An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Find a mentor or two and no more. Stop listening to others. Find one, maybe two mentors at most, and listen keenly to them. Be open to what they say. Be open to paying them so that they are vested in your success.
As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Soheil Nazari-Kangarlou.
James Lam, owner of LAM — Look Ahead Marketing, helps heart-centered entrepreneurs discover their superpowers and then use those gifts to shape their businesses into change-making enterprises via his 12-week signature program, Superpowered Business Success. James also built the successful franchise, Learn Photography Company, with over 5000 students at ten studios across Canada. https://www.lookaheadmarketing.com/.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in Burlington, Ontario, where I was one of 3% of minority skin colors going to school. My parents are immigrants from Hong Kong. Growing up, we had money and a wealth paradigm, with my parents always talking about the kids becoming a doctor or a lawyer, some kind of a professional. The paradigm my family lived by was hard work will get you to your goals. We had to sacrifice fun, we played violin, I played piano, did great in math — it was an environment based on external validation. I drew a lot of the lessons for this article from my childhood because a lot of people in the coaching space and in the entrepreneurial world feel they can outwork the problem, but they’re wasting so much time.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
When I was growing up I was a big Star Trek The Next Generation fan. In the very first episode, there was an all-powerful being simply named “Q” who threatened to extinguish humanity unless the crew of the Enterprise passed a trial that he set up.
As the bridge officers were debating on how to proceed with this trial, the Captain turns around and says “if we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are.”
That saying has guided my entrepreneurial journey from start and it’s a big reason why I’m being featured today. Be yourself. Be proud of it. Wear it. You’ve earned it.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I loved reading Mindset: The Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. It made a HUGE impact on me when we really started to expand the business. For so many years, we had struggled with achieving marginal success, and then here was the first opportunity to truly go BIG. We were scared and, quite frankly, terrified that we were going to make mistakes (we knew we were going to make mistakes — just how many and how fatal were the questions!).
Mindset provided an infinite canvas from which to improve. Instead of seeing the world as “success or fail”, it taught me that “done” is a wonderful starting place and nothing is ever fatal.
In this industry, it’s common to have people abandon plans at the smallest hiccup. Instead of leaning into the problems as an opportunity for learning, many entrepreneurs give up far too early. This book challenges those assumptions that would have us believe that failure is fatal, and provides amazing context for continual improvement and eventually, guaranteed wins.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?
This is a HUGE challenge with new entrepreneurs and one that I see all the time. In fact, it’s what generates 99% of the questions and keeps us in business! I’ll answer this all-encompassing question in a few different ways:
1) Making it too complicated and perfect. Set out to solve one problem and then test your offer.
People try to solve ALL the problems in one offer, which results in the offer never getting out the door because they continue to tweak it until they feel it’s “ready” (which is usually never). We underestimate the power of starting at Square One and improving. Come up with the solution to ONE problem and go all-in on that. For example, a good offer would be “how to change the oil in your car” whereas a not-so-great offer would be “how to rebuild your car”. One problem = one solution. Test it first to see if the public wants it and if so, improve on that ONE solution so it is the best it possibly can be. Then, you move on to the next solution ie how to change your brake fluid.
One of the recurring powerful themes in my work with coaches, healers, speakers, and authors is simply finding the courage to start being seen. The crown jewel of my signature course for online coaches and healers is them finally creating their first BETA product and being paid thousands of dollars without the complexity of funnels, landing pages, ads, or anything else.
3) Diluting the Idea
Stop comparing your Step 1 with others’ Step 26. A mistake that I see too often is new entrepreneurs strive for perfection and complexity from the get-go. This leads to poor decision-making and people becoming “busy” and over “productive”. A great example of this is having mentored some new coaches with amazing talents, who have created the most beautiful and amazing, highly complex email funnel logic campaigns… with sadly no emails to put in them.
This is a huge paradigm shift as we destroy the false belief that you needed ALL the systems, and all of them to be perfect in order to have a profitable business.
