🎙️Show Notes for Episode 076 - Branding Yourself as a Consultant (and more) with Jennifer LemmertAug 24, 2022
In this episode, I interview one of my independent consulting business owner clients, Jennifer Lemmert.
Jennifer is the principal of Jennifer Lemmert LLC, a corporate communications and PR consulting firm. With nearly 20 years of experience, she's a storyteller with a passion for helping clients find their authentic voices - from executive and employer branding to employee engagement and outreach. Jennifer spent her career supporting heavy hitters in the government, non-profit, healthcare, finance, and hospitality industries before launching her independent consulting business. When she's not relishing the chaos of raising three boys (under age 5!), she loves connecting and collaborating with fellow communicators and mompreneurs.
Listen in as Jennifer shares her expertise in communication and how you can claim your own unique voice and branding so that you establish a reputation in your industry and are sought after for the type of services and impact that you offer.
Jennifer also shares some behind-the-screen insights into her business. Specifically, she talks about the fear of failure that kept her stuck in her business, and how she was able to start tearing that down and rebuilding herself and her business in a more intentional way.
Jennifer is a master of networking and shares her strategies around using networking for lead generation and building a bench of sub-contractors.
Press play to join the conversation.
- [00:28] What to expect from this conversation
- [03:12] Meet our guest, Jennifer Lemmert
- [04:31] Why she decided to launch a consulting business and why she stayed in consulting instead of going back to corporate
- [09:43] What has been the biggest challenge in her business so far
- [13:01] How to claim your own voice and branding to establish yourself as an expert in your industry
- [18:41] How she is balancing growing her business and growing her reputation as a consultant
- [26:48] How to improve your ability to create a pipeline through networking
- [34:42] Lessons learned from building a business as an independent consultant
- [38:17] What she wants her business to look like in the next few years
- [40:14] Why Jennifer decided to hire a coach
- [43:25] What it was like to work with a coach
- [45:22] The transformations she experienced with coaching
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Jennifer Lemmert, Communications & PR Consultant
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenniferlemmert/
Website - https://www.jenniferlemmert.com/
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**note: This is an automated transcript, so please ignore spelling errors and grammar mistakes*
Welcome, I'm so happy you're here on the podcast this week, I am welcoming my client, Jennifer Lemmert. She is here with us today to share her journey in becoming an independent consultant and really growing her business over the last couple of years. And I can't wait to dive in and hear what she has to share with all of us. So Jennifer, why don't we just start off and tell us a little bit about you and what you do as an independent consultant.
Hi Melisa, thanks so much for having me today. I'm excited to be here, especially in our matching outfits. And so what, what do I do, I specialize in corporate communications. So what that means is that I help leaders develop their executive voices, whether that's internally for their teams, or externally to media and other stakeholders, I help them create and refine their unique leadership brand and connect to the people they need to reach the most. So typically current and future employees, peers, and their industry and beyond. I also focus on employee engagement. So how do companies talk to their people, recruit the right talent to their teams, and then keep them once they're there? So with the current state of work, and how things have shifted so rapidly in the last few years, there are tons of opportunities for leaders and companies to evolve their communications to meet the challenges of today. And that's where I come in.
It's so exciting I can't wait for you to share some of these experiences that you've had working with corporate clients and like you said, it's such a needed thing at this point in time, especially the retention side of it and creating a message that resonates to employees. So I know how busy you are doing that. Tell us a little bit Jennifer about why you decided to launch it consulting business and why you stayed here instead of going back to corporate.
