Going From Reactive to Proactive In Your Business with Andrea Bentschneider

Are you running your business on a wing and a prayer? Meaning, you don’t have a plan for what to do next in your business?

Andrea Bentschneider has been a leading expert genealogist in Germany for almost 20 years. She’s been featured on international TV shows and is a sought-after guest on German media.

But when she first joined The CEO Collective, her business and marketing strategy was winging it. She didn’t have a consistent demand for her services, so she would have to hire and let go of staff as demand went up and down, respectively. And she ended up in the feast and famine cycle because of it.

Things have turned around for Andrea now, but how? Today on the Promote Yourself to CEO podcast, we continue our entrepreneurial poverty and hustle culture series. 

In this episode, Andrea will share how being clear on how you’re going to market your business, and being consistent with it, is a complete game changer. You’ll shift from reacting all the time to knowing what the right next steps are so you can move your business forward.

On this episode of Promote Yourself to CEO:

1:19 – What are some signs that you’re winging it instead of being proactive in your business?

6:05 – Andrea talks about how long she’s been in business and what it looked like prior to joining The CEO Collective.

10:53 – Andrea explains what she found inside the membership that she couldn’t find elsewhere.

15:03 – What’s the one gap that still exists in Andrea’s marketing? She also reveals the answer to a question I answered that finalized her decision to join.

17:40 – Andrea has had some major media coverage as she’s gotten more proactive this year. She discusses some big visibility opportunities that started showing up for her.

21:00 – What were some of the little things Andrea did to help her land marketing opportunities

27:35 – Here’s the one question Andrea asks herself whenever she’s hesitating about doing something. She also shares what she’d say to anyone considering joining.

Mentioned in Going From Reactive to Proactive In Your Business with Andrea Bentschneider

Racheal Cook: Okay, CEO. It's honesty time. Are you winging it in your business or do you have a plan where you are proactively making moves, getting visibility for your business, and making things happen? Well, if winging it has been your strategy so far, never fear. Today, we are going to talk about how you can make the shift from winging it, from reacting all the time to having clarity about what the right next steps are to move your business forward. Let's get into it.

Are you ready to grow from stressed-out solopreneur to competent CEO? You're in the right place. I'm your host, Racheal Cook, and I've spent more than 15 years helping women entrepreneurs sustainably scale their businesses. If you're serious about building a sustainable business, it's time to put the strategy, systems, and support in place to make it happen. Join me each week for candid conversations about stepping into your role as CEO, the hard lessons learned along the way, and practical profitable strategies to grow a sustainable business without the hustle and burnout.

Hey there, CEOs. Welcome back to another episode here on Promote Yourself to CEO. As we are going through this series about ending entrepreneurial poverty and hustle culture for women entrepreneurs, we have to talk about winging it. We have to talk about what happens when we are being reactive in our businesses instead of being proactive in your business.

You're probably reactive if you don't know already today what you're doing next week, next month, or next quarter. You're probably being reactive if you don't have any idea what marketing activity you need to be doing next week, next month, next quarter. You're probably being reactive if the minute your demand for your services goes down, you feel panicked and squeezed.

You might even be in the situation where you over-hired when demand was up but the minute demand starts to drop, you have to start laying people off or letting go of team members. You might be winging it if you never really know what to expect, you show up in your business, and you feel like you're constantly putting out fires, you're constantly jumping from emergency to emergency. This is a grind. This is exhausting. You're probably really tired.

If that's you, if you're resonating with that, then we need to turn things around. That's really pretty simple. It's all about having a clear plan. It's all about having a clear plan about how you're going to move forward in your business so that you can be more proactive. That's exactly what we do here at The CEO Collective.

In fact, our entire business is built around a framework that helps CEOs go from winging it, hustling, feeling completely burned out to feeling like they have clarity and they have control in their business. Now how good would that feel?

Well, today I wanted to bring on one of our amazing CEOs, Andrea Bentschneider, who owns Beyond History in Hamburg, Germany. She has been an expert leading genealogist in Germany for almost 20 years and she has shown up on international TV shows like “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Finding Your Roots.”

