By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Communication Committee
Like so many RPCN members, Steve Royal is a former Kodaker, but his story is a little different from that of people were laid off or dismissed as Rochester's former employment giant cut back so drastically in recent years. The chemist-by-training had evolved into an internal training and business expert in his years with Kodak and was able to translate that angle into a consulting business - something he attributes to his RPCN membership.
"I started my consulting business in 1992, about a year after a buyout from Kodak," Royal said. "I was only 49 when I left Kodak, but the deal was so good that I couldn't bring myself to stay." He had several job interviews, but all were for about half what he had been making, with no benefits and extensive traveling, which did not appeal to him. He had been spending "a lot of time" at the Career Resource Center on Culver Road when someone from the RPCN came there to discuss consulting. Royal went to an RPCN meeting and "kept going every week. I decided that, with the help of RPCN, I could become a consultant." He's been at it ever since.
Here is a video in which Steve describes how his involvement in RPCN has helped him.
His business, Royal Associates, is based in Irondequoit and helps clients solve major business problems that often arise "mainly because companies use teams, but no one knows what to do and there are no effective leaders of those teams." He has developed a process that is designed to focus people's thinking: "I make sure everyone is thinking about the same thing at the same time," he said. While his is essentially a one-person venture, using "Associates" in the business name means Royal can bring in other people as needed for specific reasons or moral support.
When he started his consulting business, Royal said, "I had a decision to make - I had to choose one area of service to offer. I had done a lot of what I called mistake-proofing at Kodak, but found this was only a subset of problem-solving - that is, the general versus the specific - so I switched gears and created a new process." He now outlines that process in an e-book available from his website and helps clients adopt it for their needs.
As consultants often find, coming into a company as an outside observer means "I can do things supervisors can't," Royal noted. Not being a subject-matter expert also works in his favor. "It's better if you're not a subject-matter expert, because then you're unbiased," he explained.
Over the years, Royal's business has shifted focus somewhat. Originally, he did most of his consulting work onsite at clients' businesses. Nowadays, "I'm winding down" and more inclined to work from home. Thanks to current technology, such as Skype, Google Hangouts and other aspects of the online world, that doesn't hamper his ability to serve his clients.
Royal's name should be familiar to many RPCN members, because he has made a point of giving back to the organization ever since joining. "I've found that, throughout my life, if there's a group I like, I feel good about making it better," he said. In his second year of membership, the president asked Royal to be the RPCN liaison to the Democrat and Chronicle, which he preferred not to do, so he offered to run for secretary instead. He served in that role from 1993-2009; "that position didn't take too much of my time, but it meant I had a voice in the organization," he said.
Another one of Steve's favorite contributions to RPCN has been to be the facilitator for the monthly Technical Forum since it started over 20 years ago.
Royal also has been the RPCN webmaster "almost since the first day we had a site" and continues to serve as content manager, with other volunteers handling more of the new technical aspects. He takes pleasure in promoting events and helping members use the site to build their businesses. "There's a lot of information at our site to help with launching and running a business, and finding a skill or a person," he said.
Being involved with the RPCN has been invaluable to Royal on several levels. "I get a fair amount of work through RPCN from introducing myself (to other members)," he said. He also finds new clients, or clients find him, as a subscriber to business newsletters and participating in forums. The biggest contributor to his business - an area that includes his RPCN involvement - is networking.
Most important to Royal is the sense of belonging he has gained from the RPCN. While he joined to get business, as many people do, he found that that really isn't the role or true value of the RPCN. "Aside from learning things, especially the importance of marketing and sales, one of the major benefits of RPCN membership has been the feeling of support and camaraderie," he said. "It can be very lonely to have your own business, especially if you don't know what you're doing. I encourage people to get active. I know newcomers are often scared, but go to our meetings. The RPCN is a very friendly organization. You won't get shot down for offering to get involved."
As part of his networking activities, Royal used to go to events of other organizations such as the Rochester chapters of the American Society for Quality and the American Society for Training and Development. These days, he focuses on the RPCN. "My goal now is to help the organization as much as I can," he said.
Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com
) is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader and speaker whose motto is "I can write about anything!"™ She is also the owner of Communication Central (www.communication-central), which hosts a conference for communications entrepreneurs in the fall.