As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Suzanne Evans. Suzanne went from secretary to a 7 million dollar business owner in record time. Her company, Driven Inc, has been on the Inc 500/5000 list of fasting growing companies for 5 straight years. Her NY Times Best Selling book, “The Way You Do Anything is the Way You Do Everything”, set hundreds of thousands of business owners on their fast path to success. Suzanne has grown her brand from humble beginnings inside a 350 square foot Manhattan apartment to a sprawling office where she works with clients around the world. She currently lives with her family in Chapel Hill, NC.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Iwas working full-time, I was broke (the “it would take me over 20 years to pay off my debt kind of broke” — yikes!) and most importantly, I knew I was capable of so much more. I have always loved to help people. I have a knack for tuning into a person’s emotions and working to solve their problems. Coaching was a natural fit for me. Things skyrocketed once I learned how to make money doing what I love: helping people.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
I wasted so much time trying to be who I thought I was supposed to be rather than being my true authentic self. I was reading books and taking courses learning as much as I could. I was empowered by all that knowledge, but my wheels were still spinning. I was replicating and not being creative. I was not engaging the most powerful part of my business, my authentic self. Trust me, save time and make money by being yourself — don’t worry about being who you “think” you should be.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
Failing. I knew that what I did was not always going to work out, but I was always willing to do my best and see what happens. I had to come to terms with being ok to fail. I work with hundreds of bright business owners who are afraid to fail. When you are caught in this mindset you aren’t taking risks and opening up yourself to new opportunities. Fail a little- it’s ok! It’s the only way you will learn what works and what doesn’t.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
1- Your goal is to be the last one standing — make yourself the expert in your field. Make people want to do business with you because they know you are the best.
2- Hustle. Hustle. Hustle. — There are going to be times that you want to walk away. You are stronger than you think. Take a breath and get back at the grind.
3- You have to have guts. — You have to find a way to make things work, even if that means sacrificing. Success only comes to those who put themselves out there.
4- Make your own movement — I hate networking. However, I do understand it’s value. When you start your movement you are curating a group of like-minded and driven individuals. Once you find your tribe it’s easier to land lasting and lucrative connections.
5- Your authentic self sells — Like I said before, don’t get wrapped up in being who others think you should be. Be yourself, be confident in what you say and follow-up in your actions. People want to do business with someone who knows who they are.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Focus on doing one thing at a time. Productivity is not about bulldozing through your day, it is about getting things right and doing your best. If you do one thing and do it well, that’s a win! Check it off your list and move on to your next win. Success is a journey and can take time. If you are getting things done, even if it is one action at a time, you are moving forward.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My dad always wanted me to do things he was never able to do as a child. He grew up a farmer in rural North Carolina and did not get to experience much. He wanted more for me. So we expanded our worlds together. He was right by my side as I learned how to tap dance, sing opera and water ski. (Yes, at one point I was a professional water skier!). With him in my corner, I was always up to learn a new skill and try my best!
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
After 10 years in business, I am still always finding ways to keep it fresh and reinvent myself and my company. This year, I launched a podcast called Serious Business! I have been wanting to do this forever and now it’s in motion and I could not be happier! Now personally, I am blessed with an amazing family, together we travel and experience the world. This is all possible because of the successful business I have built through my personality, business wit and ongoing hard work.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
I have already created so many success stories through my clients. Their ongoing success is my legacy. This journey started with me fumbling and correcting along the way. Through my experience, I have helped other business owners to forge their own success strories. To me it’s more than just a small business, it’s someone willing to give it all up to support their dream and family. That’s huge and it happens every day through my team.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
Celebrate each win. It sounds simple, but we get so wrapped up in what is not working that we don’t celebrate what is working! Whether it’s a successful sale or another follower on Instagram, take a moment to pat yourself on the back (but not for too long) you have to get back at it and go for that next win!
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