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Episode cover_Paola Telfer_Rewire Your Mind, Revamp Your Business

Rewire Your Mind, Revamp Your Business With Paola Telfer of Sens.ai

March 13, 2024

There’s one crucial ingredient that sets successful business owners apart from the rest: their unstoppable entrepreneurial mindset. And our today’s guest is the perfect example of that. Join Paola Telfer of Sens.ai and A.J. as they discuss tips for maintaining focus and mental acuity even in the face of challenges. Drawing from personal experience and her work building a cutting-edge business focused on brain health, Paola talks about the importance of aligning values, embracing continuous learning, and fostering genuine connections with business partners.

About Paola Telfer

Paola Telfer is the CEO and Founder of Sens.ai, a company at the forefront of optimizing brain health and wellness. As an avid explorer of neuroscience, consciousness development, and peak states, Paola is passionate about creating tech-forward and accessible solutions for busy professionals. She aims to bring a holistic approach to wellness by combining technological innovation and meditative principles.

Paola’s life took a pivotal turn during recovery from an accident, igniting her passion for neurotechnology. Today, she balances her leadership role at Sens.ai with her love for outdoor activities and family life. She epitomizes success through her dedication to enriching lives and embracing life’s joys.

Tips for nurturing your entrepreneurial mindset

Running a business isn’t just about having a great idea; it’s about maintaining the mental sharpness to navigate the unpredictability of entrepreneurship. This is where a deliberate, consistent approach can help. When you focus on intentionally cultivating your entrepreneurial mindset, you empower yourself to tackle challenges, make effective decisions, and seize opportunities that come your way.

Here are some tips for nurturing your entrepreneurial mindset.:

  • Embrace the chaos: Accept that life will throw unexpected challenges your way. Adaptability is key.
  • Set the foundation: Clearly define the mission and vision of your business from the outset. Know your tools and how to use them effectively.
  • Deep dives: Regularly engage with in-depth material in your field. Paola suggests looking into blogs (such as Sens.ai’s blog) that merge scientific and holistic perspectives.
  • Community engagement: Surround yourself with experts and a community that supports and challenges your growth.
  • Regular reflection: Continuously reassess your definition of success as your business grows and evolves.

So there you have it: resilience, adaptability, and self-consciousness are the answer to staying sane in the unpredictable business world as they help you navigate challenges, pivot strategies, and reflect on personal strengths and weaknesses for continuous growth and innovation.

Key Insights:

  • Communicate openly with your business partners. Honest and open communication builds trust and improves teamwork. This kind of relationship helps you achieve your shared goals but also solve problems when they arise more efficiently, which is a win-win for partnerships. (06:50)
  • Stay humble. Being humble is important for entrepreneurs. It helps you grow by allowing you to see and seize more opportunities for growing your business. Also, everyone prefers working with people who are transparent, so you’ll always get much more out of being humble than pretending you have all the answers. (09:36)
  • Keep your brand messaging authentic. Stay true to your values if you want your customers to trust you. People can tell when a brand is authentic and not just after money or trends. So, this authenticity in your messaging will attract and retain customers who share similar values, ultimately building a loyal community around your brand. (11:22)
  • Recognize the transformative power of mindset. Paola found that by clearing her mind, she could think better at work and be more peaceful at home. This is something you can achieve as well. Start with a regular self-care routine and try simple activities like meditation and deep breathing. They can help you be more present, reduce stress, and sharpen your focus. (21:22)
  • Align your business with your core values. This alignment creates a business culture and brand identity based on what you truly believe in. It helps you connect with customers and employees, build a good brand reputation, and make your company stand out from competitors. (38:38)

Paola’s best advice for entrepreneurs:

“Life just throws things at you. And the best you can hope is that you’ve built some resilience, you have some wisdom, and you have a support structure around you.” (15:06)

Connect with Paola:

Resources Mentioned:

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Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links in this episode are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Rest assured, we only promote products/services we believe will benefit your entrepreneurial journey.

Transcript

Paola Telfer, she has this great background in kind of building products and bringing in meditation into helping people, using devices, just be more focused. And once again, I’m kind of wandering and massacring, but Paola, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Paola Telfer:
Thank you for having me on, A.J. That’s so great to see you. And I think it’s perfect timing. We’ve just been chatting and you’re having one of those weeks, and we all do, right? Mental wellness, that sharpness is so critical for entrepreneurs on the daily. We’re reminded of it, right?

