Leadership Edge with Stephynie Malik, CEO of SMALIK Enterprises

What is SMALIK Enterprises? LEADERSHIP. CONNECTION. RELEVANCE. GROWTH. DISCERNMENT. PROFITABILITY. At SME we embrace this rapid and competitive landscape and realize data and analytics are the future. Unlike other companies, we believe in delivering “real” and measurable results for our clients. We don’t just blurt out a bunch of motivational phrases and tell you what […]

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What is SMALIK Enterprises?

LEADERSHIP. CONNECTION. RELEVANCE. GROWTH. DISCERNMENT. PROFITABILITY.

At SME we embrace this rapid and competitive landscape and realize data and analytics are the future. Unlike other companies, we believe in delivering “real” and measurable results for our clients. We don’t just blurt out a bunch of motivational phrases and tell you what to do. Instead, we crawl in the trenches “with” our clients and do whatever it takes to ensure their success. Our 25+ years of experience, hands-on approach, market-proven strategies, and methodologies enable us to provide an immediate impact for our clients. We’ve worked with thousands of high-wealth individuals, corporations, and franchises using a customized approach to ensure they take their careers, relationships, and companies to the next level. Since our success is 100% tied to the results our clients achieve, our services are customized to meet the exact needs and situations of every client we work with. We assess, invest, partner “with” you and are committed to your success and the complete transformation of you, your business, your family, and your entire existence.

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Career

Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us about what brought you to your career path?

The trajectory of my journey is building myself and my leadership skills and sharing what I’ve learned to inspire others.

I started in tech relatively young. A mentor gave me a shot at an entry-level sales position, and I worked in business development, telemarketing and telesales. At this point, I started meeting with a lot of executives and building relationships with those in the C-suite, and what I’ve been told over the years is that I see the game differently. I’ve been told that  I have an incredible vision and I accurately anticipate what will happen next with precision.

As my career grew, I began to work with executives and consultants, and I would hear common complaints from both sides. Executives believe consultants are easily replaceable and run the world with out-of-control travel budgets. Consultants believe that executives never take their advice, and they are upset with missing their children’s milestones and being away from family and friends. I knew I could do this a little better.

Therefore, in 2002, I launched a consulting firm. I started with one consultant, who was just an amazing, marvelous, incredible man. I can’t tell you the number of hours we spent on the phone, making sure we had thought of everything. I said, “Let’s do this.” and we did–with a $1500 loan, a Laptop, and a cell phone! Dialing and smiling as they used to call it, cold calling all of the senior relationships that I knew. Literally, no SEO, no LinkedIn, no Facebook, no google ads, nothing. And within a few years, we were a global management consulting firm with clients like Nike, Boeing, Motorola, and America Express. We took off and went global, and we became a multi-million dollar firm. I hired an impeccable team, and over the 16 years that I ran the firm we had less than 1% of turnover. 

In the last four or five years at the firm, I began to have a keen interest in human behavior – how people behave in sales meetings and how people behave in leadership meetings. I began learning and understanding what a true leader is, and more importantly what leadership actually meant. I started to hone in on my leadership skills and discovered what makes a strong leader. As I meet with my executive clients, I would say, “Hey, have you thought about doing this  ‘ or “let’s work on asking questions differently. Let’s see how people would feel if we implemented this”.  I’ve discovered these tiny, tiny little tweaks–two to three-degree tweaks–that make all the difference.

These small tweaks create massive differences in empathy, connection, self-awareness, and true collaboration. It’s incredible when you see somebody’s face just light up and go, “oh my gosh, I get it.” So, within the last few years at my previous firm, I specialized in executive coaching, high-performance transformation coaching. I began coaching the top 1% of elite firms.

What is an overarching theme or thread in your life?

You know, when you asked me that question, I got chills. I would say that incredible people took part in lifting me up and building an incredible foundation. Someone told me a long time ago that you will become a giant if you surround yourself with giants. If you surround yourself with toxicity, you become toxic. I took that to heart. There are a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing, and I made sure to build relationships and connections with amazing people who are willing to share their journeys with me and grow together.

I am very busy. I have four kids and a ton going on, so I’ve tried to be incredibly intentional with my time. Time is our biggest commodity, and how we share it is so critical, how we disperse our energy is also important. During COVID, I decided to reach out to several executives that were the most intricate people in helping me develop my leadership skills as a human and as an executive. 

