Jenn Lofgren specializes in leadership and executive coaching with Incito. She spoke to Calgary’s Business about her business and field of work.
Calgary’s Business: You launched your business during a recession. How were you able to be successful?
Lofgren: When I reflect back on it, it was first of all being a little bit oblivious to just how bad things were at the time and not being willing to listen to critics and to the people who were saying it was a hard time to start a business. I spent a lot of time talking to a lot of people. I don’t even know how many people I talked to over the first year that I was in business. It wasn’t just talking to people to sell a service. I was really talking to people to listen about the industry, about what was happening in the economy, what the needs of the clients I serve were, and to learn as much as I possibly could from everyone around me. And as I did so, it started to build relationships that included mentors, supporters, clients and everybody that I needed to create a strong business. That’s really how I started out.
CB: What are some of the keys for entrepreneurs for success?
Lofgren: The first thing is to treat your business like a bigger business than it is at the very beginning. I see a lot of entrepreneurs starting off a business with no processes, no support around them, with just a business name and an idea and a couple of clients. They get some initial success and start building on that very small foundation where long-term success comes from building systems and structures and processes around them, whether it’s a strong accounting process or a marketing process or some processes and rigour around how they provide their services so that they can be consistent with their clients in their current offering. But as they grow those entrepreneurs don’t typically in the beginning anticipate the growth that they could achieve and it could damage their credibility as they start to achieve growth and their consistency and the ability to deliver goes down or their other business processes start getting in the way of them growing and becoming a bigger business.
CB: What do you see as the mood of Calgary these days in terms of business owners?
Lofgren: Incredibly uncertain. It’s a mix of hope for the future and a heavy dose of reality that things are hard today and it’s unknown where the future is going to go with a lot of challenges from government, local economy, and global uncertainty all contribute to this mixed sentiment of hope yet cautious approach to the market.
CB: Why is business coaching so important?
Lofgren: I actually don’t call myself a business coach. I call myself an executive and leadership coach … I focus in the area of executive and leadership development because being a business owner or being a business leader is about stepping into uncertainty, risk, exposure, no right answers with your decisions and yet you’re still tasked with creating strategic direction and leading your business and your teams to that uncertain future. Developing the skills, whether they be systems thinking, visionary leadership, sustainability and productivity, or some relationships, but also your own personal leadership resilience, all of those tools are required to help you be successful. But it’s something we’re just expected to know as leaders and we’re never taught, grown and developed into those skills. I see it as being important no matter what’s happening in the market. It’s even more important to have those skills in an uncertain climate like we have right now because there’s just more ambiguity, more uncertainty. A heck of a lot more risk. You’re tested for your personal resilience around every corner.
CB: What makes a good leader?
Lofgren: That’s a loaded question but I believe good leaders are created, they’re not born. There’s a choice that those leaders make to step into the vulnerability of truly being a leader of business and life as a whole to challenge the fears that drive them so they can move away from being driven by being liked or wanting to be right or wanting to win and to step into a place of vulnerability and partnership and collaboration and not knowing.
| Mario Toneguzzi
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