The path to success may have several disruptions along the way. Although these disruptions may be an impasse, stepping back to slingshot forward can help you succeed. In today’s episode, Whitney Johnson, the founder of Disruption Advisors, takes a deep dive into how personal growth leads to growth in your consulting business. Whitney explains the cascading effect of how all that development from individuals to teams and into the business that needs to come together will lead to growth. By pulling together an amalgam of different ideas and drawing on best practices from people, and leverage those to set yourself as a successful consultant. For more tips on growing your consulting business, tune in to this episode now!
I’m very excited to have Whitney Johnson join us. Whitney, welcome.
Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
You are a consultant, a speaker and an author. You are also the CEO, Founder of Disruption Advisors, where you help companies grow by empowering the individuals within them. You worked with many well-known organizations like Morgan Stanley, WD-40, HubSpot, Dropbox, and a whole bunch of others. Your most recent book, which we will talk more about, and I make sure people can find out more about, is called Smart Growth: How to Grow Your People to Grow Your Company. Let’s get started. I would love to take us back to the early days before you started Disruption Advisors, and also, it has your name as part of the company. What were you doing before the consulting business? What did your career look like?
Very thumbnail sketch of my career, I studied Music in college, and when I graduated, I got married, so I moved to New York with my husband, who was getting his PhD. It’s because it was going to take 5 to 7 years, and there was not very much money. Someone had to put food on the table. I was the designated food puter on the table person. I didn’t want to do music. I had done it but didn’t want to. I got a job and started working as a secretary to a Wall Street stockbroker because I was a Music major. I wasn’t qualified to do many things at that point.
What was exciting is that I grew up on the West Coast. I didn’t know what Wall Street was. I would go to work every day and hear people say things like, “Throw down your pompoms and get in the game,” and all these testosterone-laden conversations and realize I needed to throw down my pompoms, which I had been a cheerleader in high school.
I discovered Wall Street and realized, “This is exciting. I want to do this.” I started taking business courses at night, Accounting, Finance, and Economics. I had a boss who believed in me, which allowed me to move from being a secretary to an investment banker. I did that for about 4 or 5 years, and then my boss got fired. We got disrupted, and they probably would’ve fired me too except I had good performance reviews. They moved me but shoved me into something called equity research, where it was my job to build financial models and make a stock call.
It turns out that disruption was good because I was very good at picking stocks. I ended up becoming an institutional investor and ranked stock analyst. I did that for about eight years and then decided this time to disrupt myself, became an entrepreneur and connect with Clayton Christensen at Harvard Business School. I started the Disruptive Innovation Fund with him and his son. I did that for about five years.
Back in 2012, I wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review called Disrupt Yourself, where I applied the theory of disruptive innovation to the individual. It had a lot of interest, and I realized, “I am more interested in the momentum of people than I am in stocks.” I disrupted myself again and, for the last many years, have been writing, speaking, and building this business, which is now Disruption Advisors, which is a tech-enabled talent development company. We provide people with tools to see where they are in their growth. We coach, advise, consult and all around that. That is the thumbnail sketch of how I got from college to this conversation that you and I are having.
There is so much I want to explore about what you are doing but I would be remiss if I didn’t take us a little bit further back and go a bit deeper into some of that career trajectory and path that you took. It sounds like you mentioned disruption several times throughout your career. If I was a viewer of that career from a high level, it feels like there was a lot of upward momentum and movement.
It didn’t sound like there were a lot of challenges, and I don’t mean that in a sense that you didn’t go through any challenges but I’m wondering if you pulled yourself consistently through disruption and kept moving higher, making progress. When you look back over that time, is there a characteristic or a habit that you developed that you feel was integral to you being able to continue to reach new plateaus but moving higher each time?
One of the tenets of personal disruption is you step back to slingshot forward. Click To Tweet
I don’t know how to describe it other than the fact that there is something deep inside of me that is driven to grow and make progress. To your point, it sounds like it has always been upward momentum, but there have been lots of steps back, starting with the fact that I didn’t graduate from college until I was 27 because I didn’t know what I wanted to do or be. I took two years to live in Latin America as a missionary. I didn’t know what I wanted to graduate in. I got pushed into equity research. There were lots of steps back but there was something in my psyche of, “How do I continue to make progress? How do I take something that doesn’t work and make meaning of it?”