A.J. Lawrence:
And there’s so much talk about being in the flow and working on setting up the schedule. There’s entrepreneur schedule, strategic coach, and fellow Canadian of yours. All those talk. But the reality is we’re constantly subjected to a gazillion things happening to us. Life happens, always something. And yet as entrepreneurs, the more we can bring our focus to bear, the more we’re able to impact what we’re trying to do, create in this world. And it’s hard. I know people who really do rely on drugs and other things, and it’s short term. Yes, more sleep, better food, nutrition, physical.

But there’s only so much this can do. I really am excited to talk a little bit about Sens.ai, but could you first tell us a little bit where you are in your own entrepreneurial journey with this company and your own efforts?

Paola Telfer:
Yeah. So the company is Sens.ai and it’s the same URL, and it’s a wearable headset and an app.

And so we’re about five years in from the inception of Sens.ai, and the beginning was a lot of R&D. It was a lot of research and development and exploration, a lot of learning. You can imagine in this space, the brain health space, and even in the technology, the hardware development of the electrodes to read the brainwaves, all of that. There was so much to learn and explore. And so that was the beginning of the journey, which you can imagine is very heads down. Right? It’s an aspect of yourself that is like very insular, very introverted.

Drawing on my electrical engineering years, less so on the business side, and now we’re about a year into the market with live customers on our app platform. And it’s a very different aspect of yourself that you need to bring forward into the business. Now we have customer care team, now we’re thinking about marketing and how do we keep the message authentic. So that’s the transition, and that’s pretty much where we are right now, really, in making that transition, hopefully gracefully.

A.J. Lawrence:
You and I met through Baby Bathwater Business Group, but I have talked with other people who have done it and I am more interested in learning sort of the longer term. So it’s like this company is kind of growing quite nicely from an external, sorry to kind of use that term, but it looks really cool and I’m excited to see what it does. Where did this sort of the focus on building something like Sens.ai come from?

Paola Telfer:
Yeah, it’s my second startup so I’d spent a lot of time in corporate, kind of honed all the various skills that you need. So I had a deep technical skill with electrical engineering, moved more into consulting, and then sales eventually. So imagine the transition from electrical engineer all the way. Like very introverted, very extroverted with sales, which I very much perceived as a dark side. So kind of went towards that, honed those skills, and then created my first company. And this is my second startup. And so where it comes from, it was a personal journey, a personal encounter with the power of neurotechnology that helped me in a life transition. So we can kind of come back to that. But when I decided I wanted to do something in this space, I had a co-founder in mind who was my CTO in my previous company.

And then we sat together and did something that I think might resonate with you. We sat and answered three questions and we did it in separate. Like in the same room, in the same space, about 15 minutes, really just off top of your head, really heartfelt, raw. What is the legacy we want to leave? So from a deathbed perspective, obituary sort of writing hat on. It’s like, what do I want to do with the time in this life that I will actually from my deathbed think, yes, I spent my time well. And then number two was more about, what am I interested in learning?

A lot of our happiness comes from what Maslow would call self actualization, reaching our full potential, finding that purpose. And so in a world where so many things are so fickle, so transitory, can we maintain our interest? Can we have deep passion for something that has enough legs? And we’re both very intellectual, we’re both very technical, but we both have a very strong family focus, separate families. And we thought, what do we really want to learn? What’s interesting to us? And so in this case, it was to do with neurotechnology, it was to do with education. It was to do with some of the bigger problems we see in the world around future of work. So we kind of tied all of that together and made sure that we could sustain interest and also be able to pivot our focus within that company in a way that was interesting to us.

They had enough adjacent interesting areas. And then the third one is really about, what do you want to experience in life? So now this is more another aspect of happiness, which is like, it’s your lifestyle. How are you actually spending your days? Where are you living? What are you doing with your family? What does family time look like? All those things. And so that was a really raw interchange between us. We’ve been working together forever, but it was like, let’s get real about us as humans. What does your family need? What do you need? And can we create something that we could do for decades and not get on each other and like, oh, I want to leave, all of that. Because a lot of issues in companies, startups, is to do with the founder relationship. And so we had to have this really true, honest conversation at the beginning. And so we built around that.

