That actually what’s in your head can actually stop you from making money. I am a complete skeptic of anything too mindset-focused, but when it comes to how you have thought about money in the past, there’s no doubt that this can have an effect. Because I grew up in poverty, I definitely had an issue around believing that people where I come from made money and it stopped me from taking action. I was the same when it came to how I thought about wealthy people. Where I grew up, if a nice car came past, the people in my world would make fun of the ‘show off’ in the car. I ultimately believed rich people to be bad people and it stopped me from becoming rich for a long time. I had to work hard on my mindset to get to where I am.
As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Johnson.
She is a self-made multi-millionaire business strategist specializing in helping entrepreneurs scale their businesses using passive income from memberships and courses. During the pandemic Lisa had a £1.7m launch as well as several others from £60k to £300k.
After a tough childhood spent in social housing, Lisa went on to have successful careers in law, banking and the entertainment industry. Her background in overcoming obstacles has helped mold her into a bold, straight talking coach, who is never afraid to be an authentic and outspoken truth teller.
Lisa is a huge believer that everyone can become a success no matter their background and is known for her anti-bullying campaigning online.
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?
My whole childhood was difficult because I was bullied for living in poverty. At the age of 16 after a particularly bad incident of bullying, I ended up quitting education altogether and trying, instead, to get a job. I started in office junior jobs and worked my way up. I eventually decided to get a law degree remotely whilst working full time and spent 4 years studying every evening after work. It was worth it — I got my degree and found my self-worth after years of not feeling like I could do anything worthwhile (and being told I couldn’t!).
I then worked my way up the corporate ladder and eventually became an analyst in an investment bank in London. Things were going ok until I found myself pregnant with twins. I went back to work when they were 5 months old but I was going through a divorce too and it just wasn’t working. I decided to quit the job I’d worked so hard for in order to be able to bring up my children. I went back to being an assistant in an office at a 5th of the salary so I could be near the twins. In that first year I was so bored at work I decided to start a business on the side despite knowing nothing about business. I started a wedding planning business, made every mistake in the book, and at the end of the first year I was 30k dollars in debt. I knew I could do it better so I went on a mission to learn everything about business. Six months later I had turned the business around and it became known as the biggest urban wedding planning company in the UK. People started asking me for help with their businesses and so 4 years ago I started my consulting business. This time I knew about business from all the mistakes I’d made and it was successful. After the first year I had made over 250k dollars, but I was burned out. That’s when I learned all about semi passive income and it changed everything. A year later I was working a third of the hours and was well over 1m dollars in revenue.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I forgot to pick my twins up from school. I received a phone call one day to say I was 15 minutes late. I had been so busy with 1–1 clients that I had simply forgot. That was a real wake up call for me. I decided from that moment that I was never trading time for money again and would find a different way. Once I realized I could sell my knowledge through courses and memberships, I knew that was the way for me. I started to teach others about audience building online, launching and everything that comes with it and I soon became known as the go-to person for all things passive income.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
There were so many times I nearly gave up! I talk about integrity a lot in the online industry because there are so many parts of the online world that are unethical and out of integrity. Because I’m vocal about it, I get a lot of harassment online from others who don’t like me calling it out. In my second year in business it got so bad that I wanted to stop and never go online again. It reminded me too much of when I was bulled as a child. However, someone told me once — if you don’t like how something is being done, you have to be the change. So it was too important to me not to continue and show that you can have integrity AND make money. In October I did a 2M dollars launch whilst telling people not to book onto it if it meant getting into debt or if they weren’t ready yet. If I can show this, it will have a ripple effect and that’s how changes are made!
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Resilience is so needed when you’re in business. Every time I wanted to stop, I’d remember people telling me I would amount to nothing. Every time I was scared, I’d want to do it anyway to prove a point! I used my adversity to scale my success and that’s the title of my Tedx talk I’m giving in March.
Now my business brings in over 3m dollars of sales a year, I’ve taken on a tiny team including my sister and husband, and we’re having fun!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think the biggest thing is that I keep it real. Right from the beginning, I wanted to show the truth about things. I saw all of these coaches with flashy cars, tiny bodies in bikinis and private jets and wanted to show that actually you can be a normal person looking after your kids and making bad choices and still make a hell of a lot of money! So I decided to be open. In the first year of my consulting business I lost 27k dollars to a Facebook ads manager. Even though everyone told me not to talk about it to my audience, I decided to. I wanted them to see that business had its bad sides! It allowed me to gain a level of trust my audience wouldn’t have given me if I just kept pretending everything is perfect. I’m now known for my honesty. I’m all about organic reach too. After that incident I didn’t spend money on ads until I’d hit 7 figures in revenue.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
In my first year I was invited to do a presentation in front of 100 women at a conference for entrepreneurs. I had done a few of these presentations before, as I was quickly learning that I was being invited to speak based on my focused approaches to business, and some of the characteristics I had that made me different from other speakers. I liked to start out my presentations with poking a bit of fun at different types of approaches and business models, which had always gone down well, even with those who in fact led their business with those approaches. But this time, nobody laughed at my jokes! I got glared at. I found out afterwards that even though the event was promoted as a very strategic business conference for women, what they hadn’t told me is that it was only for people who taught the very topic I had chosen to poke fun at. From then on I did better due diligence on events, who I was speaking to, and how my jokes would go over with that specific audience!
