139 F100 Executive to Startup Entrepreneur: Kelly Leonard on her Leap from a 6-Figure Salary to Growing a 7-Figure Business

Kelly Leonard walked away from a high 6-figure salary to start her own consulting business, where she helps executives and entrepreneurs leverage LinkedIn to grow revenue and build profitable strategic relationships with her BOOST™ methodology. She shares what it took to make the leap from her executive leadership roles at GE Capital, Price Waterhouse Coopers and Kaiser Permanente to launching her consulting business Taylor-Leonard, and emerging as a TV host, keynote speaker and author.

Melinda Wittstock:         Kelly, welcome to Wings.

Kelly Leonard:                   Thank you, Melinda.

Melinda Wittstock:         It’s so good to have you on. And you know, you had a nice high six figure executive career at GE, but you left it behind to pursue entrepreneurship. Why?

Kelly Leonard:                   It’s interesting. So, my husband and I, when we first got married, the thing that we noticed with a lot of our peers, is that they would get married, start a family, and then immediately someone, typically the wife, would leave their corporate position to then start this whole child-rearing and motherhood. And the thing that we noticed is that when their children would reach like middle school, high school they would then be engaged in this employment, but their children were being raised by televisions or babysitters or maybe even themselves. Latchkey kids.

Kelly Leonard:                   And so, we had decided that we were going to flip that whole processes and we’d work our tales off while our children were young with the goal being that one or both of us would have greater flexibility to walk away and start a business or be involved in entrepreneurship at some level once our children reached middle to high school age because it would then afford us the freedom and flexibility to be more actively engaged in their childbearing.

Kelly Leonard:                   So it was around the time that our son was middle school aged that I left GE. And then also, the timing of it was perfect because at that time, my husband was offered a really phenomenal opportunity through Oracle. And for years our company was an Oracle partner and so, as he was transitioning out of the company, I was transitioning into the business and so it was just perfect timing.

Melinda Wittstock:         So, you know, that’s really smart because not only did you have the safety net of you know, savings and all of that, but you could go into entrepreneurship really more from a position of strength. And it’s so interesting though because the kind of avatar, I guess, of the entrepreneur is a young guy in his 20’s. You know, in his garage, ramen noodles. You know, a drop out of Harvard, Stanford or whatever. But for women it tends not to be that. We tend to go into it later in life, after we have had executive careers. We’ve had management responsibility. We’ve hired and fired. And perhaps, you know, many of us have innovated within a corporate structure until it chaffed.

Kelly Leonard:                   Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         And it’s a very different profile. And yet, to talk to venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, you know, you’d think oh god we’re too old or something. And yet, women are doing these amazing things in their 40’s and 50’s and even well into their 60’s.

Kelly Leonard:                   Yes. Yeah, absolutely. And I think so much of that is to your point, often times we may even hit that glass ceiling and so it’s like okay what do I do next? And so you develop this boldness and maybe someone has the audacity to tell you that you can do something else. Or you admire someone from afar and that then inspires you to do something a little nontraditional. But yeah, you’re so right. With women being such a, you know, large demographic and one of the fastest demographics when it comes to entrepreneurship, it really then supports what we’re assuming or what we’re … or what we’re alluding to is the fact that more and more women are getting involved in entrepreneurship.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. So I have a curious question for you though about coming up trough GE. How entrepreneurial were you allowed to be within that construct? And [crosstalk 00:15:17]

Kelly Leonard:                   Very.

Melinda Wittstock:         Very?

Kelly Leonard:                   Oh yeah. Absolutely because, and you know this whole notion of intrapreneurship, and so GE … or at least … you know GE is such a large organizations, so many different divisions. So I really think it’s going to vary by business entity or by company inside of GE. But inside of Healthcare Financial Partners where I was and then transitioning into GE Capitol, very entrepreneurial. And just, you know, this whole notion of problem solving. Because when you think about it, all an entrepreneur is someone who sees a problem and fixes it. Right? So GE really does honor people who can see a problem, identify a lack of efficiency, solve that with greater efficiency, and you know … and so the organization overall valued that mindset.

Kelly Leonard:                   As a matter of fact, so many of my peers at GE have since left the organization and have started entrepreneurial ventures.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s really interesting. So in that case then, there wasn’t a lot of stuff that you had to unlearn to jump into entrepreneurship.

