Season 1, Episode 12
The Power Of Adaptability In Business
Join Justin & Alexis Black, and Lyle Leads as they discuss the best ways to adapt in business and the power behind them.
In this episode we will cover:
– How adaptability and flexibility empower entrepreneurship
– Understand the power of mentors when getting started.
– How to get out of a comfortable mindset to grow intentionally.
Lyle: Today on the Optimize Profitability Podcast, I’m excited to be here with Alexis and Justin Black. They have three different businesses. Both of them come out of the foster care system, but both emerge because of their passion and drive. How cool is that? But they’re service oriented and they realize that their skills they were given were gifts to give other people.
And I love that concept. That’s really awesome. I think Alexis said that. They just came up with a new book called Redefining Normal, or they share their story of what it took from then to go from being the foster care system all the way through an entrepreneurship and successful people they are today.Tell us about your journey. What did it take for you to get where you are today as an entrepreneur?
Justin: Yeah, well, it’s definitely a lot, you know, especially overcoming skepticism. And I think one of the biggest things that we’ve learned through our experiences in foster care and traveling is really how to be flexible and how to adjust to different situations. And it’s really a huge thing that we’ve learned. So for me personally, I’m from Detroit and I grew up in Detroit pretty much my whole life until about the age of 17 or 18 when I moved to a new foster home and where I lived for about two years and transition into college and Western Michigan University, which is on the other side of the state near Chicago, about a two and a half hour drive from Chicago, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
And even though this is only like two and a half hours in Detroit, Kalamazoo, it was such a big change for me because it was something I was not used to. I’ve lived in Detroit my whole life and it was just really adapting and adjusting. And the idea of adapting, adjusting to being flexible is really a lot of entrepreneurship is about, you know, you can’t have the same model and do the same things and expect life for your audience that it’s hard to get to adjust to.
You have to adjust the people and adjust to the times. And there’s so many things that will always change. And I feel like entrepreneurs are measured by how well they’re able to adjust. And since life is always changing, you know, like technology wasn’t as big as that as it is ten, fifteen years ago. So you have to always be able to adjust. And I think through our lives and our experiences, just that ability to be able to adapt and adjust and even we’ll talk maybe about while in college.
We both studied abroad and about 13 programs combined, over 30 countries. And that ability to learn about other cultures and learn about their experiences and what they’ve done and just being able to adapt to different audiences is very important.
Lyle: Awesome. I love that.
Alexis: And so for me, what was what I was going to say, it’s a part of life, but I think actually it’s just around the corner. As foster kids, we are the ideal individuals to be entrepreneurs? Because we are taught to be resilient and flexible and adaptable.
And what’s the other word? I always say flexible. And so we’re we’re taught in survival mode to always employ those skills. And so I see those in my everyday life with companies and kind of pushing myself to the limit. I thrive off of being overwhelmed. It’s just that at all times, apparently, because that’s how I live my life with businesses. And for me, I started getting involved in entrepreneurialism when I was a college junior.
I went to the University of Michigan, Flint first. I’m from Flint. And then I transferred to my University of Western Michigan University and I joined Honors College. And there was this course, it was really cool. It’s called study in the States where you can travel around to different states studying different things or one topic. And it’s kind of like a study abroad in the US. And so we study startup communities. And that to me was just like a light bulb moment of I can start a company and it be something that I create for myself and nobody else can take away from me that it’s my own baby and I can make an impact with it.
I think that was the biggest thing for me, because when I thought about making an impact, the only way that I saw that as being possible was through nonprofit. And that’s why I actually have a certification, a nonprofit leadership, because that’s what I thought the only outlet was. And so I got that first and then I discovered entrepreneurship. And so it was really through their class. And my mentor and my professor at the time, he was really pushing me and challenging me to ask questions and to get outside the box and get outside of my head a lot of times.
I’m very hard headed and when I’m when I’m determined, I go for it. And I don’t take no for an answer. That’s just how I’ve always lived my life and gotten me to where I am today. And he was the one who challenged me to study abroad and to take advantage of different opportunities. I would say that even the opportunity to go abroad and learn other cultures, as he mentioned, and listening to other people and learning the the importance of active listening, especially when being an entrepreneur of what do people need, what do you need from me?
Because the idea of build it and they will come, that doesn’t work. And what’s interesting is we actually use that skill. When we developed a study abroad program within our university, and it was the first program of its kind. And even the study abroad office was just so stunned by the way that we decided to do it, which to me, it makes sense as being an astronaut that we just did a study abroad night where we asked students, what do you want out of a study abroad program?
