Professional bootstrapper A. Michelle Blakeley is one of Forbes 30 Women Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter. As a serial entrepreneur and simplicity expert, she has guided new and seasoned small business owners on how to start, sustain and grow their business for over two decades. She masterfully delivers the right information with step-by-step guidance. Her “cut to the chase” approach keeps entrepreneurs focused on timely, relevant and productive activities. She is the source for understanding and knowing how to align your purpose, principles and priorities with simple practices. A. Michelle believes what’s good for you, is good for your business. Minding the gap between your personal and professional life™
You call yourself a Micro Business Therapist. Exactly what does that mean?
Micro Business Therapy™ is the process of aligning your purpose, priorities and principles and exercising them daily. Through in depth discussions, clients determine what your purpose is and the principles and priorities that support your purpose. New clients often experience conflict in their personal and professional life. They’re unsatisfied, frustrated, unorganized, have lost direction and are constantly “reacting.” When you realign your purpose, principles and priorities; you’ll find you think clearer, you make better decisions, you are focused, more determined and more disciplined. You operate offensively, not defensively. That’s not to say that your world will be perfect, but it does make more sense and you live a more self-defined life.
And a Simplicity Expert? Can you explain that one?
I’ve always been a bit of a minimalist, even when I was younger. I’m always looking for the most efficient, effective and streamlined way to get from point A to point B. It’s a natural gift that I’ve been able to incorporate it into my professional life for the benefit of my clients.
I have to say that, based on your photo, you don’t look like the typical business consultant. Do you think this is part of your appeal?
Ha! That’s a good question. I think that comes from my Micro Business Therapy philosophy, which is – there is no “professional life” and “personal life.” There’s just life. What you do personally affects you professionally and vice versa. That’s why I think when you operate based on your purpose, principles, and priorities you operate from a position of authenticity and genuineness. The people that get “you” – the real “you,” will naturally orient themselves to you. You organically attract your tribe – the people who identify with you personally and professionally. You don’t have to be one person professionally and another person personally. You are you!
There are so many things I want to do and not enough time. So many ideas, and so few resources. I sometimes feel like I’m racing against the clock. Which is something I’m working on… slowing down. I do recognize I can only do so much and still be effective.
I’m one of those people who can’t turn their brain off. My husband and I will go for a massage and he’s snoring in two minutes while I’m making mental lists. I’m an organizer by nature. I use technology to my advantage. And I’m always looking for the quickest and simplest way to produce. Automate wherever possible, but be personal with clients. Everything starts with a system and I continuously tweak them so that they work in harmony. It’s not for the faint at heart, and it is work, but I love it.
How did your background lead you to where you are today?
I was a Virtual Assistant before that was ever a “thing.” I was very fortunate to work with some pretty savvy entrepreneurs. I used all of their experiences to sharpen and hone my own theories and practices. I went from a supportive position to one of guidance and engagement.
My daughter. She’s 24 now, but I think it’s important for her to see, from a very personal and real perspective, that you define your life. You determine what you will be, how you will live and what takes priority. You are the only person who can give your name meaning and purpose.
It’s no secret that you’ve been successful, but what’s the secret of your success?
Leveraging the wisdom (and mistakes) of others. When you are speaking with people, whether it be in casual conversation or a meeting, listen to what they tell you. Listen to what they say. There are so many nuggets of insight in random conversations, that if you’re in the moment, you can leverage the information for your benefit or avoid making the same mistake. Sometimes we’re so busy talking and spewing, we miss the message that was meant for us.
You make your living helping and giving out advice. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
You never want to be the smartest person in the room. I never would have gotten as far as I have and learned as much as I have, as an autodidact, if it wasn’t for surrounding myself with such a diverse group of smart, creative and experienced individuals along the way.
You work with both men and women entrepreneurs and small business owners. Is there a difference in the way that you work with them or what type of support they’re seeking?
Sometimes men want to get in and get it done and women want to think and contemplate. If there were any real distinction between the two, I’d say women tend to suffer more from “Imposter Syndrome.” Despite our experience and qualifications, we tend to doubt our ability to get paid what we’re worth or to be taken seriously. We shortchange ourselves. Self-validation is very empowering. You have to trust and know that you are the person to do what you do. Give yourself permission to be phenomenal and you will be.
And what’s your latest project?
I recently spoke at a small business summit in Portland. I was asked to present 3 weeks before the date. At that time, I didn’t have anything to sell in the back of the room – nothing tangible; which is not uncommon for service providers … but still. So, I wrote a book. I changed the subject matter I was speaking on and wrote a book to coincide with the topic. Zero to 60: How to start a business in 60 days or less is a realistic and practical guide on how to get from “idea” to “open.”
Normally, people write a book and promote the book months in advance. I missed the “promoting months in advance” part. I’m working on turning it into an online course. I’ll walk people through it step-by-step and add an accountability partner element, so that people stay disciplined and on track.