About this episode

In January, I posted a call for Female Founders on our LinkedIn company page with hopes of being introduced to more female founders to feature on The Startup Story. Today’s guest was mentioned more times than any other person. After spending some time with her, I am fairly confident I know why she was thought of by so many other people…because she is someone that is always looking to help others.

This week I am joined by Ilana Zivkovich, the founder of WERQ; a strategic leadership advisory firm. WERQ helps teams look at their strategy, process, and people to ensure all of these pillars will best support their business.

Like many of our featured entrepreneurs, their upbringing had a profound impact on their journey. Most of the founder stories featured on this podcast so far did not include parents that were entrepreneurs. Ilana is our first, and the perspective she was able to attain at a young age about the challenges and perks of being an entrepreneur is pretty inspiring.

In this episode, you will hear a few tactics Ilana uses to combat the internal critic. Plus, we’ll talk about the power of accepting encouragement from others. If there is anything that you take away from Ilana’s story I hope it is about the power of curiosity and passion. Then take that knowledge and let it fuel your momentum forward to execute against your passions. This is Ilana Zivkovich’s startup story.

In this episode you’ll hear

  • Ilana’s childhood and early days as a child of entrepreneurs
  • The reluctant or defeated entrepreneur mindset
  • Her college journey, social work, and shedding a little bit of light on social work in the private sector
  • About standing out in the crowd at a company, what was she doing differently than the others?
  • Asking the question, “What did you fail at today?” and the impression it left on IIana
  • The challenges that came with that role of director and how it set her up for the future
  • Realizing she wasn’t able to keep up with a lifestyle or persona that she established
  • When and why she quit her job, tendering her resignation, and how it was a gift
  • What she learned when she was a consultant
  • Her thoughts on being a female founder: is it more challenging, empowering, or a little bit of both?
  • Her move from consultant to entrepreneur
  • Going after her dream of founding WERQ, and moving to it being active, breathing, and thriving; what it was like and what she is doing now

Resources from this episode

Our Sponsor, MovoCash: https://www.thestartupstory.co/MovoCash
Connect with Ilana Zivkovich on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ilana-zivkovich-07a77529
WERQ: https://werqpeople.com
The Startup Story on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/thestartupstory

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First, the most powerful way you can support this podcast is by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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With your support, we hope to further our reach in encouraging and inspiring the founders of today and tomorrow. Thank you!

Full Episode Transcript

Special Guest: Ilana Zivkovich.

Sponsored By:

Episode transcript

The Startup Story - Ilana Zivkovich

Ilana Zivkovich: Hi. My name is Ilana Zivkovich. I am the founder of WERQ, and this is MY startup story.

James McKinney: Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story.

Sponsor Ad: The Startup Story would not be possible if it wasn't for the support of our sponsor MovoCash. Move money like a miracle with MovoCash, the free money app that kicks cash. Download MovoCash app on iTunes or Google Play today, and you'll get your slick new MOVO card in the mail.

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Support our sponsor MovoCash. Visit movo.cash or the startupstory.co/movocash.

[01:07]
James McKinney: Before we jump into our episode this week, I want to share a review that was written on iTunes by mikewittensein, the founder of Story Miners out of Atlanta, Georgia, gave The Startup Story a five star rating and wrote: "The Startup Story is easy to listen to, professionally produced, and offers high quality content. For me, it's a good balance of context and depth." Thank you so much, Mike, for the kind words and for taking the time to write a review. Quality and substance are critical for us, and we have our sponsor MovoCash to thank for our exceptional quality. Thank you for being a fan and I hope you will share The Startup Story with your friends and LinkedIn network. In fact, as a token of my appreciation for you taking the time to write this review, I hope our listeners will visit StoryMiners.com to check out what Mike is working on. If you found any value in any of The Startup Story episodes, please leave a review. I'll continue to read one each week so plug your brand in the review as well. Giving your business a plug is the least I can do if you take the time out of your day to write a review.

Now, let's jump into this week's episode. In January of this year, I posted a call for female founders on The Startup Story LinkedIn company page, with hopes of being introduced to more female founders to explore their startup story. Well, that post produced some great leads. In fact, today's guest was mentioned more times than any other person in that post. After having spent some time with her, I'm fairly confident I know why she was thought of by so many other people. Because she is someone that is always looking to help others. Our guest this week is Ilana Zivkovich, the founder of WERQ. Now, that's not W-O-R-K, that's WERQ. WERQ is a strategic leadership advisory firm. While that sounds fancy, the core of what they provide is executive coaching and team alignment with executive teams. So to break that down to a functional level, they help teams look at their strategy, process, and people to ensure all pillars will best support their business.

In this episode, you will hear a few tactics Ilana uses to combat the internal critic. You will hear how powerful curiosity and passion can be for any endeavor, and you will discover the power of accepting encouragement from others. Like many of our featured entrepreneurs, our upbringing has a profound impact on our entrepreneurial journey. That said, most of our entrepreneurs did not have parents that were entrepreneurs. Ilana's our first. What is interesting about that is the perspective she was able to attain at a young age about the challenges and perks of being an entrepreneur. So let's jump into Ilana's startup story.

[03:38]
Ilana Zivkovich: Raised by mom and dad, who both technically are entrepreneurs. Both were self employed. Both have private practices as therapists, so PhD's in home office. So I grew up with this conception of entrepreneur as oh I guess you don't get sick time, and no one covers your maternity leave, and no benefits. That seems rough. Now, I also grew up thinking that it was a really admirable and desirable lifestyle, but sort of no big company to support them. Not staff, not a marketing team, nothing like that which would make it seem glitzy. Sort of the reality of what it is to be self employed. I definitely grew up seeing that side of it.

[04:15]
James McKinney: So when you were growing up, did you think that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

[04:22]
Ilana Zivkovich: I don't know what I thought growing up. I thought I wanted to be happy. I've always been ambitious. I loved school as a kid. I was that nerdy fourth grader that wanted more take home work.

[04:33]
James McKinney: Oh, you're that kid, got it.

[04:35]
Ilana Zivkovich: I'm that kid. Yeah, sorry. That was me. I'm just a big nerd at heart. So I really liked school. I liked learning. But I really liked people. I liked teams. Again, the picture of entrepreneurship or self employment that I saw was in some ways very fulfilling, but in other ways relatively isolated. As I entered school and as I entered the workforce, I liked being with people. I don't know if I could say that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I will say that I was raised in Berkley, California by a couple tried and true hippies down the line. I was definitely raised to think you could never be as happy working for the "man" or working for someone else as you can be for yourself. When you can set the rules, when it's on your shoulders, the good and the bad is worth it. So I was raised to believe that.

[05:19]
James McKinney: And so did you think that upbringing and the way that your parents raised you, do you think that had an influence on you as you're getting to that latter part of high school, and you're looking at those career days and what it is you want to do, and you're jumping into college. Do you think that had an influence on what you wanted to become?

