Episode 22: Breaking Down Money To Give Financial Freedom, with Shannon McLay

The number of women I get to speak with who are tackling different businesses and brands continues to amaze me! Today’s guest, Shannon McLay, is the founder of The Financial Gym, which provides you with a personal financial trainer to put you in control of your finances, one step at a time.

Shannon starts by telling me how she was living life according to plan, checking all the boxes and making money, when she realized that she wasn’t truly happy or enjoying what she was doing. What Shannon did next is pretty bold — she continued working her 9-5 at Merrill Lynch while taking on (what she called) pro bono clients that didn’t meet her financial threshold but needed real help. This is what brought her to life! She started the The Financial Gym slowly, working off referrals and building her team accordingly.

Shannon and I jump into some personal development pieces that I LOVED — my favorite being when she puts herself in time out and how she curates her social media. She also gives us insight into her schedule and when she forces herself to take off. We finish with her breaking down what The Financial Gym is and how she envisions helping their clients.

Shannon has such a great story of someone who found her passion and continued to forge the path to make it a business. Whether you have your finances in a spreadsheet or have no idea what you are doing, this episode and The Financial Gym can help! Make sure to check out their site, Instagram and Shannon’s podcast.

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22. Breaking Down Money To Give Financial Freedom, with Shannon McLay

The number of women I get to speak with who are tackling different businesses and brands continues to amaze me! Today’s guest, Shannon McLay, is the founder of The Financial Gym, which provides you with a personal financial trainer to put you in control of your finances, one step at a time.

Full Transcript:

Dana: Are you dying at the thought of missing a single one of your baby’s first would have no idea how you’d give up the security that your nine to five job brings. My name is Dana Graham and I had no clue how to escape that vicious 40 Hour Workweek cycle either until I did, as the wife of a traveling husband and mom of two tiny humans, I made the terrifying and totally bizarre leap from health insurance broker to successful newborn and family photographer, all with the amazing craziness of a two year old and the newborn in tow. But I’m not the only one. I’m so glad you’re joining me as I chat with other moms who took the leap into entrepreneurship and created the ultimate best of both worlds life doing it all amidst the chaos. Alright everybody, welcome back for another episode of amidst the chaos, I’m here with Shannon McClay she is fantastic and seriously such an expert in her field I feel like we have so many experts in their field. Come on, but Shannon is somebody that can teach you, even if you’re not looking to become an entrepreneur. She can teach you so many things about improving your life and your money situation So Shannon. Welcome. Thank you, Dana, I’m excited to be here today. Okay, so tell us what you do now so everybody has a clear idea of who you are and what you and your company does.

Shannon: Yes, I am the founder and CEO of a company called the financial gym and I say where you go to kick your assets into shape and your bad money habits to the curb. So, it’s a physical place we have four locations but also we work virtually with people of all financial shapes and sizes to get financially healthy.

Dana: Yes and it is such a super amazing safe place to be able to go and and get resources for getting your finances back in order. I know just even following you on Instagram has been such a help for me and my family so Shannon, about your story and you as an entrepreneur and we’ll talk about your business and what it does later but give us a picture of what your life looked like before you had this idea to start the financial gym, what were you doing with your career, what were you doing with your family, how did your life look.

