communication nation, Jill S


This is a six-part series about my two year journey with Impromptu Guru.  This first entry (the longest by far) is about my personal experiences that have influenced and affected where my business is at now.  The other five posts are each rules about being a new entrepreneur.  Please comment on the posts if they help you or if you want more information.  This is an open dialogue.

Two years ago I experienced the most terrifying yet exciting moment of my life—the moment I cut the cord on my full-time benefits-paying job and set out on my own.  In June 2011 Impromptu Guru was realized.  Sure, I had done the smart thing before—got the bank account, made the business plan, ordered business cards, etc.  But I still remember that first Monday morning that year, waking up, and realizing, “Wow, I don’t have to drive to work today.”  Which was then followed by the quick, “Oh (insert four-letter word of choice here)! I don’t have a paycheck coming in.”  Yep.  The cord was officially cut.

I had an interesting start to my business, as a week after quitting (on the last day my benefits were still valid—yes, I milked the system) I went into surgery (sinus surgery to be exact).  Emerging from surgery with a swollen face, no equilibrium and a couple of black eyes and cheeks, I was in no position to go out networking or hustle up business.  Recovery ended up taking a lot longer than anticipated, so I hunkered down with what seemed every book imaginable on building a business, small business tax laws, and entrepreneurship.  I re-read one of my favorites (Jeff Jarvis’s “What Would Google Do”) and, when I was able to sit up at a computer for more than a 30-minute period without getting dizzy, began revising and laying out the strategy for what would be my next three years.

Rookie of the Year 2012 Gilbert Chamber is Impromptu Guru owner Jill Schiefelbein

Jill Schiefelbein, owner of Impromptu Guru, is the 2012 Gilbert Chamber of Commerce’s Rookie of the Year.

One day in late June 2011 I remember laying on my couch, with my laptop by my side, looking up networking events and thinking wistfully about when I could actually get out to one (it wasn’t until mid-July until I was able to function at 80%).  And I saw that the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, that I had just joined, was doing an annual business awards luncheon.  Not that I could go, but at that moment thought, “Next year, I’m going to get one of those awards.”  I probably passed back out after that.  Nonetheless, a year later I was telling this same story on stage as I was awarded the 2012 “Rookie of the Year” award for best new business.  Impromptu Guru’s one-year anniversary was a good one.  (This year Impromptu Guru is nominated for “Small Business of the Year” but we’ll have to wait until June 19th to see if I’m fortunate enough to receive that honor.)looking up networking even

Entering into the second year of business, I felt fantastic. I had met or exceeded every business goal I made, and was well on my way to having an excellent second half of 2012. I got my first large-scale international partnership contract (which ended up not panning out, but that’s another story for another day in international business practices).  And I had some things lined up for the beginning of 2013.  Things looked really good.  So I did what many people dream of—I took some time off.

I spent most of the summer of 2012 in San Diego, and then spent 40 days that fall meandering around Europe.  Now, I did client work during both of those experiences (thank goodness for webinars, Skype and free wi-fi) but what took a hit was my local networking efforts and community relations.  Business growth slowed during this period, but in my mind I wasn’t worried, because I had contracts putting me through the end of the year and into 2013.  I figured I could just take off where I left off when I got back state-side in late November.  But what came next was not anticipated.

The 10-day period between returning from Europe and November 28, 2012 was filled with Thanksgiving goodness and business productivity.  Renewed from the travels, I came back and hit the ground running.  While I was overseas I had been contacted by an Executive Producer at a talk radio network asking me if I’d be interested in being a talk radio host.  “Who, me?!”  I thought. So when I returned I met with him, and now have

Communication Nation is on the air Tuesdays at 8am PST with host Jill Schiefelbein. Effective communication is often the difference between success and failure. Do you feel confident communicating when the stakes are high? Are you ready to get up in front of any audience at a moment’s notice? Do you realize that not saying anything is communicating something? “Communication Nation” will expand your understanding of different communication practices and how they affect day-to-day business operations and relationships. At the root of every management and relational issue lies a communication problem, but many don’t understand how communication affects an organization’s bottom line. Show topics have a direct impact on business productivity and profitability. We bring these issues to the surface, educating and giving practical advice that can be immediately applied in personal and professional contexts. That’s “Communication Nation.” Tune in Tuesdays at 8 AM Pacific Time on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel.

Tune into Communication Nation each Tuesday at 8am PST or download the recordings from your favorite podcast site!

“Communication Nation” to show for it.  It feels good to be “discovered.”  I met with most of my contacts from the Gilbert Chamber, attended an event, and felt back in the swing of things.  My clients were happy, I was happy, and the world seemed in a good place.  I was going to rock December, get new contracts to set me up through Q3 2013 and be secure.  It was a great plan.

But plans change.  On November 28th I got the phone call that nobody likes to get.  “Hi Jill. It’s Doctor XYZ. Your lab tests came back and you have some abnormal cells and we need to do a biopsy.”  Long story short, 22 days later, on December 20th, 2012, I was wheeled into a surgical room at Mercy Gilbert Hospital to have cancerous cells removed from my body.

