As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful Service Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Darlene Hawley, a mother, wife, connector and dream builder. She is also the founder of DarleneHawley.com and host of the Attract & Stand Out Podcast.
She helps ambitious, heart-centered online entrepreneurs who are struggling with building a successful personal brand and business. They’re afraid to share their unique life story but know they need to stand out if they want to build an authentic, and profitable online business. She helps them build a solid brand foundation so they can share their message with the world, attract dream clients and have the impact, freedom and flexibility they desire.
Before starting her own business, she worked her way up in big box retail management, was a mortgage loan officer, and a financial coach. Darlene was trained by the largest business coaching franchise in the world and has been committed to helping entrepreneurs launch and grow their business since 2007.
She now spends her time supporting entrepreneurs to reach their goals and live out their dream life, all while raising her family and creating memories each and every day.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I was working retail management at 60+ hours a week as a single mom and felt like I was failing at life. When I was at work I had a ton of mom guilt for not being at home and because of the high demands of my job, when I was home I was worried about work and praying that everything was running smoothly. It was hard to find a balance between the two areas and I wasn’t sure how I could keep going at the pace I was.
Then on July 4th, 2001 my whole world was flipped upside down when I lost my mom in a tragic car accident and almost lost my then 5-year-old son that day as well. It was during that time of grieving that I realized just how short life truly was, and I knew that I had to find a better way. I wasn’t sure exactly what it would look like but I had this burning desire to be more and to do more with my life. I started looking into other careers and as fate would have it I found a whole world of coaching and realized that I had been coaching my whole life but just didn’t know that it was a career option.
In August of 2007, a year after having my second son, I became a business coach. I went all in to get the best training I could find through a franchise and learned from the best in the business. I left training knowing that I was going to change lives, and be able to finally have the freedom to create my own schedule and finally have perfect harmony between my work and family life.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I wish I could say I had my big “Aha Moment” right away but I struggled with getting consistent clients early in my coaching business. I laugh about it now but when I first started networking when I told people that I was a business coach they would ask, what sport? Back in 2007 business coaching was a new concept and I made the mistake of assuming that everyone knew what one was. I felt so defeated and frustrated because I wasn’t able to communicate the right words and I wasn’t connecting with my audience.
Just over two years into my business I almost gave up on myself and debated going back to work for someone else, but as luck would have it during that time I went inward and had my big “Aha Moment” and was able to figure out how to make it work.
I finally was able to really get clear on what my niche was and exactly who I wanted to serve and I created a whole new strategy for growing my business.
My biggest lesson during this was that I need to stay connected with my mission and what my values are, share more of myself by sharing my brand story and connect at a deeper level with what my ideal client’s struggles and desires truly are. Within six months of getting clear on what I now call my personal brand foundation, I was able to create a profitable business that supported my family and my dreams and now I teach this strategy to my clients.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I first started my business I joke that “I felt like a little girl playing dress-up in her mom’s closet.” I would show up to networking events and meetings wearing business suits, carrying a leather-bound legal pad to take notes and I felt so awkward and uncomfortable. I was completely out of alignment with myself and out of character but it’s what I saw other business coaches doing and I thought that I had to show up that way as well.
I see it with almost every entrepreneur at some point as they start their business, and it’s a major form of impostor syndrome.
When I started showing up as myself and dressing more like myself, I finally felt comfortable. The best part was that I was showing up as my unique authentic self, not like what I thought I was “supposed” to be.
During that time I realized how important it was to BE YOU! That is what really connects you with dream clients. You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not, your dream clients will resonate with you…. your personality, your stories, your quirks because they will feel truly connected to you, your brand, and your business.
There is a ton of competition out there in every industry. The one thing that we each have going for us, that no one else has, is our story. It’s critical that we share our unique life story, experiences, skills, stance, values & purpose as part of our brand story so that others can get to know us and we can start building on the know, like, and trust factor. When we share from our heart and our life experiences it makes it easy to attract our dream clients and repels the people that are not the right fit for our brand and business.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Having a purpose-driven business in 2021 is vital, especially with how much our world has changed over the past year. Your clients want to know what you stand for, what your values are, and why you do the work that you do.
