Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Wendy Dickinson, Founder of Ascend Coaching Solutions, located in Powhatan, VA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Ascend Coaching Solutions offers executive coaching and leadership development to small to medium sized businesses that are both privately held and publicly traded. Ascend works with teams to increase profitability while building an inclusive culture. Our specialty is working with family-owned companies whose personal relationships negatively impact the business and the family. We help leaders build legacies, and when families are involved, those legacies span generations.

Tell us about yourself

My Dad started his own business after leaving a Union job as a high-rise steelworker. He loved his company but didn't have the business knowledge or the mentors to guide him. He lost his company after making a poor decision. This lack of knowledge cost my Dad his reputation and his marriage, and it took him years to recover financially.

When my husband and I had the chance to start a company with friends, we took it. But, we had mentors, experiences, and knowledge that my Dad never had to help him. We grew our company with two goals in mind: grow it to sell it, and to walk away friends. We chose a target acquirer that acted as our true north. Not only did we sell the company, but we are friends today and sold to our target acquirer.

At Ascend, we want every leader to have that feeling of accomplishment, and validation, at the end of their career. That is the driving force behind the work that we do.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I have helped start three companies. Two of those are still in operation today.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

The toughest decision for me is acting to hire for one of the roles that has, historically, belonged to me. I have to gather the data, track the revenue, and forecast before I feel comfortable taking the financial risk. I go through all of this knowing that in order to create a viable asset, I have to build a business model that is independent of me.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Decide what your ideal outcome for the business is as well as the "signposts" that will signal that you've arrived at that outcome.
  2. If you are going into business with a partner or family member, spend several weeks doing your due diligence on one another. How do you problem solve? How do you process? How do you deliver feedback? How do you need to receive feedback? What happens when you disagree? All of that and more are open for discussion at the beginning.
  3. Watch your numbers. Choose your metrics carefully. Choose those that will give you an accurate picture in real time of the state of your business. Use this scorecard to determine if you need to course correct.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Use your personal and company values to hire, make strategic decisions, and determine your behaviors.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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