Permission to Kick Ass

Alison Vidotto: Surviving and Thriving

Episode Summary

When I asked Alison Vidotto (today's guest) about a challenge or struggle in her business... man did she DELIVER. I had no idea she'd been through a near-collapse of her family business while simultaneously trying to grow her own personal brand. Check out this episode - it's a fascinating exploration of entrepreneurship and resiliency that will leave you feeling seriously inspired.

Episode Notes

I met Alison when we were both floating around the “launch” world in internet marketing. I didn’t know what she did at first but I knew she was here to bring her “A game” - ‘cause Alison’s in Brisbane, Australia… and I noticed I’d see her on every call I was on, no matter the time, day or night. She’s a gaht damn superhero whose determination to help small business makes me swoon. I think you’re really going to dig this one… and bonus? Aussie accent <3

Can’t-Miss Moments From This Episode:

Alison’s Bio:

Alison Vidotto is an award winning author, professional speaker, CEO of Push! Small Business Training & Mentoring. 

Alison set up her first small business in 1992 and found many of the same challenges business owners experience today. Having worked through the Australian 1992 recession, the Global Financial Crisis and Brisbane’s 2011 floods (to name a few), Alison has developed a real world understanding of potential hardships businesses face and the need for strategic planning to survive and grow through tough times.

The Purpose behind Push! is to reduce the staggering number of small business failures and to help entrepreneurs build a strong, successful and sustainable business.

Resources and links mentioned:

Come kick ass with me:

Episode Transcription

Angie Colee (00:02):

Welcome to permission to kick a podcast about leaving self-doubt in the dust, punching fear in the face and taking bold action toward your biggest dreams. I'm Angie Colee, and let's get to it. Hi there. Alison. I'm so glad to have you welcome to permission to kick ass.

Alison Vidotto (00:22):

Hi there, Angie. Thank you for having me. I'm very excited to be here.

Angie Colee (00:27):

I love it. Just listening to you talk, I'm going to do the typical American schtick. Like just give me the accent all day long. I love Aussie accents. Wow.

Alison Vidotto (00:35):

I'm saying the same, the same oh your accent is so lovely.

Angie Colee (00:40):

That's awesome. All right. Well, uh, would you mind telling us a little bit about what you do, what your businesses?

Alison Vidotto (00:47):

Well, my business is push business training and mentoring. I work with entrepreneurs. I love, love, love working with entrepreneurs and the purpose behind my business is to challenge the staggering number of small business failures. That's what drove me to establish push. I have another business in the corporate end of town. Um, I'm very, very passionate about working with entrepreneurs and helping them to really do well and give them the skills they need to.

Angie Colee (01:20):

That's how I totally identify with that. I was actually briefly toying with the idea of writing a manifesto about why I love the word entrepreneur like business owner is okay. Entrepreneur has power. It has gravitas it's, you know, the, the French derivative of like to bring about or to make. And I was like, yes, entrepreneurs. That's who I want to work with the makers. And the doers love that. Yes.

Alison Vidotto (01:45):

Now say it with a French accent too. And it takes on even more power.

Angie Colee (01:50):

I know my it's been a while since I've spoken French, but I could try... entrepreneur

Alison Vidotto (01:55):

Oh, perfect. My, I have a good friend. Who's French. I am going to ask her to say entrepreneur, I'm going to have to

Angie Colee (02:04):

Just going in the background with a lovely French little it's fantastic. Yes,

Alison Vidotto (02:09):

I will. So that's what I do. I work with entrepreneurs I'm based in Brisbane, Australia, but I work globally. Thank you, zoom.

Angie Colee (02:17):

I know I've seen you on calls at like two o'clock in the morning, your time you were my champion, staying up late to bring about change in the business world. So before our call, we were talking a little bit about what story you wanted to tell. And I am so excited for you to share this with everybody, because I think it's got an important lesson. So why don't we just jump right in? Okay.

