Prefer to just listen? Catch our audio below!
Courtney Johnston is CEO and the resident Life Rebel at The Rule Breaker’s Club, where she teaches creative business ladies how to lose the sales pitch and inject more personality into their businesses and lives.
What I loved about interviewing her was hearing how she made the mental shift from solopreneur peddling to make an income to running a real business building an empire fully equipped with teams, systems and processes.
Among other things I discovered:
• Why getting down and dirty with masculine energy systems and processes is the ultimate key to feminine wealth
• How a shaky first product launch led to an epiphany that took her business to a whole new level
• How shaking off her inner control freak and hiring a team has been her ticket to business freedom … and way more fun !
Prefer to read? See full transcription below!
Barbara Turley: Hi there, I’m Barbara Turley and you’re watching another episode of Feminine Wealth TV. The show that I’m covering is the diamond tips on creating truly conscious wealth, from change makers, world shakers and wealth creators. Do you know the difference between working for yourself and building a true business? Lots of entrepreneurs and business owners don’t really get to the difference between these two things. On today’s show we’re going to explore how one girl went from producing an income for herself to building a true business and how she found freedom in that process. Courtney Johnston is joining me today all the way from the West Coast of the US and she is the founder of the Rule Breakers Club. Courtney, welcome to the show.
Courtney Johnston: Thanks for having me I’m excited to be here.
Barbara Turley: Yeah, and you’re coming to us, are you in the West Coast of the US right now, you’re coming to us from LA?
Courtney Johnston: I was there for three weeks this winter which was lovely but I’m actually in Michigan now, so I’m back in the frozen tundra after some nice sunshine. I know it’s sunny where you are so I’m totally jealous.
Barbara Turley: Yeah, it’s sunny down here in Sydney this time of the year, it’s fantastic.
Courtney Johnston: Yeah.
Barbara Turley: I know we had a chat the other day and I was so interested in the conversation we were having because of this issue of, how do we get more business owners to realize that making an income is actually different from building a true business. The freedom really does lie when you build a true business as opposed to always peddling to try to make the income. I’m really keen to get to show the viewers your take on how you got through this barrier, but first, just give me a little bit about The Rule Breakers Club and what you’re doing today, what’s your business today?
Courtney Johnston: Yeah, so I think those stories to hand in hand and that’s sort of where I come from, is building that business. Where I’m today, is that I really do have a business, I consider myself a business owner. It’s all about the mindset and the perspective. My business is all about copyrighting and really helping entrepreneurs to create raving fans for their businesses and sell their products, programs and services online to the people that really need them. I help people to communicate their value to their audience in a way that makes the audience say, “Oh my god, yeah, I need that.”
Barbara Turley: Yeah, and I think that’s amazing that you do that. That’s actually one of the hardest things to do as a business owner, particularly if you’re selling yourself. It’s so difficult to describe yourself and to put it in language that would be appealing, I guess for the end client, without feeling like you’ve totally inflated your own ego.
Courtney Johnston: Yeah, people struggle with that a lot and that’s something I deal with in my course. The first thing I have people is to create something I call the ‘I’m Awesome List’, and it’s basically just my way of doing a self confidence list of 100 reasons why you’re amazing. I think this tests a lot of our self worth and things like that. You can really self sabotage pretty quickly in your business but also in your copy if you’re not coming from a place of, I believe of what I’m doing, I’m here of service and here’s why you need to work with me because I’m going to help you.
Barbara Turley: I love that because, yeah it’s so difficult, people feel like they’re selling. I always say, actually by not selling, you’re actually hiding and doing a disservice to your ideal client. Realistically they’re out there waiting for you to show them why you’re amazing, so you have to get out there and actually sell yourself.
Courtney Johnston: Well yeah and I tell people this too. Do you believe in your offer? Did you create your offer because you believe it needs to exist because people need it in order to achieve x, y or z result which is going to make their life better and make the world better. If you believe in that, then you are doing a disservice by not properly selling it to them, so I totally agree.
