Jillian Bullock has been in business for the best part of 15 years and has a wealth of knowledge and wisdom about what works in business.
This interview is chatty and funny and loaded with value and especially about running a business while managing a family and life in general.
Settle in as Jillian shares her ups and downs of her experience of building business.
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If you want to read the full transcript scroll down:
Ingrid: Hello Jillian and Welcome. Thanks for being here
Jillian: Hello Ingrid and thanks for asking me here
Ingrid: Tell us, what is your business? What business are you in?
Jillian: I am the LinkedIn Ninja Down Under. Would you like me to explain that a little further?
Ingrid: Tell us a little bit more about that part.
Jillian: Okay, sure. I am a LinkedIn specialist in lead generation. A lot of people think of LinkedIn in the career side of it, which is fair, because 64% of LinkedIn’s revenue comes from recruitment, I Googled, but I hate that stuff. That’s better for people that are ex-recruiters or something like that. I hated writing resumes when I was in the corporate world, and don’t want to do it now.
So, my background was in marketing. So, lead generation is where I focus.
Ingrid: Okay. So, you use LinkedIn to help people with lead generation.
Jillian: Mostly business to business but can do business to consumer, but it’s a slower burn.
Ingrid: Okay. We’ll talk a little bit more about that when we get to the ideal clients. When did you start this business?
Jillian: I started being self-employed in 2002. I started being exclusively LinkedIn in 2013.
Ingrid: Okay. You started off with something else and you’ve morphed or changed into this.
Jillian: Yeah. I started as a marketing consultant and started because as many people do, oh, I can do better than most other people and I hate my boss. Yep, started from that arrogance of side.
Ingrid: You just answered our next question. How did you start the business?
Jillian: There you go. Started in that. I came out of finance. I started consulting for finance initially. Start with what you know and what you’re familiar with.
Ingrid: When you say finance, you mean finance companies don’t you?
Jillian: Yes, I do.
Ingrid: You didn’t actually have a finance background, you had a marketing background, but in finance companies.
Jillian: Yeah, exactly.
Ingrid: You thought you could do what you were doing for someone else better?
Ingrid: I’ve never had any one quite say it the way you just said it. But it’s pretty much what lots of people say. This is the motivation for a lot of people starting their business, and that this is the feeling that we can do something better than the way we’re doing it for someone else.
Jillian: Yeah. And where I came from was a big company. There was a lot of red tape and you have to do it this way, and it needs to be done XYZ. It was like yeah, but that’s from the 1950s, what are you doing? Just all of that sort of story.
Ingrid: Is that part of why you started the business? Just to get away from the red tape and to have something simpler?
Jillian: Oh, no, not really. My story if you like is that I had both parents self-employed. So, I didn’t know any different. My parents were their own bosses, and I always knew that’s what I wanted to be. It was just going through the corporate motions to figure out, okay, well, that’s where I’m going to go, but What business do I do. My job hopping, if you like, was going from small business to medium to massive corporate to experience what each has to offer.
Jillian: People got along with me if they knew my dream, and was actually supportive of it. If they tried to mould me into a corporate person, we just didn’t get along.
Ingrid: It’s really difficult to fit in when you’re not that sort of person, isn’t it?
Jillian: Yeah. You know the movie Office Space?
Jillian: Yeah, that was me, but I didn’t need to be hypnotised. I probably wasn’t outwardly with that attitude, but gosh, that was me on the inside.
Ingrid: On the inside, indeed. You started this business, and then what did you want from the business from day one? It sounds like you answered that, but in a succinct way, what did you want the business to give you?
Jillian: I think it was freedom of time. A lot of people talk about, financial freedom and all this sort of thing. It wasn’t really that for me. I mean, yes, I don’t want to be broke. But when I was growing up, my mother was the only one at the swimming carnival. I was into swimming a lot. We had the grassy knoll at the back of the stands. My mother was the only parent.
Jillian: My friends used to go over and get our magic juice and our magic jellybeans. So, she gives us a jellybean before a race and in our heads that would give us the sugar spike before we go. But she was the only parent that could come. To me that was because she was self-employed.
Ingrid: Wow. What did your mom do? What was it?
Jillian: I was kind of Charlie in the chocolate factory. I grew up in a fudge and chocolate factory.
Ingrid: Oh my goodness me.
Jillian: I know.
Ingrid: So, time freedom was your big thing that you wanted from the business?
Ingrid: This is one of my favourite questions, because it’s such an interesting perspective, the next question coming up is, is when did it actually feel like your business was real? You’d been in the corporate, you’d struck out on your own, you’d morphed into this ninja LinkedIn, where in this did you actually feel like you were in business and how did you know?
Jillian: Okay. I got a taste for it when you’re in the black at the end of the month and you go, oh, okay, I think I can afford to give myself a two grand bonus or something. And then something happens next month, you get a GST bill or something, ASIC registration, whatever, and then you can’t do it the next month. So you get disappointed and disheartened or whatever.
Jillian: I think when it became real for me was working out a feasible kind of wage. So, every single Monday there was a figure that I put on the bank account so it was actually on auto and it came out every Monday, and I didn’t have to pause it for something.
Ingrid: You were able to pay yourself every week from your business and that’s when it felt real for you.
