Unlocking the Power of Executive Services with Gina Cotner

Episode Transcription

Glenn Harper [00:00:00]:

Hello, everyone. Welcome to another edition of the Empowering Entrepreneurs podcast. I’m Glenn Harper.

Julie Smith [00:00:04]:

Julie Smith. What’s going

Glenn Harper [00:00:05]:

on, Julie? No coffee today?

Julie Smith [00:00:06]:

No coffee because it’s lunch time. So I’m afraid by the end of the podcast, I might get hangry.

Glenn Harper [00:00:11]:

Well, just don’t, don’t get testy over there. Well, we’ve got a great guest today, And I’d like to introduce, Gina Cotner, owner, founder of Athena Executive Services, a firm that pairs high caliber virtual executive assistants with executives, entrepreneurs, and business owners who can’t take it anymore and are ready to snap. If you wanna hear if you want to have what the most successful people have, assistance that really know what you need and can execute, then Athena Executive Services is who you should you should call. Gina loves to speak and get satisfaction from sharing the secret of great executive assistance to others so they can get over that pesky obstacles of less time and more tasks. How great is that we have another guest who’s taken the path of identifying wannabe entrepreneurs and helping them convert from being stuck in a rut to breaking free and achieving their goals. Gina has 25 years of experience working for companies such as Landmark and IBM. She launched her company because she knew she was destined to run her own business someday. Now she’s living the dream in playtime and work time in harmony.

Glenn Harper [00:01:08]:

Thanks, Gina, for being on the show.

Gina Cotner [00:01:11]:

Thanks. Thanks for having me.

Julie Smith [00:01:13]:

I think that wins for the longest intro. So you you have a lot to talk about then. Oh,

Gina Cotner [00:01:18]:


Julie Smith [00:01:19]:

He’s gotta take a drink of water after after that.

Glenn Harper [00:01:22]:

Harsh. That harsh. Well, she’s just a she has a great story. So we’re I’m awful excited to chat with you and see what’s going on. And, you know, we like to just get to know our guests a little bit and have a little fun. And, you know, I detect a slight upstate New York accident. It appears that you did not lose the accent when you moved back to, Seattle from New York. Is that true?

Gina Cotner [00:01:45]:

Maybe. Okay. I was born and raised in Seattle, and I don’t you know, who goes from Seattle to Syracuse, New York is a strange story and maybe a podcast all into itself.

Glenn Harper [00:01:54]:

That is definitely one of my questions. How does one pick Yes. To go to Syracuse? But before we go there, you you’re from Seattle, but what what part of Seattle? Are you, like, downtown? Are you a suburb somewhere? We’ve had a few guests, and we know a little bit about the area.

Gina Cotner [00:02:09]:

Right. Right. I am actually within the small footprint that is Seattle proper.

Glenn Harper [00:02:15]:


Gina Cotner [00:02:16]:

And I’m in a neighborhood, called West Seattle, which oddly enough is on the west side of Seattle.

Julie Smith [00:02:22]:

That’s weird. Someone with some creative juices really, really got to use them on that one.

Gina Cotner [00:02:27]:

Yeah. What should

Glenn Harper [00:02:28]:

what should we name it? Let’s name it West. Yeah. Well and then do you so you grew up in Seattle. What was it like growing up in your household? Was it cool? Is it, your parents’ entrepreneurs, working for a living, siblings, all that kind of stuff?

Gina Cotner [00:02:42]:

No. They were not. They were steady Eddie. Right? Mom worked for the government for 30 years. Dad sold insurance for 30 years. They were like a rock. And, you know, I I’m one of those people who was lucky enough to win the parent lottery. You know, there’s only child and great parents and, you know, they were just awesome.

Gina Cotner [00:03:03]:

And it was the it was the seventies. Right? The seventies, and my mom was rising career woman, right, who got up in 1980 and dressed as much like a man as you could. You know? And then went off to her corporate job and fucked up against, you know, the glass ceiling and fought for women and business and all of this. So I kind of watched, you know, what she did in the seventies eighties, and it was it was inspiring. So I definitely grew up with a career mom, and I’m a quintessential Gen x, only child, latchkey kid, work it out on your own, figure it out, entertain yourself. You’ll make it work. We’ll be home for dinner, and here’s a list of things to do before we get home from work kinda thing.

Glenn Harper [00:03:50]:

Awesome. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Right? And some it’s similar.

Gina Cotner [00:03:55]:

I kinda feel that way. You don’t I’m like, where did all that go?

Glenn Harper [00:03:58]:

Whatever the time that was available, it all went to you. You don’t have to share with any siblings, which is a big deal. Right? That’s that’s hard when when parents now have the multiple kids, but, heck, who has more than 1 or 2 kids nowadays anyway? It’s just too hard. Too hard. Did, when your dad was doing the insurance, was he working for a company, or did he have his own agency?

Gina Cotner [00:04:18]:

Yes and yes. So he sold insurance for State Farm.

Glenn Harper [00:04:20]:


Gina Cotner [00:04:21]:

But he was able to be very independent. You know? So he picked his own office place and his office hours. And so I saw, I suspect, I saw some element of entrepreneurialism over there, because I didn’t see him go to an office and have to sit in the cubicle and report to a direct boss, although he did have a boss. And then they always had, they always had real estate on the side. So there was always these you know, her job, his job, and then this other job called these rental properties. We and, of course, in my childhood memory, all I remember was they took my weekends because we had to go clean apartments and rake leaves at other people’s houses that I didn’t live at, and I just didn’t understand that.

Glenn Harper [00:05:04]:

So you get to be have some little slave labor and they just put you to work, which is

Gina Cotner [00:05:07]:

always good. Little did I know that’s what was gonna pay for college.

Glenn Harper [00:05:12]:

Isn’t that the darnest thing?

Julie Smith [00:05:13]:

So growing up, did you paint rocks, make bracelets, or do anything that maybe, you know, while you’re supposed to be raking leaves, you sold on the side?

Gina Cotner [00:05:22]:

No. No. But I do remember getting, Penny Saver Magazine. I don’t know why as a kid I got Penny Saver Magazine, but it was like this little financial magazine for kids, and I loved it. Now I think that was maybe a telltale sign of something.

Glenn Harper [00:05:40]:

It’s funny how some of those things will make an impact, but and at the time, you don’t know why. You were just curious, and next thing you know, it kinda sets the tone. And, when you were in high school, did you were you athlete in any clubs? Were you a lone wolf person, or you kinda love the groups? How did you navigate that?

