From Self Employed to CEO: What it Takes to Build a Successful Business

ID-100112236Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with@2motivate. Lisa Nichols is CEO of Motivating the Masses, one of the top training and development companies in the world, a best-selling author of 6 books and one of the most sought-after transformational speakers whose global platform has reached and served millions. Ms. Nichols’ extraordinary story of transforming her own life from a struggling single mom on public assistance from South Central Los Angeles to now Millionaire Entrepreneur is the inspiration behind her bold mission to teach others that it is possible to do the same. Using her signature No Matter What! System (and based on her New York Times Bestseller by the same name), Lisa teaches people how to master accomplishing unfathomable goals and to tap their limitless potential.

Her featured teacher role in the self-development movie and phenomenon, The Secret catapulted her popularity across the globe. Lisa has appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Extra,” “Larry King Live” and starred on NBC’s Emmy Award-winning show, “Starting Over”, “The Today Show” and “Steve Harvey Show”.

Coined “The Breakthrough Specialist” by her peers in the industry, her powerful message of empowerment, service, gratitude and excellence has been delivered via workshops and programs which have impacted the lives of millions of adults, touched the lives of 211,6500 teens, prevented over 3,800 teen suicides, supported 2,500 drop outs in returning back to school and helped thousands reunite with families through her non-profit foundation, Motivating the Teen Spirit.

Honored with numerous awards for her work, Lisa has received the Humanitarian Award from the country of South Africa, The Ambassador Award, and The Legoland Foundation’s Heart of Learning Award. The City of Henderson, Nevada named November 20th as Motivating the Teen Spirit Day and the City of Houston, Texas named May 9th as Lisa Nichols Day for her dedication to service, philanthropy and healing.

As a founding member of the Transformational Leadership Council, Lisa joins other personal and organizational development luminaries such as Jack Canfield, Marci Shimoff and others to co-create value and learning that help people change their lives and change the planet.

As CEO of Motivating the Masses, Inc., Lisa Nichols leads a highly energetic, heart-centered and experienced team of business and leadership development master trainers and coaches who serve speakers, authors and entrepreneurs with world-class programs, masterminds and products. Lisa lives, plays and works in the greater San Diego, California area and on stages around the world. For more info, visit

SmallBizLady: What is the difference between being self-employed and being an entrepreneur CEO of a small business?

Lisa Nichols: Self-Employed: Have a talent or skill and they know there are people willing to pay them for their time, product or service. Employ themselves rather than work for someone else. After a while, they find themselves working too many hours…and find out they’ve bought a glorified JOB.

Entrepreneur CEO: Business owners who seem to grow their businesses effortlessly, and maintain steady growth. An entrepreneur is a great strategist and a master at getting others excited about helping them grow their business. They have learned how to manage and build their Entrepreneurial Mindset muscle. Learn along the way while bootstrapping and paying themselves first, plan to enroll others into their vision (and create a team that helps them grow).

SmallBizLady: What is one of the things a small businessperson should focus on in order to move from self-employed to entrepreneur CEO?

Lisa Nichols: The most successful people understand that mindset – training your mind on a regular basis – is the very foundation of their overall abundance. You have to have an abundance mindset, even in the toughest of times. If you’ve struggled or worried about failure, there are key thought processes you have to maintain so you can stay resilient through the storm.

The attitudes, habits and things that sabotage amazing people from reaching their potential:

  • Money fears that prevent you from investing in your business, that hold you back from charging what you’re worth because you’re afraid people won’t pay it, among others
  • Procrastination and lack of focus – this can cause you to work hard but produce poor results
  • No planning — this random approach will have you shooting darts at a dartboard blindfolded and hoping to hit the target
  • Low self confidence- this will affect everything you do in your business and how others perceive you. It will also make it difficult for you to ask for the sale
  • Bright shiny object syndrome – going after what seems like the newest, hottest idea or strategy but never sticking with one and following it through to the end
  • Lack of action — being a perfectionist, or someone who fears what people think can prevent you from taking regular, fast action in your business, which is the ONLY way to succeed.

My first NYT best-selling book, No Matter What, tells my story of resiliency and my next book, Abundance Now, coming in the Fall 2015, is all about how to create the space and build the habits to attract abundance in all the areas of your life you desire. Success doesn’t only look like money (although money is absolutely wonderful, delicious and necessary to grow a business), but in the other areas where a lot of Entrepreneur CEOs don’t take care: relationships, health and spirit.

