Building Your Business by Being Bold with Brooke Janousek

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They say fortune favors the bold, and that’s definitely the case for Brooke Janousek. After decades in the marketing industry, she decided to strike out on her own and needed to take any opportunity she could get to help her business grow. So she took her shot by asking Sara Blakely’s (founder of SPANX) husband, during his talk, in front of 800 people, for a chance to meet her. 

According to Brooke, you need to be bold in your own business- “if you don’t have a seat at the table, you need to make one.” Those bold moves turned her into a successful fractional CMO. And if you’re wondering if this path is right for you, you need to listen! 

Top Takeaways

  • Fractional leaders are becoming increasingly popular. They allow companies to bring on a high level of expertise without having to hire a 6-figure salary employee. 
  • You build credibility as a fractional leader by showing results. If you can clearly articulate results to a potential client, you’ll get hired. 
  • This all goes back to being bold. If there’s something you think you should do, and it makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably the right move. Brooke says, “ asking is overthinking” and I love that. 

Show Notes


Joe Casabona: They say fortune favors the bold. And that’s definitely the case for Brooke Janousek. After decades in the marketing industry, she decided to strike out on her own and needed to take any opportunity she had to help her business grow. So she took her shot by asking Sara Blakely’s—yes, the founder of Spanx—Sara Blakely’s husband during his talk in front of 800 people for an opportunity to meet her.

According to Brooke, you need to be bold in your own business. If you don’t have a seat at the table, you need to make one. Those bold moves turned her into a successful fractional CMO. And if you’re wondering if this path is right for you, you need to listen. Because here are the top takeaways.

Fractional leaders are becoming increasingly popular—they allow companies to bring on a high level of expertise without having to hire a six-figure salary employee. And if you are that fractional leader, you have a lot more flexibility as well. You can build credibility as a fractional leader by showing results. It doesn’t matter how old you are or companies you looked for if you can clearly articulate actual results to a potential client.

This all goes back to being bold. If there’s something you think you should do and it makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably the right move. You’ll hear Brooke say, asking is overthinking and I love that.

Now in the Pro show, it’s just me. You’ll learn why if you become a pro member. And I talk about my struggles as of late for finding the right niche, who I need to hire next, and what my next steps are in my solopreneur journey. So you can sign up to hear all that at

I really enjoyed this episode. Brooke is such a fountain of energy and positivity. It was such a fun conversation. So I know you’re going to enjoy it as well. But for now, let’s get to the intro, and then the interview.

[00:02:09] <music>

Joe Casabona: Hey everybody, and welcome to How I Built It, the podcast where you get free coaching calls from successful creators. Each week, you get actionable advice on how you can build a better content business to increase revenue and establish yourself as an authority. I’m your host Joe Casabona. Now let’s get to it.

[00:02:33] <music>

Joe Casabona: All right, I am here with Brooke Janousek. She is the founder of The Grow CMO. I’m so excited because we’re gonna be talking about building your business by being bold. Brooke, how are you today?

Brooke Janousek: I am doing awesome. How are you?

Joe Casabona: I am fantastic. Thanks so much for being here. I’m excited for this conversation because you’re also in the fractional leadership space, will say. And this is something that’s very interesting to me, because I’ve been recently told like, Oh, I should be fractional… I think they said CPO, like Chief Processing Officer, which kind of makes me sound like somebody from office space. You know what I mean?

Brooke Janousek: Yeah.

Joe Casabona: Basically someone to help companies automate their processes is what it is. So I’m excited because I don’t even know where to start. So hopefully this will set me on the right path. But I do need to start with this story. I just have in the notes here, Tell us the Sara Blakely story. Sara is the CEO of Spanx. And you have an interesting story for how you were able to get… is this is an interview with her or in her orbit, a conversation with her?

Brooke Janousek: Yes, in her orbit. So I just have to say that I have been following her journey from the beginning and have just been so inspired by her story. And honestly, I heard her story on a podcast very similar to yours about how she got started. She was actually selling Xerox machines door to door before she started Spanx.

Joe Casabona: That is a very outdated reference for anybody who’s like 10 years younger than me. It was like, Xerox door to door.

Brooke Janousek: Yeah. Oh my gosh, I just dated myself. So for those of you that don’t know, no… So she decided to quit that job, thankfully, and start this amazing company. She’s the first self-made billionaire woman. So I’ve been following her journey forever.

And it just so happens last March, I was at the multi-unit franchising conference in Vegas. And at the time, I was fully employed at a job that I started to question, quite honestly, if I wanted to be there or not. But I had just started and I thought, Okay, we’re gonna stick this out, and we’ll see where it goes.