So we have to rerun rewind, about three years. So about three years ago, I took a hard look at what I wanted for the next phase of my career. And I decided that I really needed to focus on three goals. One was make money to have fun, and three work with people I like. And then I wanted to be able to do all of those things while having a ton of flexibility. And I didn't think I could check all those boxes in the corporate world. So while I'm thinking about all of this, you know, it's January 2020, and I'm exhausted. At that time, I had three years old and a one-year-old, I'm doing this long commute every day, it's sucking the life out of me. I was to the point where I was no longer challenged by my current job, but I was honestly just too tired to start looking for something else. And I was really at the point where it was either go for a promotion, which I wasn't really sure I wanted, or find a new job, and potentially new problems. Or I could leave and create something for myself that I enjoyed something that allowed me to be closer to home, spend more time with my kids and just generally be happier. I also knew that we wanted to have another baby at some point. So how was I going to manage growing my family and you know, pursuing a career that I really loved? So, New Year's 2020 I said to myself, Okay, this is the year you have to do something, you have to leave corporate and do something else. Freelancing Yeah, okay. I can freelance. I know people who've done that. But in any case, the goal was to take this year 2020 launch on my own, I have a whole year I will figure this out. So then, you know, march 2020 happens, the whole world closes down, and suddenly my whole world and close down to, you know, I'm furloughed from my job. And now my new job is taking care of two toddlers for the first time. You know, my husband and I home from work, kids in no care isolated from our families and friends. I don't have a job. And I'm like, WTF What do I do now? Here I am being you know, the full-time mom, something I'd always wondered about. And probably within the first week, I realized it was 100%. Not for me. So shout out to the moms who have their full-time job as being a mom, because I am not cut out for it. So during that time, I'm taking nap times I'm up all night, you know, working for myself, like trying to figure out you know, you said you wanted to go out on your own? Well, now I had to figure out how to make it work. So I was reaching out to my network, saying, like, hey, you know, person I've never met before, who's also in consulting, but I somehow know you on LinkedIn. How did you get started? What advice would you give somebody who's just starting out? I was offering my skills to people for free, so I can make more connections. I was building a website, I was mapping out my service offerings, like, what would this look like if I went out on my own, and it kind of became like my secret side project, and it really felt like sink or swim. Because I realized that, you know, I, you know, finding a new corporate job wasn't going to save me. It wasn't clear, like, what, what work was gonna look like, for the rest of that year. So either I was going to figure this out for myself and build my dream life, or I was gonna have to go back to something that I knew wasn't a good fit for me at that time. So once I announced that I was launching on my own as an independent consultant, I was terrified to do that. But I got so much support from my network. It was like, Why didn't I do this sooner? So that's a very long story of how and why I got started independent consulting, but you know, from one mom to another, it really is about, like, being tired. And trying to find a way, to inject some new energy into my career.
Yeah, I think you and I last did stay-at-home moms for about the same amount of weeks.
My performance review on that or was not good.
100%. That was the worst performance review I've ever received. Also, I love it. Like you said, shout out to the moms who are able to do that full-time. That is that is definitely not my forte. someone the other day asked me, you know, are you? Are you a part time business owner and a full time mom? And I said, No, I'm a part-time mom and a full-time no sooner?
I mean, I would say I'm kind of full-time both. Yeah, it's just really in the last year that we've gotten our child care really nailed down. But I mean, we can talk about more of that later. But I feel like, for a lot of us who are out here, with little kids, it does become sort of like, you know, your business becomes your other baby. Yeah, there's one thing that you have to nurture, consistently all the time. And then you have your regular kids, your children, who demand a ton of time and energy to so, you know, trying to make it all sing together as an interesting juggle, I will say.
Absolutely, absolutely. So tell me, Jennifer, tell us what has been the biggest challenge for you so far in your business?
I'm at the risk of being cliche, but I think for me, and I think for a lot of women, one of the biggest challenges is fear of failure. And I felt that when I was just starting out, you know, and I hate to use the word or the phrase impostor syndrome because I feel like it's so overused right now. But it was really this fear of like, you know, what if no one will hire me? And if they hire me, what if they decide that I'm not very good? And they decided I'm not very good? Well, then I had good enough to do this at all. So I tend to indulge in some of that self-defeating thinking before there's really any proof to back it up. And I mean, to be perfectly honest, self-promotion is difficult for me, like putting myself out there even doing this podcast, so far out of my comfort zone. So this is one way for me to overcome some of those challenges. But there's hope. I really had to get over that mindset and put myself into the mindset of the person that I aspire to be. So literally, I'm a business owner now. So what would a business owner think? What would they say? What would they do? I want to be hired for my expertise. East. So what would an expert think? Or say? Or do? You know, and I've had to learn some tough lessons along the way about doing what's best for me. But I've come such a long way since I started. And sometimes I can see those bad habits start to creep up. But I can recognize them better now. And I can look for ways to kind of get through them, instead of them being sort of, like, stopping me from moving forward, you know? I'm, I'm looking now, like, I'm almost past those, and like, what's the next challenge going to be so I can tackle that head on too. So I'm really excited about what the next few years have to offer so that it can push me even further than I am right now.
Yeah, such a transformation from and really adults jolts, you know, when you've spent so much time in corporate and building that build up that identity that's attached to being a corporate employee and the successes around that. And then all of a sudden, you're, you know, so many of us, I think, was accidental. Consultants, yes. You know, something, like you said was one on the list, but not necessary? Maybe not big, not exact timing. But really getting into that mindset of what would I love the way you just describe that? What would a business owner do? What would an expert do here? And really asking yourself, those questions in, in that frame of mind, produces such high-quality answers and starts making you think as yourself in that way. So
definitely, because if you want to, if that's the face, you want to present to the world, you're not doing yourself any favors by you know, sitting in the background, and being your own worst critic and tearing yourself down before you even get in front of, you know, a client or a potential client or a potential partner. So I think it's, it sometimes feels a little bit cheesy, but in some ways, you do have to, like, amp yourself up, or I have to amp myself up to say, you know, like, This is who I am. Now, you're not, you know, an intern who doesn't know what's what, like, you have a lot of experience, you have a lot to offer. So own that space. And, you know, make yourself, you know, make yourself feel like you are the type of person that you want to work with. Yeah, if that makes any sense.
