Milana Leshinsky (@coachinggenie) is the founder and CEO of Coaching Genie, a software company that helps coaches become the most organized coach on the planet.
In this episode, Bobby talks with Milana about how she helps coaches deliver programs more easily at scale, attracting clients through virtual summits, and why you need to make a noise and play bigger in your business.
Bobby: So tell the listeners a little bit about you and what your company does.
Milana: My name is Milana Leshinsky and I run a coaching software company called Coaching Genie, which is designed to help coaches make their lives easier in terms of delivering programs, scaling their business, and just becoming the most organized coach on the planet.I do also have my own coaching business where I mainly focus on helping coaches leverage themselves or teach how to create coaching programs, virtual summits, webinars. And formerly I’m a music teacher from Ukraine.
Bobby: What is the overall journey that customers take with you from not knowing your company exists to becoming a raving fan?
Milana: That’s a great question. Typically customers enter my world my virtual summits, which I do annually. And I run webinars and I work with joint venture partners. So I do a lot of different things. I create a lot of content. And so somehow they find me online through my content, through my free events, and then they end up requesting one of my free gifts, as they are called lead magnets.
And the way that they become kind curious and starting to lean in is when they find out that I also sell coaching software. Because it is a tool that makes things easier. And a lot of coaches are technophobes myself included actually.And so when they see that it makes things easier, become more interested in my coaching programs. Because they see that I’m all about simplicity. And that messaging around simplifying everything really resonates with them.
I was working with a mentor years ago and she did a lot of research on me trying to help me with my messaging. And she came back with results. And she said, so you’re basically a demystifier. Because almost in every testimonial that my clients send me,I get that, that you really simplified everything. You’re making it so easy. It could be my teaching background, but I definitely love teaching and creating tools for people to simplify achieving their goals.
Bobby: It sounds like you have this great flywheel loop where people are coming in via events, seeing that you have this awesome software and the software shows them, Oh, I really care about simplifying your life. Now that I have the software doing some things for me, let me see what your coaching programs can do for me too.
Milana: If you go to Coaching Genie website, you’ll see the invitation to watch a free demo. And then there is a, invitation to book a private demo. And so when people book the demo, sometimes I do a demo and people start a conversation about their business. And they’re curious about my business. One of my mentors, Nita Cubane, he called it intentional congruence. Which happens when all of the pieces of your business start over wrapping and coming together. They’re all connected. One feeds the other. One is aligned with the other.
And so everything I do from day one of my business has always been about helping coaches create leveraged income streams. Everything I sell, it’s all about leveraging your time and expertise and building something real. Because a lot of times when coaches work with private clients, they go from one private session to the next. That’s what their week looks like. They’re not building anything. They’re not creating anything. Once they start capturing their content and their knowledge in some type of a shareable format, now they can leverage their time and expertise so they can stop repeating themselves and reinventing the wheel because they already have everything.
So when I have my programs, I send people my training videos. Then we get a coaching call. And then I coach them. I don’t waste my time teaching or reteaching the same stuff. In education field, it’s called a flipped classroom. Where you first deliver the training and then you get on a session. And you coach and you answer questions and you help people implement and get unstuck and work on the mindset piece.
But the actual training comes before so that people watch it. They start generating questions, they start implementing it, and then they get stuck. And then, a coaching call happens, you help them get unstuck.
Bobby: I want to dig in on the leverage piece a little. When people have a service business and then they want to go into the software space. There’s so many different avenues you can take. A lot of people want to build a to do list app. Other people want to do an email marketing software and things like that. Cause they see all those complicated apps out there. But it’s really interesting that you took a different approach. So could you tell me a little bit about why you decided to focus on the features, and the areas that you did with Coaching Genie, as opposed to a to do list app or an email marketing app.
Milana: Yeah, that’s a great question. This is not my first piece of software. The very first one was called Assessment Generator. It actually still exists. I coded it myself from whatever skill level I had at the time. I sold it and now it’s become this beautiful masterpiece of a software that the new owner was skilled enough to take it to the next level.