Kelly Leonard:                   Well, I mean there probably were some things. You know, when you think about hiring for example, there’s the notion that you promote when a person … when the time says that the person is ready as opposed to promoting because a person is exhibiting the behavior or the characteristics that say that they’re ready. So that’s a little different because I think as an entrepreneur you can do things a bit differently and you can be bit more aggressive and take bigger swings as opposed to in a larger corporation like that.

Kelly Leonard:                   And then as an entrepreneurs too, since you’re the person that’s steering the ship, if you make a bad call, it’s kind of up to you to then course correct and fix it. You know, certainly in GE, you know, they … it’s not like you got slapped on the hand terribly if you made a mistake. But certainly you felt it. You were as successful as your last deal. In the case of the business that I was in, you know, you were as successful as the last deal that you underwrote.

Kelly Leonard:                   And so, oftentimes there’s that notion of you being evaluated day by day as opposed to knowing, having that intrinsic knowing that, you know, that you’re capable, that you are powerful, that you are competent, as opposed to this day in and day out re-measuring or tweaking of that level of competency or capability.

Melinda Wittstock:         So at the early stage of a startup, you know, idea stage, maybe there’s one founder or two founders, and either one or both are kind of doing everything. And they don’t have the money to hire, but they need people working with them. So often in that phase, and I’ve been there myself as a technology entrepreneur, you have the unenviable task of persuading people to work for free. Or not necessarily for free, but certainly for deferred compensation or for equity

Kelly Leonard:                   Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         Or for what ever deal it is. And it’s really hard. So like one of the tests of a really great entrepreneur is persuading people.

Kelly Leonard:                   Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         You know, to do that. Especially if you have the type of business that’s really kind of ‘a swing for the fences’ innovative thing that you don’t necessarily have revenue from day one.

Kelly Leonard:                   Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         Like, you can’t actually hire yet. I mean, were you in that situation when you started the new business or you had enough of a nest egg that you could kind of self fund?

Kelly Leonard:                   We … yeah. We’ve always self funded. So, we’ve used savings and things like that in order to kind of keep the ship steering ahead. But I mean, I certainly have consulted to and supported other clients who have had that challenge. And yeah, it’s a real challenge, not only getting people to work for you and sort of believe in your vision, but then beyond that, getting the investors to come on board and believe in that vision as well. Because I mean, there are just so many. It seems like every moment by moment there’s a new some thing and so it’s … yeah. How do you then transfer your passion and your vision to, whether it be a new employee or a partner or an investor for that matter?

Kelly Leonard:                   So yeah, it can be very taxing.

Melinda Wittstock:         But I think the clue was in one of the words that you just said which is vision. Because if a founder, in my experience, is really clear about their vision, like their why, what they’re solving, and it truly is authentic, other people will buy into that vision, particularly Millenials and Gen-Z. Those folks aren’t as motivated by just money for money’s sake. They kind of want the mission.

But this is a perfect segue into what you’re doing helping people on LinkedIn. Because if you can’t … you can have a vision but if you can’t articulate it and become a thought leader it’s going to be very difficult for you to attract the right team members and investors and clients and all of those good things. So, tell me a little bit more about what led you to all this really interesting work on LinkedIn, Boosting people’s thought leadership and their profiles.

Kelly Leonard:                   So it’s a interesting story, Melinda. It’s actually almost accidental in that, originally when my husband started the company we were a boutique CRM, customer relationship management shop and so our customers inherently understood the value of technology from a sales marketing [inaudible 00:21:09] service prospective. And this is kind of predates the big rush to social media. But what they … then when social media came into the picture, they started saying “Oh okay. Well we understand technology and how to use technology from a sales, marketing, service perspective, but what’s this whole social media thing? What should we be thinking about? And how should we really maximize social media in order to connect with our ideal peers, partners, and prospects?”

Kelly Leonard:                   And because at that time so many of our clients were in the government or the business to business base, most of them by and large had an elevated level of respect for LinkedIn as a tool. Now that’s not to knock any of the other social media platforms, because I believe each one serves a very specific demographic and need. But certainly when you look at it, at that point we were supporting quite a few government entities or agencies and most of them, they had a LinkedIn presence. So they understood the value of LinkedIn.

