Kendra Prospero is the CEO and Founder of Turning the Corner, a recruiting and career coaching business that wants everyone to love their job. She has successfully built this company through three pregnancies, with no outside financial help, has a staff of 9 people, and she works part-time.
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Worst Entrepreneur Moment
- Kendra had a child, hired someone to help her fledgling biz, and months later COMPLETELY ran out of $$. Listen to her lessons learned, Fire Nation… they could save you!
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- K.I.S.S. – You have no idea how badly your multi-tasking is sabotaging you.
Small Business Resource
- Appointment core: Software Application to Automate Your Infusionsoft Appointments.
Best Business Book
- Traction by Gino Wickman
- Turning the Corner: A recruiting and career coaching business that wants everyone to love their jobs.
Kendra: I am!
John: Kendra is the CEO and Founder of Turning the Corner, a recruiting and career coaching business that wants everyone to love their jobs. She successfully built this company through three pregnancies with no outside financial help, has a staff of nine people, and works part time. Kendra take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro, and give of us a little glimpse in your personal life.
Kendra: All right. Believe it or not, I’ve actually been in this business since – Well, I would say almost since I was a kid in a way. When I was a kid I was more interested in what my parent’s friends did for a living than pretty much anything else. To the point where I was sort of shooed out of the door by my parents like, “Just get out of here, and go do normal kid things.” I have just this natural knack for understanding what people do and their strengths. Of course, because of this innate gift I have, I pursued a degree in Computer Information Systems. It makes perfect sense, right?
Kendra: No. Actually, I went to school and I pursued something completely outside my realm. I didn’t realize I really even had this gift, and so I graduated in the middle of the dot com, Y2K boom. I had 13 offers from companies. The choice was mine, and I ended up going with IBM.
I went and worked for IBM for a number of years, 12 years, as basically a software engineer. I worked my way around the company for sure, but one of the things I definitely was acutely aware of was two things, really. One was that I didn’t really like my job, and the second thing was that what I loved doing was mentoring our new employees that came in. Finally, after years and years of this a good friend and colleague sat me down and said, “Girlfriend, you’ve gotta do this for a living. No more of this software engineering thing.”
I kind of ignored her, and what I would hear – Because I had heard this feedback before, but I would hear is, “You ought to be a recruiter.”
And I was like, “Recruiters? I don’t know about that.” Anyway, at one point I actually ended up hiring a recruiter to help me fill a job for a department I was running, and it was a horrible experience, John. I was just shocked at how they just sort of threw people at me. They didn’t take any time to really understand my needs, and what I needed in the organization from personality, skillset perspective. I think this is when I really perked up and realized that I have a gift for seeing people’s strengths, and helping them turn that into a job.
Fast forward a few years, and I got pregnant and had a baby, and decided I was gonna be a stay at home mom. About nine months into that I went crazy because I need to work, and I like working. I luckily got a call back from IBM and went back part time at 17 hours a week. I was doing something completely different. I was actually building a leadership development program, and realized I was kicking butt at my 17 hours a week, and putting in an amazing effort that was resulting in about the same output as I was getting when I was a full time employee.
Anyway, all of this kind of came together where in 2011 I decided to open my business, Turning the Corner, to transform the recruiting industry to help people love their jobs. Now, over the years it’s become more of career counseling. We help with resume writing. We help with helping people figure out what it is that they’re totally destined for, and we also work with companies now to fill that gap that I saw missing in the recruiting business.
It’s been fabulous. We have grown very rapidly. We’ve had double digit growth in both revenue as well as staff since then. It’s just a very exciting time.
John: Fire Nation, you can turn this interview off right now, and you’ve already taken away so many value bombs. I mean, how many of us have gone away from what we were just meant to be? I mean, it was so obvious as a kid what Kendra was meant to be, and she walked away from it. She left that dream, just that natural gift that she had. How many of us have done that, and go back to that? I mean, it’s there for you. Number two, keep your eyes open. Keep your eyes and your ears open.
