Guest Appearance: Handling Growth Without Compromising Mission with Sybil Ackerman-Munson

Nov 23, 2022

Why would you need a business coach when everything is going great and you’re totally happy with where you are?

In this episode, you’ll meet an entrepreneur who is ten years into what she thought would be a scrappy little business. But it’s not so little anymore and she’s found herself in a place where dealing with all the growth is becoming a worry!

How do you grow and stay true to your mission? These are the ideas we’ll explore in this session.

Sybil Ackerman-Munson is the founder of Do Your Good, which offers online courses, podcasts, and resources to help you make a difference with your donations to charities and to worthy causes.

Want to know how Future Fit you are? Take 3 mins to benchmark yourself with our Peer Score test on You might discover some surprising gaps!

Or just follow James on LinkedIn for more thoughts around coaching and being future fit.


Full Transcript

James: So Sybil. When, when are we going back to,

Sybil: Oh gosh. We're going back to around 2012 when I made the decision to become an entrepreneur

James: Wow.

Sybil: years ago, I guess. Almost. Exactly. Huh?

James: Amazing. So what, what, what, what triggered this?

Sybil: Well, so many things James. Um, on the personal level, I had gotten divorced about a year or so before that, and I really wanted financial independence. I had a wonderful job that was full time, but I felt a little boxed in by that. And then I started listening to podcasts. Podcasts were sort of just starting.

I was hearing all these podcasts from people who were called entrepreneurs, and believe it or not, I had no idea really what an entrepreneur was. And when I started hearing what that, what those folks were doing, I was so inspired. I'm like, That's me. You know, I've had like regular nine to five jobs for so long, and within about three and a half years I'm like, All right, I got this.

What can I. You know, so, um, in 2012, what I did was I said to myself, I, I started having more and more folks asking me to help them give money away effectively to really good deserving causes and non-profits. More and more folks are asking me, and so I went to the family that I worked with full-time as their executive director and I said, Hey, I have an.

Can I also work for other folks doing the same thing? And, but I still wanna keep you guys cuz this is a delightful family. I love working with them. And to their credit they said yes. And so on the one hand I was getting divorced, I was trying to figure out how to sort of own my own life a little bit and.

Then at the same time, um, this came forward and I was like, Hmm, I wanna be an entrepreneur, but this I'm painting way too rosy a picture of it. There were a lot of things I had to think through to get there. So I'll let you guide me, James, and, and ask the right questions to get it outta me.

James: sounds easy. Just like

Sybil: yeah. Just snap the fingers and Yeah.


James: well, perhaps a bit of give of context around that change. It sounds there's quite a lot going on for you at, at that moment. What, what, what, Why? Why was it quite a tough moment as well as an exciting.

Sybil: Well, um, the, the tough part of the, of the time was really I was going through a journey of my own. Um, before I worked full-time as executive director at a family foundation, I was a nonprofit. Advocate grassroots person, and I loved what I did, but you don't get paid well for that line of work. And so I really did depend very much on my husband's income at the time.

And let me tell you, I still am friends with my husband, ex-husband, he's a good gentleman. Um, But, so a lot of this was my own journey. Not, not his. I was the person that ended up leaving him. He wanted to try to figure things through and I'm like, No, I had to do this on my own. Um, and so there was that piece of it, it was so important where I needed to really, I was feeling.

In a way trapped, not by him, but by my, by my own devices where I was making so little money on my own. I was so dependent on another person for their financial next steps. And it was scary, man. I had to like say to myself, Okay. Not only do I need to jump out on my own, I need to, I really wanna have ownership over my finances and I wanna be able to live on my own.

Um, once I got divorced, I bounced my first check. Now I don't wanna make it sound like I'm this, you know, I was having so ton of trouble. I do, I'm lucky, lucky, lucky. I have a really supportive family. My parents are supportive, so I was able to rely on other people to help me move forward. But I did feel.

Right. Um, so when I bounced my first check, I was like, I don't want to do that again. Um, I wanna figure out how to make my own money, but also still do good in the world. Like, I was also conflicted because I came from the, a non-profit space that was very much focused on, um, scarcity. And so actually if you started trying to make enough money to sort of live, people looked down on you, they got grumpy with you.

And so I also had to get away from that. And that's when I started discovering this entrepreneurial piece. And I had to talk to myself about how I shouldn't feel guilty about actually wanting to make my own living wage and not be dependent on any other humans for that. And if, and for me, I had to figure out how to do that while also still doing good in the world.

