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What does your business stand for? While the popular adage says “It’s business, not personal”, the truth is that business is personal. Our livelihoods are connected through work, and our businesses are an extension of who we are as people. There is no one right way to create an antiracist business, but creating a business culture with shared values can make a significant difference.
Trudi Lebron is the CEO of ScriptFlip! LLC and creator of the Institute for Equity Centered Coaching. By the time Trudi was 16, she had two children and had dropped out of high school—all the odds were against her. Today, Trudi runs a million-dollar coaching and consulting firm, helping entrepreneurs and coaches build antiracist businesses and become equity-centered coaches and leaders through ScriptFlip! certification programs, consulting packages, and executive coaching. Trudi holds a BA in Theatre, a Master of Science in Psychology, and is currently ABD in a PhD program in Social Psychology.
In this episode, I speak with Trudi about her book titled The Antiracist Business Book: An Equity-Centered Approach to Work, Wealth, & Leadership. We discuss how social change can take place in the workplace and how practitioners can create an anti-racist workplace culture.
In this episode of the Business (R)Evolution Podcast:
- Why business is personal, despite the famous adage
- What does your business stand for?
- Understanding how race impacts life will make you a better practitioner
- Why it has to be okay to make mistakes
- The non-profit mindset trap
- And more!
Resources and links Joanna mentions in this episode:
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Full episode transcript
[JOANNA SAPIR] (00:01):
In this episode, I’m talking to Trudi LeBron, the author of the Anti-Racist Business Book: An Equity Centered Approach to Work, Wealth and Leadership.
Welcome to the Business (R)Evolution Podcast, where practitioners and coaches that provide services in health, wellness, and education, come to learn the business side of things like marketing, pricing, hiring, finances, all the things you need to streamline and organize your business, create steady and predictable income, serve your clients even more deeply and reach your full potential as a business owner. If you are a skilled, experienced practitioner of your craft that has or wants to have a profitable and sustainable business doing the work you love, you’re in the right place and I’m so glad you’re here. Let’s get into this episode.
I am super excited to bring you this conversation with Trudi LeBron. Trudi is the CEO of Script Flipped, LLC., and she’s the creator of the Institute for Equity Centered Coaching. By the time Trudi was 16, she had two children and had dropped out of high school. All the odds were against her, and today she runs a million-dollar coaching and consulting firm helping entrepreneurs and coaches build anti-racist businesses and become equity-centered coaches and leaders through her certification programs, her consulting packages, and through executive coaching. Trudi has a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater, a Master of Science in Psychology, and is almost done with her Ph.D. in social psychology. I have been a client of Trudi’s and I plan to be a client of Trudi’s again, and she is a truly laser sharp and masterful coach. She’s here today to talk with us about how our businesses, our small businesses, can be vehicles for changing the world. Let’s listen to this conversation. Hi Trudi.
[TRUDI LEBRON] (02:26):
I am so excited you’re here to talk to our audience today and share your brilliance. Welcome.
Thank you. Thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here.
So you published a book recently, the Anti-Racist Business Book: An Equity Centered Approach to Work, Wealth and Leadership. I want to ask you, why did you write this book?
Oh my goodness, I wrote the book because we are at a time in our social histories where we’re confronting ourselves and the way that we work in all these new ways at one time. So when I started the book journey, it was 2020, we were trying to figure out how to live in a pandemic in various degrees of lockdown and a couple months into that we have this racial reckoning that we all watched unfold on the TV screen and our social media screens. It was like the convergence of how we work with each other, like can we be together in the same space because of Covid and how we relate to one another because of our identities and the different ways that systemic oppression and bias and privilege and white supremacy and all of these things we’re put on our plates to deal with.
So how do we relate to each other when we have all this new, not that it’s new, but when we’re looking at this stuff in new ways. I wrote the book because it was time to write the book. Any time we are working with humans, we all interact with business. Whether we work at a business or we own a business, or we buy things from businesses, we’re all interacting with each other. So it just seemed to me that it made a whole lot of sense to talk about this work through the lens of business and work because our livelihoods are connected to it, like something that all of us at some point have to experience either as consumers or workers or leaders or owners.
One of the things you say is business is personal, which is like a counter to business is business.
Yes. I have always, my whole life, I have really struggled with that adage, it’s not personal, it’s business. Because everywhere else business is extremely personal. Every experience that I’ve had, work experience that I’ve had, business experience that I’ve had, it’s been personal. We go to work with people, we become friends with them, we leverage our relationships to get other opportunities. We connect people to one another through these relationships that are personal in nature and the evidence is all over the place. We are having business dinners with each other, we’re going on retreats where we’re mixing business and pleasure and people are becoming friends. People do business on golf courts and country clubs all the time. People who have access to that world, they are constantly doing business in ways that bring in the personal. There are cultures even who won’t do business unless you sit down and had meals together first. So business is extremely personal. It is only not personal when it’s inconvenient, when the personal relationship is inconvenient. That always benefits the person who holds the most power. So we see that saying come up, it’s not business, it’s personal when someone has to make a call on something that they want to detach from.