Alison Vidotto (02:39):

Okey-dokey so, like I said, we have a business in the corporate end of town. Um, and we've had that business for many, many years. My husband is an engineer in a niche area in the resources and mining type industry. So he's sort of para. Um, and so we, this business went through absolute explosive growth. I think 2010, we set up a big office. Um, it was growing so rapidly and of course, projects in the mining and resources are worth millions and lots of contractors. So I had left my job to run the business. Full-time my teaching adults job to run the business full-time it was just exploding. So I took on an MBA because I wanted to be well-equipped with the skills to manage a business that was growing like this in projects and everything. And during the course of the MBA, in one of my assignments, I came across the statistics that 50% of small businesses fail within five years, 70% within 10, honestly, I thought I'd read wrong.

Alison Vidotto (03:53):

I thought there was just no way. So I lost sleep over that. And then I researched it and sure enough, it was true. And that was an underestimation because they didn't include those startups, you know, that sort of flare to life and die, you know, within months they actually took. So from there, um, I researched more why they, they fail and it's basically because they're not equipped. They don't have the skills, you know, they're really passionate about what they do, but they don't have the systems and the strategies and all of those things that go with it. And I'm a bit of a geek on all of those sorts of things. So I set up push the business and to help entrepreneurs. And that was like 2012, maybe something like that. And then by 2014, so we went through explosive growth to within weeks, we lost 80% of our contract.

Angie Colee (04:58):

Oh no.

Alison Vidotto (05:00):

And the other 20% were not far behind. And we had, uh, you know, a substantial team. A lot of them were related to us. The others were like family to us and suddenly zero income, but we had a lease. We had insurance, you know, we had all of these expenses and, um, it was horrendous. It was really incredibly stressful. And I remember a number of times thinking, wow, I set up this business to prevent small business failure. And here I am, I'm my own avatar. And yeah, it was, it was really terrible. So we actually sat down. We've been in business now for 28, 29 years. And we actually, we had other crises with the GFC and the recession in Australia and things. But this one, we actually looked, we stripped all our assets to keep the business afloat. Our house was attached to the business.

Alison Vidotto (06:03):

And so we actually, this day, I'll never forget it this day. My husband and sons appeared in the afternoon because I would go into town at silly o'clock six in the morning, and then I'd come home at lunchtime. And in the afternoon I would create courses, things like that in the quiet. And they appeared and they just said, you know, all, we need to look at a closing and I I'm standing there staring at the mouth. I'll never forget it. And I'm thinking, that's the house, that's our livelihood. It's their livelihood. It's the lovely people that work for us. And I was sort of, no, no, we're not. Nope. And what I did was I put, push on ice. Here's a note to everybody. What I did, the only thing I did was I kept up the social media content calendar, and I had one team member just keep posting for me each day.

Alison Vidotto (07:04):

So there was, you know, the tiny bit of organic growth you get, but I still had that presence and I just shelved it. And I lived and breathed this funnel that I had business mentors telling me it couldn't be done. You can't build a funnel for the mining and resources industry, no such thing as lead magnet, no such thing. As you know, cause they're not on social media, they don't want to download your freebie. They don't want your newsletter. You know, it was really interesting. And then, so I just lived and breathed it 20 hours a day and then I would dream about it. Cause I just kept thinking, you know, this is our family home. And we bought a we're on acreage. When we started out with this teeny tiny house that we added as we added children. Cause we have six children and uh, and I was sort of, no, no, no, no, no, this isn't happening.