But the reason I talk about this first software is that both Assessment Generator and Coaching Genie were developed out of my own need to solve my own problems. So I wasn’t just looking like, what kind of software can I create? I remember just thinking, I wish there was, a, in this particular case with Coaching Genie, a way for me to just have a simple platform to deliver my coaching programs. Not just the content, like what course builders let you do. But I want to be able to collect homework, to give feedback to my clients. I want to connect them between the sessions. I want them to complete a weekly check-in form to see how they’re doing. I want them to have client journals to capture their insights and reflections. And I want it to be in control of my own programs.
So as a result, I decide to brainstorm what kind of tool could I create? Because I’ve tried many different ones and they didn’t work. So I really focus on solving my own problems. Every time I create something, it’s because I’m solving my own problem. Then I learn that other people have similar problems.
I see this as a solution to all the problems that coaches have with technology when it comes to delivering their coaching and their programs. And I also wanted it to be simple. Because as a little bit of a technophobe myself and working with other coaches, I have a very good sensitivity to what coaches will feel overwhelmed by and what they will feel is easy. This is easy. And that’s the biggest comment we get is when I saw Coaching Genie, when I logged into my account, I just felt my body relax. And that’s the best compliment that I can ever get. So I was looking for something to solve my problem and make sure that it’s easy as well.
Bobby: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So, you have grown a successful coaching business yourself before starting Coaching Genie. So you knew a lot of the challenges and the struggles with getting to that growth and getting to that scale. What are some of the roadblocks that you’ve seen coaches have as they grow their business?
Milana: I think the biggest roadblock that most coaches will experience in the beginning stages of their business as well as throughout their business is marketing. Getting clients. Marketing and sales. Because just like many professionals, coaches love coaching. But you ask them to sell or to market, immediately resistance and fears come up. Because means asking for the money. It means self promotion. It means having to step outside of being my humble self. And a lot of people have a lot of beliefs that don’t allow them to do that.
And I’ll be honest with you. I’ve always wondered, how is it that I was able, as a music teacher, never having sold anything before, coming from a country where entrepreneurship was non existent, how is it that I was able to build my business? At one point I had a million dollar business in the coaching space. I had a list of 100,000 people. And I feel blessed for having done that. At the same time, I wonder why other coaches are struggling with that. And I do think it has to do with beliefs. Like I had no beliefs about selling. Actually, my dad was selling books on the black market in Ukraine. And maybe that’s where the only sales mindset that I’ve ever acquired came from that. That, oh my God, I bought this book for five rubles and then I sold it for 15. I got profit, yay me, like that was a great thing. I didn’t have a lot of mind crap about selling. And marketing I’ve always seen as a adventure in creativity. So I never had any obstacles that held me back.
I also was lucky enough to uncover the idea of virtual events very early. So in 2005, I hosted Telecoaching Telesummit. It was the first telesummit ever in the world, or virtual summit. An event of that kind, where I brought experts together, opened it to the public, people bought a ticket to listen to me interviewing experts every day for two weeks. I discovered that model very early on, and I loved it. I got to be the facilitator, the teacher, the coach. And because I loved it, I continued to do more of it. So I stumbled on something I really enjoyed, and I continued to do that. I continued to get results, and therefore, I continued to focus on mastering that strategy.
Bobby: It’s really interesting that you stumbled into event based marketing and the beginnings of the educational based marketing, at least in the online world. Where you could just provide a lot of value upfront and then a certain percentage of those people want to continue that relationship with you going forward.
One of the things we had talked about before this interview was that a lot of coaches struggle with confidence. I think that’s part of that mindset piece. And I know Coaching Genie helps with that because they can feel more confident in the delivery side. And so it’s interesting to hear you say that there’s definitely that mindset piece and for whatever reason you didn’t have those beliefs that you needed to break down first. There’s more of a clean slate.
Milana: It takes longer to break any beliefs that you have had in you for many years than if you’re just a wide eyed person looking around thinking, Oh, you know, I can try this. And well, why wouldn’t this work? Of course it’ll work. Like, I didn’t have any of those fears that something might not work. I was just creating. And you know, I did not create Coaching Genie to help coaches get more confident. That was not one of my missions or goals. But I always survey people. I always interview our customers and I asked them, what do you love the most about it? And they say simplicity. That’s always number one, how easy it is to use. I don’t even need to use a virtual assistant.
