Karin Bellantoni, Growth Strategist and Executive Coach

Scaling Up Services - Karin Bellantoni

Karin Bellantoni, Growth Strategist and Executive Coach

Karin Bellantoni is the founder of “The 180” - a 90-day program for personal and professional turnarounds.The 180 transports executives, entrepreneurs and teams into the life and business they envision through accelerated change. A catalyst for transformation and an experienced entrepreneur, Karin’s first company became a multi-million dollar business in less than 2 years. Karin combines her high growth business expertise with a tough love approach to develop a qualitative foundation for a company's infrastructure. Clients often refer to her as a “game-changer”- and call on her to optimize human capital during times of explosive growth and uncertainty.

Karin is the host of The Intuition Salon hosted at The Assemblage in New York City. The Intuition Salon supports millennial business leaders with content that enriches emotional intelligence and a success mindset.



[00:00:01] You're listening to Scaling Up Services where we speak with entrepreneurs authors business experts and thought leaders to give you the knowledge and insights you need to scale your service based business faster and easier. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt.

[00:00:23]Welcome everyone this is Scaling Up Services, I’m Bruce Eckfeldt, I'm your host and our guest today is Karen Bellantoni, and she is a growth strategist an executive coach. And we're going to learn a little bit more about her background and who she works with and her insights and expertise with that. Karen welcome to the program. Hi Bruce. So why don't we start a little bit with learning about you and your background so professional background what what were you doing before coaching. How did you get into coaching. Give us a story. OK. I.

[00:00:49] I've actually had two coaching careers and the first coaching career started about 20 years ago. And I worked really as a marketing partner to bankers and what I would find was that in small boutique banking shops the founders or the entrepreneur

[00:01:11] Who is the founding partner typically had a lot going on in their personal life that I would see if I couldn't work with that I couldn't help their business right. So my belief became if your business is stuck it's likely. And to this day that holds true you know it's not always about more Instagram or Twitter. It's where on my blogs and what patterns do I have that are getting in the way of my business growth. So I started working with people very holistically back then and it was not as open a topic I think as it is today. Most of my clients at that time were men who were about 10 years older than me. And I think they had a sense of trust with me we would work together in different ways. And so they kind of allowed me to start. You know what I think was my lab back then. And then I started building my own business using my marketing skills and I founded an early digital agency called EMR. And I built that company in a short period of time and had a nice exit. We sold it in 2002. I will say to you I don't believe in scaling scaling is a science term and I think you scale when your mom makes cookies at Christmas. You know she doubled.

[00:02:35] She she quadruples the batch. You know that game. But in a in a business to me it's a more feminine process. It's shimmy shimmy your way up because you know scaling implies it's direct it's straight it's an exact science.

[00:02:50] And so much about scaling a business has to do with the human element of business not the things that are predictable. And so just like a pilot has these really short feedback loops right he's looking at the controls and he's always off. And so every few minutes he looks at the controls and he gets back in course correct. And so with a business you're doing the same to you kind of like leaning on one half and then the other.

[00:03:18] And it's definitely more of a dance to build.

[00:03:22] So I had a great time with that company I exercise a lot of my creative juices and it was wonderful to have that you know I guess society society's approval line is financial when you're selling the company but what really felt like success to me was that the 18 people that worked for me left my employ with bigger mindsets and bigger dreams and more capabilities and stronger skill sets and just expanded people.

[00:03:55] So we had a meditation room in 2001.

[00:03:58] We had literally the girl on that. Yes it was we had a beautiful office that I let the team paint the walls whatever color they wanted.

[00:04:09] And it was it was really early for that kind of thing but it created an environment that to this day I hear from those folks and make us.

[00:04:19] What was your or philosophical underpinning or experiences earlier in life that that caused you to do that or gave you that insight or that approach.

[00:04:28] What a good question because I know everything ties back right. So I just knew that early on my my career started at Citibank

[00:04:38] And I somehow got myself in there. I told them I was 18 but I was 17.

[00:04:46] And it's really hard to believe that they couldn't figure that out back then.

[00:04:50] It wasn't that long ago that I wanted to figure out maybe maybe not.

