I’m a serial entrepreneur and have launched and grown four businesses over the last 35 years. As we know part of being an entrepreneur is being creative and going in multiple directions. In the following podcast with Evolvepreneur Secrets Show, I was interviewed about my journey as an entrepreneur and what I believe are the most important steps to cover in starting and growing a small business today.
Brian: Welcome. You are listening to the Evolvepreneur Secrets Show for entrepreneurs. I’m your host, Brian Silverthorn. And my mission is always to help entrepreneurs make a difference in their businesses and to navigate the sometimes-messy world of startup, growth, or relaunch. And today, we’re going to dig deep with our guests and then get some best concepts and strategies to fast-track your business. And our special guest today is Shelly Berman-Rubera. And Shelly is the president of Small Business Results. And she’s an accomplished business and communication strategist. So, I’m going to let her fill us in on her background there and what her business does. Welcome to the show, Shelly.
Shelly: Thank you, Brian. Great to be here. I anticipate a wonderful conversation.
Brian: I’m looking forward to it. So, why don’t you start off by giving us a little backstory. Tell us what’s going on in your life to get you where you are right now.
Shelly: In my life, how much time do we have? So, I guess when I was about 22 years old and finishing college, I decided that what I knew about myself was that I wanted to run my own company. At the time, I was actually teaching dance at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, and they called me and said, “Your classes are filling. Can we add more time? ” And that little entrepreneur in me said, “Why would I do this for somebody else if I’m in such demand?” So, I started my first dance school.
I rented a little space in Brookline, Massachusetts. And lo and behold, about three months after I opened Shelly’s Disco Dance School, John Travolta hit the scene, and I ended up having the second-largest dance school in the City of Boston. I did that for about nine years. Many fabulous things happened. It was more of my creativity in marketing, not that I understood niche marketing. It wasn’t that I had a marketing background. But I did a lot of interesting things in terms of a target audience and was, in fact, picked up by Kiss Radio to produce a dance company for them.
Shelly: At some point, I said, “This is the part that’s challenging when you’re an entrepreneur is that I just knew I didn’t want to do it anymore.” But I had to figure out how to keep moving my body. So, I took a job as the Marketing Director at a Racquet Club, where I met someone who said, “You have the potential to be a competitive bodybuilder.” Now at the time, believe me, there were not many women bodybuilders.
Shelly: But I was intrigued by this man. I was intrigued by what he was teaching. And I became competitive mostly across the country and turned that business immediately into being one of the first personal trainers on the entire east coast. They didn’t even have certifications at the time. I did it all myself. I learned kinesiology, physiology, and nutrition and ran that company for 23 years when that little voice inside me, that entrepreneurial voice, said, “Don’t want to do this anymore.”
So, I started a leadership company, taking all the athletic model and turning it into SBR leadership. Hit the ground running. And not only did we hit the downturn of the economy, but although I landed great corporate accounts, they were cutting all external vending with the downturn of the economy. Plus, I found out something, I hate corporate America. Why am I even here? That was a huge awakening where I had to dig deep and say, “Well, who am I? I cannot keep starting over. It’s one thing to rebrand yourself; it’s hard work.”
So, after a lot of thought, I thought, “Who am I really?” And all the skills I created, I said, “You know who I am? I love starting and growing businesses. But it’s insane to keep doing this to myself. I’ll do it for other people.” So, I founded my company, SBR- Shelly Berman-Rubera, Small Business Results.
Brian: Very nice.
Shelly: Yeah, play on words. It’s my one of my favorite stories. When you go networking, people look at your nametag, and they’re like, “Hey, did you know your name is the same as your company?” Might have known that. But I got certified as an emotional intelligence leader, a business coach, and a Master Certified in Business Management. I’ve been running this company, Brian, for 19 years.
Brian: Wow. Well, you have certainly made a lot of twists and turns since the beginning, from dance studio to bodybuilder, to fitness coach, and on into a Business Strategist for other people’s businesses. That’s very, very fascinating.
Shelly: Thank you.
