JoAnna Brandi – Guest Speaker, Writer, Positive Leadership Coach

The Thriving Solopreneur Podcast Show with JoAnna Brandi and Janine Bolon: Author, Happiness Coach, Speaker

To Learn More about JoAnna Brandi [click here] to view her Media Kit.

Janine Bolon: Hi, welcome to The Thriving Solopreneur show. This is Janine Bolon. It’s wonderful to be sitting with you again on a Friday. Just wanted to let you know. Things are changing here at The Thriving Solopreneur. We’ve been picked up by a radio station and so we are going to be broadcasting then on Sundays. But that’s okay, don’t worry. We’ll continue to upload our sessions every Friday. But stay tuned for those recordings that are coming live to you.

Now the other wonderful thing that we have going on today is a wonderful lady by the name of JoAnna Brandi. And she comes to us with an incredible book called “The 54 Ways to Stay Positive in a Changing, Challenging, and Sometimes Negative World”. Can you imagine? I can’t imagine a better and more appropriate person to have on with us. She’s been in business since 1990, and she’s been helping companies with customer care, and how to keep people happy and engaged, and productive. Not only is it employees, but also the customer service organizations that she worked with. So, just wanted to share with you that she has a lot to offer us. She now has two books on customer loyalty and I just- I’m going to let her talk a little bit more. Welcome so much to the show, JoAnna.

JoAnna Brandi: Thank you. It’s always fun.

Janine: I have a great time with you. So, we were talking a little bit before the show because I always like to ask my guest permission especially when we’re going to get real and raw like we are in this episode. I haven’t gone into depth like this before. And that is because I trust JoAnna, and she is authentic. She is real. She’s going to tell you the truth like it is, and she and I have agreed, we’re going to talk to you about the financial impact of what happens when it comes to starting your own business and what we have learned in our 60 plus years. We decided we add it all together so you can’t guess our ages but we’ve been in business on our own quite a long time. We’ve both been through a lot. So, we’re going to talk a little bit about- start at the very beginning with us. What got you interested in running your own business, Joanna and then we’ll move into the real and raw stage.

JoAnna: Okay. I was an intrapreneur at a large company. I ran a division at a large company, which was really wonderful because I had my own staff. I had to submit a business plan every year. I had a submit a marketing plan. Once everything was approved, they left me alone. So, I was really thriving in that environment. However, I was starting to get bored. The business was changing as the sons of the owners started coming in and working, and quite unexpectedly, I had a new boss. They wanted to make- I think it was the older son, my boss. He and I had always had rough relationship because his mom really liked me. It became like sibling rivalry, I guess, I don’t know. But it became very difficult for me to operate in that environment. The company was going really quickly and was doing some things that I didn’t want to be connected with. So, I had been very quietly stocking away money. Now, remember, this was 1990 but I’ve been stocking away a little bank account where I put a little money away and I called it my FU money. And I’m deliberately thinking that if there was ever a time when I was simply ready to say FU, that I would use that money- and I did. I didn’t say FU.

Janine: You just walked away. You didn’t necessarily used it.

JoAnna: I never quit my job. I never quit my job. The day that I was planning- I had a meeting with the whole executive team and I asked them to- I proposed a change of my relationship with the company. I never quit my job. And the morning of that, somebody had given me, as a gift, a 5,000-foot airplane glider ride. I invited the director of HR who was a friend of mine to go 5,000 feet in the air that morning with me. And of course, I told her, I said, I’m going to be doing something this afternoon that’s going to change things. It was so much fun. But the sons didn’t respond as well as the parents would have to the proposal. So, all of a sudden, I was on my own. And I had plenty of time. I trained my staff. I believed in succession planning. I’ve literally been planning that for years. The problem was that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I thought I knew what I wanted to do. And that’s one thing. I think that’s so important, is that you really know why you’re jumping ship. Oh gosh, I don’t like doing that anymore so I’ll go do this. I did not have a clear picture. I thought I would be a consultant. I thought that all of the people that I knew when I had that huge advertising budget would be my friends forever. It was a really hard learning, that when your corporate budget is gone, many of your friends magically disappear. That was one of the hardest learnings there. I had some convoluted idea of what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t really sure. So, that was the hardest part.

