Business Management

Entrepreneurs – Keep your eyes on the goal!

I’ve got a passion for small businesses and always have. When I look back over my life it’s obvious now that I was always meant to have my own business, and to help other like-minded people be successful. I come by it honestly, too. When I was eight years old, my parents (both pharmacists) took a huge risk and left their safe and secure jobs with big chain pharmacies to open a mom and pop (literally) store. My first job was dusting and facing shelves, and learning that you always put down whatever you’re doing to make sure the customer is treated like an honored guest. I didn’t know it then, but my parents went through the expected lean and scary years only to build a thriving business catering some unique niches, enabling them to sell and enjoy their retirement years exactly as they wanted to. Growing up, our livelihood was continuously being threatened by the ‘big guys’ – those large grocery store chains that tucked pharmacies inside as a loss leader, and we prevailed by offering something they didn’t – professional excellence, caring, and an unparalleled passion for service.

And on the other hand was my grandfather. He came to Canada from Russia as a young boy, and his farmer-parents contributed all their resources to send him to school to become an engineer. He spent his life working for a large company, and retired at age 60 with a full pension. Grandpa always wanted to start his own business, but as sole provider of a family of five, never felt confident enough to make the transition. He spent the last ten years at his job bored, unchallenged, and increasingly miserable. When he did retire, he sank into a depression that never lifted. One of his biggest regrets was settling for the sure thing instead of taking a chance on his dream.

So the entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in me, as does the fear of wasting my potential.

I personally never thought I’d end up in business. I was planning on being a writer – or maybe a psychologist or teacher. I wanted to write and I wanted to help people and I did NOT want to work a 9-5, with a boss, and somewhere someone said I had to be every day. Which naturally led me to managing HR (just kidding…there was nothing natural about it). But those desires did lend themselves very well to coaching, organizational behavior management, and eventually organizational development consulting. Throughout the course of a meandering, 20-year journey, I learned from experts in their field some tools, systems, and practices that help companies become as profitable as possible.

One thing I learned is that although there’s a lot of things large companies do that don’t apply to smaller businesses (nor would they probably want them to, to be honest), there are also things that can transform these smaller businesses in all the right ways! Streamlined hiring processes, managers who are able to bring out the best in people, the sky-high morale that comes from shared purpose, an understanding of metrics and how to use them to increase top and bottom line, HR best practices, and on and on. All these are incredible tools, that when placed in the hands of willing business owners change their business from a source of stress and burden to an exciting, profitable, thriving endeavor.

Of course, the problem is that even though the tools work just as well  (if not better) for smaller and medium sized businesses, they’re not as accessible. Full-scale, turnkey consulting implementations can be prohibitively expensive, and off the shelf solutions are often one-size-fits-all bandaids. Even if they do help, they’re a lot like a diet: Fast results that are never maintained. Because of my background, this has bugged me. Part of my DNA is championing the underdog and it just never seemed fair that the people who would most benefit from these solutions don’t have the access to them that their large competitors do.

Like any entrepreneur, I struggled for a while to figure out how to provide the solutions I wanted to, to the people I wanted to serve, and how to package them so that it was accessible and easy to implement. One thing life has taught me personally is how to get back up again after a right cross to the chin, so I was prepared to tough this one out. I kept looking at it from different angles, trying to figure out how to provide the best value to my clients without selling solutions they didn’t need, or adding in so many layers that either they couldn’t afford it, or I couldn’t afford to provide the service!

One phrase kept asserting itself into my mind, that I couldn’t shake. Some of you may recognize this, but it’s ‘and they shall know the truth and the truth shall set them free’. Another way you might have heard this concept presented is that ‘admitting there’s a problem is the first step’. Finally, it all crystallized for me, and it was so obvious, I couldn’t believe it.

You see, my smaller clients have always approached me asking for help solving the problems they know about! Usually it’s to help recruit for a tough to fill position, or audit their HR practices, or train their managers. Because of my customer service mentality, my response has been of course to solve the problem that my clients are asking me to solve. But what I learned in my epiphany is that what my clients REALLY need is to know how they’re REALLY doing. This is the information that they’re never going to get by diagnosing and treating their own problems!

