Valerie Cardenas – My Story

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Growing up, I was conditioned to aspire to be a bookkeeper or secretary.

I never imagined I would be the founder of a company that helped business owners transform their company through the systems, processes, and techniques I could uniquely offer. That what I had to offer would deliver peace of mind, reduce stress and help business owners and leaders attain the life and business they desired.

Or that I’d start and grow a company into a multi-million dollar business with 45 employees to manage that would afford me priceless experience.

In fact, because of the way I was raised to believe from an early age, it wasn’t until my experience running my own business that I realized how much I loved finding solutions to difficult business challenges.

I’ve found that challenge has been the pivot point for me (and my clients) to do bigger and better things.

Small Beginnings

In the beginning, the challenge was simply to cover my monthly bills so I could stop borrowing money every month to make ends meet.

Family and friends suggested I, along with a business partner, start a gardening business and invited both of us to come and work with them for two weeks to learn what operating a gardening business was all about.  After all, they were grossing $1,800 a month which, at the time, sounded like a small fortune.

Back then, I knew little to nothing about running a business.  Things such as estimates, invoicing, and managing a business were foreign to me.

However, I learned the office functions (the type of role I was conditioned by my parents, school, and even friends that I should aspire to) with my business partner learning how to mow lawns and do gardening.

We threw some gardening tools in the back of a relative’s station wagon and started servicing accounts we’d purchased which brought in $15 to $45 per account per month. Backed by a lot of hard work and determination, we were able to grow the business and soon were grossing $1800 to $2500 a month.

Growing Our Expertise to Expand into the Commercial Market

Fast growth meant quickly growing our expertise. At times, this meant getting creative about how to rise to the occasion such as the time when we won our first mall contract (which took 5 long hard years to figure out how to do).

Up to that point, we had NEVER serviced a single inside plant.  This is notable because interior plants have very different care requirements than exterior plants which is why most exterior landscape management companies would never take it on.

To expand into this market, I hatched a plan so we could instantly take care of these award winning interior plants.

I hired a professor from the local university to consult and teach me the Latin and English horticultural names along with the care of all the interior beds. Then I subcontracted the best interior landscaping (commonly referred to as interiorscape) company I could find.

I was at the mall at 4:00 AM every day, shadowing the subcontractor to learn everything I could about interiorscape maintenance.  My resourcefulness paid off. Not only did we successfully service this client, but we were able to win additional lucrative mall contracts and later save money by training and developing our own interiorscape specialists from what I had learned from observing the subcontractor.

The commercial market was a boon to our business because of the size of the contracts and the ease of dealing with professional property managers and owners in comparison to the residential field.  Yes, it definitely took honing our business skills, however it was well worth the effort in terms of opportunity for employees, increased flexibility in my time and improved cash flow.

Employee Problems and Solutions

Business growth also meant dealing with more employees—and employee problems. I learned about the critical importance of matching the right person to the job and discovered better ways to retain excellent staff.

In one instance I hired a foreman to lead the gardening crew. I thought I had hired the right person based on what I heard in the field about what clients wanted in terms of customer service. After observing this foreman’s work ethic, I discovered not only was he the wrong person for the job, but a different crew member (the one we had passed over) was more responsible and hard-working than the person we just hired!

The reason the crew member was passed over was because he didn’t have all the skills required for the position.  This incident led to the realization that we could grow our company by taking the right employees and providing them with proper development and training.

By providing opportunity and the tools to succeed, this hard-working, responsible crew member was able to work his way up the ranks all the way up to Operations Manager. He was the right person for the job. Over a 13 year period he went from earning minimum wage to $65,000 annually not including bonuses. In exchange I earned a loyal, hard-working, responsible leader whom I could trust to take care of operations even if I was away on vacation. Providing training and development contributed to the growth of our company—and was truly a win-win for all involved.

Cash Management Saves Us From Bankruptcy

One of the biggest obstacles I faced was the financial side of the business. Not uncommon among many business partners, we rarely agreed about how to handle money.  I felt my business partner was very impulsive on most everything from how to handle expenditures to treatment of staff and clients alike.  This was all against the backdrop of the financial stress of various recessions and drought along with the very real costs associated with business growth.

