Please state your name, your position, and a bit of your Business.
My name is Karen Williams, I am a Leadership Coach, Speaker, Trainer, and Author and I work with senior leaders who have been successful in their careers, who are now looking for their next level of influence and results – professionally and personally. My business provides development programs and services to medium to large organizations and corporations, as well as to the public market, helping leaders build cultures of accountability, collaboration, and alignment through trust.
How did the business start?
I started my business 7 years ago after working in the field of Restorative Justice, facilitating conversations between young people who had offended against the law and the victims of their crimes. Beginning my career in the corporate world and also coaching for about 13 years at that point, I saw a real need in business for this kind of powerful conversation that were built on accountability, courageous conversations and everyone working toward the same goal. These three themes have since become my three core pillars of high performing teams.
What are the challenges you met and how did you manage to cope up with these challenges and reach your current status?
Like any business owner, I have and continue to experience many challenges. The big ones for me when I returned to Melbourne from Queensland to start my business were:
Sustaining day to day life financially while growing a business
•Being single I had no backup or secondary income so I risked everything to build my dream when I sold my property in Brisbane and returned to Melbourne to grow my vision
•I applied for countless part-time jobs to pay the bills and was turned down time after time being told I was either overqualified or under-qualified
•Eventually, a role came across my path that, from the outside, looked like the perfect job to support me while I grew my business as it was with a training organisation that valued the same things I did. I wrote to the CEO telling him why he needed to hire me…essentially, making a respectful demand for the role! They interviewed me and while I didn’t land that role, I was lucky to secure an even better role with them as a business coach on a part-time basis.
•After being away from Melbourne for 10 years I had a very small network here. In the past I wasn’t a natural networker, I was more a bookworm than a socialite, so I didn’t have a large community around me to draw on when I started my business. No matter how passionate we are about what we do, if no-one is buying, our dream won’t last long
•It was a slow burn for the first few years, and many times I questioned whether things would grow, but doing the daily work of connecting with new people, creating and delivering my own Intellectual Property, being deeply passionate about helping others and consistently going the extra mile for my valued clients, all contributed to building strong foundations
•There really is no getting around the need and importance of building a network of people who know, like and trust you. Through 1:1 meetings, presentations, purposeful social media and providing high value through blogging and sharing what you know, eventually those who need what you have will be attracted, but you must be consistent and generous. What I’ve learned is that, contrary to popular misinformed belief, you don’t need thousands of followers or likes to build your dream. Rather a loyal, steadily growing community who value what you do and refer you because of the quality of work you provide and how much you care.
• When I started my business I was 44, single, no kids, no backup plan and a truckload of self-judgment. Yet I had a big dream that only I could see and I knew somehow that I would find a way – there was no Plan B. But there were mountains of self-doubt to climb that I’d allowed getting in my way in the past, so I got to work, working on myself as much as I worked on my business. I knew making a success of my business would be the vehicle to true freedom, the kind of freedom money can’t buy, I just didn’t know what it was going to take. Now I know for sure that there is no substitute for the inner work, no substitute for self-awareness. Today, real freedom to me is about inner peace and the magic that comes with that is incredible. Business growth and success are amazing and I’m deeply grateful every day for the work I do and the people I get to work with, but you can’t buy true self-worth and self-trust, you must find that within yourself.
• Being fiercely independent has meant that I’ve often done things myself and have rarely asked for help, but that’s had to change because I realized that it’s not possible to create your dream on your own. At first, it felt like vulnerability but that quickly morphed into a feeling of being connected and appreciated. After lots of practice, I now seek the support I need and allow people to contribute, while I remain focused on where the business needs me the most – with clients, creating new programs, meeting new people, sharing my work.
• An important, and extremely valued, part of my support team now is The Happiness Team at Creative Cubes – https://creativecubes.co/. Creative Cubes is a co-working space that offers a unique experience and community to all those who share the space and their clients. The Happiness Team is a group of clever, vibrant, helpful, creative leaders who have the best interests of their members at heart all day every day – they truly are incredible, nothing is too much trouble for them and I am grateful for them countless times a day. My business has called CC’s home for nearly a year, being a member has injected new inspiration into my business and my clients love coming out of their office and spending time here. The energy within the space, created by the members (many different organizations who are up to very cool and amazing things), the creative workshop and coaching spaces, the ambiance of the building and the people all make it a fabulous place to be.
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Who influenced you in this industry and how did he/she influence you?
Over the years I’ve read countless books, both to be inspired but also to find the answers I was seeking, I’ve also learned a lot from the leaders, managers, and colleagues I’ve worked with and who mentored me at different times.
These days I seek my inspiration outside of my industry – I love learning new perspectives from people who have been successful and are passionate about what they do and who they serve. They may be leaders on the global stage, but they may also be a poet, a comedian, a musician, a sportsperson, a regular person who has invested the hours, faced their fears and imperfections and grown through their experiences in a way that has allowed them to cultivate inner wisdom.
I’m always looking for leading-edge thinking and those who live and breathe what they speak and teach. There is an abundance of knowledge and information available to us now on countless platforms, so information has become quite cheap. It’s those who implement and integrate that knowledge through practice, learning, failing, succeeding and continuing to grow that I admire and want to learn from.
My most revered mentor right now is Dr. Joe Dispenza, his work is leading the world in understanding and changing limiting beliefs to create and fulfill new visions, and aligns brilliantly with the work I do with leaders and teams.
How did you manage to market your business and compete with other agencies in your niche?
In the past, I would get so distracted with what others in my field were doing, and in comparison what I thought I should or shouldn’t be doing, that it eroded my focus and increased my stress. I realized it was slowing me and my business growth down, so I made a very conscious and deliberate decision to stop comparing, stop trying to compete and stay in my own lane. I dug deep and learned to trust my instincts, my expertise, and my work. It was a huge challenge because of the number of distractions waiting for us at every turn, but also because the ego wants to compete and win, and our minds have become accustomed to skipping from one thing to another like rocks skimming across a lake. However, being disciplined and remaining focused on what I was creating and providing to my market was a game-changer for my wellbeing, my business, and my results.
My marketing is now mostly word of mouth, referrals, return clients and social media – LinkedIn is a powerful tool for communicating my message, providing value and connecting with my market.
What Best Practice/s can you share with our startup readers?
Focus is key, as I shared above.
Do the little things well all the time.
Be thorough and consistent, and because we’re not perfect, manage other people’s expectations. Where you fail or miss delivering on a promise, get in communication immediately with whoever is affected and most times it will be dealt with quickly and easily with no impact on the relationship. Ignoring a problem, a mistake or a misunderstanding will be detrimental to your client relationships.
Take care of yourself along the way. My journey from corporate burnout to holistic wellbeing was an experience that taught me so much about what’s truly important and what actually matters in creating and sustaining our vitality and alignment. My Wellbeing Wheel is a model I developed based on what I learned on that journey, it took me a long time to discover that eating right, exercising and doing all the ‘right things’ isn’t enough to be well. I tried everything from raw food to hot yoga, from reducing my work hours from 14 to 7 hours per day, but I was still missing the most important ingredient. I now have a very different approach to wellness and it sustains me while invigorating my mind, body, and soul every day.
Ensure you have the right people around you. As Robbie Williams sings “find the others with hearts like yours”, and allow the support to lift you up, especially on those challenging days.
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