Gina Cotner [00:06:02]:

Sports was definitely a great way to navigate. Right? Being a teenager. Right? All you wanna do as a teenager is just fit in and belong. But if you’re an athlete of some sort, you can always at least, you know, after school, you’ve got some group of friends that is forced to be with you and work with you. So I played soccer for 11 years, and then, I went to, to be frank, a pretty elite private school here in Seattle where Bill Gates went to school, and, from 5th grade to 10th grade. And somewhere around 8th grade, I got exposed to the world of crew. So now I’m getting exposed to rowing and crew in Seattle, those who have now fallen in love with the whole boys in the boat thing. And I was small.

Gina Cotner [00:06:51]:

And I went and I wanted to learn how to row because that’s what they were doing at the upper school. So I’m in 8th grade thinking, oh, my friend and I decide, well, maybe we should learn how to row. And one summer, I’m 13 years old. I probably weigh, I don’t know, £90 soaking wet, and I learn how to row. But they realized that I’m small and I am however I am at 13, I don’t know, I’m probably smart and precocious, And I learned how to be a coxswain on a crew team. And so when I go to the upper school and I’m on the crew team, I’m a coxswain on the women’s crew team. But then I decide, as many teenage girls. Right? I decide, I don’t like teenage girls.

Gina Cotner [00:07:33]:

Teenage girls are not nice. I’m gonna go hang out with boys. So then I become a coxswain on the men’s routine, And I leave private school after 6 years. I say to my mom and dad, I say, thanks so much for chewing off your right arm to send me to this elite private school. I don’t wanna be here anymore. I wanna go to a normal school where there’s cheerleaders and marching bands and football on Friday. And I wanna go have, like, a normal life, not a, like, can I get into the Ivy League’s life? And, so that had me I could no longer be on that private school crew team, but there was a public crew team here in Seattle, and there’s a lot of them because crew is a big sport here. And I was a female coxswain on a men’s crew team that was highly, highly successful and has been for decades And went to nationals and won nationals and, you know, just knew myself as started knowing myself as this little this little 5 foot 3 leader that could lead 6 foot tall teenage boys.

Gina Cotner [00:08:34]:

What the hell was I thinking?

Glenn Harper [00:08:35]:

That’s insane. Anyway It can’t happen like that.

Gina Cotner [00:08:38]:

When I I don’t get those pictures. I was like, what were you how were you even able to wrangle 8 teenage boys to get into

Gina Cotner [00:08:45]:

a boat on time and get on a lake on time and

Gina Cotner [00:08:48]:

go race? But that was probably a big part of the beginning of my my leadership skills. And so that also led to how did I end up at Syracuse? Because, you know, when you’re 18, you’re infinitely wisdom wise and know exactly what you wanna do. And what I wanted to do was race in the Eastern American Rowing Conference because that’s where all the Ivy Leagues raced, and I knew I couldn’t quite get into Ivy League, but I’d like to race against them. And so I only applied to schools that were in the Eastern American Rowing Conference.

Glenn Harper [00:09:19]:

So you That

Gina Cotner [00:09:19]:

was the criteria.

Julie Smith [00:09:20]:

Yes, I am. No academics. There was no thought of, like, does it have my major? Or what do I wanna do? Just I wanna go rote, and this is who I wanna compete against, not even who I wanna

Glenn Harper [00:09:30]:

That’s pretty cool.

Julie Smith [00:09:31]:

You know, go for.

Gina Cotner [00:09:33]:

Yeah. It was a little bit. I did love my major. Right? I got to be a dual major at Syracuse, but I and then I did finally get to, like, line up on the line, you know, on the on the racing line, on the start line against the Ivy Leagues. And then a year later or so, then I had way too much going on, and I finally gave up crew. But it’s very exciting 30 years later to watch boys in the boat and read that book and all that. But the

Julie Smith [00:09:55]:

way you Did you win? I know. You beat all those Ivy League schools, though. Right?

Gina Cotner [00:10:00]:

Sometimes, and sometimes not. They really are. You know, when you’re lined up against Harvard and Yale and Princeton and UPenn and all that.

Glenn Harper [00:10:07]:

Yeah. They talk funny,

Gina Cotner [00:10:08]:

so it’s

Glenn Harper [00:10:09]:

hard. Yeah.

Gina Cotner [00:10:10]:

That’s right.

Glenn Harper [00:10:11]:

You know, I I I thought I read somewhere that you actually wanted to go to Syracuse for quantum physics, but I’m like, I don’t know if that’s probably true or not. No? You you picked a Yeah. HR and, public relations instead.

Gina Cotner [00:10:25]:

I did. I did. Yeah. And I did go there because they’d let me have a dual major between the communication school, which is really renowned, and the business school. And I thought I’d be advertising marketing. But by the end of my freshman year, I said, you know, let’s do something that’s more about the people inside a company. And then how about the public relations, not to the external world, but the public relations internally? And what if people internally were fired up about the company and what was going on, and what difference would that make in the bottom line?

Glenn Harper [00:11:00]:

Well, that’s crazy talk. How was that, how was that received?

Gina Cotner [00:11:05]:

Yeah. Well, it’s it’s it started again. It’s so funny when you look back 30 years. Right? Okay. That started to impact the path I was on, I think. You know? I mean, I remember writing great PR case studies about, you know, big PR issues with companies. But I was throughout my career, and it made a big difference in where I am now. Like, oh, let’s deal with what’s going on with the human beings on the inside, And what did they think of the company as much as, uh-oh, we had a plane crash.

Gina Cotner [00:11:37]:

Now how do we have this company look okay to the external world?

Julie Smith [00:11:41]:

I mean, I think I see the parallel, though, between your majors and what got you to the school that you were at. I mean, you very much were leading those men at the time, and it was very much an internal leadership. I don’t think you I mean, just if you can look at it from a parallel sense, I think that it all makes sense to me why you your majors are what they were.

Gina Cotner [00:12:03]:

Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know what I was lining up when I was 16, 17, 18 years old, but I completely agree.

Glenn Harper [00:12:10]:

So and when you after you finished at Syracuse, did you wanna travel the world? Did you have aspiring to stay in college and do more? Or did you wanna move back to Seattle? What was the thought process to you know, did you wanna get a real job at that point? What was your thought process when you when you finished college?

Julie Smith [00:12:26]:

She was gonna do the Midwest rowing thing.

Glenn Harper [00:12:29]:


Gina Cotner [00:12:29]:

She’s done western

Julie Smith [00:12:30]:

and the eastern.

Gina Cotner [00:12:31]:

Yeah. She’s gonna do Midwest. That does exist. And, but, no. Once again, in all the wisdom of a 22 year old girl, what does she wanna do? She’s gonna follow her college boyfriend to Boston. So that was the first thing I did for about a year and a half. I followed my college boyfriend and then we broke up, and I woke up one day in Boston. And, now this is 1990, and, and, now this is 1996, and there was some headline on the boss head of the Boston Globe that said, and I don’t mean to get too political here, but it was a big dust up about how gays couldn’t march in the Saint Patty’s Day parade.

