“A hailstorm wiping out a potential bumper crop the night or week before harvest teaches some hard lessons on tenacity.” with Tammy Shaklee and Phil Laboon

I’ll be honest. I don’t fail well. As a farmer’s daughter, I was never deterred when times got hard. A hailstorm wiping out a potential bumper crop the night or week before harvest teaches some hard lessons on tenacity. When it came to business, I became more determined. I believe that’s a lifelong instinct instilled […]

I’ll be honest. I don’t fail well. As a farmer’s daughter, I was never deterred when times got hard. A hailstorm wiping out a potential bumper crop the night or week before harvest teaches some hard lessons on tenacity. When it came to business, I became more determined. I believe that’s a lifelong instinct instilled in you from a young age. I will find a way, a new path, a potential solution for the problem. And I will succeed at whatever level is possible.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Tammy Shaklee is a leading LGBTQ Relationship Expert and President of one of the country’s top LGBTQ certified matchmaking companies, H4M Matchmaking. Since founding the national offline matchmaking company in Austin, Texas in 2012, Tammy and her team have successfully paired thousands of LGBTQ clients across the country that were seeking long-term committed relationships. Utilizing skills honed in her previous career as a broadcast journalist, Shaklee’s reporter objective instincts, acute listening skills, and same-sex proprietary methodology, provide the ideal foundation for identifying true compatibility. Her unique process focuses on traditional introductions and dating for LGBTQ singles who are interested in achieving relationship success that rivals their professional success. An LGBTQ ally and advocate, Tammy understands the challenges singles face when looking for a suitable mate as she met her husband through a matchmaking service herself. Tammy and her husband, Clif, reside in Austin, Texas where she runs her national company. When not actively pairing her clients, Tammy is a regular relationship contributor to several LGBTQ media outlets and mainstream publications. She is currently working on the completion of her first book.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After successful careers in broadcast news, state politics, philanthropy, and a brief career break, I was ready for an encore career. Initially, I thought I was done with the service sector and wanted to work in corporate America, so I hired an executive coach. In one year, that led me to research and design my own business instead. Since hiring an offline matchmaker was successful for me, I was shocked to learn they would not take the personal referral of a single dad, simply because he was gay. Stunned, I started researching matchmaking companies for him and could not find one. So I designed and conducted a focus group project that led to a company.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

With only one initial personal investment, and being unsuccessful in briefly courting investors, I decided to bootstrap to succeed. With the initial business plan to include offices in multiple cities with multiple staffs, growth exceeded the revenue, and with no backup, I missed making payroll only once and only by one day. That triggered some trickle down effects for one employee who was a single mom. I have never felt so horrible and payed for the collateral costs of how that impacted her as an apology to her. This was a lesson that taught me how to cut further costs without impacting the success of the company.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I’ll be honest. I don’t fail well. As a farmer’s daughter, I was never deterred when times got hard. A hailstorm wiping out a potential bumper crop the night or week before harvest teaches some hard lessons on tenacity. When it came to business, I became more determined. I believe that’s a lifelong instinct instilled in you from a young age. I will find a way, a new path, a potential solution for the problem. And I will succeed at whatever level is possible.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

This one-time small 7-digit investment to start my first company resulted from an unexpected inheritance from my mother’s passing. She was a strong single working mom, who was non-traditional in many aspects of her life. This investment, I felt, could serve as a part of her legacy and mine. Happily married, and without children, I have the time, support system, and opportunity to work with a servant’s heart. From mentoring my whole adult life, to now working for my company who serves others seeking love, I am fulfilled by helping others. Reworking the business model to expand to serve clients coast-to-coast, and opening close, city-specific offices saved the company. After this helped establish the brand and reputation, it then allowed me to streamline expenses and staff and structure a business model where I actually get more face time with each client instead. This eliminated the flat organizational chart and elevated my brand, service, and message.

So, how are things going today? 🙂

Today, we are serving a record number of clients, and our growth trajectory is on a steady incline. We now serve clients from ages 23 to 77, coast to coast in the US, and have interviewed singles in 16 countries. We currently only formally match in the US, but do now match quality singles who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Initially, I planned to do most of the marketing since I had a media background. With a series of low-cost creative ideas, I launched the company and began to give away several complimentary 3-month matchmaking memberships in several Texas cities. At LGBT advocacy events, I had marketing materials for eligible bachelors. What I did not anticipate was the eclectic and unique singles who would win or even silent auction purchase my free memberships. I literally said on a couple of the giveaways, “I know this must be my initiation, because if I can match this eccentric character (with a live bird on his shoulder), I will be able to match anyone.”