I’ve made it my personal mission to empower ambitious heart-centered service-based entrepreneurs to gain confidence and clarity in their personal brand and business by sharing their authentic stories so they can attract their ideal clients and stand out online. I learned early on that when we stand in our true power and allow ourselves to show up as our authentic true selves we’re able to make an impact in the world and create a business and life that we love.
My vision has always been to support big-hearted entrepreneurs in creating a revenue-generating business that creates a ripple effect for generations to come. I started my business because I knew I wanted more in my life, I wanted to be able to make a huge impact and be a part of the change. Knowing I’m creating a legacy that would make my mom and kids proud is what keeps me going.
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
I think the best way for any of us to demonstrate our brand values is by showing up as ourselves and not being afraid to share our thoughts and our opinions. Share your values on your website, in your blog posts, when you create videos, lead workshops, and in your newsletter. What you stand for and value should show up consistently in everything you do.
My goal is to have my online community feel like they know me so well that when we’re able to meet in-person (which hopefully we can start doing again later this year) we don’t skip a beat and they’ll feel like they already know me, and the only thing they might think is that they thought I would be taller. But never doubt that they know who I am as a person.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
One of the principles I use in my business is always planning out my time. I can easily get distracted and procrastinate so I’ve made it a top priority to always plan my time.
I like to know what I’m doing and when I’m doing it so that I don’t have to guess at what I’m doing each day. One thing that I have used in my business since the beginning is that I’ve created a system where each Friday at the end of my day, which is usually around 1 pm I carve out 15 minutes to map out my upcoming week. I start with all the big rocks… kid’s schedules, client sessions, doctor appointments, volunteering, meetings, exercise, and then I fill in all of the stuff I need to accomplish for the week and when I’m going to do it.
Here’s an example of my typical week: Mondays are my CEO or what I like to call Money Mondays where I look at my accounting and checking accounts and pay myself, spend time on personal and business development. Tuesdays are my ‘Get Shit Done Day’ where I write/film content for my newsletter, Wednesday and Thursday are my client days and meeting days and then Friday is for following up with prospects and alliance partners and catching up on anything I’ve missed during the week. I take Saturday and Sunday off work and spend the weekend with my family. I love that I have control over my schedule and it doesn’t control me. Some days don’t go as I plan but I have built plenty of white space into my calendar so that I don’t feel stressed or overwhelmed often.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Like I shared before, I almost gave up on myself and my dreams at that two years in business mark. I’m so glad today that I chose to continue pushing through and to continue to reach for my dreams. I talk to so many entrepreneurs that are ready to walk away from their dreams when it gets hard. Running a business is hard work, it’s also one of the most rewarding things we can do in our lives.
I think the secret to finding your drive even when it feels hard is to always go back to your why. Why did you start your business? Why did you have that burning desire to do more, to give more? Often we start our own business because we know we’re meant for more, we want the freedom and flexibility in our lives to do things our way and on our terms. We want to be a part of the changes in the world, to give back, to volunteer, to support and stand up for others. That is what keeps me going, even on the days when I feel like walking away because it feels so hard.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
Things are going great today. A huge part of that is because I know who I am and I show up and lead with my values. One of the things I’ve done to make sure that I make great decisions for myself and my business was to write out my personal values as well as my brand values for my business. Then I printed them and hung them on the wall in my office so that I could see them each day and constantly stay true to myself. Every day when I walk into my office I read them and take them in. This has allowed me to stay true to myself, to keep my boundaries in line so that I can say yes to the right opportunities and to say no to the things that didn’t feel like the right decision and are out of integrity with who I am and how I want to show up for the world.
As business owners, I think it’s important that others know what we stand for and where our values lie. It allows us to show up with full integrity and be our authentic selves without doing or saying things that we’ll regret later.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
My top five most important success strategies for creating a successful service-based business are:
Tip #1: Do something that scares you every day.
A few years ago I started using the mantra, “I do scary things!” At the time I found that I was avoiding doing the tasks that I had written down and either procrastinating the tasks as long as humanly possible or sometimes not even doing them at all, because I was afraid of putting myself out there, being told no or feeling as I had failed. Now I seek out opportunities to do something that moves me forward and scares me just a tiny bit each day, like pitching myself onto a podcast or reaching out to a dream client to talk about working together. The reframe that I created to do scary things, allows me to find the confidence to continue showing up, even when it feels hard.