You have a special product that is unique to you and is amazing. Stop diluting it.
I’ve seen dozens of online coaches, healers, and course creators dilute an idea — and it’s all based on insecurity and lack of brand message clarity. It looks something like this — early on we do a competitive analysis and find somebody who is doing something similar. They’ve been in the space longer and we feel they are the authority so we change our very special product because we feel we need to be competitive. Some compensate by adding so many extra bells and whistles to the new product, that it ends up as just an overgrown shadow of what was once an amazing idea, having lost what once made it special.
Stay with your idea. Keep it special. Keep it simple.
3) People Don’t Find a Coach or Mentor
Find somebody who can help you succeed faster.
A good mentor or coach is somebody who will reduce your timeline to success by months, more likely years. Most people think a good coach tells you what to do, and sometimes that’s the case, but what’s equally as important, if not more important, is what NOT to do.
You have a finite amount of time in business and in the beginning, it’s critical that the time is used wisely. A good coach or mentor will give you a 100X+ ROI over many years.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
In my space, the better question is: does it *really* matter that you create something truly unique? Let me tell you these two ways of looking at this…
The people I have the privilege of working with — online coaches, healers, authors, and speakers — ARE the product (and let’s face it — everybody is unique in all their perfect imperfections). Normally we think that we always have to create something new and have to have the “first-mover” advantage. The reality is those first movers very rarely maintain that advantage, and in my space, the unique selling proposition is primarily the people themselves, followed secondarily by product and service uniqueness. What this means is that you have a crowd that is naturally attracted to you. So while you could argue that everybody who has worked with me could also work with Tony Robbins (truth by the way), personality and intuition dictate that my crowd will get better results because their personality and goals are in alignment with my skill set and knowledge. Hence — we are all individuals and all have unique businesses.
I am actually buoyed and encouraged when somebody comes up to me and says that their business idea is “taken”. There is so much business out there! We must believe in this as it’s one of the key tenets of abundance-minded thinking. Competition? That’s GREAT! Because it means you have a viable product so there’s money to be made.
For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands?
I LOVE the online coaching space because it’s super streamlined. One of the things I ask people to do is:
1.Come up with an idea
2. Have a conversation with their target market
3. Have an idea about the transformation their product offers
4. Sell to the email list as a Beta to verify that it is going to sell (while making a few thousand dollars)
5. Refine with feedback from Beta testers
6. Launch to market.
It doesn’t get any simpler (or faster) than that!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) Go with your gut
So one of the things I do before making any decision, whether it’s big or little, is I always do a gut check. Of course, I run the numbers, I do the ratios, I look at possible scenarios and what could happen. But at the end of the day, more often than not, I trust my gut. And that’s one of the things I wish I had known earlier because I made a bunch of bad decisions by going against my gut, which caused me to take longer to get where I am now.
2) Find the courage to get out there and stop playing small
One of the things that I wish someone had told me is that entrepreneurship is scary. And when it is scary, it means you’re on the right path. There is risk in everything that we do. The best entrepreneurs take massive calculated risks, which pay off — and the result is a huge upleveling jump up to new levels.
3) Find a mentor or two and no more. Stop listening to others.
Find one, maybe two mentors at most, and listen keenly to them. Be open to what they say. Be open to paying them so that they are vested in your success.
To others who you don’t trust, keep them out of your mind. Follow this wisdom and you will go farther than ever.
4) Hard work in alignment with heart and spirituality
Here’s a nasty secret — the world is awash with one simple paradigm that needs to shift, which is “just work harder.” In my industry, it’s known as “hustle and grind.” Essentially there’s a false belief that if you work long enough, hard enough, and sacrifice enough, you will become abundant beyond your wildest dreams.
I wish that somebody told me to align my heart and spirituality with hard work instead when I first started in entrepreneurship. Spirituality and heart are the belief work that you must do around success. It’s the BEING part of your success. More than anything else this is the driver to your success.
