Set goals for your life and keep those goals front of mind. For me, this helps me get up when I am down. After leaving my six figure prestigious job, I knew I needed to rebuild my business in order to create a work life balance that would allow me to spend more time with my daughter.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy Barlin, founder and CEO of About Profit.
As an author, professional speaker and business owner, Wendy Barlin is so much more than an accountant. Her expertise is advising people to better manage their money with easy to understand and implement financial strategies.
Wendy is committed to her clients’ success. Whether analyzing cash flow or projecting income taxes, she ensures that all financial decisions lead to achieving her client’s life goals.
A native of Cape Town, South Africa, Wendy fell in love with the sparkle of the City of Angels while backpacking around the world in her 20s, in search of her dreams.
Wendy is a frequent speaker at conferences and association meetings, is a member of the California Society of CPA’s and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and can also often be seen as an expert on ABC7 News, CBSN Los Angeles and in many written publications across the United States.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. I was the first in my family to finish college. After getting my Chartered Accounting license, I packed a bag and went backpacking around the world for a year. I landed in Los Angeles and fell in love with the excitement and possibilities in this city that I grew up seeing only on TV. Walking down Rodeo Drive felt surreal. As luck would have it, a friend in Sydney, Australia had given me a letter to deliver to her friend in Los Angeles. I called her and after chatting for a while, I said how lucky she was to live in this city. She asked what work I did and I said I was an accountant. Well imagine my surprise when she kindly made a few calls for me and I had 3 interviews in 3 days. I took a bus to Ross Dress for Less to buy myself appropriate interview clothes. Within a week I was offered a job. I called home and told my parents I was staying in Los Angeles. Can you imagine their reaction? All they knew about LA was what they had seen on TV, not always flattering news.
So I found a furnished room to rent and set about LA living! Today, twenty three years later, I have been married and divorced, bought and sold property and businesses and learned to navigate the American financial and tax systems. I still feel very blessed to be here!
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
In 2010, I had been running my own tax business for three years, I was a single mom with a 3 year old toddler and I was tired and burnt out. I decided to sell my business and take a job with regular hours, a regular paycheck and benefits. I was actually pretty excited as the company I was going to work for was a prestigious business management firm in Beverly Hills. So every day I got all dressed up, dropped my daughter at pre school and headed into traffic for the better part of an hour. After two weeks, the novelty of the security of a job had worn off and I was miserable. I did not like having a boss, being told what to do and when to do it and the worst part was working with clients who I did not like or respect. Two weeks! I stuck it out for a whole year (I am not a quitter) before leaving to restart my business. I learned several things from this experience that I often share with my clients who reach a burnout point. One, take care of yourself first. Two, we are not all built to be employees just as we are not all built to be business owners. Know who you are, what you want and stick to that. Don’t get fooled into following the shiny object.
What do you think makes your company/brand stand out? Can you share a story?
We are a subscription based blend of coach, consultant and tax preparers. Our focus is not just preparing a tax return once a year. Instead, we focus on meeting with clients throughout the year, working closely with them to create profitable and responsible businesses that give them joy and support their lifestyle choices. Clients come to us for tax help and then are thrilled when they realize we help with so much more. One of my favorite clients is a digital production company based in Virginia that came to us for tax advice. At the time they were at break even and loaded up with bank and credit card debt. Now, two years later, we have helped them extinguish their debt and turn profitable. This is our “why” as now their children enjoy time with parents who are not constantly stressed and emotionally unavailable.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
At the first accounting firm I worked at in Los Angeles, I met a couple who had moved to California from Canada. I worked with them to build their US based business and manage the cross border issues. When I left that firm and took another job, they came with me because of the trusted relationship we had built. They are still clients today but more than that, they became my family. I had no family here in Los Angeles. Harold and Erica supported me through my career choices, my divorce, raising my children and now reviewing my books before I publish them. I am ever grateful for their guidance and support.
Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience?
Resilience for me is getting up when you are down. Never giving up.
What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I believe resilient people are optimists. We can see the sunshine through the clouds. We are also tenacious and do not give up. We believe we can.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Nelson Mandela. I grew up in South Africa during Apartheid and then when Nelson Mandela was released from prison and became President. He showed us real resilience. He spent 25 years in prison and came out positive and optimistic and took the helm and never looked back.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
Yes! When I was in college in Cape Town, I used to dream about coming to live in America and my friends would laugh at me. During those times South Africa was closed off from the rest of the world, especially from the US. I never gave up. It was my dream.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
In 2005, my husband and I sold everything. My business, our home, our cars and we packed up and moved to his small home town in southwestern Michigan near the Indiana border. We bought a blue collar bar and a home on the lake. I was excited for this new start. Sadly, after nine months, it all fell apart. The bar owner’s life was much harder than we imagined. I felt very alone. The final straw for me was when I found out that my husband had an affair with a bar patron. I packed my things and headed back to Los Angeles. I had to start all over again and rebuild my life. And rebuild my life I did. I rebuilt my business, I remarried and now have a wonderful husband, two healthy children and a dog.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
My top 5 steps for being more resilient are:
- Set goals for your life and keep those goals front of mind. For me, this helps me get up when I am down. After leaving my six figure prestigious job, I knew I needed to rebuild my business in order to create a work life balance that would allow me to spend more time with my daughter.
- Have a strong support team. Making the tough choices is much harder alone. My husband and I had to terminate a 20 week pregnancy. This was one of the hardest things I have ever done and with his support, I was able to get back up and be there for our daughter and my clients who all needed me.
- Have an outlet for negative feelings and experiences. My outlet used to be food, especially ice cream but as I have gotten older, I have learned to use healthier coping strategies and stress relievers. Now I use my Peloton Tread and spend thirty minutes journaling every day. When I first heard about how to journal as stress relief I thought it sounded quite silly but I decided to give it a try. It works! Writing it down all the negative and nasty thoughts in my head gets them out of my mind and my life. Then I rip the pages into tiny tiny pieces and bye bye negativity.
- Ask for help. This one is very difficult for me personally. I have always been very self sufficient and I used to think that asking for help is a weakness. Being a single mom was how I learned to ask for help. It was essential for me to reach out for help when I needed it. Now asking for help has become easier in both my professional and personal life. This is definitely a muscle that gets stronger the more we work at it.
- Take Action. I have found that just getting up and doing something changes my mood and helps me be resilient in a stressful situation. When my landlord threatened to double my office rent, I started making calls. Rather than sit at my desk in horror, I made phone calls to leasing agents, to colleagues and friends to understand the marketplace and what my choices may be. This action led me to resilience and back to optimism. Action changes up the stress dynamic for me.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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 teach and inspire young people to embrace their financial futures. To understand the role of money in their lives. Not to fear money or see money as a weapon. To create abundance and attract the money to their world that supports their life goals.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.
Yes, Suze Orman! I have followed and read Suze’s work for many years and I have always respected her no nonsense approach to money. Telling people what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear. I use the same approach with my clients. Some tough love but always honest answers.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!