Ingrid: Wow. this is nearly 100 interviews and you’re the first person to say something like that. That’s why I love this question because every person has a different answer for it about where it felt real.
Jillian: Yeah. I was talking my first wage was $250.
Ingrid: Oh yeah.
Jillian: It wasn’t a lot. The important thing is that it was regular, that was my money, I didn’t have to pause it for anything. It was still able to catch up with the things I didn’t know were coming or whatever, pay for mistakes that you spend money on and just go, wow, that was a big $2,000 mistake as that happens. Obviously, incrementally over time, it’s a completely different figure now. But it felt real when it was $250 this Monday and it’s going to clear again next Monday, and it’s going to … I’ve got four weeks’ worth of 250 bucks sitting in there that I can clear.
Ingrid: Yeah, now that felt real. That’s fantastic. It’s such an important point to get to because just as a side comment – there’s been some really interesting research done here in Australia about how many businesses have never paid themselves. They’ve been in business two or three years or more, and have never actually been able to pay themselves because all of the money is going back into the business. Totally understand that has to happen for a while, but at some point as you say, a wage or a payment to yourself no matter how nominal is critical to make it a real business. Terrific. Congratulations.
Jillian: Thank you. But you’ve done a 70 hour week, and you’re even taking out 250 bucks. It’s not great!!
Ingrid: No, it’s not. The guys delivering the pizzas on their little mopeds are probably doing better than that I’m thinking – yet it is a start!!
Jillian: Yeah, exactly.
Ingrid: However, that said, you had time freedom which is in fact what you were looking for. I think this is trade off that people make. It is what people do when they’re starting a business – the long hours, AND you can choose to do them when you want. So if you need to go to a swimming carnival, or you need to attend something, you’ve got that flexibility to do it.
Jillian: Absolutely. Already we’re working out with the kids have got on for this month. I’ve already blanked out, they’ve got a sports carnival on, that two hours is gone, one of them is doing a concept for their little gymnastics thingy, that’s blanked out. These are all during daytime. There’s a sausage sizzle or fundraising something or other? I don’t really care what it is for, I’m going to be there.
Ingrid: You’re going to be able to be there. To be fair, a lot of the corporates have shifted much more towards that. There’s a lot of companies are able to allow that sort of freedom for parents in general and grandparents really to attend things, haven’t they?
Jillian: I’ve heard that. My husband has to do some little white lies sometimes.
Ingrid: Just don’t tell everybody
Jillian: No, let’s not tell everybody.
Ingrid: This is one of the reasons so many people want to start a business.
Ingrid: For anyone listening who’s feeling like that, then this is what Jillian’s talking about. Okay, so let’s talk about customers. Focus on this LinkedIn Ninja, what year was this that you set up the LinkedIn Ninja business?
Jillian: Okay. When social media started to come about, which is 15-ish years ago, LinkedIn has been around 15 years. I didn’t hear about it for about the first two or three years. But what I noticed in the marketing consultancy business is that more and more people were asking about it. So, I went, “Well, you know what I’m an average marketer.” I’ll be honest, I was an average marketer. I was not brilliant at it even though my arrogance when I left was brilliant. So, I dove into the social media at the time. Google+ has fizzled a fair bit. But I dove into them so that I would become an expert in them.
Ingrid: How did you know customers wanted this LinkedIn social media expertise?
Jillian: They were asking.
Ingrid: They were asking. So you listened to what people were asking for.
Ingrid: That would have been quite early days for LinkedIn, as you say. LinkedIn really did start that sort of early 2000s. How did you it would be viable to be that niched? Did people niche in your marketing businesses back then or were people general marketing?
Jillian: It was more general, which is where I went as well because I went for the big four. And then we started managing accounts for people and I had a team of 14 that did that, and learnt a lot of lessons through that process. Because I’d never really managed to people in my other jobs in the corporate career – which would have been really handy.
Ingrid: Yeah, because staffing issues can be one of the big challenges isn’t it?
Jillian: Yeah. That was a big learning curve for me. I was like, I’m not managing the work anymore. I’m just managing people.
Ingrid: The people, yep!
Jillian: How did I end up here? One of the people I met was the original LinkedIn Ninja in Cincinnati, and she was looking to expand the brand outside of the US. They said, oh, do you want to apply and I went, “I will apply for it. It sounds good.” Because LinkedIn was my favourite out of the four platforms. When I got to about Module Three of 21, I went on my God, there’s so much to this that I just didn’t know. I’m now embarrassed on how I’d managed accounts. I just didn’t know.
Jillian: What I started to do was downsize all the people, finish where the contracts were, and just lay off one at a time, one at a time, one at a time, until I ended up with my PA project manager and myself 12 months later, because it’s a 12 month programme. And just went into LinkedIn it by itself, and that was 2000 … I started studying in 2013 and went by myself at the end of that year.
Ingrid: Okay, so that’s about four or five years. In terms of funding this business, it doesn’t really sound like it took a lot of money to fund. Although, as you said, in the early days, you were paying yourself a small sort of amount of money because there was all these other costs. Where did that money come from? How do you fund a business in the early days?
Jillian: I started with 10 grand. That was just taken out of the mortgage. Then it was topped up and topped up and topped up when I couldn’t afford something and that kept coming out of the mortgage. Then we got to a point where my husband was like, “All done. if you take one more cent out without putting a cent back in, we are done.” That was massive marriage strain at the time, massive.
