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Sigrun: Turnarounds, GRIT & Female Entrepreneurship

My guest is Sigrun. Yes, there is no last name. Just one name and that is Sigrun. She's an incredible guest. I can't wait for you to dive into this show.

If you're getting to know her, Sigrun is a mastermind business coach, a TEDx speaker and operates a successful seven-figure business from her home country of Iceland and Switzerland as well. She has traveled extensively and has an incredible background. Not only has she been a CEO multiple times of rather large software companies, but she picked up four masters along the way.

This show is incredibly fascinating. If you're curious of what we covered, let me tell you. In this show, we talk about business turnarounds. How she turned around a business in eleven months, one that was about to go under, turned it around and was able to sell that business. We talk about the plan and the steps for doing it.

In addition, we talk about how she became the CEO just by asking. You are going to want to hear this story. We also talk about the mission that she's up to and that's empowering females all around the world to be entrepreneurs, to share their message with the world and to grow their business the way that they want to. There are so many gold nuggets in this show. I can't wait to share it with you.

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Dustin
Sigrun, you had been working as a project manager for a software company for only one year when one day you walk in to find the company had been sold. When most people are filled with uncertainty, you get the crazy idea that you should be the one to lead the newly purchased company as its CEO. Rather than push this idea aside, you took bold action, placed a phone call and found yourself on the line with the new owner. What happened to get to this spot and what happened after?
Sigrun
This was the most life-changing moment. I was so disappointed when I heard the company had been sold because I was in contact with all our clients, I knew the company well. I was just not the CEO. I was first worried about getting someone as a new boss that would tell me what to do and what kind of change the business. That's what I was worried about first. I wasn't thinking about being the boss right away. Some days passed and I start to think, “Maybe I can do it.” I thought the idea was crazy, but then I asked a few people what they thought. Unfortunately, men would say yes and women said, “I don't know,” except my sister. She was working in the same company. She was in charge of the programmers and she said, “Go for it. I'll support you.” That's all I needed. I figured out who the new owners were. That was not obvious. A lot of companies have been sold in a bundle. One investor had suddenly decided to sell all his companies so there were a lot of news around this sale. There were TV stations, radio stations and a lot of other companies. This one was not being mentioned because it was smaller than the others so it took a few days to figure out who had bought it.
Then I went through their employee list on the website of this venture capitalist company if I knew someone. Sure enough, there was a woman there who had been my friend when I was ten or twelve years old and she was four years younger than me. She had been my next-door neighbor. I thought, “We haven't spoken in many years but at least I have initial contact.” It's always easier. We'd know it with friend requests on LinkedIn and all other places. You need to have that kind of a gateway and that was it. I sent her an email and said, “Here's the situation. I'm working for this company. I've heard that your employers have bought it and I would like to put myself forward as a potential CEO.” She hops on a call with me and we discussed this a little bit further. I asked if they have somebody in mind and they said, “We haven't even looked at the company yet, so we have no one in mind yet.” I was fast enough. Maybe two weeks had passed from the sale, but they were still dealing with some paperwork and they were looking at the bigger companies right away. They weren't looking at the smaller companies so it was perfect timing.
I asked her, “What do I need to do?” She said, “Write us a two-page memo of the current status of the business and where you would like to see it go.” The thing was, I was a project manager so I didn't have access to all the financial details. Still, I sat down and I knew all the clients so I could make enough guesses. I also knew there were lots of little companies we were running several websites. One of them was a dating website and these were often separate companies. In my mind, I immediately had some ideas for how we could sell things off because I knew this was a turnaround situation. We had been losing money for seven years. I put in some details that I guessed and thought. I created this two-page memo and send it off to her and then I heard nothing for two weeks or so.
