From ER Nurse to Multiple 6 Fig Business with Heather McConochieApr 22, 2020
Heather’s business journey started when she began creating nutrition programs and meal prepping (about 75 meals per week!) for her friends at the CrossFit gym she was going to. She followed her interests and her passions and got her certification in nutrition without even considering that she would use this qualification to start a business.
Before she knew it she had 16 clients, scaled her business and was ready to quit nursing. Fast forward three years and she’s been in business for two years full time, successfully paid off her student loan debt, successfully quit nursing, and this year picked up her life and moved from Texas to Kaua’i in Hawaii. Following her calling to live on a beautiful island and live nomadically.
How do you feel about the fact that you really could have been on the front line as a nurse right now, but you’re not?
Being an ER nurse is a job of service and putting your needs to the side while you’re looking after other people. There would be ER shifts where I didn’t sit down for literally nine hours and shifts where I barely even had time for a snack, so to think that my fellow nurses aren’t even able to take off their PPE for over 12 hours because there's not enough supplies, really breaks my heart.
As I came to the end of my career as a nurse, I really felt like I had served my country. I was so burnt out, I had compassion fatigue and I was experiencing secondary trauma syndrome. I knew I needed to get out for my own mental health.
How the heck did you start a business with a schedule as hectic as yours?
One of the beautiful things about being an ER nurse full time is that you usually do three 12 hour shifts in a seven day period. I would often work three shifts in a row and then have four days off. I would use that time to work on my business.
I started with two clients at first, then that doubled to four, until eventually I had 16 clients and I was able to move to working part-time.
In the ER there are times where you’re so busy and then there are periods of dead time. So I would use that downtime when the ER was empty and we were just sitting around drinking coffee, to read articles about nutrition on PubMed, create Instagram content, and brainstorm ideas in the notes section of my phone.
I really did start my business by finding little pockets of time and making the most of it.
At what point did you know your business was doing well enough to be able to step away from nursing? Was there a goal you were shooting for?
I think this is a question a lot of people who are looking to go full time in their business ask themselves and it’s something I want to give advice on.
Don’t quit your day job. Build your side hustle until it becomes a predictable income.
Within two months of starting my business, I was making around $1400 a month from my nutrition clients and I was able to go part-time as a nurse.
Staying in my nursing job allowed me to have a safety net underneath me. It allowed me to keep working two shifts a week, have access to medical benefits, and I could still pick up extra nursing shifts if I wanted to.
From there I was able to pull back little by little as my side hustle money became more and more consistent.
What allowed me to go from side hustle to full-time was hiring a sales and marketing coach. I started my business on June 1st and by September I made a $5000 investment in myself.
I was SO SCARED. Not because I didn’t think the program would work, but I didn’t know whether I could execute what they were going to teach me. And I didn't want to waste money. So I had a weeklong talk with myself and I realized I had no problem going into a $100k debt for nursing school, but here I was hesitating to spend $5k on myself to become an entrepreneur.
That was the moment it all switched for me. We changed my pricing, my structure, my sales process, and helped me with marketing.
I crunched the numbers and I knew I needed to make $6k gross revenue to quit nursing, and in three months with him, I made 30k!
Throughout those three months, I kept my part-time job, which is something I recommend to everyone. I was basically working seven days a week - four days on my business, three days a week nursing, which allowed me to save every single penny of that $30k. It gave me a cushion and it gave me the confidence to quit my job.
How did you find your niche within the nutrition space?
For my first year, I was working with men and women. In fact, my very first client was a man and he still updates me on his progress!
But all of a sudden I wanted to start talking about periods and I felt like I was making the guys in our group calls uncomfortable. I realised serving men and women was no longer a good fit because it just didn’t feel good to me anymore.
My niche was borne out of my personal struggle.
It seemed that no matter how hard I worked out at CrossFit, I was either gaining fat or losing muscle. So I started working with a coach who focused on nutrition and within three months I'd shed eight pounds of fat and put on one pound of muscle - I was stronger than I'd ever been in the gym.
