For Episode 83 of Amplify Your Business, Ashley Janssen tells a story that will resonate with any entrepreneur—one of hardship, pivoting, and finding strength in listening to yourself. Across the many twists and turns of her career, she manages to find a way forward no matter the obstacle. Today, she’s sharing quite a few lessons she’s learned along the way. We hope you enjoy this powerful episode!
(0:55) Welcome to the show, Ashley. I’m really looking forward to this. Tell me a little bit about your journey—how you got into work as an entrepreneur, as well as a little background on your first business, “Code and Effect.”
It started at the University of Alberta, where I graduated with a psychology degree with the intention of becoming a counsellor, which requires a masters degree. Unfortunately, with the competitiveness of the program, I did not get in and instead started a job with the Government of Alberta.
In the meantime, my then-boyfriend (now husband) had begun freelancing as a web developer. We got married in 2009, and during our honeymoon, I read a CBC headline that said the Government of Alberta had imposed a hiring freeze. Instead of becoming a full-time contractor as intended, I realized my job would be disappearing shortly.
My husband and I had discussed working together before, and this became the perfect opportunity to try it out. So, two months ahead of my contract end, I resigned from the government and started on this new venture.
Fast forward a few years to 2012, and it was six of us (and two cats) worked out of my townhouse. It was crowded, but we made it work until a sudden turn of events. Dana, my husband, was diagnosed with cancer.
Things needed to be adjusted as both life and business partners—fast. How would this affect clients, how would we move to an office for privacy, and how could we ensure that these staff could keep their jobs?
(3:47) That must have been hard—Dana was integral to the delivery side of the business while you handled the business ops.
That’s right. While I settled into bits of entrepreneurship, I felt it was always Dana’s specialty. Suddenly, I realized I was just as much a part of leading the business. We worked together and I picked up whatever I could so he could focus on his wellness during treatment.
(4:35) This is the point where most people would be completely overwhelmed and step away from the business. It’s an entirely different kind of chaos. In the midst of this, however, you then found a way to grow and move forward while expanding your own skillset. I find that absolutely fascinating—a self proclaimed “non-entrepreneur” holding on through all of that. How did you hold on and step in even deeper where most would turn away?
It didn’t feel like much of a choice—we had hit a sink-or-swim point. In many ways it felt like the only thing I could do. I loved him and couldn’t let him or our business down.
Do or die; you figure it out. I never thought of not quitting.
In a lot of ways, despite friends and family support, our life became very small. My future plans took a back seat to focus on the present—especially during the cancer treatments at The Cross. Every day became about focusing on what I could do today to get through to tomorrow. Dana was incredible and strong the whole time.
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8:15) So, you’re out of the house, you’re in an office, you’re supporting your husband—how is the business doing?
Somehow, it grew. We hit a rhythm, found general expectations, and had an awesome team. While Dana was in recovery, he came back to the office, and we continued to grow our revenue. Any growth was in large part thanks to our team and support.
(9:20) So you took on all of these “stretch roles” that pushed you outside of your comfort zone. You became the face of the company at this time—how did you motivate your team and keep them feeling secure in those early days?
Communication. We never hid anything, from projects to vision. Everyone had a clear understanding of where we were, where we were going, and their roles within that structure.
A lot of my roles became external and project management-related. Since we work primarily in the back end of websites, the team kept project development on track and picked up opportunities to help me wherever they could. At the end of the day, there were things I couldn’t do, so I had to get better at letting go of perfectionism—the things that couldn’t be done by me or delegated were simply let go.
We were worried at times that clients would leave when we couldn’t deliver on things we promised. It’s just business, nothing personal. However, that never came up. We were open with extensions or blockages, and our clients were great at accommodating us and wonderful to work with.
(12:58) I’m curious about any other lessons you may have learned as you were going through both growth and crisis at the same time?
We learned that it’s very easy to defer things—get it out of the way now. But while you’re doing so, focus on how you want to build your business. There is no right answer, and you don’t have to do it like any other business.
We muddled through it at the beginning but came out of it with the feeling that we have power over the experiences we have. Time is precious. Be conscious of what you are building since everything can change in a second.
Three quotes come to mind:
“Don’t compare your insides to someone’s outsides,” “don’t compare your beginning to someone’s middle,” and “We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection, but regret is the thing we should fear the most.”
(17:24) It’s easy to doubt your own abilities when you have an economic downturn that's affecting your business growth. Tell me about the transition you made to your consulting business?
Dana went through five years of post-chemo scans. At the end of those scans, we would be cleared—which he was. Unfortunately, three weeks before the all-clear, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Another reminder of how quickly life can change.
As I started blogging about organization and project management, the experience led to speaking opportunities. From there, I was asked to do one-on-one consulting. I realized after a few sessions that it was my favourite part of the week. This pushed me down the road of clarity toward understanding my own interests and talents.
It came full circle back to my initial goal of being a counsellor. As of seven months ago, my time has been split 80/20, focusing on the consulting side.
(21:15) What is the core part of your consulting and coaching?
I call myself a productivity consultant. Productivity is about being intentional with your energy. My goal is to calm the chaos of CEOs and manage burnout, bringing them back down to healthy levels.
(23:18) So you coach people on burnout—what are some of the common behaviours you see amongst your clients?
The first one is that they are reactive and passive about how they spend their time—other people dictate their schedules. They also fail to prioritize their energy. Connected to that is they put themselves last and make themselves available to draining activities. In many ways, they need boundaries and to escape fear-motivation. Fear of not making money, fear of judgement, fear of failure…
When you make yourself your business, it diminishes you. It works against clarity.
(27:19) What are three things every entrepreneur needs to do to calm the chaos?
First, you have to get your schedule under control. It’s called obligation elimination—evaluate your existing commitments against your values and goals. Are they in alignment? Next, create areas of your life where you won’t take meetings, whether days or times of the day. Be intentional.
Secondly, reframe self-care as a competitive advantage. Whatever you’re doing, it’s not selfish. What are the things you do that recharge you? Practice it every day, not just occasionally. If you’re burnt out, you’re not even doing self-care—it’s aftercare.
Thirdly, cultivate self-awareness through daily reflection. Interrogate what you’re spending time on and learn your own patterns. Passive people don’t always think back on what they have spent their time on and if it makes sense.
Ask yourself once a day: what went well today, what was tricky, and what would I have done differently? You can’t change or improve on something that you can’t see.
(36:25) This has all been fantastic advice. How can viewers connect with you for more in-depth consulting?
Visit my website for a free consultation. You can find my contact info there or subscribe to my weekly newsletter.
Feeling burnout in your own professional life? Contact Ashley Janssen for a free consultation and start calming your chaos today.
Thank you Ashley for joining us, and thank you for watching!
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