Absolutely. It makes perfect sense. So let's purge into that a little bit, Jennifer, as is. So you're a corporate communications expert. You're an expert in branding executives and their voice. So tell us a little bit about what best practices you recommend for consultants that they could apply to their own businesses in that way.
Yeah, so I mean, I think there's really three top suggestions that I would have for people who want to claim their own executive voice and brand. So it comes down to being yourself, giving good feedback, and appreciating people. So I'll just go through each one, you know, the biggest thing to be yourself, not the person you think you're expected to be. So it's a little bit of nuance from what I was just talking about, right? So, you know, you want to come across as authentic, and transparent, because that's what builds trust. And that's true for me when I'm working with clients. It's true for my clients, when they're working with their stakeholders, the pandemic has opened the door very, very wide for people to be their most genuine selves. You know, dogs barking kids screaming delivery person at the front door. So we really need to take that opportunity. And just be okay with people seeing more of who we are. Because those are the connection points. Those are the things that make us human, that's what makes you trustworthy. That makes you the type of person that somebody else wants to work with, work for and believe in. You know, secondly, I said about giving honest feedback. And you want to make sure that the feedback is, you know, kind and encouraging as well. So you don't just want to be like a Yes, man or Yes, woman. Don't just tell people what they want to hear. Because eventually, they see through it. And nobody appreciates being led down the wrong path because you were afraid of saying the wrong thing. You know, I asked for that feedback from my clients to, you know, what can I do better? Is there something I can help you with? And I think being okay with admitting when you're wrong, or where you made a mistake, and then coming armed with a plan to fix it or make sure it doesn't happen again. I mean, these are all different facets of being authentic, that helped to make a difference. The third thing, appreciating people and when we're in this super fast-paced world, I think sometimes it's hard to remember to do that, but go out of your way to appreciate people. What's the saying like it costs nothing to be kind, but the rewards are huge. And I mean, that means everyone from The admin who picks up the phone or answers the first email. Or if it's the first person who shows up to a meeting and you don't know them, or it's a vendor, you know, people remember when you acknowledge them when you make them feel seen, and you make them feel important. For me, I tend to remember a lot of those kinds of details, kid's names, or people's hobbies, where someone went on vacation, that kind of thing just stays in my brain. So I can't remember where my car keys are. But Melisa, I know that your son swims and plays soccer. It's not just a good business practice, right? It's a good life practice. And it doesn't come easily for everyone. And I have some, we'll get to it later. But you know, I have some tips for like how you can sort of build some structure around that. So it doesn't feel forced every time. But no one wants to feel like everything's just transactional, they want to feel valued. And when they feel valued, they will typically treat you well. And they'll help you get done, what you need to get done. So too long, didn't read the answer. If you can just remember to be yourself, give good feedback, and appreciate people, it's amazing how much impact that couldn't really make.
Yeah, I think those are so important to think about because sometimes we fall into this trap of a consultant that we need to be efficient, and we need to help them, you know, progress really quickly. And then it becomes more transactional. And I think sometimes we think, well, they don't want to really know who I am, I'm not an employee, or I don't, I don't have the right to go, you know, start spending time developing relationships, because, you know, they're paying me and so just really being thoughtful about, even though you're not an employee's still focusing on building those relationships, because ultimately, the success rate really relies on being trustworthy, and people trusting the expertise and advice that you're in, and recommendations that you're making. I love simply you share that with us. Yeah, I
mean, nobody wants to feel like they are on the receiving end of like, what can you do for me? I hate when I get that kind of stuff where, you know, it's like, Oh, how's the weather? And actually, can you put me in touch with this person, it's like, wait for a second, you miss, like a whole bunch of steps here. So I can only imagine, you know, on the receiving side, for clients, whether it's even my direct client or just somebody who's in that orbit, you know, everybody deserves to feel like somebody cares about what they're doing every day like not everybody. Not everybody's there to help you along the way necessarily. You just get her I get a great deal of satisfaction, just having some of those. Like one-off conversations with people, I'm the annoying person that starts a conversation with like the person at the grocery store. So that might just be me. But I think if you can apply some of those little tricks when you're working, I think it makes the work day feel more enjoyable. And it feels more like
we're like a two-way street. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Then we'll dive in a little bit here in a minute about some of your one of your strengths is networking. And so really helping other people take what you're doing in and replicate that I think will be really valuable. But before we dive into that, I wanted to ask you on more of a personal note. You're about you. You mentioned the kids. Now you have three. So the beginning of the story. You started with two now you've got three? What was I thinking? This three-kid Club is a challenge for sure. Tell me as you work to balance growing your business and growing your reputation as a consultant. What does that look like as you're balancing that with young kids and a spouse who travels frequently?