Totally. I just want to expand on something you talk about a lot, which is, besides that we have these personal relationships with people in our business, our businesses are, when, for us business owners, they really are such an extension of us and a representation of us, right?
100%. We’re making, we’re creating pieces based on things that we love to do, like the experiences that we’ve had, we’re pulling on our life experience to think about like what we want to create and build, how we want to spend our time. So it is there, our business is in, especially at the beginning of a business, it is so much an extension of who we are as people.
In the beginning you threw out quite a few terms, you said, I think white supremacy and alluded to things in this country, in the US that were happening in 2020. I want to back up a little bit there, and for folks who are listening who are like, what does white supremacy and race and racism have to do with my wellness practice, they may not see a connection there or may not understand any of that. So I’m hoping you might help us start to see that and address that a little bit. What does race or racism have to, or anti-racism have to do with a wellness practitioner and their practice?
It has to do with everything. Here’s what you have to understand. The biggest indicators of someone’s life outcomes are race and zip code. I’m going to say that again, and I know that’s super uncomfortable, but some of, two of the biggest predictors or indicators for someone’s life, outcomes, meaning what someone will experience or achieve in their life can be statistically estimated, predicted by two data points, race and outcome. I mean race and zip code. Those things are scarily accurate. Therefore, any business that has to do with helping people grow, the transformation of people’s life outcomes, it has to take into consideration the way that race and zip code and zip code is often a proxy for like socioeconomic status or ethnicity. We have to take into consideration and or at least have an understanding of how race impacts someone’s life and how race and identity can shape someone’s experience.
Because when you understand that you are a better practitioner, you can do things with your coaching, with your practice, with your guidance, with your mentoring, with all of the interventions that you have at your disposal. You can use them more deeply and you can modify them as needed when you realize that cultural context is important in the trajectory of somebody’s personal transformation. You can’t disconnect those things. So although we have come up in this world that has wanted us to believe that the right thing to do is not think about race and to treat everybody the same, those are actually the ideas that got us into a situation where we have such vast inequities and such discomfort talking about identity in ways that will move us forward.
So could you talk more about that? I mean, I think that definitely, you just mentioned treating everyone equally and that’s not what we’re talking about because people come in with unequal different experiences, and so it’s not about treating everyone the same. You want to talk a little bit more about that?
Yes, I mean, it’s just a simple math equation. In order for people to have the same thing and you give them something, you have to assume that they started with the same thing, so one plus one equals two. But if someone comes in and they don’t even have the one, they don’t fit in with that experience, your intervention or your skill or technique, whatever you’re doing with people is building on what people have already experienced. So you have to consider, well, what are people bringing to the table? What life experiences, what knowledge, what skills, what talents, what biases, what worldviews, there’s so many things that we can start to consider so that when we do our work, we can do it in a way that can really, if you get really skilled, really seamlessly fill gaps in for people. Or make slight adjustments and modifications so that people, so that you’re teaching lands more accurately, more directly for people who have had different experiences.
And you’re still bringing the group along, like together, but you’re doing it in a way that is taking into consideration, all these other factors. So yes, you can’t get to the same outcome. This is how I like to describe it. Equalness is about giving people the same thing. Equity is about giving people what they need in order to get to the same place. It’s about achieving, moving people towards an outcome and that when you have an equity lens you know that you need to, that sometimes means that you have to give people different things. You have to change the ways that you do your work. And I’m not talking about making changes that significantly take you out of your niche or asking you to do things that you just aren’t able to do because of all kinds of accessibility reasons, but that you have learned how to do your practice in ways that are equity-centered and trauma-informed and anti-oppressive and anti-racist. These are just all lenses that you can apply to what you do to make the experience of your work better for everyone, not just for black and brown folks or people who hold marginalized identities, but that when you have this skill and this lens, the experience for everyone actually improves.
That’s so, so important. I want all of you listening to hear that. And I want to, again, we’re bringing in terms that I’m not even sure everybody’s going to understand. I can imagine that some folks listening would be like, but I’m not racist. So you mentioned systemic oppression or systemic inequalities, Trudi, and maybe we could define for people listening the difference between an individual act of racism and what systemic racism is, or any sort of systemic oppression, because actually, my reading of your book and then knowing you and having worked with you is that anti-racism is the word you have in the title, but really this is much broader than just looking at race. It really is looking at all forms of oppression in our society. So you want to explain a little bit about that for our folks, like what we mean by systemic oppression? You did hint at it already when you said that we can predict somebody’s life outcomes by zip code and race. I mean, and I just want to point out to everybody listening, you’re in health and wellness and transformation and it’s the same thing. Health outcomes, I mean very, very predictable and we’re talking about challenging that.