Everyday you’re experiencing things in life, and like Kendra, when she said, “This is a horrible experience. I can’t believe that this recruiter’s doing such a bad job.” That’s a huge opportunity.
Like Gandhi says, “Be that change you wish to see in the world.” Now Kendra, Fire Nation, we are entrepreneurs. We are looking to build viable businesses ourselves, so break it down for us. How specifically do you make revenue today?
Kendra: We make revenue in basically two areas. We work with job seekers who are stuck in their job search. We have a very simple formula that we listen for when we’re talking to job seekers, and you give me five minutes of your time, and I can tell you exactly what’s not working in your job search. Then we have solutions to help the job search so that it’s accelerated.
We also then work with companies to really transform the way they’re treating their employees, and the way that they think about work. This is where we make most of our revenue. There’s been a lot of statistics that have come out in the last, really, two years. Matter of fact I think, John, 20 million people have been individually surveyed, and get this statistic – You’ve probably heard this, but 75 percent of people, so one out of four, are self-reporting that they hate their job.
John: Wow. That’s a strong word.
Kendra: Yes, and that’s their own word. That is not Kendra’s word. I mean, they are self-reporting that they hate their job. What that really boils down to as an entrepreneur and as a business owner, is that you’ve got a full chunk of people who are not engaged in their work. The reason that they’re not engaged comes down to that they’re not happy in their job. When you’re not happy in your job you’re just not going to give it your all. You’re not going to be excited about looking for errors. You’re not going to be pumped up about trying to figure out how to reduce costs.
When you’ve got somebody who’s wired for the job, and they’re fired up for it, they are on the lookout for those things, so that’s what you want. What makes that employee that way is this, it’s a simple formula. They need to be doing what they are wired to do. Now, too often we look at people’s skills, like I was a software engineer. I knew COBOL, woopty doo. That was my skill, so I got put into a job doing that skill, but that’s not how I’m hardwired. I’m hardwired to do this, to inspire, to lead, to help, to help change the way people think about work. That is my why. That is my cause. Now I am doing what I truly have got strengths in, which wasn’t really highly detailed work like programming.
The second thing that makes people then fired up for the work that they do is that then the job itself, actually needs their values. John because of the work that we do as career counselors which by the way, we’ve worked with over 1,000 people in that capacity. One of the questions we ask every job seeker we work with is, “What do you need out of a job?” Here’s the crazy thing, you’d think you’d get just this whole huge variety of answers, but we hear the same 20 things over and over. You, John, you have your own probably four to six things that you need. I have my own four to six, but it comes from this sort of deck of cards of the 20 that we hear over and over.
When you as an employer can then also provide people with, who are not doing what they’re not naturally wired to do, and they are now getting what they need out of a job – It might be flexibility. It might believe in the mission of the company. It might know that you’re making a difference. It might be working alone, working with people. Everybody has their own thing, but if you can provide that to your employees, and they’re doing what they’re meant to do, than you are going to get to about 90 percent engagement. That remaining 10 percent are deal breakers, and those are the things that will ultimately always make people leave a job. Can you guess what some of the deal breakers are?
John: Not being able to share their thoughts and ideas?
Kendra: That’s more like their values. A deal breaker is like they’re not making enough money to make ends meet or they’ve got a really long commute and they actually hate driving, or they need to have a little bit more of that flexibility to be home for their kids or for their elderly parents, or whatever it might be. Those are gonna be the things that no matter how great the job is, if people are loving the work, they’re getting what they need, if those deal breakers are there they’re gonna leave that job or they’re not gonna be fired up.