Gina Cotner [00:13:23]:

And and, you know, Saint Patrick’s Day is a big deal in Boston, and I grew up in Seattle. And I grew up in a city where the mayor marches in the pride parade. I mean, everybody goes to pride day in Seattle. All my entire growing up, that’s not, like, a new thing. So I thought, what am I doing out here? I I I wanna go back home. I wanna go back. I’m ready to go back home. This has been great.

Gina Cotner [00:13:47]:

I’ve been out here on the East Coast for 6 years, and I I wanna go back to my mountains and my water and my climate, political climate, physical climate, all of that climate. And so I came back to Seattle. And it’s kinda funny. I think a lot of people in Seattle who were born and raised here have had that experience that we all go away, and then we all come back at some point. And I’m sure all is the wrong word there. But a lot of us come back and go, okay. Now I now I wanna be back here. So I’ve been back here since, about 2 years 2 or 3 years out of college.

Glenn Harper [00:14:21]:

There’s something about the call of the northwest that brings people back. I Yep. And I’m sure your

Julie Smith [00:14:27]:

parents had open arms to to welcome you back. Right?

Gina Cotner [00:14:32]:

Yeah. Yeah. Yep. Yep. Parents are always like, good. Okay. She’s back.

Julie Smith [00:14:37]:

And so what are you doing now for your career now that you’re back in Seattle? What’s going on?

Gina Cotner [00:14:44]:

Well, I opened a company 8 years ago.

Julie Smith [00:14:48]:

But what did you do when you first moved back?

Gina Cotner [00:14:50]:

Oh, oh, oh. I was like, yeah. So then I came back to Seattle, and what did I do? I was in the midst. I had taken some, like, personal development courses, personal development seminars, and, you know, fell in love with that and started working for that company for a couple years. And then I left there, and I asked someone I you know, one of those weird little pieces of advice you get along the way and you listen to it. You think, thank god I listened to that little tiny piece of advice. I asked a woman that I really looked up to, and I said, you know, listen. I’m job hunting, and it’s now the year, like, 2 1999.

Gina Cotner [00:15:28]:

So we’re right in about the dot com boom. And I’m in my late twenties. And I said, you know, what do you think? I’m thinking about this kinda job, that kinda job. And she said, said, you know what you might wanna do, Gina, at this point in your career is go get a big name on your resume. And I don’t know what had her say that, but I’ll tell you, I am, like, forever grateful that Didi Henley said that to me because I shopped around, and then I started working for IBM. Right? And a lot of my friends were in .coms and, like, the startup. It was just the whole frenzy of startup mode, and that just sounded a little too freaky for me. You know, and Big Blue sounded good.

Gina Cotner [00:16:10]:

Right? That just kind of sounded like stability. And I was there for 6 years, from the time I was about 28 to about 35, and it was just perfect. It was like the perfect amount of big corporate experience, which I wouldn’t have wanted to continue for the next 30 years. But as a foundational piece in my career, I was just really grateful, you know, for the managers I had there and just learning a general corporate structure made a huge difference.

Julie Smith [00:16:44]:

Yeah. I mean, I think corporate America for I mean, I’m a big proponent of it, but I I do think the foundation that it does give you in regards to just like people, processes, you know, kind of the way they think. It’s not like all entrepreneurs, but it gives you a way to kind of think through things in a very logical, rational way that sometimes I feel like some people that don’t get that don’t understand that thinking, that thought process. Right? So I I agree with you in regards to that foundation and and propelling you in into that next thing.

Glenn Harper [00:17:18]:

I think she’s talking about me. I didn’t have the perfect experience. So it’s all foreign to me. It’s like this, behind the curtain, I don’t really wanna know how the sausage is made. It’s just a whole different thing. But everybody that seems to go through it, especially entrepreneurs, they have just a different type of mindset. They’re not it’s not a free spirited thinking mindset. It’s more of a structured mindset because they they have that organizational skill that most entrepreneurs are just shooting from the hip

Julie Smith [00:17:45]:

figuring things out. I think I don’t know if you agree with me or not. And I’m going out on a whim and we might get some negative feedback. But I think sometimes in corporate America, it makes you take the emotion and go with the facts because that’s all everybody’s looking for when you’re walking into, you know, when you’re walking into a boardroom to say, hey, here’s the budget or here’s what I need or here’s what I’m proposing. It forces you to take any emotion out of that and go straight for the facts. Or sometimes I think on the other side of that small businesses and and entrepreneurs, sometimes not all the time, tend to go with that emotion. Right? Like, I feel, I think, instead of like, oh, you’re right. That doesn’t make sense because I can’t fit that round into a square you know what I mean? Like, kind of thought process.

Julie Smith [00:18:30]:

And so that’s just that’s kind of what I’ve kind of just witnessed and been able to see through our experience. And I don’t know if you would agree with that at all, your experience.

Gina Cotner [00:18:39]:

Yeah. Yeah. I think so. And there’s just so many things that are normal. Like, we just started, you know, as my own company grows, and I’m like, oh, man. Now I think we gotta do performance reviews.

Glenn Harper [00:18:49]:


Gina Cotner [00:18:49]:

Okay. Well, what’s the process of performance reviews? Well, I don’t know. I’m gonna design today what makes sense today, but having great memories of, like, oh, right. And then you submit, and then they submit, and then we have a meeting, and you get really nervous ahead of time. And then you sweat, and then they sweat. And then you do this thing, and you fill out the form, and, phew, we’re done with that for another year or another 6 months. Just the processes of you know? And then that time card, it’s gotta get turned in on time, and this has gotta get approved by that person. Oh, and every Monday, then there’s the meeting at 10, and you go to the Starbucks with all your friends.

Gina Cotner [00:19:19]:

And you go to the Starbucks, but you don’t go to that Starbucks because the competitor goes to that Starbucks, and we go to this one. And then you gotta get into the board meeting on time. And you sit on this side. Don’t sit over there because that’s where the sits. Just all the stuff that isn’t an issue. None of it’s an issue. It’s just, like, you learn kind of the way of the world until you decide, oh, wait. I wanna I wanna do something else.

Glenn Harper [00:19:42]:

And that’s when you left IBM. And then where did you go then?

Gina Cotner [00:19:48]:

Yeah. So now I’m in my mid thirties, I guess, early to mid thirties. I’m I’ve been I’m married now. I’m 2 or 3 years into being married. I don’t know if it’s because I’m at that stage of life. And when everybody’s at that stage of life, they have these thoughts or if it’s because it was the early 2000 and this was what was hot. But I start going to these webinars and seminars about real estate and passive income and not being bound by corp, you know, corporate America and 9 to 5 and how to go find your financial freedom. And I’m like, yes.

