582 Sandra Francisco:

Many of us live life ticking all the boxes as we climb to a destination of success we perceive … will bring us happiness … only to realize once we reach that destination … that it was not our true path.


I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an entrepreneur who climbed the ranks of corporate success as a marketing and product development executive – until a personal crisis shook up her whole life and led her on a new journey.

Sandra Francisco is a Business Coach who helps entrepreneurs go from idea to profit while balancing their personal growth so that they can have true fulfillment and extraordinary profit.

Today we talk about the success mindset, why vulnerability is an asset, and much more … so I start music under my voice can’t wait to introduce you to Sandra! First…

Sandra Francisco spent 15 years as a marketing and product development expert for two of Canada’s fortune 10 companies, managing 50 and 100 million-dollar projects while leading thousands of people. Along the way she honed her insight and understanding of markets, business, and people, and was poised for outsized success – when a change of fate and personal crisis forced her to reconsider her life’s path.

Working up the courage to leave corporate, Sandra became obsessed with the dynamics of the human psyche – and a passion for seeking truth led her to learn systems and programs to empower a person’s ability to achieve their true potential.

As a co-founder of Human Potential International, and certified in multiple modalities of the human psyche and peak performance, Sandra works with CEOs and founders of businesses of all shapes and sizes – at the intersection of personal and business growth.

She says: “You rarely have a purely business problem, because everywhere you go, there you are.”

Any entrepreneur comes to learn that whatever challenges are manifesting for us as we grow our businesses are often driven by our beliefs, many of them subconscious – and the entrepreneurial journey is ultimately a journey of personal growth as much as it is business growth.

We dive into all of that and much more, including why we all need a “courage loan” plus how to profit from vulnerability … so let’s put on our wings with the inspiring Sandra Francisco.

Melinda Wittstock:         Sandra, welcome to Wings.

Sandra Francisco:            Thank you. It’s my pleasure.

Melinda Wittstock:         I’m so interested to learn from you what that personal crisis was that made you upend your whole life and go in a completely different direction.

Sandra Francisco:            Yeah. That was now 11 years ago, which every time a new year comes, I’m like, “Oh my God, it’s been that long?” A year before I left corporate, I spent a year suffering with really severe anxiety. It was hard to diagnose, because it didn’t come as typical anxiety, which panic attacks and everything that kind of comes with anxiety. It was actually I would go three to four days with really intense heart rate where 140, 160, sometimes higher, and it would not calm down at all. It would be like that for three to four days and no sleep. It was happening at first every couple of months.

Then, it started happening more often, and after many, many medical tests, more than I’d ever had in my entire life, one doctor actually just came to me and said, “You know, we’ve done everything we can think of. You really need to accept that this is anxiety,” which I thought, “No one had ever said that to me before, so this means like I’m done here? You’re not going to help me?” That’s how I took it, so I thought, “Okay, this sounds like I have to help myself,” so I did two things. I went to the library, and I started to research, “How do you heal from anxiety?”

Then, I also realized. I’m like, “I can’t continue in this corporate career where I’m working 12 to 16 hour days and try to heal myself from anxiety,” so that’s when I made the difficult decision to go ahead and resign. It really, really was difficult for me, because I was so attached to my title, to what I was doing there, and climbing the corporate ladder at the time was all that I could see. I was so identified with it, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I felt like it’s either my life or this career, that I left. Looking back now after 11 years, I could see why I was meant to leave. I could see I was meant to go in a different path, but at the time it was very, very difficult.

Melinda Wittstock:         The anxiety is a really interesting thing, because it can be caused by hard work and burnout, but I suspect that it can be caused too when we’re just out of alignment. It’s kind of like the universe saying to us, “No. Actually, you’re going in the wrong direction, so I’m just going to give you a little warning. Oh. You’re not hearing it? I’m going to give you a slightly louder warning. I’m just going to make it even more dramatic for you. You’re not hearing me. You’re going the wrong direction.”

Sandra Francisco:            I believe that 100%. That’s what I believe happened, because I wouldn’t have gone. I never would have left otherwise.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. I mean, the tragedy is so many people live what I call the life of should’s, because we’re brought up to kind of be somebody, and to find that somebody it usually involves pleasing other people. We’re getting inputs from everybody around us, parents, school, social media, all of it, so we go on this path. It’s not necessarily the right path. Did you think, when you were in corporate, that when you were climbing, achieving all these milestones, climbing the corporate ladder, that happiness would come at a certain destination point?