[00:04:57] But I quickly kind of rose up the ranks and when I was 22 I think it was because of before bank robberies that I successfully deterred the thieves from getting any money.

[00:05:11] Wait wait wait stop. Hold on.

[00:05:12] Wait for bank robberies. That's you thought it or yeah.

[00:05:16] I mean I wouldn't say thwarted but they didn't get any money. The first two were really they were terrifying. I mean these guys came in and Adidas track suits and they had AK 47 shotguns and I remember my client was in her 50s and she literally shell over the past out the fall. And I pulled the alarm and was on my knees because I just thought well if you're gonna shoot me I don't want to be shot in the back.

[00:05:46] It's like wow I want to see what you know it wasn't like something you think out Bruce. It is something that it is a primordial reaction. Yeah very primordial. And they did given us pretty good training and you know a lot of times those trainings people laughed through and they'll say Yeah we'll see what happens. But it makes you go into these steps.

[00:06:08] And so all around the branch in a bank there are these sort of hidden markers that you would never see. But I wear trees. I was trained to look for them and so instead of being in a total state of panic I was measuring them all.

[00:06:22] And when the police came I was able to give them a pretty good report on what size people were. Well wait.

[00:06:29] They were and then and then my boss had given them a package of bait money. So when they ran out the door on the money turned up. Oh yeah had a die or whatever they had.

[00:06:39] So they got no money that time the second time was it was very similar. And the branch I was in was sort of on a corner of where you can get on the freeway quickly and I learned. Oh yeah. They like branches where there's no getaway actually but the last one was at a branch where there was no bandit glass bullet proof glass.

[00:07:00] And I was hoping what was a very busy branch transaction early and we took a lot of cash in and there was a lot of store owners who had to come and stand in line and close their store to bring the money in.

[00:07:12] And so we had long lines and the tellers never wanted to close up to do what they were supposed to do which was put their money away.

[00:07:20] And so the head teller I saw how much money she had I went back to check and I said Listen you keep an eye on me and I am your customers and I'm going to just count this money throw it in the drawer or we get enough.

[00:07:33] You'll close for a minute.

[00:07:34] We'll bring it to the vault. And she said OK. And then I sort of felt something. Who is buying my shoulder. And I thought it was a kid throwing a toy at me and I looked behind me and I see a grenade with smoke coming out of it. And I thought oh that's not a toy is probably not a kid and I as I look up I see this guy and he's screaming obscenities.

[00:07:57] They really are afraid. I mean not being empathetic but it is not something someone does lightly. So he's screaming at me and I see in the corner of my eye another one putting like a T-shirt over the camera. But of course there were multiple cameras. So I pulled the alarms shut the drawer with my knee put my hands up and just stared at him.

[00:08:18] Then I started doing my well if we had a tiny brandishing it you know he's not hopping over the counter you know there's only so many minutes left that they can stay. You know they have to go young man next to me.

[00:08:32] One of the tellers was sobbing. People were very traumatized. And that time the branch filled up with smoke and they ran out without any money.

[00:08:42] And the FBI said Young lady we are looking for people like you.

[00:08:46] And I said I don't think so. I don't think so I don't want a life of this. It was great that no one was hurt.

[00:08:53] And I was able to evacuate the branch. And I was in charge that day my boss was on vacation. So that sort of led to me getting promoted and giving me my own branch. So at 22 Citibank gave me a 60 million dollar business to run in South Flushing Queens.

[00:09:10] Without much explanation and I walked into a cultural situation where I was not really welcomed.

[00:09:21] I feel that neighborhood at the time was heavily Korean and Indian and most of the employees were you know I'm the assistant manager who deserved the job.

[00:09:32] She was great at it. She was Korean and don't very slighted and everybody supported her and so I very quickly had to figure out how do I nurture this team and get them behind me because I can't do this without them and how do I acknowledge them because this gal did deserve the promotion but she didn't get it.

[00:09:52] Not because of her nationality which is really what she believed. She she didn't get it because she didn't know how to sell herself. And I told her that and I told her I would teach her and I told her that when I left she would get the job or I wouldn't leave my post until she did. I mean I didn't plan to be there more than a year and a half.

