Episode 92: Are you working in the right environment? – with Kirsten Ramos of Elevate Performance

Kirsten Ramos of Elevate Performance talks about the importance of asking yourself if you are working in the right environment for you and how this led her from being an employee to being a business owner.

Today’s guest

Kirsten Ramos of Elevate Performance

Website: Elevate Performance

LinkedIn: Kirsten Ramos

Twitter: @elevateperform2

Facebook: Elevate Perform

Instagram: @kirstenramoselevate

Email: kramos@elevateperformance.net

For over 13 years, Kirsten Ramos has motivated individuals to look within themselves to work more effectively with others.  

Kirsten’s background includes leading learning and development activities for smaller, post-start-up organizations all the way to Fortune 500 companies.  Her passions include assisting participants with presentation skills, emotional intelligence, leadership and management skills enhancement, and educating individuals and teams on how to have candid feedback conversations. 

Kirsten is certified in administering and course delivery for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment® (MBTI), EverythingDiSC®, and FourSight® Mindset creativity assessment.  She has a Synchronous Learning Delivery certificate from the American Society for Training and Development (ATD) and has significant experience creating and delivering virtual learning to meet the demands of the global workforce.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • [01:17] Kirsten introduces what she does and her typical clientele.
  • [02:17] Kirsten discusses what she helps individuals and organisations with.
  • [04:18] Kirsten explains how she got involved in learning and development.
  • [08:44] Kirsten discusses how she seized the opportunity to work in internal training.
  • [09:37] Kirsten explains the events that lead her to want her to work for herself.
  • [12:25] Understanding when a workplace isn’t a great fit for you.
  • [14:28] Kirsten analyses how she has dealt with difficult conversations. 
  • [17:35] Exploring your career options when you’re not in the right workplace.
  • [20:09] Kirsten talks about how she built up her business client base.
  • [22:01] Organically building relationships and your network.
  • [25:45] Looking at the gaps in your own skillset to help start your own business more effectively.
  • [27:38] Reinvesting in your business to protect it and to assist in its growth.
  • [29:45] Considering how your business evolves and learning to adapt to it.
  • [31:49] Kirsten looks at what’s next for herself and her business.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 92: Are you working in the right environment? - with Kirsten Ramos of Elevate Performance

Jeremy Cline 0:00
Loving what you do is all very well, but you've also got to be doing it in the right place, in the right setting. Whether it's for a particular employer, or whether it's doing it as your own business, it's got to be the right setting for you. So, what do you do if you're not in the right setting? That's what we talk about in this episode. I'm Jeremy Cline and this is Change Work Life.

Jeremy Cline 0:18
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the show where we're all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. Now, you might love the work you do, but not necessarily the place you do it. So, what do you do then? You could go and do the same work for someone else, or you could do what this week's guest has done and start your own business doing the same thing. Kirsten Ramos has worked in the learning and development space for the past 14 years, and she is the founder of Elevate Performance Solutions through which she trains individuals, teams and entire organisations on how best to leverage their leadership capabilities. Kirsten, welcome to the podcast.

Kirsten Ramos 1:09
Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Jeremy Cline 1:12
What transformation are these individuals, teams and organisations looking for when they come to you?

Kirsten Ramos 1:17
The majority of the clients I work with are looking for leadership and management skills. And when I say leadership and management skills, a lot of the popular topics I help people with are effective communication, communicating with their teams, with their peers. We also do a focus on coaching and delivering effective feedback. So, not only making sure we're coaching individuals for when they do great things, but also how to deliver radically candid feedback to individuals, so that they realise you care about them and they're able to receive that feedback more effectively. We also look at successful delegation and making sure we're delegating with some accountability behind it. I work with individuals and also teams with executive presence and presentation skills.

Jeremy Cline 2:08
What do you find is the, of those things you've listed, the kind of the thing that people find most difficult to develop in or to learn or to get their head around?