One of the tenets of personal disruption is that you step back to slingshot forward. How do I take those steps back and always turn them into something that I can make meaning of in a positive way? I can use that to help myself and also help people around me make progress as well. I want to call it grit but I don’t know that that’s how Angela Duckworth would describe it. There is some drive deep, integral to who I am to use that word that you used to make progress, grow, and move forward.
Do you know where that comes from? Was that part of your upbringing, your childhood or something that happened in the past if you look back where that drive comes from?
It’s a combination of things. I’m a big fan of the Enneagram. Are you familiar with Enneagram?
I am. Yes.
You will probably not be surprised to know that I am a one on the Enneagram. For those who aren’t familiar, one is an improver, a person who wants to make the world better. That very much explains a lot. In terms of where that approach to the world came from, I’m the oldest child. My parents got married because my mom was pregnant with me. That’s very different nowadays than it was when I was born. There was a sense of, “If I can be successful, then I will make up for the mistake that my mother feels like she made in marrying my father.”
This need to prove myself to make everything okay. It is very much something that animated who I was. There were some challenges. It would have been nice if things were different. Yet I wonder who I would be if I hadn’t had that experience of always feeling like I needed to improve and get better. Part of my adult life is letting go of some of that. Certainly, in my younger years, that was very much a driving force for which I am very grateful because it pushed me always to want to do better and be better.
I couldn’t help but think about two big boxes of segments or ways of looking at how people make an impact. On one side, I see a lot of people who are very focused and deep in their work. That might be writing or speaking but essentially, they are creating something and getting it out into the world. There’s another group of people that may not necessarily create as much but their, on the surface, are at least much more focused on relationships.
They are getting in front of people. They are having conversations. Do you feel that you fit into either one of those more than the other or are you in the middle? How would you look at what impact your overall growth as a person? Is it more creating and putting stuff out there or is it more relationships? What do you think about that?
When you ask me the question, I fall somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, you look at my body of work of being able to say that I’m an equity analyst. I’ve now written four books. I took this theory of disruption and applied it to the individual. I took this notion of the S curve that was popularized by Everett Rogers and applied that to the individual. I’m continually looking at and taking business theories repeatedly because I did it with stocks as well and apply them to people.
I take business theories, and how do I use those to help inform what individual growth looks like? I am very focused on, “How can I come up with ideas that will help people make progress.” To your question or the other piece of it, it’s always about in service of the relationship. It’s always about, “How can I explain this idea, or how can I make these ideas that they are useful so that someone can use them to make progress in their lives?” I straddle both of those worlds, the idea and the relationship world. If I thought about it more, I might give you a different answer but my first answer is that I straddle both worlds.
You’ve taken some of these concepts and reworked or reapplied them to have a different perspective or way of seeing things and a different outcome. That’s also become a body of work for you that you’ve built your brand around. How important do you think that is for a consol for somebody in professional services to be known for something in terms of whether it’s a methodology or an application? You’ve taken the S curve and reapplied it.
A lot of times, people don’t necessarily latch onto a specific concept and then build a body of work around it. They might publish some articles or write a book but it may not necessarily be around a specific concept. I’m wondering for you because it seems like you’ve done that multiple times. Is that conscious, and do you think that’s a key to being successful in this business or is that a byproduct of how you’ve moved through the motions?
A lot of it has been instinctive. There has also been some element of it that has been very deliberate. One of the people that was very influential for me was Clayton Christensen. What was he known for? Disruptive innovation. I think about someone like Bob Proctor. He is very much known for human potential. She’s a fellow Canadian. I think about someone like Gretchen Rubin. She’s known for happiness.
Brené Brown is known for vulnerability, etc. You can be a very successful consultant by pulling together an amalgam of different ideas and drawing on best practices from people across the globe. At the same time, I do think, in general, you are going to be more successful as a consultant if you have a brand. People buy brands.
There’s an intangible value to the brand that makes your business more successful. The more you can be known for something, for an idea, an approach, and how you do what you do, the more people are going to reach out to you. The bigger your brand, the more that you are able to make choices about who you work with, when you work, and what you charge people to do.
The answer is that you can be very good at what you do without being known for something. In general, if you were to do a study of all the most successful consultants, they are going to be known for a specific practice or idea where they are the best in the world. Therefore people seek them out to do that thing that they do better than anybody else.
Let’s fast forward from the chapter that we were at. I’m wondering, when you first decided to create Disruption Advisors many years ago, how did you go out and get your first clients for that business?
