Expert reporter and marketer Cindy Gersh left corporate life for entrepreneurship. Owning and operating her own strategic marketing group has given Gersh space for a tremendous amount of growth, and like many entrepreneurs, her values are led by her personal story. As agency owners, sharing our stories is a vital part of fostering growth within our entrepreneurial community. Both our bodies and our businesses will experience disease and setbacks, and it’s time to be radically honest about this. What does it mean to hit rock bottom and dig your way out? Our goal is to share the stories that drive leaders forward. Welcome to the InWork Podcast.
Dave Valentine 0:09
In this episode of the InWork Podcast, I have the absolute pleasure, of talking to Cindy Gersh. Cindy has a remarkable story to tell about being a high powered corporate executive who was jet setting and living the high life before, she experienced a very brutal disease that came out of nowhere. That's absolutely rare. And it debilitated her for some time. Meanwhile, she comes back from short term leave from that corporate job because she was honestly couldn't get out of bed from this disease. And then they fired her. So what that led to was Cindy starting her own business where she runs an agency and does speaking engagements where she talks to people about the incredible thing that she's accomplished, overcoming a chronic disease. So I'm super excited for you to listen to this consulting conversation that we had. And here's some of the stories that Cindy has to tell. By the way, Cindy offered a special thing at the end, but we had already stopped recording. So if you want to go check that out, that's 20% off any of her services. And she also has some free resources. If you go to the show notes, you'll get all the details there. Just go to Dave valentine.co for more details. All right. I'm going to stop. Let's get into the conversation.
Cindy, I'm so excited to have you here with us today. It's so good to like chat with somebody that I instantly vibe with. And I certainly have with you. So thanks for coming on.
Cindy Gersch 1:54
Definitely Dave, super excited to be here. Thank you.
Dave Valentine 1:57
So tell me what's what's the problem that you're experiencing right now in either one of your businesses.
Cindy Gersch 2:04
So that it's funny, because I'm actually the problem is trying to merge kind of the two businesses, which is kind of interesting, right? So I have been in marketing for my entire life, right? Pretty much my entire career. I mean, I was a reporter first. And then I switched over to marketing, which a lot of people do. And for the past four years, I've been out of corporate and own my own marketing business, which I love new marketing group. And we've won awards, and I've done fantastic things with it. And I love it because it's allowing me to really grow, right. Like before, when I was in corporate world, I was really working with developers, construction firms. This I've worked with, like, so many different types of like professional football players, nonprofits, and sort of everything in between. So I love it. And I don't want to lose the marketing component of it. However, somehow, and I don't honestly, I don't even remember how it started, I started telling sort of my personal story was getting out there more and more. And people started hearing finding out about my personal story. And we're coming to me, and we're like, you have this fantastic story that needs to be told, because you can help people with this story. And it needs to get out there. And so I did my really like, Listen, I've spoken all around the country on marketing, communications and crisis communications. It's very different, though, when you're telling your personal story versus like getting out there and speaking about, like, professional things, right? So I went out and did my very first like, professional like speaking engagement on like, on my own on my own personal story at a conference and like I loved it. And afterwards, everybody was like, Oh, my God, this was great. And now I'm being featured in a book. And I've done like, so many, like I'm averaging probably five podcasts a week, people are coming finding out about me, and I love it. Because my story, I feel like a it's very therapeutic to me to get out and actually tell this story. And be I know that it's helping other people I know that it is. And so what I would love to do now is to figure out a way to sort of merge sort of the two businesses together, and I have a coach, and I have some ideas on how to do that. Right. But I'd love to sort of talk through that.
Dave Valentine 4:13
I love it. Okay, so let's talk about what you're doing with. Whenever I checked everything out, I saw that you're doing strategic marketing, brand development, content creation, PR event planning, like it's all the things. It's a litany of things in the marketing space that your agency is doing. And then when it comes to your story, what are you saying what's the what's the thing that's getting because I'm assuming that there are people that are coming to you for the marketing piece, and then there are people that are coming to you for the speaking piece. And there's there's got to be some overlap and synergy there. So tell me a little bit about the story. And then tell me what what's uh, that may put some things together for the agency.
