The MindFuel Entrepreneur Podcast

Episode 165: The Number One Thing That Makes An Entrepreneur A Great Leader With A'Tondra Jones

A'Tondra Jones is a leadership coach, she has owned multiple successful businesses, and is now launching her brand new “Business Systems Alchemy” Coaching series.. On this episode, we chat about how she handled Covid as an entrepreneur, lessons from her fitness business days, and what is great leadership for entrepreneurs.

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I think what is almost more important than the vision is your ability to communicate that vision in a way that allows the people who you are responsible for leading to see themselves in bringing that vision to fruition.

A'Tondra's entrepreneurial journey

When I was a teenager, I was kind of antisocial. My plan was to go to medical school and become a forensic patologist, because I had this idea in my head that dead people don't talk to people. So I was going to go into that field and make a lot of money and buy myself a house in a mountain on the top of the hill that was covered with a bunch of trees, that was a 20 mile hike to try to get up to the top of the Hill. I was going to live alone and nobody was going to talk to me.

And so, no, I did not even see myself as an entrepreneur as a child. I actually got into entrepreneurship kind of by accident. I had been working for awhile, I wasn't making a lot of money, and then somebody approached me to sell Avon and then somebody else approached me to sell Mary Kay.

And so it wasn't necessarily about the businesses, but what it was was about this freedom that I had. Here's this thing where you can actually do what you want, but I didn't really have a lot of training. So I didn't really understand business, but I knew that I wanted this freedom.

So I continued to work, and later on you start meeting people, your network changes, you start meeting more entrepreneurs, you start learning more about entrepreneurship. That's kind of how that journey started for me.

How Covid affected her and the changes she had to make

We have a family and it was just one of those things where we just couldn't lose. We couldn't afford to lose.

And so for me, it was like, okay, so they shut down the gyms, we need to pivot, and it was kind of okay because I was already in the mind frame because we had already started homeschooling our youngest two children.

I had already wanted to come away from the gym anyway so that I could spend more time at home, but understanding that I knew that I was going to be giving up some income.

And so COVID was kind of this perfect storm, but it was just we couldn't lose. And so when everybody was complaining about not finding masks, I was able to find a supplier outside of the country who was able to ship and send me like 10,000 at a time. And so it was just we just couldn't afford to lose.

Getting into the leadership field and learning about her leadership skills

I got into employee training and development when I was 18 years old. I didn't have a degree at the time, what happened was I was working in a call center and I was just really, really good and I got a promotion.

That was my first taste of what it was like to be something other than just what I considered at the time, just another employee. What happened was from that point on, anytime I worked for any company, I always had my eye on the employee training and development position.

When I got older, I worked in a lot of different call centers. Most of my time in corporate career in corporate America was spent working in call centers. What I would notice is that sometimes I would leave a company and some of the people who were in my new hire training class would leave that company and follow me to where I was going.

It didn't happen like every single time, but it happened enough for me to be like, this is like weird right now. I didn't understand it as leadership at the time, I just thought that for some reason, people thought that I had the plug on the companies that were paying well.

It wasn't until I was working for this one company. There was no way you were going to tell me that I was not retiring from this company I was getting paid well, I had gotten a promotion, I was on track for another promotion in employee training and development. This was my home.

When they sold the company, my immediate boss came to me privately and he was leaving and said, I think you should leave. At the time, remember, I still didn't have a degree. So in my mind it was like, I'm so close to getting to this next level. I don't have a degree. If I leave this company, am I going to be able to get that opportunity again?

So I stayed, and what ended up happening was when they came in, they fired a little over half of the HR department. That made those of us at employee training and development responsible for orientation and employee onboarding. Wen they shifted my bonus to now dependent upon employee retention and performance, at the point of which it started affecting my money, I really started paying attention to, okay, what, what is employee retention? What makes them stay? What are they looking for? How do I do this?

And what ended up happening was I developed a system. I didn't even realize it as a system at the time, I didn't realize what it was at the time. And so I had developed a system of working with the people that had come into my new hire training classes, where I had most of the time, I maintained over 90% retention of employees that came out of my employee out of my new hire training classes.

My retention was so high that the corporate clients started coming down to sit in my new hire classes to see what I was doing, and at the time I still didn't connected to leadership. And then I went to college, things are happening. I start businesses, and then I started realizing I have clients that have followed me from business to business to business.

And I was having a conversation with some ladies that were I was working on a joint venture with, and we were kind of talking back and forth. And one of the ladies looked at me and she said, you are the leadership alchemist. And when I realized that's what it is, I just lead in.

What makes an entrepreneur a good leader?

I look at just the leadership that I follow, specifically my spiritual parents and just what I have done. I hear a lot of people say that a leader has to have vision and that's true - a leader does have to have a vision.

But I think what is almost more important than the vision is your ability to communicate that vision in a way that allows the people who you are responsible for leading to see themselves in bringing that vision to fruition. Once you're able to do that, going from that to being able to provide them with the skills, the tools, the training, to help them rise to the levels that they desire to be in.

It's showing them the path - like this is my vision, this is where you fit in, and this is where you're going. And so now I can train you for where you fit and coach you to where you're going. And so for me, as an entrepreneur that's really truly what makes a good leader.

I think what happens is so often we look at leadership through the lens of management. How well do you manage your time? How well do you manage your clients? How well do you manage your supply chain operation? How well do you manage your employees? Do you have a step-by-step disciplinary system, like all of these management things.

The reality is if we were to look at leadership through the lens of management, then what that would mean is that as you become a better manager, you become a better leader and that's simply not true.

What is really important is to begin to look at management through the lens of leadership and understanding, especially with people who have employees understanding that sometimes the person who's the greatest at doing the job isn't the greatest at being able to lead the people to do the job.

A'Tondra's one tip on leadership for entrepreneurs

Follow a leader who does leadership well. The first thing you have to do is you have to get out of your own ego. That is really important because what I find a lot of times with entrepreneurs is they seek leaders who validate their ego.

You're not really looking for someone to help stretch you, you're looking for someone to validate how awesome you are. I am the best, give me a sticker, I am brave.

What happens is when you look at leadership through that lens, you don't really grow. The leader that you're looking for is the leader who can handle your greatness. The leader is not coming from this place of, oh, you are beneath me, you are nothing to me. The leader is not impressed by you because they're always seeing your next grade, your next greatest level. So they're never impressed by where you are.

How her company trains her clients to be better leaders

I show them how to fascinate, how to communicate, how to delegate - and those are arts. It's about finding out what your frequency is and being attuned to that.

I think what happens often is people will take a class or a course, or they'll go to a conference and they'll learn all these things about business. Or if they're in corporate America, they'll learn all of these things about their position.

Then they take all of that information home and then they try to implement it like the person who taught it. Then what happens is when they show up, they're not showing up as who they are. They're showing up as who taught them, because the reality is they don't really know who they are.

Her biggest entrepreneurial lesson

The biggest thing I wish I would have learned a long time ago is how to be comfortable with being early.

If we talk about my fitness business specifically, one of the reasons why I started to get burnout was because I was doing things that nobody else in my circle was doing.

So for example, I was using a telemedicine software that my clients could attach their wearables to - long before it was a cool thing to do. I was offering neutral genomic testing for my clients - long before it was a cool thing to do. I was building relationships with, or seeking to build relationships with my clients - long before it was a cool thing to do.

What happened was because I would talk to people and they say, oh, technology, it doesn't take all that. Oh, you're doing too much.

I was creating five figure programs in fitness and personal training when personal trainers were talking about how they could only make $25 an hour. I was doing that very early in the game. I didn't realize that I was early and I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought that there was something wrong with the way that I did business.

As I came to the tail end of closing out my fitness business. I started seeing Nutrogenomix testing is a thing now. Now everybody's like, oh yeah, the wearables. But by the time it caught up, I was already tired and I no longer had a passion for it.

I used to own tax offices as well, and there were things that I was doing as a tax office owner that other tax office owners just were not doing, and I thought there was something wrong with me.

I wasn't good at that business, not realizing that I was just in the wrong place, I was in the wrong neighborhood, I was talking to the wrong clients because the place where I was, they weren't ready for what it was that I was doing and I didn't understand that.

So if there was anything that I could have said, man, if I would've known this before, it would have been that - understanding how to be comfortable with being early. I love tech, I don't code or anything, but I love it. I love software. I love playing with those kinds of things. And so when you're that kind of person, you tend to be early on things.

On her biggest focus for 2021

My biggest focus is on finding ways to consistently and constantly increase the amount of joy that I experienced in my life. How can I have more joy? How can I have more passion? How can I experience more pleasure?

My spiritual parents introduced me to this thing called radical novelty. What it is is that you look at everything as if you're looking at it for the first time.

I'll be in talks or watching trainings, and I will really try not to connect what I've heard to something I'd already learned or something I've already done. I listen to it with this curiosity and this hunger to be okay, what is this like for me to hear this like it's my first time?

If I go outside in our backyard, I don't know how many acres of land it is back there, but there's deer and there's all kinds of cool stuff. I go outside and I'm like, I want to see this like I'm seeing this for the first time again. That's something that I'm practicing.

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