Sandra Francisco:            Yeah, and I think I had what I would call disconnect from my emotions, so I was content. I identified with that identity of being whichever role I was doing at the time. Looking back, I feel like I just thought that’s all there was. I didn’t know there was more. I’m like, “Yeah. This is okay. This is good.” Having had many different experiences over the last 11 years of a lot of highs and a lot of lows, because once you let go of that shell that’s protecting you and you start to feel all the feelings, and if you choose to dive into who are you as a human being and do a lot of work on yourself, it comes with a great deal of new awareness, these amazing highs, but it also comes with a lot of lows.

When I look at all the emotions I’ve experienced, I realize pretty much since the age of 10, which was when I moved from Portugal to Canada, I felt in order to be safe, I had to shut down my emotions and run with my intellect. I learned in school that in order to fit in that, “Oh. Okay. Being smart is good thing. Okay. That’s what I’m going to run with. I’m going to run with intelligence,” and that lasted all the way up until my mid-30s when I left corporate, so that’s what I had to protect myself. So, for sure once I started to feel emotions, I realized I had a level of, “I’m okay,” but I didn’t even know what joy was. I didn’t even know what any of the high emotions or the low emotions, because you put yourself in this cocoon. You don’t even feel.

Melinda Wittstock:         I think we protect ourselves from emotion or negative emotion, so we feel it fleetingly and suppress it. The problem is in suppressing it, it doesn’t go away. It just builds and builds and builds, so it’s kind of like stacking plates. I have sort of a similar kind of experience. Different in some areas, but it had to be a crisis for me to really step into my real authentic or true path, purpose, and passion, like you and I think like so many women and men. Along that path, I did learn to feel my feelings. I realized that when I feel them, acknowledge them, accept them, and even thank them, because they’re showing me something that I need to either learn, showing me I’m going in a different direction, or that is just old memory, old wound, or an old trauma that just needs to be let go of.

Sandra Francisco:            Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         And I can release them. If I can accept them and acknowledge them, then I stand a chance of releasing them.

Sandra Francisco:            You do. My experience has also been then you stand a chance of having those higher end emotions we all strive for. We all want to feel things, but we want to feel the good things. We’re like, “Yes, I want to feel my feelings, but only the good ones.”

Melinda Wittstock:         Recently, I’ve seen a lot of articles written about the dangers of toxic positivity in the office. We’re all taught it’s good to be positive, the law of attraction, what you’re thinking you’re getting, and all of that, but I think the toxic positivity comes in when it denies people the ability to actually feel those more negative feelings.

Sandra Francisco:            Also, it makes the impression that there’s something wrong with you if you do. My experience in corporate was very much, I belonged. I was the norm. We just shut off in order to be inside of that corporate machine. I’ll tell you, when I left, I went and resigned to my VP. On thing that he said to me, because no one knew for that year what was going on with me. No one knew who I was anyways. I kept everything so separate.

When I went and explained to him what was going on and that I had to resign, he was very shocked, so he kept asking questions. When I explained everything that’s been going on, as soon as I said the word “anxiety,” he backed off, and he was like, “Okay, okay.” He said to me, he’s like, “Sandra, you can trust me. I will never tell anybody what really happened,” which I just walked out of the office [crosstalk 00:08:35].

Melinda Wittstock:         There’s so much shame. There’s so much shame in that.

Sandra Francisco:            Right. Right?

Melinda Wittstock:         And in reality, there was no shame. I think the fact of that shows that people are afraid of it. It’s just reflecting his fear.

Sandra Francisco:            Right, but that’s very much like what you were saying, but in corporate that’s been my experience that those emotions in general, “Keep them out of here. We’re not here for that. We’re not here for fear or for any anxiety or depression. Don’t talk about it. If you’re having that, just don’t bring it in here.” I think when people leave corporate, and they start their own business as they become entrepreneurs, there’s almost that feeling like, “Okay. What do I do now? I’m feeling all these things. I’m experiencing lack of confidence, fear, or failure. Am I allowed to feel these? Is it okay? There must be something wrong with me. I’m not meant to start my own business, because I’m feeling all these things.” I think it’s just a culture that’s not overall healthy for human beings, but it’s very much, as I know all the people I still connect with in corporate, that it’s still very much the culture at least in Canada. You keep your emotions out of here.

Melinda Wittstock:         Sandra, you say that you became obsessed at a certain point as you started this journey of self discovery with the kind of dynamics of the human psyche, is how you describe it. It led you to really seek what allows a person to really thrive and achieve their true potential and peak performance. What are the main things that you learned along the way that now informs the coaching that you do?