Kirsten Ramos 2:17
I think for individuals, the presentation skills is a lot of times the hardest one. A lot of people don't like to present. They come to me and say, 'Oh, I'm really nervous in front of the camera, or I'm really nervous standing up in front of others. Can you help get me over that fear?' So, for individuals, it's definitely presentation skills. I would say for the organisations and teams, a lot of them really want to help their people have those difficult conversations when it comes to feedback.

Jeremy Cline 2:46
That's interesting. So, that's the thing that people struggle with at the moment, is having difficult conversations with people they might line manage?

Kirsten Ramos 2:53
Yes, absolutely.

Jeremy Cline 2:55
I completely understand that, I was listening to a podcast the other day where they were talking about that and how it's quite often the person who is giving the feedback, the line manager, who's more nervous and in an even worse state than the person who's receiving the feedback.

Kirsten Ramos 3:10
It's really true. And I tell people that I work with that oftentimes, if someone that works with you, a team member, screws something up, they often know about it, they realise they did it, they're waiting for the feedback. And then, they're kind of surprised and sometimes disappointed when they don't receive it. So, I let managers know, a lot of times we need to get out of our head and say, 'Oh, I care about this person and because I care, I want to have this really direct conversation'.

Jeremy Cline 3:39
And I guess then the focus is not necessarily 'You screwed up', but, 'Okay, what can we learn from this? How can we make sure this doesn't happen next time?'

Kirsten Ramos 3:47
Yes. How can we work together to make sure that we put some things in place, whether it's a process change, or it's more education around a topic or around, you know, when I say a topic, around maybe a process at work, maybe a task, educating them on how to do their job better, while giving them that really direct feedback.

Jeremy Cline 4:05
How did you get into the learning and development space in the first place? Was this something when you were nine years old and you were playing with your dolls, you were starting to encourage them to lead each other and that kind of thing? Or was it perhaps not quite so early on?

Kirsten Ramos 4:19
It's so funny, because a lot of people ask, 'How do you get into learning and development?' Because at university, they don't have, well, or at least they didn't when I was there, they didn't have a specialisation on learning and development. Of course, there was HR, but this is, you know, just a little bit different. When I was playing with the dolls, it was, 'Hey, I'm going to be a hairstylist or an actress', so you know, the next best thing as far as the acting would have been learning and development in the professional space. And what's interesting is I went through a lot of different careers. I started my professional career after university in public relations, and I realised I don't really necessarily want to do this focus and I kind of bounced around, until I started at a company in the learning and development space, doing more of the logistics, setting up training classes. And it took me a little while to finally be in front of the classroom, and I felt like, wow, this is really where I like to be. I like to be in front of the classroom. And now, of course, I'm still in front of my classrooms, it's just from that virtual standpoint. I've become very good at Zoom in the past year. And so, that's really how I stumbled upon it. And what's interesting is, I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, and I had never seen myself as someone to start my own company or to start my own organisation. And I think it's interesting I never thought of it, because a lot of family members have gone the entrepreneurial journey route.

Jeremy Cline 5:51
When you say you started to work for a learning and development company, but more on the logistical side of things, what was your route into that? How did you come to be doing that? Did that kind of relate to what you'd been doing in previous roles?

Kirsten Ramos 6:03
It really didn't when I first started off, it was more of I had been conducting a stint in retail management, and I realised I was now married, I wanted to have my weekends off, I wanted to have, you know, what I coined at the time, a real job of, 'Hey, I'm going to work eight to five', you know, all that good stuff. So, I looked at, okay, who do I know, and I relied on some contacts that I had made to say, 'Alright, who's hiring in this space?' I was still very entry-level at that point. And when I joined the organisation, it was in a learning and development department of a really large company. So, they had both internal learning and development, but also external, client-facing learning and development. It was a third-party safety testing organisation, so they provided clients with training as well. So, I would do some logistics of setting up the engineers to go out to client sites or to conduct other training sessions within a location of the organisation's choosing.

Jeremy Cline 7:04
And at what point did you realise that you actually wanted to have a crack at doing the teaching itself? How did that develop?

