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Finding Sustainable Success as an Entrepreneur, with RM Harrison

Finding Sustainable Success as an Entrepreneur, with RM Harrison

Episode 109: Finding Sustainable Success as an Entrepreneur, with RM Harrison

For RM Harrison, entrepreneurial success doesn’t just mean big profit margins. After starting her entrepreneurial career as a communications designer, RM realized that to continue to flourish, she needed to find a way to keep her passions alive, even if it meant making big changes. That’s when she decided to start helping other entrepreneurs design business models that not only drive financial success but also cultivate and maintain a sense of fulfillment for the entrepreneur. In this episode, RM Harrison traces her path to becoming a Pivot Strategy Consultant and explores how entrepreneurs can stay in touch with the inner motivations that led them to start their business in the first place.

Episode Transcript

00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast, this is your host Kristy Wallace with my co-host Maricella Herrera. How's it going Maricella?

00:20 Maricella Herrera: Hey Kristy. [chuckle]

00:22 KW: Long day?

00:23 MH: Yeah.

00:23 KW: You look like you are ready to tap out for the day.

00:27 MH: Long day and it's only Monday, so we'll see how the rest of the week evolves.

00:31 KW: It's gonna be a good week, it's a good week, it's a busy week.

00:35 MH: It's always a busy week.

00:36 KW: As we get closer to the summer months, it certainly becomes a little bit more hectic for us as we like to tackle big projects and be super creative and get ready for the Ellevate summit, which we're so excited for.

00:54 MH: I'm excited for it, I love our summit. It's gonna be great, we have some great speakers, we have some great topics that we're covering and we hope to see you there, June 21st, New York City. It'll be fantastic, we'll be talking everything from what the new workforce looks like to allies and alliances and how can we support each other and all the other odds and ends for being successful and advocating for gender equality in your world.

01:25 KW: Perfect, I'm excited. And it's gonna be great. If you can't meet us in person, there's always the Livestream. So, go to, you'll be able to find information about this summit and how to sign up for our Livestream where you can watch from your home, your desk, or wherever you want to watch from. Today's guest, RM Harrison is super knowledgeable around entrepreneurship as she has made it her business to help entrepreneurs overcome growing pains and challenges and has really focused primarily on women and how to create and achieve sustainable success in business. So, great insights from RM. She's also heavily involved in our DC chapter, so if you're in that area, make sure you check out an Ellevate event and you might be able to meet RM in person. And she came through one of our previous podcast guest, Jennifer Witter who is a huge supporter and advocate for Ellevate as well so we wanna give her a quick shoutout.

02:27 MH: Yeah, love them both. Jennifer has been a supporter of Ellevate from forever. One of the first people I met when I started working here. And RM is great, she joined the DCU chapter team and has been doing a lot for the community. So, it's good.

02:44 S1: Which is such a key. I think particularly as you're talking about entrepreneurship, it's you're not an expert on everything, so being able to tap into a community for advice and side support, sometimes it can be very lonely to be building your own business. And so we really look to create and foster a community of giving back and giving back in a way that will ensure the success of all women because it is our mission, at Ellevate, to close the gender achievement gap, which means helping more women get ahead in business and find success however they define that.

03:21 MH: Awesome, awesome.

03:22 KW: Well, enjoy our podcast today with RM Harrison. It was great to talk with her. And we look forward to seeing you here next week on the Ellevate Network Podcast.


03:42 KW: RM welcome to the Ellevate Podcast, we are very excited to have you here today and excited with how we got to know you through another member of our community and a former podcast guest, Jennifer Witter. So I love to call that out, because I think the power of networks is so, so, so important and clearly, it was in this case as well. So, welcome to the Ellevate Podcast.

04:08 RM Harrison: Thank you so much, Kristy. I'm happy to be here.

04:11 KW: So RM, I wanted to start out first just learning a little bit more about you. I know you've really built a business and a brand for yourself and if you could share a little bit about that with the Ellevate community so we can get a sense of who you are.

04:28 RH: Sure. Well, I'm a business strategist and I work primarily with service-based entrepreneurs who've reached an emotional dead end [chuckle] in their businesses and they're looking for what's next. So, my job is to help them figure out what's next and then pivot so that they can cultivate more meaningful, fulfilling success, but without having to start over from scratch.

04:52 KW: Can you share a little bit more, what are some of those issues that the entrepreneurs are facing, that are leading to that decision about pivoting or getting unstuck?

05:03 RH: Yeah, well, so the core issue is that there really is a misalignment between the entrepreneurs themselves and the business that they're building. And in many cases, there's a disconnect between who they are and what they value and how they wanna work, and the kind of business, the kind of work they're doing, the kind of opportunities they're getting. But how that ends up showing up, of course most people don't think, "Oh, my business is misaligned." Right? [chuckle]

05:32 KW: Sure.