So I had an opportunity to go to Vegas, and the keynote speaker was Jesse Itzler. And for those of you who don’t know who he is, several people did not, he is Sara’s husband. I’m sure he doesn’t want to be just known as Sara’s husband. He is very accomplished in his own right as well and very deserving of being a keynote speaker. You know, I’m freaking out. I’m running around. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, Sara’s husband is going to talk to us.” And I, in my mind, I said to myself, “I’ve got to figure out how I get in front of him because you know, he’s the front door to Sara.

A little bit more context, I have sent blind emails, I have sent cold emails on LinkedIn to Sara, never went anywhere. And I don’t blame her, she probably gets a million of those. So I thought, “Okay, here’s my shot. I am in the same room as her husband, how am I going to make this happen?” So I’m literally taking selfies with the banners and the colleagues I’m with are like, “I still don’t get who he is.” And I’m like, “Okay, well, he’s gonna tell us his story. So let’s listen.

So we go in, and there’s probably 800 people at this conference. And I was sitting there, and he is such an energetic, just a very charismatic speaker. And he’s giving us all of these stories about how he started his own businesses. And just a plug for him, I mean, if you can see him in person, just really, really inspiring.

Two things that he said that really stuck out with me. First thing he said was, I don’t negotiate my goals. He’s like, I know from the beginning this is what I’m going to go after and I don’t negotiate that. So that was kind of a mental note I made. I was like, “Okay, I really like what he’s saying there.”

And then the second thing he said is, if you don’t have a seat at the table, you make one. So I was like, “Oh, my gosh. I’m starting to get chills. I’m getting chills right now telling you the story. And I’m in my head listening to him and I’m like, “Okay, if he does Q&A, I’ve got to ask him a question.” And I still didn’t know quite what I was going to do.

Sure enough, at the end of his presentation, he’s like, “Okay, you know, I have a couple of minutes, I’ll take some questions.” And I looked at the guy sitting next to me, so he was a peer of mine, and I said, “I’m going up there.” And he kind of looked at me like, “What?” And I just stood up and I marched right up to the microphone.” I was thinking, “Okay, okay, let’s just do this. Let’s see what happens.” So I said, “Hi, Jesse, my name is Brooke. Two things that you said stuck out to me.” And of course, I’m thinking if I regurgitate back to him what he taught, he’s gonna totally… you know, his ears will perk up.

Joe Casabona: That’s a negotiation tactic, right? Like mirroring. Yeah.

Brooke Janousek: Exactly. So I said, “Jesse, there was two things that you said. You said, I don’t negotiate my goals and if there’s not a seat at the table, you make one.” I said, “Well, I’m here to make my seat at the table.” And he just kind of smiles. And I said, “I realize that I’m going around the system here,” I said, “But how do I get an interview with your wife?” And the room… I mean, it literally was silent. And he looked at me, and he looked at the crowd, and he started laughing. And then everybody started cheering and clapping. And he looked right at me and he goes, “I like you.” And he goes, “All right.” He goes, “Here’s the deal. Meet me backstage after this is over, and we’ll talk.”

At that point then I started shaking. I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe I did this.” So I walked back to my seat, people give me high fives and I sit down and my colleague goes, “Are you kidding me?” He goes, “Where did that come from?” And I was like, “I really was moved. I just thought, “Hey, this is my opportunity. Why not?”

So for those of you listening that want to know, I did get backstage and I went back there, and Jesse and I sat down. He’s lovely. And said, “Tell me a little bit about you.” So cue or a little tip for everybody, hot tip, you need to have your elevator speech down, because then when that comes time that you have to tell somebody who you are in 30 seconds. I was like starting to fumble.

And I was like, uh. And I just said, “I’m currently an SVP of marketing. This is my expertise, and I rattled it off really quickly. And I said, “I’ve just been a huge fan and admire your wife’s story and I’ve tried for years to get an interview.” And he said, “Okay, here’s what you’re gonna do. Here’s my personal email address, you’re going to email me. Give me two weeks because I’m on the road, and then I’ll introduce you to some people.” And true to his word, he responded. So I sent the email and I wanted to remind him who I was, he’s like, “Oh, I remember you.”

Joe Casabona: Because you all know, right? I mean, like…

Brooke Janousek: Yeah, yeah. You know, I thought he gets a million questions a day, probably. But yeah, he replied and said, “Okay, cc’d on this email is Sara’s assistant, and I’ll let you to take it from here. So have a direct line now to Sara. So I was talking with her assistant, and she said, “She’s starting a new thing. If you’ve watched the news recently, she actually exited the company, but she’s starting her new thing. Let’s stay in touch. But then also, I want to give you the head of hiring for marketing roles at Spanx as well. So now I have two people that I’ve stayed in regular contact with.

I probably reach out to them once a month just to stay on their radar. I update them on what I’ve been doing. Here are some successes I have, and they always reply back and always say, “Thank you for staying in front of us. We don’t have anything at the moment, when we do you’re our first person to call.” So while the story doesn’t end with this big culmination that I’ve set in Sara’s office and we’ve had coffee, it really was the catalyst for me leaving a job and starting my own company.”

