After more than a decade working in the corporate world, SJ Barakony realized he was downright uninspired. Rather than join a truly gloomy statistic – 87% of workers report feeling disengaged from their job – SJ spent some time soul-searching and researching new career options. The upshot? He decided to trade his traditional daily grind for an entrepreneurial adventure as an educational disrupter & innovator and founder of Service Before Self Leadership (SBSL), an educational-solutions provider focused on the intersection of service, leadership and education.
What was the tipping point that inspired you to turn your “side passion” into a full-time business?
I spent many years as part of the conventional workforce, doing various jobs such as project- and order management and network planning. Then a friend asked me, “Have you considered having more than one source of income?” The floodgates opened. I started as a “side-preneur,” with a secondary passion project that had purpose and meaning. I wanted to hone my skills before leaving my stable job. It was a wise decision, especially for someone with a family.
When I think about the tipping point, I think of this quote: “When you are bigger than your purpose, you have a career. When your purpose is bigger than you, you have a calling.” When my purpose grew bigger than me, I knew I was on the right track as a life coach. I had the desire to learn, an ear to listen and a passion to serve.
Tell us about a challenge you’ve faced around branding your business.
When I introduce SBSL, I deliberately put a pause in my company’s name – Service Before Self *pause* Leadership. I was inspired by a webinar speaker whose approach to life is, “Serve ahead of myself.”
The idea of serving first really resonates with me, and the pause before “leadership” is an important aspect of my brand. I didn’t want people to think I only work with “leaders.” As a thought leader, you’re a resource both on- and offline. You share your thoughts, you’re part of a discussion or a solution. I also avoid the word “expert” when talking about myself. Maybe you can be a specialist, but with so much online content freely available, these days I don’t think you can be an expert.
Another branding decision: I don’t use the term CEO, except to define myself as the Chief Encouragement Officer. My goal is to serve, offer solutions and, hopefully, provide immense value.
What is your most effective way to get new clients?
I think of marketing as a chair with 4 legs. Each leg or strategy has a purpose and proven value, and any one (or more) might be most effective and efficient at any given time. I rely on a combination of outreach through online communities and social media, offline networking (including word of mouth and referrals) and maintaining recurring clients and ongoing business. I also contribute to a blog about education and entrepreneurship. You can read my posts here.
Will you share any tips on pricing?
I have moved to a retainer-based pricing model based on a grid or matrix, which is best for billing. I keep my overhead as low as possible. I have no products per se, just service and knowledge.
I once heard someone say, “You can market to the classes and live with the masses, or you can market to the masses and live with the classes.” I don’t want to price myself out of business by marketing to the masses. Out of ten people, I can help eight or nine, but I’m okay with only serving two.
Do you have any sage advice for budding entrepreneurs?
I like this quote: “Be a student, be humble or be teachable. Do not equate education and credentials.” Remember, you can be very well-educated without a degree or diploma.
Share your thoughts!
QB Community members, what was the tipping point that turned you from a “side-preneur” to an entrepreneur? We can’t wait to find out!
I love all things health and fitness, wide open spaces, and traveling. Entrepreneurial opportunities drive me! My current endeavors consist of designing funky shoes and creating innovative fitness routines while growing my Virtual Assistant business. Essentrics L2. Fitness Nutrition Specialist.