areas. One is client work, right? That’s obvious, but the other is building the infrastructure of the business, you know, investing in making sure that my books are up to date, or any of my websites up to date and my capabilities, presentation, any of those types of things. So sort of building in the foundational areas of the business. And then the last bucket or pillar is the sales process, right? And you and I have spent a lot of time talking about sales because I find it really awkward to do, but really, how do I stay relevant? How do I put my thought leadership out front so that people can find me? And so those three pillars are time is consciously spent on those each week and will be throughout the rest of my time in business?


Yeah, amazing to have that kind of structure in place and so really have transformed your business. From the version one Dotto. Were you like you were describing how you were a staff augmentation type of a longer-term resource now into you getting to pick and choose what types of clients you work with how long you work with them, how embedded you are into their process, and setting your own lifestyle and your own the way you’re spending your business capacity.


And I think you hit on it there picking my own client, the clients I want to work with. I don’t have to take every opportunity that comes to me. When you work in corporate, you have to do your job, whether you’d like the person that you’re going to be working with or the Fed or the chemistries, they’re not there. You have to do it. You don’t have to do that as an independent consultant. And so if I want to provide my best work, I need to work for somebody that’s going To value me and my expertise and my services. And so I’m okay with walking away from a client, a potential client if the fit and the chemistry aren’t there.


Yeah, amazing. I was so excited to dive into these next couple of topics with you about lead gen and sales because you’re in a position Nicola where clients are coming to you, you’re very much known for what you do and sought after for the niche that and the expertise that you’ve built over the course of your career and as a consultant. And so I’m just curious, what tips would you give other consultants who are really wanting to elevate themselves into that spot where they are sought after for what they do and not having to kind of feel like they’re pushing the boulder up the hill to become known for and known to their ideal clients? Yeah.


So for me, you know, I’ve spent and I’ve invested a lot of time when I was at SAP, building my own personal brand and credibility, I believe in giving back to the industry. So that I love and so I share a lot of my time, my perspectives, whether it’s through LinkedIn or speaking engagements, whatever that might be. And by offering my insights for, quote, unquote, free, I don’t know if that’s the right word to use, but I just feel like it instantly adds that level of credibility. And so taking that time to invest and give back would be one of my number one recommendations, the other is being genuine. Right? We, you know, we are, we have to be true to who we are. And I think if you can if your clients can understand and sense that there’s a trust, an immediate trust factor that comes right at you, and certainly in being genuine, sharing your knowledge. In a way, we’ve only talked about this, you know, how do you establish credibility when somebody doesn’t know you? And it’s by the questions you asked, you know, it’s like, walked a mile in these people’s shoes. Right. So so, you know, being genuine, and then focusing on where I can add value versus selling has been so important for me.


Oh, yeah. Can we talk a little bit about that? So are you okay, if I share conversations? Okay. So, I think that’s such an important insight that you at least from my vantage point that you’ve gained during our coaching together of really looking at the way you’re thinking about a sales process and what you’re actually selling and that kind of thing. Do you want to share a little bit about what that would be? Yeah.


Yeah, I mean, Melisa, right, as I have, I’ve been really lucky and demand has been higher than my capacity. And I understand that that’s not the case for for for a lot of consultants at the beginning, especially at the beginning. And so, you know, I am very thankful for that, but I do struggle, and I did struggle with the conversations on how do I actually sell myself, what do I say, and in a way that doesn’t feel salesy. Like I just like, it just I really struggled with the, here’s my value, here’s how I charge type conversations. And we spend, we spend a lot of time working through this because this was my biggest block and has been my biggest block. And I think, to me, the Epiphany, and I think about this every single time I have a conversation now with a client is I almost used to feel like it was a job interview with them like they were interviewing me. And you taught me to flip that around. I’m now interviewing them to see if they get one of my spots. And it shaped that mental shift. And the dynamic change has it’s just been it’s a game-changer. It really is. And so as I think through that I think about, you know, I now have a structured approach of going into the calls as well. Before I’d like to take all my notes, and then I’d have to sit down and I’d write a proposal. And I’d be like, oh my, how do I do this? I don’t know what to do like it. And it would become so overwhelming to me. I hated writing these proposals, even though I wanted the business. And so now taking this sort of changing the dynamic of the conversation, but also being structured about what are the questions that I need to ask how do I need to demonstrate my value, but what are the questions I need to know in order to build the right solution and recommendation for potential clients has been it’s changed the game and the conversation.


