Named the “Entrepreneurial Guru for Women” by Business News Daily, Ali Brown provides business coaching and advice to over 250,000 followers via AliBrown.com, her social media channels, and her Glambition®Radio show.
During the past five years, Ali has received the honor of being:
For this issue on coaching, we sat down with Ali to pick her brain for her best tips to help network marketing professionals step up their game.
How did you get started in coaching entrepreneurs?
Some people start their careers off knowing exactly what they want to do and who they want to be in the world. I did not. I started following the path everyone around me was taking—going to college and getting a job.
I went through about six different jobs in the six years after college, and I thought something was wrong with me. I knew I was smart—I had good grades in school—but I was unhappy at every position. I’m looking around me and going, “Really, is this it? Is this life? Nine to five, then going to the bar and discussing what’s on TV?”
I felt pulled to do something greater, and I didn’t know what it was. A turning point for me was realizing that you could work for yourself. I had never thought of that.
My last job I was at a small ad agency in New York, where I had worked my way up to being a copywriter creating ads for newsletters, advertisements, websites, and so on. I had taken some courses on my own and had become pretty good.
There was this freelance guy who came and went, and I remember being so envious, because I saw him choose his own schedule. One day as he was coming back from working in the Hamptons, I asked him, “Tell me, what do you do?” He said, “I work for myself on my own schedule. It’s called freelancing. You could do this, too.” He added, “I probably make a lot more than you do!” I said, “Okay, that’s it.” I quit. I literally quit my job without a plan B.
For most women I coach, this is true: we do better when we don’t have a backup plan, because otherwise we’re too insecure. There are big differences in how men and women handle change and risk. I know I have to put myself in a position where I have no choice but to step into that greater plan. This happened in 1998.
What did you do next?
I just figured it out day by day. I approached other ad agencies to get clients. I went to networking meetings. As I grew my little business, people around me started asking, “How are you marketing yourself?” I told them what I did, compiled my experience in e-books and courses, and learned how to sell these online.
I’d go grow my business, then turn around and teach others what I was doing. It’s the best way to become a coach: become successful yourself, and as you’re continuing to grow and expand, you help the people who want to learn from you.
You were a pioneer back then. Today we’re seeing an entire economy that revolved around jobs and employees shifting to gigs and freelancers.
Indeed, trend watchers say that by 2020 more than 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be independent contractors. The big equalizer has been technology. It shifted the game especially for women and truly leveled the playing field, because for the first time in history we can raise a family, run a business based one our values, and not have to fit into the previous mold from the industrial age, which was created by and for men.
Parallel with technological advancement, we see a huge shift in mindset. There was security in having a job and even in not having all these choices.
A big shakeup for many people was the Great Recession we saw a few years ago. The industries that were hit the hardest were financial, automotive, and manufacturing, because they were stuck in that industrial age model. Employees lost their jobs and were confused. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs who had flexibility, who had maybe started businesses, or had positions where they had invested in their own growth and training, were able to adapt. They were affected, but they could course-correct along the way.
Today there’s so much opportunity to work for yourself, but the majority of this country is still valuing industrial age principles where you work for a company. The hardest thing about changing our lifestyle in this way, or changing our goals and careers, is feeling like we’re alone. That’s why changing whom we surround ourselves with is so important. In the beginning when I decided to change my life, it felt like this huge risk, but I was so unhappy where I was that it just kept pushing me forward.
What some people don’t realize is that in the current economic climate, “safe is the new risk.” Trying to stay in that old model of security, staying stagnant in your career and in your life, is the riskiest thing you could do. That’s what we talked about the Rise of the Entrepreneur documentary. If we aren’t willing to be responsible for our own success now, there is an even bigger wakeup call coming for a lot of people.
Do you have a lot of network marketers in your coaching practice?
I’ve coached a few select leaders, and it’s been a huge pleasure working with them. It’s amazing to see what’s possible in this business, for those who truly want to do the work. I’ll be the first to admit it’s not an easy model, but it’s a powerful vehicle if you can drive it. It can be one of the most lucrative opportunities out there.
Coaching is a big part of building a network marketing team, and also comes into play in prospecting, as you’re trying to figure out if your business is a good fit for the person you’re talking to. What are some of your tips?
When prospecting you have to realize you’re not just offering that person a business opportunity. You’re going to be changing their life. You’re going to introduce a whole new way of being. As Jim Rohn taught us, “You don’t become a millionaire for the million dollars. You become a millionaire for the person you become in the process.” It’s challenging to convey all this to someone when they’re evaluating your opportunity. There’s so much you’re going to bring, but you have to remember to meet people where they’re at.
Make sure you’re listening. I see a lot of networkers going around prospecting, and it’s all about them and the opportunity and how much money they’ve made. You need to take time to have conversations with people. What are their goals? What is their life like? What are their frustrations? What are their dreams? Tap into that.
Then it’s a combination of helping them get what they want, and also get what they need, what you know is required in the process. This may be some strong advice, some training, spending more time with people who are successful doing the things they want to do. As you become a coach, you often become part therapist.
