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AP 1037: So Many Ideas! How Do I Know If I’m Going in the Right Direction?

AP 1037: So Many Ideas! How Do I Know If I’m Going in the Right Direction?

By Pat Flynn on

About This Episode

This week I’m coaching Michelle Onyango, who has a therapy business (both online and offline). As a new business owner, Michelle is looking for ways to validate the direction of her business. How does she know if she’s on the right track? Find out more about Michelle at

To kick things off, we explore some of the high-level tactics that Michelle can use to find support and guidance in her business, and we identify her unique strengths. From there we pivot to tactics for validating Michelle’s services and products and securing her first customers. Next, we start to unpack what Michelle’s been working on so far so that she can decide where to direct her focus and create a game plan for achieving her goals. Michelle ends the call with a few critical breakthroughs and a blueprint for her next steps.

What You’ll Learn:
Learn strategies and tactics for validating your online business, prioritizing next steps, and charting a course for its future.

AskPat 1037 Episode Transcript

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Pat Flynn: What’s up everybody? Pat Flynn here and welcome to Episode 1037 of AskPat 2.0. If you haven’t heard this show before, I actually do a live coaching call with an entrepreneur who needs some help, and you are there and listening in, like a fly on a wall, on this conversation.

My goal is to help this person break through some of the struggles that they may be having. Today we’re speaking with Michelle who owns a counseling practice, both online and offline, and she’s just not sure if she’s headed in the right direction. So we dig into that. We have some amazing outcomes and breakthroughs here and some very clear call to actions for her to help her grow her business. So make sure you stay tuned.

But before that, I do want to give a big shout out to AskPat’s sponsor, which is FreshBooks, one of my favorite companies. They help me manage my business finances and they should be helping you too, if they aren’t already, because they help you manage your income, your expenses. But not only that, they can also really help you with your invoicing. This is something I’ve been doing a lot more of recently, now that I do a lot more coaching and consulting and that sort of thing. When you need to bill somebody you need to do it fast, and you need to do it in a very professional way, and in a way that you can track to make sure that you are indeed getting paid when you should.

What’s really cool too, is they have the ability to know whether or not somebody even opens the invoice that you send out. That way you can just literally go in, sign in, keep track, and follow up when you need to. If you want to check out FreshBooks for free for thirty days—complete, all-access free trial—all you have to do is go and just make sure you enter “Ask Pat” in the “How did you hear about us?” section. Again, for a thirty-day free trial. Check it out now.

All right, now let’s get to today’s coaching session with Michelle. Here she is.

Hey, Michelle, thank you so much for joining me on AskPat 2.0 today. How are you?

Michelle Onyango: I’m doing awesome, thank you.

Pat Flynn: I’m glad you’re here. Why don’t you introduce yourself to the audience, and what it is that you do?

Michelle Onyango: Sure. My name’s Michelle Onyango and I am a mother of three, I live in Canada, and I own my own counseling business, which is currently a combination of in-person counseling and online counseling. I’ve just started up. I mean, I came up with the idea about just over a year ago, but I opened an actual brick and mortar counseling spot in April of 2018.

Pat Flynn: Very cool, that’s awesome. Congrats on that, by the way.

Michelle Onyango: Thanks!

Pat Flynn: Tell me about your practice. Who do you counsel and why counseling? Why did you get into this?

Michelle Onyango: For sure. I’m going to try and keep this super brief because it’s kind of a long story.

Basically what happened was it came out of a period of tragedy, actually. On my thirty-first birthday in 2012, my fourth child passed away. I had a degree in counseling at that point, and it just kind of came out of this desire to want to help people who were going through a similar situation to myself, but also to go through a process of healing and seeking out counseling on my own, that I decided later that year that I wanted to open my own counseling practice.

I went back to school in September of 2012 and I got a master’s in counseling. Then I went through a three-year period of doing that and working for other people and just not really being able to help the people that I wanted to. Then I ended up circling back around and have gone into grief counseling myself, and that’s when I opened my own practice.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, well good for you. You’re going to be helping out so many people as a result of this. You, more than anybody, would know the experiences that people might be going through. Just want to commend you for doing this for those reasons. I think that this is really important so I want to help you out as best as I can.