[05:37]
Ilana Zivkovich: It certainly did, and I guess the piece of my parents story that I didn't share, my father when I was about 10 give or take, maybe 15, somewhere in there, started his own real estate business. Commercial real estate. That business started performing in a different way than a private practice as a therapist could perform. As a therapist, as someone with a private practice, just a service based business, you want more money you sit in your chair for more hours.

But my father then went and started this second business using a totally different set of skills, and I recall very vividly we're on a father daughter backpacking trip. I'm probably 18 or 19 years old. I'm on a break from college or whatever. I'm on some break, so I'm a kid, we don't have responsibility as a kid. We're sitting there at this beautiful lake on the side of a mountain and it's a Thursday. I kind of realize it's a Thursday and here we are. I knew that he'd been off for a full week. We'd been on this long road trip and all this. I'm thinking, "Well this is good, because as he's sitting her on this hill, he has his money is making money because he has this business behind him." Definitely at that point, wait that makes sense to me. Let's let our money make money.

But I will say, fast forward to actual entrepreneurship, it's not as easy as it would sound to just let your money make money.

[06:50]
James McKinney: Yeah, yeah. No kidding. What an interesting perspective you had from seeing the service side that's based on billable hours to commercial real estate, which has a completely different monetization opportunity. I don't know if he was investing in commercial real estate or if he was just selling commercial real estate, but there's definitely two perspectives. So now, having those two perspectives, you jump into college. What was your thought as you were entering college on what your future held?

[07:16]
Ilana Zivkovich: My thought was I was very determined. I'm an explorer by nature, for better or for worse. It's one of my super powers and also one of my great weaknesses. I'm extremely curious. I like to experience things and I like to take adventures and explore. So when I entered college, I was one of those that was like I'm not going to declare a major. I'm going to try as many things as I can, talk to people, get experiences. I'm not even going to declare. Then, I stumbled on social work. That became my major. That also became my master's degree. Social work was really where I thought that I would essentially end. Start, middle, and end. When I realized that there was a whole career out there where your entire focus was on figuring out how to talk to people and how to interact with them, and how to help them achieve bigger goals in their lives, how to be more well or more happy or more stable or more fulfilled, whatever the case may be of the clients you're working with. When I found out there was a whole career focused on that, I thought, "Oh, I'm in." So I took my first job during, and the straight out of college. It was $28,000 a year as a social worker.

[08:23]
James McKinney: That's awesome.

[08:24]
Ilana Zivkovich: with my clients in my groove, and I thought at first that would be where it would stay.

[08:28]
James McKinney: Now, let's frame social work for people. Even for myself, when I hear social work, I think of the public sector, like government employee social workers. Can you shed a little bit of light on social work in the private sector? Because that's obviously what you saw in college, just so that we can kind of poke around your college journey as we understand what you saw in social work.

[08:50]
Ilana Zivkovich: And it's common for people to think about social workers as CPS coming in when someone's got a complaint against them or that kind of thing. That is the angle. That is a career path. That is something that social workers do. But social work as a discipline is really about identifying a person in their context and figuring out what is going to best serve in helping that person overcome whatever obstacles are going on with them from both a micro, macro, and mezzo perspective. Those are fancy words, but all it means is micro is me inside of me. Maybe I'm depressed. Maybe I have an addition. Maybe I have anxiety. Maybe whatever. Me inside of me. Macro would be me with my family and my community, so getting out to that next level. Social workers look out what interventions can we provide that can help this macro level merge, and then mezzo is like me within my culture, within this space and time in my country and this world, really.

All those different levels about how can we help? How can we provide sustainable solutions? This may be happening with an individual, maybe you're working in a community health center or in a private practice in a clinical capacity. But it also happens a lot in policy and social workers make amazing executives. Because think about what I just said and then translate that into well what does that mean for serving customers in a business? What does that mean for developing leaders if you're an executive? So there's a lot of tie ins for social work in different areas, but that overarching perspective which is we look at the person or the issue in the full context, and look to provide interventions at every level in a cohesive way is what really drew me to it as a problem solving framework almost.

[10:26]
James McKinney: That's awesome. So in college, did you see that discipline as something that you thought of starting your own business around, or did you see it as plugging into your parents hippy term, a system run by the man? How did you perceive social work in your college years?

[10:44]
Ilana Zivkovich: Yeah. I think in those years, I really I had this big old heart. My heart just wanted to do good in the world. Still does. I saw social work as a means to that end. If you had asked me at age 20 what do you think your career will be, I would have said, "Well, I'll have a part time private practice just like mom and dad. I've seen it, I know what it is, it makes better money than working in an agency. Then I'll work part time in an agency, some nonprofit addiction center o mental health center. Something where I can really give back and serve people that might not be able to access private practice. If I could have guessed, I would have been splitting my time doing those two things.

[11:20]
James McKinney: What did your parents think of that discipline? I hear it and it sounds like you were kind of following in their footsteps, right? They had their own private practice. What did they think of your journey?

[11:30]
Ilana Zivkovich: Funny that you say that, because at the time I was just like… I had all these independent ideals, and I told myself, "Well, I don't know what I'm going to do in this world. Could be anything, but I'm definitely not just going to do exactly what my parents did," a lot of young people probably tell themselves. Social work is very similar to psychology. There's a lot of overlap. And my parents were always proud of me as long as I was doing things that were healthy and fulfilling for myself, and in some way, shape, or form contributing in a positive way. They were very proud at that stage, yeah.

[12:00]
James McKinney: So you wrap up college. You have your $28,000 a year job, which was doing what?

[12:07]
Ilana Zivkovich: At that point, by the time I wrapped up I think I had booted that to $38K by the time I wrapped up. I had really… I had gotten my big girl pants on and negotiated a bit. But that job was an entry level role at an addiction treatment center. In my history, I spent the first about 10 years of my career in that industry, in behavioral health, specifically in addiction. But what happened for me, which was one of these looking back on it, one of these fortuitous doors that opens up, and if you're in the right place at the right time, and you feel brave enough and have the right resources to be able to walk through it, other things happen.

I'm covering for someone's who's working at the front desk, and the nonprofit that I was working at, entry level role, had just gotten a new CEO. He came from the private sector and he really understood business. He had walked in. he's literally been there for a week at the time this was all happening, and he said, "We need a new position. We need someone who is clinical, who understands what it is that we're doing with the clients, but who can also do outreach and represent us in the market and help us develop our programs from that outside looking in perspective." My name got thrown in that hat by a lot of people.

I remember the exact day. I remember what I was wearing when he walked past the desk and said, "Hey, I've heard your name. Come here, I want to interview you." I kind of said, "Ah, okay." Unplanned, went in, and that job led to a slight shift in my career where I was still involved in the clinical work, but I was immediately and exponentially exposed to the business side of things as well, and became a leader in the business as well as a trusted advisor for this CEO who's still a dear friend and mentor of mine. I'm good friend with every boss I've ever had, so be careful if you ever become my boss. It exposed me to a lot and really helped me leap frog because it was a smaller 150, maybe 200 person organization. I was able to gain a lot of skills and exposure really quickly, and that helped me leapfrog into a whole different career than what I originally anticipated.

