Susan Petang is a Certified Mindful Lifestyle & Stress Management Coach. She mentors her clients in techniques to create a mindful lifestyle, not only to manage the stress of daily life, but to find peace and happiness.
Recommended Books & Tools:
First book is A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.
Second book is ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’ by Mark Manson.
Third book is ‘Felling Good’ by Dr. Burns.
1:26 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Personal traumatic experience can be a great motivator for starting a business.
Susan talks about the reasons for starting her business. Her anxiety and depression at work prevented from being successful so she researched and found a method / system that helped her. She wanted to help other people in similar situations. It is not about money for her.
3:27 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Focus on knowing how your customer shops for similar services that you offer.
Susan talks how the first year transition from corporate life to starting a business was tough. In a coaching business, people need to see your face, people need to talk to you and then when they feel comfortable with you, that's when they're going to start telling you about things that they wouldn't tell anybody else.
5:30 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Need to hustle in creative ways to build customer pipeline.
Susan worked in creative ways to build her customer pipeline. She gave lectures in adult education classes, conducted lot of free seminars, and worked with local chamber of commerce.
9:25 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Always start with what you love to do to get into a business.
Susan also started her other businesses like selling crochet products on Amazon because she loved to crochet. She also went into hair salon business because she always loved doing hair. Mindful coaching business is the first where she learnt a skill to get into a business.
12:32 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Keep differentiating your service to find your unique approach.
Susan differentiates her business in 3 ways. First is her empathy for her clients given that Susan faced similar situations as her clients. Second is that she combines a sound science-based approach to a practical approach. Third, her fees are reasonable.
16:321 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Find books that motivate you and keep you inspired.
Susan talks about 3 books that really inspired her. First is A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. Second book is ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’ by Mark Manson. Third book is ‘Felling Good’ by Dr. Burns.
21:15 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Knowing the customer churn rate in your industry is very important.
Susan talks about how coaching business is different from say salon business for customer pipeline. For example, customers stick for a very long time in salon business. In coaching business, the churn rate is high as customers come only for 3 to 6 months.
21:15 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Do an honest assessment of your skills, knowledge, and personality before you start your business.
Susan gives awesome advice to would-be entrepreneurs. Do a brutal assessment of what you know, what you like to do, and what kind of a person you are. Entrepreneurship is hard. As you keep building business, evaluate the operations for return on investment on a regular basis.
Episode Transcript (Click to expand)
Ramesh: Hello everyone welcome to the Agile Entrepreneur Podcast. This is your host Ramesh Dontha. This podcast is about starting and running your own business with purpose, passion, perseverance and possibilities. Today's guest is Susan Petang and she runs a business called the quiet zone coaching. Susan is a certified mindful lifestyle and stress management coach. She mentors her clients in techniques to create a mindful lifestyle, not only to manage the stress of daily life, but to find peace and happiness. Welcome Susan.
Susan: Thank you for having me.
Ramesh: Thank you. Nowadays looks like the mindful lifestyle is a rage. Everywhere I see I read a lot of articles about mindful lifestyle. So, when did you actually start your business?
Susan: I started my business about two years ago. But mindful lifestyles have been around for thousands of years. It's not something new.
Ramesh: That is true. But I think it's you know it seems like an it's a lot of you know publicity or PR around it. So why did you decide to start this business I started the business?
Susan: I started the business because I solved one of my own problems and I wanted to share it with other people. I was a sales manager, a corporate trainer, you know all corporate life. But the anxiety and depression that I suffer from foiled my success despite the talent that I had. It made it impossible for me to function. I tried therapy and medication which weren't completely effective and finally I just did a lot of research into anxiety and depression, what causes them, what can you do about them. I learned about mindful living, mindful lifestyles and I created a program around it and I decided that you know it would be a really good idea to share this with other people and I could make a living while I was doing it. So, it wasn't just something that I did to make money. It was something that I did to help other people.
Ramesh: That's interesting. So, did you have a prior business background before you decided to get into this business?
Susan: Absolutely yes. I still do own a hair salon. I've been a licensed hairdresser for many years. After I dropped out from the corporate world because I couldn't take the stress and anxiety, I decided to do something creative and I found out that that was just as stressful, and you know drove just as much anxiety as the corporate world did.
Ramesh: That's right okay. So, good you decided to start this mindful lifestyle and the coaching business. So, I just want to discuss a little bit about your entrepreneurial journey. So how long did it take for you to actually establish your business and get your first customer?
Susan: About a year.
Ramesh: Okay so how was that one-year journey? Because the listeners are really interested in learning about starting a business and then being successful with it. So, can you talk a little bit about your first-year journey please.
