“Please don’t avoid communicating, even when you know it might not be a fun conversation; Communicate in a timely manner” With Author Lisa Rehurek

Please don’t avoid communicating, even when you know it might not be a fun conversation. Communicate in a timely manner. That will prevent a lot of consternation within the team. I am also a huge proponent of leaders learning more about human behavior and what motivates their team members. Understanding the different nuances and work […]

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Please don’t avoid communicating, even when you know it might not be a fun conversation. Communicate in a timely manner. That will prevent a lot of consternation within the team. I am also a huge proponent of leaders learning more about human behavior and what motivates their team members. Understanding the different nuances and work styles really helps to better manage and develop teams, it improves our communication, it decreases conflict — all of which leads to better team dynamics and a more engaged and motivated team.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Rehurek, founder and CEO of The RFP Success™ Company. A 7-time author and national speaker/trainer, Lisa’s 25+ years of business knowledge shines right alongside her fun, down to earth, “get it done” manner. As author of The RFP Success™ Book, host of The RFP Success™ Show podcast, and founder of The RFP Success™ Institute, Lisa is passionate about supporting businesses who are looking to improve their sales results through RFPs. Lisa can currently be seen in the second season of Fix My Brand with Ali Craig.

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

I left Corporate America ten years ago, and decided I was going to start my own business as a “business strategist”. Afterall, I had a lot of business experience, and I’m a bit of a business junkie, so I knew I could help businesses “be better.” It actually took me a bit of time to realize that being all things to all businesses is a death wish. I had extensive RFP (Request for Proposal) experience in my corporate career, and it kept showing up as past colleagues calling me to help them out with RFPs. One day I was having dinner with a friend and she said, “why don’t you just focus in on the RFP expertise?” I remember being scared to death to focus on such a “boring” and narrow niche, but it’s been the best thing that’s ever happened to my business. And it’s certainly not boring!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I don’t know if this qualifies as “interesting”, but it’s probably one of my biggest lessons learned. When I first went out on my own, I started a solo consulting business because I had one signature client. Theoretically, I was building a business beyond that one client, but that client was giving me a lot of business and I was making a lot of money. In my head, I knew I needed to be building more clientele, but frankly it was easier to think about that “tomorrow”; until that dreaded phone call when the client calls up and says the corporate office has just put the kibosh on outside consultants. Ouch! I went from a nice 6-figure business to almost zero overnight. Thanks universe, lesson learned.

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?

Oh yes, when I talked a client out of buying my services. Yes, proud moment I’d say (tongue in cheek). I had a woman on the phone who was a perfect fit for my services. She was struggling in her business, wildly disorganized, wasn’t making the right decisions about where to spend her time, didn’t have any goals set. She needed me, but I was so intimidated by the sales conversation at that point, that I literally talked her out of working with me. It’s like I was in an alternate universe — I could hear myself talking, and I could hear this little voice in my head saying, “what the heck are you doing?!”. I was trying to follow a sales script that some mentor had given me (that in hindsight wasn’t true to me and my style). I got off script which tripped me up, and I just went down this random path and before I knew it, I was telling her about a program she should sign up for — which was not mine. I sold her into someone else’s program. It’s like making a touchdown for the other team. Now that’s embarrassing!

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

A lot of companies out there that help people with RFPs focus heavily on process — and they can over-process. We try to do just the opposite — we are always asking; how can we simplify things for our clients? AND, how can we make this whole process more fun? For example, in The RFP Success™Book, I incorporated a character named Reality Rich. Reality Rich is an evaluator. We intertwined some funny little anecdotes about him along the way to keep the book fun and entertaining, like the day that he’s hungover and he has to evaluate proposals. The intent is to remind folks that there are actual humans evaluating their proposals so how are you going to keep their attention, even when they are hungover. Keeping it fun and light and not so buttoned up is a big differentiator for us.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We just rolled out a new online training platform called The RFP Success™Institute, which I’m so proud of and excited about. We’re starting out with about 20 online, bite-sized trainings to help support businesses who respond to RFPs — bite-sized, because we want to keep it simple. The great thing is, this is accessible to anyone. Companies who might not have budget to hire us to help them with their RFPs can still get training on the exact things we teach our clients. It’s obviously a DIY platform, but we also include a 2x monthly “borrow my brain” call where members can hop on the phone with me and get their questions answered live. We’re adding new trainings each month, so the library will only continue to grow. Many of the trainings have templates or checklists to help support the members. And because of our “bite-sized” simple approach, people can easily carve out the time to take our training courses. It’s a great way to keep learning, and to get everyone in your organization trained with the same material.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Please don’t avoid communicating, even when you know it might not be a fun conversation. Communicate in a timely manner. That will prevent a lot of consternation within the team. I am also a huge proponent of leaders learning more about human behavior and what motivates their team members. Understanding the different nuances and work styles really helps to better manage and develop teams, it improves our communication, it decreases conflict — all of which leads to better team dynamics and a more engaged and motivated team.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Don’t be afraid to have layers. The larger the team is, the more help you’ll need. Not everyone has to report directly to you, but as business owners we are inclined to want to control that. I’m not talking about ridiculous layers just to have layers, but if you have other strong people that can manage and lead in your absence, things will run more smoothly. I remember hearing early in my career that if you can disappear for a week and no one notices, you’re doing your job as a leader. Spa week, anyone??

