Interview with Rachelle Stone
Betsy Jordyn: Welcome everybody, this is Betsy Jordyn. I’m super excited to have an opportunity to interview Rachelle Stone, one of my favorite Consultant Institute members, almost graduate. Rachelle, welcome.
Rachelle Stone: Thank you. Good to be here, Betsy.
Betsy Jordyn: So really what I want to understand from you cause there’s going to be a lot of people who are in the same boat that you were when we first met who are trying to grow your business. So, why don’t we go back in time and tell me a little bit about you. What made you decide to leave your corporate job and start your own consulting business?
Rachelle Stone: Sure. I’d been in the Hospitality, Meetings and Conventions industry for 28 years, and I helped several companies build and develop their corporate divisions, and then I did it for myself building my own company and then working for angel investors flipping underperforming businesses in meetings and conventions and hospitality. And after 28 years I just simply imploded. I was maxed out way beyond my capacity. I was – I had no personal life. I was living to work. I was not working to live. And I recognized it one day and put the brakes on and instead of resigning I retired at 48 years old. I walked away from the business, took a little time to figure out what I wanted to do, and people started calling me and asking for help and support, so I hung up a shingle as a consultant not really understanding what it was.
Betsy Jordyn: Very interesting. So, what was it that got you over the edge? Was it just simply that you felt burned out and you’re like I can’t do it anymore or did somebody encourage you? Like what was the final straw that you just said enough?
Rachelle Stone: I don’t think I recognized it until after, probably a couple years after I left, but it’s really that high achievers and high performers are often leaned on and given more because they take it on. And I continued to say yes without setting firm boundaries that allowed me to have balance in my life. And I didn’t see it because my whole world was my job. It was my career. I was meetings and conventions and special events.
Betsy Jordyn: You bring up a really – you bring up such an interesting point about the challenge that high achievers experience is that we don’t know really when to say no and when to have the boundaries. Do you feel like as you were going about growing your business do you feel like you’re bringing some of that into how you’re approaching your business?
Rachelle Stone: Absolutely. I think you have to have a clear understanding on the front end on what your values are, have extreme clarity on your values and what are hard stops for you? If you don’t have that, those boundaries are going to be crossed.
Betsy Jordyn: Yeah. So, tell me a little bit about your process of growing your business. So, I met you, what was it, over a year ago at a coaching event, and there were some challenges that you were having with growing your business. Can you tell me a little bit more about what were your struggles? What was making it difficult for you to get traction?
Rachelle Stone: Yeah. I guess I had always assumed because I was so very well connected in the industry that like the phone was ringing off the hook as I left the industry for business, and it was starting to dry up a bit. This is now three years later. And I had put together a website because I felt like I had to have one, but I considered it an online calling card. And I knew it wasn’t formatted correctly. I had no sales funnel. I had no call to action, and I really wasn’t sure how to go about growing my business and letting people know I was out here, and I could support them in the industry.
So, when I saw you speak there were a few things that you had said that had resonated with me, and I’m very much the kind of person that I want to do business with people that I am drawn to. So, after your engagement there I made it a point to approach you and get your card and give you mine and say I want to talk further because I wanted to talk to you outside of that forum and pick your brain, and I wound up becoming a student.
Betsy Jordyn: So, what was it about in the presentation that struck you that you realized like hey, you know what, I missed some steps or there were some opportunities that I had from my business?
Rachelle Stone: I think for me I left there that day with well over 10 pages of notes. I couldn’t write fast enough to keep on top of what you were sharing because it was so relevant, and it made so much sense. And the way you had it laid out it wasn’t just the what of what needed to be done; it’s the why it needed to be done. And that was very powerful to me.
Betsy Jordyn: So, that’s really cool. I really like that cause I was definitely drawn to you because you were one of the more engaged people in the presentation. What’s interesting though as we started to get to know one another is we met at a meeting event for coaches, and so when we met you were talking more about coaching and then what I remember in that meeting is really being struck with like, but you’ve got all this experience.
It’s almost like the way I experienced it as, you know, I’m sober now, I don’t want to go back to meetings, and I’m just going to go be a coach, and it was almost like I want to be – I just want to make this simpler, and then I just felt like wow, there’s just like all this value that’s being left on the table, you know. And I remember us having that conversation, and that’s what stuck out to me. Did that strike you at all?