Barbara Turley: Yeah, that’s great. Talk to me now about, I’m so interested in your backstory, about your entrepreneurial journey, and how you ended up particularly going from that, taking that jump from making an income to creating a business. Take me right back to the beginning, where did it all start?
Courtney Johnston: Yeah, I know we talked about this and I know our journeys are a little different, which I think it really cool, especially for anyone watching. I think everyone’s story resonates with people on a different level. Where I come from is that, I graduated from the university with a French degree during the recession, so I had family members say to me when I said I was earning a French degree, they’re like, “Hire me,” like making fun of me because it was a ridiculous thing to get if I wanted to get a job. I never really knew what I wanted to do. I always saw myself creating things, I was multi-passionate, I wanted to be a director, I wanted to be an actress, I wanted to be a writer and I wanted to do all of these things, but I couldn’t ever pinpoint what the job was that was going to fit with m y strengths and my passions.
I ended up going to France, which I think is the best place to do some soul searching. While I was there I realized, “Oh my god, the world is beautiful, life is amazing. I love this, I love travelling, I love having the freedom to be in this place and do what I want. I need to make this possible in my life, I cannot go back to the US, get a job in the Mid-West and just-,” The Mid-West where I live really has a mentality of work hard, don’t complain. People don’t enjoy pleasure very much. The weather is rough, everything is sort of rough, we’re tough people. It was hard for me to face that fact because I had that mentality.
I wound up just being really scrappy and finding little ways to make money. I started nanny-ing and tutoring, I started writing resumes. When I came back to the US I started French tutoring high school students from my old high school. Slowly as I got more and more money doing that I build my confidence. It’s really been a slow growth from that to the point where I’m at now. I think what we were talking about before, was the shift from me being a young 20 something you know, I was 22 when I started my business, I had no real experience and a lot of that self-confidence issue, you know, I was talking about the ‘I’m Awesome List’.
It took me awhile until probably about last year to get to that point where I’m like, “I am not some girl in my basement trying to make money freelancing as a solopreneur,” I actually really don’t like that word anymore, freelancing or solopreneur. I decided I’m running a business and that shifted the entire way I was seeing how I was spending my money, getting credit for my business, hiring people, managing projects, the tasks I should and shouldn’t be doing, and all that kind of stuff.
Barbara Turley: Yeah, now tell me though, what was the moment, was there a pivotal moment where you decided, “Gosh, I can’t keep doing it this way,” then went to look for another way. What was that mold?
Courtney Johnston: Totally, and you know I’ve been waiting to have a pivotal moment forever because everyone has these pivotal moments and I’ve always been so jealous like, “I want one.” Actually this past September I joined a high level mastermind last year, which I believe in investing yourself as a business owner, even when it’s a stretch and you’re not sure how you’re going to be able to do it. I think that’s how you get lifted up higher. With that said, I invested in a high level mastermind last year that I ended up being able to go to Bali which is really far for me. I know in Australia it’s just a skip over the pond, but for me it was a 14 hour plane ride and all of this.
When I was there I was in the middle of a launch and I was totally depressed and deflated. I felt alone, I felt like no one would know if something went wrong in my business. I had a BA but she was only working a few hours and she was contracted. I felt like this could all flop over and I could have the worst moment ever and no one would even care. My parents, my family don’t understand my business. My boyfriend tries to, but he’s also French speaking, so it’s hard to explain some of the stuff to him.
When I was in Bali, I just had this revelation listening to other business owners talk about how they were managing their businesses. Our mentor, Natalie Macneil was talking about how she was growing her team and I actually started to cry at the table. I was like, “That’s it, that’s what I’m going to do. I know what I want now, I’m building an empire, I’m not a solopreneur.” I went home just so excited to get back to work.
