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Late Starters Club Podcast

This is the place for inspiration, motivation, and mindset resets. You will walk away ready to take action with practical and informative advice from some of the most amazing “Late Starters” on the planet.

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Ep98 Transcript: Interview with Sigrun Gudjonsdottir

May 15, 2023

Andrea Vahl: What if you just listen to the universe? That’s exactly what my next guest Sigrun did during her varied career. Going from architect to CEO of a software company to an eight figure business coach. She’s had a varied and very successful career, but had some bumps along the way. Listen in to today’s interview.

Hello Dreamers. Welcome to the Late Starters Club, giving you the inspiration mindset and tools you need to start something midlife and beyond. Remember, it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

Hello, Late Starters. It’s your host Andrew Vahl, and I am joined by Sigrun today. She is an amazing person that I connected with a while back at Social Media Marketing World.

I had known you before that I think Sigrun but that’s where we first actually met. So I’m super excited to have you on the podcast today.

Sigrun Gudjonsdottir: I am super excited to be here and talk about how it is to be a late starter.

Andrea Vahl: So just to give you guys a little background here, Sigrun is an award-winning business coach, international speaker, best-selling author and top podcast host.

She’s on a mission to accelerate gender equality through female entrepreneurship and she helps women start and scale their online businesses to seven figures with her tough love and no nonsense approach to business and life. Love it!

So, Sigrun, you started your business at 43 which is awesome. A late starter. I started a little bit younger than that, but your business has just skyrocketed. So tell us about your story and how you started and why you started.

Sigrun Gudjonsdottir: So I originally studied architecture and then I went into computer science and business.

And, to make a long story short, I was looking for my path and I knew I wanted a mixture of creativity and also a someting a bit scientific. So actually I ended up being a project manager in a software company after my studies – and I was already in my early thirties – and suddenly one day the company sold and I get this crazy idea that I could become the next CEO.

That’s when I started on a completely different path. Originally my dream was to be an architect and then when I finished my architecture studies, I was like, “Ah, I’m not sure I want to be an architect!” And then I got excited about the internet, so I studied computer science and suddenly I’m there with a half a degree in computer science and a full degree in architecture.

And I start to think about being a CEO of a very small software company. There were only 15 people there and this crazy idea just didn’t want to go away. And I did not have a business degree. I did not have any business experience but I got so excited about this idea. I felt after working there for a year, I knew all the clients.

I knew how this worked and I could do this. And of course I had some doubts too but people around me encouraged me to apply and I applied and I got the job. And from there I was 10 years, CEO in various small businesses. The largest business had 73 employees. They were making between seven and eight figures, US dollars in revenue.

And I did the fast track of learning how to run a business. But you know, after 10 years of running other people’s businesses, you do ask yourself, “Why am I doing this for other people? Why am I not doing this for myself?” And these thoughts will pop up from time to time. And I was even was offered the opportunity to buy one of the businesses I was running, but I didn’t have the guts to do it.

I also thought it was a huge financial commitment and I was scared. And so I had this idea lingering around for a long time, of whether I should go for it and do something of my own. And at the same time I was like, “Well, it’s got to be something amazing, it’s got to be this great business idea that you wait for, and it appears when you’re showering or on a walk.”

Nothing came along. So I was like, “Ok, that’s the reason I’m not starting a business because I don’t know what it is supposed to be.”

By then I had actually met my husband. I originally come from Iceland. I started working there but I studied in Germany and in the UK and I met my husband in London.

I picked a seat at a Tony Robbins seminar and there he was. And so I moved to Switzerland to be with my husband and my stepsons. And then I got a job in a small company. I was no longer the CEO. I was senior project manager. You could call me a managing director because they had these tiny businesses and suddenly I had a completely different job where I was pretty much sitting at my desk nine hours a day. And this exhausted me. I started to feel pain in my body -probably the desk was too high and the chair too low and I got neck pain. I got shoulder pain, back pain , headaches started to appear and I ignored it at first and thought, “Oh, this is, maybe because I’m driving.”