Janine: I was very similar to you. Like you said, the 1990s were big times. Lots of changes. I mean, not the epic or global levels that we’ve seen this past couple of years, but definitely was a time of change in the corporate world. And I remember, I dropped out at 1996 because I was phased out of my job because I became pregnant and for whatever reason, the pharmaceutical companies really didn’t want a pregnant scientist working with radioactivity and viruses because that was my forte. So yeah, we were making legal drugs for a living. And so I remember that I had to drop out because of becoming pregnant, which was a shock because, after 10 years of marriage, you don’t expect that. And so that caused me to have to really look at my business.

So, let’s move into how long did it take you and your business to show a profit. And I did promise you that I would go first on this one. So, with the Eight Gates, I was in business for 5 years before my business went from red to in the black. And it took time for me to build, and I was building online courses. This back in- I started this in 2014, took me till 2019, and then 2020 happened. And I happen to be perfectly positioned, my business tripled, I brought on extra people, but let me tell you something. Up until then, it was like, how do you Zoom? I was having to teach my students the first 4 or 5 lessons which is how do you Zoom and how to connect with me as an online professor, that sort of thing. So, talk to us about what you decided like, you were like, okay, I’m done. I’m going to move forward now beyond my own. Talk to us a little bit about how long it took you before you got to show a profit.

JoAnna: Oh, it was years. It was years. I got lucky somewhere along the line because I got a couple of good clients and they were able to pretty much fund it for a while. But it wasn’t consistent. It was at least 2 years. What I remember is that the man that owns the business I had been working for would call me once a month and he would say to me, “Tell me what you do,” and my mouth would get jumbled up and I would- My company was called Integrated Marketing Systems then. I said, “Well, I am helping people integrate-” I thought that was an action word- “I’m helping them integrate their space advertising with their direct mail, with their telemarketing, and with their people.” And he go, “No, I don’t think so. Go back to the drawing board and say it again.” And he would call me- I didn’t even know he liked me that much. He would call me once a month and he would say the same thing, “Tell me what you do.” And it took me [inaudible] 22 months before he finally said to me, “Okay, now I understand you.” It took that long. What I had in mind was I had been in the marketing business and I observed that my client spent a ton of money. A ton of money getting a new client. But what I noticed is they did nothing after that. Actually, after marketing process, after you do all that marketing, please tell this- back then they had switchboards- please tell the switchboard operator you’re running a special. Please let your staff know there’s going to be all these new phone calls So eventually, I realized that the key to what I’d been doing was customer care. And when I left the company, one of the things I did do was call people. I called my clients and I said, I’m about to leave this nest. I’m about to leave this company. What do I do well? And it was interesting because they said to me, “You take care of your customers better than anybody else in the industry. Why don’t you figure out how to do something with that?” And all of a sudden, now as a happiness coach I can tell you that, oh, that’s your strength. Eventually, I started writing about it. I started talking about it and eventually, of course, somebody said, “Can you do a training?” I’ve never written a training program in my life. But I was well studied and I went back to remember, what did I teach people? How did I teach- I had 15 or 16 people in my department. How did I teach them? What did I say to them? So eventually, I was able to create training and then for the most part became a training- back at that time research. We did a lot of customer research. So, I did research training, speaking, in that line- and consulting.

Janine: It took time though.

JoAnna: Before making money was at least 3 years.

Janine: Right. And that’s what I tell most people. When you’re starting a business, make sure that you don’t quit your day job unless it’s like you were I where we were- like in my case, I was literally booted out. They put me in quality assurance which is highly detail-oriented work and totally removed me from the laboratory. And I was put in a cubicle with a whole bunch of other people and so, of course, all that training, all those years and years and years of training in the laboratory, safety protocols all that down the wayside and I was learning how to be this other thing.

