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Women in Wellness Career Summit

Create gorgeous growth for your blissful business in health & wellness.

Michelle Villalobos

Founder of The Women’s Success Summit

Michelle Villalobos is a professional speaker and founder of The Women’s Success Summit, Miami’s largest 2-day business conference for women. In 2011, Michelle was named as one of Miami’s “Top 20 Under 40” by The Miami Herald, she was a Finalist in the Business Excellence Awards, and in 2013 she won The Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge for her online personal branding curriculum. Michelle has an MBA from The University of Miami and a degree from Dartmouth College in Psychology and Mathematics. Visit Michelle’s Website

Interview Transcript

Dr. Gabby: Welcome Michelle. Thank you for joining us.

Michelle: Hi Gabrielle. Thanks for having me. Or, Dr. Gabby I should say.

Dr. Gabby: So, I attended the women’s success summit this year and it was a remarkable event. I mean just the sort of range of women that attended, and just the level of professionalism, and production, I thought was really inspiring. During that event, one of my favorite parts was how you shared your story of starting off sort of on a professional path that wasn’t very exciting, or just aligned with who you really are and then becoming more authentic and developing your business that you have now. I’m wondering if you could share a little bit of that story with the listeners, because they didn’t have the opportunity to hear it.

Michelle: Of course. So, when I graduated from college I really didn’t understand what I wanted to do, I wasn’t very clear, so I took a lot of opportunities based on whatever was available at the moment. So, I bounced around for several years, ultimately ended up in a job and working my way up from the bottom all the way to the top at a magazine in Miami. I started making a lot of money and I was probably in my early 30s, I’d just turned 30 at the time, early 30s and I realized that I was miserable. I was sick all the time and I dreaded going to work, there was a lot of anxiety and pressure, and I blamed the job. Later, looking back I think it wasn’t so much the job, it was me. But, I blamed the job and so what I did was I struck out on my own. I started my own business, thinking that was going to fix everything. I would finally be my own boss; I’d be free. I could be the master of my own destiny, that was the hallucination that had in mind. So, I started my business and I did what I think a lot of us do when we start a business, we look around and we say, “Who do I need to be? How do I need to market myself? How do I need to look in order to make money?” Right? That was kind of my number one priority at the time. I’d left this job and I had to start making some cash flow on my own, so I looked at “How can I position myself to make money?” That was where I started “my branding journey.” I looked around and thought, “Well, I want to be a consultant.” Because, I thought consultants had it made, they give people advice, they get to analyze, they get do these smart intellectual things and they get to make money doing that. I had an MBA and I had a lot of success in my magazine career and I thought “I can apply this to other businesses.” Right? I can help them build their sales; that’s where I really thought I could add a lot of value pretty quickly. So, I branded myself as this consultant and when I looked at the world of consulting, I saw that consultants tended to brand themselves in a very professional way. And so I took some very professional headshots, I wore suits, and I created a website that was very professional, and my brand was very much very corporate. Some of the inauthenticities there, for example which I think some people could probably relate to, on my website it talked about “we do these services and we do that and we do training” and of course it was only me in the business. It was a big lie and it’s not like I intended to lie, this is sort of what I was taught, you have to position yourself like they could see you naked, right? Talk about yourself in the royal we so it sounds more important, more trustworthy, more reliable. And so, I did that for a long time and because I started to, I started my business in the middle of 2007 and by 2008 things had gotten pretty bad in the economy and people weren’t spending money on all this stuff, so I got really desperate. And so, I started just kind of taking anything I could get and at any price, $500 budget, $700 budget, a thousand dollars. I was barely scraping by. It was difficult. I had no real focus, I was just like “How do I survive?” I was in survival mode and I felt like everybody was a competitor, because I wasn’t clear about what I did. And so, anybody who was any kind of consultant or trainer or even coaches at the time, even though I wasn’t identifying myself as a coach, everybody was competition. Because, anytime somebody any kind of support or help, I thought that I could provide it, because I had such a broad skill set. That was a big mistake. So, fast forward, now I have a pretty strong focus on women entrepreneurs, especially those who are coaches. So, that’s my gift right? Is helping coaches kind of follow the path that I followed but do it a lot faster. So, I have a pretty clear focus, my events are much more aligned, I do the Superstar Speaking Academy, I finally made a stand for who I am and who I serve and that was a big part of the puzzle. And, I also brought my brand into alignment with my authentic true self; I stopped trying to pretend I was this professional, navy blue suit wearing person. I started incorporating color and fun into my brand. I got authentic and I really honored my true identity and started building a brand around that. There’s like a million other things I could tell you, but that’s really it at the core of where everybody needs to start, who are you really and are you portraying your authentic self into the world? And, is your message and mission aligned with that?

