If an entrepreneur focuses on delivering a positive impact to a specific target audience and even the community as a whole, nothing can ever go wrong. Do this, and everything will naturally fall in place, from a huge following to bigger revenue. Diving deep into this mission with Vera McCoy, Esq. is five-time best-selling author and CEO of Professional Impact, Wendy Lipton-Dibner. Wendy unravels how upholding her integrity above the desire of money-making allowed her to overcome financial difficulties and fully understand what it takes to serve others. She explains how aspiring entrepreneurs can make a real impact with their chosen paths by knowing how to delegate work, dedicating their offers to solving a particular problem, and learning how to measure success.
Listen to the podcast here:
Entrepreneurship That Impacts The World!
I’m excited that you decided to join me for what I know will become a great resource for new and seasoned entrepreneurs, want to be entrepreneurs, and even some 9–to–5ers. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an investor or an individual who has an idea that you want to transform into a business, Financial 1st-Aid is here to help you move in the right direction from idea to development to implementation.
In this episode, I am honored to have Wendy Lipton-Dibner. She is one of the nicest people that I know, first of all. She’s so humble, a five-time bestselling author and internationally recognized authority on business acceleration through impact strategy and ethical influence. A social researcher by training, an entrepreneur by choice, Wendy has built ten businesses of her own. She also helped thousands of Fortune 500 healthcare, entrepreneurial and nonprofit organizations increase revenues exponentially by making a measurable difference in people’s lives.
As President and CEO of Professional Impact, Wendy has touched millions of lives through her books, proclaimed speaking engagements, sold-out live events, popular media appearances and virtual training. She’s presented at the United States Senate and serves as a trusted advisor to top influencers, executives, entrepreneurs and credentialed experts worldwide. Forbes magazine called Wendy’s strategies “The secret to success in business.” Inc. Magazine described her, “Focused on impact. Strategic map as your path to profitable success.” I’d like to welcome you, Wendy, to my show. It’s great to have you on. Thank you so much for being here.
Thank you so much for having me. I love that you’re doing this. You’re going to help many people. This is great.
Thank you. That’s the goal. Let me give a shameless plug for two things, the two books that I’ve read of yours. One is, Focus on Impact. It was a great read. It gave me so much information on the idea that if you focus on helping people and doing things that will impact their lives in a positive way, you too will benefit from that. The second one that I read was Shatter Your Speed Limits. I read that one too. That one is a short and quick read. It’s a nice read because it’s done in a storytelling format and I enjoyed it.If we stick to our ethics and do what's right, then we can't go wrong. Click To Tweet
The first one, Focus on Impact, is geared towards getting you moving in the right direction and thinking about your business, if you’re going to be an entrepreneur in a different way than focusing on your bottom line, production and those kinds of things. If you look at your business as an attempt or as a mission to focus on how you can impact people’s lives, you will be benefiting yourself and your business as well. You’re helping a lot of people and you’re helping yourself at the same time. Shatter Your Speed Limits helps get you there a little faster.
That’s well said. Thank you. That’s a wonderful surprise. Thank you so much for your plug.
What motivated you to begin your journey of entrepreneurship? Give people a little information about your background and how you got to become an entrepreneur?
I had never planned on a life of entrepreneurship. If anybody had told me I was going to do this, I would have laughed. The truth is, I wanted to be Barbra Streisand as you know. That was about as far away from entrepreneurship as you can imagine. I needed a day job and I took a position as a Director of Research through a university. I wasn’t making much money. I was making $13,000 a year and this was back in the early ‘80s, but to me that was a ton of money. It was more than I’d ever made, and it was a great job. I loved learning, helping people and teaching at the university. It was all good and we were doing some interesting research. I was working at a center for organizational research and evaluation studies and it was great. We got hired by an organization that wanted us to evaluate their hospital.
I was managing that project and it was a lot of research and a lot of work. About 2.5 years into the study, we got noticed by the United States Senate. They asked us to come and present the results of the study we were doing because they were in the process of trying to make some decisions about health care, insurance, and this stuff. The process turned out to be political and extremely geared towards making sure that our client, the hospital, looked good, so they sent six attorneys from the hospital to sit in my little baby office. We’re talking about a cubicle here, me and my desk.
