Episode 181

Transforming Vision into Victory and Turning Your Education Business Right Side Up with Trailblazing Entrepreneur Debbra Sweet

We learn about transforming vision into victory and turning your education business right side up with trailblazing entrepreneur Debbra Sweet in this episode of LMScast. Debbra shares her story of being raised in a business-oriented family and overcoming challenges she has faced health wise in her life.

How you perform in business is greatly impacted by your state of well-being. Debbra talks about how she overcame a massive accident in her life, and how that has changed how she does consulting and how she views success in business and life.

In 1985 Debbra had a biking accident that led to brain damage. She couldn’t walk, talk, or remember. She was nearly recovered when in the early 90s her back gave out and she was back in a state of not being able to walk. She started to study different ways to heal the body and mind to overcome her injury. Debbra can now walk, talk, and do everything she could before her accident.

Debbra talks about the principles of VCP: visibility, credibility, and profitability. The biggest one of these most times for course creators is visibility. Visibility has a lot to do with marketing and creating your educational content to target one specific person is key to this. Even though you will be selling to many people, being very specific in who your course is for will greatly help you to both create the content and market it.

You want to get your business to a point where it can survive without you and Debbra talks about the ‘upside-down triangle business’ where everything is focused at the top and how you want to structure your business so it takes the stress off of you as the owner.

Businesses, especially in the United States, keep popping up and then going out of business, and people have accepted this as the status quo. Debbra’s mission is to break down this perception that most businesses just can’t survive and help businesses stay operational longer.

To learn more about Debbra Sweet go to DebbraSweet.com, and you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Debbra is offering LMScast listeners a complementary 30 minute goal achievement session if you drop her an email on her website and mention you are from the LMScast audience!

Head to LifterLMS.com to find out more about how you can use LifterLMS to build your own online courses and membership sites. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us!

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and I’m joined by Debbra Sweet from debbrasweet.com, and that’s two B’s in Debbra. Debbra is a author, speaker, trainer, coach, all around mentor for entrepreneurs. For you education entrepreneurs out there, we’re going to get into a lot of broad topics and try to help you get unstuck today. But first, Debbra, thank you for coming on the show.
Debbra Sweet: Chris, thank you so much for having me here. I’ve been so excited, and I couldn’t wait for today to come. Not only do I get to spend the day with you, but it’s also my son’s 18th birthday, so this is a real cool day.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, congratulations on that milestone.
Debbra Sweet: Thank you.
Chris Badgett: On your website, you’ve got kind of a cowgirl theme, trailblazing entrepreneur. Why do you use the word trailblazing?
Debbra Sweet: That’s a great question. My world, the way that I have been uniquely wired ever since I was a very young girl, I realized that I was way ahead of the curve in visioning, understanding. I would come up with ideas that were so far ahead of their time. And so as I have developed in my passions and my pursuits and in my profession, it seems as if whether I was being intentional about being in the lead, or more often than not, what happened Chris, over my years is, I’d be involved in a team or a work situation or something on the personal level, and there was always a statement that a long time ago I used to actually get very annoyed with, but it was … I’d hear it all the time. “You know what? We need something done, let’s have Debbra do it.” So I was always being put in the front of everything. And so, over time, I just really embraced the concept of leading myself, leading others and leading the leaders. In fact that’s one of my personal mantras. And the trailblazing part has a lot also it pulls from a little bit of who I am, I love exploration, I love learning new things. I’ve loved for years, when I moved into a city, to just like plop myself in the middle and go investigate all the little nooks and crannies, and I wanted to meet everybody and understand all the details.
I do that for hiking, I ride motorcycles. If there’s a trail, I may not stay on the trail, I’m going to go cut my trail. So, it’s just very fitting.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, I can really relate to a lot in your story. That’s interesting. What is the trifecta that you talk about?
Debbra Sweet: That I’m trailblazing a trifecta in body, mind and business. This is a really different approach evidently for many people because it’s a holistic approach of achieving strength, balance, fulfillment in body, mind and business. Through my years of growing up, I’ve had quite a different upbringing. It’s been very eclectic, it’s been infused with some great accomplishments, achieving amazing goals and very visionary. And yet, I’ve had some incredibly challenging situations in my life that showed up that created these influences that affected how I functioned, what I did.
