As a new year starts, I want to share what happened in the past 365 days and how I have decided to adjust my company.
Imagining “what could be” is one of my top StrengthsFinder talents, also called Ideation.
When I was 8 years old, I had a desk in my room with a toy rotary phone. I would sit there and answer pretend calls, take notes, and create documents to “send” to people around the world. I wanted to fix problems by listening to how others talked about their situation and help make it better.
Fast-forward 30-some years, and that’s what I get to do now: help business owners to fix a toxic workplace environment by evaluating their company’s strengths and weaknesses, finding the areas of risk, and designing ways to make it more profitable.
The process of reviewing a business year is not all that fun. In fact, it can be really uncomfortable. To get a full picture of how things have gone, you need to recognize the good and the bad and re-frame your thinking about the barriers that kept you from reaching goals.
Here are some tools that can help you do that:
I started sharing my review two years ago. Check them out:
In this third installment of my business “Year In Review,” I’ll be sharing how LaConte Consulting did in 2019, and what I will adjust in the coming year.
In 2019, my business experienced a lot of changes.
I had chosen “Experimentation” as the Word of the Year, and that is certainly what happened: I attempted some new marketing methods, reached a new audience, worked on new projects, and faced challenges that made me question whether I should be in business at all. My desire to try new things really stretched me professionally and personally.
Toward the end of the year, I joined several organizations as a volunteer. This has opened doors with new clients and also allowed me to recognize needs that I hadn’t noticed before. As a result, I decided to form a non-profit organization that can serve the needs of working mothers. (You’ll hear more about this later.)
While 2019 ended without much obvious financial growth, it gave me a renewed focus on reaching my ultimate business goals. I can already see some great things happening as 2020 begins.
What Went Well (Wins)
My business had some incredible opportunities in 2019.
I served new clients, attended a medical doctors’ conference, joined two non-profit organizations, and adjusted my consulting focus from marketing strategy to workplace toxicity.
In my personal life, this year brought new appreciation for my family and the commitment needed to balance the needs of my 3 kids with a reduced work schedule.
Although there was less client work this year, I continued to develop materials and new content in several areas:
- niche markets,
- unsafe and unethical practices, and
- communication (see the Statistics section below for examples).
One fun development was the opportunity to try several new marketing techniques (which you’ll find below). I also had the chance to attend the Washington State Medical Association’s 2019 Annual Meeting.
I was invited to write a guest post on the dangers of Multi-Level Marketing in doctors’ offices, which allowed me to connect with a lot of new people around the globe.
One of the most helpful experiments was agreeing to start an accountability partnership with my friend Michael Quinn, SEO expert and the owner of Michael Quinn Agency.
I spent the summer months with my three kids. While this reduced my work output, it gave me time to recharge and re-prioritize my goals. In the final quarter of 2019, I rebranded my website with a focus on reversing a toxic workplace.
Focus on Breastfeeding Accommodation
In 2019, I became more involved with the Clark County Breastfeeding Coalition and learned about Washington’s recent breastfeeding accommodation law, which requires employers with 15+ employees to provide the time and location to pump breast milk at work.
I also created a new website, lactationlaws.org, to inform employers about what is required and how to accommodate their staff to keep them engaged and committed at work.
Toward the end of the year, I began the process to launch a non-profit that will serve the needs of working mothers. In my own experience, it is difficult to find an employer that allows staff to find a balance between work and family responsibilities. This imbalance can result in tragic outcomes including:
- financial and social pressures from missing work due to illness or family needs,
- a lack of support from the community to help pick up the slack,
- limited options for childcare,
- unsafe childcare situations (due to few options and high cost),
- unexpected job loss from too many missed days or lack of “commitment,”
- emotional impact including anxiety and post-partum depression,
- increasing debt,
- victimization by predatory companies like MLMs, and
- loss of housing… which can result in homelessness.
These terrible realities are increasingly common for all mothers, but the pressures are even higher for minority women.
This spring, I am launching a non-profit organization that will provide resources and training for moms who want a balance between work and family obligations.
If you’d like to find out more, send me a message.
In 2019, I published 39 blog posts—fewer than my goal of 50, but still resulting in fantastic content.
