Sumi Krishnan – Owner of K4 Solutions

It can be summed up in the following quote, widely attributed to Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”

Sumi Krishnan started K4 Solutions in 2001 at age 19. K4 Solutions offers information technology and management services to the federal government. K4 Solutions has worked with agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense.

Since its inception, K4 Solutions has grown into a thriving $20M enterprise with over 200 employees. Sumi is currently focused on continuing to build K4 Solutions’ joyful culture and is in the process of launching a new coaching program that spreads the message of authenticity, joy, and purpose in our work. She has been named to The Washingtonian’s list of “Women to Watch,” as well as Inc.’s “30 Under 30.”

Where did the idea for the “It is TIME: Make Your Impact Effortlessly” program come from?

It took me a while to realize that it is possible to make a meaningful impact on the world and do so effortlessly. I started K4 Solutions at age 19, and I had to compete in a business where most people were at least 20 years older than me. I learned to quickly adapt and engage in an “appropriate” manner and speak and carry myself confidently. People started to trust me. We became very successful as a company. However, I didn’t consider myself a success at all.

I grappled with feelings of anxiety, stress, and discontent for not living a life aligned with who I was.

I thought the harder I worked, the more I proved my worth. I thought that the faster we grew as a company, the more successful I would be. I was so wrong.

I now know better, and as Maya Angelou has said, “When you know better, you do better.”

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I start with a morning ritual in which I center myself before moving into my “creative” time. My creative time is time when I’m actively producing something: writing content, brainstorming solutions or ideas, planning programs, and the like. I usually have a fresh vegetable juice around lunchtime, which gives me an afternoon boost. I try to schedule most of my meetings and collaborations with others for the afternoons, and my evenings are reserved for CrossFit, personal time, or time with family and friends. Sometimes I do end up working until 9 or 10 at night, but I love what I do, so I still am energized by it.

As far as productivity, it’s extremely important to plan and prioritize my days the day before. Any time I try to “wing it,” even if I have a to-do list, I end up distracted or get sucked into the “screen vacuum” of my computer. There are a few keys here:

1) Make sure to schedule meaningful and joyful activities, like spending time with family, getting massages, exercising, and doing creative activities. For me, this includes songwriting, singing, laughing with friends, and reading inspiring articles or watching inspiring videos.

2) Allow yourself to spend enough time planning and “calendaring” beforehand — and then allow yourself to fully dive into what you have planned for yourself without second-guessing it!

3) Start with a morning ritual. I can’t overemphasize how my life changed completely once I started implementing this with discipline. I start my day with three or four hours to center myself and begin in peace. For me, this includes sipping coffee, reading, meditating, journaling, and yoga.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I think it’s important to get up and do something active, not be stuck behind our laptops (even if at the local café). Allow the brilliance to soak into you while doing other activities. I also collaborate with people smarter than me and have a support team that’s fabulously attentive to the administrative details. When I didn’t, I’d end up bogged down in administration, and it would take so much longer to get ideas off the ground. Hiring excellent support is totally worth it.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

It can be summed up in the following quote, widely attributed to Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”

The trend of people acting on purpose in their careers and aligning with their deepest desires is going to create the greatest shift in the amount of joy we feel as a nation. We’ll also see huge gains in productivity, innovation, and creativity as a result.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

CrossFit has become an (almost) daily routine of getting physical, training for something, and letting the stress work itself out. Also, if I can add another, turning off email and social media while working and not letting myself “multitask” has been huge.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

All my jobs taught me something about myself, the workplace, society, and culture. All contributed in a meaningful way to where I am now. As an engineer in college, I interned at Road Runner and worked with a bunch of engineers on hardware networking. Suffice it to say, I learned very quickly that that was not my zone of genius, and I needed to go and discover what was!

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Really, I can only point to changing my mental attitude during the experiences I have had. I would tell myself to stop trying to fit in and, instead, bring more of my true self. I’d know that my true power lies when and where I bring all parts of me to any given situation.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I’m constantly curious. I love understanding why people do what they do and why things are a certain way. Striking up conversations with people outside my comfort zone and constantly learning about different subjects are key. Also, I suggest carrying a phone recorder or a small pen and paper at all times to jot down any idea that comes to you. You never know at the moment how genius that idea may or may not be.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Honestly, knowing that anything and everything is possible with a little persistence has been incredibly valuable. I’ve always acted as if I knew that what I was working on was going to be a success. I’ve held my vision close, put together a map or strategy for how to get there, and started executing.

The act of continuing to execute on all aspects of your plan (to continue walking across your bridge) and not getting dragged down any rabbit holes of fear or surprise along the way is a surefire road to success.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?

One failure was in not being comfortable in my own skin and feeling like I constantly had something to prove. This left me anxious, unhappy, and stressed. Once I realized I could bring my whole self to the table, it changed the game.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’d love to see a micro dating and social app for CrossFitters globally!

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

This is a random memory because it’s snowing out now. In high school, my best friend and I had a crush on the same guy for about a year. During the big snowstorm of 1996, I remember walking in a few feet of snow to the school parking lot one day and spending hours finding and digging out his parking spot — ha!

What tools or apps do you use to help you with productivity?

There is a Google Chrome extension called StayFocusd that enables you to set controls on how long you can spend surfing the Internet and particular websites. It’s really helpful for limiting email and social media time.

As far as calendars, I use iCal for all my calendaring, and it’s the only electronic calendar that I’ve found to be lightweight and pretty enough to make me actually want to use it.

I also use my iPhone timer to set focus time. When starting a particular piece of work, I’ll pick an appropriate amount of focus time, set it, and get going. Knowing that a clock is counting down in the background is good motivation.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’d recommend “Leveraging the Universe” by Mike Dooley. He lays out a simple process for getting anything you want in life. You just have to decide.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Marie Forleo’s mission is to help people design the lives and businesses of their dreams. Her weekly free video blogs (spiced up by her unique, quirky personality) offer insight into living a better life including productivity, presence, entrepreneurship, and building the business of your dreams. It’s inspiring and actionable!

Seth Godin is one of the pioneers and leading gurus of online marketing. His daily blogs are packed full of wisdom and insight. He tells it like it is — no BS.

Vani Hari, aka Food Babe, is on a mission to educate the general public on what is actually in our food to transform the food industry. Her research and subsequent grassroots following has already caused many large corporations to change their modes of operation (including companies like Kraft, Subway, and Chick-fil-A). She provides free information that helps each of us avoid the crap and make better food decisions.


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