“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” This one came from one of my clients, Evan, when I was a sales associate. This is such a true statement. If you don’t put yourself out there and pitch, you won’t ever get what you want. You have to push yourself beyond being comfortable and ask for what you want, trying new methods again and again if you don’t initially succeed. Otherwise, you’ll never make it happen.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlene Walters.
Charlene Walters, MBA, Ph.D., is an entrepreneurship coach, business and branding mentor, trainer and author of Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur. She serves as a mentor on Entrepreneur magazine’s “Ask an Expert” forum and through her own consulting business (Charlene Walters, MBA, PhD, LLC), is featured among other CEOs, Influencers and Celebrities on the BAM Network and was recently selected as one of 150 Marketers to Follow by Rubicly. Charlene developed a digital entrepreneurship MBA program and is an entrepreneur who enjoys combining her knowledge and love of marketing and business strategy with her passion for innovation and desire to help others succeed.
Charlene also wrote a memoir about overcoming tragedy/loss and moving forward in life based on her own personal experience (pre-publication). As part of that, she serves as a speaker and mentor to others, and writes and contributes to numerous publications on business and motivational topics. Charlene also writes a blog called Entrepreneurship, Life Enthusiasm & Energizing Your Brand and has taught hundreds of business, marketing and entrepreneurship courses and workshops for businesses and universities.
Charlene is also a busy single mom currently living in Charlotte, North Carolina with her two beautiful daughters.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Absolutely. I’d be happy to. I grew up in Connecticut and moved to Miami as soon as I graduated with an undergraduate degree in English (goodbye snow). I started my career in sales and marketing and really enjoyed the hustle of making deals and matching customers with products which led to my growing love of business. I decided to pursue my MBA in management. From there, I went on to earn my Ph.D. in marketing. I continued to move on professionally to other positions in marketing and higher education before eventually creating a digital entrepreneurship MBA program. I loved the energy of it- it was wonderful to be able to work with business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. I also began to do some mentoring with Entrepreneur’s “Ask an Expert” Platform.
Next, I wrote the book Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur: 10 Mindset Shifts for Women to Take Action, Unleash Creativity and Achieve Financial Success (which is available for preorder) and launched my own company to work on speaking, consulting, mentoring and training full-time as an entrepreneurship coach and business and branding mentor. I also became a mom along the way which is still one of my biggest accomplishments.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I believe my work is disruptive because it gives women out there a voice and helps them to achieve their professional and financial goals through entrepreneurship and other business initiatives. My work is also disruptive because I help aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners innovate and take their businesses to the next level. Writing about mindset is not new, however writing about entrepreneurial mindset specifically for women is, particularly in terms of the areas that they need support in. After the mass layoffs and furloughs we saw in 2020 (more than 80% of which were women), now is the time to disrupt that alarming pattern by supporting women and pushing them towards success. I’m all in for that type of disruption and forward momentum.
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?
I have made so many little mistakes along the way and continue to do so, but as you mentioned, each time I learn from them and nobody’s perfect (despite appearances). One recent funny story comes to mind. I tend to overprepare for everything, but every once in a while, I’ll wing things due to time constraints. When I wing it, that’s when I tend to make the most mistakes. I was recently asked to do a YouTube interview late on a Sunday night for the next afternoon (Monday). I was not familiar with the person who was interviewing me but agreed to do it despite having a busy Monday in front of me. Because my schedule was tight, I didn’t have time to research the interviewer which became problematic when he asked me for advice about his own business during the interview! Yikes. I winged my response as best I could, doing fairly well, but I learned two things: 1) always do your homework and prepare (no matter what) and 2) don’t overpack your schedule to the point where you can’t adequately do so.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I don’t have one particular mentor that I can point to, but I tend to pick up little words of wisdom from different people along my path and sometimes I am just inspired by what the people around me are doing. For example, when I was younger, I had a friend who got an MBA so I thought maybe I better get my MBA too so I can keep up (and I did). Another time, I was at a business luncheon and a colleague said that he was writing a book. It inspired me and gave me the nudge I needed to get back to writing as becoming an author has always been one of my major career goals (I’ve written two books since that day). At other times, it was just a statement or two that someone said that stuck with me and I lean on those words when I need them. I love talking to and interacting with different people and I enjoy learning from them- I collect their advice and perspectives and add them to my own.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Being disruptive is always a positive thing whether you’re an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur. You have to continuously pivot and change to adjust to morphing market conditions. Despite its positivity, however, sometimes you do have to refer back to the old adage, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” I think the best way to understand whether or not something needs tweaking (i.e., products and processes) is to ask the people who are closest to them- the frontline employees and customers. Just because you think something is a good idea doesn’t mean that it will resonate with your customers, and knowing whether or not it will is vital. Some companies restructure and disrupt just for the sake of change often having a detrimental impact on their stakeholders or resulting in a product or process that flops.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Sure, there are many, but here are my top three:
