Defining And Claiming Your Success Through Productivity With Debbie Allen 

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TBT 131 | Success Through Productivity
When there’s a sudden change in the environment, a lot of businesses struggle to keep up and end up biting the dust. The only way to push through success is with productivity and making sure your business stays in action. Certified speaking professional, Debbie Allen joins Penny Zenker this episode to explain what it means to be productive to pivot your business in accordance with sudden changes. She talks about how important it is to invest in others in order to receive the same. Learn all about the power of asking questions as she explains how you can gain the respect of people by simply asking and implementing. Believing that success is easier than failure, Debbie shares her knowledge about you needing to actually put in effort in order to fail.

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Defining And Claiming Your Success Through Productivity With Debbie Allen

What does take back time mean? It means that we want to help you to work smarter. I have Debbie Allen on board and she’s amazing. She’s a certified speaking professional and she’s one of the top professional business speakers in the world. She’s been a professional speaker for many years. She’s presented before thousands of people in 28 countries around the world and she knows her stuff. She speaks for diverse groups of business conferences worldwide and mentor entrepreneurs who want to be positioned as experts in their industry.
Debbie has been an entrepreneur and business owner since she was nineteen. She’s built and sold numerous million-dollar companies in diverse industries. She’s also a bestselling author of nine books including The Highly Paid Expert and Success Is Easy. She’s a VIP contributor and she’s a featured business mentor for Entrepreneur Magazine and all of that jazz. She is all that and a bag of chips. Debbie, welcome to the show.
It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me here, Penny.
What was your first business at nineteen?
I joined a family business when I was still going to high school. I would take the school bus, and instead of going home, I would take it to the family business. My dad started a car rental business. He was a car salesman for twenty-some years and then he started running the leasing or the rental division and he went, “I could do this.” We started out with five rental cars outside of Gary, Indiana which was the number one place in the country for car theft. It’s a good idea to us to rent cars when everybody’s car is getting stolen. By the age of nineteen, when I had worked there maybe six months or something, I said, “I want to buy into the business,” because my brother had been given part of the business.
I said, “I want a percentage of the business.” I want to buy into it because then I’m going to act like a business owner. I’m going to be part of this from the beginning. That was life-changing to be thought of as an entrepreneur at such a young age. About the stuff I did in my twenties, my dad would start these businesses and then leave it up to me and my brother to run them. We didn’t want to go out and get jobs. I’ve never applied for a job in my life. I’ve never attended a day of college. I went right into that family business and learned from the school of hard knocks.
When you talk about Success Is Easy, you’re not talking about it in theory. You’re talking about it in practical lessons that you’ve learned. Is that right?
Success is easier than failure, but it takes commitment. Click To Tweet Most definitely. It can be taught to anybody because if you don’t have an answer, success is easier than failure. People will realize that, “Success is hard. It’s so much work.” It takes a commitment. If you’re doing the right thing, it’s not ever considered work and that’s what I’ve learned. I’ve always felt if it was hard or if it wasn’t fun, then it’s not getting easy. That means I need to reinvent what I’m doing, sell a business, move on, something’s wrong or you can’t build relationships from it or can’t get clients. When it’s lined correctly, it’s there. When you think about it, success is easier than failure because success is surrounding us everywhere, right on the internet, they’re reading your show and they’re learning everywhere. You can turn on your computer, you don’t have to leave your house and you don’t need to go to the library. It’s surrounding us with YouTube and Google, all the information that’s in front of us. You have to work for failure. I look at things completely different.
I like success is easier than failure because there’s a lot that makes sense in that. I think people should journal that and see what that means to them and how that shows up. That’s a good exercise.
In fact, the first chapter of the book is, “What does success mean to you?” People think that they’re a failure even when they’re a success because they define their success by what other people think success should be. If you define success on your own terms, you can make success easy in about anything you do. It isn’t just a number, it’s an emotion and feeling.
It’s more than anything. I say that about productivity as well. In the beginning, people were like, “What are you talking about?” I said, “Productivity is a feeling. We’re not machines. It’s not about output. If I feel productive, it goes down to the same thing as success.” What you’re saying is it goes down to, “How do I define it? What are my expectations of setting intentions and how am I going about that?” I believe that’s the same thing to me. How would you define productivity?
I’m productive because I’m strategic. That’s how I get progress happening in my world is that I always look at every action step that I take is focused towards the goal. It’s not just getting things done. It’s a strategic plan that I have detailed out at least six months in advance. Everything that you’re doing during your day has got to fit the end results. That’s productivity in my world is strategic action.
We have a lot in common. Every time we talk, I see that there’s a lot of similar thought processes and whatnot. In your book, you also talk about getting your ask in gear. What does that have to do with being successful?

