With over 20 years of experience, Stephanie Hayes helps entrepreneurs, small business owners, and corporate executives who have plateaued or reached the edge of their comfort level to excel. Sought out because of her knack for being able to see the big picture and her expertise to design, plan, and implement the next phase of their business, Stephanie thrives in transforming the fears and struggles of her clients into opportunities and successes.
Building a Better Business Model with Stephanie Hayes
Meet Stephanie: full-time mom, business coach and strategist who shares with me the power of building your business on a solid foundational model and how to truly create balance between your personal and professional life.
Stephanie has been working with startups in the online business space for over 20 years and has been in business for herself for the past 15. It’s through this work that she’s discovered where many businesses fail: they’re built on shaky foundations. Building a better business model and leveling up is the essence of what Stephanie does for her clients.
In addition, Stephanie has learned how to fully align her business to what she wants in life -- not the other way around.
Read on for the full interview.
What is your business and what do you do?
I am a business coach and strategist. I work with experienced entrepreneurs who are looking to level up their business and mature the way that they are working with their own clients. I work with them usually in a one on one capacity sometimes in a group. We’re building a framework for them to have a sustainable business that can grow.
How long have you been in business?
Formally in my coaching business for about five years. Informally I've been working with small businesses and startups for the last 20 years.
It's been really fun to have my feet in both the small business and the corporate camp because I get to see how we can marry both together to give small business owners what they really need.
When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur and how did you get started?
I have been an entrepreneur at heart since I was a young child and I always knew that I wanted to own my own business. It took me a little while but I was able to finally make that happen about 15 years ago.
Before that, I've been working in startups my entire life in the technology space. And so I got a lot of exposure to seeing how small businesses and startups grow, and all the things that they need to do.
When you're in that kind of environment, you have to do all the things, you have to play all the roles and you have to get all of that experience.
So by the time I started up my own business, I already had a lot of that under my belt. But I've always had that entrepreneurial spirit along the way.
I moved into being an entrepreneur mentor at the University of British Columbia and worked with small businesses and startups who wanted to become funded for the the ideas that they had. It all kind of all progress naturally.
Eventually people started asking me, can you help me with my business? Can you help me figure out what's wrong? Can you help me get to that next stage of growth? It became really obvious that what I wanted to do was not do the work within the business itself, but help these businesses see the forest for the trees.
So it gradually evolved to the point where I recognize what I was really good at is that bigger picture of the strategy and being able to see all the pieces working together.
A few years ago, I actually formalized that capacity, and now I work as a coach and a strategist helping all of these different businesses, whether they're a product business or service business or something in between, establish their strategy, their business model and realign their businesses so that they can implement. I've been able to take the strategy piece as well as the execution piece and marry them together which has been pretty unique, but also a lot of fun.
What kind of questions and concerns do you hear most often from your clients?
It's interesting because depending on the type of business that they are, they often have similar concerns.
In a services based business, you often have people who have put so much time and energy into their client work and they feel like they're drowning in client work, and then all of a sudden they'll end up in this sort of feast and famine.
They are often trying to get away from being overwhelmed by client work and being overwhelmed by the amount of effort they have to put into their business in order to keep things going.
So they want the consistency. They want to grow their income, they don't see how to get away from the time for money trap, I would say that's the most common on the services side.
On the product side, again, depending on what type of product that these folks are trying to build, they are often trying to figure out how to get leverage. How to sell their product and how to build more scale into their business. So they often have a bit more of a focus on the marketing side.
If they are a physical product manufacturer, then they've got this whole other realm of manufacturing, right, which is another super interesting challenge.
But what I love is being able to play in all of those faces and come up with strategies that fit the needs of the business owner.
That's probably what I stand for is that every business is like a fingerprint, right? It's very different and it needs to be different. It needs to be aligned with who the business owner is and what they're trying to achieve.
How did you get into the online space?
Funny enough, I have a certificate from university, 1998, in internet marketing, so the very first time that the university was offering internet marketing as a discipline, I saw the potential. I saw this really cool space emerging and I saw how different things can be in the online space, how many opportunities there are.
When I moved into coaching I knew that I wanted to do this in the online space. I wanted to be able to help people build these online businesses because I come from a technology background. For me, marrying technology and business is the vision, right? In the online world, you have this whole other set of tools, a whole other environment and you leverage that.
Now I do have some offline clients and I still continue to work with them, but for the most part, the online space is where I want to be because it's just it's a different vibe. It's a different medium and it offers all sorts of different opportunities.
Can you remember your first website or when you really started marketing online?