I’d love to know, related to all this, what’s on your mind right now? What can I help you with?

Michelle Onyango: Really Pat, my basic question is that I have so many ideas and I have so many things that I want to do to help others and, you know what, I’m a good counselor but the business portion of it was never a module in my master’s program. Going into business has been a challenge. I’m loving it because I love to learn. But basically, my question is are there any questions that we can ask ourselves, or are there any clues out there that new business owners could ask themselves or go through, to figure out whether they’re barking up the wrong tree or not?

What I mean by that is are there some ways for us to know if we need to do something different? If we need to pivot our ideas or whether we should just keep persevering? Keeping in mind that not everyone has the resources financially to be like an Edison and try thousands of times at the same idea.

Pat Flynn: Right. There’s a lot of ins and outs of this, right? I mean, it’s not just the financial aspect and what’s possible with that but it’s even just your own superpowers and what you want to do versus what needs to be done, and does there need to be some kind of support there too? Or other people on board to help with that aspect so you can focus on what you need to focus on?

As a beginning entrepreneur, it can be very difficult because we kind of wear all the hats at the start. We, even though we are creating a business for the thing we are passionate about and the thing that we love, we’re also doing things that we aren’t necessarily super passionate about, like the accounting and all these other things that I personally don’t really like to do. Which is why I found other people to do them for me, or at least have gotten some great advice from others for those things.

I think, really important, I think you’re doing the right thing, number one, by talking about this with others. Not just with me but likely other people. If you haven’t yet, I would go to other people where you know there are other entrepreneurs and you can relate to each other and share things with each other and share resources with each other. I think that’s going to be the most important asset for you, is the connections that you make with others who are building their own businesses too.

Whether that’s online, or offline, or in communities somewhere, or groups online, it doesn’t really matter. When you find other people who are going through similar things, you can often grow together because you’re sharing a lot of things as you’re learning and growing at the same time, which is great.

This is why I’m really encouraged that you’re here, because you’re proactively searching for the answers, which is the first step. Many people don’t even get to that point. They just are struggling and they just give up. Or they just keep doing the same thing and you know that by doing the same thing you’re going to get likely the same results. Something has to be added on and changed which is why you’re here. Again, I’m very encouraged by that.

Number one, I would ask yourself at the core what is it that you really truly want to be doing, and what do you absolutely hate and would never ever want to do? There’s an exercise in a book called Virtual Freedom, which is by my friend Chris Ducker, which is really handy. This is not only a great exercise for understanding what you like and what you shouldn’t do, but also when you start to hire people, what they can potentially do for you.

I know that in the beginning hiring is a little scary and it might sound weird, especially if you are struggling financially. But you also have to realize that by having other people support you, you are then able to make those financial goals because you’re now able to deliver on what you want to deliver. I’m kind of just talking high-level right now, but to get more specific, especially with you Michelle, I would be very curious to hear your answer to this question, which is, what do you feel like your superpowers are?

In addition to the counseling, which you said you’re really good at—which, I believe you—in addition to that, in the business realm of things, what would you say you’re also very good at?

Michelle Onyango: Well, I think that just an extension of my counseling skills is that I have a high level of empathy and compassion and desire to help other people. I think that I’m really good at meeting the needs of others, whether that’s through counseling or whether that’s just in my business.

Hearing what people are saying and then doing my best to give them what it is that they need, I would say that that’s probably a high skill. The other thing is I’m a little bit unusual because I love to do video. So I love—

Pat Flynn: That’s great.

Michelle Onyango: Yeah, I love video. I did my own podcast. I did just a twenty-five episode, standalone podcast. I’m not afraid of technology. I’m not afraid of trying new things.

Pat Flynn: That’s a huge superpower, because a lot of people who likely want to serve the same audience don’t have that, or don’t want to do that, or they’re too shy. I would definitely lean into that part for you when you build your business and you’re creating content. Utilize those superpowers. I would do less of the blogging and more of the video and just have your natural passion for doing that just come out. Go with the flow is what I’m saying with those kinds of things.