And that's what I created. Do your good. Um, and I'm not sure if I always succeed at. You know, am I, am I doing everything I can to make the world a better place or to support people who wanna make the world a better place? And constantly questioning that. But that was a lot there, right? That's a lot. And then I also had to decide, okay, I need to, if I'm gonna have my own business, I need to actually ask folks to pay me what I'm worth.

And again, I came from this mindset in the, in the nonprofit sector that I was in, which was very much like, if you make money, you are not, You have to like, be struggling, have a valve of poverty, like that's not a, the right motivations. So I had to get over that. And then, um, at the same time though, I still wanna hold onto not wanting to be propagate.

I wanna be somebody who's giving back. So, but then at the same time, I had to sit down with my clients or potential clients and say, I'm worth X. And that was really hard to figure. But, um, but I feel like I'm still ch I'm still challenged with that, but I'm, I'm, I'm, I feel like I've now fast forward 10 years.

I'm just so happy. My business is doing well. I'm, um, not worried about money. I'm able to plan ahead. I don't feel like I'm like, Too much or too little in that department. Like I'm really, really feeling in the right track there now, so I'm eager to talk about that. But let's hover over that difficult moment.

first a little longer.

James: So, but it sounds, I mean, there's a lot of change in there. I mean, there's your change of identity in terms of who you are as a person, who you are with, how you view the world, what you do. I mean, sounds like there's almost no element of your life that you didn't change in that

Sybil: I know and I also fell in love with a different guy too. at the same time? Well, not exactly the same time, but it was, it was, uh, there was a lot of change. You know, some people tell you that you're only supposed to do one major life change thing at a time. I did them all at once. At the same time,

James: But it sounds like you almost became a different person. So it's, it's almost logical that, that you kind of trick this, this, this one series, this just triggered a series of changes quite quickly, one after another.

Sybil: yeah, it really did. And, um, but I, I don't know if I am a different person in a certain sense, because I still feel like, um, I'm, I feel like then and now I was true to myself and I was, I was fundamentally happy. Um, but, but I definitely felt like. This was when I was around 40 years older, a little older than that.

Um, I definitely felt like I was digging even more deeply into who I was and allowing myself that to jump. To jump forward and in that jump, really believe in who I am. And by doing that, I realized that other things came, came through in a way that was more beautiful and more amazing than I ever thought.

But it was by doing that jump that I had to. Allow that to happen, um, to allow myself to fail forward. If that's, I, I know that's a little cliche cuz a lot of people say that, but I was really, really understood that saying a little bit better now. Okay. Let's move forward 

James: So this, this idea of pace of change and just digging deeper, what, what would you, if we explore this moment or the moment now, what would you like to get from, from today?

Sybil: Well, I guess the, the key things I'd like to get from you today is, you know, that was a really challenging moment, but also one of the most empowering moments of my life, um, back around 10 years ago. I look back on it and I'm so happy that I did all of those things because I am so happy now. Um, I just feel very empowered.

I feel like I have developed a business that is based on doing good in the world and actually does give back and I'm able to, Provide really wonderful resources to my clients who are wealthy individuals who wanna do good in the world, and I'm able to be creative. So I created to have my podcast that I do that's just really fun where I interview people and um, I'm doing all these other things, creating little online courses to help people do good in the world.

Because I've been working on this issue for so many years. I just feel like it's my responsibility to do that. So all those fun things are happening. Here's the thing, now you know, things are going really. But how do I make sure that in the next step as I'm scaling up even more, I stay true to who I am and all the things that I wanted to be when I went out on my own?

And how do I scale up while staying focused and making sure that I say no to the things that aren't really focused in on the business I wanna create for the future? And, um, those are some questions I have. Right now I am absolutely not interested. The massive amount of change I did before. I wanna build from this amazing thing that I am so happy I built over the last 10 years, and I wanna keep nurturing it.

And I've seen other folks scale up where they really make mistakes and then the whole thing can crumble around them. And I don't want that to happen to me. I wanna build and build and build and then not burn out and feel like, how, how can I do it well? So I have ideas about how I'm doing this, and thoughts about it and been doing a lot of planning and thinking, and I value people like you, James, who can maybe be a sounding board to help me think through the next steps.

James: for you then, when, when you think about this, this, this idea of scaling or saying no, what, what is, what is the main thing that comes through to you as a fear of, of, of happening? So you talked about it all falling apart. Is there, is there anything else?

Sybil: Well, you know, and I don't think, I don't think my business is gonna fall apart now because I've built it from scratch and it's really. Vibrant. So I'm feeling confident there. The question is, right now, um, I have two parts of my business that are moving forward. One is the one-on-one client work. Or I work with donors and I support them in giving away money effectively.

