Welcome change and be flexible. I have found that when I am willing to change things around to give my clients what they want, I more often win the business and also get higher customer satisfaction.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stan Kimer (pronounced Kim -mer, rhymes with swimmer.)
After a diverse and successful 31-year career working across virtually every function with IBM, Stan Kimer retired 1-month shy of 55 years old and then formed his own consultancy, Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer. Now for the past ten years, Stan provides career development services and diversity consulting and training to organizations worldwide. When he is not working, Stan competes on the adult figure skating circuit, a sport he did not pick up until he was 59 years old.
Stan’s business website (Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer) is https://www.totalengagementconsulting.com/
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I spent my childhood in many different part so the county; New York, Minnesota, New Mexico and then finally North Carolina. It was fun to reinvent myself every time we moved to a new place.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“At this point in my life, I don’t have to do anything that makes me miserable.” The older I get, the more I can focus on doing what I love.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
How about a Broadway Play? Book of Mormon … it is so hilarious and yet has a very meaningful and relevant message … that religion needs to meet people where they are. I have now seen the play 9 times and even have one of my figure skating routines I prefer to one of the songs; I skate it with a life-size puppet!
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I formed my career development and diversity strategy and consulting firm in 2010 after spending 31 years at IBM, and it has been slowly growing. It has not been wildly successful, but it has not been a bust either. I have been working about 25 hours per week and making a little extra spending money while making a positive impact in the business world doing something I am passionate about. All of my training was delivered in person, and I traveled all over the country extensively doing it.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
Actually, my pivot story is unique since my pivot came as a result of two major events in 2020. First, the COVID-19 Pandemic. For 3 months, I had virtually no business as organizations were so concerned about the pandemic that almost all diversity and training initiatives stopped. Then came the killing of George Floyd, additional killings of black and brown people, and all the protests across the country.
Now diversity became a very high priority, and companies and organizations wanted impactful diversity training. But I knew I could not offer it the old “in person” style. I had to pivot to offering my training virtually. And I also had to offer flexible options to clients. Some people could do 6 hours of training in one day via Zoom, others would prefer two 3-hour trainings and yet some others three 2-hour sessions. I also needed to learn how to use all the various features of a virtual training platform like showing videos, doing polls, using an online white board, and breaking the participants into small discussion rooms so the training was interesting and compelling.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
There was really no single “aha” moment, but when all the clients asked if I could provide training virtually, I knew I had to do it.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Things are going fantastic!! I am having by far my best year of business ever, even with the initial slow period when COVID first hit. And I am receiving great feedback. I feel really great when clients tell me that this was the fastest 2 hours they ever spent in online training, and that they did not even look at their watches once.
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?
Actually, I would like to give credit to several people because I surrounded myself with knowledgeable, helpful people when I launched my business. I have been mentored by Mr. Val Boston, who is a long time successful diversity consultant and coach, and then I have two career counsellors who provided valuable insight, Ms. Vickie Bevenour and Ms. Nancy Heller.
Actually one story; not only did Val Boston serve as a mentor to me, but he lined me up to give a workshop as a conference early in my consulting career, where I connected with one of my largest clients.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I’ll share two. By doing trainings remotely, we can sometimes share things about our lives that we could never do at in person trainings. A few times clients asked me to show videos of some of my figure skating programs at the online trainings, and at one recent training, about half the class brought their dogs and cats to introduce to everyone via their computers.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Never try to go it alone; surround yourself with helpful and smart people, especially those who know things you don’t know. I have received so much useful hints and tips to help start and grow my business by leveraging the expertise of multiple people, and now I am paying it back by helping new entrepreneurs in the same way,
- Always do something you’re passionate about. I love this diversity work and clients often tell me that my enthusiasm and passion always come through. You will always do better work if you are passionate about it.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. When there is something that is not important I just tend to ignore it, and it most cases it goes away.
- Welcome change and be flexible. I have found that when I am willing to change things around to give my clients what they want, I more often win the business and also get higher customer satisfaction.
- Always keep learning and growing, even at 65! Every year I try to add one or two new areas of expertise to my consulting and training, especially areas that are leading edge. My staying relevant with the times, demand for my services keep growing. Meanwhile I have seen other consultants who keep using 15-year-old materials lose business.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I think the most important strategy is to connect and network with positive people. Being around people with positive energy and passing positive energy to others multiplies the effects. Also I have “unfriended” dozens of friends on Facebook who were primarily posting negative and poisonous political and un-newsworthy items.
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?
I would want everyone to embrace the great positives of living in a very diverse world where each person brings something unique into the world. We need to love diversity and value all people instead of using it as something to divide people and demean others.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Pete Buttigieg! In fact, I went to his Presidential rally in Raleigh, NC the day before he withdrew from the race. He was so positive and hopeful in his message and I feel he is the type of future leadership our country needs. And it would be so cool for him to one day be elected our first gay President.
How can our readers follow you online?
The best ways are via my business Facebook Page and my LinkedIn since I post in each of those places 4–6 times per month — whenever I write a new blog, get quoted in the trade press, or have an interview or story published.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!