My website got a total of 75,171 views and 45,025 visitors—which is a 435% increase from the last year (17,246 views and 11,028 visitors in 2018).
The most-searched-for terms were:
- PESTEL/PESTLE Analysis
… check out How to Complete a PESTEL Analysis
- Grace LaConte’s 4 Responses to Fear
… read The 4 Responses to Fear as a Leader
- Year In Review Examples
… find them in 31 “Year In Review” Examples to Inspire You
- Why MLMs are Like Cults
… which I explain in 11 Ways Multi-Level Marketing is Like a Cult
On Instagram, I published 88 posts but stopped posting consistently in September. Although the Instagram platform is great for some brands, I found that the time investment wasn’t yielding results for my business (an increase in Ideal Customer interaction, sales discussions, and sales conversions).
On YouTube, I added 5 new videos (fewer than last year). My most popular video is Why I Hate MLMs: My Story with over 2500 views.
New business projects that began in 2019 included:
Featured Practitioners series – interviews with business owners in healthcare fields to find out what made them decide to specialize, and how it has helped their company grow.
- Featured Practitioner: Beth Petersen, LMT of Unwind Yoga and Bodywork
- Featured Practitioner: Chris Flaig, LMT, CTB of Revive Therapeutic Massage LLC
- Featured Practitioner: Jacob Corley, LMT, FRCms of Optimal Function and Wellness
Niche Marketing series – different ways to approach the idea of narrowing a business niche and why it works.
- 27 Niche Ideas for a Specialized Massage Therapy Business
- The Specialized Massage Therapy Practice Niche
- Why a Niche Will Make Your Healthcare Practice More Successful
- 29 Medical Conditions that Make an Excellent Niche Focus
- The 5 Elements of a Niche
- What Does it Take to Develop a Triple Niche?
Marketing Experiments – what happened when I tried a few methods to reach new customers, and how it turned out.
- How to Avoid Communication that is Sexist and Gender-Specific
- 10 Variations of the “Employee for a Day” Experience
- The 4 Surprising Things I Learned from “Take Your Child to Work Day”
- My Experience at Washington State Medical Association’s 2019 Annual Meeting
Problems with Multi-Level Marketing – my perspective on what MLMs do to lure people into joining, and why they are especially dangerous in the healthcare field.
- Analysis of the Disclaimer from a Direct Sales Company
- New Health and Wellness MLMs and Why They are Dangerous
- The MLM Persuasion Tricks That Convinced Me to Join
- How MLMs Use the Psychology of Influence
- Check Out My Guest Post: What to Do if Your Doctor Promotes Multi-Level Marketing
Lactation Laws – a new website that provides information and solutions for business owners who want to provide breastfeeding accommodations.
I provided a series of Facebook Live videos on 5 marketing topics:
- Picking the Right Niche for a Successful Healthcare Practice
- How to Choose Effective Business Goals
- Evaluating Your Social Media: How Well is it Working?
- Preparing for Your Business “Year In Review,” Step-by-Step
- How to Add More Income Streams to Your Healthcare Practice
What Did Not Go Well (Failures)
In 2019, I served fewer clients than in previous years. I also failed at several projects including:
- a “Marketing Strategy Workshop,”
- a direct marketing campaign to chiropractors, and
- a “Featured Practitioner Series.”
Over the summer, I chose to reduce my work hours and spent time with my 3 school-age kids. This resulted in less client work and income, but it allowed me to connect with them in a way I hadn’t been able to do before.
In 2019, I did not book any speaking engagements. I also did not publish any books or e-books (one of my goals for the year) or create any sellable products.
Strategic Growth Sphere Evaluation
I believe that successful business owners need to allow grow to happen in 4 directions:
- Profit (Financial)
- Proficiency (Learning & Development)
- Processes (Workflow)
- People (Customers)
Here is how LaConte Consulting did last year.
Sales and profit margin were lower than in previous years. I also served fewer clients and did not build very diverse streams of income.
The learning and development were a much higher priority.
In the spring, I completed a 12-credit course on Ethical Leadership. I also attended several webinars toward my RHIA credential.