Despite the tremendous success and continued growth year after year, these unresolved disagreements led us to the brink of bankruptcy and resulted a time of fear, stress and overwhelm.

But I was determined. There was NO WAY I was going to let the company go bankrupt.

Cash management was a priority. Based on advice I received from a business consultant I developed a system that streamlined the inputting of information and all but eliminated the fear of the unknown as well as improved vendor relations. Even my highly experienced bookkeeper and office manager was thrilled with its accuracy.

A Real Turning Point in My Life and Career.

Many business owners expect themselves to know everything. I recognized that I didn’t have to do this alone.

I hired a business consultant who was a Managing Partner for Leadership Management International (LMI).  This particular consultant was chosen because the methodology used was so effective at meeting people where they are by ability and personality.

Business Management Consulting +
An Amazing Process for Attitude and Behavioral Change
Sped Up Our Success

By combining a wide range of business consulting techniques with an amazing  process for attitude and behavioral change, we were able to speed up our success.

Looking back, I realize that the trials and errors and all my experience up to that point was leading me to do the work I do now with business owners and their teams.

But at the time, all I knew was that I needed to make changes FAST. Investing in a consultant was easily one of the best decisions of my life. It helped me to get the business out of trouble and reduce the fear, stress, and overwhelm I was feeling.

It was about this time that I took over as contractor and president of the company too—which required further development of my skills, attitudes, and abilities.

Changing the Foundation to be a Solid Business Leader

While learning about outside sales and leadership was quite a journey, it made me evaluate and change unproductive attitudes and behaviors.  Planning and goal setting became a component of my daily business life that not only helped me feel in control, but put me in control.

It was a whole new world.  I no longer had to reinvent the wheel. I learned, and could apply simultaneously, the timeless, proven principles that I now share.

Prior to working with this consultant, I had seen and experienced time and money wasted on various seminars and books which created no lasting change and caused missed opportunities.  However with the problem prevention and smart solutions the LMI approach provided, my staff and I were able to overcome past conditioning and change and build new attitudes, habits, and behaviors around challenges such as:

  • time management,
  • productivity,
  • leadership,
  • my role in sales
  • real goal setting and achievement

I discovered through the LMI process that it depends on your goal.  If the only goal is to get information, you can go to the library or search the internet.

I found that if I wanted real results and change, then my best choice was the LMI change process which helps individuals modify habits which produces permanent improved performance.   With that process I had a great foundation for going into more specific needs such as how to be a good leader and decision maker.

As a result, I was able to finally find the right employees to help me attain my business goals. These key people were not only great at their job, but they were self-motivated, team players that did above and beyond what was asked of them. For example, I found a multi-talented office manager that could collect outstanding invoices more pleasantly than most while helping with flower rotations, orders, and keeping my books and office running well.

I learned how to effectively incentivize employees so I could keep and develop the good ones.

The investment in consulting, training and development was worth every dollar to have the benefit of a neutral sounding board and expertise that would help me see the forest through the trees and ensure the development of my leadership, management and communication.

It paid off in more growth and profitability along with opportunity for us all.

Many obstacles were overcome such as negative cash flow, communication with clients, vendors, and staff, employee theft and embezzlement, and missing sales goals.

Breakthroughs occurred with clients, vendors, and staff that led to a more productive team, more satisfaction, increased referrals and more profit. Plus, as I experienced more success with the ideas and systems I put in place, my confidence in my ability to handle challenging situations increased.

The last eight years I was President, a lot was accomplished.  I did further branding, differentiated from the competition, and perpetually improved our customer service, quality standards and controls.

My great staff brought us across the finish line with numerous awards. We won state and national awards and I was written up in Pro Magazine for Partnering with my clients.

Successfully Planning the Exit & Sale of My Company

In the year of the sale, we enjoyed a 20% increase in sales. Covering all the bases with marketing, sales, staffing, accounting, vendor relations and a five-month highly confidential negotiation made the challenge complete.