I'm cringing as we're talking thinking about my first website. It's actually an interesting story because it's a total manifestation of exactly what I try to teach people in terms of a big pivot.
I originally wanted to start in the online space, creating digital products and digital courses and things that people could consume. To me that was the epitome of scale. To kick myself in the butt I enrolled myself in a business coaching program and a business mentorship program.
Probably within a month I realized that this vision was totally different than what I actually needed to do to capitalize on the skills that I had. This is an entire lesson in alignment. What I was trying to pursue was fully misaligned with who I am and where my skill set is and where I really, really want to work.
So I've shifted very quickly to a personal brand and to being my own brand and to developing this coaching persona. Because I knew that if I wanted to build digital products down the road, I could better leverage a personal brand first then I could if I had built the digital products and wanted to become more of a personal brand later.
This was the easiest and fastest way for me to to build an online presence and to find my way in the online world because for me, marketing is all about building relationships and that's something I do really well and really easily. So I just went the path of least resistance and shifted quickly to a personal brand and started marketing that way.
When you we young, how did your entrepreneurial spirit manifest?
I honestly I I envisioned myself having my own company. You know, it's funny is that I remember sitting for hours and I would do one of two things. I would either make commercials I would just like, in my head, I would make these commercials. I had this real like marketing bent.
Or I would make forms for people to fill out and the funny part about that is, I own a software company and the software product we create is all about forms based processes.
Eventually, I ended up in the technology space, doing business process engineering, and a lot of that was collecting data, transforming data. And it's exactly what I would do as a kid. When I was sitting, making forms for my poor parents. To me the pleasure in filling out a form was amazing and I'm sure for everyone else it was not.
When I was about 12 years old, I started my first business as a clown that went to kids parties. I remember creating all of the flyers for it and buying all the stuff with my money at the dollar store. Even back then it didn't scare me, the idea of going out and starting something, because it was more of an experiment.
Most of my early jobs were in small startups and small businesses with a couple of brief stints where I worked as the IT manager for the Port Authority and one other stint in government. But for the most part I was working for small boutique startups and consulting agencies until I started my own.
What kind of transitional bumps did you face going into your own consulting?
Coming out of the consulting world and having spent most of my life in the consulting world, in that environment, especially working for startups and small businesses, you get a sense for how much is going on. You have to be kind of entrepreneurial in that environment.
So to me, selling marketing, being responsible for driving my own business was not new to me. What the learning was is that when you get into the place where you are now responsible for the health of and the course of the organization, everything rests on you. There are all these other things you need to be aware of.
Although I kind of knew them peripherally, I didn't have all those balls in the air at the same time. I had to know about taxes and I had to keep the bookkeeping going and I had to keep the sales funnel full.
Plus, you had to deliver on the work plus, plus, plus, plus plus. So it was like this really immersive education. And although I sort of knew that was going to be the case, getting in there and having to be part of that was tremendous. It was such an education.
But I would say the biggest thing I took out of that first experience in my first business, which has continued to serve me as a coach and a strategist, is this big study up and realization that a business model is a thing and if your business model is not working your whole business doesn't work.
It doesn't matter how much you can strong arm sales, you're always going to be chasing your tail if your business model is not working.
When I finally figured that out, that's when I was able to walk away from [my first business] without feeling guilty, without feeling like I'd failed.
The business is actually still running today, but it's owned by other people. But that business model was never going to work in the way that we had designed it. I didn't have enough control over the company to be able to change that.
That helped me get this perspective that I think a lot of people don't have when they’re coaches and strategists that you can only get from running your own company. Being able to connect the dots with the education and with the experience and with enough insight to know that business models matter more than anything.
That's the first thing I do with my clients now, we look at their business model. We look at all of the different pieces and how aligned it is before we go and we deal with anything tactical, because that's not right. The rest of your business is not going to be right. I don't even want to deal with your tactics right. We need to fix that first.
How do you structure your life to create to create a work life balance with family and entrepreneurship?
There's a there are a few different things that I would say, one of them is that structure is freedom. Being really clear and structured about the way you do your work is what's going to enable you to have the freedom that you want to do all the other things, whatever that might be.
The work I do with my clients as well as is they have goals, they have objectives, they know how they want their life to be. Rather than just coaching them on their business, we take their business and we figure out how we can use that business to make the rest of their life work for them.
I've done this with myself as well. You say, ‘Okay, if what I have to offer to my business is x and I want to make y in terms of money than I have z, which is my pricing.’ So we're going to shift all those things around until we have a business model that works.
But more than anything, I think what's really important is being clear on what you value. So for some people, it is being able to go to yoga every day, and for some people it's travel.
