1868 – Service Business Strategy with Maiko Sakai of Dreamers & Doers

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks with the Co-Founder of Airtight Concepts Inc., Maiko Sakai.

Sakai Wide

Maiko's story is as fascinating as it is inspiring. Born and raised in Japan, she made her way to the United States with a passion for music, working with record labels and even shredding the guitar in a Guns N' Roses cover band. Her transition from the music industry to business consulting was driven by a desire to help creative entrepreneurs navigate the often turbulent waters of business operations.

Maiko highlighted a common thread among creative entrepreneurs. While they excel in their craft and client acquisition, they frequently struggle with the operational side of their businesses. This struggle can hinder their ability to scale and grow. Maiko's approach to consulting focuses on decluttering and streamlining business processes, preparing these creative powerhouses for the next level of their entrepreneurial journey.

Maiko doesn't believe in one-size-fits-all solutions. Instead, she offers strategies tailored to the specific stage of an entrepreneur's business, whether budding entrepreneurs, in the growth stage, mature stage, or even legacy planning. Her sales programs are designed to address the unique challenges at each stage, from inconsistent client acquisition to cash flow management.

Maiko challenged the notion that simply creating great work is enough. Instead, she urged creatives to actively share their ideas, content, and products to gain visibility. Authentic engagement with their audience and sharing the creative process can be powerful tools for building a loyal following.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • Maiko Sakai's background and work with creative entrepreneurs
  • Challenges faced by creative entrepreneurs in managing their businesses
  • Strategies for attracting more business using superpowers
  • Leveraging social media and client attraction from a creative perspective
  • The impact of AI on creative entrepreneurs
  • Maiko's approach to working with clients and her tailored programs
  • Signs indicating the need for entrepreneurs to seek assistance
  • Importance of authenticity and human connection in business communications

About Maiko Sakai:

Maiko Sakai, founder of Airtight Concepts, stands out as a strategic business consultant, assisting visionary entrepreneurs in evolving their businesses into profitable ventures. Dubbing her clients “Grounded Go-Getters,” she transforms transactional models into transformational successes through programs like “10 Leads in 10 Weeks Challenge,” “Define + Refine Your Profitable Niche,” and “Business Optimizer 360.”

Maiko aims to streamline expertpreneurs' and creative agency owners' paths to scalability within six months, using established frameworks and systems to minimize trial and error. Born in Japan but feeling deeply connected to New York, her passions extend to ethnic cuisine, ultra-contemporary design, and exotic houseplants. Maiko's academic credentials include an MBA from Cornell University, enhancing her expertise in guiding businesses towards operational efficiency and market leadership.

About Airtight Concepts Inc.:

Airtight Concepts is a dynamic consultancy focusing on back-office optimization and business development for seven-figure businesses in the creative, lifestyle, and entertainment sectors in NYC and beyond. Specializing in guiding overworked founders and owners towards sustainability, scalability, and profitability, the firm offers comprehensive services, including growth advisory, business development, restructuring, and strategic placement of SOPs.

The Business Optimizer 360 program is central to its methodology, which provides a thorough assessment and strategic planning to propel businesses forward. By working with Airtight Concepts, business owners gain control, shift focus to impactful activities, alleviate anxiety through increased business intelligence, and refine their leadership skills.

Founded in 2003, Airtight Concepts aims to enhance business operations and ensure clients can deliver transformational experiences to their customers without being bogged down by minutiae. The company positions itself as a crucial strategist, complementing the roles of mentors, coaches, and accountability partners and providing the leverage businesses need to outpace competitors.

Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out Airtight Concepts Inc. website at

Check out Airtight Concepts Inc. on Facebook at

Check out Maiko Sakai on LinkedIn at

Check out Maiko Sakai on Instagram at

Check out Maiko Sakai on Twitter at

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Josh (00:00:04) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach, or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence. Com and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my influence. Com and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us right now. Maiko Sakai. Maiko, you are a business consultant and strategist working primarily with SMBs. Maiko is so great to have you. Your website, by the way. Maiko Skycom to our friend that's listening. Just click around in your podcast app. You'll see we've got a link directly to Maiko's website.