Dr. Gabby: I think this more authentic brand that you’re describing, the color and the fun came through loud and clear at the conference. There was dancing, there was big dream catchers hanging on the stage, everyone was wearing bright colored scarves, and it was really present in more ways than one at the event.

Michelle: Awesome! I’m so glad to hear that. Thanks for sharing that.

Dr. Gabby: Absolutely! One of the things that was meaningful to me at the event, was when you talked about finding your crew. I was wondering if you could maybe share with the listeners what it means to find your crew?

Michelle: Sure! So, crew is a distinction that I picked up over the last year really, year and a half maybe. In the past, it’s pretty funny actually, because one of the things that I’d tried to do in my old brand was position myself as a team building person, like somebody who could help do team building activities and facilitate that. That’s really pretty funny, because I didn’t know how to do that myself. I’d never had a team until the last year and a half. And so, the distinction of crew… well let me go back to team is this idea that people work together to achieve a common outcome and that you need a team to support you. Right? And that’s great. But, there’s a higher level, more intense level of team which we call “crew,” which is really directly borrowed from the Marines, no man left behind, no woman left behind in our case. And so, the concept of crew for us is that we speak the unspoken, so that’s the first fundamental tenet of crew, is you have to speak the unspoken. I’ll go into these each individually. But, speaking the unspoken. The second is your needs are my needs, meaning we share a common goal for ourselves and for each other and we’re totally committed to that goal. And the third is 1 + 1 = 11, so when we put two things together they have to be synergistic, they have to be greater than the sum of the parts. And so, the reason that speak the unspoken is so important is that you can’t have synergy and you cannot have crew without honest communication. And so, speaking the unspoken is even when, and especially when it’s uncomfortable, that’s when we know that we have to speak it and so just having that speak the unspoken has taken my team, my crew to a whole new level. We have that level of relationship too with the members of my mastermind group, my inner circle. So, crew is a distinction that has made a huge difference in our team and in our lives. You know what Gabby? You have to give me one second I have to say “bye” to someone who’s my crew, who’s leaving my house in the Dominican Republic. (Bye Tammy, bye speaking to person in background, not part of this program). So, my crew has been with me in the Dominican Republic, we did a trip with my mastermind group and my head of operations is leaving December 31st to travel China for 3 months. She’s leaving right now, it just so happens it coincides with this call. She’s been incredible.. Actually, it’s a great opportunity to talk about what crew really looks like. She’s taken on my business as if it were her own and she’s just put in a level of commitment and service to the business that I’d never had any one commit before. And the big insight that I had was when I first hired her, I brought her in as an independent contractor, I didn’t make her an employee, I only paid her a retainer, it was really low, and when I realized, when I understood the distinction of crew, like really truly got it, I called her up and I said “Look I want to make you an employee, I want to give you benefits, I want to all this stuff” and from that moment on our relationship shifted. So, the key to crew is that you have to commit first, right? Rather than be like, “Well, they’re not crew to me so I can’t be crew to them.” You begin, you start, it starts with you. Does that make sense?

Dr. Gabby: Yeah! Absolutely! Definitely! I’ve heard that before, that you give and then you give and you give and then you get in return, that you’re not coming from a place of neediness and stuff like that, you’re coming from a place of service and generosity and putting yourself out there.

Michelle: It’s so important to do that also with a strong set of values and standards, because you can get taken advantage of by people who don’t uphold the same level of standards and values. So, you can imagine if you give, give, give to someone who doesn’t share your same values then you could end up losing out and so, that’s the other big distinction of crew. Crew for us is one value out of 10 values. The crew value goes alongside values like integrity, which means we do what we say we do. It goes alongside the value of full self-expression. So, there’s all these other values that give crew context, you can’t have crew with just anybody. You can only really have crew with people who are committed to the same set of values as you are.

