An Interview with Kate Bagoy, Business Coach

By Dan Ericson

Kate Bagoy's Bio

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Since 2008, I've helped entrepreneurs build companies as a designer, marketer, product manager, strategist & advisor. Having worked with more than 50 startups, two things stand out as key factors in entrepreneurial success: mindset & strategy.

Lasting businesses are helmed by tenacious founders who learned to master their mindset, set clear goals & ruthlessly prioritize the 20% activities that generate 80% of results.

My super power is helping you get clear & focused on your 20%.

Listed as one of Thrive Global’s “Limit Breaking” Female Founders, Kate Bagoy is a design strategist, business coach & lifestyle entrepreneur who's worked with brands like Nike, Ricoh, HP, Apple and Microsoft. Obsessed with travel since a flight to Oregon at six, Kate left the US in January 2017 to travel full-time & runs her business entirely online.


The Interview

Dan: All right! I have Kate Bagoy here with me. Kate, I would like to have you introduce yourself, talk about your business and what you do.

Kate: Hi everybody. I am Kate Bagoy. I am a business coach, business strategist, and designer. I work primarily with creative corporate burnouts who are starting new businesses in order to escape the cubicle life. And I'm super excited to be here.

Dan: Good, thank you. For anyone listening to the podcast audio, you know we've been trying to schedule this interview for months, but a series of things like bad internet and the like have postponed it. But, we're here today!

The "working with corporate burnouts" is fun to me. One of my first jobs was in a corporation, but I was a kid. I've never been in the whole corporate environment, but I see so many corporate burnouts and read so many stories about them. This just seems like a great arena to be in.

Kate: Yeah, for me, it's really rewarding, because I'm working with people that are successful in their career. They have "the things," and the money, and they've worked their butt off to climb the corporate ladder, but they're seeking more fulfillment. They know that they want to run a business, but they don't want to play that "feast-or-famine," do-it-wrong game that so many new business owners do. So, I get to help them really redesign their lives and their businesses, and become more fulfilled. That is pretty darn rewarding.

Dan: That seems really rewarding. Do do you come from a background like this? Are you a corporate burnout?

Kate: I am. I am indeed. It is said that oftentimes when we create businesses, we create businesses for people just like us. I started my career with a sportswear giant up in the Northwest. I'll let you pick which it might have been. I spent about five years there. They were this really great company and on paper, it was a "dream job" where I was making really good money, but I was just burnt out. I was a mess of a human turning to poor behaviors to cope with that; drinking a lot, eating a lot, shopping a lot. I was generally not a happy person.

Over the course of my career, I realized I'm not a very good employee. I'm a better entrepreneur. But at the time, all I knew was that I was unhappy, and if I stayed in that job, it wasn't going to get better, and most likely I was either going to kill myself or I was going to kill my career if I stayed.

So, I quit without a plan. I did everything the hard way. I didn't know what I was doing when I started my business. I was scrabbling for money. I was scrambling for clients. The first time I started a freelance business, I figured out I made $2.17 an hour on my first big project. I didn't know how to bid myself. I didn't know how to market myself. I was competing on price. All the things we do.

Dan: I've got one of those stories, too. I think most of us who've started off as a freelancer or solopreneur have more than one. I should be embarrassed by that.

Kate: Everyone does for the most part. It's pretty rare that anyone gets out of the gate and doesn't have at least one project where they really screwed up.

I ended up deciding to go back and get my Master's Degree in business. I thought I'd move to Silicon Valley and do the whole startup thing. I'd work for Apple. Then, I kind of did that. I got to Silicon Valley and thought, well, this is just worse. It's a different culture. I burnt out again.

But, I loved working with startups. I loved growing something from nothing to something. I loved having my fingers in all of the pies and learning how to market, growth hack, and all of that sort of stuff. That was close to a decade ago. I've been working with startups, tech, and entrepreneurs ever since.

Dan: I like that. You and I have a lot of crossover. I think we focus on different areas, but our passions and what our businesses are aimed at are very similar.

Question: how long have you been doing what you're doing?

Kate: My current business is about two years old. I haven't been doing it full time for two years. Back in the 2016, I decided to take this crazy opportunity to travel full time with a company called Remote Year. They put together a travel itinerary for 12 months with eighty to a hundred people, to travel the world together in a new city every month. I decided to do this crazy thing, and while I was prepping to go on this grand adventure, I looked at my business.

