‘I feel like I have the best job in the world’ — Erica Gellerman

We don’t think we’re exaggerating when we say Erica Gellerman is a total hot-shot when it comes to business strategy. This ambitious go-getter is a consultant to some really big names in the biz, and we were curious to know exactly what goes on in the life of a ‘business strategist’. We also got the low-down on common mistakes small businesses make. Here’s what Erica told us:

When and why did you decide to go out on your own and start your consulting business?

I’ve always wanted to run my own business, but I never expected to start a consulting business. My husband and I moved from California to London two years ago and I realised that I needed something that could be location-flexible because with his work we never really know how long we’ll be staying in a city. I initially began writing about strategy for small businesses as I have previous experience starting a small business and I focused on marketing strategy when I was getting my MBA. From writing I began to have people start reaching out to me for business advice and I decided to start doing consulting and strategy work from there.

Tell us a little bit about your day job and what it involves?

I feel like I have the best job in the world. I get to work with incredibly smart, talented people and help them take their talents out into the world in a bigger way. I work one-on-one with clients and get to do a variety of different things: some people want help repositioning their services and create the ideal packages that their clients will love, some people want to launch a totally new service and I help them test the concept and then bring it to life, and some people just need some help figuring out how to play bigger. No matter what they come to me with, I always help them get super clear on the results they want and then we break down the steps they need to take to get there.

Have you run a number of your own small businesses?

I’m assuming I shouldn’t count the little businesses I ran as a child. As an adult, I’ve run one other small business. It was a bridesmaid dress rental business and I ran it with a great friend back in the US before I moved. It was an amazing learning experience because I got to take what I learned in business school and combine it with real-world practical experience.

What sort of businesses do you typical deal with?

I mainly work with service-based businesses. I’ve worked with health coaches, decorators, brand stylists, a children’s education service, and marketing consultants. It’s a pretty wide variety of businesses but they typically all have the same problem: they want to know how to play bigger but they’re not sure of what they need to do to get there.

Tell us about any new projects you’re working on right now?

I just created a workshop called “Unstick Yourself: 4 weeks of focus to create a business that works.” I realized that there were a lot of people out there who were just beginning building their business and needed a little help to get moving in the right direction. They needed to get their business fundamentals in order so they could actually grow, instead of just barely getting by working way too hard to make each sale.

What do you love most about your job?

Seeing my clients succeed. It’s absolutely the most rewarding thing. I work with people who really have great ideas and talents and when they are finally able to get their talents out in a bigger way to more people, I know that I’m helping to create something meaningful.

What’s your biggest achievement to date?

It’s not necessarily my biggest achievement, but it’s something that I’m most proud of: when I finally decided to not go back to the corporate world and to create a business that I loved. There are so many people out there that will tell you that you need to stay on a certain track to be successful. Once I let go of that notion and decided to chart my own course, I’ve been so much happier and so much more fulfilled.

What are the top 5 mistakes that small business owners make?

  • Not really understanding what problems their customers want solved: people get so wrapped up in their great ideas, but if it’s not solving a customer problem or filling one of their real needs, you don’t have a business.
  • Going big right away: there’s so much to be learned from testing an idea and improving upon it before you launch a new service or product. A lot of entrepreneurs skip over the testing and learning and go straight to launching, which can mean they’ve wasted months creating something that isn’t quite right. I like to help people start small so they know exactly what the right product, positioning, and pricing is before they try to go big.
  • Trying to absorb too much information and never taking action: there is so much information online about how to start a business. I see a lot of people go into information overload and then get too freaked out about how to make the next step.
  • Comparing themselves to others: starting a business is really a roller-coaster of emotions. As you begin to look around at what competition is out there, some people get stuck on comparing themselves to bigger players in the market and feeling like they can never compete. It’s a total confidence killer when you start comparing yourself to someone who has been in business for five years when you’ve only been in business for five months.
  • Not picking the right target market (or not picking a target market at all): some people get stuck in the mentality of ‘if I build it, they will come’, but that’s never true. When you’re building a business you need to be really deliberate about what target market you’re picking and how you’re going to reach them. If you’re targeting a market that will never pay for your service, you’re targeting the wrong market and you won’t be successful. If you’re targeting a market that is really hard to reach, you won’t be successful. Taking the time to really think out who I want to build this business for and how can I get their attention will save you tons of time down the road.

A life lesson that you’d tell your younger self?

Give yourself a break. I used to be so focused on getting a certain job title or working at the biggest company, but I realise that was unnecessary pressure that I was putting on myself. I wish I had started focusing on what I loved much, much earlier, rather than trying to figure out how to get to a certain point in my career faster.


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Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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Erica Gellerman

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