Dr. Gabby: Awesome. That’s awesome. Can you share a little about the other two? The your needs are my needs and the..

Michelle: So, your needs are my needs basically is that I’m so invested in your success and your outcomes that they occur for me like my own needs. So, we see this now inside of our mastermind crew, where… I don’t know if you saw it Gabby, maybe you did, at the Women’s Success Summit, one of our crew members, Mary Wong came and sponsored the event so that she could get people to come to her event, which is the Women’s Symposium in Boca. And so, her declaring that was her need, I don’t know if you saw that, our inner circle rose up all around her and started to support her in getting people registered, they all went out of their way to provide gifts and prizes and just get people registered. They are still doing that, today we got … One of our crew members in Whatsapp posted “Hey it’s Mary’s birthday! Let’s send out blasts for her Women’s Symposium. So they are taking it on as if it was their own event.

Dr. Gabby: I saw that afterwards too, because I attended a networking event that Jennifer Grace was at and several other women showed up and they invited people to come and I definitely saw that in action also after the conference.

Michelle: Yeah! So, when you have crew and you really, really have crew, you’re not alone any more and as an entrepreneur that’s one of the biggest challenges, right? Is this lone wolf syndrome that so many of us have and we feel like, I know I did, “It’s all on me, I’ve got to do it all myself. I have to prove myself. If I can’t do this alone, then I’m not worthy.” There’s all these, for lack of a better term, limiting beliefs around that and so surrounding yourself with people who hold the same values and are committed to holding you to a higher standard, it brings us all up. You know, there’s a piece of crew also, there’s a piece of leadership to actually, we’ll get into that in a minute, let me finish up with your needs are my needs. So your needs occur for me as my own, if I can support you and help you and I know we’re a crew, the day that I need it you’re there for me too. Then, you’ve got all of a sudden a network of people who are willing to support you and it’s not so scary to do things like put on an event or declare that you’re going to publish a book, because you know you’ve got crew backing you up.

Dr. Gabby: Absolutely.

Michelle: And then the third piece is one plus one equals eleven. It doesn’t work to have crew if there’s not something bigger that’s going to get created at the end, like what’s the point? You might as well go off and do it yourself, if it’s just going to be the same results. Right? One plus one equals two. No big deal, nothing new is created, no new value in the world, but if we say “You plus you together, we can create something bigger. Well, that’s the best synergy and we want to find people for crew that truly bring added value. Not just people who are going to keep the status quo or even pull us down.

Dr. Gabby: Right. How do we create new value? What does it mean to you, to create something that’s successful, prosperous, it’s not just signing up some more people to do an event or something, it’s bigger than that? Right?

Michelle: Oh yeah! It kind of depends on what your values are I guess. In our case one of our values is impact, so we want to be in crew with people who want to make a big impact on the planet. That’s one of my value, it’ doesn’t necessarily apply to everybody, but for us that’s what makes sense. So we would bring in people that are committed to making a bit impact. People who have a mission, who have a message, those are the kinds of people that I want to be in crew with and that’s one of the values for my crew. But, you can make up your own values, whatever’s important to you. Like for you Gabby, one of your values might be alternative healing methodologies or modalities, right? Like we believe in trying everything else first before we go to Western medicine. I’m making this up, but you want to attract people that align with your own values.

Dr. Gabby: Absolutely. Absolutely. So then, you also mentioned this idea of leadership. Andy why is leadership important in this process?