At the time, I was freelancing, doing really well. I was making a little over a hundred K a year, working part-time, which is awesome. But, the work that I was doing, which was user experience design, was super intensive work. I thought if I'm going to have one month to spend in Bangkok, I want to be able to take even more time off and really explore. So, I considered how I could open up more time in my life and in my business, and I kind of stumbled into coaching. It was purely by accident. I found my purpose. I am a natural teacher. It's one of the gifts that I have been given. I love helping people. So I've been transforming all of the work that I did over all those years in startups into helping other people do the work and build their businesses.

It's been trial by error. My plan to have more time while on Remote Year backfired, and I ended up actually leaving Remote Year because I didn't have enough time to build this new business. But, I kept traveling on my own. I spent a little over two years traveling full time. I lived in 22 different countries, while building this business which was a special challenge of its own and not necessarily something I recommend. It was quite an adventure.

Dan: For me, I've been to Dubai, Mexico and Canada, lived in Arizona, and now, Washington State. Other than that, I haven't been anywhere. Just listening to your story sounds like the dream, but you don't quite describe it quite like a dream.

Kate: Well, it is a dream, and it isn't. So it definitely was living the dream. I fully intend to continue traveling a good amount and running my business online, but I don't necessarily recommend starting a brand new business while traveling full-time.

It's a lot of work. I think what happened for me is that I went in overly confident, because I had built my last business and had no problem getting it to six figures really quick. I was like, "oh, it's just a minor switch right? I'm just going from building the website to teaching people how to build the brand." That was a very false assumption. It was a very different business. I had to learn a whole new market and a lot of new things: mindset stuff, energy stuff, while traveling, etc.

When I was in Vietnam, I got really sick. I got splashed in the face with sewage water and I ended up getting a parasite. I was knocked out for 3 weeks. That's hard enough when you're running a business, but then I just started making bad decisions because I wasn't feeling well. My energy wasn't up to par. Then I hired some people and I spent a lot of money that I shouldn't have spent on things I shouldn't have bought. I started digging a hole, and I'm still working that out a year-and-a-half later. I'm still making up for that period where I just made bad decision after bad decision, which is common for entrepreneurs.

Dan: A question occurred to me while you were talking earlier that I want to ask. You strike me as an extrovert. Is that accurate?

Kate: That is actually completely inaccurate. I am on the introversion scale so far that I am borderline autistic. However, I have learned I love people. I love to help people, but I have to very carefully manage my energy.

Dan: As far as I can tell, you fake it great. I am an introvert as well. One of the things that I found difficult in building a business is networking. It strikes me as really hard to network while you're constantly moving between multiple countries. How did you manage to build your network while doing that?

Kate: I didn't! I shifted from networking to building an online brand and marketing. My design business I did mostly by networking. I volunteered with local tech startups and entrepreneurs, and all of that. A lot of my business came word-of-mouth. With this business, 95% of my clients come in through my website. They come in through an ad or a social post.

I still do a lot of referral business, of course it's huge for coaching. But, I typically don't know most of my clients prior to meeting them. I do that through online marketing.

Dan: I know you and I connected over LinkedIn.

Kate: LinkedIn is a fantastic place to meet clients and potential partners.

Dan: Yeah, I agree. I think you do a great job there. That was one of the reasons I reached out to you, initially. I thought you were doing an amazing job.

Kate: Thank you.

Dan: What are your personal goals in life now that you are where you are at? Where are you looking to go in the future?

Kate: One of my personal goals is to build a million-dollar business and to be location independent. What I mean by that is that I would like to be able to spend my time between a couple of different cities and travel from different home bases. I would like to spend my time between Austin, Texas, London, UK and maybe Melbourne, Australia. Then travel from those places.

Dan: That is pretty cool. I like the million dollar business idea, too. I'm still working on that myself.

Kate: Yeah, it's really exciting. I think it's back on track now. I think I got really off track for a while. It needed to happen. I'm a firm believer that things happen at the right time, being guided, and all of that. I made a mess of my business at the beginning, and now I get to rebuild and become that phoenix rising from the ashes.

I'm not sure if you've ever heard of T. Harv Eker. He a wrote a book years ago about Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. His philosophy and Tony Robbins philosophy is that if you want to make a lot of money, help a lot of people. Since that is my entire business and what I love to do, I see no reason why I should not make a lot of money.