And so, of course, I quit my job. That was the goal, right? Get her to quit and I did. I did that. Yeah. I said, okay, I’m going to be a stay-at-home mom now. So, that’s the thing I like to share with people. If you can, don’t quit your day job. Build it up on the side and when you start learning the procedures like that way, if it takes you 22 months to tell somebody what you’re doing, it takes time. And I’ve heard this from every business owner. You’re not- no offense, Joanna. You’re not unique in this. It took us time to figure out, okay, what is my 15-second elevator speech? Or what is my 6-second byline that I’m going to hook somebody with? You’ve done all this marketing. You know what I’m talking about. So, this is one of my favorite things that I love asking solopreneurs and entrepreneurs and that is when you have those moments, what was it that made you decide to stick with your business? Every entrepreneur I’ve ever talked to has those dark nights of the soul. They don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from because we don’t have consistency like you do when you’re with corporate. You sitting there, looking at your checking accounts going, I told myself that when my savings got to X number, I will start looking for additional other employment. Well, I’ve gone past that number. I don’t know how many times in my own head I’m like, I am not working outside my house. You know, I’m like, I am working in my house. And this is before 2020, people, okay. These things, decisions, JoAnna and I had to make long before that. So, talk to us about your dark night of the soul, and when did you put your fist down go, no, I’m doing this. Do you remember that?

JoAnna: Which dark night of the soul? [inaudible]

Janine: Yes. Exactly. There are several. So go ahead. Talk to us about your favorite.

JoAnna: I’ll tell you, there’s a couple of things that I do, and I’ve been there several times and I was there 2 years ago. The first thing I do is visualize what it would be like working for somebody else. That’s the very first thing I do is I imagine what the alternative is. And once in a while, I am capable of seeing myself as part of a kick-ass team, and- because I love to be part of a team. A part of a team with an unlimited ad budget and access to the best people out there, which is what I used to have instead of practically begging them. I would imagine all that. I would imagine all that stuff. But then the other thing is I would just sit very quietly and then I would, every single time even now, I would get up and I would put a- I guess back then it was a VCR tape. I would watch Field of Dreams. And every time my daughter would come home from school and see Field of Dreams playing, she’d go, “Having problem with the business, Mom?” [laughs]

Janine: It’s true.

JoAnna: [inaudible] sit down with me and watch Field of Dreams one more time. And we all know that’s not true. But I needed it to be true. I needed it to be true. And there was one other book that came out very frequently because I kept it under my bed. It was called Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow. So, I have those, I’ll call them spiritual anchors that I would go to when I got to that dark night of the soul and begin to imagine- Now even at this stage of my life. I’m sure there’s a perfect job out there for me. But my imagination will only take me so far into the visualization before it pulls me back to, isn’t it nicer to be your own boss?

Janine: I think that’s what it comes down to- You and I don’t have rose-colored glasses on when we know what our business would be like if we worked for somebody else. We know where we have come from and when we know where we’re going. And so, I always like to encourage entrepreneurs, look, you know where you want to go. So the point is, just keep figuring it out. You never are in a place where you stop learning. Well, that’s key for me. I have a very active brain and if I am not engaged in learning a new piece of software or something, I will atrophy, I will die. I would like, oh my gosh, just put me in Walmart as a greeter because I’m done. By the way, I’m very nice to Walmart greeters because I know what it takes to stand there. But I just want to say that that’s where I go. So yes, make sure you have your inspirational videos. Yours is Field of Dreams. Mine happens to be The Fifth Element. Everybody has their thing. When the kids would see me watching The Fifth Element, they’re like, “Bad day at the office, mom.”

JoAnna: Oh my gosh. I’m writing it down because I don’t know The Fifth Element. It’s a sci-fi, shoot them up, kind of what it is. It’s got Bruce Willis in it. So, there you go. We’re really dating ourselves here. But it was kind of a cult classic. It had Gary Oldman before he became Sirius Black in the Harry Potter series and stuff like that. So, anyway, we’re dating ourselves, but at the same time, this is what it took for us to be able to be where we are today.

So, with that, when you really took that 22 months to figure out what you’d do, when you now move into the business community- how can the business community support you now that you know how to present yourself? There was a huge shift for me. I don’t know about you, but there was a huge shift with the Eight Gates. When I nailed my 6-second byline and my 15-second elevator speech, when I could nail that every time, it was amazing how my income corresponded to that. So, I wanted to know what happened with you.