Sandra Francisco:            Yeah. I think the main thing, and you alluded to this earlier too, is to be okay and accept the fact that you’re a human being with emotions. That’s a big step to understand that there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not weak. Actually, vulnerability is one of the greatest powers, so it’s not that there’s anything wrong with you if you start to feel emotions, maybe in somewhere you were shut down in, and all of a sudden you open up, and you’re going through a gambit of emotions. It could be lows, and it could be highs. What I’ve learned is that when I experience my lows, and I allow myself to be there, that they naturally go away, and that’s okay.

The other thing that’s really important that I’ve learned as well, and I will be totally vulnerable and I fell into this trap too early on, that you find a mentor or you find a teacher, and you think, “They know it all.” They come the guru, the god, and you kind of just want to follow them. “Okay. What do they say?” Then, you’re like, “Oh. I don’t know if I believe it, but I will because they do.” You kind of just start following that path until you start to realize that any of these teachers and gurus, they are human beings. They’re experiencing their life through their experiences, through their eyes, and you can learn from a great deal of people. I have for sure, but you don’t have to change who you are to adapt to any leader, mentor, or guru.

You can take some of this great advice. You can apply it in your life and your business, but it’s learning the art of trusting yourself and actually learning, “What is it that my body is trying to tell me. What is my intuition trying to tell me,” and trusting that as the number one source, versus always looking for that savior. Even coach and mentors … I mean, I am a coach, and I don’t expect my clients to take my advice and run with it every single time. A lot of what I do is question-based. I always ask a ton of questions before I even hand off any advice from my experience, because I believe that everybody has brilliant ideas, and everybody knows the solutions to their problems. It’s just that we’ve been so shut down, and so shut out of our intuition and of our natural compass, that we just need to work on that. That, I think, has been the greatest gift for me for sure over the last 11 years.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s really profound, because everybody does have that inner GPS, but they’ve just lost touch with it, so falling into the trap. I’ve seen so many people in business follow a leader. Say, “This particular tactic or strategy worked for this person, so I’m going to copy that,” and it never works, because only the original works. It worked for that person, because it’s kind of who they are. It’s authentic to them. That’s not to say there aren’t aspects that you can take, but you have to synthesize it and make it your own somehow. I like what you’re saying about your coaching approach though, because if someone just imposes advice on you without really knowing your context, it can be a bit hollow as well.

Sandra Francisco:            It can. Sometimes it can do more damage than it can do good, because people feel like the need that, “Okay. This is what I’m being told. This is what I have to do,” and then they betray themselves, and that comes with the high price when you go against your nature and what you already believe to be true. By the way, you could get the actual results, right? Somebody could be telling you, “This is how you sell. You’ve got to use this script, and you’ve got to do it this way. This works. I’ve done this for years. It works with my other clients.”

You can take that, and every time you make a sale, you could make the sale. You could make a million dollars. When you’ve made that million dollars, you feel like slimy. You feel like you’ve sold things that you don’t believe in. You feel completely out of touch and out of alignment with yourself. Have you really won anything? Sometimes people think, “Well, but they said I could make a million, and I made a million.” That’s okay. You could make a million being yourself,” but that million will feel so different.

Melinda Wittstock:         Exactly. I’ve seen lots of people reach these destinations, no matter how many zeros it is, and just feel empty inside, because the accomplishment in a weird way wasn’t their own, like on a really deep psychic level. It’s almost like they were living someone else’s life or someone else’s curriculum. It wasn’t really aligned with their actual soul purpose.

Sandra Francisco:            Yes, and I think there’s a price to pay for that. Again, it could come with the results, the outcomes you’re looking for from a monetary perspective, but my experience and what I’ve seen with clients, it just leads to an empty shell. Sometimes people think, “But that’s how it is. That’s the only way.” I just really do believe, and I’ve seen so many times, that there is ways to be fulfilled and to have profit. You don’t have to choose one or the other.

I don’t know where we got this, and I see this so much in so many people I talk to, that is like, “You’ve got to pick a path.” Yeah, okay. You can have fulfillment or whatever people are talking about, but I’ve got to profit first. Once I make $10 million, whatever that number is. $1 million, $10 million. Okay. Then, I’ll rethink it. Then, I’ll be open to finding some joy or some fulfillment. It just doesn’t have to be that way. If that’s what you’re good with, go for it, but if you don’t want to do it that way, you can have both. You can.