She's a sought-after guest on German radio and TV and she is really one of the leading experts on German ancestry, on German genealogy. I wanted to bring her on because when she started working with us in The CEO Collective, winging it described her strategy to a T. She was definitely riding that feast-or-famine cycle feeling like the minute that demand spiked, she had to staff up really quickly because genealogy is very time-consuming, you have to have enough people on your team to actually take on more projects.

But as soon as demand dipped, she would have to let people go. She would have to streamline the business back down because the demand wasn't there, and the key here is she didn't have a plan for how she was going to maintain demand, create consistent demand for her products and services.

I can't wait for you to listen into this conversation because if you've been feeling like you're winging it in your business, Andrea's here to share with you how having a clear path forward, having clarity on how you're going to market your business, and getting more consistent with those activities is going to be a complete game changer for you.

Hey there, Andrea. I'm so excited that you are here with me. I just saw you here in Richmond. You flew all the way across the ocean and spent time with us at the latest CEO Retreat. Thank you for jumping on today to share your experience with us.

Andrea Bentschneider: Absolutely. It's a very big honor and pleasure. Thank you.

Racheal Cook: Well, I wanted to bring you on as I mentioned before we hit record because I think a lot of times, people get hung up thinking that what we might teach inside of The CEO Collective only works for one specific type of business model or one specific industry. But you are a professional genealogist and I actually think we do some of our best work with people who are in these interesting niches that no one really thinks about. Can you share a little bit with us about how long you've been in business and what your business was looking like prior to joining us inside The CEO Collective?

Andrea Bentschneider: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, I founded my business actually on July 1st, 2004. We just had our 19-year anniversary. Obviously, next year is going to be a big party. I turned my hobby into my profession, my passion into my profession basically. My background actually comes from the luxury hotel biz industry and also high-end travel industry.

I spent 10 years in New York working for the St. Regis und The Mark Hotel, as well as a travel company who does group tours for non-profit organizations. So 10 years in New York obviously shaped me a lot and it was an exciting time. Then I returned to Hamburg and my first employment didn't quite work out the way I anticipated it and I said, “I'm never going to work for a German company again.”

That's when I had this idea of just starting my genealogy business. I never expected it to be where it is today that I have, I don't know, it's like from year three, my husband joined as a full-time staff member. It's like a few years later, we always had a third person. Sometimes we have up to five or even seven people working for us, so the team is growing.

However, what I noticed, and coming back to the question about how was it before joining the Collective, it was like I always went with the flow. If there was demand, I increased my team. If there wasn't demand, then I had to reduce the number of team. It was never really that I said what it's going to be like, I always just reacted to what was happening.

Obviously, I joined in 2022, it was like the third year into Corona, we just had the war that started in front of our house, the doorstep basically, it's like I'm in Germany so Ukraine isn't that far away, everybody was nervous, increased prices, etc. It doesn't help when you're in a very special service-based industry that nobody really needs. It's like it's a pleasure, it's great, but it's something you could live without basically.

That was how I came into the Collective. One way back also, what I do is I offer professional genealogy services in Germany throughout all of Germany, also the former German provinces, which is now in Russia or Poland, Ukraine, etc. We've even had requests to research, I've ordered birth certificates from Manila on the Philippines and we've gotten a file from Baghdad, Iraq.

If you need anything, just ask me. Besides doing the genealogy research for private persons, we also assist with probate research. If someone dies, there is no last will, we do find potential heirs. We do a lot of research for TV projects like some of the formats that are known in the US as well like “Who Do You Think You Are?” or “Finding Your Roots.” I've been involved in that for many years and that's always a lot of fun. That's what we do basically.

Racheal Cook: Oh, I love hearing your story. I remember when you joined, you were sharing like Corona hit Europe differently than the US. There were a lot of differences in how strict things were and the impact it had for you. Then of course, the war in Ukraine started, and like you said, basically your backyard, it's right there, it's front and center. Whereas here in the US, I think a lot of people, it was a blip on the news feed and now they forget that this is an active conflict still happening and still impacting a lot of people.

