From A $0 To $1M+ Consulting Business With Nancy MacKay: Podcast #323

This post was originally published on this site

How do you go from zero to a million-dollar consulting business? This episode has the answers for you. Michael Zipursky sits down with Nancy MacKay, the founder and CEO of MacKay CEO Forums, to unpack her journey from an independent consultant to a CEO of her own company. Filled with inspiring anecdotes about rising to the top as well as lessons learned along the way, Nancy reminds us of what leadership really looks like and how they can harness their roles to drive growth and make significant change. Tune in to not miss out!

In this episode with Nancy, you’ll learn how to:

  • Master referrals to build your practice.
  • Leverage other people’s success to help you grow.
  • Utilize assessment tools to help you make the biggest difference inside your company.
  • Create recurring revenue for your business.
  • Increase your passion to increase your revenue.
  • Create an environment and routine to perform to the best of your ability.
Book your complimentary growth session call here.

Welcome back to another episode of the show. Joining Michael on the show is Nancy MacKay who founded MacKay CEO Forums in 2005 to address the isolation often experienced by top business leaders. The organization offers confidential peer support groups, facilitating learning and problem-solving for CEOs, executives, and business owners. These groups have proven effective with members experiencing a 708% ROI in areas like profit, employee retention, and customer satisfaction, a statistic validated by the ROI Institute of Canada.

As you’re going to read about, Nancy is adamant about surrounding herself with what she calls game-changers, learning from people who are incredibly successful at what they do in building a consulting and coaching business. She attributes much of her success to this but admits that asking for help can be challenging for many consultants yet critical if you want to grow.

If you’re looking to take that first step yourself, the Consulting Success team is here offering a free no-pressure growth session call. We’re together on the call. We’re going to dive deep into what makes your situation unique. We’ll have a real talk about your goals and whip up a success plan that’s tailor-made for you. We’re going to help you dodge those frustrating, costly blunders and save you from the headache of trying to figure it all out on your own.

Lastly, you’re going to get the ongoing support and accountability you need plus joining a buzzing community of successful consultants like you. Let’s be honest. Growing a business by yourself can be pretty difficult at times. To book your free growth session call, head over to

Let me tell you about what you’re going to learn in this episode with Nancy. First is how to master referrals to build your practice, how to leverage other people’s success to help you grow, how to utilize assessment tools to help you make the biggest difference inside your company, how to create recurring revenue for your business, how to increase your passion to increase your revenue, and how to create an environment and routine to perform at the best of your ability. Plus, so much more. Here to share with you her wisdom and insight is Nancy MacKay. Enjoy.

Nancy, welcome.

Thanks for inviting me to your show here.

From Independent Consultant To CEO

I’m glad to have you Excited for our conversation. I thought that we would start off with you running MacKay CEO Forums, which we’ll talk about in a couple of minutes, but before that, you were a solo independent consultant. You were generating over $1 million per year. I’d love it if you could tell us a little bit about that business and why you ended up transitioning away from that business to build MacKay CEO Forums.

Maybe I’ll start by saying that in 2005, I had a date night with my husband, Rob, who’s been my long-term business partner. We were talking about how he was a banker and that was sucking the life out of him. I have been a professor and a large global consultant for many years. We had two little kids and a big mortgage.

I said to him, “It’s time for you to quit your job as a banker. I’ll quit my job as a professor and global consultant. Let’s start our own company and become entrepreneurs.” He said, “There’s no way we’re going to do that. We have these two little kids and a big mortgage. That’s never going to happen.” After the second bottle of wine, we toasted to, “We’re going to quit our jobs, become entrepreneurs, and start a consulting company.” That was the beginning of Million Dollar Consulting.

We had these two little kids and a big mortgage in North Vancouver. I thought to myself, “How am I going to support the kids?” Back then, when I first started, I didn’t think about how I was going to be a million-dollar consultant. I was thinking, “How am I going to earn enough revenue to be able to feed the kids, sustain our mortgage, and continue to live in Vancouver?”