You would know better than I am but I will tell you my own experience. In 2012, I wrote this article. I decided I want to figure out how to build a practice, body of work, and business around these ideas. What I found is that after I wrote the article, people reached out to me and said, “We want you to come to speak.” People were reaching out to me, “We would like you to come to speak to our organization about these ideas.”
When you say that article, are you talking about the Harvard Business Review article?
You can be a very successful consultant by combining different ideas and drawing on best practices from people across the globe. Click To Tweet
Yes. I have written the Harvard Business Review article called Disrupt Yourself. I had also written a book called Dare, Dream, Do, which was much more geared toward women. In the very beginning, I thought, “I want to focus on women.” I had a number of speaker agents tell me, “You can’t focus just on women because people will not pay you to focus on women.” It’s very sad but it was true. They said, “You need to focus on a business audience.”
I said, “I’m going to focus on Disruption but then if people want me to talk to women, I will, but I am going to focus on the wider business audience.” The business started with people reaching out to me, wanting me to speak, and then also people reaching out and saying, “Can you coach and provide some basic coaching around, ‘How can I disrupt myself? How can my career shift?’”
From 2012 to 2016-ish, my business was primarily speaking-driven. It wasn’t consulting practice at this point. It was primarily speaking a little bit of coaching. In 2017, I ended up connecting with Marshall Goldsmith and had the great honor of being one of the original cohorts of his 100 Coaches. He was an influence on me in thinking about coaching and not just coaching for a couple of hundred dollars an hour but coaching CEOs and taking my Wall Street experience, my experience of working at the feet of Clayton Christensen and using that to help people build businesses, etc. At that point, my business started to become not just speaking. Speaking became a little bit more of lead generation and then much more of a coaching practice.
In 2018, I was writing my next book, Build An A-Team. At this point, I’ve now connected with Amy Humble, who is now the Cofounder of Disruption Advisors with me. Initially, she was a consultant. Her background is that she was the Chief of Staff for Jim Collins, who wrote, Good to Great. Now you’ve got the Clayton Christensen and Jim Collins legacy.
She and I started working together, and that’s when we started doing more consulting, more coaching at scale, and working with organizations around building an A team because now we are not just talking about career transition. We are talking about, “How do you use these ideas of personal disruption? How do you use this S curve to build a team?”
2019, we start going into organizations coaching at scale. 2019 to 2020, much more coaching at scale and then advisory workshops, facilitated sessions, and coaching and working across organizations to help them build teams where the people are growing so that they can grow their team and their organization. While I still do keynote speaking, it’s flipped and a much smaller part of the business where it is an opportunity for me to evangelize and inspire around these ideas but then people bring us in and say, “I want to understand your technology tool.”
That’s the other thing that we did in the last few years. We built out a tool so that people can say, “Where am I in my growth? Am I at the launch point of the curve, the sweet spot or a mastery?” You now have this tool. This diagnostic tells you where you are in your growth. Once you know where people are in their growth, then you’ve got the coaching and workshops that allow your entire company to speak the same language. As you are speaking the same language, if everybody is growing, then the teams are growing. If your teams are growing, your company is growing as well. That’s the evolution, speaking to coaching, to the technology tool, coaching at scale, advising and consulting.
You touched on many different areas that I wanted to ask you about. I’m going to pull us back a little bit and then dig in for a moment. You talked about the time when you decided that you were going to start offering a new service. In this case, it was transitioning from speaking and generating revenue, from speaking engagements to getting more involved in the coaching side later on software and then advisory consulting.
I’m wondering about all the consultants that are reading this who have an idea for a new product, service, and offer. Let’s use this scenario that they have some existing clients as you had some existing clients that you worked with but they were in that stage consuming more of your speaking services. If there’s a difference if the best practice or how you would approach it if you had a new offer that you wanted to get out there that was different from what you were doing in the past, how do you feel about that? Are you reaching out to past clients and saying, “We have this new thing?” Is it a matter of mentioning it more when people reach out to you about a new potential engagement? Walk us through what you feel is the best practice for launching a new idea and seeing if it has legs.
First of all, to everybody who is a consultant and wants to build your business, you do need to have some type of calling card. Some of you may have such strong word of mouth. You are fine. You are doing well. For every person you work with, you get 3 or 4 more referrals. If that is the case and you are happy, then keep doing that. I don’t want to say that the way I’m doing it is the right way or the way you are doing it. In my particular instance, continue to put our work out into the world that it’s the intellectual pheromones that people know where to find us, and they know, “Here’s what they are doing. If people are looking for that, then they find us.”