Yeah, tell me so we did spend we did and have been spending a lot of time on the sales process for you and really mapping that out. And like you just described the mindset part of it was such a thing kind of unlocked the whole process. assess for you in a way that made it feels so much less, less arduous, less awkward or less overwhelming, and more like a consultant, right asking questions and understanding and building a solution. What other things would you recommend to the listeners? Nicola in terms of building out a sales process, what changes and adjustments that you think were valuable as you as you’ve established the sales process for yourself? Yeah,


um, so I mentioned the questions, right. And so I sort of reverse engineer have reverse engineered the process now, what am I, what if I’m, if ultimately, I’m going to create a statement of work or a proposal for them? Or below I, let’s just say a proposal, a proposal for them? What do I need to know? How To what do I need to know what is the baseline minimum? And then how am I going to refine and make sure that my understanding is right. So that’s the end of the process? So at the end of the process, I know I want to review with them. My statement of work step before that is, that I need to have the right insights. The step before that. And I’m it’s sort of I’m building it backward, is really understanding, what are the questions? What is the information I need to know in order to get to those, those next steps downstream? So this whole reverse engineering of starting with the end? You know, it’s it’s cliche, right? Start with the end in mind, but it’s so true. How do you what do I need? And then how do I engineer the call to make sure or the calls to make sure that I’m able to get that right information? That’s been really it’s, that’s been a big part of the game change? But also, then how do you maintain and sustain the inbound? And Jin as well, you know, because the sales, the closing calls, proposal calls, whatever you want to call them? That’s the end of the process? What are all of the things that I need to do in the lead-up to that, to be able to get to that? How visible do I need to be, you know, where to what do I need to do to generate that demand? Yeah.


Tell us a little bit more about that part of your business. So what have you been doing that has been creating that demand? And what do you think about that part of the process?


Yeah, so um, I was, I mentioned my LinkedIn coming out post announcing my own business. And I struggled with it for when, because first of all, I took on way too much at the beginning. And I was overwhelmed. And so I didn’t want to launch to the market immediately because I just didn’t even have time for a conversation with anybody, because I’ve taken on too much client work. Step one fixed that problem. And then and so so when I, when I wrote my post I talked about, I titled it with the subject line, the great resignation is which is real. I know, because I joined the club. And I wrote a very personal story about why I talked about imposter syndrome, trying and tell me that my value was tied to working for a big brand. And I was very, very vulnerable in my LinkedIn posts, I also talked about the dynamics of work changing and people accessing this top talent, it was a really long post, and I got 32,000 views on that post. And I remember you and I would talk every week and I’d be like, This is crazy, it keeps going. And so to me, I mean that that was a huge inbound engine and created a lot of a lot of buzzes. But now that dies off after a few months, right you know, I really try to think about how can I keep my name and that drum bit that drumbeat of Nicola in the public eye without it being too much right? Because then people start to tune you out as well. So for me, it’s a combination of speaking engagements, LinkedIn posts, commenting on people’s posts, engaging in the conversation, and then as well as my network, our networks are wonderful sources of referrals and opportunities so taking that time to keep that net you know, keep the contact with my network has been a really important process for me as well. Yeah,


so something that’s these things are things you love doing and you’ve designed your lead generation process around the things that you love doing and are really good at and that your network that resonates with your network calls you Yeah, such a good alignment versus trying to force yourself to take on some technique that seems sort of sexy from a webinar or something like that, but doesn’t really isn’t really something that’s aligned to you or, or even to the ideal client you’re trying to attract has


to feel it has to be genuine, right?


Yep. Tell me. How do you maintain that consistency? That’s strong For a lot of consultants, especially trying to balance client delivery, with that side of your business, so tell us a little bit about how you maintain that consistency. Yeah, and


I’m not sure that I still have the answer to it, I’m still learning as I go along. Um, but, you know, I, I, I don’t have a calendar or content that I’m going to put out or topics that I’m going to put out, but at all, but I do know that I need to be there, I need to show up at least every few weeks with something. So you know, I start with speaking engagements or podcasts or book excerpts, whatever those things might be that are major milestones. And then I build around that. So I have those major milestones cadence, and then I’ll fill in with the smaller touch points. But to me, LinkedIn has been definitely my, my most successful platform, as well as you know, the speaking engagements, because people are promoting me to their networks when they’re promoting my engagement. So that’s helped as well.


