Caroline Leon is somebody that I know from a mastermind that we are both a part of and when I found her it was like I had found one of my soul mates in business. In this interview, Caroline Leon explains how to grow your business without resorting to manipulation, tricks or the hustle mentality.
The content below is the compilation of our podcast chat as well as some questions that Caroline graciously answered over email.
Listen to my conversation with Caroline here
Introduction to Caroline Leon
Caroline Leon is a Business Coach who helps conscious changemakers build and grow sustainable businesses rooted in integrity. Her website is CarolineLeon.com
She firmly believes that when we change the way we do business, we change the world and it’s her mission to support compassionate business owners to do just that in order to create a world where business can be a force for good rather than greed.
She’s a business mentor to conscious changemakers and has been doing this particular work for just over 4 years. Before that, she was a Life Coach.
Shailaja: Caroline, welcome to the podcast and I am so glad to have you here.
Caroline: Well, thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be here as well.
Transition from Life Coach to Business Mentor
Shailaja: So one of the first questions I wanted to ask you was why the transition from being a life coach to a business mentor for conscious changemakers. What was it that propelled you to make this particular shift?
Caroline: Yeah a couple of things. I mean it’s a great question that I don’t often get a chance to explain. I transitioned from working in program and project management for many years. I tended to work for not-for-profit so – being of service to the world and affecting change was always close to my heart. After years of working in that environment though I felt I wasn’t really helping people on the front line – I was doing a lot of the admin and back end work and I wanted to be helping people face to face.
That is what propelled me to become a life coach. I loved being a life coach; I really enjoyed it and had some success with it. It was going well and I was lucky enough to work with a really incredible business coach who supported me to build that coaching business on a foundation of service. So I was taught about business in a way that a lot of people aren’t. I didn’t realize at the time how special that was. Until then I was in the field of quite a dysfunctional and toxic world the online marketing world.
So there I was, being a life coach, building that business my way – trying to do that with integrity, without selling my soul to the devil as they say. And I enjoyed it but what I found was I had yearnings for my former life which was very much working in Program Management.
I’m very much an action taker. I like things to be scheduled and planned and that’s what made me good at my old in my old life in my old job. I was missing that little bit in life coaching because I was working a lot with people’s inner worlds and you can’t schedule that stuff – personal growth and personal transformation.
I started to get other coaches to notice that my business was going well and I was doing it in a way that didn’t feel gross and icky and manipulative. so I started to have peers and fellow coaches asked me for coaching them with business-related goals.
I knew that i wanted to work more with business owners. I’d been hesitating on it – the idea of closing down a business that was working felt a bit scary and a bit crazy- but then having my little boy and wanting to show my child how important it is to just follow your dreams and go for it. That’s what I decided to do and so it was actually in my maternity leave that was like let me just whip up a new website, as you do, and then it was born and that was four years ago
Shailaja: What makes your business special?
Caroline: The ethos on which my business is built. It’s my belief that when we change the way we do business, we change the world. The approach I advocate advocates for a people-first approach to business (i.e. people vs profit) and is rooted in integrity and generosity.
It aligns with my spiritual beliefs and a lot of what I teach in my 1:1 and group work and in my content is a more ethical way to do business. Free from the toxic, dysfunctional and manipulative marketing so prevalent these days online. This comes as a big relief for many people when they first come into contact with me.
Managing Your Time as a Working Mother
Shailaja: A lot of my audience members are mothers and they find it difficult to make the time to work on their businesses or their passions. As a conscious business owner who has a full client roster, a membership, and multiple courses, how do you make the time to balance all of it and stay in that space of conscious creativity?
Caroline: There’s a couple of things actually. Having children did something that I didn’t expect when it comes to business. It actually made me a lot more focused with my time. Just to clarify I have a four-year-old and I have an 18-month-old.
When I had the first child, it was a bit derailing to have a child and kind of juggle business and motherhood as a new mother and so – one of the first things I do say to women who ask me that question is you’ve got to separate the two out.
You have to compartmentalize. Otherwise, it’s impossible. Otherwise, you’re always working or you’re always mothering and you’re kind of always doing both and it’s exhausting.
Pre-having children I could get lost on the internet- on Facebook – and I could while away the hours of my working day because also back then I wasn’t as busy as I am now with my work – so it was easy to waste time.
But now it’s like I cannot – because every minute I’m working on my business is a minute away from my children. If I’m at my desk I’ve got to be making the most of that time. It wouldn’t sit right with me to have my little one for example in nursery and me just waste the day not working for something bigger and something you know good.
