Business owners Kyle Strahl, Gabrielle Claiborne and Jack Kinley (l-r). (Courtesy photos)

Georgia LGBT business owners open up about lessons learned, keys to success

Most people dream about leaving the cubicles and boardrooms of corporate America and the day-to-day execution of someone else’s vision, while others strike out on their own to make it happen. There is no shortage of local LGBT entrepreneurs who have made the leap, and equally, no shortage of dreamers who could benefit from the advice and a little nudge from those who have turned their dreams into reality.

We asked six Atlanta LGBT business owners two questions: “What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your business?” and “What are some best practices that are key to your success?”

This is how they responded.

JackKinley_LabMonkeyCommunications_H2 (2) (534x800)Jack Kinley, CEO & Founder, Lab Monkey Communications, and Vice President of the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
If I could tell younger Jack anything about being in business, it would be that it takes time, patience, persistence and a strong network of supporters. My confidence in my business and myself grew over time thanks in large part to the safe networking space I found in the AGLCC.

I make time every Sunday morning to sit quietly and map out my three main priorities for the week. Then I schedule the rest of my tasks around those priorities. Anything that competes with my top three priorities or threatens to derail them gets delegated, delayed or discarded.

Cleo Meyer (2) (599x800)Cleo Meyer, Owner, Cleo Meyer State Farm Agency
Recognizing that your people are your greatest asset as a business owner is the key to success. I have since shifted my personal focus from being the most important sales person in my office to working toward constantly developing and training my people with the goal of making them the best insurance agents they can be.

Don’t be afraid to try new practices, but quickly adjust if things are not working. Believe in yourself and deliver your service from the heart and the business will come.

Kyle Strahl (2) (600x800)Kyle Strahl, Owner & Creative, KEYLAY Design, LLC
There are a number of things I wish I’d known when I started KEYLAY Design seven years ago. Learn to delegate, because you will never grow unless you start trusting in others to do the job as well as you can. If you run a one-person shop, get used to saying “we” when referring to your team—otherwise people will always see you as an individual and might not trust your ability to accomplish their larger goal.

As for best practices, compensate your contractors quickly and with compliment whenever possible—their loyalty will grow as a result. Keep notebooks at your fingertips for spur of the moment ideas. And always call a client if you think an email will be misinterpreted.

Carol Berger (2) (533x800)Carol Berger, Owner and President, Berger Wealth Management
The thing I wish I’d known before? How great it is to be on my own! I would have done it a year or two earlier. Knowing my clients depend on me to help mold their financial future is very rewarding. Yes, it was scary at first, but the confidence and experiences I’ve gained are priceless.

As a small business owner, you must stay organized and have structure. It is important that you have workflows set up for recurring tasks. They can be set up as simple reminders or detailed steps in a process. Either way, the workflows will help you make sure nothing is missed along the way.

Gabrielle Claiborne (2) (615x800)Gabrielle Claiborne & Linda Herzer, Co-founders, Transformation Journeys
Now we know that when we’re following our passion to change the world by doing what we love, we don’t have to go beating the bushes to find our clients; our clients find us! If we had known how much fun it was going to be to share our passion for educating people about the transgender experience, we would have founded Transformation Journeys a long time ago!

We have followed the universal “Law of the Vacuum,” and removed things from our lives that were not leading us in the direction we wanted to go. This has opened up space for new business opportunities to rush in and fill the void. Now, instead of struggling to “make things happen” we find ourselves “in the flow”—which is way more fun! It’s just like that old adage says, “Nature abhors a vacuum!”