Yeah. So good. Let’s, you touched on this a few times. But let’s switch gears and talk a little bit about how you’ve changed your business and set up your business in a way that is protecting your work-life balance.


Yeah. So and once again, a bit of a work in progress, like, I don’t have all the answers. But, you know, I knew that I didn’t want to be working 60-hour weeks or more anymore. So you know, baseline, there’s, I’m looking at a 40-hour week at the max. And then I’ve sort of carved it back, I’ve actually said, Well, my ideal week maybe is 35 hours or 30 hours, which I still struggle with, you know, as a type corporate person that just doesn’t seem to get, I’m still struggling with it with what do you mean, if I’m not doing 80 wee hours a week, I’m not, I’m not performing at the top level. So that’s just my own internal hang-ups. But so I start with my baseline hours, and then I carve off a certain amount of time for, you know, those, those two other pillars of the sales process as well as the investment in the business. And that gives me a certain amount of time for client work, right. And so from that client work, and I build-out, I’m building out because I still don’t have it perfectly modeled yet a capacity planner. So I can see, where do I have abs? Where do I have flows? Where can I take on more or not? So that’s, that’s been a part of it. But I’ve actually I’m using that scarcity factor, so to speak to my benefit, as well. So you know, people want what they can’t have. And so, you know, I only have a certain number of spots for a certain number of clients. And, you know, if, if you want one of my spots, and I’m not available, now, you’re going to have to secure your spot for downstream. So so that’s really worked for me as well is being able to sort of build that book of business longer. But it’s really about chunking out that week and being very mindful about what I can do and what I can’t do. Yeah,


yeah. But you touched on something that I’d love to go back to Nikola, which was this idea of exclusivity. And just the way, I think if you’re okay with me sharing this other story when we first started working together, really the way you were thinking about yourself, and what and the way you were thinking about your clients and the way you were thinking about the way your clients are thinking about you. And how that shifted over, you know, through some work we did on your positioning, to remember that part of you on the show was,


I think my outreach to you was how do I say no, I don’t know how I cannot say no, you know, and that was what I was really scared about was you know, I didn’t want to let down my network a and, you know, as a consultant, you need you to want any steady income of clients. And so where I probably didn’t have the right self-confidence in myself and my ability to generate a lasting business model to say not now. Right, so So we spent a lot of time on the positioning of the no it’s not No, it’s not now and built a sort of built that into the top tracks. So you know, I am I’m, there’s a few spots that I can take on at any given time and if you want one of those, they’ll have they sometimes will have to wait and sometimes they do sometimes they don’t it backfires. You know, sometimes they’ll say no, and it’s like well, it is what it is because I am not going to kill myself to deliver client work or I substandard client work because I’ve taken on too many clients.


Yep. Yeah, this isn’t false scarcity. This is you being really realistic about, like you said, backing into how much time you want to be spending working, and what that looks like for client delivery. And kind of the average thinking about what the average duration of projects would be for you and average revenue, and just like building up that whole plan. So you know, you know, kind of what on a rolling 12-month basis, what what, what all of that looks like,


and managing something that we’ve been working on lately, and I think it’s good for the listeners to hear about is what happens when it doesn’t go to plan, right? Because if my capacity is tight, and it’s pretty scheduled, you know, the if I’m successful, and there’s somebody waiting for when I’m done with my current workloads, you know, and then this workload stretches out, how do I manage that? And I think as consultants, that’s something that we really need to focus on. What are our contingency plans? What are our buffers in the models that we build as well?


Yeah, and we’ve been working on setting up some structures for you to really protect your protect some of your capacity and making sure the clients are engaged and understanding their expected expectations of what their involvement will be in that kind of thing. Is there anything you want to share around that? Nicola?


Yeah, yeah. And I think I think, as you know, yes, I’m, I have tons of experience in doing what I do. But not tons of experience in selling, what I do and the value that I do, and what does it take to do what I do? So one of them I’m still learning and I’m still figuring it out, is what are all the inputs I need, and what are the outputs, and really documenting that and having a process, I’m not a process-driven person. So understanding those things, so that I know how to protect myself in the scopes of work that I’m building for clients, right? So these are the things I need in order to give you x, you can’t give me those in a timely manner, or can’t give them to me at all, the input of that outcome on the deliverables is x, right. And those are hard things too, at first to really think through because you haven’t done it. But the more and more you think, you know, if I’m, the deliverables are somewhat the same. Like there are some common themes now with my clients, but I can see. So now each time I write a statement of work, each model is becoming more and more and more refined. So I know what to do to protect myself and then provide that quality work. Yeah, yeah.


