Building a business on your problems can be a problem

I have read, met, talked and listened to many wonderful people that had recovered from illness, addiction, accidents, traumas…and have been able to build a joyful and meaningful life. They had survived and thrived. They have healed and have learned important lessons. Most of these people, moved on and kept doing their things. Some others though, felt impelled to share their journey and to help other people in similar situations. Talking about their own challenges and helping others to navigate theirs is a well-known step of recovery, and for some people is truly healing. Mutual help groups, mentoring, sponsorship, hotlines run by volunteers…are based on that principle. The tricky bit comes when you think about building a business around it. Is that a good idea or a bad one? Let’s explore it.


In the news, in podcasts, in book stores, in the internet I constantly see businesses that package and sell programs and other services to help people suffering from the same they suffered. Addiction, eating disorders, anxiety, OCD, depression, weight loss, trauma, child abuse…Is not that they are public about their experience and write a book or a blog. Is that they actually sell services: coaching sessions, online programs,workshops, retreats…I don’t question the legitimacy of the service, nor the expertise. Most of these people have actually educated themselves in their own problems, getting degrees and specialization, and are really well versed in their own topic. But, when deciding to build a business and a personal brand around this issue, I think few other aspects need to be taken into consideration, for the founder and clients’ sake. Here are few questions it can be healthy to ask yourself :

  • You are more than your business, your business is more than you:  you and your story are one thing, but your business would be a completely different entity even if is based on you. You want to help people using what worked for you and your own learning, but ask yourself if that’s a business, or maybe just a project, such a blog or a community meeting. Ask yourself if monetizing your learning and healing is what you truly want in the short and long term. Why do you need to build a business? Why your need of an income needs to come from this issue, rather than from other skills and capabilities you have? Is this a business idea with a business model behind? It can be useful to look around to the competition and see how long they have been in business or how much their business has changedA business is also something complex and multi layered, that requires way more than a product or a service.  It requires a business model and a plan, a structure and a direction. Do you have those tools and the managerial skills to implement them? Do you even want to get those tools and those skills? If the answer is no, would the business you have envisioned survive without those?
  • You are not your customers: are you prepared to address a myriad of issues and challenges that are different or uncomfortably similar to your own? Are you prepared to take different approaches and perspectives, to be questioned and shacked in your own principles and beliefs? When your core business is based on a core problem you had and dealt with for years, things can become personal and tricky very quickly. But as a business owner, you have a responsibility with your clients’ safety and welfare, which can be difficult to maintain or guarantee at times. What mechanisms you’ll have in place to be aware of those issues and to address them? Are you able to step back, to take perspective, to grow or change your product line? Are you able to keep safe boundaries in place, to build on your personal experience but also to take a healthy distance from it?
  • Is your business sustainable or is just the last piece of your recovery? This is for me the most important question. What would happen to the business if you decide to move on? do you have an exit strategy? Would it be one day when you wake up and decide that you are in peace to whatever happened to you, that you are ready to turn that page and do other things? and how running a business based on that same thing you are trying to move away from would make things for you? If, for example, you have a coaching business to help women to recover from drug abuse, what would happen with those women you help? How long until you close down operations? How your well-being and health would be impacted from closing down the business or from not being able to? how long or how easy would be for you to find another job or another line of work that suits you best now?

The line between passion and work is very fragile, and most of the time tricky to figure it out. You want to do something close to your heart, and building a business out of your own recovery is a sensible option for a lot of people. My recommendation will be to make sure that there is more than passion to it. A strong business model will be the best way to protect yourself and your business, as it will serve you as a buffer, compass and boundary.


Three criteria to look for when applying to jobs or launching a business venture

One of the main topics I discuss with my clients is how do they know if the job or business venture they are about to embark on is right for them. There are many decisions to take and several aspects to consider, and the more complicated and busy our lives are, the hardest it becomes to get answers.

So in my conversations with my clients, I came up with the following set of questions to guide them in finding the best possible outcome.

First of all I ask them: what is the most important area of your life right now? Based on the answer, I articulate the following questions and the structure of the session.


  • Is this new job or founding opportunity aligned with your life goals? If, for example, you want to launch a business but also start a family at the same time, it is important to understand how this will take place, and if it would be possible or enjoyable for you and your family to run both. In most cases, the client hasn’t really taken the time to think in depth about their life goals, so coaching helps them to truly understand their priorities and to do some soul searching around their values.
  • Is this new job or founding opportunity sustainable and compatible with your current life situation? Imagine you are really interested in a role that requires travelling, but you don’t want to travel because of a health condition, family needs or any other aspect. You know it will be stressful and won’t work for you, but you still take it because you think you will figure it out. Very likely you won’t enjoy the role, you won’t perform at your best, you will feel stressed, resentful and tired and you will be out of that job pretty soon. When we talk about sustainability, we need to take into consideration all the aspects of the role, from logistics to self care and family/personal needs. If the role or the business has a mayor clash in one of these areas, it won’t work in the medium term. So unless you just took the role to make quick cash for six moths or less, it ends up in a waste of time and energy for you and the company. Not overlooking the sustainability of the role/venture is key, and it is important to not go into “I will cross that bridge when we get there” mentality. Because the bridge will be there. You are just postponing a vital decision because you are afraid of the answer. (Hint: if you are afraid of the answer it is usually because the answer is no. I challenge you to think of a time when saying no sooner than later wasn’t a good idea :))
  • Is this new job/funding opportunity feasible?What’s your timeframe? This question is for the folks out there that need money in exchange of their time. Not all of us need to work for money, for different reasons. But if you do, and money is an important motivation when seeking jobs or launching a business, then you need to be very honest on the following:
    • how much time per week do I need to work?
    • how much do I need monthly? can this number be revisited?
    • do I need to make all the money from the same job/venture?
    • If I don’t make as much as I need, how long can I keep earning less for? How much less? Where the rest of the amount will be coming from?
    • Is this plan sensible? Will I feel comfortable with this plan in three months time? Is my family comfortable with it?
    • What’s my plan B if this doesn’t work out?

Of course, the decision can’t be taken in just one session, or in one conversation, but these questions help to face clients with their reality and with what they truly need. If you find yourself unhappy at work, hopping from role to role or unmotivated with any single project you start, I think you can benefit by answering these questions. 

Let me know how that goes for you, I would love to listen to your experience or to your feedback and comments on this post.

Thanks for stopping by today.


Fail fast, yes…but don’t rush!

In this video post I reflect about the pressure entrepreneurs feel to test their ideas to decide whether to stick to them (pursue), tweak them (pivot) or let them go (perish). Sometimes the pressure is so high that leads them to seek external investment too early in their journey, which can backfire. If you want to know more about the benefits and drawbacks of getting investors too early on board and other less risky alternatives, watch this video!


Hope you find it helpful! Please leave a comment with your suggestions, ideas, feedback, or email me at

See you soon again!




You are not your thoughts! Easy strategy to stop the self negative talk

In this video I share an easy but very powerful strategy to stop the negative self talk that pops up when we think about a meeting, presentation, interview or pitch that we did or we are about to do. This mindfulness strategy called diffusion will help you to gain some space and distance from your negative thoughts and, with practice, replace them with more positive thoughts that support you in achieving your goals and getting close to what you value. I hope you find it helpful.