Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in leadership development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Rick Maurer, Founder of Maurer & Associates, located in Arlington, VA, USA.

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

My business is called Maurer & Associates. I work with people who lead change in midsize to large organizations. I also work with the people who support them, such as coaches and consultants. The people who call are interested in creating successful changes (of course), but they want to do it in a way that engages the people who need to plan, implement, and bring the change to life.

Tell us about yourself

In the early 1990s, I was working with a number of clients who were struggling with getting the support they needed to make big projects a success. When I searched the business press for articles and studies on resistance to change, I found a common theme. Most of these articles talked about "overcoming" resistance. Experience told me that trying to overcome resistance often created more resistance. So I began exploring how other disciplines, such as psychology and some martial arts, dealt with resistance. I found that many actually embraced resistance and saw it as a natural reaction to change. Natural but not inevitable, by the way. After a couple of years of thinking and trying things out, I wrote a book. Beyond the Wall of Resistance (Bard Press) was published in 1996. To my surprise, people started calling me to advise them and speak at conferences. People responded to this more humane approach to influencing others. Word spread, and my opinion was sought by The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, NBC Nightly News, The Economist, and any other media outlets. I do what I do because I love it. I keep refining my model and finding new ways to help others and myself. I work for myself, so on good days, I like my boss.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Getting calls and emails from people around the world who use my ideas. These are often people I've never met or will ever make a cent from, but I love knowing that my work is helping people.

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

I hate marketing. If the phone didn't ring, I wouldn't have any business. And that is not an exaggeration. I owe it the publication of Beyond the Wall of Resistance. I had written other books, but they did not have the impact that Beyond the Wall did. If, for some reason, I had to rely on cold (or even warm) calling, I think I'd hang it up and retire.

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

I sell services (coaching, consulting, speaking), and I haven't looked to my books as a source of revenue. Given that:

  1. Do what you love. I have a touchstone I use when someone calls me. Is the work they are proposing going to give me as much pleasure as making music? (I play jazz, and I even love practicing.) You won't get the fit right every time, but my gut reaction is usually awfully good.
  2. Treat your business seriously. I have seen sole practitioners like me start their businesses in ways that scream, "I am an amateur." Back in the days of fax machines, I remember a fellow consultant who would ask me to fax him at the local dry cleaners since he didn't have a fax machine. Or people who used their family phone line for business calls. "Hi, this is Becky and Rod and little Elmo, Jessie, and Buster. Please leave a message. "
  3. Allow yourself to keep learning about the business part of running a business. It is great to love what you are doing (as I mentioned above), but it is very important to make sure you have the savvy to actually run a business.

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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