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An Interview with Libby Wagner: A SmallBiz Owner’s Journey

Libby Wagner, Libby Wagner & Associates, is one of only a handful of published poets regularly welcomed into the boardroom. Author of the new book The Influencing Option: The Art of Building a Profit Culture in Business (Global Professional Publishing), she has been labeled The Influencing Coach™ by her clients. Her expertise in leadership, strategy, management, and executive team development helps organizations create environments where clarity and increased trust lead to unrivaled results, shaping such Fortune 500 cultures as Boeing, Nike, Philips and Costco.

What makes your business unique?

I think working with me, specifically, is probably more unique than my business itself. Because my background is non-traditional for a business consultant, it offers me a different perspective and approach. This blog article gives some highlights. I work primarily with leaders, companies and teams to help them create “Profit Cultures,” which are in essence cultures of abundance. There’s more than enough … profits, innovation, great employees, good communication, etc. I’ve never worked with a team I didn’t help get better.

What decisions have best enabled your company to endure the current economy (and excel)?

Certainly to diversify my offerings, appeal to clients and buyers on different levels, i.e. the retail sector (they purchase directly from me in terms of products, coaching, classes, etc.) or the wholesale sector (organizational projects that have an exponential impact).

Also, working to empower my clients to create significant change after our engagement, thus maximizing their ROI. For example, we might finish a strategy or team development project, and they have the option to purchase a follow-up option I call the “accountability audit,” where I come back to visit once every six months for 2 years. That increases the probability that their changes will be long-term, rather than short term or “flavor of the month.”

I have also offered incentives and discounts for full-fee, up-front payments.

What most influenced you to launch your business?

I left my tenured position as a college professor after I lost my sister to breast cancer. It was a transformative time where I asked myself what was important to me, how I wanted to create an impact and a legacy for my work.

I really want to change the world, one conversation at a time, and in business, those conversations take many forms: a compelling vision, a highly functioning executive team, one-one conversations between peers and employees/supervisors, the conversations we have with our clients and our communities.

What key strategic and operational tactics helped your business first
 get started?

I got a good mentor and joined a community of the best consultants in the world. If I hadn’t done that, there’s no way I’d be as successful or happy in my work now.

What failure or missed benchmark proved a good business lesson?

I don’t get every proposal. Most of the ones that fail are really an opportunity to focus my energy elsewhere. There are some clients who really won’t be the perfect client for me, so I move on.

When I began using subcontractors in larger projects, this allowed me to have greater scope and reach. I didn’t do my research about what might be a reasonable and fair fee to pay, and I paid too much, thus eroding my profit margin and not really impacting my workload as I’d liked. I had to re-start and revise.

That was painful since I’d set precedence, but we’re on track now and my team feels great to me.

Do you use social media for your business? How? If not, why not?

Yes, blog, FaceBook and Twitter … however, it’s mostly to create marketing gravity, and I can’t say specifically how my current practice has significantly impacted my business. My business is relationship based, and fueled primarily by referrals.

Where do you envision your business in (5) years?

I think we will continue to expand and grow in the training and development areas, creating long-term relationships with clients who want to equip their employees with practical skills that work.

I also think that I will continue to work with high-level leaders and teams, improving performance, effectiveness and job happiness. I would enjoy (and have set the intention) of increasing my speaking business so that I can help and interact with more people on a broader scale.

I’ll write more books so that an even broader audience will have access to my work, philosophy and teachings.

Ed: check out Libby’s recent articles for Women Grow Business on creating a success mindset and articulating your vision as a leader.


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