#76: A Behind the Scenes Chat With My Project Manager Stephanie

Do you feel like you’re in control of your business? You know – you create the projects, set the schedule and can predict your income. You get to take vacations and days off as needed. And you enjoy your work. Yes or no? In this episode, Michelle gets super transparent about how at a certain point, she truly felt like she wasn’t in control of her business… and how her project manager, Stephanie, helped turn that around.

Stephanie’s Website: www.stephanieveraghen.com

Want to turn your health coaching business into a full time salary? Check out Michelle’s free training at http://HealthCoachPower.com/earn

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Michelle:             Hello, health coaches. Welcome to another episode. Today I want to know how many of you feel like you’re in control of your business? You know what I mean by that? Like you create the projects, you set the schedule, you can predict your income. You get to take vacation and days off whenever you need to and you’re enjoying your work. Yes. No. Raise a hand. Who feels like that’s the position that they’re in right now?

I’m going to be super duper transparent in this episode about how at a certain point, not that long ago, I really, really felt like, hello, what’s going on? Like I’m not really in control of this business anymore. I actually felt sort of chained to it and it was, it was controlling me. I was working way too much and I felt really, really stressed out about handling all the many details. And this can really happen as your business is growing. So even if right now you’re like, oh, I’m still in school, Michelle, or I’m just getting my business started, I want you to listen to this episode so you can start to vision a future or your business grows and you as a person are growing alongside it and it’s all happening gracefully. Oh my God. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Now, if on the other hand, you know exactly what I’m talking about today because we are living the life, I just described your a little too stressed out about holding it all together. You know you could be making a lot more money, but there’s just no time to figure out how and you feel like you’re kind of just surviving. You’re barely making your own deadlines, barely delivering on the promises that you make to your clients. Then you are also in the exact right place. So if you’re here with me live as we are recording, please go ahead and ask questions in the comments. At any point during the live broadcast, I’m going to be looking for those and I always want to be able to respond to you, so don’t be shy.

Today I’m going to be introducing you to Stephanie who is my project manager. It was about a year ago, I believe. Yes. I realized I was like, Oh man, I definitely need some kind of help and I wasn’t even sure at first what I needed, but you know with the help of some different advisors on my team, I was like project management. That sounds amazing. Like that was the level that I really needed help with because I already had an assistant, I already had a web designer, whatever.

I had people helping me, but to manage all the people on my team, that’s like a whole other job. Sometimes it’s kind of like if your spouse sometimes helps around the house, that’s great, but you still have to keep track of what needs to be done and when and tell them and tell them they didn’t do it right and you know what I mean? It’s like a huge mental load and that’s what was going on for me. So when I reached out to Stephanie, I basically felt like a hot mess. Like I was just running from this fire to that fire, trying to get it all done instead of being able to thoughtfully map out my weeks, map out my days and really accomplish the big things that heck I knew I was capable of. So first, uh, when we spoke I was like, okay, this woman gets me. Not only that she gets my business. It’s a very specific kind of business and she’s going to be a lifesaver and it’s definitely, you totally have been. I want to thank you so much for agreeing to chat with us too.

Stephanie:           Oh, thank you. Thank you for having me. I’m happy to have this conversation.

Michelle:             Awesome. Well I just said I was feeling like a hot mess when we first spoke. What do you remember about that first conversation? Like I’m curious what your first impression was and what you kind of saw in me and my business that maybe I wasn’t seeing.

Stephanie:           Sure. So you, like many business owners that come to me, you’d experienced rapid growth and we’re trying to manage all the moving parts and it’s hard. And so when you first start off with your business, you’re working in and you’re going along and you’re like, oh I can handle this, and you put one more thing and one more thing on and one more thing on. And then you hire your VA and then you have your tech VA and you start building and then it becomes way too much. Your issue at the time was how do I make all this happen? So I was able to come in and really say, Hey, let’s put some structure to these things. There was no project management software. So we got you set up, we got all your projects loaded in. And not only that, the project management software became your command center for your business as well.

