Marianne Lehikoinen is a self-made entrepreneur who built Smart Mentoring, a consulting business with a strong track record of enabling founders and coaches to scale their businesses to six- to seven-figure revenues and beyond. Marianne's entrepreneurial mission is to empower founders to take control, positively impact thousands of lives and live the life they want.
What's your industry?
Business Consulting and Coaching
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I had worked in sales since high school and started my own social media management company when I was 20 and in university. I swapped for a full-time job as a recruiter when doing a semester in HR. In 2020 while pregnant, I decided to go all in with a new business I would create. Last year my company Smart Mentoring made almost one million euros in revenue as well as built up a team of fifteen people working on the project full-time.
What kind of work does your daily role involve?
Every day I work to create a more inclusive and equitable business world. My team of business mentors help founders and growing companies take the next step in their business and scale, without sacrificing the mental and emotional well-being of the entrepreneurs. A sustainable entrepreneurial journey is built for the long term, and this is how I operate in my day-to-day business. I start my day by spending time with my daughter and myself, meditating and working out. My business took off when I hired my first employee, an operations manager, to clear my head. We empower founders to do the same, to make their business work for them.
What gets you excited about your industry?
I am in the knowledge-based industry, which encompasses businesses and organizations that rely on knowledge, information, and expertise to operate and grow. I am always excited about the limitless opportunities for growth and development. The fact that I can work globally and have the potential to grow my business in ways I never thought possible is truly thrilling. Additionally, the idea that knowledge is power and that by sharing it, I can empower others, is a fulfilling aspect of this industry. People should know that the knowledge-based industry is constantly evolving and requires individuals to be adaptable and flexible in their approach. It is also an industry that values sharing and collaboration, as the exchange of ideas and information can lead to new opportunities and growth.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you on your journey in business?
The best advice I ever received on my journey in business was to focus on one thing at a time, like a laser-focused boss. Instead of running around like a chimpanzee on a sugar high, trying to juggle multiple tasks at once, I decided to take a different approach. I focused on one thing at a time, giving it my full attention and energy, like a kid with a magnifying glass and an ant farm. And you know what? It worked like a charm! My results skyrocketed, and I realized that spreading myself too thin was like trying to balance a spinning plate on your nose at a circus. So, if you're feeling overwhelmed, take a cue from me and focus on one thing at a time. It will help you achieve better results, and who knows, you might even be able to add "plate-spinning" to your list of skills.
What's the most challenging project or situation you've overcome to date?
One of the biggest challenges I've faced was when I took a bold move and ditched my cushy paid maternity leave (a perk in Finland where I’m from) to start the business I would go all in with. All-in initially meant we had to sell our car, and I suffered from missing quality time with my daughter. I had a clear vision, but did not start playing by the rules of business yet. I kept pushing forward, and took a leap of faith again, and again. And you know what? Looking back it paid off pretty fast.
Are you using any AI tools right now to help grow your business or, if not, do you plan to use any this year?
Yes, our business is making moves by bringing in some AI muscle for content creation. Today, the newsletter was served up by the machine, and the results were fire. By harnessing the power of AI, we're not only crushing time constraints but also freeing up our team's bandwidth. It's handling the grind so we don't have to. I'm even using it to come up with next-level titles for my YouTube videos. AI is a no-brainer addition to our growth game plan. And as for this interview question? I had an AI answer it for me.
Overall, do you see AI as a good thing for business?
Yes, from my perspective, AI is a game changer for business. It's opened up so many new opportunities for entrepreneurs to streamline their work and increase efficiency. Take my Smartscale Framework programme for example, one of the biggest challenges for clients is creating compelling content, but with AI they can now do it in seconds. It's like having another tool in your business toolbox.
We use and recommend using Jasper AI, which comes with handy marketing templates that put AI to work for you quickly. The key now is to figure out how to use the right prompts, AI templates and AI tools that are quickly available to take advantage of it at light speed. Before you perform any task, ask yourself: Is there an AI application that can do this for me?
Overall, do you see AI as a threat or an opportunity in business?
Opportunity. As an entrepreneur in the age of AI, I see AI as a new superpower that can streamline and automate many tasks, freeing up time for human creativity, thought, and strategy. Instead of burning ourselves out with repetitive, mundane tasks, humans can now take on the role of creators, thinkers, and strategists, working alongside AI to build better businesses and drive growth. In short, AI is not a threat, but a tool that can help us work smarter, not harder, and allow us to focus on the things that really matter.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
As a woman in business, I understand the challenges and obstacles that can hold us back. That's why I strive to empower other women to succeed in their ventures. I believe that taking control of our own worth is the key to avoiding burnout. I encourage women to be bold, niche down, and focus on delivering premium-priced, high-value services to a select few clients. This requires a deep understanding of their value proposition and the skills of pricing, but it leads to a more sustainable and profitable business. Striking the right balance between helping others and taking care of oneself is crucial for success.