Episode 95: Survival Mode... Entrepreneurship in Difficult Seasons [featuring Danielle Swimm]
A lot of entrepreneurs tend to post "wins" or this image of living the "high life" online, but the reality of what goes on behind the scenes can be way less glamorous.
Like any other person, there are struggles, dark times, and experiences that force them into survival mode.
However, since many entrepreneurs are the face of their businesses, it can be damn scary to be transparent, slow down, or shift on what they've worked hard to create and put out into the world.
If you are an entrepreneur who's silently struggling with life while trying to manage a business, this episode is for you.
In this episode, I talk with Danielle Swimm, therapist and owner of The Entrepreneurial Therapist.
Top 3 reasons to listen to the entire episode:
- Understand why prioritizing self-care and personal well-being is essential in entrepreneurship and small business ownership, as well as to incorporate it into your life.
- Learn some ways to face the unexpected with contingency plans and having systems in place that can provide peace of mind and better management during challenging times.
- See how embracing struggles and being accountable for them can lead to personal growth and business evolution, ultimately leading to coming out stronger and more resilient.
Being authentic, prioritizing self-care, and having contingency plans in place for unexpected challenges are important parts of long-term success as an entrepreneur. If you are facing some difficult seasons of life, you are not alone, and it's okay to prioritize your well-being.
More about Danielle:
Danielle Swimm is a therapist in Annapolis, MD. She's a group practice owner and also runs The Entrepreneurial Therapist, a consulting company where she helps female therapists start and scale their private practices. She is passionate about helping female entrepreneurs push beyond their fears, and learn mindset, marketing, and systems. She's a mama of a 3-year-old and, in her free time, hikes and reads.
Grab Danielle's Free SEO Guide: https://crimson-tree-855.myflodesk.com/
A Thanks to Our Sponsors: The Receptionist for iPad & Heard!
I would also like to thank The Receptionist for iPad for sponsoring this episode.
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I would also like to thank Heard for sponsoring this episode.
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PATRICK CASALE: Hey there, everyone, you are listening to another episode of the All Things Private Practice Podcast. I'm your host, Patrick Casale, joined today by Danielle Swimm. She is an LCPC, up in Maryland, and also, probably, well known as The Entrepreneurial Therapist on Instagram.
And we are going to talk about building businesses during challenging and difficult times. And weirdly enough, I was on Danielle's podcast yesterday. So, we're just jumping right back into another conversation. So, good to see you again.
DANIELLE SWIMM: Yeah, I'm glad we get to talk two days in a row. This is so fun. I'm happy to be here.
PATRICK CASALE: So, you wanted to talk about this topic because I think it relates a lot to some of your experience and how you've gotten to where you are right now. And yeah, take it away, share whatever is on your mind about what you've kind of gone through in the last couple of years to come to where you're at today.
DANIELLE SWIMM: Yeah, you know, I'm glad that we can talk about this because I think a lot of entrepreneurs don't necessarily share when things are going hard, especially, personally. We tend to only see the highlight reels on social media, or on their website, or newsletters. And I'm pretty passionate since I started about just being, like, authentic about behind the scenes, what's actually happening because that's my journey. And a lot of the therapists that I've worked with are also going through similar things and are always surprised that these things happen. And you know, your company can still grow at the same time.
So, to give people some context, you know, I started my practice five years ago, and I started my coaching business, Entrepreneurial Therapist, three years ago. And so, you know, we've had a pandemic since then, I've had a baby since then. But in the past two years, I've definitely had a lots of ups and downs outside of business building.
So, two years ago, I got a divorce. So, I separated, moved out with my 18-month-old, baby girl. You know, learned how to put furniture together on my own, for the first time, really lived on my own for the first time ever. I always had roommates, you know, before I was married. And it was quite a change learning how to, you know, be a mom that is single, have a single income household was also a really big change. My ex-husband was a big contributor, financially. So, that was a big life change.
And as that was happening, Entrepreneurial Therapist was really growing. Like, it had only been around for a year. So it was like in infancy stages before that. And it really started to grow as I was going through this big life change. And I had my group practice at the same time. So, it was a lot of learning how to navigate all of this while I was not okay. Like, I had a lot to process, I had a lot going on. You miss a lot of work, also, when you're going through a divorce. I don't think people necessarily… I didn't know that beforehand. There's court dates, and attorney meetings, and then, the emotional side where you could miss work. And so, things really did have to come to more of like a halt in terms of the amount I was working because I had to figure out, you know, childcare, and these meetings, and how I was going to do emotionally.