They were watching every single move I made. It was stressful, to say the least, but it was also crazy. Every time I wrote out a paragraph about a piece of data, they would tweak it and change it. It wasn’t illegal what they were doing, but it was bordering on ethics. I was 22 years old. What did I know about ethics? I knew something wasn’t right. By the time we got to Washington for me to present the whole report to the senators, they had completely changed the report. Instead of being a straightforward data-driven document, it had ways of saying things that made everything a little bit different.
That day was so stressful for me that by the time it came time to present, I was a nervous wreck. I opened the report, but when I saw how much they had changed it, I decided that I wouldn’t read it and I started talking. I started telling, “Here’s what we found.” Nobody knew the data better than me, so I could talk and talk. Somewhere in there, and this is important for all of your readers to understand, what shifted in me is that I realized keeping my job was important but keeping my integrity was more important.
I decided to be truthful. I knew the hospital would come out looking fine anyway, and it all was going to work out. By the time it was done, I realized I couldn’t do that anymore. On that day, I made two important decisions. One is that one person can make a major change in the world. If we stick to our ethics and do what’s right, we can’t go wrong. The other thing I learned is that I was not born to be an employee. I’ve been doing things the way my boss wanted me to do it as opposed to the way I felt. That was so not me.
I went back to Fort Worth and took a big risk. I quit my job, sat down on a typewriter. Those were the days when we typed on typewriters. I typed down a one-page proposal with a lot of whiteout on it, clearing out all the mistakes, and walked in the next day to a bank. I told them I wanted them to loan me $50,000 to open a new business that would have nothing to do with profitability. I wanted to open the business as a social laboratory to prove that we could make more money if we focused on making a difference in people’s lives than unprofitability.
In those days, I was talking about, “We’re going to focus on impact,” but nobody was using the word ‘impact’ except if a plane crashed. They weren’t using the word and now it’s become such a popularized word. We use it as much as we use the word love. It’s important to understand what that is. I opened that business to prove that it could be done and we never talked about money in my little shop. We never had prices anywhere.
We asked a lot of questions of our customers and we helped them to figure out what would give them the life they wanted based on what we had to offer. For six months, all my staff and employees had zero experience in business so we were basically making it up. We lost a lot of money for the first six months. It was all money out and no money in, but we were focused on impact. In the sixth month, something turned around.
What kind of business was it?
This was a retail and sales business. It was a full-service spa and salon for men and women at a time when no one was doing that. It was different than anything certainly anybody had done in Texas. It was more along the lines of what I had seen growing up in New York City, but it was completely different. It was doomed to fail from day one and everybody knew it, but I was determined so I stuck to my guns and within one year, we were breaking industry sales records. People were coming up to me asking me how we did it. I started being invited to consult and do speaking engagements because we were making so much money and we were so successful but nobody could figure out how we did it.
Three years later, I exited that business for 60 times what I had put into it, which was like, “What?” That began the journey of entrepreneurship and I spent the rest of my life until now opening up more and more businesses and working with other businesses in every industry that you can imagine. It all to prove that it wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t because I had the right idea at the right time. That wasn’t it at all. When you focus on impact, you make more money than when you don’t. It’s quite extraordinary, so that’s how it went.
At least from what I know of you, that’s been your mission all along. You’re focusing on impact and that will grow your business. Don’t focus on yourself as much as you should focus on the impact you can make in other people’s lives and that has been your mission. With that, that is proven for you to being phenomenal and everyone who you’ve had the opportunity to work with. That’s great.
To be clear there so your readers understand, this isn’t a woo-woo, “Focus on this.” It’s strategic. It’s building the operations, the business, the marketing, and everything for one goal, which is to make a measurable difference in people’s lives as opposed to trying to get rich. That’s the difference.
Through your various consulting work and all the things that you’ve done, what are some of the experiences that you’ve had with regards to helping and assisting other entrepreneurs to achieve their goals? What are some of the things that you’ve done for them?