Alison Vidotto (07:57):

So I just kept strategizing and reading everything. I could, I had studied neuro leadership. So I had all sorts of growth mindset activities that everybody, I would just have them I'd stick them on the wall, around the office. Um, and like for me it was things like, I'm not good at marketing yet. You know, this funnel isn't working yet. And so yet it's still one of my favorite words. And so we would really, you know, just pump it and I'd say to them, look, if there are a hundred thousand projects out there, even if there's been 90% collapsed because the industry had, you know, a catastrophic downturn, everybody, a lot of people we knew were going under businesses were failing every day. And of course I kept hearing things like there's nothing out there, there are no projects. And I was sort of, there are, can't think like that. And so I sat there one day and we were having a barbecue and I was sitting, looking at my husband and he looked at me and he goes, what? And I said, I've just realized you're a lead magnet.

Angie Colee (09:13):

The lead magnet. Yeah.

Alison Vidotto (09:15):

Well I, what these people want. He has 40 years experience in a very niche industry and we've traveled, you know, we moved 20 times in 15 years. So he worked on, you know, projects. His resume's amazing. And I thought you're the lead magnet?

Angie Colee (09:32):

Yes. Creative solution. If I have ever heard one

Alison Vidotto (09:38):

Mother of creation,

Angie Colee (09:40):

necessity is the mother of invention.

Alison Vidotto (09:43):

I was thinking desperation Charlotte. Yeah. Our lead magnets. So what we did, we actually wrote an email and we were getting these emails that weren't getting open. We were, you know, building this funnel into LinkedIn because that's where, of course, um, that community hangs out. So we sent out an email saying, and they, the subject line was, we need to have a coffee. Bing, Bing, Bing bang, bang. Oh, they wanted him. Yes. And then I realized because, so my background is like, I love teaching. And I had founded and developed a charity in Vietnam where I developed training for blind, young, blind people living in poverty. So training and teaching is my thing. You know, I just love, love, love it. So when they sort of cornered me and said, you need to take over the business. My response was we need to have training involved, you know, for me to be at all happy and didn't need to finance the charity because you know, that that was going to impact it.

Alison Vidotto (10:52):

So I was looking at him and I thought, what do we have that others don't have? Because if 99% of the contracts had gone, you know, and I kept saying this. So even if there were a hundred thousand and now there's only 10,000 or even 5,000, we only want three or five, you know? So it's just a much, much more upon. And so we need to be more creative. And so then what we did was we, um, we actually dissected Lou's brain and we took 40 years of being on projects and we would get him to talk about it and all that. And we put together a training program.

Angie Colee (11:37):

People can't see me right now, cause we're not, we're we're filming and video and Hey are watching each other, but I've just got like this big goofy grin on my face. Like, wow, this is such a creative solution. And I wanted to take a moment to unpack that a little bit too, because there are, that are listening here at all stages of the business. So there's, we're, we're throwing around some advanced terminology for some of you, but it's totally gettable. Like everybody in business, I think goes through this. And, and so when we say things like funnel, or we say copy or lead magnet, these are all just trying to attract people there tools to attract people into your business. And you know, typically when you think of a lead magnet, I'm a break it down a little bit. Cause this is my specialty and in advertising and copy.

Angie Colee (12:18):

Um, think of when, when you exchange your email address for a free PDF or a free video training or something like that. So to hear that you turned your husband into a lead magnet is just he this for a decade. And I have never heard such a creative solution for this that's fantastic kid, cute lead magnet. There, there was one more thing that I wanted to call attention to in what you said. And that was growth mindset because there are so many people that would have faced a challenge that you and your husband faced and, and they, your husband and your son came to that point to like, we need to talk about closing down the business where we can either choose to be in a growth mindset where we strive to see opportunities. And we roll with the punches are a little bit more resilient and adaptable versus a fixed mindset where we're a victim of our circumstances and we can't help what happens to us and Hey, you slash we can't actually help. What happens to anything to us at any time, any place anywhere what's going to happen is going to happen, but we can control how we react to it and how we roll with the punches. And I just, I love that you made that determination of like, well, yeah, there's still 10,000 contracts out there and we only need three.