Melinda Wittstock:         I’ve learned along the way that really it’s the journey that matters more than the destination. If you’re enjoying what you do and you’re enjoying every hour, every day, every minute, and you’re actually having fun, and this is particularly important for entrepreneurs, because why become an entrepreneur? You have a lot more freedom to set your own course, decide who you’re going to be, what your team is going to be like, what your culture is going to be like, what you’re actually going to do, what the business is about, to figure out your own boundaries, your own work hours. You have all this kind of freedom. To then choose not to enjoy it, especially given the fact that you’ve got all kinds of things you can’t control, lots of risk, and all that kind of stuff, it better be fun.

Sandra Francisco:            Yeah. I always say that if you’re going to start a business, please don’t start something you hate. Like, why do it?

Melinda Wittstock:         The only way to get through, because starting a business and growing a business is hard. There’s no question about it. I’m on my fifth now, and there’s always something new. You think, “Oh yeah. I can do this. I’ve done this many times before,” but there’s always something new that comes or something you can’t control, whether it’s something competitive in the marketplace, a thing called Coronavirus, or someone who steals from you. There’s so many things, so figuring out what to learn from those things, how now to take them personally, but how to learn from them and how to be resilient. You know, if you don’t have a mission, if you don’t have a purpose, if you don’t love what you’re doing, it’s really difficult to get through those times.

Sandra Francisco:            It is. Like you said, what is the number one reason people want to start a business? What I hear all the time is freedom, and they define it differently. Everybody has a different meaning. Financial freedom, freedom of time, whatever it is. It’s always freedom, but then you get into it, and you forget. You forget, “Oh. What? I wanted freedom, and now I’m just following somebody else’s path. It may not be my boss. It may be a mentor or somebody I’ve hired to help me in some way or another, but I’ve lost my freedom.”

That’s one thing I work with my clients a lot, is to come back to, “Okay,” and not just this big purpose, which is great. We have a purpose for the business, a purpose for your life. That’s great, but micro-purpose. You’re going to follow this strategy. You’re going to choose this type of sales strategy. You’re going to do this marketing. What’s the purpose? What is in it for you, for your clients, for what you’re trying to do? And kind of keep checking in the micro-purpose so it’s like that compass that you can keep checking, “Am I just following somebody else’s path again even though I don’t have to? They’re not my boss, but I’ve just lost my freedom, and I haven’t even realized it yet.”

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. Have you ever experienced this, where you set deadlines or goals for your business that are completely arbitrary, because you’re set them? There’s no one imposing them on you. You’ve set them, and then you become enslaved to your own thing, and you lose your freedom there.

Sandra Francisco:            Yes. I’ve had those moments where I’ve actually sat in my office late at night, and I’m like, “What am I doing? This is why I’m not working 16 hour days in corporate. This is not that important that I’m going to put my well being above it. I am the only one doing this to myself. Now there’s nobody else dictating this. What is going on?”, and I’ve had to have to those self checks as well, but we do. We get lost so easily, and sometimes we get lost in the actual enthusiasm and the purpose like, “I really want to get this out really quickly.” You have an idea for a product or a service, and you’re like, “Oh my gosh. I need to see it on the market next month,” and all of sudden you throw away your wellbeing and, “Forget my freedom. Forget spending time with my kids. I’ve got to get this done,” and you’ve got to keep coming back to some sort of check of, “Okay. What’s the overall purpose for this?”

We do tend to think that the time is that concept. It’s like, “Oh. I don’t have enough time. I’ve got to get this out,” but really what’s the difference if you take a month, and you feel like you’ve got to do it in a month, and if you do it over three to four, five, six months? If you do it with what I like to call the upper line, bottom line, of course we need to profit in our business. Otherwise, you’ve got an expensive hobby, but I like to also bring in the upper line, which is wellbeing. If you’re creating profit without wellbeing, at the end of the day, what do you really have? If you’re not well, unless that business is completely detached from you, the business is going to be impacted. Everybody around you is going to be impacted, so keep that balance of the upper line and the bottom line.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. So important. You help people grow their businesses as they grow themselves as people. There’s this intersection.

Sandra Francisco:            Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         Between personal growth and business growth. So, tell me a little bit about your clients. What business stage are they when they come to you, and what are the biggest problems or struggles they tend to have?

Sandra Francisco:            Up until, I would say, about three years ago, my clients were more further along, like more multi-million dollar clients that had bigger businesses, and not so much even online. A lot of my clients were established, what we call, offline businesses in beauty, construction, and wellness. Over the last three years, I’ve had just naturally a lot of clients come to me that wanted to start businesses. I even had clients that were coming to me working one-on-one, because I had only launched a group program last year.