As a business, it is really more of a luxury service. Like you said, people generally don't go, “I absolutely need my genealogy done in order to survive,” this is a luxury service and we're coming out of two major international things happening. I remember you talked to me when we got started and you were getting things going in the Collective, you were very much like, “Okay, I've got to do something here because this is not working for me.”

Can you share a little bit over the last year what have been some of the major wins that you have had as you have been working through our process in The CEO Collective?

Andrea Bentschneider: I'm always very much aware of what is missing. It's like I see what's missing and I'm always working on improving whatever is missing and even what is not missing, to make what's there better somehow. I read a lot of books. It's so great to read like Tim Ferriss’ book and to read all these books. However, I'm a very slow reader so it takes me ages to finish a book and then I never have the patience to do it actually a second time to actually do the exercises they have in there.

Plus, it's great to read this but it doesn't give answers to my specific case. This is what I appreciate so much about the Collective is just I can talk to people. I don't have an MBA, I have a lot of experience in many things that help me run a business but I don't know anything about marketing also, it's like I have ideas and so it's great to really have actual people to ask these questions to.

If I have a question about marketing, then besides you and your team, there are other members who are experts in marketing. There are people to talk to. For me also, one of the great things about the Collective, it really was for me at a point where I wasn't sure how much longer I have the energy to keep this up.

Because it was like always a fight and it was always like it was okay but it was like more of a struggle, I was tired. For me, having now a group of people to talk to, having all these different businesswomen who have similar experiences or who can share how they do their business, even who can tell me like, “I use this letter,” or whatever so I don't need to come up with it, that already was such a big motivation for me so that there's no question in my mind anymore whether I will still be in business next month or not.

The other great thing was just that I found out that I'm doing a lot more marketing or do already a lot of things quite well that I wasn't aware of that I was doing them. For me, it was just normal to do it. That was also nice to see.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. I think what you're sharing is so common that a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners can be very reactive in the way that they are running their day-to-day of the business. This is a direct tie-in to entrepreneurial poverty. When things are good, you staff up, you have everything going but then if the demand tapers down and you don't have a strategy to build that demand back up, then you have to drop the team, you're making less money, and you're working more because now you're covering so many different roles.

I think that's definitely where you were trying to navigate like, “How do I do this?” Plus the employment laws are very different and more strict where you are and this is something that we think about a lot because in the US, we have a lot of flexibility with our employment laws, we have a lot of flexibility being able to hire contractors, but you had to hire full employee if they were coming on and then there were a lot more responsibilities and obligations you had with that, which layers on the complexity.

If you're not being proactive in the strategy you're putting forward in your business, then the stakes are so much higher for you than I think a lot of people in the US because of the way the laws are structured and just the differences there. I really appreciate you sharing that you realized, “Hey, I'm actually doing some of these marketing things really well,” now you could put it into our framework and see where the gaps were.

Were there any particular gaps you saw once you started to understand the framework that we use for marketing?

Andrea Bentschneider: There's definitely one big gap that's still there for me. I completely do too much manually. There should be much more optimization going on in my business. It's like I'm aware that it's out there, I just don't know enough how to actually implement it. But here too, it's great to have the feedback from other people who use certain software and who have different experiences to see “Is it better to go with this or better to go with something else?” That's very helpful.

But my start was I had listened to your podcast and then I participated in The CEO Retreat in March last year. Actually, I think I even ordered the books, the journals before and tried it in the first quarter myself but failed completely. Then I did the March Retreat with you and so that was great.

But then we had a conversation and you asked the one question for which I was looking to get an answer and I had asked 10 different people and nobody could give me this answer. That is what really sold me.

It was like your question was basically about how many extra people would I need to have it more evenly run in my business, how much would it cost me, and basically when would be the time that their extra cost would be covered and I would actually make a profit out of having two or three different additional people. You just said one sentence and that just hit the nail on the head. That's why I knew this is the place where I need to go, finally someone who understands me.