That was really the beginning of Sens.ai.

A.J. Lawrence:
That is really cool. And did you have the concept of a product? Or was it just more like, okay, I kind of want to be here because you alluded to you’ve had this experience, and it was just like, okay, now I want to work with you. Let’s define this and then we’ll find something in this space. How did that?

Paola Telfer:
Yeah, it’s almost like parallel paths. I already had the concept of doing something in neurotechnology. I wasn’t sure what the product would be exactly yet, but I had a concept that he hadn’t got fully bought into yet as well. So we were also vetting. Is it this or is it something else? So I had something that was like a stick figure, right? And then we were vetting, yes, do we keep deep diving into this space and figuring this out? And so that was the process.

A.J. Lawrence:
I really want to geek out about the product but before we get there, let’s kind of talk about the transitions you’re facing. When we talked previously, what I was really impressed is, yes, you created a great product, but your understanding and how you’re building it, the type of structure you’re building for the company, the marketing structure, the way you’re outreaching, very logical and very deliberate, was what I kind of came away from just our early chat. So where are you kind of in this growing the company. Not talking about how big or the money, but just like the type of infrastructure and the type of leadership you’re developing to move this forward.

Paola Telfer:
First of all, it’s very kind of you to say that because I feel like we’re just feeling our way through and we’re doing the best we can. I think the key ingredient for our team and our leadership team is myself, my co-founder CTO Corey, that I mentioned did that three question exercise with me, and it’s my husband is the other player there and he’s my COO. And so I think our secret ingredient there is we are very humble. We’ve come at this with a lot of humility and gathered best in class people. And I think part of attracting those people has been a very clear mission and vision, but also the humility. Sometimes we really don’t know. And marketing is one of those areas where we really don’t know. I think that’s what we talk about last time.

A.J. Lawrence:
Finding partners to do that, yeah. It wasn’t that you said, oh, my marketing is X. It was the way you went about and the way you went evaluating your partners.

Paola Telfer:
Yes, that’s right. Yeah. I mean, we have looked for marketing agencies and worked with them at different stages of the company. So we’ve worked with one during our Indiegogo, like a crowdfunding platform, that was a different sort of marketing partner we needed at that time, right? And then we’ve been sort of in a preorder phase, I would say, since the crowdfunding until we finally delivered. And then that was very investigational, right? That was like, oh, this color or this sort of image, all that sort of stuff that I’m not good at. There’s experts in things like that and can test it and figure it out. And then now I would say we’re a little bit more knowledgeable about who the people are, who are avid users. Like, we have about 3000 people on the platform now and we have some people who are really avid users that are just, I’m just delighted quite often with their testimonials and they’re just unsolicited, reach out to us, telling us about the impact to their lives.

And we learn a lot from that. And then we’re like, okay, we need more people like that, and here’s what we’re learning about the commonality. But in that process of finding the right marketing partner, one of the struggles for me personally has been how do we keep the message authentic and how do we not get lost in the, there’s such a barrage of short form content online. I mean, it’s just so not natural. It’s not natural to me though. But at the same time, we believe we have something that can be quite transformational for people. So we have to marry those two concepts.

It’s like, oh, we don’t want to be vapid and just get people’s attention, but we do want to reach the right people and with the right message and set the right expectations. So how do we do that? Playing in what’s become this very transactional marketplace on social, that’s been the struggle. And always checking back in on our ethics and keeping a very clear sort of north Star. And that’s been part of the struggle in finding the right partner because we are a little bit more rigorous on that than others have been. So we might be considered high maintenance on that front.

A.J. Lawrence:
Look, there’s not a one to one correlation, but I remember from when I had my agency, my favorite clients were always high maintenance because they cared. There is that fine line between why you’re high maintenance, but your description of it really does get into where I think a lot of entrepreneurs just want things done. They’re like, hey, either they purely want an execution on something or they just don’t want to have to worry about the thought process that goes where you’re going a little further. You’re like, I don’t care how it’s done, but I want this. It has to resonate with what you’re trying. And that’s a hard thing for a lot of entrepreneurs to do. With the right partners, I believe your approach can get a deeper type of result because you are there versus get me something done or let me micromanage you for doing so, fine-tune, having been on the other side.