Getting involved in volunteer organizations added new knowledge about the needs in my Vancouver, WA community. It made me aware of hidden problems, such as the challenge of owning a business but not realizing that a new state law requires the accommodation of lactation in the workplace.
Workflow improved in 2019 with a new client onboarding method.
Since many of my new clients are local, I now conduct our initial discussions face-to-face rather than virtually.
My publishing processes have not been consistent, so in the next year I will be using a content schedule to share articles and videos more regularly.
My interactions with clients has really improved due to a stronger focus on workplace analysis and employee engagement data.
I’m also able to interpret lactation laws and to design accommodations for working mothers. This new direction has opened doors and allowed a much larger circle of networking.
Overall Strategic Imbalance: Broken/Chaotic Growth
Review of 2019 Goals
Where were my business outcomes based on last year’s goals?
Goal 1: New Sales Techniques
Originally, my goal was to try a variety of sales and marketing techniques to see how well they brought in new clients. In retrospect, I enjoyed the process of planning, executing, and reviewing the results of these experiments, and it fit my Word of the Year (Experiment). While these experiments didn’t result in new client projects, I learned a lot and created content that will be useful for future projects and workshops.
Goal 2: Publish First E-Book
I wanted to finish writing an e-book and sell it on Amazon, but that didn’t happen for a few reasons:
- A lack of focus on who my audience should be
- Distraction by starting too many projects at once (and not finishing them)
- The reality of how time consuming it is to finish writing a book.
I still want to publish easy-to-read guides on topics that I’m asked about most often, including:
- Strategy Tools Made Easy: How to Apply the SWOT Analysis, PESTEL Analysis, and Other Marketing Tools to Grow Your Business
- The Ultimate Year In Review Toolkit: A Step-By-Step Guide to Evaluate Your Business and See Success in the Next Year
- How to Fix a Toxic Workplace: A Practical Guide to Reverse Poor Profits, Customer Loss, and High Staff Turnover
Goal 3: Refresh Speaker Page
This is another goal that didn’t come to pass in 2019, mostly because it was really difficult to pin down exactly what my company’s focus should be.
I spent a lot of time thinking about my passions and where I want to focus my time, and now that I have a new focus (toxic workplace and lactation laws). For next year, I do plan to update my speaking topics to reflect this new direction.
Books I Finished Reading in 2019
This past year, I read a total of 18 books:
7 Fiction Books
- The Martian by Andy Weir (2014)
After watching the 2015 blockbuster movie starring Matt Damon, I wanted to read the book it was based on. I really liked the author’s focus on scientific measurements and realistic descriptions of how difficult life would be on Mars.
- The Rainmaker by John Grisham (1995)
Again, this book was turned into a movie in 1997 starring Matt Damon and Danny DaVito. It was a great read, although the ending was sappy and unrealistic.
- The Testament by John Grisham (2005)
A great book about a wealthy millionaire and the lawyer who travels to the Amazon to find his heir. I thought this was one of Grisham’s better novels!
- The Broker by John Grisham (2012)
Unfortunately, even though the story took place in Bologna, Italy and described a lot of places that are familiar to me, the writing was stiff and not nearly as exciting as other Grisham stories.
- The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham (2012)
[Yes, I was on a Grisham kick…] This is one of Grisham’s few non-fiction works. It describes the unfair arrest and imprisonment of several men in the Midwest and was turned into a fantastic Netflix movie in 2018.
- The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho (1988, 25th edition 2014)
My friend suggested reading this classic, and it was an interesting change from other fiction books I’ve read. The allegorical style took me a while to get used to, but I liked the descriptions of the main character’s journey and heartbreak.
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (2017)
Another book suggested by a friend — this one is based on historical events in pre-WWII Korea. The character development was great, and events were described in great detail. There were a few missteps with sections that didn’t seem to fit the context, but overall I really enjoyed this novel.
9 Kids’ Fiction Books
I read these classic books to my kids.
- Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, adopted by Malvina G. Vogel (Great Illustrated Classics 2011)
- Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter, adapted by I. Dummitdown (Great Illustrated Classics; 1995)
- Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, adapted by I. Dummitdown (Great Illustrated Classics; 1989)
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, edited by Lisa Church, illustrated by Dan Andreasen (Classic Starts; 2006)
- White Fang by Jack London, adapted by Malvina G. Vogel (Great Illustrated Classics; 1994)
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, adapted by Deidre S. Laiken (Great Illustrated Classics; 1989)
- Mutiny on Board the HMS Bounty by William Bligh, adapted by Deborah Kestel (Great Illustrated Classics; 2008)
- The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain, adapted by I. Dummitdown (Great Illustrated Classics; 2008)
- Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson, adapted by Deidre S. Laiken (Great Illustrated Classics; 2008)
Most of these adaptations were actually really terrible — a lot of misspellings, gaps in the story, and cringe-worthy decisions by the characters. I haven’t read many of the originals but am hoping to do so. I have purchased Robinson Crusoe and am reading The Call of the Wild to my son, which has been a really great experience.
2 Non-Fiction Books
Finally, here are the two non-fiction works I completed in 2019:
- This Land Is Their Land: Reports from a Divided Nation by Barbara Ehrenreich (2009)
I have been a fan of Ehrenreich’s other works — Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America (2001) and Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America (2009). Unfortunately in this book, Ehrenreich presents a very abrasive and caustic take on her view of the world and leaves no room for any differences of opinion. I had a really difficult time getting through the disjoined stories and first-hand accounts (completely different from her approach in Nickel and Dimed)
- Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth by Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin (2018)
This book was a gift from a friend who had enjoyed the content, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as well. The authors share examples of how companies can shape their customers’ buying experience by creating a very unique and memorable experience.
Favorite Quote of 2019
In the past year, I have been reading the advice of childhood development and gentle parenting experts. Here is one quote that stood out to me:
Instead of calling someone “attention-seeking,” consider changing it to “connection-seeking” and see how your perspective changes.
(Adapted from Jody Carrington, PhD)
Word of the Year for 2019
The word I chose at the beginning of last year was:
My intention was to step into uncomfortable sales and marketing situations and to learn from the experience so I could help others.
What I’ll Continue and Adjust for 2020
What to Continue
I will keep writing and publishing content on my blog, as well as experimenting with new marketing techniques.
What to Do Differently (Goals for 2020)
For the next year, I want to accomplish these things:
The new focus on toxicity reversal has allowed me to have conversations with employers who want to create a healthy, welcoming environment to working moms and dads. I am really excited about the opportunity to serve business owners with the same types of services I’ve been offering, but with this slightly different focus.
If you are interested in finding out how my process works, read more here and fill out a questionnaire to get started!
After a long hiatus, I will be teaching and presenting information to groups once again. My business speaking topics will be updated to reflect a new focus on:
- Reversing a Toxic Workplace
- How Employee Accommodations Will Impact Your Company Culture
- Why Foundational Staff are the Key to Healthy Growth
- Recognizing Your Blind Spots & Bias as a Leader
- The Employee For a Day Project
- Creating Healthy Feedback Loops
- The 4 Fear Responses as a Leader
- Applying Participatory Job Design in Your Company
Once the non-profit launches, we will be offering community events on topics of interest to working moms and dads, such as:
- Top 5 Challenges When a New Mom Goes Back to Work
- What You Should Know About Breastfeeding Rights in Washington State
- How to Approach Your Employer About a Flexible Work Schedule
- Working Dads Can Too! How to Discuss Bringing Baby to Work and Job Flexibility with Your Employer
- How to Find Affordable, Reliable, and Safe Childcare Options
If you’d like to find out more about supporting my work to help working moms, send me a message.
Another goal for 2020 is to add more videos on the topics of:
- toxicity at work,
- flexible work options, and
- the importance of learning from Foundational Staff.
Word of the Year for 2020
For this year, I’ve chosen the word:
I want to help business owners who are frustrated by staff turnover and disengagement. I also want to support working moms by teaching them how to advocate for flexibility options that will give them balance while adding more value to their employer.
As you can see, 2019 was a year that taught me a lot of new and interesting things as a business owner. Some of those efforts succeeded, and some failed… but all of them were learning opportunities that I’ll be carrying into the new year.
Interested in hearing how you can reverse a toxic workplace? Find out more here.
Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.