They were taking out loans. They were selling property and things to be able to have a coach and to get started in the beginning, and it was kind of a surprise to me, because I thought, “Really? You’re going to invest up front? Okay, great. Let’s do this from the start.” I had been launching products, businesses, and services in one capacity or another for 20 years, so I love to do it. I was almost surprised that they were willing to spend that money in the beginning, but then I saw these people build these businesses over two years that were profitable and that had just expanded so fast, because they had the right system and the right help from the beginning.

I got excited and intoxicated with that, and I very much focused my business around helping new entrepreneurs now. It’s kind of like a joke, but I find that I’m almost birthing new businesses, like helping people birth their businesses into the world, which just has become my new purpose. We evolve in our purpose. So, for my clients now, what’s really the theme is that sometimes they come with a lot of ideas, and usually they have a job. Most of my clients don’t quit their job right away, and I don’t recommend that unless you’re at the end of your rope, but you can totally build a part-time business, and then move into a full-time business, and do that-

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. Start with a side hustle that you can prove there’s actually demand for right?

Sandra Francisco:            Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         And do all the research, all that kind of stuff while you still have income coming in and you still have a safety net. Do you think everybody has a business in them?

Sandra Francisco:            Not everybody, no. I know plenty of people that they look at my like I’m crazy and, “Oh gosh. Why would you take that risk. I would never be able to sleep at night.” Not everybody, but here’s the thing. If you have that desire, then it’s yours. Then, it’s unique to you. What I have is sometimes people calling me saying, “Should I be an entrepreneur. Am I meant to be? I really would love to. I love the idea of creating something, putting something out there into the world.”

Then, know that’s not by accident. That’s no mistake that you have that desire. That’s for you, and you can take action. You can do something about it, but if you’re sitting at your job happy to have a job, and the thought of a business just scares you or is not for you, you don’t need to force yourself into that. Everybody is different, so I don’t think everybody, but if you do, don’t sit with that desire and feel like, “Oh. I don’t qualify” or “There’s something wrong with me.”

I see that too with clients that come to me in the early stages. The biggest questions they have for me is, “Do I qualify. Can I be an entrepreneur?”, because they think that, “I have to be a risk taker. I have to be willing to live in my car to make this work,” because they see what’s out there in the media. They kind of take that impression. What I’ve come to see, and I’ve seen now these people build very profitable businesses quickly, and I would say the top three things is you want to make sure that you are okay with being comfortable in the uncomfortable. It’s going to be uncomfortable. Let’s just be honest.

Melinda Wittstock:         All change is uncomfortable. Change is inherently uncomfortable for most people. I think the minute you realize that’s the only thing you can take for granted, and just come to terms or come to peace with change, or find gratitude in change, it allows you … And I think whether you’re an entrepreneur or not, that’s a vital ingredient. It’s just coming to terms with that.

Sandra Francisco:            For sure. Then, being a lifelong learner. Being excited, curious, and wanting to keep learning. So, being comfortable in the uncomfortable, being a lifelong learner, and then being okay with asking, because coming from corporate, I know for me, we were told in our corporate culture it was very much that, “You should know everything, so figure it out. Ask quietly, but let’s not make a big deal that you didn’t know something.” Being an entrepreneur, for me, one of the biggest things was being okay with asking other people, asking other entrepreneurs, asking for help. That was very foreign to me, and I really believed that was a sign of weakness to ask for any kind of help.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh. So many people fall into that trap, but as an entrepreneur I aspire to be the dumbest person in the room. I mean, the reason I hire a team is so that they can do things that I can’t do, or they can tell me things that I don’t know. That presupposes that you don’t know everything nor should you. You’ve got to build a team that are going to be experts in the things that they do, but I think it’s particularly interesting for women, because women struggle to ask for help generally. We tend towards perfectionism, thinking we have to do everything perfectly ourselves… A hornet’s nest of limiting beliefs in there that kind of stop us from feeling like we can just ask a question, and we don’t have to know it all.

Sandra Francisco:            Yes. Yes. I think you have to be willing to learn that. Maybe it’s not something you’re comfortable with now. That’s okay. You still qualify as an entrepreneur, but it is something that you’ll have to learn to ask and be comfortable with, because you’re going to have to learn so many things. There’s only one way to learn, is to start asking.

