IC TIG Week: Laura Keene on Origin Stories

Independence Day is approaching, which means the Independent Consulting TIG is taking over aea365 and we’ve decided to tell our origin stories. Up first, me. My name is Laura Keene, owner of Keene Insights and this year’s Independent Consulting TIG Chair.

It’s not a very exciting origin story, but it speaks to a key point when it comes to starting a business: You just have to get out there and meet people! In 2012, I left a full-time job with every intention of finding another one. I had some contract work to keep me busy in between, but I realized pretty quickly that I really enjoyed the freelance life. So, being the introvert that I am, I did the next logical thing in my mind: I grabbed a pile of books and began reading all about how to start a business. A month later (possibly longer), I got a call from my “little” brother (he’s 30 and several inches taller than me). He also owns a business, which he started back in 2007. Here’s how that call went:

Little bro: How’s it going with the business?

Me: Great! I’m learning all about contracts, and accounting, and marketing, and business structures.

Little bro: Awesome. Any prospects? Are you finding some good networking opportunities?

Me: Um, well, I haven’t actually left the house yet.

Little bro: What? Silly goose! Get out from behind your books!

He was absolutely right. A week later, I finally mustered up the fortitude to make it to my first event. It was a total miss. Let’s just say no one in that room was going to ever hire an evaluator, but I networked like crazy anyway. Those early conversations were so hard. It took a while and a lot more events to figure out how to articulate my passion, experience, and expertise. But, I got there. Five years and a whole lot of connections later, Keene Insights is thriving.

Lesson Learned:

With few exceptions, in order to get a business off the ground (or even just grow professionally) we have to get out there and build relationships: Relationships with potential clients, plus collaborators, mentors, influencers, and more. Check out this post I wrote on networking for some tips and resources.

Rad Resources:

While you’re making those connections, it doesn’t hurt to spend a little time in some business how-to books. Here are a few of my faves:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating IC TIG Week with our colleagues in the Independent Consulting Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

3 thoughts on “IC TIG Week: Laura Keene on Origin Stories”

  1. This also reminds me of a tip someone shared with me once for those nerve wracking networking events where you don’t know anyone.

    When you enter the room, don’t dive blindly into the terrifying morass of people but take a minute to pause at the door. Take several deep breaths while calmly scanning the room for either someone you know, or someone that is also standing by themselves and looks approachable. Then, with your wits collected, calmly walk over and introduce yourself.

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