In fact, some of the first advancements around this line of research, were in medicine, looking at outcomes, health outcomes for black and brown folks and folks who live in, like, in food deserts, so talking about zip code, looking at those things and saying, why is it that health outcomes are disproportionate? Is it about race? Is it about lifestyle? Is it about, like controlling for all these factors, what can we see? What we consistently see is that it’s not about more educating people to make better choices, or their desire is somehow different, but it’s actually built into all of the systems that people encounter throughout a lifetime. By that, I mean there are, actually, let me go about it this way, this is probably easier. There are four ways or major ways that people come into contact with oppression, all kinds of oppression.
Those four ways, we call them the eyes of oppression and they’re ideological, the ideas that we have, the second is institutional, the institutions that we interact with. Three is interpersonal, so relationships between people, interaction between people and then the last one is intrapersonal, the internalized experience. Basically, how this works is that we have ideas that are oppressive or ideas that say one group of people are better than another group of people, one gender of people are the right gender, one educational experience is the correct one to have, one religion is the correct religion. So we have ideas that create these like hierarchies about what’s good, what’s not good, what’s right, what’s not right. Then we take those ideas and we build institutions. We build laws and businesses, and we create rules in those businesses and institutions and in those policies that reflect the ideas.
Then that next level, the interpersonal level, we hold each other accountable to those ideas and to those rules that the institutions create. We let those things influence the way that we relate to each other. If I am the “correct” race or gender, I might feel like I have more power over someone who isn’t. That might influence how I talk to them, how I treat them, whether or not I want to rent to them or not, whether or not I want them to go to school with my children or not. Then at the interpersonal level, it’s how we think of ourselves and how we internalize, like how we let those rules, those interactions, those ideas, how we think of ourselves because of those things. Do I want to change who I am to fit more into the right way of being? Do I not like myself because I’m not? Do I embrace myself because I understand that all those things are made up and lies and I can live liberated. That’s like what liberation is.
That is how oppression works at all of these levels. When we’re talking about race, it’s the ideas and the laws and the interactions that are privileging folks who are white, in this case, white supremacy being the “mainstream” identity or ideal, the right way. Everybody else who isn’t has to deal with the consequences, the social and actual consequences of those things. So when we say systemic oppression, people are mostly talking about the ways that ideas have been built into institutions but I wanted to paint that more full picture because it’s not just about one, like just the institutions, It’s a whole ecology of ideas and beliefs and then what we do with those things and how we interact with each other, how we feel about ourselves, and then what we then create in the world, what the new ideas that we create, the new businesses that we create. And I think to go back to the book, this book is very much like, here is another way, here is another way to do business. Here are new ideas that we can build around.
Yes, this is awesome. One thing I want to point out about the levels of oppression that you have is how unconscious so much of that is. Again, for you or can be, I’ll say for you listening, if perhaps you’ve never thought about this, this isn’t about you going, again, it’s easy to go, oh, but I’m not racist or something. If you’re white and say, I’m not racist, therefore I’m not part of that, but we are all, this is what we live in. If we don’t take the veil off and look at these different pieces, the ideological pieces, the institutional pieces, the interpersonal and interpersonal, if we don’t really examine what roles we’re playing, then we have no ability to actually counter it or dismantle it. This is all about this isn’t right. How do we change this?
The change starts with you actually recognizing ways that you perpetuate this system. You have to acknowledge that you are in it in some way and that’s no matter your identity, that you are in it in some way and playing some role there. And Trudi, I think your book is giving business owners in particular an opportunity to say, oh, how, okay, if I want to challenge this in society, if I don’t think it’s right that somebody’s race and zip code can predict their health outcomes or educational outcomes or income outcomes, what can I do in this world? In particular, what can I do as a business owner to address that or to try to fight that or to try to counter that?
I mean, the reason I’m having Trudi on for you listening is so that you realize that you do actually have agency here. You have power, particularly as a business owner, particularly. Because you have power to start to do things in your business to counter that. So I want to encourage you to think as a practitioner how this affects how you actually serve your clients is one way. But Trudi in your business, you give a lot of different business practices for us to think about or rethink in terms of how we design our businesses, everything from who we serve to how we do sales and marketing to how we pay, how we grow a team and pay our team and treat our team. There’s so much. One of your phrases is liberatory leadership, and I’d love to touch on some of those things to give people a taste of what more they can get in the book in terms of what it means to build a business that is countering the systemic oppression that we are existing in right now.
Yes, so liberatory leadership is our like approach to leadership that asks leaders to have, to hold many things at the same time, including their own personal liberatory practice so that we are not, so that we’re running a business that is challenging the status quo and taking on these social innovations in the workplace and also like protecting our own space so that we’re not sacrificing ourselves and our identities and our health and wellness and rest because we’re like trying to grow this hustle like business. But at the same time, and this is where it gets tricky, because often, and this is like what I like to call the rough edge of liberation and that is where someone’s liberation starts to infringe upon other people’s. So if I want to be leader of a company and I’m like, I want to work three days a week, which is cool, like you can do build whatever you want, I want to work three days a week and make x amount of dollars and do all these things, but I haven’t built a team that can hold all the work that has to get done without burning them out in order for me to just have to work three days a week.