Barbara Turley: Yeah, oh I absolutely love that story. I think there is a shift there and there’s a block that a lot of entrepreneurs feel with trying to get to that next level. It’s not even a block, it’s almost like a not wanting to. Some women say to me for example, they go, “If I go to the next level, it’s very corporate and all of a sudden I’m getting into corporatized structures and masculine energy. I want to give and I want to be the personalized business that I dream of.” I’ve worked with so many women entrepreneurs and shown them how they can build a beautiful business that is personalized and still giving, but has a lot of people in it, has a lot of structure and has a lot of systems. It actually works for them, yeah, yeah.
Courtney Johnston: The hardest thing for me was that I started my business as a rebel, it’s called The Rule Breaker’s Club. The whole point of calling it The Rule Breaker’s Club was so that I would always remember that I don’t want to play by the status quo, that I want to do my own thing. I did that to attract people who also felt attracted to that name, but I really did it to remind myself every single day when I work in my business, that that’s what I’m about. It was hard for me to then move into being a business owner, because like we talked about earlier, that meant I went from being like, “Screw the man,” to being like, “I’m going to be the man, I’m going to have the business, I’m going to hire the employees,” and that was really hard. I had a lot of resistance to that until I saw some really soulful, heart centered women were running their businesses.
Barbara Turley: Yeah, so when you came home from Bali you have this revelation, then how do you go from you land back in Michigan or LA or somewhere, and you think, “Where do I start? How do I start even the process of I’ve done the mindset shift, but how do I start the actual practical process of implementing,” so what was the next step for you?
Courtney Johnston: Yeah, I think that the shift is important but if you don’t take action, money is not going to fall out of the air, that’s not how it works. When I got back I was in the middle of starting the next run of my course, so I was really focused on serving my clients. I started immediately attracting more clients. That is one thing that kind of fell out of the air because I was projecting a different energy because I felt like I have a team to take care of this. Before I was blocking people coming to me because I felt like, “Oh my god, I have too much going on, I can’t take on more clients,” so no more clients were coming to me. Once I let go of that and I was like, “When more clients come, we will find a way to bring them in, we will have systems for that, we will have a team for that,” then people started coming and now I’m booked out for months. That was pretty immediate and that was something I wanted for a long time, was to get booked out for months.
Bali was in the middle of September. In November I up-leveled a huge amount. I hired an operations manager, I got Infusionsoft for my email marketing and all things, it’s not just email marketing, Infusionsoft is just incredible. I rejoined the mastermind I was in last year and we are going to go to Mexico at the end of this year. I forced myself to take those actions and one of the things we did do on the retreat was say, “Within 60 days I’m going to do this task,” and my task was hire an operations manager. When I ended up looking at my book, the date that I actually said I was going to hire the operations manager is the day she started and I didn’t even plan that. It’s pretty cool what happens when you set an intention and then you say, “I’m going to do it no matter what.”
Barbara Turley: Yeah, it’s that no matter what bit I think is really good. Sometimes you just have to say yes and then figure out how.
Courtney Johnston: Yeah, totally.
Barbara Turley: If an opportunity comes to you, I mean I have one going on in my business at the moment, which is actually quite a huge opportunity. I’m not really sure at the moment how I’m going to actually pull this one off, but I said yes anyway. I was like, “You say yes and I’m going to figure out how,” because this was such a good opportunity for me. I always think that’s the energetic thing, where if you have no in your heart all the time because you’re wondering how do I do something, then the energy blocks and the opportunities don’t even come to you actually. You’ve got to be open to saying, “I’m going to figure this out, I’m going to figure out how,” and there’s people around me that can help, mentor, whatever you need, you go out and hunt for it, find it and bring it in.
Courtney Johnston: 100%, I couldn’t agree more with that. That’s totally my philosophy now.
Barbara Turley: Yeah, so tell me now, the operations manager, I’m really interested in this. Did you hire somebody, like, do you have a full-time employee operations manager in your business?