We meet people where they are meeting. Sometimes with an organization, our very first point of entry is someone who knows us from our work. They reached out and wanted me to coach the CEO. Now that I’m coaching the CEO and we are able to help them be even more effective as a leader going from good to great but then also introducing this language of the S curve, then what can sometimes happen? For example, with a company called BBQGuys, I was coaching the CEO, which first of all started because it was referred from someone else.
Coaching the CEO, he says, “This language makes a lot of sense. Can you do a workshop where we administer this S curve tool to all of our executive team, and now they are able to speak the language?” What happened from there is then they said, “This is useful. Can you have someone from your team,” and maybe it’s not even me, “Come in and do an offsite to an even larger group of our executives.” Now we are doing coaching for spot coaching for whole 60 of their executives.
In that particular instance, it started because I was coaching the CEO but there are other instances where it starts because someone has listened to my podcast or your show and said, “This sounds useful.” This happened when someone had heard me on someone else’s podcast and had us come in to facilitate an offsite. This was the first time they were aware of our work. Now we facilitated the offsite.
It’s up to us once we’ve facilitated that offsite to develop a relationship with this organization, and maybe they will find that there’s more work to do with us, and it was a one-off. We are done that will happen sometimes but it’s a matter of where they hear you speak or you start by coaching someone. You start by doing a workshop for another company.
You are on someone else’s podcast. You have this opportunity to walk in the door. You do good work and then look for ways to continue to serve people, There will be more opportunities that present themselves and sometimes not, but that’s because it’s not a fit for the two of you. When you do good work, opportunities do open up.
You shared with us in the early days that speaking was the way that you were generating leads and growing the business and initial revenue. Here you are with 11 or 12 team members has grown considerably. What does your marketing and lead generation look like? What are you finding is working best to bring in new qualified leads and opportunities to engage with clients?
Definitely, the podcast because one of the things that will happen either being on other people’s podcasts or my own podcast is because people are able to hear what you have to say, engage with you and get a sense of who you are. During the pandemic, I did LinkedIn Lives every single week. That was an opportunity to engage with people and have conversations. People had a sense of who I was and who we were. They thought, “I want to learn more about that.”
It is useful for you to write a book. It needs to be a good book. If you are able to codify your ideas, then it gives people something that they can grab onto, read, and again engage with that. It’s a combination of talking about our ideas, being out in the world, whether it’s the podcast or books, keynote speaking, and people finding you. There’s also some word of mouth but it’s hard to more word of mouth once you are inside an organization. In general, the top of the funnel is very important.
Do you have any initiatives going on now or at any time in the past where you identify an organization or person that you want to work with, and you or somebody on your team is reaching out to that person? Is it more inbound, where you are putting out the content, and the idea of getting on different platforms, and people are coming to you?
It’s just a matter of where you can start. People hear you speak, or you start by coaching someone. Click To Tweet
One thing that we don’t do very well, and maybe you teach people how to do this, is we don’t do a very good job of asking for more business. That’s something that we could do a lot better. We are out there so that people can find us but we could do a better job. This happened one time. We had gone into a large corporation. We were doing some work with one of the senior leaders and had done a little bit of work with them. I said to them, “I like working with you. I would like to do more work. Would you like to explore that?”
They said, “I would love to,” but they didn’t. I had to bring it up and suggest it.” That’s something that I could do a better job of, and most of us could. You are not asking for the business in the sense of, “My self-worth depends on you saying, ‘Yes, I want to work with you.’” It’s more a sense of, “We’ve done some work together. It’s a good work. I like working with you. Do you want to do more work together? Let’s see if we could figure out what that looks like.” I have found that when I can be in that place emotionally of not needing it but wanting it, it’s very different, then I can ask for the business.
Oftentimes, we are able to find ways to continue to expand it. I know I went off on a different path than you were expecting but this is something I’m processing. There’s a lot of value in being willing to say, “I would like to do more business together.” I don’t know if there’s a gender thing. Women tend to be feminine when they are doing something for someone else, and our society is more comfortable with men asking for things. I’ve had to find, as a woman, my way of asking for it, but I seem to be figuring out what that is. It’s saying, “I would like to work together. Do you want to?”