Tip #2: Share a story in everything that you do.
The easiest way to create a strong connection with your dream clients and to grow your personal brand and business is to build a strong connection by sharing a story in everything that you do. Jerome Bruner recently said that people are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it has been wrapped in a story. So when you’re recording a video, writing a blog post, speaking on stage, or showing up on a podcast you want to be memorable. Find a way to share a story about yourself, your clients, or something you’ve heard to pull your dream clients in so that they can see themselves in the story and take them on a journey with you.
Tip #3: Create a strong brand foundation for your business.
Building a business foundation is just like building a house foundation. It needs to be able to handle anything that comes your way. You want to create a solid strong concrete foundation for your business to stand on so that as you start to build your business, your growth can be supported and you don’t feel the growing pains. It’s so important that you lay a strong brand foundation so that as your business grows everything continues to thrive and doesn’t start to come apart.
When I work with my clients we work on honing in on their niche, get crystal clear on identifying who their ideal clients are, determine how to write magnetic messaging that truly connects to their dream clients, learn to share their unique brand story, and create a strong signature offer that solves a problem and helps move their dream clients forward.
Tip #4: Build a personal brand that allows you to stand out and BE YOU.
A personal brand is what makes you special. It’s your unique combination of stories, skills, life experiences, the emotions you share, your quirks, your personality, and the content you create that make you who you are. It’s how you present yourself to the world. If you have an effective personal brand you’ll differentiate yourself from the competition and be able to build trust with prospective clients. People will take notice and watch what you do. You need to clearly communicate who you are and what you do to stand out.
One way to get this across is to communicate your values, mission, and vision in everything that you do in a way that connects to your dream clients. People want to know what you stand for so they can determine if they want to stand with you. Stand out by being you and sharing things about you that will help others feel connected to you and repel the ones that are not your people. You want to make a great impression from the beginning so that you can build on the know, like, and trust factor. If you break that trust upfront it’s almost impossible to correct it in the online space. Think about it like this: if you were to meet me in-person after following me online, the goal is to make it feel like you already know them and that there is no disconnect in how you’re showing up.
Tip #5: Be consistent with your marketing and visibility strategy.
Though there are many ways to get clients and to market yourself online it’s important that you find a strategy that works best for you and allows you to show up consistently. Many entrepreneurs struggle with impostor syndrome and focus too much on what other people are doing and end up not being visible because they feel like everything has already been done.
It’s vital that you create a client attraction marketing plan that feels good to you, and excites you to show up each day so that you can show up as your authentic self. I teach my clients to find 10 ways you can commit to showing up each week for 10 hours to grow their brand and business. Some are non-negotiable for every online business like emailing your newsletter list and sending personal video introductions to new subscribers that have downloaded your freebie. Others you can pick and choose from to see what works best for you, host a masterclass, attending local networking events, participate in a virtual summit, or offer mini clarity sessions to add value to your dream client’s lives.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My mom truly had the biggest impact on my life and was a huge part of why I was able to start and create a successful service-based business. She was my biggest cheerleader and raving fan and always pushed me to be the best version of myself. I wouldn’t be who I am today without her voice of reason, huge heart, and encouraging words Any time that I doubt myself or feel like I can’t do this, I can hear her telling me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to keep my eye on the prize ahead and to keep reaching for the stars.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I believe that we each have the opportunity to be a part of the change in the world and it’s our responsibility to make an impact in some small or big way. As small business owners and entrepreneurs, it’s our job to show up as our true authentic self, to share our unique stories, and to speak up and share our voice, so that we can be heard. We have the ability to be influencers and to lead others to create change and stop all of the brokenness in our world. I want to be a part of a world that values diversity and allows us each to step into our unique differences so that we can share our thoughts, feelings, and opinions without being put down but grow to respect each other and learn from each other. I choose to take a stand with diversity, equity, and am committed to be continuously learning, investing, and taking action internally and externally.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I would love to connect and hang out with you on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/darlenehawley/
I also invite anyone who wants to learn more about creating an online personal brand and revenue-generating business to visit my website darlenehawley.com, read my blog, and while you’re there grab my 6 Steps to Attract & Stand Out Workbook to get started on creating a business and life you love.