psychology

"I am a perfectionist at heart, and I want everything that I do to create significant change in the lives of people" with Dr. April J. Lisbon

April J Lisbon

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. April J. Lisbon. Dr. April J. Lisbon is an autism coach strategist and empowerment speaker who helps professional working mothers of children diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum learn how to command their time, reduce their stress levels, and improve their financial situation. She is an international award winning author and has  published three books, “Stretched Thin: Finding Balance Working and Parenting Children with Special Needs”, “Autism in April: A Mother’s Journey During the Tween Years”, and most recently “Unmasking the Trauma: School Bullying & Children with Special Needs”. Dr. Lisbon has also been featured in the Washington Post, Autism Parenting Magazine, the TODAY Show Parenting, and Family Circle Magazine. Dr. Lisbon aspires to be an influencer in her community. 

Can you tell our readers about your background?

My name is Dr. April J. Lisbon and I was born in the Bronx. I moved around a lot during my younger years and around age 8, my mom and I settled on the beautiful island of St. Croix, United States Virgin Island where I graduated high school. I am also a survivor of Hurricane Hugo.

Educationally, I earned my undergraduate and first set of graduate degrees from the Florida State University. I hold a Master of Business Administration specializing in leadership from Tiffin University as well as a Doctor of Education specializing in curriculum leadership from Northeastern University. I am a certified K-12 public education school psychologist and have been in this role for almost 20 years. 

In addition to formal educational training, I have also pursued career education and provided business services as a relationship coach, career coach, and wellness coach. There were also periods of time in my life where I worked as a financial advisor and an independent contractor for a major educational company on a part-time basis. However, because of personal reasons, I could no longer commit to the training or expectations of either job.

What inspired you to start your business?

When I initially started my ‘business’ back in 2007, it was out of financial desperation. At that time, although I was working full-time in my role as a school psychologist, I could not afford to rent or buy a home on my own.  Then once I learned that my oldest child, who is on the autism spectrum, required a lot of outside services to address his unique needs I became even more desperate as I knew that my insurance company would not be able to cover all of his therapies. It’s amazing as now that I reflect on ‘why’ I recently shifted my business focus; I finally realized that it comes from a space where I don’t want another autism mom to go through the emotional and mental rollercoaster, I initially endured back in 2007.

Where is your business based?

My business is presently based in the DMV (DC, MD, VA) area. However, my most of my products and services are offered virtually.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

I initially started my business by researching my real customer avatar (who she was, where she liked to hang out, what were her pain points, life’s desires etc.). Once I gained clarity on my ‘why’ and ‘who’, I then began sharing with others via word of mouth and social media what I was doing in my business. From there I started investing in training programs that would help me create products and services that would best meet the needs of my real customer avatar.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

The most effective ways of raising awareness for my business has been through word of mouth, social media, and various media outlets.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

My two biggest ones would be that of a fear of failure and being able to hold emotional space for my clients when crisis hits at my home. I am a perfectionist at heart, and I want everything that I do to create significant change in the lives of people. I’ve been this way since I was a child. If I fail to reach my expectations, imposter syndrome sets in and I question if I am truly qualified to help others.

However, I’ve learned to overcome this fear is through my autistic son. Watching him remain strong in the face of adversity has taught me that it’s okay if I’m imperfect on this journey. What’s not okay is when I choose to quit. I refuse to quit.

Second is that of being emotionally present for my clients. Because I work in special education, there are times when I’m emotionally drained because I can’t ‘fix’ the needs of the students I’m working with. Then if I come home from work during a period when my autistic son is having a meltdown, I’m exhausted and overwhelmed even more as these meltdowns can last anywhere from 15 minutes until the next day depending on the issue. Trying to work with clients from an empty cup is hard to do and I dislike feeling like I’m not present within session.

To overcome this, I have learned to be gentle on myself and reschedule appointments. Since my clients ‘know’ what these meltdowns look like and the toll it may take on a person, they give me space to recoup. It’s one reason why I leave two ‘mental health’ days open on my calendar as when I’m unable to meet on one day, I can reschedule my clients on those open days.

How do you stay focused?