Stephanie:           So that as we were working together as a team, everybody could find the things that they needed. So it was very streamlined and efficient. Most times when you’re growing, you throw your files wherever you need them cause you’re so busy and they can be really disorganized. So really going in the back end and getting your file set up so that when you do on-board new team members, everybody knows where to locate things because these things, although they seem small, they can be a big time suck in your business all the back and forth and like where is this or how do I get in here or do you have a password for this?

Michelle:             So was I like on a scale of 1 to 10 how crazy did I compare to your other clients?

Stephanie:           You were like on an eight, which is like normal, normal when you are going to scale your, you’ve experienced rapid growth. So, you know, oftentimes you came, you know you can’t see it cause you’re in it and we’re able to take all the information out of you, get it out of your head and into a project management software so that your life is now easier. And you can actually see the tasks that need to happen, put deadlines on them and shuffle them around and then readjust your schedule as you need so that it suits you. And not only your business but your life in general.

Michelle:             So much. I can just show you guys, I used to have pads of paper like this that I would just have full of notes. I mean in the notes range from like, you know, little things, setting this up with an email or getting back to this client. Big things. I’ll build that website, you know? And it was just like this running list of stuff. There’s a time and a place for it to do list, but I am so happy now. I barely have any of those lists anymore because you got me all organized.

Stephanie:           Yeah, that’s the name of the game is often we’re in it and we’re like, you’re like, I don’t even know what I need anymore. I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore. And your calendar’s jammed, you know, with interviews and things that you need to do, how are you even going to put all your tasks in there? It’s like an overloaded nightmare of a system happening.

Michelle:             Yeah, it sure can be. So I know that there are project managers in the world, like in all different industries. You could have like a project management. I worked in advertising, we had project managers where, you know, on a construction site they’re going to have a project manager. Uh, what made you so perfectly matched for the type of business that I am running? Like something about your background, just a lot of experience in the online coaching world.

Stephanie:           Sure. So originally back in 2010 I came into the marketing world and worked for um, an author speaker in that field and then went on to do Marie Forleo’s B school. I came out of that. I did a lot of personal growth and development work and then really started working as a VA way back when. So I really got to learn and do firsthand all the things that need to be managed on the team. And that gives me the ability to jump in and if, if something’s going on I can support in any way possible. Plus in the health coaching field, a lot of it, there’s personal growth and development within that too, even though it is a specialized niche. Um, so I can bring all of that. I also have my coaching certification, so that brings another level to the conversations that I’m able to have with my clients.

Michelle:             Yeah, it was like awesome. Cause so many people I talk to either they just don’t understand the business. Right? What are you talking about? What do you mean you hold launches? What is, what is a launch? You know? And I’m like, oh, even lawyers, accountants. I’m constantly explaining the business that I’m in and you kind of have that covered. But you know, it’s not, it’s not like everyone I work with has to be involved with personal development or healthy eating. I don’t usually grill somebody on like what they ate for breakfast when I decided to hire them. But it kind of helps.

Stephanie:           Yeah. And you do need to know what’s the sales page, what’s a Webinar page, how do these things get put together, you know, how do they work on the back end? How are you going to email your list and do you have the proper tags? There’s just a very, there’s little details and things that you need to know to really make launches happen.

Michelle:             Well that’s for damn sure Julie just wrote over here. I wish you could see my desk, Aka my dining room table right now. I guess she’s referring to organization

Stephanie:           That happens. That’s like the step before you move into the project management. So that’s good news.

Michelle:             Got it all out there. Now we’ve got to make some piles. So you mentioned, um, that I didn’t know that used to work as a VA actually or maybe I forgot that, that it gets a little fuzzy. Right? Cause if, uh, I have my, my assistant and I love my assistant by the way. Hi Kelly. Shout out to Kelly. But you also helped me with like some email communications and billing and things like that. Can you just like explain what’s the difference? What makes you, what makes Stephanie Different From Kelly in my business?