Our personal and professional lives used to be compartmentalized. Now, with social media and building our online brand, everything we do affects all aspects of our lives. There’s no longer this fragmented way of living. We have to put all of yourself into your business, don’t we?
Interestingly, that’s a shift women initiated when they joined the workforce a few decades ago. They started talking about their families and realizing there needed to be childcare and flexible hours. We suddenly brought the whole person to work and into business.
Then as technology advanced and social media grew, everything became integrated. Now we’re getting work texts at night and personal texts during the day. It’s all blurred together. This also means that as a business owner, you are now a personal brand. People are constantly watching you—how you behave online as well as in the world. Someone may know you even on a plane, and you don’t realize it. I have people come up to me in the airport, so I always make sure to look good and be nice, all the time. You never know who’s watching. Life has become very personal, and so has business—and that’s such a blessing for network marketing, because it’s always been about people.
This shift also requires greater authenticity, transparency, and integrity. People find out quickly if you’re not walking your talk.
Yes, you see that in the news: people do crazy things, and they forget they’re being watched. Think of that Taco Bell manager punching the Uber driver recently, and how that’s now reflecting on the brand, even though he wasn’t acting on behalf of the company. This shift towards greater transparency is forcing people to wake up and be accountable for themselves and their actions.
What would you say to network marketing leaders who want to make what you call the seven-figure shift in their business?
To make big leaps in income, you need to look at points of leverage. In network marketing, that would typically be finding and nurturing leaders, as they will bring a lot more people to your team. Another point of leverage is using the internet to build a database and communicate with many people at a time.
Network marketing is a leverage-based model. You’re leveraging a team to grow the business for you. It always perplexes me how many people don’t see this, when in reality it’s the same model businesses have been based on for decades. It’s just a new way of applying it by making people responsible for themselves and their networks.
The working-for-yourself part is not for everyone. I’m glad some people still want jobs. I have some great employees and I’m thankful for them. They’re happy that I’m an entrepreneur. Truth is, the vast majority of people doesn’t believe they can succeed as entrepreneurs, even though it has now become easier than ever. If people were presented with the right opportunity and decided to make a change, it would shift everything for them. They don’t realize the freedom and possibility they can enjoy. It’s interesting how we get into our own box. Even growing my own business, I got to a certain point where I had built it a certain way, and then realized it was a model I wasn’t happy with either.
Two years ago I had twins, a boy and a girl. This happened after I finally met the right guy. We recently decided that Brett would quit his job and be home with the kids. Once he was home, I suddenly realized, “Wow, we can live anywhere in the world!” It hit me like a rock. We need new experiences and opportunities to shake us up sometimes. We’ve decided we’re going to be living in Australia part of the time. We want to be traveling more with the kids. Often we get so settled in the life we think we want, that we don’t see the life that we actually could have.
It’s pretty limitless these days, isn’t it?
We’re freaking out, actually. I remember the moment it happened. We went out to dinner with some very nice people we met in town. The conversation on their end was kind of “old model.” They both had jobs, and they were talking about getting the kids on the list for the right school. That night when we were in bed, Brett asked, “Are you awake?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “What’s wrong?” I said, “I don’t want to do this the regular way.” He said, “I don’t either.”
That was a magical moment. We both just knew we want to do life differently. This is after I already worked for myself. I forgot that having the right business opportunity combined with technology gives us incredible freedom.
The beauty of network marketing is that it has evolved. Before it took off online, this was a wholly different model. You had to buy and store inventory. Now the business is so much easier. You sign up people with a few clicks. Your clients order the product directly from the company. It’s all laid out for you. You really have no excuse for not succeeding, except for your own personal issues.
Except for your mindset.
Yes. People are terrified, because often it is the first time they’re actually investing in themselves. It’s funny, people have no qualms about handing their money over to a financial advisor, or to invest in real estate, but when they decide to bank on themselves, they are terrified, because they know they’re going to have to grow. For many this may be the most transformational experience they’ll ever have.
Earlier you mentioned how women interpret risk and failure differently than men. Can you say more?
If you go back in history, even as far as pre-historic times, women never took risks, because if they stepped up or out of the system, they would not only be kicked out of the tribe, but they could die. This same conditioning is registered in our DNA to this day. When we take a risk, it almost physically feels like our life is in danger sometimes. You feel it in your belly, in your third chakra. When stepping out, it may feel as though I’m going to be eaten by a tiger. I’m going to be burned at the stake for talking about this or that. To catch ourselves, we have to take a deep breath, go inward, and ask, “What is this really about? What am I scared of? Am I scared of others’ opinions? Am I scared someone will tell me no?” If women can be more interpretive of these feelings and not just take them at face value, things will start to shift for us.
A group that’s less bogged down by the old model is Gen Y. They have this infinite possibility mindset.
Yes, and it’s wonderful to see. They don’t stay in jobs long. They want to try new things. They want to have experiences. They want to travel. They don’t want to be locked into the model their parents went through. They know it’s time for us to step into our purpose and our personal power.
What are some of the common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make?