[00:10:13] So that moment we began to be a team and a family and we came together and you know did our battle and what was the highest presidential complaint branch in the New York banking division.

[00:10:26] So that meant more people took the time and you know back then it was a typewriter or Salzer.

[00:10:34] I explained this to a millennial the other day I got a C C means and b c c means there was carbon paper and so forth. I explain this process and they're assassinated.

[00:10:45] I'm never doing duplicate machines member did machines. Yes exactly.

[00:10:50] So we'd have to mail that to the CEO. You couldn't just tweet something and get the attention of the executive office. So you know it was a hot moves and very volatile high traffic business and I knew I needed to work with my teammates and I needed to understand them personally and know what their why was when I saw Simon Sinek talk about that the first time I thought

[00:11:14] Oh wow I love the way he's packaged that presentation because that was something I spent a lot of time doing when you know why someone's there and I did that with each and every staff member you know in the 80s it was a lot easier to motivate them and understand them. So I did the same thing now with the entrepreneurs. You know why why are you in this business and what's your connection to it. And I like you I'm sure you find that most successful businesses have stronger wise and they're not about money than it's about solving a problem. And usually something that is close to home.

[00:11:50] Yeah yeah. No there's there's some intensity really.

[00:11:52] I'm gonna make a interesting connection so on another episode I actually recorded this recently with the Chris Voss who wrote never split the difference a book on negotiation.

[00:12:03] He's a he was an FBI hostage negotiator and we actually talked about a lot of these situations that you just went through. Oh maybe we all need to have a beer. Yeah well we are at least a joint podcast episode.

[00:12:14] Yeah but it was interesting you bring up a lot of the stuff you mentioned which is around you know this idea of tactical empathy and how do you build trust and in the story you just told really highlights all these things that go into you know I think at some level just great services great negotiation what it takes to be a great coach which is that that ability to sort of see the other person's frame the ability to understand sort of their needs from their perspective and how you can and cannot meet those and how to communicate those effectively. And you know to the extent that you can help sort broaden or adjust or alter their frame in a way that's going to help the situation you know fascinating story and for listeners that I've listen to the Chris Bosh the. No. Because I think you're there's a really important point and I think really insightful points around not only about you know kind of how to be a good coach but really I think anyone in service based business I think is going to benefit from those ideas. And for me it's I think that experience is both illustrating and probably you know highlights your kind of natural capabilities as a coach as a service provider to key into those things. So that's great. So to Citibank take us from the bank into the business into the coaching when did you formally focus on coaching from a professional.

[00:13:28] It was it was a couple of gigs after that. So I got into sales after the bank. I was I guess a key point in my story is that I am what you call a fast tracker.

[00:13:40] Right. So fast trackers get where they're going by using lots of shortcuts and they don't take the normal. Benchmark steps. Touch points that other folks do. And so what happens. And that's why these are the people who are my current clients is when you skip steps you eventually hit a wall and when you hit that wall you have a really terrible case of imposter syndrome. So you are afraid you're gonna be found out. You don't know you don't quite understand how you got where you're at and you're starting to see all the holes right at you and then you focus on the holes more than you know those solid legs under you that you built and there isn't a lot of space to deal with that.

[00:14:29] Right. So you go to your therapist your therapist doesn't understand what you're talking about. You have a successful job you look like a success you know you go to a business coach they tell you to do more things. But there really wasn't a space.

[00:14:42] And it happened to me multiple times where I had to reinvent myself and I had to figure out how to do it.

[00:14:48] And I went through some traditional coaching programs where I felt like screaming at the person and going just tell me what frig is wrong. You know and you're not telling me and so that's why I'm really not a coach. So that's the other surprise.

[00:15:03] The dirty little secret dirty little secret because about three years ago the branding people that I worked with spent a lot of money to help me develop and design my and said we need a searchable title and no one's looking for an interventionist or a personal consultant or a tough love person.

[00:15:22] But the truth is that I am really more of a personal business consultant and I don't have people sitting and crying and I'm I'm not questioning them into self discovery and coaches have very profound questioning techniques some of them are trained in specific systems and for a lot of people that works really well for my clients. The clock is ticking.

