top of page


Episode 224: Building a Healthy Self-Employed Ecosystem—with Jeffrey Shaw

Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. So in this episode, we are going to talk about being self-employed. So if you're an independent consultant or you're thinking of being one, this is for you because we're going to talk about how to create an ecosystem as someone who is self-employed that balances what's happening with you, with your business strategies, and with what you do every single day. And so I brought someone on who, this is exactly what he talks about, and he's got a fabulous book about it, Jeffrey Shaw, and he's going to walk through some of the key strategies for building a healthy ecosystem. So at the end of the day, you got the business you want, and you got the life you want. So let's get started. I want to welcome to my show today, Jeffrey Shaw. Jeffrey, welcome to the show.

Jeffrey Shaw: Deb. I'm excited to be here with you. Thank you.

Deb Zahn: You bet. So let's start off, tell my listeners what you do.

Jeffrey Shaw: Oh my gosh, what I do. So I support and help and coach self-employed business owners across all platforms of which I do that, which include the Self-Employed Business Institute. I write books for self-employed business owners. I have a podcast, the Self-Employed life. So I am all in on independent business owners, self-employed folks. Those are my people.

Deb Zahn: Well, that's fabulous because what we're going to dive into today, and I have to tell you, I personally love being self-employed. I wish I had done it sooner.

Jeffrey Shaw: I hear that a lot.

Deb Zahn: And yet I know it comes with a whole bunch of things that folks need to pay attention to. So we're going to hit upon some of those today. Certainly not everything, but one of the things that you talk about, and I actually love this phrase, which is the self-employed ecosystem. What is that? So for the folks who haven't yet read your book, what does that mean and what's the utility of viewing a small business like an ecosystem?

Jeffrey Shaw: Let me set the stage here that I have. I don't know any other way of being. I've never had a traditional job. I've never received a paycheck, so I only know self-employed. So it's been a lifetime of kind of figuring it out or as I often say, turning the traditional world upside down so that it actually works for us because we're so opposite of the way most things work. And one of the things I strive for throughout my 40-year career is to figure out the integration. Not that anybody's life isn't integrated? Especially nowadays if you, it's not as though if you have a traditional job, if you go to your traditional job that you don't think about your personal life. It's impossible not to. But I do think there's more of an integration when, and what I've come to know for certain is that your level of success when you're self-employed is proportionate to your level of personal development.

You can't out succeed what you have done, the personal development work to believe that you're capable of and that you deserve. Otherwise you're just going to work really, really hard and wonder why you're not getting anywhere. So there's just an innate integration of being self-employed that is unlike traditional jobs. So it's way more than the lack of separation between personal life and business, which is what a lot of people think is way more than that. So I've broken it down into the three core elements of what I call the self-employed ecosystem, which is first and foremost your personal development. Like I said, your level of success is proportionate to your personal development. The second is the business strategies. You need sized business strategies, which are likely almost complete opposite of traditional business because traditional business is transaction-based. As a consultant or almost every self-employed business, your business is relationship-based.

So what they do from a transactionally mindset won't work if you're in a relationship-based business. The third element, which is so important and the hardest one for anybody to stick with, is your daily habits and mindsets. And what I teach are things that you can do in 15 to 17 minutes but are critical to do on a daily basis because really what it's doing is establishing consistency in your ability to weather the storm. Because when you're self-employed, it's a whole bunch of ups and downs and the world is crazy and pandemics can come along and we don't expect that. And it's the consistent mindset that you hold to that gets you through the ups and downs.

Deb Zahn: Love it. And we're going to dive into actually all three of those. But let me start with one because, so for a lot of consultants, and this was certainly true of me, they were drawn to consulting and being their own boss because they crave freedom and they wanted flexibility and they wanted to do things on their own terms, and then they took the leap and they find themselves struggling under the weight of running their business and all that can entail. So based on that reality of what often self-employed consultants get into sort of describe what an unhealthy ecosystem looks like? Because I'm sure there's going to be listeners going to be like, "Oh, wow, that's me."