Rachelle Stone: It did. And I remember we had a video conference call after that initial meeting where we talked, and I was adamant, I just want to be a coach even, and you’re right, I was leaving 28 years’ worth of experience and knowledge on the floor basically, and when we had our one-on-one call you had gone ahead and looked at my website and you read my story, and you had said to me, Rachelle, you have it upside-down. You are a consultant that also coaches. You are not a coach that also offers consulting.
And it took me probably two days because after we talked I didn’t – I wasn’t – I was – I needed to chew on what you said, but I’m very open-minded and I’m willing to change my belief systems if it makes sense, and what you said made sense. And it took me about two days to come back to you and say, you’re absolutely right, and I wanted to be a student and learn how do I shift the direction I was going and still share all my knowledge with others?
Betsy Jordyn: That’s so funny cause I think that we’ve had that experience multiple times in our interaction. So, let’s talk for a minute about the branding process. So, first off, let me share my screen so others can see what your website looked like in the beginning. So, this is what she’s referencing, and there is the vertical challenges like right up at the top, and it was leading with coaching, and then moving down into the definition of coaching, project management and like oh, there you are. You’re somewhere down there.
Rachelle Stone: All the way down at the bottom.
Betsy Jordyn: Yeah, so I think that that was where some of the opportunities I believe, you know, when we were talking is how to bring you a whole lot more to the forefront. So, now let’s talk about your brand building process because that was another whole interesting experience. So, what was your big aha? What worked for you? What was a challenge for you when we were trying to identify, you know, what – when we were going through the planning phase and really figuring out who’s your ideal client and your expertise.
Rachelle Stone: Well I was pretty – I think the hardest part for me was moving backwards cause I had done so much. I was so used to being in charge, to then become a student again and take direction it did take me a little bit to get used to that, but I kept saying to myself, you don’t know what you don’t know. And when I got into your program and I started watching some of the webinars and doing some of the exercises I recognized how little I knew on the consulting side, that I had the information, I had the knowledge and experience, but I didn’t have the consulting formula that to make it all work.
And I was adamant with you that that website’s just a business card, an electronic business card, and now I understand, this is a really powerful tool. And I did the initial website myself. It was painful, tedious, time-consuming and I just basically threw my hands up and said fine, it’s good enough and threw it up. But it’s not the best representation of me, and the more I got into this the more I recognized I really do need to invest in that website because that’s a powerful tool to grow my business.
Betsy Jordyn: So, I wanted to validate a couple things though because some of the things that you were saying is like you were saying this is kind of me. I would say that that’s pretty consistent. So, a lot of people start their business and they hit a point to say they get a lot of referrals right away, people get excited and then it starts trickling off, and then you start to realize like oh, I have to really invest more in the whole system, and then a lot of people start off with just some sort of like what I would call like a brochure website, and then realize that they need to transition. And then the third thing that you said that makes perfect sense is the challenge of having that beginner’s mind. I mean let’s be honest, we’re consultants, we’re the ones who everybody else goes to. We’re the ones knowing all the answers.
So, it’s a really uncomfortable place for us to be in to say oh my gosh, I’m actually – what I tell people now is that you’re actually in two transitions. You’ve moving from employee to business owner and you’re going from leader to a consultant. You’ve got two transitions going on simultaneously, but we’re wired to be the ones with all the answers. So, I just want to just take a moment and just validate like that’s just really part of our strengths kind of in the shadow a bit, you know, that makes it just a little bit more challenging for us.
Rachelle Stone: Yeah, yeah, you’re right.
Betsy Jordyn: So, one of the things I thought was interesting is when we were going through your brand building process is really going back to who your audience was, and it was like you were kind of going over here and you went back to meeting event planners and really understanding that this is your sweet spot, and you actually wanted to help the very people who were very much like you. How did you get to that understanding compared to where you were where you were just looking at leaders in general but really looking at the industry that you came out of?
