MEET ANGELA RICE & JANET SEMENOVA, FOUNDERS CENTERED CEOS & BOUTIQUE TRAVEL ADVISORS
Janet Semenova and Angie Rice are the ultimate entrepreneurial dream team.
Having begun a friendship on the sidelines of their sons' football field, they began their entrepreneurial journey together as boutique travel advisors, quickly growing to be recognised as one of Arizona's premier luxury travel advisory firms. With Angie's razor-sharp background in finance, accounting and business consulting and Janet's empathetic nature as a nurse practitioner specialising in pain management, you would be forgiven for wondering how this collaboration worked out so well but dig a little deeper, and you will find that these women are the mirror image of each other in their shared core vision and values. Realising what they had was indeed a winning formula, Angie and Janet got to work and, in the process, created a useable framework called MAPS incorporating business success while maintaining balance in their personal endeavours. This was to become the basis of their next big adventure, Centred CEOs birth in early 2020.
When you speak to Angie & Janet, you are soon able to see precisely why this duo is so successful. The perfect mix of personalities with just the right amount of professional acumen, humour, and nurture. Their combined talents are to be a gift and goldmine to those small business owners with whom they share their vast knowledge, and I'm thrilled that they have chosen to share their journey so far with us at The Female CEO, over to you, Angie & Janet...
SO,JANET & ANGELA, WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
Our story began on the sidelines of the football field while our sons played. We quickly realised that we had a lot in common, from our passion for travel to our desire to fulfil a greater life’s purpose through entrepreneurism. We shared common core values, including integrity, work ethic, learning, professionalism, and a desire to serve others. With Angie’s prior experience in owning and operating a consulting firm and Janet’s creativity and long-term aspiration for turning her love into a profitable business, we were confident that we would be able to successfully run a travel advisory business together. Our company quickly grew to become a top luxury agency in Arizona; however, we struggled to keep up with the growth. We realised that we needed an effective system that would allow us to scale and grow sustainably. In 2019, we created a framework called MAPS, and it changed the way we did business.
So much that we have since launched a second company together, Centered CEOs, which is a consulting firm helping small business owners reach their true potential.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE CENTRED CEOS?
The idea for Centered CEOs has always been in the back of our minds. Angie spent over 20 years in the consulting arena and ran her own successful forensic accounting consultation business. After starting our first company together, Boutique Travel Advisors, we were often approached by other travel entrepreneurs who wanted to learn our "secrets" to growing and scaling a successful agency quickly without prior industry experience. We found ourselves having conversations with people worldwide that, despite their drastically different levels of expertise, years in the industry, and travel acumen, faced many similar pain points. The fact that topics such as identifying your market-dominating position, creating client personas, understanding the buyer's journey, marketing and sales best-practices, and analysing profit statements, frequently came up was not surprising, as these are among the challenges that most entrepreneurs face. However, what caught us a bit off guard was that most of the business owners we spoke to also struggled with asserting their worth, setting boundaries, and valuing their time. The common theme was not that they lacked knowledge or experience, but instead, they lacked the mindset to assert their value, raise their prices, and ultimately turn down clients who did not value their services. Although many entrepreneurs we spoke with ran successful businesses, they struggled to delegate and scale, placing their businesses at risk and creating an unsustainable model. The pandemic created the perfect storm, and many small companies unprepared to pivot and adapt did not survive. We knew that we had a lot to offer small business owners and felt it was our mission to help them succeed. Seeing many of our favourite brands decimated over the past year solidified our desire to grow Centered CEOs.
YOU BOTH HAVE VERY DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS AND PERSONALITIES; HOW DOES THAT WORK OUT FOR YOU AS A TEAM?
Our backgrounds are incredibly unique from each other. Janet spent over a decade working in medicine as a registered nurse and later a nurse practitioner specialised in pain management. Angie's background is rooted in finance, accounting, and business consulting.