Michelle: It’s funny because I never thought it was. It’s one of those words that I sort of scoffed at like, “Yeah whatever leadership. It’s like this buzz word in corporations and stuff.” And what everything boils down to at the end of the day is leadership. You’re a leader, you’re leading a tribe of coaches. I’m a leader. So, this leadership is this quality of … First of all leaders go first, that’s one of our mantras in my inner circle, “Leaders go first.” So leadership is not talking about stuff, it’s about doing stuff and showing the way through congruent action. So, so many times, and this was my story, right? Also, I was totally inauthentic around leadership in that… I want to put this gently, because I don’t want to insult anyone. But, there’s so many coaches out there including me, who are positioning themselves as experts and leaders, but they are not aligned with their own leadership. In other words, they might be coaching people around money, but they’re not making money. And so, this kind of fake it until you make it thing is not serving people. So, one of our mantras is to be a leader, you have to go first, you have to show through congruent action. So, leadership is about three things really, it’s about surrounding yourself with… Actually, it’s first about receiving leadership, right? Leaders receive leadership, a really great leader does not think that they know everything and does not think that they are the end all be all. A great leader, and all great leaders are receiving leadership from somewhere. So, a great leader knows how to receive leadership, knows how to be open to feedback, knows how to be coached and mentored, and led. The second thing a great leader does to have leadership or embody leadership is that you surround yourself with leaders. So, you surround yourself with an environment of excellence. A leader is not a loner and that’s what I was. For the longest time I was positioning myself as a leader, but I wasn’t getting coached from anywhere, I wasn’t investing in my self-development and so that was incongruent. If I’m going to say you should invest in coaching, well I need to show that I’m getting coached. If I’m saying you need a mentor, then I need to show that I have a mentor. So there’s that congruent leadership thing. So a leader receives leadership, a leader surrounded by leaders, and a leader goes first, those are the three things.

Dr. Gabby: Awesome. That’s awesome. I remember also a strong message that I got at the conference was, that a lot of this is grounded in self care and taking care of yourself as you are building your business, as you’re doing the entrepreneur journey, as you’re finding your crew, right? A big part of this is taking care of yourself in the process.

Michelle: Yeah. I would actually say that’s probably been my biggest lesson personally over the last year and a half. A lot has changed in the last year and a half, and the biggest part is the self-care. You know what I found was that… What I did and I notice a lot of women do, is we give, give, give, especially coaches. Coaches are usually driven by desire to support and lead and help. And so, what that looks like a lot of times is “I’ll help you and I’ll put myself second to you. So your needs are more important than my needs.” So, that’s dangerous, because we women need, as femininity and feminine leadership necessarily involves taking care of ourselves. We have to be mentally and emotionally fit and stable in order to be able to lead others. Usually us, at least with me and a lot of the other women I see, the first thing that goes out the window when we have a lot of responsibilities is our own self care, meaning sleep, meaning proper food, meaning exercise, and these are the things that can make us sick, that will make us sick, absolutely make us sick, and then at the end of the day we can’t deliver as much to the planet. We can’t deliver as much to our crew, we can’t lead. So, the first, first thing is to really understand yourself, what are you needs? Really, what do you really want from a lifestyle perspective? What works for you? Some of us just want to work 20 hours, some of us are fine working 50, but really being honest with yourself about what works and then aligning your business around those needs. That’s pretty much step one and that’s where we get into the model. What’s your model of business? Are you doing a one on one coaching model? A group model? Mastermind model? A subscription model? An event model? Or some combination of all of the above? It’s so important to get that model piece straight, so that it supports your lifestyle and your self care.

Dr. Gabby: That’s so awesome. And, when you speak now and when I heard you speak on stage, it feels like you come from a really empowered place. It feels grounded and it feels like also vibrant and sort of connected to a larger vision. And one of the things that has come up repeatedly with my beginner students, clients, people who are starting out is they’re experiencing so much self doubt and insecurities, worries. Is there some advice or tips that you have to help them become more like you, more empowered, and confident, and able to share their message in a very expressive and authentic way?

Michelle: Thank you! Thanks Gabby! That’s really sweet and nice to hear. I appreciate that. So, I would so there are a few elements at play here and I’ve definitely come a long way and I plan to come even further. But, the first is the self care bit, I’ll talk from my experience, having my mental and emotional state under control, (and when I say control I use that term loosely, I mean like you can’t really control everything, especially not emotions, having ways to stay energy rich, let’s put it that way, being energy rich, which by the way is one of our core values)

Dr. Gabby: I love that! I love it!