This opened my eyes to a whole new way that I needed to be offering and delivering my service. As a highly educated and trained Business Coach, Organizational Development Consultant, and HR Practitioner, I am uniquely positioned to provide my clients with an overview of their organizational landscape, strengths, and vulnerabilities. This information is hardly ever made available to organizations of this size, and the benefit is that it puts the business owner in the driver’s seat. By seeing the whole picture, and understanding the steps required to align correctly, the business owner can then choose whether/how to address the issues. This has allowed me to develop solutions, and partnerships to provide solutions, on various levels to ensure they are flexible, scale-able and cost effective. If you want to learn more about how this works, check out my site or email me at n

One thing my journey as an entrepreneur has taught me is that it’s not easy, and you rarely end up exactly where you thought you’d be, in the time frame you thought it would take. The ability to keep trying in the face of failure, think of different solutions to recurring problems, and a desire to provide value to a client base who you deeply respect and care about are critical if you want to keep at it and enjoy what you’re doing. Most important for me is to listen to my gut and focus on what I love AND am good at, not just what I’m good at. This can be an act of faith, as a lot of people will tell you that it’s not possible, but I think if you stay true to yourself and your dream, you’ll eventually see the results you want to see!

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at

Business Management

What do you need to know to keep your business on track?

I don’t think anyone would argue that starting or running a business is easy. In fact, once you are over the $2 million/year or so range, your business becomes many. Besides producing your service or product for your customers, there are a million(ish) things you need to do to behind the scenes to maximize your profitability, keep your employees motivated and enthused, figure out how you’re tracking, make sure you don’t incur the wrath of the Department of Labor and a host of other issues. If you’re like most people, some of these things are more appealing than others, and you probably don’t have time for any!

Unfortunately, I’ve seen many a promising business go down the drain, or come close, when they didn’t have the processes put into place to ensure all the right things were happening, with decision-makers having access to the information they needed to make good decisions. It’s something that makes perfect sense after the fact but is very difficult to navigate in the midst of the storm. Having been through the rapid growth and contraction of several businesses in different industries in addition to coaching multiple businesses through various issues, I’ve realized there is a non-changing structure of issues to be addressed within any given business, but the priority of when and how to attack varies in each situation.

To distill it down as much as possible, I think of any business as a pipeline consisting of four major functions: the things you do to get the business (sales), the things you do to fulfill the business (operations), the things you do to get paid for the business (finance/billing), and the things you do to avoid fines, hire and pay your employees (HR).

For each of these functions, there is a microcosm of things that always need to be occurring in order for the functions be executed at their optimal efficiency and accuracy. These things are:

Performance Management

  • Identifying the company and department goal or target
  • Identifying how to achieve the goal or target
  • Measuring progress
  • Providing real time feedback regarding progress
  • Providing consequences/reinforcement for positive performance
  • Setting individual goals


  • Having leaders who are strong in the 12 areas of emotional intelligence
  • Having leaders who understand and champion your vision, so that people understand they are part of something bigger than themselves
  • Having leaders who value the employees who work for you and let them know they are valued


  • Being able to have hard conversations
  • Having a way for employees to talk about concerns and feel heard
  • Having a way for critical information about the company to be relayed
  • Having a forum for innovative ideas to be surfaced

Company Culture

  • Having a mission, vision, and values and taking steps to ensure the employee and customer experience is in alignment with those values
  • Being intentional about what it’s like to work for and with the company

Recruiting and Hiring

  • Knowing who you are as a company so you can attract the people best suited to you
  • Having a consistent policy of hiring to ensure a fair and equitable workplace
  • Having a solid recruiting and onboarding policy to treat candidates with respect and create a memorable first impression
  • Developing metrics to understand your time to hire, turnover, cost to replace people
  • Developing a compensation strategy and ensuring your employees’ salaries are consistent and aligned within that strategy.

HR Infrastructure

  • Ensuring you are compliant with state and federal employment law
  • Ensuring your hiring, terminating, disciplinary, and performance management practices are uniform
  • Ensuring you have access metrics such as labor as a %age of revenue, revenue per employee, and SGA vs Operational costs (on a monthly and trailing 12-month basis)
    so you can budget effectively.

So where do you start? To quote my all time favorite finance guy (you know who you are, Norm)… “it depends”! If you have the work but can’t fulfill it because your employees are leaving in droves, you likely have either a culture, leadership or compensation issues. On the other hand, if you come up drastically short on expected revenue, you more likely have an issue with tracking the right metrics and/or reporting on it. Many times businesses are so focused on reporting on past performance for P&L statements that they don’t spend as much time as they should on forward looking metrics, and lose valuable opportunities to course correct before something becomes a true problem.

If this all makes perfect sense but you still don’t know where to start, that’s okay. I’d suggest doing a brief inventory of your business segments using the six criteria outlined above to get a read on where your strengths and vulnerabilities lie in the areas of sales, operations, accounting, and HR. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it will fairly quickly lead you to a starting point. If this is of value, or if you’d like to learn more, I’d be happy to brainstorm with you, and share some of the things we look for as part of our full diagnostic assessment of organizations.

Remember, you can change a problem you’re aware of, but the ones you aren’t can take you down!

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at