SmallBizLady: What can entrepreneur CEOs do to move from creating a job for themselves to creating a more abundant lifestyle?


Entrepreneurs challenge the status quo and often go against the flow. Successful entrepreneurs are allergic to phrases like “that’s impossible” or “this is how we have always done it”. Some entrepreneurs are told they are crazy which makes them just work harder. So entrepreneurs are able to see things others don’t see and see opportunity where others see problems. Many people have wondered why there is no better service or product to serve their needs but most leave it at that and settle for the existing solutions. But the entrepreneur cannot stop thinking about a solution to overcome the status quo and starts gradually to develop a better alternative. So next time you are annoyed or frustrated with your career, start developing a vision and goals to make important changes!

The entrepreneurial mindset is resourceful and the person behind it immensely resilient. A common misconception, especially about successful serial entrepreneurs, is that everything they touch turns into gold. The opposite is often the case. A successful business is the result of an immense series of trials and errors that enable success -after many failures. The entrepreneurial mind accepts that you cannot know everything right away, that you will learn and that failure is part of the process. Therefore: realize that a bad job interview or your current unpaid internship that you are unhappy with is part of a learning process. Pick yourself up and keep working towards your goals.

“Opportunity obsession” and the drive to follow through. This means always looking for ways to do things smarter and better, and to create more value for the business and its stakeholders…. And, maybe even more importantly, taking initiative and having the drive to see it through to completion. Business ideas are not opportunities. I used to think business ideas came to you and it was a matter of the right idea one-day ‘magically’ popping into your head. What I have come to realize is that ideas are abundant, but it is our ability to take action and adapt to what the customer really wants and needs that creates opportunities.

SmallBizLady: We’ve heard that strategy is important but then we’ve also heard that action makes it happen. What’s more important?

Lisa Nichols: Strategy + Action (or Implementation) are two sides of the proverbial coin.

In the beginning you will try a lot of different things to see what will stick, what will take off.

I say, in the beginning, you have to be willing to put yourself out there, test out different layers and in front of different people. You will start to gain feedback on what your core market is looking for, and also how you can start shaping your story in a way that resonates with them…which will keep them in your community.

Once you start making some cash flow, and gaining more courage from taking risks, it’s time to uplevel.

  • Start looking at all of your marketing and products – are they easy for people to understand why they need them (not why you are selling them)
  • Start looking at different ways you can be in front of people – start speaking online and in your own city (which leads to other opportunities)
  • Start eliminating any distracting or wasteful activities that may not get you to the highest revenue activity that only you can do
  • Then you can start giving that strategy clearly to your team (whether that’s a team of one or many) and the implementation can follow

SmallBizLady: How did you find the best people for you to build a team?

Lisa Nichols: It started with the upleveling of my own mindset – I was scared to spend more money but I knew I needed help. I met my first business coach, Susie Carder, at a conference that I had been to 52 times. She’s now my COO at Motivating the Masses and she taught me how to visualize first the kind of physical work environment that would serve the millions I had dreamed of serving. She helped me write a financial and business plan that included the types of people I would need that tied to the strategic goals I intended for. Now, because of that work, the exact vision and people she helped me co-pilot are now real. Of course, we recruited some of the top talent in the industry and that was scary too – can we afford them? Will they stay? Can they help bring the company to the next level? Every step was a leap of faith for me and it was also carefully planned.

SmallBizLady: What are some of the best marketing strategies for small business that you’ve learned?

Lisa Nichols: I tell people all the time; I was a bootleg marketer up until I could find the right person to help us navigate the Motivating the Masses ship. Now we have one in Jennifer Kem (@jenniferkemcomm) who helps us build more brand awareness, keep our product portfolio tight and understandable, and helped us move in to the online space. And those are things that all small businesses can benefit from – where do you put your energy and money into marketing; where it will pay off the fastest? Although Jen is a marketing maven online, she teaches our students who are small business owners too, that first you have to be willing to market in your own backyard – meaning your city or town – and start building credibility while you’re getting out there online. Taking the right steps that have the biggest return for where you are in size is one of the best marketing strategies you can have. Lots of people do it the opposite and we’ve found that doesn’t yield great results.

