I recently had a conversation with a woman who will inspire you to think big and go big.
I am excited to share my conversation with Julia Pimsleur, a scaling coach, mindset expert, speaker, and best-selling author. Julia is the founder of Million Dollar Women, a community for women who want to grow their businesses. She also authored the book, Go Big Now, which I read last year. That book was the exact message I needed at the time in my business, so I courageously invited Julia to connect on LinkedIn. And now here we are having a conversation for the Elite Achievement podcast! Talk about coming full circle. I ask Julia what inspired her to start the Million Dollar Women community.
“Well, women like you,” Julia begins. “Women who are really excited and passionate about their business but don’t have all the pieces to take it to where they want to. And that really speaks to me because I was one of those women. My first business was Little Pim. Little Pim is language learning for young children, and a panda bear character we created who taught little kids a second language. It was a multimedia business where we were helping parents teach their children French, Spanish, Chinese, and Italian, thirteen languages in total. I was so passionate about the teaching part but not confident at all about the business part. I didn’t go to business school. I don’t have a finance background. So, I was learning how to be a business owner on the job. And even if you’re smart, driven, and determined, you can still fail pretty hard in the business world. I think I might have been on that course when I finally reached out for some help because I didn’t know how to grow the business in a profitable, sustainable, and scalable way. I had a lot of sleepless nights and big challenging moments, including almost running out of cash at one point. It was really scary, hard stuff. But I got through that with the help of mentors, coaches, and a business program. And I did learn how to run my business in a smart, scalable way. And ultimately, we raised a few million in venture capital and got the business up into the multi-millions. It got to the place I always dreamed it could have. But this story could have turned out very differently without the right coaches, mentors, community and business training.”
There is so much we can unpack in Julia’s first answer. And the first thing that I’m wondering is, what does it mean to scale a business? I hear people talking about it constantly, and I ask Julia what it means to her. She explains how scale really means that you’re taking your business bigger in a way that creates economies of scale.
“If you’re in an unscalable business, it looks like this,” Julia explains. “Every time you get ten new customers, you need to add more staff or services. Businesses are typically hard to scale because while you might get bigger clients, you have to hire more teams to hold the hands of those bigger clients. So, you’re never really getting too big profit margins. Because as you make more money, you’re spending more money. That is not scalable. What is scalable is when you have some kind of a system, a product, or a repeatable service. The more you sell it, the lower it costs for you to deliver it, and you get these higher and higher margins. I’ll give you an example from the language teaching business. Little Pim was actually my second business, and when I first came up with the idea of helping young children to learn a second language, I remember my husband saying, oh, so you’re going to start a language school? Moms will bring their kids to this school and drop them off, and you’ll teach them French or Spanish, for example. And when I thought about that, I was like that’s going to mean real estate, different locations, hiring all these people, training them, finding teachers and all the languages.”
Julia explains how immediately alarm bells went off and alerted her that she didn’t want to do that. “And now, of course, I look back and say, yeah, that’s not scalable,” says Julia. “So, I was a film major. And I thought, well, wait a minute, what if I create something that kids can watch at home? My son was so fascinated with my phone, even though he was under one year old. So, I thought, what if you could replace some of that screen time with language teaching? What if we created a multimedia program that kids could watch on the phone or the iPad or the computer, and then anywhere they are, they could be learning French or Spanish or Chinese, with some fun little character who ultimately became Little Pim. We spent about $500,000 creating the first six videos in French, Spanish, and Chinese. And then we could sell them to everyone, and they could be seen on any screen, any size, anywhere. So, that $500,000 I spent is what’s called a sunk cost. You spend a bunch of money upfront to create something, and you’re not going to really get that back. That’s just what you’re investing. But then, if you’ve created something scalable, you reap the rewards for a long, long time. Little Pim has been on the market for over ten years. And we’ve not had to redo that content.”
That is very different from the original discussion around having a school with one location! Julia agrees and confirms that it couldn’t be replicated as easily. She explains that once you know these terms and how they work, it can be obvious to see what’s scalable and what is not. And in her business program, the Million Dollar Women accelerator, they help women look at their business and identify if it is scalable or if there is a part of the business that is scalable. She explains that it is not always black and white because there is also the question of if a business could be run in a more scalable way. The first step is to learn the term and understand what to look for, which is why it’s an integral part of the Million Dollar Women program.