Ingrid: That safety net, it’s interesting that because that safety net, people have savings or people get a redundancy that carries them over a period of time, and that safety net really does change how some people behave in business and not having a safety net can actually be what spurns people on. Taking that safety net away for you, did that actually change how you approached your business?
Jillian: It probably changed decisions I made for sure. One of the things … If I can jump into one of the questions that you were maybe going to ask, which was what you’ve done differently at the beginning. One of those, which is what we call the $3,000 envelopes. When I was very new in the business, I basically got my logo designed and got letter heads with compliment slips and all that sort of stuff. I ordered these envelopes and the logo design and all of that stuff costs $3,000.
Jillian: Honestly, I’ve still got two bundles of 500 with compliment slips next to me, which we use for phone messaging 16 years later. I’m recycling. But it’s one of those things that we spent money on. Yes, it changed decisions like that because it wasn’t a bottomless pit of money – let me get another $3,000 of something.
Ingrid: It is. One of my very early podcasts with somebody called Helen Duck, who runs Dragonfly foods. I think it’s the 21st episode, if the listeners want to go back and listen – Helen Duck. She’s got a very similar story about logos and business cards and she’s still got them.
But you know, Jillian, I think that’s a testament of the early to mid-2000s, because that’s about when she started her business in around that mid-2000s because people forget that all this social media wasn’t there.
Ingrid: So, how you got your brand out was to have letter heads and business cards and envelopes and with compliment slips. In hindsight, it sounds like, oh my gosh, how could you spend $3,000? But the same people are spending $3,000 on Facebook, on Instagram posts, on LinkedIn advertising, on different types. The money is still being spent, it’s just being spent on different things. So, don’t beat yourself up.
Jillian: Well, the first website that I got put together was $8,000 because what I was asking them to do had never been done, and they had to write the code. When you look at it now, this is way before WordPress.
Ingrid: Absolutely. That’s why now it’s so much easier to start a business. Okay, so let’s see. You funded your business out of savings until your husband said, that’s enough. You have to start making some money.
Jillian: That’s right.
Ingrid: Tell me now, how do you find new customers? Because this is the sort of thing, the number one thing that people talk about is clients, customers, how do we know where they are? What are they like? So, how do you know who is your customer and how do you find them?
Jillian: Okay. We touched on niching earlier. So, just to go back through that track again for a second. I started as a general marketer as there was a little bit of a niche with finance. Then that morphed into the four main social media platforms, which then niched to LinkedIn only. And then that also niched into sales part of it rather than recruitment.
Jillian: And then we’ve niched again in a way. A lot of my offline marketing, if you like, is within certain fields like lawyers and accountants, financial planners, that sort of thing. So, service professionals.
Ingrid: Professional services.
Jillian: Yeah, professional services, rather. Glad you know the term. Professional services. Although having said that, still 50% of my business is under other. So, its niched again. How I find customers is the way I look at it is I have to practise what I preach, otherwise, what the heck am I doing?
Jillian: I have a benchmark of 70%. So, I have 70% of my clients and customers need to come from LinkedIn or I’m not being able to use it to generate leads. I know a few of my competitors who rely on Facebook ads, for example. It was like, why can’t you get leads through LinkedIn?
Ingrid: You’re in LinkedIn and you stay in LinkedIn and that’s where you get your leads from.
Ingrid: Interesting, can I just clarify what were the four social media? Is that Facebook, LinkedIn-
Jillian: Google Plus.
Ingrid: And Google Plus, yes. Whereas now if you said the four social media, they actually have four different platforms out there.
Jillian: Yeah, you’d have to include Instagram.
Ingrid: Have to.
Jillian: And then YouTube wasn’t even thought of really. It was probably mostly … I don’t even know what it was at the beginning. I think it was mostly teenagers doing stupid videos.
Ingrid: Or cat videos.
Jillian: Or cat videos. Those things go 30 million from posts of that one, viewers on those.
Ingrid: Let’s talk about money. Because as you’re dipping into the family savings, and you’re setting up this business, and you don’t need to tell us exactly what your pricing is, but how did you decide, and particularly for the LinkedIn side of this, how did you decide a pricing strategy? Because that is one of the things that people when they’re getting started in a business, they’re not really quite sure what to charge. Because yours is a nebulous service based, value outcome oriented. Somebody’s not coming along and buying a thing, they’re buying time, they’re buying your expertise. How do you decide a pricing strategy for this sort of business?
Jillian: Yeah, okay. There was one particular service that I had trouble working out. Most of the other services that I offer I was okay with but as a general rule, I looked at competitors for a start. I also looked at what some of the other ninjas were doing. It wasn’t always … I’m actually more expensive than the other original LinkedIn Ninja.
Jillian: Because she’s morphed what she offers. But she also outsources to the Philippines, which I don’t. Her overheads for labour, whereas I’m paying $38, $45 an hour, she’s paying six. But it’s to me, it’s chalk and cheese with the results.
Ingrid: And you get what you want from your people.
Jillian: Yeah, exactly. There’s only so much you can come down on somebody you’re charging or paying $6 an hour for, whereas if you give him 45 bucks, it’s like, hello. I feel like I can be a little bit more than that demanding, I guess. There was that all came into it, and then there was even a little bit around, as I said, there was one service I just couldn’t get right. What I did was went to one price point and then doubled it and offered it at both price points to probably about five people.