Honestly, what we ended up doing was surrounding ourselves with game-changers. That’s why I’m such a huge believer in this message. I thought to myself, “Who has been there and done that before? I’m  going to surround myself with people who have been incredibly successful at building a consulting coaching practice and get all their shortcuts, save a lot of time, and learn how to do this.” One by one, I started to meet people in different parts of the world who were learning very successful consulting practices. I started to get, “How did they do it?”

What I learned was that mastering referrals was going to be so key to building a successful consulting practice. For every single client I worked with, I would ask them to give me a testimonial, and then I would ask them to recommend three other people who could benefit from the work that I had done. That was a game-changing idea and strategy. It was mastering referrals, being consistent, delivering high-quality work, and continuing to get introduced to dream clients.

Consulting Success Podcast | Nancy MacKay | Consulting Business
Consulting Business: Mastering referrals is key to building a very successful consulting practice.

I want to ask you to go back for a moment to the time between the 1st and 2nd bottle of wine because it sounds like initially, Rob was maybe a bit dismissive of the idea or not as open to it as you were. Something shifted. The effects of alcohol do wear off at some point. Yet, you continued to move forward with that idea. What did you both see? What did you agree to? What happened between that 1st and 2nd to get you on that path, decide to move forward with it, and take it from being an idea to something that you both were committing to?

What happened was I said, “The backup plan is you go back to getting a job and I go back to getting a job,” which is not what we wanted. We wanted to become entrepreneurs. The reality is when you think, “What’s the worst possible scenario if this doesn’t work out?” When we both looked at each other and said, “We can always get jobs and go back to working for the man,” that was enough to get us to have the courage.

The other thing is we really didn’t know what we didn’t know. I had 90 days of panic attacks after I quit my job and Rob quit his job. I was like, “I don’t think I can do this. I don’t see how this is going to work.” A lot of people along the way helped me. I talked to my doctor. I was 40 at the time and said,  “I’m dying of a heart attack.” She said, “You’re not. You’re having panic attacks because you’re taking a big risk.”

She has been one of my game-changers. She said to me, “If you believe in yourself, figure out what your strengths are, and want to make a difference in the world, you’re going to be successful.” She was a very successful entrepreneur who started her own medical practice. I learned a lot from her. She gave me a lot of courage to stay the course and start to surround myself with positive people who are going to believe in me.

There were so many people who said to me, “You’re going to do what?” She said, “Don’t even listen to those people. Focus on finding people that have been there and done that before and have been successful. Learn from them. You’re going to make a ton of mistakes, but believe in yourself.” That’s when I discovered StrengthsFinder, which has been a really fundamental tool for me to help me understand that shift my mindset from, “Panic attacks. I’m never going to be successful,” to, “What if I use my strengths and every day for the rest of my life build on my strengths so I can make the biggest difference in the world?” I’ve used that tool with so many CEOs and so many people to help them.

Value Of Strengths Finders

For those who may not be familiar with Strengthsfinder and the assessment connected, could you give a quick little outline of what it is and maybe how you’ve used it? You touched on it a little bit, but beyond that, how you’ve applied it to your business or working with other leaders.

When I discovered that tool, I did the test and it came up with my top five strengths. It has evolved. You can get your top twenty strengths or what have you. The top five are enough for me to get through my panic attack phase. I wrote on the yellow sticky, “My top five strengths are achiever, learner, self-assurance, relator, and woo.” Those were my top five strengths. I had them on the yellow sticky on my computer.

Every day, I would look at my strengths and say, “How am I going to use my strengths to make the biggest difference to serve my clients and the rest of the world?” I ended up using that as a team-building tool when I was doing team-building, leadership development, and what have you. You can go online. There is a book called StrengthsFinder 2.0. You can go online and take the test. You don’t even have to buy the book. You don’t have to hire a facilitator or anyone. You can take it.

