By Chris Swingle Farnum
Not having to work 40 to 50 hours a week. The freedom to work from anywhere and with the type of clients she chooses.
For Lynn Dessert of Brighton, who offers executive career coaching and life coaching, these are among the advantages to being self-employed for the past dozen years.
"I'm more balanced, and I'm a nicer person," she says, compared to her full-time corporate roles. Also, "I'm in complete control of where I want to go."
It took work to get to this point. Dessert has a bachelor's degree in social work and a master's in business administration, and is a Certified Compensation Professional. She spent 17 years working in human resources and line management for companies such as AlliedSignal (Honeywell International), Quaker Oats and the Kroger Company. Her corporate gypsy life moved her to Michigan twice, Ohio three times, New Jersey twice, and to stints in California, South Carolina and Chicago before landing in Rochester.
As vice president of human resources for Bausch & Lomb in Rochester in 2001, she realized she wasn't really happy, but wasn't sure why. An assessment by an executive coach using the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) pointed out that, while Dessert has good left-brain skills with computers, numbers and details, she is drawn to risk-taking and entrepreneurship, which fall in the right-brain realm. "It explained to me what was missing," she says. The higher you rise in a corporation, the more restricted you are, she realized. "You take less risk because the consequences are greater."
B&L was downsizing and wanted her to shift to a different role. Dessert had another job offer on the West Coast, and she was considering becoming a consultant. She'd only been in Rochester a year, but decided to stay here and create her own business. "I made the decision to say yes to myself," she recalls.
She ran Dessert HR Solutions for five years and now is president and owner of Leadership Breakthrough, which helps people become the leaders of their careers and their lives. She finds it rewarding to help people move forward professionally and personally: "It's the best feeling in the world when somebody is in the zone."
To get there herself, Dessert needed help. She joined the Rochester Professional Consultants Network (RPCN) in 2001 for help with learning how to start a business and to build her network. The connections and the people have been great, she says, because it can be lonely to be in business by yourself. "They're very good sounding boards," she says of colleagues she's met through the group.
Dessert got her first clients by visiting dozens of former colleagues across the country over a couple of months, showing them her business plan and asking whether her services were what they'd want. These days, most of her clients find her through her website, http://leadershipbreakthrough.com
, which focuses on the solutions she provides, or via her Elephants at Work blog, http://www.elephantsatwork.com
, which examines workplace issues. A computer geek at heart, she created her own sites with a careful eye to search engine optimization (SEO), choosing phrases in her titles and content that match common, relevant searches so her sites appear high among search results.
She also gives talks, has written e-books and gets business through word of mouth. She finds that other executive coaches in the region don't blog, so doing so sets her apart. "When you're in business, you've got to be willing to try different things to see what works," Dessert says. If something doesn't seem to work, the problem could be the timing or the message rather than the strategy itself, she adds.
Dessert has tried and abandoned some things, such as creating a website to provide ratings of personal assessment tools and a directory of career coaches and practitioners certified to give the assessments. That effort took too much time and work.
Among her successes: offering an online appointment calendar for new and existing clients to schedule time with Dessert, which saves time and automatically sends reminders.
Dessert continues to learn and grow in her field. She received certification as a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) coach, which required 125 hours of training and observation, and is working toward a professional coaching certificate from the International Coaching Federation. Her market research has found that companies seek that status when considering 1-to-1 coaches for executives.
Best of all, the additional training has given her new insight into coaching. Unlike advising, teaching and consulting, true coaching puts the client in the driver's seat. Learning new techniques and being coached by others has fired her up for the next chapter of her life as a coach.
Here is a video about why Lynn Dessert joined RPCN.
Chris Swingle Farnum (chrisswingle.com) is a writer and editor in Rochester.