Our personalities and characteristics are also different from each other. Janet is naturally creative and innovative. She loves to write and always has new ideas and concepts she wants to try out in our businesses. She can be (very) competitive and does not let things stand in her way of making things happen. Angie is left-brained, but having grown up with five siblings, she has learned to be more open-minded and empathetic. She enjoys managing tasks methodically and focuses on achieving big picture goals by following a strategic plan. Angie pays close attention to detail and makes business decisions based on predictable outcomes. She can constantly be heard saying, "What's the ROI on that?"
We are very much alike in our value system, and we have similar Whys and Whos, as far as why we do what we do and whom we want to serve in our businesses. We prioritise our shared values and respect each other's expertise, which allows us to succeed significantly more together than apart.
When we decided to partner and turn our passion for travel into a viable side hustle, we did not realise that our differing expertise was our market-dominating position. However, it did not take us too long to figure this out. Once we committed to truly putting our heads together, we knew that what made our travel business successful could be shared with so many other business owners in various industries.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE CRITICISM?
Angie and I are fortunate in that we are both extremely open and honest people. We believe that failures are actually opportunities to learn and improve and are always accepting of criticism. In our prior professions, the margins for error were extremely slim, so we both hold ourselves accountable to very high standards. Janet served on a hospital committee that reviewed medication errors resulting in grievous harm.
"Through that experience, I learned that we are all human, and despite our best efforts and intentions, we will inevitably make mistakes. I have seen some of the brightest, most talented, and dedicated professionals make errors that had devastating outcomes. Some of them were emotionally paralysed afterwards, afraid to make decisions or take action. Rather than penalising mistakes, the most important thing is to turn them into an opportunity to make changes and improvements and prevent someone else from making that same error in the future. When you reframe the criticism in that way, it can be extremely empowering."
In our businesses, we have a process for addressing errors. When we identify mistakes or have negative client feedback, we make it a point first to remedy the situation. Then, we analyse all the details and assess how we could have prevented the mistake and what processes need to be put in place in the future. Criticism without intention and action creates resentment and stunts growth.
Our struggles with criticism come when we are working with others. Janet is more sensitive and at times feels disproportionately responsible for adverse outcomes, even if they were outside her control. Working with ideal clients is extremely important because we recognise that we are much happier, productive, and fulfilled when interacting with people who appreciate our services and level of expertise. On the other hand, Angie is extremely direct with our team members, which can sometimes come off as a bit aggressive and intimidating at first. She works on reframing her approach by turning moments of criticism into dialogue and growth opportunities.
Both of us are continually striving to improve and learn. By working together, we can evaluate strengths and weaknesses and offer helpful direction.
YOU ARE BOTH SERIAL ENTREPRENEURS WITH HIGHLY IMPRESSIVE BACKGROUNDS, YOUR JOINT TRAVEL VENTURE QUICKLY GREW TO BE ONE OF THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS BOUTIQUE TRAVEL ADVISORY COMPANIES IN ARIZONA. DO YOU FIND THAT YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES HELPED TO SHAPE YOUR VISION AND UNDERSTANDING FOR CENTRED CEO’S?
Our personal experiences and diverse backgrounds have impacted every area of our businesses. We recognised early on that we can provide tremendous value to our clients because of who we are and what we have accomplished both individually and together. Our vision, core values, and framework for Centered CEOs consider both Janet's years in the health and wellness industry and Angie's corporate and business consulting experience. We believe that a successful business lies at the intersection of passion and profit, but the daily challenges of running a small business are often draining and exhausting. Creating a balanced, intentional, and mindful framework for running your business allows you to scale while maintaining a connection to your "why" and finding joy in what you are doing. Creating a sustainable business that can overcome economic downturns, internal strife, and growing pains requires a foundation rooted in meaning and purpose greater than any individual.
TELL US ABOUT THE MAPS FRAMEWORK AND HOW IT CAME TO BE.
The MAPS framework encompasses our core beliefs and allows us to help clients Elevate their brand, Delegate responsibilities, and Replicate successful outcomes. There are four main components to MAPS: Mindful, Assertive, Profitable, and Sustainable.