[14:07]
James McKinney: So how old were you when the CEO said hey, I've heard your name, let's chat?

[14:13]
Ilana Zivkovich: I want to say 21.

[14:15]

James McKinney: So far out of college were you?

[14:18]
Ilana Zivkovich: A few weeks.

[14:20]
James McKinney: Oh my goodness, okay, a few weeks. So obviously that name you built for yourself was while you were in college as well, because you said you wrapped up the latter part of-

[14:31]
Ilana Zivkovich: Correct. So I had interned at this adventure. When you're interning as a social worker, you feel like an employee almost so I'd been with them for about a year.

[14:37]
James McKinney: What do you think you were doing at age 20, within that framework. You're going to college, you're making a name for yourself at this facility. What do you think you were doing differently that your name stood out when it came to talk about how do we find someone who's clinically minded and business minded? What were you doing differently than the others?

[14:58]
Ilana Zivkovich: That's a really good q. I think I'd have to lean back on what I said a few minutes ago. I think one of my super powers is I'm a really curious person, and I'm also very passionate. When you mix those two things, I'm curious, I'm willing to ask questions, I know enough to know that I don't know most of it. So I'm constantly asking for help and constantly seeking guidance and seeking mentorship. But I'm also really passionate and so once I get that help and I get that guidance, I want to go and I want to try it out, and I want to then circle back with the person and ask more questions and see how it went. When I get myself in those cycles, which I'm still in my career with the mentors I work with today, it ends up I think, from what they tell me, being more fulfilling to work with someone like that because they can see that their mentorship is doing something. The person is acting on it and they're excited, and they're taking it and running, and then coming back and saying, "Thank you so much, that was amazing. Help me understand this next piece." So those personality traits, as well as again just the benefit of some great mentors, I think would be what got me recognized at that time.

[16:03]
James McKinney: So I want to poke a little bit at the curiosity, because I think it is an incredibly powerful trait. Especially when you refine it into a skill, it can take a person so far, and definitely when you don't have any fear attached to curiosity, it's limitless. You really can do so much within that curiosity. But you're 21, right? Up to that point, had you had any failures attached to your curiosity?

[16:32]
Ilana Zivkovich: I wish we knew each other a little better and I could tell you a lot. I had a very colorful adolescence, exploration gone awry, and I learned some of those lessons definitely the hard way exploring too hard. The benefit of it is I got to know myself a lot better than I think a lot of people do at a young age, and had to make some pretty tough and significant life choices at a young age because I'd been so curious and I explored so much.

I had to really take a look at my life at 16 years old, still in high school, and think, "Okay, is this the type of life that I want to be living or not? And if not, how the heck do I get on a different path?" So yes, curiosity has gone awry for me, in smaller ways too. You have to be careful sometimes. I'm so comfortable being curious, I can forget that for other people that can feel quite invasive.

My husband these days will laugh. We take our daughter to the park and I'm standing with someone for two minutes, and I come back and I'm like, "Well, that's their first child and they've been doing fertility treatments for two years and it's been really tough on them," and blah, blah, blah. He's like, "How do you act?" I can catch people off guard or make them uncomfortable if I'm not a little aware of that.

[17:41]
James McKinney: One of the reasons I ask that question is not to get you to divulge anything personal, but one of the reasons I ask it is I wish I could remember the CEO and the founder who this story is attributed to. It's a female founder that, when asked a similar question, every night at dinner the dad's question to her was not, "So what did you succeed at today or what did you do great today?" it was always, "What failure did you have today?"

[18:11]
Ilana Zivkovich: It was Spanx. I know exactly which one.

[18:13]
James McKinney: That's who I thought it was, Sarah Blakely, perfect.

[18:15]
Ilana Zivkovich: What did you fail at today, I love that.

[18:16]
James McKinney: Yeah, and I think there's so much power in that question because it opens up the freedom to explore, and the freedom to have those failure moments. Also too, it gives you as the adventurer, the explorer, the with the risk of failure, it gives you the ability and the safety to know, "I can fail in this environment and I'm still going to be supported and cared for by my family." There's so much that happens. I guess what I was asking, was your upbringing similar to such that you could have that exploration and that risk of failure with the safety of knowing family was still going to take care of you?

[18:56]
Ilana Zivkovich: Yeah. I love that you brought that story back to my mind. What it brought up for me, so I was the big athlete growing up. My parents were both very supportive and very involved. My dad and I used to go outside and play catch all the time, going to the batting cages, soccer, whatever the sport was. But I remember in softball specifically, which is the big thing for us growing up together, and if ever I would throw the ball, square my shoulders the right way you're supposed to, have my feet planted just where they're supposed to be, step just how you're supposed to sep, cock my elbow right where it's supposed to be, all that. And then the ball would go awry. I even broke my neighbors window at one point.

He was always proud of me and made a point to point that out when my form was right. He was always one that said, "If your form is right, that's what's important. The results, that's not even really your business. You keep your form right and it's going to support you in the long run." That same mentality in sports that he had definitely applied to how they taught me to approach life. It's like do the next best thing, try your hardest, don't cheat, don't lie, don't steal, all the sort of obvious Ten Commandments type of things. But outside of that, give it a shot and you'll be okay. And when you fall, because you will, that's okay too. That's part of the process. How great, you got to learn something today. So that was definitely a big part of how they raised me.

[20:14]
James McKinney: What a powerful learning for our listeners as well. Focus on getting the form right, and the outcome and results are outside of your control. I love that.

[20:24]
Ilana Zivkovich: Yeah. I took that and ran. Even that first job that we're talking about now, I was promoted to a director maybe six months in or so. Really arguably based on resume and years of experience, and years on the planet really no business being a director. But I always have this attitude, thank you for helping me see how much that is attributed to my parents and the way I was brought up, but also the experience I had, the mentors I had, the friends. But I had this attitude of, "I'm going to try. I'm going to do my very best, an different my best isn't good enough, the results will speak for themselves and I will no longer be asked to do these things. But in the meantime, I might as well get out there and give it a shot and we'll let the chips fall where they may." You know what? Typically they fell pretty well. I'm glad I let myself give it a shot.

[21:09]
James McKinney: That's awesome. So obviously, you are not a director with that agency anymore, so let's talk about what you learned in that position, and were kind of the next steps to get you to where you are now? So you meet with the CEO. You become a director. What were some of the learnings and challenges that came with that role, and how did it set you up for the future?

[21:33]
Ilana Zivkovich: Yeah, gosh there was so many. I guess the biggest thing that I walked away with was a shift in my own perspective of myself and of what I even wanted in my professional life. You asked me before did I always know I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I was like, "No, I wanted to make $28,000 and help people feel happy," you know? I think I walked away from that first experience having my eyes opened much more to what was out there, and with a renewed sense of ambition, and a feeling that being ambitious in business was almost, and this is a weird thing to say, but not something to be ashamed of.