I knew I wanted to work with people who already had a gym routine, but they weren’t seeing the results they expected because they lacked proper nutrition.
When I started analyzing people's food diaries, I started seeing the same pattern over and over again, which allowed me to understand and create a system for people who were already working out.
Along the way, I discovered that just letting any old person into my program wouldn’t see the same level of results, and weren’t as satisfied with my programs.
This allowed me to really hone in on my ideal client and teach what I wanted to teach, which was helping (mostly millennial) women who are working out but not seeing results, through fixing their nutrition.
I had a realization that I was marketing myself as an emotional eating coach, but that wasn’t the crux of my problem. It’s a spoke on the wheel, but it’s not the core of what I help people with.
That client-coach, client-program fit is SO IMPORTANT for both your clients results and your satisfaction and joy as a business owner.
Now, I have a very intentional process now for bringing in a new client. Seriously, it’s like an application to Harvard! This allows me to help my clients and make sure my experience is enjoyable.
When you’re a coach there is such a big energetic exchange with a client, so for me to give my energy away, it has to be the right fit for me too.
If you can start from the get-go with high standards, it’ll make your experience so much better.
You’re probably going to make mistakes with it at first. You’re going to have moments where you’re like, oh man I ignored that red flag with that client where they expressed budget concerns, but I still moved forward.
Eventually, you’ll be so rock-solid in your application process and standards, that you will be able to turn away a client, even when you’ve brought in no revenue that month. And you will be at peace with that decision.
Your move to Hawaii is SO BIG and SO BALLSY so talk us through that decision and how the heck you made it happen.
I had visited Kaua’i in Hawaii three times in a year and a half. I had fallen in love with this island and I felt called to keep coming back. I kept booking tickets to come back before I had even left the island to come home!
I realized that I could run my business from this island. You can sign clients, create content and collect payments and deliver your programs from anywhere in the world if you have wifi.
So on the last night of running a health retreat on Kaua’i, I booked a one-way trip to come back three months later.
When I returned home to Austin, I started crunching the numbers and I realized that if I wanted to stay on the island for six weeks, I’d have to pay for accommodation AND continue paying my mortgage as well as pay for someone to watch my cats. On top of that, I’d set a goal at the start of the year to pay off my student loan debt, which was down to about $58k. It hit me that the only way I could pay it off was if I sold my house.
Three of my core life values are love, adventure and freedom and I realised that the only thing stopping me from selling my house and moving to Hawaii was fear.
I put my house on the market and got an offer two days later. It closed on July 31st and two weeks after that, I got on that one-way flight I’d booked three months prior.
I was not only able to pay off my student debt, but I was also able to have a really nice financial cushion backing me. Which is especially important now that we’re going through a financial recession.
The theme coming out of this podcast is that you can be ballsy and still have a cushion - they can coexist together!
Having a cushion allows you to never betray your standards for money and you can continue to create and design products that you want to sell.
It’s important to remember that you’re going to evolve and grow, which is something I now find myself doing with moving into the business coaching side of things. You never want to be motivated by debt.
You mentioned you’re moving into the business coaching side of things. What are some of your best tips for closing any ticket clients?
The first thing is getting clear on your YOUR standards. What are the standards for a client working with you?
To work with me, a client has to fill out my application, they have to do a first interview call and if they want to do a second interview call they have to put down a non-refundable deposit to get back on the phone.
They also have to do homework and they have to answer certain questions correctly on the call. They also have to be a HELL YES to working with me... I told you my application was like getting into Harvard!
If you want to attract higher ticket sales, you’re going to have to attract a higher vibration human in general. It doesn't mean that people who are making $15 an hour can’t get resourceful for something that’s $2k or more.
But in general, you’re going to have a lot of ease if you disqualify people who have objections early on in the sales process.
When you have high standards you can attract a high caliber of clients.
Requiring a deposit to get on a second call with me is what took me from closing 50% to 75% of my sales calls.
The first sale with a new client is always the hardest. If they’re willing to pay $100 to get back on the phone with you, you’ve already closed them. Very few people are going to turn around and not want to commit to working with you in your high ticket program.