Rachelle Stone: It is such a – year after year meeting and event planning or event planner to simplify the title is on the list, Forbes list, of one of the top five most stressful jobs you can be in. It’s right up there with air traffic controller and police officer. So, the consistency of that and the number of people I know in the industry and my connections, a lot of them – I’ve watched them leave the industry because they just – they were just fried, burnt out, and it became a joke, another one bites the dust. And it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s no reason for something – and for me, I’m so incredibly passionate about meetings and conventions and special events that I never thought – I mean this was my – it was my world that I never burn out on it. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Betsy Jordyn: Awesome.
Rachelle Stone: But no one tells them it doesn’t have to be that way.
Betsy Jordyn: Uh-huh. You know, it’s interesting is that – and that goes to the website, so I’m going to do the big reveal because you do have a really cool website that is on the cusp of being launched and there’s a big thing that came out through the website writing process which is the whole idea about burnout. So, we didn’t really land on that piece of the burnout being a big part of the value proposition. What was it – can you recall the moment where you figured out like that helping people get to the top without burning out was your brand and your value proposition?
Rachelle Stone: I actually think it was you that saw it because everything – whenever we did an exercise, and I do consider your program a lot like school, and I love school, I’ll admit it, that any time there was an exercise and we would review it, it was a recurring theme. And you were actually the one that said, Rachelle, and you pinpointed them, and it was like that lightbulb moment. I was probably I’m going to say a good four months into the program because we had started digging into – we had already gone through – I went through several attempts at defining my ideal client, and when I let it go and allowed myself to write freely without thought it was the meeting planner, it was the event planner, it was the transportation company owner, it was the food store company trying to launch and break into the market. It was – and anybody working within that industry I knew them like that. And it just flowed out of me.
Betsy Jordyn: Yeah. I love that though. And I think what’s so powerful is that, you know, if you look at a hero’s journey, you know, like all those – that big template that undergirds all of our favorite movies, you know. You got like Simba from the Lion King or Dorothy or anybody, you have these people, they leave the known world, go into this unknown world, but get some sort of like special elixir and bring it back to the original place where they started. And when I see this is like this is your hero’s journey. This gives the meaning and purpose for your burnout is that you learned some things in this in-between time that you’re able to bring back to these organizations. So, it’s almost like it’s redeeming all of your challenges in a whole new way. So, I think that that is really cool.
Rachelle Stone: Yeah.
Betsy Jordyn: Talk to me about the visual branding process because if you look at this website it’s very different than the one that you started. And working with somebody else versus working with doing it on your own. What made you decide that you didn’t want to DIY it anymore and you wanted to work with us as your strategic partners?
Rachelle Stone: When I created the original website based on the amount of time it took me and how much it was not in my wheelhouse to do, I recognized that I needed to redesign the website. It needed more functionality to it with better access to me. It needed – just the tools it needed in order to draw in the reader or the person looking for support within the industry or for burnout, it wasn’t going to cut it, and there was no way I could possibly do it on my own. I trusted you.
Betsy Jordyn: So, looking at the colors here, so you got all the blues, you know, and all of this. I mean it really does speak very much visually to going on top, but it’s got a mellow chill colors that is not – like you don’t have like a lot of the reds, reds, reds.
Rachelle Stone: Right.
Betsy Jordyn: You have pink.
Rachelle Stone: No power colors.
Betsy Jordyn: No power colors. But you have you being very professional, very relatable, still about achievement, but it matches your brand. How do you feel about this website?
Rachelle Stone: I love the new look. I love the colors. When I was working with Leslie I wanted – I did want serene. I wanted less is more, yet highly impactful. And she definitely delivered that with this.
Betsy Jordyn: And one of the other things, so you moved from Vertical Challenge to R Stone Consulting. So, tell me a little bit about the stone piece comparison to Vertical Challenge because there was something in the story of vertical challenge that you still wanted to have, but then we talked about it is really important to have your name and your brand. So, what was it that you were able to maintain the essence of what you wanted with Vertical Challenge but repositioning and elevate it with R Stone and this whole imagery of the stones, as you could see, is a major part of what you have here.
Rachelle Stone: Right. Well and again, just kind of rewind, going back four years when I started this journey, Vertical Challenge to me is dual meaning. First and foremost, to my clients, it’s all about an upward climb. It’s always – Vertical Challenge is about moving up. Where others can look at Vertical Challenge in a negative connotation or a block, a roadblock, I looked at it as an opportunity. And the second play on words being Vertical Challenge, I’m under 5 feet. It doesn’t get any more vertically challenged than this.
