Event Recap

Stories of Moving Forward Despite Our Fear

Author Brazen St. Louis Published July 12, 2017
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Our first Brazen St. Louis Member event was last night and we think it couldn’t have been more Brazen! We were pumped to see so many women entrepreneurs in attendance to hear from two amazing female entrepreneurs: Laurna Godwin, Owner & President of Vector Communications Corporation and Tricia Zimmer-Ferguson, Owner & President of Kaldi’s Coffee.

 

Laurna and Tricia both shared a ton of great information to educate and inspire the female entrepreneurs in the room. 

 

Did you miss the event? Make sure you sign up for membership to get exclusive access to all of our future events as well as other perks like swag, exclusive Vault content, private social groups, and more.

 

Keep scrolling to check out some event images and tidbits from our speakers. Looking forward to seeing all you Brazen Women at the next one!

 

 

 

On hiring and company culture:

Hire for core values. Culture is most important. I see lots of new companies not take hiring seriously enough. You can teach a skill bu you can’t train for culture.    

-Tricia Zimmer-Ferguson

 

 

 

On managing:

I used to be a micro-manager until I realized that it wasn’t going to work. You have to let go. You can’t build a company that way.    

-Laurna Godwin

 

 

 

On peer groups:

If you think you don’t have time, that’s when you need it the most. I was intimidated at first but it was the best thing I’ve ever done for my business. The perspective of a group is huge.

-Tricia Zimmer-Ferguson

 

 

Best Advice:

The best strategy we have at the end of the day is to do things.

-Tricia Zimmer-Ferguson

 

Always put the company first. Ask yourself, is this good for the company?

-Laurna Godwin

 

 

On taking risks:

I have more fear now that ever before as we take more risks to grow. You get more confident and develop risk tolerance over time. You apply what you learn from failure to move forward.

-Tricia Zimmer-Ferguson

 

 

On being a woman of color entrepreneur:

Being a women owned firm and a woman of color, I knew we wouldn’t get many chances. Failure wasn’t an option. But if you’re smart and you can think, you can do it.     

-Laurna Godwin

 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Veith

Interviews

Strategizing for Growth & Innovation with Alaina Macia

Author Alaina Macia Published July 3, 2017
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Alaina Macia took MTM from $40 million to $500 million. As you read below, it’s easy to see how her focus on strategy and innovation have helped MTM focus on bold but practical goals and reach major milestones along the way. 

 

 

Your company, MTM, is over 20 years old. How have you deviated from your original plan? Has anything stayed the same since day 1?

Although we have stayed true to our original business plan to this day, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been modifications to our operating model. In response to areas of opportunity in the healthcare marketplace, we have introduced new products and new partner companies to help meet our clients’ needs. Overall, our vision has remained the same: communities without barriers.

Do you create goals for yourself or your team? How do you measure and define success and how far are you willing to go to succeed?

Absolutely – if you don’t have a goal and a strong, clear plan to achieve your goals, you don’t know where you are headed. As an organization, we establish audacious goals but also put in guardrails on what we will and won’t do – both new business and new projects. While we of course do everything in our power to succeed, most importantly we always stay true to our ethics in all we do. Reputation is everything.

 

“While we of course do everything in our power to succeed, most importantly we always stay true to our ethics in all we do. Reputation is everything.”

When you first started, where did you see your company headed? Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?

When we started, I thought we would hit our growth targets much easier. While we did eventually hit those targets, it took twice as long as I originally anticipated. Even so, we had explosive growth. In 10 years, I hope that we are at $1 billion in revenue; currently, we are at $500 million. While achieving this growth goal, I hope that our product base continues to diversify but stays close to our current product offering and core business.

How do you generate new ideas? How important is innovation in your business?

Our greatest ideas come from listening to what our clients want and need, using their input as a springboard for innovation. We also closely watch where the industry is heading. Innovation is key – if you aren’t evolving, you are dying.

Do you have some examples of tactics you use to look at the big picture and work “on” your business (vs. “in” your business)?

Strategic planning is key to ensuring everyone is aligned. This year, we are formalizing our strategic planning processes; we are interviewing all executives and directors and also conducting focus groups with our clients and vendors to ensure we keep the VOC (Voice of the Customer) in mind.

 

“Most importantly, you have to be brutally honest with yourself on whether something is going to succeed or not.”

How long do you stick with an idea before giving up? When do you know that it’s time to pivot? 

We see some strategies through for a year or more. It takes time to build a product and sell it to your clients. Sometimes that idea evolves and changes to be something the client is more interested in investing in. What is important is to ensure the level of effort and investment is commiserate with the future ROI and that you aren’t over investing for a return that will never materialize. Most importantly, you have to be brutally honest with yourself on whether something is going to succeed or not.

You started at MTM as an analyst and just two years later took over as President and CEO. How have you changed the company since then?

When I started, MTM was at $40 million in revenue. Now, we’re at $500 million. While we stay true to our mission, vision, and family owned business objectives – being the highest quality company in the industry, operating with complete integrity, focusing on collaboration, innovation, and meeting our clients’ needs – a lot has changed. We have invested heavily in new technology, increased the capabilities of the team, focused on employee and engagement, and launched new products. Growth is challenging, but it can be very rewarding as well.