So I stopped driving a car. Then I took holiday and thought this would go away if I didn’t work on a computer for two or three weeks. And then it came back and it was even worse.

And one day the pain was so bad I couldn’t work anymore. And nothing was visible on the outside. I think they even doubted I was sick, my employer, and ultimately they fired me. For being sick.

And I was sick for seven months. And I could not sit at the computer, if I did after 10 minutes the pain would flare up and I almost ruined my stomach from painkillers. And I tried various things. I went walking every day for an hour. I did physiotherapy, trigger point therapy, stretching, you name it.

And slowly three, four months in it started to get better. And then I thought to myself, I cannot go back to a job like that. Actually, the doctor said you cannot work there. And I was still scared. Because when you are sick, is this the right time to start a business? But at the same time I knew this would be a good time because I needed to take care of my health. But also the great business idea wasn’t there yet.

Andrea Vahl: So you were waiting for that message from the universe, right? Waiting for that message.

Sigrun Gudjonsdottir: Yes. So I felt very lucky when I got a phone call that an Icelandic software company needed a country manager in Switzerland. So I thought this was the perfect fit. I’ve studied computer science, I’ve been running businesses, but that particular job involved cold calling.

And I had to drive one hour distances to customers, and then my pain would flare up. So ultimately I had to leave the job. Basically I told them to fire me and they did. And so by then I had lost my job twice in two years and been sick for seven months and I said, this is it.

And I went on a soul searching thing a little bit like in The Alchemist, in the Paul Coelho book. There’s a little boy searching for treasure. He goes on trip around the world only to actually find the treasure in his backyard. And that was me. I had all these business ideas – I should be a photographer, I should be a travel book author, I should be a management consultant. And the business coaching was screaming at me and I didn’t want to see it. But ultimately, after 18 months of overthinking, I just said, this is it. Here’s my blog post, and off I go. And I’m going to be a business coach.

Andrea Vahl: Right. So how did you launch that at that point? Like how did you just set up a website, hang up a shingle, and what were the launching steps? You had all this experience, experience running these big businesses, and how did you take that into launching your own business in those early days?

How did you get your first clients?

Sigrun Gudjonsdottir: It’s kind of funny because in the meantime, I had done an MBA at London Business School, which is one of the top business schools in the world. I had been 10 years a CEO. I had actually been a business consultant for various startups on the side and in between jobs.

So I was an expert in business plans. Did I write a business plan for my own business? No, I did not.

Andrea Vahl: Oh, that sounds familiar!

Sigrun Gudjonsdottir: I started to write, I started to write blog posts. I was still searching, so I wasn’t still clear on what it was that I was doing. So absolutely not the perfect start, and I think there’s probably no business that has a perfect start.

But I was writing blog posts on how to find your passion, how to turn your passion into profits, all kinds of things like that. And it was like therapy for myself, but I put it on a website so the public could read. I don’t know if I had many readers, probably not but I was active in Facebook groups.

I was so active that I probably sometimes spent four or six hours a day just answering questions without a hidden agenda. I didn’t even have an offer. I didn’t know that I was going to be a business coach. And people started tagging me. So when I finally made up my mind and said, this is what I’m doing actually, I thought, “Oh, now they will come.”

Well, the first two, three months, nothing happened. And then I got the idea of have creating a little course and that it would be for free. An d I called it ‘Passionate Thought’. So basically the idea was that you find your passion and your business idea.

Seven days later, I turned it into a four week course. My problem became my business idea. And 134 people signed up, because I had been active in all these groups. I had one week to promote it and then I had all these people going through the program and they loved it.

They said it was a little bit short, it was seven days, so I changed it to four weeks later on. And from then on, I had my first sale. Somebody went to my website and bought one hour’s business coaching for $180 and it’s the best money I’ve made in my life.

Andrea Vahl: Isn’t that true? The first, I launched a program back in 2009 or maybe it was 2000.

