Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in leadership development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Colin White, Founder of Aspen Coaching and Consulting, located in Chicago, IL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My customers are leaders who are committed to modeling transparency and building more connected and effective teams. I believe teams are the most powerful unit of an organization but often the most overlooked when it comes to resources. I offer products and services designed to enable leaders to develop more engaged and empowered teams, which, in turn, helps retain employees. I offer a team culture diagnostic, leadership assessments/coaching, and offsite/workshop facilitation. My services are designed to ensure all voices are heard and included, not just the loudest in the room.
Tell us about yourself
I have definitely taken the road less traveled. I was a practicing litigation attorney for the first seven years of my professional career. Deep down, I knew being a lawyer would not be a fulfilling long-term career, so I pivoted and went back to school to get my Masters in Learning and Organizational Change. I was fortunate to have a great mentor who introduced me to coaching. I loved the impact just one session could have on a client. While I was an Organizational Effectiveness Consultant at my last organization, I noticed a few things:
- Too many leaders and teams were disconnected from each other and their customers.
- The teams that paused and reflected on how they were working together were also the most connected and highest performing.
- Incorporating the principles and tools of Agile into non-agile teams helped solve #1 and created more of #2.
What motivates me each day is helping leaders create a work environment valued by the younger generations entering the workforce. Gen Z does not have the same wants/needs as older generations. For example, they place much more value on transparency than prior generations. Organizations that are the first to identify and meet the needs of younger generations will have a competitive advantage.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Building and launching my team culture diagnostic from scratch. It began as an idea in my head, and it took months for a web developer to create and revise it. Seeing people react to it the first time they see it and give me great feedback has made me feel really good, especially given that it was my biggest investment in launching my business.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Not to be Captain Obvious, but it's all on you as a business owner. I was prepared for most of it, but some of the things I found myself doing were not even in my headspace before I started. When Google updated their analytics, I spent over an hour trying to figure out if I had properly updated the coding on my site, which was really fun... not. Every hour spent on something like that is an hour you're not finding or helping clients. Also, not having teammates to bounce ideas off of or just regularly check in with has been difficult, even for an introvert like me. Everything is on the line when you are a business owner, so sometimes I think it would be nice to have a devil's advocate to challenge my thinking.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Validate your assumptions before you start, but continue after launch. We all have assumptions about our products/services, market, value, etc. Have as many conversations as possible with friends, colleagues, and your ideal customer to see if your ideas carry water. Ask the same set of questions to everyone so you have consistent data and once you think you have enough, move on to the next assumption. This should be a routine done in perpetuity.
- Find a mentor. There is no substitute for someone who cares about you as a person and wants you to succeed and who is not your mother. You really need people in your corner; having someone more experienced than you in the same or similar feel is invaluable.
- Laugh. It's really easy to take things too seriously; it's your livelihood, after all. But a daily dose of laughter will be better for your mental health and make you a better business owner. So overdose on your favorite sitcom, read the Jokes subreddit, or watch fail videos, whatever puts a smile on your face.
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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