And then the other arm of my business is this online part of my business where I'm doing podcasting. I've created mini courses. I'm doing like special email sequences for folks with special tips, all these fun things, and. On the one hand, the one-on-one client work is continuing to do better and better.

So over 10 years, you know, you do a little bit of work for somebody and then they recommend you to somebody else. It's all word of mouth. There's no advertising there, and it's so fun and it's so interesting. There's only so much of me though, , so, um, I'm, I'm have actually a couple of projects that are about to maybe happen in the next little bit here that really will take most of my one-on-one time, and that's, I really wanna devote myself to those.

And, um, they're linked to some clients I've already been working with and I'm excited about that. But it means that I probably will need to focus there more. Um, the online part of my business, that's a longer role, right? That, that costs money in the beginning, cuz you have to. I've never really done online.

I'm older, right? So I'm not used to social media and everything. So I'm learning all that and I've created my accounts and I'm, I'm contracting with experts who are helping me, uh, move forward there. But I'm realizing that's a much longer role and it's gonna cost more money over time rather than giving me income.

But the thought is that at some. Maybe in five to 10 years that part of my business sort of balances out with my one-on-one client work, and then I can really focus even more, but I don't know. But then at the same time, on that side, that's costing me some money. Now, I know if I spent more time on it than I could probably build that up faster, but then it worries me a little bit because it's costing me money and my one-on-one client stuff's going so well.

I'm a little bit, I'm not, I wouldn't say I don't feel stuck cuz I'm feeling really excited about everything. But what I'm doing now is working like 80 hours a week and on weekends and everything, which is fine for now. I'd love what I'm doing, but like, I don't wanna do that forever. I think what I'd, my goal, if I looked forward five years, um, and looked back on between now and five years, what I'd love would be to really focus in on two to three, one-on-one clients.

Right now I have. Triple that, right? So two to three that I really adore and I know who those people are in my head, right now. And then I, then I also have this other part of my business that ends up actually being able to make a little bit of income. It doesn't have to make a ton, but to at least break even in a little bit more so that I can keep that moving forward at the same.

and that would allow me to maybe have weekends with my family that where I'm not working every morning, that kind of thing. And it also be, I love the one-on-one client work, but I'd be keeping the one, the folks that I'm really excited about and there's a project coming up that I might be doing that I'm just, Oh my gosh, I can't wait.

I hope I can do this. I hope they ask me to because it'll be fun. So that, that's the kind of thing I'm thinking.

James: Okay, so it sounds like there's, there's almost two themes and two pro projects, and there's this, this one theme of like doing good impact giving back. having how big a positive impact you possibly can. And then there's a second theme that's submerged over the last, well, almost 10 years ago of this, of I want to be financially independent.

I want to be paid what I'm worth while still, while still having impact. So there's kind of, there's a, there's an impact piece and there's a financial piece. And it sounds like you've now got two strands, your business, one of which gives you impact and financial. But the other potentially have even more impact.

It's just having a negative financial impact at the moment.

Sybil: Exactly. Exactly, exactly. And I'm seeing benefit on the, I mean, I'm seeing the, the impact in both sides. So for example, my, the marketing team that I've contracted with to help me on the Do your good side. Uh, they've been focused on email, you know, sending out free, um, advice to folks and then folks give us their emails.

And I think the last count is I have almost 6,000 emails from folks. Um, and I, that was start, we started that concerted effort just a few months ago. So I'm really seeing exciting benefit there, you know, and. And, um, I'm getting some good feedback from folks. I'm just starting to sell just a few of my mini courses I have online and now I'm learning.

Oh my gosh. Okay, Now there's the back end piece where like, Some people can't log in, right. And there's little glitches, , so I'm like, okay, gotta figure that out. Um, and the, luckily the folks have been super nice about it and understanding, um, to try to figure through all these pieces, but yeah, there's a lot to think through on that side, but I am feeling like it's gonna do something.

Good's gonna go there at some point.

James: So, So is it fair to say that we narrowed the problem down or opportunity down? The one to one stuff is pretty much you're coupled with how it's done. It works as a model, you know, ultimately might be shrinking a bit to a few key clients, but it's kind of, kind of okay in your head. It's the new side, the business which is taking up, which is moving it to sort of 80 hours a week and weekends and.

Almost an unknown and exponential amount of work.