The thing is, for the first, I want to say 25 years, I was opening my own businesses. I had opened ten businesses and I was being hired by corporations, healthcare, nonprofit organizations and small businesses, but they were all existing already. Around 2010, maybe a little before then, I started getting people coming up to me and saying, “Wendy, I want to do what you do. I don’t want you to help me in my corporation. I want to leave my job and build my own business.” Those were the questions I was getting from corporations, doctors, executives, employees, nurses, healthcare workers, and everyday employees. People are coming up to me and saying, “I don’t want a job. I want to own my own business. Will you teach me how you did it?”
That’s why you’re so perfect for this show.
If you’re reading, you either lost your job or I want to lose your job. That’s your choice. What I did was I decided to help. The first thing I did was I wrote Shatter Your Speed Limits to make sure that people would get out of their own way and understand that if you’re going to take a whole different set of actions, you have to get clear on those actions. That’s what a speed limiter was about. It also helped me to attract the audience, the new audience. Shatter Your Speed Limits was about moving away from corporations although it got me more speaking than I thought it would and moving into the entrepreneurial life. That worked well for me. Lesson number one is to write a good book and get out there. Write that book to talk to the audience that you want to attract so that you will, and I did.If you're going to help people with your expertise, make sure to do it in a way that really helps them. Click To Tweet
In one year, I built a following for about a million people who had either read Shatter Your Speed Limits or had seen me speak. I got a lot of invitations onto entrepreneurial stages and started speaking there. I started to notice that what was going on in those seminars wasn’t great where I was talking. I was learning some bad stories from the attendees about hundreds of thousands of dollars that they had spent to get help like these get rich quick things.
They had spent a whole lot more than they had gotten back. Most of them had spent all their money and they were in debt with their credit cards. A lot of people were moving into bankruptcy all because nobody was giving them how to do it. They were telling them what to do but they do not know how to do it. Frankly, I’ve got to agree about it. I said, “I’m going to teach a course that teaches people how to teach, speak, write and write books effectively.” If you’re going to help people with your expertise, let’s make sure that you do it in a way that helps them. I was so mad that I started this event and it took off. I was crazy. I never expected this. I did my event. It was my Move People to Action Event.
I was going to do it one time and shoot it as an eCourse, put it up online, and go back to what I was doing. Nine years later, I had done ten events for Move People to Action. I also ended up doing spin-off events based on questions I had gotten. I was coaching wannabe entrepreneurs. It was everything from retirees to moms and dads, teachers, and students. It was so diverse and so amazing. Along the way, I discovered problems that I want to fix so I launched my eleventh business and I’m working on it. The entrepreneur thing came to me based on the problems that I saw. In general, my experience is, if we look at what’s going on out there, that’s a problem, find one thing that we can do that will help that problem be less in the world. That’s how we succeed in business.
Hopefully, those people who are reading will begin to think in terms of, “I see your problem. Let me see if I can figure out a solution to the problem and that could be my business.”
That’s the best way to find the best business to do.
That way, you’re not putting yourself in a situation where you’re starting the business and not having a focus on solving a problem. There are a bunch of problems out there that we could use somebody or a lot of somebody to help solve. That’s for sure. Along the way, you had a couple of bumps like an entrepreneur would and you found yourself in a situation where you were forced to file for bankruptcy. I’ve been in that situation, so I would know. What was the thing that happened that created that bump or that situation?
It was a series of things. When I sold my first business, I had tons and tons of money and it was all good. I opened a second business and took a couple of years to get that organized. On the day that I opened, my second business was Black Monday of 1987. I lost everything on that day along with everybody else. I was starting from scratch again but it worked out and it was all good. The second business worked and I went to open a third business. My third business was doing well and it was all based on a combination of things, speaking, retail sales of audio and videotapes that weren’t mine. I had purchased a franchise to be able to sell other people’s motivational books and tapes. I had a franchise for that, I had my own speaking engagements, consulting and all of that. Also, I hired a team so I had people all over the US who were getting me booked to have consulting and speaking engagements. I would fly to the next city, I would do my speech, and I would meet with the managers.