JoAnna: That’s beautiful. I’m still working on mine. I’m still working on mine. Because what I’ve done has changed- I have a low threshold for boredom. So, I thrive on new clients with new challenges. There are periods of time when I just don’t want to do that anymore. It’s a feeling inside. I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s something that rises in my chest and wants to grab my throat, and then no, we’re done with that. So, I reinvented myself a number of times, and about 18 years ago, somebody sent me an email and said, you probably want to be on this, it was called a teleclass back then- a teleclass tomorrow night. And he explains a little bit of it, but not much. But I knew that the teacher was Dr. Martin Seligman, and I had read Martin’s book called Learned Optimism, and it was one of those life-changing books for me. So, I wasn’t doing anything that Thursday night, and so I watched- I listened. There was no watching. I listened to Martin and I knew that night I was a goner. Because sitting here in this very spot, it was like a bolt of lightning came down from the heavens into my head, grounding all the way down the two stories until you get to the ground. And I just sat there and said, oh my god, I can’t do this. I’m too damn busy to do this. It’s going to throw me off track to do this. But once I checked in with myself, I enrolled in the six-month program and became what he then called authentic happiness coach. Because by that time, I’ve been in and out of lots and lots of businesses and I knew that the problem was what we used to call morale. If the customers aren’t being treated well, there’s something going on in that company that keeps the people either they’ve hired the wrong people, or there’s something that’s going on in that company that’s keeping the people from taking good care of these customers. And most of the time it was that they were underappreciated. So, I kept hearing this thing over and over again where people would say to me, “How come they never noticed when I do something right? But when I do something wrong, they’re all over me?” And for some reason that resonated, and I knew that perhaps the way to deal with that is by fostering happiness inside the company. But 18 years ago, it was a bold move. And to this day, people are still telling me to drop the word happiness, because it’s too soft a concept. And the more they say it, the more I dig my heels in.

Janine: And that is the other thing listening to yourself, right? Digging in, I was told there’s no way you’re going to ever be able to make money. What you’re talking about doing, Janine, it’s just not possible. And of course, the harder that somebody said that- I’m Taurus. The more I dig my teeth[?].


JoAnna: Oh, you are. I’m a Cancer so it comes and goes. One day I’m fierce, then I got my claws out. And the other day, I’m with mush again, crawling around going sideways.

Janine: But it’s true. The more somebody tells you you can’t do something, specifically with our generation, the more we dug in. But there is something that happens internally. Just like you said, that lightning bolt or however entrepreneur talks to me, I always know this is a part of their spiritual journey or their life experience, however you want to frame that. But when they start talking in terms like that, I’m like, you have to stick with this. And they’re like, “Why are you telling me this? I want to throw in the towel, Janine. I came to you to show you how much in debt I am, and how did-” and I’m like, but I believe in you because you had that spark. You had that inspiration. The universe in whatever way is trying to get you to manifest this because nobody on the planet is going to be able to do it for you Frodo Baggins from the Shire. A lot of times I feel like people come to me that are Frodo of the Shire and they’re trying to carry the ring to Mordor, and I’m like, it is a journey. There are great times, there are wonderful times, but right as we’re about ready to become the success that we had designed for ourselves is when the trip is hardest. So, talk to us a little bit about that beautiful book that you’ve written about “The 54 Ways to Stay Happy in a Challenging World…” because I know that sometimes you’re really challenged and the last word you want to hear is happy. But you have these wonderful tips throughout your book on when you’re in those moments, don’t try to be happy. Just move into contentment. Just try to get to contentment instead of trying to go all the way to happy. So, talk to us a little bit about that.

