Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mary Battle Stump, Owner of MBS Consulting, Inc., located in Grand Haven, MI, USA.

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

MBS Consulting is a learning and development firm that provides three lines of service to its customers:

  • Enterprise-wide learning strategy, curriculum architecture, and learning content creation.
  • Corporate university start-up and execution.
  • Role-based talent development.

Our customers span across industries, and our expertise includes organizations that have a geographically-dispersed employee base and may also have a dealer network outreach. We have a particular niche with onboarding, developing salespeople in sales methodology as well as proprietary product training.

We specialize in traditional, virtual, and digital learning content that is easily searchable with just-in-time access for workers on the go. Our deliverables include:

  • Mobile-friendly and mobile-native app (downloadable) micro-learning courses.
  • Expert-led learning videos.
  • Digital animation videos.
  • Job aids, sales guides, and FAQs.
  • In-person, instructor-led workshops/boot camps.

MBS Consulting provides thought leadership with regard to creating and deploying a corporate university for our client base. We focus on:

  • Learning management system infrastructure standards/processes/protocols.
  • End user readiness and LMS delivery capabilities, all while being mindful of the user experience.
  • We create content for digital, virtual, and instructor-led consumption that is easily accessible.

MBS Consulting helps its clients align people strategy with their business strategy. Whether that be through:

  • Role-based proficiency modeling, assessments, and development plans.
  • Coaching and mentoring.
  • Process mapping, or
  • Strategic thinking facilitation

We are here to help provide a direct line of sight between business goals and human performance.

Tell us about yourself

Working for a boutique consulting management firm in the Greater Detroit area, I was able to work side-by-side with the greatest human performance strategists in the field. These were—and are—the foremost experts, authors, and thought leaders whose frameworks and models are taught at the university level today. Being exposed to that caliber of consultants, and working alongside them on client projects, gave me not only a high standard of quality but also gave me an unmatched perspective on how to improve human performance.

Shortly after 9/11, corporate spending on Learning and Development (L&D) stagnated, and that boutique consulting firm shut its doors. Many of these consultants pivoted and found ways to work back into their accounts – this time, by hanging out their own “corporate shingle.” That’s how I got started. Slowly working back into my existing client base as a freelancer and then developing that foundation over time. 20 years later, MBS Consulting has moved into new vertical markets, has expanded its reach across the country, and has scaled accordingly.

What motivates me today is the same thing that I learned from the boutique consulting firm all those years ago, which is: “to think like the C-Suite and to do the hard thinking for your clients” in order to unravel and solve a company’s big, hairy, audacious problems. My approach begins with frameworks to analyze the problem and follows a methodology to find the appropriate learning solution that makes sense to both the C-Suite and the end user.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment is surrounding myself with brilliant talent – a community of practitioners – whose highly-defined, technical skill sets provide our clients with learning solutions that are easily accessible, searchable, and consumable for our modern learners who are on the go. As an example, in 2018 – long before a global pandemic tipped the scales to work in alternative ways – we were challenged by a member of our client’s C-Suite to assess their current Learning Management System (LMS) to determine its capability to deliver learning content in a mobile-friendly way. At the time, all of their training content was delivered via a laptop using a VPN to access their LMS to retrieve long, linear, and tedious eLearning modules that were peppered with quizzes and mastery tests before earning a course completion.

The “Ask” from the C-Suite member was simple: “How can I use my downtime more efficiently when I travel so that I can complete my training mandates?” The solution required MBS Consulting to re-think how learning content is designed, developed, and delivered. This was an instructional design game-changer that catapulted us as a leader in digital learning strategy in a post-pandemic world.

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

Personally, I love the strategy consultation and corresponding project work that solves my client’s human performance problems. Digging in to assess the problem, make connections, discover insights, and create solutions is highly rewarding. I call this “working IN the business.” The hardest thing for me is to “work ON the business” – to allocate time, resources, and mindshare to build my infrastructure for scalable growth. I’ve found that having a flexible resource model that celebrates the technical skill sets of our practitioners while managing the ebbs and flows of cyclical work has proven successful for me in scaling my business just-in-time meeting the project demands of our accounts. It’s a fine balance between new business development, strategic consultation, project management, customer satisfaction, and internal growth.

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

The thought of leaving a 9-5, the steady-income job is very scary. My first tip would be to keep one foot on the dock and take a step with the other foot in the boat. Meaning, think about a side hustle. Do you have a particular skill set that can help someone support an outside project? Dabble in the freelance arena to see if you even like the hustle.

My second tip is to work that hustle and develop your project into a longer-term relationship – become your client’s “go-to” extra pair of hands. That means delivering quality deliverables on time, communicating often, and being reliable.

The last tip I can offer is to grow at a steady pace so that you can replace that 9-5 job with freelance opportunities. The trick to this – is to have the resolve to shake the trees to find new projects continually. Once you make that step to freelancing, you not only rely on your technical skill set you’ve just simultaneously taken on the role of a salesperson.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

MBS Consulting has deep relationships not only with their clients but with a network of top-performing learning and management consultants, business analysts, brand strategists, graphic and media designers. For just about any business “Ask,” we have a pool of resources that tap into the knowledge and expertise across disciplines to help crack an audacious business problem. Curious about what we can do to strengthen your organization?

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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