After a career in high tech marketing and being a working mother with three small children, 39-year old Jodie Strecker decided it was time to start a business for herself. She hired Robert Weil, co-founder and Life Coach with the Institute for Coaching.
An inventor by instinct and creative by nature, Jodie launched Strecks Collage Boards in the summer of 2008. Her product is an ingeniously designed display setting made with beautiful fabrics suitable for any decor. The boards come in various sizes and are lightweight and safe for a child or any family member to use.
They are an attractive and functional way to present school work, artwork and family photos without using any thumb tacks or nails. Whatever you choose to display is held together by a carefully-placed mesh of ribbons which can be repositioned to suit any arrangement.
Although simple and effective in concept, the collage boards have taken off in a big way via word of mouth, Jodie’s community outreach, and her well-visited website, www.strecks.com.
Having launched her product from her living room, Jodie has goals to market the boards to catalog companies, home product websites and high end retailers. Her success story echoes the rise of Martha Stewart and certainly she has a host of ideas for new in-home products down the line.
But her present business achievements are also linked to a deep personal transformation she underwent through working with Life Coach, Robert Weil. In a recent interview, Jodie reveals the value of having Robert guide her through one of the most important transitions of her career, and how it benefited all areas of her life.
Q. What had you seek out a coach in the first place?
A. Once I decided to go out on my own I had a lot of unanswered questions, the ultimate one being “Is this going to work? Am I going to able to make a success of it?” I wanted a coach that would support me in business, to help me get through the challenge of starting a new venture and all the fears that I had about it. In choosing a coach I was really looking for something very actionable, a program where I could walk away with specific tools that I could use in my life that would get me results.
Q. You chose to have a coach at a very important point in your career. What were you looking to accomplish?
A. I wanted to accomplish both personal and professional objectives. I was looking to improve my communication skills and my personal relationships, in particular with certain family members. I also wanted very much to focus on starting my own business, following it through and making sure that it happened.
Q. How did you decide to go into business for yourself?
A. I was in a very demanding marketing job in a high tech company. You know in Silicon Valley there’s no such thing as a 9 to 5 schedule. I was working very long days that left me very little time for myself or my family. I have three small children under ten and I decided that one way to be with them in the home was to work for myself. I also wanted something that was under my control and to be able to vacation with my children in the summer. My husband and I like traveling overseas with them and that’s hard to do if I’m not in charge of my work life. Getting my business going wasn’t easy. The challenges I faced were: coming up with an idea that was easily marketable, getting it off the ground, and making it a success.
Q. How did you arrive at the idea for your business, the concept of the collage boards?
A. I had a lot of ideas but I’m a person with too many ideas. This was one of the challenges I worked on with my coach Robert, sifting through so many concepts that sometimes it was very hard to stay focused. I chose this one, (the collage boards) because it was low cost through time to market, time to money, and it was something that could be made locally, without a big investment in manufacturing and tooling and things like that. It ended up going really well, and it’s been a very creative experience which I enjoyed.
Q. And you design and market the product out of your house?
A. Yes, I work out of my house. Thankfully, I have a lot of space here, and we do everything from my living room, except the sewing and the assembly. It keeps the overhead low and this way I still get to see my kids, which was a huge objective.
Q. I understand you use community outreach to market the product. What other methods do you use to promote it and how do you get people to look at your website?
A. So far my success has been based on being a very involved community member, particularly in the school district of my children. There is a huge network in this neighborhood, one that happens to be very united because it’s centered around the school, and I have a leadership role in the community. So it flowed very naturally when I did my first launch and promotion. We had quite a lot of people show up at my house and I have so many friends who have been supportive and who’ve spread the word. Considering I only launched the business in August of 2008, the product has received
a lot of attention.
Q. How did you find your way to Robert Weil and Meredith Haberfield?
A. Once again through that same mother’s club community. Robert and Meredith were highly recommended to me by people at the Palo Alto parent’s club. We all take such referrals seriously, and put a lot of weight in recommendations from other parents. Meredith, Robert and their company were suggested to me several times. I was impressed with what I read about them on their website. However, I did speak to several coaches before making a choice but I don’t even remember my conversations with the others, they were so unimpressive.
Q. What did you find that was different about Robert and Meredith?
A. They had an immediate way of getting to the bottom of issues, not by lecturing me or giving me advice but asking important questions. They pose questions in such a way to point the person to locating the answers within themselves—answers that I didn’t know existed already. They have an amazing skill of making it easy for a person to access their own power and resources in a way that I had never experienced before.
Q. You’ve mentioned that you came from a family where you were expected to be seen and not heard, where speaking up or expressing an opinion was a dangerous thing to do.
A. That’s true. If you spoke out of turn or disagreed with anything you risked being derided or punished physically. It was a real enlightenment working with Robert because I realized right away how a lack of communication skills had affected my life negatively and many of my relationships really profoundly, especially with certain family members.
