Based in San Diego, Romi Neustadt is a top leader and seven-figure earner in an established skincare company that’s expanding internationally.
Originally from Montana, Romi Neustadt was already an accomplished professional and successful business owner when one of her clients introduced her to network marketing. Looking for time freedom, Romi recognized an opportunity of a lifetime, and with the support of her husband Dr. John Neustadt, she jumped in with both feet.
Romi’s training as a lawyer and skills as a PR consultant transferred nicely into her new career. Her team and income grew so quickly she was able to surpass her previous income within six months and retire John from his clinical practice in less than three years.
Today Romi and John enjoy a life of freedom and adventure with their children Nate and Bebe, while pouring into their team and paying their success forward to their favorite charities. Romi is the author of the newly released Amazon bestseller Get Over Your Damn Self: The No-BS Blueprint to Building a Life-Changing Business.—J.G.
Tell us a little about your background.
I was born and raised in Butte, Montana. Both my mom and dad’s parents escaped from Russia around the turn of the century and ended up in Butte. They were entrepreneurs: my maternal grandfather had a general store, and my paternal grandfather had a furniture store, which my father took over and ran until he died. So it’s in my blood.
Growing up in Butte made me resilient. The economy was largely dependent upon the price of copper. I saw the town flourish and stumble based on that, and my dad had many years of tough times, because as a brick-and-mortar business, it was entirely reliant on the local economy. But he kept going, and put four kids through college.
The big emphasis growing up for all of us kids was to choose a secure profession. I couldn’t stand the sight of blood, so instead of going to med school, I went to law school. I became a business litigator, and I hated it. It turned out—and I didn’t know this in my early 20s—I wasn’t meant to fight. It was awful to spend months and months on a case before seeing any tangible results.
Turns out, I was meant to build things—build people up and build big businesses.
You’re all about growth, not destruction.
Yes! The three years I lasted in law I was miserable. I think I was pretty good at it, but it ate me up.
I transitioned to public relations, on the hunch that my skills and journalism degree would transfer well. I talked my way into a PR job in New York City, and that started a successful 12-year career.
I did all kinds of PR in New York and then later in Seattle: corporate, international, non-profit, cause-related, celebrity, litigation support, you name it.
Seattle is where I met John and fell in love. We got married and had our son in Bozeman, Montana. We had moved back because we thought we could create an idyllic life there. With our two incomes and family close by, we thought we could have the modern-day version of Leave It to Beaver.
But unlike June Cleaver, I had to keep working—not just because we needed the second income, but also because I need to have something outside of parenting that’s intellectually challenging and socially engaging. After Nate was born, I did what a lot of professionals who work for others do, especially when you have entrepreneurialism in your blood. You think, “Now that I’m a parent, I have to figure out how to have more balance.” I thought I’d find the answer by leaving corporate agency life and setting up my own PR consultancy. I thought if I could work from home, pick my clients and choose my schedule, I could have that elusive balance while still maintaining an exciting and lucrative professional life.
What year was that?
That was in 2006, the year after Nate was born. Then Bebe joined us as we were ringing in 2009. When Bebe was five months old and Nate was three, I distinctly remember sitting at the dining room table one evening, paying the monthly bills. Nate was playing on the floor in the playroom next to me. John was doing dishes with Bebe in the front pack. I remember asking him, “Honey, is this all there is?” We were getting by, don’t get me wrong, but we weren’t getting ahead. We weren’t fully funding retirement accounts or college funds. We sure weren’t living a life of travel and adventure, like we had always dreamed about.
John and I were in two professions that were completely ruled by the billable hour, trapped in the fee-for-service model. If we didn’t work, we didn’t get paid. Even though I no longer had a boss, because my income was dependent upon my clients and the type of PR I did, I had to be at their beck and call—I didn’t really own my own schedule.
Plus, I was getting a headache from hitting my head against an earnings glass ceiling. There was no way for me to earn more money unless I worked way more hours and lost even more of my time for the kids, for John, for myself and the other things in life that were dear to me.
I remember saying to John, “This can’t be it. There has to be some other way where I can put my talents and experience to use and do something fun and exciting, and that will allow me to build a career around the kids.”
You knew you wanted to be a business owner, but not any kind of business.
I’ve always liked the idea of being my own boss. I loved that part of my PR consultancy, but there was no way I could start an entire business from the ground up, building an entire infrastructure, putting forth a huge startup investment with a long wait to return.
We didn’t have that kind of time or money, and, frankly, as a mom of two little kids, I didn’t have the energy. I remember saying to John, “There has to be something else,” and he said to me in his infinite wisdom and ever positive attitude, “It’s going to show up. Just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s going to show up.”
Honest to God, it was less than two weeks later that the company we work with today fell into my lap.