05:33 RH: They're thinking, "Oh, these clients don't value what I really do." Or, "I feel like I'm constantly underselling what I do, and so I keep getting clients who don't really get it, they don't really get what I have to offer." Or, "I'm bored with this work, or I've outgrown this work, or I'm tired of it, I don't wanna do it anymore." [chuckle] And that's just to name a couple of the many issues that come up for people who've been in the game for a while, and they realized that even though they may be making good money with what they're doing and even though they might have at one point been really excited about the work they're doing, they're now at a point where they know that this is not sustainable for them, this is not the direction they see themselves going in for the future of their work, the future of their businesses.

06:24 RH: And so I come in and assess what those disconnects are and then figure out [chuckle] what those next steps need to look like. And in many cases it's that people really just need to create a better foundation for how they're doing business, so that it's more sustainable for them.

06:41 KW: Sure. I have to tell you a story. I, at a previous company I was in, it was a startup and we ended up pivoting. And for us, it's a hard decision because you become so invested in your business model and customers and your market and you have to, I think, as a business owner, an entrepreneur, like 100,000% be behind that business model. And the signs that maybe it's time to pivot, to go in a different direction, are hard to hear and listen to when you're so committed to the direction you're on. But we ended up pivoting really, just to be clearer about who our customer was. I think we were trying to satisfy way too many customers and we really focused on this specific industry and a specific type in it and it helped us immensely. It actually really helped to take the company to another level. So I love that you're doing this because I do think it's almost this cross between business strategy and best friend who's giving you the honest scoop about what needs to happen with your business. Things we don't know always wanna hear.

08:02 RH: Yeah, there really is an intersection between the more personal development side of entrepreneurship and just what it means to have success that matters and that lasts and then the really hard-core business development. Of course you wanna make great money and you wanna un-cap your earning potential but, again, you have to be connected to what you're doing if you're ever gonna have the motivation and endurance that's required to keep a business going for years and years. So [chuckle] I like to say that I kinda get all up in your business. But it's just so I can help you get what you really want and deserve out of your career as an entrepreneur. And if that means changing your business model or repositioning what you have to offer, it isn't about giving up something, it really is more about what you stand to gain by letting go of your preconceived ideas of how things should be and assigning how you do things to be aligned with what you ultimately want.

09:07 KW: And how did you get into this specific area? Is this something that happened to you before?

09:15 RH: Yeah. I always like telling this story because it always resonates for the people that I'm talking to, and whether it's a job that they had where they realized, "Oh, my God. I went through the exact same thing. Is that what that is?" Or they are going through that or they've been through this. So I started my entrepreneurial career as a communications designer way back in 2011. In just six short months after being full-time in my business, I realized this is not what I wanna build my career on. And that is a particularly devastating [chuckle] realization when you hung everything, even you're sense of sanity, in terms of the people looking at you and your life and wondering what is wrong with you. So I went on what I call an "existential life journey" [chuckle] to try to answer all the big questions that I think most people arrive at at some point in their careers. What am I here for? What is the value I have to offer, what am I supposed to be doing with my career, what is my purpose? All those things. But more importantly, what am I after when I say I wanna be an entrepreneur and I wanna be a successful entrepreneur. And if I'm gonna be working for, essentially, the rest of my adult life, what can I do, what can I commit myself to that I'm actually gonna enjoy and feel really good about?

10:46 RH: And so in answering a lot of those questions for myself, I realized that this is probably something a lot of other entrepreneurs are [chuckle] struggling with and just not talking about 'cause I certainly wasn't talking about it with anyone. Although I did try to get advice, I tried to get coaching, but the conventional wisdom was about how to grow this successful communication design company that I had built, not on how to figure out a foundation for my entrepreneurial career that was gonna feel meaningful and fulfilling. So I really just was left to figure it out on my own. But in so doing, everything completely dropped off. So while I did have the luxury of this time to think about what I really wanted, it also meant starting completely over from scratch with my reputation and with my income. And it was a hard lesson. A lot of valuable insight about myself came out of it, but it was a very costly [chuckle] learning curve.

11:51 RH: And so I started this business first by observing and sort of having conversations with other entrepreneurs about this and figuring out whether there was some commonality there. And what I discovered was, for most people, they were in that same vein where they wanted something that felt really great and meaningful and purposeful, but they also wanted to make really good money. So this wasn't just like, "Oh, I wanna do what feels good. I still wanna [chuckle] earn a great living." And so then I was tasked with figuring out then how does one connect the dots between what is gonna feel great and what people actually are going to pay the money to do? [chuckle] And that's where my pivot strategy consulting, that's how that kicked off. In being able to fill in those dots or connect those dots, I realized, "Yeah, there's something to this." There are people who need to understand, one, how to create the right foundation but then how does that connect to understanding what the opportunities there are in the market and being able to monetize the value of what they have to offer? Yeah, so that was the... [chuckle]

13:06 KW: But I think that's something that so many of us... I think it's something that happens to many of us. You're working, oftentimes, particularly when you're starting out earlier in your career, you're working for the experience, for the paycheck. You probably don't know what you don't know. It's we're just figuring it out and then you do get to a place where it's, "Am I happy? Am I fulfilled by this career by what I'm doing? And if I'm not, what's next, how do I find something that's fulfilling, that is meaningful to me, but pays the bills?" And sometimes, I think, many, many people believe that that is unattainable, that that is a pipe dream to want to do something you love and make money while you do it.