Racheal Cook: Oh, I don't even remember asking you this question and I'm so glad it stuck for you. These are the challenges we see all the time because there gets to be a point where growth is one of those things where it almost feels like a little chicken and egg, there's only so much you as the owner can do before you need to bring in support. But then you need the revenue to bring in the support and then you need the support to bring in more revenue in order to make it profitable.

It's a little bit of tension there when you're trying to figure it out but again, being proactive is what makes the biggest difference. It's the thing that helps you feel like you have more control over your business. As you have been more proactive and as you have been more proactive this past year, you had some major media coverage. Can you tell us a little bit about some of these big visibility opportunities that started showing up for you?

Andrea Bentschneider: Yes, absolutely. What I did among others, I was invited to be on a German TV show, which is like a lunchtime daytime show, words about like they do some coping there and they have other information about general topics. Then there were several articles, newspapers that I was interviewed for. The most important possibility was in February and March each year, there is a big genealogy conference in Salt Lake City organized by the Mormon Church basically by family search.

I gave two Q&A sessions live and I had an average of 600 or 800 people there, two nights in a row. Since that was such a huge success, we are working currently, in June, we had the first event and this is going to be now a monthly event where we once a month will have this and it will all be advertised and organized through family search. We're talking about like I don't know, nine million people on a mailing list. I couldn't beat that.

Racheal Cook: That's pretty incredible. I think this goes to show you the power of partnership really. It's never about building the visibility one thing at a time. I think this is where a lot of people feel like if they want visibility for their business, they have to be personally out there networking, they have to be posting all over social media.

But for you, you were able to tap into there is an existing audience of people who are actively looking into doing their own genealogy research and hiring genealogists, there's this massive organization, the Mormon church, I don't know a lot about genealogy but now that we've had two genealogists, that's right, we have had two genealogists, one who's in the US and one who's in Germany come through The CEO Collective, I have learned that the Mormon church is intense with their genealogy research.

If you are in the United States and you want to know what's going on, they have I think the biggest database for genealogy research. Plugging into those existing communities, that existing organization, how did you land these speaking opportunities? Did you have to pitch yourself or was it because you already have a relationship with them?

Andrea Bentschneider: What definitely helped is for the last 10 years, I'm also the chairperson of the Association of German-speaking genealogists. In that position, it's like last year, they had this conference RootsTech completely virtually. That's why I submitted offers to pitch, basically giving recorded lectures there. That's how it happened. That's how I came in touch with the country manager in Germany. Out of that, we built really big relationship and we met a couple of times. We're talking about a number of things.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. I think this is something I really want to drive home. I say all the time to the members of the Collective that business grows at the speed of relationships. You have to get involved. Cold pitching for speaking opportunities will only get you so far, especially if you want to speak on a stage with 800 people in the audience. One, I don't know that I could handle that. I feel like my introversion would take over.

But it is getting involved, and for you, it was getting involved in this level. You already had access, and that way, you were able to get involved, become a member of that organization. That organization partnered with another organization. You're able to parlay that relationship. I think this is one thing I really want people to understand when it comes to these visibility opportunities is you can be more proactive, which you did a great job over the last year, proactively going, “Well, what's going on and what else can I get involved in?”

I remember when you posted that media hit where you were on the German TV show, suddenly you were getting all this traffic to your website. That's one level but then when you're able to take that and use it as a springboard into the next thing and the next thing and the next thing, that's when you really start to compound results. You have seen that as you have really put yourself out there.

It took a while, it took months for these things to click, for these things to land. It's not like you joined the thing and went to one event or had one conversation and that was it. These are ongoing conversations. It takes time to build the relationships. But when you have those relationships, now you've opened the door not just to talk in two live Q&As with 800 people but the monthly Q&As you're doing and all the things that you've just started putting in place, I'm so excited for you. I can't wait to see what happens as you continue to build those relationships and to keep showing up and sharing your expertise.

Andrea Bentschneider: Yeah. For me, what it really is like for many years, I applied at these conferences to be a speaker and I was always declined. I never even had a response or anything. Then I found the one conference that was really fitting and that was the International German Genealogy Conference. That was 2019 in Sacramento. That's where I had my first public speaking anywhere outside of Germany.