Kirsten Ramos 7:11
It really developed through watching other facilitators stand in front of the classroom, both as myself as a participant, and also the person that would hire these organisations to come in and conduct training. What I realised is that as the organisation's training department grew, there was an opportunity to have more of that internal training focus. And so, I switched from the external side over to that internal side in order to become more familiar with conducting training myself, and also the development of training programmes, actually creating training that I would then deliver. And so, that's what really launched me, is the growth of the organisation's training department and realising there was an opportunity and an opening for me to join.

Jeremy Cline 8:02
So when you went to the internal training, was this still with the kind of logistics thing in mind? Or was this a conscious move to start developing as a trainer, educator, facilitator yourself?

Kirsten Ramos 8:16
It was a conscious move to really focus in on developing my facilitation skills, and that course development and ultimately delivery.

Jeremy Cline 8:25
And how did the opportunity arise? How did it sort of work through between you and the company? You know, you were originally there to do one thing, you'd picked up something, you thought, 'I'd like to have a crack at this'. How did that translate into – did you approach the company and say, 'I'd like to move into doing more of this'? Did they approach you having seen something in you? How did that work?

Kirsten Ramos 8:44
It was a little bit of both. I had put on my career growth path in my goals that I wanted to move over to the internal training side to develop the company's leaders and managers.

Jeremy Cline 8:57
So, this is like an internal sort of career growth path. So, like a sort of part of their internal self-development appraisal process?

Kirsten Ramos 9:04
Yes. And since they were in the process of developing a training where they would conduct a train the trainer, have internal trainers learn the materials, and then go forth and spread the management training gospel, they needed trainers, and I said, 'Ooh, please let me have a crack at this. Let me try this. I've always loved to present. I've never been fearful of getting up in front of people', and it ended up working out really well.

Jeremy Cline 9:30
What point was it from this role that you moved to starting your own business, or were there some intermediate steps?

Kirsten Ramos 9:37
So, there were some intermediate steps and I'll skip over a couple of them just to get to what really led me to determine I wanted to go out on my own, because it was really a perfect storm of events in my life that kind of all came together. I was working at a fun, funky advertising technology firm, I was leading learning and development, so that's why I say I skipped a couple steps, because at this point, I'm the head of learning and development for a global advertising technology firm. It was still small, it was post-start-up and it was kind of before the gigantic, everyone knows, everyone wears jeans to work and everyone's, you know, we have free snacks and all that good stuff. So, this was brand new to me, and I loved it. And then, what happens to a lot of smaller post-start-up organisations, they get acquired, and the company was acquired by a large, I would say a little bit clunkier company, their specialty was not advertising technology, but advertising in direct mail. So, it was everything not innovative in my mind, right? I put on a brave face for a year, and I realised the culture was shifting, and it wasn't where I wanted to be. So, I saw an opportunity to move to an organisation that wanted me to build learning and development from the ground up. They had, you know, a little onboarding programme, I was so excited, they were gonna pay me a lot of money. So, it was dream job. Only, it wasn't, because after two weeks, I realised the leader who had hired me wasn't ready to give me the reigns. So, I was getting paid a lot of money to not really do my job. And knowing, oh, my gosh, here, I've left a company I loved and although it had changed, I still felt like I made a huge mistake. And when you think of it, who leaves a job in less than a year, let alone in less than 30 days? And at the same time, my daughter really needed me for more emotional support. So, I realised like, 'Ah, I'm kind of in a spot here'. And I credit my husband by saying, 'Why don't you just go out on your own?' And of course, I was saying, 'I don't have enough experience, or who's gonna hire me? What could I possibly offer an organisation on my own?' And he really gave me the permission to try it out and to possibly fail. And I really, at that point, said, 'Alright, okay, I'm going to do this'. And here I am, five years later, still in business.

Jeremy Cline 12:05
I want to just find out a bit more about this change to the building the programme for the start-up, the job that lasted two weeks. I mean, two weeks is a heck of a short time. I mean, I usually work on the basis that it takes at least three months, more like six months to get your feet under the desk when you start a new job. So, what was it that made it so abundantly clear after two weeks that this just wasn't gonna work out?

