Be Decisive and Execute a Plan: Part of being resilient is springing back or recovering quickly. That requires action. Successful business owners fail their way to success. They make decisions quickly and realize some will be wrong, and that is okay because what is needed is that they make the decisions that need to be made. Never fear to make a decision. Fear paralyzes the decision-making process and will kill a business faster than anything else. Decide, move forward and re-evaluate if necessary.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristen David. Kristen, a former trial lawyer and partner, went from working 85 hours a week and being a slave to her law firm, to building a million-dollar-plus business. She then sold her shares and pivoted into a business coach, now empowering other founders to build thriving and profitable businesses that are self-managed by leveraging her proprietary system: The 4 Pillars of Successful Business Management. Kristen’s no-nonsense approach and results-oriented methodology have allowed her to help more than 1,500 business owners — from small companies to large organizations — double and triple their profits annually.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
I used to be a slave to my business. Working 85 hours a week and being the first in the office and the last to leave was simply exhausting. I couldn’t even enjoy my vacations for years. I knew there had to be a better way.
I ultimately decided to sell my law firm and have been advising and coaching business owners ever since, helping them build thriving, profitable businesses. What is so rewarding is seeing a business owner go from overworked and underpaid to flourishing with both an amazing team who runs the business with systems and a well-balanced lifestyle.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Being a trial attorney was a fantastic experience, but transitioning to a business advisor and coach is where I found I really thrived.
I intellectually understood that I could help one person, or I could get up in front of 250 business owners and help all of them develop a plan to move forward toward a better life with more profitable business systems.
Despite understanding those dynamics, it was still scary to leave behind the lawyer profession that had been so much a part of my identity.
The biggest take away was realizing I knew how to build a 7-figure business, and if the new venture didn’t work out, I could always go back and build another law firm business. That gave me the confidence to move forward: I would always succeed in business.
That is a lesson I impart to all my clients: if you know you ultimately can’t fail, imagine what you can put your mind to and succeed at with no limitations around you.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What we know about business owners are that they are busy and while they intellectually know they need to be working on their business, they don’t!
A cornerstone to what we do in our company is to hold our clients accountable to the plan we help them create and keep them focused on what matters. Sometimes all it takes is a gentle nudge. Other times it takes a bit more force. We try to have fun while making our point.
We have been known to send things to their office to provide that material ‘kick in the pants’ to do what they need to do. For instance, a single size 13 hiking boot with a note that says “this boot shall sit on the edge of your desk for 30 consecutive days as a daily reminder to get it done!”
Another effective tool is sending a gross, yes 144, rolls of toilet paper to their office with a note that says “to wipe up your B.S. excuses.” It is impressive how much-focused productivity we generally see after this!
Bottom line: we care not only about presenting the way things should work but also sticking with our clients to make sure they actually do what needs to be done. They don’t just get to listen to the talk, they have to walk the talk too — just like I did.
That is the other part that makes our company stand out. The team is comprised of individuals who have either built their own successful business or have helped others build their business. For our clients, that means they can get feedback from others who have been there, done that.
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?
When I was a young lawyer fresh out of law school I interviewed a gentleman by the name of Don Bowerman.
He was a busy trial lawyer and asked if I could come in for an interview on Sunday afternoon as he would be getting ready for a court matter. My Sunday interview went on for several hours, and at the end of it, he asked if I could start right then and there.
I literally went to work that day and never looked back. He was an amazing mentor that shared how to always take the professional high-road and not get caught up in the emotions that can negatively impact the case you are working on. He also taught me through his own actions how important it was to take personal time off to recharge. He would ski every Wednesday morning in the winter, and bike ride in the summer. He and his friends would play tennis every Tuesday and Thursday mornings without fail.
These lessons eventually taught me to balance my production schedule and take time to do the things I love on my journey to build an amazing business.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
To me, resilience is about knowing where you need to go and what you need to do, yet being able to improvise if it doesn’t go as planned. It is about being able to pivot and redirect to get to the result you are trying to reach, even when the path you were on is blocked. There is always more than one way to get there and recognizing that allows one to keep forging forward. Those who can “find the silver lining” in every problem are the ones that are able to transition instantaneously from falling into a defeatist mindset to being a creator of successful outcomes who can create their future.
In one of my favorite books, Relentless, Tim Grover talks about different personalities and how those that are “cleaners” are relentless in going after what they want. They do whatever is necessary to make it happen. Regardless of what difficulties or obstacles, they exhibit resilience to recover quickly and spring back.
In leaders, resilience is not just seen in their business strategy and acumen, it is also exhibited in their staff. You never give up on your ideas plus the goals they create, but just as importantly, you never give up on your people. You may be tough on them when necessary, but by illustrating the elasticity and willingness to help them be their best, they respect your resilience and also learn to build up their own.
Being resilient with a resilient team means your business processes and systems become even more resilient, and that is the way to build revenues, lower costs and thus increase profits.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Ruth Bader Ginsberg for sure.
As her books and movies have illustrated, she has been a tireless advocate for gender equality and women’s rights. She also made her way into the profession when she faced what today seem unbelievable and insurmountable obstacles based on nothing more than her gender.
She never gave up. She forged a new path after a new path. Her ability to pivot coupled with her brilliance overcame obstacle after obstacle until she was appointed to the highest court in our Country.
During her 13 years as a U.S. Court of Appeals Judge for the D.C. Circuit and in her 26 years on the U.S. Supreme Court she has always stood for what she believed and refused to step down. Her life and career is without a doubt, a truly outstanding testament to resilience.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
For me, it was when I was thinking of selling my law firm business.