Cindy Gersch 4:55
So my agency has been doing all the things but what I've realized lately with the last few clients that I've had is that I'm actually really a strategic marketing company, which means mainly brand I focus really on. I've done a lot with branding. So clients come to me with an issue. So for instance, my football player, he needed a kidney like that's an issue he was he was dying. And he said, find me a kidney. Find Everly. And so I developed a strategy to find a kidney and I didn't for months. And so like that's, they come to me with an issue. Most of the issues revolve around not having a brand, right? They don't know their brand value prop. If they don't they they think branding has like their logo and their color template. And that's it. And I go back and I'm like, What is your brand value prop? They don't they're like, it's like deer in headlights are like, I don't even know what that means. Right? Right. So that is where I've really been focusing, because I think once you get through their branding, things come naturally after that. That's what I think at least that's been happening. That's at least what my clients are showing me improving. And so yes, so and then my story, it has nothing to do with marketing, except for the fact that I've overcome huge obstacles both physically, because I have this super rare disease right now that I like I'm fighting through that only 2% of the world has, which also deals with you emotionally, sort of all those things, but then it crosses over like that people are like, you hit rock bottom, and you somehow dug your way out and are now the successful entrepreneur with this business. How the hell do you do it? So that's kind of like where I think it's sort of crosses over. And that's really what I've been my coach, I've just fantastic coach has like told me that he thinks that's really where it could cross over, like working maybe with people who have chronic diseases, rare diseases, who want to start a small business or start their own business, like helping them with that. And I can see that as sort of that makes sense to me, right?
Dave Valentine 6:53
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. There's a there's a unique group of people that have overcome real or in the throes of an unexpected health crisis.
As you've experienced, it shakes you to your core as a person when that transpires. There's also something that happens whenever your marketing is not working. Whenever your brand is misaligned. It's like having your body misaligned. And I love that. Yeah. And so there's some there is something to that, right, like, and I wonder, I really wonder if there's something here where you're going to where you start to tie in in listen, it's it's, it happens often that our bodies experience dis ease. And it happens often that our brand or company or business experiences dis ease as well. And so I'm going to teach you how to overcome that not just through strategies and tactics, but also through my own journey and experience, because there's something that's so we love the human spirit loves when humans overcome and you've done for sure. Great success, like, That's tremendous. So does that does that kind of like, turn? Feel good to you?
Cindy Gersch 8:21
Yeah, I yeah, I love it. Because I do think that there is a group like we're called spoonies. I don't know if you've ever heard that term, but Spooner who have right, I didn't know it either. Until I got was diagnosed with this disease. It's people who have chronic illnesses, it's like you start the day off with a number of spoons, right? And everything that you do, you get rid of a spoon, because you're exhausted by the end of the day. So taking a shower, sometimes you have lost two spoons, if you like have to go to the mall or shopping. That's two spoons. And so we call each other like we're splitting is because you only have a certain number of I don't even know where how that where that came that terminology came from just sort of does make sense. Yeah. Being involved, sort of as I have been in this, and it's already been four years in this chronic illness, rare diseases world, one of the challenges that people like myself have is when you have a disease like mine, going back into the corporate world, right? Because it's not conducive, right, like so if you're working, like I was talking to my coach about it, he's like, I have diabetes. I could not be an Amazon if you know if I wasn't I couldn't be an Amazon like truck driver because I wouldn't be able to stop and take my medicine at the appropriate times. And like for me, there's days where I'm so physically exhausted, I can't get out of bed. So I couldn't just be like, Okay, I'm gonna take today because I'm exhausted like, and that is very, very heard. You hear that a lot in sort of the chronic illness world, which is why so many people who have diseases are like, Okay, I have this other tablet that I love doing. I want to start my own business because it's a win win, but I don't even know where the hell to begin.
David B Valentine 9:57
Yeah, and it's, I think that this is this is the thing like, This feels like the thing to me, for us. And it's like, yeah, that totally makes sense. You're teaching people that have chronic disease to be to overcome and to build a life that sustainable for them. And so many, this is true for every entrepreneur, right? It doesn't matter what your background is what you're up to, you have no idea what you don't know. And the list,
Cindy Gersch 10:23
I say that that's one of my phrases. I don't know what I don't know.