Brian: And a lot of times, I talk to people where they end up where they are now because they got laid off, or they got nudged by the universe in some way, or they accidentally bumped into it. But it sounds like you figured out your niche over time and decided to take advantage of it over time. I think that’s wonderful.
Shelly: Well, I don’t think we can be who we are without the cumulative experiences that make us who we are today.
Brian: Right. Well, what do you like most about what you’re doing now?
Shelly: I love the small business owner. I feel like myself and my clients, and we’re like literally giving birth. We take a concept, or an idea, and we build everything around that that needs… there’s the low-hanging fruit, and then there’s the long-term fruit. So, people need to bring in money right away. It’s incredibly satisfying, to have the skills and to turn a sale. It’s as if it was my own sale. That’s how it feels.
Brian: That’s great. There’s small business owner encompasses a plethora of different niches throughout there. So, what does your ideal client look like? And how do they find you?
Shelly: So, my ideal client is too big to say entrepreneur, but people are interested in taking their skill set and turning it into revenue. So, startups, I really love subject matter experts. Two examples. One quick one is a woman who’s actually 80 years old and has been caring for her husband, who had Alzheimer’s. And he passed, and she said, “I got to turn this experience into a company.” And we did. We call the Caregivers’ Wellbeing. We made her a caregiver consultant. And she’s already closed multiple banks where she is delivering to people that are working and caregiving and consulting with them.
Shelly: Another fairly new woman, maybe just about a year, was a United States Chess Champion. So, we’ve taken her skills and turned them into a tutoring company. And she is so booked. We haven’t even launched the website, and she’s so booked. Two great, great women with skills that needed to get going quickly.
Brian: That’s great. So, how did you help them acquire their clients? What’s the secret that you have to help them with that?
Shelly: Well, Brian, that’s a good question. Because one very important thing is that I am the owner of the trademark for a program I created called “The Truth About Succeeding in Small Business, ” which comprises of 6 steps, very briefly. Step 1, commitment. Commitment to yourself, your product, and your revenue. Step 2, focus daily results. What do I do each and every day so it doesn’t get to be 4 o’clock and I say, “What the heck happened in my day?”? So, productivity. You’re smiling, Brian.
Brian: Oh yeah.
Shelly: 3 is differentiating yourself and marketing your business. How do you stand out in a sea of this competitive nature? And how do you get your word out? 4, creating effective real business relationships. Because I believe above everything else, it’s relational selling. Who you know, who you built relationships with, and who can you pick up the phone with? Step 5 is managing emotion. And Step 6 is accountability. How do you account for your success or the lack thereof?
So, when you ask me how did I help these people, I really apply my strategic framework to all of my strategy sessions. Everything is, actually, if you can break it down to commitment. What are you going to do this week? What do you need me to do? So, it’s a matter of really understanding what needs to be done and somebody executing. One of us, right?
Shelly: Right? And then… so, that’s what I work within. I work within the framework, which really begins with a big question, “How much money do you want to make?”
Shelly: “How much money do you want to make?” If you want to make… many people say six figures. So, I say, “Okay. Do you want to make ten grand a month? I mean, you want to make 120,000 a year? What do we need to do to bring in 10 this month?”
Shelly: This month, narrow it. “What do we want to do in the next 30 days?” And so, that’s my focus, very, very result oriented.
Brian: That’s… I like your six categories there.
Shelly: Thank you.
Brian: They all make perfect sense. So, how do you get people to understand who you are and what you do? So, how does your ideal client find you? I noticed you have an extensive social media presence. Is that what you depend on? Or are there other things that you do as well?
Shelly: So, currently, my primary source of clients is word of mouth. My clients talk about me. One of my best clients came from a network meeting where she talked about her challenges, and someone in the group said, “Hey, I know who you need to talk to. You have to talk to Shelly.” Like, thank you. Talk about me. Talk about me.
Shelly: The second is my newsletter. My email marketing is really effective—every time I send it, someone nibbles at something.
Brian: You have a pretty extensive email list, then?
Shelly: It’s not that big. It’s 2,500. It’s really not that big, but very select.
Shelly: It’s really small business owners, subject matter experts. So, Brian, I think it’s important to say myself, like anybody, my primary, number 1 marketing strategy prior to COVID was my speaking.