And so, what we then did is we did everything in our power to understand, to get a better awareness of okay how can LinkedIn be used as a tool. And we internally developed our own process to maximize LinkedIn which we then trademarked into this whole BOOST strategy. Because the thing that I see happening all the time, Melinda, and you alluded to it before, it’s packaging. Right?

So many people will sort of start connecting with people before they really have spent time developing the packet. And so even when we think about this BOOST methodology, it’s very intentional, the acronym, in the fact that so many people will want to skip to T before they really spend any time investing in the B. So meaning, you know, the B being Build Your Brand, O – Optimize Relationships, O – Obtain More Leads, S – Secure Thought Leadership Space, and then T – Tap Into New Markets.

But so many people, they just hop on the LinkedIn and immediately think, “Okay. Okay world, you’re ready for me. Let me just start connecting with strangers, and really not have a process or really not invest the time to really develop my own brand so that people really understand the value that I can provide to the market place.”

Melinda Wittstock:         So, you know I find it so interesting that your company was able to generate more than a half a million dollars in revenue through LinkedIn in a relatively short period. I mean, 24 months. What are some of the techniques and hacks and tactics that allowed you to do that?

Kelly Leonard:                   Well I think so much of it goes back to investing the time that it takes to build our brand. So inside of LinkedIn we spent a lot of time just making sure that the principles of the company, that their brand was really on point. We have this whole … another acronym that we have is your profile ALIVE? So in other words is your profile Accurate, Locatable, Impactful, Value Based, and Engaging?

Kelly Leonard:                   So really it all boils down to us investing time early on building our brand. So we have this additional acronym that we ask people. Is your LinkedIn profile ALIVE? In other words, is it Accurate, Locatable, Impactful, Value Based, and Engaging?

And so many people bypass the time that it takes to really invest in making sure that their profile, it articulates their value, that it articulates their value up front, that they’ve got measurable results. Because we always want to be asking ourselves or answering the question: what’s in it for me?

So when you, Melinda, land on my profile, you should be able to land on my profile and immediately be able to understand okay, what’s in it for me if I were to connect with Kelly. What’s the value that I could expect to receive from simply connecting with her? And so many people don’t take the time to really articulate what that value is. They automatically assume that if they just kind of throw words up there and have alphabet soup throughout their profile that someone that word count is going to help them to … help the reader to understand the value that they can extract from that relationship.

But then also the other thing is just following up with people. You know, as people are looking at your LinkedIn profile, so many people, because for whatever reason they feel that it’s odd, “well if someone looks at my LinkedIn profile, I feel uncomfortable reaching out to them and having a conversation.” I’m like, “but why?”

Think of it as if you had a storefront. If you owned a storefront and someone walked into your store and looked around, I would consider you to be rude if you didn’t say to me, “How may I help you? Welcome. How may I help you?” And so it’s really taking a lot of those behaviors that we do one on one, face to face with one another and just translating them into this virtual environment and doing what we normally would do.

I mean, another thing would be just simply moving beyond the connection and getting to know people. So many people will pound their chest saying “Oh, I’ve got 500 plus connections” and I’m like, “well, that’s interesting, but how many of them do you really know? How many of them have you had authentic conversation with to understand what their need is and how you might be a resource to meet that need?”

And so again, it’s this hiding behind the technology or hiding behind the a computer and hoping that it’s just going to magically produce results on behalf of a person simply because they have a LinkedIn profile. And not taking the time to master your presence, building your brand. But then beyond that, really taking the time to get to know the people that are connecting with you, and/ or just looking at your profile.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. It’s so interesting. Especially because it used to be that selling was telling, and it’s not anymore. It’s very much a relationship. It’s human to human or H2H or –

Kelly Leonard:                   Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         I call it sometimes actually C2B. The consumers hold all the cards and all the power. And really, you need to be able to engage them where and why and how they are. And so, social media is a wonderful opportunity to do that, but you do have to show up in an engaging way and genuinely interested. Like, I don’t know how you advise your clients about things like authenticity or like showing up in a genuine human way.

Kelly Leonard:                   Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         But that’s got to count for something.

Kelly Leonard:                   Oh absolutely. Because, I mean, we read right through that, right? How many times do we get a request to connect with someone and you connect and no sooner than you accept the request they’re suddenly telling you all the different ways that they can help you. Well, you don’t know my problem. You don’t even know what my needs are yet.