It’s a great language to get people to really think about how every single human being has strengths. If we could shift from trying to find weaknesses and tell people all the things that are messed up about them to shifting them to, “What are your strengths? Let’s make sure you’re spending most of your time, 80% of your time, in your areas of strength,” that’s how you’re going to be passionate. That’s how you’re going to make the biggest difference, not, “I’m horrible at spreadsheets which makes me a loser.” It’s like, “I have other strengths.”

Every single human being has strengths. If we could shift from trying to find weaknesses to finding their strengths, we’re going to make the biggest difference. Click To Tweet

How much of that shift is focusing more on your strengths? It sounds like paying a lot less attention to areas that maybe you consider yourself to be weak in. How much of that is connected to the shift from the work that you were doing as a solo independent consultant to building out MacKay CEO Forums? Was that part of the impetus or the pull for you to move away from being a solo consultant? Was there something else that you were seeing in the marketplace that had you leave what for some people would be a very desirable position? As a solo consultant earning over $1 million per year, why “give that up” to start something new?

I got lucky. I got invited to be a speaker for a CEO group that was based in Vancouver. There were fourteen best-managed companies and CEOs from all different industries and they had this peer group. One of my clients was a member of that peer group. I didn’t even know what these things were. I had finished doing a strategic planning project.

This was Ted Ticknor with Mr. Lube Canada. He is a long-term client and member of the MacKay CEO Forums as well. Ted said, “You had such a huge impact on our strategic planning project. Why don’t you come and tell the story of how you did that to a bunch of guys that I meet with, the CEOs? I thought, “Sure. I’m happy to help you.” I didn’t know anything about this group of guys. Back then, it was all guys. I didn’t know what they did other than they met to support each other.

I gave a talk and told the story of the strategic planning session. After that, the chair of that group said, “We’d like to throw your name in the hat to become our chair.” I nearly fell off my chair because this was many years ago. They didn’t allow women into the group. I said, “I don’t know what you guys do after the speaker finishes. I don’t have any judgment, but if you want me to be your chair and meet with you guys on an ongoing basis, then you are going to need to invite women into the group.” They had a big meeting to discuss it. They made the decision to allow women in. I’m so grateful to those fourteen guys because many of them are still members, my mentors, and what have you.

Social change happens one person at a time. That was the beginning of MacKay CEO Forums because once I started sharing in that CEO group, it was not about me. It’s all about them talking about business, family, and personal. They would help each other through everything, and then they would leave the meetings with greater courage and confidence and also learn that they didn’t have to sacrifice their health and important personal family relationships. I thought, “1 day in my time I can help 14 CEOs, this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.”

That’s when I had to have another date night with two bottles of wine with Rob because, to your point, it was a fundamental shift. I said, “There’s no place I’d rather be. Being a chair enables me to use all of my strengths all the time. It’s also a way to make a huge impact in the world.” I said, “We’re going to stop doing the independent consulting work.” He never did the delivery work. He was behind the scenes doing the accounting, finance, and what have you. I said, “We’re going to be building these peer groups all across the country so that it wouldn’t have to be lonely at the top,” at least not for the CEOs that I was working with.

For the first five years of MacKay CEO Forums, once I talked Rob into, “This is what we’re going to do,” This is another key that I want to point out in addition to the fact that I married so well and I am so lucky to have Rob as my business partner and husband. We’ve raised kids and built companies together for 25 years. Also, it’s having people that believe in you. He believes in me so I can come up with crazy ideas and things I’ve never done before. Eventually, if I can talk him into it, then it’s probably going to be a good idea. I’m so grateful he has shot down a lot of ideas that were really bad ideas. That’s been a beautiful combination as my business partner. We then started to scale MacKay CEO Forums.

How deep were you into doing the peer forums and working with these fourteen CEOs? How much time went by of you doing that before you decided to transition away from doing your solo consulting work into this new model and business? How long did that take before you made that transition fully?

