"Setting an intention (one task) for the day is my secret to staying ridiculously focused" with Courtney Elmer
Courtney is a Business Strategist and Stress Expert who teaches high-achieving women how to expand their income + impact without the stress (or as Courtney loves to say: “how to make bank in their biz without the burnout!”)
After a fast-paced career and overcoming cancer at the age of 25, Courtney realized that life’s too short to waste any time feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and overworked.
Now as the creator and founder of The StressLESS System©️, Courtney specializes in showing busy women how to ditch the overwhelm, create order out of life’s chaos, and find their inner peace.
She’s known for sharing simple, actionable steps to help them scale their business without the stress, so they can have more time to enjoy the life that’s in front of them right now.
After all, “StressLESS, LiveMORE” is her motto!
You’ll find her in New Orleans with her husband Alan and their son AJ, most likely with a hot cappuccino and piece of dark chocolate somewhere nearby.
To learn more, you can connect with Courtney on Instagram @CourtneyElmer_ or on her website, CourtneyElmer.com.
Can you tell our readers about your background? What inspired you to start your business?
Overcoming cancer at 25 was not how I expected to start my journey as an entrepreneur. But that’s exactly where my story starts, because as I sat there in that cold, sterile exam room, THAT was the moment I realized that life is too short.
That’s when I decided to quit burning myself out, feeling like I had to choose between having success or having a life I truly loved, and figure out how to have both. So I walked away from my fast-paced career (and all the luxury and accolades that went with it) and became obsessed with figuring out how to StressLESS and LiveMORE.
And on my journey of healing, I quit buying into the belief that to be successful I meant I had to DO it all.
So facing this unimaginable challenge was not the end. It was my beginning.
My test became my testimony, and I created what’s now known as the StressLESS System© to help high-achieving women carve out a clear path to create wild success -- without the stress.
Where is your business based?
Although I help women across the globe thanks to the power of technology, I live in New Orleans with my husband Alan and our son AJ (a surprise miracle baby following my cancer treatments!)
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
It’s a funny story, actually. When I went back to my full-time career following my cancer treatments, I kept feeling this tug on my heart that I was meant for something more. So one day, I decided, “Ok, I’m going to launch this coaching business to teach other women what I’ve learned, and see where it goes.” Little did I know I’d have a ton of growing still to do both personally and professionally, but that decision — that moment when I said to myself, “I can do this,” — was the start.
From there, I told my husband, “Babe! I need a business coach.” And he said, “Ok, well why don’t you interview a bunch of coaches and find one who you really connect with and go from there.” So, I started researching and came up with EIGHT different coaches to interview. Now you have to understand, my husband Alan is an engineer. I’m a creative. He’s into the data, while I take more of a “let’s jump in and figure it out as we go” approach. But I knew I needed to win him over to this idea of investing thousands of dollars in hiring a mentor to help me launch my business, so I created a spreadsheet listing the pros and cons of every coach I interviewed, the investment, and what I personally liked about each one.
One morning over breakfast I said, “I’ve found the one!” and then I pulled out my spreadsheet, and made sure he was sitting down so I could tell him it would cost 5-figures to invest in her program. To my surprise, he was totally on board! So I set up a payment plan, flew to Canada for two weeks to meet my new coach, and took a crash course in everything from marketing funnels, to offers, to program content, and more.
But what I least expected was THE deep personal transformation I experienced and learning how my own journey played a much bigger role in my overall mission. And having this new-found knowledge about myself from the get-go helped me to set up my business in a way that was in such alignment with the desires of my heart: sustainable, simple, not stressful!
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Speaking, social media, and PR are all a huge part of my visibility strategy, but the number one thing that’s helped increase awareness for what I do is this: exceed people’s expectations.
Get in front of them, deliver what they expect, and then some.
This is what gets people talking about you! Word-of-mouth marketing builds know-like-trust faster than any other form of marketing. And it’s been the single-most influential thing that’s increased awareness for my brand.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
While going through cancer at 25 as a newlywed was certainly something I never expected to face in my lifetime, the bigger challenge I struggled with after going through cancer treatments was the possibility that we might not ever be able to have a family. Because of my age, there was a risk that the radiation could cause infertility.