I don't know if any of our female listeners or anyone might connect with that, but there was almost this idea that being ambitious, maybe part of being a social worker, part of being a woman, I don't know but being ambitious was almost like a dirty word. I don't mean that literally. It's not something anyone ever said to me, but like this internal sneaking suspicion that like, "Oh, you shouldn't be too greedy," or, "You shouldn't want to much." I think that first young experience, that taste of leadership and taste of being able to make a contribution in that bigger way, and have more influence, I think that allowed me to start to give myself permission to really dream for the next big thing. Not just the next promotion on someone else's terms, but the next big thing.

[22:52]
James McKinney: That's awesome. So what happened? What was your next step after that facility?

[22:57]
Ilana Zivkovich: So without boring you with the details, because they can get boring, but went from the nonprofit sector to the private sector. Made a somewhat lateral move, and then relatively quickly got promoted. For a couple of years, ran my own facility within a sort of larger network that was a national provider of behavioral health. So ran my own facility and from there jumped over technically as a consultant, but working at the C level within yet another national facility, so working as a chief clinical officer over there.

[23:25]
James McKinney: But each time, as an employee in that journey correct?

[23:29]
Ilana Zivkovich: As an employee until the last one, and that one's kind of interesting. I had worked myself into a place on one step along this journey where I was living a life that I no longer recognized.

[23:42]
James McKinney: Explain that. Let's unpack that a bit.

[23:45]
Ilana Zivkovich: Yeah, let's unpack that. Gosh, take me back down trauma lane here for myself. I do just want to say I own this completely. This was, if we talk about exploration going awry earlier, this was ambition gone awry a bit and me not knowing yet, not having a lesson of how to set boundaries, and thinking that the only way to get more was to work harder and do more myself. And not just get more for myself even, but produce better on behalf of all the people who were depending on me.

I worked myself into a place where I was putting 10 to 14 hour days. I was on call 24/7, 365. I was in my car about two and a half hours a day, which is a lot of commute time on a daily basis. And I was so burnt out, so drained, so stressed I would come home after a long, long day and kind of lay my head heavy in my hand, and hardly be able to lift the fork to my mouth and just feel on the verge of tears. So it was a graceful period for me. It was one of these experiences where life showed me that I couldn't keep doing that. It just got to be too unbearable, the way that I was choosing to live my own life. So I sort of, with a heavy heart, there was a lot that I loved about that role and that company, but I gave my resignation. I literally couldn't keep doing it. Some people can. Some people can work 80 and 100 hour workweeks and do that. I can't. I'm not that person.

[25:11]
James McKinney: Was that hard for you to accept and realize that you weren't able to keep up with a lifestyle or persona that you established? Was that hard for you to come to grips with? That's got to be a humbling experience for you.

[25:27]
Ilana Zivkovich: Hard for me to come to grips with and it was also really scary. I tendered that resignation. At that point I'm 26, 27 somewhere in that range, and I am working a job that people work their entire careers to earn. It's kind of like golden handcuffs almost at the time. I tendered that resignation sort of as waving my white flag, like admitting defeat, with nothing lined up. I hadn't put any thought or energy. I had no time to line up the next thing. I just knew I couldn't keep living the way that I was living, and so it was very scary. It was humbling, it was scary, it was stress provoking. I questioned it a lot. But at the end of the day, the intuition and just the reality of how unlivable it was just won out in the end.

[26:13]
James McKinney: Was there any impact of that period and that season and that decision that rippled and carried over into your next step? Any processing that just had an impact on the next movement?

[26:25]
Ilana Zivkovich: Yes, and has impacted ever since then. I made myself a promise, a guarantee, when I left that role. I said to myself, "There is another way, there is a better way. You don't have to work yourself this hard ever again." Not even this hard. I'm no stranger to hard work. I've got a really solid work ethic as could attest to, so it's not not working hard, but I don't know how to say it. It's like betraying myself in pursuit of helping someone else achieve their goals, and helping some company do better, whatever codependent story I had about how vital I was to the staff or what will they do without me. All those things that we tell ourselves like oh, but if I don't go in on a Sunday then who's going to do the thing that must be done right now? It's like no, I'm not that important. I'm not that big.

And quite honest, I promised myself I'm not going to do that to myself again. That's not the type of life that I'm willing to set up for myself. I will say every career move since then, including starting my own business, I have honored that promise. Not every single day. There are days and weeks that it gets real heavy, but in terms of a lifestyle, a sustained lifestyle, I don't do that to myself anymore. I know that if I did, I wouldn't be able to run my own company. I wouldn't be able to serve the clients that we serve and serve my staff. I took myself out when I did that.

[27:46]
James McKinney: It sounds like that period of life and that mindset, I call it a savior complex. You had to be the person and that's a ton of weight, because we are nobody's savior. What an incredible opportunity for you to learn that at a young age, at 26, early on in your career because there are people in their thirties, forties, fifties, and sometimes even later that learn it and it is really draining on a human being, because it is a load we were not intended to carry. It has impact on our family life, impact on every aspect of our life when we carry too much than we're supposed to. That's awesome you learned that at 26 and have maintained that in all your other opportunities.

So as you realized that, and you make a promise to yourself that it's no longer going to be that case, what was that next step?

[28:43]
Ilana Zivkovich: So the next step, the universe kind of opens up for me at that moment. I'm thinking okay, I'm going to… I remember my husband and I sat down and we did a budget. We were like, "Okay, let's imagine that in the next year Ilana makes $0. Can we pay our mortgage? Are we on the street?" I was like, "Okay, well I really like coffee. I'll go apply at Starbucks." I'm like, I don't know maybe I'll be a barista, like that sounds fabulous. I'm happy and I love caffeine. It sounds great.

So we did this budget, thinking Ilana makes $0. I pull the plug, I leave, and in the time between tendering my resignation and my actual last paycheck, I had more opportunities come in the door than I honestly really knew what to do with. It was such a gift and I feel like I have sort of a spiritual belief that when you're living to your calling, when you're doing the next thing that's intended to go in your path, it's not that things that are challenging won't come up. Trust me, they continue to every day. But things tend to flow easier and opportunities come, and doors open. You don't have to push quite so hard. I didn't have to push very hard and things started presenting themselves.

I was lucky enough to talk with a few different people and have a few different opportunities come up that allowed me to embark on the next chapter of my career, technically as an independent contractor. So technically, I've been my own boss since that day, at least to the IRS. I say technically because my goal at that time really was to start something like the company that I now own and run, but I didn't have the vision, the clarity, the strength, the courage, the resources. I wasn't ready to start anything.

So rather than really busting out and starting a company, I started taking on consulting gigs. One of those consulting gigs became really it felt more like a full time job. Like I said, I was a C level employee for them. I was an integrated member of the team and of the facility. I loved those people. I loved that role very much, but it certainly didn't feel like I was running a company. It felt like I was, again, working for someone else which has its benefits for sure.

