History of Firm
“A woman-owned consulting business in Vermont won’t last a year,” was the common response received when I decided to open the doors of New Directions Consulting over 25 years ago. Our Silver Anniversary was quite a milestone – especially when some predicted it wouldn’t last a year. How did this small business, ran by a woman in an era when women had just begun to scratch the glass ceiling, develop and grow over the years? Our story is an underdog story; one created out of the shear grit and tenacity of a woman wanting to do better. Our story was formed through countless trials; stretching both the business and me to reach new heights and new directions. Our story was supported by the many employees that walked through the doors of New Directions looking to be part of something bigger, staff that understood the sum of New Directions was great than its individual parts, that we were all part of the same team.
Our story began in 1984, when I left my employer declaring, “I’d rather dig a ditch then work here one more day.” It sure sounded bold and determined at the time. I find that when you are truly determined and passionate about something you should do it by diving in head first. The nah-saying of a women-owned business had only started an unquenchable and stubborn fire in my belly to prove that we would succeed, that there was a place for business-women in the world and it was at the same table as everyone else.
In The Beginning
In the beginning, it was really a matter of ‘scrapping’ together whatever work I could find: helping one business with the hiring process, meanwhile being the development office for a college and a ghost-writer for its president, and teaching 3 college courses on two topics I knew little about. I worked out of my spare bedroom and rented a typewriter once a week to do all my correspondence.
In order to discipline myself to go to work in the spare bedroom, I would dress up every morning in complete professional attire, march into my bedroom, close the door and begin to work.
About this time, a friend offered me some work as a trainer for Exxon and AT&T. Scared, but determined, I’d fly to New Jersey, catch a cab, stay in a hotel and deliver the training before 25 strangers. Now looking back I see that this was an instrumental time that refined my craft and my skills as a trainer and coach. Although painful and unsure, this process created in me the edge and thirst for continual knowledge that set myself apart from other businesses.
A business’s story is only as good as its team members. We have had a lot of great team members throughout the years, however, Lisa Dunbar, for the past 23 years, has played almost every position on the New Directions’ team, sticking beside New Directions through the deepest nights as well as the rising tides. Lisa started out as an officer manager, quickly became a trainer when the need arose, grew into our business accountant when we began to grow as a company, evolved into our marketing and sales team and recently Lisa has blossomed into a great trainer, coach and consultant. She has been an instrumental history keeper, visionary, friend and confidant to New Directions from day one.
Love What You Do
In order to run your own business, especially a consultant business – you have to love what you do. Without that you are stuck in the mud. The reason I spend so many hours reading and designing new materials and strategies – is because I love to see the effect on someone when they grasp a new way of doing things. For example, when participants go through our change management training and realize that the change they’re planning to implement will fail, if they stay on the same path. When we offer them a new perspective with a clear road to follow, a more fruitful vision emerges from the participant and I get to witness, first-hand, the “aha” moment of that individual – there is nothing more redeeming for a trainer and coach.
Recently my two sons joined the organization, enriching the story of New Directions. They are both learning firsthand the pros and cons of small business. I am absolutely overjoyed to be their mentor and coach, transferring what’s in my head into theirs; to show them the mistakes and pitfalls of the last 25 years and to see their quick wit and love of helping others. Even if they decide to take a different path along the way, everything they’ve learned here will be of benefit to them and I will have coached them – what a great personal fulfillment.
Along the path of 25 years, there have been key people who took a chance on me, the company and our story. I had no national name recognition; I wasn’t a big enterprise with many staff members. Yet, they believed in what I was teaching and advising, the story being told and opened pathways into their organizations for me. I am very grateful to these individuals for their support and belief in the company. With many to mention, I say thank you.
Your Own Story
I hope this little story about a persistent woman determined to take the road less traveled; to do better will encourage others considering whether to be entrepreneurs to take the risk, believe in themselves and their vision, and just – begin their own story.