TBT 131 | Success Through Productivity

Success Through Productivity: People think that they’re a failure even when they’re a success because they define their success by what other people think success should be.

It’s funny because you were on my podcast. I’m on your show because we were in a group class together and our teacher said, “You should be on each other’s shows,” and then we took action. We got our ask in gear and we’re making it happen on the side as it’s going on. That’s one example, but how my book Success Is Easy became a bestseller or how I got my major publisher on for a magazine was getting my ask in gear in a session. I was sitting in a session at the National Speakers Convention and I raised my hand at 100 people. Nobody else raised their hand and I said, “How did you get your book in Entrepreneur Magazine?” The person that was teaching the class, Jeffrey Hayzlett, I said, “How’d you sell 500,000 copies?”
I raised my hand and I said, “That’s my dream publisher. I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life and I used to look at that magazine and envision my book back there.” Before I had a title, I’m seeing my name on a book because they focus on a lot of books in the magazine. I had no idea that they would look for people and where to get in there. After raising my hand, Jeffrey said, “I’ll connect you to my contact there at Entrepreneur Magazine.” He did, and within a week, I was on the phone call with them. I didn’t even have the book proposal done or anything. I had just come up with a title and she bought the idea on the phone in a half-an-hour call and she said, “Why can’t we get a proposal together? I’m going to push it to the team and I’ll push this through. I want this book and I want to work with you.” I was like, “That was easy.” If you’re going to write a book that’s easy, that journey should be easy.
When I saw that, “Get your ask in gear,” and it’s about asking for what you want and going for it, it reminds me of something that my mom taught me when I was young, “You don’t ask, you don’t get, you sit back.” Many people sit back and don’t ask for the things that they want. Don’t let people know what they’re working on and how they might be able to support them and that’s such a shame because that’s all you need to do is to ask and put it out there and it will come easy. In certain ways, you’re talking to the right people, “I know this person. That was crazy how that happened like that.”
It happened fast. Most people, the majority of people, a small percentage of people are going to feel comfortable asking and there’s a science to it of asking it the right time and the right way. I didn’t even have to even ask when I got that referral for Entrepreneur. I teach this to my clients and then they go, “The last question, how do I get that?” I’m like, “Did you ask?” One of my clients goes, “When I think about having the courage to ask or wondering how to ask strategically, I always think Debbie is going to say, ‘Don’t make me come over there and kick you in the ask.’”
It’s like I was a little person on the shoulder going, “Don’t make me come over there and kick you in the ask.” She’s like, “Go for it. I get it.” I’m like, “That works. The strategy is amazing.” The synergy behind that is that you’re supporting other people at the time. You’re not just asking. There’s another thing in the chapter, I talk about is becoming an ask-hole. That is you ask and you don’t ever implement. Some people ask randomly like, “You shouldn’t have asked because you didn’t pay your dues to ask for that. It wasn’t asked correctly. You asked a bunch of questions, but you don’t implement.” That’s an ask-hole. If somebody that doesn’t implement when they’re asking successful people for their advice. You’ll have that reputation. When you ask and then you implement and then you have success from that, people respect that.
There are a lot of people who are saying, “That’s all well and good. You ask for what you want. Success comes easy and defining what success is for you and all of that. We’re in a pandemic and these aren’t regular times.” They’re stuck. What advice would you give them to see success is easy in a time where they feel like it’s hard?
If you’re stuck, you need help. You need help getting unstuck as soon as possible. Some people reading beyond it. We don’t even know the uncertainty probably scares most people, “How long will this go on?” The thing is asking when you’re stuck. True entrepreneurs know how to pivot. We’ve seen companies that have been able to pivot with new direction, innovation, creativity, and they blew their business up. They’re doing more double and triple their business during the pandemic. We’ve seen that. There are others that are stuck because they were a one-trick pony. They stayed in a box. They kept doing business the same way.