But let’s talk about you touched on this, I would love love to hear more about your thoughts on productizing. What you’ve been doing and, and how you’re kind of managing things on two levels you’re delivering for clients, but you’re also thinking about what you do from a product to zation or template design. Perspective.


Yeah. Because like I just mentioned, you know, there are common themes that I’m finding now, in the work that I’m doing, and I wouldn’t have known that before. Because I was working in a corporate role. And I had one client, which was my employer who did whatever needed to happen. But, you know, we’re not, we’re not saving lives here, right? We’re building marketing strategies, where events are a component of it, those fundamentals, no matter the industry, the size of the company, the geography, whatever, they’re the same. So understanding those foundational says, 80%, right, that can become privatized, which, and then tweet, the 20% that specific to a specific client and the nuances to that client. So yeah, the first time that 80, that 80% can become privatized. And I’m building at scratch, it’s taking, let’s say it was a 100-hour project, it’s taking 80 hours to do that. It doesn’t take me 80 hours to do it the second time, maybe it takes me 40 There time, it might take me 20 On eventually, I want it that 80% down to 10 hours, you know what I mean? So that, then, you know, what it allows me to do is expand my scope and my scale, I can take on more projects, because that foundational process layers are there and I’m not recreating the wheel every single time. But I’m still meeting my clients’ specific needs because that’s one thing as consultants we have to do right, we have to add value can’t just dial in the same deliverable every single time. So how do I make How do I create that foundational element but then also provide the right client customization on top of it? That’s the fun piece. But I’m not recreating that bottom 80% all of the time.


Yeah. And that’s such an I think a lot of consultants miss that part. We, we love variety, we love a challenge we love, you know, starting fresh and that kind of thing. And so it can be very common to miss that opportunity to create assets for your business and really think about even though some activity may feel very bespoke to a given client, how could this apply to others? How could it be of value to other clients? And how can I kind of templatized it to move forward? And I see that?


How can I save it right to find it in the future? Because, you know, I’ll go through some of my old files from when I was consulting before. And I was like, I was brilliant. Well, I probably recreated it five or six different times where I could have just known that I had that foundational built and used it over and over again. So how do you keep track of the work? How do you organize the work in a way that you can find things quickly? Put them on brand and templates, whatever it might be? So that you can you just stroke can streamline things and the deliverables that you offer?


Yeah. And always ask yourself, Where is a good starting point versus assuming there isn’t one and starting in and starting from scratch? Yeah, that’s,


um, what can you and I think the other thing which is interrelated, but not directly related, is what can you outsource? Yeah. Right. So a little bit about


that you’ve been kind of going back and forth about, you know, dialing in that outsourcing. So tell us where you’re at with that. Yeah. And


I think, um, so I think part of it for me is I’m building the plane as I’m flying it, right. And so I’m making it. But as I go through this process, and as I realized that there is some predictability in the deliverables that I’m building for my clients, it is becoming clearer what I need to do versus what I do not need to do, and somebody else could do for me. So you know, if, you know, my billable rate is higher than another, I’m billing on an hourly basis. And I wouldn’t suggest that people do that. If you unless you have to. My billable baseline billable rate is different than maybe virtual assistants, billable rate. So what can I give to a virtual assistant? What can I give to a bookkeeper? What can I give to my nephew, who can scour the internet just as much as I can, you know, what I mean? What are the things that I have to use that I should be spending my time on versus what can I give to others? And now I haven’t got it down to a science, you know, this, we talk about it a lot, because I’m still learning and I’m still figuring out what those things are. But my intent is to create more capacity for myself, by offloading as much as I can, where it makes sense in a way that won’t impact the deliverables or cause me more work. Because in some cases, when you’re onboarding somebody else to do something, it takes you twice as long as you could do it for yourself, but the long-term investment will pay off in the end, I believe, yeah,