So my desire for space infringes upon and oversteps the pacing of the team and their ability to take time off and the stress that they’re holding. So liberatory leadership is about that you are practicing your own liberation and that you’re creating space for the liberation of others. I don’t say that we are liberating others because liberation has to happen from, like, I don’t, we don’t have that power, but we can certainly create spaces and ways of being that are really open and accepting of other people’s expressions and needs around their own liberation. So building a team around that requires communication and clear expectations and structure, but it also is about like an anchoring in this set of values and worldviews and commitments to each other and like shared mission. So, yes, it’s like a different way of orienting to your work and your team.
Yes, it’s awesome. It’s such a place of, gosh, I want to use the word power, but that means so many things in this context but it is such a place of agency, I’ll say for any of us listening who own a business, it’s such a place where you can truly practice values of equity, inclusion, liberation, if those are things you value and want to see more of in the world. One of the things you talk about in your book, Trudi, that I want to highlight is how some people get uncomfortable with the fact if they’re a business owner, and let’s say they’re starting to hire people and grow a team, they can be uncomfortable with the fact that they are the leader of the business and therefore have the power, period. So they can do the opposite of, there’s oppressive leadership, which is what’s modeled all over the place in our large corporations. But then there can be, oh, I don’t want to be that. So it, there can be a complete abdication of leadership, which is not really much better, right?
Yes, exactly. I think people get so uncomfortable with, we see this in nonprofits a lot. This is where I’ve seen this most often, or with people who come out of the non-profit world because they don’t want to be oppressive and they don’t want to be perceived to be dominant and all the words that are associated with that like toxic energy, but they don’t know how to be liberatory in their practice because that’s not something that we learn and that the society historically has valued. So instead, they just lean all the way out and they’re like, oh, do what you want. I’ll hear people say like, I’m not the boss. You don’t have to, I don’t want you to see me as that. We’re all the same. Let’s all, we’re like a team.
And that’s true. You can be a team and all that, but when you do that, you undermine yourself, like your own power because here’s the thing, everybody knows that you are in charge. If you’re the owner or the lead, the CEO, people, everyone knows. So even if you tell people you’re just the same, they know that there is a line to that sameness because you hold the power to, if it’s a team member, to fire them, to make a different choice, to override a decision that they’ve made, to take things in a different direction. They know that that’s true. So I believe that a more effective way of working with a team is to accept that that power is there to name it and to talk about the boundaries of that power and where your team’s agency kicks in and how to be in a collaboration around it.
So yes, you do have to set standards, you have to set, you have to create rules, you have to create deadlines, you have to hold people accountable to getting their work done. Yes, how you do that, whether or not you do it is not the question. It’s about how you do it. Are you doing those things in ways that are transparent and clear and collaborative and equitable? Or are you doing those things in ways that are rooted in fear and inequitable and toxic and power abusing or are you just not doing it at all, you’re abdicating responsibility and nobody’s getting anything done in that case. Like no one’s making a decision.
Yes, or the thing is, you might have a team member and something might actually not get done the way you wanted it to. It’s like, if you’re not clear about your role as a leader and how communications happen in your company and how this goes, the abdication of leadership is like somehow you just let it go. Like you don’t do anything and yet that’s actually not serving anyone. It’s not serving the business. It’s not even serving your employee or team member who doesn’t know what your expectations were. I was going to say it’s a fine line, it’s not a fine line. You actually define really clearly what liberatory leadership looks like. One of the things I want to bring that to is just for you listening to your relationships with your clients as well, there is, whether you have acknowledged it to yourself or not, there is a power differential here that’s built into the relationship and you do need to acknowledge that rather than like, oh, I don’t have any more power than this person.
But when you’re getting into this relationship as practitioner client, that’s going to be there. It’s part of the context and it’s up to you to define what that looks like, what that means to you, and to actually establish expectations and agreements with your clients around how that’s going to play out, what your relationship is going to be like, how communications are going to happen, how your practice and your treatments are going to go. That’s so important for you as a leader to stand in your leadership and define those things, create the container, create a safe container for people, and it’s your opportunity to look at how you do that and to question perhaps ways that you are taught that elsewhere or ways that you’re doing things that you never really thought about before; like, is this actually the way I want to be interacting with my clients? You get to determine that. Really a lot of that goes back to something true to you and I both talk about really identifying, understanding your values and the values of the business. That’s where I start with my clients as well and that’s how you started your book. So that’s surely a root of this, is really understanding what you value, what’s important to you.