If you don't know the momentum and the next steps, then get help. Find a mentor or a coach. They're all over the internet. Click To Tweet When the pandemic hit, they’re like, “I don’t even have another direction. I don’t have another income stream. I don’t even know what to do.” That’s a scary place to be in business. If that happened to you and you’ve lost everything through this, pay attention. It’s scary and probably terrifying if that’s happened to you or you’ve lost a big chunk of income, but this is a wake-up call for you if you are stuck. Pay attention because you should not be running your business where you only have one way of doing it. If the world shuts down around you, you can’t move and pivot. I pivoted within two days. I was on building relationships with people that I had set up to be at their live events. When those got canceled, I’m like, “I can’t be there, but let’s do an online event. Let’s do something.”
I had six live events or virtual events booked within the first week. I pivoted. Not that I had done that before, I was reaching out to joint venture partners, opportunities and making things happen, kicked up my podcast, doing more podcasts, creating an online course. I’ve been twice as busy during the time because it’s like two steps forward and one step back because you’re trying to figure it out, but I have stayed in momentum. The thing is if you don’t know the momentum, if you don’t know the next steps, then get help. Find a mentor, a coach. They’re all over the internet. We’re all online. It’s easy to find us.
You said it, “You took action.” That’s the key is if you stay in action, you can’t be stuck. Stuck happens like that game hotter, colder that little kids play and something’s hidden in the room. Your business opportunities are hidden everywhere and it’s the hotter, colder game. Unless you continue to move forward in one direction, you’re not going to get any feedback. If you just stand there, what happens? Nothing. You want to continue to move forward. Like you were, you took action and then if something didn’t pan out or wasn’t going to bring you in the direction you want, what did you do? You took action in another direction or that was the feedback that you got whether it was hotter or colder. From what I’m hearing and that’s my thing to fall back on as well is to continue to move forward. Sometimes it’s one step forward, two steps back, and then you get to pivot and take a look at if that direction wasn’t right, what’s next?
Understand, you’re not an island by yourself. There are a lot of people that you can ask if you’re not in a position and a lot of people say, “Why can’t I hire a coach or consultant?” “You can hire them for an online course. You can do, learn, absorb yourself and learning whatever you need to do.” The thing is that sitting there, waiting for things to turn around, it’s not going to happen. It’s not preparing you to get ready for the next time it happens because it will, whether it’s a pandemic, a 2008 economic crash, the presidential election coming up. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We need to prepare ourselves for every direction.
As an entrepreneur, what I learned is you’re never on an island by yourself. I started out with a family business. When I left business, I had no idea. I wanted out. We had also built a mini-storage business. We then sold a million-dollar business before I was 30. I had the opportunity to get out then, but I didn’t know my next thing. It’s like looking for opportunities. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear or when you’re looking for an opportunity, it will appear. It’s like you’re looking for that red sports car, you wanted to buy that red sports car and you didn’t see many on the road, now that you want one, they’re everywhere.
They are the same thing with opportunity. If you’re focused on it every day, “I’ve got to find that support and answer. I’ve got to get creative. I’m going to make money.” Another thing I teach is quick cash formula. Where’s money sitting around in your business where you can go get that quick cash. When you get quick cash coming in, you don’t freak out anymore. There’s some money. It gives me a little bit of cush. We’ll do that and they make them create some more of that.