[30:45]
James McKinney: So you said that season, you didn't have the vision that it would take to run an enterprise that you had as a goal and an objective. What did you learn during that season when you were just a consultant, a solopreneur? When you were a solopreneur, what did you learn that set you up for where you are right now with work?

[31:08]
Ilana Zivkovich: I would say during that solopreneur time, as well as honestly the years prior to that, I knew that I wanted to do something in this area of executive alignment, and leadership development, and work with executive teams. I knew I wanted to work in businesses. I just didn't know what would that look like, do people pay for that, is it really effective. So what I did during that time was in every consulting gig that I was involved in, including this C level employee feeling type of engagement, but also even if I go back in them the other company, I started carving out more and more opportunities for myself to do that. To provide trainings, to do leadership development, organize workshops, to facilitate, to speak on the national field about culture and leadership, and strategic planning and efficacy at that level.

So I started carving out more and more of those things. I started really, really, really listening and paying attention, things that I was doing where people responding favorably to? What things felt like they were really sticky? What things did it feel like the market was calling for, I would say? I guess utilize that knowledge to help me eventually fund my business. Now, that's on a logistical level.

On a personal level, for me it was like a continued evolution of coming into my own and of recognizing that like whatever those stories are that we tell ourselves, it would prevent us from taking that leap. You're a full timer and it's comfortable and it's safe. But I wouldn't have benefits or what if it doesn't work? What if no one wants to hire me? Who do I think I am to do that anyways? Or, or, or. All those stories, I've said all of them to myself and I think over the years, I started to look for more evidence and build up my won reservoir of reasons why those stories didn't need to be listened to, why they weren't serving me and they honestly weren't true, and really sort of emotionally without even realizing it. It wasn't intentional, but sort of emotionally prepare myself to eventually start the business.

[33:11]
James McKinney: That is so powerful what you just said there about the narrative and trying to find those points of evidence to give you the knowledge in knowing that those narratives weren't true, and there was no basis for them. Especially a narrative for us to steer our life by without truth. One of my own tactics is I go what is the absolute worst thing that can happen, and then what is the likelihood of that thing happening? Once I get those two answers, it's like okay, there's no reason I'm not moving forward on this. Because it's never going to be the worst. My imagination can get super dark when it comes to the worst situation, and I know it's never going to be that.

Also too, part of for my own journey, I have hit rock bottom. One of these startup stories, I'm going to share my story but I have actually hit everything and lost it all. So there is a level of that that has given me that ability to move fearlessly. But at the same time, there's so much… do you think that's a skill set that someone has to learn in order to have these narratives and unwind them? Do you think it's a journey? Is it just a mental switch they can make? What are your thoughts on a person, the listeners right now that have all these fears and these "what ifs" on how they move forward on their dreams? Do you think it's something they have to learn or how does someone get to the space you're in right now?

[34:30]
Ilana Zivkovich: Everything you said I would say yes, it's all of those things. It's a skill set. It's a journey. It's a mindset. It's a process. I think that there's a lot of things that I've done and that people can do. I love your little example of what you tell yourself, what's the worst possible thing and how likely is that honestly, so screw it, let's not pay attention to that. There's lots of great books that folks can read. There's a whole framework called growth mindset, this idea of having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset that is amazing and extremely helpful. And there are things that we can do. Lots of interventions in the field of positive psychology.

Ultimately, for me I think one of the most effective things I mentioned earlier a little bit vaguely I suppose, some challenges that I faced in my adolescent years, one of the things that I had to do to get through that was to really confront that self critic. That voice inside that says for no logical reason, you're not good enough, you're not worthy, you're not insert- adjective-here. You're not X, whatever strong enough, pretty enough, whatever. I had to really confront that voice. I know this will sound a little bit kooky perhaps, but one of the things that I did at the time was whenever I heard that voice coming up, because it was loud for me as a younger person. It had gotten to a pretty loud and consistent point. I made myself, in safe settings with people that would get it, literally say those thoughts out loud when they came up. I know if you're listening, you're like, "what are you talking about? Say all those crazy thoughts out loud? That sounds terrible." But I tell you what. Every time that I said it out loud, in a safe setting, not at the grocery store with like the clerk, but someone that knows you-

[36:01]
James McKinney: The coffee shop table for one, nothing like that?

[36:03]
Ilana Zivkovich: Yeah, for one that will stay a table for one if you do that, so keep it to yourself. But every time I said it out loud, one even just hearing them it was like wow, that sounds really not true. Two, the people around me could help really diffuse the power of it and help those sort of messages just fall to the wayside. I will say at this point in my life, I am very conscious of the messages that go on inside of myself. There's a literal question of is this message serving me? If the answer is no, if there's some self defeating, negative, fear based anxiety oriented message that's just not serving me, then what do I need to do to let go of it? That's a fairly conscious process for me. I think for most entrepreneurs, I would imagine there has to be some sort of skill set built up around that, or else how do you do it? Because it's a big world out there and it's a lot of ways that we can make mistakes and get in trouble. So it's healthy to have that.

[36:59]
James McKinney: Do you think, and I want to ask this question just because of my various and numerous data points that I read when it comes to female founders and the tiny, tiny bit of venture capital investment female founded companies get. There's such an uphill battle when it comes to female founders. Given what you just talked about, and all the narratives that have gone through your mind, as a female founder do you find that to be amplified and more challenging to move forward as you go into building your business, and in these meetings and these presentations. Do you feel that part of that, "I'm a female founder" narrative plays in your head at all?

[37:40]
Ilana Zivkovich: You know, it's a great question, very timely with "Me Too" and the movement that we have around female empowerment right now. What I will say is I have a lot of respect for the challenges that women specifically, people of any sort of minority or traditionally oppressed class, but women in this moment, that women face day in and day out in the work place, and as it relates to achieving an equal measure to their male counterparts. I respect it, I understand it, I can tell you my stories of where that's come up for me. It's certainly been an issue at play.

But here's the other thing I would say. I walk into a board room at 24 years old, we go back in time here a little bit, as a young female director and I open my mouth and I say something that doesn't sound terribly uneducated and that actually has merit, and I'll be honest with you I think people take even more notice because I'm more unique. I'm not a 60 year old white man in a suit. So overall, we all come with whatever package of strengths and challenges. We have to be aware of who we are, including how we look, what gender we identify as, all those things, how they impact how others will see us. But I don't believe that any of that is a reason or poor excuse sounds too judgmental. I don't really mean to say that, but I guess I just don't believe that any of those things are true limitations, provided that you're not in one of those situations, and we've heard about them all over the place in the news, all over, where there really is some just egregious discrimination and oppression going on.

Those things aside, if we're just sort of dealing within the normal realm of business behavior, I think you own who you are and you put your best foot forward. As people have their own judgments, their own reactions to you, that's just part of everyone's experience really. To answer your question, it's a very long answer to say no, I don't think that as a female founder it has been more or less of an effect. I think we're all just people and we're dealing with what we've got.

