Everyone thinks we came together around hair products, and there’s some truth in that. For the first few months of our partnership, we started our weekly meeting by sharing our latest treasures and laughing harder than you can imagine. We also have nine kids among us – five the same age – so motherhood was a clear bond. But what led us to start a business together is the passion we shared for empowering women.
Timing is everything. I had a thriving part-time therapy practice but was ready to leave the large teaching hospital where I’d been for 20 years. Sharon was juggling her triplets while consulting to companies about organizational structure and productivity, and Karen was advising businesses and families in her solo law practice. We all loved the flexibility that running our own businesses offered, but we were tired of working alone. So the stars aligned and we discovered each other. On a spring day, in the elementary school playground, we decided to form a consulting group, and ten years later, we are still together.
Many people are surprised when they hear a psychologist is working with a lawyer and a management consultant. How does that work, they want to know. But we have also found that a lot of people – especially our women over 50 friends – are a bit envious. Many have said to us that they would love to work with a partner, or two. But they have no idea how to find one. And can’t imagine getting along with one, much less two, for any length of time. What they are really asking is how do you make a partnership of any kind work? How do you deal with conflicts and shifting priorities? So, what has kept us together through two bar mitzvahs, 8 sets of college applications, rotator cuff surgery, and elderly parents’ medical issues? A clear passionate vision, shared priorities, direct communication, and a real ability to laugh at ourselves.
A clear passionate vision is critical to success in any venture, and these days we spend a lot of time with our clients helping them to craft their own visions for success. At our very first meeting Sharon brought a notebook. She put us through an exercise we still use with clients to brain dump all of our skills, strengths, and meaningful experiences that we wanted to bring to the business. She crafted a Venn diagram, so we could see what each of us brought to the business that was unique, and where there was overlap. At the very center of the Venn diagram, and radiating throughout each of our work histories, was a passion for empowering women. We knew immediately that we had a shared focus for the business that we could all be excited about. This has not changed in ten years.
We also talked about our values, our priorities, and how we could structure the business to meet our needs. Yes, hair was part of the discussion – of course, we are women! – but the top of our list was working in such a way that we could also be available to our families. And that has been a real strength of our partnership. We’ve held meetings at the kitchen table of whoever had a sick child home from school that day, we’ve picked up each other kids so one of us could make a client meeting, and we all learned to use computers and tablets and smartphones so we could multitask and stay connected while we are doing pickups and watching sporting events. It’s a lot easier now that most of our kids are in college and beyond, but we’re also at the point where our parents need us, and we are making that work too. Karen’s legal skills were critical in helping us craft a partnership agreement that stated all of our values and our expectations for one another, including how we would handle it if one of us wanted to leave. This has kept us grounded when conflicts arise, and helped us to deal with issues in a direct and open manner (one of our core values). The partnership agreement is so key to our longterm success that we push all of our clients to create one if they don’t already have one, and to periodically review and revise it, as need be.
We didn’t know when we met at Starbucks that day that we would become business consultants and coaches. But this has been the perfect fit for our overlapping skills and shared passion. I love the excitement of helping women achieve goals and become their best selves. I love working with the two most amazing partners I could ever find, and quite possibly the funniest. They are true empowering partners, and I learn something new from them every day. And each of us would say that our hair has never looked better.
Dale Sokoloff, Psy.D. is a practicing psychologist, personal coach and founding partner of DKS Consulting Group. Dale and her partners, Sharon O’Connor, Ed.D., and Karen Hoffman, J.D., work with individuals, partnerships, start-ups, and.established small businesses to identify their signature strengths, define their own success, and quickly achieve goals. Contact Dale at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.dksconsultingoup.com