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This month’s interview is with Natalia Nicholson, multi-preneur, founder and trainer of Straight Talk to Success.
Hi Natalia! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview with me. I last saw you whilst you were presenting an excellent course on, ‘How to overcome objections’, that was delivered as part of your Straight Talk to Success business for Building Legacies.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
Today I am a multi-preneur. This passion for business has been with me since the age of 14.
As a child, I used to watch Knotts Landing and the Colbys and I would say to my mum that I was going to be a business woman one day and earn enough money to look after her. It was a cultural thing.
I am from West Indian heritage and I grew up in a predominately white area. I went through a stage of not understanding who I was and where my place was in the world. When I spoke to my mum and dad, they didn’t give me clear answers. As a result, I went to the library to find out more and there I read about Martin Luther King and Malcom X and other great authors that made me think that I could achieve success and get out of here more than the idea of being able to work for myself.
I detested the way in which people told me that I would have to work harder because of the colour of my skin, I didn’t understand that concept and I just thought, “no you don’t, why”? In the time that I grew up, it was very culturally different to what it’s like now.
My first business after not understanding who I was, was that I wanted to be the next multi-cultural Amazon. I wanted to launch an A to Z book/e-commerce called PassionNet for people to find out who they are. As a person of colour, we don’t really know about who we are because much of our history was deleted.
After PassionNet, I got myself into a whole load of debt and lost my property portfolio.
I then launched my own domestic and commercial cleaning business, which was my first successful business. This got me out of a hole. It was through this that I won a major contract that helped to elevate me. But it felt like I was a slave to myself and I didn’t like it. I started it as a means to an end, but I had no passion for it, so eventually I sold that business.
I then got into training, by starting a training business on how to start their own cleaning business and that’s how the progression happened. I then got into corporate coaching and then into the digital marketing space.
And so that’s how Straight Talk to Success come to fruition. Tell us more…
Straight Talk to Success was born out of my previous business encounters and wanting to pass on my knowledge to others. I have tried and I have failed. I have learned and I have improved. It’s this ongoing cycle of trying, testing, adapting and evolving that I want to support others with. So, whether you are starting your own company, or you’re an employee, I can offer you training and coaching.
What were some of the milestones that brought this business to life?
I was asked to do corporate training for Godiva, the chocolatier - and I loved it. That that was the first time that I’d got up in front of a large group of people. That’s when I knew that that was my space and my place.
I also attended a huge marketing conference in San Diego, California, on traffic conversion. That was amazing. It was during this time that I invested heavily in myself, just so I could learn how to sell online. It wasn’t as simple as bringing back a line of products and putting them on Amazon or Shopify hoping they would sell. If only it were that simple…
So that’s what lead me into being asked by someone if I could run a session about selling online because I was in the coaching and training space already. Once I did that, the feedback was so great that I just got more and more jobs and then niched as a Digital Marketing Coach and Trainer and that’s how Straight Talk to Success was born.
What type of clients do you have?
I work for a lot of non-profit organisations where I’m able to be in an arena and help businesses that don’t have a budget to attend training or have coaching. I do a lot of work with East London Business Place and Barking Enterprise Centre. I’m also a trained Google coach and I work on their initiative called the Google Garage.
This initiative goes all round the UK within corporates and communities and teaches people and businesses. The aim of the scheme is about upskilling businesses so that they have digital skills and are able to grow their business.
I work a lot around corporate and community projects and from it I get clients (that do have the budget) that ask me if I can do it for them. Straight Talk to Success doesn’t just offer coaching and training, it also offers agency services. We are a do-it-with-you and a do-it-for-you service.
Just recently (December 2019) we started work with the Chamber of Commerce in Abu Dhabi. I’m also running my own events in the UAE, helping businesses and putting them on training programmes to get them to really understand how sell online. It’s exciting times!
Even though people don’t realise it, that is what they are asking for. We live in a society where we naturally emulate a lot. If Facebook did this, or, if Steve Jobs did that, then we want to do the exact same thing. But life doesn’t work like that and we all have our own journey.
What makes my training and coaching unique is having the ability to teach people, or someone, a framework of approach/strategy that gets them to understand how they would apply it to themselves or their business.