Yeah, so I'll start to set us I'll start by setting the stage of kind of what my personal life looks like. So I have three boys under five. The youngest actually turns one this week, and he was born a year into launching my business. Crazy. My husband has done a lot of traveling in the last year or so I've had to navigate a lot on my own. So shorthand to say my life is generally a chaos zone. And I think any working parent would agree. There's no balance once you have kids; there was really only survival. Maybe it gets better once they're all in school. I don't know yet. It does a little bit. It does. Okay. Yes, thank God. I mean, so I say survival. I'm sort of kidding. I'm sort of not. But I say all that just to be very clear that I don't have it all together. Everyday kind of feels like being shot out of a cannon. So I don't want to sugarcoat that it's very tempting on LinkedIn or Instagram or anywhere on social media. To make it look like you have it all together and have this very carefully curated life, but just want to lay out the facts, ma'am, which, you know, it's a constant struggle to find any kind of breathing room. So now that we have that out of the way, I think most importantly, it starts with my relationship with my husband, not to be a total horn ball. But he and I work very closely together to support each other's work. He's been a huge cheerleader for me from the very beginning. And I think if you're partnered up, the other person has to be your strongest supporter and be willing to pick up the slack when you need it. I mean, we just do that for each other, we trade-off, we tag in, we tag out, you know, we negotiate multiple times a week on scheduling, so we can make sure that the top things are covered. And that's usually client meetings and childcare. So you know, and he also encourages me to take time for myself, I'm an extrovert, he's an introvert. So he's happy to send me off to meet up with friends, or get a mani-pedi or something when I need a break. And he can, you know, be the stay-at-home dad for the evening or whatever. So we have, we have a pretty good balance that way; it's not always exactly 5050. Sometimes it's 9010. But you know, we make it work. And, you know, to be honest, I really struggle with giving myself a break and finding any kind of balance. Because I think a lot of parents and a lot of business owners, well, probably everybody feels that there's always something else you could be doing. So I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling that way. But it's very easy to get overwhelmed. So to be 100% honest, I'm working through all that in therapy too, which I highly, highly recommend to just be able to unload some of the stuff on an unbiased third party and, and kind of, you know, be able to collect yourself and move through and strategize for how to find more of that balance. You know, the beauty of managing my own schedule is part of why I wanted to be an independent consultant. So I'm working on building more of those breaks into my life. So I didn't even just small times where I'm away from everyone and everything, like going to the gym or going for a walk, you know, I don't have to talk to anybody. Even though I'm an extrovert, I love talking to people; sometimes I need a break,
you know, I can really just zone out. And that's been super helpful. The biggest thing I've done this year that I'm looking forward to, is I scheduled myself a solo corporate retreat. So just me a weekend, for the summer. I'm literally checking into a hotel by myself just to rest and regroup and Nobody's allowed to bother me. So I mean, those are all things that I've done, those are kind of like big things. I think some stuff that's you know, can be applicable to anybody is, you know when things are really exploding. On the personal side, I just look back or look at and see where I can scale back to make things a little bit more manageable. And this is connected to being authentic also because my clients know who I am. They know that I work really hard for them. But they also know I'm not an FTE. And they know I'm juggling three kids under five, sometimes by myself, you know, so they really respect when I say hey, I was up on time with a sick kid, I'm not batting 1000 Today, or, you know, you might see a tiny head pop up on this call, because my husband's away for a few weeks, and my kid has a fever. So if I'm in that kind of situation, I try to just look at my day in chunks of time where I can be most productive. So I'll attend the meetings, I absolutely have to attend. And then sometimes I'll be done for the afternoon and then signed back on from nine to midnight because that's the quietest time in my house. So that's all a very long answer to how do I find balance? But the truth is, it's a work in progress that I'm still working on. And I'm open to any tips that other people have that I couldn't live my life. Yeah, I
think you know, I love the idea that it's so fluid, right? So a lot of times, we kind of get this picture in our mind that there's some balance like that it should look like all the time and being really fluid and deciding what it's going to look like on a daily basis or weekly basis. And also the corporate retreat. That part I love. It took me a long time to even figure it out. Oh, I get to decide if I'm going to go on a corporate trip. I get to decide, you know, how I might invest in my business. It took a while for me to realize that this isn't. I don't need a budget or approval from some other person and I get to decide. So fun. I'm so glad you're doing that.