I take one day off from work because I was studying on the computer science. It’s a little bit waste of time because I was going for a CEO job now. I thought if I work in a software company, I need to know something about computer science so I was doing a Master's degree in computer science on the side. I take one day off from work to study for an exam. As I'm sitting at home studying, I get a call from my sister and said, “The new owners came to visit us and it's not the guy that you sent the memo to. It's his friend.” I knew they were business buddies, but it was not exactly the same company so that made me worried. As I'm sitting there at home, I couldn't study for the exam anymore. I was like, “What do I do now?” This was a once in a lifetime decision. Do I figure out his mobile phone number and call him or do I leave it and hope that he reads the memo or whatever? I'm like, “If I don't do anything, now I have lost. This chance is gone.” The investor’s mobile phone numbers are not just lying around. I was like, “I have to get creative. How do I find out his number?”
I called my brother who was nine years older and knew a little bit more about the landscape than me. I told him, “How can I get his mobile phone number?” He said, “I know he owns this wholesale company that imports fruits. You can call there and say you have to talk to him.” I did that and they didn't want to give out the mobile phone number. They were like, “We're not giving it out.” I said, “I work for one of the companies that he just bought and a need to urgently speak to him.” Then they gave it out to me. Maybe it wasn’t so urgent but I made it sound urgent. I call up and he picks up the phone. I tell him who I am and I immediately was curious, “Do you have my memo?” He said, “Yes, I do,” then I was a bit calmer. I thought, “That's at least good.” I said, “I would like to put myself forward as a potential CEO. Should we talk?” He said, “Meet me in a coffee place in 30 minutes.” I'm like, “What?” I thought we’ll set up a meeting and something more formal. He wants to meet me right away so I quickly print out the memo again to have it in my hand and I meet him in a coffee place. He shows up with a lawyer and I'm like, “This was the little bit more serious than I thought.” I thought it was a chat but he wants to go right to business. He was not going to waste any time having a chat with someone who wanted to know if I was the person.
He asked me a lot of questions that I could not answer and it made me feel like, “This was a crazy idea.” I wasn't feeling good after the meeting. On the one hand, he seemed to be interested in my memo, asked a lot of questions but I couldn't answer them all and that felt a bit like, “I'm not fit enough for the job.” He told me to keep the employees calm because I told him, “Many weeks have passed since this company has changed ownership. The old CEO is hanging around but it’s obvious that he's leaving and people are insecure. Some people are even considering leaving. That's typically what happens when things like this are not dealt with fast.” He asked me to take care of it and I'm like, “That's interesting.” He's not giving me the job yet, but I should still take care of it so that puts me in a weird position. I went back to the office the next day and I called the employees into the room and I said, “Here's what's happening. I have applied for this job and the new owners have asked me to tell you that everything will be good. They just have a lot to deal with. There are many other businesses that they need to finish first before they can take care of us.”
There always has to be this one person that is negative like, “Yeah, but you are not the CEO. Who are you to tell us something?” Overall, the people were pleased that I said something. It's better to say something than nothing in a situation like this. Even if you don't know anything, you say, “I don't know anything but it's still better to say that.” Some time passed and he came for a meeting at the office. I had a budget prepared with my salary on there and everything and he thought my expectations were low. We're not going to increase my salary because I knew this was a turnaround situation. He was happy about that and I said, “You're going to get a bonus if we achieve those goals.” One thing I didn't like is he brought his wife to one of the meetings and said, “She's going to come in and work 50% for you.” I was used to being independent of other CEOs. We did a couple of meetings and then I got the job. His wife came in and have to work 30% or 50% and it turned out to be fantastic.
In a turnaround situation, we had to deal with a lot of unpaid bills that had accumulated over the years and she got the wonderful ungrateful job to call up all the companies and negotiate with them. That took a lot. Some of the calls I did myself if they were bigger companies, but she did the little ones. We had bought coffee from someone and who knows what. She often got them to drop the interests on the depth and we could pay it up with a payment plan. She turned out to be a great asset and we're still friends. That's how it turned out and how I got the job.
Dustin
That goes to show you who you are as a person and it's inspiring. The big lesson is if you don't ask, you don't get but that doesn't mean you're not going to have fear. It just means that you’ve got to put yourself in the environment and make things happen as you did.