Mindful: Just like many of the most successful and reputable entrepreneurs in the world, we believe that mindfulness is vital to building a successful, fulfilling, and profitable business. To break it down, we organise the M into four components:
Mindful Why. Encompasses your overarching ideology, core values, and the fundamental reason for "why" your business exists.
Mindful Who. Defines who you are and whom you serve. First, you must identify your "zone of genius" and market-dominating position and then formulate your ideal client personas.
Mindful What. Identifies the best marketing and sales strategy to attract and serve your ideal clients.
Mindful When. To build a successful business, you must set clear goals and objectives and implement a realistic timeline for achieving them.
Assertive: To run a successful business, manage teams, and service clients, while maintaining balance in your life, it is imperative to learn the importance of asserting your worth and value. Assertiveness is also the key to cultivating a growth mindset, setting boundaries, resolving conflict, and identifying areas for improvement within your business.
Profitable: Identifies the aspects of your business that drive your profits and losses. We review the importance of understanding the value of your time when pricing your offers and services to maximise revenue-generating activities. We also focus on helping our clients form joint-venture relationships, bundle their services to create differentiation in the market, lower COGS, and leverage their holdings to increase the bottom line.
Sustainable: The final section of MAPS requires implementing a mindful, assertive, and profitable approach to your business so that you can generate sustainable growth, predictable outcomes, and long-term success. We help business owners create contingency plans and prepare a profitable exit strategy, even if retirement may be many years away.
WHO OR WHAT ARE YOU MOST THANKFUL FOR?
We both have had strong and endearing female role models in our life. We grew up with feisty grandmas, who taught us to pursue our dreams and pursue happiness. Angie's grandma was an early pioneer for women's rights, and Janet's grandma instilled in her how important it is to value freedom, which they did not necessarily have when they lived in the former Soviet Union. Our mothers also played a big part in instilling our work ethic, love of learning, and the value of experiences over material things. Unfortunately, Janet's mother passed away from cancer when she was only 19 years old. This forced Janet to prioritise serving others like those that had provided so much care to her and her mother during the years she was battling cancer.
She put aside her plans to pursue business and a potential career that involved writing and instead pursued a nursing degree. Angie also understands the life of a nurse or other medical professional as well as tragedy. When she was a teenager, she experienced the loss of a sibling, and in ways, she also felt she lost part of her mother, who would never be the same given the grief that comes with the loss of a child. Angie's mother went back to school to become a nurse after losing her daughter, which helped bring more purpose back into her life. We credit our mix of ambitiousness and kind-heartedness to our grandmothers and mothers.
WHAT’S THE ULTIMATE GOAL FOR CENTRED CEO’S?
Our goal is to have an impact on over 10,000 small business owners. We know this will not be an easy undertaking, but we will achieve it by serving people in different capacities, from providing valuable free content to serving clients that want to work with us directly through our retreats, group coaching, or private consulting services. Our "We are Centered CEOs" community allows us to captivate, engage and serve small business owners from across the world using the social media platform Facebook. We also offer articles, books, and courses and promote our coaching, consulting services, and retreats to small business owners that can benefit from our offerings on our website.
WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND DIFFICULT ON YOUR JOURNEY AND WHAT WOULD YOU AVOID IF YOU WERE ABLE TO DO IT ALL AGAIN?
Successful business owners require discipline, balance, motivation, and mindset to grow and evolve. We created a mantra for our business that keeps us focused on success. There are many responsibilities, decisions, and leadership requirements that can overwhelm and create stress on a business owner. When we started our first business together, we fell into the trap of being overworked rather quickly. Let's just say we were not prepared for our sales to be three times higher than what was projected in year one.
We were learning a new industry, taking on marketing and sales responsibilities that were not exactly part of Janet's prior profession, and adapting to new technologies, the importance of social media, and of course, the role of running a business with a partner. We knew we needed to bring onboard other travel advisors, virtual assistants, and interns because the workload was unsustainable. We also valued providing exceptional service to our clients, which required that we ensure our team was well-trained.