Jeffrey Shaw: Well, literally you just described the entire inspiration for the book. I've been asking people for decades, “Why did you become self-employed?” And everybody a version of the same answer. "Oh, I wanted to control my destiny. I wanted freedom." And I like to say, "And how's that going for you?" And everybody looks, it's like, "Yeah, it's a myth." But that's why I broke it down to the self-employed ecosystem. What I realized is that we can't control the circumstances, but the only thing we can really control is the environment for the results we want. So what I want to help people do, and what I do on a daily basis is help people set up the right environment by having the right mindsets, the right business strategies, the right daily habits. And at that point, it's kind of hands off. But my feeling is that if you set up the right environment and put in true effort and a whole lot of trust and belief in yourself, you have 99% chance of success.

The problem is most people have an unhealthy ecosystem. It can look in so many different ways. I mean, one of the common phrases I hear people, and I'm sure some of your listeners will identify with this, sometimes people will say, "I'm a hot mess." I hear that a lot. People say, "I feel like I'm all over the place," or "I feel like I'm doing all the right things, but it hasn't come together right." Those are all symptoms and indicators that there's something off in your business that hasn't been presented to you. It may be that you're putting, like a lot of people do, they put a lot of work into the business strategies. It's the easiest thing for people to focus on what they have been led to believe they need to do. But if you haven't also done the personal development work, you feel like a hamster on a wheel.

You're putting in a lot of the effort, but you haven't broken through. Honestly, one of the most common things people have to break through is what I call the deserving ceiling. If you haven't fully broken through the limitations in your own mind of what you think you deserve, then all that hard work is getting stuck. It's not going anywhere. So that's what an unhealthy ecosystem. But you spoke specifically about people leaving corporate, and I think that's so important. I think they struggle a little bit more than most for a number of reasons. One, their previous life in corporate was very compartmentalized; self-employment is not. It's all thrown into one big bucket and you're wearing a lot of hats and you don't have an IT department to call to fix your computer.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jeffrey Shaw: Right? So there's that. The other thing, I call it the rule of third's trap. Here's the trap until it's pointed out, almost every business that I have ever looked at falls into the rule of third's trap until it's pointed out and fixed.

The trap is that you're spending a third of your time running your business, a third of the time marketing to get the business, and a third or less of your time actually doing what you went into business to do. And that has to be fixed. In fact, I think that is the key in what we focus on. And I say my business institute as well as myself as a one-to-one coach, what I focus on is giving people the mindsets and strategies and habits to get them back to doing more of what they're great at. That is the answer. And your show so beautifully is about not just the strategies, but also the life fulfillment. The journey to having a successful business and a happy life is to spend more of your time doing what you're great at. How do you get there?

You need systems to be efficient. You need mindsets to keep you strong. You need strategies that you're consistent with. And even a marketing strategy, you can systematize marketing so that you're consistently getting the word out there, but you're not having to devote a lot of time to it. So what I focus on isn't necessarily all about delegation, which is what a lot of people focus on, but I work with a lot of businesses of one, they might delegate to a virtual team and VAs, but by and large, they're very small teams. So I try to address the challenges of breaking the rule of thirds trap. I try to focus on breaking that through systemizing and efficiency rather than just delegation. That's one part of it. But my goal is to get people back to doing more of what they're great at. It makes them happy. They make their customers more satisfied. Customers are more likely to tell other people. That's where exponential growth lies.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And I love my systems. And it wasn't until I would say for this business, until I got my systems in place, I was buried. I was utterly buried, and I was everything that you described. So I love all of that. Now, before we delve into the three integrated areas that we're going to talk about, if someone had a healthy ecosystem, paint a picture of what their day might look like because I think a lot of people can't even imagine waking up in the morning and having it look the way that would make their heart sing.

Jeffrey Shaw: Well, and I want to take a little bit of a step back. I think you're pointing out something so important about, again, what does an unhealthy ecosystem look like? I call it an ecosystem for a reason, comparing it to nature. And what happens in an unhealthy natural ecosystem is if one element is off, it can kill the entire ecosystem. Now for most businesses, it's not going to kill your business. I'm not going to, I threaten that, but I can guarantee you that it's making you work harder than you need to. So what does it look like to have a healthy ecosystem is you're shocked at how you're making more money with less effort.