The first one is you have to focus on the money. This may seem foundational, but everyone gets so caught up these days in, “I have to do social media,” and “I’m going to work on a blog.” They get all excited about the details instead of focusing on making sure they’re making a living.
If you just started a business, perhaps you want to work a part-time job. You may want to moonlight in your business to get started, or just do it on the weekends. Then set a date for when you’re going to leave that job—and stick to it. Create some type of plan for yourself. Work with a coach or a friend to help you set a realistic goal.
The second one has to do with marketing. You have to get comfortable with having business conversations, and practice, practice, practice. You want to attend as many events as you can in the first few years. I remember when I started my business I joined all these breakfast groups and lunch groups. I didn’t know what I was doing with my business yet, but I got good talking about it. That went a long way.
I see a lot of people these days hiding behind their computers. We like technology and the leverage it provides, but some of these people, when you take them out of the house, don’t know how to talk. They think they can build their business on Facebook. It doesn’t work that way for most of us. You need to get comfortable talking to people, be proud of what you do, and get used to having conversations about it.
The third one almost sounds cliché: your mindset is more than half of the battle. If you do not make an effort to always work on your mindset, you will default back to the negative. It’s actually happened to me, even after I was making millions of dollars a year. If I am not continually surrounding myself with intelligent, positive, success-minded people, I start shrinking, without even realizing it. If I spend too much time with my old friends, whom I love, I revert to being scared again and start thinking thoughts like, “Who am I to be doing this?” It’s scary the conversations we can have in our heads.
Even to this day I make an effort to go to different types of events and meet new people. I was just honored to be invited to a United Nations Foundation Leadership dinner in New York City. I found myself sitting next to people like Queen Rania of Jordan, and I’m thinking, “Holy crap I can’t believe I’m in this room.” I left there a different woman. I left at this higher vibration. Being around those people, even if I hadn’t have one conversation there, changed me. Always attend as many high-level events as you can. Invest in opportunities to be around the best coaches and leaders in your field. Start hanging around with them, and you will be changed.
Any books or mentors that have empowered you?
I recommend reading biographies and autobiographies, because they help us realize all the iterations some people went through before they made it big. One of my favorites is Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity. I love that book, because it tells the real story. You look at Sir Richard, and you think he hit it out of the park. He had many failures and mentions them in his book. He had to sell Virgin Records when he was launching Virgin Airlines. He had many trials and tribulations. We all look at success and think it’s a straight line. It never is. You’re going to bump around. You’re going to have twists and turns. I read biographies of powerful people whenever I can, and one day I’m going to write mine. It’s going to be as much of a rollercoaster as Richard Branson’s story.
You say you’ve always had a coach, to this day. Why does everyone need a coach?
We all need someone to talk to sometimes, someone who gives us a higher-level view. Sometimes we need a confidant, sometimes it’s about learning new strategies. Sometimes we need introductions. The women I coach closely are all very different. Some just want to talk to me for half an hour to confirm that they’re not crazy. They have these big ideas, and they need someone backing them up. Or sometimes they have too many ideas, and I rein them in and help them focus, “This is the idea you need to start working on first.” Sometimes they hire me as a business coach, but we end up working on a lot of their team issues, or personal issues. I remind them that I’m not a therapist by any means, but that I can help them think and navigate through treacherous waters.
Life has become more complex. We have many more decisions to make, whether we’re in business or not, and events to manage every day of our lives. Having someone you talk to who is looking out for your best on a regular basis is priceless.
If you can find a coach who’s actually done what you want to do, that’s a no brainer. I see a lot of people who have no other course in life and then decide to become a coach, a business coach no less, even though they’ve never grown a successful enterprise themselves. That really gets my goat.
I want people to get smarter about hiring coaches, because there are so many choices right now. You need to look for someone who has done what you want to do. They don’t necessarily have to be a “certified” coach. Coaching is not a regulated industry. Anyone can call themselves a coach. Make sure you get to know them really well. What’s their track record? Do they have success stories? Do they have client testimonials? Get some references. Do your due diligence.
What do you have available for network marketers in terms of coaching at different levels?
I’m only focused on business women doing seven-figures-plus right now. I have my small premier client group, and then I have a few individual private clients I work with one on one. Occasionally I give small workshops open to the public. I will likely be launching a leadership program next year on a bigger scale. I was one of the first people to offer online courses, probably since about 2002. I needed a break from that and work with the high-level clients right now. I do have a free audio series anyone can download by opting in to my newsletter on AliBrown.com. It’s a called Top 10 Secrets for Entrepreneurial Women.
There is one more book I recommend. It’s called The Big Leap by Dr. Gay Hendricks. Gay talks about your “zone of genius,” and how in order to step into your highest potential, you have to step out of your zone of competence, and even outside your zone of excellence. When I read this book, I decided to give up what I was good at, and work only in my zone of genius, because that’s where our true power and attraction lies.
There is a life of unlimited possibility awaiting us all, and it’s an adventure. The good news is, it’s totally realistic to live it today, if we just let go and make that leap.