Yes, 100%. Because I’m not in the business of convincing people of what the 100% right thing to do is. My position is that there is no such thing as the exact perfect right way to build an anti-racist world or a world where everybody’s free and where our life outcomes are no longer predictable by our race and zip code. We don’t have that world, so we don’t know the exact way to get there. We have a lot of ideas that we are working towards and trying. We know what doesn’t work. We know ways that it doesn’t work. So by anchoring people into their values, first, it can give a roadmap to people for what an equitable practice is going to look like for them and for others. Because you can’t hold people accountable to things that you’re not clear about and that they haven’t agreed to.
So if you’re like, hey, here are our values and this is where we start our work, and then you build a community around that, then there can be an expectation that people have at least even if everyone doesn’t have the exact same core values, that there are shared values in that community. So you have the beginnings of a culture that you can start to create and agreements that you can build around. But if you don’t start with your values or you just have values that you put on the wall of your website and they’re not an active part of what you do, then anyone can show up to come and work with you. If you’re in a business where people are not just working with you one-on-one, but you have groups of people working together, particularly around transformation work or healing work, there’s a safety issue, a psychological safety, if we’re talking online, potentially physically, a physical safety issue.
When we’re talking about person like that may seem dramatic, but it’s not like, it’s like we have to be mindful about how our values are able to be enacted in spaces. I’ll give you an example of how that works if we’re talking about like physical. If you say that you are inclusive of people of all gender expressions and you hold a retreat in a country that does not hold those values, you are putting people in danger, physical danger, not just mental health. So when I talk about that, I’m thinking, about in my work, I am thinking about all of the kinds of communities that we build and what the potential is for people to being together. So starting with your values I think is an essential part because you don’t even have to share. You could be, I mean, not that I think that you have anyone in your audience that is a raging white supremacist, I doubt it, but that is a world of view. It is a world view and if someone has that world’s view, I really want to know that that is what they value so that I can opt out of that community. I want to know where people stand and what people value. We can make decisions about where we want to be.
I want to go back to something you said there, which was there’s not one right way to do this. There’s not one right way for us to be like dismantling these systems that have been built over hundreds of years. I think that’s so important to note because, and I want to bring it to the idea of performative action, which is something you talk about, something we’ve seen a lot of recently, but I want to note that because it’s what the right wing will say. That’s the right wing will attack the, like woke, I don’t know, what do they say, woke people, blah, blah, blah. The idea is that we’re all being told that we have to act a certain way and talk a certain way otherwise we’re wrong and we’re not woke or something. What you’re saying is the exact opposite. It’s like, no, we can critique what we see around us and the world we’re living in right now, and no, we don’t have all the answers for how to do it differently. That’s what we get to do in our businesses, is try and figure that out at these, I want to say micro level of our own businesses, of our relationships in our businesses, of our interactions in our businesses, of the structures of our businesses. It’s our opportunity to try different ways and new ways that we are explicitly doing to try and encounter what we see out in the world that we know is oppressive.
Yes, exactly. I will say something, and this may feel a little controversial, but that’s what I do. I say the things that are uncomfortable. I do think that there is a tone in our culture over the last year particularly arising from what people call cancel culture to adopt beliefs and languages and practices in a way that’s like a little disembodied, that like people just accept it and they start to integrate the language into the things that they say. They’ll put things on their website. They’ll be like, “Oh yes, this is what I believe now. I don’t believe this anymore. This is my new belief. Even though I don’t understand all of the nuances in that conversation, I haven’t actually talked to a whole bunch of people, this is what, I’m too afraid to say the wrong thing.”
I don’t even, and I get this a lot from people who tell me, I don’t even want to ask a question because I’m afraid that in me asking a question, people will assume that I’m anti this or anti that. So I do think that there is, that is something that concerns me, the quickness that people will be like, oh yes, that is just what I believe now without thinking through, interrogating it, thinking around what it means for them and really just sitting and being in, you still may end up in a place where that is what you believe. But slowing down to say, let me really understand why people are asking or framing that idea, these are all theories. I think I’m one of the few people who will say that, who will say, look, all of these are just ideas. These are ideas that we’re practicing. They’re not necessarily universal truths. We don’t know exactly the right way, but we need to be more willing to be in the conversation, to be in the practice, to figure out what works and what doesn’t in a way that is more collaborative, more compassionate, more honoring of each other’s, honoring of each other’s liberation. Again, that point where like up until my liberation infringes on someone else’s, like what, how do I move in a world in that way? I think there’s a lot of work we have to do to get there and to sit in critical conversation about advancing our society forward and these new ways of being. We got work to do. It’s exciting work. I’m excited to get to do it.
I love, I mean, I just love that you are bringing this work to our world and just really want, I’m so glad you brought this up, this part about people wanting to say the right thing or thinking that this is about saying the right thing and that whole, the phrase that stands out to me that I think that you coined or was Woke Olympics, the Woke Olympics, like people sort of fighting over or attacking you. It has gotten pretty bad, being attacked over not saying the right thing and that’s not what we’re talking about here.