Where would you like to go? How would you like it formatted? And we created an entire program based on those parameters. But every single other study abroad that has ever been created, our university has been a professor, has a skill set and wants to go to a certain country and they develop a program around that.
And it’s like that’s backwards to me of how you should create it. And you wonder why some programs have difficulty with enrollment. And in and we had over 50 applications or something crazy like when we developed it that way. And so just through simple things like that, by creating a study abroad program and then using that skillset into into integrating our business. And also I want to mention the importance of whatever you say and what comes out of your mouth has power and and also who you’re strong yourself with has just as much merit.
And I say that because my pastor actually planted the seed of being a business owner and also being an author because she’s my one of my closest mentors. And she sat down with me one day. She said, look, I need you to start a business and I want to be called the scholarship expert. Well, here we are a couple years later. And that night when I bought the domain, started creating the website, website was trash. This is my first website, but I’ve learned the skills and I developed and it was her planting that seed of doing that.
And I went on hiatus for a little bit, but then we relaunched it again in December. And I mean, it’s just kind of skyrocketed since then. We’re potentially going through a merger now and then a lot of other things. So everything is a learning, learning curve for sure. I feel like I watch fifty two videos a day to teach myself everything. But you figure it out, you don’t have somebody that you can go and ask and you can go and say, hey, how do I do this? What do I do. You figure it out yourself. But I love that because that fits into our resiliency and our our flexibility.
Justin: With the Internet, also, a lot of times is like an information age, because without the Internet, people didn’t have access to know how to do certain things or have certain abilities. But it really is amazing. It’s like almost a perfect time to be an entrepreneur, because you two can always do really anything, you know, you learn so many skills on YouTube and it’s like a big information bubble where you can just almost search everything you want and everything you need and ask you to learn something new every single day on how to function and how to how to work the website, how to send a mass emails.
And there’s so many different things. And I to utilize YouTube as well on how to do certain skills and how to write a product email that look in Google that certain images and just this is so much on the Internet, so much information and really just trying to improve your business, improve their skills and knowledge so you can serve people better.
Lyle: Let me ask you guys right quick, because you’re going the foster care. I’m sure you had some little things that you had to overcome because most people that go from, you know, to a college into a nice safe job and you guys took the exact opposite track. So what was that mental shift that happened in your brain that got you there?
Alexis: I remember when I was going to say now, so I started college as an accounting major because to me that was the most that was the safest degree I could possibly get. Everybody’s an accountant. I’m good at numbers. And I figured I could be an accountant, but I did two internships and realized I hated it. And then meeting other people and networking, I learned that that’s a skill set that I have, but that’s not in the the realm that I should be.
And whenever you take personality assessments and things for school, I was never on there because it doesn’t fit into a set career path. And so I had to figure that out for myself. After what, adding and dropping 10 different majors and minors? I mean, it was really crazy. And the year that I started my undergraduate degree was the year that it started at my university.
Another huge mindset shift that I had to do was I had to learn that I’m not meant to be independent. I’m meant to be interdependent and depend on other people, because if I want to be successful in any aspect of my life, I have to learn to rely on people. And I think that for us and for individuals that come from the foster care system, when you’re in survival mode all the time and you’re always worried about being disappointed and let down and and all the negativity that can come with depending on the wrong people, that you kind of you miss out on all the people or even more people that could be in your corner, that could love you and support you and be there for you and to help take you to that next level. But if you don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable and open to that, then you’re always limiting yourself.
I always tell people, if you want to be real bitter and unsuccessful, then stay in that mindset, because that’s something that you really have to outgrow in order to be successful. And I learned that when I met my parents, who are now my adoptive parents, when I moved into their house, they really showed me that in their everyday life and their commitment and their commitment to God and their faith and just watching that, because I learned from people’s observations.
Whenever I find a mentor or anybody, I always observe them first to make sure that who you are in your daily life, through your behaviors and through that, I want to learn from and seek their skills and how you and how you are. And so I even do that, like even in counseling, when I go to counseling, I’m observing the first couple sessions of are you somebody that has integrity in the character that I can ask you for advice in your opinion over my life? Because I have to take everything with a grain of salt, no matter who it’s coming from and making sure that it fits my values and my core mindset. And that goes in every single aspect of my life.