Alison Vidotto (13:32):

Yep. I love. And look, if you stay on point, you know, genius, it's how we respond and look, make no mistake. It was a terrible time. It was, you know, and honestly it's what drives my business because my office is in town. And so I like to walk and, you know, part of my heart breaks, I see these cafes and dress shops and they sprout up and they're all excited and they're refurbing and then they're empty, you know? And I, I do, I think what happened, how much did they lose their house, go with it. Cause that's what we were facing. You know, it was, what do you do? Just, and the fact that between 50 and 70% of entrepreneurs and small business owners are going to lose, it just makes me crazy, you know, and look up part of it. I get cranky, I get incredibly passionate about it, but I get really cranky my daughter and soon to be son-in-law they have a business and they're in the fitness and wellness industry and amazing, beautiful, very devoted and passionate about what they do.

Alison Vidotto (14:54):

They registered business online that easy when they were doing their qualifications, this whole personal training and everything, getting their qualifications, they came to me and they said, we really need help with this. They had a business plan. They wanted them to do. And this is hand on heart. It was like 52, 54 pages long. It was so ridiculous. And honestly, I would bet money that the people assessing the business plan had no idea what a business plan was or what they should be doing. It was so theoretical and so unrelatable. It was one of those things. If you'd have had the physical copy, you would only ever use it to line an old draw or, you know, it was just, it was so ridiculous. And there was very, very little, if anything in there that would help them and mentor them. And they're amazing business owners and they really put in the hard yards, but you know, if they didn't have that information, it just sets them up for failure.

Alison Vidotto (16:09):

And I think if our community is based on built on small business, what is the ripple effect in our community of these businesses going under and these heartbroken entrepreneurs and these marriages under duress, why don't we help them at the other end and help them to succeed? And, you know, as a community, we're not going to suffer like this. So it does it, you know, it makes me a bit cranky because I think, you know, I've been in business, like I said, 28 years and I'm a geek, I'm a data geek I've studied forever. And I waded through this 54 pages, you know, sort of what, but there was nothing to actually say, you know, you need to know your cash conversion cycle because that is what breaks. A lot of people go on point. Like they, yeah.

Angie Colee (17:08):

Well, one of the things that I'm always railing on, like I devoted a whole chapter to this in my book and I've talked about it before, but there's something that I call the F U fund an F-you stands exactly for what you think it stands for. It's the money that you pay yourself. First, you bring in money, money goes into the FU fund before you pay your bills before you pay your rent before, before anything, money goes into the FU fund. And that's because you're buying back your freedom, you're buying back your choice. You're buying back your peace of mind by having that money sitting there and protecting you. And I remember talking to one of the people that I was coaching about starting a business, and they were afraid of what breaks most business owners like we were just talking about, which is cashflow, just not having enough money coming in to cover the bills.

Angie Colee (17:52):

And I told this person, so what choices do you think you'd be making in your business? If you had $50,000 in the bank, if you had a hundred thousand dollars in the bank, now you don't need to go from today. I have zero tomorrow. I have 50 grand. That's not what I'm saying here, but like, if you have an eye on $5, $10, $500 at a time I'm working toward having that cushion so that I can float myself through rough months. Cause rough months happen. Everybody that I've talked to on the show had an unexpected rough moment. And I think the big takeaway there is expect the unexpected guys.

Alison Vidotto (18:25):

That is so, so, so, so true. You know, the, the other thing is, and when, when COVID hit, um, so I have a bigger program and then COVID hit last year and we went in I'm in Australia and you know, were militant about our lockdowns. So smell of COVID, everything's locked down and you know, but we flattened the curve. So, you know, there is that. And when we're in lockdown, honestly, I felt quite anxious about business owners because I thought, what are they going to do? You know, what is this going to do to those failure rates? How many we're very lucky because we do have government subsidies here that help a little bit, but, uh, you know, it really played on my mind. So I then set up a membership very, very low threshold to help entrepreneurs to get online. Because of course, if your business online, well COVID schmovid you know, you sit at home and, and keep going. But one of the things that I say to business owners constantly is, yes, this is a crisis and yes, it will pass just like the catastrophic downturn in our industry passed it. It took a while, but a pass just like the GFC pass that the floods passed, you know, this will pass. And so you just need to be in survival mode, you know, and you need to think really strategically, how do you survive this? And then once you're at the other end, then you rebuild you rescale. But right now you focus on surviving.