Shelly: I delivered this talk with a Constant Contact, the Truth About Succeeding in Women-owned business. We had 125 people. I did a keynote. I close to 23 clients.
Shelly: I either filtered them into groups or one-to-one. And some of them are still with me.
Brian: Well, that’s great.
Shelly: Yeah. I did it again at the International Coach Federation. We had 85 people. I closed 13 within three months of each other. So, the marketing for my company changed dramatically for every speaker when we couldn’t go speak anymore.
Brian: Right. Yeah. You have to speak remotely if you can get people to tune into a webinar or live presentation, or some kind of online talk.
Shelly: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s really important, but things definitely changed for everybody.
Brian: Right. So, when you get a client, what’s their lifetime value? How long do they stick with you? I know when I did a lot of coaching back in the day and consulting, my goal was to work myself out of a job, basically the industry that I was in. But how does that work for you?
Shelly: Well, most of my clients have been with me for 3 or 4 years.
Shelly: Yeah. I mean, even… I don’t know; they just seem to stay. And some of them just come back. They need a Shelly fix.
Brian: So, do you have… and if I’m stepping out of bounds here, stop me. But do you have a monthly fee for various service levels, or is it a pay-as-you-go? Or how does that work?
Shelly: So, for my long-standing clients, these are two construction companies; how I framed it for them, always, we would commit at the beginning of the month. I really do believe we should get paid at the beginning of the month for the month. But some of the projects became so ongoing, “Shelly, can you do this? Can you do that? Can you do this? How do we do that?” that I said, “You know what? For those steady clients, I just track my hours for the month and invoice at the end of the month.” But I would not don’t really do that. There’s a trust factor in somebody that’s been with me long. But being paid upfront, I have a lot of packages on my website. It is really part of the commitment that you gain from your clients.
Brian: Right. Okay, that’s good. Yeah, I’ve never been a big fan of chasing money. So, getting it done upfront is the preferred way to do that.
Shelly: Yeah. For most of my clients, I say, “What do you… do you want to buy 2 hours, 5 hours?” But I have several people who just track the hours and invoice at the end of the month.
Brian: Okay. Well, that’s great. If it’s working for you, then it works, right? So, you talked… you gave an example of asking your clients, “How much money do you want to make?” Do you set yourself revenue goals? And if so, have you got a goal for the next 12 months?
Shelly: I do. My goals… and I really do. Brian, it’s one of the unique things about me. I really believe in benchmarks versus long-term goals. Many people have told me, “You’re the only business coach that doesn’t talk about short-term, long-term, short-term goals, long-term goals.” I’m talking about, “What do I want to do in the next 30 days?” because it keeps you really focused. So, to your question, it’s actually on my whiteboard. It’s about $16,000 a month that I like to bring in. I can handle about 20 clients as if I was holding you in the palm of my hands. I just got an email today,
Brian: Oh, great.
Shelly: So, yeah. But I’m small… it’s me. I have tremendous resources, a website, search engine. Anything we need, I have people. But really, that’s my primary. It’s about 20 clients, about 16,000. And we can always want it to make more, but I’m comfortable.
Brian: Sure. So, what are… if you know, what’s standing out there right now that may be considered a roadblock to prevent you from getting where you want to go?
Shelly: I don’t really have one.
Brian: Okay, that’s good.
Shelly: I don’t… I’m writing a lot of content. I have a lot of people doing various things for me. I don’t have one.
Brian: That’s a wonderful place to be. So, let me ask it from a different perspective, what kind of identifiable opportunities do you have right now that will help you get there or even surpass it if you want to?
Shelly: So, what do I take advantage of?
Shelly: What am I doing? So, I am working with a LinkedIn specialist. We just put a new banner on my LinkedIn profile. I just changed the description within it. We are doing some outreach there. To be honest, I’m like all my clients, and I haven’t done optimizing my blogs. … I’ve written 60 case studies. You can find them many of them as blogs on my website.
Shelly: And I have someone search engine optimizing and placing my blog. So, I’ve been active there. Just to give people an idea, I spoke to the local Chamber, and they are using my case studies by sending out Motivation Monday by Shelly Berman-Rubera, a case study every Monday, to their entire list.
