Don’t get attached to the upswing. One of the best ways to get caught flat-footed is to be attached to holding on to it when things are going well. Of course, you do your best to keep the good times rolling, but when you begin to define yourself by your success, you’re at much greater emotional risk if the tide turns. If you instead define yourself by who you are and what your values are, you are able to more quickly respond to a downturn because it isn’t also threatening your sense of self.
Being a founder, entrepreneur, or business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelle Sparta.
Kelle Sparta, The Spirit Doctor, is a transformational shaman who runs The Sacred Power and Purpose Mystery School where she teaches everything from inner peace to how to use energy to make your business easier. She pulls her expertise from the extraordinary life she has led including learning metaphysics and personal growth as a child, going on walkabout, creating multiple businesses, being a national speaker, author, and trainer, being the host of the popular podcast: Spirit Sherpa, and being a psychic, medium, channel, empath and energy healer.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’m not sure I ever “got started”, since that would imply there was a time I wasn’t doing this. My mother says I was talking to ghosts in my crib. She raised me in the New Age movement, so I learned to do self-hypnosis by the time I was 10, and I was reading tarot cards by the time I was 12. I studied religion, occult, and metaphysics in my spare time growing up. And there was always self-help audio playing somewhere in the house. As for the coaching part of my work, well some of my high school yearbook signatures read like my client testimonials today. So this isn’t what I do, it’s who I am.
After college, I got married and ultimately moved to CT where I set up a real estate practice. I was a top producing agent and a trainer state-wide. I was on the Board of Realtors locally and at the State level. I was even President of my local Habitat for Humanity affiliate. And, at the height of my American Dream, I took a look at my life and realized that I hated it. My husband and I had been in a cold war for years, I was burned out on selling real estate, the work at the affiliate was draining me, and I didn’t even like what I was doing for the little social time I had. I wanted OUT of the life I had created. And so I tore the walls down. A friend said I went off and joined the circus — and he was right.
I divorced my husband, sold my house and my business, and moved out of state to live with a bunch of people I met at a Renaissance Faire. I spent the next 4 years in a spiritual deep dive, studying ritual and energy healing, and earth-based spiritual practices. The people I lived with and I were all each others’ healers and teachers.
When that work was complete, I tried to move to an apartment of my own, but the universe had other ideas. I couldn’t get a landlord to take me. I ended up living as an itinerant priestess sleeping at a different student’s house each night for about 6 months. About halfway through this time, I decided that paying 100 dollars/mo to store stuff wasn’t a great idea when I didn’t know when I would be able to land again. So I scheduled a give-away at my storage unit. A few days later, I was reading a book in a friend’s house and it said “Before his initiation, the apprentice shaman will give away everything he owns.” That was my first hint of what was to come.
I would leave a few months later for a festival that would be the first stop on what would become another six months of traveling all over the country on walkabout (spiritual pilgrimage) living on 350 dollars/month of unemployment insurance and the kindness of strangers. (This is a VERY shortened version of this story — the complete story is on my blog.) On this journey, I would begin writing the materials that would ultimately become the course I teach today.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I wish I could say there was an Aha Moment, but it was really a series of micro-adjustments over time. The students that I stayed with at the beginning of my walkabout journey had come to me individually over a couple of years and asked me to teach them. When I was ready to teach, I reached out and started a weekly circle. That was probably the beginning. After my walkabout, I started off doing one-on-one coaching work. Then I was teaching classes around the country with my friend and business partner, Kathy Scheiern. Then I ran retreats, then an online course, then an online course with supporting retreats. I’ve worked almost 20 years to get to where I am today. It’s been an evolution and it had to be. When I started, there was no such thing as online learning. In fact, in 2005, I had a custom-built online learning platform created for my company because there wasn’t one in existence. The company I run today couldn’t exist without video chat and online learning and chat platforms. You have to evolve and when you can’t find what you need, you have to build it.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I think I am a natural entrepreneur in the sense that I’ve always been driven to succeed and I’ve always been willing to take risks to get rewards. Learning how to run a business was a process — and still is — I never stop learning. Being an entrepreneur means that you have to be willing to throw your ass to the wind and adjust the course as you go. You can research all you want, but all your plans will change the moment you take action and get feedback. It takes persistence, resilience, a little bit of recklessness, and a willingness to live in the unknown.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
My mother started a home health care agency when I was 13. I helped by programming the computers for her. (At the time, this meant, I was punching and numbering the punch cards that programmed the computer — yeah, I’m that old.) I saw how she struggled with the business which ultimately failed and I didn’t want to have to experience that again, so I started studying millionaires and how they made their fortunes. Fun fact, the average millionaire declares bankruptcy twice before making their millions.