Shannon: Yeah, I always laugh when I tell the entrepreneur story of my chapter journey of my life because I never wanted to be an entrepreneur. I never wanted to start a business and here I am. Eight years later, running a business that I started so it just kind of cracks me up but my career journey started in college and I, when I decided to be a business major and I wanted to be a business major because I wanted to make money with the least amount of schooling possible so I was like, Well, you know, law is out Madison’s out So business is in, and I was a business major in college, I graduated in 2000. I had a job and a trading floor at an investment banking job, and I did that and worked in different trading floors and for a hedge fund briefly for like the next 10 ish years and I used to tell people all the time I’m not changing the world I’m just making money, and that was like my sole purpose in life and then I hit about 30, and all my friends were turning 30 and, like, freaking out because they didn’t achieve some of the goals maybe they weren’t married yet, they didn’t have a child, they didn’t love their career and 30s this transitional year and I remember telling my then husband. Now ex husband, spoiler alert, like, 30 is gonna be so easy for me because you know we’re married, we’ve got skid. This great house I have this great job like 30 is gonna be the best and I threw this big 30th birthday weekend, had a great time six months later, had a complete meltdown. I was like, Whose life did I sign up for I did not want the kid I didn’t want the husband I didn’t want the job I didn’t want the house, it was like, I just had this depression, and it was like I did all the things I checked all the boxes I signed up for somebody else’s life though and it was, it was really depressing and in the process around that time of having that kind of realization I was getting life coach and my life coach gave me this book called happiness, and it was about written by a Buddhist monk, and it was essentially 400 pages of a lot of woowoo but it was speaking to me and at the end. At the end of the book, he said that the way to have long term sustainable happiness is help other people without expecting anything in return. So, like opening a door and not expecting a thank you, level of helping people, and that was truly my first aha moment to starting the gym because that really spoke to me and I thought, This is what my purpose needs to be I need to help people, and I need to figure out a way to do that and they didn’t know how, but it was just the beginning of the journey so then I ended up working for Bank of America Merrill Lynch at the time and I was working with Merrill Lynch financial advisors and in the process to I also needed an advisor and I remember just becoming woke to the advisory space and I’d been in male dominated professional career, but, you know, in the process of looking for an advisor I realized 85% Are men. And I always say there’s nothing wrong with that I married a man i Birds, a man of a male lover. Truly, but it just felt really unfair because it was so obviously skewed and money so personal and I thought, you know, this is maybe this is what I need to do I’m going to become a financial advisor, I’m going to help more women become financial advisors, that’s what I kind of thought I was supposed to do and so I became a financial adviser, and to work with me, I’d have 250,000 in assets, and at the time I didn’t think anything of it I had been around money and had 13 year career in financial services I thought this is going to be easy and I was bringing in high tech, they’re called high net worth individuals I was bringing in those clients and, but I was meeting a whole other group of people too and you know I laugh because as hell sir all the time I laughed at my quote mentor at the gym and I always use quote mentor because I really didn’t take any advice and I kind of laughed at most of it but he told me at Merrill Lynch that I should pre screen all my calls and make sure that people have money before I even meet with them because they won’t even count as a client, if, if they, you don’t know and I remember thinking that is the craziest thing I can’t imagine asking somebody how much they have in their bank account before we have coffee that’s just not what I’m going to do so, I took every meeting with every person, so I would have people reach out to me, Hey, I want a financial advisor or a financial planner I’m like sure, let’s meet, and the first meeting was this woman who said, I have 250,000 of student loan debt, and I make $50,000 a year and, you know, I don’t know how I’m going to do this and it was not the 250,000 I needed to have her as a client but I really wanted to help her, and she, you know, the thing that always resonates with me still. Nine years later was that she said I just feel unlovable, like who would want to marry me with all this debt. And, my gosh, so many emotions are so I didn’t have anything to help or at Merrill but I started doing these plans on the side, it was like this dirty little secret I became the worst financial advisor ever, because I love my clients was no money, I call them my pro bono clients, and I was doing that on the side and I did that for a few months and then had my, you know Oprah, aha, like lightning striking moment of the Jim happened a few months into that and it was a week of my life and the week started with this quarterly review with a couple that had made over a million dollars invested with me and we’re going over their portfolio and it was down 3% because the market was down and they were just like losing their minds you know like how are we going to put the kids through college, what what are we going to do is like the world was ending, and I remember, you know, thinking these are not problems and I spent an hour of my life making these two people feel better about being a little less rich, and it was just really soul sucking and I thought I guess this is like what I signed up for. And then two days later I had a meeting with a pro bono client, and I did a plan for her, just like our plans at the gym is just in plain English, bullet points, here’s how much you have to save here’s how you deal with their credit cards, here’s what you do this, do that. And at the end of the meeting, she said, you know you’re saving my life. Right. And I was like, Oh, this feels so much better than that other meeting and literally all at once, I was like, I have to create a company for people like this which are the majority of Americans, I was learning all this stuff at Merrill to help people with money but it really needed to be to a bigger group of people and the same time I was on a weight loss journey and losing my quote baby weight for my son that could read at this point so it wasn’t really a baby but I was on his weight loss journey and I was like, thinking at the time you know that there are so many places I could go to get physically healthy, but if people want to get financially healthy, where would they go and, and that was my dilemma where do I send these pro bono clients to a place or a person that’s going to treat them like human beings and with respect, no matter what’s in their bank account and I thought if you want to get financially healthy you would go to a financial gym and I saw it very clearly, all at once, literally it came out of the blue I saw very clearly I was like, it’s like h&r block but finding cool advisors or trainers they wear jeans and T shirts, people pay a monthly membership fee, just like a regular gym and just like a regular gym, anyone can work out there with their money, and that was eight years ago now, and I knew nothing about starting a business, I knew nothing about raising money, I knew nothing about any of that and you know just went on the journey and the first two years of it were very dark, years I quit Merrill, I was, you know, people told me bootstrap it figure out, you know, if people even pay for this. My family thought I lost my mind. They were like, you had this great job at Merrill Lynch now you’re helping people with no money, like what happened to you, you know my even my ex husband for a period of time was like, you’ve lost your mind and then I did that for about two years went through everything I own literally I remember the day I had to tell my husband that there was nothing left in my 401k when I started the gym I had over $250,000 and I, there was nothing left because I was not charging people a lot of money and having to sell pay for the household stuff. And at that point I was like, I should just go back and work for the bank again I mean I just need to make money, this was fun helping people but you know I need to support family again. And he said, No, you’re on to something. because he had seen the results I was getting over those two years he’s like I still have money left in my IRA, let’s keep going, and then literally a few weeks later I had coffee with a former boss of mine for Bank of America days, and he was telling him about the work I was doing with people the results and he had just been fired and he said, I have this severance pay out. How do you think I should invest it and I said I think you should invest in a small financial services company that’s about to run out of money, and it was my first $100,000 check, and he sent it to me in an envelope that said knock him dead. And then that was in 2015 and to date now I’ve raised by the end of this week all have raised over $10 million for the gym, and wow, now we have four gyms, two in New York, one in DC one in LA. We work with people in every state across the country across the US, and we’ve today helped 10s of 1000s of people with their finances

Dana: so amazing and such a crazy story I feel like there were legitimately so many turns where it could have gone so differently and it didn’t. And I think that, realizing that this has been a process that wasn’t just the eight years since you started but all the years prior to that leading up to it that brought you to this conclusion so I want to back up just a little bit so when you were talking about reading that book happiness, and you know what you said to me was that you said, Okay, I think that I need to be doing something for other people to feel something in my life. That is such a stark contrast from where you started. Oh yeah, and you know you can read something like that and feel, and I know that feeling I know that feeling like, Okay, this is my purpose this is what I need to do, and you feel great and so inspired and like, ready to go, and then a couple of days passed and you’re like, huh, is it though, like, is that what I need to do, so talk me through how you got that feeling to stick like that feeling of I need to help people.

