How to Scale Successfully as a Multi-Passionate Entrepreneur


I'm thrilled to share with you my interview on the CEO School Podcast. First and foremost, I have SO much respect for Suneera Madhani. She's not only built Stax (formerly Fattmerchant) into a billion-dollar company, she's also created CEO School to help women achieve their next level business goals. Her podcast is AMAZING, so the fact that I had the opportunity to be a guest was a huge honor.


During our conversation, I discuss what it takes to run a business, lessons learned while scaling hundred million dollar companies, why success can sometimes be a lonely ride and why the state of “analysis paralysis” and perfectionism can get in the way of getting amazing projects off of the shelf and into the world. I also share the story of how we created a best-in-class app during the pandemic and our plans to scale in 2022.


Tune in and let me know your favorite takeaways!







If you're interested in downloading Nobu, visit www.nobu.ai or check out the app store!



Love the episode? Check out the transcript below:


Allison Walsh:

I had to learn quickly that I could not be everything to this business if we wanted to fulfill the mission and the vision of what we want this to grow into eventually. And so, in the very beginning, I wore again, a ton of hats, a ton of crowns at this one too. And it was hard for me to relinquish. There were so many things that I loved doing. And yes, I can be good at something, but it doesn't mean I need to be the one doing it.


Suneera Madhani:

Welcome to CEO School. I'm your host, Suneera Madhani. And I believe that you deserve to have it all. Less than 2% of female founders ever break 1 million in revenue and less than 25% of women are breaking the C-suite glass ceiling.


Suneera Madhani:

And our team at CEO School is on a mission to change that. Each week you'll learn from incredible mentors who are breaking the statistics as well as women well on their way, sharing how they defied the odds so that you can do it too. If you are an ambitious woman who wants to create a life of hack through financial freedom, self-growth, and find confidence in your voice, grab a seat because class is officially in session.


Suneera Madhani:

Hey, everyone. It's Suneera here. And I am so excited to announce a new giveaway and contest for all of our incredible listeners. All you have to do is leave us a review you on why you love this show, and you will randomly be selected to participate in a one-on-one coaching session with yours truly. One-on-one, just me and you. And we're going to deep dive into whatever topic you want to deep dive into. We're going to catapult your business to the next level. We're going to start that next idea of yours. We're going to break everything down into a private one-on-one session, me and you.


Suneera Madhani:

And all you have to do is leave a review down below. That's it. Leave us a review. Tell us why you love the show. And every four weeks we are selecting a brand new participant for this giveaway. And so do not miss your chance. It's literally the odds are 100% and your favor. Leave a review down below. I cannot wait to select you for a private one-on-one coaching session. Let's do this.


Suneera Madhani:

Hello, everyone. Welcome to CEO School. I'm your host, Suneera Madhani. And today's guest is a two-time CEO with over 15 years of organizational leadership, mentorship and coaching experience. Allison Walsh has an unshakable passion for helping people, and mostly women, achieve their dreams and she uses her experience to help women, the go-getters and movers and shakers of tomorrow is what she likes to call it.


Suneera Madhani:

Allison is a host of two podcasts and has been named Orlando Business Journal's 40 under 40. And she's also former Miss Florida. We are so thrilled to have you on the show today. And I was so thrilled to actually be on Allison's podcast, that's how we met. Although she isn't local Orlando native.


Suneera Madhani:

And once we connected on the podcast, I knew I had to have her on the show so that you guys can just experience this woman's power, her energy. You're going to leave this Monday morning feeling so energized and ready for your week and confident in anything that you want to do. I'm so excited to welcome Allison to the show. Welcome, Allison.


Allison Walsh:

Thank you so much for having me. I'm thrilled to be here.


Suneera Madhani:

Oh, I'm so, so excited to have you. I would love for the audience to just hear your story firsthand a little bit about how you got started, your business background, what's led you to what you are doing


Allison Walsh:

Today. I've got quite the interesting story. And I think as I was going through it over the last 18 years, I didn't really see how it was all going to come together, but I'm really grateful that it's led me down the path that it has.


Allison Walsh:

Really, my entry into leadership was when I was 18 years old. I started a nonprofit after I went through a pretty significant struggle with an eating disorder in high school, and I wanted to do something about it. And that really led me into behavioral health care and really, the mental health industry. And then, throughout the course of that experience, doors opened for me to step into other leadership positions.