But then when it comes down to . . . and, by the way, the empathy that you have for your audience is going to be another huge differentiator. This is a big struggle that a lot of entrepreneurs that I coach have—they can’t put themselves in the shoes of their customers or their clients. It’s a big struggle to convince a customer or a would-be-customer to want to work with somebody because there’s no trust and you’re not speaking their language and there’s no understanding. When they can’t understand that you understand, then there’s going to be no relationship there. So that’s huge as well. Even combining the two, the videos and the multimedia, with that compassion and that empathy, is going to take you so far.

But when it comes to the business stuff, a lot of times we struggle because we have these big goals and these big numbers that we want to reach, but it often starts with one. This is the practice I usually offer for people. If you’re trying to get clients—and I don’t know how far you are into your business right now, but for example, if you have an online course that you want to sell, it’s a big deal to package all that together and then try to find a load of people to sell it to. You’re considering, “If I make a hundred sales a month then that would be good.” But then it always starts with one. You need to find that one person who can really become that first customer. Oftentimes that happens even before the sale starts.

I don’t know if you’ve read my book, Will It Fly? If you haven’t I’d be happy to send you a free copy, Michelle. But it will break down this really intimidating process of building a business into a lot of iterative steps where one unlocks the next. Meaning you have conversations with people to see if you can understand what their problems are and if you can do that, which you’ve already done, then you can move on to the next step which would be to create, for example, if you wanted to do an online course and you saw that that would be helpful for them, you create the outline of that. Then you go back to those people and you might say, “Okay, well this is what I’m thinking of creating. Would this be a curriculum that would help you or serve you?” If they have some good feedback, great. You can apply it now, versus after the whole thing has been built and you’ve spent all this money, time, and effort. You’re actually building it as you go along versus building it and then shouting at the rooftops.

That’s a good way to test things so that you know you’re headed in the right direction, which I know is the essence of your question: “How do we know if what we’re doing is going to pan out?”

I also think a part of that is, in the clients that you have now, in the work that you are doing, are they being served and are they actually getting value? What might they say to others who would then offer you as a resource? Understanding if those are in the right place will, with time, give you the right referrals. That’s business. It’s, can you serve and solve those people’s problems?

If you’ve got that part down right, then everything else is just, “Okay, well what’s the one marketing channel that I need to really get that word out there?” I think where a lot of people, myself included, and likely you too Michelle, is that we have, like you said, all these ideas that we try all of them. I don’t know if you try all of them at the same time but—

Michelle Onyango: I do.

Pat Flynn: But see, that’s the issue that I have too. Part of it’s just because I get really excited with the experimentation. “What if this is the one? What if this is the one?” But it’s hard because it’s not a, let’s throw this spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. If you do that then that’s not the right comparison. That’s not the right analogy.

The analogy is you are one person with only so much energy to give that when you spread it across all these different things, none of them are going to have a chance to actually even give you a worthy, “Well, this works,” or “this doesn’t.” They’re not going to work because you haven’t given it that full focus yet.

Part of this call might be having us understand, okay, out of all these ideas, which one should we attempt to focus on? And how can we put more energy into that, knowing that—and this is partly my problem, I apologize, I’ve been talking most of the time here.

Michelle Onyango: No, it’s okay.

Pat Flynn: But my issue is I want to try them all because I don’t want those opportunities to go away or I don’t want to miss out. Fear of missing out is a big thing for me too.

Michelle Onyango: Totally.

Pat Flynn: But I always know that I can go back to them if I need to, but I will not give myself a chance to succeed if I don’t focus on one and just give that a chance.

To bring it back to you Michelle, out of all these ideas you have to grow your business and expand the brand and do more of what you want to do, what would you say are your top three? I’m not going to force you to pick one now. We’ll maybe get to that by the end, but what are some of the bigger ideas that you have? Then maybe we can unpack those and see which one we can start out with and really focus on.

