It's a question we get all the time, so we were very happy to get some perspective on starting a consulting company from Michelle Paquette, a successful entrepreneur from Agoura Hills, California.
Tell me about your current business, Michelle. What are you doing exactly?
At All Ways Consulting, we do business consulting and career advising.
We work with entrepreneurs in the areas of business development and process improvement. Specifically, we focus on self-marketing and promotion through increasing website and online presence, gaining community exposure through volunteer work, professional affiliations, networking organizations, as well as online business networking sites.
With the career advising sector, AWC works with professionals within all industries, including entertainment, financial, health care, legal, to name a few. The AWC clientele are typically going through a career transition or looking for career advancement and are seeking advice with regards to a professional portfolio. Services included are: skills assessment, resume writing, cover letter writing and interviewing strategies. In addition, I am also a Freelance Writer, so I offer professional that skill set, as well.
When did you start the business?
We began in 2006 in this location, although I have been offering my services since 1995.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I began my professional career in publishing as an Editor. I hold a dual BA in Communications and English.
I was part of a start-up venture during the initial dotcom boom in 2001. When that opportunity ended, I decided to go back to school and received a MA in Psychology.
With this degree, I was able to work in a variety of roles, including a College Admissions Counselor, a Therapist, an Organizational Development Director, which all taught me that my niche was helping people find their professional passion.
Where did you get the startup money?
I started with a small amount of money, which I myself saved to start to the company.
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
Life coaches, college counselors, economic development center (state-funded programs). Fortunately, in the area I'm in, which I should mention, I researched extensively prior to starting my company within this region, as there aren't a lot of Business Consultants/Career Advisors. I have a pretty good niche.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
It took longer than I expected to get "into the groove." What I mean by this is that starting a business isn't just about having a firm business plan in place, nor is it about conceptualization and implementation, it is about flexibility.
The original path you anticipate you will take may not work out, as I discovered. I have had to reinvent the wheel, and I believe this is what separates successful business owners from those who don't make it. Many entrepreneurs fold, not because of their lack of motivation or lack of intelligence, but due to their lack of faith.
It takes about 5 years before you reap the fruits of your labor, so stick with it. Believe in yourself, your service and your product. Also, I've realized that what took me 10 steps to do, now can take me 1 step. It's all a learning experience.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Surprisingly, "no." I've learned so much and have gained so much personal and professional insight as a result of the roadblocks I've hit. It has afforded me the opportunity to open doors that may not have been available had I not taken the path I took.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
I educated myself on all aspects of business operation—from accounting to website development to networking.
There are some many parts to the whole. In growing a business, it is like growing a garden. You can't just plant the seeds and expect them to grow with watering and nurturing and sunlight.
Keep that in mind. Your business needs to be tended to, weed out that which no longer serves you, and add more of what does. On a daily basis, do something to grow your business garden.
That's a great analogy, and it's great advice. What other advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Know wholeheartedly that you want to be an entrepreneur. It has quite a few of advantages, but also know that you are supporting yourself, and there can be quite a few monetary stresses that come with that aspect of it.
Be realistic. Also, talk to business owners who are in a similar business to see what advice they can offer. In addition, read articles to gain insight. You can always learn from those who have gone before you.
That's sage advice. Very practical. Thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us, Michelle, and good luck in growing your business.