Jillian: That was inbound inquiries people. They weren’t like, “Oh, can you tell me which you think you would have because you’re my friend? It wasn’t that sort of thing. I had 100% take up with the one that was at a lower price point. And I went, “Right, okay. Well, it’s either a good price point or we’re too cheap.” Then I think I had one take up at the double. I ended up choosing right smack in between because even at the low price point I was still making money.
Jillian: At the ones smacking between I was getting about an 85% take up rate. I thought, okay, well there it is. Because I remember seeing once or reading once or something like that, hearing once that your price point should be, as long as you’re covering your costs and there’s a nice healthy profit margin and blah blah blah, but also what the market is willing to pay.
Jillian: I could have left it at the lower one and still made money. But I was like well, the market’s not willing to pay the double but are they willing to pay halfway? And they were. I was like, “Okay, cool. That’s now a very profitable service.”
Ingrid: That’s a terrific strategy because the thing that that gave you was that there was one person prepared to pay that bigger amount, and that gives a lot of confidence, doesn’t it? That there’s somewhere in between is the right price.
Jillian: Yeah. But it also depends on who you end up with. For instance, if you’re talking to a lawyer, quite often they don’t even ask what you charge, because they’re already making 650 bucks an hour. So, it’s like, I need this service done, I need that, can you get it done by then?” “Yeah.” “Cool. Okay, good. Send me an invoice.” Whereas others, you quote them and they’re like, “Oh, my God.”
Ingrid: It’s interesting, it’s about perspective, isn’t it? Because I was talking to somebody and in the same day I gave two people the exact same price for something they were asking of me. But one of them said, “Oh my goodness, is that all?” And the other one said, “Oh, my goodness, is that how much?” The interesting perspective was, one had never bought that particular type of service in the past and the other one had bought many times and worked with different people.
Ingrid: I think it’s quite interesting. There’s a whole lot about pricing. Pricing is so individual, is individual to the clients, and that’s where having an ideal avatar becomes so important, as you said. If you’re dealing with lawyers, with accountants, with people who are used to charging large amounts of money for what they do, then they’re used to paying significant amounts of money for the services that they buy into.
Jillian: Yeah. But I think it’s also, sometimes people … I seem to get a lot of clients that have been elsewhere before. I seem to get that a lot. Here’s a casing point, I had a guy asked me about my services the other day, and it was just for a consult. I don’t manage accounts for anybody anymore anyway. He said, “I’ve been having my company page managed for me for the last 12 months.” And I said, “Okay, cool. Let’s go and have a look at it.” There was 146 posts on the company page. They’ve obviously done a lot of work in 12 months. I said, “We have a bit of an issue here.” He’s like, “What? I just don’t get any return on investment for that.” I said, “I am totally not surprised. You had seven followers on that account, and five of them are staff.”
Ingrid: Oh dear.
Jillian: So, I don’t know how much you’ve been paying per week or per month to whoever’s been managing this for you, but you have … I think he had 700 followers on his LinkedIn, which is a pretty low number anyway. But 700 is still more than two. It was perplexing to me. That sort of LinkedIn Mavericks out there. I’m sure they weren’t paying a lot for that service. But whoever was doing it for them, it was highway robbery.
Ingrid: I think the thing is as well, particularly with something like what you guys are doing is what is the return on investment for that? If I pay you this much for 12 months, how many people would we have by the end? Is that part of this pricing strategy that says the value you will get will be this many percentage increase, this many percentage engagement? That’s that part of the promise for the price that you offer.
Jillian: Well, that talk with that guy was part of my 20 minute discovery session. He hadn’t pay me anything.
Ingrid: No, but you helped him to see what he hadn’t got.
Jillian: Yeah. If I talk to anybody, whether it’s a live event, I’m only talking for 15 minutes, I’m having a 20 minute discovery session. It’s a one hour session, whatever it is, especially if they’re one hour obviously. But even talking to somebody, waiting for a plane if they haven’t walked away with an actionable step that they can put into practise, then I don’t feel like I’ve won. It’s just the way I work. If they can’t implement something straight away, then I haven’t done my job.
Ingrid: You haven’t? Wow, we’ll get something before we finish this podcast interview.
Jillian: For sure.
Ingrid: But we’ll keep that one, but we’ll get everybody an … Maybe looking at their company page is something to have a look at.
Jillian: For sure. If they’re spending a lot of time posting on it, which is an actionable step, the algorithm is not friendly to company profiles right now, it’s only friendly to the personal profiles. So the distribution is way less. We’re talking up to 50% or more less.
Ingrid: See, these algorithms, this is what keeps changing, and this is why people like you are so important because we need to know where the algorithms are heading.
Jillian: Well, there was seven new features in LinkedIn last week.
Ingrid: Oh, great. We’ll get to go through those in a minute. Now let’s go back to that [ (sarcastic tone)
In terms of your ninja business, do you have an exit strategy? You don’t have to tell us what it is. But do you have one?
Jillian: No, I don’t.