Sybil: I totally appreciate that. That's well said. I hadn't really thought of it exactly that way, but yes, I think it's, um, yeah, that the, the one-on-one client work is going great and things are good and I'm super, I'm have my core clients and then there's all these really interesting additional projects and my team that's working on do your good, They always laugh at me in a nice way.

They're like, Okay. Every Monday, , we. A huge amount of stuff from you and I, I always tell them, Don't you know you have to ignore me if I email you on the weekends. Don't. I know you are. You have regular jobs, . But that's when I'm getting all my stuff done. Yeah. And I don't know how many years I need to, how long should I be trying to do it that way before?

Before it breaks a little bit where it's like, Mm, okay, Sybil, you need, Like I talked to myself. I'm like, I need to maybe. Have fewer one-on-one clients, but when can I, Should I do that since the other one's costing me money rather than supporting me? And I love the one-on-one projects I'm working on. So yeah, little bit like a, So then I go, I can just work harder and I can right now, but at some point it is not gonna be possible to just keep going there.

James: Such a traditional entrepreneur solution, I can just work more hours, just sleep less. How to see people less

Sybil: Yeah, I, I, um, I have a, a story on that. Like I was, uh, on a Zoom check-in with my girlfriends and, uh, we were all talking. I'm like, Okay, everybody. So my kids are all in college. I miss them terribly. They just, everybody all just left and I'm like, Okay, that means I'm gonna have so much extra time. I'll be able to see you all.

They all stopped and looked at me like, We've heard that before. Civil Then I realized, Oh yeah, that's bad . I shouldn't be even laughing. But anyway. But I also feel sort of the reason I'm talking to you about this as well is, is I feel weird even talking about it because everything's fine. I am not complaining.

really, What I'm saying is my business is going so well, I'm working so many hours, how do I make sure I'm navigating the next step? And I just feel almost like, I don't wanna talk to people about this like you or other folks, because I feel like, well, it sounds like I'm complaining, and it sounds like, well, you know, The smallest fiddle in the world.

Civil, you know, there's, and there, it's true. There's, this is all, everything's good. I should just shut up and move forward. . So,

James: It's quite interesting though because that, that is quite a, I teach a lot of people in this podcast and quite a few of the, the problems that people talk about. They caveat with exactly that, like kind of first world problems, world's smallest violin. Like I shouldn't be worried about it, but a, but actually these are real, real things with real impact, like success leads to pressure, success leads to more work success leads to burnout.

Success, like are real, those have impact on your businesses, have impact on your personal life. Those have impact on what you're trying to achieve because. Ultimately, as a founder of a business, you are the core of it. And if you are not in the best possible place that will impact your, your, your, your business, your circle around you and you.


Sybil: Right,

James: think it's really important to look at these things.

Sybil: Right, and, and I'm a planner, so right now I'm like on fire. I'm so happy. I don't feel stressed out. I don't feel burnt out. I'm just like, keep, let's keep going. And I'm an extrovert. And now that Covid is still there, but we're all seeing people again. It's just giving me more energy and I love everything I'm doing.

So right now I'm just like moving. At the same time, I'm looking ahead, trying to be strategic around the next steps and, um, making sure that in the end the thi not the end to end, but in the end, like the next five to 10 years, when I look back, the things that I'm gonna be able to focus in on even more are the things that I know are really true to what, who I am and what I wanna do as a.

James: Hmm.

Sybil: um, and that's why I, I don't have answers to that a hundred percent. I'm just trying to figure that out and think about it.

James: So there's a sense of just. Everything, everything's durable at the moment. It's just a sense of it might not be at some stage, and if you know that at some stage it might not be, what can you do about it today to avoid that in three months, six months, a year, two years, whenever it is, there is a pain point coming.

If something doesn't change.

Sybil: Right. And so I can tell you what I'm doing to try to think through it and you can give me advice because maybe there'll be additional things or things that I probably shouldn't be worrying about. looking ahead, um, I told you there's one project, it's confidential, but it's a project looking ahead that if, if I do get this project, um, I will be very excited.

It sort of brings in every single. Who I am, what I wanna do, my expertise, um, it would require additional staff, no question. And so looking ahead, I think right now I contract a lot of different people to help with specific pieces of my business that I'm not an expert at, so that I can focus on the stuff that I think I'm better at.

Um, and I've maximized that and I have wonderful people that I contract. I think that if I do end up taking this next stage of this next contract that I'm talking about, , I'll probably hire people, um, to help me and I have in mind a few folks right now who are amazing and who could help me there.