For me, I wanted everything. I wanted to be able to do everything I want to do, and not be held back. I wanted the great relationship and I wanted to be able to spend time with my kids, and I wanted to travel, and I want the freedom, and I want the flexibility.
So I had to look at what those things were and prioritize them and decide what that looked like for me. Getting away and traveling as much as I can is a huge value for me. So how can I structure my life so that that could happen?
It was really important for me to be able to spend time with my kids as soon as they came home and to be able to pick them up from school. I had never been able to do in the early days. I didn't even know their teachers, I didn't know their friends. I had none of that and it felt really crappy. So one of my rules is that I don't work after I pick my kids up from school at three o'clock.
This is about creating rules in your life and sticking to them. Being really clear about the things that matter to you. Create boundaries around those things. That's super important.
Here's the other thing -- we're not saving lives, right? This is where this isn't brain surgery. If my client doesn't hear back from me until tomorrow, who's going to care? Nobody's going to care.
Being really clear on the realities of your business and being really clear on what it is that you actually want is number one.
I took a break from relationships because I was failing miserably at it. What I did is I got really clear on what I wanted. I got really clear on what I was going to accept what I wasn't going to accept in my life. And when that finally came around for me, I knew it. I knew it and I went for it. It happened because I got really, really clear on what that needs to be.
Take the pressure off yourself. We have this monologue, this story, when we're entrepreneurs, like, ‘Oh, I got to work every day, work all the time, work, work, work, work, work. Poor me, I'm the busy entrepreneur.’ That's a bunch of BS.
It's totally a bunch of BS because all you're doing is you're saying you don't have the guts, you don't have the the insight into your life to know what matters to you, and what doesn't matter to you. If you don't take care of the rest of your life, you're not living right. Don't fall into that trap of saying I need to work all the time because that's just what you do as an entrepreneur. It’s not at all.
I work hard. I'll work on weekends sometimes. But it's because I also have a schedule during the week that allows me to do what I want to do and have this life right now. It didn't come overnight. This was really, really intentional. This is what manifestation really is. It's about deciding what you're going to do and then aligning everything you do to make that happen.
How do you balance client expectations with your own needs?
Let me be really clear. I am a stickler for customer service, and I treat my customers like they are the number one thing for me. What I'm saying is that we put so much pressure on ourselves, saying, ‘If they email me, I have to be back to them within an hour.’ That's not true.
Your clients are also busy and they are also doing things so if you have to batch your responses until next tomorrow morning, chances are, they're not and you're not saving lives.
You are training people how to treat you and how to work with you. So if you are always the victim of everyone else in your external environment, it's it's because you have created that situation, you have made that happen.
It's all about setting expectations with people. I set expectations with my clients that I'll get back to them within 24 to 48 hours. That means on weekends, I don't commit to responding to emails. I don't commit to being in my group and responding to questions and posts in my group. But my clients are getting served and they're happy.
But if you don't set those expectations right off the bat with a strong onboarding letter, with a contract, with even just a conversation, then you are going to be a victim of your own circumstance. By setting expectations with clients right off the bat, you get a lot more freedom and a lot less stress in your life.
It’s also the way that you behave and the way that you talk about yourself. The way that you engage with potential new clients is all an opportunity to filter out the people that you don't want to work with.
I learned a really, really hard lesson last year that when people come to me and they say, ‘I need to make more money’ that is not a client I want to work with because they won't do the work. They're looking for a magic pill and they have this desperation versus determination.
Listening and being really cognizant of what people are saying to you is really really important because you can start to mirror back in your marketing, in your copy and in the way that you behave the to the people, that you don't want to work with that this is not for them.
Or for the people who you really want to work with, they're hearing their language. It’s all about building a brand that attracts the right people and repels the wrong people.
- A solid business model is paramount to your success.
- Create the vision for your life first, then build the business to support it.
- Get really clear on what you want out of your business and your life. Set non-negotiable boundaries, structure and expectations with clients that honors that intention -- otherwise you will continue to be a victim to your business.
- Build a brand that attracts the right people, the people you really want to work with, and repels the wrong people.
Any final words you’d like to leave with my audience?
You can have anything that you want. That is not rah, rah cheerleader BS. That is actually true. It is just a matter of being really clear about it and setting your intention to get it done. It's all about how committed, how determined to get it you are.
Whatever it is that you want, make sure you know what it is because if you build a business that isn't what you want it will never succeed and you will have a lot of friction.
Connect with Stephanie for a free strategy session at StephanieHayes.Biz/NicoleHolland