Sigrun
I did not have a business education at this point. I did not have any experience in running a company. It was bold of me to ask but that's exactly what he liked about it. My new employer liked the boldness. I was the first female CEO he hired.
Dustin
You turned this business around along with so many others, ranging from $500,000 to $15 million. I'm curious as to the process because we've never had this on the show turning around businesses. What does that look like? How does one go about coming up with a plan and then executing it?
Sigrun
It depends on how well you know the business. I knew this business well except the financial side so I didn't have to do what you might have to do in a different business where you first talk to everyone where you get to know the business and what's working, what's not working. From the human side, people will tell you a lot of things when you get on one-on-one with them. I could skip that part. I could go straight to the financial part. What I did was I took all the files, all the invoices and everything that we had in the last two years and I always took two binders home with me. This was my evening lecture. I would literally go through the physical invoices, what we were being built, what we were spending the money on, and all these different subsidiaries where we were running websites. All the people we’re employing, what they were doing. Then you have to cut deep so it bleeds. The problem when a turnaround doesn't work, people haven't cut deep enough. They go into the surface level and they fire two to ten people, but maybe they have to fire 20 or 30. That feels scary or even closing down a department but you have to cut deeper than you think you need and that's the only way you can turnaround.
Dustin
I’ve got to imagine that this isn't a happy-go-lucky environment if you're cutting people and you've got to get on the phone and talk to people that you owe money to. At least from your part, why did you seem to thrive in that environment? What attracted you to keep sticking around in that scenario?
Sigrun
I didn't intentionally go into a turnaround situation, I just didn't want the new boss.
Dustin
I'm marveled that you've done what you've done. You did that for ten years and then you resigned. I have to ask why. You had this track record. You are winning and you're at the top of the game. Why resign?
Sigrun
I turned around this first company in eleven months and that led to other opportunities with the same employer. He wanted me to still be a CEO of that software company off that initial project. I didn't get rid of it. He felt like, “That's in safe hands. We don't want to hire someone else.” I had my sister become COO and in 24 hours, I left the company and it was in good hands. I came in for budgeting, vision, strategy and things like that. Then I went back to grow it further. The turnaround was succeeded. We had a 20% growth after that every year. We were at a point after the turnaround where the company had been growing. It grew by 40% per year. It had 20% EBITDA and 40% growth every year. I was getting clients from abroad and we were hiring people and we had 1% unemployment rate.
What was happening is that some of our best clients were banks and banks tend to pay better than software companies. They were stealing our employees. Even after years of working for these clients, they saw that they were in a more powerful position to pay higher salaries and sometimes these people are only coming in for an hour or two to us. We lent them to the business and that's a dangerous situation. I said to my employer, “We’re selling. You have to sell now.” He had left it in my hands. He was checking the numbers every month, but he left it up to me on how to grow the business and everything. When I told him he has to sell, he believed. He was like, “Let's sell.” We sold it to a media company. It was a media company that thought they could benefit from having a software company as a part of their group.
I started off making sure that my contract was good because I had a three-month notice and we changed it to six months. I was studying an MBA at London Business School because now I wanted to have a business degree after this turnaround situation. I wanted to learn more about what to call all these things that I was doing and be more prepared for bigger projects. We made sure that if I would be fired, then I wouldn't have to pay for my studies but if I left, I would have to pay. That's the deal when you pay an MBA for someone. They will have to stick with the company two years after the MBA studies are finished and if you leave earlier, you have to pay a portion yourself. I had a better contract before the sale and then we were part of this media company. That didn't change much. They left me alone, but the thing was we were making so much money. We were a very cash-positive business and the media company wasn't going so well. In six to nine months later, they thought to themselves, “We can get some cash by selling off us again.” I'm like, “That's weird.” Now they sold us to exactly the company I did not want to be a part of. They were a big software group with lots of software companies.