Michelle Onyango: Sure. Just to mention, I actually have read your book Will It Fly? I have a little airplane in my office.

Pat Flynn: Oh, good!

Michelle Onyango: What I’m hearing you say is just narrowing it down and really focusing on a few things. I’ve heard this kind of concept before actually. Amy Porterfield, one time in her podcast was talking about how you may have to close the loops. You have to finish one loop, not just leave everything open. I think that’s what I’ve been doing in the past, is that I’ve started a lot of things and not come to completion on those things.

To answer your question, I think the top three for me would be, definitely I have a online course that’s starting. I have a mini-course, a free mini-course that’s up and available.

Pat Flynn: Oh, that’s great!

Michelle Onyango: I think that just creating paid coursework would definitely be one of those things, so I can reach more people.

Pat Flynn: That plays into your video and all that stuff you love to do anyway, which is great. I love that idea.

Michelle Onyango: And I have a book that’s about 75 percent done. I think on a personal level, I want to complete that only to say that I did and also for my own healing journey. I think it’s also really important that that’s something I get completed.

Third is, as I mentioned before, I had a twenty-five-episode podcast that was told as a story. I’d like to create another one where it’s more interview style in regards to grief and loss as a whole, just to open up the narrative on that topic because it’s something we have a tendency to kind of sweep under the rug.

I’d say that those are probably three that are top of mind for me right now.

Pat Flynn: I like those three. What’s really interesting about those three is they all play together very nicely. The online course can be mentioned and sold through the book. The podcast can mention the book and the online course. They all kind of play together which is nice. You could feature, for example, students of your online course on your podcast to share how they found success through your course, which then promotes your course.

It’s all great. Now the question is, do we do them all at the same time or do we do one at a time? I think you know the answer to that one.

If you were to choose, if I had to have you for the next, for example, month, just focus on one of these things, which one would you be most excited about?

Michelle Onyango: The online course.

Pat Flynn: The online course. What might the first steps be? Online course, okay, let’s narrow focus on that. But even that in and of itself is a giant thing, right?

Michelle Onyango: Yeah.

Pat Flynn: In that world of the online course, what might the first steps be? Now, okay, for the first month we’re going to focus on that; what might the first week be focused on?

Michelle Onyango: I think it’s just really getting clarity about which of the things people could get quick wins on right away.

Pat Flynn: I really like that.

Michelle Onyango: And helping them with that to start. Further to my desire to do all these things is that I have an online, what’s the word? I’m on Teachable and they use this word. Is it a flagship? Or a—

Pat Flynn: Oh, right. Yeah.

Michelle Onyango: So I have this super big idea. But really, more narrowing it down so that people can take it in bite-sized pieces as opposed to having to decide to do something over a really long period of time. I think just getting clarity on what are some of the smaller things that they could do at the very beginning, instead of having to enter like a flagship type of course?

Pat Flynn: I like that. So that’ll be the focus for the first week. We’re just making up the timeline as we go along here, which is really cool.

What might the first steps be to collect that information or to figure that out?

Michelle Onyango: I’m a part of quite a few online forums and Facebook groups. I think going in there and maybe asking people, “If you could take a course today to really get the help that you need, what would be some things that you’d want to learn?”

Pat Flynn: I like that. See how much simpler this is now by breaking it up?

Michelle Onyango: For sure.

Pat Flynn: I think that’s an exercise that we can continually do across all three of these ideas and all the other ideas that you want to do in the future. It just starts to make it more achievable in that way.

I would highly recommend that and you seem to—not everybody works in that way, but you’ve kind of led me there. I think that you may have not even known that that’s the way to do it. So take these bigger goals and consider, okay, how much time you want to spend on them. Then break it down from months to weeks, and then weeks to days, and then it just becomes a lot easier to progress through that.

What I would recommend though, with your conversations in these groups, is to not even mention a course. Because sometimes when people see that they go, “Well I wouldn’t want to take a course,” because they have these preconceived experiences in the past that make them feel negative about courses in general. But when you ask them about the core of what they need help with, then you get the true, non-biased, non course-related answer which would then give you more insight to what would be included in the course. Because sometimes people, they don’t necessarily know what they need, they just tell us what they want.