Susan: Oh absolutely. After I had created this program that worked for me, I decided I had to put it into a marketable form. Now I have a very strong business background. So, I was okay with things like bookkeeping and sales and you know how do I do all this stuff. I had a business background. When I'm coaching my clients frequently I get people who want to start their own business. And when I do coach them I tell them look you know first of all you have to acknowledge the fact that they are going to be skills that you don't have okay. No matter what they are depending on what your background is and you're going to have to either pay somebody else to do them or you're going to have to learn them. Okay so that first year was, it was very difficult because I knew what worked for a service business in terms of sales and Marketing. So that wasn't a problem. But when you're talking about something like coaching, people are telling you their deepest darkest secrets. It's almost like finding a therapist. So, it didn't work when I tried to advertise things that would traditionally get me clients. You know if I was doing hair. So, what I had to do was I kind of had to go back to my corporate days and say okay it's time to put your feet on the street, you need to network. People need to see your face, people need to talk to you and then when they feel comfortable with you, that's when they're going to start telling you about things that they wouldn't tell anybody else.
Ramesh: That's very interesting. So, one of the things that I keep hearing in my discussions with other entrepreneurs or people who want to be entrepreneurs is how do you keep getting the customers. Like what are the things that you do to get your customer pipeline going?
Susan: Well one of the first things that I do is I get my name out there. I do, I work with Help A Reporter and I answer questions that journalists are looking to have an expert answer to. Another thing that I do is I run Adult Ed classes and I get a lot of coaching students from my Adult Ed classes and also groups. They want to continue after the class is done. Another thing I did was I hooked up with a local Chamber of Commerce. I do you know some work with them. You just have to get out there. I do a lot of free seminars and webinars for businesses. So sometimes you have to give a little something away before you get the return on it.
Ramesh: Fantastic. So now let's step back a little bit and talk about Susan. Susan's personal journey. So, can you talk about your journey that led you, we talked about your hair salon business. But in generally or what kinds of a person are you? How did you end up becoming entrepreneur?
Susan: Oh well after my experiences with the corporate world, I'm very much a type-a personality. I am very solution oriented and goal driven. So, I would get into these corporations and they would say okay well this is what we're going to do, and I would look at that and say you people are out of your minds, that's not going to work. You know so I had to get out of that corporate environment to become self-employed. So that I could do what I knew was the right thing to do in my heart. You know there are certain ways when it came to, let's say the hair business. You know I treat my clients a certain way, I don't double-book myself. I only use the highest quality products, that kind of thing. So, I want to make sure that my formula for business has always been to offer a very good or outstanding service to my customers at a reasonable price, not too low, not too high and I make a reasonable profit. I will probably never get rich, I will never have a chain of salons. Because I'm very customer focused and that's okay. Because I make what I need, and I think a lot of times people when they're entrepreneurs, rather than do it because of their personality type or they're just looking to make a lot of money. Because why should my boss makes a lot of money. I know to me it's not about the money. The money is kind of a side effect.
Ramesh: Money will come.
Susan: Money will come, right. If you do the right thing and treat other people the way that you want to be treated, the money will come.
Ramesh: So, was the hair saloon the first business or what was your first business?
Susan: That was my first business. I have had a few little cottage industries that I’ve done over the years, which I still do. I still have an Amazon store where I sell handmade items. Because that's my hobby and after a while I mean how many pieces of artwork and how many quilts and how many crafty things can you put in your house it starts to overflow.
Susan: So, I put them up on the website, if they sell they sell, that's great. You know if they don't well that's okay, they will eventually. That's more fulfillment of a hobby. But if I wanted to me could definitely you know push that and promote it the same way I did with the coaching.
Ramesh: Wow so you have a pretty diverse talent here Susan. So, I'm just trying to look at it like how did you get into the Amazon store as an example.
Susan: I love to crochet. Crocheting is something that I do to relieve stress, a rhythmic activity. That's something that's very important. But I mean how many Afghans, baby blankets and other things can you have? My dogs probably have about seven blankets and it's great. You know it's like what am I going to do with all this stuff? I don't know, my kids all have Afghans everywhere. So, I said you know what why shouldn't I make a little money off this. You know put them up on Amazon handmade and the next thing you know I was selling Afghans.
Ramesh: Fantastic. So, the mindful lifestyle business you got into based on a personal experience and then the Amazon store, because the skill and talent that you have. How did you get into the hair salon business?
Susan: That was one of those corporate drops out things. I was always fascinated by hair, even when I was a kid. I was the one who had all the girls in my bathroom with the scissors and my mother would be yelling through the door, does her mother know what you're doing. Yeah, so I went into sales you know I just kind of fell into it and then I ended up as a sales manager and then I ended up as a sales trainer. Worked for several large corporations. I worked for a very large corporation mentoring their call center reps on how to upsell and it just the, it was just too much. You know the pressure was extreme you know as good as your last sale. I was very good at it. But my anxiety and depression got in the way and my daughter said to me was I had taken a maternity leave and my daughter said to me before I went back you, know why are you going back to that? You know you love to cut hair, you cut everybody's hair in the neighborhood. Why don't you just get your license and do that?