Joe Casabona: Yeah. Which is I mean, two great takeaways here, first of all. Aside from shoot your shot, which is really important, there is the importance of the follow-up, right? This is something I tell all of my coaching clients, all of my students. If I’m looking for a sponsor or a connection or a partnership or something, I will follow up with them until they say, “Never email me again.” It needs to be right now. Great. I don’t know if you’ve watched How I Met Your Mother.

Brooke Janousek: Yes, I have.

Joe Casabona: Leaving the door open, like, Oh, we can’t date right now. If they say right now, I’m gonna take that to heart. You need to tell me, I never want to hear from you again. And then I’ll wait until they leave the company and follow up with their next person, predecessor. Nope, their successor. There it is. Predecessor is before. I’m so good with words. So the art of the follow up really important. Again, it didn’t end with like, I sat in Sara’s office, I’m her right-hand person or whatever now. It’s like, that move gave you the confidence to continue being bold, right?

Brooke Janousek: Yes, absolutely. So many things came out of that trip. You look back at the time, and in your mind, you’re like, Am I crazy to do this? And your adrenaline’s pumping. And after that I can look back and think, “Okay, I made some great connections at that conference, because you better believe that people came up to me afterwards and said, “Oh, my gosh.” a) I had men and women high-fiving, oh, my gosh, you’re awesome. I would have never done that. You’re my hero.

And I ended up meeting this incredible woman who has become a dear friend of mine, who happened to be a fractional CMO herself. So we just started talking. And she’s become such a great friend, like I said, but a mentor to me, and we talk through business strategies. So I met her because of that. And then like I said, I ended up quitting my job. It was just like, If I can do this, if I can stand in front of these 800 people and ask for an interview, I can go out on my own. It was a great catalyst for me.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, I think that’s great. It reminds me though, it’s not even remotely similar to you. Last year at Craft & Commerce, which is quickly becoming my favorite conference, one of the workshop speakers, Mike Pacchione—Former guest on this show. He’s amazing. He’s a speech coach—he had a workshop. And he said, “I’d like to do some live coaching, anybody want to come up here and start to give a talk, and I’ll give you feedback?”

And I was hoping he would do that. So my hands shot up immediately. He had me up on stage. I was telling a story, and he would interrupt me mid-sentence and give me notes. And afterwards, people were like, “I can’t believe you did that. He was just stopping you and you were just unfazed by it. And I’m like, “Yeah, I really…” And then somebody this year remembered me and they’re like, I can’t believe you did that. That was so brave of you. So you make your own opportunities. They don’t just come to you. Hope is not a strategy.

Brooke Janousek: I couldn’t agree with you more. I love that saying. And I know there’s also a saying that you love to say, which is don’t ask, don’t get. And so I feel like that’s kind of the mantra I’ve been living by since I did this whole thing.

Joe Casabona: It’s so true. I tell my kids that. Because my daughter will beat around the bush, my six-year-old. She’ll be like, “Wow, those cookies look really good.” I’m like, “Yeah, they are. And then she’ll just look at them, and I’ll be like, “Do you want something? You got to ask for it, buddy.” I’m really trying to instill that in her now. Because it’s something that I didn’t really learn for a long time. I just kind of hoped people would intuit what I needed.

Brooke Janousek: Yeah. People can’t read your mind. They’re thinking about their own stuff anyway. So yeah, you have to advocate for yourself. No one else is going to.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. This is mostly like with my coaching clients, it’s like sponsors, right? Like, oh, if a brand wants to sponsor me, they’ll reach out. They absolutely will not reach out.

Brooke Janousek: Right.

Joe Casabona: Unless they really, really want you, they’re probably not going to reach out because they have people pitching to them, people who are making their jobs easier saying like, Hey, do you want to sponsor my podcast? Here’s what I can do for you.” So you got to ask for it. All of my big sponsors were asks. I just straight up asked them if they want to sponsor. And they were like, “Yeah, sure. I was floored.”

Brooke Janousek: That’s awesome. Keep asking.

Joe Casabona: Yes, keep asking. This story kind of parlayed you, and you quit your job. You started The Grow CMO. You’re a CMO, right?

Brooke Janousek: Yes.

Joe Casabona: So can you explain the idea of fractional leader? Because it’s not just CMO. It could be like CFO CTO.

Brooke Janousek: Correct. I’d be happy to. Really it’s kind of this wave that I see taking over the employment landscape right now. There’s a lot… you’ll just kind of start to see, as you mentioned, fractional CTO, CIO, CHRO, Chief Human Resources officers. It doesn’t just necessarily pertain to the Chief Marketing Officer. But what it essentially means is we’re providing strategic expertise at a fraction of the cost.