Kirsten Ramos 12:26
Well, I will say that at two weeks I knew it wasn't going to work out, I did stay until about 28 days. So, it was still under 30. What I realised is, I was collecting the information that I needed, I was meeting with leaders, and by meeting with leaders, since I'm building a training programme from the ground up, I was meeting with the heads of the different business units to say, what's going on on your teams, where do you see a need that training might be able to satisfy, and knowing if they didn't know, part of my job as a strategic leader would be to say, 'Okay, what I'm hearing is this, I think we could put together a programme that focuses on these areas'. So, it was really gathering up a lot of information, and when I would bring it back to my supervisor, it was dismissed. It was more of, 'Yeah, we're not really gonna, we don't need to focus on that right now. Let's look at this. Here, could you order some catering for this programme I have coming up that has nothing to do with learning and development?' Which is fine. I'm never one to say I won't do something or that that is beneath me. It was more so the realisation, you're paying me a lot of money to not utilise why you hired me. So, it was more of, I kept hitting roadblocks within those 28 days that made me realise, it was going to be a constant fight and struggle, and not only the leader, but I felt that at times the organisation wasn't ready for what they hired me to do.

Jeremy Cline 13:57
Going back to what we were discussing earlier about having feedback and learning lessons and that kind of thing. What, in hindsight, should either you or the company or both of you have done to avoid this happening? Because it sounds like potentially quite an expensive mistake. I mean, just having the time and energy in hiring someone is a very big investment in itself.

Kirsten Ramos 14:18
Yes. And as most studies show, it costs three times the amount to replace someone that's been hired, right? Because then you have to search again and you're losing that productivity time. I really think, looking back, having those lessons learned, I probably shouldn't have even jumped to that organisation, I should have made the decision of 'Hey, what is it that I really want? Looking at my life right now, what do I need in order to take care of my family to the best of the ability and also do what I really love?' I also think, and something I've learned even more being out on my own, is having a confident voice and being able to say, 'This isn't working, here's why'. And although I let my supervisor know, 'This isn't working', I feel I probably went about it in a way that was more combative than helpful. And so, you know, really working on myself as well as a business owner these past five years, understanding there's different and better ways to have those conversations in a more calm, meaningful way. I think I let the frustration at times get the best of me.

Jeremy Cline 15:29
One of the features of a job interview, which I think a lot of people do tend to forget, that it's not just the company interviewing you to assess your suitability, but it's also you're interviewing the company to assess its suitability for you. So, I'm just wondering whether there were any sort of takeaways from this experience, which you can maybe pass on in terms of how a candidate who is interviewing for a job should – things they should think about in terms of the due diligence they want to do on who's potentially hiring them.

Kirsten Ramos 15:59
I think asking questions about the culture is always beneficial. Is this a culture where people feel comfortable asking for feedback or receiving feedback? And by asking that, not even making it that closed question, but make it open, like, tell me about the culture. Making the interviewer really tell you about the culture. And I feel like if you ask, 'Hey, is the culture great here?', everyone will say, 'Yes, it's wonderful. Oh, it's so open and honest'. And really asking, 'Tell me about the culture, or tell me three areas you think the culture or the company, tell me three areas you think the company needs to move toward in order to be even more successful'. So, having them point out some areas where there could be challenges, and not to say that if there's challenges in an organisation, one should turn down that opportunity. But I think it gives a better look inside the organisation before you're already in there.

Jeremy Cline 15:59
I love that, asking them what they think needs to improve, effectively, because you can learn so much from the answer itself, and also how they answer it. And if they say absolutely nothing needs to improve, then that's probably a red flag.

Kirsten Ramos 17:13
Absolutely. It's like asking a candidate if what their weaknesses or what challenges they feel they face, and if they say, 'Oh, none, nothing, I'm great', that's probably a red flag on the other side.