They already had a web software company as a part of it, which was similar to us and they wanted to merge us together. I got a bad feeling about it. They were a little bit old fashioned and it felt like a lot of bureaucracy and not this young energetic style that we had. I was not in favor of this but I was not the owner so it was not my choice. Here I was where we changed owners again and I was asked to stay on board to make sure that no one leaves. I did that so we had a successful merger. I stayed there for six months but then I had to leave. They would tell me that I shouldn't have pizza on Wednesdays and I'm like, “What? This pizza costs nothing.” They’re like, “Yeah, but we have a canteen. We have foods here. Why have pizza?” I'm like, “Because my team wants pizza.” We're fighting over little details with a very cash-positive company. I thought this was a complete waste of time. It was pizza and it was soda.
When it came to the point where they said, “Sigrun, you need to change all the employee contracts.” I said, “What? We already have very good contracts.” They were where I thought there was a win-win. One of the unions had a very global contract. There was a two-page employee contract and then it said, “Anything that's not mentioned in this contract.” It's this union contract, to make it simple and also for the employees to feel safe that we wouldn't put anything in small letters that would be bad for them. Instead, they wanted me to give the people a ten-page contract with all the little details, take their hours from 37.5 hours a week up to 40 and all that stuff where it's going to favor of the employer and not the employee. It’s obvious. I said, “No, over my dead body. I'm not doing it.” Through all of these discussions, I asked this new board and said to them, “You didn't want to hire a CEO. You want to have a puppet.” They’re like, “No, we want to hire a CEO.” No. You want a puppet. You want someone you can shove around and will do anything you want. You don't want someone who has their own opinion and I think that's a shame. You’ll get less qualified people when you do that.
Because of my contract, I had myself fired. I was thinking, “What do I need to do to get fired from this job?” If I would resign, I would have to pay my MBA back and that costs too much money. There were these trips as a part of my MBA where you would go for one week to China or one week to Ukraine to work on some projects. There was a China trip coming up in December and December is not a typical month where people take time off. I thought to myself, “This is perfect. I’ll go on this China trip to piss them off.” I even added another week where I went to Hong Kong and Shanghai. Then I come back before Christmas. I'm not in the office until 27. The first thing was the board wants to see me and I'm like, “They're firing me.” That was perfect. They fired me on the spot. I left the same day at the office.
The one thing I did before I left is I went to my lead project manager. I had headhunted her from another business and I knew her for ten to fifteen years. We had studied together and she was not the one to put herself forward. She’s an introvert, but she was very knowledgeable and she was my right-hand person. I went to her and I said, “You are going to use this situation and get an increase in your salary because you are the only one with all the contacts now to the clients and you're not going to have them walk over you.” She said, “Should I do that?” I said, “Yes, you do it.” She did and she got a salary increase. This happened back in early 2008. She just got promoted to be CEO. It took her eleven years to get the place, but she stuck around with the business all the time and it's grown into the largest software companies. They are huge and she’s now in charge of the whole web development. You call it probably a managing director instead of CEO. I’m glad that the last thing I did as a CEO is to give her this advice.
Dustin
You have ridiculous amounts of grit to me. We've been so enwrapped in your story here, you were originally from Iceland, Reykjavik but bounced around the world. Where does this grit come from? You take bold actions. You tell people, “No, I'm not going to do that to the employees.” Where does this come from? Is it your childhood?
Sigrun
I guess so. I was brought up in a belief I could do anything I wanted and that belief was a little bit shaken down when I was sixteen years old. I was making my own clothes, knitting, sewing and I wanted to learn something more. I did a course with a dressmaker at her home. I was sixteen years old so my parents had to drive me. We only get a driver's license when I was seventeen in Iceland. I'm sitting there with these women and they are telling me that they can't make their dreams come true. I was shocked. I was frustrated and angry not with them but like, “How can we live in a society where women think like that?” Iceland is number one in gender equality in the world so I was like, “If it's like that in Iceland, how is it in other countries?” This notion of like, “You can't make your dreams come true.” They said, “Because of kids and marriage and this and that.” They have all these excuses. I think this was where I took the decision. I said to myself, “I'm always going to make my dreams come true. I'm not going to have children.”