14:03 RH: Yeah. And that's the sad thing. A lot of people have just resigned themselves to settling because it doesn't seem possible and they probably grew up with some version of that narrative, like, "Oh well, you can't have everything you want." Or, "Passion is not always gonna pay the bills, so you just need to get an education and make as much money as you possibly can [chuckle] and earn enough money so that you can have the kind of life you want." But what people don't realize is you spend so much of your time working. And nowadays, the line between work and life is pretty much blurred. So if given the opportunity, if you're presented with the opportunity that it's possible to do really great work, do something that's meaningful and enjoyable for you and also earn a great living then you owe it to yourself to at least explore that, to it least consider, "What can I do? How can I make that happen for myself?" And honestly, that's the question I wish [chuckle] more people would ask me just outright, "Ah, Kate, how can I make this happen?" But you're right, there's just this preconceived notion that it isn't, it is impossible, but that's also one of the reasons that I started on this journey and also why I wrote my book 'cause I need more people [chuckle], I want more people to know that not only is it possible, but it's imperative that they believe that and work towards achieving that for themselves.

15:41 KW: So tell me more about your book. It's called The Pivot Map. What's in this book, and why should we all run out right now and go buy it?

15:53 RH: And thankfully, you don't have to run far 'cause it's on Amazon. You can just download it [chuckle] Well, so the book is essentially the guide to uncovering your path to sustainable success as an entrepreneur. And so what I cover is what the general missing link is for entrepreneurs in their initial business strategies. And it's their concept of satisfaction and that's knowing that the impact of the work you're doing is just as great if not more so as the money you earned for it. So the time that you put into doing this and what you get out of it is just as valuable as a... I'm sorry, what you... Ooh, losing the words here. The impact of the work you're doing and the money you earned for it is just as valuable, if not more so as what you are putting into it, does that make sense? [chuckle]

17:00 KW: Yeah.

17:00 RH: I got it all badly. And most people don't start their businesses with that concept in mind. They just think, "Well, I've got a skill set I've got some experience, I can monetize this and I can do it in a way that I don't have to punch a clock every day, and I'm gonna be super successful and this awesome entrepreneur." [chuckle] And it doesn't usually work out that way. They may become super successful financially, because yeah, if you have a marketable skill set that is in demand, and you know how to price it accordingly, then you're gonna make really great money, and it's gonna be awesome financially. But what most people miss is, what am I gonna be able to commit to for the next five, 10, 15 years to not only do well starting out, but also to maintain this success, and see it grow and evolve as it needs to, to be able to make it sustainable.

18:01 RH: So, I look at that, I explore what satisfaction really means and then how to build a foundation for that in your business. So starting with understanding your genius, and that's essentially how your personality, your strength, your natural abilities, all come together to shape the value of what you bring to the table just as you are, and that really is the core of what makes any work you do meaningful and fulfilling but also sustainable. And from there, I just walk people through a process of figuring out how to monetize their genius, and then building a strategy around either evolving their business or shifting focus to be able to operate in their genius, do work they really enjoy, but not have to sacrifice their income [chuckle] just to have that.

19:00 KW: So I wanna end on a fun question 'cause I love getting to know our guests a little bit deeper and on a more personal level. So tell me what brings you the most joy outside of the work you're doing? What do you have the most fun with?


19:19 RH: It's gonna sound strange but...

19:21 KW: Oh, we like strange here.


19:25 RH: I'm an avid people observer. I don't like to use people watcher 'cause there's a little creepy element to it, but I guess I'm a behaviorist not necessarily by education, or trade, but I really love observing culture and observing how people just move and exist around one another. So, you will likely find me out brunching or cafe hopping or something. And one of the reasons, obviously I'm a foodie too, but one of the reasons is because I just like being around people and seeing how people interact with one another. [chuckle] And I get so much joy. I also learn a lot. I find it out, as I observed so much. I'm sorry, absorb so much of how people interact and it helps inform some of the other [chuckle] things I do.

20:18 KW: Well, thank you, it was so much fun talking to you today on the Ellevate podcast. I loved having you as our guest and looking forward to catching up with you at an Ellevate DC event in the near future.

20:33 RH: Yay! I'm excited. And thank you so much for having me Kristy.

20:36 KW: Of course.


20:40 KW: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate, if you like what you hear, help a girl out. Subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes, give us five stars and share your review. Also don't forget to follow us on Twitter at EllevateNTWK, that's Ellevate Network. And become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website at That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E And special thanks to our producer, Catherine Heller, she rocks, and to our voice over artist, Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much, and join us next week.


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