Julie DeLucca-Collins was at the peak of her 20-year corporate career when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Her employer was forced to reorganize and retrench staff, and her position was not spared. In the midst of all the uncertainty, she saw an opportunity to accelerate her post-corporate life plans and create a new start for herself.
Let’s look at DeLucca-Collins’ journey from the C-suite to being her own boss in her business and the challenges she tackled along the way. Don’t forget to check out her Read-Learn-Follow list for her recommended books, courses, and communities, as well as her Productivity Stack Quick Reference at the end of this article.
Table of Contents
- Other recommend tools
- Hindsight: What DeLucca-Collins would have done earlier
- Advice on tool selection and changing your offers
- Wrap Up
- DeLucca Collins’ Read-Learn-Follow List
- DeLucca-Collins’s Productivity Stack Quick Reference
- More About DeLucca-Collins
Challenge 1: Launching a business after being laid off
DeLucca-Collins was coming up on 12 years as Chief Innovation Officer or CIO at an academic solutions company in early 2020. She had a close relationship with the founder and was fully invested in the work they did to support schools, teachers, and parents in helping students succeed.
But as the lockdowns started, the company struggled to adapt. DeLucca-Collins knew that her role was not critical like teachers at the frontlines. She accepted her separation package, knowing the company had to take these measures to survive and continue its mission.
Solution: DeLucca-Collins could have applied to another job with all her qualifications and extensive executive experience. Prior to the CIO role, she was the Executive Director of School Services for another learning institution.
But she decided to take a pause and revisit her personal goals. She already had a five-year plan to leave corporate life and start her own venture. Now she had the opportunity to start on it earlier.
She quickly started getting in touch with her network to let them know her situation. And one restless evening, she got out of bed and decided, “I’m going to write a mission statement. What do I envision that I could do? Rather than saying, ‘Oh, no, poor me,’ I started to say, ‘What would be possible? What if I could be captain of the ship?’”
As she started fleshing out her plans for her own business, she started to get excited. This helped her shift focus to the life and business coaching practice that she wanted to build for herself.
Systems: Mission and vision setting
Tools: Pen and paper like Moleskine for mission-vision setting
Challenge 2: Putting herself out there and distribution
DeLucca loved mentoring people while still with her previous company. In 2019, DeLucca-Collins got certified as a Cognitive Behavioral Life Coach and a Certified Holistic Life Coach. But she never told colleagues about her certifications and just waited for them to approach her. Striking out on her own, she now needed to actively market her services as a coach.
Solution: She recalls, “The first thing that I did was I put it out there. I changed my title on LinkedIn to ‘Founder and CEO of Go Confidently Services.’ And then I started to outreach, and I went down the list [of my connections]. I began to talk to people about what I was doing.”
She set up 15-minute calls to catch up with her contacts and let them know about her new venture. Sometimes, they would have referrals for her. This process was also instrumental in overcoming the next challenge.
Systems: Networking and connecting
Challenge 3: Choosing her niche
In the beginning, she cast a wide net to find clients. She was speaking to all ages and genders of individuals struggling in different stages of growing their businesses.
She recalls, “I could have gone into corporate coaching. I could have gone into executives, or I could have worked in leadership. I could have done a wide array of different types of coaching. But I also wanted to find that overlap of what it is I’m passionate about and what I’m good at.”
Solution: Through her networking and many conversations with clients and potential clients, she conducted her market research. She listened to their struggles and offered to help where she had experience and knowledge. This process of having conversations, listening to different groups’ challenges and their unique needs helped her identify where she wanted to focus. She decided her passion lay with mid-life women in business because she could identify with what they were going through, their doubts, and their pain points.
Systems: Networking and connecting, market research
Challenge 4: Setting up her systems
With the flurry of meetings and conversations she was doing for her outreach, DeLucca-Collins needed a way to keep track of leads and clients. She knew the importance of having systems and tools in place to help with invoicing, bookkeeping, and client management to keep everything professional and organized.
Solution: She started with an investment in FreshBooks to keep track of her finances and manage the invoicing. She found QuickBooks too complex and wasn’t ready to hire an accountant at that point. She asked her husband to build her website on Wix, where they put a link to Calendly so clients or prospects could easily set appointments. She also started using a spreadsheet to track her tasks. This was her ‘starter kit’ of tools for the early days of her business.