I do have two stepsons. They're fourteen and fifteen and they're wonderful, but I did decide not to have children myself and I'm never going to have a man or husband stop me from following my dreams. I've been in two long-term relationship and now I'm married and I've been together with my partner for eleven years so this is it. He is my biggest supporter and biggest critic. This has been my guiding light throughout my life. If I have felt that there are people in my life that want to stop me from following my dream, then I get rid of them or I avoid them. I have this strong belief that I should make my dreams come true. I'm making a crazy dream coming true now where I've booked a conference center in Iceland. If you imagine the Sydney Opera House, it's the Icelandic version. I've booked that house in June 2020 for a summit for entrepreneurs. When I booked it, I had no idea what I was going to do with it, how it's going to fill the room or anything like that. When you have a dream, the only way you're going to make it happen is book it. Put it in the calendar and it's going to happen.
Dustin
I am so inspired by your story and your dedication to knowing where you're headed. We for sure can all benefit from this. Before we get into gender equality, I wanted to ask you if you're open to share this. After you resigned because of running into that big bureaucracy there, you got sick and unemployable. Do you mind sharing what happened and how you overcame that and what you learned?
Sigrun
When I left the business that I was running, I was also finishing my MBA at London Business School. I decided to move to London for the remaining months of that study and I attended Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within. That did plant the seeds in terms of entrepreneurship. My parents had a business. For 30 years, they have a dry cleaning so it was not far away from me to have my own business. I saw the positives about it and also the negatives, but I didn't have a business idea. I wrote down then at the Unleash the Power Within that I'm going to have my own business and I'm going to make a million dollars a year. I have no idea where that came from. In that environment, there are a lot of entrepreneurs that go to Tony Robbins' events so I think that's inspiring for someone who's not an entrepreneur yet to go and a seed was planted. I meet also my partner, the love of my life. I meet him there at this event and I moved to Switzerland.
I was first looking for a job there and they found me. It’s a medical device company looking for a managing director. I started to work there and it was very different from my previous jobs where I was running from meeting to meeting. I had lots of employees. I had people that I need to talk to and conferences to go to. Subtly, I was in an office sitting there all day. I would write a business plan for an investor of how we can get a €5 million investment. Then my boss would go to the meeting, get the €5 million and my plan worked out but I didn't go to the actual meeting myself. I was stuck in the office and it started to impact my health. I started getting headaches. They came on Friday and then they were Thursday and Friday. Then one day, it was the whole week. They didn't go away. I would get pinching ear pain and pain in my shoulder when I was driving. Initially, I didn't realize it was work-related, but when I had gone on a summer holiday for three to four weeks and I came back to the office and the pain came back worse. I realized it was work-related. The table was too high and the chair is too low and the hours. It’s the little variation in how I spend my time at the office.
I got sick and I was seven months sick at home. This is not something that we use in Iceland or Switzerland where I come from, but repetitive strain injury is the name that my American friends and UK friends have for what happened to me. A repetitive strain injury is often people that are A type, ambitious people who are very focused sitting at their desk and they forget about their posture and are hunched over with the mouse. For me, maybe it’s the desk and the chair is not in the right position. It can have this effect on you. Worst case scenario, you can literally not use your hand or mouse anymore. It can lead to you being invalid or disabled in that sense. I knew when I got this pain that this was serious. I used to have headaches. I've always had a few posture problems so I would get headaches from time to time, but this time it was bad. I was taking three different painkillers and it didn't help.
When my general practitioner said, “You should go back and work 50%. We'll figure out physiotherapy and things like that.” I'm like, “No.” I was very clear. I knew that this was more serious. It took two to three months to get to the proper doctors. The best doctors have a long waiting list. I was able to get to the best in Switzerland and they told me, “Yes, you're not going back to work until this is solved.” They even want to put me in a clinic and I didn't like that idea. I tried everything. I tried Trigger Point Therapy, stretching, physiotherapy, walking an hour a day, not sitting at the computer more than ten minutes a day and nothing seemed to be working until I tried Kinesio tape.