So bottom line, it allows companies to have that senior your level of expertise when they need it most. But they might not be able to afford your level of expertise. There are a lot of companies out there that want people that have the 20, 30 years experience have worked at all the major brands, and they just can’t afford the overhead. So really with the fractional space, you’re just paying for the expertise, you don’t have all that extra overhead.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, and that’s a great point. Because at certain companies at certain levels, you’re looking at, I don’t know, maybe mid-six figures. So if you don’t have the budget, or you don’t have the budget yet… plus, a full-time employee usually comes with 401k, the benefits, stuff like that. And if you only need them for 10 or 12 hours a week, it doesn’t make sense to pay all of that overhead. And for the people who want to do that, it gives them a lot more freedom and flexibility.

Brooke Janousek: And there’s a lot of different scenarios, to be honest. If you think about their startups and small businesses that don’t have the budget, you have mid-level companies in times of hypergrowth that maybe need… you know, they have a great team in place already. But maybe they have just mid-level managers and they’re looking for someone to come in with more of that leadership and strategic thinking. So you can kind of come in and flex in and really help them quote, “plus up” their team.

Or you have major corporations that just they need another level… you know, they just need to duplicate their CMO, quite frankly, and can. And so it’s you come in and flex in on a couple of projects and just provide that expertise.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. This is a great point. There’s always the saying, like, What got you here won’t get you there, or whatever. So like maybe I’ve made my first $100,000 in my company or my first $500,000 in my company, and I want to make it to a million, but I don’t really know what to do, I can hire a fractional Strategy Officer or someone like that, to help me get to the next point.

Brooke Janousek: And I really think fractional CFOs kind of paved the way. They are the ones I think that kind of first started this wave and were really going in and helping a lot of startups. They would have a couple of startups under their belt, and they would just be the CFO for them. And then I think other people saw, okay, this is a model that’s working, I need marketing expertise now or I need sales expertise now.

Joe Casabona: Something that’s on my mind is, how can you build credibility to be a fractional leader? I’ll give you a little context here. I’m 37, I’ve been mostly self-employed my entire life. So I maybe have a little bit impostor syndrome because I haven’t worked for these huge companies. And something that’s always in the back of my mind is like, when I was just out of college, I met a 21-year-old kid who was like, “I’m a life coach.” And I’m like, “Buddy, you haven’t lived life long enough to be a life coach.” How do I prevent somebody from saying to me, like, “Buddy, you haven’t been around long enough to be a fractional anything?”

Brooke Janousek: That’s a great question. And I will say results. So if you have results that you can clearly articulate to your potential client or somebody that’s asking you, Okay, tell me why I should hire you. Results speak volumes. It’s the same advice you would get from a resume coach. You know, you want to make sure that you have results that speak to success for the company.

I always make sure even if I don’t have the major brands, I’ll tell you that impostor syndrome is real as well. I’m part of a group of women that have worked at major companies, Amazon, Netflix. And I always think, Oh, my gosh, I don’t have what they have. But at the end of the day, I think, “I do. I have results, and I can speak to those results. And I can show that I drove business for a company. Maybe the company isn’t a billion-dollar company, they may be $100 million company, but I still drove results. I still can do the same thing for you, regardless of the size of your organization, or if we’re selling lawnmowers or for selling cups of coffee. As long as you have the results, you can really lean on that, and that will prove your experience and your expertise.

Joe Casabona: That’s great. This reminds me a lot of back in Episode 321, I spoke to Josh Bernoff about how to write a better business book. And he said, You need case studies. Like if you want a business book, you need case studies.

Brooke Janousek: Absolutely.

Joe Casabona: So with that, how do you showcase your results? Like do you have a testimonials page? Do you just kind of bring them up when you’re courting clients, say? So you need to do that if your content game is really good? Are they ready to hire you?

Brooke Janousek: That’s a great question. So part of being a business owner, which I’m sure you can relate to is the cobbler’s children have no shoes. So here I am. I’m always telling my clients we need case studies, you know, in order to get more people bought in or we need to get reviews and testimonials and we need to promote that. And then here when it comes time for me, I don’t have one written. I have them all documented that I’m gonna write them but I don’t have them written.

So I really rely on honestly when I get the introduction. So a lot of my business comes from referrals. And they can see I have quite a few referrals and reviews on LinkedIn. But if a review comes in or a referral comes in, excuse me, I will then talk to them and say, Okay, what is it that you need? And then when they tell me what they need, I say, “Okay, let me tell you about my experience in that genre. So if you need performance marketing, let me tell you how I took a company from x to x. And here’s how I did it.

Yes, I could send them a follow-up email with a pretty case study. And yes, that’s on my to-do list. But I find that if I can just get them on the phone, find out exactly what their need is, I can go through my Rolodex in my head and no, yes, I did that for this company, and let me tell you how.