I stay focused because of my why and my children. My why is attached to my purpose and being that I’m the type of person who won’t stop until the job is finished; I have no choice but to focus on the end results. Additionally, my children are a reminder that I am building a legacy for them so that they will never experience the hardships I’ve experienced over the years. Are distractions prevalent? Absolutely. However, I refuse to allow them to hold me back from my life’s purpose.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

My business is different from my competition in that I am a trained psychologist who is a doctor, has experience in financial advising, and I’m also the mother of a child who is on the autism spectrum. It is because of professional education, field experience, as well as personal experience that I am able to speak to the mental, emotional, and financial needs of my clients.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

My most effective marketing strategy has been through word of mouth. My autism moms’ networks are powerful. If they know someone in their circle who may benefit from my services, they will refer the individual(s) to me.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

The best piece of advice that I would give to aspiring and new entrepreneurs would be to give yourself grace to fail in your business. Everything will not be perfect as an entrepreneur and although your idea may be great, your clients may not be ready to receive what you have to offer initially. If something doesn’t work the first few times, it’s a lesson learned. As you continue to learn from those lessons, you’ll then know what works best for your clients and will be able to speak directly to their needs with ease. Trust the process as your failures are tied to your successes.

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

I am a huge fan of James Patterson’s Alex Cross series. There’s a lot of action and drama in every book. I feel like I am ‘running each case’ as though I’m Alex’s partner. In all honestly, I love reading the Alex Cross series because it’s serves as a reminder that there will be times in life when things may not always work out or go according to plan. There will be pain along the way. However, with determination and being in a supportive environment, I can and will succeed. I really don’t have a favorite blog or app that I follow.

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

My favorite business tool is Canva. Canva has helped me create amazing promotional flyers, presentation slides, cards, etc. all from the comfort of my home. For the first time ever, I created my 2019 digital vision board using this tool, which was a lot of fun.

Who is your business role model? Why?

I would say Aprille Franks. She is authentic in her approach to working with her clients and her products and services are amazing. What I appreciate most about her is that she doesn’t have time for BS. She challenges her tribe from a place of love BUT she doesn’t accept excuses. Aprille understands that as long as you follow the system, anyone can serve others AND make money.

What is your beauty routine? What are some of your favorite products?

I am very natural, so I really don’t have a beauty routine. I traditionally wash my face with mild soap and will use witch hazel once a week to cleanse my pores. I’m not a makeup person as I breakout easily. I limit my products to whatever lip gloss and mascara are on sale.

How do you balance work and life?

Honestly, I realized over the years that you really can’t balance work and life without one lacking. Instead, I find harmony between the two by understanding that there is only one of me and I am more than enough to accomplish what life or work hands me. I’m learning to be firm with the word no when I feel like I am emotionally unable to handle a task regardless if it’s at work or at home. I’ve also learned that it’s okay if I don’t get things done the first time as there’s always tomorrow. Letting go of the need to be perfect has been the best gift I’ve given myself and my work and home life reflects it.

 What’s your favorite way to decompress?

My favorite way to decompress is to take a long hot Epsom salt bath with lavender oil. I’ll bring my cellphone or laptop in the bathroom and will listen to smooth Jazz music. I even have a sign on the door for my children that says ‘Mommy time’ so they are aware that unless it’s an emergency, I cannot be disturbed. It’s the best 10-15 minutes I give myself every other day.

 What do you have planned for the next six months?

I have a major speaking engagement coming up that I’m really excited about. I will be a main stage speaker at the Run Women’s Conference at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. This is my first stadium event. I have my second collaborative book project that should be coming out this year. I’m also planning on hosting a few webinars and doing more speaking engagements.

How can our readers connect with you?

They can connect with me via social media at:

www.facebook.com/autismcoachstrategist.com

www.instagram.com/autismcoachstrategist.com

www.linkedin.com/in/askdocapril

www.twitter.com/raiseurvisions

 

"I take time away from work" with Emily Frank

FrankEmily_007_072217.jpg

Emily Frank is a career reinvention specialist who works with quirky, creative people and those who have lived overseas to help them find careers they love.  She has over 12 years of experience helping people find their passion and manage their jobs.  Prior to founding Career Catalyst, she worked in higher education and spent 3 years in Japan.  She has a bachelor’s degree in East Asia Studies from Smith College, and a master’s degree in counseling psychology.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

After I got back from my time in Japan, I was at a loss regarding what to do with my life.  I tried on so many hats—from escorting a group of Japanese middle schoolers on a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park to attend cooking school—that I finally had to see a career counselor.  When I realized what a positive impact she had on me, I realized that I wanted to provide that kind of help, too.

What inspired you to start your business?

I enjoyed aspects of working in higher education, but I tired of red tape and change-averse attitudes.  When I was offered a small grant to work with people who, like me, had been working in Japan, it seemed like a message from the universe it was time to do my work in my way.

Where is your business based?

