Close Up

Close Up: Pamela Slim

Welcome to GrowthLab’s Close Up, where we sit down with today’s leading entrepreneurs, authors, movers and shakers. We get up close and personal to see how they work, think and live. In today’s Close Up: Pamela Slim.

The urge to abandon the drudgery of a typical 9-5 job and build a life as an entrepreneur may seem like a uniquely millennial phenomenon, but Pamela Slim has been helping people break out of the corporate world since 2005, when the bulk of millennials were still in middle school and high school.

A successful blogger, author, coach, and founder, Pamela has dedicated her life to teaching people how to rethink their careers and build small businesses.

Enter Pamela…

What gets you really excited these days?

I just opened a small business incubator called K’é in the heart of downtown in my hometown of Mesa, Arizona. I am excited to participate in a deep way in growing my local small business ecosystem, as well as using local lessons to provide useful education to small business owners around the world.

I know that powerful connections will be born here, new businesses will be incubated, and an engine of motivation and growth will contribute to the health and economic well-being of my local community. I think this is the wave of the future — investing in local connections, then using those lessons to connect to the larger business ecosystem.

I am already talking to friends around the country who have co-working spaces and incubators about sharing insights and ideas, as well as connecting our communities with each other virtually.

Besides your business and your family, what’s the single biggest success in your life?

My friendships and relationships make me feel alive, supported, and stimulated. I have spent 50 years building a strong, interesting, diverse network of amazing people. They keep me honest, keep me rooted to what is important and true, and remind me why it is so important to keep developing my body of work.

What conventional advice did you flagrantly ignore and still manage to succeed?

Lots of people over the years have told me to phase out doing 1:1 work with clients, so that I could scale my business and get out of the direct service model. While that advice is solid, I have learned that I always want to have a small part of my business focused on doing deep, intensive work with individuals. This work keeps me grounded in reality and allows me to still have the satisfaction of being a coach, which is wired into my DNA.

I get tons of ideas for books, tools, and programs while working with individuals. So I will always have that as part of my product and service mix.

That said, this year I am focusing on really scaling and leveraging the non-direct services (like digital courses and programs), so that I free up time for new projects and writing a new book.

What was the biggest disaster you’ve faced? How did you recover?

In late 2007/early 2008, when our global economy collapsed, my husband’s construction business experienced a huge free-fall. We had a brand new baby at home, in addition to a toddler, and I was writing my first book, Escape from Cubicle Nation, about leaving your corporate job to start a business.

You can imagine how confident I felt about singing the praises of entrepreneurship while experiencing the worst possible scenario personally (!).

It took many years to get through and recover from that situation. What saved us was:

  • Unity as a couple. We had constant communication, we shared fears, we problem-solved together, and we were determined to get through it.
  • Amazing friends and family. My BFF Desiree Adaway talked me off the ledge many times during the roughest moments. My parents gave us consistent love and support. My mother-in-law prayed for us and shared encouraging words.
  • Amazing financial advisors. Kyle and Cynthia Durand were the absolute rocks for us as we walked through some really tough financial situations. As Kyle always said, “You cannot change what happened in the past, but you have total control over how you will respond in the present, and create a new future.” I cannot say enough about how their rock-solid advice and guidance gave us strength.
  • My clients. I was lucky to have a consistent flow of wonderful, motivated clients who launched all kinds of businesses. Watching their drive and success motivated me to make it through the tough times. I always tell them that I will only give advice that I am willing to implement myself. They made me stronger and gave me courage.
  • Prayer. My husband comes from a strong lineage of traditional Navajo ceremony, and this faith kept us anchored and grounded when things were stressful.

What’s your favorite project that you’ve ever worked on?

Last fall, I did a 25-city tour where I taught community building skills to entrepreneurs all over the U.S. (plus a stop in Vancouver, B.C.). I loved seeing all the diverse talent that exists in this country and how people are using their talent to make the world a better place.

This tour is what inspired me to open up my own small business incubator.

What do you wish you could teach your 20-year-old self?

Be open, but keep your guard up. Do not trust everyone you meet. Wait to see how they behave with others, especially those who have the least power in the room, before taking their advice.

What does a “Rich Life” mean to you?

A Rich Life for me is enjoying my life while I am living it and spending deep, connected time with my family. When my business is set up the right way so that I am working with great people who are building great things, and the income is flowing in an effective and efficient way, I have time to move, think, connect, and create. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

What will be the next big thing in your industry?

Our country’s demographics are changing, and if you are not reaching out to expand your comfortable circles of peers, partners, and customers, you will be left behind.

The majority will be a minority. If you want your business to reflect the experience, problems, and dreams of the future market of the United States (and the world!), you need to start connecting with people from different backgrounds, neighborhoods, and experiences. This is going to drive connection, collaboration, and innovation, which we sorely need.

If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would you pick and what would you ask them?

John Legend. I want to ask him all about his time as a management consultant at Boston Consulting Group when he was doing music as a side hustle. And I want to hear about his vision for his social activism in the future. The man is SO much more than a great singer!

whatever you want to put here

Pamela Slim is an award-winning author, business coach, and speaker. She spent the first 10 years of her business as a consultant to large companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Charles Schwab, and Cisco Systems, where she worked with thousands of executives, managers, and employees.

In 2005, she started the Escape from Cubicle Nation blog, which is now one of the top career and business blogs on the web. In the last 8 years, she helped hundreds of entrepreneurs to start successful businesses.

Pamela’s first book, Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur, was released in spring 2009 and won Best Small Business/Entrepreneur Book of 2009 by 800 CEO Read. Her new book, Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together, gives a fresh perspective on the skills required in the new world of work for people in all work modes, from corporate to non-profit to small business.

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