Dave Valentine 10:25
And the list of those of you don't know is so exceptionally long, it feels insurmountable. And so if you started to say to people who are chronically diseased, hey, I'm not just going to tell you my inspirational story. I'm also going to show you how to build brands that sell so that you don't just have this business that actually is pulling from your spoons. I love it, by the way, right? But it's actually adding to the freedom of your life. And so the ways that we do that, and you could, I know that you have courses now, and you have different bite size things that people can get in on. And so then it's like, hey, and once you get to a certain level, you graduate, I love graduation, like blank, I love that. Yeah, you graduate on to working with my marketing agency, and we'll do it for you. But in order to get you there, we need to take some of these steps. So let's take those steps together. And then it becomes a very natural pipeline so that you can start to go, Okay, I've got a speaking engagement. And I know that I'm telling my story of the speaking engagement. And if it's possible, I'm going to give people a freebie or, um, have you written a book yet? So I am in the I mean, right. So I didn't this is all happening so very quickly, right?
Cindy Gersch 11:47
So I'm always like this with a bunch of other women with they're sort of does like overcoming things. But not everybody is like, no, no, you need your own book. So that's, that's sort of coming in. I'm working. Like I said, I have a great coach. And he's helping me through like all of this,
Dave Valentine 12:02
I love this. So so you could put together something that's easy to give, or to discount to the people at any given events, right? If you want to learn more, if you want to kind of get the traction that I've gotten with my brand, because you have inherent authority. Anytime that you're on a stage like instantly people like Cindy knows what she's talking about.
Cindy Gersch 12:26
For sure, you're absolutely right. They're like, Oh, my God, she's she is an expert automatically. Yeah.
Dave Valentine 12:31
And you're doing five podcasts a week. One of the things that I've done on when I'm a guest on podcast, I always have a freebie to give give at the end of the podcast. I'm like, Hey, by doing that, my coach told me that I just started so I have a freebie, but I love you. And so then it builds your your newsletter, your email lists, right that you can remarket to on a consistent basis, try and get them into step one. And you may even have the ability to do brand strategy cohorts. So instead of someone paying you like 10 grand to do a brand strategy, ongoing bit with them, you could maybe work with 10 people, give them a general idea of what it looks like to go through the process, charge them $2,500. So you're doing the same amount of work, but you're making two and a half times what you would with a singular client. And then you'd still have some of these other things that are available. But now they're tied to you. You know, and I think that that's the beautiful thing, Cindy is you're so much of the brand, get them in, and then it's the agency's turn to then take it from there. And I think that that's really where like, as you start to do this, the agency will start to grow, you'll see pipeline ahead of time. And there will also be people that come to you and they're like, Hey, I just need the agency right now. Or I just need that personal, like, and so you'll have this beautiful Flo and that seems to be the thing that just makes a ton of sense to me, is using that sort of language of and I think there's there's also some you can carry that like graduation schooling over. Like all that stuff could be a big portion of how you talk about what you're up to. Because
Cindy Gersch 14:14
yeah, I love that. Yeah, I love it. And I think one of the things too, with with people who have you know, is we, one of the reasons that I hit such Rock Bottom right when I was is that I talked about my story is within a very short period of time, I had a lot of bad things happen. And one of them was I lost my corporate job, like very suddenly, right after I come off of short term disability from my from like a one and short term disability for my disease. And very shortly after that, I lost my corporate job that I'd been with for seven years. And I have never not worked right. I've worked since I was like 10 years old delivering Avon books back in the day. And so like, I'm like, I'm just conditioned to work right like through both my kids like I never like this is just who I am. And so to go from having the super lucrative corporate job super busy traveling all the time, to having nothing that really fed into my depression, because I wasn't like using my brain, I wasn't doing anything. It was why could drink at home all the time because I had no responsibilities, right? Like, I was just like, okay, I can have another mimosa. So I think that that's also an issue that a lot of people with diseases have. It's like, you feel like if you can't, it's harder to find a job. And when you like, if you can't find that job, you're like, I'm not using my brain, I'm not to my full potential. So I'm wallowing in my illness even more I'm feeling you know, so it's sort of like a win win win. Really, it is it really helps them it helps people in so many ways, its unbelievable, well,
Dave Valentine 15:45
and what you're going through speaks to what this podcast is, you know, we were saying before we hit record, it's about the the things that we do in work to be successful, and the inner work that we have to do to be successful. And most of the time in on business content and podcasts and stuff. We always talk about, like, Well, how'd you do your lead gen and how are you doing your orgs? And, you know, like, how are you doing these things? And we miss the, hey, there are days, and there are seasons in your life? Where you are just leveled. Oh, yeah, just and it's not because you did anything to deserve it. It's just life life just happened. And so what do you do, then? You know, and it happens to so so I don't know anybody that that hasn't happened yet. Actually, it's just different. It's just different for every person. And so I think that that's really the interesting thing that you could play with here is as well as like, another thing is like, look, you're going to have this moment where you just need to get out of bed. Yeah, let me help you figure out how to just take the next step. And that could be another freebie. It could be its own, like really inexpensive ecourse, where you're like, hey, for $19, or for 10 bucks or whatever, I'm going to show you how to just get out of bed. Just get your day going, how to find confidence in yourself again. And it could be something that's really really powerful, where they start to see you Cindy as I don't want to say a guru because that's too far, but it's someone that they really know love and trust is like, Cindy, help me get out of a dark place personally. Yeah, you can help me get out of a dark place. Personally, I bet you get home, my business gonna have a dark place when I get that really rolling. And you just become that trusted advisor that all the time when I need something when I'm down when I can't figure out how to do this thing, marketing, whatever. I'm always gonna go to Cindy first, because she's got my trust.