Paola Telfer:
Yeah, and what’s unique about Sens.ai for me and for my partners, my leadership team, is it’s very true to the way we live our lives. It’s very like life purpose.

And so that’s why I think we’re a bit more demanding on what is the message and how do we grow. It’s not scale at all costs. It is very much how do we grow? What is the right way to do this? And so maybe I can kind of tie into how I came across neurotechnology because that’s the reason why it’s so personal, right? And then that’s why it makes it so important how you choose the right, especially marketing partner. So for me, I’d been in corporate for a long time, like I mentioned. I’d had various careers like electrical engineering oriented and then towards sales at the end. And then I found myself very unfulfilled.

There’s a point in your life, I think everyone can relate to this, somewhere in your 30s, it’s like you come to a point in your life where you think, what is it all about? And am I spending my time right? And so there was a point when I did a few things. I went to Africa by myself. I went to Uganda, had a very transformational trip. I did singularity university, which was very expensive at the time. Yeah, Peter Diamandis was real inspiration for me. I’d read his book Abundance, decided to do singularity university, and it was an investment in myself. But I wanted to understand better, and that really broadened my view. And then I branched out on my own. Now imagine it’s my first startup.

And then I had a motor vehicle accident. And this is the kind of thing that you were saying. Life just throws things at you. And the best you can hope is that you’ve built some resilience, you have some wisdom, and you have a support structure around you, right? And so for me, that was the connection into the beginnings of Sens.ai. So I struggled with PTSD, I got rear-ended. I ended up having like, a neck surgery. I had PTSD and I also had a concussion. And so the ramifications to life as I knew it were quite profound, right? So I was a mother of a six year old boy. My husband and I had a very balanced, like, 50/50 sort of modern relationship. I was no longer able to really contribute, so I was frustrated. I was foggy.

I hated being foggy. It was like my worst fear come to life because everything for me was all about mental sharpness. And so it really threatened my identity. And so I had to come to terms with that fear, that shame, and just the trueness of the reality. I was facing something I couldn’t control and I didn’t need to ignore or think positively about. I needed to face it, accept it, and feel that difficulty. I needed to surrender and feel that, yeah, this is really, really shitty, right? And I wasn’t able to do that on my own.

Despite the fact that I’d been meditating for many years, I was not able to do that until I encountered neurofeedback, which was able to gradually put me into a state that I will describe as alpha theta, which is a hypnagogic state. And then there, I was able to face those fears and go through the psychological elements that allowed me to embrace those things, welcome those dark feelings, and then let them go. And then my system was healthier for it. But the aha of that was that it improved not just how I dealt with the motor vehicle accident, but it cleared my mind. I was carrying a burden from that. And clearing my mind allowed me to have more clarity of thought about my business. It allowed me to be more peaceful and present with my family. That was really when I knew I wanted to gift this to more people, because that was a very expensive week that I spent. And I thought, what can I learn from this and what needs to happen to make this more available on mass?

A.J. Lawrence:
Develop it yourself. First principle.

Paola Telfer:
And then it was this journey of humility. So the first part of that journey was just, where does this knowledge lie? Who knows what of this? Because there was what I experienced at that particular intensive that week, which was a neurofeedback intensive, and then there was what needed to happen to go direct to someone’s home. And that was a world apart. So now we have to think about systematizing and we have to think about, how do we help people enter these deeper states of mind safely? How long does this all take? Where might someone be coming from in their life when they encounter our solution, our device? They might have other issues they’re dealing with that might involve sleep or focus, et cetera. So all of that came into the systemization and the gamification of what became Sens.ai.

A.J. Lawrence:
In looking at trying to find ways to bring and enhance presence here, what are you seeing sort of the approach? Because there’s so many ways of being present. I know there’s some great research, just the impact people have from using different frequency, the ability to sort of feel frequency devices. They’re just feeling more like more present in who they are – just being who they are and being able to get rid of the noise. Where are you seeing your users? As you said, you have all these people giving you great feedback. How are they using it? What are you seeing them do with this?