1) “You don’t need to choose just one career path- you can be all of the things that you want to be.” Words of wisdom from a college professor while I was an undergraduate student. I had to write an essay about what I wanted to be when I graduated. At the time, I wanted to be a psychologist, writer or actress (lofty goals). I wasn’t sure which one to choose and the professor wrote on my paper in red ink, “You can be all three of these. You don’t need to choose.” I had never considered the possibility of being more than one thing until that point and was thrilled that he believed that I could achieve all of these ambitious careers- a positive endorsement from someone in a high position. While that is not exactly what happened in terms of my career, I have dabbled in a modified version of all three: mentor/Ph.D. (helping people like a psychologist might), writer (yes- author and writer) and actress (well, maybe, if YouTube and other speaking and video appearances count). :-)
2) “You have to give to receive.” This one came from one of my first managers, Rosie. As a sales manager, she would sometimes give me walk-in sales (instead of taking them for herself), in order to keep me selling and motivated. It worked and I always lean on her words in business when I am hoping to get sales or anything from others. Reciprocity is a must in business and life.
3) “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” This one came from one of my clients, Evan when I was a sales associate. This is such a true statement. If you don’t put yourself out there and pitch, you won’t ever get what you want. You have to push yourself beyond being comfortable and ask for what you want, trying new methods again and again if you don’t initially succeed. Otherwise, you’ll never make it happen.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
I am sure not done. Once my current book is launched, I plan to publish my second book and begin to write a third in collaboration with my daughter Avery. As far as my business, I plan to keep adapting to what the business environment needs support with and to continue reaching out to help others innovate and advance their businesses and professional goals. I also hope to launch a podcast soon!
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Disruption can be more difficult for women for a number of reasons including the fact that they have more to do in terms of balancing family and household tasks which can leave less time to innovate. Women are also less likely to put themselves in situations that are outside of their norm like when they are trying to disrupt processes or products or take risks. This hesitation often has to do with a woman’s need to be perfect or near-perfect before disrupting or jumping into something new. Women also feel less comfortable when announcing their progress or achievements (men are better at this). It’s important, however, for women to disrupt and put their innovative ideas front and center if they want to achieve. They can often be more creative and innovative than men- they just need to increase their confidence and comfort with risk.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
I have made it a goal to read at least a few books every couple of weeks during the pandemic instead of doing other activities to offset my writing and keep me balanced. I have read so many good ones that it’s almost hard to choose- we can always learn something from other people. I particularly liked Shark Tales by Barbara Corcoran because I enjoyed the funny stories of her childhood intermingled with her business stories. She is one for innovation, thought leadership and applying lessons learned. I certainly learned a lot from her. I also enjoy the Problem Solvers podcast with Jason Feifer of Entrepreneur magazine. It’s always awesome to hear the stories and experiences of other entrepreneurs via Jason.
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. :-)
There are so many worthy causes, and it’s difficult to narrow it down, but I am very passionate about helping women elevate themselves through entrepreneurship and education, particularly single mothers who are the sole breadwinners for their families. I understand what they go through because I have lived it myself. Women are at a disadvantage and typically have to juggle much more than their male counterparts so they would really benefit from some extra backing.
I would love to start a movement to help support these women, providing them with the tools to develop the mindset and the skills that they need to be successful in business and to foster work-life balance, which is more challenging for women, and again, single mothers in particular. This movement would also benefit their children, through positive role-modeling and support, and therefore clearly impact future generations.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My mother always told me, “God helps those who help themselves.” I’ll admit, it irked me as a child, but now I embrace it. I repeat it to myself when I am feeling down or stuck. For example, if I’m kicking back waiting on someone else to get back to me or make something happen, I remember these words of advice and come up with a new plan. The same when I encounter a setback or rejection. You shouldn’t ever rely solely on anyone else to make something happen. You are in charge of your own career, happiness and life. The more you put in, the more you are going to take out so get out there and help yourself (like mom said)! I know that I have done so over and over. You can, too.
How can our readers follow you online?
I want to thank you, and your readers, for taking the time to learn more about me. I am so appreciative and humbled.
LinkedIn- @Charlene Walters, PhD
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!