Justin: When you talk about overcoming some of the habits of in foster care, I come from Detroit and I grew up in a very impoverished, very poor neighborhood, or at least the poorest in the neighborhood and my family and a lot of abuse and drug addiction and a lot of other things.
And one of the things that. I always say as a teenager or even coming into college was I just want a comfortable job, I just want to be comfortable, I want to get something stable, something good, because I grew up in poverty. So anything you know, I got food on the table. I have a bed to sleep in. You know, you don’t get me wrong, like, those things are good. And I want to be humble and I want to appreciate the clothes on my back and food that I eat and the things that I’ve never had before.
But as a young adult and as a teenager, I always told myself, I just want to be comfortable. I just want to live a comfortable life and I just want to be good. And that’s one of the biggest things that I really had to overcome, especially in my spiritual journey with God, is because there is when you pursue entrepreneurship, when you are a believer in God and you’re a Christian, that life and all of those things is nothing comfortable about all those things that you have to get used to being uncomfortable and not looking for the easy way out, looking for easy nine to five, look for an easy job.That’s not what entrepreneurship is about. That’s not what God is about, just being comfortable.
I’ve really had to challenge myself in that poverty mindset in me of just being comfortable and getting a quick nine to five job and trying to get quick money and make it easy. I had to overcome that and understand that so much growth comes from being uncomfortable. And I learn so many things just from being uncomfortable and going through so many trials and tribulations. I’ve really tested me and I really had to overcome that mindset of of just the easy way out.
And I think that’s probably the biggest thing I had to overcome of the foster care system. But it’s a challenge every day. I have to make the decision every single day not to take the easy way out. And I look at my to do list like I think I should just push it off another day. You know, so hard is going to require so much work. I should push it off another day. But I really have to challenge myself, like, no, just do it, you know, just get that hard test done. That’s it, just get it done. Look at these YouTube videos. I could learn a skill and take that time to. I don’t feel like taking time to learn. This is a struggle every single day. But we have to be intentional about making a decision.
Alexis: He is too humble. When he started college it was one major, no minor, no clubs, nothing. And then by the time he graduated president of Study Abroad, two majors created a study abroad program, went on five study abroad programs like he just did so much.
And less than three percent of colleges graduate from college. And we have both graduated within the last year and a half. And he’s just too humble to say that.
But I also tell people that if your dreams aren’t if your dreams don’t scare you, then they’re not big enough. And I can’t remember the last book I read it from, I think it was called The Circle Maker is from a pastor out of DC. And I just always love that saying if your dreams are if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. And I always think of myself whenever we create our goals list for the year, we we do this every January.
We create our goals list and then we break it down by month. And then in June, we reassess and we see what do we need to do, how do we need to do better? And when we create that goals list, I look at lik, “Holy crap, that scares me because it’s just so much.” There’s no I’m like, there’s no way we could do half of this. And sure enough, we end up accomplishing more than half of it every year.
But if we if we put our sights lower and just do half of those things or half those things on the list, then we will accomplish a half of those. So it’s just always pushing yourself further. And that translates into our daily life. When we create our To-Do list. I always put way more than I could ever accomplish in a day on my to do list, because I know that if I don’t, I’m not going to push myself and I won’t go as far as I want to go.
And also with an entrepreneur, what’s difficult is that you set your own schedule, you set your own To-Do list and that’s difficult. Some people really need structure and they need to know what they’re going to do every single day. And they live by their job descriptions and the tasks that their employer gives them. And I think that was one of the hugest things for me is to figure out because I’ve always worked a job or at least one or two jobs.
When you start a business and you don’t have that structure, the first six months, I struggle, I really, really struggle. Now I have a concrete schedule and what I’m doing every day. We’ve been working almost one hundred hours a week since March. We took time off for the wedding last month. But that’s about it. And I mean, we just we kind of set our schedule and priorities and everything ourselves. And so that’s also really been helpful in our marriage of understanding really.
How do you define priority and what is that and what does it look like in every single day within our marriage, within our business, within my personal life with family, whatever it may be, and setting goals every single day. So I really love that aspect that I’ve learned is it’s creating priorities, still working on the balance part is still working on getting more time together.Because I do count because you can’t see in our room right now but. It’s literally our bed and our desk next to the bed, it’s a wake up, go right to work and we sit next to each other all day. And so I kind of count that as time together when it’s not time together and start working on prioritizing that, but it’s getting there.