Josh (00:01:17) - Maiko, thank you for joining us.

Maiko (00:01:18) - Thank you so much for having me. And I'm so excited to be, you know, in front of your wonderful audience. Let's do it.

Josh (00:01:25) - Absolutely. Well, you have a really interesting background. Do you mind just kind of just sharing a little bit of that background as we kind of talk about the impact that you have in the world today?

Maiko (00:01:34) - Absolutely. I'm going to go with the soda version. So I was born and raised in Japan., Yokohama is the city that I grew up. But I always wanted to, you know, try my luck elsewhere. So I came to the US, and at first I thought that I was going to be a musician, and I realized that I wasn't going to be. So the second best thing was for me to work for a bunch of record labels. And I did a lot of, you know, the finance, management, licensing, music in and out and doing promotion and marketing, all that great stuff over a decade.

Maiko (00:02:05) - And I became a business consultant eventually to cater to creative entrepreneurs.

Josh (00:02:12) - Wow. What did you play, by the way? Music.

Maiko (00:02:15) - I played guitar and no kidding. Oh my god, I'm going to totally date myself. But you know, I'm a I was in the guns N roses copy band and I was playing guitar.

Speaker 3 (00:02:27) - Wow.

Josh (00:02:28) - So you could play slash.

Maiko (00:02:30) - I used to, so now I put it down for some time so I cannot do it anymore. But yeah, I used to be killing it.

Josh (00:02:39) - That's incredible. Oh my gosh, how cool is that? Well, I listen, I'm a huge fan of tribute bands. You know, I started playing bass about six months ago. My son and I play a lot of Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine and and GNR. I don't think I've played a guns N roses song yet, so I'll have to find a good bass one. I'm sure that there's some good ones out there. Michael., tell me about, you know, given your background, tell me about who you work with today and what that looks like.

Maiko (00:03:08) - Yeah, that's a great question. So I work with creative entrepreneurs and the definition of that is, well, I can give more examples that might be easier. So architects,, content creators, digital marketing agencies, graphic designers, the web designers and video production companies, those are my people.

Josh (00:03:32) - Yeah. So business owners who are in the kind of more on the creative side. What are your observations about that personality?

Maiko (00:03:41) - Yeah, I love this question so much. So there are so great at their craft. So let's just say, you know, you run a video production company, you know so much about, you know, editing the videos, shooting all sorts of things. And they're great at bringing in clients so they don't need me there. That's not a problem. But the challenge is the inner workings of business. So, you know, once I lift up the hood of that particular business as an example, I would see a lot of things that we could not only declutter and streamline and get it ready to scale up.

Maiko (00:04:17) - So that's where I come in. So I don't want to, you know, interrupt their creative flow. You know, they're great at bringing in clients, the great at their crafts. I don't touch their but I help them with building a solid business.

Josh (00:04:33) - What if they're not good at bringing in clients? Like, I'm really good at what I do, but they have kind of too much inconsistency. I've had some good months, I've had some good clients, but then, like, I'm not replacing my clients, they're dropping off and then my cashflow gets hurt and then I feel bad about myself. How would you work with someone in that sort of situation?

Maiko (00:04:52) - I've helped with many of those clients as well. So the first off, you know, I will assess which season their business is in. It's like a Four Seasons. You know, budding entrepreneurs. I would refer them as the spring season right then the growth stage, summer season, then their mature stage. That would be the fall season.

Maiko (00:05:15) - And the last one is whether you're going to sell your business or you're going to give it to your kids, that legacy part of it. And first I identify that. And if they're having that problem as a budding entrepreneurs, I also have, you know, I have a sales program for that that they can sort of self-paced the program that they can take. But if they're at the growth stage, that does require a little bit different strategy. So I get to be more hands on with their sort of lead generation strategies, retention strategies and also acquisition strategy.