So, along my journey, I actually had to take a lot of time, Chris, to get my physicals into a state of well-being. And through that, I realized that really, my physical well-being was greatly influenced by my mental well-being and actually then, how I performed in business, whether I was an employee or I’m running my own companies, how I performed in business was also really impacted and influenced by my physical wellness or lack thereof, or my mental wellness or lack thereof.
It’s interesting that over the years … In fact, I’m going to kind of start to date myself a little bit. Let me just prep this. I started working in business really, really young. We can talk about age stuff later if you want,, but I have observed many different changes over the business world since the ’70s, and where this trifecta really becomes important today is that I have watched the cycles of how we live, how we work.
Back in the ’80s, which was a radically amazing time for those of us who had a chance to participate in that world, there was this mindset in business, and I think it actually started before the ’80s, where you had to really be compartmentalized. And what I mean by that is, you would have had your home life, and then you’d show up with your friends and you’d party and hang out and be with your friends a different way, and then you’d go to work and you had to put on a different hat or a different mask and you had to have a different attitude or you’d have to behave differently in work.
And that created for a lot of dysfunction in a lot of people, because the reality is, we don’t function well as human beings if we are disconnected or what I call compartmentalized. And so this trifecta is, I’m on a mission, Chris. I’m on a mission to create something that’s called a thrival. A thrival is a revival of heart, soul, body, mind and business. So what we say, how we act, what we think, what we do, they are all in alignment, they’re all in one accord, so that ultimately, you can build the business that you’ve always wanted to build.
You can provide for your family the way you’ve always wanted to, but on a personal level, you can have complete satisfaction, fulfillment and you can live in a place where what you’re doing is led by passion, pure joy and you actually also get to reap the financial benefits as well. So, the trifecta, it’s kind of my movement and it’s how I have taken this compartmentalization and I’m bringing it back in a fold so we can be just complete human beings no matter where we’re at.
Chris Badgett: Beautiful. You’re talking about one of my [inaudible 00:06:33] which I call [inaudible 00:06:34] so many things that are compartmentalized like you’re talking about. And just to truly integrate as a human being is an important part of business health, mental health, physical completely.
Debbra Sweet: Completely.
Chris Badgett: It all works together. Let’s talk a little bit about, you had a situation where you had a brain injury and you had to pull yourself up from that. Can you tell us how that weaves into the narrative?
Debbra Sweet: How much time do I have? Let give you the short story because literally I’m writing a book about this. I have video documentation about it, but to answer your question for everybody that’s here today, yeah, I had a major life interrupt. To give you the short version of a really intense story and situation that first of all I hope nobody ever has to go through. But I’m actually thankful that number one, I survived it. Number two, I know that had this situation not happened in my life, I actually might not be here.
It was a very pivotal accident that happened. 1985, I tried to move a brick wall with my head. A very solid concrete brick wall with my head. I slammed into this building, I was about 4 feet away riding a bicycle at the time. I was trying to not get hit by a car. I was in really good shape at the time, thank God literally, and because I rode my bike all the time, I was going really fast. So in that moment, when I hit the wall, that the bike just kind of went down underneath me and I … Imagined sliding into home base, only you don’t hit home plate, I just hit the wall and it hit right here.
I was kind of upside down. In that moment, that was life altering. A couple of things came out of that; first of all, we know literally I have a very hard head. My head did not actually crack open, but I knew in that moment once I was kind of … I was stunned a little bit in the moment. I reached up on my head, I felt this welt is big as what … If you had a really good pair, it was there. I just knew something wasn’t quite right. I won’t go into all the details right here, but let’s just say that was the beginning of what I call the first phase of the time in my life where I lost my ability to walk, talk, speak, remember.
That started on a journey for me to understand what happened; doctors and appointments and test trying to figure out what’s wrong. Something was really different internally, but I couldn’t express it because to the outer world, I presented more or less normal. So, without going into all the details, this is stuff that will be in the book, I eventually moved out here to California. I was physically functioning, but again, I still wasn’t quite the way I completely used to be.