People: DeLucca-Collins, her husband
Systems: Choosing tools that she could work with and suited to her stage of business, leveraging (free) help from family
Challenge 5: Delegation: When to hire an assistant
It wasn’t very long after her husband had set up her website that DeLucca-Collins told him, “I need an assistant.” This was in July 2020, about three months into the launch of her coaching venture. At that point, she didn’t have a lot of work yet, and her husband thought the move didn’t make sense.
Solution: DeLucca-Collins believes in “do what you do best, and delegate the rest,” so she could get the best return on her time. She knew her time was best dedicated to networking and speaking to prospects.
She explored creative options like outsourcing one hour of administrative work at a time, bartering services, and leveraging relationships. She recruited college students she mentored to work as interns for her company. By August 2020, she had hired an assistant.
People: DeLucca-Collins, her husband, assistant
Systems: Outsourcing administrative tasks, tapping interns
Challenge 6: Being the CEO of a start-up
Despite her many years of corporate experience in marketing, business development, and operations, she describes her first year in business as a flop. Like many new entrepreneurs, she got distracted by the ‘shiny things’ and got pulled in different directions by different voices.
It was very different from a corporate setting where there is some structure and direction, and you can focus on execution. She realized she needed a roadmap to get herself to focus on the truly important things.
Solution: She recalls her earlier thinking, “We sit back and think, ‘Oh my gosh, I need a good business card or a good logo because that’s going to make me official.’ But if you’re not doing the work to get the first client, forget it. Those are the first lessons I had to figure out. And once that started to fall into place, I realized that I could be the CEO of this business, not just call myself the CEO, but I could really act and step into that role.”
By the start of 2021, she held executive meetings with herself to set business goals that would dictate her calendar and daily actions. She would map out the goals for marketing, operations, sales, and finance even though she was a solopreneur who handled all these functions by herself.
It worked so well she decided to walk her clients through this planning process for their own businesses as well. Today, she offers an annual ‘CEO Day or Strategic Planning Session,’ which has become her signature event.
DeLucca-Collins also carried over some other smaller habits from her corporate life to help her run her business like a CEO. She continued her practice of dressing up for work even if she was only doing virtual meetings. She set up a home office instead of working at the dining table and set boundaries for when and where she worked.
“When I leave my desk, I’m shutting down. I’m not taking my laptop and working on stuff. This is it. And I make those very clear distinctions because if I’m going to show up at my best, I need to create that clear margin between my personal life and my business.”
Systems: Yearly strategy meetings, remote work rituals: dressing up for work, working in a home office, setting boundaries between personal and business hours
Challenge 7: Adopting new tools
DeLucca-Collins stumbled upon podcasting by accident in 2020. Her husband bought her podcasting equipment to distract her from the fact that she couldn’t celebrate her birthday with friends and family during the lockdown.
She invited guests to tell stories of how they created the life they wanted, and that’s how the Casa DeConfidence podcast started. Her husband, who has a technical background, edited and did the production work. She recalls, “The next thing you know, as I was getting coaching clients who wanted a podcast, they’d say, ‘Oh, can he edit mine? Can he help me with sound?’ And then we started to grow that division.”
Go Confidently Services expanded to include podcasting and podcast production services (mainly provided by her husband). As a result, DeLucca-Collins had to try new tools to improve and streamline business processes. Not all of them are intuitive and easy for her to adopt.
Solution: Her philosophy in learning new tools is, “Don’t be intimidated by technology. Find the person that knows how to [use it]. There are a lot of different resources out there.”
She applies BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits methods to learning new tools too. She was certified as a Tiny Habits coach in 2021 and used these techniques on herself and her clients.
The Tiny Habits method encourages you to start by breaking down your desired new behavior or habit into very small components. You start with a small action that takes minimal effort that causes no pain or bad emotions, then gradually build from there.
DeLucca-Collins translates this to learning new software by starting with a tiny habit of logging on to the new tool and then celebrating once she’s logged on. “I learned through becoming a Tiny Habits coach that our brain changes when it feels good.”
She is currently testing a few new tools, like HelloWoofy, for her social media management. It incorporates AI and helps her track her weekly numbers for attracting, engaging, nurturing, inviting people to work with her, and creating super fans. She is also testing Podia as a platform for her online courses.