And because the goal is actually to get you back to doing more of what you're great at all the reasons why you gave up the security of that nice paycheck you used to get. It's focusing. You're spending more of your time doing that. And in peak performance, when you're doing the maximum. You're doing what you're great at. You're clocking in the fewest number of hours. There's a flow and a stream to it that you will know it because you'll feel it. And usually the way people describe the feeling and verbally say to me is, "Oh my gosh, I'm making more money with less effort." That's what a healthy ecosystem looks like. And again, I think that's the goal of the freedom that everybody thought they were looking for in the beginning.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And you also hit upon a little bit, and you were talking about also being in that flow state of... And I know when I'm in it where I lose track of time, there's just sort of an abundance of joy because I'm doing what I believe I was put on the planet to do. And wouldn't I like to do that more.

Jeffrey Shaw: And another thing I think consultants are often challenged with is if they're putting out a lot of content, so it's another indicator of when your system is healthy or not. One of the components, and I think one of the unspoken, but yet one of, I think most important, and honestly thankfully, one of my areas of expertise is people really being clear on their core message, their brand message, who they serve. One of the challenges, and again, it's wonderful to speak to a whole group of consultants because I've always said one of the most valuable things that everybody needs is clarity. And clarity is one of the hardest things to sell. That's right. It's so nebulous. But us consultants, we know it. When you see a client get clear on something, life, everything changes.

Deb Zahn: And it's a beautiful thing to see.

Jeffrey Shaw: Oh, it's so beautiful, and their shoulders are back and everything changes. So one of the other indicators of a really healthy ecosystem is that you have absolute clarity about your area of expertise, how to communicate that, who wants that. And when you have that because consultants and coaches so often are generating a lot of content, when you can think of 10 things to say, 20, 50 things to say, when it feels like an unlimited reservoir of ideas that you have that you could write about, that you could speak about. That's again, another indicator that you have a healthy and thriving ecosystem because you're so clear on your core message that... I've written articles for Entrepreneur Magazine about the Golden Girls.

I have written some really... Because I love playing with it. Picking really random things, but it hooks to your core message. And when you do that, I have a keynote, I give that the first seven minutes of the keynote is about Hallmark movies. And I know everybody in the audience is thinking, "Where is this going? I thought this was a business talk." But then they get it when I hook it and I together. People described it as brilliant because all of a sudden, I've brought it right into my area of expertise.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And I have to say Golden Girls, that's a good one. I did, and by the time someone listened to this, it's a few weeks old. I brought in meeting the Ramones and having them sign a South Pacific Island. I tied that to the consulting, and it was easy because I got it.

Jeffrey Shaw: Yep. Because core understanding the clarity, like I said, your core message that comes from within you, the brand message that communicates it to the outer world, who wants that? When you create that clarity, and again, that happens to be one of the areas of expertise for me, when you get that, oh my gosh, it's like you can't unsee it, and everything in the world can be turned into it. And it's a big part of a healthy ecosystem that I think a lot of people overlook the value of that. But that to me is the linchpin of momentum.

Deb Zahn: And the converse, I imagine, is struggling to create content, putting out content that no one could actually connect the dots on.

Jeffrey Shaw: Correct.

Deb Zahn: And no one could describe you.

Jeffrey Shaw: As I said earlier, people will describe themselves as feeling like they're all over the place. And if they're feeling that way, they're putting out content that's disconnected, which means your audience isn't getting you entirely what your story is, and you're not getting hired. There's a direct connection between the clarity that you feel and whether you're getting hired or not.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Love it. Love it. Well, I want to dive into personal development because that's one of my favorite one, I like all three, but I love the personal development part because I think it is a consultant's superpower, is to know themselves very well and bring the right pieces of themselves to their work. But then you have to actually know what those right pieces are. So talk a little bit about what are some of the, and I know you have several of them in the book, but what are a couple sort of personal development things that it would be good for a self-employed consultant to pay attention to that's going to propel their business and their life in the right direction?

Jeffrey Shaw: Awesome. I love that. And by the way, just so you understand, and you've read the books, you get that there's a lot of personal development in the book as there was in my first book Lingo before that. But I got a lot more pushback. I had to really work hard to include personal development in a business book because the world wants to keep those two things apart. And I'm like, "Well, I don't want to be another participant in giving business owners more strategies without breaking through the barriers of personal development." So I pushed hard and it's getting easier for people to get that message. People with traditional thinking, and I say the support because of in my Self-Employed Business institute, which is a five-month cohort, the first month is devoted to the personal development. So I tell them right up front, you're not teaching you any strategies until after we have a month devoted to breaking barriers.

And so I'll offer you two things I think your listeners can really use. The first, truly one of a favorite of mine. It kind of is contradictory. I ask people to get really clear on what they want, what they need to let go of. Oh yeah. Because when you want true change, we're typically led to change through dangling carrots, the promise of what you could be, what are your goals, what are your vision? But you know what, if you want real change or at least the beginning of real change, you first have to focus on what it is that you want to get far away from. What are you sick of? Are you sick of being broke? Are you sick of overworking? Are you sick of missing your children's activities at school? What are you so sick of that you're actually going to do what needs to be done to change it?

Because you never want to go back to it again. I often compare it to a competitive swimmer. The difference between an Olympic gold and Olympic silver is fractions of a second. And those fractions of a second are determined by the push offs, the initial push off the edge of the pool and every turnaround at a lap, which goes to prove that true change. And the results of that come from the push off. It's what you want get away from. So I start my students off by making them get very clear on what it is that they're so sick and tired of, that they're willing to devote the next four months to making sure they do the work to get away from it.

Deb Zahn: Love it. And I have to say, as soon as you came up with a swimmer analogy, I thought you were headed a different direction. And I thought it was because a shark was following you.

Jeffrey Shaw: Well, that certainly would be inspiring too.

Deb Zahn: I'd go faster.

Jeffrey Shaw: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. The second exercise that I love to do is I ask my students and clients to identify what's a fundamental mindset shift they need to make in order for the biggest, boldest version of themselves to show up a hint to look for this. What's a fundamental mindset shift? What I mean by that there's a way that you have always looked at the world that has probably served you well up to this point but isn't going to serve you to the next level.

Deb Zahn: Love it.

Jeffrey Shaw: And especially because I think you're probably similar, and people listening in. We're working with adults. I'm not coaching 20-year-olds. I'm coaching people, like I said, of a certain age, somewhere between probably early thirties to 70. It's a broad range, but nonetheless, there's wisdom already within them. There's already been a journey to their life. It would be harder for a teenager or a 20-year-old to look at a fundamental shift because their fundamental views of the world are still forming. But you get to a point in your life, and you realize the way I've looked at the world, and I'll give a concrete example. I built of my first business, what I call my original career, was as a family portrait photographer for very affluent families. I built that business on low volume, very high ticket. I had to go through such a significant fundamental mindset shift to think in big numbers because I was used to making really good money, a very successful business in a very low volume of people at a very high ticket.

Suddenly, I become a consultant and an author, and I have the business institute. In order for me to have the impact I want to have in the world now I need volume. I have a podcast that 30,000 people a month listen to. I had to build that up over the past nine years. That was and continues to be the biggest stretch of my mind because my original fundamental mindset was small numbers, big ticket. But I can't make a living selling 150 books. That's a whole mindset shift. And that's why I ask people to look at, it's like what is a fundamental mindset shift that you have to make in order to be bolder? And it probably, again, the indicators, it's probably something that's served you really well up to this point, and now it's holding you back.

Deb Zahn: Love that. I love that so much. I have to say, it reminds me of years and years ago in my twenties, I was actually trained as a women's self-defense instructor.

Jeffrey Shaw: That's awesome.

Deb Zahn: Before they taught us a single technique. They had a stand in a circle, and they threw an old beat-up shoe in the middle of the circle, and they said, "Would you defend that?" And of course our answer was no. And they said, "If you think of yourself as not having the worth of defending, you're essentially saying you're the old beat-up shoe and none of the techniques that we will give you will be helpful to you."

And I always think of that when I think about consulting or how you're pricing or how you're developing any type of business strategies is have you left behind any feelings of low self-worth, any sort of concept of who you are as a person, even before you get to the business strategy. And when I got to the parts in the book where you were talking about personal development and what you leave behind, it gave me chills because I remember that. And I think about so many consultants, part of what they're still carrying with them is thinking of that they're the old beat-up shoe. And so now they're going to compete on price. They're going to try to be the cheap consultant with high volume, and that's going to end up in a life that they don't want to have.

Jeffrey Shaw: Beautifully said. I'm going to remember that metaphor, the beat-up shoe.-

Deb Zahn: You may use that.

Jeffrey Shaw: It's fantastic. I love that.