Ingrid: Most people don’t. It is one of the things that I talk to my clients about is, when you’re setting this business up is it being set up to grow, to expand for somebody else to buy? Is to provide us with time flexibility and a lifestyle, and enough income to be providing nicely for ourselves and our families? It’s what do we originally set the business up for?
Jillian: I guess I don’t have a strategy, and I think that comes down to the fact that I’ve got all my eggs in one basket. I don’t have a full control over this business, from the point of view of if LinkedIn starts going bad and they start turning people away in droves because they do some stupid thing, or it’s just goes out of favour or whatever, I’m out of business anyway. So, my exit could be forced upon me.
Ingrid: Yeah, one does wonder if LinkedIn will ever do that sort of thing the way some of the others have done. You do wonder.
Jillian: Maybe. I don’t know. There’s been quite a few platforms that have tried to be their biggest competitor and they’ve killed them off. But, Microsoft had a reputation for killing everything that it buys. So, there was a lot of unrest when Microsoft still bought it. I didn’t feel particularly healthy at that stage. I was feeling very ill myself. But they’ve-
Ingrid: But it seems to have carried on in a healthy sort of way.
Jillian: Yeah, it’s actually got bigger because Facebook did so much stupid stuff with their business pages.
Ingrid: They have, indeed. Okay. If we come back to what you’ve done differently. You might not have spent $3,000 on stationary, is there anything else that you would have done differently?
Jillian: More of that, more of different expenses that I probably didn’t really need to do. I think there’s also when there’s so many of these short courses that you can do with things, I think probably researching deeper with whether that is going to actually help and deliver or not has been a lot of money that I’ve spent on webinar platforms for example. I did a whole webinar series on how to get people into your webinar and sell them into something else that was $4,000. Haven’t even watched the first module, just haven’t had time.
Jillian: So, things like that. It’s almost like, oh, I need my time freed up a little bit more. Will this latest thing save me from that? You don’t realise there’s like 70 hours of stuff to watch, and then you’ve got to implement it as well.
Ingrid: Yeah. It’s interesting how much money can actually be spent on all those courses. That is a business in itself, isn’t it?
Jillian: Yes. My programmes, for example, there’s a lot of LinkedIn programmes that are literally like 30 or 40 hours long. I bought some of them, some of them have been given to me, because I know those people. But you just don’t need them that long.
Jillian: There’s only so much-
Ingrid: That’s such a good point. You’re actually better with a shorter amount and just action get on with things.
Jillian: Yeah, pretty much. The amount of knowledge that you’re gleaning from this programme, 30 hours, is going to mostly be superseded in a year or two years’ time anyway.
Ingrid: That’s so true. I find with a lot of webinars that, and I don’t do it with any of mine is that the blah, blah at the beginning, and it just takes … You could almost fast forward the first 15 minutes from the time they do before it works. I just start a webinar and we get stuck into it. So, if you miss the first five minutes you actually miss-
Jillian: Yeah, you actually miss something.
Ingrid: You actually miss something. Okay. When you think about your business, is there something you wish you’d known from the start? This is a different question to what you would like to have done differently. If somebody could have told you a piece of information or given you some education at the beginning, what might that have been?
Jillian: Okay. I would probably say that you need to have thicker skin than you thought you did. I think that’s it. When you just think you’re so tired and you can’t do any more and nothing’s working and whatever, and just being able to just go, “You know what, yes, you’ve had a cry, it’s all horrible, blah, blah, blah. You’re still going to get up in the morning and get back on with it.” I think that resilience is … But that’s a muscle, I think also.
Ingrid: Yeah, Jillian, that is such an insightful answer actually. For people listening when I think about our audience, to just know that having that is so important. You need that from the beginning don’t you?
Jillian: Well, one of the biggest lessons for me was having kids. Because my kids are 10 and seven. I started in business 16 years ago. They came halfway through. My two little buggers didn’t know what the hell sleep was. They had no idea. I still never taught them how to sleep properly. They just grew out of it. There’s that feeling if you’re a mom yourself and parents listening, that that thing of that child will not sleep in that night. They’ve woken you up again, and you would rather give your right arm than get up to go and breastfeed again, or whatever it is. You just don’t feel … You’re at the bottom, you have nothing left to give.
Jillian: Then something, I don’t know whether it’s unconditional love for that child or something, something so deep down, you never thought it was there gets you up out of bed, and you go and attend to that child again. Once you’ve got through the other side of that, and they actually understand that they’re supposed to be asleep for eight hours or 10, when something happens in your business, or when you’ve got this last minute deadline or whatever, you know how far you went before when the kids were tiny. You know that you just plucked this out of goodness knows what, and you just did it, and it will never get that bad again.
Jillian: Sleep deprivation is just hideous. Mine was like two and a half years solid. I honestly thought I would never get through it. It was dangerous for me to drive. You were so tired that … Its never got that bad again with sleep deprivation. So, when you’re going through business, and somebody … I was trolled yesterday hideously. But it’s like, well, that was nothing compared to the sleep deprivation of 2008.
Ingrid: That’s such an interesting point, Jillian because then there’s so many mothers and there are so many women starting businesses now more than ever, ever, and that’s such a good example of how that level of resilience is there that even if things don’t go well in the business, even if you do have to put in the long hours or, yeah, it’s never quite as bad as it might have been when you were completely sleep deprived from those babies.