Kinesio tape is this tape that you’ll see in people that play tennis. It’s a colorful tape. The tape doesn't do much and there's no medicine in it or anything like that, but it's a micro-massage on the areas where you put the tape on. Suddenly, all the other things I was doing, they started to work because of the tape. I could put off the painkillers and I could slowly think about getting back to work. I was not going back to the medical device company. They had turned around and become bullies to me. I had been the most popular employee before I got sick and now I was this horrible person that was pretending to be sick at home because they saw nothing wrong with me. They would stalk me online. They would check at home if I was at home and this was awful. I thought of going after them and I booked an appointment with the lawyer. Just talking to a lawyer for an hour and having them draft a letter was $1,500. Even if you're physically sick and not mentally sick, it still hurts you. You are not in a space to take on people like that who are against you.
I went to my doctor and told him, “Can you write a letter and tell them to leave me alone?” He did and it worked. Then I became a country manager for a software company that lasted for about fifteen months. I had to drive to school since it was a school software company. The cool thing about the job though was that I worked from home. I got used to working from home and I was starting to think how my online business could look like because I would work from home. I was able to take a break in the middle of the day for a walk or something like that. My new boss had repetitive strain injury and he had to use voice recognition software because he couldn't use his hands. I saw how serious it could get, but it was also motivating that someone would hire me after I told them that I was sick. I was with them for fifteen months and we ended and it was all good. Even after they let me go, he became my first client in my business where I took on a project where they were thinking of importing fish. I did a consulting project. That made me realize like, “I don't want to be a business consultant. I don't want to write business plans for people. I had been doing that on the side for several years for startups and also in Iceland and the US and then Switzerland. I was like, “No, this is not what I want to do.”
I don't know if you heard about the book, Alchemist, or anyone has read it. This boy is looking for treasure all over the world only to come back and realize that it's in his backyard. The same thing happened to me in January 2014 when I realized that I was a business coach and I was trying to avoid it at all cost. I was trying to look for something else. I was trying to find this perfect business idea and it was right in front of me. I had been trained at the Dale Carnegie trainer. I had been around businesses since I was ten years old. It was literally in my blood and I was avoiding it. When I finally admitted I'm a business coach, even if that term is like, “Everybody is a business coach,” things started to work out and I started down. I had no income in the first two months. I had $180 income in the third month and I made $1 million in 2017, almost exactly ten years after I wrote this vision down at Unleash the Power Within with Tony Robbins.
Dustin
You mentioned the event that is coming up in 2020 and your mission is to accelerate gender equality. Events are one of it and coaching sounds like it. With such a momentous task, because there are some parts of the world where women were not first, what are you doing in your business to facilitate this and perpetuate this message beyond you?
Sigrun
My mission is to accelerate gender equality through female entrepreneurship. I know there are a lot of other things you could do like governments and corporations. You can do a lot but the way women can show up for themselves and create wealth is by starting their own business. In starting my own business, I had to decide who is my target audience. Even though I had mostly worked with men all of my life, I was running software companies, 70% to 80% of my employees were men, I realized that I want to work with women. There are two things here. On the one hand, women need more encouragement. They need more community, more role models and I feel called to be this role model. On the other hand, I have a quite direct style. I have a male energy and that's maybe how I've thrived so much in a male-dominated world. I can be very strong even if there's a man who was made to do something different. I can’t say no and the women need that. That's why I've decided to step up and serve them and make that my mission.