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

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Kelly Leonard:                   So, how are you telling me, you know, how you’re going to help me? So again, it’s hat slowing down, being authentic, really understanding what people’s needs are before you’re trying to identify how you might be a solution for them. Because my goal is to really invest the time to get to know my network so that I can be in a position to help them, and recognizing and being okay with the fact that I’m not going to be for everyone. All things are not for all people. And so, we need to stop trying to shove our products or and/or services down people’s throat simply because we’re so super passionate about it where it gets to the point where we start turning people off.

And so, it’s being in this position where we listen first, before we speak. And really walking out that whole notion of, you know, we have two ears and one mouth and we need to use them in that ratio. So, I find that that is the biggest piece and it just makes my skin crawl when I see people launch into their sales speak as soon as they connect, make a new connection.

Melinda Wittstock:         Kelly it’s the equivalent of a person standing on a busy street corner say in the middle of Broadway or something just talking at people. I mean, that’s not really going to be effective.

Kelly Leonard:                   Right. No.

Melinda Wittstock:         So how much of your time, like your personal time do you put into actually interacting with people on LinkedIn and other social media? I mean, how much time does it realistically take and how much time should an entrepreneur budget to really grow this storefront, I guess, as you describe it?

Kelly Leonard:                   So, it’s really two separate answers because the amount of time that I spend, which is a lot, will differ significantly than what we train our clients to spend on. Because of course, I get quite a bit of money to understand how to use LinkedIn and really understand the nuances of the platform. So consequently I spend a lot of time in the platform.

However my goal is to equip our clients so spend not more than 10 to 15 minutes a day, tops, inside of the platform. But so much of that is going to go back to making sure that we understand why they’re there. So looking at that strategy, what their goals and desired outcomes are, so that we can then map out a plan to help them to effectively use that 10 to 15 minutes. Because I don’t know about you, but I know the average person, on any social media platform, when you go in you’re looking for one thing or one thing catches your eye and then two hours later you’re like “Oh my gosh. How did I get sucked into this black hole?” Like, “what is this conversation I’m now engaging in?” Or “What is this article that I’m now reading?”

Really the goal is to, there are certain what we call an operating rhythm, things that you should be doing daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, to stay engaged as just a regular user of LinkedIn, as opposed to someone like me who would be more considered more of a super user as well.

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative). And so do you target people that you want to have conversations with and then like connect with them? And, like, how do you go about it? Give me an example.

Kelly Leonard:                   It really depends because I don’t typically target. Like, I’m not prospecting on LinkedIn. Most people that I’m connecting with on LinkedIn are reaching out to us because they hear about a training or they learn about us through some mechanism. I host a television program here in our local county, in Montgomery County, Maryland. So they’ll hear about me through that. And so, they’ll reach out to me that way. But by and large when it comes to educating, because I call it educating as opposed to selling on LinkedIn, most times when I’m reaching out to someone on LinkedIn to educate them on the use of LinkedIn it’s almost like I’m doing it because I’m trying to save them from themselves, if you know what I mean.

So if I see someone make some sort of grave error where I’m like “Eek. Don’t do that.” Because I’m glad you did that to me because I’m going to help you understand why you shouldn’t do this to someone else in the future as opposed to someone else, who’ll just discount you and ignore and then send to spam. And then now all of a sudden you get that too many times and like, then now you’re “blacklisted” if you will. And I’m throwing up big quotations around blacklisted. But you can get yourself into some trouble with certain behaviors inside of LinkedIn.

And so most time when I’m reaching out to people on LinkedIn, I’m noticing something that I just want to be of service to say “Hey, that’s a great post but this may be one thing that you might want to consider if you do this in the future.” Or, “As you’re reaching out to people you may not want to immediately hit them with sales speak.” Or “Hey, I got your request to connect but in the future, you may want to send people a personal request to connect because that’s going to exponentially increase their responsiveness.”

So, little tips and things like that that I … little nuggets that I’ll throw out to people occasionally.