Paola Telfer:
Maybe it’s worth sharing. I find sometimes in the personal development space or even in the meditation space, things can be quite abstract, right? My tendency as an engineer is just to think of things systematically and how are we building upon things. And so maybe one of the things I’ll share is one of the key learnings early on when I started looking at neurotechnology and the brainwaves and saw how they dovetailed with meditation was that there are many different styles of meditation. And they actually correlate to different brainwave states. So this has been mapped and it’s been researched, like a lot. For example, there’s four different kinds of meditation that are well documented, that are researched.

And I’ll kind of try and tie this into maybe business. So one, for example, is focused attention meditation. That’s very traditional Tibetan Buddhist meditation. And so in that meditation, it’s like you’re holding a spotligh, and you’re saying, this is where I’m going to focus. One spot. And it’s not an analytical state. It’s actually a felt state and you learn to hold it. So for example, an object of meditation when you’re practicing meditation might be compassion.

That is one that we use. Loving kindness would be an object of meditation that you would find in Sens.ai. The other one might be the preciousness of life. We only have 14 meditations. They’re purposely chosen to be transformative meditations that are research-backed.

Another one would be gratitude. So these are all potential objects of focus. And what we’re doing is we’re learning to control our attention. There’s so many things trying to get our attention now all day long with the news cycle and social media. And typically, it’s taking us to negative mental states. So because we have neuroplasticity, we can train positive mental state. We can train our default to be one of generosity, one of looking at things in gratitude. And that’s just one style of meditation.

So we treat that like, I’ll just share, it’s like a gamma alpha actually training in our system. There’s another style of meditation that’s actually just gamma and it’s like heart centered entirely, right? And that’s what you find in compassion-based practices in monks that have been around for decades. When they study their brainwaves, what they find that’s most distinct is that they have very high gamma power that is synchronized in high performers. What that looks like is a lot of epiphanies, a lot of creativity, a lot of connecting the disconnected. And some leaders will have that naturally. But it can also be trained.

It’s magnificent. And you can actually train it to be sharper. You can train it to be called on demand. So this is the power of it is that what we’ve learned is that you can train the brain like you can train your body because of neuroplasticity. And because what neurofeedback is doing is it’s actually using your natural operant conditioning, it’s something that is at your disposal. It’s very much like when you’re training a dog and you’re giving him a treat. You’re training him to shake a paw.

Every time he raises, you give him the treat. So it’s that reinforcement. It’s actually just our nature. And so that is what neurofeedback is, is that you are listening to these brainwaves I just described like gamma. And when your gamma moves up in power, you hear a pleasant sound that you have selected. I love trumpets. I love violins. You’re going to get more violins.

And so that is the experience of the neurofeedback in Sens.ai. I’ll do one more meditation. There’s an open awareness one. And that is what you were describing, like mindfulness sort of style meditation. That’s open awareness. So that’s one where you are observing very neutrally all the thoughts that come through and all the appearances flow in without judgment.

And they’re all sort of equalized. That is an open awareness style feeling. And so that, we treat like a gamma theta, right? So you can see there’s all these nuanced states. And so one of my key learnings early on was that there are these nuanced states and there’s not one style of meditation where I think in early years, maybe in the 60s, when people first started looking at EEG and things like that. It was all alpha, alpha, alpha, alpha. And alpha is beautiful and necessary for relaxation and calming the nervous system, but there is a whole ocean deeper than that of the subconscious that is fascinating and rewarding to explore. And so that’s what we’re offering.

A.J. Lawrence:
I booked off tomorrow morning to basically work on all the jump through hoops, answer inning things. Do KYC, check on the numbers, all things that aren’t deep thinking but require attention to detail. And as my schedule this week has been overflowing, it’s like they’re tasks that could be two minutes, they could be 30 minutes. Just depends on the thing. But then my high value time comes when I’m able to bring ideas to how does this work? How can I make something work? How do I make it live within my team or my clients or whatever? So it’s like, it would be really cool to start aligning based upon the different states. Like, I do better when I’m in alpha gamma space or when I’m trying to think big picture, I should be looking at this state. And then working on the feedback loop of like, okay, can I, before entering, we talk about transitioning between tasks and monofocus, even though I’m horrible at that.

It is like looking at something, like you’re looking at Sens.ai of like, prepping transitions to different focuses. Like, okay, yeah, I’m going to be here. Let me prep. Let me spend my 5, 10, 15, I’m not sure the time frames of the different meditations, but setting that as a transitionary tool sounds like a lot of fun to experiment and use.