TBT 131 | Success Through Productivity

Success Through Productivity: You should not be running your business where you only have one way of doing it. If the world shuts down around you, you can’t move and pivot.

I do that too, “Where are the quick wins? Where’s the low-hanging fruit?” The reason we both think that is because that keeps you in action. It helps you to calm down because you’ve got some resources that you can then invest in other directions and it keeps you in motion. One of the things that I also always ask people is everybody’s out there looking for a shortcut. One thing that we turn to, that we do that helps us to cut through it, what’s your shortcut?
Productivity shortcut is, “I want to achieve this goal.” If I’m clear on the goal, I have to have a vision whether you draw it out or it’s in your head. I know what that looks like. I’m good at visioning and creating things. I can say, “I want this.” The key is you don’t have to know the how. A lot of people get stuck on the how. The how will appear once you start in action through the productivity. I would focus on that every day. That’s my shortcut, but because that vision and direction will get there and keep plowing through and an opportunity will show up and the how will show up and the right people will show up to support you. You have to be surrounded with empowered people. When you’re around empowered people, successful people, like-minded people that think positive, things speed up automatically. I have never known the how on anything. It was getting a momentum and figuring out along the way. That’s the fast track is allowing it to come to you when you’re taking action.
Having that vision, that clarity, is there a tip that you suggest for people that don’t have that clarity, like they are a little bit stuck and they’re not sure what it is that they’re envisioning as their next step? Maybe they’re not stuck, but they brought their business to one level and they want to take it to the next level, but they’re not sure what that is in its context. Do you have a step to take?
That’s a question I ask everybody before I ever start working with them, “Where do you see yourself and your business one year from now?” We take it deeper and we go, “Where do you see it? What does it look like? How does it feel? Where are you working? Who are your most ideal clients? How are they finding you? How are you working your business?” I had envisioned that because I was on a world tour for about 3.5 years traveling. My vision was like, “Today, I’m in Singapore. Tomorrow, I’m in India. It was crazy.” I wanted that. It was bigger than I imagined. When I had to reinvent again, I’m like, “What would that look like if I created a business lifestyle and had my business? What I wanted to do every single day, work more in my home because I got burned out on travel?”
I drew this house that I’m in my conference room where I hold my VIP days and I have small group training in here. I wrote the vision of what the house would look like. It would have a small conference room and a guest house where people could come and stay when they’re working with me. It had a courtyard with a fountain and I drew it all out. I wasn’t even looking to buy the house or find the house. I stuck the paper away. In a year later, I pulled it out and I went, “This is every single thing on this list. This is exactly what I envisioned as a business lifestyle.”
I switched completely from traveling internationally and to have people come to me. I don’t even have to go to the airport. That’s a perfect thing when we’re talking about the pandemic. I created this after the 2008 economic crash because I never wanted that to have to happen to me again, where I had to be in an event, I had to travel. I had to count on other people like that. I wanted to do business the way I wanted to do it. Even when my VIP clients couldn’t fly out here during the pandemic when they had the days booked, I started selling virtual VIP days and I had never sold those before.
I have another event that I only did live once a year and I’m going to take it. My Speaker Sales Mastery is I can only put twenty people in a room and I’d only do it once a year. Now, I’m like, “I’m going to take that online so more people can learn how to quickly sell online.” It’s rethinking, “How am I doing it?” I teach positioning. It’s how you position your business is still get those clients, but do it in a different way where it’s easier.
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Click To Tweet You and I met in a program where we were there learning some strategies. That is key that people put themselves constantly in learning situations. It’s an investment in themselves, in their business. I know for me, and you were alluding to this as well, is that there are many a-has when you’re in that energy and that environment is that it helps you to get that clarity. I believe firmly that we have to put ourselves in those learning opportunities so that we can help to create that clarity that we’re looking for if we don’t have it.
Also, investing in those learning opportunities because you can’t be general. When you go and say, “I can learn. I can be on all these free classes,” you’ve got to go deep into the training that you want that’s going to get you the results that you’re going to need that fits into your goal. I was looking for those like, “You have a little more space. Fill up the space with time to learn something new, a skill that you can take for the rest of your life.” You were doing the same thing. You’re going, “Here’s a skill and put that in my bag of tricks. I’ve got time to do this.” If I was super busy, I probably wouldn’t have signed up for that class because I wouldn’t have had to be able to be on a call for eight weeks in a row at a certain time.
I’m like, “I don’t have time for that.” Two biggest keys that people have and you know it are time and money. If it’s important to you and you see the results on the other end, it’s great. The thing about investing is huge because when you took the investment, we will put down a good chunk of money and then we’re like, “You’re going to show up. You’re going to make it happen.” If it was free or if it was less money, we might not have shown up as much and people need to invest.
It’s skin in the game. Why did you buy a percentage of your family business? You wanted a percentage and to be an owner that gave you skin in the game. It ups your motivation and ups your accountability to follow through with what you set out for.
That’s number one. I never invest in a program where I didn’t get paid off because I put skin in the game. I think, “I want these results from this program, but because I met Penny, she gave me another opportunity and referred me for keynote. That was four times as much money as what I invested.” I know it happens because it happens to me all the time. When I started doing this years ago, I went to an event and I invested $20,000 for seminars. Even the guy that was putting it on is like, “I’m surprised you’re investing. I’m honored that you’re coming and investing.” I only went to 3 or 4 of those events. That’s all I needed. I got the clients coming to me. I got my mindset shift and the mindset shift was number one, “If I invest $20,000, I could ask somebody to invest $20,000 with me.” If you haven’t invested big into programs, how are you going to ask people to invest with you?
If you don’t invest in someone else’s program, service or whatever it is, how are they going to invest with you if you don’t believe in investing with somebody else? You see the value of what people are offering. You get bigger value. There’s a comparison thing. Plus, there’s a psychological thing that, “If I could invest in that, how can I ask somebody to invest $10,000, $20,000 or more with me if I’ve never invested myself in learning or whatever the product or service is?” It would be hard. You’ve got the money mindset thing. You’ve got an issue around asking for money and that’s one of the things I teach about educating to sell, you have to invest to get it back.

