Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Darren Kanthal, Founder of The Kanthal Group, located in Denver, CO, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
The Kanthal Group is a Leadership Coaching and Professional Development Company. We help mid-career leaders cut through the BS with candid leadership and career coaching, and values-driven action plans. I like to tell people when we partner, we'll help them achieve their greatness.
Tell us about yourself
As an honorable and respectable New Yorker, it's in my blood to bust people's chops and be loud, direct, and abrupt. But somewhere along the way, these traits stopped serving me, and in fact, they held me back. After losing a terrific job I enjoyed, I had to stop placing blame on everyone and everything else and start holding myself accountable. After a lot of soul-searching, studying, and admitting to my mom that she was right all along, I learned how to play the game of life more effectively and compassionately. I now use my experience of getting knocked down, brushing myself off, and growing as a human to guide you in avoiding the same mistakes I made.
I'm motivated to be part of the conversation with people. It's extremely fulfilling to be a co-pilot with people as they try to figure out and navigate some of the most challenging and vulnerable moments of their lives - professionally and personally. The level of mutual trust, respect, candor, and vulnerability with my clients keeps me on my toes, and I know how important it is to hold a safe place to explore and uncover what's beneath the surface. It's down there that we often want to avoid - and yet, when we explore the deeper depths of ourselves, we often experience some of the greatest growth and transformation.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
The first thing that comes to mind is my year-over-year growth for each year in business. Even though I'm really proud of that, it seems superficial.
My marketing partner interviewed some of my best and favorite clients to determine why they liked partnering with me. What I heard is what I feel is my biggest accomplishment - I created a safe space for my clients to grow. And even though I can't give someone confidence, many of my clients felt more confident after our work together. To know that I somehow helped them see themselves in all their glory is tremendously humbling and rewarding. That alone might be my biggest accomplishment - helping folks find their confidence.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The hardest thing is looking in the mirror and realizing you've got a lot of faults! When I was in corporate, I had a singular job in HR. Granted, that job had many arms and legs and took on many flavors. Yet, others did the sales, marketing, and accounting. Guess what - for the entrepreneur with more nimble teams, it's often you, the business owner, that plays all roles - even the ones you're not so strong in.
The hardest thing is recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and knowing when and where to ask for help. Instead of trying to be the best accountant possible (which I am most certainly not!), I had to admit I needed help and paid for it. Which is the 2nd hardest thing - spending money to help the business grow and sustain.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Although every business book I've read said you have to determine a rock-solid niche, I found that to be demotivating. My first tip is don't get too concerned with having it all figured out. Having a generally specific idea is a great starting point. This first tip also relates to flexibility - my first and secondhand experience taught me that this is invaluable. Try things. Learn. Evolve, modify, and refine. Then try again.
- The 2nd tip is to network with the intent to serve. I learned an early lesson when networking - the best networkers would ask what they can do to support you. At first, I abruptly blurted, 'I need clients.' Then I realized how ridiculous that ask was - this person I had just met barely even knew me. The best answer to this question is, 'I'm growing my business in X and would love introductions with anyone you know that is X.' Or, another spin is, I'd love an introduction with anyone you think would be helpful for me to know. Also, reciprocate and ask them the same. You'll be surprised by the multitude of ways we can help each other.
- The 3rd tip is to be real with yourself. Be real with how you feel, how you're doing, where you're struggling, and the stress you feel. And also the joy, optimism, and fist-pumping success that you scream in the woods about. The thing is this, throughout a business owner's life cycle, we experience humility and embarrassment, bashfulness and boastfulness. It's a yin and yang type of thing. For me, I was so embarrassed by the first video I did. And also the first blog I wrote. I thought people would laugh at me or not give two iotas about what I had to say. I had to be real and recognize that, yes, I felt that way and another, yes, that I wanted to grow my business. Those two things are mutually exclusive, and I had to work through them. Maybe think of how you motivate yourself - is it the carrot or the stick? Maybe it's both!
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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