Despite earning six degrees, Collette Portis felt that she still needed to do something to realize her passion in life. She had completed her Masters degree when she decided to quit her corporate job and move to Texas. After failing to find jobs despite being highly educated with years of experience, she decided to start her own business, which is “what she knew God told her to do 15 years prior to that date.”
Collette Portis began with her own graphic design and branding firm, Destined Designed, and a year into operations, she saw that other businesses around her were struggling to stay afloat. She realized that these businesses lacked “proper business knowledge,” which led her to recognize that she had to use the tools and education she had received to help out other businesses.
As a result of this decision, Collette Portis founded RED Development Group. She became the sole owner of the firm, which helps businesses “increase their revenue, grow their teams, and build legacies that last more than a lifetime.” She and her team are “disrupting the idea of ‘business as usual.’”
Collette Portis and RED are “changing the coaching and business industry,” thanks to its “proven and exclusive curriculum.” The company has also launched a certification program that allows business coaches “increase their reach, revenue, and results.” Through its work, the REDTeam has “helped their clients more than double their revenues, create community impact, and impact their local enormous through job creation.”
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Collette Portis: RED Development Group, Inc. is my third company. It’s the global business development firm where we coach business owners in order to help them get unstuck and achieve the success they want to see. We are unique in our space because we are rooted and grounded in results and data driven processes. This year February we had a client come to us who had consistently made $250 a month in her business for 3 years. That’s $3,000 a year. We used our business assessment to evaluate her business so that we could identify what life cycle stage it was in, where her deficiencies were, how much her business was worth, and where her potential revenue streams were. We then created a strategy to increase her revenue and the value of her business. After only 10 months in our coaching program she will close out the year at more than $110,000 in revenue. We are extremely proud of her and the work we’ve been able to accomplish. RED Development Group is always working to help our clients build strong sustainable businesses that creates lasting legacies. She helps to take care of her parents and her nieces. Because of the work we’ve done with her, 3 generations of her family are being impacted in a positive way. It’s these types of stories that we create and are most proud of.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Collette Portis: The coaching industry can be very frustrating. Often times what I encounter with coaches is 3 things,
- Their revenues are very low and flat
- They have no tangible processes and data to prove how they’ve impacted their client’s business, and
- They are the worker bee.
When I’m working with coaches it is always my recommendation that they clearly define who they are and how they help businesses. Many say they are business coaches, but most in fact have taken on the wrong title. I’ve worked with a coach who was in that exact position, but after her first two coaching sessions with me we came to understand that she is a Marketing Coach. Making that one adjustment to her business had a positive revenue impact because she was now connecting with her ideal client. We then made a small adjustment to her programs which gave way to her connecting with her ideal buyer because she could be clear and concise about what her objectives were and what tangible results her clients would get. Now that we’ve eliminated her worry about revenue, we are finally able to focus on making her the CEO of her company. As a coach she can now thrive because she’s not trying to translate what she does to everyone. She is focused on solving the problem that her ideal buyer has. It is this key that allows owners to walk away from the work with peace of mind each day so that they feel the satisfaction of making a difference in the lives of their clients.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Collette Portis: There are a number of people who helped me along the way. However, there were three who had the greatest impact on my life.
My sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Timothy Elliott, helped me to understand that the world was so big and there was so much to learn that to stop learning was not an option because I never know what I’ll miss out on. The simple act of him introducing me to paprika, yes, the spice, not only changed my worldview, but it helped me to understand that having a worldview is actually a thing.
My high school counselor, Mr. Timothy Reese, was and still is an important person in my life. I work daily to continue to make him proud. I was an A student in high school who hadn’t put any serious thought into going to college. I was afraid of leaving what was familiar. Plus, I knew that my parents, who were both addicted to drugs at that time, had no money for college. Nevertheless, Mr. Reese made me come to his office and fill out college applications. He was not accepting any excuses from me. He was committed to my success in a way that I wasn’t. That day I began to explore why I was less concerned about my success than someone else. From that day forward I knew that I had the ability and requirement to take my future seriously. It’s because of Mr. Reese that I earned 6 degrees, two of which are in education.
Lastly, there is Coach Tony. There is no one in the world that taught me more about money and how the world works than him. He pushed me at every chance he had. He taught me that success was far greater than making money and if I focused on developing myself, mastering myself, and understanding the rules of the game rather than blindly playing there is nothing in the world that can stop me. Because of him I truly understand what freedom is and how to create it for myself and others. Because of him I have a great understanding of legacy, how to build it, and why I should build it and help others do the same.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
Collette Portis: A good company is one that serves its community, creates jobs, and provides good service. A great company is something completely different. A great company understands that its greatest asset is the people who help to do the work each day. Great companies make a commitment to their employees because they want them to be better if and when they leave than they were before they arrived. Great companies understand that they are servants to their client base and community. They understand that they can only be great because of the greatness of others. So, they seek to identify and exploit that. Great companies don’t just want someone that can perform a function. They are looking for those who will be an asset to their company culture, but also have the skills to get the work done. Skills can be taught. Character takes time and in most cases more time than companies have to spend to help bring someone along. Great companies understand that revenue is a result of how well they help others get what they need and want. Great companies are headed by great leaders who understand that leadership is top down not bottom up. Great leaders know that if an issue exists in the company, they must first evaluate themselves and work backwards to come to a conclusion then find a resolution that allows all parties involved to maximize their greatest self. Sometimes that means releasing an employee so that they have an opportunity to find the place that allows them to flourish.