In every single city that I went to, I was booking major speaking. What happened was, I would go into a city and I would do a three-hour thing. That three-hour thing would lead to appointments at corporations. I would go to the corporations, inquire, find out about their problems and see if I could help. If I could help, I would offer them how, and 10 out of 10 said yes. It was incredible. What was happening was I was booking my calendar. I was out 1.5 years of my calendar in only six months of people wanting to bring me in to hire me. I looked at that calendar and I thought, “This is too cool. I want to expand. I want to get more employees. This is amazing.”
I started counting up the amount of money that I could make based on this and started hiring more people. I started doing some of these things and they were handing me these checks. I was getting $250,000 for a weekend. It was crazy. I was making so much money and all of a sudden, I couldn’t stop thinking about the money. That was more money than I ever thought I’d make in my whole life and I was making it all every week. Every week, I would get these 5, 6 or 7 figures, and it was crazy.
Along the way, I forgot to notice the little things that I had used to pay attention to like I always send thank you notes. I always sent agreements that were detailed in terms of, “Here’s what I’m going to do. Here’s how we’re going to do it.” It was clear what I was going to do. I had always written them myself because that’s what I did. I had a corporate attorney, but not for this stuff. This was a personal relationship. They asked for my help. I said I would help them. All of a sudden, there was a big announcement that we had gone to war in the Gulf. It was the first Gulf War in the early ‘90s. All of a sudden, all of the corporations started to call my office and cancel because it was a war and they didn’t know what was going to happen to the economy. They didn’t want to be committed to the training and spending all that money when they didn’t know what the economy was going to do.
Overnight, I went from a multimillion-dollar enterprise to zero with a ton of debt because I had opened up these offices with credit cards and signed all these contracts that I would do all this stuff and I couldn’t fulfill the contracts. For all my employees, I had promised them all. I started to let the offices go and one by one I had to let my employees go, which frankly is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do other than my mom got sick. I still had nothing. I couldn’t pay my bills. They were piling up. The sheriff came and banged a note on my door with notification of eviction. It was terrorizing. I was single, I was living alone and I couldn’t support myself at all. I went to my attorney and I said, “How do I get out of these contracts?” He said, “You can’t. They gave you really good contracts. You’re going to have to file bankruptcy. You have no choice here because it’s that or jail.”
Here’s the beautiful thing about that. When that happened, what motivated you and kept you thinking in your mind, “I got a hit but I’m going to work my way through this and I’m going to continue to move?” You knew, even though you were at a bump in the road, that being an entrepreneur was really still your thing. What kept you moving through that whole thing?One way to succeed is to help lessen a specific problem in the world. Click To Tweet
It was quite simple. I needed a job. I looked at my kitchen and I had a bag of egg noodles, a thing of cottage cheese, and a jar of boysenberry jelly. It’s a good combination. That was breakfast, lunch and dinner. It got to the point where I really needed a job. I wasn’t thinking about entrepreneurship and impact. I was thinking about survival. I took a job selling makeup at JCPenney, but don’t forget that my first business was in the beauty industry. I had built￼ 200–plus different formulas for how to do that in a way that was different than anyone else. I walked into JCPenney and I started selling like crazy.
They started asking me, “How are you doing this?” I said, “I’ll tell you but you’ll have to pay me.” I was still focused on money. I was walking home that first day after I learned this and I realized that’s the problem. That’s how I got into trouble. I had lost my focus on impact and I had gotten so money-driven that that’s how I went bankrupt. I decided not to do that anymore. The next day, I went back to JCPenney and I told my colleagues behind the counter that I wasn’t going to sell anymore and that anybody who came up to me I was going to give to them and they would get all the commissions, but then I would get more people to the counter. I started holding motivational seminars from behind the counter at JCPenney’s.
That’s what happened. The whole store would start sending all these people to me to hear this thing, including the employees. JCPenney was not happy about that. What ended up happening was all those people were hanging out and all the women as long as they’re hanging out anyway, you try a tube of lipstick or whatever. Our little counter was making more money than any of that brand all over the country in JCPenney. They ended up hiring me to consult, one thing led to the next, and I was back in business. All I had to do was to remember to focus on impact and the rest took care of itself.