So the question though is that does change my business a little bit, right? Because right now it's just me. I make all my own decisions about finances and my employees wouldn't make decisions about finances, but I'd be responsible for them and I care about them, so I would care about them. And so it's a different phase and a different thing to think about, and that links into also just financial planning for my business.

So, um, right now I have, I'm pretty anal about my financial planning. Uh, as I told you before, I was an activist for a long time, so I didn't have a big safety net. Nest egg. So when I started my business, I, I don't, I'm not a huge spender, so I put a lot of money away in both retirement and I proactively saved from my kids college.

And it's not just me. I worked with my husband, my current husband, and we plan together on all of these pieces. And so I'm feeling pretty good now after 10 years about, you know, where we are savings wise, but we're not there yet. A hundred. . And so that, that in terms of my own goals, my own personal goals and, and his goals.

And so the, the question then too is if we bring on, if I bring on employees, um, what does that mean for the long term savings? The, um, and then there's, I'm gonna be committing to employees then for 5, 10, 15 tw I mean, maybe forever, right? So, um, that's sort of my biggest question at the moment is, I don't think I can, I can definitely keep contracting for specific things, but I do think that at some point I'm gonna need to, to think about that and what does that mean overall.

So I'd love your thoughts on, I mean, I have a feeling you've talked with plenty of people who have these same questions around when they're ready to actually hire staff, and what does that mean?

James: Well, it sounds to a degree like when you have hired people just on a contract basis. So I think that is, that is hiring there. There's a, there is less commitment, but it's still, you've still manage people. You've still found people, you've still paid people. So I think this feeling one, as I say, this feeling of it's very different and it's a lifetime commitment.

Given that the length of service seems to be shrinking year on year. I mean, Max is probably like a two year, two year commitment. people will probably leave after about two years. I, I think that feels like an unknown step in this in terms of, oh, it's a permanent person, it's bigger than it is. And I think a lot of people that come in podcast have already got to a stage.

They, they've got quite a big team, actually think about managers of people as well. So that, that's a whole different stress point for people when suddenly you're bringing into your business. You're not even directly contacting, there's someone sitting in the middle. I mean, suddenly there's all this cost is coming in and all this control is going out.

So actually I think the step potentially quite a nice one. Structured carefully. , I'm just curious what it is about permanent hire that is triggering these, these different feelings with you.

Sybil: Well, um, when I started my business, um, as an S corp, I also, because I was, um, didn't, don't have a lot of day to day expenses, or not too many, I was saving quite a lot of money and my tax folks said, Civil, you should create something called a DB plan. And so I created that and it's like a pension. And one thing they said is if you create one, then you really can't hire staff.

And so it's too expensive for a teeny business like yours to be able to afford to do a pension for your employees. And so sort of that was, that was like, I don't know, eight, nine years ago. And so I, uh, I said to myself the whole time, Oh, okay, I can't hire staff. I'm always just gonna be this small little scrappy.

but it's, I'm not really small and scrappy anymore. . And, and I'd very much like to hire staff and I've, I've actually gone back to my, um, folks that do that work for me and had them calculate out, well what does that really mean? Is it really too expensive? You know, and it's not, I can do it. and I also think that offering, that kind of, thing in my business could help people maybe stay longer than just two years cuz it's a investment.

That's good.

James: hm.

Sybil: I also can just decide, I don't wanna do the DB plan anymore, roll it over, and that kind of thing. But I, I really am invested in it. It's been a lot of years and I think it's a really interesting, um, structure for retirement. So that's just one example of, uh, of sort of why, to me, in my mind, I've created this sort of thing that's really different.


James: So it's almost like this is the next stage of evolution. So you went from kind. An entrepreneur, but your identity was like a scrappy entrepreneur, sort of only contract necessary doing everything yourself, working long hours, saving as much as you possibly could, and actually now it's kind of updating your, what type of entrepreneur you are and going, Actually, it's okay to be this type of entrepreneur

Sybil: Yeah. You know, I never thought I, I'm realizing this is something that, that I didn't talk about, but that I've, um, that you're touching on here. One thing I don't wanna be is I don't wanna be somebody. Who is like, first of all, one of those like hawking my wears, if that's the right word for it. , like, I just want, you know, I'm, I'm, look at me, I'm like a used car salesman, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And I just want you to, I'm, and, and I'm very interested in being genuine. All of my products I create for anybody. I'm always on time. I, everything I do is like extra, extra. I'm also not overly formal. I'm like friendly and like rounded. That's how I feel I am, right? And so I'm very worried about this next phase where I don't wanna become one of those people that is like, Well, I'm really special and here's my fancies fancy pants thing and da da da.