Melinda Wittstock:         So I want to turn a corner and go back, Kelly if you will, into your early life. Because often the signs of entrepreneurship are there in some way or another and I’m curious because you did mention that you and your husband, you know, set out to work hard and get everything aligned so that you could go and pursue an entrepreneurial career. So, what were you like as a kid, did you have the proverbial lemonade stand? Did You know you wanted to be an entrepreneur? What was the thing that really propelled you forward?

Kelly Leonard:                   That’s funny, Melinda. Because actually, when I was growing up, I remember I had an aunt who worked for the IRS. And so, I always wanted to be an accountant. That was my goal, “When I grow up I want to be an accountant.” No, not an actress or anything like that or an entrepreneur. I wanted to be an accountant. And so I actually studied accounting. I’m actually a CPA by trade. I’m no longer practicing but I feel like that world prepared me. It gave me some really good foundational exposure because knowing the numbers is really super crucial in terms of entrepreneurship.

But the other thing that I think kind of thrust me into this whole world of entrepreneurship is that I had a really good friend. My friend … My first introduction to entrepreneurship was through like network marketing, which, network marketing gets a really, I think, black eye so to speak. And because there’s so many different companies out there, some good, some bad, but I mean, finding the right company and cutting your teeth in that kind of industry, where there is a low barrier to entry but tons of personal and professional development and training and all that good stuff, is a great way to kind of get your … to cut your teeth, like I said, on entrepreneurship.

And that’s literally, actually my husband and I met at a business conference for a network marketing company and then we … so we kind of knew that we wanted to be entrepreneurs longer term just because we had this admiration for the freedom that it provides and the lifestyle that it could provide and all that stuff. But, we shifted and looked at, okay, our professional backgrounds – him being a technologist, me being a CPA and a corporate trainer by trade – and said, okay, how do we marry the best of all those worlds together to deliver a solution that we believe would be marketable and scalable for years to come?

Melinda Wittstock:         And so what have some of the challenges been? Anything unexpected since you left GE and went on the entrepreneurial journey? What have been some of the toughest things?

Kelly Leonard:                   I would say the toughest thing is, I alluded to it I think previously, where it’s you get really comfortable with collecting a pay check on the 15th and the 30th of the month.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right.

Kelly Leonard:                   What ever that twice a month might look like. And then all of a sudden, poof that’s no longer there and so that takes a little bit of getting used to. The other challenge that I think, when you look at a husband and wife team, both my husband and I have very strong personalities – type A – and so this whole notion of working together. And often times people that we meet will scratch their heads and they’re just like, “What in the world? Like, how? I could never work with my spouse.” And I’m thinking “but you married them. Surely there’s different aspects of, you know, that you all can meld together to make this amazing, build this amazing enterprise together.”

And I liken it to, you know, really highway driving. If you’re here in the DC area, we’ve got 95. I’m sure in other areas of the country you’ve got major thoroughfares. And just like driving down any one of those highways, if you stay in your lane, you’re good to go. But if you start swerving into somebody else’s lane then there’s going to be trouble.

And so, it’s really sitting down and having that understanding of: okay this is your core strength, this is my core strength, we’re on the same team, we have each other’s back. We trust each other, we love each other, and we set boundaries. I think that’s the other big thing. For me is because I love what I do so much, often times it’s difficult for me to turn myself on and off. And having a home office makes it all the more challenging because you know, at any point in time, you just stroll down the hall and sit down at your desk and start working on a project or helping a client. And because I pride myself on responsiveness, it becomes really difficult to turn that part of me off when I see an email pop up or when I see something pop up on my phone, to be able to say “Okay, wait a second Kelly, you’re in mom mode, or you’re in wife mode, or you’re in community service mode, so you cannot serve your client right now.

But I think those are a handful of the challenges that I’ve had.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s a really big challenge I think, especially for women, because we don’t compartmentalize as easily as men. I mean, literally our brains are designed more to be able to connect the dots which is an advantage but it’s not so much of an disadvantage when try to kind of turn off for the day or switch roles. It’s kind of like it can become an omnipresent thing for an entrepreneur. And I think for men too, because it’s … you’re … the buck stops with you. Right?

Kelly Leonard:                   Yes. Absolutely.

Melinda Wittstock:         It never really stops. And so I think I’m sort of, part of the time, if I’m really honest with myself, I’m kind of like always thinking about my business. Like, on some level. You know what I mean?