And in the early 90s, I was working down in San Diego. I was working for an advertising promotional company doing phone sales like call businesses all day, everyday and help them build their business. And one day, I got out to take a break and my back snapped. That was the beginning of a very long journey which lasted about three and a half to four years where, if you can imagine somebody who has very advanced multiple sclerosis and also has maybe cerebral palsy and they’re always in a state of a seizure, that’s what my life was like. This was a major pivot for me because I couldn’t function in what we call normal day to day living.
My world once again reverted into doctors and specialists. And I had one focus on my mind, and that is, “Why can’t I walk?” During that time, I amassed a tremendous amount of knowledge. I took another life journey, if you will. I had always had a passion in wanting to be healthy and thankfully had a core knowledge of how to eat pretty well and vitamins and things along that line. But during that timeframe, going to all the doctors, the end result was I had to fire them all because nobody could come up with an answer to my one question which is why I can’t walk.
I met my husband during that time and we started to venture into looking at more, what we call here in the states alternative practitioners. Its eastern philosophy. Different ways of how does the body heal itself. And Chris, I dug so deep into this that I actually have certification. I am now a certified health coach. I am a certified herb specialist. I can actually go get my state certification, get personal trainer. I studied and about finished I was like 985 through in a master’s holistic healing course. And on top of that, I was starting to consider studying becoming a naturopathic doctor.
I didn’t do this because it was my life calling. I amassed myself with this knowledge because I wanted to not … I’m not going to heal myself. I didn’t want to be in the state I was, because internally, this is really important for everybody that’s watching today, in my mind right here, I didn’t see myself the way that my body was physically manifesting. Which trust me, I could tell you stories, I could clear buildings because I would freak people out when they would see me.
But in my mind’s eye, I am like you see me today. I’m walking, I’m at a great health, very high capacity. I was living with this vitality. And so through a very long journey, and still without knowing what happened, why was I going through this season in my life again where I lost all this mobility, myself and my husband I developed my own rehabilitation and I got functioning again. Fast forward to about five years ago, round three. So round three, thanks to technology and the Internet, I knew what I didn’t have to do.
I met some other well practitioners and through working with a couple of well care practitioners and a little bit of cause and effect in the internet, I pieced a few things together and all of a sudden, the puzzle became complete and I realized that, “Okay, I’ve been living with a severe traumatic brain injury,” and not only did we now understand the why, but now I knew what the next step was to fix it. So over the last five years, I have been blessed with working with some amazing practitioners and I found some special doctors that what they do is they work with people that have had these brain injuries.
I went through what was supposed to be about a year’s rehabilitation and what we’ve done is we’ve literally reprogrammed my brain. So, my brain mostly functions from this front part and up through here. I know it pulls from other pieces around it, but we’ve literally opens up a whole new neural network. It didn’t just take one year, I’ve been doing this for five years now. I would say that as today as you see me here, I am about 98 to 99% fully rehabilitated. There are still certain things that I have to do every now and then.
But what’s beautiful about all of this, Chris, and I appreciate you letting me kind of share a bit, is that during that time of working with my doctors in this third round, this time I couldn’t hide from the world. I was very transparent. I’ve two businesses, I’m in a big leadership role with a lot of people, I’m raising a family. I had to learn how to be transparent with my injury, but allow people to still have confidence that I could care for them with their business, but more importantly, there were certain things, Chris, that I experienced by working with my specialized doctors that I have had glimpses literally as a patient into the brain in ways that most people will never be able to comprehend.
In fact, I was able to teach my doctors things about how the brain works, and I as an adult, part of their treatment protocol, they took me literally back to day zero of infancy and I learned all over again what it’s really like to learn from the day we’re born. And this is really powerful because now when I’m working with my clients, helping them level up in their business or helping them achieve their goals, I’m able to perceive things so differently. I have wave now that I can help short track their successes when they want to step up into the next level of success because I can communicate with their brain in a way that allows them to get out of their own way.
They don’t have to go through the long detours that it took me to get here, but were able to produce these amazing results when we’re renovating their business, renovating the skill sets. Like I said, there’s a lot in this story and I can’t wait to get my book finished so I can share the depths of the details of how to harness the power of your brain and triumph over any, any situation in your life.
