Interviewee Name: Kathy Kastner
Company Name: Ability4Life
Avil Beckford: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am a product of a family who changed career and skills set every five or six years, which was very unusual when I was growing up. Most kids, their parents had either life jobs in factories or in offices, and their mothers stayed at home and cooked. My parents didn’t do that, so I have had a great example that allows me the freedom to explore different things in life personally and professionally.
Avil Beckford: What’s a typical day like for you?
There isn’t really a typical day, but what my day is typically made up of, and this happens in no particular order, is lots of computer time, meetings to get me out of the house since I work at home, reading, and dancing in the kitchen as I cook dinner.
Avil Beckford: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
I sing and dance in the privacy of my own home, which gets my kids and husband laughing at me all the time but I don’t care. I exercise and will get together and brainstorm ideas with friends and colleagues when I’m feeling less than motivated.
Avil Beckford: If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
I don’t know that I would do anything differently at all. I’ve enjoyed every part of my life experience, and I think every part of it has informed the next part.
Avil Beckford: What’s the most important business or other discovery you’ve made in the past year?
I’ve made discoveries on both counts. A discovery about myself is that my knowledge, insights and capabilities are worth more than I had given them credit for, and on a business level technology has changed my whole outlook on life and business.
Avil Beckford: What’s one of the biggest advances in your industry over the past five years?
Technology and changing demographics.
Avil Beckford: What are the three threats to your business, your success, and how are you handling them?
The threats to the business are cluttered markets, mediocrity is becoming the acceptable norm, and shifting sands as far as the two areas that I am concentrating in and which are health and technology. I’m handling them by honing in on, focusing on what’s unique about what I have to offer and being able to articulate that properly to rise above the cluttered market. As far as mediocrity is concerned, which I don’t practice or subscribe to, my strategy to overcome that is to educate people on the benefits of being more excellent than just mediocre. And with the shifting sands I just try to be flexible and stay a little bit ahead of the shift.
Avil Beckford: What’s unique about the service that you provide?
I have become quite expert at identifying and articulating needs in the areas of communication and support as far as healthcare goes. I also provide strategies to get those needs met.
Avil Beckford: What do you observe most people in your field doing badly that you think you do well?
I see the same information parroted all the time. There is very little insight providing information beyond what millions of internet sites provide. What I’ve done is researched what’s out there and provide content that you cannot find anyplace else unless you happen to be an expert in the field and know how to drill deep.
Avil Beckford: Describe a major business or other challenge you had and how you resolved it. What kind of lessons did you learn in the process?
I was mired in old style marketing because since my first real job which was as an advertising copywriter, I have been relying on the principles and the concepts of marketing that have gone along with conventional media. Now that I have launched a website and am more involved in social media I have had to rethink, relook, reengage and I am immersing myself in a new style.
I’m still learning as I go through this process but I’m writing differently, thinking differently, trusting my own voice, and feeling good about being an authentic voice.
Avil Beckford: Tell me about your big break and who gave you.
I’ve had several big breaks. In advertising I was hired without a portfolio. I had no experience so I was hired on faith by Morris Saffer who was one of the early retail advertising pioneers. In TV I was also hired without any experience, the sort that was needed, by Moses Znaimer at CityTV. And my first business and my new business all came about because I was given breaks.
Avil Beckford: Describe one of your biggest failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success?
Perhaps the thing that I would have considered as a downfall is that I used to take on too much, expect too much from myself and let my unfulfilled expectations rob me of energy. What I have done since I regrouped and looked into myself is to give myself a break, to pace myself, prioritize and give myself permission to take care of myself.
Avil Beckford: What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?
When I was at CBC and had my first kid I didn’t accept the job of evening entertainment reporter. At the time I was the 6:00 pm entertainment reporter and the news director said to me, “You know Kathy, entertainment happens at night. You should be out there at night.” And I made a decision to spend time with my family, rather than take that which might have taken my career in a different direction. But how it impacted my life, was that I was able to shift my focus. It launched me on an entrepreneurial career because I realized I was shutting doors by not accepting that job and therefore I looked for other doors to open and boy am I glad I did.
Avil Beckford: What are three events that helped to shape your life?
- The first one was really being pissed off. I was downright angry that at CityTV where I was a producer that no producers ever got credit. It was just the on camera people, so I left CityTV and went to work at Global and then I auditioned for the entertainment reporter job which I would have never been able to do if I had been at CityTV. It’s just the way it worked then.
- The second event was pregnancy which launched my first business, which was videotapes for prenatal courses.
- The third event was a friend’s fax from a trade publication and it told me about an upstart company in the US called the Newborn Channel and that gave me the idea for what became the Parent Channel, which is a national television network in hospitals for new parents.
Avil Beckford: What’s an accomplishment that you are proudest of?
Staying optimistic and healthy in mind and body.
Avil Beckford: How did mentors influence your life?
They gave me confidence. They taught me excellence and applauded my innovative approach.
Avil Beckford: What’s one core message you received from your mentors?
Avil Beckford: An invisible mentor is a unique leader you can learn things from by observing them from afar, in the capacity of an Invisible Mentor, what is one piece of advice that you would give to readers?
Listen and be curious.
One Action to Take
At the end of the interview, Kathy Kastner would like you to, “Be active listeners. I think the art and the skill of listening is sadly missing.”
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