Jillian: Yeah, and you just-
Ingrid: That is terrific. Thank you.
Jillian: You just find it. I never knew I could be that resilient.
Ingrid: You just find it.
Jillian: You just find it. That’s probably my biggest thing. The second one if I can add would be loan wolfing it just doesn’t work.
Jillian: It just doesn’t work. That you have to get out, you have to meet people, you have to form alliances. Even if it’s a completely different business or whatever, just having a network of you’re having a bad day and that person’s in business too. If I ring girlfriends, I have pretty much most of my girlfriends are in the corporate world. They don’t get it, they don’t get the problem I’ve got and the struggle I’ve had, and the person that’s trying to rip me off for two grand. That promised me something and didn’t deliver and blah, blah, blah.
Jillian: But the business networks that you end up with, they get it and they can even give you advice on it. “Oh, yeah, that happened to me three years ago. Such and such happened.” They’d do the same for you. I like being on the end of the phone and available for someone when they’re having their worst day as well.
Ingrid: So there’s that helping out. Which leads me beautifully to my next question. So, my next question is who, apart from yourself, and seen of greatest assistance to you. You’ve talked there about other businesses and about alliances. You don’t have to name names, but just when you’re saying that about relationships and associations, what sort of people are you talking about there?
Jillian: I’ve actually got a person … I do the LinkedIn local events in Sydney. This is a global movement. The host of one of the American cities we met because we’re both hosts. She reached out to me on LinkedIn and said, “I’m going to run an event here, unless you’ve got any advice?” I typed back a few bits and pieces. That relationship has kept going almost a year now. We’ve actually never jumped on Skype. I have no idea how she sounds except in videos. Its just been one of those typing back and forth kind of relationships.
Jillian: She was so thankful. It was two women, across the world, never actually spoken to each other but when I need a favour, I know I can rely on that relationship. I really feel like I can. That’s the surprising thing that can come out of social media and can come out of business networks.
Ingrid: Those business networks are so important.
Jillian: Yeah. But it’s even online ones. It doesn’t have to form in your local city with something you go to every week at 6:00 AM and you feel bleary eyed.
Ingrid: I did a programme a few years ago and we had an accountability group is what it was called. But it was a Mastermind accountability group. We met every Monday for a couple of months. It was fantastic. It was a time slot and whether everybody could make it or not didn’t matter, somebody could make it. It was exactly like that. When there was too many of us for it to be a big free fall, we used to put the timer and each person had their time slot. If anybody had anything to say, and we were using Skype in those days, whereas today I would use Zoom.
Ingrid: You’re right, those groups, those Masterminds, accountabilities, networks are so important aren’t they?
Jillian: Yeah, and some of them are atrocious, and they’re just full of hunters and gatherers. Sometimes you find different people from different things. And you only stick with one or two people from a particular networking group or whatever. But when I talked before about where the rest of my 30% of my customers come from, they come from those groups. Quite often, I’ll talk to somebody and they built an account 10 years ago, but haven’t logged into LinkedIn since.
Jillian: In a way it doesn’t really matter. They may not ever become clients, it doesn’t matter to me. They were just an awesome person, and we end up being text buddies instead because they won’t get their ass on LinkedIn.
Ingrid: I guess is they don’t need to. How do you get feedback, Jillian? Who gives you feedback?
Jillian: My husband’s always quick to give me feedback. I’ve been with him 22 years. So, I must be doing something right. Feedback in terms of what I’m doing right and wrong in my business sort of thing?
Ingrid: Yeah, who can give you feedback in your business? Because if I think back to my corporate days, we had a system where you were given feedback on a regular basis-
Jillian: KPIs or something?
Ingrid: KPIs, and we had team meetings, you said where you’re up to on projects and you were held accountable a – it’s different on your own. There’s no one to hold you accountable, there’s no one to give you feedback. You just march along, how do you get feedback.
Jillian: There’s probably two answers for that. One I think it’s a muscle that you grow to hold yourself accountable. I look at my profit and loss statement at the end of the month and I only have myself to blame if it’s not where I want it to be. There’s definitely that on it. But the other thing is those groups that I’m talking about, there’s sometimes different people within them individuals or a whole group that will do it. But the other thing is, and it’s a lesson in this one. Over the years I’ve had five business coaches. I’ve learned over that time and spent a lot of money there as well, here we go. Where did all your money go to? In all these sorts of things.
Jillian: What I’ve learned through that is be very selective and ask a lot of questions of a business coach before you go with them. Oh my God, yes. What I see a lot of and I work with them because they come and get me to help them with their LinkedIn. A lot of them go to some sort of business coaching school, and then their first business is how to be a business coach. I didn’t realise that was a thing. I just thought people would have integrity because they have run a business and now decided to become a business coach.
Jillian: I didn’t realise that you could just go and do it the other way around. That is a massive one. There’s also a lot of people that have come from corporate, been sick of corporate and then go, “I’m going to be a business coach instead. Because I know everything.” But the thing is, most people hire a business coach are a small business, and their experience is not in small business where you having a problem with your computer, you can just run to the IT department. No, no, no, no, you don’t have $700 to fix your computer, you’ve got to come up with something else, or watch some YouTube videos on how to fix it.