I asked for a few minutes, and as we jumped on calls, it usually goes a little bit like this: “Hey Mike. I just wanted to check in with you and the family, look you in the eye and tell you ‘thank you.’. Thank you so much for what you did for me in 2002. The amount of time, effort, and energy you spent away from your wife or your children in teaching me about consulting deals, helping me perfect my contracts, and overall just being such a dynamic influence. You were  so instrumental in helping me build not only my company and my brand but myself as a human. I just want to look at you and tell you, sincerely, thank you”.  I have one question for you. Why did you spend so  much time with me?” I did this in several variations, and one common thread among everyone I’ve reached out to is this– they said that there was never anything that was not your job Stephynie. 

Mike said, “It is very uncommon for a  Senior Vice President to be sweeping the break room when you walk in, and yet, you were. It was very normal to see you always serving others, or asking what you could do to help even at the most senior level… Nothing was ever not your job. You were 1000% there to collaborate. You’re 1000% present. You showed that in everything you did, and you did everything 150%. You made our life and our job so much easier, and we wanted to give back to you.”

Looking back, what are the catalysts or inflection points in your career? 

I was told from an early age by multiple people that I see things differently than anybody they’ve worked with. I’ll give you an example. I’ve been in a situation where I was a director at a start-up, and we couldn’t close a multi-million dollar deal that several of our executives had been trying to close for some time. This specific deal was dependent on our next round of funding with our investors. The deal had been stalled for months, everyone had tried. 

I knew the issue. No one had humanized the partnership. There was no “Know, Like, and Trust” component. It was so clear to me what had gone wrong. I asked the CEO to give me a shot at closing this deal, and it closed within four weeks. 

This is how you create environments of trust, likeability, and leadership. 

First, I noticed that the lead on the deal team was always 15-20 minutes late when she walked in the door. I noticed that she looked like she’d been up all night, and she looked haggard. That told me that she either had a long commute or children or both. One day, I made sure to get off the subway with her at the same time, and I said, “Hey, were  your kids awake all night?” And she said, “They’ve been awake since the divorce.” We started talking, and I learned more about her — that she had to buy a smaller house after the divorce, that the house was  45 minutes away, that she had to take a bus to get to the subway. Over time, we built a relationship. I remembered texting her that I’ve got her coffee ready for her at the meetings.

I also noticed that there was another professional on the deal team. He was an engineer. When we talked, I asked him what was stopping him from pushing the deal forward. So, he told me that he was worried that the Technology pieces could not be fully integrated into all platforms. So I called our engineer, and I told him what the problem was. And our engineer said, “Oh my god, I can fix that in 30 minutes and do a demo.” And that’s what we did — we fixed the issues and we shared a demo of the product.

Conversations like this are happening all the time, and they are happening on a 30,000-foot level. But the thing is that as we approached the table, we were looking at astronomical amounts of money, but not addressing each individual’s fears. That’s one tip I would always give — to get good at asking the right questions to pull the fear out of your audience and get the deal to the next level.

How did you build your business? What have you learned?

When I first started, I did a horrible job establishing an online brand. I thought there was so much noise online, and I didn’t want to participate in it. I thought people would care more about the number of deals I’ve brokered or the number of clients I’ve coached. I’ve done 30-40-50 million deals with venture capital or family offices. It matters, but so does an online brand and an online persona. 

Before 2013, I didn’t even use my LinkedIn. I had very little social media presence. And at the time, I couldn’t figure out why my ads weren’t working or why my messaging wasn’t working. Nobody knew me enough to trust me or like me. 

I’ve learned the importance of putting yourself out there and spending the time and money to build an online brand.

Can you share what SMALIK Enterprises is currently focused on? How will this impact the world?

I stepped down from the CEO position at my previous firm in 2016 and started a new consulting firm. Our firm is focused on three lines of business. 

The first line is business consulting with a people-first mentality. When I say people over everything, that means thinking about your team and the way you hire your talent! It has to be intentional. Attracting, developing, and retaining the absolute best and top talent should always be key to your vision. We take people and move them from six to seven to eight to nine figures. It’s fully understanding the vision and breaking it down to a consumable roadmap for high-achieving entrepreneurs, but with that said, it’s not for everyone. It’s tough work and I will never work harder than my clients. 

The second line of business is human consulting. This is executive and performance coaching– high performance, high impact coaching. This is the 1%. I know what they are facing, I understand their quotas, I understand their talent development needs. I get to the problem very, very quickly. I inspire them to get connected and to lead without fear. Developing every aspect of who they are and truly getting them to level up their performance professionally and personally.