Yeah, and that's, I mean, that would say that's like the big bucket. You know, that's Um, that's the big bucket of like, finding balance is being able to take a huge break like that not everyone can do that. I've literally never done it. So it's huge for me. And I think sometimes, you know, it's not like taking a weekend necessarily, it's like, looking ahead to the next hour sometimes, like, what do I have to do to get through the next hour? What do I have to get do to get through the next afternoon, you know, and sometimes you just have to do that to be able to manage, I mean, anybody who's had a sick kid, or multiple sick kids, or, you know, trying to balance meetings with kids or other like, you know, home renovations, and anything that's going on in the background of your life, you know, sometimes it really is just doing what you have to do to survive.
And not judging yourself for it.
Right? Right. I think that can be really tricky too, like, letting go of the guilt that I can't do everything. It's okay to rest. It's okay to throw up your hands and say like, I can't take on one more thing. And scale some of that stuff back until you do get to a point where you are more of a functional human being who's getting enough sleep and enough food, and you're well hydrated, all those things.
Yeah. One of the things you and I worked on together is creating a minimum viable process. And so it's so fun to be able to lean on that when, like you said, when times are kind of crazy on the personal, front or crazier. And being able to really rely on some kind of a minimum viable process for your business can be really valuable, too.
Yeah, I mean, and when you shared that with me, it was like a light bulb moment because it's not even just the MVP for work sometimes, is the MVP at home too. Sometimes it's like telling my five-year-old, I don't have any time to fold your laundry; just find two socks that match, right? Like that's the minimum, I got your clothes into the washer and dryer, you gotta pick up and find your own socks. So I'm applying that in many areas when things get crazy.
So I love it. Tell us, let's go back to the networking and relationship-building side of your business. Because you know, from my vantage point, as your coach, one of your strengths is really that ability to network and grow and maintain relationships. And I'm just curious what advice you might share with other independent consultants who want to improve their ability to create a pipeline through networking.
I mean, relationship building goes back to being authentic, right? I talked about that before, if you want to build relationships, just so you can build a pipeline and make money off of people. That's the wrong approach. Stop that, like, people see right through that. And they're turned off. Yeah, I mean, I said it before, I don't want to be treated as transactional. So I don't treat people that way. Either you have to be coming from a genuine place of wanting to be connected to people wanting to learn from them and wanting to help them, not just look out for number one, or look out for the bottom line. So I can't stress that enough. You know, when you prioritize the relationship piece, the pipeline will build itself, you know, you won't have to stress out about like, Oh, I'm about to, you know, this contract is about to end, I don't have anything, you will be in constant conversations with people who, who will want to work with you. I have a long list of people that I want to work with when I get a little more time because we've developed those kinds of relationships over time. And, you know, I'd start with this caveat, though, I was a painfully shy kid. So the idea of going into a social situation and making small talk or trying to make a new friend was terrifying. I hated it. But at some point, either I realized, or maybe somebody told me that if I didn't try to connect with other people, I was basically going to be invisible. I mean, that's kind of the switch flip right there. You know, if you are not out there trying to build relationships with people, you might as well be visible. So you know, when it's difficult for you to kind of make the first move. When I did when I was much, much younger. I just started watching how other people interacted. I mean, my parents are amazing relationship builders, by the way, so I had great role models there. But then I just started practicing by putting myself out there. I mean, sometimes I looked silly, sometimes I didn't, but the more I did that, the more comfortable I felt. So now I'd consider myself an extrovert or maybe just a reformed introvert at this point, but I think it's important to just recognize that it doesn't come easily for everybody, and it can be like a growth experience over time. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. So I just suggested, like, maybe two ways to start honing relationships. So first, I'd say reach out on social media. And secondly, bring something to the other person. So a little bit of explanation behind each of those. So social media has made staying in touch so easy, and it's so much less fraught, I think than even five years ago. For me, it comes naturally because this is sort of, my business. But to see something on someone's feed, and just shoot them a quick note, you know, so like, on Instagram, like, Oh, hey, that looks like an amazing trip. How are you doing? are, you know, I'm thinking about going there, what was great about that place, or, you know, on LinkedIn, like, hey, congratulations on the new job and ask questions about their new job. You know, you do that enough over time, and you're building rapport with somebody. And you know, maybe at the end of one of those quick conversations, you see if they're cool with like, setting up a time to chat, and you know, maybe one of the maybe business comes up, maybe it doesn't, but you have to go into it, with no expectations. And leading with that relationship first. You know, and for anybody who's listening and says, like, oh, social media isn't my thing, you have to make it your thing, you have to put some effort into making connections there. Because for people to know you a little bit better, you know, you have to be able to have a way to chat with them. And that's a really easy way to do it. I mean, you can also, for people, you might have a closer sort of starting a relationship with maybe it's a former colleague, or an acquaintance, you know, shooting them a text or an email instead to see how they're doing. And that's another easy way to reach out. So the second thing I said was to bring something to the other person. So when you have those catch-up conversations, you have to offer something. So whether it's an interest in what they're up to, maybe you're asking for their advice on a situation, or maybe you're offering a lead to something or somewhere offering to make a connection with somebody they know, or somebody that you know, that they might want to know, you know, some maybe nothing comes of it, maybe something does. But regardless, that person remembers that you showed an interest in them, and you were willing to put yourself out there in a friendly way.