Then in college, my supervisor opened a payroll company when the accounting firm we worked for decided to stop doing payroll. I was her second in command and she was rarely around, so I started taking business classes to keep up with my new position. I learned a lot there too.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The first thing that sets us apart is that depending on the class you take, we are marrying personal growth and energy work or personal growth, energy work, and business. These are topics that usually aren’t taught together, but it is important to do so because it is at the intersection of personal growth and energy work that transformation takes place.
In our first 4-month program, we work on establishing the emotional safety it takes to really be able to do inner work. (After all, change requires leaving your comfort zone and if you don’t feel safe, you will defend against leaving your comfort zone.)
At the beginning of this journey, our students write a self-assessment. They repeat this exercise at the end and then they are asked to compare the new assessment against the old. One student called me after she did this and asked “does everyone have a big shift in this course?” I told her that generally, yes, that was the case, and asked why she had asked. She said “I just read my first self-assessment and I know I didn’t exaggerate or say anything that wasn’t true, but I honestly don’t recognize the person who wrote it. I can’t even imagine thinking that way anymore.”
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
A Mindset of Constant Learning: I’m a big fan of figuring things out, but I have to say life is easier when you can learn it from someone else. I have read so many books and taken so many classes, I can’t even remember them all now. If you take a course and you learn even one new thing that you can apply to your business, you’ve made your money back on that course 10 times over. Profit First by Michael Michaelowitz was a great example of this for me. I had studied a lot about business, but I had never learned how to properly budget or manage my business’s books. As such, I was always behind the 8-ball on taxes and using credit cards to manage cash flow issues. After I implemented the contents of this book, my taxes are always on time and my business is able to handle cash flow issues with the reserves it has on hand.
Realistic Optimism — You have to believe that it’s all going to work out in your favor, otherwise when things get hard (and they always do), you’ll quit. But you also have to ground that in realism — you can’t just be pie in the sky with your thinking all the time. I’ve seen way too many entrepreneurs blow through massive amounts of capital chasing instant success. The fact is, success takes consistent hard work. Instant success is about as common as miracles.
Follow Up and Follow Through — This is the least sexy but most profitable one. When you follow up on sales calls that didn’t close the first time, you’ll often double or triple your closing rates. I used to train real estate agents and this was the one thing that I bugged them about most often. When an agent complained that they didn’t have any business, I would walk them over to their desk and look for the leads they wrote down on a slip of paper or a post-it note and insist they call all of them. By the end of the day, they’d have several active leads ready for appointments. They thought they didn’t have any leads, but they had a lot — they just weren’t following up.
And when you follow through on what you promise to your clients, you’ll get tons of referrals — again a nice revenue bump. These two things are the difference between business owners who get by and those who do well.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
A friend of mine suggested that I make videos to sell. She said she knew a great person to work with on it. She connected me with a videographer with a studio who she said was awesome. Because my friend vouched for him, I assumed she knew him and his reputation. I was wrong. He took my money and delivered really poor quality products which I never sold because I didn’t want to put my name on them.
Lesson learned: no matter who refers you, do your due diligence before spending a dime.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
- Pay people well, praise them often, assume most mistakes are a training issue that you failed to train on. This creates a culture of trust and support.
- Provide clear expectations and clear boundaries — a.k.a. “I may message you late at night because I suddenly remembered something I needed, but you are not to answer me until business hours.” This makes you safe to work for.
- Only hire people you like (you’re going to be spending a lot of time with them). This avoids the red-headed step-child issues that can split teams.
- Put yourself in your employees’ and contractors’ shoes and ask yourself “would I work for me?” If the answer is no, then you need to make changes. This keeps your compassion high and keeps you realistic about what can and can’t be done.