I wanna be, keep my genuine.

James: Mm.

Sybil: wanna have a team of 500 people and have a fancy apart, uh, office building with glass doors. You open and close. I just don't, I, I appreciate those forums for folks who wanna do that. It's just not my personality. I would feel trapped and I'd feel like I wasn't somebody who I really was.

And I also, in a way feel that my clients would be bummed with me too, because that's why they, they love me and why I love them is that we're just genuine people together. So,

James: Mm

Sybil: You, I didn't realize until we were talking that, that those two things are connected. The hiring staff and that whole piece of it.

James: So with that realization, what does that trigger for you?

Sybil: I don't know. Gotta think about it. I, I think I, I don't think it means then that I'm like, Oh, okay, well then you should just get over it and hire staff. I think actually I should think about how do. expand my business and, but do it in a way that keeps true to me and who I am. And I have to be really, really careful about that.

Um, so that I don't lose myself in the expansion. Cause really, I really wanna do good in the world. I wanna help great scrappy nonprofits, do good in the world and connect wealthy individuals to that, those causes. And I worry if I get too fancy Schmanzy pants and start needing money for my business too much, then I'll lose that.

I'll lose that part. And all I'll be caring about is my business, which I don't. I care about the outcomes now, and I always want to, you know, so how do I make sure that I keep that It could be hiring people who I know also have those same values. As me. Um, but you never really know. I mean, so that, I'm gonna sit in that question for a minute, , maybe you have answers for me,

James: It's just a very interesting phrase that like, I don't want to lose myself in the expansion.

Sybil: Right, Right. I really don't.

James: and actually that's less about the practicalities of how, if it's less about sort of it not working or it's the work life balance or something, it feels like there's quite a deep seated fear in there of lose losing yourself in the expansion.

Sybil: Well, it's, it's more, I don't know if it's about losing myself in it. What, I probably said that, but that's not really what I mean. Now that you're saying that to me. It's more that I'm lose, I'll lose the reason my business and my entrepreneurial. Idea started, which is to give back to the community to really make a difference on some of the biggest, hardest issues in the world.

And I don't mind feeding my business so that I can do that right now. I feel like I'm maximizing that, supporting my own, you know, financially I'm supporting myself, my family, and my husband is too. It's a partnership and it's all I feel like I've gotten. Um, and what I don't wanna have happen is to have the business and, you know, the money we're making for the business become just about making the money for the business.

I want it to be always about the cause and about the outcome. so, and it, it's linked also to just my history and my family and, um, I was brought up with my parents are both professors. most people in my family are either teachers or professors or lawyers, , which is funny combination on my side of the family.

And, and so I've always been brought up with a strong sense of community service and need, desire to do community service in the world and to, to really be out there supporting the community. So, so that's, that's why it's a little bit, this, this journey around entrepreneurship and having my own business and that kind of piece is, is a little bit new for me to try on and figure that out.

James: And, and what is it about this expansion that makes you fear that you might lose sight of that? Is it you might lose sight of that goal or your business might lose sight of that

Sybil: Well, I guess I, I don't know if I ever would lose sight of it, but I could lose, um, if I start having employees and other pe other folks on staff, which I will do, I'm gonna get over this, but I need to be sure I'm ground grounding myself in this. Because if I start having employees and staff in every, everything there, then I start.

Worrying about feeding my business more than feeding the community, if that's feeding the coins for wrong word, but like more than supporting the nonprofits and the clients that are trying to do good in the world. And, and that's where I worry. Um, now I think in talking to you, what, what I think a solution now is, now that we're talking about this more a solution could.

That I make sure whenever I bring somebody on, I have a very clear goals statement that talks about why does this business exist? Why are we doing what we're doing, so that anyone who comes into this, my community as a staff person is, is bought into. , so we all are in it together. Maybe that can be just at least one step, one solution.

So that I'm just crystal clear about that. So when someone comes in, they understand that like, you know, I'm not doing this just to make a ton of money. I'm doing this to really help and support the nonprofits that I serve and to support the, my clients, my donors, the donors I work for, to be as effective as they can be in the world, to give back.


James: So it's about when you bring people in and they're part of your business, they're, and they're sort of reflecting you and your culture. They know that it's not about, the business doesn't exist to make money, it's, they need to reflect you and your values.

Sybil: that's the gap. But at the same time, I don't wanna be somebody like what happened when I was in the nonprofit world where it was like so frowned upon to ever make any money. I mean, that, that I think is not healthy as a, in a community. I mean, so, um, so I really, what I think what's coming out of this conversation is I think I should sit down and really write, even though I have it in my own head, because I've only had to be working for myself, my own really clear.