Stephanie:           Sure. So VA’s are usually task oriented. You hand over a list of tasks they get them completed. For me as a project manager, what I bring is I’m anticipating needs, I’m looking at your overall schedule and you know, when we get on weekly we’re looking at, you know, what was your week, what it looked like, what’d you get accomplished, would you not get accomplished? Do we need to shift things around to accommodate that? What does your week look like going ahead so that we can really schedule your workflow in a way that feels good for you versus feeling like you’re frazzled. I love to have ease and fun and kind of timelines if we can make it happen. Not saying that sometimes we don’t need to hustle because we do, but you know, that’s the whole goal is really looking at from a larger scale, what is, what’s needed for your business and then what’s needed for you personally to support you and where you’re at. Because a lot of times, uh, when you’re a business owner, I,  I feel for that it’s a living, breathing, growing organisms just like you are and life happens. So we need to be able to accommodate and adjust as we go along and then taking that and managing the team and the workflow and making sure things get done. And then on the other side of that, yeah, I do handle higher level tasks. So for example, I do your payments. So if a credit card updates need to happen or if people default on their payments and need a reminder, I’m happy to have those conversations. And sometimes VA’s aren’t comfortable with that and it all depends on, again, each person and their level of training.

Michelle:             Sure. Right. Different people are going to have different skill sets, different comfort levels, different types of conversations. I loved you cause you’re just like, oh yeah, I got it. All about it. I was like, no nonsense. I’m happy to talk to anybody about anything anytime.

Michelle:             So you started to talk about our process a little bit. Yet we have a weekly meeting, right? So this was like a big change for me. Even if you don’t hire a project manager, you guys, I think you could potentially do this for yourself where you have a meeting with yourself once a week. Um, and then like we gossip for half of our meeting and then we get some work done. But tell everybody a little bit more about like what do we do with these meetings? What’s the process like? How do you actually hold it all together for me?

Stephanie:           Sure. So obviously after we get all of your projects loaded in and we’re working on a launch, we go through together and we sit and we plan out from a to Z, what are all the things and the parts and pieces that need to happen for the launch. I’m talking through any things that, anything that may be, um, challenging or if there are pieces needed to be developed and when those things need to come. And then we set the timelines for everything. We have, uh, an agenda built into the project management software so that way during the week, if you or I think of anything, we just put our initial in and we put the item that way our agenda’s built by the time we get to our meetings so that we’re not sitting there scrambling on the day of the meeting wondering what we’re going to be talking about, which is super helpful. And then we go down the agenda list and we assign all of those tasks. Either we resolved them during the agenda, um, meeting or we task them out into a project and then we will decide if there’s something that we’re not ready to put into the project management, um, task lists, then we’ll park it and we’ll decide when we’re going revisit it. That way we can leave the meeting and there’s nothing left unfinished.

Michelle:             So two things scare the bejesus out of me. When I, when we started working together, the first was the idea of project management software cause I don’t know about everybody listening but first of all that sounded expensive. Secondly it sounded like something I was going to have to learn and that is just like, Oh God, another thing that I was going to have to learn and turns out. Um, it really has been pretty painless. So we use Asana. It’s a tool that is free, I mean we use the free version, which is pretty outstanding. Have you ever come up against a time where we were like, damn, I wish we had paid version?

Stephanie:           No,

Michelle:             No. I make money. I don’t know how they make money. They have a great tool. You guys should all use it.

Stephanie:           They do. And I think you can put up to five seats in your project management software for free through Asana.

Michelle:             What does that mean? Five people on your team…

Stephanie:           Yup, 5 people on your team so that if you are new and you are growing and you, it’s just you and your VA, you can put both of you in there. It’s not extra cost to you and you can start getting organized.

Michelle:             Yeah. Okay. Someone’s asking to please spell it. So it’s Asana. Just like I’m a Yoga Asana. A. S. A. N. A. Look it up. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s like, of course there’s a little bit of a learning curve once you get in there, but the beautiful thing about is how you can like assign a task to somebody, tag someone if you have a question for them. It’s almost like all of your email communication just keeps, it’s all in one place and it’s organized. Everything about one project is together and, you know, did the task get completed? Did it not get completed? Where did we leave off? It’s a beautiful bag.

Stephanie:           It is indeed.

Michelle:             Yeah. There’s other software, right?