Melinda Wittstock:         Absolutely right. I remember a long time ago in a different incarnation way back, I was a journalist on The London Times, age 22, and not from England obviously. Didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge. The only woman that had correspondent status, especially at a young age, and here I am in a foreign country. I remember being at a press conference as a financial correspondent. I remember just not understanding these financial terms. There was one particularly obscure one, and I was terrified to ask the question.

I finally worked up the nerve to ask the question, because I was thinking, “There’s no way I can write this story if I don’t even understand what I’m writing about. I’ve got to ask, right?” So, I asked the question thinking I was going to be so embarrassed. I was so mortified, but I piped up. I asked the question, and then I noticed that every other journalist in the room was scribbling down, because they didn’t understand either, but all of them too were these really seasoned, older, accomplished correspondents, were afraid to ask. They were journalists. It’s all about asking questions. That was such a huge epiphany that has guided me in my life.

Sandra Francisco:            I think it’s a fear of rejection. I think at the end of the day, it’s always like, “Oh my gosh. What could come of this, if somebody totally rejects me or says no?” I think you get over that with time. I think you just keep doing it. Just keep putting yourself out there. Keep asking. Sometimes people are going to be rude. That’s going to happen. Sometimes people are going to say, “No,” so as long as if you don’t take that as a final like, “Okay. I’m done asking, because somebody was rude or said no.” Just keep asking.

Melinda Wittstock:         So, you talk about the infinite return on investing in vulnerability. I think that’s a beautiful phrase, because vulnerability is often seen as a weakness, when in actual fact we can reframe that into a strength, because that’s where the learning happens. That’s where people show up to help you if you can show vulnerability. How do you help people, especially women, lean into that from a position of strength?

Sandra Francisco:            Yes. I believe that vulnerability is one of the greatest superpowers you can possess, and you’re right. Sometimes it’s a lot harder for women, because there’s the society belief that you’re already a woman. You don’t want to show up even weaker than what society has already deemed that you’re supposed to be.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yes. We bought it into the idea that somehow we’re already weak, because society has put us in that position over many, many decades, millennia, whatever, so we’re compensating.

Sandra Francisco:            Exactly, and that was my experience in corporate. That’s probably why I worked 16 hour days. I was always super prepared for every single meeting. I knew everything I needed to know, because being vulnerable was like the scariest thing in the world. I worked in a male dominated industry. It was 2 women and 200 men, so I just didn’t think I had even the … Never take that chance to be vulnerable. Again, remember, I was closing that shell of not feeling emotions, so it was something that I had to learn. I’ve come to see the power that comes from it and just the belief in myself. I just feel like I could do so much more.

Every time that I’m vulnerable, it’s like I just grab onto a ton of new courage, I put it in my courage bank, and I’m like, “Oh my gosh. I got though that. I did that. I can do anything.” It’s like this amazing feeling like, “I am a superhero.” Is there a magic combination or a magic strategy to do that? No. You know what it takes? In the beginning, you may actually have to go and take, what I like to say is the courage loan, because you’re going to be like, “Oh. If I look at my courage bank, and I really have built up my vulnerability, I haven’t done this before, I don’t even have enough courage in the bank to go and do this thing that I’ve got to do.”

I always say, “You know what? Take out a loan. You’re going to get it back infinitely so many times. Take out a courage loan if you need to,” and really what does it mean to be vulnerable? It means speaking your truth when it’s uncomfortable, when there is a high chance of rejection, there’s a high chance that people are going to either disagree, just give you those looks, or however they’re going to that you already perceive they’re going to react to what you have to say, but you know that it’s true for you. That’s when you’re like, “I could go into this meeting, and I could just let it go, nod my head, and say, ‘I agree with your train of thought. I agree with you,'” or you can step up and say, “Actually, this is my truth.”

Either it’s something you want to put up as you disagree with, this can be in relationships, or it can be in business, where you’re saying, “This is true for me, even though I already know it’s not widely accepted by you or it’s not going to be widely accepted by this group, by these people, or by this person. I’m very uncomfortable, and I’m taking a huge risk that you’re going to reject me, but I’m going to go into my courage bank. I’m going to take out a loan if I have to, and I’m going to speak my truth, and let it sit out there.” Every single time that I have done this, I have just came back to myself with this huge amount of return of feeling like, “Oh my gosh. I can do anything I want.” I mean, it’s fleeting. You don’t always feel like a superhero, but in those moments, I just feel like anything is possible. I can reach for the moon, because it just feels like if I could do this, then nothing could stop me.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s so powerful and so true. All your clients who come to you and they’re thinking of starting a business, and they maybe have an idea or maybe they don’t even have an idea, you help them at that very, very early stage. Tell us a little bit about your process and how you get them to the point where they are able to launch a business.