That’s one of the nuggets that people hopefully will take from this episode, “If things go down the tube, go back to your original game plan.” For you, that was focused on impact. For someone else, it could be something different. For you, that was your original focus and that’s what you stuck to and that’s what got you out of that situation. What would you do differently now to have avoided that?
Two things. First of all, I would make sure that I focus on impact. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to have made a ton of money, but I don’t look at it. I had an accountant handled all of the revenue coming in, and then when I got married, I asked my husband, “Will you handle all the money because I don’t want to know what we’re spending and I don’t want to know what we’re getting?” I designated a wall in my office that is all about thank you notes. Every time I get a thank you note, that’s how I know I’m succeeding, and because of that, I have a ton of jewelry. I live in a nice house and I have a lovely existence because no matter what, I never lost focus on impact.
The second thing I learned was that I would never again sign a contract without a lawyer. All the reason that I went broke in terms of the legality of that is that I never thought to say, “If you book my time, you’re going to have to put down a non-refundable deposit.” That never occurred to me and I never thought to ask an attorney. At the end of the day, don’t do something in a business unless you have someone who knows more than you, watching what you do. At the end of the day, that’s what you’ve got to do.
What do you think are some steps that our readers can take to accelerate their growth and maximize their findings?
It starts with focusing on impact, which means you’ve got to define what is your impact? First, let’s define the word the way we’re using it. Impact is the measurable difference you make in people’s lives as the direct result of contact with you, your team, marketing, products, and services. The keyword there, Vera, is it has to be measurable. You’ve got to define how you will measure what you’ve done. How will you measure the difference you have made?
The first step is to find a problem that you want to solve. There are a lot of them out there. Focus on a problem that you think you could make a difference in, and then start stocking that problem on the web. Find out what people are saying who has that problem because that is your marketing gold. Find out the problem, measure it, do little SurveyMonkeys, and find out from your Facebook community or from your Twitterverse or whoever you can talk to. The people who have that problem, what are they missing in their lives? What do they need more of? How is that problem affecting them now? How would they like their lives to be different and have them tell you what they want? Sit down and take a piece of paper and imagine a pond. If you throw a pebble in a pond, it’s going to create ripples. What you’ve got to figure out is what they told you they want. Those are all the ripples that you are going to make happen to help them get everything they want.Focus on impact, and the rest will take care of itself. Click To Tweet
The first stone you’re going to throw in is your product or your service. The first product or service you send out there is designed to make a measurable difference in your customer’s lives. What is that difference? How will you measure it? You’ll go back to that community that uses your product and say, “Tell me how you did.” You email them, talk to them, and get on calls and Zoom them, or whatever you can do, even if it’s only three people that you’ve helped. Find out how they have changed as a result of your product. Here’s the secret. Ask them what that one little change they made because of you did to the rest of their life because every single ripple effect of your impact that they mention tells you that’s another product you could create. Now you start focusing on your initial impact and all the ripples you’re going to create. The next thing you know, you have a whole suite of products and services that will create your multimillion-dollar impact.
Usually, how I conclude my show is by saying, “What are three things that you want people to know that they can take away and begin to use so that they can move their business forward?“ You gave me one, which is a focus on impact, and the way you do that is you measure that impact. What are two other things?
The second thing is to measure the results that you want to create and how they will be created so that you can develop products and services that will deliver that impact. The first thing to do, probably let’s back it up, is buy the freaking book. If you get to focus on impact, all of the next steps are in the book. Let’s just say that. Focus on impact gives you the map. Follow the map, trust your instincts, and then wake up every single morning, look in the mirror and ask yourself one question, “Am I making the impact that I want to be making?“ That’s your third thing. If the answer is no, then that’s a good reason to get dressed because it means you have a lot more impact to make. Focus on impact because the fact of the matter is that life is far too short to settle for less than we truly want in our business or in our lives. Focus on impact, and then move people to use your products and services so you can make an impact on every life you touch.