Ramesh: So, based on your experience is that one of the advice that you would give to other people looking to start a business is start from what you know, start from what your passion is and what you're good at. Is that one of the themes that I'm seeing in your experience?
Susan: Absolutely you should, I counsel my clients when they're looking to open their own business. We go through step by step what do you do now, what do you love about it, what do you hate about it. What do you do that you get lost it when you're doing it and what can you do to parlay that into a business? You've probably heard that old saying that if you love your work you never work a day in your life and that's it. You know I encourage my clients to attempt to find something that not only fulfills their needs, but fulfills a need for other people too and helps other people too. Because that's great. That's a hugely gratifying experience.
Ramesh: Excellent so that leads me to my next question. So, what is your unique selling proposition or unique value proposition? What is Susan Petang, how does she differentiate from other let's say a mindful lifestyle coaches?
Susan: Well first of all I understand what people's feelings and situations have been. You know not everybody who comes to me has the same background with anxiety and depression. But if I can survive that, I can certainly help other people get through their day-to-day stress. So, my empathy for their situation is number one. Number two, I combined what's called mindfulness based stress reduction with cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. So, I took a little bit out of living a mindful lifestyle and stress management and I put it together with sound science. So, it's not a woo woo thing. I'm not sitting in a lotus position dangling crystal over my head every day. This is all the concepts of neuroplasticity I use. That's usually of the brain to rewire itself, it's all based in science. The other thing is I keep my fees reasonable. Which is something that definitely sets me apart from other coaches. I've been criticized roundly for not setting my prices higher. My feeling is that you know my mission statement is teaching a better way of life that changes the world one person at a time. And if I'm charging a small fortune, the people who need it the most can't get the help.
Ramesh: That's very interesting. So basically, you're delivering more than expected value for what they're paying.
Susan: Yes, exactly and it goes right along with my business philosophy that I’ve had for the last 35 years which is charge a reasonable price for good service or an outstanding service and I make a profit you know I have to live too. But how much do I really need? You know I’m not looking to go out and buy a Mercedes tomorrow. I'm fine with everything, I'm very happy and grateful for what I already have. Which is part of living mindfully.
Ramesh: Right. So, one of the other things that people keep talking about is a motivation or inspiration. How do people you know get motivated and get inspired? So how did you get your motivation? Who motivated you, who inspired you to do the things that you're doing?
Susan: My therapist was key. You know I said to him one day I said I'd love to become a life coach. But you know can I really do that? Yes of course you can. Are you out of your mind? Look at what you become you know. So, he was very encouraging. My partner was very encouraging you know he said look you do what you need to do. You know, and I started this on a shoestring, but he would still, let me you know I’ll front you a little bit of money, so you can buy some brochures and you know stuff like that. Well but when it comes to inspiration and motivation, most of it comes from me. I'm very excited about what I do, I love what I do. Just watching, if I won the lottery tomorrow I would do it for free. It's something that is very enjoyable to me and I get very excited. You know whenever I come up with a new marketing idea or you know I do some reading about a psychological concept and I'm going to apply it to how I work with clients, I get very excited about that. I don't need anybody to help me with that.
Ramesh: So, are there any books while you're talking about reading any books that you like a lot, or you want to recommend to the listeners?
Susan: You mean as far as business is concerned.
Ramesh: It's a combination of a business or it could be a mindful lifestyle you know it could be any of those areas.
Susan: Okay yeah there are a couple of books. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, that's a fantastic book. There's another one that Mark Manson wrote that's really funny and I can't remember the title of it now. It's called ‘The subtle art of not giving a Fuck’. It's very funny. The guy is very smart. There's another one called Feeling Good by Dr. Burns right. He was one of the key proponents for cognitive behavioral therapy back in the day. So, anybody who suffers from anxiety or depression or just wants to learn about it, that's an awesome book anybody can use those techniques.
Ramesh: Excellent. So, let me segue a little bit into running the business. So, we talked about starting your business and how do you get inspired and motivated and some of your background. So, as you're running a business what strategies, what techniques do you use in making sure that the business runs smoothly? I think to some extent you talked about getting the customers by doing what you're doing. Like the workshops and networking events. But from the business perspective they either like the operations, like other things.
Susan: Well I do take credit cards. So that's very helpful. Because the program that I use to accept credit cards on my phone with the little thing that sticks in, automatically you know all the receipts go right into a bookkeeping program.
Ramesh: That's a square I think.
Susan: Yeah, I use Square for payment. You know I'm sure that all of those products that can ease bookkeeping for people who don't know how to bookkeep, I do it. I always keep up. I do a lot of it by hand. My dad was an accountant. So, I have some background in that. But every week I sit down, and I keep my expenses up and you know do my journal entries and all that good stuff. So then when I go to the accountant it's all there. You know the bank statements get printed out every month. I am trying to think what else.