So those are my two biggest recommendations, talk to your connections on social, make meaningful connections there, and offer something to the other person. And you know, I mentioned I'm a former introvert. So I know it can feel scary, it can feel forced, or it might even feel fake sometimes. But if it does feel that way, just to sort of getting you over the hump, I'd say put a little structure around relationship building. So don't feel like you have to do it all at once. Like you don't have to have 30 conversations a month, you can challenge yourself to have, you know, one or two messages that you're sending out a month or scheduling one virtual or one person meet up a month. And then you can also take notes on the people in your network as you're reaching out to who you talk to, what you talked about, where you left things, and then the next time you have those notes to fall back on, to make those conversations feel a bit more natural. So in a world where things are moving super, super fast, I think people appreciate it when you take that time to invest in learning from them and valuing them without the expectation of something in return.
Yeah, and that makes it so much lighter to write when you're going into a conversation, and you haven't put pressure on yourself to try to turn it into something specific. It comes across; it makes it so much easier on you. And also, it comes across in such a much more authentic way to that other person. So it lightens the load on both ends.
Yeah, definitely. And I think you know, coming. Like I said, we're all human. You coming at somebody because you're interested in their life is much different than coming at somebody and just being interested in what you can get out of them. It's, there's such a, you know, people might think they're really slick on that piece of it. But I'm telling you, it's so obvious. So I think it's just a matter of, you know, be in it for the long haul, not like oh, I'm going to talk to this person three times. I'm going to nail down a contract with them. It that's not the way life typically works. You have to come at it from a place where even if you got nothing out of it, even if not, $1 came from that conversation. These are the building blocks that help you, you know, lead to future things. These are the practice conversations that may be helping you to be ready for; you know, that high-value conversation or client negotiation.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think you know, for me, I'm sure you've had the same experiences I've had. I've probably networked with on hundreds and hundreds, maybe not 1000s, I don't know, I don't keep track of the number that you have maybe 1000s of people, definitely hundreds of people. And a lot of those conversations are so great to meet new people and try to help connect them to other things. And then you know, the ones that you think this, I'm just excited to meet this person, I'm sure nothing is really going to come up this, then, you know, some, you know, for me, one of those conversations turned into, you know, two years worth of business. You just saw where you least expected it. And so going in, like you said, without expectation can turn out, it turned out in so many different ways you may never have imagined. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Both on the personal side, meeting really amazing people. And on the
on the professional side. Yeah, exactly.
Jennifer, tell us where he would say, you know, you've been in business for a couple of years, you have a COVID. Basically, we can attach the timing of your business to COVID, which is always easy to remember; right now, we all remember march 17, or whatever the day was in 2000. So tell us, tell us what you've learned in the last couple of years that looking back you wish you would have known earlier.
You know, I've only spent two and a half years as an independent consultant. So I have to say, there's still so much that I have to learn. But in that short time, I can honestly say that I've really learned to value who I am and what I bring to the table. So you know, when I was in corporate, there was a lot of room for me to question my expertise, because you only have one time of year where you're getting your report card, your performance review, you know, either you get an A plus you get like a b minus high C, right. And, you know, I felt like the whole year boiled down to that one conversation with my manager. So the whole year, I'm like, afraid I'm gonna make a misstep because I want to hear about it in the next few months. And like, you know, that can be a lot of stress. You know, now, with my clients, I feel like I've found my voice; you know, I'm not competing with anyone for a promotion. I'm not playing office politics, and I'm not caught up in the gossip mill; you know, my whole job is really to make the client look good. It's not to make myself look good so that I get a better title or a nicer office or anything like that. And that's very freeing. So, you know, I can say, here's what I think based on my experience, and here's where I think you can put your best foot forward. So since my independent career is so short, I can say that I wish that earlier in my career, overall, I would have had the confidence that I do now; I wish I had known all of that, like 10 years ago, but here we are, we take the path that we're meant to be on so. So yeah, I think just really leaning into my expertise, leaning into my competence, kind of being aware of where my strengths are, and where my weaknesses are, and saying, you know, how can I use these things in the best way to benefit my clients,
to give a giving yourself permission to really label yourself as that expert as the person who's gained that, that knowledge and, and, and expertise and might not necessarily know everything, but really, really looking at that and saying, you know, what I know enough to help this client progress forward and accomplish what it is that they want to accomplish, and, and coming at it from that angle versus, versus I'm learning and I'm becoming an expert in this area.