I’ve read both of the books and I found them to be useful tools in guiding me in what I can be doing to become a better entrepreneur. I’ve been fortunate to be an entrepreneur all my life and be able to work for myself, and I consider it a blessing. I know some people consider it a bit of a struggle, but the great thing about the Focus on Impact and Shatter Your Speed Limits is that they do give you a roadmap on how to figure it out, so to speak. A lot of times, when people are starting a business, they have a great idea and they’re gung ho.
When they run into the bumps in the road as you did with your situation, as we do all the time as entrepreneurs because I know I run into the same type of situations, they get discouraged. Don’t be ashamed to take a step back and go get a job at JCPenney or wherever. Do what you need to do, but maintain your focus on focusing on impact or maintain your focus on wanting to do something that hopefully will change the world. I like the one saying that you say all the time. Say that for us, Wendy. I love that.
The impact we make together will be far greater than any will ever make alone.
I love that idea because that’s the other thing people who are entrepreneurs need to understand. You can’t always do everything. It took me a while to learn that, but that’s a real lesson that people who are entrepreneurs need to understand, the whole idea of delegating. How did you develop that skill? That’s a skillset to learn how to delegate. The things that you do well are what you do well, but then there’s a whole bunch of other things that as a business owner or entrepreneur, that has to come together to make the business profitable. How did you learn that skillset to be able to delegate things?
I was consulting for a Fortune 500 corporation, which clearly did a lot of things right or they wouldn’t have been a Fortune 500. The VP of sales was the one who had brought me in and he was so stressed out. I said, “Have you ever thought about delegating some of this?” He said, “How do you delegate?” I realized, “I have no idea.” I was telling him that because it was the right consulting thing to say, but frankly, I had never thought about it. He said, “Give me 24 hours. I’ll get back to you.” I went back to my hotel and I thought about, “What does it take to delegate?” I created this whole step-by-step thing. Don’t ask me the specifics because it’s been a while. I’d have to look it up myself. I realized, “I should be doing all of that.” I attended my own seminars.
We covered everything that I hope would get some people on the right track, some people back on track, and some people starting some kind of a track. Also, encouraging and motivating people who are entrepreneurs to get themselves in a situation where they can see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Their idea is something that they should hold fast and focus on impact in order for them to become successful. With many people struggling, this is almost the perfect time. It’s like the perfect storm for a lot of people who, unfortunately, had a 9:00 to 5:00, but then they found out, “It’s time to get laid off. What am I going to do?” If they come up with an idea and they focus on how to impact, that would be phenomenal.
During COVID, you’ve seen a lot of that happen. People have come up with all kinds of different ways to manage this pandemic and to still survive through it. Some of them have been thriving, so that’s good. If we all look around, take some ideas and observe some things, especially look to being impactful, that would make such a difference. We can make a bigger impact together than we can by ourselves. Thank you for your time, energy and all of your advice. I strongly recommend people getting Focus on Impact and Shatter Your Speed Limits because I’ve read both of them. They’re great reads but more importantly, to me, they were good roadmaps on what you need to do as an entrepreneur to help yourself become better at it, or at least, even get started at it. Don’t get discouraged by all the bumps that you’re going to get because you’re going to run into obstacles. We all do.
If you’re scared, just know that what it’s telling you is there is something exciting ahead.
That’s a great way to end this show. Being scared is a great motivator. How is your husband?
Thank you for asking. Hal is doing great. He is actively in practice and helping lots of people get out of their own way. He’s wonderful.
You guys are a power couple. I love both of you. Thank you so much.
About Wendy Lipton-Dibner
WENDY LIPTON-DIBNER, M.A. is the world’s leading authority on business development through impact strategy. President of Professional Impact, Inc. and founder of Move People To Action™, Wendy is internationally-recognized for her unparalleled ability to help clients grow profitable businesses by maximizing and capitalizing on the impact they bring to people’s lives through one-of-a-kind marketing, products and services.
Wendy serves as a trusted advisor to doctors, executives, start-up and experienced entrepreneurs and top influencers across a wide range of industries. A sought-after media guest and keynote speaker, she has built 10 successful businesses of her own, delivered thousands of business growth programs for corporate, healthcare, small business, non-profit and entrepreneurial organizations and has spoken for hundreds of thousands of people on stages around the globe.