That was about five years. Once I talked to Robin that we were going to convert to a peer group business, I built ten of these peer groups across the country and I was still doing my consulting work. What I loved about the peer groups was when you build a peer group that’s recurring revenue. In the world of consulting and having two little kids and a big mortgage, I started sharing these groups. In addition, I love the work and all my strengths.

It was subsidized marketing because the members would want to hire me to do my consulting work. It would be year after year that they would be renewing their memberships. I could see my consulting work. I could do it. Maybe it was going to be a one-year project or whatever, but I couldn’t find a way to do consulting work where it was going to be a forever recurring revenue stream.

It took five years to build a bunch of groups and keep doing my consulting work. That was the next date night with two bottles of wine versus a couple of glasses of wine where I said, “Now, I’m going to transition out completely of doing any solo practitioner or consulting work to scale MacKay CEO Forums into a multimillion-dollar business.”

MacKay CEO Forums

We’ve talked about the CEO Forums and the concept of this peer group, but for those who may still not be familiar with or completely understand what this thing is, can you quickly describe and summarize what is MacKay CEO Forums? What does the business model look like?

I always like to start with our dream at MacKay Forums is to populate the world with inspiring leaders. We believe that business leaders are our best hope for making our world a more inspiring world. That’s exactly why we offer confidential peer support to the hundreds of CEOs, executives, and business owners across Canada. That’s the context of MacKay CEO Forums.

Consulting Success Podcast | Nancy MacKay | Consulting Business
Consulting Business: Our dream at MacKay CEO Forums is to populate the world with inspiring leaders.

For the forum chair role, and I still chair a group that I started several years ago, we’ve been on the journey of life, business, and family for fifteen years. The role of the forum chair, I meet with my group six times a year for a day. Every time we meet, we have a one-hour speaker on a topic that’s relevant to CEOs. We had a speaker on ChatGPT. We had one on the economic update. We interview interesting fireside speakers who are very high-profile business leaders in the community. There is one hour for a speaker, and then after the speaker leaves, we begin the confidential part of the meeting.

There are 14 CEOs from all different industries in the room. They each put a business issue on the table, personal and family as well, that they want some help with. After they’ve put all their issues on the table, then we do peer learning where people share their experiences. Someone might say, “I need to fire my CFO,” or, “I’m having a fight with my board chair,” or, “I want to expand into Quebec.” Whatever your issue is, you’re putting it on the table, and then we get people to tell stories who have been there and done that before. They tell what worked and what didn’t work. That’s our version of peer support. They make commitments at the end of the day.

Two months later, they come to their next confidential peer group meeting. As a chair, my role is not to be the star in the room. It’s to get them to be very vulnerable with each other, park their egos, and be real human beings. It’s to get them to put all of their business, family, and personal issues on the table, learn from each other, and make commitments. They meet every other month in a facilitated session. As the chair, that’s what my role is, to facilitate their conversations during those meetings.

You spent five years building this out yourself and running these different groups before you started bringing in additional chairs. You have 60 chairs only in Canada, but I know there are lots of opportunities and you’re looking beyond going forward. How did you think about that? For some people, this kind of model where you have CEOs or leaders on one side and then need the coaches, consultants, and facilitators on the other side, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg. It’s a bit of a marketplace model. How did you wrap your head around that? I know you brought the CEOs and leaders in first because you were the one facilitating. When did you decide to expand beyond yourself? Where do you turn to? Where do you go? What steps did you take to find those other chairs to come in and expand the business?

To your point, we do have over 60 chairs across Canada from Victoria to St. John’s, Newfoundland, and everything in between. The biggest source of our chairs is our current chairs. They’ve really helped us double and triple and continue to expand our community of forum chairs. Our members are phenomenal. They believe in peer support. They recommend forum chairs.

Many of our members, once they’ve sold their businesses or moved on to their next chapter and quit the corporate world to become chairs, then it’s building relationships with people like you. You’ve spent I don’t know how many years building a community of very successful consultants, educating them, and helping them thrive and become their own entrepreneurial consultants.