Allison Walsh:

And I was tasked with the opportunity and privilege of being a part of a healthcare startup. And so, I came in with virtually no experience at that point. And was given just the most incredible opportunity to learn and grow and develop. And I think what I realized is that your education doesn't really stop when you finish college or a master's program. Or in my case, I went to law school too.


Allison Walsh:

I needed to keep learning and I needed to keep growing. And I just became fascinated and almost obsessed with personal and professional development. And so, I kept stretching and thankfully, I kept having more opportunities in that industry to continue to grow. Eight years later, we are 1,000 team members strong in six states with nine locations.


Allison Walsh:

We just got another round of funding to continue to grow, which is just incredible. We got into the tech space during COVID and launched a mental wellness app. And so, it opened up so many interesting opportunities for me that just, I am so grateful for. And it allowed me to use my passion and my story to help others. Simultaneously, since I was in my early 20s.


Suneera Madhani:

And really quick, what is the name of the app?


Allison Walsh:

It is called Nobu. It's a mental wellness app and it's for mental health. It has yoga, meditation, mindfulness exercises, breathing, teletherapy, everything involved in this application. And so, it's been a true joy to be able to really venture into that space and to take all of the experiences over the last eight years of building incredible behavioral healthcare organizations and companies and facilities. And translating all of that knowledge in to a tech platform.


Allison Walsh:

Because there's so many tech companies that get into behavioral health, but there weren't a lot in our space that had the track record and the wonderful outcomes from being able to treat patients, like we do at advanced recovery systems and go into the tech space. That's been such a cool experience. Nobu launched in July and we already have 10,000 people on the application and we're just going strong.


Suneera Madhani:

Amazing.


Allison Walsh:

It has been so much fun to learn that.


Suneera Madhani:

So many questions. I cannot wait to come back to this because I know so many women have incredible ideas of launching their apps and startups. And so we're going to come back to this, but congratulations.


Allison Walsh:

Thank you.


Suneera Madhani:

I mean nine locations, 1,000 person practice.


Allison Walsh:

Yeah.


Suneera Madhani:

Oh my God. How do you look the way that you look? I wish you guys could see Allison and her beauty radiating from. You do not look stressed whatsoever. I have 240 people out here and I feel like I cannot even function anymore. It is so stressful. Oh my God.


Allison Walsh:

Yeah. It's been incredible. And I think throughout the course of this journey, it's been constant pulse checks. What else do we need to do? How else can we take care of ourselves? Especially going through COVID. Here we are in the behavioral health space trying to take care of everybody else and also having to take care of ourselves. And realizing that life looks different, it feels different. And how we take care of ourselves has to look different now too.


Allison Walsh:

But it's been incredible. And I am so grateful because so many of the lessons that I learned on that side of the business and in healthcare and startups and all of that, has been such a beautiful compliment to everything I've done in the consulting and coaching side, which I've been doing since I was in my mid-20s. Helping women really elevate in so many different ways, whether it's business, their brand going after new opportunities that they never saw possible.


Allison Walsh:

And so, I've been able to scale businesses in that area as well. And everything from a solo practice that I had in my mid-20s, I then had a partnership for five years with one of my dearest friends, which was just insane. It blew up. It was great, but I learned a lot about having to be prepared to scale. And what do you need to do to be able to take care of your business too, as you experience success? And what do you need to put in place to be able to handle and navigate all of those challenges?


Allison Walsh:

And then, the last, well, since 2015, I back on my own coaching and love it. And I just am so grateful to be able to oftentimes bring together so many of the lessons that I've learned on either side to be able to help and support one another, each company.


Suneera Madhani:

I mean the definition of serial entrepreneur is Alison Walsh. Truly, serial entrepreneur. Since you're 20s, building just incredible companies. I mean, I guess first I want to go back. There's so many different things that you said.


Suneera Madhani:

I'm like, I want to deep dive into all these different areas because there is women here listening that are on probably every journey from starting. Maybe they're just in idea stage. They could be a working professional. When you talk about all the leadership things that you have learned. They could be starting a company. That you're right, like you said, like it blew up and you couldn't figure out how to scale all those learnings there.