Courtney Johnston: She’s not full-time right now. I wanted to hire her but I wanted to start, I’m always about stretching but not freaking myself out, because when I freak myself out, I shut down, feel sabotaged, don’t do anything, avoid everything, so-
Barbara Turley: Well, I think hiring an operation manager, I was interested because if you’ve taken one on full-time, straight in, I’d be thinking, “Wow, that’s a huge like, there’s a salary and everything involved in that.”
Courtney Johnston: No, I actually do all of my hiring now, not all, but most of the stuff on Elance. She’s actually someone who had been following my website for a really long-, since the beginning, before it was even called The Rule Breakers Club, it was something else. She had been following me since then. She intimately knows the vision of my business, where I’ve been and all of that. She had the skills I needed. She had the opposite skills that I have, I’m big picture, she’s small details. She really balances me out and I started her off at just five hours a week, now she’s at 10. We’re going into a launch so she’s going to be more.
Our goal is, what I tell her is that your work is directly going to be related to how much money we make. If you want more hours let’s make these goals happen so that we have the money to get you more hours, we have the leverage to get you more hours. She’s really what I would call an intrapreneur. She’s an entrepreneur within my business. I give her responsibility, I want her to be invested, I want her to be committed and it’s more fun that way. I’m an extrovert and I like having someone else to collaborate with. I didn’t realize how much I was missing that until I had it, so it’s been really nice.
Barbara Turley: What about, I know an area that a lot of people struggle with, women in particular, I’m probably picking on women too much here, but how do you then, you know just letting go of the control, we’re all control freaks because we love our businesses, how did you get around that thing of just letting her do it and allowing her to explore her own ways of doing things, and bring ideas to the table of how to do it better?
Courtney Johnston: Yeah, totally, and she’s done that. I told her to do that and it’s been amazing. I’m like, “Thank you for telling me this is a terrible plan [crosstalk 00:15:30], so I think it started by first of all letting go of, I think I have this fear of like, “How can I hire someone that I trust,” and all that. We started on sort of a little trial basis, so we had about six weeks where we were doing all the training, I was giving her tasks and giving her responsibilities just to see how she did, well-knowing that if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. First of all, I’m not going to keep her around if it doesn’t. That’s something I do, I have a hard-time with confrontation so I tend to not address issues, and that’s something I promised myself. It’s not at this level that we’re not going to keep going.
The second thing was that I knew that either I do it all myself, or I give her responsibility. Quite frankly that’s what it comes down to. You can’t trust someone 100%, they’re going to make mistakes, things are going to happen, but it’s either you hand it over or you keep doing it all by yourself. We know that’s not the way to do it.
Barbara Turley: That’s the way to overwhelm and totally burnout and there’s so many women that are doing that.
Courtney Johnston: Yeah, I was there, I had to hit that rock bottom. I believe in rock bottom, whatever that is for you and whatever it is that you need to change, you need to hit that point where you’re like, “I can’t keep going like this, I need to make a change,” and for me it was going through that launch feeling really alone and unsupported, and knowing that my vision is to have a team, so I needed to start doing that ASAP.
Barbara Turley: Yeah, you know I had a woman on the show, a gorgeous gorgeous woman who is a very successful business woman last year called Sia Hendry, she’s here in Sydney. One thing she said which really resonated with me was, “You can’t grow if you’re a one woman show,” and I just, that just sums it up for me.
Courtney Johnston: Perfect.
Barbara Turley: All of us women have this beautiful vision to give, to create and to change the world and have impact. We can’t do it all by ourselves, this is the thing. I love this shift that’s really happening in the women entrepreneur space where women are really stepping up and realizing this, and not being afraid to take this step up you know?
Courtney Johnston: Yeah.
Barbara Turley: Talk to me now about, have there been any errors? Has any major screw-ups happened, or how have you dealt with issues like that?