Paola Telfer:
What I’m thinking about when you’re sharing that is the way you set up your calendar should have spaciousness for moments when you need to be super expansive, you need to be in creative thinking states, and then kind of bundle together the things that are like, I just got to crank through these 10 things this morning, or hopefully last three things, and just boom, boom, boom, boom. And in that spaciousness, can you bring in, like for me, I try and bring in nature. Can I do that while I’m out on a walk?

And not with earbuds in, just like out in a walk in the awe, immersed in nature. Absolutely. But one of the key learnings for me in that exploration of neurotech and the brain was that all those states are important. They’re not lesser than another. And so the mental flexibility, understand that is the core of Sens.ai. So we’re not saying, oh, you should be training and ultimately you should be getting up to this tippy top of the pyramid and gamma theta is the bomb.

It’s not that different. Each one is different. And our wish is to help people train on how to shift between them and then being able to call them into their day as they need it. So when you’re with your children, it’s different than when you’re brainstorming with your team at work.

A.J. Lawrence:
A long time ago, I was a competitor hurdler. And one of my best coaches, besides having me run a gazillion things, would have us not just started from just visualizing the race, but then kind of having it and basically work on repeatedly visualizing. Do the drills, do the drills, do the warm ups, get into the state, visualize. Instead of running, visualize, and then pick some song. And he had us listening to songs of our own choice to then be able to drop into race state faster. It sounds very much, and I would like and I will go experiment and try this out soon, is just this idea that like, okay, I know I can do things that help me get into the state I need to or I would like to be in for being present with my family or being there for the work I want to do or working with my team, depending on the different states and et cetera. The sounds stuff, it is that like just okay, I am now going to be using. This is my Sens.ai moment. So I’m putting myself into that transitionary thing. Plus then the actual benefit of having something that actually helps instead of just palovian training yourself that this will help.

Paola Telfer:
It’s purposely designed to be just 15 minutes a day. Try and reduce that barrier because habit changes are difficult. That’s another reason why it’s gamified is trying to help people have a good time with it, like be enjoyable. But the other thing I’ll share is the other learning through the investigation in the R&D period was that we needed to stabilize the mind before we could deep dive if we want to go back to the ocean analogy of the mind. So if you were going scuba diving, you would do training, you would stabilize, you would practice in a pool, you would have a guide. Right? So all the same is true for diving into the subconscious. And so if I can just share at the surface level we have beta.

And then a little bit below that, we talked a little bit about alpha. And Alpha is that relaxation state, where beta is this where we are now. We’re externally focused. We’re very connected to our senses. We’re perceiving new information through our audio and being able to control that focus is where we’re training Beta. Alpha is being able to sink in a little deeper and get embodied and feel relaxed and calm. So we spend a fair bit of time there in that beta and alpha area before we go any deeper into theta stuff or we go higher into gamma. And so everybody wants to go deeper into theta and everybody wants to go higher into gamma, but that stabilization is really critical.

And I would say the same for if you’re going to go do any sort of psychedelic journeys, that stabilization in the beta and alpha would create much more likelihood of success into those deep dives. And so what that looks like in Sens.ai, because it’s gamified, is we start with an assessment where there’s some questions we ask, but there’s like a 10 minute, 15 minutes sort of test that looks like this. You’re pushing left and right buttons. Oh, sorry, I’ll show. So a little bit left and right buttons. And it’s a speed test. It’s a visual speed test where at the end of it, you understand your error rate, your speed of thinking, your reaction time, some very tangible benefits, and then we track that over time. But the important thing is that we will recommend a mission.

And a mission is about a two month course. It’s a two month course that could be for sleep, it could be for sharpness in the brain, like from aging. It could be just brain fog, it could be distractibility, or it could be plain old stress. And so we make sure that people, and again, a lot of this is in beta and alpha, make sure that they overcome those initial obstacles, right? So we’re setting people up for success in the other ones. So before it’s like a lot of self care has to happen and stabilization, building resilience, before we can go into the next level of, okay, let’s get really creative. Let’s go create some beautiful things. Let’s get into mindfulness practice.

People will be frustrated and they will partly not reach their full potential if they don’t do that stabilization piece. That was another finding we had.