No, it was 2009. And I remember, I think I got two sales, and I think it was for like a hundred dollars each or something like that. Maybe it was $200, but I was over the moon. You get hooked from that first, you’re like “I made money out of nothing!”

Sigrun Gudjonsdottir: Yes. Despite 18 months of overthinking and all that other stuff that I did before. But I celebrate this day. Every year I send an email to my email list and say, 26th of March 2014, I made my first sale. And I talk about how important it is to celebrate these moments and remember them, remember where you started and be grateful for what you have achieved.

I think what I did for the next six months is something I call spaghetti marketing. It’s when you do all these things that you think you should be doing, you see other people do, but there is no proper strategy and it actually doesn’t lead to massive results.

I started to make sales from this course. I sold a few single sessions and someone approached me that knew me and said, “Can you make a website for me?” And I’m like, “Ugh, I don’t want to be doing that. That’s not my business.” But I needed the money.

So I took that project and it helped me over that first hump. And at some point, it was summertime, so six months into my business and I’m like, “Hmmm, $1,000 or $2,000 a month, this is not going to go well.” You know for someone who had a six figure salary before.This was really not what I wanted. I really wanted to at least replace my previous salary.

I wanted to try out doing a webinar. And I did a webinar, and I actually did a webinar on Canva, not business coaching just teaching tools because that felt simple. I got 67 signups without ads.

And I was like, “Ooh, I’m onto something.” And I knew I had to build my list. And so I liked it so much that I started weekly webinars. But the thing was, I was still not making proper offers. I didn’t have anaything more than one hour sessions or a four week online course, so every time someone would buy something, the amount was so small, I knew I was not be going to be able to live from this.

And in September, so nine months into my business, I said to my husband, I think I have to bite the bullet and I have to actually get help. I have to have someone teach me how this works. And I had to swallow my pride a bit. I must say, having run a company and being in a position where I was interviewed at least once a month by a newspaper or magazine because I was a female CEO, and you get a lot more attention and suddenly you have to start from the beginning.

Let’s say you are really, really good on skis and now you want to learn snowboarding and you’re constantly falling. And you don’t want to be a beginner again. Even though I had been running IT businesses and one of the businesses I ran was a website agency, I didn’t know how online business really worked.

Andrea Vahl: Yes. And like you said, you’ve had so much experience, MBA, CEO experience, and I think that it’s interesting that both helps you but also can be a mental block to say, “Oh, I don’t need to learn anything new because I have all this other experience, I should be able to figure it out.”

And I think it’s a real testament that you actually said I need help because that is a hard thing to say. And I think it’s also, like you said, humbling at this age to think, I should have this all together. And it’s a testament to your growth because you have had amazing growth.

You had a recent 2 million launch, and I think that people will also maybe look at your time span and say, wow, she’s essentially an overnight success from the time you started your business. It didn’t really take that long to get to that 2 million launch mark, but you’ve had this wealth of experience.

You went in and said, I need help. I’m going to learn more. And that’s where everything came together.

Sigrun Gudjonsdottir: Yes. And it was literally just investing. Now, the first program I invested in, this was $5,000. So I didn’t start low. I immediately went for a premium program and just as I was paying with my credit card I got an email, I think it was literally the same day or the next day, from a man who had been reading my blog posts and asked if I did coaching.

So I think there’s there is this energetical exchange where when I’m ready to willing to invest in myself people also want to invest from me.

So you kind of put out that energy.

Andrea Vahl: I love that. So are there any other bits of advice you have for people who are maybe scared to learn something new or are feeling hesitant? How would you say to get over that, that hump or that obstacle?

Sigrun Gudjonsdottir: Think it’s really important to realize that you need to learn something new. We are not born being a leader or born being a CEO. I had to learn all these things. It’s just when you get older you feel like you should know it, like you said before, and I wasted so much time.

I don’t have any regrets really, because these are great stories to tell on a podcast or with my clients. But when I see now my clients that come into my programs and they start at zero and they invest right away, and I’m like, I wish I would’ve done that instead of waiting and waiting and hoping it would somehow work out.

