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 www.todaysleadershipsolutions.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com