Posts Tagged ‘business consulting’

A Decision I Made 38 Yrs. Ago

April 12th, 2017

 

38 years ago, I decided to start my own business because I knew working for someone else didn’t feel right for me. I am too independent and at times don’t play well with others. More importantly, the inhumanity of some workplaces struck me when working with different companies. Working in sterile environments, shouldn’t mean having to be sterile, ourselves. Business consulting seemed to be a way for me to help people work better together and maximize their potential.

The person to inspire me to work for myself was my Aunt Yvonne. She had chronic arthritis. She was confined to a wheel chair. Yet, wrote a column for the local newspaper, sold cosmetics and Christmas cards all from her wheelchair. She inspired me to work independently. As a child, I sold cards at Christmas time with her.

I was nervous about starting my own business because I lacked money, a PhD and had yet to write a book. In my first year, I sought out the advice of a retired executive to help me. He was 80 years old. His approach annoyed the hell out of me because he kept asking “why?” Well, my answer was because I said so. My shallow response wasn’t satisfactory to him and he forced me to think about how our customers can benefit from our services.

 

So, I asked myself how selling Christmas cards as a teenager helped my then customers? The answer:– I made it easy for them, they didn’t have to sign their names and write their addresses on the envelops. It was printed.  Aha! That was my signature; make it easy for my customers!

My father was my role model for owning a business. My dad supported my family with Alwon Electric Co. He, like me, was just a good technician who worked for himself. He always had a small team helping him. He showed me, by example, how important it is to treat employees like peers and friends. His customers were loyal to him because he cared about them as people, not just as clients.

On the first stages of building my business I struggled because I didn’t know what I was selling and didn’t have confidence in my abilities. Yes, I could sell cards as a kid. But now I had to sell more complex and expensive products.

I wanted to quit when people weren’t buying. My biggest mistake was trying to sell to the wrong person–the gatekeepers: Personnel (these were the people who ran HR in the past). They listened, got excited and challenged me. Yet, no one bought anything! I had the wrong buyer and I didn’t know how to sell. What a horrible and depressing combination that was for me.

What motivated me was simple…I did not want to fail. Down deep, like my Aunt Yvonne, I knew that to succeed I had to have relationships. All I needed was a few solid business friends and things could take off. Not having kids or a husband to support made this easier for me. My Aunt Yvonne kept a happy face and remained persistent despite overwhelming obstacles. My dad built his business while supporting my mom, my siblings, and me.

I knew we could do good with the great leadership training and assessment programs we offered. So, my partners and I kept at it. With persistence, I began to find the right buyers. I prioritized getting in front of people who had the authority and budget to invest in their teams. These leaders (managers and business owners) also wanted someone they could confide in, a mediator to help with people problems, a coach who could help motivate and energize their staff. Yes, they wanted a consultant… like me. Business owners, as they’ve always been, were busy with building or selling and didn’t have time for the softer part of business. They liked our style. It worked!

For those wanting to start a business, I’d suggest you find your personal style, be persistent and genuine with those you work. My guess is that what you start out with may not be what you end up doing. If you listen to your customers, then you will find that as the market, technology and times change, so should you.

I watched my Aunt work on her phone from her wheelchair. She could hardly hold the phone, yet she spent many hours talking with people and building relationships that lasted a lifetime. And they bought from their friend Yvonne.

Without relationships, your sales are only transactional. With solid relationships, your impact can be transformational.