Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in consultancy but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Maureen Farmer, CEO of Westgate Executive Branding & Career Consulting, located in Halifax, NS, CA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Westgate Executive Branding & Career Consulting is an international full-service boutique specializing in personal branding and career consultancy. We help drive peak performance for CEOs and their boards. We help boards do the right thing by supporting their senior leadership team in elevating their brand, leading with thought leadership, and establishing credibility beyond their networks. Because we are 100% independent, companies trust our impartiality and discretion when dealing with highly sensitive transitions. We are not affiliated with any recruiting, outplacement, or career services firm, making us a safe and attractive choice for professional personal branding services.
Westgate also serves high-achieving executives looking for career transformation, including internal promotions, publicly-traded board of director opportunities (BOD), career coaching, executive resume writing, industry changes, and those individuals planning to start a consulting business of their own.
Our holistic approach means we offer end-to-end services, making them convenient for our clients. In such a trust-based professional services business, trust is paramount. Relationships come first, which are steeped in trust. Our goal is to build lasting relationships that span generations. At Westgate, we offer assessments, career marketing collateral (we do 100% of the writing), job search strategies, strategic networking strategies, job, and board interview coaching, exit strategies, salary negotiation strategies, job offer due diligence, and onboarding coaching. Companies hire us to help new CEOs onboard and support CEOs who are departing (and everything in between). The holistic approach means that the board or CEO engages one firm rather than hiring multiple firms to help with a succession planning or career transition strategy for key executives and board members.
Tell us about yourself
After years of being abused by a bully boss, I slammed my office door and walked out! Shortly after that…cancer. Very likely brought on by job-related stress. Months later, I interviewed for the perfect opportunity. I had dinner with the CEO…an offer seemed imminent, but it never came.
It turns out that my former boss saw to it. Deliberately. I kept looking, but anything that interested me was rare or non-existent. I was discouraged, and my self-esteem became more ragged by the day. Then, out of the blue, a former executive I knew came to ask my advice about a career change. She hired me to write her resume and advise her on how to approach the job interview. Despite being a long shot, she took my advice and landed the job. That's when I knew. So, with fire in my belly and a plan in my head, I created my position by starting a business and becoming its first client. Many are now in the same position—with no one to guide them. So, I created the Career Navigator Program.
Since then, I've served thousands of executives worldwide, providing them with the support, strategy, and framework leading to high-level executive positions and board appointments. A 3-way win for all! My clients. Their new employers. And me.
For nearly 25 years, I struggled to find rewarding work, although, until my last role, I worked for wonderful employers and delightful and supportive bosses. My focus comes from a drive to do meaningful work while helping corporations and private executive clients master their career journeys. As a fiercely independent person, being an entrepreneur gives me the freedom to make decisions that make sense for my business, my team, and my family. Family is a core value in my business, and taking a holistic approach to career and business delivers work-life harmony.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Building a self-invested multi-six figure consultancy on my own has led to serving thousands of executives since 2011. Bringing career literacy and accessibility to professionals, job seekers, and executives in the private marketplace where (at the time) few full-service agencies existed in the business-to-consumer market, although today we serve both private clients and corporations.
In the early years, and it's still true today, I invested in quality professional associations where I could learn about the industry while raising my profile. I completely immersed myself in the consulting industry, learning as much as possible about writing, coaching, and marketing. I now belong to an international professional community with colleagues from San Francisco to Toronto, New York City, Madrid, and beyond. It's incredibly rewarding.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
That's a tie between confidence and marketing. I knew I had a good product and skill, but I struggled with promoting the business and myself. In my original business plan from 2011 (I still have it close by), I indicated sales and marketing would be my biggest challenge. I overcame these challenges by investing in education and professional coaching. The professional business coaching was a game-changer (no pun intended) for my business as I began to add more services to the résumé writing product line with executive coaching, personal branding, psychometric assessments, consulting services, and now e-commerce.
It can be lonesome at times. At the end of the day, the responsibilities (big & small) of the business fall on your shoulders, and your budget may not allow for building a team. That said, this challenge is also part of why being a business owner is so rewarding. With every accomplishment and milestone, fulfillment is something you can only experience to understand fully.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Know your market, have a quality product or service your customers need, and invest in quality marketing services. Have a crystal-clear vision of your ideal customer. Do you have an addressable market? Where is it? How will you gain access to that market?
Additionally, build and nurture the relationships in your network. This is critical. You never know who a client, supplier, or partner may be, and fostering relationships early on will expand your progress in the business.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
At Westgate, we focus on work-life harmony rather than work-life balance. When you are doing meaningful work you enjoy, it becomes part of your DNA. For example, when I'm walking at my favorite Sportsplex (where I listen to dozens of podcasts), I'm thinking about a client or a challenge I'm facing. It doesn't feel unbalanced to me; it feels harmonious. I know that may sound Pollyanna, but that's how I see it.
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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