Brian: Oh, that’s great.
Shelly: So, that’s a really good working relationship.
Brian: Oh, yeah. Yeah. And obviously, and hopefully, giving you full credit and…
Shelly: Oh yeah, full credit. Branded my writing. But again, I want to go back; it’s really important. You asked me to give information to our audience or entrepreneurs. That’s a relationship. Like, the minute I got involved with the Chamber, I sent them four clients, for the Chamber, to join the Chamber. And they’re like, “Shelly; you’re such a tremendous resource. How can we help you?” So, it’s really about reciprocity.
Brian: Right. Yeah. You get what you give. Or what’s the book, The Go-Giver? So, if you want to be out there doing good things, people say great things about you and just naturally want to help you.
Brian: So, with all the clients that you have, and you may have already answered this in your six areas that you focus on, but what do you think is the best piece of advice you’ve ever given one of your clients?
Shelly: I would really say believe in yourself. Believe in yourself. Believe that you can do this. There is no easy way. There’s nothing easy when I talk about ‘The Truth About Succeeding in Small Business. The truth is there’s nothing easy. It’s grueling. Requires a tremendous amount of tenacity and creativity. However, if your core commitment is to yourself, you can’t lose. It may not happen in a timely manner, but you can’t lose if you just are committed to yourself.
Brian: Good. Yeah. And a lot of times, it’s difficult for people to believe. I don’t know if you’re familiar… you’re probably familiar with the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and his…
Shelly: I love, love, love it.
Brian: Yeah. His famous saying, “Whatever you can conceive and believe, you can achieve.”
Shelly: You will achieve, right?
Brian: And the tough part in there is believing.
Shelly: Well, when you have bills to pay, I spoke to someone today, actually. Forty-two years old, he left corporate America, and he is really… he said he was closing, closing, closing, but nothing has been effective lately.
Shelly: He gets the lead, but he cannot close. And so, I’m helping him with that, but I could feel his energy. So, the very first thing I said to him is, “If your energy is down and you’re trying to close a sale because you’re desperate or because you’ve lost conviction, I guarantee you they’re going to pick it up within a second.”
Shelly: So, you know the other saying, “Fake it ‘til you make it,”? But it’s hard. And sometimes I have to say to someone, “This is going to take longer than you think, and you need to get a part-time job.
Brian: Right, right.
Shelly: You have to have belief in yourself. You have to have some money in the bank. And one step at a time.
Brian: Right. Yeah, you got to have enough to keep going. And if you don’t, you have to get a supplemental income…
Shelly: You might have to.
Brian: … to keep going. So, did I see something in the questionnaire you filled out that you’re thinking about writing a book, having a book, or…?
Shelly: So, I do have a book. It’s 100 Tips to Small Business Results. It’s on Amazon. And I am working on round 2. We now just… I could turn around and show you. I just printed out the edits. So, I don’t know when I will do that, but it’s just about written.
Brian: Okay. Is your book an Amazon bestseller, the one that’s on there?
Shelly: Nope, not a bestseller.
Brian: Okay. Yeah, sometimes that stuff. Okay, well, I’m… you ought to write a book, if you haven’t, or think about doing it on your journey from the dance studio to where you are now because that was a very, very interesting story to me.
Shelly: Oh, thank you, Brian. Thank you.
Brian: So, we’re getting kind of toward the end here. Do you have any final thoughts or anything you want to talk about that I should have asked you about and didn’t?
Shelly: There is one thing that is kind of my passion right now. I am appalled at the lack of integrity that’s going on in the small business world. Small business owners need help. They need a website. They need LinkedIn. They need content. And they’re… and they need a search engine. They need it. And they are getting ripped off daily by people who say they can do a website, or they end up overcharging, or the websites are ineffective. I mean, search engine optimization for 1,500 a month; you don’t need that. There’s so… I’ve had people call me and say crying, “I just spent $10,000 with another business coach and no results. And I can’t get my money back because they went out of business.”