I ask Julia if she would say looking at the products and services and assessing what is or is not scalable is the first step an entrepreneur can take to scale their business. Julia jokes that the first step is the go big mindset, which I should have known after reading her book!
“Thanks for the setup,” Julia laughs. “What’s interesting, now that I’ve coached thousands of women entrepreneurs, is that you can’t just start teaching someone business skills without first addressing mindset. Because if you take someone who was raised thinking, oh, if I promote myself, that’s being pushy, or it’s unladylike to promote yourself, they have to understand that’s going to get in the way of growing a business. If you grew up in a home where your family didn’t have a lot of money, but there was someone in the family who did, and they were referred to as a jerk or “super-rich,” you may have all these negative associations with money. Well, what’s going to happen when you start thinking about growing a big successful money-making business? Unconsciously, you’ve got a block there. Or maybe you’ve got a competing commitment, around something else you’re committed to that’s actually more important to you than growing your business. But it’s unconscious, and therefore you’re not making the sales, not putting yourself out there, not fixing your website, and doing the things you know you need to do. So that’s what we have to address first. Do you have the go big mindset? Where are your blocks? And how do we move them aside? And it’s interesting because you think well, ok, so some people must struggle with that, but others must not. And I haven’t said this before, but I’ll say it here for the first time, if you don’t have what you want, if you haven’t already gotten your business to the place you want it to be, from a revenue standpoint, then you have blocks. It’s not ‘you might’ because if you didn’t, you would have it already. Everything we have in our life that we like and we’re proud of and it’s going well, it’s because we didn’t have blocks around those things. So, we pursued them with gusto. And we got over roadblocks and did whatever we needed to do. And now we have those things, and whatever we don’t have, it’s our job to do that mindset work, and then go get the skills.”
If you don’t have what you want, then you have blocks. It makes so much sense. We have visions, dreams, and goals. And if we haven’t gotten there, we have to do the work to figure out what’s blocking us. Julia agrees and says it is more than saying, ok, I just need skills. I don’t have to do mindset work. Because in reality, she explains that you can only grow your business as big as you can grow yourself.
Julia mentioned earlier that she had mentors and coaches as she grew and built Little Pim, so I ask, what were some of the things she did specifically to grow?
“I did mindset work, for sure,” Julia says. “But I also surrounded myself with people who had gotten to where I wanted to be because they think differently, they act differently. They dream differently, and their dreams are bigger dreams. When I had a $400,000 business, to hang around with someone who had a $2 million business was really exciting because they were dreaming of a $10 million business. And so that helped to broaden my thinking. Also, reading the books they recommended because they had become who they were by reading those books. I was a voracious business book reader and still am. I also joined programs where I could meet other high-achieving entrepreneurs. I joined an organization in New York that helped me get to $1 million. And then, I stayed in it for several years and ultimately left to build my own community. I loved having other entrepreneurs who I could be on the journey with. Because most people don’t understand the entrepreneurial life except entrepreneurs. So, while you don’t have to ditch your friends in corporate America, you should definitely find an intentional community of people who get what you’re going through and can help navigate the tough times and celebrate the good times.”
That’s such an important takeaway. Several of my clients talk about relationships and how they have shifted or changed with their friend groups. Because they have big visions, they have big goals, and they want to build big businesses. I love how Julia points out that many times, others who are not entrepreneurs might not understand. And we can go build these communities ourselves, and we can find the support that we need.
“Yes, I think that’s why entrepreneurs crave community so much because it’s needed the second you decide to build a business. And then let’s take it a step further and say, build a big successful business, where your goal is to have a team of people and be the best in the industry. Well, now you need a new set of people around you because very few people will understand that and some people will feel threatened by that. Because if you’re changing, growing, and going outside of your comfort zone and doing things that maybe your friends were socialized to think of as too pushy, you’ll need to find others who are on the same path and understand.”
Well, that’s certainly a challenge as we think about scaling and growing businesses. I ask Julia what other challenges we might encounter as we scale our businesses.