I found out about it because I brought on a new PR client. I had a very full client roster, but I took the new account because my sister’s best friend had referred someone to me. This woman designed and sold jewelry, and she wanted to raise the visibility of it. My sister’s best friend, Ilene, had told her I could help her.
That person was Susie Sheftel. Soon after Susie and I started working together, and in the course of trying to figure out what her strategic communications plan might be, I asked her, “How are you funding this thing? Because you don’t have any outside investors in your business.” She said, “It’s through my side gig.” I said, “What’s your side gig?” That’s when she told me what she was doing, and I was floored.
Had you heard of the company before?
I was familiar with the founders and brains behind the company because they already had a global success story under their belts. But I thought they had retired. I was very intrigued by the opportunity to do something they were aligned with, that it revolved around a highly consumable product with a ginormous market and that they were inviting people like me to be a part of it.
This was the end of June 2009. It sounded incredibly exciting, and I figured, “What do I have to lose?” In addition to the financial potential, I was approaching 40, I had two little kids, and I was sleep-deprived, so I was looking a little worse for wear. The prospect of using a clinically proven skincare line by these two dermatologists was very attractive. I looked at the opportunity and said to John, “I think I’ve found something.” He looked at it and said, “You have to do this.” So I jumped in.
Without hesitation. Not even a hair of skepticism about network marketing?
I have to be honest, I didn’t think of it as a network marketing or direct sales business. I just saw it as a smart direct-to-consumer way to connect customers with this product, cutting out the expense of a middleman.
Back then we were starting to see the rise of social media. The way people were making buying decisions was changing. We could already see the handwriting on the wall: the number one way people were going to make a decision to purchase a product or a service was based on the recommendations of others.
I was pulled in by the product, but I was also incredibly attracted by the business model, and everything that came with it—the products, the brand around the products and the market size that comes with skincare. To us it was a no-brainer, brilliant business proposition. I wasn’t quite sure how the heck I was going to do it. I’d never done anything like this before. But I was sure going to try.
What did you do to get started?
As I’m sure is the case with most top earners, I didn’t start the way I’ve taught all my people all these years to get started. I was pretty clueless. I immediately began “inelegantly” talking about the business and the products to people in my network. I shared my excitement, and some people said yes to the products. Others said yes to the business. Others said “No thank you,” which I quickly learned meant “not right now.”
I simply kept sharing around everything else I had on my really full plate. I got very lucky with the first person I called. Thinking back to that conversation, I’m sure I was terrible, but at the end of my much-too-long soliloquy, Nicole Cormany said, “I think I want to take a look at this for myself.” She not only became my first business partner, but one of the biggest leaders on our entire team.
This reminds me of what our friend Mark Yarnell used to say. “You can’t say the wrong thing to the right people, and you can’t say the right thing to the wrong people.”
Yes, I’m living proof of that. Today I teach my team a very structured, methodical way of reaching out and having authentic conversations. Back in the day when I started, we weren’t as organized and systematic. We pretty much flew by the seat of our pants.
As new business builders, we tend to be so concerned about what we’re saying and how we’re saying it. But the important thing is to start talking and to share your enthusiasm with people you’d love to be in business with. “Who do I know who is smart, successful, and outgoing? Who do I enjoy interacting with?”
Nicole was a mom at our son’s Montessori school. I didn’t know her all that well, but I knew her well enough to know, “I love this woman’s energy. I love what she’s putting out in the world.”
Adding a business partner didn’t slow me down whatsoever. One of the keys to my business growth has been that I recognized early on that I had to consistently reach out to folks in my network all the time to share about the business and the products. The key is consistency.
I continued to add customers and business partners, and some people really saw what I saw and were willing to do the same type of consistent activity. Then I would work closely with those folks to help them do what I was doing.
It became really clear that there were going to be quite a few people coming in who just wanted to do a little. Maybe they wanted a “shameless shoe” fund, or a little vacation fund. But then there were going to be others who wanted to build something larger, and I knew those were the people I needed to spend most of my time with. Bringing in new partners, adding new customers, and working with the people who have really come to play—that’s what I did.
Give us an overview of what happened from that point to where you are today.
The organization grew very fast. Because I was a complete novice to this profession, I didn’t know I was going really fast. I was just doing. I retired myself from my 12-year award-winning PR career, and by the end of my first year I had built an income that dwarfed what I had been earning in my consultancy.
In less than two-and-a-half years, John was able to step away from clinical practice to design the life he really wanted, too. He wanted to be more of a hands-on dad and pursue his own entrepreneurial venture, building a dietary supplement company.
The larger income and freedom allowed us to move to our dream location of San Diego. Not that Bozeman isn’t amazing—I’m still a Montana girl at heart—but we knew San Diego would be a phenomenal place to live and raise kids. And you can’t find better weather.
After our move, our business kept growing exponentially. The team took on a life of its own. Today we have business partners all over the U.S. and on military bases all over the world. We’re growing throughout Canada, and we’re getting ready to launch Australia. It has far surpassed anything we could have imagined from an income perspective, but even more so from a fulfillment perspective.
