Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Brandi Sheffield, CEO of Learning Associates, located in Long Beach, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Learning Associates is a boutique educational leadership firm focused on educational leadership for student achievement. We build the capacity of leaders to influence the behaviors and actions of adults while designing coherent systems to maximize professional propensity and grow professional capacity through leadership curriculum development, professional learning, and leadership coaching. I have served as a senior-level district administrator, principal supervisor, co-principal, university professor, and teacher. In my 20+ years in education, I have led teams of 100+ people, built the capacity of leaders, designed organizational systems, and produced significant student gains for disenfranchised youth, low-income students, English learners, migrant students, and foster youth. As a Sr. Executive Director, I have built a legacy of leaders by coaching executive colleagues and lower management to transform their leadership using executive presence, systems thinking development, and change management to orient a strategic approach to leadership. By designing coherent processes and structures for adult learning, leadership development, and efficacy to ownership, I have consistently impacted the lives of the adults and students I have served. As an avid implementer of systems thinking models and processes, I have realized my legacy of impact gains for communities and instituted systems for the districts I served, which those systems are still in operation to date. I am also a certified master facilitator.
Tell us about yourself
I am a servant leader who believes that relationships are the foundation of all success for scale, longevity, and impact. I started my business because I had been working 90+ hours weekly as an executive district admin and was an absent mother with poor health. After spending a week in the hospital from exhaustion, dehydration, and stress, I changed everything about how I drove impact. I am driven by excellence, it is a non-negotiable, AND I've learned that we are not superhuman, superheroes, or invincible. It has been my mission to teach leaders to have clarity in their outcomes, design systems that are sustainable for teacher growth and student achievement, and develop their capacity for transferrable relationships that rewires systems to operate with automaticity of excellence without stifling growth or impact.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
There is not one; I am proud of the work I do with every client. I vet all clients and reject many who want to work with me. If an organization or individual is not prepared to shift their mindset, remove barriers or excuses, and learn how to create new opportunities to grow impact, then I do not take them on as a client. With every client, we collect extensive data on processes and outcomes to understand the depth of impact. Every client continues to replicate their systems to build scale and pipelines of common leaders for scale and sustainability. That is what I am most proud of... change in the longevity of impact.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Telling people or systems that they are not ready to take on the level of work required to make the shifts they are looking for. With good intent, people and systems know they need to change functions or experiences, but when challenged with what it will take, they simply have barriers they have not or are not yet willing to remove. I believe in the balance of adults' needs to success and students' needs for success, but sometimes, the short-term costs of change people are not willing to pay. It's hard to watch that person continue to create educational harm for kids and occupational harm for adults.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Get a business coach! If the business is not your expertise, do not waste money on internet groups or programs. Join your local SBA/SBDC, which is free, and get an advisor to help you plan, launch and sustain your business.
- Know what type of company you want so that you can plan your growth strategy. I knew I did not want a large company or to be responsible for salary payments. But, I did need to get clear that I needed 3-5 strong consultants I could call on to support contracts if the scope of work was too large for me to do it alone. That was when my advisor from my local SBDC helped me understand the different types of business structures and how to think about pricing my services and products.
- Network, Network, Network! "If you build it, they will come" is not true. Social media marketing alone is not sufficient. You must physically meet people, and tell them about your business, have a 30-second compelling elevator pitch, and follow up.
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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