Ingrid: Yep, how to fix, thank goodness for YouTube
Jillian: Oh, I know. Note to listeners, YouTube there’s a lot of videos for “how to” and so forth. I think there’s a lot of homework to do with a business coach before you start with one, and then also their values.
Ingrid: If they just hear you say that about a business coach, because by the time this interview goes live, I’m actually presenting at a conference in San Diego, Mind Body Online. By the time you’re thinking it goes live, it will have already happened. But the topic is about the mentor, the business coach and the consultant; who are they, what do they do and how do you choose the right one to use? I think that’s so true it’s about doing your homework and asking the questions.
Ingrid: That 20 minute discovery session or whatever it is that most people do, it’s often not enough for people to make a decision about, is this the right person? Though, take your time and do that.
Jillian: I knew my second last business coach was someone I’d known for six years. And then yet we kept in contact, that was one of those relationships where I could ring him about something, he’d ring me about something. He gives me a bit of coaching, I gave him a bit of LinkedIn advice all the time. We never exchanged money and there was never an official contra-deal going on. It was just friendly back and forth. But I did end up hiring him as a business coach, but it didn’t work. It didn’t work. After three months, I was just like, this is not … I felt like I was defending myself all the time.
Ingrid: That’s not a feeling you want from a business coach.
Jillian: No. It was sort of I get accountability and I put my hands up and say yep, slacked there, didn’t do that, this is the reason blah blah blah. But it was kind of an attacking situation and I spent an hour defending myself. I was like, hang on, I’ve just spent an hour defending myself and I paid you for it. If I want this kind of pain I’ll go and get a wax and pay for that quite easily. At least I get some outcome at the end, I’ve got nice, smooth legs.
Ingrid: Oh, Jillian, you crack me up. Okay, someone comes to you and says, “I’m thinking about starting my own business.” What would you tell them? What would you say?
Jillian: Tell me what the business is and let’s talk about that first. Look, I won’t claim to be a business coach and know everything.
Ingrid: Oh gosh, no, I’m not asking you from that perspective – it’s just like someone comes along and says … “Oh, I’d like to start my own business.” What would you say based on your experience of being in business and you’re sitting, having a glass of wine, and the conversation comes around and say, “Oh, I’d like to start my own business.” What would you say?
Jillian: I think mainly supply and demand is the first genre of the conversation. I have sometimes people that come to me and they’re like, “Oh, I want you to help me with my LinkedIn.” I say, “Okay, cool. What is it you do, and tell me you take about it.” Because sometimes I read their LinkedIn profile and I don’t get what they do still. That’s always alarm bell. We go through and the answer usually starts with anybody. It’s like, oh, anybody with a pulse excellent, a good business model there.
Jillian: But sometimes at the end of the 10 minutes or 20 minutes or something, I’m sitting there going, “Well, you won’t be in business two or three years later.” I don’t say that out loud. I actually advise them to go and hone down exactly what their business is and do research as to whether there’s a market. You’ve got to do your research. My business started because people were coming to me asking me, and that’s how it morphed. There was a demand there.
Ingrid: Totally. I think really asking for money for something up front is part of that research. Will somebody actually take money out of their pocket and pay you for your idea? That’s that whole idea about a minimum viable product? Is there some way of putting the product out so you can do this research and will people actually pay you? Because as you say to your face, people will be kind and they won’t want to upset you because you’re so enthusiastic about it, but we need some reality checks on that, don’t we?
Jillian: Yeah, absolutely.
Ingrid: Okay. So, you’ve talked about resilience and that idea of being able to reach a depth and you’ll never have to do that again. But if I was to ask you what are the three characteristics that you have that make you successful, what are those three characteristics?
Jillian: I think they would be the resilience for sure. I think it would probably be the ability to read people, and that comes from growing up with a mentally unstable mother. That was ingrained in me to read what mood she was going to be in. So, I’m very good at that. I can read between the lines on people very well. As I said, we’ve heard now, I’m pretty direct. So, I will actually come back to somebody and say, “Look, I can see you’re not on board with this.” It relieves somebody because I’m not trying to push it. That would definitely be one.
Jillian: I think authenticity is used a lot. In all honesty, I find remembering a lie just too much effort. My memory is not that good.
Ingrid: I’m with you.
Jillian: I sometimes have to white lie to the kids, with Santa, the tooth fairy just came this week and so forth. But I kind of even forget what I told them.
Ingrid: Yeah, I know, telling the truth is just so much easier, isn’t it?
Jillian: Yah, it is. The amount of stuff that you have to juggle in your busy life to actually be able to juggle lies as well, I think my head would explode.
Ingrid: I’m with you on that one.
Jillian: Yes. So, I will tell the truth even if it’s detrimental to me. I will just put my hands up and go, “You know what? I’m sorry, I didn’t do that. I told you I’d get that done. My bad, how can I make it up to you? Rather than try and spin, “Oh, yes I sent you that email. Definitely, blah blah blah.” But I know you didn’t.
Ingrid: Move on and what can we do to fix it and what else can we get done? I’m with you Jillian.
Jillian: I actually got a call this week from a guy that was very irate on his wife’s behalf. And said, “We’ve paid you all this money and you haven’t even done the consults.” I was on my way to pick up the kids from school. So, I wasn’t even in front of my computer or any data or anything. I just said, “Look, I’m so sorry. You must have slipped through the cracks. As soon as I get home tonight I’m going to look all this up, and I will get back to you as a number one priority and amend my ways. I absolutely I will drop everything else and look this up.”