One of the first things I always recommend to people that are, like, going through chronic health issues, or you know, maybe they lost a loved one, going through a divorce, dealing with a lot, if you're in that season, is really looking at what you can take off your plate first. So, for me, that was Instagram. I, like, told my audience I wasn't going to show up on Instagram for at least, I remember saying, it was the month of August, for at least that month. And I really went black. Like, I didn't post at all. I needed time to not be on camera. Being on camera can actually be a lot energetically. And I didn't want to put on a fake smile. And I definitely wasn't ready to like say what I was going through. I needed more time to process it and to, like, let my family and friends know as well.
And so, I took a step back there. And that actually really helped a lot. And then, if anything wasn't essential it stopped. So, like, I was only doing the meetings that I absolutely had to do. I wasn't focused on growth. I was focused on really survival in terms of workwise. Like, how could I keep everything going, as best as possible? Knowing that eventually, I'll come out of this season, I'll be able to think more clearly about business, and strategy, and all of that at some point.
And it's really scary when stuff like this happens because you don't know how long you're going to be in that. And as an entrepreneur and someone who loves to work, like, this was something I thrived on, but really accepting, like, these are the cards I've been dealt right now, this is what's going on, let me take a step back. And I'm so glad I did.
And I got a lot of feedback from people later that were like, "Man like, this has helped me do the same when things are going kind of crazy behind the scenes as well."
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, thank you for sharing all that. And I think that when you have an audience or an influence, right, and you're showing up as a human, you're giving other people permission to do the same thing. It allows your audience to almost feel like their experiences normalized and like, "Okay, if Danielle's going through this, and she's got this audience and has this following, then it's okay for me to also be struggling." And to be really authentic about it. Because, you know, I think the behind the scenes of being an entrepreneur, people don't talk about, like you said, enough. Usually, it's like, here's how glamorous it is, and here are the beautiful moments, and like, look how much money I made this year, and all the stuff that, you know, I'm fine with, but like, it really doesn't capture the essence, or the authentic experience of like, what is actually happening for the person behind the account, or the person behind the program, or whatever the case may be.
And you know, I've talked about this a lot on this podcast this year, but I had pretty major throat surgery in October. And it's a chronic health condition, that surgery number two, in two years, it's your throat, I need my voice for work. And I had to put everything on pause. Like, weirdly enough, like, it was this weird countdown effect because I knew I was having surgery in October. So, I had to start putting my life on pause, like, going into August of like, okay, now it's time to wrap everything up and really be communicative about like, boundaries, abilities, capacities, capability, and then, come October, I have to shut everything down.
And for me, it's very hard, like, because I like to be working, I like what I do, I like being able to show up authentically, and it was just like, "Fuck." Like, "I can't do this."
So, it was very helpful in a lot of ways for me, and it sounds like it was for you as well. But what's really been helpful for me come out of that experience is like, I used to do a lot of individual one-on-one coaching, and before October, I shut that all down completely. And coming out of it, I was getting bombarded by requests from people who wanted to come and do coaching with me. And I feel very honored and very grateful for that. But I had to keep saying no. Like, "No, I can't do this." Like, one, I didn't have my voice back because one of my vocal cords got paralyzed. And two, I don't have the capacity. I realized like my patience and energy had shifted. And I've referred like probably almost 100 one-on-one coaching referrals out since that time. And really, my mind is like, "That's a lot of fucking money, like, a big part of my income."
However, like you mentioned, doing the what you can just to survive and stay afloat was so important at that time. And that was like, group practice has to run itself with the people I've put in place, coaching business just has to sustain, did enough podcasts to get me through like months without having to podcast, and like, really just trying to allow myself to have that season of life where it was a big struggle, emotionally and physically.
And you're questioning a lot during that season where you shut things down because so much of ourselves as entrepreneurs is like, really deeply connected to showing up and to the work that we do. And it really can make you second guess and question your sense of self in those moments. Did you have any experiences like that?
DANIELLE SWIMM: Yes, I did. You know, I went through the divorce. And I can definitely relate to like coming out on the other side. I also had long COVID recently and had to be out of work for a while because of that. And that was very unexpected. So, I can relate to the chronic health piece of this as well.
But I think in my recent, you know, coming out of long COVID, too, I've noticed this as a huge trend in going through hard times as an entrepreneur, and then, coming back out, it's almost like this rebirth. You know, when you go away for a while because you're going through something, it's very quiet, you're in solitude a lot. You know, I was sleeping a lot because I was sick. And so, I wasn't thinking about work. I mean, you come out of these darker times, it's really pivotal that you optimize and leverage this opportunity to really look at everything clearly now, you know? And I think this is what people miss.
