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I was a sales director at 23 who was obsessed with making money – until I burned out. These days, I’m in bed by 10:30 p.m. and run my own business.

Jacqueline Relke.

  • Jacqueline Relke, 25, worked in capital markets and the private sector in Toronto.
  • Now she’s scaled her own consulting company and making six figures.
  • This is her story of burning out and recovering, as told to freelance writer Perri Ormont Blumberg.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I was born and raised in Toronto. I’ve held two positions in corporate finance that got me to where I am today, running my own business.

I started working as an analyst at CIBC Capital Markets in the Wealth Solutions Group on the Toronto trading floor when I was 21, before I even had my university degree. [Editor’s note: Relke has a bachelor’s in business administration with a specialization in finance from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.] As an analyst, I was given a third of Canada’s structured product retail distribution sales to manage.

My sales capabilities were quickly noticed on and off the trading floor, which led to a job offer in the private sector that I couldn’t turn down. Within six months, I was promoted to director of sales running a global sales team at the age of 23.

While starting my corporate career and trying to make a name for myself, my father was battling stage 4 cancer.

My father is my superhero and greatest inspiration. When people ask where I get my work ethic, ambition, and determination from, it’s 100% from him. I mean, a man that takes conference calls smiling while getting chemo-infusion treatments and supporting his three daughters and wife deserves every award imaginable.

Three weeks out of every month, you’d find me traveling for work, taking conference calls in the back of Ubers, and dragging my suitcase from the ICU to the airport to fly across the country to close deals.

This period of my life was pivotal in building my ambition and resilience, and for that I’m thankful. It shaped me into the woman I am today and taught me the most important life lesson: never give up, adapt in the face of adversity, and above all else, keep moving forward.

I quit my director-of-sales role in February 2020 due to severe burnout.

I made the decision in Burgundy, France, while drinking some of the most exquisite wine in the world and hitting my absolute breaking point of burnout and exhaustion.

I was working 16-hour days. My hormones and adrenal glands were shot, I was extremely stressed and anxious, I had weight fluctuations, and I was just absolutely miserable. As a young, ambitious woman, I was obsessed with making more money. But I did that at the expense of my health.

I took the vacation as a Hail Mary in the hopes I could relax for a week and get back to it. But it only made me realize how toxic the environment was and the lack of boundaries I put in place.

I flew home and quit the next day. During this time, my long-term boyfriend was notified he’d be relocating to New York City.

With a pandemic looming and our move to NYC on the horizon, I began discussions with senior leaders to craft a plan for my return to capital markets. Just as the details were being finalized, COVID-19 lockdowns began, borders shut down, and employees got sent home.

In the blink of an eye, my sense of security and triumphant return to the trading floor crumbled in my hands.

I was stunned. I was left with no job, no visa to immigrate to New York, and our life packed up in moving boxes.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I decided to take action and rewrite my success.

I realized two things: First, everything I learned and experienced up until that moment was training me to help women advance their careers.

Second, if I wanted to immigrate to NYC, I had to do it myself. It was at this moment JW Consulting Inc. and The JW Method, a strategic advisory firm that specializes in growth and sales consulting for women, was born.

The JW Method is completely self-funded with $100,000 of my own money. We currently have $300,000 in sales committed for 2021 and will be a $500,000 business by the end of 2021.

I’m currently working on my E-2 visa application to come work in the United States.

Moving from Toronto to New York has been integral in this investment, as I had to liquidate my registered investments for cross-border tax considerations.

Luckily, financial wellness has been a priority of mine ever since I was 14, so I had ample funds saved to contribute to my visa and connections on the trading floor to complete currency transactions.

So far, I’ve served over 100 ambitious women in scaling their businesses.

My favorite moment of being a consultant is revealing sales and revenue projections to clients and seeing their “wow” moment.

Yes, there are downsides to my career, too. My least favorite aspect of my work is dealing with the commercialization of the online entrepreneurship, coaching, and consulting industry. Everyone is turning into cookie-cutter carbon copies of someone else’s ideal success.

I love to sleep, so I’m in bed by 10:30 p.m. and up by 6:30 a.m.

woman sitting at her laptop at a white desk
Jacqueline Relke.

Robin Sharma’s book “The 5 AM Club” taught me that there’s a ton of competition at ordinary levels, but there’s almost none at extraordinary levels.

For me to operate at that extraordinary level, I give an hour to myself before I give an hour to anyone else.

I set my JW Method non-negotiables, which are three personal and professional goals that – yes, you guessed it- are non-negotiable, and I don’t sign off for the day until those are complete.

Starting and running your own business comes with crazy hours, so it’s normal for me to work 12- to 14-hour days. However, I always make sure to schedule a midday workout, walk outside in the sunshine, or afternoon working session at a coffee shop to keep my energy high.

You don’t have to be perfect – you just have to start.

My success is rooted in how I balance my perfectionism. I shared this quote by venture capitalist Reid Hoffman in my group mentorship program, The Champagne Collective, last month: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

Another thing I’ve learned is to build a solid foundation first, then focus on scaling second. To build a strong base, I’ve invested in the right people in areas that are my blind spots: lawyers, accountants, and mentors. You can’t put a price on legal and financial peace of mind when scaling a business.

Also, investing in the right mentorship can quite literally make your business expand 10 times over. Why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to?

Take the time to invest in your financial literacy and confidence as a business owner.

Know your sales projections, revenue forecasts, pricing, cash flow, expenses, investments, debt, and profit/loss like the back of your hand. Nothing creates confidence in yourself and your business like having a rock-solid base and tracking your numbers. By working on financial literacy and business structures with my clients, I’ve seen revenues increase as much as 157% quarter-over-quarter.

When I came into the industry, I noticed an immense gap in financial knowledge and confidence for female entrepreneurs and small-business owners.

Women in my network were craving a trusted source to discuss budgeting, finances, and investments. By having my ear to the market (a common trading-floor term “keeping your ear to the floor,” retrofitted for my new role), I was able to launch an online, self-paced spreadsheet bundle to help women grow and retain their finances. This bundle is exactly how I paid off my debt, tightened up my budget, saved over $50,000, and scaled my business to multiple six figures in under a year.

Instead of paying for advertisements, I invest in professional brand photoshoots every quarter.

This is one of my sales secrets.

When you have new pictures, it creates “shiny object syndrome,” causing your engagement and viewership to increase drastically. I always pair the reveal of new photos to the launch of new services to boost sales.

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