[00:15:49] They are business leaders they either run companies or they run big teams inside of companies.

[00:15:56] You've got one guy who's got 19 people reporting to him inside a very fast paced emerging company. He doesn't feel his peers are his best friends and he's not sure who to talk to and what the last thing he needs is to be questioned and to self discovery.

[00:16:13] He needs somebody to tell him the truth. And so you know my my sessions tend to be longer they tended to focus on the root cause which are patterns and programs and you know at some point after city when I did get into coaching and I was working with bankers I really loved it and that morphed into that marketing company I was telling you about and it was sort of during that time that I felt very alone.

[00:16:39] There weren't a lot of people calling an influencer and saying Can I pick your brain wasn't something we did back then. We just didn't have access to the kind of mentorship people have today. And I encourage people you know to pick up the phone and to reach out on LinkedIn and to get as much free help as they can. You know that was just not something I had access to. And I think that even had I had a circle or and or an ego group then then I I maybe would have heard more of the truth you know. But when you're running the company and you're running a business that has a lot of human capital to develop you don't really understand the value that's sitting right there.

[00:17:22] And so when you're at 80 people or 90 people you're trying to get to two or three hundred people and you're looking at putting more money into your product engineering and your legal team and protecting your your copy and you're trademarking. But people are going out the door as quickly as they're coming in and the knowledge transfer is happening and people aren't anchoring into the company in a way where they'll be loyal and they'll stay and they'll help others do the same.

[00:17:52] Then you know you've got a lot of exhaust.

[00:17:54] You've got a lot of energy that's just going out the door. We have a situation in New York City where 90 percent of people have to crack their windows all winter because we don't know how to control the heat you know.

[00:18:08] So we've seen all this energy feedback loops. Anyone who's listening that's a multi-billion dollar store.

[00:18:14] Well there's a couple I've met a couple of people that are trying to trying to work.

[00:18:17] I hope they manage to do that. I personally hate being hot like that.

[00:18:22] But it's just it's also big just a waste of energy. So that's sort of what happens inside of inside of companies.

[00:18:29] So tell me a little bit more about your I guess your philosophy or when your kind of techniques or when you approach clients or when you're kind of diagnosing clients what are the things that you're kind of looking for in terms of you know you mentioned patterns you mentioned programs.

[00:18:45] What are the things that come up for you typically and how do you address those with entrepreneurs business owners executives.

[00:18:52] Okay.

[00:18:53] So I guess Stage one is when I first meet people I generally meet people through referral and I work with companies and partnerships DNA off a lot of co-founder coaching which is no longer a focus of my. It's sort of like marriage counseling people come to life. And when you do come too late it's sort of resolution more than yes. Yes it's a lot of work. So so what I do find though.

[00:19:20] And they may not even know what they want but they know what they don't want and they just I had dinner with the client last night and he said this exact thing to me when I came to you I knew that I just couldn't stand one more day of going in the patterns that I was in. I felt like I couldn't change. And we had a deep dive.

[00:19:40] So my my program is called the 180 and so we do that in 90 days or 180 days depending on how fast you want to work. And so if we do it in 90 days I'm meeting with you weekly the first sessions about three hours long and that's where we do just a major deep dive to get on the same page and there's some free work that comes in before that.

[00:20:04] So you're completing a questionnaire. Yeah I've got a guy who hasn't started yet. We haven't had our first session. She's already had all her shifts already is coming up. She's already unable to set an appointment she's got too many personal commitments. She puts herself last.

[00:20:21] They already know all these things about her. Just from looking at how difficult it's been to get something you know on the book. So I'm intuitive and I think that helps the process quite a bit.

[00:20:33] I'm able to really see very quickly with people what's blocking them what's in their way and these fears show up like pattern's not to get sort of off on a science tangent but everything is energy and we all live in energy fields and so if I have beliefs that I've developed before I was eight years old that are sitting in my field blocking me I can't see them because I've owned them so long that I don't know.