Or not responding fast enough. It’s so much deeper than that.
Exactly. This is not, for you listening, this is not about saying the right thing on your website and saying the right thing on social media. We’re talking about doing the actual work and that’s the uncomfortable part. It is uncomfortable because we don’t know what the answers are. You have to figure those out yourself. It’s not about just saying the right thing or just believing the right thing. It’s now how do we actually structure our businesses to be trying to actualize the principles that we want rather than the ones that we don’t want? That’s challenging and that is uncomfortable and you have to be willing to make mistakes. I mean, I actually talk about this a lot in other contexts in business. You have to be willing to perhaps say the wrong things sometime. That points, I think Trudi, to the importance of creating communications and containers within your business where there’s ways to deal with that. There’s ways to handle when you say the wrong thing. There’s ways to process that because you will, like, it has to be okay to make mistakes.
Exactly. It has to be okay to make mistakes and this is why that work around, like communicating your values and being really clear about where you stand really becomes a support to you. Because if you have a history of being in alignment with your values and you say something that is misunderstood or maybe you didn’t have a full context for, you have a full body of like work and platform and community members who really know who you are and they’re going to be the ones to reflect back to you and educate you if you need to be educated and hold you accountable if you need to be held accountable. It’s not the people that you don’t know on Instagram. It’s the people who know you, who you should be in conversation with about those things.
There’s such rich work that we have the opportunity to do ourselves and that’s actually what I love most about your book and your work period, is the opportunity, like the opening you invite people into to do the real work right here in our own worlds, which is totally not about like what you’re putting on Instagram. None of it may be visible except to the people inside your world and your community. There’s something else I want to ask you about Trudi, tell us a little bit about your background and how you came into this work. I particularly loved your calling out of what you call the non-profit mindset. I thought it was super powerful. I think that people in my audience will really relate. I don’t know if you recall, but I came into business out of public-school teaching, even though I wasn’t in non, I mean it’s the same thing.
The same. It’s, yes, same.
So a lot of my folks maybe don’t come out of specifically non-profits, but do definitely have this non-profit mindset. You want to tell a little bit about your background and your experience and awareness of the non-profit mindset and how you got to where you are now doing this work?
Yes. I came out of the nonprofit world, specifically in either public schools or organizations that were working in partnership with public schools to work with young people mostly. I really specialized more in high school age, but I’ve worked with all kinds of ages and grades, basically helping people who, helping young students who were qualified as like high risk, was the language that they used to describe this population. So students who were like me, kids who grew up in literally the same neighborhood that I grew up in, who faced the same kinds of systemic barriers that I had. Some of them were gang involved or like me were young parents or dropping out of high school or trying to get reengaged in high school.
So I spent a lot of time running all kinds of like, youth and community intervention programs and realized quite quickly that I was never going to be able to pay my student loans back unless I took drastic action. For me that looked like I was needed to have a, I was going to have to run my own business. I also was a horrible employee. I did excellent work, but my temperament was not designed for like get up in the morning, drive to work, sit there all day no matter what. That is not, I was not built for that. It was getting increasingly difficult just on a logistics day to day level in addition to the financial ways so I had always been side hustling. I was a teaching artist. My bachelor’s degree is in theater. When you study art like that, you always have like a side hustle as a teaching artist in some way. So I’d always done that. I started once I was probably around my late, my mid-to late-twenties, getting serious about learning more about business, like the structure of business, how to make money, how to pitch for consulting gigs. I also, in my mid-twenties, met my now husband who was a business owner and was a successful consultant. He helped me think through just like some opportunities that I didn’t see being in the non-profit world. As I was like learning about business, I realized a couple of patterns, so this is where we get to my theory of non-profit mindset syndrome. Basically, it’s where people who have worked in public service and have really had to buy in, remember again, ideas, ideology, institutions, interpersonal.
This is a perfect example of how this all manifest, that in order to work successfully in these institutions, we had to adopt ideas that said things to us like, it’s not about the money, money doesn’t matter, you don’t go into this work because you want to get rich, all these sayings that would be on the table all the time, it’s not in the budget. That we accept those things just in order to resolve the cognitive dissonance of working from nine o’clock in the morning to seven o’clock at night and then going home. If you’re a teacher grading papers and committing to never doing an hourly breakdown of what you make per hour. Like, just knowing that that math is never going to be in your favor.
But we accept those terms because we think that it’s in the mission and then we reinforce that in our interpersonal relationships. We talk to each other about it. We look at our own identity and we make it mean something about us. I am a good person because I am sacrificing money to take this career to help people. So we participate in that oppression of ourselves because the truth is, and I worked in non-profits of all sizes and have seen all kinds of budgets, there’s a whole lot of money in non-profits. There are people making all kinds of money. There’s a whole industry of people who only serve non-profits who are charging all kinds of contractor fees. I’ve seen people be paid $30,000 for just a one-day training that was not great, like that I could have done internally for the organization, you know what I mean?