Michelle Onyango: Okay, thanks for that. Yeah.

Pat Flynn: I think that would just frame it a little bit better. One thing that you could do actually is, similar to what I talk about in Will It Fly?, is as you gauge the interest of these groups—there’s a lot of examples of people who have built businesses just purely on the conversations they’ve had in these groups. I’m in love with the fact that you’re going to start there too. You can then take that conversation that’s more public, like in a status update or a message with a bunch of comments, you can take some of those individuals and start speaking to them individually through a message, a direct message. That’s how you can begin to understand more if they might be actually perfectly suited to be a part of your beta program or something.

You know this from Amy as well. She does the same thing, pre-launching and getting people to essentially say, “Yes, I want that and if you create it, I’ll get into it.” Even having them buy it beforehand, as you create it with them so that it becomes something that they almost create for you as you go along with them. It kind of creates itself. So I really like it.

Again, part of my strategy is to break these bigger ideas down into smaller bite-sized chunks. That’s kind of seemingly what we’ve done here, which is really great.

I’m excited about this book too. The fact that you’ve nearly completed it is really fun. One thing that motivates me—and again, everybody’s different so I’m just sharing this as something that could be motivating for you but you’d have to see if this would work for you too. But the book and the fact that it’s so close to you is very motivating.

“I want to work on that so bad because it’s so close.” Again, you said it was very personal too. Perhaps you could use the book and the completion of the book as a reward for when the online course stuff is going? This is kind of like a reward-based hack, I guess you can call it, to motivate you to do the things you need to do now, which you want to do and will do anyway, but that then unlocks the ability for you and the permission to then go and work on the next thing. Versus, “Let’s work on all of them at the same time.” You use one to unlock the next one, if that makes sense.

Michelle Onyango: Yes, I get what you mean. Yes.

Pat Flynn: Would that work for you, do you think?

Michelle Onyango: Yeah, definitely, because I love positive reinforcement. As a counselor I think that that’s the best motivating tool there is out there, so absolutely.

Pat Flynn: I love that, and then you can unlock the podcast, if you will, when the book is done, for example. Or at least the first draft is done and you start to see some success stories come out of the online course that you have and the communities that you’re building.

They’re the people that you’re going to interview. Likely you’re going to know a lot of people in your industry that you’re going to have as well. That becomes Experience Level Three, if you want to use a video game analogy to it, that you can only get to if you unlock Experience Level Two, right?

Michelle Onyango: Right. Well you know Pat, something you said at the very beginning is just kind of rolling around in my brain right now.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, what is it?

Michelle Onyango: You were talking about talking to people who are going through a similar thing. I think that something that came to me is that I’ve been going to other counselors that I know and that are in the same spot as I am as a counselor.

They are so fearful of the online space. As a result they have been, let’s say, not super encouraging or supportive in my ideas about going online and making a course, I think based out of their own fear. I’ve been going to them. When I actually think that, now that you’ve mentioned it, I should be going potentially to people who are doing online business regardless of whether they’re a counselor or not, because their struggles are more similar to mine than maybe a counselor’s would be, if you know what I mean.

Pat Flynn: Exactly. I mean, you nailed it. I love how you figured out why they’re saying that to you. It has nothing to do with you; it has everything to do with their own fear. Likely they don’t have the skills that you have either that you would bring to the space too. Maybe they feel even a little bit like you might be competing with them in some way. I don’t know.

Michelle Onyango: Oh for sure. I think the other thing is that I think sometimes we take on other people’s fears, right? When we hear other people being fearful of things we think, “That’s maybe where my questioning has come from.” It’s like, “Am I going down the right road? Is this something that I’m capable of doing?” Instead of going to people who are already trying it and talking about it with them.

Maybe I need to surround myself with more online business folks as opposed to counselors.