TBT 131 | Success Through Productivity

Success Is Easy: Shameless, No-nonsense Strategies to Win in Business

One of the things that came to me as well is you’re seeing the people who invest in that program. You’re seeing the other people who invest in those types of programs. You get clearer on your target market and what some of their preferences, desires and challenges are so that you can also talk to them directly. If you’re going into a new market and you’re not used to working with those people, you don’t know enough about them too. Being one of those people is the money aspect. It’s the skin in the game to create your own results. They might be some of your clients. I’ve done the same thing. I walk away and not only did I get results from the program, but I got a couple of clients from the program or a business partner or a referral of some sort and there’s a lot more than the money that’s going into investing in the program.
When we connected even there was some synergy happening in a chat box. Not even meeting before Penny because I went, “I like this woman. She’s smart and she’s an action-taker.” Two things I must have in my business relationship partners. You’re a little action-taker, making things happen. You’re smart. You paid attention, “Let’s make it happen. We’re not messing around.” I’m like, “Yes,” because when I am trying to bring either a client or a new prospect, I have a prospect that was supposed to come into this new business opportunity with me and they’re dragging their feet and they’re not responsive. They’re not responding to my emails or text message. I made the decision, I’ve got to bounce them. I’ve got to get them out of my space and make space for the right person to be in there. They’re showing me that they’re not the right person to take this opportunity. I’d rather give it to somebody else.
I’d rather not do business with somebody like that because when it comes down to it, are they going to show up? I’m going to put this person on my stage. This is one of the people I’ve also another opportunity. There are two opportunities that are laying there. I’m like, “How do I deal with this?” I’m going to have to bounce him on the second opportunity, which is that I’m speaking on my stage because I don’t want to work with them. If they’re not responsive and productive, why would I put them in front of my audience and let my audience invest with them when I don’t think they’re going to follow up with them? I need to cut my losses now and walk away. I was going through my mind of how I’m going to do that. Especially, when you have somebody that’s unresponsive. They show that they’re not good people to work with. Pay attention to your follow-up and your productivity. What Penny teaches is huge when it comes to relationships as well.
It’s an important point that you bring up. In making success easy is work with people that gel with you. Those relationships are important that they have the same values and principles that you have and that makes success easy as opposed to bring people where it’s like pulling teeth like, “I don’t want to work with this person.” Is there anything else that you want to share? I want you to share any links that you have so that people can connect with you directly.
If they want to connect with me directly, they go to You’ll see everything I do with my mentoring programs, my events and then they’re going to give you a link for a big, valuable gift. It’s called On there, you’re going to get a 30-page action guide. This fits perfectly with what you’re doing with productivity, action guide with marketing steps that I provide you. Also, a webinar to help you with that client attraction too, which we all want is more clients, more money. Those are my great gifts for you.
Thanks, Debbie, for being here. These were great nuggets, a great conversation and I love chatting with you.
Same here, Penny. You have an awesome day. Keep being productive.
That’s to you, guys. Don’t forget, you’re reading Take Back Time. We will see you in the next episode.

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About Debbie Allen

TBT 131 | Success Through ProductivityDebbie Allen, Certified Speaking Professional, is one of the top professional business speakers worldwide. She has been a professional speaker for over 25 years, presented before thousands of people in 28 countries around the world. She speaks for a diverse group of business conferences worldwide and mentors entrepreneurs who want to be positioned as experts in their industry.
Debbie has been an entrepreneur and business owner since she was 19 … and has built and sold numerous million-dollar companies in diverse industries.
She is also a bestselling author of 9 books, including The Highly Paid Expert and Success is Easy and a VIP contributor and a featured business mentor for Entrepreneur Magazine.
Learn more about her extensive business expertise at

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