Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mj Callaway, CCMS, CVP, CSP, Founder of Mj Callaway Training & Dev., located in Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
There are three legs to my business. The first revenue stream is keynote speaking. My most popular presentation is How to Pivot, Thrive, and Bounce-Up™ during Change. My clients are corporate executives, conference or event professionals, and education directors looking to hire a professional speaker for annual conferences, meetings, or retreats.
The second leg is training programs from change management to resilience to communication to sales. These training programs include the half-day How to Pivot, Thrive, Bounce-Up, Show-Up, Level-Up and Bounce-Up Communication and Presentation Series, Power Team: Level-Up Your Professional Life with Your Circle of Influence, Rev Up Your Revenue and 10 Simple Client Follow-Up Strategies. My clients cover many industries and positions. Business owners, executives, and managers who want to help their teams manage change and challenges or boost staff morale or collaborative communication. Or they want to increase sales through follow-up communication. Professionals, business owners, executives, and managers will hire me if staff needs to fine-tune their presentation skills.
The third business segment includes products from books to digital programs. One of my corporate clients, the President of Global Sales, suggested I incorporate digital programs when he had to cancel a training program during the pandemic. I followed his advice. My clients for this part of my business run the gamut from someone dealing with a challenge and wanting to boost resilience to a sales professional who wants to increase sales and commissions. Many organizations will buy books in bulk to give to their members and staff.
Tell us about yourself
The spark that ignited my business happened because I knew what being a domestic abuse survivor was like. I was fortunate because I had the sales skills to support myself and my college-bound son when I left an unhealthy marriage. "I can't leave because I'm in a dead-end job and can't support my kids," a woman who suffered from domestic abuse shared during a support group meeting for women whose lives had been affected because someone they knew had an addiction. That pivotal moment haunted me and pushed me to leave a lucrative corporate sales position to start my company.
I knew I had to do something to help this woman and others who could face a similar situation. A few weeks later, I offered a free sales workshop for anyone who wanted to learn sales skills. I knew teaching others how to "sell" would always give them a way to provide a livelihood for their families. That workshop was a huge success, and the participants were so grateful. For me, it combined resilience, results, and sales in one package and the kickoff to my company Mj Callaway Training + Development.
Since then, I've thrived over cancer three times, creating and modifying many techniques to outpower the setbacks caused by cancer. As a business owner who is the face of the business and a single woman, I needed to maintain my company to provide financial support. At the same time, I kept a positive mindset and stayed proactive rather than reactive. One of my trademarked techniques is Flip-It, which you can find on my website under free downloads. It's also in my Bounce-Up book. Another technique is The Traffic Light Approach. Think Stop, Evaluate, and Improvise instead of Red, Yellow, and Green. You can find this technique in Bounce-Up Principle.
What motivates me is knowing that my adversities happened so that I can help others when they need inspiration, motivation, or someone to say, "Yes, you can Bounce-Up! I did it, and so can you!" Another way I stay motivated is to connect with what I truly need. Daily, I ask myself, "What does my body need today? What is the best use of my energy today? Does this decision or action get me to my goal?" At the end of the day, I ask: "What am I grateful for? What did I learn today? What am I proud of today?" These questions keep me in the right direction, a positive and proactive path. Of course, prayer and meditation are on my daily schedule, too.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Many accomplishments formed who I am as a business owner. If I had to choose only one, I would say maintaining and leveling up my company during COVID-19. At the pandemic's beginning, I was recovering from two major surgeries due to the second cancer diagnosis. At the same time, like many speakers, every keynote speaking engagement and training program booked got canceled. In addition, every book signing for my Bounce-Up book, released in April, was canceled. I used this time to develop several online group programs, produce two digital programs, contribute to an anthology, and start a second book in the Bounce-Up series. These actions enabled me to maintain my business and mental well-being while I recovered from the surgeries and the pandemic. Eventually, I'll write a book called How to Work Your Business When Everything Goes Wrong. 😊
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
If you're your business's driver and engine, two things could happen when you hit adversity. One, it's a stop-and-start process. You stop scaling, growing, improving, prospecting, adding products and services, or hiring new team members. You stop because you're in maintenance mode—doing what you can to stay afloat. The second is it can ruin your business. Without some backup plan or a way to support your business, there isn't a business. When I was diagnosed with my first breast cancer in the fall of 2016, my company had the best year since I had started. Once diagnosed, I was maintaining to stay afloat. I knew then that I needed digital products. But I didn't take action. When the second diagnosis and pandemic happened, I knew I needed to get my butt moving and develop those digital courses. Although I created several, I still have several courses to get produced.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Build your business Power Team, aka your Circle of Influence. Your Power Team is your support system. The people who want to help you grow your company and they have your back. You can brainstorm with them and reach out when you're struggling. There are five people or categories in your Power Team. The first is your Accountability Partner, who keeps you on track with consistent meetings and designated goals. Next, your Play-Up Player is a step or two beyond you in business and offers advice on what they have learned. The third is your Moutain Guide, who has already reached the mountain where you want to be. They did it. They can shortcut your learning curve. The fourth is a Mastermind Group, and I belong to two Mastermind Groups. Think of Andrew Carnegie and the business owners who met regularly to grow their fortunes. And the last is a professional coach or consultant who takes you to the next level. Start with one and add in as you need them. Build Your Business Power Team is one of my digital courses. There is a free download on my website.
- Join professional organizations. You will meet people you would never have the opportunity to meet. So it's worth the investment. You will also be able to find people who could be part of your Business Power Team. And you will get business referrals from building relationships. Plus, you will grow professionally and personally.
- Build relationships within your professional organizations. Ask members to meet one on one for coffee or lunch. If you ask, and they agree, pick up the tab. Having a conversation outside an organization's program allows you to connect. Ask how you can help them. Be a giver and not a taker. Many of my referrals result from relationships I've built with members of professional organizations I've joined.
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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