Shannon: I mean I feel like when it’s your purpose, it’s your soul’s purpose it’s your life’s purpose, it doesn’t go away and I mentor and coach a lot of young women and men, and, you know, in speak to him sometimes people feel really frustrated because they’re in a job they don’t love or, you know, don’t feel like they know what their purpose is and don’t feel like aligned with it and you know just kind of feel lost and I always say I, I read that book I was 32 at the time, so I worked for a solid 10 years just working, you know, I didn’t know what my purpose was I said it was making money, and right that life coach asked me the first question he asked me, it was what’s my life’s purpose and I remember thinking, I mean it’s to make money but that doesn’t feel like it wasn’t resonating with me and. And so I tell people, it will come to you but it comes in its own time and everything it comes in the time it’s supposed to come and it never comes in the time we want it to come in. I’ve learned this over the last eight years, really over the last 43 years of life but it comes in it’s right time and so, you know there’s a quote when the students ready, the teacher will enter, and I was ready you know and when you’re ready, and it’s the time is right, like, it will sink in and the interesting thing is I was in those 10 years I was in a lot of different jobs and I had a lot of dissatisfaction in some of those jobs and wanting to make different changes different directions I was, you know, nothing was really kind of feeling like it was sticking I mean I was in financial services, but there were you know as I worked for hedge fund briefly I worked in a different area of the bank like there were different things I was doing because it wasn’t really sticking. And the other thing I just backtrack to when I got the purpose when I felt the purpose, or read the book, you know, whatever 30 I think I read the book at 3031 Let me take it like 3030 when I had the idea for the gym at 3233. So it was a few years later that I had the gym idea, you know, I just would happen to sometimes these things just change, you know the direction and you don’t really know where it’s going to go but you just kind of follow, I called the breadcrumbs, you get breadcrumbs as signs of like where you need to go, you’re not going to get a full loaf of bread, you know from the universe like there’s never gonna be like this like big, great like billboard that’s gonna tell you what to do, you’re going to get these little breadcrumbs and you just need to follow them and so that was the book and then once I had the idea for the gym once I truly when I had that aha moment. It’s been eight years later and I’ve never deviated from that I’ve had some really dark days I’ve had some times where I was like maybe the gym thing isn’t for me and every time I had those feelings, I would get like a text or a DM, or an email from a client just talking about the success they’ve had. And that was my bread crumb of like No, stay on this path it’s the helping people path you are right, it’s the thing, even to this day, this last year the pandemic year has been horrible, and just really challenging to run a business through but even in my darkest days, I get an email about a five star review from a client about how the gym changed their life, and I was like okay. All right, keep going. There’s another breadcrumb and I’m following it.

Dana: It’s so funny this is maybe. Gosh, this may be the fourth podcast in a row, where we have at some point circled back to, hey if you are anyone using a service that has changed your life or that you love, or that brings you joy, or that makes you feel better or that improves your life. Tell the person that it has done that because it makes such a difference to business owners and even you like, even you as such a humongous, you know, corporation that you’ve built basically, I mean, it means it matters to you, every single one resonates with you.

Shannon: Every single one. I have a folder of, I read every single one of them. I tear up everything because, and I have so many moments because it’s been such a challenging, hard journey, and I look at those and I read those and I have moments because there’s so many moments of wanting to quit, and going, doing something else, and I think, on all those inflection points I think if I had given up at that point, I think about the clients who joined the gym after, like, I think about it this moment I think about because every day we have new clients, sign up, and I think every time I see the new client list of people who signed up, I think, what if I did not stick with this, they, they’re about to embark on a journey that’s going to change your life and what if I wasn’t strong enough to keep going for them. And so getting those kinds of emails, I think. Thank God I kept on doing this because this person just joined six months ago, and two years ago I wanted to quit, eight months ago I want two months ago I wanted to quit I mean so I that’s what keeps me going. Truly.

Dana: Yeah, and that’s, that is awesome so speaking of these clients that you have over these past eight years, how has it shifted right I can only assume that will start you know starting a small business versus how you’re gaining clients today is obviously going to be a large change since, you know, it’s, it’s such a larger operation you have going on, but everything else has changed to social media, email marketing, like all of the things have changed so what would be your top recommendations for somebody starting a business, how to find these clients that are the perfect and ideal ones for them because you clearly, you know, have changed your ideal client from your days at Merrill Lynch to what they are now, those are very different people so how did you change your mindset to be able to seek out the proper people for what you’re doing.