Kelly Leonard:                   Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         It’s always there. I hate to admit that, but it’s true. [inaudible 00:41:34] my business. You know I am also thinking about my kids.

Kelly Leonard:                   Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         It’s not like I’m tuning them out either. I don’t know. I think women are just better at doing that. But it is a challenge to come home and you’re already at home.

Kelly Leonard:                   Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         And so, to come home and switch roles and then just be more of a wife. Or be more, I guess, some of the ways we describe this phenomenon in the podcast is whether you’re in your masculine energy or your feminine energy, is kind of one way of putting it. But yeah, those transitions are hard. We all struggle with them.

Kelly Leonard:                   Absolutely. Absolutely. And now, because our children are teenagers and they actually work in the business, so then it becomes –

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh my goodness.

Kelly Leonard:                   Even more. Because it’s like, you’re talking to them and you’re like giving them assignments and they’re like “Okay is this a work assignment or is this like a personal assignment? Am I getting paid for this, Mom?”

Kelly Leonard:                   “Do I call you mom at this meeting or do I call you Kelly?”

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. Right. Exactly. But in a way it really is a wonderful …

Kelly Leonard:                   Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         It’s interesting though, because in a way what you’re describing is the future. We have predictions and statistics that show that 40% of American workers in the next 18 months, by 2020 are going to be what are described as gig workers.

Kelly Leonard:                   Yes. Yes. The gig economy…

Melinda Wittstock:         Meaning, they’re freelancers. They’re going gig to gig to gig to gig so there’s no 401K, there’s no regular paycheck. And this of course comes nice and neat full circle back to the advice and support you’re providing people on LinkedIn. All those people are going to have to be thought leaders in a way.

Kelly Leonard:                   Absolutely.

Melinda Wittstock:         They’re all going to have to hang their shingle and they’re all going to have to figure out this thing about working from home and juggling it with relationships. So I guess we’re sort of the future.

Kelly Leonard:                   Absolutely.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right now.

Kelly Leonard:                   Yeah. And it’s a nerve-racking time for a lot of people because that’s totally throwing them outside of their comfort zone. It’s much different than when out parents were, you know, work for someone for 40, 50 years and retire with a nice fat pension, and a 401K, all that good stuff. But yeah, that essentially is going away. So much of it the onus is on embracing this whole world of entrepreneurship or independent contractor. What ever makes you feel better because some people don’t want to use the word entrepreneur. “Oh, I’m independent contractor.” Okay. But at the end of the day, you’re really an entrepreneur, but okay.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. I mean it’s true. I mean there’s definitely different types of entrepreneurship and different types of businesses and all of that. Bt I think it requires a big mindset shift, really a liking of change. If you can find it somewhere inside yourself to actually enjoy change, enjoy uncertainty, and the unexpected and all the gifts that brings, I mean like for one thing you’re never bored.

Kelly Leonard:                   Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         But also, you can live a much bigger, more all in, life that’s just much richer in so many ways by shifting that kind of attitude. Rather than being afraid of change or afraid of uncertainty, to really embrace it. Because it really is a chance to grow personally.

Melinda Wittstock:         We talk a lot bout how to succeed as an entrepreneur. You really do have to get rid of some of those old limiting beliefs or you know, anything, any kind of attitude I guess that’s going to keep you in scarcity or keep you thinking small, right?

Kelly Leonard:                   Absolutely.

Melinda Wittstock:         As you transitioned Kelly to an entrepreneur, did you find that you had those kind of, I guess I’ll call them personal growth moments, right? Where it was an opportunity to heal something like an old … or get rid of an old attitude or change a way of thinking?

Kelly Leonard:                   Oh, absolutely. Because even when you think about, again, by nature me being a CPA, we typically … the prototype or stereotype of a CPA is someone who is typically very risk averse. And so when you think of this whole notion of throwing yourself into this entrepreneurial world where there is the ebb and flow of cash flow and the uncertainty of customers. And maybe not being accustomed to knowing how to do business development and to generate revenue and all those good things. Because you know, I was accustomed to just counting the numbers or the money as opposed to actually having to be responsible for going out and hunting for those deals. And so that was a big shift required.

And it’s something that I continued to struggle with or learn through, but so much of it I think goes back to really having that level of belief in certainty that what it is that you’re providing to the market place is meting a need. Because when I look back at all these different entrepreneurial endeavors that succeeded up to a point and then failed, I always go back to, I don’t know if you remember those silly bands.