In fact for almost 5 years following treatment, it didn’t look like I’d ever be able to have kids. So instead I stayed focused on growing my business. Things were running smoothly, and my business was growing even faster than I’d expected. I was totally enjoying the process, and I felt like I had it all figured out.
But then, I woke up one morning and could barely drag myself out of bed. It felt like I’d been run over by a truck, and on top of it I had a debilitating migraine. This went on for days — and many tests later, my doctors couldn’t find anything wrong. And THAT scared me.
These symptoms were almost identical to what I’d experienced before my cancer diagnosis, and I thought the doctors were missing something. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and start testing what I could on my own to rule out any and every other possibility.
And one of those tests came back positive. I was pregnant.
I can’t even begin to describe the emotions I felt in that moment — shock, joy, excitement, disbelief! We were completely caught off guard and so humbled by this true blessing.
And then it hit me. How on earth was I going to be a mom and keep growing my business at the rate it was growing? How could I stay present for my son and be successful in my business at the same time? Questions like these kept me up at night.
And now after a full year (and then some) of being both a work-at-home mom and the CEO of a major brand (without putting my son in daycare), I’ll tell you my secret to having success without the stress: the one thing I had to do early on was to challenge my own beliefs about myself as a mom and as a business owner.
First I had to define what it meant (to me) to be a “good mom.” Then I had to pick a pace that I was comfortable with in my business -- a pace where we’re steadily growing, but not at the expense of everything else that’s truly important.
It’s a total game-changer. Because your thoughts determine your beliefs, which define your actions. And your actions create your reality. So, if you’re not happy with your reality, you have to change your thoughts about it so that you can change your actions, and get different results.
How do you stay focused?
The to-do list that comes with being a mom, a wife, and a business owner is endless. For many people, it feels like there’s “never enough time in the day” to get it all done.
I used to fall into bed at night feeling like I’d worked my butt off all day but didn’t really accomplish anything. It was defeating, and exhausting.
So I started approaching things differently. I began starting each day by asking myself, “What’s the ONE thing I want to make sure gets done today?”
I’d set my intention for the day with my answer, and make sure that one thing was done by the time I went to bed at night. Maybe it was an important phone call I needed to make. Maybe it was work on a major project that I’d been procrastinating. Maybe it was a workout or some me-time. Whatever it was, I’d make sure it got done.
I practice this every day, and I teach my clients to do the same. I encourage them to pick the one thing that will move the needle the most in their life or business, and focus on that. When they finish it, if they have more time, they can go on to tackle other things on their list.
Setting an intention (one task) for the day like this is my secret to staying ridiculously focused AND feel accomplished when my head hits the pillow at night.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
We all have “our thing” that makes us unique, right? For me, my story, the challenges I’ve overcome, and what I’ve learned (and now teach others) definitely sets me apart. But when it comes to differentiating myself as a coach and speaker, that’s not my “it factor.” Lots of coaches and speakers have amazing personal stories of overcoming and triumph.
That’s why the StressLESS System© I created and the way I teach it is what sets me apart and makes the work I do with my clients so effective, because it gets them better, quicker results.
The problem I see in the industry is that most coaches and speakers only specialize in one methodology: they either teach mindset OR “how-to” strategy, but not both.
And this is where a lot of clients are when they first start working with me. They feel like they’ve had some AHAs about themselves and a few mindset shifts along the way, and they’ve been out there devouring every free resource on “how-to” do all the things in their business, but they’re not sure how to put it all together for their unique life and business.
It’s kind of the equivalent of going to a great conference. You get really inspired by all the speakers that are there and take tons of notes. But when you get home, the excitement fizzles as you “get back to the real world,” because you have no idea how to apply all that you’ve just learned and take action on it.
So with the StressLESS System© I help people on not only their mindset or on their business strategy, but on BOTH.
Mindset work is absolutely necessary. If you have a belief about yourself or your business that’s limiting you, you can work as hard as you want forever and still never see the results you truly desire.
Or, you can try every “how-to” in the book and waste a ton of time going through trial-and-error to figure out what works for you, but it’s like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.