Shannon: Well I always feel like every business needs to start with word of mouth, It’s the best marketing it’s the easiest marketing and it’s the really your easiest proof of concept so that’s what it started for the gym, I client number one of the gym, who is still a client of mine seven plus years later she was in a book club with my sister and my sister said, my sister started my business, and then clients client two was in the book club client three was client whose boyfriend, and they’re also clients, the three of them and clients two and three are now married with their just had their second child, and oh my gosh, so it’s been a journey that we’ve been on together but it that and then it kept going from there, the joke was like, for a period of time we had every book club like we would get one person in the book club and then everyone in the book club would be in the book club, and so those were the early days of word of mouth and a podcast I started the podcast, and that would bring clients and to this day 40% of our clients were the gym come from word of mouth, so I always say, you know, you take really good care of your, your clients of your, your, whoever you’re targeting you take really good care of them and they become your salespeople, and that’s the cheapest best quickest marketing so I always say, you know, and sometimes it has to start out with some free pro bono work that’s something to always think about is, and I used to say this in the early days too. I called it the karma line item on my balance sheet because I would help people, you know, and, and not really know what it was going to bring but I would do maybe a plan for somebody for free, and they would tell a friend and the friend would pay me, you know, and or something else and I always say don’t be afraid of that kind of pro bono work at some point you have to stop doing it because you have to do the business and you do have to know your worth and get it but in the early days, that guy again because word of mouth marketing is so cost effective and valuable to you that that’s something to think about that sometimes you got to do things for free to grow that and then, you know, then you get to a point where you get enough clients, you have enough kind of data points and we went through this branding exercise. As with an agency but you could do it on your own, too, is you just get reflective on okay what’s the common themes of my clients, what is similar to them, what are some unique, you know, unique to me to meet how Who am I appealing to, and then you start kind of defining that you call it your north star client, who are the one or two people that you know that you’re you’re likely people, and then you start kind of defining that and then you figure out where are those people, and that’s when you get into the things like social media marketing and things like that because you can really find them pretty easily, because again, I mean, Facebook everybody Google collects every bit of information on us but it’s helpful in finding those but if you don’t know who you’re looking for your how to find the least expensive and you’re gonna throw a lot of money away and Facebook and Instagram so really knowing who your people are, is, is going to be very important. We knew early on at the gym that I get asked this a lot, it’s funny people are like, Oh, is this for women only I’m like, What makes you think it’s for women only I mean just because I have a leadership team that’s women, I mean, you look at our website we have male employees like it’s not what this gym is, I mean there were some gems that are women only but for everybody but we knew in the early into this day we knew women were more likely to ask for help, you know that like men ask for directions so you know they’re not gonna ask for money help even though everybody could use it we joke we’re called like at the gym we feel like everybody but what percent of the population needs us. But women are more likely to say I’m not the expert at this I could use some help. And then we say they bring their boyfriends, husbands fiance’s brothers, uncles, you know, whatever. So, we do have 65% of our populations, female 35% are male, but we knew women were more likely to respond to that. So, we are three North star clients are women. And so we knew that you know we could target that group, you know, and then we narrowed down to three types of women and, and God specific about them, and we have our three Norse are women and that that started four years ago and then we’re able to get, you know better Instagram and Facebook targeting ads and then that started really to take off and now that 30 to 40% of our business comes from that then we started growing, and realizing that SEO would be search engine optimization. A big component for us because we do produce a lot of content people are looking for natural content. And so that started to build SEO is a great strategy is a cost effective strategy, it takes time to build it’s a lot of content that you have to build because you’ve got to have a lot of, you know, search engine words and we’ve gotten some help along the way with that and then we started building that so now that’s becoming a growing area for us, but to this day. Eight years later, word of mouth is still our number one, refer, and I think about this lack because I hear this in a lot of other business and entrepreneur stories and word of mouth is like if you have a people who are passionate and love your business, then that’s better than any kind of marketing, you could do

Dana: it is and I think there’s something behind that that people don’t talk about right there’s this layer of okay yes you have clients, you have clients that seemed happy, but they’re not referring you, they’re like I haven’t gotten any referrals, you know, I’ve maybe gotten a few. At that point, it’s not about the fact that they just aren’t referring you, there’s something that’s holding them back from doing that so that’s where I think you need to go back in and evaluate your service that you’re providing. And make sure that it’s absolutely top notch. A 100% Top of the line, because if you go above and beyond for them they will rave about you. Yeah, so if there isn’t a lot of raving happening it’s probably something that could be tweaked behind the scenes and it may not be a big thing, but even just, you know, an extra reach out an extra touch point to them during the process of either your sale or your service to say hey you know we’re, I’m here like what can I do for you to help or even just to give them, like you said an additional freebie or an extra few minutes of your time can make such a big impact. And I think that that’s what makes the difference when it comes to actually getting those client referrals. Yeah, because they’re not going to share your business if it was just okay, yeah, they’re not going to also to ask for those referrals too because you know this is something that people think about I remember the early days, talking to a friend of mine and she was like, well just ask for help Shan and like, people want to help you. They just don’t know how. So you just have to tell them what you need so we, we frequently asked for those reviews for clients like hey if you like the service you know we’d love for you to leave us a review and you know there’s a risk, asking for that review because, You know it’s, you want the five star review their rescue got one star review for it so that is but you know we also asked we also do client satisfaction surveys regularly, you know you want to know and I am a fan. Business if it was just okay, yeah, you’re not going to also to ask for those referrals too because you know this is something that people don’t think about I remember the early days, talking to a friend of mine and she was like, well just ask for help, Shannon like people want to help you. They just don’t know how. So you just have to tell them what you need so we, we frequently asked for those reviews for clients like hey if you like the service, you know, we’d love for you to leave us a review and, you know there’s a risk, asking for that review because you know it’s you want the five star review there in rescue get a one star review for it so that is but you know we also as we also do client satisfaction surveys regularly, you know you want to know and I am a fan you and you also have to be a fan of getting feedback that is constructive and even though those one star reviews that don’t feel constructive because usually a one star review is like, you just hate yourself because like everything about you. I tell the team there’s always some kind of pearls of wisdom in those one star reviews right there’s always something to learn from the one star review that it actually is a gift I mean it doesn’t feel good to, I have a separate folder for those that I just like, I mean, we talked about we process them as a team, you know, we don’t do it again and we just get I tell the team, the biggest thing I said I say a lot of things to them but one of the biggest things I always say is all we can do is get better every day. We’re not going to get it right every single day and we’re not going to get five servers every single day but we’re gonna learn, and we’ll get better tomorrow. And that’s the whole point of this is like we just get better every day so we take those one surveys seriously and we improve and we’ve made improvements from police who didn’t have a positive experience we take those serious we take client experiences seriously. Our intention is to deliver five star service but for different reasons, it doesn’t happen all the time but that’s what we’re striving for.