Chris Badgett: Well, that’s an incredible story. I have a couple of things I’d like to pull out of that; one is this, everybody who’s watching this or listening to this is interested in learning. They’re creating learning experiences, they’re designing courses, memberships. They care about their students or their members learning something. What’s the big insight or what are some of the takeaways when you had to literally kind of rewire your brain, like how can we use what you learned there to build better learning experiences? What are the takeaways?
Debbra Sweet: We need about 10 hours. Let me give you couple of good ones here. I’m sharing with you, not only my ideas but, the reality is during that time, these last five years, I had to renovate my business. I had to renovate how I was doing business because I needed to communicate differently. I’m going to share a couple of tips with you that not only come from my rehabilitation and this whole brain concept, but I’m going to infuse it with understanding of how we need to be mindful of the way that the internet has influenced how people learn, it’s influenced how we do business. And there’s a component to this that has to do with behavioral motivation and communication.
One of my my tips here, remember … This is a marketing tip and this is a one of those for ever, it always needs to be there. Always remember who your audience is. When you’re when you’re designing your course, it’s important to develop it as if you’re speaking to one person. That may be a little bit different especially if you have a classroom or you’re doing masterminds and you’ve got these big amazing groups of people that you’re serving. However, when it comes to connecting and actually creating the credibility factor, there’s a concept that I’ll share real quit that will make sense.
There’s something called VCP; visibility, credibility and profitability. I’m not the creator of VCP. I have an amazing colleague of mine that has given me tons of permissions use this. So visibility is very important, you have to be visible everywhere. So this is marketing. All these different ways of how you get people to your front door, your visible online and off line. It’s important to be visible and so when you’re building your courses and you’re promoting the courses, visibility is very important.
But what’s more important is that when you’re being visible, you need to be credible because what your goal is in developing or promoting this is to leverage your credibility to lead you to the place of profitability. Profitability for most people means money in the bank. My clients always want to know, “Deb, when am I going to get my ROI? I want money in the bank.” But profitability and ROI is more than that. It’s how you connect with your students. So, to build your credibility so that there’s profit, and profit I’m going to give you a new perspective of the definition.
If you embrace a broader definition, a profit is the benefit for everybody. It’s the benefit of your knowledge. Your students will profit by your knowledge. You profit in return knowing that you’ve taught your students well. So in this timeframe of building your VCP and designing your curriculum, because people are so busy and you want to serve the best. Less is more. And that took me a long time to understand. I started to tire off my words after about six hours. Content for me is super easy to create, but when you’re developing your training programs, micro segments that are accumulative are really important because it builds your credibility, but you’re going to deliver more and less time.
Because there’s another concept I’ll share. When we were younger, we used to call it telephone. The telephone game. Sometimes there’s another element … there’s a word. For some of you, you may be familiar with this word. The first time I heard it, or was called it, I thought it was an insult. So I’m not insulting you. It’s called the [Schnee 00:20:45] So Chris, if you ever heard of the Schnee? Do you know what a Schnee is?
Chris Badgett: No.
Debbra Sweet: No. Schnee, and many of you maybe she’s just like I am. A Schnee is a situation matter expert. That’s a very engineered term. They’re like, “Oh, you’re a Schnee?” U are a Schnee of your of your own information. I just laugh when I say that. Meaning you are the situation matter expert. What does that mean? When you are developing your content for your students, you have a lot of information in your head. You may have book knowledge, you’ve got been there done that practical knowledge.
It is the stuff that we want to help share and deliver, but we can create sometimes a situation where not only do we overwhelm our students, but sometimes we can create a condition called a leaky bucket syndrome. The leaky bucket syndrome has to do with, if I just verbally tell you something and then you go and repeat what I’ve told you, and then whoever you tell, they tell somebody else, that person down the road may not have the same story as what I first spoke about.
How this relates to being mindful when you’re developing your programs. You have a ton of knowledge in your head, but when you’re delivering your courses and your content for your students, being crystal clear on who your student is, speaking to them as if there was only one in the room. Because that creates this amazing connection and then understanding what is the number one problem that you are solving in this course, that’s it. One problem for today. You can create a fan base because the busyness of the world, the busyness and the overwhelm of all of the input that is taking place in our brain every moment of every day.