So there was this money that was being passed around, wasn’t getting to people who were in the direct service parts of the institutions. So, yes, I really committed to learning about business, I grew the side hustle and eventually transitioned out of non-profit service full time, probably about six years ago now, six or seven years ago, to running the company full-time. I remember this moment, and I know I talk about this in the book where I was in this incubator program and I was developing a business model and a budget for the business and the mentor came over and was like, “This is really great. This is a really great business concept, but why does your budget end in zero?” And Joanna, I literally, I’m not even exaggerating when I say I could not compute the question. He was like, “Why does your budget end in zero?” I was like, “What are you talking about?”
$0? That is $0, yes.
$0. Yes, the budget, so basically what I was projecting in this business plan was that all the money that we earned. We would spend, we would put into marketing, we would pay salaries, we would pay programming, and that it would all be zero. Because when you work in a non-profit, that’s how you design programs. In fact, if you end up with money at the end, it’s actually bad. Like you put future funding at risk if you don’t use all your money. So at that moment, and I had been side hustling for years, I could not understand the question. My brain was not calibrated for it. So I’m looking at, he could see that I was puzzled and went on to say isn’t the purpose, you can make money, like profits.
They explain that profit is actually what you gain after you’ve paid yourself. I was like, wait, what? It blew my mind. It’s so obvious. It’s like, duh. As soon as he said it, I was like, “Oh yes. I get it.” But the fact that I couldn’t even see it and that is such a good metaphor for all kinds of things in our life that we just can’t see, we just can’t understand, like the ways that race impacts a wellness company. For example, we can’t see it because our brains haven’t been calibrated to understand it but once you see it, you can’t not see it anymore.
Oh, that’s good. That’s really good. I almost feel like it should end right there. It’s so good. But I do just want to bring it back to the profit thing and for sure people listening right now, I know I deal with this with a lot of people that join the Business (R)Evolution Academy is, that is the same thing, Trudi, where it’s basically they’re just bringing in as much as they can each month and they’re paying themselves whatever they can. So there’s no profit. Do you know what I mean? Like their take home pay. So one of the things I teach my clients how to do is actually create our pricing based on the needs of the business, including your salary, which I love in your book you call it equitable pricing or something. I’m like, oh, yay. That’s exactly, exactly what I teach.
Because it’s inevitable in yourself to do all this work and not be compensated. You wouldn’t hire someone and say, “Hey, do all this work and I’m not going to pay you.”
You’re going to get whatever there happens to be
So you have, I always tell people think about like, if you had to hire someone to do that job, build the budget for that.
Yes, that’s great. But what I also want to get to is that profit piece. So many folks in wellness, in health and wellness definitely have that non-profit mindset of, but I don’t do this for the money and I will note that I speak with a lot of practitioners, I speak with a lot of you and you’ll say that I don’t do it for the money, and yet you may be financially struggling yourself. So there’s some conflict there. You still need more money for your own life, but are holding onto that. But Trudi, I want folks to hear, I guess I can talk about what somebody can do with profit, there’s some basics, but I would love it if you’d be willing to share your business is a social impact business. Maybe you can share a little bit about what your services are and then the social impact portion of that and that all relies on the generation of profit or much of it does. So would you be willing to share some of your business, what it looks like?
Yes, so for us, one of the biggest things that we’re trying to do in our model at this point, because we went through a big business evolution in 2021, so we went from just running business masterminds and consulting to really offering a school where we’re certifying coaches and leaders, so equity-centered coaches and equity-centered leaders. We still do our consulting and retreats and things like that. But what we’re trying to do, because we’re going in this direction of really treating it as an institute, as an educational institution, is trying to figure out how we generate enough profit to actually provide scholarships to people who can’t afford coming in and getting training. So what a lot of people do is they’re just like, oh, we’ll give scholarships, but we’ll just give a discount. It’s essentially a discount. We’ll give you a discount on this program, give you a different price.
But scholarships means that you’re actually covering the cost of the program on behalf. Just think of you go to college, a scholarship isn’t that the school is saying, “Oh, we’ll just take $20,000 off of your tuition and your room and board.” Someone’s actually paying that for you on your behalf. So where we’re at right now in this new business model is we’re trying to see what a revenue targets have to be in order for us to have a robust scholarship program where we can cover the cost of tuition for people to go through our certification programs and really get this education. That’s one thing. The other thing is, oh, well, and I’ll just say, and the reason that that is important is because that’s the only way it’s sustainable for the scale that we want to operate on.