Two days before surgery, I walked into the hospital, alone, to get my pre-surgical blood tests done. This was the first time I saw my paperwork. Seeing the word “cancer” next to your name and diagnosis notes really brings a startling perspective.  I remember going into my car, bandage wrapped around my arm, and breaking down in tears.

“What if they don’t get it all?” “What if I don’t recover quickly?” “How am I going to provide for myself if this gets worse?”  “What if my current clients drop me?”

You know what they say about the best made plans?  Yep, they often go astray.

When you’re going through something like this it can have the tendency to take over your thoughts.  One thing that I did, and that I’m so grateful that I did so, was communicate to my social networks about what I was going through.  By doing this, I was able to get things off of my chest, and be somewhat productive in the days leading up to the surgery.  To the literally hundreds and hundreds of you who “liked” my posts or commented or sent me private messages: You helped me heal.  There’s a book by one of my favorite authors, Jeff Jarvis (yes, I mentioned him earlier) called “Public Parts” where he talks about the juxtaposition between publicness and privacy on the Internet.  I can tell you from experience that this book is spot-on.  By reaching out and being public about what I was going through, I was able to regroup myself personally, in private, and not let my experiences take over my days.

Before going into surgery on December 20, 2012. My goal was to make every person in the hospital laugh or smile because of my goofy Santa attire.

I emerged from surgery and the doctor was incredibly positive. “I feel good that we got it all,” she said, “And you did incredibly well, but you’ll need to take time to heal.”

For those of you who know me personally, you know I’m not the most patient of creatures on this planet, so this was not an easy task.  But over the next few weeks I did heal.  And after about the first two weeks I could finally start to work at the computer again.  When I did, I knew I had to make a new plan.  I’m not a pessimistic person by nature, but when it comes to planning your business and your future, you do need to have a worst-case scenario laid out (while, of course, still hoping for the best).  My worst-case scenario was that they didn’t get all of the cells, that the cancer had spread and not been isolated to one area, and that I would essentially be unable to work for months and months to come.My new business plans involved, first, a lot of financial investigation (where were my savings, investments and retirement at—in case of the worst-case scenario—and what planning can I do after-the-fact to alleviate burden).  Once the facts and figures were sorted, I started examining what resources (i.e., collateral) that I already had in my business that I could repurpose if I was unable to physically go consult.  Luckily, I had a backlog of videos that I produced the previous summer.  I thought strategically about how these could be packaged and sold, and starting making new plans.  My first fully-online workshop will actually launch on June 25th of this year as a result of this planning, and I couldn’t be more excited!  My thoughts were, “If I’m not going to be able to work, I need to get my information to work for me.”  Residual income.  That is how I would survive.

Now I had a new plan.  No matter what, things were going to be okay.

And long story short, so far they are.  In February I went in for another round of tests and the cells “in the margins” that the doctors were worried about were no longer a concern.  “It doesn’t mean we’re all clear,” the doctor warned me, “but I’m pretty sure we got it all.”

I’m the luckiest unlucky person there is!

I have another round of tests at the end of this month, but I’m feeling very positive about the projected outcome.  And, if the worst happens, I’m ready.

A pic after Brittney Griner rocked her interview with ESPN and before we went on an alligator swamp tour. She’s an all-star through and through.

I’ve had a heck of a 2013 so far.  I got to travel to the Super Bowl to be interviewed about communication and sports on a radio and a television broadcast.  I launched a national talk radio show.  I traveled to New Orleans (again) for theWomen’s NCAA Final Four and got to start coaching perhaps the most recognizable female athlete today, Brittney Griner.
I formed a partnership with a professional sports team, thePhoenix Mercury, that puts Impromptu Guru as the team’s communication and media coach.  And I’m just coming off of a record-breaking business month.
Better yet, I have the opportunity to talk about these experiences in an open forum, in a transparent way, and let you, the reader, get to know me more as an individual—not just as someone you may do business with or be connected to.
And for that, I’m truly thankful.

During my two years as a Guru, I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve organized my experiences and thoughts into five rules for beginning entrepreneurs and I’ll give a little story and context to go along with each one.  I’ll be releasing them every Tuesday and Friday.  Stay tuned!

  • Rule 1: Plan ahead
  • Rule 2: Realize plans change
  • Rule 3: Don’t under-value your services or time
  • Rule 4: Always follow-through
  • Rule 5: Take time to celebrate

You’ll definitely understand them more that you’ve read the full story.  Thanks for sticking with this for so long!  Please share your thoughts in the comments.


Jill Schiefelbein is an accomplished speaker, author, professor, and business owner. She is the owner of Impromptu Guru, a communication consulting company that was named Gilbert Arizona’s 2012 “Rookie of the Year” less than a year after its inception. She is also the host of “Communication Nation,” a business communication talk show on VoiceAmerica’s Business Channel. She works with professional athletes, politicians, business executives, and groups to improve their communication and messaging strategies. Learn more at