Ever since then, it's been easy because now I had a reference. I was invited to other organizations who attended this conference to give lectures and presentations there. For me, when I got into the Collective, I really probably needed half a year to really arrive to clean everything up and to have a basis to really work on. For me, again, I joined in June last year and for me, as of the beginning of this year, I completely exploded and took on the life on its own.

One thing was my theme for this year is really alliances to see who can I work with. But also, at times when again, there is no revenue coming in, well, there was always revenue coming in but it was like it could have been better, when it felt like there was a standstill or something, then it was always about having your coach say, “Just do little steps and be in action because if you're just sitting there, you're frustrated, nothing happens.”

One of the things in my planner, it says, “To have one paid speaking engagement a month, for every month of the year.” Then it's like, “To have the coffee talks where I meet with some person.” I call it a coffee talk because, from the Saturday night live schedules, I love them. I intentionally scheduled one conversation with someone in the industry who I haven't spoken with in a long time just to hear what they're up to, what they are doing, and just to be in the conversation.

That’s the small steps that I started with and then it all comes together. I guess it really is about awareness. Like you say, you're doing things and sometimes, the plan, how it works, like you say, “This is my goal and this is what I'm going to accomplish,” and then you say, “By this week, I have these three items completed.”

Sometimes I look at them and think, “How are you supposed to be invited to a TV show by next week?” and then all of a sudden an hour later, the phone rings. It's just putting it out there and then attracting it I guess.

Racheal Cook: It's putting it out there, I think that's the first step, writing out the goals now that you nailed that it was visibility for you means speaking, it means media, and that is driven by a connection. I think it's putting it out there, I think it's building those relationships, and telling people what you're looking for.

This is something we forget. We all have our fingers crossed hoping that Oprah's going to come out, anoint us, and say, “Oh, I want to feature you on blah-blah-blah,” but that's never how it happens. It happens when we're picking a time on the calendar to have that coffee chat and saying, “Hey, I'm actively looking for speaking opportunities or I just had this feature over here, how can I help you? Here's what I'm looking for.”

It's that leveraging the relationships, not in a transactional way because I don't think anyone in the Collective is using relationships in that way at all, that's not our vibe, but it's very much “Here's what I'm up to, what are you up to? How can we collectively support each other?” I think this is something that business has been missing so much and the way marketing has been discussed.

I'm really excited to see that those are the things that by consistently taking action, consistently having those calls, consistently talking to people in your network, it's a small community. Professional genealogy, it's not massive, there's definitely a smaller community here than a lot of other industries so it doesn't take many people to open some doors for you.

I think that's what has happened now that you've been more proactive with having those touch points and telling people “I just did this, I'm looking to do more of this. How else can I support you?” It has changed the game, it has made sure that now you're building demand for you to come speak more which is so exciting.

Andrea Bentschneider: Yeah. A friend of mine just recently said something a couple of weeks ago, “If you don't ask, it's a no. But if you ask, then you still have a chance of maybe a yes. But if you don't ask, it's a no basically.” For me, I like to have my themes for things. Usually, you know when you're moving around and you're all of a sudden doing the laundry, vacuum, whatever, or clean up, why? Because you want to avoid sitting down and writing this one email or whatever it is.

I've come to this point where I ask myself, “What would I do if I wasn't afraid?” If I had no fear, what would I do? Obviously, I would be sending this email. Then the tone of the mail or whatever I'm doing changes completely with more confidence. That's always for me, when I see that I'm hesitant about asking someone for a favor, usually, it’s sending an email or requesting something, then it's always my question is “What would I do if I wasn't afraid in this moment?”

Racheal Cook: I love that. That is such a good thing to ask yourself. I feel you. So many of us get stuck in our own heads and we find other things to distract us. For you apparently, it's cleaning and tidying up. For some, it's scrolling social or doing something else distracting. But yeah, we have to sit down and be willing to just do the thing because the worst that can happen is they say no. But if you don't do it, it's an absolute no, it's never going to happen.