But the second one is like, I feel so professional. And feeling professional is really important to coaches because it’s an unregulated profession. Anybody can wake up any day and become a coach. So feeling professional and organized and ready to accept clients. And knowing what to send to your clients or where to send them. That gives that feeling of professionalism. And therefore confidence that they know what’s going to happen.
But there is another issue around confidence. And that is, I’ve always experienced this little bit of fear of coaching clients and not being able to promise results. And that definitely affects my confidence. And I know a lot of other coaches deal with the same obstacle. How can I sell something where I don’t know that they’ll get results, right?
And I think that that’s one of the reasons I started creating programs is because, okay, don’t trust me and my coaching skills. Trust the process that I developed and I know it works if you follow it. So everything that I ever put out there has some kind of a blueprint, a curriculum, a step by step, whether I teach virtual summits or webinars or how to create your own coaching program. I know the results will be there because you’re going to follow my system. It’s tested and proven. And I don’t need to worry about my coaching skills at any moment because just do the work. And if you get stuck, we’ll,talk about it. Then I’ll know. So I coach around the curriculum that I create and I love that. Probably because I have this personality of a teacher. But it’s much easier than just showing up and not knowing exactly how am I going to get the client to that result that they hired me for. That’s always a little nerve wracking for me. And maybe that’s not for everybody, but that’s why I’ve been creating programs is to ensure that when my clients work with me, results are virtually guaranteed if you follow the process. If you follow the method that I developed. So I develop a method for everything. I don’t just go out there and sell coaching.
Bobby: I love that. And it sounds like you scratched your own itch. In terms of you wanted to continue that practice of creating the methods and packaging things together. And so you created Coaching Genie to make that a lot easier and facilitate that whole process. Cause it seems like it would get chaotic very quickly with all these client documents everywhere and no way to make that a cohesive system.
Milana: Well, Coaching Genie specifically was designed for group coaching originally, because that’s what I do. I have groups of eight to as many as 106 people in the group and so it would become so chaotic. Of course, there were Facebook groups where you could communicate with your group on social media. But more and more people are hesitant to post in Facebook because things are more confidential. They don’t want to put it out there and for everybody to see for years to come. The content doesn’t belong to me or to them. It all belongs to Facebook. But also Facebook is a little all over the place. It’s social media. It’s very distracting. There’s many components. There are many, many shiny objects out there.
When you enter Coaching Genie, you literally, as a client, you are in work mode. You’re focused. You go in and you know exactly what you’re going to do. And to me, that is what differentiates using a Facebook group and email and having a system that allows your clients to feel really focused and know exactly where to find things and what they want to work on at any given moment.
Bobby: I love that it’s focused around group coaching because there’s a limited extent to which you can grow your business via just one-on-one. So the coaches who are transitioning or have transitioned from that one to one to group coaching, what are some of the obstacles you see them face as they scale their business?
Milana: I’ve done a lot of research on this, both working with clients and groups and also doing a lot of surveys and conversations with people.But the way that people transition really depends on how long they’ve been doing private coaching. Sometimes when you’ve been doing it for years and years and years, you have the mindset of, well, I’ll just ask them what their challenges are and I’ll coach them around that. So they’re not seeing how to turn their coaching into a program that they could deliver to a group. Because in their mind, every client is different. And that’s true. Every client is different.
However, if you start paying attention to the kind of things you’re saying to clients, the principles that you’re sharing with them, the tools that you are giving them to use, like exercises, worksheets, assessments, anything that you’ve ever created for your private clients, you’re going to start seeing that your principles are the same. And that’s what you want to capture as your teaching content, right? And so that’s the hardest part for people to overcome, is how do I get from one-on-one conversations to coaching a group? People are especially concerned when it’s a sensitive subject like divorce, infidelity. Any kind of relationship related coaching programs. Sometimes health and wellness related programs. There’s a lot of confidential things and coaches don’t believe that their clients will be comfortable in a group setting. But actually the other way around. The group adds a component of so much value that people are more likely to enroll with you into a group then into one on one. And typically groups are less expensive. So you are going to see people being able to afford your group program more than one on one.