Q. So you were afraid to voice an opinion at home?
A. It’s odd because I have always been expressive in lots of ways but in certain situations, if something got difficult, I would have a hard time speaking up for myself, especially in front of certain personality types. I have one family member with whom I have very strained relations–I have always had an extremely difficult time getting along with them, and to say what I needed them to hear. But it’s true that Robert’s coaching has given me the tools to deal in a more sensitive way with this individual and the situation has improved quite a lot.
Q. What were your expectations of coaching?
A. I thought that maybe I would learn what to say to people, that I’d have a ready-made script to say what I truly felt without fear getting in the way. But the experience went beyond my expectations to where I now I feel so much freedom in expressing myself clearly. I never expected to get to this point prior to meeting Robert.
Q. What would you say are most significant things you learned about yourself through the
A. I think the most important I got from coaching is there’s so much power, freedom and peace in taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. I’m sure I must have always known this all along on some level, but the coaching process brought it home more forcefully and made it incredibly liberating.
Coaching also taught me that the only true suffering that we bring on ourselves is caused by our own thoughts about our experience. Life situations can change in many ways but if you think or believe a condition is bad then it can’t help but be bad. I feel now that everything is OK, no matter what.
Robert changed my perspective in many interesting and profound ways. You really do create your own reality. If you’re having a miserable life, maybe the way you perceive it is due to your own thoughts. Once I realized that, I actually didn’t have to change my thoughts, they changed quite naturally. If I can see the good in everything then I know I can have a fabulous life and that I can attract more good things if I stay positive.
Q. Do you find that this is true when the external circumstances are truly awful and are
outside your control. Do you find you can ride out such situations successfully?
A. Yes, I recently had a health scare but was amazed that I withheld my judgment about it
and stayed calm. I also recently got mad about something but managed to free myself of the anger and came to see the situation for what it really was. I felt much better about it once I contained my negative thoughts. It’s not always a matter of getting rid of them but being aware of what’s happening in your head and having some sense of managing your mind.
Q. In terms of coaching, did you have a lot of fears and habits you wanted to get rid of? Fears that you believed the coaching experience would free you from?
A. Yes, I used to be a huge worrier and moan about everything with respect to my career.
I did it just last week, saying to Robert, “Oh, I’m so worried about the retail business. It’s a terrible business to be in.” But when I thought it through I was able to tone down the anxiety. Yes, I have do fears like anyone but most of the time if I stop to examine what I’m actually doing to cause them, they can be dealt with.
Sometimes my fears are just totally unfounded because I haven’t thought about a situation clearly. Robert makes me go down the “what if” path, asking continually “What if? What if?” like peeling back the layers of a problem to see if its truly real or maybe it’s something I’m fearing that will actually never happen. But if you have a concrete problem and need to make a plan, say like in a challenging business situation, the question becomes, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” It’s a process that compels you to look at the situation very honestly and find a workable solution.
You have to delve into a problem to where their impact is realistic and not blown out of all proportion. You also need to know how to use it to your advantage. It’s what I call the sling-shot analogy which is very powerful and always works for me. Every time you see a quote/unquote setback or “problem” and you feel like you’re taking a step back in your life, there’s a great deal of tension in actually moving backwards. But try imagining the experience to be like a slingshot and think, “Ah! This is going to be the very thing that will propel me five steps forward—if I really work at it!”
So I’m always watching carefully every time something goes wrong and thinking,
“Ok, it’s a slingshot. Where’s the opportunity?” I’m so thankful for every one of the major problems I’ve encountered in my business, because each one has moved me forwards so many steps. I’ve discovered benefits I would not have seen had I not experienced those obstacles along the way. So my attitude is, “Oh, a setback? Excellent!” I have to find a way for the setback to propel me forward. If the answer
or opportunity is not apparent immediately, it will be sooner or later.
Q. Why do you think you have had so much success so early in your business?
What are the keys you’ve found most useful?
A. For me it was finding something that I truly enjoyed doing. I’ve always been a
creative person, an inventor type, and have always been a seeker of a better way to
do things. It’s important to be involved with work that gives you pleasure and not just merely profit, work that seems more like play than a hard slog. Next, you need to be very focused and committed to making your business a success. You also need to be very flexible with bumps and swerves in the road, and to be able to turn any disaster into an opportunity.
Q. What are the challenges you are seeing ahead of you? And what will be key to navigating them successfully?
A. The initial success of my business gives me the hope and vision that I can expand it
to invent, develop and market more products. I like making things, creating things, and often my ideas for products come from seeing a need that’s unmet, a problem that prompts solution, a way to make something better and more beautiful.
Will I be another Martha Stewart? I don’t know but this not just about having a Mom-run business at home. There will come a time in the immediate future when I want to reach out and see my label and products in high end stores and boutiques. I know can achieve this and this particular challenge is not daunting to me. I know I have the energy and the spirit of invention to pull it off. Can I compete in today’s marketplace and economic climate? Yep, I can. Coaching and my business have taught me that there’s no such thing as “can’t be done!”