Suneera Madhani:

Let's maybe start with that. I want to maybe dive into the failures first because I'm sure there's a lot of learnings there. You said you were in business with your best friend. How was that? Because partnership is so difficult, especially working with your best friend, that doesn't usually work out so well. How did it work out for you?


Allison Walsh:

I mean, thank God. It all went well. She's actually, we're both godmothers of each other's children too, so we had to make it work. So those ties run deep. But I think for us, we were so just in love with the clients that we were serving and we just went for it. And literally, I can date us, but we would go back and we'd have Tijuana Flats on Sunday night, enjoy each other's company and brainstorm about what else we could do together.


Allison Walsh:

And at one point she was coaching out of her home. I'm coaching out my home, which was nuts. We both have kids, small kids at this point. And we're like, "We should just do this together." And I mean, we didn't have a solid business plan when this happened. It was like, "Let's just do this." And we found the facility that we wanted to be. I mean, we had a 2,000 square foot studio in Winter Park.


Allison Walsh:

I mean, we went all in. And within a couple of months of opening, we had ridiculous success. We were fully booked. We paid back the loan that we took out. I mean, it was busy and beautiful and crazy, but at the same time, because we didn't have some of that infrastructure in place, it made it very difficult for us to stay a couple steps ahead.


Allison Walsh:

And I think when you are leading a company, you need to, even if you don't have it all figured out yet, because honestly, spoiler alert, nobody has it all figured out yet, ever. But you do need to have certain things in place and you do need to know your ability to outsource faster than what you probably do. I think that's a big thing that I learned early on was that we didn't outsource enough. We took on everything. We were all the grounds, literally. Took on all the responsibilities.


Allison Walsh:

And I think by the time we got to a certain point, we were so exhausted. We were burnt out. We were fully booked, which was great. The company was incredibly profitable, but we didn't do a good job early on at bringing other people up underneath us that could really take some core aspects of the business off of our plates.


Allison Walsh:

And we were very dependent on us being the ones that were delivering all of the services all of the time, instead of bringing a tribe along with us and really being able to pass on some of that responsibility. And so, 150 clients later, and these were all one on one clients scenario. These were not group, this was one on one. You can imagine just, we were cranking. And it was like, "Oh my gosh. What are we going to do?" At the end of two years, we were, this is like, "Woohoo. We need a break."


Suneera Madhani:

Oh my goodness. 150 one on one clients.


Allison Walsh:

Yeah.


Suneera Madhani:

Last year I took on probably 20 at various capacities. They were even in a group format for our 2.0. And I swore myself that I was not going to do this next year coming. I was maybe I would have a spot for six women from a one-on-one coaching perspective. Because you take it on. That client becomes you.


Suneera Madhani:

And especially, I know you personally, off of here now, I know the kind of woman you are. You will take on that person's business, their life, their problems. You can separate that out, if it's transactional, then it's actually not great coaching either. But 150 clients. Wow. That sounds exhaustive. But I love the lesson that you said that you were everything. And I think that that is something that I noticed very often in terms of women owned businesses, we take on everything. And we're so afraid to let it go sometimes, or we don't know how to delegate, or we don't know what to delegate.


Suneera Madhani:

And because you are the one that does it and you do it so well, that it's tough to train and hire and trust somebody else to take it on, but then that is the barrier to scaling. If it is you and it's just you and your partner, you're never going to be able to scale. And as CEO, there are so many other aspects. You can't be the one to do everything and outsourcing.


Suneera Madhani:

And you said that that was one of your challenges that didn't end up. I love that you shared that because, doesn't matter how big or small your business is or whatever stage in business you're at, I think that should be one of the first steps that you do. Is once you have a process going, whatever your process looks like, is doing that.


Suneera Madhani:

And we've talked about this on your podcast, the do, delegate, delete. What actually needs to get done that you need to do? What actually you can delegate out? And what doesn't need to get done? And that delegation, that outsourcing, is what actually defines scale for you, your time, your energy and for the business.


Allison Walsh:

Absolutely. And even, that was a really important lesson that I carried with me as we continued to grow Advanced Recovery Systems. Because I mean, here I am literally the OG, the first person brought in on this company. And I had to learn quickly that I could not be everything to this business if we wanted to fulfill the mission and the vision of what we want this to grow into eventually.


Allison Walsh:

And so, in the very beginning, I wore again, a ton of hats, a ton of crowns at this one too. And it was hard for me to relinquish. There were so many things that I loved doing. And yes, I can be good at something, but it doesn't mean I need to be the one doing it.