Well, as we wrap up our conversation, what would you share with anyone who has been following along all of my content, who has heard me talk about The CEO Collective but who has been sitting on the fence about joining us?

Andrea Bentschneider: I would assume that many people know you through your podcast but whatever, the experience in the Collective is so much deeper than that than you can imagine. First of all, you have first-hand access to you. You have also first-hand access to other coaches who are having expertise in other fields.

Everyone is very approachable and you don't have to do it alone by yourself anymore. You're not alone anymore. The masterclasses and everything that's there, you're not by yourself anymore. You don't have to go through it yourself. That's a great support net there.

Racheal Cook: I really appreciate you sharing that because this is hands down the biggest thing all of our members say to us is it's the support system, it's that we are here, we're open, we're accessible. We always believe that we're right there with you. We're growing our businesses right alongside of you.

We are here to answer questions and share what is working and not working in our own businesses. It really is a rising tide lifts all ships so we love seeing the Collective continue to grow and succeed as our members grow and succeed.

Andrea Bentschneider: It's also something that I see evolving. It's not like it's this way and it doesn't change. But as the membership changes, more agency-type members came on like my business and now we have a mastermind just for agency members, agency owners, or even something like the co-working time that we had yesterday, it was just like we only asked if we couldn't have that every day because we got so much done there.

It's not carved in stone but it's evolving with the need of the times of the members or whatever is coming up. That's very nice that you have. Also as a participant, you have a chance to shape your experience there.

Racheal Cook: Yes, absolutely. I love that as well and I loved hearing that since we shifted to our summer schedule, everybody has been loving the focus on button seat, we're getting our list done, we're making things happen. That creates a lot of momentum for the whole community when we're all just saying, “Okay, stop distractions, time to get it down to business right now.”

Well, Andrea, thank you so much for jumping on with me today. I have loved having you in the Collective and I was so excited you came all the way to Richmond, Virginia. In fact, when you said, “Hey, I'm coming to the US,” like six months before you're like, “I'm coming, there's a conference. Is there any chance that the retreat will happen on this day?” and we hadn't announced the dates yet, we had tentatively had them in the calendar, I was like, “We will swap dates around so that you can show up in Richmond, Virginia,” and I am so glad you did because it was amazing to spend time with you and just to see you get to meet all the people who you've been talking with for the past year. It was just a lot of fun to facilitate that. Thank you for the very long plane ride.

Andrea Bentschneider: Yeah. Thank you so much. It definitely was worth the travel and everything. It was really greatly appreciated that you were able to accommodate my schedule in that case. It was really awesome, yeah, thank you.

Racheal Cook: Well, there you have it, friends. I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Andrea Bentschneider. She is such a delight to have in The CEO Collective. As I mentioned, when she was able to come in person to our retreat, we were so excited to finally get to see her in person and give her a hug.

When you get to see people in real life who you've been working with for a year, it's really exciting, or at least it's exciting to me. If you want to learn more about the work she does with genealogy, then I encourage you to go check out her website beyond-history.com.

Again, she specializes in German ancestry so if you happen to have German family members who are in Germany, who are in Poland, who are in the Ukraine, all the surrounding areas, she is one of the best people to help you go back through your family tree and find some really incredible stories.

I'm really excited. This is actually exciting to me because my grandmother is German and her family came from Germany in the early 1900s. Personally, I love the work that Andrea is doing just because it has some personal ties and connection to my own family.

Anyhow, if you want to learn more about what she is up to, if you want to follow along, maybe even see links to some of her latest speaking, check out beyond-history.com. If you love this episode, make sure you have subscribed to the podcast. We always have new episodes coming out, we have new series dropping every single month, and we have conversations with incredible CEOs who are making moves to create more sustainable success in their business.

You can subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, pretty much every podcast platform. Don't forget to leave a review. If these conversations were helpful for you, I would love you to leave a quick review, let us know your thoughts, and share your favorite takeaways from the podcast. I will talk to you in the next episode.