It comes back to my why when I was sixteen years old. When these women said they couldn’t make their dreams come true, I want to show that you can and I want to help women do the same. I started in 2014 with one-on-one coaching, which is always the best way to start if you want to be a coach. I always was thinking, “How do I scale this?” Back then, even if I hadn't decided to do a conference, I saw myself somehow in the future on stage with my book. It was far away but I'm like, “I'm not doing that with one-on-one coaching.” You can only serve so many. Typically, I would have ten clients at a time. Over a year, you can serve 40 clients. That's not how you have an impact. I was always thinking, “How can I have this impact? How can I serve more people and how can I scale my own business?” That holds hand in hand like, “If I am making more money, I am having a bigger impact.” I went into groups in 2015 and then in 2016, I had completely replaced my one-on-one revenue with groups only. I scaled up my groups. At some point, I had six groups running at the same time with different sizes from six to eighteen people in each group.
In January 2017, I launched a scalable signature program, which I called SOMBA, Sigrun Online MBA. It’s where I take everything that was missing in my own MBA. It's not a degree. I gave it the name like Seth Godin has a course called altMBA. It's an alternative for someone who doesn't need that degree, but it's doing it for their own benefit. That's where I'm helping women over a longer period, over twelve months and then they'd up. I also have a group coaching program. I also have a mastermind. At any given point, I have 500 active clients at the same time. That's also not how I'm going to change the world and that's where the conference came into it. I said, “I need something much bigger. I need something like The World Economic Forum, but for women.”
Dustin
You brought up Seth Godin. In my research, I found that you talk about one of his concepts, which is the lizard brain. I don’t know if it's his concept but it has been popularized by him. Will you describe what is that because it’s important? It's easy to sit here and say, “Sigrun was born that way. She's got it in her. She's got that grit in her.” There are different ways and people that aren't like you can achieve amazing things and it has to do with this lizard brain. Can you go into detail here?
Sigrun
I wasn't necessarily born this way. What happens is that we have a comfort zone. The lizard brain is called amygdala. It’s the part of the brain that is keeping us safe. What happens is that it gets activated where there is some potential threat or fear. We needed this when there were bears and big animals and we were in danger of being killed every single day in the cave days, but we don't need it now. What the voice that is in your head is telling you, “You can't do something, you're not good enough.” The impostor syndrome, that's all there. What is also coming from there is if something is said to you when you're young, if you're four, five or six years old, it sticks with you. Sometimes it's not meant in a bad way and most of the time, these are your parents. Maybe your parents were keeping you safe from something. They didn't want you to jump from the tree or participate in the singing competition because they were worried about you losing and then you would cry and all these things. All of this gets saved in the lizard brain. It's a memory for all these things that were said to you early on. Mostly, it's from a young age.
These thoughts come up so when you think you can't do something, this might not be you. This is the lizard brain keeping you safe, but also maybe some voices from your childhood that are rotating there and trying to keep you in your comfort zone. Every time you try to do something new, you feel this fear. For instance, booking this conference. There's this fear coming up like, “What if I sell the seats? How is that going to look? Can I afford this? Could this bankrupt my business?” All these thoughts. If you get very logical around it, I’ll call up and asked, “What does it cost to book this place?” When I heard the amount, I was like, “I can even afford it. Even no one shows up, then that's not a problem. I can cancel three months in advance and pay 10%.” There were all these things of fear gone so that's one thing. Get logical around it. Don't worry about something and you don't know what you are worrying about. Also, stepping out of the comfort zone.
I was not in school, one of these people who would jump on stage or be first in line with everything. I was a little bit shyer than I am now. Every time I feel this fear coming up, I said, “I need to do it.” I see it as a signal of the opposite. It's not about stepping back and not doing it. It's about leaning into the fear. Every time you do that, your comfort grows and then you can do bigger things. I have these hot seats calls with my clients. As I told you, I'm pretty direct with my clients and they love it, but sometimes I feel that I need to be a bit softer. There was this woman who said that she was worried about being visible online because he had been bullied all her childhood. I was like, “I'm going to be careful now with my coaching.” I shared my screen and I drew up a circle representing the comfort zone. I made a little ugly lizard outside the comfort zone trying to keep her in. I said, “These are your bullies. Your bullies from childhood, they are coming up as voices in your grownup life and keeping you from doing what you want to do. These bullies may not be real.”