That’s why I help my clients do both. I do not teach them about “managing” time or “managing” stress. Instead, we go deeper and more foundational to figure out what mindsets are causing them those feelings of stress and overwhelm in the first place. Then, I teach them how to reframe those limiting beliefs and identify the perfect strategy for them to achieve the unique goals they want in life and business: faster, more effectively, and with better, longer-lasting results.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
My number one piece of advice for growing your business effectively through marketing is this: find where your ideal audience hangs out + deliver quality content to them consistently.
So many people make the massive mistake of trying to be everywhere at once. Facebook, a Facebook Group, Instagram, LinkedIN, Twitter, Pinterest, a blog, guest-blogs, a podcast, guest-podcasts, weekly email newsletters to their audience, a website, and all. the. other. things.
It’s exhausting just thinking about it all!
Here’s what I suggest. Ask yourself: “Where does my ideal client hang out? How do they like to consume information?” If your ideal client is someone in the flesh and not an avatar, ask them where they hang out and how they like to consume information.
Then, aim to deliver your (high-quality, high-value) content to them on that platform, consistently. This will build know-like-trust and help to get your business in front of other ideal clients who are likely using those platforms to consume information like yours too.
And last but not least, it’ll take the pressure off you from feeling like you have to do it all and be everywhere. Because you don’t.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Did you know that over 7 out of 10 new businesses fail within the first two years of getting started? That’s alarming. And the reason is because too many new entrepreneurs are biting off more than they can chew, trying to grow too fast and burning themselves out in the process.
So instead, GO SLOW TO GO FAST. It sounds counterintuitive, I know. And I get that when you’re first starting out, there are SO many big ideas in that pretty little head of yours that you want to bring to life, like now.
But remember, you will get nowhere fast by burning yourself out.
Take it slow. Focus on one project at a time. Build intentionally, create systems, and document processes, so that one day you can have a business that runs without you.
A little bit every day over a long period of time will truly help you grow sustainably in the long run.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
App: It’s less of an app and more of an iPhone function that has made a huge difference for me in how I start and end my day! It’s called “quiet mode” and you can set it up in your phone settings. (Google how to do it, it’s super simple and takes less than a minute to set up!)
I’ve set mine to “quiet” all of my apps from 8pm to 8am. And I LOVE IT because while I aim to spend the first and last hours of my day off my phone, sometimes out of habit I’ll open it up to check Instagram or email or whatever. But when it’s on “quiet mode,” it’s a gentle reminder that I don’t need to be on my phone right then and it helps me turn my attention back to whatever I was doing so that I can stay present and live in the moment.
(I’m more of a book girl than I am a blog girl!) One of my all-time favorite reads is The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile.
The more you can get to know yourself and how you operate, the more you can operate better in all areas of your life.
If you’re not familiar with the Enneagram, this book is a perfect introduction!
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
Is it cheating to say my VA + Interns? Seriously! I consider each of them an ultimate business resource, and it’s truly an honor to empower others to gain new knowledge and skills when we work as a team.
On a personal level, it’s helped me take a lot off my plate that I didn’t *need* to be doing, freeing up my time to stay in the visionary role in my business and focus on important projects that are up to me to do.
The best thing about working with Interns, especially, is that they will often work in exchange for experience. I give them tons of fun perks and opportunities for personal coaching when they work with me, and create a true team environment where they’re able to gain valuable skills to add to their resume. So, even if you’re just starting out or if you feel like you “can’t afford” good help -- I’m challenging you on that. You can. You just have to do it in a way that’s smart.
Start with an Intern who can manage your social media. You write the content, and let them post and schedule it. Even that simple small task will save you HOURS and give them the experience that they want on their resume. It’s a win-win for you both!
Who is your business role model? Why?
Oh wow it’s going to be impossible to answer this question without writing a book. I have so many who I look to for advice and mentorship!
James Wedmore and his program, Business by Design, has been an invaluable resource to me along the way.
As my biz took off it was obvious I needed a framework to get my message out to the world in a bigger way. I knew adding an online component was the answer, but I was so afraid of losing that authentic human connection if I tried to take the powerful, transformative experiences offline and put them online.