Jeremy Cline 17:25
So, when your husband suggested doing this by yourself, did that come out of the blue as a suggestion? Or was it something that you had kind of already been thinking of, and he just vocalised it for you?

Kirsten Ramos 17:36
I think it was more of, I didn't think about it very seriously. I had had a colleague and former mentor go out on her own, and she was successfully navigating her learning and development and coaching business. And I felt like looking at her accomplishments, I was saying, 'Oh, well, I couldn't do that, I'm not as experienced as her'. So, that's where that inner self-talk came in. And I think having my husband say, 'Just take a break. Just leave. Figure things out, you can always go out on your own. Or you can go back into another organisation, after you've taken a breath, realised what it is you really want to focus on'. I think that and then in combination of reaching out to former colleagues, even a former vendor I had hired to do training, to come in and bring her consultants, I was able to say, 'Hey, I'm now a consultant'. And she said, 'Excellent, great. Come on board, I've got training for you to do'. Her business model is that she has consultants develop and deliver training for her clients. So, it worked out great from a standpoint of, okay, I'm just gonna take a break, I'm gonna take a rest, oh, and let me just let people know I'm out here, and all of a sudden, it was like, well, so much for that break and that rest, here I am, I was working. And it was great, because of course, I did take a couple of weeks off. But it was also great to have people validate my decision to go out on my own.

Jeremy Cline 19:04
When you had planned the break and before you got this validation, had you given any thought to what having your own consultancy or having your own training business might look like, and maybe set yourself some time limits for success, that kind of thing, the point at which you might go, 'Nah, this isn't working, better dust off the CV'?

Kirsten Ramos 19:24
I think it wasn't even that conscious, because I was still in my head on, this probably isn't going to work, within – and again, not consciously, but probably in my head thinking – within six months, if I don't have some real traction on this, I'll probably start looking to go back into an organisation to lead learning and development again.

Jeremy Cline 19:45
And what were you looking for when you started and what are you looking for now? So, you mentioned how you told someone that you were a consultant, they said great, so they basically hired you to do training for their clients. Is that now really what you do and what you want to do? Or do you want to be more of someone who has their own clients or provides this sort of service, have your own consultants?

Kirsten Ramos 20:11
Yes, I no longer work with that organisation because my business became big enough and lucrative enough that I needed to devote my time to Elevate Performance Solutions, as opposed to developing some training for other organisations. So, what was great is that that was kind of my kick-off. At the same time, I was getting clients from colleagues I'd worked with in the past that had moved on to other organisations, colleagues that said, 'Hey, I actually am in this HR role. We don't have learning and development, our managers really need training'. So, I was able to start building up my business. Another former colleague of mine was leading membership at a technology association based in Chicago, where I'm also based, and she started having me conduct their member training sessions. And the trade-off is that, anytime those members said, 'Ooh, I think we need this for the entire organisation', they were my clients to have. Because it was an association, it was no conflict of interest, they were looking, those members were looking for leadership and management training to be brought into their organisations, which I then contracted with them. So, a lot of how my business built up is through word of mouth. A lot of people said, 'Ooh, we had Kirsten come in and conduct training at our organisation, she was fabulous, you need to bring her in, she really changed our organisation in these four ways'. So, it's been a great partnership to have an association backing what I do, and also their members backing what I do.

Jeremy Cline 21:46
These initial connections, people who you had kind of consciously developed your relationships with over the years knowing that it might be useful to have these relationships, or was it just something that came naturally out of the work that you'd previously been doing?

Kirsten Ramos 22:03
It really came naturally out of the work that I was doing. I built up these relationships when we were co-workers. So, I think being able to reach out and having the positive relationships that I maintained with people through all of the different organisations that I was a part of, growing my learning and development career, and having them know what I was capable of, because they saw it in action in those organisations and what I was able to do for them as a colleague, and then now, when they were saying, 'Ooh, I can't build this myself, I'm too busy worried about compensation and benefits and hiring people. I need someone to come in and train the people we have already on the ground'.

