Entrepreneur Edition with Patty Vogan
October 08, 2019
Author, speaker and business coach Patty Vogan dove into her dreams, quite literally, when she moved to the Kingdom of Tonga to open her own scuba diving business. An experience she wouldn’t trade for the world, Patty returned to the United States after seven successful years with lessons on business, culture and personal resilience that she shares with us on this episode of The 19: Entrepreneur Edition.
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Hi, I’m Rochelle Reiter, president of Orange Label. After three inspirational installments in The 19: Entrepreneur series, we’re excited to discuss expert leadership insights with author, speaker and Victory Coaching International founder Patty Vogan. As chair of Vistage International’s CEO advisory board, Patty specializes in out of the box thinking to help CEOs, executives, and teams accelerate their growth and effectiveness. With strong beliefs in the power of possibility thinking and serving the community, Patty’s desire to help leaders reach their goals started with accomplishing her own childhood dream of opening a scuba diving and whale watching business in Tonga. Here to share her life experiences and leadership knowledge with us today is Patty Vogan.
Rochelle: Patty, welcome to The 19, we’re so happy to have you.
Patty: Thanks, Rochelle. I’m happy to be here.
Rochelle: So Patty, tell us a little bit about your background and please don’t leave out anything about your adventure in Tonga.
Patty: Well, I’ve been a business coach for about 17 years, and a Vistage Chair and speaker for 14. And I’ve actually been speaking since I was 14 years old. It was Mrs. Stathis, it was her fault. She was my speech teacher.
Rochelle: Oh my gosh.
Patty: She made me compete at 14 and I said, “I don’t do that, that’s what the nerdy kids do.” And she said “you’re doing it.” So somehow or another I’ve been speaking, I think, my whole life.
Rochelle: So did you feel like you were a natural when you were little?
Patty: No, I didn’t at all. But she seemed to have seen something in me, and kinda kicked me, and put me out there.
Rochelle: It’s cool to have people see things in you and challenge you.
Patty: Yeah. I think I’ve learned the most, though, from my adventures in Tonga. I didn’t want to be 90 years old and doing the, “I wish I woulda, shoulda, coulda dance.” And it was a dream of mine to have a scuba diving business in the tropics since I was about 14. So I left my fast-paced Orange County life. I put my life in a 20×20 container, and I moved to the South Pacific Islands, the Kingdom of Tonga. I started a business in a third-world country. And, you know, when people who live on Hawaii say that they get island fever, I must tell you I laugh. They don’t know what rock fever is until you go out into the middle of the South Pacific where there are only a few people.
Rochelle: How long were you there?
Patty: I lived there for seven years, and I started the business ground-floor up. I laid the cement slabs myself.
Patty: And I started the scuba diving business, then went to whale watching, and then sport fishing. And it was, I tell you, just so incredible. If you offered me, Rochelle, five million dollars right now and said, “You cannot have that experience, but I’ll give you $5 million,” I wouldn’t take it.
Patty: I wouldn’t take it because the things I learned about culture, you can’t learn anywhere else. The things I learned about business and personal resilience I learned because of the experiences I had there. I’ve been in the water with baby humpback whales, I’ve been the first person to go into some of these underwater caves, I know it, kinda Indiana Jones-ish. Yeah, just all of those experiences. But I have to tell you one on culture. The one thing I learned and I admire so much about the Tongan people is that they look at family and they look at elders, and they revere old people. We don’t do that here. It’s an honor there when your auntie, your uncle, or your grandparents move in with you. They see it as a true honor. They do not have old folks’ homes. They don’t exist in that country, so there is a lot for us to learn.
Rochelle: Of course. So what made you come back?
Patty: Well, I ran the business for 7 years and I ran two boats. I actually built the largest boat ever built in the kingdom in the jungle. Another whole other story, we won’t go down that rabbit hole. But I came back because my mom got sick and it was a time where she had the beginning of Alzheimer’s and I knew that if I didn’t spend some quality time with her, I’d miss it. I knew it would be time to sell the business when it was time, and it was time.
Rochelle: And at that time did you know you were going to become a coach?
Patty: No! (Laughs.)
Rochelle: So, what lead you to become a coach?