[39:37]
James McKinney: Awesome, awesome. That is incredible. So now, that leads us to WERQ. So you were a consultant for a long period of time. You were learning. You were gaining knowledge and what it meant to run an enterprise. How did you move from consultant to entrepreneur?

[39:55]
Ilana Zivkovich: I started telling my friends for about a year, I was like, "I just want to start my own business. That's the next thing. I need to start my own business. I need to start my own business." To not make the story terribly long, I had an opportunity to do so at one point with two men who I was in business with at the time. I decided to not move that forward and guys, if you're listening, I love you so much but I'm glad we didn't do that deal.

It was going to be a bum deal for me, to be honest. It was going to be me with 40% of the equity and 95% of the lift, so we didn't move that one forward. It wasn't the right time for me, and it wasn't the right time for them. But when that happened, it became very clear to me that's the next thing that I want to do. I really want to own it. I want to create it, I want to start it. I ended up going to lunch with a friend who'd I'd known for 10 years, but someone I hadn't known well. He was the chairman of the board of the very first nonprofit that I was at 10 years previous. He had just donated a large sum of money to my alma mater, University of Texas. We'd reconnected over that. We went to lunch.

I had no idea, and this is like business 101, you research who you're meeting with before. You Google them. Like, come on. I had no idea that this man did venture capital. I didn't know that he did any sort of investing. I knew he was an extremely successful business man, but that wasn't why I was going to lunch with him. I was going to lunch with him because I liked him a lot and he had just donated a large sum of money to my alma mater, the school of social work. I thought that was an amazing, generous thing to do and I wanted to say thank you.

So I went out to lunch. We're talking about family and life and travel and morals, and whatever, for a good hour and a half, two hours, who knows. Deep into this lunch, again I have zero agenda. I don't even know what this man is doing, he says, "So what are you up to professionally?" Oh well, I tried to start this company and here's why I didn't. But man that's really my passion, it's really what I want to be doing, and he says, "Well, sounds like you just need someone to review your business plan and your ideas. I'd be happy to do that for you." I kind of am like, what? This guys' taken two companies public.

Over the course of the rest of the lunch, I learned about all the different investing he had done. He's been a major player in lots of brands that you would know by name, really impressive business acumen. So I call him the next day and I say, his name's Steve, and I say, "Steve, I just want to be clear. You're offering to review a business plan that I will put together. You're offering to take a look at that," and he says, "Yeah, don't stress about it. Just the executive summary, couple of pages, nothing more than that. Don't worry, I don't write checks unless I really believe in the validity of the business." I can tell you exactly where I was in my car on the side of this road, in the middle of nowhere in Texas, and again I'm like don't write checks? I'm just sitting here feeling lucky that this guy's willing to talk to me and hear my ideas a few more times.

Now he's already putting this seed in my head about writing a check. I said, "Okay." This is right before the holidays so my family and I go to Australia for the holiday break. He's travelling as well. We agree to get back together in January. I'm on my way to Australia and I'm Googling how to write a business plan. I'm not an MBA, I've never done this, I don't know what I'm doing. I put together a business plan and I feel like this business plan has some legs, but it just doesn't seem quite right. So I did what I do because I'm curious, and I think other people are brilliant, and I passed it off to a couple people who I really trust who are dear friends. Thank you guys for being honest. And they told me straight up that no, they would not invest in that business. No, they would not hire that service, and they told me why. Thank god for friends that are willing to be honest, right?

[43:32]
James McKinney: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

[43:34]
Ilana Zivkovich: Yeah. That feedback was amazing and helped me get version two of the business plan together. That version of the business plan was I literally met with Steve, my angel investor who's like the true definitely of an angel, two more times only. One dinner and then one 10 minute meeting where I w as sick as a dog and thought I was going to, I don't know cough him out of the room. But it was two more meetings before he had signed on. We were business partners, and he had signed a big check for me to go and live my dream, which is an experience that I know a lot of founders will not have the benefit of finding this diamond in the rough angel investor that believes in them and is willing to put their neck on the line and try to support them in what it is that they're doing and man, do I feel lucky every day for Steve and for that experience.

[44:23]
James McKinney: So there's a couple incredible nuggets in that. One, I think what you did by just reaching out and offering to take him to lunch because of what he did for your alma mater, that's a telling thing for you as a person in general. Your other center, you're looking for ways to give back to support people, and you are just wanting to acknowledge him and what he did. As people do that, those are the types of opportunities that come from moments like that, where great people attract great people.

So for those that are listening, in fact I had Lyft ride this last week where the Lyft driver was just down on himself and was that defeated entre preneur who's tried numerous times. I told him about the podcast, I gave him my business card. We exchanged a couple of emails and what I said in my email to him is in the midst of your desperation, do not stop giving to those around you. There's so much that we get so landlocked as entrepreneurs, that we forget those moments to give back out to those around us. You didn't forget that, and that's why this opportunity came. So it's not a luck thing at all. It's you were authentic to you, and this opportunity came from that authenticity and that moment. So that is awesome. And everyone listening, it happens day in and day out. I see it all the time, just people wanting to truly be generous in nature and some great opportunity comes back to them.

The second thing, though, at this time before you met with Steve at that lunch, were you even… how close were you to actually moving forward in this venture that you had percolated in your head? How close were you to actually moving forward on that before that lunch?

[46:03]
Ilana Zivkovich: I was feeling really itchy is what I kept saying to people around me. I was feeling really itchy in my current role, which for the record was amazing. Working with people I love, doing stuff I loved, a schedule that was quite livable, but I just had this itchy sensation inside of me of this isn't it. The next step is around the corner, I've got to find it. I've got to find it, I've got to find it. I've got to be open to it. I wouldn't say that I was closes to going out on my own. I didn't have a resignation letter in my back pocket or anything like that, but I would say I was very ready and I was, it's such a hippy word I don't particularly love it, but I was kind of manifesting. I was like what do I need to do? I'm very open. I was in that space where I was welcoming it.

[46:47]
James McKinney: So then also too, back to that incredible moment when you're being your authentic self and inviting Steve to a lunch to say thank you for your generosity to my alma mater, his prompting and curiosity about your venture gave you that push like to think oh, it's time to move now. This is an interesting opportunity and you went after it, right? You didn't respond with, "Well, actually I don't have a business plan and I'm still thinking about it. I'll get back to you." Your mind started saying, "Okay, now things are in play," and you moved on it, and you seized that opportunity. I guess that's probably part of your curious nature. You were curious as to okay, what's going to come of this? If I deliver this business plan, what happens here?

So there's so much about that story I love, and I love the feedback that you received gladly from your friends as they said this is not good, I wouldn't buy this service, I wouldn't invest, whatever the case may be. Because there's a lot of humility that comes in that, so that's fantastic. So now Steve has invested, work is live and it's active, and it's breathing, and it's growing. Share for our listeners what is WERQ. By the way, for listeners it's W-E-R-Q. So what is WERQ?

