Undergraduate degree: Check! Masters degree: Check! Experience in corporate America working with business owners: Check! That may sound like the foundation for success when it comes to launching a business, but there's much more to it than that.
Prior to launching my company, Stingray Advisory Group, I worked in banking and finance for over eight years. I had the opportunity to learn, hands-on, about different industries, what made them tick and what helped them to thrive. During this time, I completed my Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a dual major in Business Administration and Computer Technology. I've always been passionate about learning and continuing education, from a traditional collegiate sense as well as through training workshops, reading and personal engagement with people in the field. Because of this, after receiving my bachelor's degree, I thought, "Why stop now?" I decided to obtain my Master of Business Administration with a Strategic Business Management concentration.
When it finally came time for me to wrap up my formal education (after completing a Forensic Accounting certificate program), I knew it was time to re-evaluate where I was and what would be most meaningful to me from a career development perspective. Though I had been with the same organization for years, the long-term trajectory was not in line with my goals, and the corporate culture was not a fit. I knew I needed a change.
What Comes Next?
One day over coffee with one of my mentors, I was asked what I planned to do next. I had a few basic ideas in mind, but nothing concrete and nothing that really excited me. My mentor responded by asking if I'd ever considered opening my own business—and I laughed. When I was in high school, planning for college and meeting with advisors, my goal was to open my own business. That was the purpose of attending college. For some reason, unfortunately, I had become sidetracked and lost sight of what was important to me along the way.
At that point, it was like an epiphany. I knew I could do more with my talents, passion and skill set, but I needed to figure out how to structure it. I'm a firm believer in connecting with others, asking questions and gathering information. After that meeting over coffee, I took time to begin organizing my ideas. If I started a business, what would it look like, who would I serve, what solutions would I offer? From there, I connected with people I trusted to share my thoughts and get their feedback. Based upon the positive responses, I knew I was onto something. In 2013, I launched Stingray Advisory Group.
That was the easy part.
Then, the real work began.
Learning Something New
Every day, it seemed as though I was learning something new. Whether from a blog post, TED talk, networking event or self-instruction, I was gathering all of the information I needed to get my company up and running. I'll admit, it was trying and overwhelming at times. It felt like there should be an easier way to get the information and access the resources I needed. I quickly learned that, as with anything, there isn't always an easy way—and if there is, I probably don't want to take it.
Whether it was accounting, marketing, finding customer relationship management (CRM) software or another core business driver, I had to figure out what options existed and how to implement and sustain them. Learning as I went, building my network and expanding my skill set allowed me to create something that I'm passionate about and incredibly proud of. I personally know and understand the challenges small business owners face trying to get a business off the ground, because I've lived it. Now, I'm able to leverage my network, resources and knowledge for my client's benefit. There's no need for them to struggle like I did. The wealth of information I've gathered and organized along the way is invaluable.
I'm proud to share that Stingray Advisory Group celebrated its three-year anniversary in 2016. Looking back, I'm glad my path led me down this journey of self-discovery, continued learning, and personal and professional development.
I'm still learning every day, creating value for my company and my clients, as a Jane of all trades.
Written by Leandra Williams, owner of Stingray Advisory Group LLC and Co-Owner of Gold Leaf Designs LLC, who has over 12 years of experience in leadership, sales and marketing, and graphic design. Through these organizations, she assists early-stage entrepreneurs and existing businesses with creating strategies for growth through strategic planning, marketing concept development/implementation, branding and financial organization. She is actively involved in the community, sitting on several boards and committees. Contact Leandra Williams by e-mail at [email protected].
Photo courtesy of Elisabeth Marie Photography & Design.