Glenn Harper [00:20:27]:

Where do I sign up?

Gina Cotner [00:20:28]:

I don’t know. I kinda think everybody in that, like, stage of life finds their way there, and there’s just different vehicles that they glom onto. And I think, oh god. You’re trying to go, oh, I’m gonna go be I’m gonna go be free. And, you know, freedom ain’t free. So it’s, I go to, you know, Robert Kiyosaki seminars, and I’m going to these other seminars. Anyway, I get this wild hair called I have gotta lead corporate America. I am gonna be in control of my time and how much money I make and, right, and I decide to, I’m gonna leave.

Gina Cotner [00:21:04]:

I know I’m gonna leave corporate America, I spend about a year writing a business plan, to open. Again, infinite wisdom of an early 30 year old, 30 something year old. I’m gonna open a Martini Lounge because that’s not risky at all.

Glenn Harper [00:21:23]:

No. Everybody loves martinis.

Gina Cotner [00:21:25]:

I’m sure there’s lots of freedom to be found. Little do I know. Right? The margins in that kinda industry are pretty rough. But, I do. I leave corporate America. I write a business plan. I get a business partner. We find a location, and we’re really close to mortgaging everything we we own to open this thing.

Gina Cotner [00:21:47]:

And I just start realizing, I don’t think I like working with this guy. Like, he’s a good guy, but I don’t think I can see myself at 2 in the morning doing dishes with him or, like, having a baby with him, essentially. Even though I’ve known him, I kinda trust him, but this is way I’m mortgaging way too much for what’s about to happen here. And it’s about 2,007 now. And 2,008, 2,009 hasn’t happened, and I don’t have a crystal ball. And it was the best thing I never did. And I just said

Glenn Harper [00:22:23]:

That’d have been tough to recover from that. Yeah.

Gina Cotner [00:22:26]:

I said, sorry. I don’t think we should do this, and I’m not gonna do this.

Julie Smith [00:22:31]:

So was that just your gut or I mean what

Gina Cotner [00:22:36]:

I mean, it’s a little you see see the signs. Right? I kept seeing in his world, and I’m kind of a believer not kind of. I really am a believer that how people do one thing is pretty much how they do everything. So I just kept noticing these, like, emergencies in his life. Like, oh, I I can’t make this. I’ve gotta go. This thing happened. Oh, my daughter this or my this, that, or I can’t make this meeting.

Gina Cotner [00:23:00]:

Can you this and that? And I’m not sure I’m gonna be able to. And I thought, oh, this is not something is gonna go really well for me. Right? This is somebody I’ve gotta be able to rely on 24 hours a day if you’re gonna open something in that kinda industry. And I thought, I just saw the signs, and I thought, you gotta make a call here. And if you’re gonna put your house and all of your worldly possessions on the line, I don’t think you’re bet that with this guy.

Glenn Harper [00:23:29]:

Did you have, like, a a CPA, a financial adviser, a coach, or somebody walking you through this business plan before you made that decision, or is this all on you? You did it yourself.

Gina Cotner [00:23:42]:

Heck no. Heck no, meaning who needs advisers? Yep. Who needs advisers when you have passion and some small amount of experience that makes you feel like you understand the industry?

Julie Smith [00:23:55]:

And what did your husband do? I’m just curious.

Gina Cotner [00:23:58]:

Let’s yeah. Yeah. So he is part of it. He had been, a, basically, a server in a high end steakhouse.

Julie Smith [00:24:10]:


Gina Cotner [00:24:10]:

Right? So he was he was he wasn’t on the plan, but I was like, okay. He was gonna be able to be a key part of this Mhmm. As well. And, you know, we had visions of him, you know, bartending and training the staff, and he’s he’s an extraordinary customer service kind of guy and could train anybody in that. So he was he was there for it, but I think also relieved when I said, we’re not actually gonna go do that.

Glenn Harper [00:24:40]:

I mean k. And, again, it’s it’s ironic when we talk to a lot of entrepreneurs and, you know, they always have that first big we don’t use the f word, but the first big learning experience. Right? And that it just didn’t work out. You’re very fortunate that you pulled the plug on that. Again, odds are 1% it had been highly successful, right? And you just had the gut feeling. And again, entrepreneurs out there, just trust your gut. Sometimes it might not may you might wanna really, really, really do it, but maybe it’s not the right time. But at the same time, it’s really terrifying to push to go do something.

Glenn Harper [00:25:16]:

So if you never push to do it, you’ll never get anywhere. So, like, the dichotomy of this is just enthralling, right, for an entrepreneur, which which way do you go? So you you made the right choice, which is good.

Julie Smith [00:25:27]:

So you’re unemployed. You have no business plan essentially now. Yep. Hopefully, your husband’s still doing what he was doing and hadn’t hadn’t done that. So now what?

Gina Cotner [00:25:43]:

Yeah. So now I decide I’m I now really don’t wanna go back to corporate America again. So I become some combination of, like, a business coach, life coach, accountability partner type person that somebody would pay some amount of money to to say, what are your goals? And what do you wanna accomplish this month quarter year? So I was sort of like, I called myself a business coach. Now I’m looking back on it, you know, going, alright. We were sort of business coach light by today’s standards. So I was a business coach for a while, and I was just sort of eking by. Right? Just making enough money that Rob and I could pay the mortgage, and he wasn’t making a lot of money. And, again, the the real estate bubble was about to pop, and we were a quintessential, like, party in that.

Gina Cotner [00:26:33]:

Right? We were the kind of people that could get a gigantic house on stated income. Like, we were getting all the benefits of all the stuff that was happening that turned out to be a major issue. I mean, I became like a poster child for it. Right? We were mortgaged way beyond

Glenn Harper [00:26:48]:

Interest only, 5 year variable. Yeah. Yeah. All those things. Yeah.

Gina Cotner [00:26:51]:

Four bedroom house on a lake. Oh, yeah. No problem. We got this. Right? And my dad, the whole time going, how are you getting into this house? How are you? I’m like, dad, this is just what people are doing now. This isn’t 30 years ago. Don’t worry about it. It’s gonna be great.

Gina Cotner [00:27:05]:

It’s what we’re all doing. Yeah. That got really scary quickly, and I think that’s probably coming in our story here. So, yeah, I’m doing the solopreneur. I’m a business coach, and then somebody finds me. She’s a hospitality consultant. She’s looking for a business partner. I decide, yep.

Gina Cotner [00:27:23]:

Let’s do that. So I’m a hospitality consultant with her for a few years, and we go into hotels and bars and restaurants, And we’re coaching and setting up systems to have people be effective, make more money, all of that. And then would you like me to keep going?