Courtney Johnston: You know I can’t think of anything with my-, actually I can think of one thing that happened, two moments where I was actually very proud of my team when there were problems. I’m terrible with details and I tend to be like, “Ah, there’s a typo, ah, this link is broken. Whatever I’m just going to keep going,” because I’m a recovering perfectionist and the way I usually recover from things is I go in the total opposite. I’ve gone from perfectionist to, I’m just not going to, I’m not going to look at it.
What happened once was a post that was supposed to go in the group for my course, for the students of my course, ended up on my Facebook page for my business. My virtual assistant, she didn’t have access to my businesses Facebook page, which was my fault. I should have given her access, I wanted her to have access. She runs my social media, she should have had access. She was freaking out, she was calling me in every way, she’s like I need to get this post down. I was like, “The fact that you cared so much is, these things happen, but the fact that you cared so much means so much to me, but it’s okay. This is not the end of the world and it’s my fault I didn’t give you access to this page.”
The other thing that happened after I hired my operations manager was that, there was a week where I was a little, I think I was on vacation, I’m trying to remember, I think it was over the holidays actually, we had a big promotion going on and I was on vacation. My team was working and there was a problem with a blog post, the link in the newsletter didn’t work and I didn’t even know about it. This problem happened a week later, we had a team meeting and they’re like, “This problem happened, we contacted each other, we got it fixed, here’s what we did,” and I’m like, “What?” I could cry, I’m so excited, a problem happened, it got fixed and I didn’t even know about it? This is the greatest thing in the world to me.
Those are two things that actually ended up being really great things. Problems do happen and your team need to be empowered. The reason you need to give people responsibility is so that they feel like they can solve problems when they happen. I know my ops manager told me she was terrified at first of taking control of certain things because she didn’t want to mess them up for me. That’s why I just gave her control because I’m like, “You need to face this, you need to just do it,” so that I can go on vacation. I need to take time off, I need a weekend, things like that. Those are really great moments.
Barbara Turley: Now that’s really interesting because I think it’s hard to find those kinds of people, or is it? I think it’s actually about the business owner empowering them like you said, and actually giving the power to them and saying, “It’s your job to look at the detail and to find the issues and mistakes, then you just deal with them.” Is it in the hiring process or is it in the leadership process, or is it a bit of both that you think?
Courtney Johnston: I have to think it’s a little bit of both but more in the leadership. Listen, everybody wants to do a good job. Yeah, there’s a fluke where you’re going to hire someone who’s just crazy and they’re going to take advantage of you, but honestly you’re still somewhat responsible. If you’re giving people all of your passwords and they go into your bank account and mess with things, that’s your fault right? We use something called Lastpass, so my team doesn’t actually use my passwords. It’s also more efficient, they just have access to the passwords and just the dots, so that they can login and they don’t actually need to know the passwords.
There’s certain things where you can protect yourself but also make it more efficient. I personally didn’t hire my VA, I went through a company that contracts VA’s, so I had a conversation with her, but I didn’t go through hiring process. I know they did and they trained her, but I didn’t do that. With Diane, my operations manager, I know I need to work on the hiring thing for the next time, but I was basically just in the Elance profiles and I’m like, “Her.” She’s the only person I interviewed, I had a backup, but I was like, “I want her.” I’m not great at all of that, I’m not an HR person obviously, I’m more like, “My intuition says you’re the right person.”
I think it’s more about empowering them and being really up front in the beginning of, what is this job, what are my expectations, and you need to get clear with yourself on what you expect from someone. We tend to forget that other people have different perspective and other people have a different filter for seeing the world. A lot of that is going to be a slow getting to know how to work with that person as well.
Barbara Turley: Yeah, look I love that because as you know I have a side business at Energized Wealth called Virtual Angel Hub. At Virtual Angel Hub, we go through rigorous hiring and a lot of it is intuition too, because I know now having hired a lot of virtual assistants and offshore staff, I know what to look for and I know the signs. I know that the girls that we have on the team, all of them are just desperate to do a great job. Often it’s the business owner that causes some of the blocks. That’s the hardest part for me to deal with because it’s a leadership thing that you have to teach, the letting go process and all that. Tell me now, what’s the future for The Rule Breakers Club, for you, the big vision, where are you going to take this now?