5) Stop comparing yourself to other entrepreneurs. The road is long (and bumpy).
A mistake we make is comparing our Step 2 with others’ Step 30 and adopting all their strategies and tactics. We think, “if only I had that I could jump to success.” The reality is that every failure is like a brick and the more bricks you have, the bigger the house you can build. You have to have those brick-sized failures in order to win. So when you compare yourself to someone else, putting into play what they’re doing is not going to work because they got to Step 30 by going from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4, etc., solving a problem each step of the way. Your business has to have its own evolution without skipping stages.
The fastest route to success is to fail fast and fail often. As Soichiro Honda (yes, THAT Honda) said, “Success is 99% failure.” Take James Dyson, for example. Over the course of 15 years, he created 5,127 different prototypes for his bagless vacuum and when he finally had a working model, the British market rejected it. Did he give up? No, he sold it through catalogs in Japan, which eventually gave him the funds to open his own factory. Dyson is now valued at over $5 billion dollars.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Beta test the hell out of it! Try to explain it and sell a test version for real money to see if you can get buyers — that helps to test the market. Then have those Beta customers come back to you with feedback.
Know that you don’t have to solve everything in one offer as you can leave room to solve the next piece of the puzzle in a future product. What you do need is to have a very specific goal of solving ONE problem. Many times I see people trying to create solutions and packages to solve ALL of the problems at once.
Solve the one specific problem that you set out to, then Beta test another product that solves the problem that follows the solution your Product One provided.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
I was going to say venture capital because you always, always (always) end up burning way more capital than you would ever expect in any business plan — take my word for it — three businesses later and I’m always amazed at how much we spend before making a decent income.
After much internal debate, however, I’m thinking bootstrapping is essential for any entrepreneur who truly wants to grow.
The truth is that I am a strong believer that the tough times in an entrepreneur’s life help to mold them into the person that they need to be. The skills, beliefs, and personality that are forged through the fires of challenge are what help an entrepreneur grow. And a company grows when an entrepreneur grows. I think what happens is when someone doesn’t have to “work for it”, they miss out on a level of learning and development of character that makes them a better entrepreneur. Think of how many businesses are passed down to the founder’s grandchildren only to fail because they lack this entrepreneurial steel, with examples such as Gucci, Seagram’s, and Eaton’s department stores. There’s actually a term for it, the “third-generation rule,” which finds 70% of affluent families will have lost their wealth by the third generation.
So there it is — bootstrapping #ftw — at least for me 🙂
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Being the child of immigrants myself, I sought out an opportunity to help other newcomers to Canada, which is why I’ve been on the Board of Directors for the Immigrant Services of Calgary these last three years. I’ve been able to use my marketing skills to help improve messaging, build better and stronger systems and create partnerships with various organizations and businesses that can help refugees and immigrants build a new life while enriching the community.
In my professional work, I believe I’m helping change the world one person at a time. When my clients, who are coaches and healers, believe in what they can do and showcase it to the world, there is a ripple effect for the better. For example, one woman I work with tragically lost both her sons to murder. In order to honour their memory, she wrote books to help others who have undergone the loss of a loved one. My goal is always to help my clients shine their lights brightly to the world.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
My movement would be “Get out of hustle & grind, get into heart & mind”. The way to success is to work powerfully aligned. I believe that your deep why, that reason you do what you do, is the internal drive you need to keep going and avoid burnout.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur, it doesn’t matter if you’re in corporate, it doesn’t matter if you’re a mother trying to raise amazing children. What really matters is having the belief in spirit and a strong mindset which provide an unshakable foundation to be the best version of yourself at this moment. When you find that — you find your personal potential that will keep you going through thick and thin.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Amy Porterfield!! Her course changed my business dramatically in under four years. I would LOVE to have the opportunity to thank her personally for the impact she’s had on our family.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Making Something From Nothing: James Lam Of Lookahead Marketing On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.