Jeremy Cline 22:44
I think this is a really valuable point that you make, because so many people are basically terrified of networking. But what you're saying is that, effectively, your networking was just doing your job well, and getting to know the people you were working with and having opportunities that they could see what you could do, so that when you came to be doing your own thing, and you were looking for people that you could help, they just thought, 'Oh yeah, we worked with Kirsten, she can help us'.

Kirsten Ramos 23:10
Yes. And as someone who, even though I classify myself as an extrovert, I also don't love networking, where it's, 'Hey, what do you do? Give me your business card'. So, for me, maintaining positive relationships, even long after I've left an organisation, even if it's just checking in on a quarterly basis, or even an annual basis, on people you used to work with, finding out what are they working on these days, people love that you care, they love that you're checking in, and then when it comes time that they might need a partner, then that's when they look to you.

Jeremy Cline 23:45
How did you go about announcing your change of circumstances to all these connections? Did you sort of contact them individually and say, 'Hey, just checking in, and by the way, you might want to know', or I don't know, send round robin to everyone? What did that look like?

Kirsten Ramos 23:58
Yes, I reached out individually. It wasn't a big group email blast, I really looked at where are people at, are these individuals who might be able to not only hire me, but in some cases, do they have so many different connections that if they can't hire me, could they introduce me to someone who might be able to partner with me on their learning and development initiatives? And so, that worked really well. I think the personal touch, although it takes longer in theory to reach out personally to each person, to set up a coffee chat, yes. Is it well worth it? Absolutely. We all get a ton of emails that look very, you know, I like to, I know your listeners can't see me, but the air quotes, 'spammy' sales pitches. And so, that's not really for me either. I don't consider myself a salesperson. Even though, of course, as an entrepreneur, you have to be in charge of your sales as well. You have to do outreach. You have to consistently reach out, and you never know which sales pitch is going to hit with someone. But I like to use my sales approach as more of, 'Let's partner. What can I do for you, what can I provide you?', as opposed to, 'Hey, hire me'. Even though, people you contact will likely know that's the point of it, you still don't want to come across as smarmy.

Jeremy Cline 25:21
Looking at some of the other aspects that come along with starting your own business, so there's the product or service itself, and obviously, that's your area of expertise. That's what you do, you know, learning and development, you know how to do that. What gaps became apparent to your own skill set in the business sense? What did you identify when you started out as, 'Oh, heck, I don't know this, and I need to learn it really quickly'?

Kirsten Ramos 25:47
That's such a great question, and I chuckle because, you know, you think, 'Oh, I'm just gonna start a business. And it's no big deal. And I just can do it'. I realised very quickly, I need someone to create a website for me. Of course, I could do it on my own and I am creative in the sense of developing training and developing engaging training programmes, it was something I realised, although many website platforms allow you to create your own and they've got these great templates, I just am not artistic in that way. So, hiring someone to develop my brand, develop my website, was one thing I realised very quickly. I also realised that I needed to interact with a lawyer. Having an attorney to create contracts, create master services agreements, to protect my intellectual property, to protect if someone says they're going to pay me, making sure it's legally binding that they pay me, that they can't reproduce my materials, unless they pay for through a licencing agreement. So, having even an attorney create those initial contracts, and then having, if something changed, if a client asks for something that's a little different, knowing I need to go back to that attorney and not just kind of take it upon myself to think, 'Oh, this looks good'. Because I'm not an attorney, I needed that help as well.

Jeremy Cline 27:16
What made you decide to spend the money on the things like your website and the attorney and the contracts, when I'm sure there's lots of, you know, online services where you can get contracts? Because so many people when they start a business, effectively, they're bootstrapping, so you don't have a lot of money to spend. So, what made you think, 'No, this is money well spent, rather than me trying to figure it out'?