Jerome Knyszewski: What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill? From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Collette Portis: Life is full of peaks, valleys and plateaus. The best way for me to describe it is to think about how video games work. Everyone understands that all have to start a new game at the same starting place. We also understand that there are different levels and at each level you have more and more access to resources. Through play, we learn that while we were able to get to level 8, if we would have changed 1 thing in level 2 it would have helped us to succeed at level 8. Nevertheless, you didn’t discover that until you got to level 8. This is the plateau. In business there are different levels, more commonly referred to as business life cycle stages. Each stage requires the completion of specific tasks. However, if a step is skipped in earlier stages or not fully thought out there is a need to go back to the earlier stage to give it more thought. Well, the answer to overcoming stagnation in one’s business is to go back to the basics to determine 5 things,
- Are your mission, vision, goals, and core values still relevant?
- How has your company changed since the last plateau?
- What adjustments are necessary to get you to the desired goal?
- Are you willing to make the necessary changes to jumpstart your growth?
- Who do you need on your team to make the necessary adjustments?
Jerome Knyszewski: Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Collette Portis: At RED forward movement is always top of mind. Everything we do is about planning and strategy. We spend a week developing our annual strategy every year. Because of this when we’re faced with challenges, we consult our strategic plan to see how we should pivot. Because we track data in our company on a regular basis, we typically have a more proactive approach than one that is reactive. As it pertains to new business, our understanding that business and entrepreneurship at its essence is the ability to solve problems. When we think “new business” we are looking first at our current clients to understand what problems exist for them that we don’t currently solve. Then we create new business around those issues. That could mean a new product or service for us or a new partnership or affiliate relationship with a company that specializes in resolving that issue. Then we look at new customer acquisition. Acquiring new customers is expensive. Yet, more often than not small business owners start there and miss the gold mine hidden in their current customer base. Your business will always reveal your growth points. However, if the owner has taken the time to focus the business on the thing they do best and they’ve been working to be everything to everyone they will find it challenging to identify those growth points. At RED we advise our clients to focus on one target audience and solve just one of their problems for a 12-month period. That doesn’t mean they can’t sell other products or services, but that means 75% of their energy and resources are directed to that one thing. We call it focused concentration. It’s one of the keys to the success that we’ve achieved. These are the practices that help business owners overcome their challenging times.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Collette Portis: This is a great question and I’m so glad you asked it. When you’re talking about small business, the thing that is most challenging is determining what’s most important and how to spend your time. If a business owner has a cupcake shop more often than not you will find them baking cupcakes, shopping for supplies, and selling cupcakes. They are typically spending 90% of their time in this process. At RED Development Group we help our owners understand that their ratios are off. As the founder/owner 90% of their day should be spent on building and growing the business
- Identifying and developing income streams
- Determining how income is generated (one customer at a time, recurring, contracts, etc.)
- Understanding where the business stands financially, team development, messaging, marketing, branding
- Exposure to the right audience, and
- So much more.
This is one of the biggest issues that business owners face. We underestimate the value of the CEO role in our own business while understanding its importance in other businesses. It is the CEO role that drives revenue and more often than not we miss it because we are in the trenches working to generate it a couple of customers at a time.
Jerome Knyszewski: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Collette Portis: Wow customer experiences begin with under-promising and over delivering. A great example of this is Aveda Salons. You schedule your hair cut, but what you get is a commitment to getting you in and out of the salon in record time, an amazing style, organic products, and oh I can’t forget the hand, head, and shoulder massage that is standard for their brand. I mean what? When’s the last time you scheduled a haircut and got a massage? These things are their brand standards.
Develop solid brand standards that set you apart from others in your industry. Use your points of greatness in your brand standards. Aveda has salons and spas, but those who come for salon services aren’t expecting spa services, but they get them at a very basic level. Nevertheless, customers don’t expect them so that makes them big for them.
Refuse to compete. At RED Development Group we refuse to compete. Now this doesn’t mean that there aren’t companies paying attention to what we do and looking to repeat it. However, we understand our industry. We know that there are approximately 30.7 million small businesses in the U.S. and only 15,000 coaches and only 7,000 coaches that do similar work that we do. Because we understand our industry, we know that we need allies if our hearts desire is to really create a positive impact on small businesses. So, we are actively seeking to find allies with a shared heart’s desire to help businesses thrive. That opens the door to building new partnerships that benefit our clients in major ways. If we identify a problem that our client has, we can make a referral to a company or organization that has similar customer service values as ours. It’s a win win win!
Jerome Knyszewski: What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Collette Portis: There are two things we use each day that many of us don’t truly understand. That’s money and social media. Everything is about intention. What do we seek to accomplish through the use of social media? Then there’s the art of standing next to the fine lines of controversy and knowing when to pick a side and stand up for what you believe in. Once you stand up, act out of love when you’ve been met with adversity. Chick-Fil-A is another great example of this. They hold fast to their beliefs and not all of them are popular beliefs, but they stand in them nonetheless. What was their response to the backlash? Give away free chicken sandwiches. They submitted to the adversity, but not in a way that caused them to go against their core values. I think it’s most important to remember that we are all human. At the core of us we all want to be understood, appreciated, and free to authentically be who we are. If companies can find a way to get back to those three basics we can overcome anything.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Collette Portis: The most common mistake that I see CEOs and founders make is to assume they understand how business works. No one would think of getting into professional football without a group of coaches. However, business owners strike out into the business “profession” without guidance. Many without even having a mentor that has been where they are going. Having a coach means that you have an increased opportunity to learn the fundamentals of business. Sustainability and legacy lay in the fundamentals. These are the two things that are the most common mistakes. To resolve them owners should
- Determine what their top 3 objectives and goals are.
- Find a coach with a proven track record in helping others achieve those things.
- Ensure that the owner understands and has in place the fundamentals that create a solid foundation starting with a solid business strategy, not business plan, those are two very different things. Then build around that working daily to achieve a new goal. Remembering that success is a series of tiny wins.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!