The following is an interview of Rachel Burr by PICA, Professional Independent Consultants of America.
Q&A with Rachel Burr of Catamentum Leadership Coaching & Consulting on creating the consulting career of her dreams, and how to “Catalyze Momentum”.
Q: Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business.
A: My name is Rachel Burr, and my company is Catamentum Coaching and Consulting (“Catalyze Momentum”). When we Catalyze Momentum, we can Unleash Potential. I’m an executive coach, leadership development consultant, and overall “people expert.” A big part of what I do is to help leaders step into their authentic potential. The way I see it, a lot of leaders may feel forced into a cookie cutter of leadership, either by what they think leadership is supposed to be or what they see modeled around them. My consulting approach is focused on getting leaders to explore who they are at their core, including their strengths and weaknesses, their values, and what they want to do as a leader. Then we look how they bring that core to their current role or the role they’d like to have.
Q: Do you do a blend of coaching and consulting work or primarily just the coaching?
A: I do both. I do individual leadership coaching, I work with teams, and I facilitate tailored workshops. I also work with executives as a thought partner. I help them think through their people strategies, challenges, and opportunities. Leaders will often have ideas and questions about their people and overall organization, but they may not be sure how to put these ideas into action. Leaders may not yet be ready to talk about these ideas with their boss, and it may not be appropriate at that point to talk with their team. I help leaders unpack their ideas and examine their options so they can make better decisions.
Q: How long have you been independent now?
A: Four years, but it seems like so much has happened.
Q: How did you make the leap to independent consulting?
A: It’s funny because I resigned from my corporate job without knowing what I was going to do next. There were a lot of things I appreciated about corporate, but I was also spending a lot of time on things that weren’t really leveraging my talents. I was comfortable but not happy. I’m a big believer that we have to make ourselves uncomfortable to catalyze change. So, I quit.
I left not knowing what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted to explore the possibilities. Granted, I had the benefit of my husband being very supportive, and having good health insurance. So, that made the leap into the unknown a little easier.
Initially, I stared to look at other corporate jobs. I wasn’t even thinking about consulting. I applied for a job, and I didn’t get it, which turned out to be a good thing. Then, I agreed to do an interview for a second corporate position, but it just didn’t feel right. A friend who had her own consulting business asked me why I didn’t try going independent. Then, she hired me to work on a small consulting project to help me “dip my toe in the water.” I remember the first day I met with the client. We were discussing their objectives and needs, the outcomes they wanted, and brainstorming ideas. I loved it! 30 minutes into our meeting, I thought, “Why have I never done this before?” That was it. I finished the project, and that summer, I started my own coaching and consulting company.
Q: What’s one thing you wish you would have done differently?
A: I would have asked for help earlier. I think when you go out on your own you feel like you have to do everything yourself. But you have people around you who are really good at what they do. They’re talented and they’ve got their own work that supports the business you want to grow. So, reach out. Build your village.
Q: Once you decided to really go for it how did you get your own clients?
A: I had a number of strong relationships with people I had worked with and whom I greatly respected. The people I knew in HR, talent management, and consulting were natural conduits for connecting me with leaders to help them address needs in their organizations. One by one, I had people take a chance on me. I continued to build relationships, and as people get to know and trust you, building your business begins to come more naturally. It’s important to connect with folks in a way that’s genuine and authentic. Understand their pain points, what they are managing or struggling with, and figure out how you can help them.
Q: You make it sound very easy, Rachel. What’s your secret sauce?
A: It is not easy. There were so many times I was just overwhelmed because I had no idea how to run a business. Someone recently told me that you have to have a business plan before you jump in. I didn’t even know what a business plan was! I had moments that were these little highs from my wins. I also had moments of thinking I have no idea how I’m going to do this.
I specifically remember a friend of mine who had also decided to leave corporate. She left before I did, and I had been there to help her when she was figuring things out. After I had been out on my own for about six months, she called and said, “Hey, I’m going to this business accelerator program. Do you want to come with me?” I didn’t even know what that was. We both signed up for the program, and as I went through it, I started to see all the things I didn’t realize. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
I also remember being overwhelmed worrying about money, which is totally normal, but then you have to learn to invest in yourself to move forward and get to that next level. I remember calling my husband before I signed up for the program, because we are very good about making financial decisions together. I told him, “I really need help. I think this program could help me but it’s a lot of money.” I told him how much it cost. He was completely supportive and said, “If that’s what you need to do, that’s what you need to do.” I think it’s really important to tell people there’s no magic formula. Some days it was really a struggle and I wanted to give up. Those were the times I had to pick myself back up, reflect on what I learned, identify what I was going to do differently, and also identify those things I would never do again. I think it’s important to recognize that it’s going to be a journey.
Q: Four years in, what has changed or gotten easier?
A: One thing was that when I first started I had a really negative misconception of what it meant to sell my services. The word “sell” was a real hang up for me. I had this idea that I was pushing someone into something or getting them to do something that maybe they didn’t really want to do. After talking with a number of consultants, coaches, and other people I trusted and respected, I realized selling isn’t about pushing. It’s about listening, understanding a client’s challenges and pain points, and hearing what they want to achieve. Then, we can talk about how I can support them to address their problems. With that new mindset, my idea of selling shifted from feeling like a push to feeling like a partnership, and I love that.
Q: What’s next for you and Catamentum Coaching & Consulting?
A: I love that I am continuing to figure out the kind of work I really want to do, that place where passion and talent intersect. I’m also figuring out what I don’t want to do. To say Yes to some things, you have to say No to others. We only get 24 hours in a day, so we have to figure out how to prioritize that time.
I want to expand my executive coaching and team coaching. I also love tailoring and facilitating workshops for teams and other groups. I’m not one to just pull something off the shelf. I want to adapt the approach to each group.
I also want to do more guesting on podcasts. I’m an extrovert at heart, so being able to get out there and talk with others about people, leadership, and unleashing our potential, that really fuels my passion.
Q: If people want to learn more about you and or what you do, what would be the best way to do that?