JoAnna: Well, as you might remember, it’s an interesting story because I wrote that book before I became a happiness coach. I was doing a seminar up in New Jersey on customer care and I was talking a lot about attitude and sometimes you’re having a negative day but that’s too bad. That customer deserves you to pick up that phone with a smile in your voice, etcetera, etcetera. So, somebody in the audience raised your hand and said, “JoAnna, how do you keep positive when you’re having a negative day?” She actually said in a negative world. And I- whatever came out of my mouth, I don’t even remember. I do remember answering her and then a spark. It was a spark, Janine. A little spark came out and I said, you know what? I was with that client for like 3 years. So, I was part of an audio series that we did every month. So I said, next month in the audio series, I’m going to give you 13 ways to stay positive in a negative world. And so, that kept happening. So I did 13 more, I did 13 more, then I ran out of that. I talked to my friends. So, all my friends, everybody I know is representing that book which is really interesting because I would just randomly say to somebody, what do you do? And then I carried the manuscript for 4 years in my briefcase because I couldn’t find the right illustrator, because I knew it had to be an illustrated book. And then finally I found her, Joanne Goldsmith. I sat down right next to her at a direct marketing meeting here in Florida, and that was it. She took that manuscript home and she began meditating the pictures. And we just re-published that book. I guess it’s to- The book you have is the newer version and we just republished it about 2 years ago. We updated all the technology. There are no pictures of me holding a Walkman anymore. We updated that. We updated the pictures and I’m so glad I did because she passed away last year, last summer. It was so heartbreaking to find that out because there’ll be no more of that. They were inspired pictures because she meditated on every one of them. So, that book just came back out again, just in time for basically, right before Covid. So, it was interesting because it’s helping to uplift people, and it’s very simple, and it looks like a coloring book, you know because you got it, because it’s all these line drawings. People keep saying, you should package that with markers because that’s one of those good books. It’s nice having that kind of a book that’s not connected to business because what I do is, in the business world, because I want to be in the business world because as lovely as that company was that I worked for, I had an ulcer. I walked around with a cervical collar. I mean, I was under so much stress and it was a good company to work for. It’s just that at a certain level of management, there were a lot of unreal expectations and so I want to make sure that the message of happiness in business gets there. But that doesn’t keep me from planting the seeds of happiness. I’ve got a program coming up with a temple in Atlanta. I do work with a yoga teacher. We teach happiness to our yoga students because there is a yoga of happiness. So, I’ve got a lot of breath, but I have to be careful because I have to stay focused on the core part of my business which is creating happier cultures.

Janine: And that’s where it really comes down to, isn’t it? When it comes to your business, there is that one thing that you do and you do it very well. And as long as you keep turning the crank on that particular aspect of your business that you know is profitable, you know that your costs are going to stay in alignment with a certain level, you really crank that one thing and then that boredom factor you create systems and then you hire that out. You hire that out to someone else to run it so that you can then go to the next thing which as entrepreneurs, we are highly creative people. We do not like to sit around and do the same thing every day. So, that’s what I encourage is after your bookkeeper, your CPA, and your attorney, the very next person you hire is an executive assistant that you can train to run that crank, to hire out that crank. Yeah. So anyhow, if people- How do we get in touch with you, JoAnna? How does somebody get in touch with you?

JoAnna: [email protected] is the simplest way. I’m on LinkedIn. I have a business Facebook page, Return on Happiness. I’m on Instagram with just my name, JoAnna Brandi. But email is just fine, [email protected] is a great way to get in touch with me.

Janine: Okay. And so, I hope you found this information as useful as I did. I always love getting on to this show with my guests because they’ve been in business for so many years. They tell it like it is. You’re not going to have a lot of sugar coating on. Everything’s going to just turn out just fine now. Yes, it is going to turn out just fine, but you have to really put your feet down and stand firm and decide, okay, this is too important to let go. And if you have any wavering about that, really consider your next steps and you’ll do just fine. So, JoAnna, thanks so much for being with us today.

JoAnna: Oh, Janine, it’s always a pleasure.

Janine: And this is Janine Bolon with The Thriving Solopreneur show and we broadcast every Friday. So, come on by, take a look, see what we’re doing. And just to let you know, I can’t wait to announce how we are been syndicated and then I can start shouting out the call letters to that particular radio station but that’s coming up soon. So, keep your feet firmly planted on the ground my dear, wonderful solopreneurs and entrepreneurs but you keep reaching for those stars and we’ll see you next week.

Visit JoAnna’s website here.