And sometimes it’s just a mindset shift. This investment that I made, yes, I learned how to launch, which was is my favorite topic, launching. I love having seven figure launches today, and back in the day, just having a five figure launch, that was great, but what was most important was this mindset of like, I’m in business and I need to make money, so I need to make an offer.

And you can’t just expect people to reach out to you and say, “Hey, I want to buy something from you.” You need to actively put the offer in front of them. Now, the first offer I put in front of people with this new program, nobody wanted it. Actually, one person bought it and I had to refund them. So actually, my first launch looked like a massive failure, but I pivoted and was able to just offer one-on-one coaching packages instead of selling online courses and in the next three months, I made $55,000. I made 85% of my first year’s revenue in three months.

So once it clicks, it really clicks in this business. And that was really so important to me.

And I realized since then I’ve always been a part of some programs. Sometimes I’m part of too many programs, I must say. But you constantly have to be learning. Whether it’s books or podcasts or, I recommend people are a part of a mastermind. You know, people kind of pull you with them.

So you can’t really fall back and just stay in your comfort zone. You’re constantly being challenged to try out something new. And since then I have done that. So it was just in the beginning I was like, “Yeah, I can do this on my own and I will invest once I have the money.” I realized that actually I have to invest first to make the money.

Andrea Vahl: Yes, for sure. And it is kind of a weird energetic shift that happens and I think that when you say, “My business is worth it” I think the universe says, yes it is. But also taking action, not just investing.

So you’ve had a varied career and obviously working on our own as an entrepreneur, a lot of times there can be so much overwhelm because we have all the possibility in front of us, right? We can do anything we want. So when you have got overwhelmed how have you got your mojo back?

Sigrun Gudjonsdottir: Well, I actually have a concrete story for you, which was probably more than overwhelm.

I completely lost my energy. And I think one thing to point out with late starters is that we are maybe not bringing up small kids. My stepsons are now 18 and 19, but I have aging parents. And one and a half years ago, I got a phone call to say that my father was in the ICU in Tenerife, Spain, which is the Canary Islands.

I was helping my mother reach the insurance company so they would pay for the hospital bills. And it was a huge shock for me for him to land in a hospital in a foreign country where you can’t just go for a visit. And the next day he was not feeling better, he was actually feeling worse, and I really thought I was going to lose my dad.

And that’s when I booked a plane ticket. I had to decide quickly. They don’t fly every day from Iceland to Tenerife, Spain. Just twice a week. So I was like, okay, I’m flying tomorrow, because otherwise it’s three or four more days. And I just left everything. I told my clients and my team, I’m gone.

And this is my priority right now. And it’s very good that I had built a big business and the business doesn’t solely rely on me. My programs could actually run without me. And that’s the important thing that I tell the women I work with, they’re so scared of scaling up and having bigger businesses and having teams. I’m like, I could not have left my business just like that if I had a really small business and not a team.

Anyway, I leave and I pack for two weeks because I don’t know how long I will be. I ended up being two months supporting my parents. My mother got sick as well.

My dad got Covid in the hospital, so when he was about to recover from his pneumonia he got Covid and he ended up being 64 days in isolation. During all of this of course I’m supporting them and I worked almost nothing on my business. I really just left it behind and I didn’t realize.

And then we came home just before Christmas. This was the weirdest Christmas I’ve had because no one had time to decorate or do anything big. My dad was there but he was so weak after lying in hospital for two months and we were all in shock. And then I go into a launch in January, it’s a seven figure launch.

But after the launch I was just finished, I was just absolutely finished and the whole of 2022, the whole of last year was me just recovering from this experience. At the same time that my parents are sick and I’m taking care of them I lose my most important person on the team. My marketing director, who’s been with me six and a half years, it was time for her to leave.

