Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Level 7

This Chief Encouragement Officer Found, and Honed, His Passion to Serve: Meet SJ Barakony

7 17 10971


Name: SJ Barakony

Company: Service Before Self Leadership

Founded: 2011

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.

image-2.jpeg 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!

Level 2

Good interview. Thanks for sharing this!

Level 6

Hey @SBSL-Founder-SJ, love your energy and story! So thrilled you are part of this community and excited to cheer you on. 

Level 7

Thank you for being an inspiration, @SBSL-Founder-SJ

I have always been a side-preneur because it allowed me to make ends meet, put myself through school, make connections, etc. I recently took the leap of faith to be 100% self-employed and it stemmed from desiring a certain quality of life. Once I quit the self-limiting, fearful thoughts, everything fell into place!

Level 4
@JBrown - thank YOU. Any & all feedback ( which I define as a response wrapped in a blanket of empathy & with a desire to add value ) is certainly appreciated!
Level 4
@LeslieBarber - Thank YOU, thank YOU very much, & thank YOU ever so thoughtfully!
Level 4
@AudreyPratt ( waving ) It's an honor & a duty of mine to be an adder of value to everyone I meet, know, & encounter. Thank YOU most kindly for the feedback re: being inspiring! You were VERY wise ( Madam Yoda ) to take this step -- there is NEVER an ideal time to move ahead, however, there is also, concurrently, NEVER an excuse NOT to give it your most thoughtful & best effort to pursue your purpose - which is the intersection of your potential, your (ability to earn) profit ( cash flow ), & lastly, your passion. Learn more right here --> <----
Level 7

Thank you for your kind words (Madam Yoda....I like that :smileyhappy:) and for sharing that video! "Hedgehog Concept" for the win: passion, talent, economic driver 

Community Champion

Love this  when you are bigger than your purpose, you have a career. When your purpose is bigger than you, you have a calling." That is why I also finally got over my fear and started my business with a purpose.


That is inspiration. 




Level 4
Most certainly, @AudreyPratt - Yoda's have certain traits and inherent gifts! You bet - the book behind the video is a MUST. It was mainly written for a more 'corporate' audience/readership, yet when its read deeply and with specific intent, it easily can be mapped onto the entrepreneurship space.
Level 4
Most thoughtfully appreciated, @SteveChase - I only heard that this past February, yet it is now forevermore "etched" into my memory banks and I share it all the time with those whom I communicate with. One "twist" on it? Is your purpose your business, or is your business your purpose? The answers to the WHO & WHY Q's lead all of us to the best answer of the two for our unique calling.
Level 1

This is amazing, thanks for sharing! :smileyhappy:

Level 4
@condecpa - Thank YOU ever so thoughtfully, ma'am! I'm very honored by your empathetic words.
Not applicable

Awesome interview! I felt your energy while reading it ...all really good points @SBSL-Founder-SJ ! Thank you, thank you, thank you for the inspiration!

Level 4
@Anonymous Thank YOU ... am beyond grateful for your thoughtful & inspired response! Its an honor and a duty to serve + inspire. While my businesses aren't corporations, therefore there are no officers -- I do like to still periodically say I'm a CEO = Chief Encouragement Officer ( hence, part of the title of the Q&A! )
Level 4
I just shared this Q&A/article again & it was part of the backstory/grounder for my 1st ever podcast interview - as a guest. We'll see if the host(ess) chooses to keep the URL in what she posts when she finishes the editing & the like! ( @AudreyPratt ) ( @SteveChase )
Level 5

Congratulations on your podcast @SBSL-Founder-SJ. What was the focus of the discussion? Curious!

Level 4
@WillowOlder -- thank YOU ever so kindly! HNY! The hostess asked me to focus on answering Q's that she believes her listeners will truly value re: how family culture & lifelong learning/self-directed education feed into one another.

Need to get in touch?

Contact us