Yeah, I mean, I think that's a really subtle difference, sort of, you know, positioning yourself as an expert, but I'm an expert, but I don't know everything, but every situation, I know it in the context of my own experience. So you know, I can give my best opinion. But that doesn't mean that there's not more to learn, or there that's necessarily the right answer. That's where it really becomes like a collaboration between you and the client. And I think I'm really able to operate in that space. Because, you know, I can bring the years of experience that I have, but also say like, Hey, well, what do you think, oh, you know, you don't think it's gonna land that way. Totally fair. Let's think about how to rework it. So it really pulls in kind of that flexibility piece too. So I just want to be very clear when I say, you know, being confident about my expertise doesn't mean that I'm so confident that there's not room to learn more, there's no room to have that kind of collaboration with partners or clients or what have you. Yeah, absolutely.
Tell us. What do you want your business to look like in the next few years?
You know, if I start back with my three Read goals, make money, have fun work with people I like, as long as I'm doing those three, three things, I think I'm going to feel successful. I'm in that place right now. So I feel very fortunate and very successful. Being more tangibly in the next few years, my ultimate goal is to partner with more of my independent consulting friends and team up on bigger projects together; I'd love to be in a position to work with other women helping to build them or helping them to build their businesses, you know, learning from them, working together with finding clients, making a difference, and really expanding that reach. I know so many brilliant, talented women in the communication space. So I'm always a little lookout for ways to work with more of them. So I'll just put this little plug I could that's you, and you're listening to this podcast, please feel free to reach out to me. But yeah, I mean, those are my goals, make money, have fun work with people I like. So I'm on that track right now. And success is just to be able to say that every year, I'm doing, I'm doing more of that, I'm hitting those three goals.
Yeah. So, first of all, take Jennifer up on her offer. We'll put the link in the show notes for how to reach her. But she is so well connected. And also just such a so good at cultivating relationships, like we've talked about already, and teaming opportunities and that kind of thing. So it will be really fun to see some good collaborations sprout out of today's podcasts for sure. Yeah, love it. Yeah. And I also love the business plan. So simple, right? Make money, have fun, and be flexible.
And simple. I'm a simple gal. I am not I'm not. If I were looking at things based on revenue goals, or percentage year over year, I'd be lost. That's not me that's not my strength. Let me say that.
So good. Okay, so if your game to share, Jennifer, tell us a little bit. So you and I work together in a coaching relationship. So tell us a little bit about why did you decide to hire a coach?
Yeah, well, I can even take it back further. Melisa, before I had the privilege of working with you, I actually started working with a coach first when I was furloughed, within those first few weeks, and I was trying to figure out what to do next. She lives in my neighborhood. So can I say her name? Sure. Karen Sr. She, really helped me be accountable for the steps that I was taking to start this business. When I was really kind of in, you know, kind of a black hole of self-pity that I didn't have a job. She gave me so much encouragement when I was feeling like a complete failure. In the beginning, she was really cheering me on. For every little win I had. And you know, these is in the hottest days of the pandemic, right? So you know, being able to work with her on something that I felt like I couldn't really control and own when everything else felt out of control was really game-changing for me. So shout out to Karen, to Karen. So listen, working with you is different because I reached out to you when I was about a year into consulting because I knew there had zero business processes, not right; you can attest to that. I wasn't even doing my own invoicing, I was not set up to be efficient at all. I didn't know how to build a pipeline. You know, I didn't have these hard skills; I was missing all of them, just basic how to run a business one-on-one. I was an English major. Okay, so I'm very right-brained. And I really needed to work with an expert on helping me prioritize and get set up so that I could run this business like it was a business and not just like, you know, I was doing the fun stuff that I was really good at and kind of ignoring all the, you know, balance sheets and numbers and planning stuff that really needed to be on the priority list too. And then, on the flip side, I was really struggling with the mindset. Like I said before, I mean, I don't even think I realized how off my mindset was at that time. So it's really a wonder that I was able to get anything off the ground. Because I was really working from a place of fear a lot of times, you know, questioning whether I can make the business peace work, taking some of the people-pleasing parts of myself to the extreme or was actually hurting me both personally and professionally. So I needed help getting into that business owner mindset and I needed help to separate the business from the personal, like, how do I take my feelings out of it? How do I focus on growing both in the short term and the long term and I think, you know, working with Someone like you, Melisa, working with a coach really helps you kind of get out of your own head and put some plans to paper and figure out how to take action on them and then be accountable to because if I was left to my own devices, I still would have been like, I have no idea what's going on.