Dana: And to be able to be that introspective and grow from it and say, Okay, there’s a reason they left this there’s something that we did that maybe didn’t sit right with them. And by the way, you will have the one off one star review that was just total crap. And yeah, fair, I mean, but, but to be able to recognize that and then the ones that do have some merit to be able to put them into place and take action on those items is going to make a big difference in your business too, yeah So Shannon you’ve talked so much about your team, talk to me about none of her wanting to start a business growing a business where you’re not only, you know, running everything but you’re a leader like you’ve become the person to come to. So how did that go for you and tell me about your first employees and what that looked like.

Shannon: Yeah, so, first employees Bridget and Bridget has now been with me, it’ll be almost five years. I met her five years ago, and that was interesting to starting a business, you know, especially a business that I dreamed of building I knew I’d have to hire people I knew I needed trainers and I was the original trainer. And so, and then the early days of raising money I had so many investors say, you’re great. Your results are great but you know you can’t replicate you, and I remember thinking, well yes financial advisors pop up all the freaking time Merrill Lynch turns out advisors doesn’t mean their quality like I can turn out a better advisor, I don’t need to represent me. I just want somebody who’s compassionate, empathetic, wants to help people and likes money, Your personal finance topics, I could teach anybody what an ETF is or about whole life insurance versus Term Life Insurance I can’t teach compassionate empathy. So, Bridgette came to me through one of my clients, and who is a good friend of hers and that was a funny story because her friend was telling her about her financial advisor like how much she loved her financial advisor and Bridget was thinking, this woman, yeah this is a good friend of hers like she makes $30,000 a year she lives at home with her parents like what advisor, talking to my friend like who is this. Yeah. And, and it was me and so I met Bridget and she kind of came along for the journey and she’s, she’s been there, you know since day one and then you know just kept building from there they first, you know, original employees so it kind of all came through word of mouth, people we knew, and so I have the solid team of like the Oji team of about, it’s six women and, I mean, They’re like sisters family, I can’t even say enough great things about them, we’ve been through so much like we fight, we laugh, we cry, we drink a lot of champagne to cry and to celebrate like it’s been a real journey, and they have made all the difference in the world that kind of original group of people and then, you know, We’ve kind of grown from there, defining, you know, as it was growing to you know it’s like growing pains as it gets bigger, you realize okay we need to have core values and we had established core values in the early days, but I didn’t do them I thought they were BS, I worked for a bank and you know it’s like core values were nonsense, you know, and then, as we were growing it was like something we really needed to define so that core group of women, we were like, Okay, what, what are our core values what is, what do we stand for and we and we wrote them and we did them in a way that was true to us so we wrote our core values that, and our core values start with we believe in, dot dot dot. And then we have seven words that we believe in and that what they define and mean and it was intentional that we said we because we’re a team and a collective and it’s our core values and like what, and believe is such a powerful word. And what we’re saying so. We live and die by them now and we have employee reviews and we say, you know, again we know our employees are not going to know everything right away, they’re not going to be perfect right away, nobody’s perfect period, but we just want them to constantly improve and help each other and like grow and learn, and we’ve helped people who, and supported employees who maybe had some challenging skill sets initially when they came to us, as long as they lived our core values, we have laid off more people that have core value, challenges than anything else, because we, again, we could teach one of our core values is teamwork, and you know if we have a strong team that will support you and help you grow and learn, but you know if you don’t have that core value, then you’re not gonna help the next person behind you and that’s not gonna work for this company. So the core values has been a key part of growing and, you know for me the early days, the team always jokes I, I’ve definitely grown as a leader, I am, I am an Aries woman I am very fiery and challenging. A type eight Enneagram, so also could be challenging and difficult, all those things and I’m very self reflective of that and the team knows, and in the early days I was definitely more of like I had opinions about everything, but we see now in the team see now it really was important in the early days to set those kind of things because now they become kind of institutionalized in the business and it’s really important but I had some quirky things i We joke that I’m like on the spectrum because I’m really if you’re in a gym, I’m very attuned to the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes of the gym it’s like a sensory experience that was very important for me, including the scent of the gym the gym smell is the same in all four gyms and it started because I smelled it in my one of my friend’s apartment buildings. And so what does this smell it smells so good. I feel like this is like to be the gym smell, And we found out what it was my CEO told me she’s like it’s $200 a month Shannon for this thing, this is crazy. I was like it’s important, I was like we have to do it. It was like one of those you know commercials that sells you could get in like you smell in a hotel or whatever. So, she’s like, this is ridiculous, like it’s we got to do it, It’s important. And so to this day people will walk in the gym and they’ll be like, it smells so good in here and I look at her Alicia I see oh and I’m like, Uh huh. It does smell good to hear. Yeah, and then we, we open the DC gym was a second gym we open and we got in there and the team was like, it smells like the gym and I was like, Uh huh. I know it’s very intentional and that kind of thing I was really like fixated on but now it’s funny because now over the years I’ve given away the control to the team like I’m less and less involved I’m empowering them more to make decisions and do their thing and, and now more and more I’m like, the big line that I think the team loves to hear for me as I don’t have an opinion on that. So if I don’t have an opinion that means like they can you know whatever they want to do kind of thing, or they can you know take do the take the direction they want to take and I say that more and more these days because the bigger things are set in motion and I’m less concerned about the other things as I was like in the early days.