Stephanie:           Yeah. There are. You can use teamwork. Uh, I recently started using that. It’s really robust. Uh, there’s a CRM built into it. I’m learning it now through a new client that I have. Um, and it’s comparable to Asana, but it does have a lot more features. Or You could use Basecamp. That’s another one that’s out there. Um, some people like to use Trello if they’re more visual because Trello has a different cards and you can create different workflows in there. So it’s all about what feels comfortable for you and what you like working in.

Michelle:             Cool. So that was like the first hurdle for me. I was like in a run screaming at the word software, but that was fine. And the next thing was this awesome question that Stephanie asks me every week, multiple times a week we’re looking at the project or I’ll say, hey, really need to do this for the podcast or whatever. And the question is always, when would you like to do that, Michelle? To which I do actually curse and say never, I never want to do it. But then of course the question can become, well who can we outsource it to? Yep. Right. How many times have you been like, well, is that something Kelly can do or is that something that’s so-and-so can do or do we need to hire somebody else entirely

Stephanie:           Or is it something that I can take off your plate? You know, so it doesn’t mean just because it’s assigned to you, it doesn’t mean it has to go to you and anything’s up for discussion. And if somebody else can free up your time then go for it.

Michelle:             Exactly. And then if it is something that I’m going to do, you know, it helps to really have that question in front of you and get honest about it. Cause you know, we procrastinate on stuff that we really don’t want to do. So to have someone sit there and say, what are you going to do this? I mean I am like a an A student. You know, if I have homework, I’m going to get it done. If I tell you that, you know, this is the due date, will damn sure going to have that due date. You know, it’s all going to be ready at that time. Like, if you had to give me a grade, I know I’m not always getting an a plus, but like what percentage of the time do I hit my dates?

Stephanie:           You’re like 98% like even anything can be going on and you still got it handled,

Michelle:             which is impressive. 98% and you guys know like I get a gold star. I feel really like that’s just part of my personality. I have to overachieve like that. But you must have clients who are like 50% how do you handle that?

Stephanie:           Well, there are clients that, I have one client who had to really work into using Asana because when she would log in, she would get overwhelmed. Like all her tasks were lined up. And so what we did was we created custom tags for her so that we could sort out her workflow so she could structure her time blocks for working. So, um, if it was content, we would tag those tasks that were contents and that way she could pull up by tag and she could sort so it wasn’t so overwhelming. And then when we go through her weekly list, we’ll go through tag because not such a long list and it seems easier to get through. See your mindset. Again, there’s no one way to do this. It’s all about what works for you as an entrepreneur and really getting to know what is your workflow, how do you like to work best, you know, do you like to be organized into different content tags or different, you know, workflow tags or do you like to just have give me all of the tasks and I know they’re in chronological order and I’ll just take them one step at a time.

Michelle:             Yeah, I think at one point I was like, but wait, how does this list of tasks equal what I do during the day? Like I need to organize. So now when we go through and stuff and he’s like, well like this thing has to be done by Tuesday. And I say hold up and I go to my Google calendar and I time block everything. So then for me, I know I have time literally blocked out for every task. If it has to move, it has to move somewhere, but at least it exists and that’s been working really well for me. Yeah.

Stephanie:           The other habit is really getting in tune with checking Asana in the morning. You know, here’s what I have. If you, you’re great because you use the calendar function, you know your calendar and you’ve got everything scheduled your time block. However, if it doesn’t work for somebody to do that, get in the habit to log in to us on every morning and then you know what you’ve got top of your day and you can organize your day that way.

Michelle:             Yeah, yeah, yeah. Gosh, and the big reason I hired you, Stephanie, was because my website was just never getting done, which is hilarious because let’s just be honest, it’s still not done. However, this is not our fault. Yeah. And it will be done soon. How are you feeling about that?

Stephanie:           I feel very excited. It’s going to be really beautiful when it comes out. We are like two steps away from launch.