I can remember fighting you tooth and nail. I didn’t want to give up the Vertical Challenge, but the reality is in the business world nobody is going to be looking for Vertical Challenge. You know, they’re going to be looking for Rachelle Stone, and I needed to be able to put myself out there. And the hesitation for me was we all have those I call it negative record-keeping, that little voice in your head or on the shoulder that says to you, you’re not good enough, oh you can’t say you do that. But I can because I do, and I did.
Betsy Jordyn: So, that is really cool. Like I love so many things that you just said here is that you definitely had an attachment from conceptually what Vertical Challenge was all about coming to a recognition that maybe there was a little bit of hiding behind the fictitious name and you needed to come forward. But what is so interesting to me is the idea of the vertical still is here in the stone. So, can you explain the stone element of your website?
Rachelle Stone: Well it’s actually a diamond because the – out of coal with the pressure of the earth becomes a diamond and that to me was the upper echelon, it’s the crème de la crème, it’s the platinum, you know, it’s the platinum diamond ring. And I wanted to keep that imagery throughout the website because it represents Stone, my last name, the power and the pressure and coming out a diamond.
Betsy Jordyn: That is beautiful. So, the essence of Vertical Challenge did not really go away, but it got repositioned, and actually the irony is the beauty of your brand was actually inherent in your name and the diamond metaphor is even strong than the Vertical Challenge because you were just telling the high achievers is you can get to the top without burning out, but they are burning out, so just telling the high achievers to go more and be challenged. Once it worked out, considering what you just said, is high achievers keep going on and on and on and they don’t know.
Rachelle Stone: That’s so true.
Betsy Jordyn: But you’re saying in this one from a metaphor standpoint is all that pressure that you’re experiencing that’s making you feel like you want to implode is actually refining you into this beautiful diamond. I love it. So, I just want to take a moment and put these, both of these, websites side by side and I want to just ask you to share like when you look at both these now how you feel about your business now compared to what you might have felt before. So, when you look at Vertical Challenge and you look at R Stone and all of this that’s here, how does it transform you? You’re on the cusp now, you’re ready to launch. So, the beauty is you’re just like everybody else who’s at this phase of the program is that they’re on the cusp of launch, but how does having this world class website make you feel and what does it do for you when you are looking towards getting ready to launch this out in the world compared to the Vertical Challenge one?
Rachelle Stone: It’s so interesting to see the two of them side by side because the color palette is interestingly enough, they complement, so it’s still me and my personality and I can see Vertical Challenge is an infant, still in diapers, can’t do anything for itself, whereas I look at the new website and it’s so powerful and clean and strong. I feel like it’s, you know, a rebirth and grown up. I feel like, you know, they say in a person’s life you go through several phases, like three to five phases. I feel like this is my third and final phase. And I can’t – I’m so excited. I can’t wait to start sharing it.
Betsy Jordyn: I mean even when I look at the headline here, Vertical Challenge LLC, like who needs LLC? Coaching? No, I’m not trying to criticize or anything, but coaching, consulting and training for optimum personal professional performance and then there’s all these words down here is really different.
Rachelle Stone: That one is loosey goosey.
Betsy Jordyn: Being good, because being good is no longer good enough. I got executives and hospitality and related industries through the strategic and profitable steps I need to take to break through plateaus and glass ceilings, accelerate the growth, dominate in their niche and reach all of their goals. And I think that the all of their goals is a really important part is that you want them to still achieve, but you want them to achieve all of their goals in a balanced sort of way.
Rachelle Stone: Yeah.
Betsy Jordyn: And it’s right there. So, I love this because you’re confidence is out there, your clarity is out there, your sense of your worth is out there. For anybody right now who’s in that state of do I go all in and really just invest in my website, I know you stretched from a budget standpoint to get this website. Would you say – what’s the return on investment that you feel like you’ve gotten from both the investment and working one-on-one with me to get the copyright and working with Leslie to get the visual branding right, what would you say is the return and if you had to do it again, would you say it’s absolutely worth the money?