[00:20:59] So an example of that would be you know a client of mine who has a mom who's mentally unwell suffering probably from schizophrenia undiagnosed.

[00:21:10] And this client had an inability to show up on time anywhere. And so we were four or five sessions into the 180 program and she got very upset and said something is wrong with me. Why can't I be on time even for this. And I made this investment to do this work with you and I said Well now that you're fed up I think we're going to cover it. No.

[00:21:32] So we sort of went into a little bit of a meditation together. And I was able to pull in a little bit of intuition. And I started questioning her.

[00:21:42] And we started getting to these anchor moments around you know where did you develop this beliefs around rape. How did you even know what it was. What was the first time you experienced that. So what we uncovered right away was that Mom was unable to show up consistently so she'd be sitting on the stoop after school waiting for Mom Mom would maybe show up.

[00:22:04] Maybe not maybe be late maybe an hour late and all the other moms would pull up and say you know obviously shake me. Jenny are you want a ride from us. Where's your mom.

[00:22:15] And so all of those touch points are shame shame you know your mom's not here why are you sitting on the stoop. Isn't she going to come and get you and so this gal just was wired around a fate worse than death would be to have to wait. She's someone you yeah. And so when I further questioned her and said well what you know tell me about your meetings at 2 o'clock you live in Brooklyn it's 11:00 in the morning you're what you know. How do you get to be right here. What's your strategy. So what I uncovered was there was procrastination going on Ms. Because she didn't feel safe to leave because she'd rather be late. So this is all unconscious sabotage. Then wait for someone. So we had to reframe waiting so waiting. Used to mean you're alone you're sitting somewhere everyone's watching you waiting for someone now waiting is you have a device with you that's more powerful than that computing device long 20 years ago hold your phone and so you're never really waiting anymore you're productive wherever you are. And if someone doesn't show up it's their loss. Yeah.

[00:23:21] So that's so that's how we reframed it and she was able to beat that habit because no way she was going to successfully scale and grow her business with that habit like that.

[00:23:31] Yeah. A great story and great example.

[00:23:34] Yeah I think that you know the vast majority of problems challenges roadblocks constraints that we see in businesses you know come down to some kind of pattern individual or team pattern that they've gotten stuck in and rewriting that script is is you know ultimately how we're going to push through those things. Tell me more about the 1 80 so show you you. This is kind of a process I guess how much structure do you put into the 180. You talked about a kind of dog diagnostic or pre work initial session. How does that what does that journey look like for for a client.

[00:24:06] It's 12 sessions and it's a lot of communication between sessions. So it's why it's really not about sessions it's a program and the idea is that it's kind of like three phases and it's almost modeled after strategic planning right. So where are we today. How do we get here. What are the thoughts belief patterns and programs that got us to where we are. And then you know through this this wonderful gift and ability I have to connect and get gain trust with people very quickly. You know we're kind of on the same side of the table now and you're not alone anymore. And many people are telling me things they've never said out loud before. That's a real honor that I. I don't take lightly but we look at all these things and we kind of read decide and some of this stuff comes.

[00:24:57] In fact as you know most of my clients are millennials and even within that I would say 90 percent of those millennials were not born here or their parents were not born here. So they're they're immigrants. Yeah. And so they especially we are dealing with you know if you are twenty seven and you have a 50 year old mom and a 56 year old dad and they're in the tech industry or they're bankers or they're in biotech and they're fairly savvy and sort of up to date people you may have a different kind of support than someone whose mom grew up in an internment camp in China.

[00:25:37] And because that's where grandma was when she came first.

[00:25:41] And now you are here as a first generation who's fast tracked through the education system with your immigrant work ethic.

[00:25:49] You've exceeded and blown away you know your your contemporaries but you've got these programs that come from another world.

