The Etiquette Leader Outclasses the Competition: A Tale of Successful Transformation
by Kelly-Lee Mansi
The Business/The Organization
The story of The Etiquette Leader is an inspiring account of small business success. In fewer than five years, Louise Fox has become one of Canada's most sought-after experts in the arena of children's etiquette and international and business protocol. Her company, which offers seminars across Canada and the United States, is poised for even greater expansion in 2007.
Louise's original company, Louise Fox, Protocol Solutions, was a successful and well-recognized resource for business leaders and adults interested in improving their etiquette skills. In 2006, Louise acquired The Etiquette Ladies, which was comprised of the Children's/Youth/Teens' and Social IQ Programs division of The Civility Group.
When the opportunity to acquire The Etiquette Ladies presented itself, Louise recognized an excellent chance to expand her company into new markets, and she purchased the division. A few months prior to the acquisition, Louise had met Executive Leadership Coach Kelly-Lee Mansi at a business networking function. Despite Kelly-Lee's 'pitch,' Louise didn't truly understand the value of business coaching. After all, she was already very successful. Why would she need a business coach?
Only a few months after the acquisition, when Louise began to experience 'entrepreneurial overwhelm,' she met Kelly-Lee at another networking function. When Kelly-Lee asked how the acquisition was going, Louise began to share the overwhelm she was experiencing. Kelly-Lee offered to meet Louise for a complimentary coaching session. Fifteen minutes into that session, Louise realized exactly what a business coach could do for her, and immediately hired Kelly-Lee.
The hallmark of Louise's entrepreneurial overwhelm was a complete lack of direction. Louise, who was experienced at building businesses from scratch, was totally out of her comfort zone when it came to integrating two established businesses. Louise shares her perspective regarding this challenge:
"When you are the sole proprietor, business decisions that are often difficult become even more so when you are expanding. I felt I needed a coach to serve as a sounding board—someone who could help me focus, establish priorities, create a vision for the future, determine what I wanted and where I wanted to go with my business while, at the same time, could help me to achieve balance in my life."
The first phase of the coaching focused on helping Louise regain control over her business. Louise had underestimated the cost of the acquisition venture, and when Kelly-Lee conducted some basic business assessments, the most powerful exercise was determining how much profit Louise was generating. Louise was shocked to discover that she was actually losing almost $1,000 a week. This information was a powerful catalyst and motivator, transforming Louise into a decisive, critical thinker. She quickly identified all the programs and activities which were contributing to the weekly loss.
Louise and Kelly-Lee then focused on the soft-skill competency areas of decision-making, prioritization and time management. To effect necessary changes, Louise had to clarify what she wanted to achieve and how she would achieve it. She needed to shift her perspective about her relative value and embrace the ROI (return on investment) mindset. Her new approach paid off almost immediately. Louise says,
"The challenge was taking the time to focus and establish a plan instead of fighting fires, procrastinating, and letting the business run me instead of my running the business. I had to make decisions about contracting out the jobs that I disliked which could be easily accomplished by someone else. I learned to say no to requests or ideas that were not profitable, weren't part of the strategic plan, or didn't fit into the vision I had for the company."
At the same time, new business strategy development gave birth to a new entity, The Etiquette Leader, which was comprised of two divisions—Children's Etiquette and Business Etiquette. Strategic exercises included defining the vision, mission and purpose statements for each division. A two-year business, branding and marketing plan for each division was completed. Louise comments:
"Although initially it was hard work to develop and create a vision and a strategy to accomplish it, once that was done, everything else seemed to fall into place much more easily. Decisions were easier to make, and there was less stress overall."
The final phase of the coaching focused on re-examining the previously existing business strategies, revenue streams, and profitability within The Etiquette Leader's two divisions. This last step was critical to ensure congruence with the new strategic plan.
Within nine months of working with Kelly-Lee to overcome her entrepreneurial overwhelm, Louise boasted some impressive results. She:
- Not only recovered the purchase price of the new company, but also posted an overall increase in combined profitability of 195% over the previous year;
- Implemented an expansion strategy, which includes the scheduled Fall 2007 launch of a new residual-based affiliates program into Canada and the United States;
- Reduced overhead costs by 95% by eliminating physical inventory and offering all materials and products through website purchasing and downloading; and
- Increased media visibility by 400% through an aggressive marketing and branding campaign. Louise is now one of the most sought-after etiquette experts in Canada, currently averaging three media engagements per week.
Louise has also reinvented the Children's Etiquette division of The Etiquette Leader. Traditionally, the children's etiquette business has been centered around small etiquette parties, averaging a net profit of $20.00 per event (that's not a typo!). Instead, Louise is focusing on writing children's etiquette books and merchandising their distribution throughout Canada and United States. The
Eti-CatTM brand will be launched during the fourth quarter of 2007, with a two-year profitability target of 35-40% of the Children's Etiquette division's gross revenues.
Finally, how does Louise feel?
"When you are more focused and less stressed, you are able to think more creatively, feel much happier generally, and achieve the necessary balance in your life. It creates a very positive cycle. Going forward, the challenge will be to sustain the focus and integrity of the vision, while maintaining my flexibility and creativity."
Kelly-Lee Mansi, PCC, CHRP, is the founder and president of Courageous Conversations, a coaching company focusing on 'Uncovering the Brilliance WithinTM.' Courageous Conversations concentrates on executive, leadership, business and mentor competency development. Read more about Kelly-Lee in the WABC Coach Directory. Kelly-Lee can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.