Less is more is really important because what you’re really doing is delivering laser targeted information that will solve an incredible problem and then you’ll be able to develop amazing fans and students who will be with you for the long haul.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. You say something about going from vision to victory. And apparently, it’s obvious that you’re a visionary, you can see stuff. And this goes back to your … You also used division in your recovery from your accident.
Debbra Sweet: Very much so.
Chris Badgett: Teach us about vision and how do people get from vision to victory. What’s what’s in the way and how do we overcome that?
Debbra Sweet: Amazing questions and thanks for letting me talk about this. To get from vision to victory, it’s really interesting. There are literally people and generations of people who were taught to not be visionaries. Like my father-in-law is one of these people. He’s in his 70s now, he’s just had a birthday recently. We had many dialogues over the years, and I remember him always marveling at the capabilities of I can pull things literally, it seems like I can pull something out of thin air. I’m really crafting the vision.
I see it in my brain and because I have this unique ability to the right brain and left brain, not only can I visualize, I can conceptualize from the creative side but then I know how to quickly put all the parts and pieces together to make it happen. And that’s a very unique skill set. My father-in-law has shared that, when he was growing up in his generation, that in school, he used to get reprimanded not just him, but him and his classmates they would get reprimanded for what teachers would call daydreaming. As humans we are visionary, we are hardwired, we are born to create pictures. In fact, that is how the brain actually works. Chris, I can share something with you and with everybody here.
This is one of those moments of insight that you’ll never be able to experience or at least I hope you don’t, not the way that I did, but I want you to, just for a moment, if you can close your eyes for just a moment. And I want you to think about a forest, think about a forest. And I want you to actually see all the trees around you. Now, I want you to look for the branches of the trees, the leaves on the trees. I want you to smell the ground, I want you to hear the winds rustling through the leaves, and I want you to hear the birds that are chirping.
I want you to take a deep smell, smell the wet ground. The ground is real green, it’s got some flowers in it. The tree trunks are really thick and wide. The leaves are dark green and the sunlight is filtering through. Were you able to see that? Were you able to envision that?
Chris Badgett: Yes.
Debbra Sweet: You can open your eyes. I verbally helped you create a story that crafted a picture in your brain. The reason your brain is able to do this, is that your brain picks up everything, and I’m talking every thing. And it goes through an amazing filtration system. Number one, I’m not going to claim to be a scientist, I’m not going to claim to be a neurobiology expert here, I’m going to keep this very kindergarten simple because I’m sharing with you the one day that I experienced, that is absolutely blew me away of just how incredibly amazing our brain is.
Our brain is influenced everyday with like double millions of megabytes of information, it’s the subconscious. There’s the subconscious which is running 90% of who we are, 10% is our logic. In the United States, as Americans, we tend to operate mostly from our logic brain not the subconscious and that actually creates a lot of the stumbling blocks because our subconscious brain has been creating buckets and baskets and filing cabinets and all these storage containers of information literally since the day that we were born.
And what the brain’s job is, is to take this data input, analyze it, categorize it and store it for later use. Now, sometimes it’s as simple as understanding the winds on our skin, the weather, the temperature, we’re hungry, there’s all these little parts and pieces, but then we were influenced over the years by other people’s beliefs: What our parents taught us, our teachers taught us, what we would experience, our perspective at that time. We got this amazing resource in our subconscious of all these ideas.
If we actually knew, and if you ever have to live without filters, that’s how my life was, that’s how I lived. All those times, all my filters that are hard wired into the brain, they were broken and in this last five years, it was shut off. That’s why my body was manifesting things so differently. Anything, like literally, wind, heaven forbid, if I went outside and wind blew across my eyes, I would start crying.
There were days I’d go into like a Big Box store and I’d have to sort of ramble or rotor through and the overhead filtration systems would sound like B-52 bomber. It would make me stop walking, I’d start crying, I’d start howling because my brain didn’t know how to handle that one noise. Well, this one day, this one day that I’m referencing about visualizing and why I’m encouraging you that if you think you cannot visualize, I guarantee you can. You’ve just probably been trained with other people’s input to not allow yourself to visualize because the brain thinks in pictures. And here’s how I know.