So I would say the biggest obstacle and the step that you want to look at as you’re shifting from one on one to groups is you need to create a program. And when I say a program, it could be a course, right? And then you just deliver it as a live program with live coaching calls. But you need some kind of a blueprint material.
I’m currently working with somebody who helps women in unhappy marriages. And she’s worked with women one on one. That was her focus. So how do you get a group of women to talk about it together in a group? And so what we’ve done is we developed an eight module course with everything that she usually teaches and shares. And each module has a piece of homework, like an exercise. And she’s very excited about it because now she can see that she’s created something tangible. Something she can deliver and leverage and talk about that piece in a very confident way. Before it was like I help unhappy women in their marriages find their joy. Now she will be able to say, I have developed a process to help women who are unhappy in their marriages to find pathway to a successful marriage. So it’s a little bit different. It’s easier to sell that way.
For filling a group, you also need to market to groups. That’s the other part where in order for you to fill a group program, you need to start marketing to groups. When I say market to groups, I mean you need to be in front of audiences, virtual or live. Maybe present as a speaker at a live event, at a conference, at a networking event. You just need to have exposure to more people.
Bobby: Is there a particular type of group that you see work best for filling groups? Is it webinars, seminars?
Milana: Virtual summits are still my favorite way. Now, you could do a webinar. Or a challenge. There’s a very popular way to do that now, five day challenges. The problem with those two strategies is that you need an audience to market to. Like, who are you going to invite to a webinar? Who are you going to invite into the five day challenge? You need to have a list. If you are not there yet, if you don’t have a big list, or if you don’t have a list at all, you need to jumpstart your list. And a virtual summit is the best way to achieve that. Because the concept is that you invite other people, other experts to speak at your summit. They also promote your summit to their audiences, and that’s how you build a list. I I have clients go from 80 people to 700 in a week. I have people who have been building their email list for 16 years. And until they did a virtual summit, it just wouldn’t grow. And so it becomes their biggest list builder.
But you have to choose the right theme for your summit, the right speakers. There’s all of these things that you want to think about, but it’s so much fun to do. Once you host your first summit, you’ll want to do it every year because it’s a booster shot in the arm of your business.
Bobby: In terms of actually packaging up your knowledge, it sounds like you’re really good at it. Maybe it’s a skill you’ve built up over time. But how do you figure out what that blueprint should look like? How do you figure out the fidelity? How detailed it should be versus what needs to be left to the individualized coaching side?
Milana: I look at everything as a building block or a series of building blocks. Like what are the things, the components that someone needs to complete to get to the goal. I do have a little bit of a natural ability, I guess, to create programs. Because when my coach asked me, how do you create your programs? Maybe you should teach other people how to do that. I said, well, you just decide what’s the first thing to do. And then the second thing, and then the third thing, but that’s not really how I did it. I was just trying to intellectualize my process. But now that I’ve been doing it for so many years, I can tell you that you just need to decide on what you’re going to teach.
For example, losing weight. What are the building blocks to be able to lose weight? Well, first you need to do something with your mindset because there’s a reason why you haven’t lost weight. So I’ve got a building block called the mindset. And then you probably need to set goals around how much weight do you want to lose and why? So then I have the goals building block. And then we get into the meat and potatoes (No pun intended) of weight loss and that is what the heck do you eat? So maybe the third building block would be nutrition. And then at that point, I would probably look at like, well, I don’t know what they eat, so we will need an assessment. So now I have a little exercise that they will fill out an assessment. So that’s how I would look at it is everything is a component and a building block. And sometimes you have to run your program once or twice to really get a feel for it. And you might realize that, oh my god, I should have really taught this sooner. And you flip your training pieces around. Or maybe clients keep asking for something and you have not developed it. So you’ll develop an additional resource and you include that in the program. So after delivering the program for two, three times, you’ll have a really nice completed curriculum with everything that your clients need and you’re ready to go. That’s your leverage. But building blocks is how I would look at it. Building blocks could be also called steps, pillars, principles., elements, keys to success in a particular area.