Yeah, we'll just chip away at it a little bit each week and get to the point where now you've got got a well oiled in from my perspective, I'm sure there's things you would still want to work on. But uh, well.
progress progress, not perfection.
Tell us a little bit about what was it like working with a coach?
I mean, to be honest, some days, it was kind of embarrassing. Because, you know, you'd ask me about like your, you know, tell me about your p&l statement. I'm like, my what and what? You know, I don't know what that is. Yeah. But again, it was so valuable, because I didn't know really what I didn't know. And I had, I had to have sort of a sounding board for which processes would be most beneficial for me to position the business side, so I could just do some of those basic operations for today, and then eventually grow further down the road. And I needed somebody like you to objectively ask me questions like, Well, why do you believe that about yourself? You know, what would shift if you looked at that situation in a new way? How can you plan so that you're showing up the way you want to, you know, when you do those things over time, and you can sort of model it ahead of time, you get more practice, you really start to adopt them into your regular ways of working. So now, the mindset mind set shift is becoming more and more my regular starting point, it's not something that I really have to reach for, it's it's sort of my, my day to day. Like I said, the business processes are still a challenge, because I'm extremely right brained. But the framework is there for me to be successful. I just have to, I just have to be disciplined about, you know, moving into that left brain space and making those processes work for me. Yeah, and
it can be such a, you know, I have, I've talked about this a lot, I have my own coach, who I work with on a weekly basis, and it can be so vulnerable, right, coming into these conversations and talking about what you finished and what you didn't, what, what isn't working and what didn't go well, and what you might not understand, and just being able to have that safe space to talk through and be honest with yourself, can be so valuable to move forward without, without that Judge self judgment that we're also good at? Yeah, yeah. A little bit about what might have changed for you and your you touched on this already. But anything else that changed for you in your business? Or even personally, as, as we work together?
You know, I mean, I've really changed how I approach everything, you know, instead of approaching it from a place of weakness or lack of knowledge. And, you know, just why am I not where I think I should be at this point, I've been able to give myself a lot more grace that way, because I sort of have like, your voice echoing in the back of my mind, I have some of the work that we've done, then I can refer to, you know, before, I would just beat myself up for not knowing something like, why don't I know the best way to manage this. And now I can reframe it and say, Okay, this piece is new to me. I've never done this before. But I want to learn how this works, so that I can understand and build up those skills. So really, I understand that I get to create what success looks like to me. And I'm able to give myself more credit for the things I'm accomplishing instead of, you know, continuing to move the goalposts. You know, I can believe now that I'm successful today, and I'm going to be successful moving forward. I can comfortably say, I believe in my business, and there is no such thing as failure for me, because I've gotten this far, you know, it all ended today, I would still feel like it was just a success. Because it's really all about staying true to who I am and what I want my life to look like.
So good. Tell us, you know, just having those guiding principles, it comes back to the guiding principles, right? I want to have fun, I want to make money and I want to work with people I like right and in a flexible way. So that's really looking at it from that lens. You could never not be a success.
Yeah, and I mean that that's not to say that that would work for everybody. But I think when you can break it down into sort of like simple pieces that way, it feels more attainable. You can find more satisfaction in what you're doing. Because those are like kind of objective or not objective
subjective. An English
major doesn't know the right word, but those are the So those are those are goals where I get to say, at what point do I feel like I'm having fun? Like, am I working with people? I like, Am I making money? Yes or No, it's not about like number of dollars necessarily, right? It's,
you know, how
are all those things working together? And am I truly enjoying what I'm doing? And I can say yes. And I can say in the last two and a half years, the answer is yes. So I feel really good about where I've come from, even with the challenges, and I feel really good about where I'm headed to
love it. So, so fun to work with you. And likewise, part of your journey. Tell us, Jennifer, is there anything else you wanted to share that we haven't covered yet?
I don't think so. I feel like I've talked a lot. Oh, good.
We are so many good notes. I've been taking notes as we've gotten. So I appreciate you coming in here on the podcast. I know it's not your favorite thing to do. But sharing all of your perspectives and lessons learned. I know it'll be really valuable for everyone to hear. So thank you.
Well, thanks so much for having me. It was a lot of fun. I can say I would I wouldn't do this for everybody. But I would do it for you. So the coordinating outfit No.
That's right. If you go watch it on video on YouTube, you can see our matching shirts.
So love to watch a live. That's right. Thanks,
Jennifer. I will talk with you soon. Thank you