Glenn Harper [00:27:40]:

Yes, please. Do tell.

Gina Cotner [00:27:42]:

Okay. Did

Julie Smith [00:27:43]:

you did you have

Gina Cotner [00:27:44]:

a passion, though, for this hospitality, like, that industry?

Julie Smith [00:27:44]:

Like, did you find that that fueled

Gina Cotner [00:27:56]:

we, me and Rob it was just me and Rob. We didn’t have kids. We didn’t have a big family. I don’t know. I was like, what are we doing with 4 bedrooms and 3 4 bathrooms on a lake? But we just were. So we always have roommates, and it was really fun. And one of our roommates was a restaurateur. He was a young man, 22, 23, that opened a restaurant with his mom.

Gina Cotner [00:28:17]:

And we both would periodically work there. And we learned a ton and watched him open this business, which today has gone on. It’s now, like, the greatest steak house in the county that it’s in. It’s been a massive success story. So I think we were a part of and got to watch the early days of something get up off the ground, which so that was part of what influenced me. But, yeah, it always I don’t know. Even working there, I had learned a ton. And I don’t quite know again, you look back and you’re like, how why was I into that? It’s a great question.

Gina Cotner [00:28:50]:

And but yet if I would tell you now, you know, 10, 15 years later, oh, yeah. Boy, that really served me, being a hospitality consultant. I learned a ton a ton being with her. And, again, we were just eking by not making any really good money. It was kind of painful. You know, we’re now coming out of the 2008, 2009 pains. We’re now in, like, 2010. Hospitality and hospitality training, nobody’s got money for that right now.

Gina Cotner [00:29:21]:

And I just say to her, I can’t just keep eking by. You know? This just I can’t. I I I need to go I’m gonna probably need to go get a job. At the same time, I separate from my husband. And we are slowly going through a divorce, and I’m now no longer living in the 4 bedroom, 4 bathhouse on the lake. And I say, that’s yours. You just have that. Rent those rooms.

Gina Cotner [00:29:47]:

You’ll be fine. And I think all is gonna go well, and I move into mom’s basement because who doesn’t wanna do that when they’re 40? That’s really empowering.

Glenn Harper [00:29:58]:

That feels good. Yeah.

Gina Cotner [00:30:00]:

God. That feels good. So 3 months in mom’s basement. Right? And, then I get an apartment on South Lake Union in in right in the heart of Seattle, and I start getting, notices in my mailbox that are literally pink or yellow. And I’ve never gotten bills in the color of pink and yellow, which is the mortgage company letting you know that the mortgage on that house is not getting paid. And that got very scary. And then I started getting letters of a countdown of how soon, you know, before it would foreclose. And Rob and I are not hardly talking, and he’s not mentally doing well at all and, you know, drinking and gambling and going downhill very quickly.

Gina Cotner [00:30:48]:

And I’m trying now to sell the house from 60 miles away. And I just got very scared and said to myself, you need a job. You need a j o b. And you show up somewhere, and it better be easy. It better not be very taxing. You better make some money, and you go home. And that’s all you’ve got mental, physical, emotional bandwidth for right now. And I saw a friend on Facebook say, I need, I’m looking for an executive assistant.

Gina Cotner [00:31:23]:

And I thought, yeah. Alright. I’ll be an executive assistant. That doesn’t sound very hard. I can manage people’s schedules. I could organize somebody. I could get somebody, you know, where they need to be on time and keep an office running. Let’s do that.

Gina Cotner [00:31:38]:

And I become her executive assistant. And I do manage to save the house from from foreclosure. We short sell it. Rob and I eventually do get divorced. And now I’m going to work every day, getting on the bus, going to somebody’s office, being an executive assistant.

Julie Smith [00:31:59]:

What industry is this in?

Gina Cotner [00:32:02]:

She was a CEO of a recruiting firm. Okay.

Glenn Harper [00:32:05]:

Is this full time then? Full time job? Okay.

Gina Cotner [00:32:08]:

Yep. Full time. Occurred for me as like, oh, now I feel like I’m back in the IBM life. I get dressed. I get on the bus. I take my laptop on my little bag. I’m working on the way to work. And about 3 months later, maybe 3 or 4 months into that, she sells or gets out of the lease of where the office is.

Gina Cotner [00:32:29]:

And me and everybody who works at this firm are now all working from home. So it’s now maybe 2013, 2012, 2013, 2014. And I’m working from home, And I’m this person’s executive assistant, and I’m totally digging this. Like, you can throw in a load of laundry. You can kinda get the dishes done, get the job done. You’re in your sweats half the time. This is awesome. Yeah.

Gina Cotner [00:33:04]:

And then, fast forward another year or 2, that business starts to shrink. She doesn’t need an EA anymore. At the same time, I happen to know my father is gonna pass away. So he’d lived 25 years of muscular dystrophy, and his body was just deteriorating, deteriorating, deteriorating, deteriorating. And we now kinda knew we were in the last 6 months, the last 3 months. And I said to my boss, how about I just go? Maybe we’ll have crossed paths in the future. Maybe we won’t. I’m gonna go be with my father in the last couple months of his life.

Gina Cotner [00:33:42]:

And I did. I went to California, and I was with him in a very sacred, I would say, time of life to be with somebody. And he passed about 9 years ago. And I came back to Seattle and was just quiet and was in morning. And 3 or 4 months later, I said, alright. I think I’m ready to go work, and I’m just gonna go wrestle the bushes, and I’ll find another CEO to work for. And I did. A good friend of mine was in HR at this small firm, and she said, oh my god.

Gina Cotner [00:34:20]:

My CEO needs you. He’s a mess. And I said, okay. So I start working for him, and I go into the office one day a week. I clean up his office. Right? His desk is just this desk is only there for piling piling mail on. It was a mountain of mail, literally. And I’d go in once a week, and I’d open the mail, and I’d file some stuff.

Gina Cotner [00:34:39]:

And then 4 days a week, I just manage this calendar from home and all the projects and tasks that there were to do. And the very first task I ever got, which, by the way, you should never give this kind of task to your EA ever, the very first task, which was, I guess, in a way, the ultimate test, he said, I’m gonna get married, and my fiance wants this kind of ring, and this is how that looks like at Tiffany. And I need you to go find me a jeweler that will make this ring for my to be wife. That’s a really high stakes project to give your brand new day, everybody.

Glenn Harper [00:35:13]:

Sounds really easy to do. I don’t I don’t see the problem.

Gina Cotner [00:35:18]:

No no high stakes there.

Julie Smith [00:35:20]:

This could go wrong at all. No.