And so, when I do go through harder seasons now I'm like, "Oh, but I know what's going to happen on the other end of this." Like, it's actually going to be really great for my business because as hard as things can be I try to look at them as they're happening for me. For whatever reason, you know, these things happen when they're meant to happen, and I'm going to come out of it when I meant to come out of it. That helps my controlling nature to relax a little bit.
But I think coming out of it, it can be really beautiful to, like, take more time alone, which has always helped me in journaling, meeting with my own business coach to be like, okay, I don't want things to go back to the way they were before this happened because I don't think it's meant to. So, this is what I believe I'm supposed to pivot now, learning, you know, about systems and things that didn't go well when I had to step away, what can I improve there?
And then, looking at, do I still want to be doing the things I was doing before? Or is there something new inside of me that I'm, like, leaning towards or being called to? I think we really don't listen to our intuition as much as we should. And I think social media, and all the information we're bombarded with, podcasts, too, we always have something in our ear, someone telling us what we should, "Be doing." And I think there's something really magical and powerful about listening, getting really quiet, listening to your own intuition because no coach, you know, no influencer on Instagram knows what's going to be the next best step for you.
And so, going through hard times forces you to get really quiet. And I think it turns that volume up on your intuition as you're coming out of it. And so, that grows my business more than anything, is going through these harder times, and then, coming back out.
PATRICK CASALE: So, some of the things that I was struggling with, like in the stillness is I struggle with stillness, and I struggle with like, "Oh, I should be doing, I should be doing." That's always been a part of my personality. And it's been hard. It was hard for that, like six-month period, but it was so helpful, like you mentioned, where in that stillness you learn new limits, you learn your new passions. I kept having this thought of like, "What if I'm never creative again? Like, what if I lost it because I've stepped away for so long."
And the irrational side of me was like, you know, "If you're not showing up making videos, being active in your social media and your Facebook group, you're going to be forgotten about." And it's just that very irrational side of the brain that's like, you're struggling. And it's kind of moving more towards that insecurity, comparison mindset of like, you're feeling like because you've been doing this for so long, and now this break has taken place, and you have to stop, that life is going to shift and change.
But you're so right, that it changes for the better most of the time because I kept asking myself like, usually, if I have these moments, or these depressive episodes, or these struggle areas, I come out of it with, like creativity. And that's always been my process.
So, I tried really hard to listen to my intuitive nature of saying, "This is what's going to happen." Like, you're going to have to allow yourself to be uncomfortable, you're going to have to allow yourself to be still, and quiet, and struggle. And I think the aftermath is that there's going to be an evolutionary process where things shift in your business because so often when we're in our business, even as entrepreneurs that are, "Successful." A lot of the time you are moving from one thing to the next, and you're not really paying attention to what you need. And you're wondering, like, "Why am I feeling so burnt out? Why am I feeling so overwhelmed? Like, what's happening behind the scenes."
And for me, it was very evident, like, the coaching component, especially, one-on-one had to go. And I had just launched a six-month Take the Leap private practice coaching program last year, and my VA was like, "You're kind of done with this already, aren't you?" And I was like, "Yeah, I think I can't do this again."
And I realized, like, if my energy is lower, and my vocal capacity is different, your energy is going to have to go to podcasting, speaking engagements, and retreat planning, and that's all you can do. My brain was like, "But there's so much time in between all of those things. Like, what are you going to do in the in-between time." And it's like, "You're just going to let it happen." Like, and that's really the reality.
And I was telling you yesterday that we secured an entire medieval Italian village for a summit. And the only reason that happened is because I was not able to do a whole lot on my computer a lot while I was recovering, and just scrolling through like venue locations mindlessly, and stumbled upon like Rent an Entire Medieval Italian Village. And this was back in like, November, that I started putting these pieces in place, and it's like, "Whoo, okay, this could be really fucking cool." But It had to manifest itself and it had to kind of like, grow organically, and you can't force it. I think that's the struggle for a lot of people is like you're trying to force and tap into that creative part of your brain.
But when you're struggling, you have to just sit with that discomfort. Like, it really does just have to suck for a little bit of time. And I think that's where anchoring into like, prior experience when you're like, I have struggled before and the outcome has been positive, or I've struggled before, and I've gotten through it. I know it's going to suck right now. But the other side of this is going to be really beautiful and transformative.
DANIELLE SWIMM: Right. I think that's so powerful. And I love that you used the word like evolution because I really think that's what's happening. I'm reading a good book right now that I think people would like call The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer. And it really is about like surrendering to these things that are happening.
