by Jordan Lofton
I lied when I told you I was going to focus on what Golden Source Consultants does as our next article. Over the last few weeks I have been confronted over and over again with the question Why in so many different variations that I feel called to share some of the questions and answers.
First of all, let me say that any entrepreneur is used to these questions. We stand up day after day and justify our decision to pursue a “radical idea”. We justify it to our clients to gain their support. We justify it to our employees so we gain their trust. We justify it to our families, so they walk with us. Lastly, we ask ourselves, because while we’re not afraid of risk, we also are not irresponsible. So let me tell you some of the Why’s that I answer repeatedly.
Why did you start your own business rather than work for someone else to do these things? Certainly other consulting firms would be a good fit for you.
Four and a half years. For four and a half years I felt the shelter and nurturing of being a consultant at a large consulting firm. This time and experience is something I do not regret and I could not replace. At a young age and with practically no work experience, my employer trusted in my raw ability to be a leader. With little guidance they placed me in roles that challenged me and nurtured me. When I did something wrong, they had my back. So why after four and half years would I choose to walk without them? To be utterly alone, fighting for my own existence, looking for work constantly, and wondering every moment what would happen if I messed up.
My client. That is the shortest answer I can give you. For four and half years I worked for my employer, and I worked with amazing clients as well. I loved what I did, because I truly believed we were there to help. But, as my seniority grew, my allegiance was tested. Was I there to serve the client or was I a “team player”. It was as I grew that I realized the client’s needs and the business’s needs were not always aligned. When I left and I went independent, my first and only goal was to be able to align what was right for me and right for my client. For the first time in my career, when I did good work it helped my client and I saw the direct correlation between my job and my value.
Then I realized that I am not the only one. There are consultants just like me, who struggle with the same things I struggled with. There are clients who want more than just a corporate pat on the back from the account rep, or a fancy dinner.
Sure one person can go to any company and have a personal mission statement to work and drive great value for the client and for their employer. But that one person does not have the strength to change the tide. It takes many. It takes a united effort. It takes people of like mind and like effort to partner to build something different, something better. I started my own business because it was no longer about me, it was about changing the experience and the value for my clients and for my colleagues.
Why didn’t you wait until you had more work experience before you started the business?
To be honest, this isn’t a question anyone has ever asked me directly. It’s one that is insinuated every time I am introduced to someone new. My 30 years of time on this earth is not nearly as seasoned as my clients and even some of those I would love to join my team. In fact, I am not the oldest person in the company. Half my team is older than me.
Yes, it’s written all over your face when I shake your hand. “She sure is young to be a CEO.”
But the question I ask of myself is, why not me? I have been fortunate to have several wonderful role models amongst my family and friends. I have sat by the sidelines and watched each start the business, struggle, sometimes fail, and sometimes succeed beyond expectations. Why them? What made them uniquely qualified to do these things? They believed. They saw. They acted.
I believe that management consulting has the opportunity to be radically different. Consultants can and should be seen as someone who is trusted. They have always been meant to be short term, and never permanent within an organization. They are meant to provide extreme value which the business can use to catapult to the next level. Consultants have the opportunity to be witnesses to how business can and should be done. They don’t need to be flashy and they don’t need to spew out jargon. They can be good, honest, hard-working people who are willing to tell you like it is and do what it takes to make things better.
When I see Golden Source Consultants in 10 years, I see a firm that has a buzz around it. We’re not the most popular. We are not the cheapest. We are not the biggest. We’re the best. We’re the best because we do what we promise. We’re the best because our relationship is mutually respectful. We’re the best because the value we bring is lasting. Our people are full of integrity and strong in ethic, and work diligently to build our client’s business.
I had to act on this vision. Call it my youthful naiveté. Maybe the seasoned veterans of the consulting world will sit there and pat me on the head for this, but I sincerely believe it takes one person to step out of the pack and to act differently for the herd to move. If nothing ever happens, but causes one client, one other consultant to see things differently, it would be worth it. Golden Source Consultants will have fulfilled its purpose to cause a change.
Why did you take such a great personal financial risk? Do you want to get rich from this?
It is true, no risk no reward. The question about money and financials though is not the first thing that came into my head when I started the business. I know, that sounds shocking. As a good MBA graduate and logical person, shouldn’t I be focused on profit?
Let’s take a step back and look at how profits are generated. Profit is derived from the amount someone pays me over my cost to produce something. They’re willing to pay that price because there is some value that they are receiving that is more than just the cost of what it costs to produce something. Profit therefore reflects value.
Now let’s think about the expense side. I do not have a warehouse full of widgets. I can’t claim any land or building as an asset. So my expenses relate directly to labor. Therefore my expense is related to providing a job for my employee. If I earn enough profit, if I provide enough value to enough clients, I can have higher expenses. Meaning I can hire more people.
Value to my clients, jobs for my employees. These are blessings. Why would I take on personal financial risk to do this?
Certainly as the owner I must make the most money.
No. I don’t.
Certainly as the owner I must have the ability to take time off whenever I want.
No. I don’t.
Certainly as the owner I write my own destiny and choose what I want to do when I want to do it.
No. I don’t.
I didn’t start Golden Source Consultants because I get more money for less work. I did start the business because it would be more profitable. Yes, I am greedy in that I want GSC to be very, very profitable. But that profit means Golden Source Consultants has spread its value to more and more clients. That profit means more and more people have jobs. That is my reward. That is the blessing.
This all seems very grandiose. If you feel this way, why are you pursuing it through business? Shouldn’t you start a charity or go into education or something?
How often have you met a teacher, a priest, a volunteer, or politician, who has sacrificed to do something for the greater good? We’ve all seen this. Each of us have our heroes, who cause us to walk out there and try to give back. We do these things outside of our jobs, because we want to go above and beyond.
How often do we as individuals walk onto our job every day and give back? How often do we sacrifice for our job in an unselfish manner?
When I think about leadership, and true leadership, I think about this act of servitude. I could easily give up the business world and focus only on giving back. I would feel reward and blessing, and I would never regret this decision.
The harder thing for me to do is to stand up and continue my walk as a business woman and every moment choose to live a life of sacrifice that produces change. The decisions I make are more complicated. For the clients I carry a heavier weight. For the employees I humble myself to be their peer and to promote them above me. It is an act of love that I choose to make every time.
It would be so much easier to be the business woman everyone expects. To be merely “philanthropic” or “generous” or “kind”. But I am called, and you dear reader are called, to live each breath as more than just someone who goes above and beyond. We are called to live greater in our current roles.
I am not special. I am not anyone great. And I am not called to change who I am to do things of value. I am just a simple person like you, who wants to do extraordinary things in this present situation.
Why are you telling me all of this?
Some of you who are reading this see this as a sales pitch. Some of you see it as a defense for a decision. Some of you see it as something personal, maybe something too personal to share as a business owner.
I am writing this post because as I stand each day and I make decisions to grow a company, I need to remember why. For myself, I need to remember that you, who are reading this, are the reason why. Everything good and bad said about me personally, about my team, about my business, about my decisions, cannot be in vain, if I remember that ultimately you are my reason why. I would walk this narrow path again and again for you. I would stand on the edge of the cliff for you. I would even fall on my face for you. So thank you, for being my reason.