Michelle:             Yeah, it’s been a long road, but it’s funny. It’s been a long road, but it’s the kind of project, you know when you just get like overwhelmed with something. If I hadn’t hired Stephanie, you guys, I still would be like kind of shoving it under the couch over here, you know, I just didn’t want to face it. Couldn’t deal. Still would be at square one but we are so very close and I’m so thrilled about that. I have felt like, I mean really from the get go I have felt a positive effect from having you on the team. Like wow, everything just got easier. But the big, big thing, well first of all I started to feel like, Hey I can take on so much more. Like oh hey I can, I can add that, you know, VIP option to the packages or hey I can do this other launch that I wasn’t thinking I was going to have time to do this winter so I’m able to do more.

Michelle:             But I think like the big wow for us came this summer when we pulled off a pretty big scale launch while I was going through a divorce. I mean, I am definitely still going through the divorce, but at the time I was like, I don’t know, maybe I need to cancel this launch. Maybe it just cannot happen right now. It’s going to throw off all my income goals for the year. But you know, let’s just see what happens. You were amazing. You really helped me through and it was completely painless and we totally made it happen. So what I’m thinking when I said to you, Hey, uh, Stephanie, I’m leaving my husband. Um, I don’t know what the hell is going on in my life right now. This launch is coming up. Like what were your thoughts?

Stephanie:           Well, so the first thing was I got the box from you is like, Hey, I may need to postpone our call today because I’m leaving my husband. And I was like, oh, okay, awesome. When would you like reschedule for? And I felt my first response was like, wow, lots of compassion and there’s still a business here.

And what happens is that we think that it’s compartmentalize that our life, our personal life is separate from our business, but it’s not, we bring our whole life to business every single day. And so being able to be there for you and step up and be support for you, no matter how you showed up, I was happy to do that. So obviously we had our call and there were tears and there was conversation and there was business at the same time. And I think it’s really great for me as a project manager, I really care about my clients and what’s going on in their lives. And I think when you find somebody really great to partner with, there is a certain level of trust there that you establish and you really feel like at a certain point like, wow, we’ve really got each other’s backs here. We’re not alone.

Stephanie:           That person can hold and take up and support where I might be feeling not so great right now. And then really talking through, you know, here’s what’s going on in my life. Okay, great. So what does that look like? If you’re going to move your house or you know, you, you need to shift or are we going to shift the launch and like checking with your emotional state, you know, where are you at emotionally? Do you have the energy for this? What are all the variables that you’re facing and, and how are we going to navigate that together? And you know, does it make sense right now or do we need to postpone it? Really being able to have those conversations and be honest about what that looks like is key.

Michelle:             It was so key and it’s uh, sometimes you bring emotion to business, either your frustration in your life and then you’re just like, ah, I can’t do this with work or whatever. You know, you just want to work on a project cause it’s exciting for you. And it was interesting to go from like, oh my God, my life is crazy right now. And we, we boiled it down to a date or like, hey, here’s the date we need to decide by. So, let’s see if XYZ can happen by that date. And if so it’s a go. And it was like, oh, all right, we just took this really subjective matter and made it an easy decision.

Stephanie:           Yeah. And then it was okay. So really allowing to have the emotion and then going, okay, let’s go back to step one. What is the next single step that we need to take and, and what does that look like and when do we need to schedule those things out? And I got to just tell you that I’ve never seen somebody move with such amazing grace and just make it happenness, if that’s a word.

Michelle:             Oh, it’s a word baby.

Stephanie:           Then you like the launch was not stressful considering all the things that were happening. It wasn’t a stress, a stressful time. We got it all done. We got it done on time and it was just amazing to witness. So I give big Kudos to you.

Michelle:             Oh my God. Never would’ve pulled it off without you. You’re right. It was, it was seamless really. I mean, if everything had been like stable in my life, I can’t imagine I would have been on the beach sipping Margarita as the whole time as it stands. It’s still a one off without a hitch. And that’s really the power I think of the advanced planning and not making decisions based on emotion. Um, you know, 100% also, you know, really having an objective mind come in and be like, well let’s talk dates. Yeah. Let’s talk then statements.

Stephanie:           Yeah. And then looking at your time blocks, what you were able to accomplish and short amount of time blocks really gets you present to wow, if I really focused my attention, look what I can accomplish in this amount of time. Versus like, you know, the things that we kind of, oh we got a little bit more time for that so we just let them go. It was like, no, like this needs to happen this amount of time and like you made it happen.