Gina Cotner [00:35:23]:

That’s right. So I, run through that gauntlet, and, he’s just like, this is the best thing ever, Tiffany, having an EA. He’s like, this is fabulous. How did I ever live without one? And Tiffany said, yeah. You know, I told you so. And then Tiffany comes to me, and we’re now in, January of 2015. And she says, I’m gonna need you. Just so you know, in plan, I’m gonna need your services next quarter.

Gina Cotner [00:35:54]:

And I said, I don’t have any more bandwidth, and I’m not interested. I’m sorry. I’m really happy to be in this guy’s EA. She said, no problem. Just find me somebody like you. Dun dun dun. So The watershed moment? That’s exactly. Go to commercial.

Glenn Harper [00:36:14]:


Gina Cotner [00:36:16]:

So I said, alright. And she and I had a lot of friends in common and and organized, highly effective people, and we put our heads together. And I said, well, what about Dorian? And she said, yeah. I know Dorian. I think Dorian could be good. And I said I could coach her, and teach her what I know, and she could be your EA, and you you need to just be a good person to be an EA for. Like, you need to be a good boss, and I’ll be a good coach, and let’s see if we can do this. Now Dorian was young.

Gina Cotner [00:36:47]:

She had been in one job her entire adult life. She was still living at home. She’s probably in her late twenties. She’s still living at home, living a fairly traditional life, not gonna move out of her parents’ home until she gets married. And I said, Tiffany, if we pluck her out of her one adult job she’s had, we cannot screw up her life. Okay? I just said, okay. So we called Dorian, and Dorian says, yeah. I’d love to work with you guys.

Gina Cotner [00:37:15]:

That sounds great. So Dorian starts being Tiffany’s EA. I’m the CEO’s EA, and I’m coaching Darren. And this I mean, I’m coaching Dorian, and this company is paying me a little spiff. Like, for every hour that Dorian works, they give me, like, 5 extra dollars an hour or something to coach her. And I think we’re good, and I’m doing good, and when it’s good. And Tiffany says, 3 months later, the guys in sales are wasting a lot of time on admin work. They really need an EA.

Gina Cotner [00:37:46]:

You need but first of all, you need to open this as a business, and you need to go find me somebody else. And I said, Tiffany, I’ve been an entrepreneur, Way too stressful. Not gonna do it. Not gonna eke by. Not gonna have paying the mortgage be predicated on the next contract that I can sign. No. And she said, well, then find me somebody like you. So I find Allison, friend of mine.

Gina Cotner [00:38:11]:

And I said, Allison, do you wanna come work with us? And here’s what’s going on. And she said, yeah. And then Tiff said, you really need to open this as a business. I said, I don’t want to. And she said, just get over yourself and do it. And I did.

Glenn Harper [00:38:22]:

And here we are. But I have

Julie Smith [00:38:24]:

to know, were you able to secure the ring, and was everybody happy? Or how did that end?

Gina Cotner [00:38:30]:

Yes. Yes. Yes. And we still know them today. He and his wife are friends of me and my partner for many years. And

Julie Smith [00:38:37]:

Does she know that you picked out the ring like he just had parameters?

Gina Cotner [00:38:42]:

Yes. Yes. She she’s she’s loved me. She’s you know, we had lunch, last last, last summer, and I forget. And then we’re all having lunch together, and I looked down at her ring, and I think, oh, yeah. That’s the ring.

Glenn Harper [00:38:56]:

When you when you look back at this, is it you know, because entrepreneurs go through the struggle, you know, in, out, in, out, back and forth, back and forth. Like, you were pretty adamant it wasn’t gonna happen, get back into it. Was it just the little push to get you over the edge, the dough touch it again and taste it again? Or was it like, you know, what the hell else am I gonna do? I got nothing else going on. I got plenty of bandwidth for that. What what was the thing that made you go, yeah, I’ll I’ll start a business and then look at you today. Right? So what was the thing?

Julie Smith [00:39:26]:

I want her to answer, and then I wanna

Glenn Harper [00:39:27]:

answer. Okay.

Gina Cotner [00:39:30]:

Alright. She she was a big part. And, so then I have been with my current boyfriend and partner of for the last 13 years, and he just so happens to be a very successful, very effective business coach. And he he said to me, I don’t know why you wouldn’t open this. Now I pushed him to open his business. I said, I don’t know why you wouldn’t become a business coach, and then he did. And then he comes back at me. Right? He said Mhmm.

Gina Cotner [00:40:01]:

You know, you could just do this. And I said, I don’t know. And he goes, you told me, you know, you gave me the push, and it totally turned out for me. And I’m just telling you, you you can do this. Now a little other nugget, his company is called Apollo Coaching and Consulting. And at one point, I thought I’d be a division of that. And he said, you know, you should be Athena, and I’ll be Apollo. And I was like, okay.

Gina Cotner [00:40:34]:

Again, another another smart no was, yes. Let’s do it. No. I shall not be a division of your company. We shall have separate companies, and that has kept our partnership sane.

Julie Smith [00:40:46]:

Mhmm. But I also

Gina Cotner [00:40:46]:

What’s your

Julie Smith [00:40:47]:

I also think, and and you adding to it, I think made it even more right, is someone believed in you for this. And I think in the other ones, you were the driving force behind it, like in the martini the martini lounge or whatever it was. Like, you’re the driving force. You didn’t have someone believing in you. You’re the one holding up the fort, you know, for whatever reason. And I think the difference in this thing is not only did you have the person who you were working for believe in you to go open your own business, but you also had a partner that believed in you that said, hey, go do it. I got your back. We’re good.

Julie Smith [00:41:22]:

It’s all gonna be fine. And I think that’s really what you needed to push you. You know, if I look at it from a 360 view hindsight, whatever you wanna call it, I think that’s the difference. And I think when you have that as an entrepreneur, it makes you believe in yourself and what you’re doing and gives you the confidence to get up every day. And what do you call it? You you always have something about, like, whatever you’re saying is. But like I

Glenn Harper [00:41:45]:

got a lot of them.

Julie Smith [00:41:46]:

You know, to get beat down essentially as an entrepreneur because those the the start of it is not easy. Right? You said freedom is not free in the beginning. And I I think, you know, your story is that. But I think the fact that multiple people believed in you for this venture is why you are where you are.

Gina Cotner [00:42:03]:

Yeah. I think so. And I think I’m gonna steal that steal that and say that more often because it is you know, it’s it’s Tiffany saying, like, do you know who I’m talking to? You. You. You could go do this. And then Dorian coming on board was a huge thing. You know? Dorian and I are still, she is one of the likely she is one of the successors of this business now. And there’s a whole story of who Dorian’s been in the last 8 years in this business.