People: DeLucca-Collins, her husband, assistant
Systems: Dedicating time for the study of and trial period for new tools and software, Tiny Habits method, consulting experts on tools
Other recommend tools
DeLucca-Collins mentioned a few other essential tools in her stack today:
- Teachable for her online courses
- Flodesk has great templates for email management and automation, can create landing pages, provides a platform for selling courses, and integrates well with other tools
- Canva for graphics
Hindsight: What DeLucca-Collins would have done earlier
She would have started CEO Day and strategy sessions earlier. If she had set a roadmap to help her focus and guide her day-to-day tasks, she probably would have cut down the time she struggled in her first year of business.
Advice on tool selection and changing your offers
DeLucca-Collins reminds us not to get bogged down by tools. She tells her clients, “The best tool for you is the one that you use.” While she dedicates time to learning new ones, it is always in the context of seeing what will help her business. She asks herself, “Is this helping me? Is this saving me time? If it’s not, what can I do next?”
When you find a tool that works for you and your business, no matter how simple, just run with it! Today, she still considers herself a paper-and-pen person and continues using her trusty spreadsheets.
Her second advice is for those with a service or product that does not do well. She recommends waiting and evaluating over six to nine months instead of abandoning it immediately and changing offers. As you analyze what went wrong, you can ask yourself, “Did I market that enough? Did I have the right outreach? Did the language work? Or did I understand how to communicate it with people and really test it out?”
In spite of her extensive experience in marketing and business development in the corporate world, DeLucca-Collins’s shift to entrepreneurship had a steep learning curve. She had the building blocks in terms of skills, knowledge, and experience, but lacked the direction and the discipline to focus on her business goals. Realizing she needed to act like the CEO was when things started to shift for her.
She has stuck with this discipline in terms of goal setting, regular networking, marketing, time management, delegating tasks, and learning new tools. With the focus on executing the tasks that align with her goals, Go Confidently Services has expanded its scope in just a little over two years. In addition to one-to-one life and business coaching for women, her company now offers self-paced courses, a podcast, and podcast editing services.
Today, DeLucca-Collins continues to share her message about building confidence and chasing your dreams through speaking engagements and training. With her business goals and processes dialed in, we know that Go Confidently Services will further expand its reach to help more women in business grow and succeed.
DeLucca Collins’ Read-Learn-Follow List
- Smart Passive Income community by Pat Flynn. You can crowdsource answers and get support from the community on your struggles in business or as an entrepreneur.
- B-School training program by Marie Forleo for online marketing. Although she finds some of her clients need one-to-one support and follow-up to help with implementation after this course
- List Builders Society course by Amy Porterfield on building an email list
- The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington, which she uses to guide her yearly CEO Retreat. The idea of working within a 12-week year is intended to boost productivity. DeLucca-Collins likes the idea of grading yourself on the 12-week year and using the data to inform your process.
- Blue Ocean Strategy by Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne talks about seeking and pursuing new, untapped markets. For the entrepreneur, this means understanding how their offer can serve a market they may not yet have reached or even identified.
- Tiny Habits by Dr. B.J. Fogg, who is a Stanford researcher and one of the world’s leading experts in behavior change and behavior design. The book talks about a method of creating new behaviors that makes it a manageable and positive experience.
DeLucca-Collins’s Productivity Stack Quick Reference
More About DeLucca-Collins
Julie DeLucca-Collins is the founder and CEO of Go Confidently Services, the host of the popular Casa DeConfidence Podcast®, and her weekly radio show, Confident You, featured on a global talk radio network.
As a Business and Life Strategist Coach, Julie helps women business owners launch or grow their businesses, get clients, be productive, and achieve their dreams. Julie helps her clients create simple habits to achieve goals and change their lives.
Julie is a sought-after public speaker, author, trainer, and course creator. She is certified as a coach in Cognitive Behavioral Techniques, Holistic Coach, Tiny Habits, and a Thrive Global Coach.
She is also certified as a Social Emotional Learning Facilitator and has completed her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Certification. Julie enjoys helping her clients build mental fitness and improve their mindset to be at peace and improve peak performance. Julie is also the author of the #1 best-selling book, “Confident You: Simple habits to live the life you have imagined.”
Julie has been honored as one of the “25 Most Powerful Minority Women in Business,” by the Minority Enterprise Executive Council in Washington, DC. Julie and her podcast co-host/producer husband Dan reside in Vernon, Connecticut, with their fur babies, Yogi Bear, Junior, and Simba.
You can find out more about her and get in touch through: