I’m a believer in finding things that empower you, whether that be a new haircut that makes you feel fresh and pulled together or a corner filled with flowers and candles that, when arranged just so, emanate a warmth previously lacking. It’s these moments, the ones within our control, that can help us see things differently and react to others with more light. Maybe it’s the old truism; “It’s all in the details.” Or maybe it’s deeper. We take solace in the beauty we have the ability to create. And in the swirling, morphing, flowing chaos that is life, this is often less than we like to think. But the small moments we win for ourselves are rich with potential for they can help transform our attitude, a transformation that has a flowering effect. It’s the beginnings of someone’s brighter day or the decision to say “yes” where you would typically say “no,” a yes that could possibly change your course for the better. The roots of a butterfly effect in motion.
That’s why I enjoy learning from others whenever I can. Through even the shortest interactions, you have the ability to gain someone’s hard-won knowledge simply by asking a few questions. Their knowledge, planted in you, can act just like a new haircut or a painting hung in a lackluster corner, it can grant you new-found awareness where you didn’t know you needed it or it can help you make that mental switch that you couldn’t quite reach before. And when that person shares their experiences and expertise generously, there’s no replacement. Just by wondering, you are offered something concrete to hold, a handle to pull you further.
Stephanie Ward is one of those people. She is the pioneer behind Firefly Coaching where she helps small business owners attract more clients and gain traction through a practical mix of business and marketing advice. I connected with Stephanie in a Facebook forum, and though I’ve only had the chance to speak with her online, her exuberance and joy for what she does is more than apparent. After checking out her site that houses a trove of business and marketing tips, I knew I wanted to ask her more questions to uncover how she came so far and what motivations underpin her work. Not to mention, since she is also an American in the Netherlands, I of course needed to learn more about how she too wound up in this foreign country and navigated establishing a business here.
Stephanie was more than happy to oblige and, in answering my questions, she sheds light on her background, explains how she maintains authentic online encounters and reveals the one thing that entrepreneurs often miss when growing their business.
Jump in below and take home a piece of Stephanie’s overflowing wisdom for yourself.
All photos of Stephanie are by Cristina Stoian.
Can you talk a bit about your journey to the Netherlands?
Love brought me to the Netherlands over 16 years ago. After meeting in the US and dating long distance for two years, we made the decision that I would move here. It was hard at first, not knowing the language and feeling left out sometimes. I’ve felt completely at home here for a long time now.
Why did you decide to start Firefly Coaching? Was this something you had a background in?
I was at a crossroads in my career. The work I was doing in the consulting job I had was not meaningful, and I was sure that there had to be something more fulfilling for me. After some deep soul searching I stumbled upon coaching and did a course at Coach U at night while working full-time. After I graduated I started my business in 2002. So although coaching was new to me (the formal training, I’ve been coaching people my whole life), the area of focus of my coaching was definitely something I had a background in (business and marketing).
What were you doing professionally in the States before you began consulting in the Netherlands?
I graduated from the University of Oklahoma (OU) with a business degree and got my first job working at the Housing Authority in Tulsa. I learned a lot and then went back to OU and got my Master’s in Communication and then worked for Koch in Houston, Dallas, and Columbus doing business development, sales, and marketing. Once I landed in the Netherlands, I got a job in marketing with EDS which was a huge disappointment, so I quit and found another job as a consultant, and that is when I had my come to Jesus moment with myself about finding meaningful work.
How did you get those first clients, and was it more difficult doing this in a foreign country?
I started networking right away and asked people for referrals in the beginning. It’s hard to say if it was more difficult getting clients here than in the US because I never tried it in the US. Of course it’s always easier if you already have a strong local network, which I didn’t have at first. There are a lot of international and global groups here in the Netherlands and I tend to gravitate to them.
Photo courtesy of Firefly Coaching
In the sea of never-ending information that is social media and the digital realm, do you ever feel information overload or worn out from the Internet? If so, what do you do about it?
For me, it’s about knowing what gives me energy and making sure that I take time out to walk in nature and read books. I love being connected and connecting with people online and I also know when to turn it off and walk away. The truth is that no one misses me when I’m not online.
For me, it’s about knowing what gives me energy…
We’ve all experienced those superficial digital encounters. Maybe you add/follow someone and never talk to them again, or you have access to information about a business or person’s life and feel no connection. How do we make our online personas and interactions authentic and give them a deeper quality? And how much can we expect of social media in this respect?
It’s hard to keep up with everyone you’re connected with online. And you never know when you might be able to connect two people or refer someone, so even quiet connections can be important. If I had access to information about a person and I didn’t feel a connection, I would simply disconnect. The way to make online personas and interactions authentic is to be yourself (quirks and all) and be transparent. And whenever possible to extend the online connection to an offline experience like meeting in person, a phone call, or sending a note in the mail (snail mail).
In your report, 7 Steps to Attract More Clients in Less Time, you discuss several ways to get your name out there. But if you had to choose one thing that entrepreneurs often miss to grow their business, what would that be?
There are a never ending stream of tactics and strategies that entrepreneurs can use to grow their businesses. But the key that many miss is focus and consistency. If you’re very clear about what you want to do and who you want to do it for and you employ whatever strategies that fit for you consistently, you will get results. What I see a lot is an unfocused message and an unorganized approach to marketing, more of random shotgun approaches. Consistency trumps clever every time.
How do you start your day?
Before I get out of bed, I think about what I’m grateful for in specific terms and what I plan to accomplish for the day. Once I get up I drink warm lemon water with cayenne pepper and then eat a grapefruit. After that I fire up the computer, put on the internet radio to classical music and dive in.
I’ve heard that what you are interested in as a child can often manifest into the career/passions you follow later in life. That’s why I’m curious; what was your favorite form of play as a child?
I loved to create and make things as a child, and I still love to do that. Now it’s in the form of products and services for my business as well as ideas for my clients. When I was eleven years old all of the students at school took an assessment about our interests and mine showed that I was interested in communication and mass media so I was invited to participate in a special course. I’m known for asking a lot of questions and love doing video interviews with successful entrepreneurs for my blog. So it looks like your theory holds true for me.
Can you speak a bit about a setback you’ve faced (whether external or internal) and you overcame it?
Setbacks are a part of life and they happen often so it’s important to have a strategy for dealing with them. The first thing I do is feel what I feel and don’t try to will it away. Then I analyze the situation from a rational perspective to see what the next best action is. I try not to take it anything personally (one of The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz). And a question I recently learned from Michael Hyatt is to ask, “What does this experience make possible?” What I love about this approach is that it isn’t about trying to find the silver lining or about judging the situation as a something bad. It simply opens you up in the moment to see what can happen now.
The first thing I do is feel what I feel and don’t try to will it away.
What was the last piece of media (writing, music, video, talk, etc.) that inspired you or changed your perspective?
It wasn’t the last piece of media I consumed and it is the one that has had the biggest impact on my life, both personally and professionally. It is the idea of investigating your stressful thoughts to see if they are true, a concept shared by Byron Katie in her book, Loving What Is and on her website http://www.thework.com.
Finish this sentence. The world needs ________.
More compassion and love.
Check out my previous A Day With articles, for more interviews with passionate entrepreneurs and inspired spirits.