you brought up a couple of really, I think important tactics here, which are in the first is really doing some of that dirty work yourself. So you know exactly what it is that you’re wanting to outsource and eventually train someone on, it becomes so much easier to, to shift something over to someone else that you’ve already done yourself for a bit of time and, and really know the ins and outs of that. And so that can be a real impact a really successful strategy in terms of outsourcing. And the other thing that you touched on, as you were describing this, that I think could be valuable to others as well. Nicola is you know, just knowing that every that things are shifting, and sometimes we make mistakes, and maybe bring on an assistant that wasn’t a good fit or, or waited too long to bring someone on or whatever the things are, and just not taking that on board that it’s a problem. We’re just learning and growing and adjusting and figuring it out as we go. I think I’ve had four virtual assistants and I’ve finally landed on one who’s been with me for at least I think six months now. But it’s a lot of trial and error that goes with owning a business to


areas and you know, if you think about that, like you on board, one and then you have to on board another and you have to onboard none and you’re like, oh my gosh, why am I even doing this? But yeah, I do. I do also believe that longer-term, it will, it will create capacity, and it will allow me to have the balance that I want in my work life as well.


And the capacity is really two things. I mean, it’s the physical hours that you’re saving, but it’s also without the mental overhead that is, you know, just with having this crazy long to-do list and trying to keep up with all the things that range from bookkeeping to, you know, creating strategies for clients and everything in between being able just to take a lot of that kind of noise off of our plate, even if it doesn’t always free up a lot of time can be incredibly valuable.


So, Mike, I think you hit on it there the mind time, right? Like anything that you can do, you’ve got several podcasts where you talk about this, it’s this mental shift, but anything you can do to you got enough to worry about as a business owner, right? Anything you can do to take that mental strain or mental lift off your view, and whether it’s by process or things you’ve thought through situations scenarios are just super important to do. Because then you can just put it away. Now think about it.


Yeah, absolutely. Um, let’s, let’s shift gears a little bit Nicola and talk about coaching. So sometimes I get this question a lot what if I don’t understand what a coach does to help me I don’t understand what coaching is. My only reference point of a coach is, you know, executives and corporate who had an executive coach. And so you’ve been, you’ve been, we’ve been working together, I would love if you would share your insights on, you know, why you touched on this briefly when we first started, but why did you decide that work with a coach would be a good step for you in the direction of your business?


Yeah, so I wanted to build the right foundation. To me, that was critical. And you know, from day one, I wanted to focus on building a long-term sustainable foundation. So I found your podcast, I didn’t even interview another coach, there was no conversation needed for me, you were the right person, and I was going to stalk you. So you agreed to work with me. So, fortunately, you agreed quickly, because otherwise, I would have been a real pain in your neck. You know, to me, I’m you’ve been there, you’ve done it, you’ve been through it, you’ve gone from corporate big corporate to the shift to independent consultant, the mind there is a mind shift and make no mistake, anybody that’s thinking about that shift, it is a mentally big mind shift that you have to make, leaving the corporate world behind, you’ve gone through that. You’ve helped multiple other clients build businesses either fix problems that they had or build from the beginning, and you’ve just got different, just different experience than I had same as my clients hire me for my expertise. I hired you and others hire you for your expertise, because, you are able to help people like me build sustainable long-term businesses. So that was sort of my mindset coming in from it. And you know, I’ve had executive coaching before, but I’ve never had, I’m gonna call it a relationship but like I’ve had with you because you get me, you sometimes tell me I’m being ridiculous, and like, give me a little slap across the side of their head. But you really helped me deal with my day to day to day to day and work through things that I didn’t even know could were issues, or could be fixed or could be optimized, you know, many times coming to the Congo, wonder what we’re going to talk about today, I’m flying on top of the world, but in the end, the hour would be over? And I’d be like, No, I don’t want it to be done. Because you just kind of you have this ability to help cut through the noise and the clutter for me to really focus on things that are important that I didn’t even know were important for me to focus on.


Yeah, I’ll I appreciate that so much. And I know just kind of sharing what it’s like to have a coach on your side, I have one all the time myself. And I have to also say just from a coaching perspective, clients, like you who show up and are really open and transparent and willing to willing to talk about things that feel uncomfortable and willing to talk about things that feel like, you know, a failure or feel like they’re not quite working yet, or and things that are going great. And how do we replicate what’s going great, we oftentimes don’t even give ourselves credit for the things that are going well? And you’re just you show up for all of it and, and really have done it’s amazing to see how far your business has come just in these last few months of launching it to really having a very clear line of sight into what your revenue and your capacity and who you’re going to be working with for the next at least through the end of the year.


