Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in professional development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Carol Lempert, Founder of Carol Lempert Speaking LLC., located in Secaucus, NJ, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
If I look vaguely familiar to any of your readers, it’s because they may have spotted me in a television commercial for Walt Disney World. Or, in the modern Christmas classic film Santa Who?
I started my career as a stage and film actress. I now run a boutique training and consultancy firm that helps supercharge corporate leaders’ executive presence — and their careers — with the performance secrets actors use to light up the screen.
My customers are Fortune 500 companies looking to fill their leadership pipelines with high-potential executives who can inspire others to be their best.
My core offering is called: Power Up your Presence. After working with me, companies typically bring me back. Here’s a small sample of my programs and talks:
• No More Death by PowerPoint
• Own Your Brand Before it Owns You
• Kick Your Career Into High Gear
• How Sharp Are Your Influencing Skills?
• Lead with a Story
Tell us about yourself
I’m doing what I’m doing today because my brother Sheldon had a moment of inspiration a few decades ago. One of the skills I teach speakers is to tell stories, so here’s the story.
One day Sheldon phones me up and says: “Sis, get over here. Now!” So, of course, I drive right over to his house. When I get there, I discover his best friend, Lance, is throwing up in the washroom. I’m like: Call 911. Turns out Lance had just started a job at one of the big five accounting firms. He had been identified as a high-potential employee — only he didn’t know it. Seven months into the job, he was tapped on the shoulder and told to prepare a presentation about his current project. The audience for his presentation? The big boss. Lance had two weeks’ time.
Lance had never given a presentation in his life. Not even in college. The request sent him into a panic. He called Sheldon for help. Now, my brother Sheldon had gone into the family business with my dad and was a contractor too. His whole life revolved around fixing things. When it came to helping Lance, he thought: “I don’t know how to fix a problem like this, but my sister is an actress. She’ll know. A presentation to the big boss must be like going to an audition.” He was right.
I helped Lance prepare for his presentation, and it went better than either of us expected. Lance won a promotion. That felt great. I did my brother’s friend a favor, and I thought that was that. Then, three months later, I got a call from another guy. He tells me he got my name from Lance and asks for my help in getting a promotion too! That was when I realized my acting skills could help people outside the theatre.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
What I love most about my work is helping people shine during high-stakes moments in their careers. Recently I worked with a CEO who took his company public. He needed to show up as confident and enthusiastic the day he rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. And he did!
A few years ago, I worked with the Chief Marketing Officer of a global consumer goods company. He’d been invited to speak at the UN, and just last week, I coached a newly hired CFO who was getting ready to run his first earnings call. Getting a behind-the-scenes look at the life of C-Suite executives is fascinating.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Not knowing what your cash flow is going to be week-by-week. This means getting really good at budgeting and saving money when times are good.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
First, no matter what you think your title is, you are a business developer.
I’m a speaker. I’m a trainer. I’m a performance coach. Most importantly, I’m a business owner. As the engine behind your company, your main job is to keep it alive. This means getting really good at selling. I had to get crystal clear about who I could help and how I would help them.
Years ago, I read a statistic that said eighty percent of future profits would come from twenty percent of a company’s existing customers. I always had a service mindset. What I didn’t fully realize at the beginning was it’s not enough to have a happy client today. You have to anticipate what your client will need tomorrow. Otherwise, your business won’t grow. I also had to get comfortable talking about myself to get good at selling.
This brings me to the second thing. Get used to calling yourself an expert.
My work is project-based. In the beginning, I’d come home after every gig and tell my husband I’d pulled off: “yet another caper.” This is basically another way of saying I had some imposter syndrome going on. My inner critic was constantly saying: “No one is going to hire an actress to coach a CEO. Business types think Artists types like you are flaky and unreliable.” I had to take my own medicine and practice the techniques I teach to my clients about calming the inner critic and building confidence.
Finally, don’t try to do everything yourself. You are an expert at what you do. Surround yourself with other experts. Let them do what they do best. It will make you more productive in the short run — and smarter in the long run.
I work with an accountant and a lawyer, and a graphic artist. I also have a virtual assistant who helps with administrative work like scheduling and tracking down client logistics. The best advice I ever got was to only spend time on things I’m good at and enjoy.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
It’s lonely being a solopreneur. This community you are building is a wonderful resource. Thank you.
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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