We come in and help companies really work on those three things. “How do you make sure you’ve got the right people on the right seat on the bus?” to quote Jim Collins from Good to Great. How do you make sure you are managing them in such a way that you’re able to give them most of what they need. It’s not hard to give them what they need, for the most part. Finally, making sure that when you’re interviewing them and when you’re vetting them out, you are also really careful about understanding what they’re deal breakers are. When you do that, you have a fired up workforce. Now, there’s more to it than that, but that’s basically it in a nutshell.
John: Wow. I mean, Fire Nation, this is just mind blowing information right here. You need to step back and ask yourself, what are you hardwired to do? Look at the core. It might take a little exploring because you might have buried it a long time ago, but you won’t truly thrive until you follow that hardwire that’s within you. It’s just a reality. It took me 32 years. Some people it takes 50. Some people it takes 10, it’s just different, but give yourself that opportunity.
Now, Kendra, you’re obviously passionate about what you do, and you’re just excited about it. You can hear it in your voice, but I want you to tell us a story right now. That story’s gonna be what you consider your worst entrepreneurial moment. Take us to that moment in time, and tell us that story.
Kendra: I have to take deep breaths because it actually is like a form of almost post traumatic stress.
John: I hear you.
Kendra: I don’t mean to neglect people who truly have that. I mean, not neglect, negate people who are truly going through that, but my worst experience will still make me wakeup in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. What happened is after I opened Turning the Corner, I was on the quest to sort of understand how I was making money, and what was repeatable. I figured once I had that formula down of I can repeat this success, and it’s something I understand, than it was time to really start thinking about growing.
I discovered that in 2012, so just a little over a year after I had opened up. I had great revenue actually for the first year of being open, considering that I was solopreneur. One of my gifts and one of the things I’ve always wanted is – Not always wanted, but always want to do and manage to get myself into, is I love leading people. I love leading a team, and here I am all by myself as a solopreneur. I mean, solo was in the word of what I was doing, so I wanted to get out of that mode. I wanted to hire some help, but I knew I couldn’t do it until I could figure out how to make enough money to make it work, and that it was gonna be consistent.
Anyway, I solved that problem and I saw what it was I needed to do, and I hired a couple employees, and then just got on this trajectory of starting to really grow. I continued to do very well. In 2013, I was pregnant again and had a baby, a little boy. He’s now 2. Two weeks postpartum a guy approached me and said, “Hey, I think I would be a really good fit for your team. I’d like to come work for you.” His salary requirements were a lot bigger than what I really could afford. I knew that, but I was also postpartum, and I wasn’t do as much marketing, which I also was worried about because – I didn’t have the money, but I didn’t have the production either, but I needed the help, and that was one of the things he was gonna do.
Anyway, needless to say, the net of it is by November I was totally out of money. I mean, like totally out of money. I had hundreds of dollars left in my bank account. I have this very strong principal that I will not borrow money at all unless I absolutely know I can pay it back, but John, I didn’t even have any clients. It wasn’t just a cash flow crunch, it was like no cash. I just laid on the floor, and like any decent entrepreneur I balled like a baby in the fetal position.
I suddenly had a staff of six people that I had to think about laying off because I did not have any cash, and I didn’t even have prospects coming in. It was heartbreaking, and I just dwelled on it for so many days it’s like imbedded in my cells now. It was pretty, pretty icky.
John: Let’s kind of talk about this for a second. Not to continue to hover here on this difficult time, but just to identify what wrong. What went wrong from that point? Looking back, and wanting for you to share with Fire Nation how they could avoid potentially going through this. Because we all have these moments in our lives where we’re stepping back from the business, and we’re putting more on other people. What do you wanna share with our listeners?
Kendra: There are two things that have happened in my life that I could never have appreciated until I had gone through it. One is having children. It truly is an amazing, incredible experience. Everybody says it rocks your life and you go, “Yeah, whatever.” But then when you have them you’re like, “Wow. This is rocking my life.” Then the second thing that I could never appreciate until I had to go through it is making payroll.
