Tom Kalous

Executive Director of TDK Consulting

Dr. Tom Kalous grew up in Boulder, CO and completed his undergraduate degree in Psychology and Economics at Colorado State University and then received his Master’s degree and his Ph.D. in Psychology from The Ohio State University.

Tom Kalous started his career as a practicing psychologist in Arizona and then moved back to Colorado in the mid-1990’s. Dr. Kalous has always loved teaching and learning and he quickly realized that teaching and consulting were his true passions. So, he became faculty member for the original University of Phoenix Master’s of Counseling Program and later he started conducting psychologically based trainings for the Department of Interior University. That work led him down the path of becoming an Organizational Development Consultant.

Currently located in Westminster, Colorado, Dr. Tom Kalous has been a therapist, teacher, faculty member, entrepreneur, and consultant. He is a long-time faculty member of the National Conservation Leadership Institute alongside faculty from the Harvard Kennedy School for Public Policy and he is a member of the National Faculty for Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Management Assistance Team.

Tom Kalous is currently the Executive Director and Lead Educator for TDK Consulting, LLC. His current clients include the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Shell, and AFWA. He provides consultation, training, and coaching services that help organizations be more productive by creating engaging, emotionally intelligent cultures.

Where did the idea for TDK Consulting come from?

The idea for TDK Consulting came from a conversation I had with a family friend at a holiday gathering. This friend was about to retire from her career as an organizational trainer and she noticed my passion for teaching and training. As a result, she helped me get my career started by connecting me with the DOI University. While I was providing a training on Emotional Intelligence in Washington, DC, the team that was developing the National Conservation Leadership Institute was in the audience and approached me to be a member of their faculty. This invitation, combined with the mentorship of my family friend, led me to start his own consulting business.

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

There really is not a typical day for me, especially in the days of COVID 19. Some days I am online providing one-on-one coaching to leaders around the country, while other days I am conducting trainings on Emotional Intelligence or an Everything DiSC assessment. Other days I am working with clients designing and developing trainings and interventions that will help teams be more productive and satisfied in their work. In order to stay productive, I try to focus on one thing at a time. Every time there is a change in your focus you add 10% to the amount of time it takes to accomplish a task.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’m a very visual person. I bring my ideas to life by mapping things out on whiteboards and using sticky notes that can be easily moved from one part of my idea boards to another. I also work better when collaborating with someone else, so I like to connect with trusted colleagues on a regular basis to discuss ideas and to flesh them out.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I am delighted to see organizations becoming more purpose and people-focused rather than simply profit-driven. Milton Friedman’s idea that stockholders and profits are all that matter has created very toxic work environments and has led to unethical, if not illegal, behavior in many situations. Also, people who have worked in these profit-driven organizations have been over-worked and have not been valued by those organizations. The trend toward putting purpose and employees first is creating some very vibrant and engaged organizations. Ironically, these organizations tend to perform better financially than profit-driven companies do.

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

I make it a habit to do at least one thing that moves my business forward every morning. Whether I am reaching out to an old client to see if they have new challenges that I can help with or I am writing a blog or creating a new workshop. I am always gently, persistently, moving forward.

What advice would you give your younger self?

My advice to my younger self would be do what you love, not what you think will make you money. I have found that when I focus on making money, I never seem to make enough. However, when I am doing what I love, I always seems to have as much money as I need.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

As someone who was trained heavily in the scientific method and believes that decisions should be driven by research findings and data, I do not consider any of my beliefs to be off the beaten path. While some people may not agree with everything I do, I am hard-pressed to find things that I believe that almost no one else would agree with. I do believe that 80% of my most profitable business comes from 20% of my clientele. This being the case, I focus my efforts on those clients who drive my business and will let clients go who do not align with my beliefs or create too much busy work compared to the value they bring to the business.

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

One thing I always do is put relationships and integrity above profit motive. By doing the right thing for my clients, I have forged some very strong connections with business partners. I also genuinely show my appreciation for those customers over and over and goes above and beyond to add value to their businesses. By putting people first, I have developed a strong network of high-quality clients and that loyalty has helped me work through tough economic downturns and unexpected obstacles time and time again. Put relationships first.

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

What helps me grow my business the most is integrity. By staying humble, putting relationships first, and delivering more than I promise, I have seen my business grow through word of mouth. Over 90 percent of my business comes from referrals from happy customers.

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

My biggest failure as an entrepreneur was a company I started in 1999. The company was called HealthCare Connect and its primary focus was to connect people who were seeking mental health services with therapists and psychiatrist using a proprietary software program. Just as the company was about to make it big, the world changed – the Internet exploded, and the era of managed behavioral healthcare started to wane. The company failed, in part, because I was not prepared for those changes. I then made the mistake of bringing on a bad business partner and the business failed. I overcame that loss by redefining myself and returning to the work that I loved – being an educator and consultant. HealthCare Connect became an obsession more than a business opportunity and its demise helped bring joy back to my life.

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

The business idea that I would give away is a ride-sharing system like Uber or Lyft that is aimed solely at helping elderly people become less dependent on their own transportation. The idea came to me while talking to my father who lives in an independent living facility for seniors. My dad willingly gave up his driver’s license when he turned 80. However, most people will not take that step on their own. They need to feel a sense of freedom. While some resources exist for senior transportation, they are too costly, or reservations have to be made too long in advance. Uber and Lyft are a perfect solution, but seniors do not use smart phones the way younger generations do. So, a service that allows the staff in senior living centers to summon affordable rides for their residents is a big opportunity.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best $100 I have spent recently is on a high-quality microphone and camera for my laptop. The world has shifted to online meetings and the majority of my time is spent online these days. I facilitate webinars, conducts meetings, and provide executive coaching via the internet, so having high quality audio and visual equipment is a must in this era.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Because my work has moved online almost exclusively, I have purchased licenses for two web services that now power my consultancy. I purchased a Zoom license because it is the best online meeting platform available for my webinars and online meetings and I have purchased a license for SurveyMonkey to help me track surveys my webinar participants complete and track their satisfaction with my services.

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

I highly recommend “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek. This book helps businesspeople break out of the trap of thinking about short term goals and “winning” in business. There are no winners or losers in business. Instead, some businesses like Costco and Southwest Airlines, realize the goal is to stay in business while taking care of their employees. This book helps leaders and managers shed the idea that short-sided, win-lose strategies are good for business and helps them adopt a longer-term, purpose-driven motive for continuing to “play the game”.

What is your favorite quote?

“It doesn’t pay to argue with a fool – a bystander can’t tell the difference”. I have found this quote quite helpful in the days of social media, COVID, and the vast amounts of half-truths and blatant misinformation that circulates online.

Key Learnings:

• Healthy relationships are the key to success.
• There is no substitute for integrity.
• Business is an infinite game, not a finite one.
• Life is simple, but it’s not easy.