The third line of business is crisis expertise and management. So, think college admissions scandal, think bribery, money laundering, Ponzi scheme. We get hired to develop and create the absolute best legal team to quietly and calmly deal with the scandal outside of the media spotlight. I am very proud that out of 31 clients in the last four years, only one has ever made it into mainstream media. We are not a communication firm. We are a highly sought-after professional service to manage your process quickly with optimal results.

I could never, ever do this line of work if I didn’t have such an amazingly exceptional team that puts up with all my crazy ideas or answers my phone calls at 3 am. The amount of service that we give our crisis clients is truly amazing, it’s white-glove, concierge for them and every member of their team and family 

What are your steps to crisis management?

What a great question! I get asked this quite often. It’s very different depending on what the crisis is. The only thing that is completely consistent is having the very best team aligned with me, other than that, everything is different. One week, it can be a cybersecurity crisis. Another can be a medical or legal professional taking kickbacks. It can be an athlete who has had a very public error in judgment or a high wealth individual who maybe has gotten a little greedy. A few weeks ago, it was an athlete in the middle of a complicated divorce. 

Usually, the first step is to go in and assess the crisis and get the information honestly and accurately immediately. Then, I assemble the best of the best team of experts that are 1000% present for this client. So, if a lawyer has 20 cases, I ask for two to three straight weeks of their time. I make sure that everyone on the team is paying full attention to this crisis and it is their top priority.

After that, I will assemble the resources based on what we think that family, corporation, or individual need. Then I develop a plan for the disbursement of resources. Who is going to handle what? What is the flow? What is the process? This is a proprietary methodology that equates to settling 50-70% faster than the standard attorney/court route. We do this globally.

Lastly, I bring everyone together to have a conversation. 

What do you want the readers to know?

I’d love the readers to know that our firm is entirely different from any other firm they’ve ever worked with. We are 100% here to get you the best outcome. 

Personal

What are your “3 Things I Wish I Knew”? Can you share a story?

I wish I knew earlier in life how vital the use of emotional energy and time is. I wish I had spent less time with people that were not there to grow. I wish I had done a better job sharing my time with people who are like-minded and had a better mindset. I also wish that I’d spent more time with all the people who were willing to teach me and help me grow.

The second thing I wish is that I’d been more honest about my story. I wish I’d been more authentic and more genuine about my childhood trauma–about my father’s death or my mother’s mental illness. I wish I could have found my voice and felt comfortable with being uncomfortable. I know that my courage in speaking up can help others find their voices.

And lastly, I wish I would have stuck with my gut and started SMALIK Enterprises a lot earlier than I did. I started the firm to be impactful and to inspire high-achieving entrepreneurs and executives. I wanted my clients to have a different level of service, leadership, a different level of awareness, and a different level of impact. 

What is the blueprint for success?

My advice is to do everything and do things you have never thought about doing. The faster you fail, the faster you gain that astronomical experience that makes you stand out! It puts you closer to the things you want to do. Here’s a great example.

My daughter is a filmmaker. She’s had this passion since high school when her teacher asked if she wanted to make movies with him. When she left for college, she majored in communications with an emphasis on marketing and media. And she hated it. She couldn’t stand it. She was like, “Oh my god, I feel like I wasted you and dad’s money. I feel awful–I don’t have any idea what I want to do.” And the problem is she was just so set on what she thought she wanted to do that everything else was just noise. So, what I would always recommend is to do everything, every single solitary opportunity that comes your way. Say yes often, to even the most mundane tasks. You wouldn’t believe the opportunity or gift lurking in the background.

The second thing is to start serving others. Anytime you are feeling sad, or depressed, or happy, help others. Serving others always brings you back to what you should be doing. Nothing is better for me than seeing someone’s eyes light up because they truly get the gift or the lesson that they may have previously missed. When you get your client optimal results because of how hard they have worked, the feeling is pure bliss.

And lastly, act kindly, respectfully, be a constant and curious student in everything you do. If you are put in a new situation, raise your hand and say, “I don’t know, is there a way you can show me how to do this?” If you want any sort of a career, hone in on all of your soft skills–your EQ, your self-awareness, your ability to build relationships and connect. This is the future–it isn’t AI or technology or machine learning; it’s how to connect, how to lead, how to influence, how to engage. 

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