As the CEO, what company strategies are you currently working on? Is there a part of the business that you are consistently involved in?

We are heavily focused on Lean Six Sigma methodologies to streamline our business. When you are growing fast, you don’t always focus on process. We are systematically reviewing all of our processes to improve quality for our clients and our riders. I never knew process improvement could be so fun, but we are loving it over here at MTM!

As our name implies, we encourage women to be brazen and bold! Tell us about a moment you were brazen in your business. 

MTM recently completed our first acquisition of a technology company. There is nothing more brazen than investment! We are very excited about moving in this direction – I’m more excited about the possibilities it provides than anything!

 

Follow Alaina and MTM on Facebook and Twitter @MTMSocial, on Instagram @mtm_inc, and visit their website at www.mtm-inc.net.

 

For more than 20 years, MTM has partnered with our clients to develop innovative solutions for accessing healthcare, promoting independence, and connecting community resources. By leveraging high quality customer service and our ability to develop comprehensive provider networks, we help our clients accomplish their goals while achieving our vision of communities without barriers.

MTM is here to take on our clients’ biggest challenges in healthcare and public transit. From statewide non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) brokerage to scheduling and dispatching for major transit agencies, our services aim to improve member health outcomes while aligning with client objectives, reducing program costs, and increasing satisfaction.

Being Brazen

Being Brazen with Laurna Godwin

Author Laurna Godwin Published
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Talk about Brazen! Laurna Godwin didn’t even have a new job lined up when she left an industry she had known for almost 20 years. Hear how Laurna took opportunities that came her way and turned them into something great. 

My most brazen moment occurred when I decided to start a consulting business. I had been a television news reporter, anchor, and talk show host for nearly 20 years and thought I would be in television for my entire professional career. But that changed when I decided to try and pursue some personal goals. I quit the television business with no job prospects. Eventually I set up a one-person shop focusing on media relations and video production and worked about 15 hours a week.

 

While literally sitting at home, a friend called to say that because her husband was being transferred to another city for work, she could not take on a consulting project she had gotten. Instead, she thought I would be ideal to take over the project from her. She told me to contact a person at St. Louis Community College to get started on the job.

 

For several months, I did not contact the Community College leader. Then one day I ran into him at a restaurant and he scolded me for not having called him. I was embarrassed because my parents had always told me to follow through on my tasks. So I called him, we had lunch, and he suggested that I apply for this project that was a partnership between the Community College and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. I applied and got the project, which was to conduct a “Listening Tour” throughout the City of St. Louis to learn from residents their environmental concerns at the local level. It was a project that included public engagement, outreach, facilitation and communications.

 

“…when opportunity knocks, take advantage of it.”

 

Taking on this project both scared and excited me. I had never done this type of work before. It was a pilot project that was the idea of then President Bill Clinton’s administration so lots of eyes were watching, and to me failure was not an option. I contracted with two other people to work on the project. The first phase of this project was so successful that my business was eventually awarded phase two and phase three. We created a training manual and a video for the U.S. EPA on grassroots environmental protection. People heard about our work and started calling asking if we could work on other engagement projects. Within a short time frame, we had a few projects. The rest is history.

 

My advice to other women entrepreneurs is that when opportunity knocks, take advantage of it. Never in a million years did I think I would own a consulting business, or a business of any kind actually. Now Vector is 19 years old. I never forgot that during freshmen orientation at college, a professor said, “you are here to learn how to think.” I feel as long as you can think and also write and communicate, you can be successful in whatever you put your mind to in life.

 

Follow Laurna and Vector Communications Corporation on Facebook @VectorCommSTL, Twitter @VectorSTL, and visit their website at www.vectorstl.com.

 

Vector Communications helps clients reach the people they serve through outreach, engagement and communications so they can build meaningful relationships that will help achieve their organization’s goals. For more than 30 years, Laurna Godwin has been using her communications skills to inform and educate people about issues affecting how they live, work and play. She is a three-time Emmy award winning broadcast journalist who in 1998 co-founded Vector Communications Corporation, an award-winning public engagement and communications consulting firm. Today she is owner/president of the firm. Vector strengthens organizations, corporations, and communities through outreach, engagement, event planning, media relations, graphic design and video production. Some of Vector’s current clients include: McDonald’s; St. Louis Community College; St. Louis Regional Chamber; and the Alzheimer’s Association St. Louis Chapter. The firm has been honored with several international, national and local awards. For instance, a few years ago, Vector received the national “Entrepreneur Excellence Award” from Wells Fargo Bank and the National Black MBA Association for “innovation, performance, growth and community service.”

In addition to owning Vector, Laurna has served on several civic and corporate boards. Currently, she serves on the boards of St. Luke’s Hospital and the St. Louis Police Board Foundation and on the advisory board of Midland States Bank. Laurna is Chair Emeritus of the St. Louis Community Foundation, where she was Board Chair for three years.