It’s relationships beyond our MacKay community. Our chairs come from our MacKay community. It’s the same thing with our members. Our members recommend other members because they really believe in the power of peer support and invest in their top executives. It’s mastering referrals and creating a referral culture that’s been very instrumental to our goal.

What Drives A Leader To Success

You have a very unique position in that you’ve not only consulted and worked directly with a lot of these leaders, but thousands or hundreds at least of CEOs at any given time over the years that you’ve had access to. When you think about the most successful leaders, CEOs, and people in the executive ranks, what do you believe drives them? I’m asking from the perspective of consultants who are looking to work with and serve leaders all the time. Yet, they don’t always necessarily know what’s going on in the mind of somebody who’s running an organization. From your experience, what do you believe drives them? What is a typical CEO or leader thinking most about?

It goes down to passion. My passion is to populate the world with inspiring leaders. I’m grateful that in our organization, that’s our purpose and our why. I fundamentally believe in what we do. I love our community. That’s what drives me after eighteen years of MacKay CEO Forums. It’s the passion I have to make a difference in the world and make a difference in Canada.

Every successful CEO that I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with jump out of bed in the morning and bust their butts because they really believe in the difference they want to make and they care about their employees. The types of people that join MacKay CEO Forums, these CEOs and executives want to be the best version of themselves. They want to continue to raise their leadership game. They’re driven to make the biggest contribution every day in business, family, and personal.

It really comes down to passion and strengths. It’s going back to that. If you’re in your zone of being able to apply your strengths every day, then you’re jumping out of bed in the morning and you can’t wait to get started. If you’re in a role or in a business where you don’t have that passion or you’re not able to use your strengths, that’s why there’s a lot of suffering going on in the corporate world. People are not in roles where their passion is aligned and their strengths are aligned. Typically, if you have that top CEO job, to be successful, you have to be passionate and be working in your areas of strength to be successful.

Consulting Success Podcast | Nancy MacKay | Consulting Business
Consulting Business: If you have that top CEO job, you have to really be passionate and be working in your areas of strength to be successful.

Putting on your consultant hat for a moment, knowing what you know about CEOs and leaders and knowing what drives them and everything that you mentioned, if you’re a consultant wanting to attract more CEOs and executives as clients or to build relationships with first, what do you think about? How would you try and get in front of these leaders to build a successful relationship with them?

I’m going to go back to talking about mastering referrals. I’ve worked with hundreds of consultants in order to build MacKay CEO Forums and our community consultants. The number one mistake consultants make is they do not master referrals. When you master referrals, you consistently ask every single client to introduce you to other dream clients. If you don’t do that, you’re not going to be living the dream of working with the types of clients that you love working with.

Oftentimes, I’ll ask consultants when they’re talking about being a forum chair, “Who’s your dream client? Who are your dream clients?” Usually, I get, “I work with these people.” I’d then be like, “If I could wave a magic wand and you could work with anyone you wanted, do you have a sense of who that would be?”

It’s getting clarity around who your dream clients are because you know your strengths and you know where you’re at with your own private practice. Who do you want to be working with and serving? You then start to say, “You’re a dream client. I love working with you. Here’s why. Can we brainstorm? With your permission, let’s brainstorm with other people who are similar to you. They have a growth mindset. They want to scale their business,” and whatever that is.

Ask people. That’s how you continue to get dream clients and have more. It’s mastering referrals. You’re then brilliant at doing the work around and you have to build a marketing machine. You have to be out there and build your own. I’ve written a couple of books. It’s building a brand. That’s slower and ongoing. You’ve got to do that. W hen I first got started, I had to pay the bills. It is speeding up and getting connected to the right people.

What do you think holds most people back from asking for referrals or doing that work?