A.J. Lawrence:
Looking at my own business and trying to be setting that intentional, I always call it from a marketing point of setting, the right analytical framework, your foundation, that before you can do anything, if you don’t know what you’re trying to do, if you don’t know how your tools are going to help you, if you don’t even know how you’re going to use your tools and be there, it doesn’t matter what you do. You’re just going to be hit or miss. But I like that you set the foundation. You get to that point where you can then grow from. Earlier, you talked about before you even started the business, you set the type of business you wanted to build. You answered the three questions. You defined what success was going to be around this.

Now that you’re on your journey, now that you are expanding out and you’re seeing what is out there and where you can go, how is your perception of your success as an entrepreneur changing, or what does it look like for you now?

Paola Telfer:
I think we defined it fairly well and I think it is coming to life. That’s a really good thing. I would say success for us, and we knew this already because we’re mature entrepreneurs. I would say we knew it wasn’t going to be based on dollars and we knew it was going to be based on impact. And so one of the milestones for me was getting the initial testimonials from people that I didn’t know. So not our beta community, not the people that were already really close to Sens.ai and were cheering us on the whole way, but just complete strangers. When we first started shipping and then people started being able to give us their feedback after like a month of use, that for me, is one of the measures of success, is can we help people transform their lives. People who are committed to doing so will put in the time.

Can we do that? So that’s already kind of come to fruition. So I think that’s really important. What’s become more important to me now is about who I work with. I want to be with people that I admire and that make me want to do more, be more. I mean, that’s one of the reasons I joined Baby Bathwater, and my husband Jeff and myself both joined. It’s such a great group of inspirational people just doing great. So I think that’s more important. So I’m very choosy about what conferences we go to, who we hang out with because mindset is a big part of it.

You have to believe it, you have to know it’s possible or else you’re not going to go in that direction. The human aspect is that much more important. I think I also see as we’re growing the team because we’re hiring, we’ve made mistakes hiring, and we’re learning. But right now I feel really great about our team and our hiring process, which we’ve refined. Maybe it’s a little onerous right now, it’s an intensive hiring process especially for our size company, but there’s good reason for it.

We had our first in-person retreat. Now imagine we have a very distributed team like London, England, New York, San Diego, Vancouver, like all over the place. And so we don’t see each other very often. And so when we got together in the summer, it was amazing. No PowerPoints, right, we meditated, we did neurotech sessions, we went to outdoor concerts, and we did paddleboarding and that sort of more human stuff. And it was at that time that they gave me the feedback. They said we need to be more onerous in our hiring process because everybody here is great.

And I think we have ways to contribute to defining the hiring process. And then they did. And that was a big win for me. Now it’s not just me and Jeff and Corey anymore, right? It’s everybody around us is actually really living the mission and helping us lead. We have more leaders around us.

A.J. Lawrence:
I think it’s funny you say that because I was just talking to a friend of mine who has a mid-seven figure SaaS, and he’s gotten to the point where to him the big side is the team is now hiring the team. And it sounds so simple, but when that happens, it’s less like, great. Because it’s more organic to your organization. You’ve picked the first couple, but then they start growing and start adding. And as long as it keeps flowing into your direction, it’s like wow, that’s a huge step.

Paola Telfer:
I wonder how big. For us, I don’t know what number of people because there’s a letting go and there’s a trust.

A.J. Lawrence:
The podcast is called Beyond 8 figures even though to me that’s an aspirational model, it’s not the actual goal. But I think with business models, it depends a lot on the business model. Depends a lot because one type of business is margin, just from a financial point of view. The type of margin you have with a home services companies can be much different than a product and service and subscription service like yours. So like the margin subscription compared to the product and where it is, that changes. It was great when we were 15 to 20 people in the company.

And this was my last company so way, way back early 2010ish, where it was like I could walk around, talk to everyone personally, engage on a regular basis with everyone. We doubled so we got up to 50ish, and I kept still trying to do that and then wondering where I am and other things and there was more people. So not even talking about the hiring part, but just how the amount of people requires you to transition anyway as a leader.

Paola Telfer:
Yeah, it’s just necessary. It just has to happen. But I think the question is, did we infuse enough of the core values that it actually expands in a way that you’re happy with? You’re like, yeah, that’s great. One of the things I’ll share that I’ve done culturally is I’ve hired a doctor, Dr. Mark Atkinson, who’s amazing. He’s a medical doctor but he’s also a coach. And he coaches on consciousness development and human peak potential. And so he coaches every single person on our team that’s available to us. And that’s actually a nice way to expand the values. Right?