Michelle:             You made it happen. Amen. Hey, we’ve got a question over here from Kim Marie. She says, what are some things you should be looking for in a project manager for health coaches? What’s important to ask them before hiring them?

Michelle:             I’ll answer first and then I’m interested in what you have to say Steph. I didn’t really know cause I had never worked with a project manager before. I mean I had back in my advertising days, but I wasn’t really sure exactly what I should be looking for. Um, I just knew that this person needed to understand, like I said, the kind of business that I was running and not kind of wrinkle their brow and be like, what do you mean you coach people over the phone? You know, like if they had never been in the world before, it was going to be really, really hard. Um, and I also just needed a personality that I was going to click with, you know, cause at the end of the day, like this is your team. It’s a small but mighty team. Right? And you need people that can kind of communicate and get each other quickly. So like having a conversation and establishing a relationship is super important. What else do you think people should be looking for?

Stephanie:           Absolutely. I would look at their background. You know, where did they come from? Who did they work with? Do they have references? Because a lot of times when you’re hiring people can shake their head yes and say, yes, I’ve done that. And it’s not, it doesn’t turn out to be what you thought it was. And personality clicking is a big deal. Big deal. Another thing to look at is, you know, does this person, what kind of mindset does this person have? Are they looking for you to tell them all the things that they need to do or do they take the initiative and they’re like, here’s what I can give you. Here are the structures that I can put together for you. Here are the processes that I’ve put together for other people. Um, here’s the type of work that I’d done, you know, really getting in there and leading versus waiting for you to say, this is what I need. And really looking at, wow, do they get the big picture of your business? And then can they drill down and say, okay, I’m seeing that this part, you know, you could use a little extra support here. What do you think about that? So they’re bringing fresh ideas as well. Instead of waiting for your ideas to come to them.

Michelle:             That reminds me of somebody else that I had interviewed and the conversation was very like, well, what do you want to know about me or my business? And I’m like, Whoa, Whoa, whoa. You can’t even run this conversation. You should be telling me what I need to know because my brains in a million directions and this is your job.

Stephanie:           Yeah, yeah. A lot of people come into this, um, and maybe fearful, um, of, of the position or be intimidated by the entrepreneur. So you want to look for somebody who’s really confident in their abilities and who has a track record of really doing successful work with previous clients for sure.

Michelle:             Awesome question, Kim. Marie, thanks for asking that. Yes, thank you. And I know a lot of our listeners are very, very new to business, very new to health coaching. Um, I mentioned earlier, you know, anybody can take an hour out of their week and get themselves organized, but set. What other steps do you think people can take health coaches can take specifically to better manage their own projects maybe before they’re able to hire somebody?

Stephanie:           I would say definitely since Asana is free, open up Asana for yourself and start plugging in your projects and taking the time to sit down and go, okay, a to z what needs to happen here and then get it out of your head and into a software. That way you’ve got a visual and you can start looking at dates and plugging dates down to make things real for you versus like having all these things that seem like they’re out there and you’re like, I don’t even know which direction I need to go. You can really sit and see what you have going on and start organizing yourself around that.

Michelle:             That’s really good advice you guys. This has been so much fun. There’s nothing like airing all my dirty laundry for you. But I think it’s just so useful for other coaches to kind of see the behind the scenes and know that, you know, we all struggle. We all have life events that are going to get in the way sometimes. But with the right support you can still be wildly successful. And uh, we have someone over here asking, can we steal Stephanie? No, seriously. Is She accepting additional clients? Will you tell everybody where they can learn more about you?

Stephanie:           Yeah, so you can go to my website, www.stephanieveraghen.com.

Michelle:             And we’ll put that in the show notes. I’ll put them up here and just so you guys can check her out. Absolutely. Thanks for being part of our chat today.

Stephanie:           Oh, thanks for having me. I love you.

Michelle:             I love, that’s it for this episode. You guys. Please head over to iTunes and leave a star rating. Leave a written review for the show that helps me reach more health coaches and continue to bring you all this juicy free content every single week. So thank you in advance for that. We will be back next week and until then, keep asking great questions and I will keep answering them. Take care.