January 2018 | Sofia Simeonidou
I hadn't met Stephanie in person before our interview. Online? Yes, we've met online. The thing is that even now as I'm typing this, I think I know her forever. It's not only because she's a bright person, it's not only because she goes straight to the point, it's not only because she doesn't hold back. It's because she comes across as someone who's genuinely interested in helping people. Because she is.
Stephanie, when did you start with Firefly Coaching?
I started Firefly Coaching in 2002.
What is it about?
I work with passionate small business owners and entrepreneurs, mainly service-based businesses (nutritionists, lawyers, coaches, speakers, web-designers, trainers, to name a few) and help them to get clear about their business model and what they want to achieve. We figure out ways they can make that happen with marketing.
Is there a formula or it depends on the business?
I don’t really like formulas. The general thing that everyone has to do, which has never changed, is to connect with people. You have to be visible and have something that people want. You have to have or offer something that solves someone's problem. And you have to be able to communicate that. That’s the general formula. And then consistency is important as well. If you do all those things, it’ll work.
What’s good marketing?
Honest Marketing. Transparent Marketing. Good marketing is listening. People think marketing is distasteful. So what I say is, if you don't like the word marketing replace it with connecting. Be honest, be open, listen, and have the right intention.
Why did you make the change from an employee to an entrepreneur?
It wasn't out of passion, it was out of distress. I was commuting 2 hours each way to Schiphol for work, which I felt had no meaning at all. I knew there was more to life than this and I’m smart enough to know that if you can’t figure it out you ask for help. Coaching was new back then. I read books, I hired a coach and through that work, I figured it out. I went to coaching school while working full time and started my business in 2002. That’s how I found my meaningful work.
I mean, I’m just so deeply grateful I do the work I love. And no commute. Being able to create and work with ideas. I love ideas. I didn't enjoy my corporate work here but I did enjoy my work in the US. It was a market-based company and it was like running your own business within a giant corporation. It was nice working with interesting people and having this level of autonomy. I don't really miss it though.
How do you build a network?
That’s always a good question. I didn't speak Dutch and the internet was new back then. So I searched (Google wasn’t there either) and I found a Network, the Amsterdam Americans Business Club-I’m still a member, which is remarkable after all these years. I connected with businesses and people, went to events, did most of the things you need to do in order to become visible.
Any practical advice to people starting out now?
You should have a financial reserve. Maybe for 6 to 12 months. Or keep a side hustle or get a side hustle in the meantime. That’s important because if you're stressed about money then it’s going to affect everything you do and that’s not fun. Make it a transition. And then don’t be afraid. Go for it. I don't know if you’ve heard about Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic book? It’s like there’s nothing that can happen to you. Failure is good. Get out there and do your stuff. Be consistent. Take advantage of all the options that are available to you now. Don’t wait. People make it harder than it has to be.
How about time-management?
I follow - not as religiously as I should - David Allen’s, Getting Things Done. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to get started. And for people creating content or do client work, batching is really important. Because it’s hard to shift your mind if you’re in client mode or marketing mode or admin mode. And email management, try to stay away from your email as much as possible. Whatever tasks you have to do, block time for it. Put it on your agenda. It’s basic advice but people don't do it. Or if they do it, they're not realistic about the amount of time it will take.
How do you block out noise? Do you use an app? Do you have a rule?
I tend to be guided by self-control and commitment. You just have to stay focused on why you're doing what you’re doing and what’s important to you. I don't use any apps for that.
What’s your favourite application?
Evernote, because I can’t live without it now.
Do you work during the w/end?
I don’t do any client work after 6 pm and never on weekends. If I want to answer an email I will, but I don't feel obliged to do so after working hours. Expectations are clear. We should value our time and enjoy life. It’s also what makes us productive.
When are you more productive during the day?
It depends on the type of work. I'm an ambivert so maybe that explains it.
Who do you look up to?
Anyone who is trying to be the kindest human they can be. I adore Maya Angelou and her work. I admire Richard Branson for the way he lives his life and runs his businesses.
I have a continuing project, Marketing Across the World. It's a survey to find out the top 3 marketing strategies for small business owners in every country of the world. I’m also playing around with the idea for a book and I'm excited I’ll be one of the speakers at Spark Conference 2018. And of course, working with my clients.