Courtney Johnston: Yeah, our really big focus right now is our course. I find it very important to teach entrepreneurs how to write their own copy. I think all entrepreneurs for a long time should be writing 90% of their copy. Even if you get to a point where you’re outsourcing a lot of it, the more successful you get, the more writing there is, the more copy, the more articles, the more emails, the more this, the more that. You have to know how to share your message in a way that’s compelling. I find that people have a really hard time with that.
Our course teaches people how to do that. I’m really focused on that. I’m focused on making that the best course it can be. I want it to be like, I call it the bible for copyrighting for your online business. I want it to be, not just a course where I’m teaching you and there’s a live component where there’s calls and all that, but it’s actually a resource you go to for the rest of the time that you have your business, hopefully forever. Every time you need to write something, you just go in, you pull up the resource and you’re like, “Okay, here’s the template, here’s the tricks, here’s how I need to do it, here’s the process, and you can get it done so much more efficiently.
Barbara Turley: Oh, I love that. I think there’s a huge gap in the market for that and I am definitely going to be speaking to you afterwards about how we can collaborate on that. For me, you know I love to write, but there’s a different way when you’re writing compelling copy.
Courtney Johnston: Oh yeah.
Barbara Turley: It’s different from writing a beautiful article, it’s a different thing.
Courtney Johnston: People who are great writers often have the hardest time accepting this and I come from experience. I was a writing consultant in college, I’ve always been a writer. My first launch I ever did way back was an E-book, I was writing resumes. Nobody bought my book and I was so depressed. What I realized was it was the copy, it was the marketing, it was the positioning, it was the messaging. It wasn’t me, it wasn’t my book. That’s when I dove into learning about this, I’m like, “I’m a great writer, why have I not gotten this.” I realized being a great writer is a good asset, but having copywriting skills is a totally different ballgame.
Barbara Turley: What I wanted to add there is I love, because being a good copywriter and accepting that this is part of business, is also accepting that this is one of the areas of business that you’re not really taught, but it’s essential. It’s like there’s marketing, positioning, copywriting, sales, distribution. There’s all these things in business that we don’t naturally learn, but to be really good at business, you have to learn this stuff. If you’re a Naturopath for example, or if you’re a yoga teacher, whatever, you’re great at your craft, but running a business is a totally different set of skills that we need to learn as well if we’re going to be successful, and get out of that, I’m working for money and for my business instead of your business and your money working for you, which is really where the freedom lies. The absolute freedom lies there and the impact lies there as well because then you can serve more people.
Courtney Johnston: Totally.
Barbara Turley: Courtney, I absolutely love that we had this discussion on the show today. I love your work, I love the whole concept of The Rule Breakers Club. If people want to find out more about The Rule Breakers Club and about you, where should they go?
Courtney Johnston: Well they should just go to RuleBreakersClub.com and everything you need is going to be there.
Barbara Turley: That’s great, that’s fantastic. Courtney, thank you so much for being on the show.
Courtney Johnston: Well thanks for having me, this was a blast. I love talking about this topic. I don’t get interviewed very often about this so it’s been a blast.
Barbara Turley: That’s why I wanted to bring it to the table because I know this is key. It’s something in my business that I’ve had to really really learn as well and I’m still learning. I know people need it, so they should get in contact with you.
Courtney Johnston: Well thank you.
Barbara Turley: Also, thank you for joining me for yet another week. You can catch me later this week on my Podcast where I’m going to be giving you my three key tips from my chat today with Courtney. Also, if you’re interested in growing your team, go to EnergizeWealth.com and check out the webinar we have running on Virtual Angel Hub. It’s the business breakthrough masterclass. You can catch me live talking about how you could build your team on that webinar every couple of weeks. Okay, until next week, see you then.
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