Gina Cotner [00:42:32]:

And but it also is being able to have a partner like Dorian from day 1 who is like, okay. Now what, Gina? Alright. Now what, Gina? Okay. Now, Gina, this is awesome. Now what? And somebody who’s just there and eager and ready to be your partner. And, you know, now the tables have turned. Now I wake up on Monday morning and say to her, Dorian, now what? She’s waiting the charge now. But you’re absolutely right, Julie.

Gina Cotner [00:42:57]:


Glenn Harper [00:42:58]:

It’s the weirdest thing that, everyone, when you go through whatever you go through in life, trauma, setbacks, whatever those things are, you have this artificial, like, glass ceiling that you just can’t break through. And then when you do, you’re like, well, look at all of this up here. I didn’t know this existed, and and there you are, which is which is the best. So congratulations on that. And, you know, as we try to get our listeners to be motivated to when they’re if they’re wanting to be an entrepreneur or they’re struggling as an entrepreneur, you know, it’s how do they get through the next day? Just don’t quit today, right? How do you get to the next day without losing everything? Do you believe in yourself? Can you change your attitude, your psyche, whatever that is? And that that’s the inspiration. And then after the answer, then they make it. Right? And now you’ve made it. And so then Julie always asks her a question.

Glenn Harper [00:43:47]:


Julie Smith [00:43:47]:

Well, I have more questions. Sorry. I’m not I’m not ready

Glenn Harper [00:43:50]:

for that. I thought

Gina Cotner [00:43:50]:

that was that one. It is like, wait a minute.

Julie Smith [00:43:52]:

So I forget the person who is in HR. Who who is that? I or did you say her name? Tiffany. Yes. Tiffany. Yeah. Do you guys still work together today?

Gina Cotner [00:44:03]:

No. Okay. But another great entrepreneurial lesson, Tiffany’s worked for other companies. And when she, in her career, moves along, what does she want? NEA. She comes back to the nest and says, who you got for me now? And we used to work with her for a year, and then she goes on, does other things in her career. And, yeah, recently, she now works for a household name and has come back and said 3 of us want EAs, Gina. And I’m like, oh my god, Tiffany. You are just the gift that just keeps on giving.

Julie Smith [00:44:36]:

Isn’t that funny how that all worked out?

Gina Cotner [00:44:39]:

Amazing. Amazing.

Julie Smith [00:44:41]:

Do you think one of the questions I always like to ask, and I don’t know if it’s Tiffany or if it’s someone else or if you’re like, you know what, Julie, I just, I don’t know that I had anyone. Did you have a mentor at all at some point in time that you, I mean, you talked about the person that said, hey, go get the real job. Right? That had a huge impact on you. But is there someone else in your entrepreneurial journey that you can say like, this person was all was always there, always gave me great advice or did you have anything?

Gina Cotner [00:45:10]:

Not a if I if I had to name a name, I would say my partner, who’s John.

Julie Smith [00:45:16]:


Gina Cotner [00:45:17]:

But, you know, everything before that, like bosses at IBM come to mind, books I read, right, the webinars I went to. I mean, ultimately, why I left corporate America was I read this paragraph in this book. It happened to be a Robert Kiyosaki book called Cash Flow Quadrant. And it’s an old book now, but it basically said, you’re gonna be disappointed. Disappointment is, like, part of it. And I thought, oh, well, of course. Because I was like, should I jump? Should I not jump? Should I jump? Should I not jump? Oh, right. Quit trying to get all my my ducks so perfectly lined up.

Gina Cotner [00:45:58]:

There’s going to be disappointment, and I I’ve survived disappointment before. I don’t think I’m gonna die. And that was kind of a pivotal moment where I realized, oh, there’s gonna be those ups and downs, and that’s gonna come with this. Can you stomach that? Okay. I can stomach that. Alright. Well, then let’s go. So that was a sort of a mentoring moment from an author.

Gina Cotner [00:46:21]:

But other than that, it just I’ve had a lot of coaches along the way in my personal development journey. And then I’m just I am lucky that I don’t run to John for coaching a lot, but it’s nice to have a really potent business coach under the same roof that you are.

Glenn Harper [00:46:38]:

And then your hip pocket is really convenient.

Julie Smith [00:46:40]:

Yeah. Yeah. And so have you as you’ve been able to go through this journey, you’ve had to build a team essentially. Right? And do you think that the Corporate America Foundation has propelled you into being able to do that more efficiently and effectively than maybe if you hadn’t have had that experience?

Gina Cotner [00:47:01]:

Yeah. I would say where I got the bulk of my team building, I will say, is at Landmark, which is where I did all my personal development. And it’s that’s where I learned to build teams, of people to produce almost anything. And it’s also where I kinda finally got that mindset called, if you’re gonna be up to anything big, it’s not gonna come down to your personal skill set, ability, energy, effectiveness. I mean, that’s only gonna get you so far. Now if you just have Gina and Dorian, now we’re gonna get twice as far. Now you got Gina, Dorian, Allison. Okay.

Gina Cotner [00:47:33]:

Maybe we’re gonna get 3 times as far. So it’s been an ironic thing as I’ve built my team because this business is predicated upon people’s ability at our clients’ ability and willingness to delegate. Right? We feed off of people’s delegation. So then it became, well, Gina, are you gonna delegate? Mhmm. Right? What are you gonna do, miss? Because I was in EA, and that was a kind of a big pivotal point, I’d say, a couple years in where I thought, I run an EA firm, and I’ve never had an EA. And I don’t currently have an EA.

Glenn Harper [00:48:07]:

You need one.

Gina Cotner [00:48:08]:

And I couldn’t afford it. I thought, I I can’t afford that. And I thought, wasn’t that funny? That’s what people come to you saying, you know, potential clients are like, I don’t know if I can afford that. And I’m like, oh, I hear you. I don’t know if I can afford that. And then I woke up also one day and realized, yeah, but you get them at wholesale pricing, Gina. You’re not you don’t have to pay $55 an hour. So maybe you utilize somebody on your team maybe just 3 hours a week for a little something, And then it was like that.

Gina Cotner [00:48:40]:

I gave away a little something and then a little something more and a little something more. And as I was able to afford it, I started giving away, oh, why am I sending invoices? Wait. Why am I having the same initial phone call with the applicants that I’ve had for the last 2 years straight, which if I have one more time, I’m gonna shoot myself in the eyeballs. I don’t wanna have that same conversation with the applicants. I already can tell you the 10 questions they’re gonna ask me. Somebody else should have that conversation. That was one of the first things that I elevated Dorian after 2 years. I said, Dorian, would you like to would you be willing to talk to all the applicants and have the same conversation I’ve had for the last 2 years? And she’s like, oh, I’d love to.