Suneera Madhani:

Ooh, I love it.


Allison Walsh:

[crosstalk 00:13:55] passing it on right. Saying, "You know what? I'm going to find really good people. I'm going to train them really, really, really well. And I'm going to trust them. And I'm going to coach them and I'm going to give them grace and I'm going to make it a safe space for them to learn and grow. And if they fail, we're going to learn from it and we're going to keep moving forward."


Allison Walsh:

And so, that to me was really important. Just, my immediate team underneath me, we pour so much into our people because I want them to be the best that they can possibly be. And I don't want this thing to stop if, God forbid, something happens to me. I want this train to keep on moving.


Allison Walsh:

And I think when you have that perspective as a leader, it helps you step far enough away where you can look at the business and say, "Okay, where else do I need support? If I need to step away at whatever point, or something happens to me, or whatever it may be, this thing needs to keep going." And if there's any area of the business that can't keep moving, you might need to figure out what else needs to be done to come in to support you. Or at least have a Bible of what's going to happen. Something like a playbook.


Suneera Madhani:

The manual. Here is the whole business manual.


Allison Walsh:

Yes, yeah.


Suneera Madhani:

And SOPs. I couldn't agree with that more. And I applaud you for learning that lesson and then applying it to scale for your other businesses. And so, let's dive into that. I'm really curious about, so you have all the success with Advanced Recovery Systems. It's growing, it's scaling.


Suneera Madhani:

What was the spark to create the application, the app for Nobu? And how did you even begin that? I think one of the biggest... We have all these great ideas, but taking an idea into execution that is probably the hardest part of business. I would love for you to share that journey and how we can learn from that to start an app.


Allison Walsh:

Yeah, absolutely. With this whole project, it initially had started as we wanted to have this piece in our continuum of care. Because primarily at Advanced Recovery Systems, we're inpatient treatment. Detox, inpatient, residential, outpatient levels of care, but we didn't have an extension to really take care of our clients afterwards.


Allison Walsh:

Once they left our facilities, what happens next? And we wanted to stay in touch with them because when you're in recovery from a health issue, or an addiction, or whatever, it may be, it takes a long time to really acclimate back to your new world once you've left an inpatient setting. And so, we wanted to have those touch points. And so we had been talking about how do we build out this patient portal? How do we stay connected? How do we equip them with everything that they need?


Allison Walsh:

And so, we started really coming up with, okay, this is what it needs to look like. And this will be really for our past patients. Well, COVID hits. And the whole world shuts down. And we have a behavioral health company and the world is hurting. We needed to get access to people quickly to be able to get help. And so we said, "Okay, well."


Allison Walsh:

And I will tell you, the first iteration of this thing looked awful. And everybody on the team will admit to it. It was clunky. It did not work right. It was just, concept was there. But again, the execution of it, we needed to bring in some really good dev people to make the user experience exceptional. And so, we hired a clinical content manager, Dr. Phillips. She's out in California. She is a boss. She's my co-host on the Dear Mind, You Matter podcast. I call her my co-podcast queen. She's just amazing.


Allison Walsh:

But she's so smart. And she was designing all of the clinical content. We wanted this to be homegrown. And so, as we started to really look at what else was out there, we didn't just want to be another application. We wanted to really go out into the market, look at what was out there. We did our research. We know that there is a lot of competition in this space, but we wanted a singular platform that brought in all of the most desired functions and features of what's on the market right now.


Allison Walsh:

And so, really doing our homework. And then we got to work. And it was design and it was development. Every single piece of content that's in there is ours. Dr. Phillips owns that piece of it and 200 pieces of content in there. They're all customized journeys. But again, it's like being okay with putting your first iteration out to market is really important because I think one of the biggest lessons that I have also learned over the course of my career is that we can get in this state of analysis paralysis, where perfectionism can get in our way. And it can deter us from getting all of these amazing projects off of the shelf and into the world.


Allison Walsh:

And that was what we didn't want to happen. We knew that we had to move quickly. We needed to get at least a first version out so people could use it, so we could test it, so we could see what was going on. We could see where people were leaning, what was working. We could track our outcomes and our data, so those could drive our decisions because numbers don't lie. And we wanted to see really, where we were headed with this.