I often hear that most businesses take 3-5 years to get on their feet. Therefore, I spent this final part of the series talking to one of the Top 25 Most Influential Black Women in Business.
Dee C. Marshall is the CEO of Diverse and Engaged who holds the title of certified coach, author, speaker, leadership trainer, and diversity consultant. She largely works with women who are somewhat successful but unhappy, unfulfilled, or in-transition. She helps them love their life and live their dreams by creating the yummy and abundant life.
In the early stages of entrepreneurship, how did you build confidence around branding and marketing, and what were some useful tools that helped you in those areas?
I didn’t intentionally know how to brand and market, and I didn’t start out doing that. The one thing that helped me build my confidence was that I got certified. I invested thousands of dollars into a year-long coaching program. Credentialing helped me build my confidence. When people aren’t comfortable with a title, that might be an indication that there’s room for personal growth and development. Invest in a training or program to help you build a skill.
People should also consider a self-discovery journey. There’s a book by Ilene Segalove [and Paul Velich] called List Your Self that helped me in my self-discovery. Also, spiritual growth helped me build myself up. I spent time in the Word. When I walk in people always say, “Dee has such a presence.” I know that’s a result of my investment and knowing who I am in Christ. A lot of entrepreneurs miss that you have to invest in your craft AND yourself.
I started out reading self-help books. When I could afford it, I went to workshops. When I had more money, I’d go to a conference, and when I got even more, I went to a coach or mastermind. Your personal investment should be more in yourself than you spend on yourself. It should evolve year after year.
The final part of this blog series is about expansion and long term vision. What strategies do you have for expanding (or building) a team, audience, and brand?
One way I’ve expanded my brand is by rebranding my company. I did this because I said I’m intentionally going to step over low hanging fruit to get to my next level. I’m no longer playing small. We are looking at platforms we can collaborate with to bring what we have to offer to a larger audience.
For my team, I’m onboarding people who share my values. I once had an assistant who unintentionally sabotaged my business. There were a lot of mistakes because there wasn’t the same care, and she really didn’t get my vision. She was there to deliver a skill which wasn’t a bad thing, but I need people who believe in what I believe in. I’m hiring geniuses who share values.
In terms of audience, I’ve learned to leverage what I created on a smaller scale to bring that to a larger market. I’m repurposing what I’ve already created like coaching programs and using that in a different capacity, taking it to corporate America. I recently wrote a book, called Dear Black Man We Love You. As a result of that, I got invited to speak. Because of that, I’ve been tapped by corporate America to do workshops. This is what I mean by repurposing my intellectual capital or what I’ve already created.
When you think longevity, how do you balance the grind, self-care, and financially preparing for the future? What are practical steps for success in each of these areas?
I have clear solid boundaries to balance the grind and self-care. I have windows of time where I’m not available. Before or after this time, I don’t respond to texts or calls. I also manage my space and energy. I give a lot, but I love my downtime. Home is my haven.
I now do regular vacations, sabbaticals, and fasting. Before, I wasn’t taking regular vacations; my work is so yummy I get to go so many places, I didn’t realize I wasn’t vacationing. Now I take regular vacations or call timeout and spend a day at the spa when I’m feeling stressed.
In terms of preparing for my financial future, three things:
1. I have inconvenient money. Over and above checkings, savings, and retirement, I have a bank account that I don't have access to, so it’s a process to get something out.
2. I have a financial planner and that really helped me because for a lot of years I was not that responsible.
3. I now own where I buy. When all my friends are out on Black Friday, I’m not and haven’t been for years. Meanwhile they are helping my stock. All of the places I spend money, I own stock. This made me feel so much better because I haven’t always been responsible and I still work at it.
In building your business, what were 2-3 challenges you encountered and how did you overcome them?
Building early on, a challenge was understanding working in the business versus working on the business. I never really understood that, but there’s a book called the The E –Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. He talks about why small business fail and it’s because you start a business doing the work, like baking cookies for example. But, when you get in business, you need to learn how to run a business and most people just keep baking cookies. Early on I had to learn how to work on the business and be the CEO versus working in the business.
Another was making money. Marketing was an issue. I’m still not the best marketer. When I could afford it, I started hiring people. I also invested in a program some years ago, and honestly, when I invested in marketing and a coach that’s when I started making money. The more I invested in myself and the business, the more I made money.
Hiring people. We must get the right support because we can’t do it all. At one point I stopped the business to look for an assistant. I knew I was leaving business on the table as a result of having too many things falling through the cracks.
How can people get in touch with you and what do you have going on or coming up? Final advice?
I have the Abundant Life camp coming up which is a program where I coach and mentor a lot of women who have big thoughts and ideas but are struggling to move out of their own way. It’s for anyone who really wants to master this entrepreneurship thing and all God has for them, or for people whose life is characterized by chaos and clutter and they're living beneath their full potential. Go to abundantlifecamp.com; my team and I will be glad to work with you.
Final advice: Pick up the phone and make 10 business calls every single day. This is a big miss. A mentor of mine who grosses 30 million in revenue told me to do this. Business people pick up the phone.