Jillian: What was really bizarre was I’m racking my brain stem picking the kids up, driving all the way home, thinking I just don’t remember not doing this. I don’t remember doing it, but I don’t remember having that guilt feeling of getting away with getting money and not delivering. I looked it up in my Xero software. Yes, he’d done that, he’d paid me, blah blah blah, four hours of consult. And then I went back through my Outlook calendar and there’s a block of two hours on one day, week later block of two hours. I’ve delivered. I’d done it.
Jillian: So, I just mapped it out for him in an email. I said, “Look, it actually looks like we did do that. But if your wife is having trouble implementing, then why don’t you ask her to give me a call.” Because their English is not their first language. I’m like, “Ask her to give me a call and tell me what she’s having trouble with, and I’ll fix this for no charge.” I’m not going to give her another hour, but-
Ingrid: Then you’d rectify it.
Jillian: Yeah, because this was last May. He’s thinking I’ve ripped him off since last May.
Ingrid: Oh, gosh.
Jillian: I couldn’t remember that far back.
Ingrid: No wonder, yeah.
Jillian: But he was actually in the wrong.
Ingrid: Because as you say it would be funny … If you knew you hadn’t done something, this is tiny even this tiny thing. Oh, I must get around to that, I must get around to that. Other things get in the way and you don’t get to it and you think, oh crumbs, I’ve been caught out. So, not even have that feeling.
Jillian: No, I had no feeling. I haven’t signed my tax return for this year yet, and I have that feeling like, no I haven’t done that.
Ingrid: Your action point from this interview when you listen to this in a couple of weeks’ time, you would have known whether you signed that tax return. Is there anything else you’d like to add, and what is the action step that everybody can take away?
Jillian: Okay. I think what I would probably add is that not only is niching more productive. There’s actually a LinkedIn trainer that says … And I’ll have to do an American accent to do this, otherwise it makes no sense in Australian. But he says … He’s a very over the top guy. He says, “The riches are in the niches.” Now, of course we say the riches are in the niches, but it doesn’t sound quite as good.
Ingrid: No, it doesn’t. No, they’re saying niches.
Jillian: Niches. The riches are in the niches or something. I wholeheartedly believe that. But I also believe that you need to go one step further forward. Especially if you love what you do, like I do, and just immerse yourself in it. When I’m walking my dog at six o’clock in the morning because my husband leaves at 7:00, so I’m walking the dog then before he leaves so that when the kids get up, there’s somebody’s home, right?
Jillian: I’m on podcasts and looking up all interviews with LinkedIn to see if somebody else knows something I don’t know. 10% of the time or so I do find something like, “Oh, that’s gold,” and I can’t wait to get back home and write it down. But you just immerse yourself in your niche.
Ingrid: That’s such good advice. That’s terrific.
Jillian: I would love to be put on a panel where it’s live, that you get a Family Feud, 20 questions, kind of, Want To Be A Millionaire kind of questions and go toe to toe with some of my competitors. I’m not a competitive person. I don’t even score when we play scrabble. But when you’re confident about your niche, I think you should be willing to do that. You should be confident enough in your knowledge, in your niche to be able to do that.
Jillian: You ask me how to do anything on Facebook, I can’t do anything. Not anymore because it’s been like six years since I did Facebook, it’s all done.
Ingrid: Yeah. And LinkedIn is your platform, it’s what you know, it’s what you understand. You’re following those new changes, the new algorithms, the updates. So, you’re the person that can help people with that.
Jillian: Yeah, and I don’t think there’s many other trainers that go through that.
Ingrid: Jillian, thank you for your time.
Jillian: You’re very welcome.
Ingrid: It’s been a delightful … You crack me up. Its been a delightful conversation.
Jillian: Mission accomplished.
Ingrid: Mission accomplished. I appreciate. If people want to contact you, Jillian, with a J.
Jillian: With a J, that’s it. Find me in LinkedIn.
Ingrid: On LinkedIn and connect with you. Do you like people to send you a little note about why they’re connecting? Or are you happy to just accept when somebody sends you a link?
Jillian: It depends where they’re from. If they’re from Uzbekistan and there’s no message at all, I’m kind of like, I’m on LinkedIn Down Under, so that would have been nice for a note. But the message … Here’s a takeaway, 92% of middle to senior managers and business owners ignore the request without a personalised note.
Ingrid: There you go.
Jillian: 92%. You might have some people going, “Yes, but I can’t do that from mobile.” Yes, you can.
Ingrid: Yes you can. I’ve worked out how.
Ingrid: That little button that you can press and it comes up with the message. But I always, even on the phone, even if I’m standing meeting somebody at a conference, or at a part, or somewhere, and I click on the LinkedIn. The note will say “hello, just met you now” or something like that.
Ingrid: I always like to have that personal note. Jillian, tell us again what that percentage is.
Ingrid: 92% will not accept a request without a note. So, there you go people. That’s Jillian’s big takeaway. If you’re asking people to connect, always put some kind of note. Well, with that we’ll say thank you very much, Jillian. It’s been terrific having you with us.
Jillian: Thank you. Thank you.