Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Cheryl Alexander Stearns, Founder, and CEO of Cheryl Alexander & Associates, located in Maple Grove, MN, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Cheryl Alexander & Associates is a leading-edge strategic coaching and consulting firm aligning personal and organizational development in support of a shared vision, strategy, and positive future. During the past decades, we have expanded the capacity of thousands of executives, managers, and leaders to meet the challenges of this complex, rapidly changing, and interconnected world.
We offer strategically integrated leadership development training and coaching designed to proactively build an organization's leadership capacity. By developing internal talent, emerging managers and leaders are ready to embrace change, engage teams, and elevate performance at all levels.
Our customers are organizations who believe that the development, engagement, and retention of top talent is critical to their success and growth. They want to engage in a proven, replicable, high-impact process of accelerated development. They tell us that ours is the only program where individuals consistently become more resilient, agile, confident, and interactive. The peer interaction within our coached Leadership Development Exchange expands their ability to connect across perceived boundaries to practice effective peer mentoring.
The companies that engage us include multiple industries with organizational sizes, ranging from the largest global organizations to small entrepreneurial ventures and associations. They look to us to address talent development topics such as employee:
• Talent development, engagement, and retention
• Agility, resilience, and the ability to grow healthy, engaged, high-performance teams.
• The confidence, skills, and bandwidth to step into the unknown and the next higher levels of responsibility
• Loyalty, trust, and emotional intelligence
• Ability to work across groups and divisions
Tell us about yourself
Throughout my career, I have connected people across cultures and generations, building trust, respect, and collaboration. I am a catalyst for individuals to realize their values, talents, and passion both at work and home while encouraging others to do the same.
My first career was founding and creating a successful executive search firm that spanned more than two decades. This provided insight into the characteristics, skills, and values of great leaders. In 2001 I shifted my focus to developing people and organizations to achieve more while fostering a culture that engages hearts and minds. This was the beginning of Cheryl Alexander & Associates.
I could see the potential in people and what motivated them and gave meaning to their work. I understood the importance of organizational culture, communication, character, and trust and the impact it has on success and extraordinary achievement. I retrained as a coach, absorbed hundreds of books, and worked with a state-of-the-art leadership development company.
In 2003 I launched leadership cohorts for executive women, as well as the beginning iteration of our signature Leadership Development Exchange to aspiring, next-generation executive women. Our next groups were men and women in executive positions, followed by folks on the cusp of executive positions needing to rapidly develop a leadership vs. a managerial mindset. To engage with larger groups, we certify independent coaches in our methodology and work collaboratively to adjust and deliver our programs to clients. Together we refine the curriculum for the audience and are able to coach large cohorts of people in a consistent yet individualized manner. The results have been impactful. Lives, voices, and cultures have been transformed. Years later, participants continue to refer to materials, colleagues, and lessons they are still applying in their work and in their lives.
I am motivated by every aspect of this work: the people I work with, the depth of experiences, challenges, and successes shared, and the visible and long-term change in spirit, confidence, humility, openness, and well-being that results. I am a passionate learner, learning from people, stories shared, science, and change agents of all types. Applying that learning to new and changing circumstances, individual needs, and the creation of healthier workplaces is thrilling and rewarding.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
We have created customized leadership development training and coaching programs for a wide range of global organizations, consistently receiving an average 4.7 rating and being retained for five or more years to successively develop and coach new groups of people. We helped a $2 billion family-owned business transition to the next generation of executives while strengthening the trust, communication, and collaboration between divisions and groups. We transformed the focus from managing to character/merit-based leadership development. This resulted in a clear succession plan and a strong bench ready to fill key roles. Business processes, focus, morale, and engagement, increased broadly and significantly.
We are driven by our ability to create, provide lasting value, work with and associate with people committed to serving others and visibly see the changes. The ratings and ROIs we hear and collect at the end of each engagement give us all the satisfaction we need as we have expanded the capacity of thousands of executives, managers, and leaders to meet the challenges of this complex, rapidly changing, and interconnected world.
Beyond that, the fact that we retain clients for a minimum of 5 years on average, with our longest, still ongoing client in their eleventh year of selecting new cohorts each year for development. We have become one of their cornerstone talent initiatives, with people on the waitlist for up to two years.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Building a business requires grit, clarity of vision and purpose, and the ability to offer a service that others need and are willing to pay for. It involves learning new skills, finding the match between what you promise, what you can deliver, and all the adjustments that come in the middle. Markets and demand go up and down, so you must always be agile: engage in continuous learning, talk to people, watch trends and technologies, and adapt. It's an exciting ride that takes all you have to give it to get the wheel turning and to keep it turning. And yet, doing what you are called to do is one of the most satisfying and remarkable experiences a person can have – so we never give up.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Find something you love, can commit to, and know that it matters, then regularly adjust to fit the market, technology, and client needs.
- Build credibility with reference accounts. Ask for feedback. Keep data. When clients are happy, ask them to write and recommend your business and be specific. Learn from mistakes, let clients know what you are doing to fix them, and follow through.
- Work with the best people you can find and engage them in problem solving and idea generation. You may be planning to "GoSolo," but you don't need to do it alone, Ask for help, know which people you can go to for advice, and which people to go to for inspiration and/or perspective. Life, and work, are easier and more fun, and you will go further if you surround yourself with trusted colleagues.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
We are expanding our train the trainer programs to reach more independent coaches looking to grow their business offerings.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.