Sandra Francisco:            Yes. I have been launching projects, businesses, and services for over 20 years, so I’ve created actually a four-step system that is meant to get businesses out into the world in a profitable manner, which is Explore, Plan, Develop, and Launch. Now, many, many entrepreneurs are launching businesses and skipping one or more of those stages. What that will do is make it much more difficult to be profitable, and especially to be profitable and sustainable over the long run. That’s the system that I take my clients through wherever they come to me. I mean, a lot of my clients are fully launched in growth stage, and then we work on different strategies.

For the clients that come to me in that Explore phase, and they either come with a bunch of ideas, sometimes no idea, or a specific idea, but they haven’t really worked through it, then we spend quite a bit of time in that Explore phase. What that is, is the first thing I pick them up is brainstorming. If they don’t have any ideas, often the challenge there is that they feel a pressure, like they’ve got to come up with an idea. They have such a desire to start a business, and they put all this pressure that they’ve got to find that perfect idea, and then they can’t think of anything. So, the first thing is to give you some freedom to do some brainstorming. Then, I actually have them do some more of the intellect work, and kind of dig into, “What are your skills, experiences, and talents? List them out.”

I have them go to the people that they trust, ask those questions, and get at least a list of 50. I really push them to get at least 50, because unless they’re very young and in their early 20s, maybe they haven’t had that much experience, but we just take for granted so many things that we’ve done and our talents. 50 is not unreasonable. Every client has been able to get to 50. Then, we actually go and look at what is the market value for these skills, experience, and talent? Could you turn any of this into a product, service, or a business? What would the uptake be? Is there a market need? So, do some research around that, and then the next step is to actually in this stage look at the profit potential in the Explore stage, which a lot of people think, “Well, I don’t know anything. How would I even calculate my expenses and revenues?”

Yes, we’re just estimating, but you’re better off to estimate right in the Explore phase than to figure it out once you’ve launched, “Okay. What’s going to happen now?”, because that’s not the place where you want to know, “Oh. Is this business for me. Is it going to meet my goals? Am I going to get what I need from it?” We do that right in the Explore phase. Sometimes even when they come with that idea, and they’re like, “This is it. This is what I want to do?”, and we go through the profit potential, and also we look at lifestyle. What are you willing to commit to? What is it that you’re willing to do for this business? Do you have the time to just totally dedicate to it, or you’re looking at like, “I’m got a family. I’ve got a job, so I’ve got a few hours a day.”

We look at all those things up front, and then sometimes the idea that they first come with, they for themselves realize through this exercise that either that idea is not going to give them the outcome and the money that they were hoping for, or they look at the fact that, “Oh. This would require a different lifestyle. I’m not there right now.” It doesn’t mean, “Oh. I’m not an entrepreneur. I can’t start a business.” No. We look at another idea, and they learn something else that is on their list that they already have, a skill, a talent, or an experience that there’s a market uptake there. They create businesses that they love, and sometimes part time that turn into full time; Sometimes part time that they’ve been running. I’ve got clients that have been running a part-time business and have a full-time job for the last three years. These are multiple six-figure businesses, and they still have a job.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s such a great example, and especially when you weave in all the business fundamentals, like laying the right foundation, the right pacing, what people should be doing at different stages of their growth. What about your clients when they’re at that … I call it a very vulnerable growth stage? When they hit that moment where they’re growing super, super fast, and they can find themselves with cash flow problems or not capitalized correctly to meet that growth. How do you help people avoid that, or if they’re in that, how do you help them figure that one out?

Sandra Francisco:            The avoidance comes if they come to me from the beginning and we’re actually going through the stages, that won’t happen, because we will actually have that laid out and prepared. They’ll be ready. They would have already done that research and that work. They would know the uptake would be there, and at least it will be minimizing that crazy times.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, like having great systems in place, hiring enough people before you hit that demand.

Sandra Francisco:            You’ll see it coming, right? You’ll see it coming, and then you’ll be able to better be prepared for it, but I definitely can answer that question, because I worked with a client exactly in that situation very recently, where you would think it’s not a problem, right? You have this idea. You start a business, quickly growing over $50k, $60k a month. Very, very quickly. She was only 23 when this happened, so no business experience. Just had this amazing idea hit the market. It went really fast, and then it’s like, “Woah.” No manufacturer. Just trying to run a warehouse with a couple of people and working 18 hour days. Wellbeing was in the trash, right? So, definitely working through that at that stage, you still to do the same things. The same things you could have done beforehand in planning, you’ve got to do them now, but now you’ve got to do them while you’re trying to keep up, manufacture, and work 18 hour days.