Joe Casabona: I love that. I think it’s because it felt from like 2018 to like 2021, if you weren’t productizing your service, you were doing it wrong. And what you just said is the anti-productize service, right? They come in, I talk to them, I learn what they need, and then I respond based on their needs.

Brooke Janousek: Exactly. I love that approach because I don’t want anyone ever to think, Oh, she just has this off-the-shelf product or system that she uses and she just gives that to every client. No, I want to understand truly what your business challenge is and what you’re trying to achieve. And then we’ll figure out a way together to approach it, drawing upon my expertise, drawing upon a similar experience I had, and here’s how I approached it, and here’s how I think we should approach it for you.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, I think that’s great, because otherwise, you’re just making yourself a commodity. And at that point, it’s kind of a race to the bottom as far as pricing goes. The last thing I’ll say here is I was thinking the same… I offer podcast audits. So someone can hire me to basically audit the external view of their podcasts, and then how they can grow and make money. And I thought, Oh, this is terrible. I’m not doing it right. And then I saw another podcast agency’s audit and it was basically a list of links to blog posts they’ve written. And I’m like, I’m better than this.

Brooke Janousek: You have a personalized approach. And we’ll say that is a nice diversification of your revenue stream. So as a business owner, too, you don’t want to get too reliant on just one service offering. So I will say, I do have a product offering that is more off the shelf. I can do these customer journey workshops. Now, that is something that I can offer, yes, off the shelf and do that. But I think it’s just very smart you’re doing these podcasts audits. It’s just another revenue stream, another way to get in front of people. It’s just another form of business development. People will see that you bring that value and then want to hire you for other things.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, for sure. I mean, my podcast audit, theoretically, could be a loss leader. If someone joins my mailing list, they get it at a deep discount. But the hope is… It’s almost like a discovery project where, oh, you’re telling me I need to do all these things, I’m going to hire you to help me do all these things.

Brooke Janousek: Exactly. And that’s exactly what the customer journey workshops are. Because it is just this amazing in-depth discovery. And then I have exposure to their business. And I can say, okay, these are all of the things that we can solve, we just uncovered, and here’s what we can solve together. Or here’s what you can take back to your team and have them solve. Either way, we’ve uncovered something that you didn’t understand or didn’t know have line of sight into before.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, that’s so key. I mean, dear listener, if you’re thinking about this, and you want to offer a service, having something like this, whether it’s the customer journey workshops or some sort of audit, you’re basically telling your potential clients, I know the work you need to do and I know how to do the work, and now I understand your business. So if they are going to hire out, they’re most likely going to hire you.

Brooke Janousek: And it gives them a chance kind of try before you buy. Just like what you and I did. We have a little rapport established before the podcast and you understand, Okay, I do like working with this person and this is gonna be… I got exposed to how they facilitate or I got exposed to their level of work ethic, and it’s a match. So let’s continue this relationship.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. Love that. And that’s really good point too, right? Because at some level, it’s like, we’re going to do a $20,000 or $50,000 project together. I want to pay you for a lot less than that first to see if we’re actually a good fit.

Okay, we’ve established our credibility by showing that we have results we can deliver results. Which by the way if you haven’t generated results yet for you or anybody else, go out there and find friends or lower dollar… I did some coaching for free when I first started podcast coaching just so I could get testimonials.

Brooke Janousek: Exactly. That’s what you need. You just need results. Nobody needs to know that it was a pro bono project. You don’t need to share that.

Joe Casabona: Yep, absolutely. It’s so interesting, before we move on to the next question now, because in the web development space, I was very much a people are going to ask you to do free work for exposure. Never do that. You can learn the skills on your own that translates less. Because like making a website, it’s very obvious, Oh, here’s some websites I’ve made. People can kind of tell. But if you’re getting results for somebody else, now you actually need somebody to vouch for the fact and implement the work. Doing a couple of pro bono projects is probably the best way to get that. So very interesting context shift for me moving from web development to coaching.

Okay, so you’ve done this. Now, let’s say you’ve been hired as a fractional leader in any capacity. I know, me, when I was in my early to late 20s, all of my 20s, I guess, full of hubris, thinking I was smarter than everybody else, which some people will tell you I still think that. If someone comes on, I’m like, “Why should I trust this person?” Right. So how do you create a rapport with the team when you’re not with them all the time?

Brooke Janousek: That’s a great question. I think, first and foremost, all of the report, all of our relationships are built on trust. So I come in and listen without saying, “I’m going to come in and make these sweeping changes.” So I just literally ended an engagement two weeks ago with a company out of Canada, and they had a full marketing team very, very capable. I just made it very clear, “You’re doing a great job. I am here just to evaluate what’s going on. How can we make things better?” Maybe point out some optimization opportunities.