Rachelle Stone: I absolutely would do it again; if I were going backwards and got a do-over I absolutely would do the – make the exact same decisions. I’m a firm believer in that no one can grow without learning and this is all a part of the learning curve. I also feel like people need to stick to what they know best. What I know is hospitality and meetings, convention and burn out and that end of things. I do not know website design. And I probably should have from day one worked with an expert on the website design.
I appreciate some people can handle it and do it, but if that’s not your niche don’t pretend like it is. Hire an expert, work with them. And I feel like as far as with the consulting and you tell this to me all the time that I don’t give myself enough credit for all I know and my experience and expertise, and own it, and you say that to me, and I say that to my coaching clients all the time. I have to start listening to my own voice and say yes, you own this. No regrets. I would absolutely do it again. I feel like I’m working with experts in different areas, and your resources has been just fantastic to help me in different areas when I have different challenges.
Betsy Jordyn: Well I’m so glad that you’re recognizing that sometimes it’s hard to see because the next order up for bids for you and I in our work together is helping draw out your content because I know you’ve got a ton of intellectual property and you’re just sitting on this gold mine, and that’s going to be another area, but again this is another one of those moments that I would say this isn’t you, this is all of us. I think it’s really hard to see – I think there’s several different points where it’s really hard to see our own genius.
One of it is when you’re identifying your brand because it’s hard to see your passions but it’s also really hard to see your strengths. So, there’s a bunch of strengths that you and I haven’t even really unpacked that I just learned by spending time with you is that some of your strategic thinking, your ability to articulate are unique strengths so there’s going to be probably additional ways that you’re going to be able to monetize that because it’s highly valuable. But then the other part that’s hard is when writing a website copy and not knowing where to begin. One of the things that I appreciated about our interplay is really helping nail the structure of what the website content block should look like so you’re not working with that blank on piece of paper so that you could work through the messaging, and that is one of those second areas that we have the notes of the window pane.
The next is going to be in your content. I know when we were working through your weed magnet it was hard to get to that point to say this is what you really can offer, and then unpacking this when you’re like oh yeah, I have this, you didn’t even recognize it. I know that in your library there’s going to be a ton of stuff, so that’s going to just be another area, and I just want to validate that it’s not really you, it’s just all of us, you know, but even though I do this work for you, I need to have somebody else do it for me because you’re just too close to it.
Rachelle Stone: You are, yeah. You’re absolutely right. And that was probably the big thing is that I was so close to everything I did I couldn’t see what I had done. So, and then I have to just give you that – the writing block that you provided to help create the copy was phenomenal. I never would have gotten through this process without that. It’s just a great, great tool. It’s amazing what you put together.
Betsy Jordyn: Thank you.
Rachelle Stone: Really made a difference.
Betsy Jordyn: So, if you were going to just encourage anybody who’s sort of at the cusp of wanting to really pursue their consulting business, they might not be as even as far along as you are right now, maybe at the beginning stage, maybe when you were at the in-between stage, what encouragement would you say when somebody’s got this vision, you know, just even from your own experience and then everything that you know as a coach to others, what would you encourage them to do about taking action on what they would want to do with their lives and what might hold them back? What little last bit of a Rachelle nugget could you offer?
Rachelle Stone: I would say don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today. If you’re winding down in your career and you think you might want to move into consulting, hop on this program. Start drilling down now cause it can be a good two-year process to get launched if you’ve never done anything like it. And you don’t want to say goodbye to your current career without having something started to develop your next career. So, don’t put off till tomorrow what you can get done today.
Betsy Jordyn: Well I think that that’s a really good principle in general, you know. It’s like you never know how much life we have and, you know, you’ve been recently through different kinds of experiences that reminds us that life is short and hopefully it won’t take two years to launch. I have a four-month process.
Rachelle Stone: I’m ready.
Betsy Jordyn: I’m hoping to get everybody through in four months.
Rachelle Stone: I’m like 10 days away right now. I’m real excited.
Betsy Jordyn: Well thank you so much for sharing your experience. Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your journey and thank you for just all the encouragement that you’re offering to others who are listening, and so thank you, thank you.
Rachelle Stone: Yeah and thank you for being a speaker at that meeting cause if I’d never met you, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m grateful to have you in my life too.
Betsy Jordyn: Aw thanks. All right. Well I’ll see you later.
Rachelle Stone: See you later. Thanks, Betsy.