And I have this belief that entrepreneurs, especially, entrepreneurial therapists, are hit with these on purpose because we have so much resistance to slowing down, and we place so much importance on work and showing up for other people, that it's almost like we need these reminders to really stop everything. Like, we're being forced to do it. And so, really surrendering to whenever that happens.
And I always have to challenge myself. Like, I don't know where I ever thought I signed a contract that I would move into entrepreneurship, and nothing would ever slow me down. I would just, you know, grow, grow, grow, grow, and never have any setbacks. And that's not true for anyone.
But it's why I love that you're like so open about your own stuff. I think like losing your voice too is such a powerful way to be like you have to stop. You know, I lost my voice during long COVID, and so, same thing as you. Like, I couldn't do podcasting, I couldn't meet with therapy clients, I couldn't meet with coaching clients. And so, it really does force you to stop. But in that, there's so much creativity and white space that really can allow these bigger ideas that are supposed to pull you forward.
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that the surrendering process. You know, there was almost a part of me that was looking forward to throat surgery. Like, I wasn't really looking forward to throat surgery, but I was like, this is going to force you to stop because I've been going, going, going for a year, and like, I could tell my body, and my energy, my brain, and everything was just like, "Okay, dude, like, you need a fucking break. Like, you're really overdoing it."
And it was a really shitty experience between surgery, losing my voice, everything in between, but like, it was so helpful in so many ways as well, like, and it is a constant reminder that as a human, especially, if you're the face of your business, like, you can't just push yourself past your limits all the time. Like, you have to give yourself some space. And it really helped me readjust priorities to in terms of like, all right, I'm used to doing six podcasts a day, now you can do two because your vocal capacity is two. Or like, you can only commit to two meetings a day, no matter what it is because of your energy levels. And it's really shifted my prioritization of like intentionality, and really saying, yes, selectively, instead of being like, "I think I should do this thing." Now, it's, "Do you absolutely want to commit to this." Because there is a cost and a task associated with spending that energy. So, it has to go to the places where it really is worth my while. And that means, like, who I have on podcasts, whose podcasts I go on, which speaking events I say yes to, and the retreat stuff. Like, I really have to be very intentional.
And I've spoken very openly about this. And my first retreat of this year was in New Orleans with my business partner, and it was way too soon, you know? My surgery was October 27th. I assume by January 2nd I'd be fine. I was not fine in energy, voice, capacity, like mood, emotionals, like stability, like, everything was shot. And I just remember in those moments, in those three days, I was like, "I've created this fucking amazing thing and I can't participate in it because I can show up the way that I want to show up."
And I was thinking like, "I'm going to have to cancel Ireland in March and just the rest of my events are going to have to shut down." Thankfully, strength has come back, but like, it really is a good reminder of like the struggle is going to be there, and you have to just embrace it, and allow for yourself to pivot, and adapt, and evolve through it as well.
DANIELLE SWIMM: Right. And I think it's important, every entrepreneur that I know who's been doing this for over three years has had to cancel or push back something, a big program coming up. Like, I had to do that with my mastermind because of long COVID. I had everyone registered. It was supposed to start February 1st. I said there's no way I can, like, accept their money and show up for them right now because I was a hot mess. I was so sick. And so, I pushed it back a month. And I always struggle with people are going to be mad at me for doing that. I'm disappointed in myself dah, dah, dah, dah… Everyone was fine with that.
Like, and I've known people who are much farther along than me who have had to, like, completely pull out of launches because something big happens in their life and they can't do it. So, it's almost like expect that. Like, I know it's going to happen for me again, at some point. I plan on doing this for decades. Something else is going to come up and it's not going to go as planned. And it's still going to be okay. So, it's like, not having things go as planned actually can be a great way to adapt.
Another thing I wanted to add too is, since I've gone through these things, I've also created a Google Doc, which I think is really helpful. And I just call it like Wave the White Flag. So, if something comes up, like God forbid, something happens, where I can't work for an extended period of time again, I know what that looks like. Like, I know what email to send my admin, I know, you know, to send an email out to everyone on my team explaining whatever I need to say, and I have systems in place around that.
But I also have in that Google Doc what to do at home because that's really important. I need more support at home. So, it's like increase the cleaners, how often they're coming, you know, increased grocery delivery, so I'm not going at all. So, like if I do get sick again because if I get COVID, again, in the future, I don't know what's going to happen, like, I have these systems in place because I didn't think about any of this before all of this happened and now I know. It makes me feel a lot better. I just look at one document, it's like one page, and it tells me exactly how my entire life is going to run if my energy suddenly is like slashed to like 30% of what it normally is. It makes me feel better sleeping at night knowing I have at least some sort of plan on how to manage it all.