We know they're online trolls, but most of them are scared people. They have their own fears. I asked her if she could do something small every day. It depends what you've done before to what it is, but for someone going on Facebook Live, it might be very scary or asking someone to come on their podcast or whatever it is. A few months later, she came back on the hot seat and she had done all of that and she had written a book about how she helps other women get rid of the bullies by writing them away.
Dustin
When you feel a little nervous and you feel that fear, run towards it. That's our greatest opportunity for growth. Sigrun, I want to move us into WealthFit round, which is my fancy name for rapid fire questions. In our life, what has been your most worthwhile investment?
Sigrun
My education.
Dustin
What's that investment you don't want to talk about?
Sigrun
Some costs and walking away.
Dustin
Give me a little more color there. Give me a little more backstory to some costs.
Sigrun
I started architecture for seven years and as I'm finishing my studies, I realize this is not my passion. It was easy. I don't have regrets. My mother is the one that regrets the time, but you do it and you benefit no matter what.
Dustin
That’s part of the game. You're going to take some missteps in your mind and that's part of it. When life is good and the business is harmonizing along and it's scaling quite nicely and you want to treat yourself to something nice, what is that guilty pleasure spin? What do you splurge on?
Sigrun
A red Prada bag.
Dustin
You're very direct and clear about what you want.
Sigrun
I love red and I have the red Prada bag right next to me. I already bought it in January 2017. When I want to splurge again, it's maybe shoes.
Dustin
You mentioned it and I find it funny. What is your favorite kind of pizza?
Sigrun
That varies but for a long time, it was pizza Hawaii and now I like these experimental ones with broccoli and dried tomato or something different.
Dustin
That's the first time, Sigrun, I've ever asked that. I thought it's so absurd what you shared that I wrote it down. Why photography? Why is that your second passion?
Sigrun
I'm a very visual person and it was a creative outlet when I had this more of office type jobs. I have had to give it up in my current job because I can experience creativity every single day.
Dustin
I'm curious about your rituals. Do you have any special routines that you have to get you in the state or help you perform at your best?
Sigrun
I've been asked about that a lot. I'm a night owl and I like to sleep in the morning. I don't like when people talk about the 5:00 AM thing and whatever. I perform my best in the evening and I like to sleep in. Having enough time in the morning is good but there's no ritual.
Dustin
You mentioned that you traveled quite a bit. Do you have any travel hacks or tips?
Sigrun
It’s not hacks or tips but I must say that I was the one that did not want to travel business class. I am not very tall. I thought like, “Why waste this money?” My husband is tall and he was like, “Business class is so much nicer. I have a place for my legs,” but something happened. We were coming back from a conference and flying British Airways. We’re standing in line and then they offer us an upgrade and it was a night flight back to Europe from San Diego. They said $999. Even if I was making $1 million, I thought, “That’s a lot of money.” Then my husband said, “That's nothing for an upgrade in a business class where you can lie flat and sleep.” We took it and something changed. I saw all the benefits of not being able to sleep. It was not that I haven't traveled in business class before, I often got upgraded when I was flying to London every second week during my studies, but something clicked in my mind. I realized I need to do this also for women. Representation matters. How many women are traveling business class on their own cost? It's not the employer, it's not their husband, it's them paying for it. I'm not doing this for myself and I loved that. That's not a travel hack but I had to share that.
Dustin
Sigrun, I've had an incredible time with you. I know the audience are going to love it and they're going to want to continue with the conversation with you and find out about that event going down in 2020. What's the best way for people to keep tabs with you?
Sigrun
I have a podcast, The Sigrun Show. That would be a place to start if you're a podcast listener and then my website, www.Sigrun.com. I'm on Instagram, @Sigruncom.
Dustin
Thanks, Sigrun. I appreciate you being on the show and I appreciate what you're up to in the world.
Sigrun
Thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure.
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