Today we’re speaking with Steve Cunningham from Pivot Point Family Growth Centers.
I am super excited to get going today to give you some really golden nuggets from people that have built successful businesses, but guess what? They haven't always been that way. There's trials, tribulations, challenges they've gone through to get to where they are today, and I have Steve with me. I’m really going to take you through some of the most challenging things that he's been through. But before we get there, I want Steve to do a little bit of an intro of who he is, and who Pivot Point is as a company, and maybe where that started just so, as a listener, you get an idea of how long Steve's been around and how long their business has been around, and what's taken to get where they are today. So, I'm going to hand it over to you Steve. Just give a little bit of a background of Pivot Point, as itself, maybe a little bit of a background of yourself.
Sure. Fantastic, thanks Colin. Yeah, Pivot Point was a fantastic dream that came to life about 14 years ago when I started to reach out to the needs of parents who had children with autism or other problems. So, in British Columbia, there were a lot of changes 14 years ago, in terms of how funding was provided to parents who had children with autism and other diverse abilities, and that created an opportunity to meet those needs for those parents. So, we got started with just a few families, and now we're up to several hundred, 400, almost 500 families now.
All over the province.
Fantastic. So, give me a little bit about your background. So, in terms of the listeners listening to this podcast today, and for those of you that don't know where British Columbia is, that's here in Canada, right on the West Coast. It's the most western province of Canada, and of course we've got listeners from all over the globe listening to this podcast. So, brilliant. Give us a little bit of your background. What gives you that expertise in terms of really giving services to these families with kids that have autism or maybe some of their family members, the adults, that have autism?
That's a great question, and it's always fun to be able to tell that story. My journey actually began way when I was a child at summer camps, when my family life was going through a few little struggles here and there, and I had an opportunity to run into some really powerful male role models at summer camps. These older teens and young 20s people who would teach me how to rock climb and canoe and kayak and build campfires, really inspired me to become a better person, a better version of myself than the path I was following when I was younger.
So, within a short while, I started working at the summer camp, and that gave me a lot of exposure to working with different children of different abilities, and really my whole working career, from my teens through my 20s and 30s and 40s, has been in service of children and their families around diverse abilities, behavior needs, autism, down syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning challenges, kind of the full spectrum. So, I've been doing child youth care work. I've done teaching assistant work in the public schools. I've become a clinical counselor, so I have a counseling degree in counseling psychology, and had worked for an agency for several years before this opportunity opened up here in the province of British Columbia, and I started my business 14 years ago.
Beautiful, man. Now, one of the key things I'd love to dig right into, and it's just something that came into my head as you were talking, is that counselors, people that really want to serve people ... I even went through some of this myself as I started my own business, as I started Make Your Mark, and of course this podcast is called The Brutal Truth. So, I don't want you to hold back on anything.
One of the key things for me is we love to give and love to serve and what have you, and I'm sure somewhere along the lines we might have had some challenges around even charging for your services because your heart is there to serve people. Of course, probably have a lot of listeners out there that are serving people in some way or form, but probably not charging what they should be charging, don't know their own self worth, what have you. Can you speak completely open on maybe some of the challenges you went through? Maybe about how you overcame those challenges to charging, maybe what you should be charging, or even making money in an environment that people think you shouldn't be making money?
Absolutely. As you asked me the question, I'm starting to smile thinking about that. There are a lot of triggers that come up for me around that. When I first got started, like many new professionals out of university, I was suffering from what is known as the imposter syndrome. You go through school, you get the degree, you have the training, and you step out into the real world and think, "Wow. Does anyone know that I haven't done this before? Do I really belong here? I don't fit in. Everybody else seems to know what they're doing, and I'm just getting started."
So, early on, it was really difficult for me to charge a higher rate for my counseling services, and I had to start to compare myself to others and realize that maybe I can provide a meaningful service, maybe I can deliver something that's of value to people, maybe I am coming from the heart and trying to meet the needs genuinely, and therefore, it's on par cost-wise with what other people are charging. That's absolutely been an important barrier for me to overcome. That was fairly early on in the business.
Let me ask you something. If you went back and you started over today, would you charge what you're charging today then, in the beginning? In the beginning you felt like you couldn't charge what you were worth.
Yeah, you're absolutely right. It's about ... I felt like I wasn't worthy of that higher rate, and so, it took some building of my own self confidence to realize that the service that was being provided was valued at that rate. So it was working on myself first to be ready for the proper billing rate.
Yeah, and I think many of the listeners are thinking when they all started out, "Wow. I should have charged what I was worth right in the beginning." The big thing is, you should be charging what you're worth up front. The challenging part is we always seem to think we're not worthy of it, we don't deserve it, or what have you. So, really great point, thank you for that.
So, let's get into a couple of key things that you've learned along the way. Pivot Point's now 14 years old. I've been really privileged enough to see you grow and grow into different areas of British Columbia here in Canada, as you've expanded, but let's go back right to the beginning as well. What were some of the key things that, if you had to start Pivot Point over again, what would it be that you could say, "Please don't do this," or "Get your thoughts in line," whatever it is.
That's my important thing for all our listeners is get this brutal truth. Because if you don't get this, you bumble along and you fumble and you trip and you fall and what have you. That's why I brought these amazing people on to serve you. So, what's ... give me one or two, maybe a couple of nuggets we could have a discussion about of what you would do differently if you had to start Pivot Point up again today.
You bet. That's an excellent question. Really, I see two different sides to the same coin on that question. It really has to do with the use of others. So, I was very fortunate with Pivot Point that we were growing quickly in the first few years and there was enough revenue to afford to lean on others to reach out for accounting support, legal support, some marketing support, and some administrative support. If I had not reached out to others and invited others into the business, then I would have been trying to do all of those things myself. That's not my background, and I very likely would've steered it off course not knowing better. So, the first nugget for me was really learning to lean on others and trust in others to help guide me.
Which really comes down to -- and it might sound like a really callous word -- but it comes down to leverage. At the end of the day, you've got to leverage other people. There's only two kinds of leverage, other people's time, other people's money. So, in that sense, you're leveraging other people's time, and if you heard one of the keywords there, and listeners if you want to write this word down right now, the most important word I think you can ever learn when building a team, having people, contractors, employees, whatever it is, is the word trust. If you cannot have that trust in people, then guess what? You'll probably never get to where you want to be.
Steve, the saddest thing I hear from so many people is, "I never want employees. I want everyone to be contractors, not employees." For me, what Steve's saying to you is you'll never get to where you want to be if you don't have a team around you, or with you. I don't even like the word, they're working for you, because they don't work for you. You work together as a team.
So, really understand this, listeners, it's all about that trust. If you cannot trust people, well then how are you ever going to get to be able to go on vacation and lie on the beach, have some fun, whatever it is, and your business keeps on running. If it's all about you, while you're lying on the beach, guess what happens? Your business is closed, because while you sit there doing nothing and enjoying yourself, your business is doing nothing. So that leverage point,