Michelle: Yeah, right? Being energy rich, coming from an energy rich place is so empowering and so, I use to have moments, and I still have moments, where I’m energy poor or energy neutral. So energy poor looks like, “It’s so hard, these circumstances are in my way and my kids need this and my husband wants that. I’m sorry I couldn’t,” this kind of victim-y kind of place. And it’s very easy to get into there, especially if you’re dramatic like I am. Because you can just bring people into your story, you can totally… and people are so used to forgiving you for having bad circumstances, they’ll let you off the hook, but we don’t do that. So, that’s number one, are you being energy rich right now? Or are you coming from an energy poor or energy neutral place. So that’s step one. And then, what I’ve found for me is number one awareness of how I am energetically, how I’m being. I never used to have that. I wasn’t necessarily in touch with or in tune with how I’m being in any given moment, so that’s that self-awareness and having tools. So, some of those tools for me include meditation is a big one, things like work out, getting my heart rate up, getting fit, doing yoga, things like that is a big piece. Getting my food situation and my health situation organized. I was a terrible eater. I was a heavy drinker. I was a smoker. I was kind of a disaster health-wise for many years. And so, getting that, like having a commitment to my new identity as a healthy person, getting that clear, like “I am a healthy person” and not “I am an unhealthy person trying to be healthy,” which is a non empowering identity versus my new identity, which is “I am a healthy person and I make healthy person decisions and healthy people don’t eat crap and they don’t to oblivion and they don’t smoke cigarettes.” So, that was one piece, getting that mental, emotional, physiological state better. The second piece is really, again, leadership and coaching, having other people outside of me and being open to their feedback and their input. The more often I get feedback and input and the more open I am to it, the quicker I grow, the quicker I evolve. I would say that I make shifts in my life daily as opposed to annually in the old days, where I’d never get that critical feedback or honest feedback. So, having that leadership piece and then having crew, I would say crew is huge, because crew is going to hold you to account when you’re not living up to the standards and values. They’re around you all the time and it’s just easy to get that speak the unspoken feedback in the moment and integrate, integrate, integrate as opposed to waiting for a weekly coaching call or something like that. Does that make sense?

Dr. Gabby: Yeah. What I hear you saying is that what you’re putting in is what’s coming out. So, if you’re putting in all this good stuff, good food, good meditation, good fitness, good relationships, then what’s coming out is awesome and delicious.

Michelle: Yes! Exactly!

Dr. Gabby: Yeah, that’s so fun. So, we are unfortunately running out of time. I want you to share how our listeners could learn from you, participate in something that you’re doing, find you online. What are the ways they can connect with you?

Michelle: Absolutely. That would be awesome. So the thing that we do really, really well, or one of the things we do really well is we put together a damn good event. Our events we go over the top, we hit it out of the park and so, I have two big events a year. I just finished the Winter Success Summit back in November and we have the Super Star Speaking Academy coming up in June, early June. So, since we don’t have the June event open for registration yet, the best thing you could do if you’re interested in those, is right now just go to my website and opt in to my email list. Another thing you could do … Oh and by the way, you can find my website by just Googling my name, so Michelle Villalobos, the way the gringos say it or Villalobos the say the latins say it. If you just Google Villalobos or Villalobos you’ll find me even if you misspell it.

Dr. Gabby: We’ll have links they can just click.

Michelle: Ok, good you have links! Perfect! And then, the other thing, why not join our Facebook group? I think it’s an open group. It’s called “The Work And Play Forum” and it’s for people, or women entrepreneurs that want to build a business that allows them to work and play everyday. Meaning that while you’re working it feels like play and while you’re playing, you’re business is working. So, if you can join that Facebook group, we just started that a couple of months ago and already we’ve got some nice traction. It’s a great place to connect with a lot of people who share our same values, because my whole inner circle is in there and a lot of clients are in there, so that’s a great place to connect with good, high quality people.

Dr. Gabby: Nice! I’m a big fan of everything you’re doing and I feel like you’re going to do even more cool things and have even more impact. So, I just want to say I’m so grateful you came on board and shared some of your wisdom and expertise with us. Thank you so much for being here today.

Michelle: It was my pleasure. I loved it. Thank you.

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