[48:03]
Ilana Zivkovich: I will share for sure, but I want to go backwards for one second because you brought up, I just have to mention it. You're talking about that willingness to take the leap, and to try something new, to ask for the feedback and ask for support. I called on a bunch of my old bosses that I mentioned, you know who you are and I love you so much, and thank you for your help. But I will say in that meeting where Steve actually offered the money, where it was meeting number three in total, including our lunch before he offered the money, and someone asked me about it later that day. I called them and they said, "Well, how long did it take you to make your decision?" I kind of, that was a confusing question because it was instantaneous. This is the opportunity. You walk through the door and you try. Give it a shot. So that is that curious part and that passionate part of my nature coming out for sure.

The last thing I'll say before we get into what WERQ is, that original business plan that got me the funding for the business is not at all what we're doing today. And we are profitable today. We are a successful business today, and that is not how we're operating. I asked Steve that very first day when he committed the funds, I said, "Steve, I know why I want you on this venture, obviously. You're amazing and seasoned and a million things that I don't know. You're also willing to give me a big fat check, thanks. Why are you signing onto this? You can invest in any company you want. Why this?" he said, and I'm looking I wish I could show you, I'm looking of a photo that I bought him and I both photos after that initial investment, it's a horse. He held up the business plan, he said, "Ilana, I'm not betting on this business plan. I'm betting on you. You're a winning horse, and my money is on you."

That statement in and of itself fueled me through the first six months of business, where everything was confusing and hard, and nothing was working. Just that statement of this person believes in me to that extent. I was really able to own that and feel it in my soul, and take that and let that fuel me when there started being evidence to the contrary. In any business, it's going to be hard to start and hard to get your first revenue generated or whatever the case may be depending on your industry. But having that belief in me helped me have that belief in myself.

[50:15]
James McKinney: So when you heard that phrase from Steve, I'm so big on words. I am such a believer in the power of encouragement, because I think people underestimate. Lots of times we'll go on and we'll say, "Oh, I wish I would have said that to so and so." Yeah, you should have said that to so and so. There's so much that comes from encouraging words to people. But I have to ask this. When Steve said what he said, "I'm not betting on the plan, I'm betting on you. You're a winning horse." I'm betting on you the person, you can execute, you can do this. I believe in you." With all of the other narratives that you had for however many years of your life up to that point, and you hear that, how did they hit each other at that moment in time? What went through your mind as someone said, "I'm betting on you."

[51:03]
Ilana Zivkovich: I remember that moment so vividly, and I remember it felt ethereal. I don't know what word to put on it. It felt like this he's an angel investor, and angel is just the perfect word. Because what I know now, James, is I never needed that man's money. He knows it now, I know it. I never needed the money, but what I needed and I think what probably a lot of people questioning if they're ready to make the jump or feeling frustrated, whatever, I needed some indication that I was that horse worth betting on.

[51:41]
James McKinney: Yes.

[51:42]
Ilana Zivkovich: Yeah. Sometimes, and I've done a lot of my own work, and I continue to do it all the time, and I'm not someone who suffers from that lack of self confidence and insecurity that I used to. I'm pretty secure in myself, but being secure in myself to like cook dinner for my family and go to my 9 to 5 is very different than being secure in myself to go and like live this dream. Those words meant the world to me. They really did.

[52:06]
James McKinney: I want to thank you for sharing all of that. For our listeners, we are human beings. I don't care how secure of an individual anyone is. There is so much power that comes through encouragement and belief from another person into us. It is nothing to do with our ability to believe and self confidence. We're not desiring it from people, we're not sitting here trying to cling on to them, but when we go through life and someone just drops this phrase into our lap, "I believe in you. You are capable of doing this. Wow, you did such an amazing job on this. My life is changed from it." Whatever the case may be, there's so much power in that. We as human beings, we are wired to be connected with others. Those words can connect us with them. I'm so big on if there's a bit of encouragement to be given, do not hesitate. Move on it. So I love that. I love that you owned that too.

[53:05]
Ilana Zivkovich: Yeah. When someone gives you the encouragement, see what it feels like to try to believe it.

[53:11]
James McKinney: 100%.

[53:12]
Ilana Zivkovich: We may hear things from people. A lot of my work is very intimate work. I get to know people really well. Back in social work days and certainly now in the coaching. I'm working in a really close way with people. Just imagine if you could let yourself believe all the wonderful things that people say and feel about you. Imagine if you could live in that, and not live in all the other BS that we all have inside of our heads, that isn't serving us one, and really isn't true. It's quite a powerful thing.

[53:39]
James McKinney: So now let's get to the question of what is WERQ.

[53:43]
Ilana Zivkovich: Okay. My baby, my company. We work business to business. We work with executives and their teams. Our goal is to help other businesses be as successful as possible, and our belief is that business is ultimately just a bunch of people getting together, trying to do the next right thing. Trying to make the right decision. Trying to work effectively as a unit. So we work with executives and their immediate teams doing team alignment, which sounds amorphous, but what we mean by that is strategy. What is it that you're trying to achieve, process how are you going to achieve those things, and people, which is right roles, right seats, which is trust and communication, which is culture, relationships, all those things.

So we work with teams on that side, and then we do a fair amount of executive coaching as well as some strategic planning, some team building, and related initiatives built in. But all of this predicated on the belief, which proves to be true time and time again, that when a business can give its people, operations, and its people strategy dialed in, the potential upside is absolutely limitless. People are amazing and when we can maximize what they're able to do in relationship to one another, and in their contributions to a business, that business is on a really solid track. So that's what we do.

[54:57]
James McKinney: When did you start WERQ?

[54:59]
Ilana Zivkovich: It will be our one year anniversary on Friday.

[55:02]
James McKinney: That is awesome. Oh, I love it. Congratulations. What has been one of the surprising challenges in growing WERQ, because you're a year old? What has this first year been like?

[55:14]
Ilana Zivkovich: This first year has been amazing. It's literally be one of the happiest, scariest, most wonderful, most stressful, fabulous years of my life. I've definitely been sustained by the people around me. The mentors and the team members and my friends and family for sure. So I'll say that. I think one of the things that I thought at first was how will I ever do this? I don't know how to sell. I'm not a sales person.

I came home one day. I had been working on an engagement for about five months and I had lost the business to another vendor. I come home, and I remember sitting outside. We've got some couches outside and I'm saying to my husband, "Babe, I just here's the thing. I just suck at selling. That's just what it is. I'm kind of down about it." My husband, bless him, is a data analyst, and he's like, "Hold on. Hold that thought. Hold on. Let's just gather the data here. Tell me everything that you've pitched," and this is maybe six months into the business. "Everything you've pitched, what have you closed, what have you lost."

So we go over it. We make a sheet, and it's like this is what we've pitched, this is what we've closed, this is what we've lost. At that moment, my sales close rate, me personally, was 80%.

[56:20]
James McKinney: That's awesome.