“Some of the main things we see tripping people up, other than mindset, is not getting your arms around your finances quickly enough,” Julia says. “I find a lot of business owners are so in love with their product or service that they spend a ton of time creating new content or thinking about what other bells and whistles they can add to what they have. And that’s sort of their happy place. But if they don’t get finance training and don’t have a bookkeeper and accountant, that part of the business can get neglected. And if you don’t know the money-making machine at the center of your business, it will be nearly impossible to scale. That’s what we call it in the Million Dollar Women community, the money-making machine inside your business, because there’s your business, like the way you describe it at a cocktail party, but that’s not the money-making machine. The money-making machine is understanding the unit economics, like, what does it cost to get one customer? How many phone calls? How much money do I have to put into marketing on Facebook ads or whatever venue you’re using? How much do I have to spend each month to yield this many people who click or set up phone calls to close this many deals to make this amount of money per month? That’s the money-making machine. And until we understand that it’s very hard to improve it, track it, and grow it.”
That was one of the things I appreciated the most when I was coaching at my former company. There was an entire plan around the numbers in the activity. And when I started my business, I thought, well, if this works for financial services, I wonder if this works for the coaching industry, and shockingly it did. It’s around the same numbers, ten referrals leads to three conversations, leads to one client. So having that data in that system gave me a lot of confidence and conviction when I started building my business.
“I love that you did that right away,” says Julia. “And you’re definitely the exception. A lot of people wait several years before they map out, how does this work? What are my goals? How am I going to get there? And so, I’m sure that helped you to have that roadmap.”
It did! And then, when I was going through the accelerator program with Million Dollar Women, Julia encouraged me to get even clearer and think about where clients come from. That helped me shift my social media strategy and think differently about outreach. I became far more intentional when it came to growing my business. Julia says she is thrilled to hear that and has loved watching me ramp up and expand using the tools from the community.
I’m so grateful I came across the Million Dollar Women community after reading her book. I ask Julia, along with competing commitments that she mentioned, what other strategies she talks about in Go Big Now can help entrepreneurs develop their mindset and build big businesses.
“I think doing mindset work of any kind is essential when you’re an entrepreneur because you really can’t manage a company and a team if you can’t manage yourself,” begins Julia. “That’s the first person you have to learn how to manage from your emotions, fears, and negative self-talk, to identifying limiting beliefs and not letting them take over and stop you from doing the big, amazing work you’re meant to do in the world. So, I would say the number one thing is to get some mindset training. I wrote Go Big Now because I didn’t see one book that would allow you to access what I thought was the best of all the mindset practices out there. I’ve been studying mindset for fifteen years, and I’m a trained NLP coach in neurolinguistic programming. So, after going through all these workshops and working with so many masters, I realized, oh, they’re all kind of teaching the same thing. So how could we bring that to people so that they don’t have to spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars like I did? I reduced it down to just eight essential practices, and that’s what’s in Go Big Now. If you adopt these eight, you will have the go big mindset. Now, you’re not going to close the book and suddenly make a million dollars. It doesn’t work that way. But you will, like Kristin, be able to use these terms like competing commitments. And when you see it pop up, rather than getting stuck for three months or three years there, you can just go, oh, whoa, I have a competing commitment. And there’s an exercise in the book to work through it. Sometimes even just naming it is enough. When you say, oh, wait a minute, this is just a limiting belief. This isn’t real. Let me figure out how I can get rid of it as soon as possible because it’s not serving me.”