If we just give discounts, what will end up happening is that we won’t be able to pay our staff eventually to like run all these programs. When it was just me and an assistant, I could waive someone’s tuition and the only person that impacted was me and my schedule because I could do a coaching call if it’s not compensated. That’s just my personal choice. When you have a team and other people who are actually delivering those services, you have to think about it a little bit differently. So that’s that. Then the other thing is, obviously we are looking at consistently giving to causes that are important to us, but the big thing for me is actually a school, is actually being in a position to have enough profit that we can fund the baseline operations for like a middle and high school that is like an alternative liberatory educational institution.
Those are the kinds of things that I’m thinking about that I’m talking with people about where we want like our impact efforts to go. But some of the other things that come to mind are like contributing to political campaigns in meaningful ways, really backing candidates, especially local candidates because the people who are running for office in your local community, like your city council and state reps, they have such an impact on the day-to-day life that you experience in your community. So those kinds of things. Funding and supplementing non-profits, we’d love to be in a position one day where we actually have a foundation that we’re giving sustainably and consistently. So yes, the giving that we want to be able to do happens at a scale where profits are super meaningful, like after we’ve paid all our team and given bonuses and taken care of everybody that we have a significant amount of money to be able to invest in improving our social lives.
Yes, I love it. That’s a reframe for you listening is in our, the mainstream capitalist culture that we’re all part of profit is often prioritized over anything else, over treatment of people and so on. We’re not, here back again is this opportunity in our own businesses to not achieve profit in oppressive ways but what we can do with profit is incredible and amazing. And I talk about this a lot and you just echoed Trudi what you’re doing, which is that you can use it to subsidize scholarships. You can use it to give yourself or pay yourself for volunteer time at local agencies. So maybe as a practitioner, there’s a clinic or local agency that provides services to a particular population that wouldn’t have access to your services, and you want to provide that.
You could provide your volunteer time or you can provide your money to non-profits or to other organizations that are doing the work that you want to see done in the world, including outside of your field. Trudi, you just mentioned starting a school, that’s outside of the field of your exact business right now, but very much aligned with your values and you’re talking about contributing to political campaigns and having a foundation, which really a foundation would allow a real legacy of that giving. So that’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing that.
Yes, you’re welcome. I also want to say that you can also buy yourself a house and have, you can do things that are, and like go on vacation and treat yourself well. It’s not an either or. It’s not about judging whether or not you treat yourself to something or give your money away. Again, it’s about are you in alignment with your values. Are you building the life that you want to live, that you are happy in, that you feel connected and lively and joyful? Your business can provide that for you. You don’t have to say things like, I don’t do it for the money because you are, if you don’t do this for the money, you got to do something else for the money. So why not do something that you love to create what is going to sustain your life? Again, it’s attaching, that there’s something bad about that, that’s part of that non-profit mindset. It’s like, what does that even mean not doing it for, well, what are you doing for the money? We all know you need it. We all live in this world together, so why not? It doesn’t have to only be that, but that’s why I certainly run the business for. Part one of the reasons is because I need money.
So does everybody, employees, all these other, so yes.
I say, like it or not, we live in a system that right now requires money for our shelter, for our food, for our healthcare, even in this country. Not everybody listening will be in that situation, but that is simply the reality we’re in. It’s great. So Trudi, where can people buy your book? Again, it’s called the Anti-Racist Business Book: An Equity Centered Approach to Work, Wealth and Leadership. It’s really for any business owners, I would love for you listening to go out and get this. It’s truly insightful, help you think about your business in different ways and recognize how much you can be doing in your business to realize and actualize your values that may be counter or different to how business, I’m putting air quotes, how business, how you think business is usually done. You get to do it your way. Trudi, where, where do people get your book?
You can get the book wherever books are sold. We, at Rowhouse Publishing, my amazing publishers, they, we, all of us, we really encourage you if you can, to buy from a local book shop and support your local independent bookstore. You can do that. If you need to order online, you can do that through bookshop.org. Bookshop.org is a online retailer that sells books and ships them to you by your local, they support independent book sellers in the process. So check out bookshops.org. You can get my book there, but if you also need to just order it from Amazon or Audible, we get it. Do whatever you need to do.
Yes. I’ll link to bookshop.org in the show notes on my website and then if you’re listening also yes, you can find it at any place for book sellers. Thank you so much for being here, Trudi.
Thanks so much for having me.
Hey, if you enjoy listening to this podcast and you want to apply what you’re learning here in your business, did you know that you can meet directly with me and ask me questions and get my help when you come to the Practitioner’s Business Round Table? The Practitioner’s Business Round Table is a free gathering for innovative practitioners that I host each month. We meet live via Zoom and when you sign up for a spot, you have the chance to submit your questions beforehand, to get them answered by me at the round table discussion. You can grab a seat for the next Practitioner’s Business Round Table by going to joannasapir.com/roundtable. Let’s go deeper. Come learn more about how to build a fulfilling and profitable practice with long-term clients and stable income. I hope to see your face there.