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Work Life: Monikah Ogando

As founder and CEO of Ogando Associates (today known as CEO Mastery), a company which was named to the "Inc. Top 500" — an exclusive ranking of the nation’s fastest growing private companies, Monikah Ogando has created a dynamic business coaching firm, devoted to empowering entrepreneurs around the world to start and grow their businesses. Monikah is also a wife and mom to four children.

Ogando's journey was a rocky one. She was diagnosed with stage four cervical cancer and given less than a year to live when she was 23 years old and mother of a toddler. She had just graduated from college and was working as a financial planner for a large commercial firm.

Balancing a new job, a young family and her health proved too much for Ogando. Her work suffered. She was going to be fired. But Ogando had created a very valuable training program that the company wanted to retain. It had gone unnoticed that she had never signed the legal agreement releasing intellectual rights to any of her work during her employment. The first retainer check was six figures. It was also the first time Ogando had ever earned six figures for something she had created. It changed her life.

Ogando believed that having cancer was a gift in many ways. She had to fight for her own health. It taught her that those in authority don't always have all the answers. It made her brave. Her cancer battle, from which she is now fully recovered, set the stage for what would eventually make her a business owner.

What advice would you give to a mom who desires to start a business?

Treat your new business venture with the same care and diligence that you have towards your children. In a way, your new business IS the newest baby in your care. So make sure it is properly nourished (cash flow, support structures such as a bookkeeper, someone to help with the technical aspect of running your business such as a Web designer, etc.). At first, you may not have the money readily available to spend on needed resources, so you have to get creative: Hire a college intern that needs the experience, join a co-op, run a contest to see what graphic design college majors can come up with the best branding for your new company, etc.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced and overcome as a small business owner?

One: By running into scary cash-flow inconsistencies, I learned how to price the services and programs we offer, and how to negotiate win-win collaborations with vendors. So many times, we do what we do because we love it, and we want to help everyone. But everyone is NOT your market, and the moment I got clear on who I was passionate in serving, and they were happy to pay me, the cash flow challenges became less and less pressing.

Two: The startup energy can be frenetic — it can require all-nighters, late hours, compromising time with loved ones for the sake of this new venture. Eventually, I became better at making powerful requests for support. For women especially, we feel guilty sometimes asking for help, or saying no. But it is in saying no and meaning it that my yeses became more powerful (and more appreciated by clients, colleagues and loved ones alike)!

What have you learned about yourself from being a business owner?

That my zone of genius is beautiful and useful, and I need not apologize for being brilliant or creative. That being resourceful is way more important (and long-lasting) than having resources. That I can fall flat on my face and make mistakes (which keeps me humble), and begin again and be all the better for it (which keeps me resilient). That in taking risks, I grow. That in not taking risks, a little piece of me dies a slow and cowardly death. That I am leaving a legacy for my children and they learn more from my day-to-day life as an example than my awards, achievements or inheritance money I may leave them.

How do doctoral degrees in Organizational Psychology and Comparative Religion assist you as a business coach?

It’s interesting: The word psychology comes from the greek “psyche” which speaks to the soul, the human spirit, as it were, and yet when you look up the word in the dictionary, they define it as the study of the mind, not the soul. We have seen a resurgence of people in the highest echelons seeking for meaning in their work, seeking for alignment with their inner values and deepest truths, and sometimes that cannot be articulated from a mind-space. Only from a heart-space. So my doctoral work in psychology and comparative religions has given me an academic and scientific understanding of the human experience and how I can best serve my clients when they face those perennial questions, “Why am I here? What’s my life purpose? What if my career has been a huge mistake, or detour? How do I match my work in the world with the passion in my heart? How do I bring my whole self to this business, bring a meaningful contribution, and still get the bills paid and the bank account fat?" Everyone deserves to have someone in their corner to help them navigate those sometimes choppy waters. And I am thankful that I have the financial, operational and systems background to empower my clients with the tactical experience, and the passion, heart and study of long-standing wisdom to connect them to a deep and sometimes unspoken truth of their being.

What do you think the major difference is between a mom who works for herself and one who works for someone else?

Two major differences: 1) It is easy for a mom who works for someone else to deflect her feelings of guilt and conflict between her personal relationships and professional ambition to the organization she works for. The job is the bad guy. However, when a mom works for herself, it’s easy to make HERSELF the culprit. She IS the big bad boss keeping herself from her babies, so the guilt is often intensified because it is personally driven and internalized. 2) When you run your own business, even if you’re in the middle of a play date in the park, a part of you may still be mentally preoccupied with business strategies, tasks left undone, calls to make, etc. I find that women who work for someone else have an easier time of “leaving work at work.”

Who is/was your mentor?

I have had several mentors throughout the years. Out of college, my first career was as a financial planner and my mentor was a female executive vice president who oversaw the region I worked in. She was also Latina, and I admired her ambition, forthrightness and business savvy, which was coupled with humility and affability. Nowadays, one of my strongest mentors is Dan Sullivan, founder and CEO of Strategic Coach. I find his thinking brilliant, execution speed admirable (thanks to his team), and insights spiritually grounded and wise.

Who inspires you?

One of my spiritual teachers, Dr. Carolyne Fuqua, is my biggest inspiration. She has such incisive clarity about the purpose of this game called life, and the simplicity of Universal Laws as applied to any human endeavor. She inspires me to elevate my thinking, actions, and the impact I have in the world.

How do you generate new ideas?

Any time I am in nature, whether by the water, in a forest, in the mountains. I find that I am at my most creative and innovative when I give myself the chance to unplug from the vicissitudes of life and connect to nature. I also generate new ideas when I am out for my morning runs or in the shower — both are highly meditative activities for me.

What are your business profits?

It depends which business we are talking about — I have several. Overall, the average profit margin of all business lines combined is about 45%. That means that if I generate $2.4M in annual revenue, about $1.1M is net profit. We have worked very hard to stay a “lean company” — unbloated by unnecessary overhead, extraneous expenses, etc. One of the biggest lessons I have learned about business is that what you get to keep is far more important than how much you make. Many multi-million-dollar enterprises are actually operating in negative numbers for that same reason.

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