Julia gives an example of a limiting belief she faced when running Little Pim. “I realized I needed to raise money for the business because we were competing with Disney and Fisher-Price,” Julia says. “And we had to have those big marketing budgets. Someone suggested I raise money, but I was immediately so terrified at the notion because I didn’t have a financial background. I wasn’t particularly comfortable with the numbers side of my business, even though we were doing really well. I loved the marketing and the content creation. And no one in my family was in the banking world. My parents were professors. So, I really had no model of what it would look like to go into rooms of hundreds of venture capitalists and pitch my business. I also read that only 2% of venture capital is invested in women-run businesses. So that made it seem even harder. And I just thought, well, I don’t speak their language. They don’t speak my language. I could see what they were talking about in those rooms just from doing a little research. It was like, what’s the valuation? What kind of liquidation preference do I get? Is there going to be a discount? It’s a whole other vocabulary. So, I decided no, I can’t do that. And it was a limiting belief because it limited my ability to raise capital. And it wasn’t true. But it was a very firmly held belief. And it took me many weeks to figure out that I had to get out of my comfort zone and bust through this limiting belief if I wanted what was on the other side. And that was very, very hard. But I did it and then reaped those rewards. And that’s one of the things I love helping people do now is bust through their own limiting beliefs. Because often what’s a huge roadblock for you, someone else, a friend, a therapist, a mentor, might look at you and say, but of course you can do that. And it can be this really aha moment of oh, I’m limiting myself. Why don’t I stop doing that? And then there is, of course, a four-step method that I teach in the book to do that.”
It’s so helpful to hear that someone who has built, scaled, sold companies, and is now building a community and coaching women to get to seven figures also is continuing to do mindset work. Sometimes we believe that if we do it a little bit, we’re done. And we can move on. But it sounds like it’s continual.
“It is,” Julia confirms. “And I learned that from a lot of the mentors and coaches I admired. I was surprised at how much they talked about their mindset practices. It was very freeing, actually. I spent, I don’t know, $15,000 on some course with a guru, and half the class he was talking about his mindset practices. So, it was a good reminder to me this is not once-and-done work. This is forever work. If anyone’s ever been to a Tony Robbins conference, it’s one of the reasons I learned NLP, because that is what he was trained in. It is the well that many self-help and motivational leaders draw from. So I thought, ok, I’ve drunk from the Tony Robbins water, now let me go to the well where he got the water. And it was very enlightening to see what they teach in NLP. And a lot of it is that you have to turn these things into a lifelong practice. Tony Robbins, who has, I don’t know, a $5 billion empire, still gets up every day and does all these mindset practices because that’s how you stay at the top of your game.”
That’s so helpful. Stay at the top of your game with the mindset practices. The final mindset concept from Go Big Now is one I want to explore with Julia because it was another big one for me. The idea is be-do-have and I ask her to share what it is and why it is important for a business owner.
“Well, 99% of the planet is living according to the opposite of be-do-have, which is have-do-be,” explains Julia. “Have-do-be sounds something like this. Here’s the amount of money I have or the amount of education I have or family support. Therefore, here’s what I can do in the world. And therefore, here’s who I can be. And so, people spend their whole lives limited by that chain of thinking. I only have this amount, so I can only do this. And if you’re an entrepreneur, you need to flip it and start with be. So, you can ask, who do I want to be in the world? In my case, I want to be someone helping to close the economic gender gap. The World Economic Forum says it will take 268 years for men and women to make the same amount of money. That is not acceptable. We’re going to try to shave 100 years off of that by helping at least one million women get to $1 million in revenue. So that’s what I want to be. Then ask, what would that person be doing? Well, that person would be writing books, writing articles, raising awareness, going on podcasts, creating programs, training as many women as you could to close the economic gender gap so that they would have success. And then ultimately, if you do those things, you will have what that person has. Now, it doesn’t happen right away. It sometimes happens in baby steps. But that is how the people we see and admire got there. They had such a strong vision of who they wanted to be that no matter how dire the ‘have’ was of what they had, they overcame it. Oprah is a great example of that. She was raised very, very poor in the South. She was sexually abused. As a child, she spent time in a mental institution. I mean, she was not on a great track at age thirteen. But she had such a strong notion of who she wanted to be in the world. She wanted to be provoking these incredible conversations about self-realization. And she wanted to be a leader, and she wanted to be a leading voice. And that is what allowed her to overcome all these obstacles and take the steps she took to have what she now has and become that leader.”
What a powerful way to wrap up my conversation with Julia. I love how she pointed out even those we see as the most successful are still working on their mindset. I ask where people can go to learn more about her and the Million Dollar Women community. She suggests visiting www.millionwomen.com or connecting with her directly on Instagram and LinkedIn.
With that goal achievers, keep celebrating your weekly wins, noting your lessons learned, and identify your priorities for next week so you can consistently pursue progress in the direction of your goals.