I’ve been rejected thousands of times in my life. I’m sure you have too. You wouldn’t be successful if you weren’t rejected thousands of times. Most people fear rejection. If I say to you, “How did it go with this project?” If I asked you that question, you might say, “To be honest with you, I was really disappointed with XYZ.” If I don’t ask you, I’m going to assume it all went well and I’ll collect the check.

Part of mastering referrals is you have to start by saying, “How did it go with the project that we  completed?” Better yet, “We’re halfway through the project. How did it go?” If you say to me, “This is fantastic. It’s the best ever,” I’d be like, “That’s great. With your permission, I’d like to brainstorm. Who else? Wouldn’t you want people who matter to you to get access to this type of outcome that you’re hoping for?”

It’s a fear of rejection because even if I’m doing a great job for you and I say, “With your permission, can we brainstorm with other people?” You might say, “No. I’m really not comfortable. I don’t like doing that.” There is a certain percentage of the population that they’re not going to do it. It’s fear of rejection. To any consultant that I talk to, it’s putting yourself out there. I pat myself on the back every time I’m rejected and I feel good about the fact that I’m playing big and wanting to make the biggest difference in the world.

Hiring Someone To Join The Team

I love that. You have a team. I know you shared in conversations we’ve had previously that you’re building the team, you’re hiring, and you’re always looking for good people. I’m wondering. When do you personally decide that it’s time to hire? Knowing what you know now, maybe not what when you got started, how do you think of when is the right time to hire and bring on somebody to join the team?

When it comes to our leadership team, we’re in a significant growth phase of our business. Rob and I  bought the company back, so we’re back to being majority owners and we have a new shareholder team. In order to scale the business, you have to continue to invest in people. I coach a lot of CEOs and business owners where it’s painful that you have to hire people before you get the growth and the revenue. I haven’t ever met anyone who has figured out a solution to hire in advance in order to scale. That’s a big thing. When you’re committed to scaling, then you have to invest in putting the people.

When you’re committed to scaling, then you have to invest in putting the people. Click To Tweet

Also, the way we scale and grow is through forum chairs. We’re in a significant growth phase in terms of attracting independent coaches and consultants who have extensive experience working with CEOs and executives who believe in the power of peer support and then would like to become part of our MacKay community. It’s two things. It’s building the team and also getting the message out that there are a lot of opportunities for people that can do this work, independent coaches and consultants, that want an additional lucrative revenue stream to join our MacKay team of forum chairs.

When you think about hiring, I know you said there’s no way around it. Maybe this is more of a Rob question, knowing his background in banking, finance, and so forth. Is there a model that you use? Do you think, “If we’re going to hire somebody, they need to bring at least this level of value,” or, “They have to bring this amount of additional revenue into the company.” Is there any kind of framework or model that you use when it comes to hiring?

It really depends on the role. CEOs always talk about the rule of thumb. If you hire someone who’s a business development person, then they’ve got to generate four times whatever their compensation is to make it worthwhile. I hear CEOs talking about if you hire a marketing person, they need to be generating a six times return on the investment you make. It depends on the position and the nature of the business and where it’s at in terms of what is the ROI per employee, if that’s what the question is.

Evolving In Your Role

Talk about your team for a moment because a lot of people will be thinking about this or they’re often thinking about their model, how they can best grow, and what are the different options they can take to achieve that level of growth. You went from being a successful solo consultant to still consulting but also doing this peer work in groups with CEOs to then later deciding that you’re going to stop doing solo consulting and be fully dedicated to running and operating the business of CEO peer groups.

Why did you decide to do that? Why not continue to do your consulting and have some of these CEO peer groups on the side? I know you talked about the dream and vision, but I wonder if you considered any other models of maybe different paths that you could have taken and why you feel that you landed on this one?

I fell in love with peer groups. I started chairing that one peer group, which is still part of our MacKay peer groups. I don’t chair that group anymore because I had to transition out of all of my groups with the exception of one. I kept one. I fell in love with peer support. I thought, “There’s no place I’d rather be. There’s such a huge need.” It was pure passion and need. Despite people saying, “That’s crazy. You don’t know anybody in Toronto,” and there were so many naysayers, I thought, “The world needs more peer support. This is what’s going to happen.”