Cindy Gersch 17:41
And that's the thing, like, first of all, how awesome like, I feel like that would be so fantastic. As I'm helping so many people like, that's what it's not even about money, right? Where you're really making a difference. Like, who cares about the money side of it? Right? Like that's, that is where you're like this is this is what life is really all about really like sort of helping people. And in at the end of the day, you're absolutely right, because there are days where, you know, it's everybody says to me, like, Oh, you look so put together like if you if I started, I would never know you were sick. I would never know that. Like, you're so positive and everything. And I'm like, Yeah, because I don't show you those. I'm not gonna get social. And then I was like, You know what, maybe shut? Yeah, show people. So that's what I've started to do. Like, if I take people with me, like, when I have my FMD like my disease is called fibromuscular dysplasia, we call it FMD for short. So I will take them with me like, this is my FMD day at the hospital ready to go, here's what I'm dealing with. Or I'll take a picture of me like not being able to get in bed like this is, you know, me having a horrible day, not like tears coming looking rough. You know, because I'm like, This is the reality of it. Like, why everything we see on social media is like, I feel like it's so filtered all the time. Like, this is the reality of having a chronic disease. And if someone can relate to me better, because they're like, she's not always I'll put together like, I think that helps them relate better to that. Absolutely. We we have lacked the transparency. It's one of the six core values we have for each of our seven companies, transparency with people that aren't our customers, and we should just be telling them like, look, there are days that I don't want to move there, like
Dave Valentine 19:18
I had, about six weeks ago. All my businesses are doing seven, like six and seven are doing seven figures plus, not bad, but I had a moments. Six weeks ago, four, six weeks ago, I can't remember exactly where I like I just got so much bad, bad. I just got so much negative news in like a 96 hour period that I found myself curled up in the fetal position on the floor right here, just because it was like, Oh my gosh, what else is gonna go wrong? Wrong, you know? And I made sure to put that out on social because it's so powerful. and some people are like, what? Wait, what you? And like? Yes, because I'm a person.
Cindy Gersch 20:07
Right? And they don't. And people don't see you as a person, like, especially when to your, like followers on social media who you don't know personally, they just sort of follow you, they do see you as like, I don't I feel this way, especially on tic TOCs. I don't know if it's because it's all videos or what, but people look at you as like this, as you said, sort of expert. And you like everything in your life is like, great, because you're this, I think when they see like, kind of maybe how we visualize like, sports stars, or actors and actresses, you know, like, sort of put them on a pedestal and you're like, and I'm not saying that's how people look at me. But there is that sort of feeling. I think that they look at you and they're like, Wow, everything is going great in their lives. That's Wow, look at her. And you know, for me, like, on Christmas, my husband wrote me a note to he wants to divorce me on Christmas, like this past Christmas. And I'm like how that happens. You know, three years ago, I would have been curled up on the floor, like in a fetal position. So now I'm taking that from what I learned from that 17 years of marriage 20 years of being together, of like, taking that what I'm learning because it's still just we're still going through it. It's not horrible. And I'm feel like that's a whole nother hurt that I can help people because honestly, the reality is, is that people who have diseases, the 70% of them, their spouses leave them, which is probably nothing that you would know, because we're different, you know, it's not easy to be with someone who has a disease.