If she wouldn’t have gone, I would have had to have let her go because our relationship and her role in the team was no longer the one that I wished for, but still I realized that was another loss, almost like a divorce loss. There was a grief. I went through this grief. I saw these holes in my business. And every time I was just seeing, feeling grief, I really missed her and I missed her beyond a regular employee.

Because we had worked together so long and she was with me almost from the beginning. So what did I do? Even though some people suggested I go and talk to a therapist, I ended up not doing it. I have nothing against therapists. I’ve gone to many in my life and they’ve always been helpful, but I realized, for me personally, I felt I just needed to wait, spend time with family, take it easy In the business. We just made the same revenue in 2022, as in 2021, so no growth but also no backslide.

I just really took care of myself and spent a lot of time with friends and family and then towards the end of the year I felt my energy come back and then I could have a $2 million launch endeavor.

But it is important, I think, when you are a late starter, this is a topic.

Andrea Vahl: Right. And people don’t bring that up and don’t talk about that enough, that we are working with our aging parents. I had a similar thing in 2021 with my father, who battled cancer and ended up passing away.

And it takes you down at the knees. And it’s hard, you can’t plan for that. You can’t plan, “Oh, just in case this big medical emergency happens and I need to be offline for two months.” So I think that’s an important thing to realize.

And I also think that our energy is different here in midlife. When I was just starting my business 14 years ago, I could stay up till two o’clock working on stuff and that’s no longer the case. I’m like, it’s 11pm, that’s late enough! Let’s go to bed.

But I do think, we were talking beforehand a little bit about it just being a perfect time to start something new at the same time. Because I think we’ve got wisdom, right? Wisdom beats energy.

I’s great that you are able to be there with your family. I think that’s also an amazing reason to start a business, to have that time to support your family.

I can’t believe we’re at the end of our time already. It’s just been a joy talking to you, but I love to end our time together with either a quote or inspirational saying that has inspired you in this time to keep going.

So I’d love to hear your inspirational quote.

Sigrun Gudjonsdottir: When I was only 10 months into my business finally figuring this thing out, one of the people I talked to on a free discovery call was on the TEDx board in Zurich and invited me to speak based on all my webinars. So that was amazing because it was on my vision board and I didn’t think it would come through so fast.

And as I was preparing my talk, I also wanted to have a quote, and my talk was very much about having a vision following your dreams, and I found this beautiful quote by Oprah, “You’ve got to follow your passion. You’ve got to figure out what you love, who you really are, and have the courage to do that.”

Andrea Vahl: I love that. It definitely takes a lot of courage to step into that and to plant your flag out there, put it out there, start that business. And I am so excited for all your success. So congratulations. And hopefully next time I get to Iceland I can see you, I know you travel around a lot, but we missed each other last time, last year when I was there.

I know we’ll see each other in person sometime soon. But yes, thank you Sigrun. Why don’t you let people know where they can find you or how they can get connected to you. Feel free to share any free resources and we’ll have these links in the show notes.

Sigrun Gudjonsdottir: First of all, if anyone wants to start an online business, I have written a book, ‘Kickstart Your Online Business – Create an Online Course and Start to Make Sales’. So based on my own experience of having that free course in the first three months of my business, that actually was the beginning. And now it goes a lot faster.

10 weeks to start your business, you can find it on Amazon, Kickstart Your Online Business. And the best way to connect with me , my website is sigrun.com and I’m sigruncom – one word – on all social media channels and I am on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.

Andrea Vahl: Awesome. Well, Sigrun, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with our late starters here and I’ll just continue to root for your fabulous success.

Sigrun Gudjonsdottir: Thank you for having me, Andrea. It’s been a pleasure.

Andrea Vahl: Bye everyone.

Hope that was helpful, and make sure you grab the free guide Top Tools for Late Starters on the website at latestartersclub.com and let’s turn dreaming into doing.

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Late Starters Club Podcast
Late Starters Club Podcast

This is the place for inspiration, motivation, and mindset resets. You will walk away ready to take action with practical and informative advice from some of the most amazing “Late Starters” on the planet.

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