Bobby: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And then I liked what you said that you could really only know for sure through action, right? So delivering that program, two, three times, and you get a sense of what order they need to be in, or if there’s any adjustments that need to be made.
Milana: And most importantly, something that I forgot to mention is you don’t need to create a comprehensive curriculum. It doesn’t need to be your encyclopedia of your knowledge on the subject. Nobody wants that. Information is free out there. Andrea Lee, a friend and a mentor from years ago. She always says you have to be a human Google. That’s what people are buying from you is that you discern the information for them and then present it in an easy to digest way. But all of my building blocks or my modules, they’re very short. Like I have an 11 minute video with a worksheet. Or I have a 26 minute video with a little assessment. Because the rest of it, you can fill up on the coaching calls. People will ask you questions. People will get stuck. So the content doesn’t need to be comprehensive. It needs to be those nuggets. Micro learning is important.
What is that one concept that you believe people need to understand in order to move forward? In the process of achieving that goal that they hired you for.
Bobby: That makes a lot of sense. Let me do the flip side. I’ve taken many, many, many courses over the years as I’m sure many coaches have. And many of them are far too long. I’d love to know what filters or lenses are you using to figure out what to simplify the 10 percent that really matters and discarding that 90 percent. What filters are you using to weed it out.
Milana: First of all, I remind myself that they are not ready for all of it. Imagine that you’re creating a program for level one, and then maybe you develop another program that will be level two for people whonow they’re ready for the next level. I’m very aware of the fact that my clients, when they’re first starting out to working with me, they’re not ready for all of the information that I can share with them. I’m very intentionally creating my program with this goal in mind to not overwhelm them. Because overwhelm is what gets people to leave your programs, ask for a refund. And I’ve been there. I had a program, years ago, it was called Coaching Business Mastery. Every week we would cover a topic such as creating a coaching website, week one. Building your your coaching newsletter, week two. Developing your webinar, week three.
So by week four, my clients were groaning and moaning and they wanted out. They could not keep up with that. So I almost like burned myself on developing programs that were too comprehensive. And so no comprehensive programs for me now. Now I have a whole eight week program on developing a webinar that sells. And people really appreciate that. So that’s the first things I’m very carefully thinking about. Is this going to overwhelm my clients? If not, then it’s going to make it in there.
The other filter I use is, is this fluff? What if I take it out? Will they still be able to do this step? Do I really need it? Could I turn it into a bonus? Because when I turn it into a bonus, they realize that they don’t have to go through that piece. And it’s optional. So my third filter would be that I don’t like long trainings. I don’t like fluffy trainings. Just tell me what I need to do and leave me alone. And so I think about me. I am a great filter for my own clients because I’m very much like my own clients.I understand feeling overwhelmed. I understand feeling frustrated. I understand wanting just the meat and potatoes. And I think that that helps me as well.
One of the things I heard, you didn’t say it explicitly, but what I heard was, you have gotten so crystal clear on who your clients need to be. To be a successful business owner. One that has successful group programs. They feel organized. They feel like a professional coach. Like you were so clear on what they need. I think that is maybe one of the lenses that you use for what to filter out. Like if you are creating a program. And you’re struggling with what to filter out, it’s probably that you’re not as clear on, what it actually takes to be that thing. For example, a lot of people’s frames of reference for what they’re learning, or what to teach, is you went to college to learn a very specific skill set. Because you were in a zone to nerd out about a subject, right? But people wanting to be guided and work with a coach just want to be that person on the other side. And so if you can be really clear on here is actually what you need to know. You don’t need to be like a PhD level expert on this stuff. To be a successful partner in your marriage is actually much simpler. So you can say, these are the 10 percent of things that you actually need to do to become that person. You don’t need to become a relationship expert. You just need to become that person.