I’m glad that you took us down that path because a lot of people will resonate with that. Often from a marketing perspective as entrepreneurs or business owners, we tend to focus on new client acquisition and always doing new things and forget about probably the best source of business, which is the people that we’ve already built a relationship with and we have trust and delivered value and outcomes for. I’m glad that you brought that up. One thing that I touched on in the pre-interview is that you have a president in your company.
You mentioned Amy before. This is something that, in a lot of smaller boutique consulting firms, you don’t see that often. Typically you have the founder or one of the cofounders, and they are in that CEO role. They are running the show. They might have somebody who’s key but the title of president is not something that you see too often. Amy comes from a Chief of Staff with Collins, and they do amazing work. Can you walk us through the thought process?
It’s funny that you honed in on the president because she’s no longer the president. She’s the cofounder. This is a great topic for us to discuss as well because oftentimes, people, when they become a consultant or an entrepreneur, they think, “I need a partner.” One of the things that we discovered or you and I discovered because I made some bad business decisions earlier in my career, and I saw one of my parents make a bad business decision is that it is harder to separate from a business partner than it is from a marital partner.
Being very deliberate about taking on a business partner is a serious decision. Amy was the Chief of Staff for Jim Collins. She had built her own successful multimillion-dollar consulting business called White River Strategy. When she and I first started working together back in 2015, she found me and said, “I would love to do a small project with you. We were doing a small project.” I was like, “She’s capable.” “Let’s do another project together,” and then we did another project together. In the very first project, she looked at my reel and gave me feedback. It was that small. Over the course of 2 or 3 years, we did more and more projects together.
We had an arrangement for 1 or 2 years where she received a revenue royalty for what business she brought in. She was very much the Chief Revenue Officer and negotiating all our speaker fees. I was like the product, and she was selling the product. What happened was we said, “We like working together. I had been searching for a partner.” I am a very person of faith, and I had prayed to find a business partner. I felt like this was a person she was going to be a great partner.
Why were you searching for a business partner?
What was the impetus? I realized that building a business is if I wanted to have a consulting business that I made $1 million a year by myself, I could totally do that. If I wanted to build something and was serious about evangelizing the ideas of growth, I wanted to help people grow and make it possible for as many people to do this. I knew that there were some things that I did exceedingly well and there were other things that I didn’t do as well. While I had all these ideas, and I’m willing to go out and evangelize the ideas, we also had to build a business. I’m not particularly good at selling. I’ve gotten better at it because I’ve learned from Amy.
One of the things that Amy does exceedingly well is that she has a brilliant strategic mind in terms of, “Here’s where we can go.” She’s a seven on the Enneagram, which is the enthusiast thinks about possibilities. She’s also able to sell. She’s also able to say to people, “Here’s where we can go. Let’s do this together.” She’s not afraid to ask for business. Now all of a sudden, we’ve got a person who can see possibilities for the product, and she’s great at building people and teams.
Between the two of us, we’ve got this great complementary in terms of our skillsets. We had five years to figure out how are we going to work together because it is difficult to work with a partner. We made the decision because the business had changed much from when I first started, and she is absolutely essential to where we are now. She is now a Cofounder of Disruption Advisors. I wanted to honor what she is helping build and what we are going to build in the future. We are now both Cofounders. I’m the CEO. She’s still the president.
Does Amy also have an ownership stake percentage-wise in the business?
Yes, she does.
Did you have any concerns around that? I’m thinking about the person who’s reading, going, “Maybe I would also like to bring on a partner because there are some areas that I’m not as strong in.” I’m wondering what you would counsel them on that they should maybe pay attention to or be careful of, and what are the things that like would make it worth welcoming to do this?
I hope this is helpful for your readers. My advice would be to go very slowly. We started working together many years ago and did small projects to see, “Can we work together? What’s going to happen when we disagree? What’s going to happen when I’m having a bad day? Do my triggers trigger her? When she’s at her worst, and I’m at her worst, what does that mean? What is that cocktail?”
Everybody is going to have a bad day, but you need to make sure that your bad day doesn’t trigger someone else’s bad day in a partnership and a marriage as well. The first step in giving her a percentage of the business was we had a revenue royalty where whatever she brought in, she got a percentage of that.
We were already experimenting around that but then we made the decision, “That’s good. Eat what you kill.” It also wasn’t honoring the equity that she was building. 5 or 10 years out, she wasn’t getting an opportunity to participate in the upside of what she was helping build. We started the conversation around, “Do we have a partnership?” It took us one year and a half to negotiate our partnership because we were very deliberate.