Josh (00:05:52) - Yeah. Well tell me what you see working well. So and understanding to that to a friend that's listening. If you fancy yourself a little bit more of that creator personality that is a superpower., Michael, would you be willing to maybe talk about that a little bit? And kind of the follow up questions I want to ask is how we can use our superpower to be better at attracting more business.

Speaker 4 (00:06:17) - .

Maiko (00:06:17) - Love it. So first off, here's the belief that a lot of creatives have, which is if I build it, dotcom, that is the one that we want to tackle first.

Maiko (00:06:34) - I know you're great at what you do, but in this day and age, there's so much noise out there and it's so hard to get attention from people nowadays. So if you build it, they would come, wouldn't work. Now, that doesn't mean that they don't have a shot. They have a shot. They just need to be okay with sharing their ideas, sharing their content, the sharing their actual products that they build or create unapologetically. So I wanted to first see whether they have that mindset challenge or not. If they don't, that's great. Well, let's get to work on this. Let's get your work out there so that the people get to see and that that's how you would bring in. You know, it's not like our shadowing concept, but that's how it works. Just don't get all twisted about, you know, oh, I don't want to be salesy. I'm not a sellout. I really care about my craft. It's all great. Talk about it, talk about that and share it even.

Maiko (00:07:41) - What is your thinking process? You know, what do you get hung up on when you hit your creative, you know, writer's block kind of thing? You know, when you hit the wall, what do you do with it? People want to know. So it's not just about your end product that people care. They want to know everything about your process, what you're thinking, how you're feeling, what you're reading, what you're watching. Incorporate all of that to get your work out there.

Josh (00:08:12) - Yeah. So from a social media perspective or from a client attraction perspective, how could we use those superpowers to become this,, this beacon of sorts that can help us attract our ideal connections?

Maiko (00:08:25) - Yeah. That is something that I'm really passionate about. You know, I don't act as a social media strategist, per se, but I have a ton of peers and colleagues who have been inspiring me day in and day out. So what I learned, and this is immense, is that it's not so much about it is important to get your work out, as we discussed, but it's also important to build your community, be part of it.

Maiko (00:08:55) - Support others. It should probably be 5050, you know, 50%. You work on getting your work out in many different format, many different ways, whether it's a short video or it could be just the audio only message or written content or just a visual, you can mix it up a little bit. That's the 50%. But the remainder of it, they should be willing to invest their time and energy to support others. And the magic will happen when you actually are genuinely supporting other people's work or tending to their audience, really answering their questions like a Q&A sessions, ask me anything sessions over X or what have you, the possibility is endless. I know that can be overwhelming, but don't be afraid to experiment.

Josh (00:09:49) - Yeah, I would imagine in your work with creatives, AI is a topic that is probably come up in conversation quite a bit.

Speaker 5 (00:09:58) - Yeah.

Josh (00:09:58) - Where are we at right now? In, in,, you know, if there's, let's say there's a creative, you know, entrepreneur or business leader listening to us right now and they might be nervous.

Josh (00:10:07) - They might be freaking out., what advice would you give them?

Maiko (00:10:11) - Well. Luckily, as it stands now, it's a very useful tool when you have this scattered rain and you cannot put a thought together. It could be a great tool as a generative AI, but it's not any better than real creatives who got power in their own words or any visual work. You know, graphics. You know, the AI is also getting into the whole graphics side of things, right? They just that technology itself is not there to completely replace you. So instead of working from a place of scarcity, just get expensive in terms of a mindset. You know you are unique and your fingerprint cannot be replicated so easily by technology. So just have a faith and keep working on your craft so that people will appreciate more and more. Nowadays, people can easily detect which content was generated by AI, you know, straight up and being posted or not. Let's not spend our energy like worrying about it. Instead, just really get to work and keep creating great content.