You talk about how important making cash is, and cash flow in a business, but it is truly a remarkable experience to get to a point of really getting your arms around your cash flow, your projections, your performance, essentially, and then when you are going to hit those cash flow crunches. I knew as I had my son in June that I was gonna go through a bit of a cash flow crunch because I had projected it out, but because I also brought on this employee, who ended up ultimately not producing anything, I just drained the bank account too quickly.
I think the big lesson is this, is that you’re gonna go through it. I think right around this same time I saw a 60 Minutes interview with Elon Musk, the SpaceX, Tesla guy, and he was talking about cash flow crunches. I thought, “Holy cow! If Elon Musk is gonna go through this, of course Kendra Prospero is!” Yeah, I think you just have to sort of embrace it, and sort of figure out how to weather the storm. That was my big lesson.
The ah ha moment through this for me, if I can just kind of share that a little bit, was that I was dwelling so much on the fact that I was gonna have to do these layoffs, and I was gonna have to let people go, that I couldn’t think about any other solutions. When I finally made the decision that I was going to just have to lay off my staff and I just let it go, my brain freed up to actually start thinking about other things. I was spending so much of my time and effort just dwelling on this negative that I couldn’t come up with a solution. Believe or not, John, the next day I closed a huge contract.
Kendra: It was enough of a contract that I could weather the storm for a few months, and I had enough faith in myself that I borrowed money then. I borrowed some money from friends and family. I did that typical bootstrapping activity. I mean, I knew that I was going to able to pay them back, and so I made it through, and I didn’t have to lay anybody off, so there was a really good side to the story.
John: Fire nation, I really hope you just understand what this ah ha moment is. You hear me talk all the time on this show about focus, about following one course until success. Not all these little courses that are gonna distract you, and number two, KISS. Keep it super simple. Because Kendra had all these things going on, she didn’t have the mind space, the headspace to actually do what she needed to do, which was prospecting, bringing in clients, generating revenue so she could make that payroll. Focus and KISS, Fire Nation, and keep those acronyms near and dear to your heart. Kendra, what’s your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Kendra: My biggest weakness? I think I question myself too much. I know deep in my soul what I’m doing now is what I’m destined to do. I have for my entire life known that I wanna transform the way people think about work, and the way that they think about themselves with work. Yet, I still sometimes will wake up and be like, “What am I doing?” I think I just question myself too much.
John: Yeah, but at the same time it’s called being a human being. That will never go away. Kendra, what’s your biggest strength?
Kendra: Well, I think my biggest strength is I believe in people. I have worked with – Between my IBM experience and now working with Turning the Corner, I think I’ve worked with just thousands of people. I have never met somebody that I didn’t believe in. I just can – You give me 10 minutes of your time, and I can just see your strengths. I believe that we are all here, and that we all have a gift to give this world. I just believe that everybody is perfect the way that they are. They just may not be perfect for a job, or a job may not be perfect for them.
I think that’s one of my biggest strengths because I’ve built a great team around me. I think embracing what you’re strengths are, and not focusing on what your weaknesses are gives you a chance to be really human. I will very openly tell my team I am not great with detail. Everybody knows I’m not great with detail. Nobody dwells on it, and nobody criticizes me for it. They just work with me, so everyone on my staff is great with detail because they know I’m not good at it. It just makes it a lot easier in that we are able to really embrace our strengths, and then also embrace our weakness, which nobody’s really doing right now.
John: Do you believe in Fire Nation?
Kendra: Of course I do. That’s why I’m here.
John: Can you tell us?
Kendra: I believe in you. I believe that whatever you are struggling with right now is something that you can overcome with the right help, so get that help for sure. Because sometimes you just need to be pointed in the right direction, and I think Fire Nation is an amazing way to just continue to get that help on a daily basis.
John: I just got goosebumps. I could feel just the genuiness and the honesty in your voice, Kendra. This is an example, Fire Nation, of someone who cares so much about what she does, and she’s found what she’s hardwired to do. Kendra, what’s the one thing that you are most fired up about right now?