[00:25:59] You know just another worlds completely and so I have African clients and Asian clients and Indian clients and South American clients and they are of course close to their families but they don't have that mentorship and they have a belief system that says you know for example a friend who grew up in Greenwich Connecticut and has not wanted for a lot and was put through a very impressive school and thinks nothing of dropping a couple grand on a nice dress. Right. And we're in a restaurant and she will take all the bread off the table and put it in her purse and insist we go across the street to another restaurant where the Barada cheese is two dollars less. And that is a program from her grandma who grew up in their home who did not. Have the experience that this woman had she had to find food every day of her childhood. And so those patterns and those beliefs are repeated and repeated and repeated. And so we have generational beliefs in our in our field as well. So. So you know I do this through talking I think sometimes realizing the fear eliminates about a third of it you know then we have homework and processes that help strengthen the opposite muscle. Right. So if you're going to resist a fear you know I'm not afraid to go on stage and speak I'm not afraid to go in.

[00:27:26] Well I've seen the results of that people actually having a panic attack. Instead we have to build a muscle that says I am great on stage I am really comfortable. I start with the joke. I pause enough for people to laugh right. So we're building the opposite muscle versus creating resistance. I'm trying to crush it or overpower these beliefs. So I just probably a whole other podcasts. Yeah I

[00:27:55] Know it probably is probably a couple of podcasts we could probably do a whole podcast series against it but I think you know I think it's an important point and I think you know for listeners here I think the realizing that you know our results you know that the things that we accomplish are very much a function of our thinking and the underlying kind of beliefs and scripts that we have going on and that whole process of kind of reflecting on the results that we've gotten you know how how are they a function of those beliefs and those systems that we have. And you know in figuring out which ones work for us which ones don't. And you know the ones that don't you know we can change may not be easy all the time but there are certainly things that we can adjust. We just need to figure out the new one we're going to adjust do it's always the you know don't think of a white elephant you know it's hard to not do something. It's figuring out well what is the thing you're going to replace it with and how do you make them more powerful. So I think your processes is well tuned to helping so we get through that successfully and efficiently.

[00:28:56] So I think I found it really more feminine a process right where in in the masculine we're pushing we're fighting we're overcoming and that works a little bit and it works for a while. I always say to clients you know if you need to sprint for a while for a project skip lunch work late you have your weekends be covered with reports and follow ups but you can't you can't do that long term sustainable.

[00:29:26] You got to go in and figure out why you know and we got to get to the to these to these root causes because that's how they make real lasting change and really the best way to get unstuck is to change the relationship you have with yourself. Yeah powerful. Yeah.

[00:29:46] Good. So we're going to have time here if people want to find out more about you about the coaching that you do. What's the best way to get that information. All right.

[00:29:56] Email me I would say Karen at Karen Bellantoni dot com I'm sure you're going to have that in the note. Yes I am.

[00:30:04] And my Web site is also Karen Bellantoni dot com. Same for all my social sites the work I'm doing with teens right now there's been some of the fun stuff. Yeah.

[00:30:15] So people will bring me in to kind of help me help grow the company from the inside out with using the human element.

[00:30:23] And so a lot of these millennial teens are being being treated WAY differently than we used to kind of treat team building. We're looking sort of individually and collectively at beliefs that hold us back individually and as teams.

[00:30:40] It's very powerful work. I also have had a salon that I host I've been doing this since 2016 and we just found a new home.

[00:30:51] So I'm officially in partnership with the assemblage here on John Street in Manhattan.

[00:30:58] And so we're going to be doing six salons starting in April the first one and we can get on my mailing list on my Web site to be notified. The first one's gonna be called The Four Faces of fear. And so how to spot when someone's in fight flight freeze or Fon. And how to coach them out of it.

[00:31:16] Awesome. Yeah. Good.

[00:31:18] That's actually sounds really interesting. Good to see ya later. Yeah.

[00:31:23] I'll make and I'll make sure all the e-mail address the website all of that is on the show no two people can click through and get it. Karin this has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the time. Great conversation. Great story. And I really appreciate it.

[00:31:36] Well thank you for the work you do Bruce. I really appreciate you and creating a space for us to talk like this and I really appreciate you asking about the bank robberies. He said it could be the first time I've told that publicly.

[00:31:49] Well thank you.

[00:31:50] It was it was I think it was energetically right for the podcast because we had just come off Christmas so I appreciate that. Thank you for sure. Cool.

[00:31:57] Cool I'll check Chris Voss out later today. Perfect. All right. All right bye bye.

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