Goal statement internally, I have external goal statements. They're on my website, they're everywhere. They're about doing your good and making sure you're giving back in the world, and then supporting nonprofits to be effective in their pitch, to be able to raise money so that they can like do the good stuff in the world.

So I do all that already, but what I haven't done and the gap is, is that if I'm gonna expand and actually hire people, I need to do internally some internal work to really talk about what is the internal culture of of my business gonna be. . And so when people come on, they'll be really clear about that.

So this was super helpful for that. Thank you for that.

James: My pleasure. It's also just if it helps in terms of when it comes to doing your interviewing for people, for it, having your values and your mission statement clear,

Sybil: Mm-hmm.

James: I would say is actually the most important thing to get alignment on. People often focus on experience cause that's easy to flag on a cv.

Maybe they do. Competency and values is quite nebulous. People tend to go, Oh, we like the same things we'll get on. But actually I think of as a business, you can set out what you stand for and your values. That's the most important thing to have alignment on. Then it's competency and experience is kind of like that.

That requires difference. That requires better interviewing skills and structured interviews and a whole range of other things. . So I think the values piece before you start interviewing makes a whole sense for a whole range of reasons.

there's one other thought I had So one is this culture piece. There's like a culture, there's a fear that we bring someone in their culture won't reflect your culture and the business might become something that is not what you. I wonder whether there's also something on the side of, you mentioned this, this, this sort of, you're having support do your good cause it's more nascent and it's, it's taking up some financial resources.

And then there was this concept of if you hire someone, it's for life

and is it taking up, there's, is there potentially a fear that impacting the other part of the business? This kind of lifetime commitment concept, taking up resources. I wonder where this is a bigger fear as well than is, than is being surfaced.

Sybil: the thing is, is that I, the word fear for me, I don't feel like I'm living in fear period. Really? I, if you asked my husband, you'd laugh. He'd laugh because he'd be like, Yep. Civil. She just, I just sort of go and I'm like, I look back, Oh, that might have been a little hard back there, Um, and you, you challenged me to think through what are some fears? And I actually think it's sort of helpful because I. I was like, Oh yeah, no, these are some, I'm wor my worry is that I'm what I was just talking about before. but it's really hard for me to think in terms of, of fear just cuz it's not the way my my mind works.

But maybe, um, if I think about it more in, I feel like what you're trying to say to me is, is in your next steps, sabel, why don't you think about, what it is that you're worried about losing. That you love right now? That's for me. And I don't, There's certain things that I just, I'm so empowered internally, I'm so happy, I'm so right where I wanna be.

And I love striving and I love looking at the next piece. And I don't usually stand still. Um, and so how can I go to the next place without losing what I have now? And I guess that's a fear, but I don't think of it that way. I think of it more like, . I don't wanna lose, I don't wanna ever feel trapped in what I've built, and I don't now, but I also am not gonna stay still where I am now.


James: And, but that's question. I don't feel trapped potentially, if you have, let's say, three to four permanent staff members and the subconscious view of this is a lifetime commitment that does feel a little bit trapping.

Sybil: Mm-hmm. , It can. If I'm not clear, but it also could be freeing if I did it right. So I feel like if I, if I was really clear on my goals, which is what you're helping me think through right now, and then if I, um, I was really clear on my goals and then I brought people in who clearly can help me in areas where I don't wanna spend my time and, but they can.

Foster the culture that I wanna foster and they can augment my work. I feel like that's the answer. And so what this is actually doing is there's actually a person who I'm contracting now who I think is amazing and I would, I would love to. Hire them. Um, I also wanna be sure that as I move forward with hiring, that I'm looking out beyond the horizon of people I already know so that I can make sure that I'm, um, including all sorts of folks in my considerations.

And not only just being like who you knew, who, you know, pat in the back kind of thing. So, so, um, lots of things to unpack there and think about, but all this is great, right? Like, I'm thinking about hiring people. Woo-hoo,

James: I honestly, hiring people is the biggest gift. You, I mean, it's super exciting. Like you get someone new on your team, it's kind of an opportunity to be better.

I maybe, maybe the, the final thought I'd have for you on, on this is like, it feels like. Getting clear where you'd like to be and mapping out, let's say in three to five years time, there doesn't be a fixed timeframe, but some point in the future.

I think a big key, this is then sequencing backwards. 

Sybil: Mm-hmm. 