Dana: Yeah and I think being able to relinquish that control and be in a place where you don’t have an opinion on something is remarkable that is very very hard especially to do in eight years. I mean that’s a pretty fast time to be able to do that and I was laughing so hard they you said you’re an Enneagram eight, and then you also said that you’re reflective of that and like you know you have a lot of like self awareness on that which is not characteristic of an eight so you’re like basically unstoppable. If you have, like, That is impressive.

Shannon: Yeah, well I think it’s I think it’s a female intuition or you know, a lot of a lot of the life work I’ve been developing I mean I’m the first to tell that you know we had this back in the day, you know, when there are more people the gym we called it my timeout corner, I would know when I was bringing negative energy you just had a rough day like something happened and I would just remove myself and they knew the team knew if I was in that timeout corner like Shana put herself in timeout because, you know, just kind of give me some space because, and that’s the thing too over the years with the team’s learned is that I might have an emotional moment I might be very sweet, very strongly about something or, or, you know, or the team speaks very strongly about something and we deal with it, and we move on and it doesn’t come up again you know I’m not like remember that time you did that it like that doesn’t come up and I think that’s why, you know I have a team of women who have been working for me for four or five years now because I do feel like I crossed the line I did kind of get a little too emotional. I will be I will apologize I will, you know, make sure they’re okay we’ll chat We’ll talk it out, we’ll, you know, if I have two employees who have a challenge with each other. We’ll talk it out, we’ll, you know, compassion and empathy or empathy is one of our core values and so that kind of filters throughout to in the in the human near the HR relations that happen within the company and I’m the first to say you know if I didn’t have, do it right that day, you know, but I tell the team I will be better tomorrow and I am and I do learn from the challenges I’ve gotten, you know feedback from employees that I don’t always love to receive but I take it the same as the reviews and I just, you know, yeah, just get better every day. That’s it.

Dana: And I think that timeout corner is, you know obviously on a large scale when you’re in person with employees like physically to put yourself in timeout corner is great but anybody who’s starting a business can do that and not if you just have employees, but if you get an email from a client or you’re just having a rough day like in general and you get an email that kind of sends you over the edge, don’t respond to it, put yourself in a time of honor and say, Hold on a minute like let me calm down and think about what I’m going to do and I can guarantee you that it will be better for your business in the long run to take a timeout sign off from your computer, do something else, like yes you’re not getting as much done in that day in that spare time that you actually have for once, but it’s going to serve your business, much better in the long run well yeah the timeout and I do do a virtual version of the timeout corner

Shannon: Yes, and it is critical. I have a game I play on my phone called toon blast, and that’s what I’ll do I’ll like debrief, I’ll put on some music I like listening to the yacht rock station on Pandora sometimes listen to the spa station, and I will play the game on my phone for like, you know, whatever, however long, and I remember hearing another founder say that like he has a bigger business now and he was talking about the stress of being the CEO and raising money and all this stuff he’s like yeah they’re just sometimes like I’m on the toilet playing Clash of Clans, and I just like, you know, kind of numbing the pain, and I was like, I get that like so I play this game toon blast which is ridiculous. I’m on like level 5000 I mean I’ve been playing it for like eight years like it is, I think sometimes if those developers stop like adding levels I don’t know what I’ll do, because it’s been my leg, therapy, but it just it’s just to like decompress, it’s my thing you know some people like we’ll get into like a tick tock rabbit hole, some people answer I’m like whatever it is. That’s my thing and then I do I feel like, okay, I got it out, and now, now move forward.

Dana: I actually love this example I am, I was working on a bonus episode for my listeners on the podcast where guy just talk about a certain topic and I actually have 100% use social media as my rabbit hole as your as your game, and I, it’s unhealthy, that makes it worse. And I don’t think I realized that for a really long time so if you’re somebody listening and you’re using Instagram just scrolling or Facebook just in groups with people posting like questions or even sometimes negative things. For me it was becoming so unhealthy so I am video check out your game because I’m looking for something that you can just check out and put your head up in the clouds, but that doesn’t bring additional drama or anxiety to your life because that’s what was happening,

Shannon: but DANA I believe you can curate your social media, I hear you on that but what I’ve done over the years is I have a very curated Instagram feed that I that actually brings me joy and a lot of times I get breadcrumbs from it because you follow the right people, if you follow the right people unfollow the wrong people and bring that kind of positivity in it, then it can actually be a very good place to be and spend time in and I’ve kind of created that for myself, because I did have all the, you know, the wrong thing and I felt triggered by some people things that I was like, Okay, there’s enough going on in this world right now that I don’t need to like get even more into and I’ve been following people and I found it’s not like toxic positivity, it’s just, it’s positive energy that I just feel like you can find that it’s out there and you can surround yourself with it and does make difference.

Dana: Yes and it is hilarious that this is where you went with this conversation because that’s what this social media episode is all about that I’m working on right now, because that’s exactly what I’ve done, I mean I’ve unfollowed literally hundreds and I don’t I don’t follow that many people to begin with but I’ve unfollowed hundreds of people in the past week and just, I’m being more mindful about my time on there regardless but you’re right it does make such a difference to even just open your app and be on there, when it’s you’re following people that bring some sort of joy and positivity into your life. Yeah, that’s, I love that someone else is doing that too I’m just ruthlessly unfollowing anybody is and I’m adding me out.