Dave Valentine 21:31
Yeah, and it's, uh, I had a dear friend say to me once that did to your point about the you can help people there to divorce is so, so hard, because it's like a death, but the person is still alive. 100% That's the perfect way to describe it. And so yeah, and if you're, if you know, and this is one of the things that I found to send me that was really interesting. If you're an entrepreneur and your business goes under, your likelihood of getting divorced is 10x. And so like, there are people that take risks in business, and I've, I've spoken with people that are like, I a good friend of mine was number two, he owned the number six business on Forbes, fastest 5000 growing companies in the country. Number six, and they were blown. I mean, just absolutely everything that you would see be like they're crushing it. Well, they had people not pay, like vendors not pay. They had two and a half million dollars in receivables, they had maxed out their credit cards, they put everything that they could, here's this mess. I mean, like it's a very profitable business when they get paid on time, but they're not getting paid on time. So it doesn't matter. And they went under Gray's business, I had another friend, he owned $100 million business that they refurbished fire engines, like which you would think what but you know,
and somebody that worked for him stole a bunch of money committed some crimes, like, and he's left holding the bag. Yeah, you know, and it's like, these are good businesses that have good people that have good ideas, and they didn't make it. And so yeah, there's a whole group of people that you can absolutely help that are gonna be like, Oh, my God, like Cindy's Cindy's real one,
Cindy Gersch 23:16
things happen. And I think that that is when you sit, you know, like, I think, first of all, it's so awesome to have these successful businesses seven, I mean, that is like, obviously, that's everyone's dream. One of the things that I talk about so much in my speech, though, is when I was in corporate in the corporate world, we were like, we were doing extremely well like taking private jets to Mexico for a two week vacation with a chef and you know, like, everything that you could like living the highlife, like literally traveling the world with our kids, like kids, my kids have been to more places than you can imagine. And then you get sick without your control and everything stops literally you Everything stopped because my job gone. My husband's in the military. So he was like he was making any money. And so I was like, He's not and so I was like the breadwinner and so literally when I lost my job, it was like our entire lives completely stopped it everything changed dramatically. Like where we had to start like savings. That's the first thing you're like so that's when you realize like and I it was hard teaching my kids is because they were living that sort of great life and now things have slowed down or we can go on vacation all the time. We keep mommy can't go to Target and be like, Okay, I get whatever you want anymore, which is what we were doing things but now I say this like that. None of that even matters. I would give everything I had away back then to just be healthy. Like, this is how quickly your life can change. Like I had no, I was I ran a half mayor I was a full marathoner, like full when I ran Boston I find around Boston. And so I ran a half marathon the week before I was diagnosed healthy, didn't smoke, didn't really drink eating vegetarian, doing all the things and to be slept
In the face with this potentially fatal, extremely rare disease that has literally turned my life upside down, and then you lose your job and everything else happens. That's when you realize like money is great to have. But it's not what's important. Like it's not, because you know, I probably will never get maybe I will get back to where we were. But at the end of the day, that's not even what is important to meeting, right. That's not the goal. It's not and it's at the end of back then it was it was very much like, oh, yeah, we'll spend this much to go on a vacation with our friends to keep, you know, to sort of keep up with those people. Yeah. And that's, that's an issue that Americans have, by the way, it's an issue huge well, and it's, it's that whole thing, right?
Dave Valentine 25:38
Like, what success is for you now has fundamentally changed to what it was five years ago.
Cindy Gersch 25:45
Very humbling, I will tell you, it's very humbling. When that happens, it's you your friends are still like, able to, you know, do these two, and you're like, I can't like I can't go with $25 on a dinner anymore. Which now you look at it, you're like how stupid like that's ridiculous, you know, but it didn't. It didn't matter. Yeah, as as I'd say. It's, it's a fierce lesson to learn. And it's not one that you wish on anyone but you wish, the grace of the lesson for everyone and to your friends who lost their businesses. What a horrible thing to happen to them. So horrible. And but unfortunately, the reality is, is that happens so much in America between losing businesses, divorces, illnesses, like things go wrong in your life. And that was a huge, hard lesson for me to learn like I was, it was a very hard lesson for me to learn.
Dave Valentine 26:43
Yeah. Well, Cindy, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate your honesty, your vulnerability hanging out with us. My pleasure.
Cindy Gersch 26:53
Thank you so much, Dave.