Esther Stanhope, also known as The Impact Guru, is an international speaker, coach and award-winning author of Goodbye Glossophobia: Banish Your Fear of Public Speaking. When, in March 2020, her speaking engagements at events across the globe suddenly got cancelled, she quickly identified a new need amongst her audience: to skilfully pitch and present on Zoom.
This year, Esther pivoted her business model dramatically towards online content creation, online coaching and online courses on how to become camera confident. Esther Stanhope, The Impact Guru, has been nominated as one of the Most Adaptive Small Businesses of 2020 by QuickBooks UK.
Hey Esther! Thanks so much for sitting down with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and The Impact Guru?
Sure! I’m a speaker, an award-winning author and a small business owner. I have a passion for helping people find their voices and be the best that they can be. That’s why I started my small business The Impact Guru, where I help people get promoted, make an impact and become more confident and charismatic with their public speaking. I love being the person who helps bring the best out in others! I frequently work with women in leadership positions, as well as large organisations and firms from all over the world, chiefly in the finance sector. I’m often hired to help people articulate their projects and find their visions for the future.
Tell us more about your journey into entrepreneurship.
My background is in television, radio and broadcasting, which means my skills are uniquely perfect for right now.
Even as a kid, I knew I wanted to work for the BBC. After I graduated from uni, I started my career off as an entertainment reporter for radio, which meant I had to interview all the celebrity stars of 1996 and 1997. I interviewed the Spice Girls, Oasis, Madonna, Antonio Banderas and the Backstreet Boys before they were the famous icons they are today.
Over the years I studied these celebrities and tried to figure out what made them so charismatic and confident. It was something that seemed almost foreign to me - believe it or not, I used to be afraid of public speaking and feared being in the spotlight. That’s why my biggest tip is to push yourself.
“I am living proof that you can overcome your fears.”
Most of the time people are holding themselves back by not stepping into the spotlight and taking on leadership roles - and the only way to do that is to get out of your comfort zone. With time, practice and lots of patience with myself, I learned how to do it and now it has become my career. In fact, half of my revenue comes from speaking engagements!
I left the BBC in 2011 and spent a year trying out lots of different things before deciding to set up my own business in 2013. By the following year, I knew I was ready to fully commit to my company so I hired a business coach and, by 2015, had registered as a limited company. It was then that I started working full time - all while being a mum of two.
I’m so glad that I invested in a coach - it changed my life and I would recommend it to anyone. Since getting a business coach and becoming my own boss, I began making six figures in just a year and a half. I’m earning a lot more now than I ever did as an employee!
2020 has been quite the year. How have you adapted your product offering to this year’s changing circumstances?
Before COVID-19, when I’d ask How important is it for you to look good on camera and act like a TV presenter?, most people would say ‘not important’. Now, camera confidence is important to everyone.
“In 2020 it became clear to me that most people aren’t in the office and won’t be for a while.”
Most of my clients are big, global organisations that already had good setups before COVID hit - like clever cameras that follow you around the room, good headsets and microphones - but they weren’t using them or didn’t know how to use them properly. Now that everyone is doing conference calls, it’s more important than ever that we make use of these facilities - and while most people don’t like being on camera, it’s undeniably hard to do business without a face.
This year I’ve been encouraging people to set themselves up with a proper environment for working from home; it doesn’t have to be expensive. People are conducting business remotely and securing million-pound contracts virtually right now, and there’s an art to pitching in a remote environment - you can’t get away with your son’s toy room being your background. You have more executive presence just by looking the part on your camera.
What are your top tips for managing your business finances in 2020?
I use an accountancy firm for a lot of my filing. I also use QuickBooks’s clever automated accounting software and I have a really good banking system. Plus, facial recognition on my iPhone allows me to pay people in just 30 seconds!
I wasn’t so savvy about finances when I first started running my business. Truth be told, I didn’t like to think about tax and overheads - but I’m aware we all need to pay tax, so it’s not as though it came as a surprise when I realised I’d have to learn all about that eventually.
“When I first started off as a sole trader, a friend warned me that half the money you earn you’ll need to spend on other things - so put it aside!”
Now, rather than worrying about tax, I put money aside in different accounts for different things - I have special budgets for everything. I don’t like surprises, but I can roll with the punches when I need to - which brings me to the coronavirus.
At the start of COVID, I began to prepare for the worst case scenario and, as time has progressed, I’ve continued to be very diligent. I had some savings, but in the beginning I was pretty much living hand to mouth. Luckily, we’ve received quite a lot of help from the government and I’m feeling much more financially stable now that I’ve shifted my business model to be fully online.
In March 2020, I didn’t work for a while because all my live gigs got cancelled, but soon enough I realised I needed to take advantage of working virtually. Of course, it wasn’t easy. People think it must have been because I’ve always done some courses online, but the shift from partially online to completely online was major!
How did you manage to stay afloat?
This year, I’ve done a lot of writing: emails, content, blogs, a new ebook and an audiobook that is coming out soon! My tip for anyone and everyone who feels they might be stuck is to write, no matter what your job is.
“Presentation and content creation are skills that are key to any role.”
I’ve also been giving away valuable pearls of wisdom on all my social media channels, especially on YouTube, and my online courses have really taken off.
What encouraging words would you send to your fellow entrepreneurs?
When things change, sometimes it can be scary - but there’s always opportunity in it. When life changes, so do we; we roll with it, we adapt and we evolve.
“Don’t ever forget you can ask for help.”
I would recommend making use of the technology available to us. Learn more about it and use it whenever possible - it can help you automate your business and save you a lot of time and headaches.
Sometimes it’s worth just pausing and thinking about the next year. How can you evolve? How can you rebrand? What are the next steps you need to take to get yourself one step closer to the person - or business - you want to be?
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This interview has been edited for clarity.