There was a day where I was driving, I had a friend, I wasn’t driving, trust me, I couldn’t drive. My friend came to get me, I had to go down to a business meeting in San Diego. We have a lot of traffic out here, I was riding in the passenger seat and I lived in a world for a while, I called it life under the brim. And this big black oversized hat, a big black glasses on, lots of layers of clothes because I couldn’t let any … I had to protect myself from all input. I was sitting in her passenger seat of the car.
Now, imagine yourself in your car on a busy highway, there’s cars going on like this all the time. Any movement like this would actually make me seizure. So as cars were passing, I was seizuring. My friend was talking to me, she had the radio on, and more importantly, the passenger seats in our cars are more vibrating than the driver’s seat. And so I was feeling every single vibration of the vehicle from my feet to my calves, to my legs, all the way up to my spine, and it was so much.
It was so overwhelming that I was starting to have a really, due to lack of a better word, it wasn’t a complete meltdown, but it was a really hard time trying to hold on and deal with all the overwhelm. It was overcast which meant it was gray outside, and so, we had turned down this busy freeway. Now, we’re on six, seven, eight lanes of traffic, eight highway traffic cars going this way. I’ve got buildings to my right and there are some buildings and some hills off to my left.
Here’s how I know that the brain perceives everything and we think of pictures and so you can too, and you don’t have to work hard at it. They overwhelm us so much, Chris, that I had to not have major seizures, I had to stop all the input. I put the visor of the car down because even behind the hat, the glasses, the gray sky, the light outside was too bright. I dropped the visor down, I put my hands over these black glasses, this part of my hand, over my black glasses and I was squeezing my eyes shut. That’s a lot of shutting off of the visuals.
And what I saw in shades of gray, black and white flash across my eyes, were all these buildings, trees and these very detailed shapes of leaves, and they were just flying into my eyes, and it was freaking me out. It’s the only thing I can experience and share with you. I’m thinking, “Man, what is going on?” I opened up my eyes, I looked around and I’m not exaggerating. Everything that was flashing on my eyes was literally what we were passing by. That is how powerful our subconscious is.
Your brain is picking up on everything all the time, it thinks in pictures. Talk about vision to victory. How do you get from a vision to victory? In my world, vision is about who you are, and in the world of business, entrepreneurship. You’re developing these classes, you’re sharing your knowledge. There’s the essence of who you are and you’re bringing it into your business. Bringing the world of you and your passion, and your business, and your knowledge all together, what is your vision? Where do you want to be, say 12 months from now? What is the end result? What is the outcome that you want for your students and your clients, your customers, with the knowledge that you’re sharing?
You have to have vision first, and that starts with allowing yourself to day dream. allow yourself to really live in a space of what if. What if today you were actually crafting your perfect future? What if everything you’ve done, everything you’ve gone through has given you everything you need so you can perfectly serve the audience that is right for you? What would that look like? What would that feel like? What would that mean to you and to your students to allow yourself to live in that space?
I work with a lot of clients that they’re stuck, they don’t have a vision. I ask them, “What’s the purpose of your business?” I won’t give you the name of my client, is one of my contractor clients, I asked him this long time ago, ” Why did you choose this profession?” And he said, “To make a bleep full of money.” I’m like, “Okay, well, we all want to make money, right? Really, why did you choose this?”And he couldn’t answer.
I help my clients get clarity in their vision, but to go from vision to victory. I have a program, it’s called Vision to Victory. It’s an eight step process, where I help you look at a vision in eight different elements of your life and vision that help you become whole and make a lot of very important decisions, so that then, you can game plan how you’re going to bring that into your business, because in business, when you’re crafting your programs, you’re building and you’re going to scale up your business, it takes a game plan. It takes planning, it takes strategy, but you want to know where you’re going to go first. That’s part of what I do.
The vision to victory is a program that I do, it’s language that I speak, and I’ve developed over my time a whole process called Step Up that helps businesses and clients do that.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. If you’re digging while you’re in here go to … with two B’s and I have another question for you that combines a couple of things. One of them is, you talked a lot about stages and I think it’s a very fascinating issue. I’ve been through a lot of stages in business, I’ve helped businesses at different stages. It’s easy to like not realize or see the steps or whatever, so I’d like you to talk about stages. And also you have a concept of businesses being upside down and you help them get right side up. I’m not sure whether they are related, I’m sure they are in some way, but can you kind of speak to those two points.