Patty: Oh my goodness. We’re really going to go down some sidetracks. I actually hired a coach when I got back to help me write my book. I just couldn’t get my head together to figure out how to take all my crazy life and business stories and put them into a book. So, she’s the one who really coached me and helped me learn. I ended up getting a great coaching experience, and then I kept meeting people who would talk to me about Vistage after I started coaching – and those two, they weren’t but a few years apart.
Rochelle: So, you’ve met a lot of leaders in your coaching experience. What is the biggest obstacle that you see leaders face?
Patty: Well, Rochelle, it’s interesting. I think the biggest obstacle is themselves. What I mean by that is: blind spots and pride. Through my years of coaching CEOs and business owners, what happens so often is, and this includes myself, is we all have blindspots. And you don’t know what a blind spot is until you have trusted people to help you see them. And then, the thing that gets in the way is pride. You have to be willing to look at the blindspots.
Rochelle: So, how have you seen leaders overcome their blind spots?
Patty: Well, I think blind spots will remain in a leader’s life forever if they choose to operate in a vacuum of protection.
Patty: So here’s the deal, if they only ask the people that work for them, and the people that they’re married to, and the people that are closest to them for their advice, that’s operating in a vacuum of protection. Because those people have a vested interest. And I see that a lot with CEOs. They’re like, “Well I have my board of advisors, I have my key executives, they tell me what I need to know.” No. they don’t! They tell you what you want to hear.
Rochelle: Sure, sure.
Patty: So, I think the leaders that are willing to – I call it “walk in a forest of courage” and truly walk all the way through that forest, those are the people that find out who they really are and they discover authenticity. And when you discover authenticity, then you can become an extraordinary leader. Because what happens when you lead from a place of authenticity? You have an eternal peacefulness about you that people can feel. They can see it, they can feel it, and you operate with a confidence. And through that you improve your performance without you even knowing it.
Rochelle: That’s fantastic. That really ties into possibility thinking, and you’ve talked about that to me before. Tell me in your own words what possibility thinking is, and how it’s applied.
Patty: Well, possibility thinking sounds like you’re just looking for the positive side of things, doesn’t it? It’s actually much deeper than that, and I started to learn this in Tonga. I think it had to have been the hottest day of the entire year. The humidity must have been about 200% that day. We had just finished our morning dives and we were coming back in my little 19-foot run-about. The motor was spitting and sputtering, and I’m out in the middle of the ocean, and the next stop is nowhere. So I’m barely getting in, and we finally get in, and the whole engine quits.
Rochelle: Oh my gosh.
Patty: I know. And we limped back to the dock and tied up to the dock. I go and I ask a few people’s advice and I get a few of them to come over and take a look at the engine. And they all say the same thing. “Oh! It’s broken. Yeah, your diaphragm’s got holes in it and therefore the petrol is going here instead of there.” And it’s going to take three months to get this new diaphragm thingy, this new part.
Rochelle: Because you have to order it from somewhere.
Patty: Because you have to order it. There’s only one store in Tonga. One. That’s where you get your motor that you mix with your petrol and your bread and your kinda frozen/half frozen chicken. You get it all at this store. So, they have to order it and it’s going to take three months to get it. So, three months, no work, I see failure. And I was running on such a tight shoestring. That, at that moment in life, it became failure, lose your business, or you become a possibility thinker. And no offense to the ex-pats, but it was the ex-pats, three of them, that looked at my motor and then they looked at me and said “ah yeah mate, she’s buggered, you might as well sit under a coconut tree and have a beer.” A bad Australian accent, right, but that was the advice that I got. So I went and found an old Tongan man and asked him to please come down and look at my engine. He did. He sat there and he stared at it. It felt like an eternity. I lost my patience, of course, and I screamed at him, “Can you fix it?” He walked away. He was my only hope. He came back with a raincoat and scissors. I was like, “Seriously, there’s no rain.” I’m about to lose my mind at this point. He starts cutting, he makes a new part, he puts it on my engine, and he says, “Start it.” So I started my engine, and it ran.
Rochelle: Oh my gosh. Wow.
Patty: Guess how long it lasted?
Rochelle: How long?