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?
I was told constantly at the beginning of my business that I must do 1–1 first. Every coach I had said it. But it meant I hit an income ceiling really quickly because there are only so many hours in a day! I realized very quickly that there’s no reason to do 1–1 first if it’s not the right business model for you and the life you want! I switched to one to many very quickly.
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?
Resilience — There are so many times that you need to just get back up again! Things won’t always work out. If you are the kind of person that doesn’t like to learn from failure, it’s going to be tricky! Every time I’ve failed, I’ve learned from the failure and picked myself up to do it again and again until it has worked. This is true from things I’ve launched in my business to trying to get PR. You just have to keep trying!
Patience — The online world would have you believe that if you don’t make 6 figures in the first month you’re doing something wrong, but so much is about patience. In the first year I started a Facebook group to nurture and give value to potential clients. It was like tumbleweeds and crickets in there for a while until new people found out about me. It took so much patience not to just quit talking to myself, but then after a few months the consistency paid off. All I did in that first 6 months of my business was go live on Facebook in a group. In month 6 that group made me 100k dollars. Patience pays off.
Curiosity — I think one of the things that have made me successful is not just following the way others do things. I’m really curious. I’m always thinking ‘but what would happen if I did the opposite?’ This has allowed me to find new ways of doing things. We were always launching programs in our Facebook group because there were so many members in there, but so many people’s notifications were turned off. So I said ‘what about if we started a pop up group just for the launch but let nobody in until the night before so that Facebook has no time to meddle?!’ It was something I was just curious if it could work, but it doubled our launch figures. I think being the kind of person that wants to test and try things is a good thing!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Stop trying to make everything perfect. I see so much of this. People spending 6 months writing beautiful course materials and professional videos before they’ve even made money. People just want the knowledge — stop prettifying it all. Get it out there and make the money then you can outsource making it look good to someone else and get your time back!
Outsource way before you can afford to — especially things you hate doing. If you hate it, that one thing could potentially take you all day, but could take someone else an hour.
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?
The biggest mistake I see is spending too much time on the things that don’t actually matter too much. Don’t spend 5k dollars on branding before you’ve sold anything! I had no website for over a year and it didn’t make a jot of difference. Don’t get sucked into ‘networking’ on social media with the same people while telling yourself it’s a productive business thing to do. What you’re really doing is avoiding selling by doing all the things you think of as fun! It’s only once you start selling things that a business becomes a business.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
The every day things! It’s not all the sexy things that you see on social media that make a business profitable; it’s the unsexy everyday things. Things like picking up a phone to a potential client or writing a piece of killer content! People definitely underestimate the planning of what is going to happen and when and who is going to do it.
There is an element of being able to ‘wing it’ at the beginning but you’ll only really scale once time is taken to plan a strategy. I know it’s not the fun bit like doing an Instagram reel but it’s needed!
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- That you can choose your business model. There is more than one way to make money and I spent so much time growing a business I didn’t really like because I thought it had to be done that way. Work out the life you want for yourself first and choose a business model that works for that life. I like to travel a lot and have freedom so a 1–1 business model simply doesn’t work for me like courses and memberships do.
- That being yourself will actually bring you a better, more successful business. When I started, everyone seemed to look the same online, eating quinoa salad while doing yoga on the beach. I thought that I wouldn’t succeed if I wasn’t like them, but actually people will resonate with you that are a bit like you! So be more you in everything you do online and off — don’t become a second rate version of someone else.
- That not everyone has to like you. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn because we all want everyone to like us and so we feel we should please all potential clients, but actually it’s more beneficial to repel those that you won’t enjoy working with anyway. I am really real on my Instagram stories and show everything. Last month I got a bit tipsy while on holiday on Instagram stories. Within a 5-minute period the next day one person called me unprofessional and another signed up to work with me because she felt at least she’d found someone she can relate to!
- That actually what’s in your head can actually stop you from making money. I am a complete skeptic of anything too mindset-focused, but when it comes to how you have thought about money in the past, there’s no doubt that this can have an effect. Because I grew up in poverty, I definitely had an issue around believing that people where I come from made money and it stopped me from taking action. I was the same when it came to how I thought about wealthy people. Where I grew up, if a nice car came past, the people in my world would make fun of the ‘show off’ in the car. I ultimately believed rich people to be bad people and it stopped me from becoming rich for a long time. I had to work hard on my mindset to get to where I am.
- To enjoy the journey rather than the target. I used to be all about ‘when I hit 6 figures’, ‘when I’m published in Forbes’, ‘when I get a Tedx’. What I realize looking back over the last few years is there will always be something else you want, so don’t let that be the only thing. The bits I remember that were amazing were on the way to those things, not when I got there! If you don’t really like the day-to-day journey of getting to those goals, you’ll give up too quick.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to start a movement where we show that people with integrity and that are values-driven can still win. This myth that you have to be ruthless to get ahead, con people or be unethical is just that — a myth that too many people believe. Imagine what the business world would be like if we did things the right way. I’m already starting this movement and I really do think there are a lot of people out there that want to know that this can happen. Where ‘community over competition’ means something rather than ‘community over competition until the competition actually comes along!’ When we start being able to sell without shaming people for wanting to speak to their partners, without telling them their business will fail without us, without scaremongering marketing tactics and without putting morals over money, then this online business world will be a great place to be!
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!