Deb Zahn: So the personal development, again, I encourage folks to read the book because you do have, and we haven't said the name of the book yet, what's the name of the book?

Jeffrey Shaw: The Self-Employed Life. It's obviously Amazon or any place you can buy books. And I was very careful because it is called the Self-Employed Life. I was very careful to make sure it's also available through independent online booksellers and bookstores as well.

Deb Zahn: Wonderful.

Jeffrey Shaw: You can't ignore the behemoth.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, it's unfortunate but true. So there's a lot of other really great stuff in there on the personal development side, which I do encourage folks to delve into. Then you've got some really fabulous business strategy pieces that you get into. And the one that made me smile ear to ear, and you probably know what it is, is hug marketing, right? Because that's so good.

Jeffrey Shaw: Yeah. It turned out to be. And honestly, in the book, I don't think my thoughts... It was the solution to a problem that I have encountered my entire life being self-employed, which I'll explain in a moment. But I don't know that I understood the depth of it when I wrote the book until the book was out there. And that was the number one inquiry. People were like, "OK." They're just blown away by the concept. But then they also wanted more tangible handholding and how to execute the hug marketing. And that's literally why, shortly after the book was out that I launched the Self-Employed Business Institute, and we spent two months going through the hug marketing system because I had to go deeper. The book just barely introduces the concept.

But when I said a moment ago, it was the answer to a problem I've encountered my whole self-employed life is I don't like the energy of the way most business is done. The world we grew up in means sales are creepy. People are pushy. But again, that's because most of the world is transactional based. And I've always been puzzled by it. The thing that drives me crazy are I don't understand businesses that offer discounts or deals for new customers only.

Deb Zahn: Oh, I hate that. Like don't you love me?

Jeffrey Shaw: It's so horrible. Exactly, but if you're in a transactional business, it doesn't matter. But if you're in a relationship-based business, there's no faster way to tick off your existing customers then give a discount to people who are new customers. So things like that have always driven me crazy. I was looking for energy. I don't like the energy of most marketing. I hate the fact that so often businesses traditionally refer to their audience as a target, target marketing, or who's your target terminology, trip wires, and that type of technique. And certainly one of the things I've never been comfortable with is the thought of it being a marketing funnel because I take it literal and every diagram of a marketing funnel looks like a funnel. It's wide at the top, open. You could even say open-hearted and welcoming. To do what? Squeeze people through a small hole in the bottom.

There's a terrible energy to the marketing. And I realized once I started coaching, particularly coaching coaches and coaching consultants, is that they're creeped out by this vibe. And so then what they do is they don't market at all. And I'm like, "Yeah, but you're gifted." You have a way to change and impact the world, and you're not getting it out there. "Well, I hate marketing. I don't like..." So well, then let's change it. So I came up with this concept of hug marketing, which visually as shown in the book, is a series of concentric circles. So one circle inside of another.

Each circle like the outermost circle are called lurkers, the innermost circle, and I'll explain what those are. And the innermost circle is hugs, and there's six circles in total. And the idea is if you start looking at the marketing that you do, where your goal is a hug at the center, that's where immediately the energy you feel about marketing within yourself changes and certainly how people perceive how you're presenting yourself changes. Because if you're thinking about them as a target, even if you don't say it out loud energetically, they feel targeted.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Because you're going to leak.

Jeffrey Shaw: 100%. So, but you're energetically approaching your marketing like, "Oh, I'm just trying to get a hug here. I'm trying to build relationships that are so significant that if we were to meet in person, we would hug." You have a different energy by the way, you're approaching your marketing. And the strategy behind hug marketing is again, that outermost circle being lurkers. We start there because your goal is... There are, particularly as consultants and you're putting out content, people are reading your blogs and your articles and hearing you as a guest on podcasts. There are people that have their eyes and ears on you that you don't know them by name right now. Your strategy is how can you step by step, turn lurkers into people that are curious, people that are curious into to engage, people that are engaged into connected, connected to clients, clients into hug. So it flips the burden of responsibility to what actions do you need to take to take people from the outermost circle, one circle at a time to not just becoming a client, but then become clients that you would hug.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Oh, I love it. Well, I can see why it resonates so much with folks. And I also like the idea of, I'm also looking for huggable clients, and not everybody's a huggable client. So it also helps you think about, well, who do you want to hug when you get to that center circle?