Maiko (00:11:33) - Like I write a lot. I do a long form blog content. That's where my clients come from. They love reading and I never worry about AI is going to replace me because they just can't write it like I do.

Josh (00:11:49) - Yeah. No, it's absolutely true. Yeah., anyone that has spent any length of time using ChatGPT can recognize the tapestry of AI. The language is just totally. It's so fake. You know exactly what I'm talking about. Like that.

Speaker 5 (00:12:05) - Oh, yeah, I speak.

Josh (00:12:06) - It's so cringe. It is like when I see it. Also,, you know, I've, I've shared this before, but, you know, to my leader friends and you, let's say you've got some team members that are using AI tools for content creation. Be very careful because I have seen a lot of just absolutely fake copy and it is such a turnoff. It just feels devoid of humanness. I feel ripped off. It's it's absolutely worth making sure that, you know, you maintain your voice, which is a part of your brand, and that's.

Maiko (00:12:39) - Something, you know, when you spot it, you don't feel really happy about spotting it. You feel so insulted, and I do. There are so many businesses who you know, which hire outside, you know, digital marketing agencies. Yeah. What they don't know is that those agencies are actually using, you know, generative AI tools to deliver the content to those clients, business owners. If you're not checking their work, you might be just putting out something that you shouldn't be putting out. So that's another thing that I would point out. You should be careful. It's your business, right? It's your business. Be your own command center. So it's okay to delegate to other agencies, other production companies, editors, ghost writers. No problem there. I, you know, there's no judgment, but check their work.

Josh (00:13:32) - Yeah. And by the way, AI is such a wonderful tool., it's just it's really easy to step into new technology and kind of, well, step in some landmines again if we're being too hasty with that.

Josh (00:13:46) - Maiko, your website, Maiko Skycom. Tell me about very specifically what working with you looks like.

Maiko (00:13:55) - Yes. So the first thing I highly recommend anyone to take my free quizzes. There are two quizzes and one is more of an entry level entrepreneur quiz. And the second one is all about finding and discovering your profitable niche, so I recommend taking both of them. See how it's like, you know, like what is, you know, like for you to get the full results from those quizzes. If they like what they see, then just contact me directly. You know, I don't have a VA to really front face with my prospects and clients and the customers. I like to do that work myself and I don't delegate that part. So if you have any questions, just reach out. There are ways to reach out to me via email or over social media and we'll discuss it. There are three different programs that I have, but without getting into all the nitty gritty of it, just take the quizzes and see how it goes.

Josh (00:14:58) - Yeah. And again, Michael Skycom. Just when you get there, just browse around. You'll find the quizzes. I love quizzes and the quizzes that you develop. It's almost like, you know, it's remember the days of like getting a magazine and then you'd like answer these quizzes in the magazine to find out, like what your personality is? Yeah. Just, you know, give you some insights. So yeah, that's what you've created. Well, Michael, I love this for someone that's listening to us. And let's say that they are experiencing a couple of things in their business, like how might they know that they need to reach out and connect with you sooner rather than later?

Maiko (00:15:34) - Yeah, that's a great question. There are many different signs, but I can share a few. For example, if you're facing something like. I don't seem to be able to keep my team intact. You know, like a high turnover rate or something like that. And all I want to do is to build an A-Team.

Maiko (00:15:54) - That could be a sign. Another sign is that, you know, I'm totally stretched out completely thin because I wanted to cater to everyone. So I have 11 different offers, and I don't seem to be able to manage every single one of them. That could be another sign. So let's talk about niching down in your business so that you can generate more revenues by focusing on only a handful. And I walk the walk. That's what I do in my own business. That's another sign.

Josh (00:16:25) - Yeah. Excellent. Michael Sacchi again. You're a consultant coach and found on the web at Michael Skycom. Michael, thank you so much for joining us.

Maiko (00:16:34) - I enjoyed it thoroughly. Thank you for having me.

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