Ramesh: So, you talked about the marketing, you talked about promotions. I mean do you do, do you rely on a lot of online marketing or marketing through your website to build your business?
Susan: I have tried that tremendously and you know what? I found that social media marketing and advertising, they will get you some attention. I found my return on investment is very poor. Doesn't work, at least in my business. You know if you're selling widgets well that might be different. You know you get somebody you have a website up there. If you can draw them into the website to buy your widgets, okay. I'm selling a service. So, service-oriented businesses, you have to get your face out there. You have to put your feet on street. So, I'm going to of Commerce meetings so that I can network. There's an organization here on Long Island called simply referrals. They have a different chapter in most of the towns on Long Island and you go there and you talk to other business owners, exchange whatever propaganda that you happen to bring revolving around your business. I have gotten a lot of business seminars that way and usually as soon as I can get my face in front of an audience, then I'm good. Okay that's you know I can usually either start a group from that as a basis of you know as jump point for individual client coaching. But I haven't found, I haven't found that the return on investment is very good with online marketing and social media marketing other than it does bring up your brand awareness.
Ramesh: I see okay. So, in that same fashion, so what do the challenges do you face currently in building your business apart from the social media marketing?
Susan: Oh, it's always getting new clients. Because a coaching relationship it's different from here. Like when I get a client I'm good at what I do, so when I get a hair client, they’re usually with me for years. The same does not apply to a coaching relationship. So, I am constantly constantly marketing.
Ramesh: That is interesting.
Susan: Yes, a coaching relationship only lasts for three to six months. Occasionally I’ll have somebody come back for a tune-up. Every once in a while, I get a little disappointed. Like I had this one college student and she really wasn't stressed out, she just needed to learn some organizational skills. So, after two or three sessions she was done you know and I was like, oh well you know I was kind of counting on this. But you are constantly constantly looking for new clients in this business.
Ramesh: I see keeping the funnel going okay. So, and then looking back at your experience, whether it's a hair salon business or the Amazon store business or even this one. What are the things that you think you could have done differently, this is more for a learning for listeners? Like things that you could have done differently to either start the business quickly or run the business in a different manner.
Susan: Well I wasted a lot of time playing around with SEO. You know search engine optimization and advertising. It wasn't fine okay. I hadn't built my brand, I hadn't gotten enough content out there and again this is going to be unique to each different business. But I do feel like I should have put my face out there a lot sooner. I could have promoted a lot earlier than I did.
Ramesh: So, Susan as we come towards the end of the podcast, so what tips can you offer to people, two kinds of people. One is people who want to start the business number one and then secondly people who started the business, but they want to take it to the next level?
Susan: Well when people want to take their business to the next level, start with yeah second one first. Really just keep going on. You have to constantly re-evaluate the return on investment and the success that you're getting from all of your operations. You know you really have to assess and be brutal. So, you know what Facebook free and you know all this other stuff. But if it's not bringing you in any attention, you're not getting followers, cut it back okay. I'm not saying abandon it, cut it back. Put time and attention as well as your money into the things that do give you and you have to evaluate this on a regular basis. You have to keep your finger on the pulse of that. When it comes to people who are wanting to start their own business, I actually go through a whole checklist with people. You have to first decide what kind of businesses you're going to do and as we were talking before, we were talking about this before. You want to do something that doesn't feel like work. What do you lose yourself in? How can you turn that into a product or a service that will benefit other people and that they are going to want to buy? And you also have to do a brutally honest assessment of your drive, okay. Are you willing to sit down and do all this work? Because you're not going to be able to quit your job right away, okay. You're going to have to work your job and work at this at the same time until that becomes big enough that you can leave your job. Are you willing to put that effort and time and money into it? How much money do you have to invest? How much time do you have to invest? Are you the kind of person who would rather sit back and watch TV at night or are you going to be like totally focused on driving more business to your startup come on and you also have to do a brutally honest assessment of your business skill set. Do you have sales and marketing skills? Do you know about manufacturing? Do you know about bookkeeping? Do you know about SEO and things like that? I just happen to have family members who are all about that and I can go to them and ask for help. So, you have to evaluate very honestly what your skillset is, are you willing to learn what you need to learn or are you willing to pay somebody with that skill set to do those tests for you.
Ramesh: Excellent advice Susan, excellent. I think assessment of the skills, assessment of the inventory of personal skills inventory of the resources that you can rely on to build it and then being brutally honest with all the assessment and then constantly looking at the ROI, return on investment of each of the efforts that you're putting into building the business. Very very good advice. Susan thank you very much for your time today. Best of luck with the quiet zone coaching. The www.quietzonecoaching.com. Thank you very much.
Susan: Thank you