But you just have to disarm them a little bit, because you don’t want to walk into a situation where they’re already thinking, Okay, this person is going to try and take my job. I just say, Look, I’m here for three months, and we’re gonna do as much work as we can together. And I really want to make you look good. Like, that’s my goal is to help elevate you and hopefully learn something from you but you can also learn something from me. So just kind of disarming them right away is helpful, especially when you come into a situation where there’s already a team in place.

Now, if you come into a situation where it’s just me, some of my clients or startups where it’s just the founder, then it’s a different level of rapport that you establish. You know, we’ve kind of established the trust and the sales process enough that they wanted to hire me, and they know, okay, she’s gonna get stuff done.

Joe Casabona: That’s almost more like one on one coaching, where it’s like, you’re gonna help me… like done for you, done with you sort of services. This is like, I trust you. But yeah, when there’s a team in place, right… I mean, you’ve addressed the first, oh, she’s gonna take my job. Oh, she’s gonna tell our boss that we’re doing everything wrong. She’s gonna cause problems, right?

Brooke Janousek: Yeah. No, that’s not what I’m here for. Honestly, I asked them too, what is something that you are just banging your head against the wall and you know that if a third party says it, your boss will probably listen? And then they just start laughing. And they’re like,” Oh, my gosh, yes. If you could say this. If you could say that we’re spending too much money here or that, Hey, we should try this.” And if I agree with it, I say sure. Like, let me carry that water for you because I know that sometimes that’s how it goes—they’ll listen to a third party over the internal team.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. Oh, I love that. I mean, because first of all, now you’re understanding who you’re working with. It’s almost like how Carfax doesn’t advertise to car dealers, they advertise to car dealers’ customers. They’re never like, Hey, car dealers by Carfax. They’re always like, what’s happened to your car that this guy is about to sell you? So the people are like, Hey, do you have Carfax? Can I get a history on this car? Really interesting and smart.

I’ll tell you, like when I worked at certain jobs and they brought in a consultant, I learned how the game was played really quickly. And I was like, “Hey, I’ve been telling them to do these three things for months. Can you just tell them to do these things? They will listen to you. And they’re like, yeah, they should definitely be doing those things.” We had a consultant one time who was bad and I really didn’t hold back during our meeting about everything they did wrong. They ended up getting fired. My suspicions were confirmed, but the consultant kind of sold us a-

Brooke Janousek: Sold you bill of good.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, bill of goods. That’s what I was looking for. I was like, a bag of goods? Is not right.

Brooke Janousek: Yeah. You know, it’s funny. I said this to somebody the other day, the word “consultant” has a bad connotation. And I don’t know if it comes from the 80s or early 2000s when consultants would kind of roll in and their suits and their briefcases and come in and tell you everything you’re doing wrong, and they’ll charge you a million dollars and then they leave. And I said, I think a marketer was behind this fractional executive title. Because think of how brilliant… I mean, because really, we’re still consulting and we’re still coming into these organizations. But now, we’re a fractional executive. And I think it’s just brilliant. I’m like, I think this is just marketing.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, for sure. Right. It’s all about the packaging, right? It’s like how… Was it for Breeze were positioning themselves as like cover up bad smells? But then they rebranded to be like, use for Breeze to finish the job. Now, instead of telling people that they smell, you’re telling them hey, you did a great job.

Brooke Janousek: This is just kind of the icing on the cake.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, exactly. That’s so funny. I wonder if the movie American Psycho had anything to do with it? There were a bunch of movies that came out from the 90s and early 2000s, where it was like, smarmy businessman.

Brooke Janousek: Yeah, probably.

Joe Casabona: So funny. So interesting. I guess the next thing I’m thinking about here is I assume that on your first day, they’re not like, All right, well, you’re our CMO now.

Brooke Janousek: Right.

Joe Casabona: Are there specific projects, like different types of engagements? Will they bring you on for a limited time? Is there indefinite engagements where it’s like, oh, you’re just here until the job’s done? What’s that like?

Brooke Janousek: That’s a great question. There’s really kind of three ways I think you can break it down. So you can break it into more of like an advisory engagement where… again, this is during the discovery where I really try and find out what is it that you need, because a lot of the time, they’ll say they need something. And then by the time you’re done asking questions, it’s really something else that they need.

But you can do an advisory role where it’s like, I’ll just come in for a couple hours a week, and we can talk strategy, I can help you with a very specific question or project. More of the fractional CMO role is, yes, I am coming in as an interim… or excuse me, as a CMO for maybe 20 hours a week, and I’m responsible for everything. So I’ll be responsible for the P&L reporting, I can lead your team, if you have a team in place, any of the things that a normal CMO would do.

And then there’s also I have been engaged just on very specific projects. Like a go-to market strategy is one of them where I say, okay, that will take this amount of time, and we just sign a smaller contract. So it kind of depends.