Jeffrey Shaw: And they should be. But they should all be huggable clients. One of the things I've been saying from stages for years is to bust up the Pareto principle, the 80-20 rule. Again, it's one of those weird things in the traditional world of business. The 80-20 rule states that 80% of your income comes from 20% of your clients. Well and good if you're a corporation. But if you're a consultant, guess what? You don't have time to waste on eight out of 10 clients not being worth your time. So your goal, which is the premise of my first book Lingo, which is about brand messaging. Your goal is to develop the messaging that you only resonate for the people you want to hug.

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right.

Jeffrey Shaw: So you're only working with your huggable clients and no one else because again, too many businesses spend way too much time trying to satisfy customers who will never be satisfied. Don't bother, go for attracting. And this comes through your messaging and your brand messaging and how you communicate. It comes first from within you and what you put out that only resonates for your ideal clients. And then you end up with, again, an ecosystem of your business where every one of your clients are people you love, that are profitable and that are the huggable clients.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Who you really truly want to serve well and give them an excellent experience for. Love that. And one of the things that you also talk about is inspiring referrals, which I was delighted because I think it relates to what you're talking about. I was delighted to see that in there because so many consultants think that "My job is to always chase new clients, new clients, new clients, new clients, new clients," and in the meantime, they might be neglecting clients who they've already served and delighted and what a waste. So if you were in front of some consultants, which you are many times, how would you talk to them about inspiring those referrals and having that be a vibrant part of their ecosystem?

Jeffrey Shaw: I even want to broaden it. We'll talk about the referrals, but I even want to broaden it to say, “Oh my gosh. The number one metric every business owner should look at is their retention or loyalty rate, whatever you want to call it.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jeffrey Shaw: In my photography business, it was every year, and I required it be between 65 and 70%. That means you only have to market for another 30% of business and if you're in the first second year, that may not be the case. But that's the goal. The goal is that you want to have an experience. You want your customers to have an experience, you want to have a connection with them. So much so that 70%, I say at least 50% of your business should come from referral or repeat. Now, a lot of consultants think, well, you may or may not think that you're in a high repeat business.

So there's a couple layers here. I'm going to talk about this before referrals. One of the other things I teach are what I call a suite, services suite. Suite as an S-U-I-T-E. There are ways that you link your services together. The whole goal, and I say this all the time to my students as I help them figure out how to do this own business, your goal is to keep people in your world as long as possible. So it could be what I refer to as a step up, step down business model. No matter where somebody comes in, maybe there's a service that you offer that requires they step up. Maybe after they've stepped up, maybe there's something else they step down into. Maybe they stay in that down position until they step up again. I have clients, coaching clients that have been with me in one form or another for many, many years.

I will say that clients that are no longer actively working with me, they cycle in and out. And I'm certainly in touch with every single one of them. I don't think this is a single coaching client that I'm not connected with, even if it's just on Facebook. OK. So that's the goal. Referrals is part of that. You want to... What throws people off the referrals, what I always say is you have to figure out the peak emotional moment in which to ask for the referral. A lot of people feel like they have to prove themselves before they ask for a referral if they're even actively asking, which you should be. But a lot of times people feel like they have to deliver a certain amount of value before they have a right to ask for a referral. Honestly, particularly for consultants, do you know when your new clients are most excited, the emotional peak, it's when they have found you.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jeffrey Shaw: They, you have found what they believe to be the solution to their problems, and there's a really good chance they've been talking about the problem. They've been suffering and many friends likely empathize and may even have the same problem. One of the best times for consultants to ask for referrals is when you just start working with somebody and you say, "I can see that we're going to have a really rich experience. Do you have any friends or peers, associates that you think might also benefit from the similar work we're going to do?" right in the beginning. It's not after you finish the contract. It's not six months in. In fact, with consultants, I think it's the other way around. Because we're in the business of transformation, you probably going to be pushing a lot of buttons along the way because you're calling them to the mat.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jeffrey Shaw: Right. Not the time to ask for referrals. They are likely to be most excited the moment they have found you. That's when you want to kind of suggest that they can spread the word to other people.

Deb Zahn: And not right after you said "Your data sucks. Is there anyone else whose data also sucks?"

Jeffrey Shaw: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: That you might refer me to.

