Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal and business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mary Barnes, Founder of Evolve Your Performance LLC., located in College Park, MD, USA.

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

Evolve is a boutique change management consulting firm. We work with all types of organizations, from government agencies to nonprofits to corporate. We collaboratively develop bespoke, innovative, holistic solutions that calm the chaos that is inevitable at times in all organizations and unlock employee potential, leading to effortless growth and profit.

Tell us about yourself

I have devoted much of my working life to setting organizations, their leadership, and their employees up for success. With 20+ years of experience across commercial, local, and federal government organizations and a doctorate in Human and Organizational Learning, I bring a deep knowledge of organizational dynamics, change management, and strategy development from both a practical and academic perspective.

I started my career as an internal change agent, supporting the success of the workforce and the organization from inside the organization. I loved helping top leadership take care of their most important asset (their employees) and playing such an important role in the success of an organization. As part of my doctoral studies, I got a glimpse into the impact possible when bringing a fresh perspective to the organization as an outside consultant, and I was hooked. I started to Evolve shortly thereafter.

As CEO and founder of Evolve Your Performance, I get to help CEOs and senior executives make sense of and improve their organizational culture and performance, specializing in the design and execution of large-scale transformation initiatives. I have a proven track record of getting the desired results and moving the organization forward. My most recent book (2017), The Palgrave Handbook of Organizational Change Thinkers, is used to teach change management in universities all over the world.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I am so proud of so many things. I think I'm most proud of the relationships we have built. Whether service partners, client partners, or members of our own team, we strive to always be value creators and take a people-centric view.

Those who focus more on EBITDA and other financial metrics might think I'm silly for putting people first. However, our people are our business, and I've found that putting our people front and center is the only way to protect our bottom line.

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

Honestly, I love rolling my sleeves up and helping an organization solve its problem and achieve its goals. As a business owner, I do that less and less. The hardest thing is staying out of the juicy problems that my teams are working on. Luckily, developing and nurturing my people is a close second in terms of what I love doing, so it all works out in the end.

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

  1. Business is about relationships. You do not have to do it alone to be considered successful. Build relationships, help others create value, and approach others with an attitude of service. Your efforts will be repaid tenfold, and business will be more enjoyable.
  2. Resource balancing. There are two finite resources in business: time and money. When you are starting out, you might have more time than money, and so you may end up doing more things for the business yourself. As you get more money, you need to value your time more than saving $50 on hiring out a project. If it is not directly related to building revenue or your specific expertise, always ask if it can be automated or outsourced so you can focus on the most important elements of your business.
  3. Be authentic. Nobody likes to work for a boss that is overcompensating for insecurity or trying to emulate a person they are not. Every personality type can be a good leader. They just have to figure out what that looks like for them. Imposter syndrome is real (for everyone, whether they admit it or not). If you are feeling the impacts of imposter syndrome, don't try to overcompensate by being a jerk to your team. Be authentic. Share your insecurities. Enlist their help to push past it and succeed. You will always build trust and loyalty when you trust your team enough to be open and authentic with them.

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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