PATRICK CASALE: I love that. Yeah, and I think we all need contingency plans, especially, when we're reminded of our humaneness. And our realization of like, you can't be going all the time.
I think that I also want to add to that, in addition, is like it's okay to say no to things. Like, it's okay to say no, it's okay to bail if you have to. Like, I had a really hard decision this year where I got asked to speak at a summit as a keynote in Costa Rica. And I decided to bail two weeks before the event because I knew I had Ireland coming up immediately after that, make a really hard decision where I said, "You have 30 guests coming to Ireland who have been waiting over a year for this and they've paid good money, you have to show up with your battery charged as much as you can. But if you go to Costa Rica 10 days before that, and you're a speaker, and you're have to network, and talk to people, and small talk, your energy is going to be shot."
DANIELLE SWIMM: You have to.
PATRICK CASALE: So, I had to decide. And it was a very hard decision, but it was the right decision for me. And I think that for those of you listening, like, it's okay to show up and just really ask for what you need. And, you know, I know the feelings of like, someone's going to be mad at me, I'm going to let someone down, someone's going to be disappointed, but at the end of the day, all that matters is how you're taking care of yourself, your family, and whoever else is really important and close to you.
And it's really hard to have a long career in entrepreneurialship or any small business ownership if you're not taking care of yourself, and you're not allowing yourself to be human.
DANIELLE SWIMM: Right. And we have really high rates of burnout, and chronic illness, and relationship problems because we can have such stressful businesses if we're not super careful. So, I feel like when the hard times happen, it's just a reminder of how much we need to focus on self-care, you know, because we're at such high risk for like true chronic burnout.
PATRICK CASALE: Absolutely. Well, I really appreciate you sharing your story today, and being really real and vulnerable. I think this type of messaging is really helpful for people who are in it because I think you can feel really alone. And it can feel really personal and demoralizing when something happens and you have to shut it down. I see therapists all the time who are like feeling really guilty to take a sick day or [INDISCERNIBLE 00:24:58] day, and it's like y'all, if you show up as a human your clients are going to help… that's going to help them model healthy boundaries, and really acknowledge like, the relationship dynamics.
So, I really encourage all of you to really let your humaneness in a little bit into your businesses because it's so important. Otherwise, the crash and burn effect, the burnout, the substance use, the mental health issues that come with it, the chronic health conditions. Like, all of this starts to build, and then, you have nothing because the business can't run if you're not able to show up.
DANIELLE SWIMM: Right. Yeah, that's such a good point. And I love the mental health days for therapists. Like, we need them more than anyone. So, definitely take those. And taking sick time I know can be tough because we hate to cancel on people. But if we were working for someone else, you know, we would get 80 hours of paid time off for sick. Like, it's expected. So, you need to build that into your own business too because yeah, you're going to get sick it's going to happen.
PATRICK CASALE: It's going to happen. I think these last couple of years have definitely taught us that, for sure.
DANIELLE SWIMM: Right.
PATRICK CASALE: You know, I hope this episode was helpful. And Danielle, thanks for coming on and sharing your story. I think this was really awesome. And these are the types of conversations I love having because this is the real part of the behind-the-scenes of what's going on. And if you're out there, and you're trying to create a business and feel like I'm struggling, you are not alone. I promise you that. But the more you can embrace that, and own that, and be accountable, and have authenticity around your experiences, the more relatable you're going to be as well. And your audience is going to want that, your audience wants relatability, and just human experience is really a important part of that.
DANIELLE SWIMM: Yeah, completely agreed. Yeah, I'm glad we were able to talk about this. I think this is going to help a lot of people.
PATRICK CASALE: Thank you. And yeah, feel free to share whatever you've got going on in the world right now so people can find you and work with you as well.
DANIELLE SWIMM: Yeah, so if you guys want to check me out, you can find me on Instagram at Entrepreneurial Therapist. I also have a podcast which Patrick has been on called The Entrepreneurial Therapist Podcast. And then, I teach how to fill your practice using SEO because that's how I filled my own practice. And so, I do have a free SEO guide for beginners that you can find over at my website at entrepreneurialtherapist.com.
PATRICK CASALE: Awesome all of that information and those links will be in the show notes for everyone to have easy access to. To everyone listening to the All Things Private Practice podcast, you can find my Facebook group, All Things Private Practice, you can join my Facebook group, Empowered Escape for Entrepreneurial Therapists. New episodes of this podcast come out on all major platforms. Make sure to like, download, subscribe, and share. Doubt yourself, do it anyway. We'll see you next week.
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