Shannon: Yeah, and I’m conscious of what I put out there, too, because I don’t think I need to show all the greatest things happening in my life but I do feel like I remember I saw this Oprah episode, years ago and she talked about being mindful of the energy you bring into a room and trying to surround yourself with positive energy and just being mindful of the energy like when you walk into a space and I think that a lot with social media as well, like, what is the energy I’m putting out into this space, and being mindful of that because it is a, you know you can change the direction of somebody by that, like, just like you would physically if you’re in a bad mood and somebody walks in, like, that’s why I put myself in timeout I’m like I if I know I’m releasing negative energy like I’d like to keep it to myself I don’t need to put it out there in the universe to make it better, I just kind of keep it to myself and move on. Reset move on.

Dana: Yeah, and having that self awareness is just makes such a difference in other people’s lives and just before becomes a habit, though it can be really exhausting. It can be really like especially if you’re going through something in your life where you’re just kind of struggling, it can be really hard to be that positive person and if that’s the case, then take a step back from the general population, you know, and take a little bit to get back on ourselves before you’re Yeah, exactly, so that that can happen though and that’s fine to do that I think that there’s so much pressure, especially with building a business they’re like you know, consistency post every day, post every other day, you know, do what you have to do and yeah, now you’ve got to protect yourself too, huh.

Shannon: Yeah, exactly. It’s such a fine line. And I think that, realizing that doing the best you can and the moment that you’re in is, okay, and to put yourself first and your family first to to get through that is just fine. And I’m telling myself that as I tell ya, we have to be constantly reminded I mean it is it’s it’s a journey and again you don’t get it right every day but you know I, I had that in the early days of starting the business I was working seven days a week and I remember literally even scheduling out my week saying, Oh, I’ll do that on Sunday, I’ll do that on Saturday, you know, that was like it was seven days and I got to the point. So, you know, in the process of building the business to end up getting divorced and then and then I have my son every other weekend and I was dating somebody at the time and he was like, why don’t you just you know like unplug you’re working seven days a week and I was like, you know I have the fear like a lot of people in the early days of like Wolf bed not doing it it’s not gonna happen but it was really taking a toll on me, years and now, and so I decided to take the two days off on the weekends I didn’t have my son to just be with the person I was with or just be by myself, with whatever does not be, you know, not answering emails or that really active on social media just kind of being present in my life and refilling the tank for myself, whatever that required and I changed that up. And this was now probably four years ago now, and I, to this day, I preserve those weekends like I will not meet with clients on those weekends, I really hold them sacred and it makes all the difference in the world and I crack up that I take four days off a month, but it feels like a lifetime and it’s like, it’s so important to unplug and you just have so much more energy for the times you’re on and, and if people are wondering why I work when I have my son because he will especially now he’s 15 years old so he doesn’t wake up till like two o’clock in the afternoons like when I have him so I can have a whole like Workday before he wakes up, you know, so I’m up at, you know, seven and I’m doing my thing so I actually you know it’s great and so, and then when he wakes up, then I am like you know but I get a lot of work done before he wakes up, so I do that, you know, and I’m taking care of him anyway and so it’s like, it just makes sense and then the weekends I don’t have him, I just are refueling time.

Dana: Yeah, and that’s great to be able to section off those times and know what works for you and I think finding that balance can be a journey like figuring out like okay, here are the days I need to block but also sometimes you need to take those days to do your business so finding the hours that work best for you, your clients in your family is definitely not something you figure out overnight, no I it took me a long time to realize that I was like, Okay, I’ll do my editing in this chunk of the day I’ll do emails in this chunk of the day every day I’ll do you know and that doesn’t work now, because your life, it doesn’t always look the same and I think that, recognizing that it takes a while to figure out the best groove for you is great and then, you know, it’s like having kids, then you have a toddler you finally figured it out and then they, it changes everything else yeah time blocking is the pivot.

Shannon: Yeah, timing calendar blocking was also really huge thing for me too because especially when you have a business you do have where a lot of different hats, and I was feeling like I couldn’t just turn it on for an hour here and there, turned off for two this like I wasn’t really good so that same thing around a few years ago I also realized okay. On Mondays I’m really, you have to be a tune you have to really kind of pay attention to your week flow your day flow your like energy flow throughout the day what works for you and so I was like well Mondays are a better at writing content, things like that Tuesdays I have all internal meetings, pretty much all day and my leaders have their meetings on Monday so they you know they’re ready to go and to report to me on Tuesdays, Tuesdays internal meetings, Wednesday Thursdays client meetings and Fridays just kind of usually like whatever needs to get done and I set this schedule as well probably like three years ago and I stick with it exclusively and it I’m so productive on now on the things, as long as they’re all on the days that they’re supposed to happen and every now and then, like I record my podcast to do a lot of content on Mondays, every now and then I will record a podcast for somebody who was the mayor do something on like a Wednesday or Thursday, and it just throws me off, you know, I’m just like, what, like, I feel different when I do it, it doesn’t feel right. It’s like I’m so in my zone yeah I’m so on my block time that it’s like I don’t even I, it’s in my DNA that when I have these one off things it’s like, oh, this is weird. That’s a client meeting on a Monday, it’s like, wow, this is odd because my, my space is just so I’m in such a flow, and it works really well but it took me years as well like same thing. It was not an overnight thing in a lot of times, unfortunately, it gets to the point where you’re at your breaking point that you’re having these realizations that something needs to change. And then, you know, it breaks, and then you got to put it back together and it takes a little while.