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think it’s pretty obvious. I’m a straight married woman owning and operating an LGBTQ matchmaking company. I lead with love. Raised in a Christian family, I have always seen all of us as equals. We all deserve love, whatever that looks like to each of us. Often folks don’t see that positive representation when it comes to the LGBT community or from the Christian community, in various online accounts or specific news outlets. Yes, there are haters and extremists and just some bad folks. But I believe and hope to represent the often silent or overlooked majority who believe Love Is Love.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

While the online dating industry is huge, the offline personalized matchmaking industry pales in comparison and is quite select. So back to the initial business model, which was critical in designing the brand and marketing. What is your company’s mission? Its motto? And in my case, what niche market may you want to focus on? Becoming an expert in your field is fulfilling work that can sustain you. Where is your focus? Where can you win? And do you still wake up each day and enjoy it? Lately, several matchmakers are recognizing what hard work it is and have chosen to reduce their matchmaking services and focus on dating coaching. Always re-evaluating the business model on the anniversary of the company has helped me evolve to serving clients best.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Raised by each of my single parents, and as the only child at home, I’ve had a support system of mentors since high school. It continues today. I look toward those with more experience, influence, and success, who can direct me as needed. I truly value the older and wiser business mind. Their years or decades of experience can help you “fly at 30,000 feet” for example and look down on your business and its needs for the future. I married a serial entrepreneur 10 years ago. Without his business mentorship, I would not have had the confidence to start a company from scratch.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I truly “lead with love” on a daily basis. Every unique LGBT single I’ve met in more than six years has touched me. I love their stories, their unique journey or path, their honesty in sharing their challenges, hearing of their obstacles in finding a compatible partner. I see the good in them, their dedication to education, to their careers, to their family and friends. I want them to find their special someone with which to share it all. I hope each of them sees and feels love in me and through me. For some, I think it’s the first time they have felt true love, acceptance, and encouragement from a straight ally.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Growth if you’re dedicated (and blessed) will be slow and steady. You do not need to prepare for and staff up for an influx of clients on month one.

2. You are the brand as much as your company is a brand. It’s okay to promote yourself as a leader because clients will follow you.

3. Don’t apologize or be too humble. Be bold, be brave, and be a little boastful of the quality service you provide and the quality company you created.

4. Adding staff may not reduce your hours. Growth means you have more to manage, and to deal with on a daily basis. So you better love what you do.

5. Contrary to wise business advisors, you do not have to have an Exit Plan. If you truly work your passion, you may do it for the rest of your life. Retirement is not for everyone.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

#LeadWithLove — I am telling you, it can be a game changer. With every interaction from your eye-opening moment in the morning, until your tired head hits the pillow, lead with love. When you repeatedly thank your partner for consistently making the coffee and not taking it for granted. When someone cuts you off in traffic, assume they have somewhere more important to be than you. When the internet goes out just prior to client appointments, so you scramble to the coffee shop corner table, and are thankful for being in a first world country with access. When your client gets upset with you, and you have the chance to talk through the sensitivities of still being frustrated being single and are thankful to have clients to begin with. When you hear an acquaintance comment that you’re less than you know you are and are able to consider feedback a gift. When your marketing attracts the less than ideal or target market, and you use it as a lesson to strengthen your skills. Lead with love. Love others, even strangers, and treat them and respond to them as though you love them first, and then behave accordingly. Not being perfect, but at least a better version of yourself each day, with each action, small and large. And lead with love, in loving yourself. We are all flawed. No one is perfect. Work hard, be kind, be tenacious, and be thankful for all you are, all you have done, and all you are about to do in this world, and in this one life you’ve been blessed to be given. #LeadWithLove — if everyone did it, the world would be a better place. Instantly.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can learn more about H4M Matchmaking at www.H4M.com as well as follow H4M on all its social channels!

Follow H4M on Instagram at @h4m_matchmaker

Follow H4M on Facebook at @H4MMatchmaking

Follow H4M on Twitter at @H4MMatchmaking

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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