At what point did John start building with you?
A few years ago, when John’s dietary supplement company was requiring very little of his time to keep it flourishing, he was being courted to go back into clinical practice. But he didn’t want to give up his new freedom and flexibility. He wanted to join me in business because, he said, “I think I can have a bigger impact on people’s lives through this business, than confined to the people who could walk into my clinical office.” We’ve been building it together ever since.
We have an unbelievable number of huge success stories on the team. We know what we’re doing, we’re a grown-up company, we’re a grown-up team, so we have people coming in today who are going faster than I ever did, if that’s what they want. Nothing delights me more than to see them set these audacious goals and crush them.
Any challenges you had to overcome, or learning experiences you’d like to share?
God, yes! I’ve written about them in this very magazine. One of the things I had to overcome was accepting the fact that not everybody was either going to see what I saw in this, or want the same things from this vehicle that I did. Everybody comes to this business for their own reasons. You need to meet them where they are and connect to them with the tools and resources and coaching that they need to fulfill their own why.
Another challenge I had to overcome, and this business was so good at helping me with this, is getting over being a control freak. I learned that the only thing you can control in this business is your own personal activity and your mindset. You can’t control what your network’s timeline is going to be. You can’t control what your team is going to do, in terms of performance, goals, or epiphanies. We control none of that. We can control us and what we do—that’s it. That’s how we can lead, inspire, and show people what to do.
Your company is about to open in Australia, where you just spent a month with your family. What was it like?
Every year our company awards its top business builders an international trip. We’ve been so fortunate to travel to places like Bora Bora, Tuscany, Thailand, and Paris—and this year it was Australia. We went with a really big group from our team and from across the company. And it’s true, the friendships and relationships you develop in this business make it the sweetest.
Since we were going to be all the way over there, we thought it made perfect sense to stay for another few weeks and travel around with our kids, and to really get a feel for the country, because it’s always been on our bucket list. We traveled all over the place on the West Coast, absolutely falling in love with the beauty, the culture, the people, and the food.
We made new friends there just the way we do in our lives here. We genuinely love people, and we’re interested humans. The kids inherited that, too, and made new friends. There’s always the possibility that some of them may become part of our business launch there, but regardless, our lives are richer because of them.
What do you love the most about your business and life?
It’s being able to work with fellow professionals and help them not only build a business that will get them to their goals, but become more of the person they were meant to be. I’d love to be able to work one on one with everybody who reaches out to me for advice or coaching, but that’s simply not possible. So I decided to write a book to share the most important lessons I’ve learned about building a business in this amazing profession.
I truly believe everyone has the potential to grow the business of their dreams and to use this vehicle to create the life they really want. But building a six- or seven-figure business takes the right approach, the right kind of attitude, and the right kind of conversations. In my book I provide a no-BS approach to teaching people how to have authentic conversations that connect with their prospects, their team, and most importantly themselves. I think building this business requires a powerful combination of understanding how to do what we do, but also cultivating the right mindset, so that you don’t get in your own way. Because it’s so easy to get in our own way.
Writing Get Over Your Damn Self was a true labor of love. I had so much fun, and I talk to the reader the way I’ve always talked to our team. This is the book I wish I would have had when I first started. That’s why I wrote it. And proceeds will support literacy programs for kids around the world, so while I’m teaching people how to live full out, it’s also helping kids have that chance too.
What does your team like the most about you?
I’ve always been authentic. What you see is what you get. It’s so important to show up as you in all parts of your life. That authenticity has resonated really well—not just with team members, but with people I’ve talked to about the business. The more experienced and wiser I get, the easier it is to be completely authentic. I love that part of getting older.
Our team also appreciates my no-BS approach. “It’s not complicated. Here’s how you do it. Here’s how you should be thinking about it. Here’s the posture. Here’s how to treat this like a business.” And my humor. I take our business very seriously, but I don’t take myself seriously.
Our team also loves the culture we’ve created. Early on John and I recognized that this was not only going to be a vehicle for us to get to where we want to be and to help others do the same, but also an extraordinary opportunity to “pay it forward” in a significant way. Since the beginning we’ve incorporated the concept of giving back into our organization by recognizing team achievements, not just through gifts, but by supporting causes dear to our hearts.
We also encourage our team to integrate that into their businesses and their whys. It can start with giving $10 a month to a cause that’s important to you. This has now spread throughout our entire company, and we see it all over this profession. With more time and more money, we’re able to contribute to our communities and to our world at large—and I think we have a responsibility to do so. In Judaism we call it Tikkun Olam—acts of kindness performed to repair the world. That’s a huge part of what our focus has been and continues to be. This business has allowed us to do so much more than we ever imagined, and we want to help as many people as possible do the same. That’s the biggest gift of all.