If I were to start again I would save for two future events, my retirement and my entrepreneurship. In my career I saved for my retirement, took care of my obligations and spent the rest. Had I known that I would be embarking on an entrepreneurial venture I would have saved an amount equal to my retirement that I could use to start a new business or two.
Antoinette Forth, entrepreneur, mentor and strategic advisor, is the co-founder of Walkabout Collaborative LLC a private talent cloud for executive independent workers and management consulting firm preparing mid-size companies to scale. Determined to remain on the cutting-edge and refusing to accept the status quo, Antoinette thrives on challenges that focus on process improvement, problem-solving and finding solutions for underserved market segments.
Her passion for collaboration allows her to transform the typical supplier-client relationships into lifelong, productive and valued partnerships. During her career she attained a 90%+ client retention rate as a result of her inexhaustible initiatives that strengthened relationships through transparent contract negotiations and account governance.
Antoinette has over 25 years of corporate sales leadership experience in business process outsourcing (BPO) and customer relationship management (CRM); and a solid 8-year track record as a successful independent consultant. Throughout her career, she has acted as a trusted advisor helping clients deal with business issues such as competitive pressures, changes in consumer loyalty, entry of new communication channels, a stringent regulatory environment and process improvement/cost reduction. Most recently she has been a mentor to a number of people making the transition from full-time professional careers to independent workers, giving them step-by-step guidance and tools to find their niche and build their practices.
As the President and Chief Operating Officer of Walkabout Collaborative, Antoinette helps independent executive contingent workers and management consultants navigate the complexities of the “future of work” which is here today. You can learn more about her company at walkaboutco.com You can follow Antoinette on Twitter @Anton4th and @WalkaboutCo. She generously shares her network with people who have something of value to offer the community via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/antonforth.
Where did the idea for Walkabout Collaborative come from?
The idea for Walkabout Collaborative came from two related trends. First, during my 8 years as an independent consulting I had more and more colleagues coming to me for help in starting their own consulting businesses to help them create the life they wanted. Next, in studying the future of work, it became apparent that businesses were going to increasingly rely on contingent labor for a variety of higher-level, professional assignments. I discovered that the traditional freelance segment of contingent workers was well supported by a variety of private talent cloud platforms such as e-lance and freelancer.com. These platforms do a great job supporting freelance talent who work on short-term, creative or manual labor transactions. My colleagues were executives and professionals looking to break into the management consulting business. I found that this segment was underserved by the existing private talent cloud platforms. I set out to create a solution that would help professionals and executives start and build successful independent management consulting practices and drive relevant assignments to participating consultants. Once the idea crystallized, my partner and I created a community that has collaboration and trust as its foundation. As far as we know, we are one of only two talent marketplaces that focus on the professional and executive talent side of the growing contingent labor force. And, we are the only marketplace that has tools and training to help professionals, executives and corporate consultants make the transition to become 21st century independent management consultants.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make a productive?
There are so many things that compete for my attention I need to be very diligent and focused in my priorities to have a productive day. I start my day by reviewing my calendar for the day. After trying to synch a multitude of calendars and software I settled on keeping my calendar in Google Calendar which makes integration to various software programs very easy and gives me immediate access to my calendar virtually everywhere. I am also somewhat old school so I keep an 18-month physical calendar as well. It helps me visualize what my next few days, weeks and months look like so I can better plan my time. I plan my days in advance and really try to stick to my calendar. Early morning hours are used to review and prepare for my appointments and respond to emails and social media. My peak hours from about 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. are used for talking to clients and consultants. I am a coach’s coach so I spend a lot of my day helping people solve problems and win new business. Afternoons are used to follow-up on commitments I made throughout the day so I don’t have outstanding tasks that carry over to the next day. I work primarily from a home office, which can be very distracting. In order to stay focused on my work, I set aside 10 minutes every hour to get out of my office for a working break. During these breaks I can start a load of laundry, do a little gardening and other household chores that help me stay on top of my home commitments and give me a good break every hour to refresh and clear my mind.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I love to start by creating a piece of marketing material for my idea. It may sound like I am putting the cart before the horse, but I think it is very helpful to visualize your idea in its most perfect form before you get started. I quickly write some copy that addresses my target market, high level features and benefits, pricing and such. I then design a one-page flyer or a web page with pictures, content and a call to action. I keep this marketing piece front and center as I develop the idea. In the end, what I create may be completely different from the product I envisioned, but it will certainly solve for the original need that I identified.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The trend that excites me the most is the transition to contingent labor, especially in the executive and professional ranks. I think it is very exciting to work on different projects, with different people throughout the year. I think this trend creates a great opportunity for companies who can support this unique labor force by providing a sense of community and belonging. We need to think about how to recreate the support structure typically provided by an employer. That is pretty exciting.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I constantly ask myself “so what?” when I am looking at a solution. This habit helps me critically look at the importance of something and prioritize accordingly. An entrepreneur needs to prioritize very quickly, almost like sorting beans on an assembly line. We need to decide what is unimportant and learn how to ignore it (at least for now). I always remember the parking lot rule from meeting facilitation 101, “If it is not important and immediately relevant, park it for future discussion.”
