• Lessons Learned – Building A Business And Watching Its Growth

    When I moved from Montreal to Vancouver in 1996, I was tasked with the growth of a consulting business I was working for. Our firm had grown in Montreal and the US, based on the reputation of the owners (authors, leaders in the field of training, and human performance technology). In addition to the obvious stress, I want to mention that I was not even 30 years old, had limited sales experience (retail only), and I had six months to make this happen.

    When I moved out west, I discovered that the recognition, credibility, and reputation of our firm garnered elsewhere was not going to serve me in Vancouver. My bosses’ names were unknown; the fact that I possessed a Master’s Degree and had worked with large scale Fortune 500 companies such as Sun Microsystems, CP Railway, Oracle, HP, JD Power & Associates, and Nissan didn’t make a dent. The question I kept getting asked from prospective clients was “what have you done here?” Clearly nothing!

    So I got focused. I realized what was going to help me sell was having a team I could leverage –individuals who were skilled in our field, brought expertise and wisdom, and, ultimately, were more connected in Vancouver.

    I leveraged the Professional Association I was involved in Montreal (ISPI), joining the Vancouver chapter and their Executive team. Through this relationship, I landed my first gig with BC Ferries a client who’d done his Masters at the same university as me in Montreal and appreciated my skills and talent and had an awareness of the company I was representing.

    I networked like crazy and eventually this paid off.

    I built my confidence up by having a team of associates I could position with clients, feeling that while I might be less comfortable selling me, having a team to promote and a real ‘company presence’ provided perceived leverage.

    I brought my boss to present at our professional association – to provide visibility and credibility. This helped us land a contract with the largest Telcom in BC.

    I took personal development courses to build my confidence and I hired a business coach to help me address my own limiting beliefs.

    Within the first three years, we had landed several large projects and I had built a team of over 12 associates who worked on projects for our company, both here and in the US. We even landed our own project across the border which had 4 of our associates working half time.

    Lessons learned – building a business and watching its growth

    • Be persistent – Don’t give up unless you realize this is not in pursuit of your passion, vision, and purpose.
    • Have a vision – Be clear about what you are building and make sure to message this consistently and compellingly.
    • Build a strategy for growth  Make sure this includes your talent, not just your sales.
    • Stay focused on brand – Even if the brand is unknown, bring visibility to the brand quality and value proposition.
    • Leverage your network – Everything is about relationships and connection – it really is about who you know versus what you know.
    • Build on the strengths of others – Harness the talent you have and recognize that they too can help you build your vision.
    • Appreciate and recognize others – As the owner of our company used to say, “take the cash and let the credit go”; recognize those who help you succeed. You need them as much as they may need you.
    • Don’t stray from your standards – Remember no matter how much you may need to generate revenue, do not sell yourself short by shortcutting your standards and quality you’re committed to.
    • Stick to your values and principles – Connect to what’s important to you and your organization and make sure you message this to all that join you – this will ensure you build an intentional culture.
    • Be willing to admit your weaknesses and learn – Find someone, be it a mentor or coach, take a course, but make sure you are constantly learning, reflecting, adapting, and growing personally so that you are not getting in your own way of success.

    Labelled Tinkerbell and Mighty Mouse by colleagues and clients, Erica is a culture catalyst and leadership mentor. She engages teams, supports them through change and empowers them to be at their best.  Connect with Erica on Twitter, the Incrementa website, or her personal site

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