Kendra: I was able to be a keynote speaker this last March, May at one of our events here in Colorado. What was amazing about it is that I was in front about, I don’t know, 450 to 500 business owners here in the area, and we got a lot of business out of it. We have been able to really start transforming the way people think about their work. I’m really fired up right now about the impact we’re having on other CEOs and managers who are seeing and hearing what we’re talking about in terms of people. Getting people doing what they are meant to do. Getting them what they need from a job, and then making sure their lifestyle is being met as well.
I’m just so excited because I think it’s gonna be through the CEOs that we’re gonna be able to make a bigger impact. Working one on one with people is another thing we love to do and we’re really good at, but to be able to impact an entire department is gonna get that momentum to really start transforming the way people think about work.
John: Fire Nation, we’re gonna continue to get you hardwired in the lightening round, but first let’s thank our sponsors. Kendra, are you prepared for the lightening rounds?
Kendra: Yes, I am.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Kendra: Probably the vision. Just not really seeing what it was that I could do to really make a difference.
John: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Kendra: I think the best advice was that letting go of that one thing you’re being myopic about. When I was so focused on laying people off, and then I finally just decided that I was gonna do it, it freed my brain up. You have to remember your brain can really only do one thing at a time, so you’ve gotta let go of whatever that is that might be consuming your brain, so you can actually think about other things.
John: No such thing as multitasking, Fire Nation; one thing at a time. What’s a personal habit, Kendra that contributes to your success?
Kendra: I embrace my weaknesses. I am not great at detail, like I said, and I’m also totally not afraid to admit it. I think that’s my one thing, is that I just own it. I own my weaknesses. One of the things, luckily, I’m good at is I’m good a delegating, so where I’m not good I just delegate it out.
John: Do you have an internet resource like Evernote that you can share with our listeners?
Kendra: I don’t know if it’s so much of an internet resource, but one thing that’s completely transformed my schedule is Appointment Core. I don’t know if that’s kind of where you’re – if that qualifies.
John: Yeah, totally.
Kendra: Appointment Core is a nice system where you can kind of integrate it in with your calendar, and then you can send a link to anybody who wants to get together with you, and then they can figure out what fits on their calendar with yours. It’s just very seamless in terms of its integration. It’s extremely affordable, and they just do a really good job.
John: If you could recommend one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Kendra: Probably my most recent favorite book is Traction by Gina Wickman. It’s just a great book for getting out of that mode of feeling like you have to do everything in your business, but you actually kind of get in the mode of running your business.
John: Well Fire Nation, I know you love audio, so I teamed up with Audible, and if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audiobook for free at eofirebook.com. Kendra, this is the last question of the lightning round, but it’s a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next seven days?
Kendra: I think I’m a problem solver. Like I said, the recruiting industry seemed like it was all messed up. Probably what I would do is just start meeting with people. I have this knack for kind of bringing out their problems, and so I’d probably start talking to them about things that they do not like in their situation and their life, and then I start seeing patterns. Then I think I’m also – well, you kind of have to be as an entrepreneur. I’m pretty good at sales, and so I know I probably would sell them on some kind of solution to their problem. I’d probably spend the $500 hiring someone to help me get it done.
John: Fire Nation, it’s all about the relationships, connecting with the right people. Kendra, I wanna end on fire with you sharing a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Kendra: The best way is to go to TurningtheCornerllc.com.
John: And a parting piece of guidance?
Kendra: You can weather the storm. If you are gonna start a business or you’re running a business there will be tough days, but when you have that right vision for what you wanna do, and you’re doing what you’re meant to do, you will get through it.
John: Fire Nation, you the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you’ve been hanging out with KP and JLD today, so keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com. Just type Kendra in the search bar, her show notes page will pop right up. Kendra, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today, and for that we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Kendra: Thank you.
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