Kirsten Ramos 27:37
I think I was nervous about, the first company that I worked with, they provided me with a very large contract. It was to completely develop not only manager training, but individual contributor training. So, the entire company was going to go through a bunch of different courses that I developed. So, it was a very lucrative contract financially and then, they sent me their nondisclosure agreement, they sent me all these documents, and I was like, 'Whoa'. I didn't even realise that this would be part of it, it was kind of more, I don't know if I assumed it would be more of a handshake deal. And that's when I realised that the money I'm going to make on this contract, I need to put it back into my business to make sure I'm safe. So, hiring that attorney right away once I received that contract, so they could go through it and they could also explain to me why it's important, and I chose the attorney that I worked with initially for this reason, she was an individual who specialised in working with entrepreneurs to let them know, here's why this is important. So, even choosing the attorney I did, there was a method to that madness, that she focused on helping entrepreneurs understand the importance of having that, you know, legal counsel look over what it is that I was signing. And there were actually parts in it that, I don't believe the client was trying to be nefarious, but there were parts in the contract where my attorney said, 'Do not sign it the way it is, we need to look at changing this language here or they could own your materials'. You know, that was very helpful. I think what a lot of people think of is that it takes a lot of capital up front to start their own company. And it doesn't, you can always start your company with that website. I started with a very basic website that I created myself, it was more for that legitimacy. As a little bit of time went on, I realised I wanted to have a bigger and more robust presence. And that's when I decided to make that investment.

Jeremy Cline 29:38
As your business has grown, what's changed in the business in terms of things like, either the technology you use, or the team you've got, all that kind of thing?

Kirsten Ramos 29:48
At first, it was me doing everything. It was, okay, I'm going to be the one, you know, doing all of these pieces. Now, I have the opportunity to contract out certain parts of it that I don't enjoy as much, or I feel like it's not a great use of my time. I've also had the opportunity to work with other consultants that do the back end of training programmes that are live via Zoom or other meeting platforms. I think because my work currently is all online as opposed to in-person, and I feel it will be for the foreseeable future, not from a lack of comfortability on my part, but because a lot of organisations have realised, we have different office locations, we can all get on this training at one time, but having the opportunity to hire someone to do the back end of answering chats, or getting people ready to go into breakout rooms has been a real advantage and something I have added onto my services. I think the other part is that I really started to hone in to what it is I want to specialise in with clients, and what it is that I'm more willing to pass along to others. I think when I was first starting out, it was yes, whatever you want me to do, hire me, I will do it. And what I realised is that I wasn't only hurting myself, potentially, in trying to develop topics I wasn't as familiar with, I was likely hurting the client. And although there were no complaints, I felt and I knew it wasn't my best work. So, now it's more of, if someone asks me for something that I just really don't specialise in, I will refer them, as opposed to taking that business and suffering through.

Jeremy Cline 31:40
What's your vision, either personally, or with the business, or to the extent that they're interlinked in 5, 10, 20 years' time? Where do you want to get the business to? Where do you want to get to?

Kirsten Ramos 31:52
I think for me, having that steady income with clients that are, that come to me on an annual rotation. And I have that already, but I just think getting 5 to 10 more clients that are my annual clients, that keep wanting me to come back and develop their training programmes, is what will, you know, really help me within the next five to 10 years. I think in 20 years, I look at that as, okay in 20 years, I hope to be on the conference circuit talking about my experiences and not really doing the day-to-day of the business. I love what I do, I don't need to grow exponentially. I don't necessarily want to have a large staff. The individuals I work with on a contract basis, if they came in under the fold, that'd be great. But it's also not necessarily a goal of mine to grow the organisation, it's more of growing my business, my reach and knowing that, if I have 5 to 10 solid clients, I still will need to be doing that client generation, because at any point, clients, they grow, and then they hire someone like me, but they hire them in-house. So, knowing those, it's not a bad thing if a client moves on from me. So, not getting complacent and thinking, 'Ooh, I've got my five new clients to add to my five existing that are annual clients', making sure I'm constantly working to sustain and maintain the business I've built.

Jeremy Cline 33:25
Do you think you will exit? Or is this something that you're just going to keep on doing and keep on doing as long as you can?