Q. How would you describe where you were before working with Robert to where you are now?
A. The distance I’ve come from where I began before coaching with Robert is just incredible. I started with a small idea I had for a business and a lack of communication skills. I wouldn’t say that I lacked confidence but I was very overwhelmed by a lot of fears about if I was making the right decision about going into business. But if I look at where I’m at now, it’s a one hundred percent transformation in positive thinking, in communication, and in knowing how to be truly present with the people I deal with every day. If six months ago you would have told me that I would have come this far, I would have been shocked and very doubtful, but… wow! It’s working.
Q. How has coaching supported you in reaching your goals? Can you name the three most valuable things you believe coaching has given you?
A. Well, there are so many good things I’ve gained from it. The most important thing is the way a coach is able to help you really access personal resources and strengths you didn’t even know you had. Coaching is also about teaching you how reach for this power and tap in to it for yourself whenever you need to. It really opens doors to a higher level of functioning in your every day life–that can help make your life so much better and personally satisfying.
Q. Don’t you find it interesting that in our society so many people, especially women, have such a hard time finding those resources within themselves.
A. I really think it’s about the habit of the facts you have about your world, your daily reality and what you believe to be true about yourself versus what is false. For me it boils down to that. We get so many misperceptions dumped on us from when we’re very young. Many of them we end up believing and they’re simply not true at all. I’m really interested in writing a children’s book about this called, “Are You Really a Banana?”
A kid calls another child a banana and you see how the thoughts work in the second kid’s head in their awareness, “Oh, really? I am a Banana.” Eventually he works through the name calling to see that he’s really not a piece of fruit!
The story’s very simple but it’s about just because someone pigeon holes you as something less than who you’re meant to be, whether it be your parents, your family, your background, that doesn’t make it true. And how a lot of false views of your self fall away when you begin to explore who you truly are and erase any bad labels you may have hanging off you. It’s a lesson for both kids and adults.
People can say what they will about you but you can always choose what to believe. You don’t have to be distressed at all if someone says “hey, you’re stupid, you’re this, you’re that.” You don’t have to believe anything negative you hear. This is an important lesson I’m trying to teach my kids.
The power of who they are within themselves and how they deal with any situation depends on how they’re going to think about it. It’s a matter of what you think is
what you are or what you become. A vital question to answer is “Who would I be without that thought?”
If I shift on the thought in some way will it feel better? For example, I hate to do chores, or so I think. But what if…I change the reaction to “Why don’t I make doing the chores fun in some way”, it becomes a whole different reality. Coaching also made me aware just how many negative perceptions I had running around my head and how they could stress me out and make me feel bad. I’ve learned that if I find a way to love my reality, to truly be in a place of acceptance then I would be one hundred percent happier.
Q. I’m impressed the way coaching has helped you embark on a very committed journey of self-exploration.
A. Well, I want to enjoy my life and that wasn’t always the case. I wanted a way to get beyond the things that were preventing me from being really happy. So often we make ourselves suffer by our own reactions, and by not being aware that we’re actually doing it to ourselves.
Q. What do you think is important for people to consider when looking for a coach?
A. I think it’s important that people seek out a coach that’s a good match for their life situation, whatever their most urgent need is. I would recommend looking for a coach
that has particular experience in the area requiring attention, whether it be time management, communications, or working through self-esteem issues.
I also believe that a coach should give you a certain amount of free time at the beginning so you get a sense of them and what they can do for you. You should really get a big hit on first contact and learn something profound in the space of a few minutes from talking with a skilled coach. And that should happen by them asking you questions about what your truth is. Choosing and working with a coach is all about them helping you to discover and claim your own truth.
Q. What, for you, was most unique or helpful about working with a coach?
A. The process of working with a coach is like a snowball going down hill. What I came away with from the first few sessions with Robert was a remarkable amount of insight about how I got in my own way in certain areas of my life. Then, like the snowball picking up speed and more snow crystals, the sessions became very strong in uncovering ways for me to empower myself and move forward. There is no doubt that the process changed me in very fundamental and significant ways. Like traveling down through layers of myself to reveal what was essential and more powerful every time.
Q. In what ways has coaching impacted important areas of your life. Does your family comment on the changes they see in you?
A. Oh, absolutely. I was recently stuck in an airport and didn’t know if I’d get home that night but I took it all very calmly which astonished my husband who couldn’t believe I was that mellow about the delay. (This wasn’t always the case. In the past I used to react and stress myself badly in such situations.)
Certainly, as a mother, coaching has helped me a lot. Small toddlers can try your patience and all my kids are very high energy. But if I shift my attitude that this how they are and need to be at this age, and accept the noise and chaos as a gift and a delight, then I don’t need to get stressed, and it’s so much easier to appreciate the amazing amount of joy flowing through the house.
And joy is one thing I didn’t expect would result from my coaching sessions but it came because Robert taught me how to be truly present in the moment. I had to learn that it was my own negatives thoughts that had been keeping me from finding the joy in every situation. It’s amazing once you’re in a complete place of acceptance how much real happiness is waiting to come into your life.