There used to be these silly bands way back when, when my kids were in middle school and oh my gosh, they were all the rage. And I can’t even tell you how much we spent on silly bands but now that company is virtually gone. Because when you think about it, it’s like “Really? Like, how long could this have possibly lasted?” And you hope and you pray that whoever came up with that company that they were saving along the way. Because I’m sure they made a boatload, but if they weren’t saving along the way, they probably have nothing to show for that great invention.

But again, it’s having that awareness and that knowing that I am meeting a need and it’s one that I believe that business community or consumers, someone is going to want what it is that I have. Or need what it is that I have and it’s not going to be something that’s here today, gone tomorrow. I mean naturally the biggest challenge that we have is because so much of our business is … rides on the fact that okay LinkedIn is in business, god forbid LinkedIn were to shut down tomorrow. A significant part of the revenue on our training arm would essentially go away overnight.

But thankfully, we’ve now created and have identified other service lines of business where we’ve been able to now pivot in the event that something does happen. Because we even saw changes after Microsoft acquired LinkedIn, so there’s always going to be change. And to the extent that what I’m doing is contingent upon the owners of that company, or the shareholders of that company. There’s essentially some level of inherent risk there in and of itself.

Melinda Wittstock:         Well, it’s so interesting. Two weeks ago I interviewed an amazing woman, Mari Connor, who runs Facebook ad agency and just all the changes going on Facebook. So many. And so it makes gaming ads and doing all of that, also just continual algorithm changes at Twitter, all these things.

Melinda Wittstock:         When you build a business that’s dependent on one thing

Kelly Leonard:                   Yeah. Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         And, I’ve made that mistake. I once, you know, a couple businesses ago built an iPhone app that was really dependent on tweets mixed in with original content. And the Twitter suddenly changed its terms of service, and two weeks before our launch. So I know what that one’s like.

Kelly Leonard:                   Wow.

Melinda Wittstock:         I’ve been there, done that.

Kelly Leonard:                   Wow.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right?

Kelly Leonard:                   Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         But it happens. And you couldn’t know unless you’re in the boardroom with Twitter, unless you’re, you know … so I mean a whole bunch of businesses died in that moment. Right? So …

Kelly Leonard:                   Wow.

Melinda Wittstock:         There are so many things that are really beyond our control as entrepreneurs. So I think the only thing you can really do, and again it comes back to this kind of change thing, is just really react the best way that we can. Have good people around us and really be able to take decisive action. And, you know, all you can really do is the best you can with the knowledge you have in the moment. But I think –

Kelly Leonard:                   Absolutely.

Melinda Wittstock:         But I think as women though, the biggest thing is learning to forgive ourselves when that happens, because I think we take it personally. And we can’t. We’ve got to stop doing that.

Kelly Leonard:                   Oh absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         And so, as we wind up, I know that you’re offering a wonderful, generous gift to our listeners that I want to talk about. Where they can go, Kelly, to Boostmylinkedin.com and in so doing, they will get their profile assessed by you. Which I think is a really, really, lovely offer and something that I encourage everybody to do. Because no matter what you do, whether you’re an employee or an entrepreneur or like whatever stage you’re at, this is your storefront. And I love how you called it a storefront. Tell me a little bit about what they’re going to get when they do their assessment. And they can also have a quick call with you as well is that right?

Kelly Leonard:                   Yes. Absolutely. So, yeah, if they reach out to me and just let me know that they heard me on your podcast, I will be happy to just sort of give them some strategies, ways that they can really boost their brilliance on LinkedIn; as well as schedule a quick 15 minute call to talk them through some of those strategies as well to really just better position them to meet what ever their desired outcomes might be.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s wonderful. Well, Kelly, I want to thank you of taking the time to put on your Wings and take flight with us today.

Kelly Leonard:                   Thank you, Melinda. Thank you so much for what you do. I definitely appreciate the work that you’re doing.

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Listen to learn the secrets, strategies, practical tips and epiphanies of women entrepreneurs who’ve “been there, built that” so you too can manifest the confidence, capital and connections to soar to success!
Instantly get Melinda’s Wings Success Formula
Review on iTunes and win the chance for a VIP Day with Melinda