Kirsten Ramos 33:31
I would love to keep doing this for as long as I can. I've told a lot of people that I don't feel like I could ever work within an organisation as an employee again. I love the freedom and flexibility that my life affords me. I'm able to be very flexible for my family's needs. I'm also able to make as much or as little money as I desire. I truly believe that the more work I put in and on my business, the more I will make, but also, I have the opportunity to slow down if I need to, if my family needs me to. It's really the best of all worlds.

Jeremy Cline 34:13
Fantastic. Well, I hope as many business owners can find that balance.

Kirsten Ramos 34:17

Jeremy Cline 34:18
As you've been on your journey, are there any resources which have particularly helped you, books, quotes, that kind of thing?

Kirsten Ramos 34:25
Yes. I think one quote I really love and it's by musician and producer Jay-Z, is that, 'I will not lose, for even in defeat, there's a valuable lesson learned, so it evens up for me'. And another quote that I really love from Doctor Mallika Tripathi is, 'Success only comes to those who dare to attempt'.

Jeremy Cline 34:48
Success only comes to those who dare to attempt. Yeah.

Kirsten Ramos 34:52

Jeremy Cline 34:53
Very, very true. Awesome.

Kirsten Ramos 34:55
Another book recommendation I'll just give quickly is the book Think Again, that just came out, and it's by Adam Grant. And it's really about rethinking decisions that we've made. So, even for those, you know, in case anyone gets stuck, rethink it, it may not mean you need to quit, it may just mean that you need to go in a different direction. So, highly recommend the book Think Again, just came out, Adam Grant.

Jeremy Cline 35:22
Has he written other books? His name is very familiar.

Kirsten Ramos 35:24
He has. He wrote the book Originals, talking about people, you know, being original. And then, he co-authored a book with Sheryl Sandberg called Option B. He's a social psychologist and professor at Wharton University.

Jeremy Cline 35:39
Brilliant. Well, thanks for those. And if people want to get in touch with you, what's the best place they can do that?

Kirsten Ramos 35:44
Sure. Anyone can feel free to link into me on LinkedIn, just Kirsten Ramos, and if you put 'Elevate' with it. Another is to visit my website, which is elevateperformance.net. I also welcome emails. If you want to reach out to me personally, please feel free to do so, it's kramos@elevateperformance.net.

Jeremy Cline 36:07
Fantastic. I will put links to all of those in the show notes. Kirsten, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and for sharing your story.

Kirsten Ramos 36:13
Thank you for having me.

Jeremy Cline 36:16
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview. One of the takeaways for me was how Kirsten was kind of able to gently start her own business. So, she'd already made contacts and built up relationships with people that she'd worked with. And so, it was through those people that she started getting her work when she started out working for herself, working as a business owner. And she started out as a consultant. So, kind of doing the same thing that she had been doing before, just in a slightly different setting, as a consultant, rather than as an employee. It kind of goes back to what Mark Herschberg was saying a few weeks ago in Episode 87, about finding these intermediate steps as you make a change. Kirsten went from being an employee to being a consultant, effectively doing the same thing, to having her own clients and running her own business. And it shows that you can build into this, through these intermediate steps, without going straight into something or guns blazing from the start. And as Kirsten said, it's a means of getting validation, that you're doing the right thing by just taking these small, intermediate steps. Kirsten was also very conscious that her business had to support her lifestyle. Whilst she wants the repeat business and whilst she doesn't want to get complacent about getting that business, she recognises that she's also got the freedom to slow down to look after family or to just take things at the pace that she's happy with. That's something you can certainly potentially do as a business owner, which is perhaps a little bit harder to do as an employee.

Jeremy Cline 37:42
Full show notes for this episode are at changeworklife.com/92. That's changeworklife.com/92. And on the website, you'll find links to my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles. So, why don't you hop onto those, say hello. I'd love to hear from you. And I'm @ChangeWorkLife on all of those profiles. There's another great interview coming next week. So, subscribe to the show if you haven't already done so, and I can't wait to see you next week. Cheers. Bye.

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