Lyle: So what’s something you’re doing right now in your business that’s helping you succeed even more? What’s a little tip you can give somebody that’s listening in as an entrepreneur? Maybe they’ve come through that struggle and they’re having trouble with that flexibility aspect or that balance aspect with something you tell them.
Alexis: I would always just tell people to find mentors. That’s like the biggest that’s the biggest advice that I give every single person is find a mentor in whatever whatever you want to learn, whatever career path you have, whatever skill you want to overcome or whatever it may be, find somebody and have them hold you accountable and ask them what they are doing. Because having accountability partners has been one of the greatest things for me. And I just tell everybody what are my dreams, one of my goals, because I want to see how God aligns other people in my life.
I have my pastor tell me that a couple of years ago, and that has been that has worked tenfold. And also just the accountability part of them reaching out to me and saying, hey, where are you with this? How is that looking? And if I dropped the ball, just being honest and say, hey, I need to do better or or, hey, I’m taking your advice and I’ve done this, this and this with it and and just kind of seeing how other people pouring into us has really just helped us be where we are today.
But mentorship is just one of the greatest things that I could ever, ever just encourage people to do. And that’s and that’s not just entrepreneurship. That’s in every aspect of your life you’re going to have you’re going to have mentors and every season of your life, no matter what it is you’re like, we have personal and professional mentors. I have individuals that I can go to and seek guidance and accountability for with my personal crap that I have to do, and not just not just in a professional sense, but then I also have mentors and academic sense and then in the professional world.
So they’re going to have different people in different seasons of your life. And it’s OK to have more than one mentor. Some people are stuck on just having one at all times, but really have as many as you can that you can keep up with and then are willing to hold you, hold you accountable to all your goals and dreams.
Justin: I would say intentionality is the one thing which is really helped me, which is creating like the actual daily schedule. She talked about that a little bit, but just breaking down each hour of the day. And, you know, she’s like the alarm queen like any second should have an alarm go off. And we don’t have any now at this time do this, at that time. And I really adapted that from her. And it really goes near kind of like, OK, I need to work on this assignment for maybe like an hour and a half and I need to get this done at a certain period of time.
And even when it comes to things that help with my mental health, like working out is really huge for my mental health and really stabilizing my life. And I give myself like I think six p.m. to like seven p.m. to work out like 45 minutes to an hour to work out. And when it comes to personal time and just taking care of myself just really be intentional about that, being intentional, about working on different assignments, working on business, laying out my day and being organized.
And I’ve learned it all from her. And I think it was my freshman or sophomore year. We talk about this story in the book and how I came to her crying because I failed an exam my sophomore year, I think no, it was actually my freshman year. Freshman year, it was my freshman year. You know how freshmen we all come in, you know, overwhelmed and everything. And I was unorganized. I didn’t know how to organize at all.
And I came to her apartment crying because I failed an exam and I was ready to go back home to Detroit. I didn’t know what to do. I’m like, I’m ready to give up. It’s like I’m dropping out, dropping out. And that day she sat down with me. She bought me a planner. We organized my life. And just like balancing had day to day things. And right now, I think, again, just being organized is a challenge each and every day, each and every week and just starting.
All right. OK, Sunday I rest and Sunday maybe around four or five at the you know, I’m done watching the Lions lose again.
But so Sunday I sit down, relax and organize my week and Monday I already know what needs to get done. I set all my alarms and I’m just rolling. So I think just being intentional and being organized, even on a personal time is so key for an entrepreneur. When you talk about giving to other people, you can’t give to other people if you can’t give yourself. So just take time for yourself and do what helps you mentally do it, make time for spiritual growth and just really organize your time.
Lyle: So we’re going to continue a conversation with you guys. One thing I’d like. For all, share in our bonus section, we’ll talk about that in a minute, as I like to talk about what it takes to get a mentor. Give us some tips on that. But then we’re going to have a discussion just as a whole of what it means to understand your identity and bring that identity into your entrepreneurship and your marriage. They talked a little bit about it before we got started. I thought that was some really cool stuff. And hopefully this will whet your whistle to get into their book and buy their book and find out more about them. So tell them right quick before we get off here. How can they get in touch with you guys.
Alexis: You can get in touch with us through email, at info, at re-defining normal.com or just go to re-d efiningnormal.com. That’s where you can preorder us emails, whatever it may be. That’s the best way to get in contact with us and also to preorder our book, if you’re interested.
Lyle: We’re going to have links on our bonus page. Go to OptimizeProfitability.com. For all the bonus business trainings including how to get a mentor and situating your identity as an entrepreneur.
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