You cannot scale and grow if you do not follow processes and procedures. You also need to rely on others to support your efforts. Our mantra: "Elevate. Delegate. Replicate." keeps us laser-focused on the things that we do well in our business while maintaining boundaries around what is most important to us - our families and giving back.
WHAT’S YOUR TOP TIP FOR OUR AWESOME FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS READING THIS ARTICLE?
We want you to overcome your biggest fears, but the only way you will do this is by just going for it. Always put in your best effort. Doing anything halfway is not going to make you happy. Do not hold back because you feel you need more time. You will never feel 100% ready. Perfection can be your worst enemy, as it will stop you from moving forward if you let it. Go with your best effort now. Failure is part of the process. It is how we become great!
WHICH FAVOURITE SONG WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO ADD TO THE FEMALE CEO'S #GIRLBOSS PLAYLIST ON SPOTIFY FOR YOU?
Angie: The most played song in my house would be "Learning to Fly" by Tom Petty.
Janet: My favourite song is "Perfect" by Ed Sheeran
WHAT DO YOU KNOW FOR SURE?
That our time on this earth is precious and far too short, none of us knows how much time we have, so we must work to get the most out of every single moment. Focusing on serving others, building meaningful relationships, enjoying the small moments, and investing in experiences rather than things we can fulfil our life's purpose and leave a legacy.
DO YOU HAVE A BOOK OR FAVOURITE PODCAST RECOMMENDATION FOR OUR FEMALE CEO MEMBERS?
Angie: I read many books, mostly non-fiction, but the most memorable experience that I have ever had reading was when I read "Beach Music" by Pat Conroy.
Janet: My favourite book for 2020 was "The Mindfulness Edge: How to Rewire Your Brain for Leadership and Personal Excellence Without Adding to Your Schedule." My favourite podcasts are "How I Built This" and "Entrepreneurs On Fire."
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
For us, success is like an old-fashioned wagon wheel. Many components such as happiness, personal fulfilment, serving a greater good, giving back to our community, having quality time with our family and friends, mental and physical well-being, and finally, running a profitable business are all equally important and must work in tandem.
Ultimately, success is about having an abundance of freedom and time. We need financial freedom to provide for our families, invest in our children, support charitable causes, travel, delegate responsibilities, and not worry about how much money is in the bank. But we also require sufficient free time to pursue our hobbies and passions, explore the world, spend quality time with the people we love, and invest in our well-being. A profitable business that does not leave sufficient time or energy to be present for the people in your life and yourself is not sustainable nor successful.
WHAT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST MISTAKES YOU SEE FEMALE CEOS MAKING?
Most women have a hard time asking for help. Working moms and stay at home moms alike struggle with delegating to others, and this includes female executives, lawyers, doctors, accountants, and business owners. It is crucial to have a reliable support system both at home and at work. We need to be okay with relying on our spouses, caretakers, other family & friends, team members, consultants, and others to support our businesses. It is essential to know your worth, as well as your capacity and expertise. Delegate what is below your paygrade, ask for help when you have exceeded your capacity, and if it is not your expertise, you need to outsource or hire someone to do the work.
WHAT MAKES YOU TRULY HAPPY AND HOW DO YOU HANDLE DOWNTIME?
Angie: I am truly happy when I live in the moment, and I am not chasing the future. I enjoy spending time with the people who matter most to me, my family, extended, and very close friends. While I don't always allow for downtime, I enjoy it immensely. I do not watch much television, but I love to read and enjoy very long walks, hikes, and runs. Above all, watching my boys grow up to be strong and independent yet compassionate and loving brings my husband and me the greatest joy!
Janet: I believe that happiness comes from within and is something we must cultivate and allow ourselves to feel. However, certain things in my life bring me immense joy, such as spending quality time with my family, skiing in fresh snow, hiking in the mountains, walking on the beach, cooking, reading, yoga, and travel. I have always struggled with downtime, but the pandemic has forced me to learn how to be at peace doing nothing. It's hugely freeing to know that you can be content and happy when alone with your thoughts. I find that down-time allows my mind to reset and become more productive and creative.