So, my big thing right now is my concern for the small business owner and the lack of integrity in the service providers. And so, my word to the… my warning, research, research. Because it sounds good doesn’t mean it’s good. Ask to speak to 5 or 6, I mean it, 5 or 6 of their clients. 5 or 6, “What was your experience like, Shelly? What was your experience like with Brian? What results did you get? How long did it take? How much money did you spend?” But I am really… this woman said that her whole life, she wanted to be an entrepreneur. And she and her husband decided to spend the 10. And now, they have nothing for it. She has to give up her dream and go back to work. She has to go get a job desperately.
Brian: Yeah, there’s a lot of that out there, unfortunately. And your advice is spot on.
Shelly: Thank you.
Brian: You can depend upon what other people say. You’ve got to do your own digging, and come to your own conclusions. And if you know other people that have had similar experiences, or have had good experiences, you can go to them and say, “Hey, who do you use? And are you happy? And are they treating you well? And are you getting the results that you want?” that sort of thing.
Shelly: Yes. And think about what agreement you’re making with them.
Brian: Yeah, yeah.
Shelly: And people don’t even know what questions to ask. One of my clients went with a different website designer than the one I work with. I’ve worked with 1 for 15 years, 1. That’s not true. I tried a couple of others, “Forget it. I’m going backward. Too complicated.”
Shelly: But the bottom line is, I understand what you’re getting. I was going to tell you that people have told me, “I don’t own my website. I gave him $2,500. He owns it.”
Brian: Yeah, yeah. I’ve known people that have fallen into that trap too. Yeah.
Shelly: Yeah. So, I mean, it’s won… I’ve won clients: “Well, I’m going to interview 3 or 4 coaches.” And you know why they chose me? Because of my resources, my trusted resources.
Brian: Yeah, that’s good to have. Yeah.
Shelly: That’s my kind of big warning and concern. Think there’s nothing… it may be grueling and difficult, but there’s nothing like closing that deal, making a difference in someone’s life. There’s nothing like really being an entrepreneur.
Shelly: From my perspective.
Brian: No, I agree with you totally. But like you said, it’s not an easy road. And there’s going to be big bumps and potholes in it. And you’ve got to have self-belief and a very strong and important purpose for doing what you do to keep you going through the tough times. But it can be done. There are plenty of folks out there thriving.
Brian: And it’s also a matter of being realistic. People say to me, “Shelly, you have global potential.” And I say, “I’m good with about 20 people behind me. I don’t… yes, I can make a big difference, but that’s another endeavor for me.”
Brian: Right. Well, good. This has been very enjoyable for me, Shelly. I really appreciate you being a guest on the show. So, you’ve got a website, smartbusinessresults.com.
Brian: smallbusinessresults.com. I’m sorry, smallbusinessresults.com.
Shelly: ‘Smart’ would have been a good word, though.
Brian: ‘Smart’ is good. Well, smart, and smallbusinessresults.com. And they can find you on LinkedIn as well?
Brian: Just with your name or…?
Shelly: Shelly Berman-Rubera, yes.
Brian: Okay, okay. Great. Alright. Shelly, again, it’s been an absolute pleasure for me, and I thank you for being a part of the show.
Shelly: Hey, Brian.
Shelly: You asked me to come up with an offer for your audience.
Shelly: I have created a code, Secret Savings 10.
Shelly: And that’s 10% off any of my offerings, and it’s good ‘til the end of September.
Brian: Alright. So, if they go to your website and they see something on there that makes them happy, and they want to take part in it, then…
Shelly: Put in a code Secret Savings 10.
Brian: Secret Savings 10. So, Secret Savings spelled out, and 10 is the number, right?
Shelly: Yes, numerals.
Brian: 1 0?
Brian: Okay. Excellent. Well, that’s good to know. Thank you for finishing up with that. So, we’ll hope people take advantage of Secret Saving… Secret Savings 10. That’s one of those who say it fast three times.
Shelly: Say that 10 times, right?
Brian: So, Secret Savings 10 at smallbusinessresults.com. Great. Thanks, Shelly.
Shelly: Hey, Brian, it’s been wonderful talking to you. Thank you so much.
Brian: Thank you.