Also, there’s this place in a consultant’s journey. I meet a lot of consultants who are exploring the forum chair opportunity. They’ve been a consultant for so long doing what they do that I don’t know if it’s boredom or not enough challenge. It’s lonely for consultants too. It’s lonely at the top for CEOs, which is the big value proposition for CEOs and executives joining these peer groups. It’s also lonely for solo practitioner consultants.

It is figuring out, for people reading who want to stay a solo practitioner, how you continue to challenge yourself so that you’re always on your game, you’re innovating, you’re finding new ways to keep yourself inspired. You keep learning and investing in your own learning growth so that you are also always on your game.

As you’ve been continuing to be exposed to all these CEOs and leaders across the country, are there any misconceptions or anything that you’ve realized about how CEOs operate and how leaders operate that maybe the average consultant you think misunderstands or doesn’t see? You’ve been behind the scenes or behind the curtain with so many of these leaders. Is there anything that you believe the standard average consultant probably doesn’t see, misunderstands, overlooks, or doesn’t get that you get or that you’ve seen?

The big thing is that CEOs are human beings like the rest of us. Whether I was doing a CEO group for billion-dollar global CEOs, one for a small entrepreneur, or what have you, every CEO is a human being. They have business goals, personal goals, and family goals. If you support people with their whole being in any way that you can, you’ll become someone who’s a lifeline for your client.

A lot of consultants focus on, “I’m the expert. I have this expertise and that’s what this is about,” instead of thinking about, “I’m building a relationship with someone for the long-term because I really want to help this person. Whether I’m going to be engaged with them or not, I want to.” I have relationships with people that I still remember. They were my first consulting gig. I helped their kids and their business. It was human nature for me. As I started to do this work and meet hundreds of consultants, I realized that people are so overly focused on, “I’m the expert in this. This is who I am,” instead of being a human being and caring about people.

People are just so overly focused on being the expert instead of being a human being and caring about others. Click To Tweet

Tools To Keep Going

Well said. We talked about before what you went through in terms of the transition, the panic attacks, and all of that stuff that so many people go through but don’t necessarily share that they’ve experienced. I, first of all, want to show respect for you being open to talking about that because a lot more people go through that stuff than they’re willing to share.

All of us have faced challenges, whether it is on the personal or the business side. I know you’ve shared that you’ve, over the years, focused more on your strengths, putting the naysayers to the side. Yet, still, I would imagine there are personal challenges that come up or things that maybe aren’t going well or a struggle inside of the business. I’m wondering. How do you handle that?

I know for me personally, when I feel like something isn’t going that well or something unexpected comes up, for a second, I can feel it. It’s like in my stomach and it knocks me for a second, but I found that I’m able to bounce back much faster than I probably would’ve a decade or more back. I’m wondering. How do you process that? How do you take the punches, if you will, when they come your way? Is there any approach, mindset, any kind of tool, or something that you use that you feel allows you to get back on track and keep moving and building the business?

There are a couple of things. One is self-care. I’m an early-morning person. I get up at 4:00 AM every morning. I try to protect 4:00 AM to 6:00 AM so I can get on my Peloton, work out with my personal trainer, meditate, take care of myself, and create the space for what it takes for me to be the best version of myself every day.

I’m a piece of work. I need self-care time. W e all know that there’s this mental health pandemic. People are stressed out, freaked out, and cranky. It is so I can be the best version of myself even if people are not at their best when they’re dealing with me. That’s the number one strategy. It’s self-care and really honoring that, and then asking for help.

You came to our summit. You heard me talk about that up on stage. My journey has been to lead with generosity. I have helped a lot of people and I have asked for help from a lot of people. What goes around comes around. I remember one time, I almost went blind. I was traveling and we got this bacterial infection. I had these two little kids running this company. Paul DeBoard saved my eyesight. He, unfortunately, passed away.