Patty: The entire three months until the new part came. So, what I learned is there is always, always another way to do something. And that was the beginning of becoming a possibility thinker. I blew up my compressor, I almost sunk my boat, there’s many stories that created possibility thinking. And I’ve taken it throughout many industries today, and helped these CEOs and key executives. When they are on a team, here’s what happens. They get stuck in the “I can’t camp.” When I see people saying, “Well, we can’t do that, that’s not the way we do it here.” That’s the “I can’t camp.” And we turn them around and we get them to be a possibility thinker.
Rochelle: So I’m sure that really leads to innovation and creating new products.
Patty: It does. It does.
Rochelle: It also ties in with the wire purpose of an organization. Many times we’ve talked about different businesses and what they say they do. Somebody can say to you, “I build buildings.” But it’s different when they speak from the wire their purpose. Do you have any examples of that?
Patty: I do, there’s a company that I’ve been working with actually for quite a few years. When we first started, I would ask around what they did. It’s an electrical contracting company. And they would look at me and say, “Well we dig ditches, we lay lines for electricity and cover them up.” And after working with them, they all started to see what the purpose is. Why they do what they do. Now if you go into that company and you ask anybody, they will look at you and they will say, “we create light for friends and families to read, love and laugh by.”
Rochelle: Wow, such a difference, right?
Patty: Such a difference. Here’s what happened to that company. It united everybody. Because people want to be on a team that makes a difference in the world. And when they understood that they created light for people to read, for families to love and laugh by, makes a huge difference.
Rochelle: Yeah, it really taps into the emotion. Have you seen any other leaders tap into their “why,” and really crystalize their vision? How has that helped them?
Patty: Yes, I have and I’ll tell you part of what they do, is I encourage all leaders to discover their life purpose. And it starts with the individual leader. It starts with the business owner. And once they understand their life purpose and why they’re on the planet, and they lead from that. First they start with themselves, they get a hold of what their life purpose is, they lead from that, and then they guide and lead their team in creating the purpose of the business.
Rochelle: Right. And then it also probably ties back into their authenticity as a person.
Patty: Yes, it does.
Rochelle: When a brand’s why is embraced, how have you seen marketing play a role?
Patty: I’ve seen marketing play a really big role in that. Because what happens is they end up using the marketing to build a solid culture to attract top employees.
Rochelle: So it’s driven from the talent side and who you become as an organization.
Patty: It is, because once people understand why they’re on the planet, they understand what their life purpose is, and then they create the purpose of the business, all employees can get united around that. But you have to have the marketing to get that out. People have to understand what that is and then they can attract top employees. And then the other thing is, it touches the heartstrings of customers. Because when customers can understand the purpose of that business, then it plucks their heartstrings. People aren’t going to get involved until their heartstrings are plucked.
Rochelle: Yeah. They feel the emotion and it draws them in.
Patty: Yes, yes.
Rochelle: If you were to give one piece of advice to leaders on how to lead powerfully, what would you say?
Patty: You really want me to do one piece, Rochelle? You know me, that’s not gonna work.
Rochelle: Okay, well, pick the top three and share with our listeners.
Patty: Okay, again I would say the most important thing is to discover their life purpose and the best way to do that is to get involved in a peer advisory group and do individual coaching. And then they have to lead from their purpose, because there are words that are 2,000 years old from the Bible that says, “A wise man builds his house on a rock. A foolish man builds his house on sand.” So you must lead from a solid rock foundation. And you get that by discovering your life purpose, lead from your life purpose, and create a purpose driven business. And then that will operate and everyone can get behind you. And then the last thing of course is hire a good agency and get that marketing out there. Okay that was my almost one.
Rochelle: Well, thank you so much Patty. I always love hearing about your adventures in Tonga, and you’re a great leader and example for other leaders. And I really appreciate you spending time with us today on The 19.
Patty: Oh, Rochelle, thanks. It’s always wonderful to be with you.
Thank you for listening to The 19: Entrepreneur Edition with Patty Vogan. To learn more about Patty Vogan, check out our show notes, or visit VictoryCoaching.com. If you have additional thoughts on this topic, send us an e-mail. You can send questions, comments, and more to email@example.com.
A special thank you goes out to our contributors, studio manager Kelsey Phillips, Micah Panzich who edits our show, and Ashley Ruiz, content writer. Be sure to subscribe to The 19 on iTunes and Google Play, and if you like what you heard today, leave us a review.