Jeffrey Shaw: Exactly, yep.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. I love that. Because again, I'm a practicing consultant. And so what I find is once they find you, it's exactly as you describe it. They feel relieved, thank God, they feel soothed. Like I can actually solve this problem, or I can get to this goal that I have not been able to get to yet. Now you have to earn that trust. But if you're a good consultant, you are going to earn that trust and you're going to give them a good experience and all that. But yeah, I would agree. I don't think folks need to wait until the very, very end. They can do it along the way and encourage it.

Because the other thing I see is that a lot of consultants are afraid to ask. And so they just hope that the client's going to tell other people about them. Now, I do have one client that talks about me more than my mother. I am fortunate to have one of those, and I adore her. But I know I also have to ask other people who might assume "Deb's always busy. There's no reason she would need a referral." And I need to go back and say, "Hey, let's have a conversation about this." And a lot of consultants skip it.

Jeffrey Shaw: Let me offer a mindset shift hopefully that will help people get past the afraid to ask, but then also afraid to market themselves at all. And the phrase I say often in my business institute is that there's a world of people waiting for you to show up. If you start thinking that way, you stop being so shy. Honestly, you're doing a disservice to not show up for an audience of people that are waiting for you. It would be not showing up to a party invitation or whatever else it might be. But there, I guarantee you, there is an audience of people out there waiting for you to show up with your solutions and to not show up boldly, confidently feeling the worth and the transformation you can create is of disservice to them. And I'll even say to the world at large because we need solutions.

We need solutions to people's individual pain, and we need solutions in our world. And to not show up is a crime to humanity. So show up, market yourself and ask for those referrals. Because really what you're asking for is if somebody do they know somebody else in that same pain. Now, a little other tip on referrals is once you gain that referral, always go back to the referer and just confirm it's going well for them. Just let them know because they've gone out on a limb. I always think of that anytime somebody asks you for a referral for your hairstylist, that to me is the riskiest thing. It's like, "OK, I'm going to give you his name, but you know." You feel like you're putting somebody's life on the line. What if their hair gets messed up?

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right.

Jeffrey Shaw: Right? But again, you always want to go back to the original referrer and just say, "I want to thank you again for referring me to Deb, and I just want you to let you know it's going fabulous, and I'm sure she's so grateful that you thought of her."

Deb Zahn: Oh, beautiful, beautiful. So we could talk about so much of this. I just love this so much. We'd be remiss if we didn't touch upon at least one daily habit. And there's a lot of them in the book. Again, I encourage folks to look at it. But what's sort of one of your favorites that you think makes a difference?

Jeffrey Shaw: Hands down, easy peasy. It's the only piece of content that's in both my books, and I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up in all my books because I just can't think of anything better. It's what I call a what's going right journal. So what's tell you a little story behind it, the what's going right journal became my replacement of a gratitude journal. Now, gratitude as a life value is fantastic, and it's very high on my list of values, but I'm a business guy and I don't find expressing my gratitude brings me business. As you get to a point in your life, you wake up, you're breathing and your dog is next to you, you're pretty darn grateful. And that's part of their... And I think this is a challenge for coaches, but coaches being of interested in personal development often are innately grateful.

They just seem to have the heart center in which they're often grateful, but it doesn't bring tangible results. So the what's going right journal is a practice of journaling five to 10 minutes a day where every sentence begins with "What's going is," and you start just, "What's going right is I was introduced to a great person who could be a good connection for me. What's going right is I'm sticking to my daily habits. What's going right is I'm seeing more opportunities. What's going right is I'm gaining clarity about my core message." It's just until your brain just feels a little emptied. Here's why it works. Because also, it's scientifically based really. When I created it, and I'll tell you, I created it at a kind of bottom moment when too many things in life had gone wrong. I was kind of feeling like... And it's hard then, but that's when you need it the most.

When it feels like everything's going wrong, the best time to start a what's going right journal is then because it will also turn it around. The reason it works is because we humans are, we're wired to see our threats and our threats are no longer lions and tigers and bears outside of our cave. Our threats are our sense of self-worth, our sense of value, competition, comparing ourselves to others in social media. Those are our emotional threats. And what do we know is true of us humans is that you can hear nine compliments, one criticism, and the only thing you're going to focus on is the criticism. Why? Because it's a threat. It's a threat to your sense of self. So it's all you focus on. We also know what's true of us is that what you focus on, you get more of. So the more you focus on the threats, you're going to see more threats.