Yeah, that actually, that the business plan and the revenue model. That was one of the first things that we worked on. I remember he said to me, Well, what’s your revenue plan for the year what’s your target? And I’m like, I don’t know. How can I do that and you were like, you know, tough love, you’re like, would you have accepted that as an answer in your previous life? Of course, you wouldn’t have, why would you not have a business plan? I’m like, Oh, I’ll get one grade. But that tough love is what I need it right? And you know, and now I just go back to building the plan. Now I know, when I’m on track, or if I’m not on track, and I’m fortunately on track, and I’m not panicking and thinking like, oh, my gosh, I need to take on more and more and more clients. And I need to work harder and harder and harder. Because I don’t actually know where I am towards my goals, I have clear goals, I now know that I’m doing really well against them. So I can allow myself that work-life balance, which I probably if I didn’t know that, I would probably be freaking out and taking on way more clients than I needed to, for absolutely no reason and then not preserving why I did this in the first place. Right? And so, you know, just it’s that that was the first uncomfortable one of our conversations, and you know, I embraced it and leaned into it. And I pull that plan out on a monthly basis and check where I am against it.


Yeah, it’s kind of a roadmap for you, right? To remind yourself, oh, this, this particular potential client seems really good. Maybe I should just somehow squeeze them in, and then you go back to that plan and check yourself against it. And like you said, it helps you give some guardrails. But at the same time,


it also you have to trust your instinct as a consultant to your example there. There was a particular client that I took on. And I remember telling you might like, I took on another guy, and I knew I shouldn’t have and you’re like, Okay, well, you sure you manage it? And like, yeah, I can manage it. And it turned out to be the funnest project I’ve done this year, and it’s opened a door to a much bigger opportunity with the same client. So you know, sometimes I think, as much as we have plans, we also have to trust our instincts as well as consultants. And if it feels right, then it feels right, and follow-through.


That’s such a good point. Because if you had said no to that client because they didn’t fit well onto your paper, you would have missed out on a really fun client and that future opportunity. So definitely not negating or ignoring that inner voice can be a tricky, tricky thing, to really know when to listen to your intuition. And when it’s just justifying something that’s not the right thing. You’ve been really sorting through that I think, too,


and still, learn from it every day. Right? You know, this, believe me, I don’t have all the answers at all, but it’s an amazing journey.


Yeah, so fun to see how far you’ve come to tell us anything that was kind of a surprise or the biggest aha, that you’ve taken away so far in your business? You as you’ve relaunched it in the last few months?


Um, yeah, I think a few things. So I touched on this briefly, and you have a podcast and you probably, I’m kept going and caught you off guard. So you might want to put it in the show notes or whatever, after people. But there was one I remember I sent you a message one night, I was cooking dinner, and I was listening to your podcast and it was about the mental mindset shift from corporate and to independent consultant and you know, about happiness and how happiness is not tied to busy work. And you know, and I know I’m not doing it justice, but I remember it was a two-part podcast and I remember being so moved by it, I was like, You got like, you, you literally were talking to me in that podcast. And so that was a big aha moment for me that I really needed to leave that corporate mindset behind of though, you know, you got to be on the rat wheel and you know, hustling 24/7 And you’re, you’re not worthy if you’re not working like ridiculous, separating myself from that, and realizing that was a thing because I didn’t realize that the last time around was huge for me. So that’s that and I go back and I do you know, I have it marked on my favorites because it’s important will be important for me to listen to on a regular basis. So I think that was one. Another one you’ve talked about a lot in investing in your business and like your CEO mindset versus your worker mindset, and spending money on the business and investing in the right way. That was another thing for me. Like I built my own website. Why? It looks great. I mean, I’m happy with Yeah, but it could have been done in a third of the time much more like I’m sure professionally than the lift it took me so you know, and that was early on that was pre-you. So but um, you know, sort of figuring out where to invest in other areas versus feeling like I have to do it myself and save every single dollar. You know, because it’s not salary, it’s corporate, it’s corporate money, it’s different.


Yeah, it’s, it can be such a tricky thing mentally. First of all, I’ve been we’re so used to you are an executive level within SAP, but you still have budgets to manage to and people to be accountable to, and, and in some, you know, at some level, get permission to spend whatever was above your budget, or even getting approval for the budget, right. And


so even if it was your budget, you had to get approval.