They’re the key things -I’ve always had the drive to do something meaningful something that has an impact on more than the bottom line and more for the greater good of people and that kind of stuff but of course, having children just means you are trying to create a world that’s better for your children and so I do that by supporting others to make a better world which is very exciting to me so yeah it’s all wrapped together.
Shailaja: So would you say that it’s a process you lean into and make it work based on your individual circumstances?
Caroline: Yeah I mean I was also lucky enough to have children later in life. I’m 44 now with an 18-month-old; so I had my first at 40 and my second just a few years ago. With my first one, for example, both I and my partner worked from home. I’d be with my son for half the day well my partner worked on his business and then we would swap – I know that that’s not possible for everybody so I think it’s that’s the big piece I would say is be clear about when you’re with your
children and when you’re working and be gentle with yourself when you can’t inevitably do as much as you might like with your business.
I know the worst thing in the world as a mother is to feel guilty when you’re working and feel like you’re cheating when you’re not paying enough attention to your business.
It’s really important to separate the two out and try as much as you can to be fully with your children when you’re with your children and fully with your business when you’re with your business even if that means that can only be for an hour a day.
You’d be surprised how much that could give you – that kind of productive focus time.
The Creative Process as a Business Owner
Shailaja: How do you overcome struggles on your creative journey/business?
Caroline: Struggles I’ve had include of course not making enough money in the early days of business or not getting enough traction or engagement with my content but because I am both optimistic and determined I never give up and I keep plugging away until that traction comes.
I often hear people talking in terms of “IF” my business succeeds. For me it was always a case of “WHEN”. That has helped me enormously.
Shailaja: Do you have a regular creative process or do you prefer to create when you feel inspired?
Caroline: It’s sort of a combination of the two. I schedule time every Monday morning for content creation and I write about what I feel inspired to write about that day rather than try to be super strategic about it or have it planned weeks ahead.
I used to be more strict about sticking to my weekly content schedule but business has got very busy in the last year or so and I’ve found that sometimes my Monday mornings get taken up with other work. I do, however definitely believe that having a set schedule helps me to feel more inspired than if I don’t. I’m a big believer in the idea that inspiration comes when we’re sat and ready to work.
I love this quote –
Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.-Isabel Allende
The Conscious Approach to Getting Clients for Your Business
Shailaja: Clients are created; not attracted. I loved this line from your article on the subject. I would love to get your mindset on this because we hear so much about client attraction and finding your target client, so what is it that you exactly mean when you say you create your next client?
Caroline: I love this question as it lies at the heart of the success of my of both of my businesses. I use the word create clients but what I’m really talking about is creating relationships.
For any business owner in the early stages or not seeing enough traction in the business, try this:
Rather than spend the time on attraction and the externals- which is what we’re taught- you know, showing up for many hours on social media, spending tons of time tweaking your website copy, or trying to create the perfect brand through fonts or colours- focus on the internals of your business.
My whole belief around creating clients is that you need to be in conversation with people:
– You could have virtual coffee dates
– You could invite people to be on your podcast (like you did with me)
– You could offer a complimentary coaching session
– You could do an authentic outreach proposal
I tell people: ‘Hey listen, I’d love to support you; let me give you the gift of a session.’
I never sell in those calls and I never talk about working together in those sessions.
So the intention with which you set up the coffee date isn’t Oh I have to land the client it’s more I have to get to know you.
With the audience research interview, I find out what my ideal client is looking for and how I can better serve them. Again, I am not hoping to land a client through this process. I am genuinely learning to find out more about the audience and how I can serve them better.
None of these situations are about getting the person as a client. I take that off the table completely. There’s no agenda and there’s no hidden manipulation or trickery.
And what I’ve seen to be true and I know to be true for myself and with my clients is that clients will be created organically as a result of being in connection with people – and it’s just a much more beautiful way to work.
The intention is very important when you decide to walk down the path of intentional connection.
Shailaja: What do you tell a business client of yours who loves this virtual coffee option but also has to think about the bottom line of their business? Not so much the profit angle, but in terms of covering their basic costs- stuff like that.
Caroline: I have a whole article on this called the Five Stages of Business Growth. We’re talking about how long does it really take to succeed in business. We’ve been sold the six figures in six months and all of that most of us now know to be untrue.
I can’t tell you how many people come to me and then they’re tearful when I have this conversation with them because they have assumed that because it’s not happening for them, somehow they’re at fault.