The business assets were sold at the exact amount carefully planned by my consultant and myself.

Whenever I pull up next to a company truck, it still makes me smile, that 18 years later, the business I started is still around using the same logo that I worked on with the graphic designer so many years ago.

It was through these experiences that I vowed to do everything I could to help other business owners solve their business challenges faster, easier, and with less stress. Which is what led me to become a business consultant almost fifteen years ago.

Today I continue to use my power of observation combined with my professional entrepreneurial experiences and training to collaborate with business owners to come up with smart, resourceful, authentic solutions.

Helping Clients Find Their “Slight Edge”

Often I’m able to identify small things which make a very large difference in clients’ businesses. We call that the “slight edge”.

Hundred Year Old Company

  • One company whom I worked with for three years, was highly successful having been in business over 100 years. Still, they knew they were at a crossroads and needed help. In addition to helping them identify ways to save $399,656 annually, I was able to help them make a small change that boosted their sales contribution by over a $100,000.
  • This same company had a very good employee who had worked her way up the ranks. The problem came when she was allowed to make a lateral move into sales. Using a process I developed, I was able to help the employee and the employer both recognize that the sales position was not only a bad fit for her natural abilities, but she didn’t have the motivation to do it either. This explained her non-performance. Not only was she doing a job she wasn’t designed to do, making her unhappy and unproductive, but it was causing a HUGE gap in sales. The employee was relieved to discover why she was having such a hard time, in fact, she thanked us several times. Also, identifying and utilizing staff that was to fit the desired responsibilities improved their sales substantially.

Husband and Wife Team

  • Another client whom I’ve worked with for the past seven years initially came to me with a problem they were convinced was unsolvable. They were a husband and wife team both working 70 hours a week and couldn’t take more than one day off without hurting production. Like many business partners, they were complete opposites in their communication styles.
  • They needed to hire someone to manage the staff in their absence and take direction from them, but because of the couple’s different personalities as well as lack of experience in business management, hiring great staff was a real challenge. Plus, despite being a multi-million dollar company, they didn’t have a Human Resources Department—nor did they want one.
  • Seeing this problem, I was able to find the right person who could work with both personalities and still do the job. This combined with coaching and an accountability plan helped the owners so that now they take vacations regularly and the staff is capable of running the company successfully in their absence.

I’ve found that sometimes you just need someone to sit on the THIRD SIDE of the desk. Someone who can identify things you can’t see for whatever reason—a blind spot, the need for more training or development, someone with experience you don’t have—or whatever. If I’d only known what I know now, I would have saved myself a lot of time, money, and worry. Then again I wouldn’t have the many experiences that allow me to really help my clients today.

If you are growing rapidly or feeling “stuck”…

If your cost of doing business is too high to get or remain profitable…

If you’re being bogged down by system, employee or vendor problems…

If you’re missing sales targets and opportunities and don’t know how to correct the situation…

Or are struggling in your business and don’t have enough time to focus on the strategic vision of your company, or are experiencing stress, fear, or overwhelm, know that you don’t have to go it alone.

If you are looking for:

  • A way to create lasting (positive) change in your business that boosts sales, lowers costs, improves attitudes, habits and behaviors
  • A tested, proven, effective process that works for you and your staff by perfectly matching the process to both your staff’s ability AND personality
  • Strategies to inspire and motivate employees in a way that increases their productivity and keeps them more focused on helping your business achieve its overall objectives
  • Solutions to negative or inconsistent cash flow, productivity and accountability, and/or employee problems…

Strategic Essentials can provide you with proven, time-tested strategies and solutions for all of that…and more. Interested in exploring these or other opportunities for lasting change and more success?

Then our FREE group Taste of Success Strategy Sessions, usually held monthly online and in person may be just what you are looking for.

Yes, Please Show Me Taste of Success Details>

Our aim is to strategically partner with you, the business owner, to transform your business from good to great by . . .

  • Unlocking your untapped potential,

  • Achieving measurable results toward your goals, and

  • Attaining the very success you envision

The programs and services we offer are second to none.

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