- And watch for signs of burnout (mistakes, work slow-down, irritability), and instead of getting upset, give them a day off and a certificate to a day spa.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Don’t be stingy with your knowledge. If you are knowledgeable enough to be an expert, then you know A LOT. Don’t tease people and then say they have to hire you to find out the answer. Give them something that a motivated person could actually use and be successful with. (Most people won’t use it, but they will think that if that’s what you give away, how great is the paid stuff?)
Be transparent — don’t try to be perfect. Talk about your mistakes and your flaws. This makes you human to your readers/listeners and it makes them believe that they might actually be able to be you one day. It’s also exhausting to try to be perfect all the time.
Admit when you make a mistake. Nothing destroys trust faster than denying it when you mess up. Everyone is human and only people who are completely unreasonable will expect you to be perfect all the time. Admitting you are wrong eliminates them from your prospect pool and that’s a great service.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Authenticity is king right now. In the last five years or so, it has become a requirement. Being transparent, taking responsibility for your comments and actions, and giving value in exchange for people’s time, are all part of the authenticity package.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Spending money to feel successful. They rent expensive offices, buy equipment they won’t need for a few years, all in an effort to look the part. The worst advice ever was “fake it until you make it”. It has really sent a lot of people in the wrong direction. Seasoned business owners know that a startup should be running very lean. Use cheap office space (or working from home is even better if you can) with only required equipment — preferably leased or refurbished, etc. The first question you should ask yourself before making a purchase as a startup is “how can I do without this?” If you can come up with an answer and it doesn’t make stupid amounts of extra work, then you should skip buying it. This is especially true when working with someone else’s (investor) money. If you squander what you’re given, then no one is going to give you more.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
Money is the key factor to this question. Someone with a “regular job” doesn’t have to worry about having enough money to pay the bills, to pay the staff, and to have some leftover to pay yourself. This is a regular issue for an entrepreneur. I remember years ago, I was talking to my roommate at the beginning of the month and saying I wasn’t sure where I was going to get the money to pay for everything that month. I had just looked at my finances and I didn’t have enough coming in. She looked at me and said “are you aware that we have this conversation every month at this time?” I told her I wasn’t. She said, “well we do. And at the end of every month, you look back and tell me how well you did. Maybe you should just stop worrying about it.” And I did. Best decision I ever made. Took my stress levels down dramatically.
The other reason I think this is true is that as entrepreneurs we get bored. “Everything is going well! Awesome…. now what?” And this is when we get dangerous. It’s at this moment when we decide to launch a new product or change software platforms or upgrade our back-office systems and now we are crushed with a new workload and have a bunch of things to keep us busy. Do yourself a favor: get a hobby. Go on vacation. If you can’t get behind that, have a sane person (not an entrepreneur) in your company who gets to review and approve all these wild decisions or you will burn out yourself and your staff.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
I remember the first time I picked up the phone and said “Kelle Sparta Enterprises, this is Kelle” and there was silence on the other end of the line for a beat and then the person said “Kelle? Kelle Sparta? THE Kelle Sparta?” It was surreal. Think about having someone put THE in front of your name and suddenly be all excited that they got to talk to you. It’s disorienting, but it’s also a bit of a high.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
I had just spent 18 months building a new company that sold real estate-related products to Realtors. I had figured out how to sell online. I had designed packaging. I had a fulfillment center to ship out my products. I had launched a successful podcast. I had affiliates, and I had a book deal. I was flying. I had built a business in which I was working 10 hours a week and making 6 figures. And then the real estate market crashed — hard. In the same amount of time, it took to build the business, it was gone. I had to pivot to a completely new industry and all the work I had done was lost. I couldn’t even port over the products.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
What I didn’t do was spend a lot of time licking my wounds. The older I get the more important this is — because my reserves of energy to start over have diminished over time. I looked back only to learn how to make the future better. I didn’t wallow in what I lost or what “could have been”. There’s no joy and no forward movement in that. I learned from my mistakes and moved on. The next business I built was more flexible and could work in a variety of environments — so no matter what happened to the market, I could pivot and not lose a lot of ground.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Believe in yourself and your ability to both whether the storm and to figure out what to do along the way. The only constant in life changes, so when things are down, I know it will be temporary. I have built up a litany of stories that remind me of how adaptable I am, what a survivor I am, and how I never let anything keep me down. I will FIND A WAY — no matter what.