Angie Colee (20:13):

I like that. You, and you brought that up with the example of your own business. Cause you, you had the mining business with your husband and then you had your small business push that was helping people grow their online businesses. And I, you know, at the beginning of the call, you talked about how, when the downturn hit your industry and the mining industry, you put push on pause a little bit. And that's exactly, I think what we're talking about here with going into maintenance mode, going into survival mode, not disappearing off the face of the planet, but doing what you can to just kind of maintain, stay at one level. And I like that you didn't disappear there. Like you didn't just leave. You're like, Oh, I'm going to keep putting out helpful content and I'm going to come back eventually. And just, just that mindset alone, I think.

Alison Vidotto (21:00):

And I did, and see for me, push is what that makes my heart sing. My, I love it. It energizes me not so much the, the corporate side, but that's where the money was coming from. So when you're in survival mode, it's not so much about feeding your passion. It's about feeding your family, you know? So I went into that mode and uh, and then of course we did turn it all around thankfully. So I get to sit and chat to you. Um, and once it really did have legs and like, it took a good couple of years before we really climbed up there and we were making, you know, significant money and all the rest of it, then I could go back to push. And of course, you know, that renewed with experience and there is nothing like a few battle scars to help you to relate to people.

Angie Colee (22:03):

Well, that's perfect too, because so much of what we deal with in life, not just in business is transferable. Like if I've learned how to deal with it, somebody broke into my car, let's say, and I've got to deal with the insurance and stuff, like all that. Well then I know how to deal. Roughly with my site got hacked. And now I've got a series of steps that I got to do to get that back and get that fixed, like these skills and the coping mechanisms and that resilience are, you know, it's not siloed. It's not my personal life is over here. And my business life is it's all connected these days,

Alison Vidotto (22:37):

Especially if you're that entrepreneur gon say with a French accent,

Angie Colee (22:43):

I like it with the Australian accent. I think it's fantastic. Oh, this is so, so good. I mean, mindset is such a huge component to this that I think people tend to, I don't know, dismiss a little bit, or like, you can't wish your way to success, which is true. You can't wish it. You have to follow the mindset with action and, and dedication to learning. But I think, you know, if, if I could boil down having that growth mindset to one key asset, it's a determination to win or learn, not win or lose, it's win or learn.

Alison Vidotto (23:21):

Yeah. So, so true and to know that you're going to get there. I mean, you know, like I said, for two years, there was nine months that I just had all this butcher paper all over the house. As I tried to build this funnel, took over the kitchen bench the dining day. Well, it was everywhere. And of course it was pivot. Okay, that's not working try this. Okay. That's not working try that. Um, you know, fall down, fall down seven times, get up eight. Yes. And it's so true. You just keep getting back up and it will, you will find a way you will find a way you've just got to be, I think it was, um, Jim Carrey, who said, uh, you know, he's right into the whole visualizing your goals. And he said, but you know, the thing is like, he visualized, he used to keep a blank check for $12 million made out to him in his wallet for years and years and years. And that's what he got paid for the mask. Yes. That's the true story. But he said, you know, but here's the thing. You can't have these goals and, you know, do all of this and then go make a sandwich. Yeah. So he had these goals and he had this prep check for 12 million and he would sleep on people's couches. And he would go for, you know, a hundred auditions or where he can, you know, he just lived and breathed his goals and he just kept working towards them.