Gina Cotner [00:49:18]:

So pretty soon, Dorian starts taking over bigger parts of the business, and I start delegating more and more. Now I’m fortunate because my staff are people I could delegate almost anything to. It’s not like, oh, I gotta go find a plumber or something outside my company to delegate a project to. Almost every project I can think of, there’s somebody on my staff that knows how to do. But in the beginning, it was really just 3 of

Julie Smith [00:49:44]:

us. And I think that is a really big tip for entrepreneurs is, like, if you can delegate, do it. Whatever it is. And it’s one thing at a time, half a thing at a time, whatever the case is. But so I’m gonna get to I’ve I’ve 2 more questions for you. Okay? 1, what is your superpower?

Gina Cotner [00:50:04]:

It it is akin to what you were just pointing to. It’s, I think it is. It’s developing people developing people around me, having leaders rise up around me. And there’s one thing to delegate and get a bunch of stuff off your plate. But now can you have them rise up and overtake you? And that has become my superpower. I now I now work for the leadership team of this company, and I work 5 to 10 hours a week. And they run 95% of the day to day operations because I have developed myself to be able to develop people. And that’s one of my superpowers.

Julie Smith [00:50:48]:

Which leads me into my last question, which is, what is your end game?

Gina Cotner [00:50:55]:

Well, have me back in a year. Ask me again in a year. That’s that’s what 2024 that’s the $1,000,000 question of 2024. What where what’s my I mean, there’s Athena’s endgame and my endgame, now, because Athena’s now a big entity and doesn’t need me. So, you know, the the endgame, I think again, I you could ask me in 6 months. We’ll see what I say. But I think the endgame of Athena is, she ends up in the hands of the 2 managers that are running her today really brilliantly. And what happens to Gina Cotner? I that’s what I’m trying to figure out now, because this was the end game.

Julie Smith [00:51:37]:

See, that’s the thing. This is this is great that we can end on this because there is no end game for you. You can’t stop doing what you’re doing. You may pivot. You may use whatever you’ve learned throughout this journey in a different way. At least this is my what my crystal ball says. And whatever it is, you’re going to continue to use your superpower. It just may not be an Athena, but you can’t let that go.

Glenn Harper [00:51:58]:

You know too much. You just can’t stop. Exactly. Because why wouldn’t you help out

Gina Cotner [00:52:02]:

with that? Exactly. When I say, well, what do do I if I was 80, it’d be one thing, but I’m 52. So I got to the end game early, and now the question is, what am I gonna do with the next 50 years? And I think it is you know, ask me again in a year, but it’s I think it is what you said. I now want 10 more entrepreneurs to be able to work 5 to 10 hours a week and have their company be run, and then another 10 and then another 10. So that’s my inquiry this year. You know, do what do who am I gonna have to be? What am I gonna have to do to develop myself to be able to give away this superpower called, we’ll have people rise up around you and surpass you, and then you go golf and play pickleball.

Glenn Harper [00:52:44]:

Well, I

Julie Smith [00:52:45]:

think we just defined your future, and we helped you get there a lot quicker. So you have what is it, April? Well, we did we accelerated that in 4 months, so you you have the rest of the year to to plan it all out, I think.

Glenn Harper [00:52:56]:

It’s the best podcast you’ve been on. We’ve sold everything. Well, do you

Gina Cotner [00:52:59]:

Excellent. Would

Glenn Harper [00:53:00]:

you want to give a little plug for your company here and tell people how they can get aholdy if they’d like to?

Gina Cotner [00:53:06]:

Yeah. Yeah. If people are curious about having a virtual executive assistant, they can go to our website, which is athena executiveservices.com. And, if you click on any of the buttons and say, you know, do you wanna learn more? You’re gonna end up talking to a woman named Jennifer Tracy. And even if you’re not sure, you’re like, I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet. She’s a great person to just brainstorm with, and she’ll be really straight with you and go, okay. You should come back to us in a year, and meanwhile, here’s what you could, would, should go do. Or, yeah, you could use us today, and 10 hours a week would give you your life back.

Glenn Harper [00:53:39]:

Well, I tell you, you’ve been a pleasure to have on here. Learned a lot about, you know, you, ourselves, and everybody listening. I hope this gives them some inspiration. So thank you very much, Gina, for being here today. And I’m Glenn Harper.

Gina Cotner [00:53:52]:

Thank you so much.

Glenn Harper [00:53:53]:

You’re welcome. I’m Glenn Harper, signing off.

Julie Smith [00:53:55]:

Julie Smith.

Episode Show Notes

In this episode, we have the pleasure of speaking with Gina Cotner, a remarkable entrepreneur and the founder of Athena Executive Services. Originally setting out to leave corporate America behind, Gina ventured into the world of business ownership with a Martini Lounge, a dream that quickly taught her the importance of selecting the right business partners and the necessity of financial advisement.

After stepping back from the lounge project, Gina navigated through the economic turmoil of the real estate bubble burst, pivoting her career towards business and life coaching, and eventually founding Athena Executive Services. This company brilliantly pairs virtual executive assistants with executives needing robust support, allowing leaders like Gina to focus on strategic growth – demonstrating her superpower of raising leaders and developing people.

Empowering Moments

00:00 Gina Cotner: Founder of Athena Executive Services.

06:02 Sports provided belonging, friendships, and love.

07:33 Teenage girl leaves elite private school, thrives.

12:31 Woman follows boyfriend to Boston, experiences change.

15:28 Seeking advice led to career-enhancing opportunity.

17:45 Balancing emotion and facts in business decisions.

21:47 Uncertainty about future with good guy.

25:43 Decided to be a business coach, struggled financially.

30:00 Financial struggle, family tension, and declining mental health.

33:04 Business declines, father’s health deteriorates, employee leaves.

34:39 Managing calendar and high-stakes projects from home.

40:47 Belief and support drive entrepreneurial success.

42:58 Overcoming obstacles, belief in yourself, finding inspiration.

45:17 Challenges of leaving corporate America to pursue entrepreneurship.

48:40 Gradually delegated tasks to relieve workload stress.

52:02 Planning for future, passing on skills, mentoring.

Top Takeaways

Learning from Failure: Gina’s ability to pivot from an unsuccessful business venture to becoming a successful business and life coach illustrates the importance of resilience and adaptability in entrepreneurship.

Delegation as a Growth Strategy: Delegating can lead to building a strong leadership team that manages day-to-day operations effectively, allowing the entrepreneur to focus on strategic growth.

Identifying and Leveraging Your Superpower:Entrepreneurs should identify their own strengths (or superpowers) and leverage them to enhance their business and empower their teams.

The Impact of Supportive Relationships: Support from significant others can be crucial for entrepreneurs. Their belief and backing can be a powerful motivator and provide emotional stability through the ups and downs of business ownership.

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