[56:21]
Ilana Zivkovich: And I'm sitting there, whining that I suck at sales because I lost one gig. Here I am this whole podcast, talking about believing in ourselves and challenging those messages, but man they still creep up all the time. That's a perfect example. I was telling myself this story that I don't know how to sell. In my business, I don't even think of it as selling. I'm just coaching someone through the buying process, trying to figure out if there's a good fit there or not. I'm not selling them on anything. But regardless of how you frame it, I had closed 80% of the business I had gone after and I'm telling myself I suck. That's an unreal close rate. My mentor said, "Well, that just tells me you need to increase your rates." But those same things that still come up, those ways we tell ourselves that maybe this isn't working out, when really just hold, hold, don't believe every thought that comes through your head, and keep trying.

[57:09]
James McKinney: That's awesome. For those listening that, maybe they are a solopreneur right now, or maybe they're an employee, but they have this desire to do something for themselves in an entrepreneurial endeavor like what you've done. What advice would you give them on that first year? Just to kind of level set expectations, what would you, gift of experience would you give to them as they jump into something new?

[57:36]
Ilana Zivkovich: Well, as I am at the final week of my first year, I have not a lot of the wisdom for the entire year yet, but here's what I would say that seemed to work really well for me and for my business. Our initial plan was to spend the first year doing a lot of content development and building out stuff to then go and sell. Right before we launched, we sort of shifted that focus and decided, "Hey, you know what? Let's get out there into the market. It's not perfect. It's not tested. We're going to figure it out as we go, and let's let the clients and the customers," as the case may be in a lot of businesses, "Let's let them tell us what we need to do better, what we need to shift, what we need to build for them."

A business is really just do you have something, a product, a service, something that other people will find value in and want to pay you for. That's all it is. Rather than try to like think in our mind and do all of this strategy or development work or whatever to try to figure out what's that perfect thing that the people are going to really want to shell out the money for, we decided not to do that and we just went and let the experience teach us. Let the people teach us. Didn't worry that it wasn't perfect. Didn't worry that it didn't have a beautiful bow on it every time. Made a bunch of mistakes. Learned some great lessons.

Overall, people were satisfied and actually quite thrilled for the most part. Let yourself get out there and don't let perfection be the enemy of doing it. It's like that paralysis by analysis. Don't get so caught up in trying to make it this perfect end goal that you don't let yourself take the first step. Just take the dang step, and the results will tell you what you need to do next.

[59:12]
James McKinney: Oh, man, that is so powerful. I hope everyone caught that. If you didn't just go back about three minutes and listen to it again. That was awesome. So I wrap every startup story with a question about perspective, because I'm a firm believer that if we forget all the people that have been a contributor to our success today, it will inevitably lead us to our failure. The entrepreneurial journey tends to be a lonely journey because people make it a lonely journey, but it should not be that way. We need people. So as you look back on your journey leading up to work, and even in your first year of work, who are the people that you look back to with just such immense gratitude for?

[59:53]
Ilana Zivkovich: oh, there's so many. I feel like I'll be at the Academy Awards right now. And thank you, and thank you, and thank you. But I'm really fortunate. Again, I go back to we talked at the beginning about almost a how to in terms of developing mentor relationships. I don't do it on purpose, it's how I'm wired. But I have some of the best, most talented, tireless mentors in my world. I also have some of the best friends. My family as well as sort of chosen family and friends. For better or for worse, I allow myself to be as honest with the people in my trusted circles as I can be, including those days that are inevitable where it's like gosh, I am just so tired of this or I'm beat, whatever the case may be. If I can allow myself to be honest and really allow myself to be seen by those people that have earned that right to, they have my trust and I know that they're going to have my back, then everything else becomes surmountable. Because the point you made is really true. Entrepreneurship can be very lonely and there's so much responsibility, and every decision is ultimately on your shoulders depending on the way your business is structured. That's a lot to carry.

So I do what I can to not make myself carry it alone. I'm a tribal person. I try to share the load. And I also try to share the joys. There's a wonderful quote that we use in our contractor agreement when we're signing up other coaches to work with us under our brand: A joy shared is doubled, and a burden shared is halved. I just love that. I'll say it one more time. A joy shared is doubled, and a burden shared is halved. Celebrate with your people and their successes, and give them the opportunity to celebrate you, and then be there for them when they need a shoulder, and let yourself lean on theirs when it's your turn to need one.

[61:33]
James McKinney: If there is anything that you take away from Ilana's story, I hope it is about the power of curiosity and passion. Having an unending hunger to learn more and to seek an understanding of what you don't know yet, then to take that knowledge and let it fuel your momentum forward to execute against your passions. All too often, people do not seek assistance out of fear of perception or rejection. For the most part, we are absolutely willing to help someone in need, but we are not willing to seek the help when we are in need. We do so out of fear and out of pride. We cannot allow our fear of perception or perfection to paralyze us and inhibit our growth and opportunities. Be curious. Be curious what might happen if you pursue that relationship. Be curious about what might happen if you go after that deal that you've been telling yourself is way too big for your business right now. Be curious about finally saying yes to something you've been saying no to for so many years. Be curious about taking Ilana up on her offer for all The Startup Story listeners.

[62:38]
Ilana Zivkovich: We are excited to offer listeners of The Startup Story podcast 20% off on any of our emotional intelligence tools. We have an entire suite of EI focused assessments. EI is seen today as more significant than IQ or any other factor in determining leadership efficacy as well as team fulfillment, and therefore productivity. So it's a very popular set of tools that we have and we would love to offer listeners of The Startup Story 20% off on anything from that suite.

[63:10]
James McKinney: If you visit WERQpeople.com, and that's W-E-R-Q people.com, you can check out all of WERQ's services. Just make sure you mention Startup Story when you interact with the company to get your 20% off. In one episode, Ilana gave us encouragement with her startup story and resources with her offer for help. I hope we can provide some value to her by engaging with her on LinkedIn. A link to her profile is in our show notes, so make sure you reach out to her and let her know one way her story had an impact on you.

Now, for my personal ask. The Startup Story community has been so incredible with sharing our podcast with others, but we have more stories to tell and more people to reach. We are a startup and the most powerful way you can support The Startup Story podcast is to leave a review on Apple Podcast or wherever you get your podcast. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram @TheStartupStory.co. Share The Startup Story on your social media, either with a link or a screenshot. Make sure you tag or mention us @TheStartupStory.co so we can see your help and say thank you for it.

Lastly, share the podcast on your LinkedIn profile. The Startup Story is for entrepreneurs, so please do not underestimate the power of sharing The Startup Story on your LinkedIn profile so other entrepreneurs can discover us. In fact, most people struggle to share good content on LinkedIn anyways, so if you want to support The Startup Story then search for The Startup Story company page, follow us, and share our posts to help encourage other founders and spread the word about the podcast. Every single founder has a story, and the startup stories we bring you every week can encourage and inspire another founder. It might just be what they needed to hear to keep moving forward on their dreams. I look forward to sharing these stories every Tuesday with hopes to inspire you to start YOUR story.

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March 26 2019
Ilana Zivkovich, founder of WERQ

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