So many people told me it was impossible, that you can’t “sell a law firm.” This made no sense to me. Law firms are just like any other business and society is perfectly comfortable with doctors, dentists, CPAs, etc. selling their practices.
I researched and evaluated the assets I had in my policies and procedures, systems, marketing, revenues, receivables, etc. and created a plan. A year later, I was successful. Perhaps it is the lawyer in me, but when someone tells me I can’t, that just adds fuel to the fire to prove I can.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
There are so many, but I think one of the biggest was back in law school.
I was 21 years old and in my first semester. I was working almost full time to put myself through law school, and I thought things were going okay until I got straight Ds. I was told I would be asked to leave the program if I didn’t immediately get my grades up.
This was devastating as I had always been an A/B student. Despite working, I had to double down and learn how to study smarter and answer the questions in the way the law school wanted. I ultimately finished the four year night program in 3 years and passed the bar exam on my first try.
I often look back and realize my entire life could have been so different had I not addressed the problem and found a new solution. It was a wake-up call: I had planned to be a lawyer from a very early age, and I almost failed. I buried my emotions, realigned my priorities and never looked back.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
My parents started a vineyard and winery in Southern Oregon in the early 70s, a concept so new nobody even knew what whether grapes could even be cultivated, let alone which type of grapes, if any, would flourish in the climate.
After my father died when I was 6, my mother continued the business against the odds. What made it so tough was that the Oregon wine industry was just starting in those years and she was the first in our area plus a single parent back when support for single parents really didn’t exist.
Despite the hardships and the many, many challenges, she built a successful business operated by an all-female team — something unheard of at the time. I watched her handle innumerable setbacks and persevere again and again.
Looking back now, her level of resilience was beyond belief. While it was a hard, tough time for our family, the lessons I learned watching her pivot and succeed in business are the type of practical experience that is invaluable and which I try to impart to all my clients. Never give up: there is always a way to success and move forward.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Setbacks to Opportunity. When Trouble Strikes, Assess the Situation Objectively: Too often, our brains jump to conclusions without assessing the actual underlying facts and that can often lead to panic or poor decisions. Take a moment to determine the objective information, not just the subjective belief of what you perceive — put emotional reactions aside and stop being invested in only a single way forward. I worked with a business owner once who freaked out believing his business was financial upside down all because he misread a financial report. Within hours he was planning to cut staff and other expenses when we determined that the report was incomplete, which created the discord in the numbers. Lesson: stay calm and fully assess.
- Be a Leader and Determine the Best Way to Resolve the Problem: Once you have a negative effect, it is crucial to evaluate the cause of that effect so you can then find the best way to resolve the problem. For many that are in a cash crunch, the cause is either they are not making enough sales, or they are not collecting the money owed to them. Understanding the cause makes it so much easier to find the solution.
- Be Decisive and Execute a Plan: Part of being resilient is springing back or recovering quickly. That requires action. Successful business owners fail their way to success. They make decisions quickly and realize some will be wrong, and that is okay because what is needed is that they make the decisions that need to be made. Never fear to make a decision. Fear paralyzes the decision-making process and will kill a business faster than anything else. Decide, move forward and re-evaluate if necessary.
- Pivot and Move Forward: While one decision may have made sense at the time, sometimes we find it was not the best strategy, and you have to pivot and move forward. This often occurs with hiring. You think you have the perfect person but then find it is not the right fit. Take 100% responsibility and release the person and find the person you need and move forward. More times than not, the new direction results in an even better situation.
- Learn to Thrive in the Moment and Make the Best of Every Situation. A story of this happened in the Fall of 2019 when I was flying from Paris to NYC with just 48 hours until my final book manuscript was due to my editor. After working on it on the plane for 5 hours, I closed the laptop and didn’t open it until the next morning at my hotel. I woke up ready to get to work, but upon opening my laptop was faced with the blue screen of death. My heart skipped a beat. Despite multiple attempts, it would not restart. I realized there was nothing I could do until the Apple store opened at 10 am that Sunday so I walked down to the High Line, which is an old railroad track that’s been transformed to a beautiful walking path. I used that unplanned extra time to enjoy the beauty of what has been created there, had breakfast at the Chelsea markets, enjoyed a great book shop, and then went to the Apple store. (Where they ultimately announced my laptop was dead on arrival and sold me a new one.) Learn to “THRIVE IN THE MOMENT” and be grateful for what life does give you and don’t waste precious mental energy on what you cannot change. (And, yes, my mantra of always backing up three ways was again successful and the cloud backup had taken place before my original Macbook had died so I didn’t lose all my work!)
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 would want society to realize that business owners don’t have to be miserable slaves to their business. All they need is to understand some basic principles of successful business management.
First, a little planning goes a long way. Second, focus on marketing to a targeted audience and get the sales you need to bring the right amount of cash flow into the business. Third, while you build a great team, build the systems and processes to allow others to do the work in a streamlined fashion. Finally, learn to be a good money manager so all the money earned doesn’t just go out the door as an expense. In other words, learn how to build a thriving profitable business built with systems.
A happy business owner positively impacts their own family, their staff, their staff’s family, their clients and their client’s families. This amplification from running a profitable business can change lives.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders 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, especially if we tag them :-)
Ruth Bader Ginsberg, of course! she is incredible. She fights for what she believes. She is relentless. She is resilient. She is willing to say what is on her mind. So what would I get out of lunch, great conversation, great insights.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!