Angie Colee (24:57):

And he didn't know which road was going to lead to 12 million. I think that's right. That's the part that frustrates me the most about entrepreneurs is they like a lot of people, especially if you're very new to business, feel like you have to sit down and, and have the plan that 54 page plan. Yes. That outlines all the stuff on the make sense and like the backup plan and the backup backup plan and the backup backup plan to the backup plan.

Alison Vidotto (25:20):

Yes. And pivot is your friend.

Angie Colee (25:24):

So he, he did hundreds of auditions. He slept on people's couches. He tooks all kinds of gigs. I remember watching him in his early like standup days and sketch comedy days. And he was hilarious. He didn't know which one of those roads was going to pay off, but he knew that one of those steps was closer toward his goal. And as long as he kept taking steps, he was going to get there. And that's the key take the step. Don't just dream about it. Do don't just dream.

Alison Vidotto (25:47):

If you, if you have a vision where you want your business to be, and you've mapped it out, you've got a road. And once you have that road in that direction, it's easy to tell when you veered off it. Yes. And so

Angie Colee (26:04):

The planning is important and then the journey is flexible a little bit. Yeah.

Alison Vidotto (26:08):

That's that's right. I actually, I love quotes. I'm a real top of them. And another one I heard was be, be firm with your vision, flexible with your plan. Yes. So don't lose sight of your vision, but be flexible, you know, with the road there, because none of those roads are set in stone. You know, you don't really know what, whether it's going to be standup comedy or wearing a funny green mask and dancing really well.

Angie Colee (26:42):

I couldn't have that. I would be here when I started out, because when I went back to school and got my master's degree over, over a decade ago, um, I thought I was going to be in television development. I had never even heard of copywriting and advertising writing. And, and so I fell into an entire industry by accident. But by keeping my eye on that goal of like, I want to be a writer, I want to tell cool stories. I want to reach people with words. I don't know what this looks like yet. I'm going to keep working toward that. And like, here I am and I've moved beyond I've, I've done all of the writing and now I've moved into ghost writing. I've done that for a little bit. Now I'm working on my own book, which is like,

Alison Vidotto (27:26):

Yay, yay.

Angie Colee (27:29):

And helping other creative people to like really step up and own that. And you can create a life sustaining business out of it. It doesn't have to be your hobby. You just have to be open to figuring out how to monetize what it is that you do and what you love. And just keep trying things until something works. Yeah. I love it. So true. All right. Well, Alison, this is a fantastic chat. Will you tell us a little bit about where to find out more about push?

Alison Vidotto (27:58):

Well, push 'em all over the net. Alison Vidotto is my name. I'm sure you'll have that. If you Google it's for, there's not many of us out there, it's just me and

Angie Colee (28:10):

I'll have it in the show notes too. So it's clickable. Yes.

Alison Vidotto (28:13):

And you know, I'm across social media. So reach out and connect with me. I'm on clubhouse too at Alison Vidotto.

Angie Colee (28:22):

A little bit jealous cause I'm an Android person. So I'm left out of clubhouse, but we'll get in there eventually. Yeah.

Alison Vidotto (28:27):

Yes. There will be a wave will be waiting for you. All right.

Angie Colee (28:31):

Thank you so much, Alison,

Alison Vidotto (28:32):

thank you so much. Great to chat with you.

Angie Colee (28:38):

So that is it another awesome episode of permission to kick on the books. If you want to know more about the show, if you want to know more about me, Angie Colee and the mission I'm on to help entrepreneurs punch fear in the face and do big bold things, then head on over to permission to kick ass.com. That is all one word together, permission to kick ass.com, make sure to sign up for my email list so that, you know, whenever there's a hot, fresh and ready podcast episode out for you. And also on Mondays, I like to send out a little newsletter called kick Mondays ass I'm sure you're totally, totally surprised by that. So thank you for being here with me today. I'm Angie Colee. Make sure that you share this with a friend that needs to hear this message today. Like it, share it. Comment wherever you're listening to this today and let's go kick some ass.