Let's reverse that. If you start rewiring your brain every morning by focusing on what's going right, guess what? You start seeing more of what's going right. Suddenly everything around you in your world looks right. Suddenly you start receiving. It creates an inward flow where those right opportunities that you want to grow your business start coming towards you and you see them. It's at a different level of gratitude than I have ever experienced, but it also has very tangible results. My clients and students love this practice. They often come back and say, "I can't unsee how wonderful my life is now." I'm like, "Well, that's a good thing."

Deb Zahn: You made me plug in my iPad where I journal. I journal in Good Notes. You made me plug it in after I read that because I said, "I'm going to start doing that tomorrow morning." Because I have it. I don't do that, but yet I do. I can see how powerful that is to really rewire the brain in a different direction. So fabulous. I love that. And again, I encourage everybody to go look some of the other daily habits that you talk about. So if a consultant's listening to this and saying, "All right, over the place that describes me, hot mess, present and accounted for," and they've listened to some of this and they're like, "I don't know where I am today. I wouldn't know how to describe my ecosystem." How can they assess that?

Jeffrey Shaw: Yeah. So I created, I should say I hired somebody to create because it this very extensive custom programming. It's a custom algorithm, so they can get that at It's remarkably six questions, but the custom algorithm that is built behind this is kind of remarkable. So, you answer the six questions, you get back a full report that will focus on the area of your ecosystem that is showing evidence of being threatened at the weakest, less healthy, and then what you can do about it. And there's some videos you can click through to get more information, but it gives you a very thorough report on it. And again, it's one of those cases where we like to think that we cannot be perfect in all areas of our lives, and it's not about being perfect, but when it comes to an ecosystem, your goal is to get all three of those areas as thriving healthy as possible because it's in direct correlation to your level of success. So you want to see what area needs some work and this assessment will guide you there.

Deb Zahn: Love it, love it, love it, love it. OK, well we're going to put a link to that in the show notes. Where can folks find you?

Jeffrey Shaw: So my main website is The business institute is, which you can also get through But that's it, everything's there.

Deb Zahn: Love it. So let me ask you my last question, which I think you're the perfect guest to ask this question to. So how do you bring balance to your life? However it is you define that for yourself.

Jeffrey Shaw: So for one, I like to look at harmony and integration more than balance. Because I think rarely is things an equal proportion, but my most important practice, if you will, aside from my morning practices in journaling. Something I do that's unique is I bookend my day with a walk. So I start, and I say I start my workday, if you will because I get up in the morning, I have a long practice of journaling and meditation and all that.

But then I take a walk for about 35 to 40 minutes, and then I put in a good number of hours of work, and then I end my workday with an hour and a half walk, about three to four miles every day. And if it wasn't for those walks, that is my so-called balance. It's because my days are bookend because a lot of us, I wouldn't have a strong distinction of where my workday begins and ends, which means it'll keep dragging on. And next thing I know, it's late at night and I'm still working. But bookending the day with a walk on each end really helps me just, as I said, I'll have a container to when I'm going to give life my all and when I'm going to sit down later in the day and watch the Golden Girls

Deb Zahn: Love it. And you take your fur baby with you, right?

Jeffrey Shaw: He takes his morning walk. And again, I live in Florida, so it's been like 110 degrees. So he's not walking with me these days, but I take him for the short morning walk. Yes.

Deb Zahn: Very nice. Well, Jeffrey, I am delighted to have read your book. I'm delighted to have met you and had you on the show. This has just been so wonderful. And again, I want to encourage everybody go take a look at the book. It will change the way that you look at your business in life.

Jeffrey Shaw: Thank you so much.

Deb Zahn: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoyed this episode or you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up in a lot of other great content, and I don't want you to miss anything.

But the other two things that I'm going to ask you to do is, one is if you have any comments, so if you have any suggestions or any kind of feedback that will help make this podcast more helpful to more listeners, please include those. And then the last thing is, again, if you've gotten something out of this, share it. Share it with somebody you know who's a consultant or thinking about being a consultant, and make sure that they also have access to all this great content and all the other great content that's going to be coming up.

So as always, you can go and get more wonderful information and tools at Thanks so much. I will talk to you on the next episode.

bottom of page