Well, they say that you only need to be one step ahead of your clients. Like when the AI came around this year, everybody started teaching AI. Not because they’ve been in AI for years or decades. But because they discovered it first, somebody helped me uncover it. And then I started teaching a little bit of AI in my programs as well. But I guarantee you, like in about a year or two there will be still people who have not touched AI. And they’ll still appreciate learning from people who are not that much of an expert themselves. Butthe observation is very, very savvy that you made. So maybe a another filter for creating a program that your clients will love and it will work for them is really knowing your clients. That way you will know exactly to include and what to leave out. Because you’ll just have that sense about them. How will they respond to this material? Will they feel overwhelmed? Will they appreciate this? Will they experience a paradigm shift? That’s another thing I always like to do is to share things that will cause a paradigm shift, some kind of a breakthrough moment,something that people see that they cannot unsee. And therefore they start doing things differently. And so having that included in a coaching program makes people really trust you, buy into your method, and just feel really grateful that they are in your program and learning from you.
I remember when I first started 20 years ago, a friend of mine and a mentor read my newsletter. And I asked him to share my newsletter with his audience. But he came back to me and he said, I don’t want to offend you. But I have to tell you the truth. Your content is very shallow. It’s not very deep. And now that I’m thinking back, like, of course it was not very deep. I didn’t know anything yet. It is now after having worked with clients for 20 years, having been mentored myself by brilliant mentors and coaches. Now I know so much more and I have so much more depth to what I teach and what I say. But I remember being so upset about that. It was one of my early lessons learned like, Oh my God, somebody called me shallow. Not as a person, but as an expert. I did not have a lot of depth to my knowledge.
Bobby: One of the last questions I want to ask you. As you said, you’ve been in this world for 20 years now. Now you’re helping to lead the coaching world with Coaching Genie. Where do you see the coaching industry going in the future, in the next three to five years?
Milana: That’s a really good question. Looking at the last 10 years, coaching has really blended with other industries. And not only with consulting, healing, speaking , these helping professions. But also with marketing, internet marketing. A lot of people now use the word coach, even if they don’t have anything to do with the actual coaching. People will call coaching program a course because it sounds better, right? So with where it’s going, it’s really interesting. I do definitely believe that more coaches will use AI in their coaching sessions. I’ve been doing that a lot and I can see how much faster we arrive at results. I also think there will be a lot more coaches who work with small groups. It’s almost a little bit fragmented. In the past, it would be all these, I’m going to call them little coaches, working with one on one clients. And then there would be like several giant coaches who work with groups of 300, 200 people. And now it’s more like there are coaches who work with a group of six, eight, 12 people. And every coach has their own little niche and vibe and personality. And so that’s what I’m seeing develop in terms of the business model. But also because there’s a lot more coaches out there in the world, we need to be very mindful about our specialty. It’s been a while since you would say, I’m a life coach and people would be like, Oh my God, you’re a life coach. Tell me more. Now you have to be very specific, highly niched.If you are one of the relationship coaches and there are thousands of others, what does that mean? How can you make yourself stand apart? Just because you are a life coach, building a website and trying to reach people doesn’t mean that people will find you. Or will find you unique or distinct enough. You need to play a little bit louder. I call it make a noise. You have to make some noise online or in your space. You cannot be quiet in business. So I think those coaches who are willing to be a little louder than others will be more successful. That’s my prediction. Although it’s definitely based on what I’ve seen in the last 20 years as well.
Bobby: So where can people find you?
Milana: Well, my main website is CoachingGenie.com. And I’m always happy to do a little private demo of the software. But if you just want to learn about me and my coaching business, what I do, you can go to my coaching website, which is Milana.com. If you are a music lover and you’re curious, you’ll also find my music there. I was fortunate enough to record a piece of music with a brilliant composer and arranger. So you’ll hear me play piano and just a gorgeous trio. Milana.com. That is probably the best place to connect with me as well.
Bobby: And then any final notes you’d like to leave with our listeners?
Milana: I would say play a little bigger. Honestly I think that that’s the most important message for coaches. You can certainly be a little coach on the phone, as my friend, Fabienne Fredrickson calls it.And, you can have your little coaching business. But if you really want to grow a little bit more, and you want to claim a slightly bigger piece of the coaching slice, you do need to play bigger. And to me playing bigger means building a network of referral partners, hosting virtual events running promotions. Doing a little bit more in terms of marketing so that you’re more visible. Because visibility equals credibility and trust. Visibility equals more people coming into your world or into your funnel.
So I would say play a little bigger, be a little louder, be louder than other people in your niche and then everything will be okay.