We needed to still run the business, “Let’s figure this out.” We figured out all the deal breakers for us, focused on us being in agreement that having the lawyers paper it. Sometimes having to call our lawyers and say, “This is not meant to be antagonistic. We are going to do this. You have to figure out how to help us do this.” We took that year and a half to do that.
Once we did it, we thought through everything. We’ve had some tough conversations. We built that muscle to be able to have those tough conversations, including having that conversation of, “This is like a marriage. Are we both committed because we are not doing divorce here?” My advice would be to go very slowly and deliberately and make sure you’ve got several disagreements under your belt where it’s tense. You are both triggered, and can you come out on the other side of it? If you can, then you’ve got that muscle in place, then you’ve got not only the complementary abilities.
Women tend to be feminine when doing something for someone else. And our society is more comfortable with men asking for things. Click To Tweet
Also, when things aren’t working, you’ve got the skillset to move through it. I feel this way, and I know she does too because we have this offsite. We are still both like, “This is awesome that we get to work together.” I look at her and I’m like, “That’s amazing that you can do that.” She does the same thing for me where you be like, “My partner is good at these things that I can’t even begin to be good at.”
I’m glad that you took us through all that. I can summarize for a moment that the recommendation based on your experience is to take it slow. Don’t rush it. If you see any red flags in terms of how you disagree about things or you can’t resolve things. If there was a feeling inside at any point that, “I don’t know if this is going to work,” that’s probably a red flag that it won’t work. Honor that sign.
At the same time, it sounds like you start off with maybe paying either on an hourly or a project basis in terms of her compensation. That next level from that graduated to, “You will get a payment based on the business that you bring in.” There’s a revenue royalty component. From there, over a period of several years, you now entered into, “Let’s both own equity and shares in this business.”
The ownership percentage increases over a period of ten years. The more value that’s delivered, the more ownership there is. That summarizes it well. Also, have lawyers because you do need lawyers but make sure that they know what their job is. The final thing is to trust your true tellers. As you are going through this and you find yourself getting, “Blah, blah, blah,” because, which we all do, you go to the people that you trust. In my case, it would be my husband and say, “You are being unreasonable here. This is a good partnership or I am very nervous.” Be willing to listen to those people that you trust. If they are still comfortable, then you can forge ahead, and it will allow you to navigate it.
In terms of the structure of the business, co-owners and that partnership, why go up the path of equity as opposed to saying, “You get a percentage of profit.” Why not keep 100% actual equity in the business to know for yourself? I’m not playing a bit of devil’s advocate. I’m thinking probably some people are like this themselves. What was your thought process around that? Is it if a goal may be selling the business in the future, some being able to pay dividends or why that path?
It’s a very complicated question. One is that you require lawyers and tax accountants. The simple answer to your question is that if you have a partner that you are working with that is helping to build value, to create value. If there is any possibility that in the future you might sell this business, there needs to be a way for them to participate in that upside. However, you need to do it, and you’ve got to consult with your lawyer and your tax accountants on how to do that. We created a structure so that if we were to ever sell this business, she would be able to participate in the upside. That’s the headline.
Talk to me about that. Is that something that you and Amy are thinking about in the future? Is that a possibility on the mind in terms of being able to sell the business down the road? If so, inside of the business as you start to think about that?
As we build the business, one of the things is that with any business, there are lots of different paths that you can go. Amy is younger than me. We could end up doing something where we do this, and then at some point, she takes it over, which is great. We can do that. Being very brass ring driven, and she’s very goal driven as well. Having in our brain, are we building something that could be sold?
It gives you this way to think about, “Am I building something where I’m creating value? Am I creating something that someone else would say, ‘This is useful?’ How could our business interface interlock, and be useful to other businesses? It’s very helpful in getting us to focus on what we need to be building and how we need to be of service to the companies that we are working with?”
There’s much that we can continue. I want to make sure that people can learn more about your most Smart Growth. You can let us know where people should go to learn more about the book and more about your company. There are a couple of final questions before we wrap up. Clearly, you have a lot going on between publishing books, speaking and leading a team of a dozen or people and working with some very well-known, recognized clients. Are there 1 or 2 habits that you bring into your life or part of your life on a regular basis that you feel contribute to the success that you have as a person, as an individual but also as a CEO and leader of a business? Anything you feel that allows you to perform at those high levels?