SmallBizLady: Sales can be a scary conversation for small business owners. How did you overcome that?

Lisa Nichols: We have a definition of Sales in our company that doesn’t have the same perception of sleazy tactics that have been taught to many of us small business owners for years. Sales are crucial for your business – no sales, no business. So frankly, it needs to be talked about because this is why people fail. Not because of sales itself, but because of the FEAR of sales.

So here’s our definition, it may help a lot of people. “Sales is a dignified conversation enrolling people into a new possibility that you invent to enhance their lives.” As long as you’re in integrity, build products that are valuable and meet the promise, then knowing that you’re offering something that will truly enhance their lives will take any fear off the table.

SmallBizLady: How does motivating the masses help small business owners?

Lisa Nichols: At Motivating the Masses, small business owners get a holistic view of what it really takes to be successful in business. We have master trainers and coaches who have had tremendous success in their own businesses and careers, and we share them with you so that you can get access to the best – this is what I craved for so long when I was starting out; I just wanted people to help me get “there” sooner, faster, quicker. This is what we do, especially in the realm of speakers, authors and coaches who want to build bigger platforms and create multiple revenue streams.

SmallBizLady: How has Motivating The Masses helped businesses succeed?

Lisa Nichols: We have many programs – live events, virtual and online – that help you move from self-employed to Entrepreneurial CEO. We are also known for our speaking programs, as we believe the more effective a communicator you are, the more you can enroll people into your vision and programming. We also have the mindset training and tools I mentioned earlier that are the foundation of your business. In fact, we have a lot that can be tried out for free – go to to get my free training as well as to download my daily motivationals for people like you. One of our students increased their revenue by 800+% by working with us (I know it sounds unbelievable but it’s true). Others have built their brands into more recognizable businesses, created more speaking engagements, etc. We are known to give all of our content to our students, and those that take action have been the ones who have had these remarkable results…which is pretty much true of anything someone could do to be successful.

SmallBizLady: What can a small business owner change right now that will get them better results?

Lisa Nichols: Find a community that can help you – you can’t gain all the traction you need by hanging out in the same crowd or using your family to brainstorm with. Be courageous to connect.

Be willing to speak about your business as much as you can. I teach this method called SNAP – Super Networking at an Accelerated Pace, which will bear you far better results than a simple “elevator pitch.”

Hire a business coach – yes, it’s an investment, but the right coach can spot the gaps that you might not be able to see. Because you’re in the business, a coach can help you build a strategy and implementation plan to move to working on the business.

SmallBizLady: What should a small business owner stop doing that will help them get better results?

Lisa Nichols: Stop thinking you can do this alone. As business owners a lot of us start out as lone rangers, but we quickly get into overwhelm when we don’t have the support we need. Even if your first employee is a part-time virtual assistant, get the help you need so you can work within your highest revenue activities

Don’t let your self-care become de-prioritized. Your mind and your body are the temples and holders of your vision, and need to be cared for. Make self-care non-negotiable and easy by putting it in your calendar and doing at least 1 thing daily that feeds your soul and nourishes your body. Eat more green veggies and drink lots of water. Add the small things that can make a big difference in keeping your healthy and strong so you can continue to weather any storms.

Stop resisting planning and systems. A lot of us are creative people and structure and planning can sound really distasteful. Take if from a Creative, although the process of planning isn’t as fun for me, I love the peace of mind and results that come from it. I’ve learned how these habits have accelerated my results. So if you love results like I do, don’t let your systems go by the wayside.

SmallBizLady: If you could Leave Small Business Owners with one final thought, what would it be?

Lisa Nichols: Running a small business is challenging but it is so rewarding. I want to celebrate you for being here. You’ve chosen the path that is not the popular one. Here’s the good news, there’s more technology available than ever before to help make things easier and more people who want to help you and help others. You can do this. Come into the Motivating the Masses community and you can borrow our faith in you, we’ll teach you what to do and encourage you to do the work (because you have to do the work). The payoff will be abundance in every area of your life.

“Front View Of Female Executive Using Cellphone” by imagerymajestic /

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  1. says

    Hi!, This was just what I needed. I have been putting out fires.I will plan ahead better, and re light the fire that made me go into business.Thanks

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