So it’s, it’s, it’s so it’s such a different mind shift. I remember I can think back, I don’t know, it was probably my third year in business or fourth year in business. And I wanted to go to a conference. And it was so foreign to me, that I would spend money that wasn’t going to be repaid back on an expense report to go somewhere. And then I realized, I get to decide, I give myself permission, and I can go on a plane if I want to, and then money at this conference because I know it will benefit my business, it was such a joy to me three or four years to figure that out. So you’re well


ahead of me, which is why your podcast is so relevant and useful, I think to people because you’ve been through the journey. And you know, we can learn from your journey we can all learn from each other’s journeys.


Yeah, that’s why I’m so glad you’re here today. Because I think you’re such an inspiration, you’re on a version to Dotto of your business and, and so successful being sought after for what you do and just really figuring out how are you going to run this business on your own terms? And what does that look like? And what processes do you want to put in place in order to really create a business that you love working in every day? Yeah.


So thank you, and thank you for everything you’ve taught me.


So happy that you’ve come into my life. Tell me truly, Nicola, tell me what’s next for you? What is next, for you and your business in the next couple of years?


Wow. I think more of the same, but in a more of the same in this in us in continuing to work smarter, not harder. Um, that makes sense. I have no aspirations to build an agency or build a big company of employees Been there done that don’t need to, you know, don’t need hundreds of employees anymore. And so really, I do want to stay small. You know, I, one of the things I’ve we’ve been working through, and I think it’s important, probably for some of the other listeners to think through is your teaming strategies. So how do you find good partners that you can trust? How do you build the business in a way that creates revenue streams that are not actually consulting work? Right. So referrals or whatever that might be, you know, there are alternate revenue streams that we can create, as consultants that that are non-traditional consulting work? Right. So you know, really focusing on that and focusing on you know, just doing the work I love and working with cool people.


Yeah, love it. It’s so good. I think that’s such an important point that an independent consulting business doesn’t have to be a stepping stone to something bigger, can be really successful and profitable and fun, and simple to run. staying lean, lean and mean.


Yeah, yeah. And I think, you know, for anybody that’s made the transition or making the transition, I think we all struggle with the fact that having a large logo associated with our name does, you know, it’s our value we think is tied to that, and it’s not and you know, so I still continue to struggle a little bit with that, you know, Am I important now that I don’t work for SCP? Course I am, I’m still the same person. I still skill. And so you know, I, I’m still going through the transition, right? I’m six months post-breakup, so to speak, from corporate so I’ll continue to learn and lean in from that as well. And but I wanted to share that because it is a real, it’s a real thing. And it’s a real adjustment that we all have to go through when we’re making that transition.


Yeah, absolutely. It’s that self-identity. I think so many of us attached really starting probably at a young age I’m going to be you know, I’m going to have this title and this office and this sort of stature, that and status State gets associated to all of that, in our minds and culturally and, and when you don’t have that anymore, you don’t have a big name this you know, behind you, whether it’s a title or and or a company name. It’s a lot of self-identity. Work re recreating that self-identity, but it can be so valuable, right? Because now it’s just based on you.


You get to do the work you want for people that you want, like, what’s better than that?


100%? Yeah, so good. Strip it all down, strip it all away. Yes, Nicola, we’ve covered so much ground today. And I really appreciate you and your time and the podcasts for letting for connecting us together. Tell me, is there anything else that you would like to share?


Oh, gosh, no, I don’t I don’t think so. Just anybody that is thinking about Melisa, as a coach, does it. That’s all I can say. And I know you didn’t you gonna be mad at me probably even for saying, Do it. Do it? Do it, you have been such a godsend to me. So thank you for all that you do to help me and all of your other clients be successful. Well,


I appreciate you and tell us where were they? The listeners can find you if they would like to look into more about what you


and what you do. Yeah, absolutely. If anyone wants to critique my website, feel free. Now, Nicolakastner.com is my website. And you know, please reach out if, you know I, I’m a firm believer in community. And you know, we’re all in this together. So if I can help anyone, or provide any advice, I’m happy to do that as well.


Thank you so much. And thank you for your generous time today and for coming into my life. I’m so grateful to you. Thank you. All right. We’ll talk soon. Okay. Aye. Aye.

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