I remember lying in my bed in a dark room because he said, “You cannot leave your room for ten days and you have all this stuff to get your eyes back on track.” I remember saying to Rob, “I can go blind. This is a serious risk. How am I going to be the CEO of MacKay CEO Forums if I go blind?” I remember him saying to me, “It’s okay, I’ll walk you up to the podium and you’ll be able to still do your thing if that’s what happens.” I was reaching out to my friends and going, “This is the situation that I’m in,” so that I feel a lot more courage and confidence to tackle anything and believe that I can handle it. I’ve been there for many people over the years, and so many people have helped me.

Have you always been that way or is that something that, over time, you’ve appreciated the power of asking for help or talking to people? Back in the day, when you were earlier in your business journey, were you also that open? I know in my case when I started several years ago in my first consulting business, I thought I always had to put on a professional image.

I couldn’t really open up and share personal stories, especially when I was in Japan running one of our companies over there, being surrounded by people who were much older than I was. I wasn’t speaking Japanese at that time at a fluent level, so I had a lot of apprehension and a lot of self-esteem. I didn’t feel like I could be open all the time. Over time, that has changed for me, but I’m wondering. For you, has that always been the case? What were things like earlier on for you?

I did my PhD in New Zealand part-time for three years while I worked full-time. I remember when I got to New Zealand, I thought to myself, “Who has been there and done that before in less than three years?” I knew I was going to want to come back to Canada. There were 85 million sheep and only 3 million people there. I love New Zealand, but I knew I couldn’t be hanging around too long trying to get this done. I was looking all over the world. I was like, “Who has been there and done that before that’s going to help me accomplish this goal?”

I always had the mindset of surrounding myself with game-changers. I don’t try to figure it out myself. I reach out and find whoever does. Back then, it wasn’t that easy to find somebody to help me get my PhD done. Fast forward to this world, it is so easy to find game-changers. Whatever goal you set, whether it’s business, family, or personal, there’s somebody on the planet who’s been there and done that before. It’s not that difficult to find those game-changers.

Consulting Success Podcast | Nancy MacKay | Consulting Business
Consulting Business: Surround yourself with game-changers. Don’t try to figure it out yourself. Reach out.

That’s the piece. I’ve always had a mindset of surrounding myself and asking for help when you’re in a vulnerable place. It was when I had my 90 days of panic attacks. That was when I realized, “If I’m going to be a successful entrepreneur, it’s completely out of my comfort zone. I’m going to have to ask people for help. I’m going to have to curb my ego. I’m going to have to fail and fail fast and go for it.”

I realized it was easier for me to ask for help when I led with generosity. I was always saying, “I don’t know how I’m going to help you, but if you’re able to help me at this moment as to what my goals are, I promise you I’ll come back and find a way to help you.” That made it easier. I learned so much on that journey from moving to entrepreneur or solo practitioner. It was a huge learning growth opportunity.

What a great example. I want to thank you for coming on and sharing a bit of your story and journey. I also want to make sure that people can learn more about MacKay CEO Forums, especially those in Canada since you’re, at the time of this recording, in Canada. Regardless, for anyone who is interested in learning more about the business and the model, because it’s fascinating the work that you all do, where’s the best place for people to go to learn more?

I would recommend people go to If anyone wants to reach out to me directly to learn about our forum chair opportunities, since I love helping consultants given that I come from that background so I have a real passion for helping people even if they’re getting started, they can reach me at [email protected].

T hanks so much for coming on.


There you have it for this episode between Michael and Nancy. If you enjoyed this episode, then be sure to hit that subscribe button wherever you tune in to your favorite shows. If you want to help support the show, I’d encourage you to share this episode with a friend or colleague. A quick reminder, if you want to book a free, no-pressure growth session call, be sure to head over to That’s the end of the line for us. We’re going to be back with another episode. Thank you so much for tuning in. Until next time.

Important Links

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Skip to content