Normally when we see something that looks like overnight success there’s a 10-year history of building up to that point exactly that we didn’t see and then we suddenly this person seems to have catapulted onto the stage My coaching business only started to take off towards the end of year two and I am now in year four and that’s from working pretty much full-time and working consistently on the right things.
So I would say – getting to a point where you can be sustainable and have consistent income you want to be thinking about the three or four-year mark. I think if it was quicker than that – everyone would do it.
But I want to go back to something else you said because I think this is really key. A lot of people when they hear about my generosity approach or how I advocate taking the goal of getting the client off the table, this is the bit that I really want to get across to the listeners.
Taking the goal of getting the sale off the table does not stop you from getting the sale.
Actually, in my experience, it makes it more likely. I’ve built two profitable businesses using this approach.
The kinds of people I work with, probably similar to the kinds of people you work with, are people whose audience is wise to the kind of non-ethical marketing practices.
When you show up with integrity in your business and you show up with generosity all of these things cultivate trust.
In typical marketing speak, you could spend – three hours a day doing – 10 posts on Instagram every day – which is what I call one-to-many communication, kind of, blasting out promotional stuff – or you could have conversations and show up and be of service to people.
On the Need for Rest, Leisure and Down Time
Shailaja: You take plenty of breaks (long walks and reading novels) & you don’t do anything business-related in those times. Earlier you used to read business books but you deliberately started reading more novels. Tell me a little bit about that.
Caroline: Okay, full disclosure it’s my most recent win in business. I am a person when you put me in front of a computer I’ll happily sit there all day and not move and work. It’s not like I’m forcing myself to do it, I love it.
But what I’ve realized after years of doing this work is that there are diminishing returns to the amount of time I spend at my desk working. There comes a point when if I don’t step away and I don’t take time to nourish myself, I lose focus, get distracted and don’t produce my best work.
Earlier, I would put breaks in my schedule and be like “Oh yeah, I have a break well let me just check what’s going on in my Facebook group; or let me read a business book or listen to a business podcast or do one of my mentor’s courses.”
When I had this realization I wanted to read more for pleasure not for growth because I’ve been doing that for long enough. So when the time for the break comes, sometimes I have to force myself because I might be in the middle of a deep flow activity. But I do it. I go to the sofa, get myself a nice cup of coffee, put my feet up and set an alarm and get down to reading. That reading really resets me and it’s so important to take a break from the computer.
Shailaja: What would you like to say to my listeners before we sign off?
Caroline: I’d love to just pull out something that you mentioned actually because I think it’s really key and it is a thread that runs through all the work I do with my clients and it’s that permission piece to do it your way.
There are too many shoulds in the business world. Everything that I share and what we have talked about today, I want to invite you to take what works and leave the rest. Remember that you can build a successful business doing it your way in fact I would say it’s more likely to be successful if you are doing it your way than if you are following somebody else’s blueprint as you put it. Yeah, so take what works for you and move forward with that.
Shailaja: Thank you so much, Caroline! This has been an amazing opportunity and I really want to thank you for being on the show.
Caroline: Thank you for having me. It’s been wonderful.
*You can also watch the video version of our chat here:
More about Caroline Leon
After well over a decade working in the not-for-profit sector and realising that most of the money being donated to the charities she worked for was being spent on administration and bureaucracy, Caroline quit her lucrative career in Program Management and went in pursuit of more meaningful work.
After deciding to become a Coach, she was lucky enough to find a business mentor, who taught her how to build a profitable business using connection and service rather than the manipulative and pushy marketing strategies we so often see.
After several years of watching good people struggle to get their purpose-driven businesses off the ground, in large part because of an inability to get behind the typical marketing advice so prevalent online these days, Caroline came to realise that her true calling was to support those people, who want to make a difference, to succeed using strategies rooted in integrity.
It’s her firm belief that when we change the way we do business, we change the world and it’s her mission to support conscious business owners to do just that in order that we might create a world where business can be a force for good rather than greed.
Caroline’s vision is a world where the primary concern of business is the betterment of humanity and the furtherment of equality, health and wellness of all peoples.
A world where business owners genuinely care for their clients and customers and have their absolute best interests at heart.
A world where the business owners who operate with the highest levels of integrity, are the most prosperous. A world where meaningful business takes priority over the meaningless.
She supports business owners to do away with the gross and manipulative tactics so prevalent these days online and instead adopt growth strategies that put people before profits.
To receive the best of what she knows about building a business with integrity, sign up for her weekly Soulful Strategies e-letter here.
I’m a blogger, conscious content creator & organic growth strategist who has been writing online and blogging since August, 2007. Read my story & more about my work here.