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I ever had was a position where I had the responsibility without the authority. I got into this situation by hoping that the position would be awesome. I did not perform critical due diligence and that ended up being my downfall. I took information at face value without asking the deep and difficult questions that sometimes need to be asked. I learned that no matter how exciting and interesting something appears, look deeper to see if it is real or fiction. Ask questions, talk to people. That is what I learned.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
This is an easy question. If I were to start again I would save for two future events, my retirement and my entrepreneurship. In my career I saved for my retirement, took care of my obligations and spent the rest. Had I known that I would be embarking on an entrepreneurial venture I would have saved an amount equal to my retirement that I could use to start a new business or two.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I have a practice that I learned from a training course years ago (Action Selling). It is the habit of having a commitment objective for every interaction that I have. This means that for every phone call, meeting, conference call, and tradeshow interaction or planned conversation I have, I already thought through exactly what I want to accomplish and what I want the other person to commit to. At the end of the conversation do I want the person to recommend me to someone, refer me to someone, and agree to meet with me to hear a proposal? Believe it or not, many people still leave the outcome up to chance. You can waste a lot of time and energy for both you and the other person by not planning ahead and having a commitment objective. Commitment objectives move you from one milestone to the next.
What is one strategy that is helping you grow your business? Please explain how.
The one strategy that is growing our business is networking. I think people make networking more complex than it should be. It’s very simple, give and get. Everyone should attend a speed networking event to learn how you can effectively “cut to the chase” in your networking conversations. In the end it’s how you can be memorable and of service. If you are sincere in your desire to be of service, you don’t need to be afraid to ask for support. Get good at networking. It’s the key to business growth.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I don’t really consider any of the outcomes that I’ve had as failures. All outcomes are an opportunity to learn and make your solution better. In general, I have a habit of creating very complex solutions. You could consider this a failure in that the product that eventually ships is a much simpler version of what I originally created. While it is one of the most difficult things to do for me and other entrepreneurs, I address the complexity by listening to feedback. We have to be 100% open to listening to critiques of our solutions. We also need to honestly assess the critique and decide what to hear and what to ignore. Being open to criticism, and not defensive, is the only way to overcome failures. Learn from them.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Creating an office solution for independent workers that is a midway point between the affordability and collaboration spirit of a co-working space with the services and privacy of fully-furnished office spaces such as Regus. I’d sign up right away and encourage my consultants and clients to do so as well.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I’ve recently spent is for a subscription to Dollar Photo Club for royalty free photos. Each photo is $1.00. People are very visual and using photos are a great way to get attention or reinforce your message. The ability to use these photos royalty and attribution free makes using them very simple. It’s quite a deal.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I use Survey Monkey quite a bit in my work. I don’t think we can ever know too much about an issue or trend. One of the best ways to uncover new information is to survey other people and other experts. Survey Monkey is easy to use and very professional. It’s a great way to talk to people. People love to give their opinion. I also use Canva all the time for basic design work. I love Canva because its templates are perfect for any use. It is also very easy to use. Canva is a great tool for the independent worker or small business. I also use Google Alerts as an easy way to stay on top of clients and industry trends. I love that alerts are delivered right to my email on a daily basis. I couldn’t live without SnagIt by TechSmith. It is the perfect screen clipping tool.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I think “The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You” by Eli Pariser is a very important book. It talks about personalization on the Internet and how the algorithms used by content providers and aggregators filter the messages we see and hear. He speaks to the loss of serendipity and how these filters can reduce our desire to learn by not exposing us to new ideas. I think it is personally important to recognize this as you use the Internet as a tool in your life. But, I also think it is a must read for anyone who is marketing via social media. This book provides the secrets as to why your social media efforts may or may not be working.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Walkabout Collaborative on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Walkaboutcollaborative
Walkabout Collaborative on Twitter: @walkaboutco
Walkabout Collaborative on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/rt-enterprises-of-ny-llc
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