Pat Flynn: And you are involved in the SPI community. You’re involved in Amy Porterfield’s community. Those are great places to start to find like-minded people. Already you can tell by just having a twenty-minute conversation, you’ve been able to discover all this stuff about yourself. I would highly recommend that for sure. I mean you figured it out, I didn’t do it. That’s great. I think that’s a huge takeaway, for sure.

Michelle Onyango: Well that’s what I love about coaching and counseling in general, right? Talking out loud is so important in solving our problems, right? Finding solutions is sometimes just—having somebody reflect your ideas back to you is extremely important. I’m so appreciative of you taking the time to speak to me today because I feel like I have so many notes and I’m really excited.

Pat Flynn: I’m so excited for you, Michelle. If you were to sum up, besides the knowing now that you’re going to connect with other business owners versus other counselors to help you on this journey, what might be the other big takeaway for you before we finish up?

Michelle Onyango: I would say that I’m really going to dive deeper into one thing at a time, and just go headstrong into the online course and work there and close that gap, make it so that it’s done and move that off my plate before I try anything else. Then see where that goes and really determine if it’s not successful. Then just saying, “Okay. What could I do better? Were there any mistakes that I made?” Reflecting on that before I try to move to something else. If it is successful, then just improving upon it and pushing it forward and then giving myself the permission to then do something as a second project.

Pat Flynn: Well said. The fact that you had said, “Well if this is successful then this, if not then this.” Just creating it doesn’t mean it’s going to be successful, but hopefully you do the things to validate it up front. But what will be successful, win or fail, is the fact that you knew you at least gave this thing the time and energy it needed to tell you whether or not this was the right thing for you, which then, like you said, closes the loops that Amy was talking about. That’s such a huge thing. Because now there’s less worry about it anymore. Even if it failed, well at least you know that it’s done and you can move on to the next thing with clarity.

Michelle Onyango: One of your podcasts that I listened to, I think you had Dr. Irvine on your podcast?

Pat Flynn: Yeah, Dr. Shannon.

Michelle Onyango: I’m not sure if I’m saying her name correctly. It’s similar there too, right? About how not taking the failures on as personal failure or taking them on as . . . that temporary defeat not being a permanent failure-type thing, right?

Pat Flynn: Right. You’re spot on. Michelle, so proud of you and I’m excited for what’s to come. I hope you keep us updated.

Michelle Onyango: I will. I’m so excited. Thanks for everything that you do. You’ve been a huge mentor to me from afar so I’m so ecstatic that I was able to talk to you for this episode. I really appreciate everything that you do.

Pat Flynn: Me too. Thank you, Michelle. If anybody wanted to check out what you had going on online, is there a place that we could go to to see more?

Michelle Onyango: Yeah, for sure. I’m on basically all the social media platforms under @StrideWellness. I have my website as

Pat Flynn: Cool. Thank you so much, Michelle. Have a great one.

Michelle Onyango: Take care.

Pat Flynn: All right, I hope you enjoyed that coaching call with Michelle. Michelle, thank you so much for coming on and being vulnerable and also giving us a lot of inspiration along the way too.

Thank you again for what you’re doing to help others. It’s just amazing and we wish you all the best of success.

Now for those of you listening to this, if you want to be coached just like Michelle did, you can potentially get a chance to do that by going to and filling out the application there. Let me know a little bit about yourself, your business, where you’re at. I go in once a month and send emails to a batch of new people who I want to get on the call.

It’s not possible to get to everybody, but you’ll never have a chance unless you apply. So make sure you go to You can apply there. You can also listen to the other episodes that have been recorded in the past.

Finally, if you haven’t yet done so, please leave a review for AskPat on iTunes. It would be extremely helpful for you to do that to help others realize that this is a honest and real show that can help real entrepreneurs like you. Just a quick review, honest review, would be amazingly helpful.

Thank you so much. I appreciate you. Make sure you hit subscribe if you haven’t already because we’ve got a lot of other amazing people coming on, entrepreneurs just like you who are struggling across all different facets of their business. I’m here to help you and them and we’re in this together.

Thank you Team Flynn. I appreciate you and I’ll see you in the next one. Bye.

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