I would say, at the height of capacity, a fractional executive, if they really are in the organization as much as they should be, you can probably handle two clients at that capacity at a time, and then maybe have a couple of smaller projects on the side. But again, it depends on the scope of work and what that client needs.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, I’m really glad you put it that way. Because I think something that I learned/read in my freelance days was most freelancers don’t starve to death, most die from overeating. Whereas like they oversell their services, right? I’m really glad you said. Like you could probably handle two clients at that capacity at a time. And then once you get that third one now you’re stressing, maybe you’re working on the weekends, maybe you’re confusing jobs, or maybe you’re just not doing as good a job as you could be doing. Really interesting.

Brooke Janousek: I had never heard that quote before and I just wrote it down, because I’m putting that on a sticky note and putting it on my laptop. Thank you.

Joe Casabona: No problem. It’s really stuck with me. I mean, it makes sense. Every freelancer, every small business owner is so worried about where their next paycheck is coming from that they’ll just oversell and then they’ll feel like they need to deliver immediately. And I’ve been there. I was there like this time last year. Because I was like, I just pivoted, and I was still doing LinkedIn learning courses and I was doing like one a month even though you’re supposed to do like one a quarter. And I was just like burnt out. I was like, I gotta stop this.

Brooke Janousek: And the irony is you leave corporate America to get rid of that burnout and then you end up doing it to yourself and then now you’re like, Well, I don’t have anybody to blame is myself that because I’ve overstepped my boundaries and took on more than I can handle.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, that’s exactly right. It’s so interesting. Because you’ll see like the tech bro and influencers, the threadbois, which is a term I just learned recently, which is so funny to me.

Brooke Janousek: Okay, I don’t know what threadbois means, so you’re gonna have to tell me.

Joe Casabona: So threadboi, all one word, boi spelled B-O-I are the people on Twitter who just have these massive threads telling you how to live your life.

Brooke Janousek: Okay. That’s funny.

Joe Casabona: Khe Hy like coined the term. I think it’s so funny. It’s like threadbois will be like, “All you need to do is start a business, is get a landing page and a Stripe account.” And I’m like, no, you don’t.

Brooke Janousek: Okay, I know who you’re talking about now.

Joe Casabona: And it’s like, no, you need a lot more than that. And it’s like, everybody should be self-employed. I’m like, No, some people definitely shouldn’t be. Most people are probably happy with gainful employment even if they don’t like their job.

Brooke Janousek: Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It really is not. You have to be able to say, okay… You know, it’s a roller coaster. And today, I’m like, on the very bottom and tomorrow, maybe I’ll be on the very top.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, exactly. It does feel like that day-to-day sometimes. You know, I’ll be like, oh, man. Monday… this is legit. It’s a slow period for me. I’ll just be straight up. Like most of my money I realized at the end of last year came from sponsorships that dried up because of the recession or from worrying about a recession. And on Monday, I was like, Where’s our next paycheck coming from? What are we going to do? And then like yesterday I landed like a $13,000 deal.

Brooke Janousek: Awesome. Congrats.

Joe Casabona: So I’m like, great.

Brooke Janousek: Congrats.

Joe Casabona: Thanks. It’s very roller coaster. And yeah, you could put systems in place that I definitely should have put in place. But it’s a work in progress. This is what you’re talking about, I think, right? I knew all of these things from my time in the freelance web development world and then they just like didn’t translate when I moved over to coaching. Because I had spent 20 years building myself up in that space, fewer years doing it in this space.

Brooke Janousek: Sure, yeah. So bottom line, well, you can fill in the gaps, you can have ongoing retainers. I think it just is… you know, not really one size fits all. It really depends on what the client needs.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely, what the client needs. And where you can work best. Again, one of the lessons I learned was that I tried like a podcast production done for you service and that just doesn’t scale very well. I don’t want to run a team, at least not right now. I want to just be me and knock off when I want to and spend time… I have three small children.

So I thought, well, the production part, the ongoing production is the non-scalable part, but the launch the podcast part, that’s the stuff I really love doing. So I’ve pivoted a little bit now. That’s the main service I offer. And then I can pass it off to my editor or we can meet quarterly to talk about ongoing production, but I’m not involved in the day-to-day at that point anymore. So this has been such a fun conversation.

Brooke Janousek: Good. I’ve had fun too.

Joe Casabona: I want to wrap up with this last question. Because we started with bold moves. Let’s end with bold moves. Right? You left your job shortly after this Sara Blakely story. What other bold moves have you taken to build your business?

Brooke Janousek: Oh, good question. So I have a couple. There’s two that come to mind. One is the interesting thing about being a fractional CMO, or fractional CTO, or whatever, is you get to be inside these corporations. So you get to see the every day how the business works, you get exposed to the culture, and oftentimes you get offered a job.

So it’s an opportunity for you to say, okay… Like, I’ve been tempted so many times. I’ve had people say, Why don’t you just come on full-time? And I feel like it’s the universe testing me of okay, you said you were gonna go all in on your business. Are you really all in on your business or are you kind of entertaining these other offers? So just being true to that I think is bold and saying no to these things.