It’s about understanding how strategies fit into your framework, business, life or plan and how you adapt around that to make it successful. Within that there is no magic wand, you’ll always have to keep tweaking it until you find the sweet spot.
You’re a very confident speaker. What advice would you give someone who wanted to improve their speaking skills?
You’ve got to be comfortable with yourself and your own skin. Speaking well also comes with life experiences. I was a shy child and I didn’t feel confident, a stark contrast to who I am today. Being from a West Indian family you were told to speak when you’re spoken to which doesn’t encourage you to find your voice. I eventually found my voice and go to know me, which is an ongoing process. If you don’t know who you are, it can be a huge challenge – you’ve got to like you.
Do you ever get nervous when asked to present a training programme and if so, what do you do to overcome it?
I used to get nervous, but I don’t anymore. The best thing to do is to pace yourself and not talk too quickly. The faster you talk the quicker your heartrate goes and the more speaking inside your head you will do - and then your pace is lost. I also try and focus on the friendliest face in the room and people that are engaged and nodding.
Do you have a coach?
Yes, I used to have a one-to-one coach, but for the last two years I’ve been part of a Mastermind group made up of 15 likeminded people doing the exact same thing. Within that, there is coaching that is available to me outside of the group.
We meet up every quarter and discuss, how to get ahead, what problems we having and why are we getting stuck. It also encourages me to set myself an agenda to make sure that my business goals happen. It has definitely helped me to excel.
I now have a bucket list of other mastermind groups that I would now like to be on. It’s really important to invest in yourself and everybody needs an outlet. Just because you give advice, train or are an expert, doesn’t mean you can’t keep stretching yourself.
I always say that you have to know when to be a knower and when to be a learner. You are always changing, so you’ve got to continue being a learner. Getting to know myself is a never-ending challenge. Keeping an open mind is what keeps you innovative and ahead of the marketplace.
What was the process of building up your team?
I currently work with a global team. When my business was growing, I had to look at incorporating others and I started by looking at sites like Fiver as the costs were cheap. The Caribbean and Philippines are my two favourite regions where I have employed workers. All my team are currently from the Philippines. It’s really works having all of the team in the same time zone.
When I decided to have my team in one location, I used a website called OnlineVA and set up online interviews. On a day-to-day basis, we have regular Zoom or Skype meetings. We also have a WhatsApp group to keep the dialogue open.
Do you have an office?
I mostly work at home and other co-working spaces.
What advice would you give a company that was ready to upscale their services/products?
Be clear on your business model and the scalability of it. Think about systemising and automating elements of your business first, not everything needs human manpower. Think of how you can run your business (or parts of it) without doing the tasks yourself. Does your model allow your business to run without you, if anything were to happen to you tomorrow? Also think about your personal goals and what you want from life, as this will alter how you do things too.
How do customers find your business?
I have a lot of referral work through my current work and businesses. Some people find me online and contact me from my online presence.
Which social media platforms do you find work best for your business?
LinkedIn and Facebook. I have someone that does this for me. When I say that, we have monthly meetings to discuss the content that is going to be put out which is based around my belief and value system, my thoughts and free resources. Offering free resources (and things of value) is one of the things that I live by.
A lot of businesses don’t understand the ethos behind giving away things of value. They feel that it’s their valuable time and material. But those days have gone. You can’t just be a consultant anymore and get paid £2k a day – you need to show people what you can do.
Value is very important and it’s something that the Americans understand very well. It’s the law of reciprocation.
Do you have formal qualifications as a trainer or are you self-taught?
I started through self-teaching. I am now ICF accredited (International Coaching Federation) and I’ve just recently finished a post graduate diploma in digital marketing.
You’re juggling lots of different plates! How do you manage your time effectively?
I don’t! You have to have balance in life. If I feel that I’ve not seen the kids properly in a while, I’ll drop everything and make time for them. Sometimes I get up at 4.30am in the morning (Morning Miracle – great book!) and then work late at night, it’s about priority. I don’t have a big social life. Time outside of work I spend with my family.
Do you miss socialising?
No. I had kids late, between the ages of 35 and 39 I haVE three children. I used to rave and travel before I had kids.
Do you have a vision of what you’ll be doing in five years’ time?
Yes, five years time from I will be at that point when I am sleeping and making money and I’m doing things that change the world and contribute to it.
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