Dana: Yeah and just recognizing that and encouraging people that yes it’s it’s a process and it’s fine and then it’s gonna change again I think is really encouraging and knowing, like I love what you said about the breaking point this this literally just happened to me I was like at a total breaking point with my workspace and I just redid the room and got to the new desk and figured out how, when it was going to work to sit in there and when it wasn’t and I think that it was because I was like okay I have to make a change or this isn’t gonna work for me anymore. I think that, recognizing that that’s a turning point in a lot of situations right that’s a place where your mind can go in a million different directions and you need some sort of clarity, I think coming back to your schedule and coming back to when you’re getting things done and you’re that you know just taking one small step forward every day is really a good place to start and to get you back on track.

Shannon: Yeah, yeah, and breaking breaking things is good. I mean it’s how we were expanding or growing is breakings part of the process.

Dana: Yes. Okay, Shannon well thank you so much for coming on. Will you give everybody kind of will first have an idea of where they can find you online, but then also an idea of we talked about your your three avatars your three ideal clients who of my listeners would fall into what category like describe a person that would benefit from working with you in the financial Gym

Shannon: so our three categories we have names for them. The first is the goal setter and she’s a person who has, you know a lot of goals, she wants to accomplish she wants to travel, she wants to start her own business. She wants to buy a house, she has a different goal she wants to set but doesn’t know how to get from point A to point B kind of need some more guidance and I’m putting them together but has big dreams. The other one is the optimizer and she’s the one who’s all about optimizing her life. She’s like, probably goes to the gym, or maybe has life coach or therapist or invest in courses invest in herself and invest in optimizing herself and maybe hasn’t optimized for money yet. And then the third is the debt Juggler and this is the one who just feels like she’s living paycheck to paycheck, maybe has credit card challenges, feels like she can’t keep her head above water, and that’s our third one they end, you know, with setting those what’s interesting is we find those three women in different ways, like the debt juggler usually will come to us or Google search because she’s trying to find the solutions to the different things the goals that are usually find on Pinterest or Instagram and the optimizer is usually like Facebook or Instagram too as well or with Instagram influencers. Typically, but yeah, those are our three Norstar clients, and, and it’s funny because we set that gosh we defined them about three years ago and to this day we can still the trainer’s talking about it we could still put almost all of our clients in one of those buckets.

Dana: Yeah, I think at some point in my life I’ve been in every bucket. I think you could have. You could have found me at any point so I know that this will be this will resonate with so many of our listeners, most of them being moms who are juggling so many different things, finances included especially

Shannon: yeah you saw the mom factor on it too and a lot of times we talk about your financial life journey being like a road trip to New York to California, New York is starting out California is retirement, and what a lot we hear frequently and this happened to me too is that you feel like you get to Ohio and you get lost and Ohio is usually kids and what happens is, you know, you’re maybe on a fast track to California, maybe you are you’re doing things things feel faster and then kids happen and certainly with finances, it feels like maybe stuck or whatever and there are a number of challenges that come with it not just only the cost of raising children but there’s a lot of I always say when there’s money and emotions look out because like it’s very difficult to make really smart decisions, especially money decisions where your emotions are so high and there is nothing more emotional than child, I tell people all the time I never look at my son and feel like blah say about him, I either love him with an intensity, like that, I could just explode or I hate him with an intensity that like I just like I just never feel blah, I might feel some emotion at all times and. And so then you throw money decisions on and a lot of times we get couples, you know, especially if they’re a couple’s partners you know who they’re making financial decisions. With the kids or, you know things are happening, credit card debt might be piling up, you know, choices are challenging and it’s hard because the kids usually end up being a part of it and as trainers were like, What about if we think about this differently. I think it’s just so important because I’ve made a lot of spent probably way too much money trying to make up for the things I didn’t have in my childhood to give my son and at the end of the day you realize like your kids just want you to be happy. Your kids really don’t care about those other like those things and it’s really important to have honest conversations with your children about money from an early age I think it’s really healthy. And so yeah it’s, that’s part of what we do one of the things we went the branding exercise people said they asked us why does the financial gym exist, And they said the financial system exists to change, financial health and literacy for this and future generations because we know if we help the parents, they’re going to teach the kids the right things and that’s, that’s really our mission so yeah if you feel like you are, you know in Ohio can’t get out of it, then certainly give us a call. We want to help you out of it.

Dana: Perfect. Okay, well give us all the info your website Instagram, anything else we should know about where to find you.

Shannon: Yeah, financial gym, calm, is the website we have so many great resources and information about the company there at the financial jam is our Instagram. I think my team is like the best of producing content I, you know, follow me count myself and I love it. And I have a podcast called martinis in your money living a better life one cocktail at a time. We also have the gym podcast is financially naked stories for the financial gym which goes into more detail about different client journeys and stuff like that, and I’m on Instagram at the Shannon McClay.

Dana: Perfect. Well thank you so much Shannon for coming on and I can’t wait for everybody to hear. Thanks, Tina. I am so honored you spent any minutes of your day listening to me babble about living this entrepreneurial life amidst the chaos in any mom’s normal day to day. If you love what you’ve heard and read more snippets of knowledge about this mob boss life, head over to our website at amidst the chaos podcast, calm. For show notes and links to anything mentioned in today’s episode. If you’re really feeling inspired, it would mean the world to me and my family if you take the time to bring them with you. Thanks for joining me, Amidst the chaos.

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