James: it feels like there's kind of like the two parts of the business that are in parallel, but it's kind as one potentially increases, one has to come down or else it kind of as one, but they both go up. It means they both need people. But I think. Particularly there's concern of working 80 hours. I mean, there's not anywhere hours you can work carefully sequencing that change backwards. Like, this is the way we wanna get to,

Sybil: Mm-hmm.

James: What is the sequence backwards? Cause I think with sequencing backwards, there's a lot more power from sequencing forwards cause sequencing forward.

So you look at like, Oh, it's this block, it's this block, it's this block. Whereas when you sequence backwards, it's like, Oh, that's just what needs to happen. And it naturally flows through.

Sybil: Yeah. Yeah, I 

James: If that helps. 

Sybil: No, that's really helpful. I totally agree with that.

James: Brilliant. Well tell you what, uh, so, so where we talk about the future, where does that leave you today? Perhaps it's just worth giving you a quick snapshot of where, of, where your business is today.

Sybil: Well, well, yeah. So right now, um, I'm having a blast. I am loving it. So that's, that's the biggest, I, I'm, I'm surprised because of course, that. About 10 years ago, I didn't know where it would go. And again, I was leaping and I was looking back going, Oh, this is sort of hard . But now I'm just so happy because, um, I'm doing the, these two arms of my business.

One is the one-on-one client work and a lot of my clients I've had for many, many years. And, um, there's sort of in the one-on-one client work, there's a couple things I do. One is I work. Donors who usually have smaller family foundations. When I say smaller, it means they give away anywhere from 500,000 to 2 million a year, and they hire me to help them.

I am an expert in environment and natural resources work, and so they'll hire me actually to help them give money away, specifically strategically around that, those issues. Cause I know the substance, I know the non-profits that kind of. I also on that side of my business with one-on-one client work will get hired by foundations that may not work on environment and natural resources, but they want advice on how to structure their foundation.

To be even more effective in their giving strategies. And so I help folks with giving circles what I call pooled funds on a particular issue, or the particular organization just needs some help thinking about how to structure their giving strategy so it's effective. So those are the main things I do on the one-on-one client side.

Occasionally a nonprofit will hire me to help them hone their pitch, but I don't do that as often on my one on one. And then on my, um, on the other side of my business, which is this new experiment that I've been trying, um, and it's, and I call, I'm calling it, Do your good. So it's been 10 years where I've been sitting in on trustee meetings and I have so many thoughts about how to give money away effectively.

And so the do your good part of my business is focused very much on how to structure your giving no matter what you. Give what issue you give away for and what you focus on to structure You're giving in a way that will be effective and so that you won't waste money, and you won't leave money on the table and waste your nonprofit's time.

Because I've seen that happen all too often. So, um, it's all about that as how to structure. So I created, um, a special mini-course series called Crack the Code that folks can sign up for. I'm doing a special philanthropy accelerator. , which is focusing in on like one or two key issues that you as a donor need to think through, can think through with me.

And I'm having only 10 people in per cohort. So I can really focus in with them on how to make their, donate, their donating strategy, be really good, but it's not one on one, right? So it's gonna help them if they don't have time for or want the extra special attention from me. And then I also realized on that side of my business, a lot of non-profits were.

To what I was talking about cuz they wanna hone their pitch. So I created a on a mini course for them called Be Real, which is to help them. Think through how to hone their pitch. And then I also created a special email sequence where if they sign up for it every single week, they'll get a special tip for me about how to hone their pitch, because I get pitched every single day and process upwards of 200 proposals a year.

So I've seen what it takes to be a good person, a person that's good at fundraising. And then I've also seen plenty of examples of where people don't raise money well. So, um, that's super fun. And so I'm, I'm really noticing the nonprofits really liking. Conversation in that part of it. So that's what I do and, And I'm easy to find.

I'm just on Do your Yeah, it's my website and then Instagram is the little handle. Do your good. So

James: I can, I can see why you're working eight hours a week,

Sybil: totally.

James: well, so if, if there was one thing you'd take from today, what would it.

Sybil: Well, thank you. I don't usually, uh, have time to sit and think about the next steps. I'm usually, um, moving forward and I'm having a, like I said, a lot of fun, but I really, really appreciate this hour to really think through the next steps. So thanks.

James: Oh my pleasure. Well, thank you for sharing and uh, look forward to your evolution into. Non scrappy entrepreneur, but business builder and entrepreneur,

Sybil: Yes. Let's talk again in 10 years,

Yeah. Thanks a lot for your time.