Debbra Sweet: Absolutely. The upside down business. Let me start with that because it’s very relative to the stages. And let me give you a little framework of how I came to understand this and why it’s so important to know about. Like I shared, part of my personal journey, I was exposed, I was literally born into business. I’m the oldest in my family, my siblings. My parents bought their first business when I was four, they bought their second business when I was 10, getting a paycheck at nine, my dad wanted me to manage at the time I was 17.
At 17, he wanted me to buy one of the businesses. We never really had a meeting of the minds of which one, and I had this other passion in my life that I wanted to do. It was really interesting because I came into the world of business actually with a lot of experience of being inside of businesses, running businesses from a very early age and helping to grow business. My whole thing, my whole world for so many years actually was around selling. In fact, when I left employment of my parents, I went on and the only thing I ever applied for was sales jobs.
I became trained in the concept of selling, I love selling and why I’m sharing this, and it’s going to get into the answer stages in upside down business, is that, in my pursuit, I’m an avid forever learner. I worked in libraries, I love learning, I love education, I love the fact that you support people in this space. And so I’m a high performer, to go do my best and sell for other people, I’d ask a lot of questions. And I’d either be thrown into management or I get fired. And that was kind of the reality.
Eventually, I moved out here, started my own companies and I’m unknowingly, the very first business that I started with my husband, it was in that time of that base two. Literally, like no joke. When we met, I was in that second space where I wasn’t walking. The night we met, he didn’t know that I have that physical situation and I understand like why he got rose colored lenses for me. He’s an amazing human being, but how this relates is that, I lived through unknowingly building a business upside down.
What does that mean? We started out, I knew how to manage a business, run a business, had a pretty good understanding of how to market and promote a business. He was really good at fulfilling the service that we are providing. So we blended together and I bootstrapped, and when I say we bootstrapped Chris, we bootstrapped about $2,500. We bought the desk, the phone, the old computer with the floppy drive. And many days, how we built that businesses, I was phone calling and I’m not joking.
Many days, I was literally laying in bed because I couldn’t get out. I can muster up time. Nobody knew on the phone that I had this physical issue going on. And so we built a business and we built it, which is the two of us. We implemented really good business strategies, things that I knew were important; customer service, great care of our clients. All the little attention to detail to create what I call a five star experience. But what happened that created the awareness that, “Oh, man, we’ve built this business upside down,” is that it was time to expand.
It was time to bring on sales staff, other technicians, office manager, move out of being a home base thing into a brick and mortar location. And as we were doing that, it seemed like it didn’t matter how many more sales we did. We weren’t making any more money. And that time of that business, I invested deeply into my education around marketing, business development. I invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into my learning, how to turn a business around, how to market effectively, so that we could have a really solid business. And we did ,and the outcome of that is we did.
We held that business for 14 years. Our next level up would have been to franchise. For different reasons we chose not to. What we did is, we created an exit strategy. Here’s why I share that story, because during the time when we were stuck … I want you to imagine the upside down triangle. On the bottom of the triangle, the point is on the bottom, that is you. This is the typical model most entrepreneurs unknowingly get themselves into.
Great intention, great ideas, great service, but in our effort to do everything by ourselves, we are at the bottom and we’re holding that business up. So this everything on the top, the flat part of the triangle, the white part of the triangle is above us. And so that’s our customers, our pipeline, our sales, our knowledge, our content, all the things that we do in business. And the challenge or the problem with the business that’s upside down is that, the business cannot survive without you.
When you are at the bottom holding everything up, it lacks what I call structural integrity. And heaven forbid, it takes one thing, one thing. There is these things I call influences, internal and external influencers. I have many of them that we had to deal with through that development of that company, but at the time I didn’t even know that they were influencing us. One was 9/11, one I had an employee that stole from me and then there was my health. Those are just three things, but all three of those things created time where the company can become a burden. And there’s one thing if it’s the right one thing, it can implode the company, it can cause it to topple over.
And so, during the course life of the business, there are also these different stages. And so we go from ideation, meaning we’ve got this idea and we launch, we become an entrepreneur. Woo hoo, this is really cool. Right. We don’t realize that we’re taking on a job. We’re just getting to do one thing, we have to do 50 things, and you probably heard that. We wear all these hats, that’s kind of the Emmet’s story. In the life cycle of most businesses though, what I’ve seen over the years, since I sold that first business, we successfully sold it and then I opened up … How I built that business and renovated it, is now what I do publicly through my marketing firm and the business development side of things.