- Willingness to regularly leave your comfort zone. When things aren’t going well, it’s uncomfortable — really uncomfortable. And to deal with it, you’re probably going to have to do things you haven’t done before which will cause more discomfort. In fact, being an entrepreneur is about living in a constant state of discomfort if I’m really honest. Getting comfortable with your discomfort makes it easier to navigate.
- Build a GO ME Box. Everyone has down days, so I’ve built a box filled with good things about me and my business. When I’m having a day where I lost two sales and no one is calling me back, I go to my GO ME Box. I read all of my testimonials, and thank you notes, and positive reviews. By the time I get to the end, I feel better and I can start my day over with a better attitude.
- Don’t get attached to the upswing. One of the best ways to get caught flat-footed is to be attached to holding on to it when things are going well. Of course, you do your best to keep the good times rolling, but when you begin to define yourself by your success, you’re at much greater emotional risk if the tide turns. If you instead define yourself by who you are and what your values are, you are able to more quickly respond to a downturn because it isn’t also threatening your sense of self.
- Uplevel your closest connections. Your income is the average of the 10 people you spend the most time with. This means that you need to consciously curate your friends. The mindset they live by is key. People who live in poverty mindsets are going to have struggling businesses. You want to see how the people think who are ahead of you. It’s stunning the differences that can be seen in just this one aspect. Spend time with the people whose mindsets have brought them success and strive to understand and adopt those mindsets.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is the ability to get up when you’ve fallen or been knocked down. It’s not feeling sorry for yourself. It’s not spending time on negative self-judgment. It’s recognizing that we all fall down sometimes and failure only happens when you refuse to get back up.
Resilient people are inherently optimists — expecting that things will get better if they can just find a different path. They focus on the goal rather than the obstacle and therefore they see obstacles as something to be avoided or navigated around rather than something that can’t be overcome. They’ve got endurance and they’ve defined themselves as people who get things done. They rally when everyone else is flagging. They are creators who recognize that part of creation is experimentation and destruction and they don’t sweat it when things occasionally go South.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
My mother was military, so I was never in one school for more than two years growing up. Being the new kid in school with coke-bottle glasses and not-cool clothes, I was not exactly popular. I had to learn how to make friends quickly and how to let those friends go when we moved on. Eventually, I started using each move as a way to try on a different personality — be someone new — let go of personality traits I’d had that wasn’t working for me. All of these experiences forced me to become more resilient.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Absolutely. I am a problem solver and I know that you can’t find a solution if you’re convinced it doesn’t exist. I assume there is an answer and then I go looking for it. I know that my ability to think creatively and to reach out in ways that others might not eventually yield a result. I am dogged in pursuit of the solution. If I can focus on the solution, I won’t have time to wallow in the problem. It’s really a self-preservation tool for me. When I wallowed in the past, I could get stuck for days and it sapped my energy. This approach foregoes all of that pain and angst.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
As the leader, we set the tone. When you are desperate for business, you’re not attractive in the same way that dating someone who is desperate isn’t attractive. Desperation is repulsive — no one wants to be near it. But when you are welcoming, business comes to you easily. Everyone wants to feel wanted and valued. When you are stressed, you’ll take it out on your staff who will then be stressed, and take it out on the customers and your business will go down. When you’re in a good mood and you share that with your staff, they will feel valued and they, in turn, will value your clients and business will go up.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
“Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” — Mame Dennis from the book and movie Auntie Mame.
I come back to this quote over and over again in my life. It started when my American Dream turned out to be a life I didn’t want at all. And after tearing that life apart, I held this quote firmly in my mind each time I created a new iteration of my perfect life that was closer, but not quite right. Each time, I gave up “good enough” to build “fantastic”. And I’m still at it. I am no longer the starving sucker from the quote. I am now eating at a nice table with a tasty and abundant meal, but I am still reaching for the fullness of the banquet. At this point, that’s making small shifts in the right directions instead of ripping apart large swaths of my life over and over. But if I had to rip out a chunk again, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I know what I want — a life of passion and opportunities — and I’m willing to do what it takes to get there.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!