I would say two things. One is that I’m very deliberate about how I start my day. When I get up, I’m very clear on what I need to get done in the course of a day.
Take us into the details much as you can. What is your start of the day look like? That is such a powerful, big opportunity for many people that don’t focus or think about it as intentionally as they could. I would love for you to walk us through what time you wake up and then what you do for the first couple of hours.
We know we have what we want to get done for the rest of the year. For example, we did a beta certification, and we have another certification like an online certification, that we are going to do in October 2022. Four coaches want to do the S curve. We want to get the next version of our tech tool out there so that coaches and teams can use it.
We have those big goals. “I know what I have on my calendar and what I want to get done this week, and am I doing things that are going to allow me to get that done?” I will be very intentional of like, “I’ve got this coaching call. Am I going to make sure I show up for these people that I’m coaching this week?” All those in high-level this. From a day perspective, the night before, I’m pretty clear about what I need to get done that next day, and there are certain things that are going to be on my calendar.
There are also things that I know I need to move forward like, “I’m doing a keynote at Lockheed Martin in Florida. I needed this morning to look at my slide deck and make sure I know what needs to get done on that I can get it to the rest of my team so they can put out those pictures, so we are not putting out a fire a week from now.”
Usually, I get up between 4:30 and 5:00 every day. I will spend half an hour doing something that is spiritual or scriptural based on grounding myself in something that is bigger than I am, which will include reviewing my goals, reading the scriptural text and writing in my journal. I will sit in my bed, my poor husband, and start doing some work.
It’s some of the things that are important but not urgent that need to move forward, and then around 6:30 or so, I will either do yoga or run. At 7:00, some days a week, I will have some coaching around my voice so that I can be more effective when I’m speaking. The beginning of the day is getting myself centered both emotionally and spiritually and, “What do I need to get done physically so that I can show up in the way that I want to show up for the rest of the day.”
4:35 to many people will sound quite early. How long have you been sticking to that?
In high school, I got up early to go to seminary. There’s religious instruction. I got up at 5:00 but then in college, I always got up at 6:00 to practice piano for 2 or 3 hours. I’m a very disciplined person. I have pretty consistently gotten up between 5:00 and 6:00. As one gets older, it’s easier to get up earlier, which is awesome. I am not complaining at all. I would say that throughout my life, I’ve pretty consistently gotten up between 5:00 and 5:30. Depending on the day of how late I went to bed the night before, that’s when I wake up.
I’m also an early riser. To me, there’s much power and be able to get up early and accomplish things or even have time to think about things. Once you start your “actual day,” you don’t have that time or it’s much harder to find it.
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Once you’ve done your first meeting, your brain it’s completely taken up. You’ve got to get that stuff done early, otherwise, it won’t get done.
We are going to make sure that people can learn more about your book, Smart Growth. One question that I love to ask everybody that comes to the show is, within the last several months, what book, and it could be fiction or nonfiction, have you thoroughly enjoyed and would you recommend to others?
I do so much reading. I read much, and then I have stuff on my phone that I don’t remember what I read. The book I’m reading now is called The Law of Love by Steve Young, a professional football player for the 49ers. I’m getting ready to interview him for my podcast. It was good to hear this professional athlete talk about love. I thought it was terrific. Speaking of love, I also read Marcus Buckingham’s book, Love + Work, which was terrific as well.
Whitney, I want to thank you for coming on. I know we could spend a lot more time going deeper into the conversation. There’s much that we didn’t talk about in terms of disruption and bringing it to the individual to bring to the company. I love the way that you took us through and shared the cascading effect of how all that development from individual to team, to business, growth and all that comes together. We will have to do that maybe another day. Before we wrap up, what’s the one website that they can go to learn more about you, your book, and everything you have going on?
My podcast is Disrupt Yourself. If you are reading this, you like listening to podcasts and can definitely listen to them. My website is WhitneyJohnson.com, and I have a newsletter and then my book, Smart Growth: How to Grow Your People to Grow Your Company, where I talk about the S Curve as this simple visual model to think about what growth looks like because when you know where you are in your growth in your consulting business, then it will help you think through what’s next. Those are some different ways that you can engage with our work.
Whitney, thank you so much for coming on. I enjoyed our conversation.
Thank you, Michael. It was a lot of fun.