But I needed to make a decision fast, because not only was my business growing beyond what I could handle on my own, I’d just become a mom and I wanted to stay true to my personal mission of stressing less while scaling my business.
I’ve invested in myself and my biz a lot over the years but Business by Design stands out. I’ve learned SO much! James has made it so easy to track my progress, make sense of the numbers, and know exactly when I’m on track, and in a way that’s in such alignment with my own mission — sustainable and simple, not stressful!
What is your beauty routine? What are some of your favorite products?
My routine is super quick and easy. (And an esthetician just recently told me, “keep doing whatever you’re doing, your skin is amazing!)
Part of my success early on in my career was in network marketing. I used to rep for (and got hooked on) Neora anti-aging products, and what I love is that they’re so EASY to use. Literally one-step in the morning and one at night!
My typical routine looks like this:
Wake up, brush my teeth, wash my face with the Neora Age-defying Botanical Cleanser. Then, I use the Hydrating Day Moisturizer to fight free radicals and deeply moisturize my skin without feeling heavy or sticky (I live in New Orleans y’all -- heavy moisturizers and high humidity do not mix!) That’s it. Most days just a dab of mascara and I’m out the door.
Then in the evenings, I cleanse again with the Botanical Cleanser, and spray rose-water toner all over my face before applying the Age IQ Night Cream.
That’s IT. Super simple!
How do you balance work and life?
This is one of my all-time favorite topics. I literally just gave a workshop on the surprising truth about work-life balance, and why it’s a total LIE.
Here’s the thing. There are 3 myths about balance that our culture wants you to believe.
3. Balance can be found
2. Balance exists outside of you
1. Balance exists, period.
But despite popular belief, Balance can’t be found because it’s not something that’s lost. Balance doesn’t exist outside of you, because it already exists inside of you. The perfect “work-life balance” doesn’t exist in the way our society wants you to think that it does, because balance is a feeling, not a thing. And it’s a feeling that’s unique to you!
So of COURSE if you’re chasing after someone else’s (or the world’s) idea of “perfect work-life balance” you’re not going to find it.
First, you have go get clear on what balance looks and feels like for you. Close your eyes and imagine: if you were living a day that felt perfectly balanced, what would you be doing? What would that day look like? What would that day feel like? Get as clear and descriptive as you can.
Then, take small steps toward this vision. If “being more present” and “working out” show up in your vision for your perfectly-balanced day, then ask yourself: “What’s one step I can take to be more present in my day?” “What’s one step I can take toward moving my body more today?”
This is how I find — and keep — a feeling of balance in my work and in my life. I’ve defined what my definition of balance is, for me. And I take small steps to create this in my life every day. It’s what helps me live in the moment, and it takes the pressure off of having the “perfect” work-life balance… just a balance that’s good enough for me.
PS: If you want my 4-step process to getting crystal clear on what balance looks like for you so that you can experience more of it, check out the free resource I created for you: Your Ultimate StressLESS Balance Blueprint! (courtneyelmer.com/balance-blueprint)
What’s your favorite way to decompress?
There are two things that I love to do when I need a little mental break: barre class or hip-hop dance, and date nights with Alan. There’s nothing I love more than moving my body or spending quality time with the man I love!
What do you have planned for the next six months?
The last half or 2019 is going to be a huge period of growth for the company! We’re officially re-opening the doors to “Chaos to Clarity,” my signature 6-week digital group coaching experience where I teach the StressLESS System© live to high-achieving women who want to learn how to have it all without having to do it all.
I’m working on a podcast that will also be launching late Fall/early Winter, and my book proposal is out for bid to find the right publisher!
But even with all of these exciting things in the works, my #1 mission is the same: serve others by walking my talk. The best way I can teach others to StressLESS is if I’m living my mission in my own life.
How can our readers connect with you?
Although I run a primarily digital company, I believe in the power of human connection. And that’s why I love technology, because it’s what connects me to YOU! I hope you’ll come hang out with me on the ‘Gram @CourtneyElmer_ and for more info on how I serve high-achievers like you, visit my website courtneyelmer.com
I can’t wait to connect with you!