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 about that?

I’ve always been so grateful for my parents, who have always believed I could do anything I wanted, and for truly being supportive of me even when I scared the heck out of them or took a path they couldn’t even remotely understand (and that was a LOT!). When I started my own business, that scared them for sure, because we just didn’t have that experience in our family anywhere. But they kept the faith — or at least pretended to. 😊

Beyond that, once I jumped into business ownership, there are so many people that I’ve learned from along the way, too many to mention. And many I’ve learned from because people taught me what NOT to do. I learned the hard way (and many lessons in hindsight) how to be a good business partner, how important communication with the partners is, and what kind of a leader I wanted to be. Those teachings stemmed mostly from learning what I did NOT want.

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

With the diverse and vast experience I have, I’ve been able to mentor many other business owners to help them gain business skills that they don’t currently have. We all start a business because we are good at something, and for most people, it isn’t necessarily business. It’s construction, or blending the perfect cup of coffee, or developing leaders, or teaching yoga. The business side of things can be painful for business owners. I am on the board of a group called The Business Mentor team which is a non-profit business mentorship program where we mentor small businesses in all areas of business to really help them grow and excel in their businesses. It’s the perfect way for me to give back.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Own Your Quirks– it took me six years to come full circle, trying to fit into what a business should look like, before I realized that I would be much more in service to people if I were just myself, and if I embraced my own unique quirks and integrated them into my business. One of my biggest quirks is that I am enamored with efficiency, so I look for efficiencies in everything and it can be a little annoying to people around me. But it’s who I am, and it ultimately makes me really good at what I do. So now, I own that!

2. Plant Your Flag in It– Find that one thing that you can really “own” as a business and plant your flag in it. Being a “business consultant” early in my business didn’t mean anything to anyone. But once I planted my flag in the RFP Success space, I was able to really own that and build a solid, extremely credible foundation around that. Now, people remember me and my company.

3. Communicate!– I talked about this earlier, but communication is huge. We can’t avoid it. I remember a prior business partner who would just absolutely not have a conversation with me when things got tough. Even when confronted, he avoided. Our partnership ultimately ended, and that was the lynchpin. If we had been able to have a more communicative partnership, and more honest conversations about what was and wasn’t working, things likely could have turned around.

4. There’s no such thing as luck — I used to always tell myself that I was so lucky for people “giving” me opportunities. Friends would say the same thing to me — you’re so lucky all this stuff keeps happening to you. Um, no, it wasn’t luck. It was because I worked my patootie off, I had great work ethic, I made smart choices, and opportunities presented themselves because of the work I did and the results I had. I see that clearly now.

5. Diversify– Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I told the story above of the one client I had that let me go, and then I had almost nothing. It was a scary time. It’s easy to get excited about those big clients, but we have to be careful not to rely solely on them because it can be gone in an instant.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂

I’d say my most passionate “platform” is to do things YOUR way, follow your own path, bring your uniqueness to the table. Stop trying to please everyone else. Find your own “mix of ingredients” that works specifically for you and follow that path. Stop trying to be just like other people, stop trying to replicate other people’s success, stop comparing yourself to others. Your unique quirks are what other people are drawn to — own them! I call it having a Martini Mindset.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I actually have two to share:

“You should hold out for the kind of love that gives you the courage to be better than you are, not less than you are.”(a quote from the movie Nights in Rodanthe). I am a pretty strong, independent woman, and in past relationships — not just “love” relationships, but business partnerships and friendships, I have sometimes suppressed who I am to “fit” into a societal mold, or to not overpower or intimidate others. I’ve learned that I should be surrounding myself with people who want me to be fully in my power, who are inspired by who I am. And when we are surrounded by people like that, we don’t try to be someone we aren’t.

“Be the fruit loop in a bowl of cheerios.” This one goes to everything I’ve said above. Just be who you are, own your unique quirks, be YOU.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Richard Branson, because he seems to embody everything that I stand for — forge your own path, do things your own way; follow your intuition; and for the love of Pete, have some Fun! I look at Richard Branson and he always seems to be laughing, enjoying life, having fun, being playful, not taking life too seriously. He also doesn’t seem like a traditional leader. It seems like he loves to “cut-up” with his staff and he’s super accessible to them. I love that!

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