Dan: It's always fun to be able to help others find success, and then find success in that. This is a generalization, but contrary to the now cliche 1980s mindset of "I'm going to win," its truly a win-win when you're actually helping somebody find success and making money while doing that.

Kate: Absolutely, there are so many ways to make money and make money online. There are so many people that go about it in shady manners. I refuse to do that. I could probably have a million dollar business by now if I were willing to get people to pay $5 for something that they should never pay for. I'm not willing to do that.

Dan: Like you said earlier, life's about a whole lot more. Making money is great and it's a good measuring stick of where you're at, but life is about so much more than making money. It's about finding fulfillment and helping others and things.

Question: what brings you the most joy in what you do?

Kate: I do a lot of one-on-one coaching, even though I'm growing a group program right now. In my one-on-one coaching, I do video calls with my clients, and what actually brings me the most joy is when I visibly see a shift in their mindset. I can watch the body language of my clients when we are having a conversation about something. When they really understand something or they let go of a false belief that's been holding them back and keeping them small, it gives me goosebumps. Their body language changes and I'm right there. That's the turning point. I know from there forward, they're just going to crush it. It's incredibly fulfilling to see that lightness come over somebody and watch that transformation.

Dan: Wow. That's cool. I like that. A little bit of wisdom from you, here, something that we can pull from your experience. If you could summarize one key point that you would want other businesses to fully understand that would help them as a business. What would that be?

Kate: Know your clients, and build your business around them, not your products and services. Fall in love with your client. Align yourself with your gifts, and what they need, and do that better than anybody else can for that particular type of client.

Dan: That is an amazingly simple, perfect answer. I like that.

Kate: The other thing would be, understand that building a business is hard. If it wasn't, everyone on the planet would do it. If you don't give up, you will eventually be successful. I honestly believe after working with over a hundred entrepreneurs from every walk of life over the last 10 years, the number one factor in success is mindset and resilience - the ability to get back up when we have a tough day and keep going.

Dan: I didn't plan to say this, but prior to our chat here, I was overwhelmed, just looking at my workload ahead of me, and at my clients. The general picture is positive. Then, trying to think through how am I getting from where I am now to where I need to be in 2 months, while also serving all of my clients, and looking for growth and so forth. I get slightly overwhelmed.

You put things so simply that I'm actually sitting here comparing it to my previous mindset coming into this call and thinking, "you know, I can calm down. Life's good. We'll keep moving here."

Kate: That's part of the process. Anybody else that's out there struggling, feeling overwhelmed is part of it. From our brief chats, I know you're in a scaling period. I think scaling your business is the hardest period. There's always the hard "getting started: how do I get my first client?" Then there's the scaling thing, and it's, "well, if I hire more people to help me, that's great, but then I don't have the cash to pay them, and if I have the cash to pay them, then I don't have any time to enjoy my life."

Prioritization is really the key. I have a tool I can send it to you for looking at all of the competing priorities in your business and thinking about what's really going to give you the most bang for your buck. If you have 10 competing things going on that you could spend your time on this week, what is the one thing that is going to unlock more time, more freedom, and more income?

Dan: I don't know if that's a tool that you keep close to the chest or if that's something that I could link on the website, but I would definitely love to see that.

Kate: If you go to katebagoy.com/productivity you're able to download my entire productivity kit. That includes the What to Work on Next pack.

Dan: Thanks. I want to give you a chance to plug what you do, and give somebody something actionable that they can do to reach out to you or to schedule a chat with you.

Kate: If there's anybody out there that is trying to either start or scale a business, and you'd like some help doing that, I'd love to get to know you a little bit better. You can visit me at kakebagoy.com and learn more about my programs, and decide whether you'd like to apply to work with me or join a webinar. As we discussed, you can go to katebagoy.com/productivity, and get some of my best productivity tips via email and tools. I'm also @kbagoy on most all social media.

If you're just starting out, my top tips are to start to master your mindset, and to follow your fastest path to cash. If you're in the process of scaling, learn how to prioritize and pick tasks that are going to get you the most bang for your buck.

Dan: Kate, this has been probably my favorite interview. Thank you. I think anybody listening to or reading this has some good meat that they can take from it. I recommend reaching out to Kate.

interview with kate bagoy business coach
Dan is an entrepreneur, marketer, and technology lover. His strength lies in the intersection of business, marketing, and technology. He enjoys managing and working on web ​marketing ​projects. His free-time activities include spending time with his family and enjoying the scenery around Washington state.

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