Now you’ve got to hire very quickly, so you’ve got to take some time out from that craziness. You’ve got to actually do what no entrepreneur wants to do, kind of close the door a little bit, and say, “We’re out of stock for this product,” or this product, or this product, “Because we just can’t keep up,” and we’ve just got to slow the machine, the sale’s machine. Nobody wants to have to do this, but you need the time to be able to hire the people. You need to find a manufacturer in this case, depending what it is you’re producing. It’s kind of like you almost have to close the door a little bit to the front end sales to then create the system in place to then reopen the door, but it’s a very hard, even emotional, thing to do, because you’re like, “Oh my gosh, but I’m doing so well. There’s so much money coming in.”

But at the same time, when you look at the profit, even though there was so much money coming in every month, when we actually looked at the profit, because there’s so much money going out in spending when the spending was not well thought out, the expenses were not planned … So, it was just like, “Bring in a bandaid. Hire this person. Don’t even look at their skills, and just pay them what we need, because we need more people. Bring more people.” It’s like those kinds of harsh decisions that you’re making because things are just blowing up, they cost money, and they’re expensive. Although the revenue is so great coming in, once we did the profit ratios, that’s when I had her attention. That’s when she realized she was working 18 hour days, and she was making a salary as if she was working at a Superstore. She’s like, “Oh my.” The reality sits in.

Melinda Wittstock:         Know your numbers.

Sandra Francisco:            Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         Lesson number one. Know your numbers. This is something where so many entrepreneurs, and it’s not just women. It’s men too, just not really being on top of that, looking at top line revenue, not thinking about the profitability, and hiring people to do things rather than as an investment to drive results. It’s like every employee should be paying for themselves and more so. You hire someone. How is that person going to grow your business, right?

Sandra Francisco:            Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         How is that investment in that person profitable? It’s just a different way of framing it. I think once people start thinking more in that way, it becomes really obvious. It becomes quite simple, but a lot of these basics are missed.

Sandra Francisco:            Exactly. It’s the same thing I find with new entrepreneurs, that they want to spend all this money building a website. They’re like, “Oh. I’ve got to get a website,” and websites seem to have just increased in price more and more. Even when I look back 20 years ago, building a website was very affordable. Now when you look at, unless you’re doing it yourself, but if you’re looking at somebody to build a website for you, it can be very expensive. Some of the newer entrepreneurs usually come to me like, “Okay. I’ve looked at my expenses, and I’ve got to allocate $10k to $30k to build a website.”

I’m like, “You don’t even have a full cooked idea. If you’re going to spend $30k, you’re not going to spend it on your website as the very first thing, unless you’re doing e-commerce and that’s your main thing,” but we’re talking about people even running services that feel that they need this amazing $30,000 website. It’s like, “No.” If you run the numbers beforehand and you look at everything you really need, and put that all in there, you’d be able to see how long would it take for that to return. Would you get the same amount of traction by maybe spending $1,000 or $2,000 getting somebody to do a website that just gets you out there? So, these are some of the things that if you’re not willing to look at the numbers, you may make some decisions that will make it very hard for you to be profitable early on.

Melinda Wittstock:         So true. Sandra, so much value you’re providing on this interview, and thank you so much for that. I want to make sure that people can find you easier and work with you. What’s the best way?

Sandra Francisco:            The best way is actually go to my website. It’s sandraifrancisco.com. The “I” is actually from my middle name, Isabel. You wouldn’t believe how popular the Sandra Francisco name is. At least I was a little bit surprised, so that’s the best place to go. Right on the main page there, you will find a free course to get started in your business, even if you’re starting part time, so that will get you started. I’d also love to offer you a free strategy session if you’re an entrepreneur or you have that desire to be an entrepreneur. You could be confused. You could be frustrated. You could have that lack of confidence, not knowing what’s the next best step to take. Reach out. I know I can help you. I’ve got the experience to be able to help you, and it’s my purpose. It’s my privilege to help more and more entrepreneurs launch meaningful and profitable businesses out into the world.

Melinda Wittstock:         Lovely. Sandra, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today.

Sandra Francisco:            Thank you.

Sandra Francisco
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