And there are these stages, companies go from like zero to a $100,000, 100 to $250,000. Then there’s another stage at 250 to 500, 500 to 750, 750 to a million. Then I see other starts at like 1 to 2 million, and two million and up. At 2 million, we can have what I call leapfrog growth a lot faster. The issue with stages and businesses being upside down, if your business is upside down, you’re tapped out, you are tapped out. You can only do so much until you learn how to create a shift in your business operation model so that you are able to get at the helm of your business, instead of holding it up, you are now leading the business, but you are also creating a foundation and structural integrity within your organization, within the operations, your systems, process, procedures that allows you to scale.
Scaling is when you go to that next level up in growth. And what’s really awesome … I’m going to go back to the trailblazing. This whole concept of step up, in the world of motorcycle riding for dirt bikers, there’s actually this thing called a step up, is where you’re going to jump, you jump layers of dirt all at once. And I think you can also apply it to you if you’re walking up a set of stairs. You don’t just have to go, you go one step at a time, but if you’ve got strong legs or you want to get there fast, you can skip some steps.
What I’ve developed is this whole system called Step Up. These are systems that accelerate potential by unlocking profit potential. And so through our journey, first of all, fixing our first business from being an upside down business to a right side up, I have taken all that knowledge and now I help my clients do the same, but it doesn’t have to take forever. And so, when you’re talking about getting yourself to that next level, the next stage of entrepreneurship, there are things that you can do to help you kind of get to that next step really easily, not get stuck in a rut, but it does take knowledge, you have to learn a few new skill sets, but it doesn’t have to take a long time. And that is part of the renovation of who I am and what I do and how I trail blaze.
I’m trailblazing in education, taking my education and developing new educational platforms, so that I can teach businesses how to do this much more effectively because this is kind of a personal passion. I get really frustrated when I see businesses keep going out of business because that loops back into a really wicked cycle emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, and I don’t believe that we have to stay stuck in status quo. There’s a lot of people in our country that think it’s okay that massive, hundreds of thousands of businesses open every year, and those same businesses, the majority of them will close. That’s not right. And I want to change that.
I’ve just tried to create languaging and processes and programs that can help businesses stay in business longer.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome.
Debbra Sweet: Thank you.
Chris Badgett: For the listeners out there, check out Debbrasweet.com, and you’ve got a lot going on. What do you recommend as a good place for people to start to engage with your material and your mission. If they want to follow you down the trailblazing path and learn from you, What is the good place to start and connect with you?
Debbra Sweet: You know what’s a great place? Is actually on that site, Debbrasweet.com with two Bs. There’s a contact page where I believe you can, if you want to, I do this thing called, the goal achievement session, because I’m really very results driven. I love to have fun but I’m very results driven. Chris, I would like to offer to your students, if they want to do a goal achievement session, I’ll offer them a half hour complimentary session. That would be an easy way to do that, all you have to do is just drop me an email, and it’s right there on the website.
You can contact me and I’m happy to talk to you and see how can I help you get unstuck with something that you’re working on today, but you can also find me on, I’m on Facebook, I’m in LinkedIn, and all the normal social media places. I’m happy to engage because I’m really on a passion. I think it’s awesome too, Chris, with what you’re doing. I’m thrilled to get to know you, and I’m really excited to be using your platform to help develop my classes to help serve in a bigger space too. And I really appreciate what you’re doing. Thank you for the opportunity to be here with you.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Thank you very much for that and for you the educational entrepreneur out there, I’d encourage you to take Debbra up on her offer there. It’s always good to connect with other entrepreneurs on the journey. And yeah, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Debbra Sweet: Thank you too.
Chris Badgett: We’re going to do this again sometime, I can tell, we could do it for like hours.
Debbra Sweet: I would love to do that and then maybe I will reciprocate to interview you later. I’d love to do that too.
Chris Badgett: Sounds great. Thanks so much Debbra.
Debbra Sweet: Thank you. Bye everybody. Have a great day.

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