I’m based in Denver, CO, but work with people from all over the world.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

I did some simple things first, like having a logo designed and getting some professional headshots, and having my website professionally done, but the best thing I did as a new entrepreneur was to hire a business coach.  She’s been instrumental in my success, and I encourage anyone starting her own business to consider finding a coach.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Although I’ve had several marketing strategies, I’ve found most of my success from organic use of social media.  I do a weekly Facebook Live, and then a slightly different version of that content on LinkedIn.  I write 2 blog posts a week and share those through my website and social media.  I also try to catch career-related questions that my social media acquaintances have and to answer those quickly.  I also have listings on Google and Yelp, which may not help in terms of business per se, but increases my visibility.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

My first few months in business were hard because of how much I didn’t know about running a business.  I spent money on things that didn’t work out, like print and Yelp ads, and spent too much time trying to crack Facebook’s advertising secrets.  When I finally started having success, it was because I had learned to focus on the clients I wanted to attract and had learned to manage my time in a sensible way.

How do you stay focused?

This can be such a struggle for a solopreneur!  I have tried various things, but what I’ve found most effective is to chunk my day out into task categories, and to put those tasks on my calendar.  I’ve learned that I need to be specific because a Wednesday afternoon that just says “marketing” means I’ll probably spend 3 hours doing something useless.  So now I still categorize things under titles like “marketing,” but then I add specific tasks: “Write 3 blog posts,” or “FB Live: managing your manager.” 

On busier days, I also make a focused to-do list of small things I know I can accomplish that day, so even if I have a huge task, I know I’m chipping away at it.  Finally, one of the most important things I do is take time away from work.  I don’t answer emails, texts, or phone calls after hours or on weekends, and I try to take 3-day weekends regularly.  Self-care lets me re-energize so I can focus anew.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

I don’t really see other career professionals as competitors because we each serve different niches.  I work mostly with cultural creatives and repats and am more than happy to send business to my colleagues when a client isn’t a good fit for me.  I also get referrals from other career counselors, so it strengthens my sense of being a colleague instead of a competitor.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

Consistency has been really key for me.  It would be easier to stop my weekly videos or to slack on monthly emails to my subscribers, but if I drop the ball once, it’s much harder to pick it back up.  So I need to make myself do all the things.  On especially challenging weeks, I will often give myself a little reward when I’ve accomplished some of my less-fun tasks.  Today it was a macaroon.

What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Take advantage of services available to entrepreneurs.  Your bank will help you set up a business account, your local Small Business Development Center will talk to you about processes, and your local SCORE chapter may even hook you up with a mentor.  Accept all the free and low-cost help you can find, and when you have a good sense of what you will do, invest in a business coach.

What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

I love Allison Green’s Ask a Manager blog and book.  She’s funny and wise and gives excellent advice on navigating tricky career situations.  I send lots of my clients her way well, because she writes in a friendly, accessible way, and gives fabulously no-nonsense advice.

What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

Because I work with so many people who aren’t in my immediate area, I use the online meeting tool Zoom, and it has been precious to me.  It allows me to connect with people in a way that feels more personal than a phone call, to run larger workshops, and to avoid that ridiculous back-and-forth exchange of Skype handles.  The free version is probably good enough for most people, but I have invested in the professional version and have been thrilled with it.

Who is your business role model? Why?

My biggest business role models are Karen James Chopra (http://www.chopracareers.com/)  and Ronda Anstead (www.bethechangecareers.com) because they have thriving businesses without the pressure to get huge.  They have both focused on staying authentic, and have also both been very generous mentors to me.

What is your beauty routine? What are some of your favorite products?

Beyond working out 4 or 5 times a week, I can’t claim to have much of a beauty routine.  I focus on being clean and presentable, but I don’t do a lot with makeup and styling products. I use body wash and similar products by Lush because my skin is sensitive, and I love how their products smell.

How do you balance work and life?

As I mentioned earlier, I guard my free time zealously.  While I do sometimes take evening clients, when I leave work, I leave work.  No email, no phone, no texting, no social media.  (https://www.facebook.com/DenverCareerCatalyst/, https://www.linkedin.com/in/emilykikuefrank/)  I take my birthday off every year, and since it was on a Thursday this year, I also took off the following day, for a luxurious 4-day weekend.  When I have a late-night or two, I also try to make it up by leaving early later in the week.

What’s your favorite way to decompress?

I do yoga and Pilates once or twice a week, and I have a weekly dinner with childhood friends.  My partner and I also watch movies in the evening fairly often, and I garden and make fruit wines.  Anything that isn’t related to work does the trick for me!

What do you have planned for the next six months?

In August, I am planning to hold a workshop on protecting your career from unforeseen changes like layoffs, recessions, and restructuring so you always have plenty of possibilities. 

How can our readers connect with you?

I encourage anyone who is interested to look at my website first: https://www.denvercareercatalyst.com/. If that resonates, email is the best method of reaching out to me: Emily@DenverCareerCatalyst.com.  The phone is the second best: 720-839-9769.