I mean, I can go back to gainful employment fairly easily but I say no. For whatever reason, I am enjoying this roller coaster and the stress that goes with it. And I had my dream job come to me in January, and I just… the end of the day, I woke up and I thought, I can’t do this. And I still don’t know why. I hope it reveals itself later this year or maybe three years from now. But I think that was really bold. I think people really questioned what I was doing when I said no to that one.

And then the other thing that I’ve done is much like I did with Jesse. There are brands that I want to work for, and that I would love to be on their roster of people that they call. And I send notes and I get as creative as possible. And I don’t care anymore. I’m shooting my shot every chance I get and walking up to people when I’m in the room and saying, “I want to work with you and it’s paying off.” I will say that the first time you do it it’s scary as hell, but it gives you the confidence to keep doing it and it does pay off.

Joe Casabona: Oh, that’s great. I saw Terry Rice. I don’t know if you know Terry Rice or know of Terry Rice, but he’s awesome. He spoke at Craft & Commerce. And one of the things that he said was, If you want to increase your value, you need to charge more for your current product. Don’t invent a new product, charge more. Think about how you can position it to charge more. And then talk to people, knock on doors, email people. You’re gonna get told no a lot, but the people who say yes are going to be the people that you love working with, that you can really deliver for.

Brooke Janousek: 100%. I believe that.

Joe Casabona: I think a lot of people are afraid of rejection. I mean, I-

Brooke Janousek: Who isn’t?

Joe Casabona: I was. Yeah, exactly. Right. I mean, my friends know this. I had a lot of trouble asking girls out because I was like, what if they say no? And my friends were like, “What if they say no? Who cares?

Brooke Janousek: Or what if they say yes.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, what if they say yes? Luckily, I’m past those days. I’m happily married. We just passed the seven-year mark.

Brooke Janousek: Oh, congratulations.

Joe Casabona: Thank you. Apparently, that’s one of the times. But yeah, I love that. So I think if someone asked you… Let’s end here. This is probably a really weird, heady question that I didn’t tell you ahead of time. But if someone said to you, “Brooke, how can I be bold? What would you say to them?”

Brooke Janousek: I would say, first of all, if it makes you feel a little squeamish or uncomfortable, it’s probably the right thing to do and to really lean into it. And also don’t ask for permission then from a bunch of people. Don’t go and say, “Do you think I should do this? Should I ask her out? Should I send in that resume?” Don’t ask. Just go do it. Because that just asking is overthinking. It’s just overthinking with somebody else, in my opinion. You’ve invited five other people into your overthinking and they’re gonna like… Probably at that point, you could have just sent an email or ask the girl out or ask the guy out and been done with it. So that’s what I would say is just really lean into the discomfort and it means that you care, and it means it’s probably worth it.

Joe Casabona: Now, you’ve just given me two really good quotes. Asking is overthinking. Love that. Do you think I should do it? If they say yes are you gonna do it now, or if they say no…? My friends and I in college can never decide where we want to eat, and they’ll say, I don’t care. So I’m like, alright, well, I’m gonna flip a coin. If it’s head it’s Pizza Hut and tails it’s Subway, or whatever. Pizza Hut, do people still go to there?

Brooke Janousek: I don’t know. I was just gonna say, Man, I don’t know.

Joe Casabona: And invariably, no matter what the coin landed on, that decision helped people make the decision. Like, oh, I don’t want to go to Subway. You just told me you don’t care, though. Asking is overthinking and it will probably not yield very good results anyway. And lean into the discomfort. I love that too. I was in drama club, if you can believe it. I enjoyed acting on stage. This is the least surprising thing about me probably.

I’d always get real nervous right before going on stage. But as soon as I walked out, I was ready to go and happy to perform. So think about being bold, as Brooke says. This is all Brooke. I’m just making the analogy. Lean into the discomfort. It’s kind of right before you go on stage. But once you get out there, you’re good. I love that. Brooke, this has been such a great conversation.

Brooke Janousek: I agree. I’ve had a blast. Thank you.

Joe Casabona: Likewise. If people want to learn more about you, where can they find you?

Brooke Janousek: I’m very active on LinkedIn. So you can find me on LinkedIn just search Brooke Janousek, or you can go to

Joe Casabona: Ooh, that’s very melodical. I will link to those things and everything we talked about including Brooke’s LinkedIn story where she recouns… recounts? I talk professionally for a living. …her Sara Blakely story over in the show notes which you can find in your description or at Brooke, this has been great. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Brooke Janousek: Thank you so much.

Joe Casabona: My pleasure. And thank you for listening. I appreciate it. If you want to get ad-free extended versions of every episode, you can head over to or the show notes link I just mentioned, Thanks so much to our sponsors for this episode. And until next time, get out there and build something.

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