So Mark lives the values. Mark and I have spent a lot of time together. He’s very purposefully in his role. And you’re right, I try and spend as much time as I can with the individuals. We’re about 20 people now. We’ll probably be 30 by the end of the year. I don’t know how much I can sustain that, especially because we’re international, but Mark makes time for that because that’s his role.

And so that makes sure that, for example, when people are facing customers, so we have customer care team, that they are feeling resilient. That they’re able to ground themselves into what we all believe and aspire to be, and that they’re able to represent that and hold that space for the customer in that way. So that’s one method that we’re using.

A.J. Lawrence:
I had a great business coach, Jerry Colonna, I was introduced to him right when he started his practice. I got in right at the very beginning, and I sadly joke I wasn’t in a position to really use a lot of his coaching. But he would come in sometimes and do these sessions for the whole company. But I like the idea of bringing it even further because a lot of research is showing that traditional leadership really doesn’t grow as much, especially when changing environments. Hey, we’re dealing with technology changes on a rapid pace, societal changes, cultural, et cetera. But that coaching, a coaching approach, adapts and grows and sort of aligns mission at a faster pace than traditional top down management. I don’t think that surprised anyone with that research, but typical Harvard business review type stuff of like, well, talking to people and actually working out what’s important to them helps.

Paola Telfer:
That’s right. And looking at them as a human like how is your life going?

So it could have nothing to do with work. And it’s like, I’m not getting exercise these days and I’m feeling a little foggy or I’m not eating well because I’m always rushing around. That’s the kind of stuff that Mark can do. I can’t come in and do that. I’m being intrusive if I do that, right? Talk to employees about that. But Mark can do that and it’s a safe space. And we all want everyone on the team to be happy because then we’re all coming together at our best.

A.J. Lawrence:
They’re bringing their full selves to the company, to that environment for what they give you to be able to continue on the mission. They have their own lives but they bring what they bring and you want them to bring everything, as much as they feel good about. I think I’m going to probably explore that a bit more. Well, what’s the best way people can learn about Sens.ai and learn about what you’re doing as an entrepreneur?

Paola Telfer:
Yeah, our website is the same as our name. It’s Sens.ai. And our Instagram, I guess you could look there is sens.ai.inc. So if you want to check us out, I would really encourage people to look at the blogs. They go quite in depth and I think we really try and share on bigger topics like “What is happiness?” and deep dive from a scientific, medical perspective as well as the consciousness angles. So if you’re interested in the marriage of those things, we spend a lot of time with our great experts in our team, really deep diving on those for our community.

A.J. Lawrence:
We’ll make sure we have that in the show notes, that will be in the newsletter when we announce this episode. Paola, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it. This is a lot of fun. You’re definitely creating something that is that whole thing of the future is already here. It’s just unevenly distributed.

Paola Telfer:
Very true.

A.J. Lawrence:
It’s like, oh, this is fun. It’s right over the horizon. But you have it already, so it’s a lot of fun getting to talk to you about this. So thank you so much.

Paola Telfer:
Great. Yeah. And I wish that I want to empower more entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are creating the future, and if we can help them to optimize their brain health and their wellness, then that feels good. It feels like we’re having a big impact.

A.J. Lawrence:
Hey everyone. Thank you so much for listening today. I’m really excited to try out Sens.ai, but before even looking at that and some of the things Paula shared with us today, I love the idea of calling your shop before or even as you’re building your company and even as you’re already in it, but just pointing out and working on what it’s going to mean to be successful down the road. I think that is a cool thing to do because often we set our goals, we set our mission, but really defining personal success and then working towards it is a little hard. I know for my own efforts, that’s something that I haven’t quite put enough into. So it’s a cool way of looking at it and using it just as a little way of different thinking towards it. Also looking at that transition around building your company to the point where your team can hire themselves and coach that direction from them, coaching with them instead of just sort of managing towards your goals. It’s interesting. A lot to kind of think about. And of course, I’m going to be experimenting with Sens.ai pretty soon.

All right, everyone. Thank you again for listening and I can’t wait to talk to you soon. Bye.

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