Interviewee Name: Patty DeDominic
Company Name: DeDominic & Associates
Avil Beckford: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m a businesswoman and an entrepreneur. Now I make my living as a professional coach and I guide high achieving professionals and organizations in making major transitions for themselves and their organizations.
Avil Beckford: What’s a typical day like for you?
I live here in Santa Barbara, and I always thank God for the wonderful blessings that I have in my life. My husband and I have lived here for 16 years. Let’s take today, I woke up at six o’clock, we had breakfast and then I left.
On Mondays I work with my personal trainer from 8 to 9 am, get a good workout and do a lot of sweating. Then I have a client that I work with from 9:15 to 10:15 am and we have a wonderful program that we have called walk and talk, so we discuss business strategies and her activities, things that she is doing to build her business. I come back to the office and usually have a conference call or Skype meeting with the client. I meet with my associate, Matt Laban who’s here, and we go over the week. In about an hour I have a couple of clients who are going to come to my home office, and we’ll be working with them on a program that they’ll be doing for youth. It’s a very exciting youth sports program.
This afternoon I go to a client’s office and meet with her about her professional consulting business that she’s developing. She’s working on some very exciting projects. So every day is different, and every day is a lot of fun because of the clients that I have who are high achieving professionals in one arena of life or another and so I get to live this fantasy life with them.
Avil Beckford: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
Well what’s motivating for me is thinking about the blessings that I have in my life, being grateful for what I do have, knowing that I’ve had some wonderful advantages being born in the United States and being born a woman in the 50s and knowing that I have lots of choices. And knowing that I have a lot of choices gives me a sense of responsibility. With that responsibility I look at the gifts I have been given to see how I can apply them. And I also stay motivated by associating with people with sound character, ambition, and good hearts, in particular my clients and my friends, most of them are driven by their worthy ambitions. So the organizations that we work with usually have extraordinary missions that could change the world. I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Jane Goodall, though I had to keep educating myself about conditions of the environment all over the world since they had programs in 80 countries.
Avil Beckford: If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
I have three sons and I absolutely love being a mother and grandmother. I did start very young and would probably start my family a few years later, maybe my mid-20s or late 20s but I wouldn’t change my kids, so I think I have to be happy with what I have. I also allowed my body to get out of shape, and so I gained a lot of weight over 20 years. I did a lot of work that was very stressful, very cerebral so I didn’t stay as physically active as I could have, but in the past four years I took off over 80 pounds so I got myself back in shape. That’s the reason that I still have a commitment to be physically at table, that I try to incorporate been active and doing walks and talks with clients nowadays, but if I had to do to it differently I wouldn’t let my body get so out of shape because I realize now that’s a serious health hazard.
Avil Beckford: What’s the most important business or other discovery you’ve made in the past year?
I think with the economy in such a major state of transition, the biggest discovery that I have made that affects me personally and professionally, it affects everybody, is that we’re in such a time warp and evolution of the way jobs and income are created. I have discovered new ways that companies make money, new businesses, new professions and occupations, by some of my clients that I never really thought possible so I’m very excited about global communications. I’m excited about Kindle and electronic books, and e-publishing, all these are things that I did not know about previously or years ago and I realize that for myself and other people we’re going to be making money using interesting tools like Skype, Facebook, Twitter and e-books.
Avil Beckford: What are the three threats to your business, your success, and how are you handling them?
- Technology changes so quickly and we need to stay up-to-date on it. And we need to make investments in the proper tools and software and learn to use those tools effectively.
- In the business of coaching and consulting there are many unqualified business consultants out there, and so we are aware that there are some people who aren’t qualified to do what we do, who are calling themselves coaches and consultants and it’s important to distinguish ourselves differently from those people.
- As in any other business right now it’s easy to spend more money than you make so we always try to manage our project so that we are deploying the right amount of resources depending upon the size of the project. We want to provide really responsive service to our clients. We will not try to load up any of their projects with too much overhead or too many people that’s not going to give them the value that they need.
Avil Beckford: What’s unique about the service that you provide?
Well in my case, my firm provides coaching to high achieving professionals: CEOs, organization founders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists. What’s particularly unique about my background and those of my colleagues is that we have lived each of these roles that we are coaching. We are not doing consulting from a textbook. We didn’t just hire a bunch of new MBAs and say, “You’ve worked with a bunch of case studies so now you’re qualified to tell business owners how to operate their businesses.” This is what happens with some consulting firms, they hire these wonderfully smart young people and give them tools and templates but they pretty much put a green team out on a lot of smaller consulting assignments.
So any time we get involved with a client we try to put someone who has relevant experience. So if someone is raising venture capital, we put bankers on that assignment, people who have actually worked with venture capital, raised money, or deployed assets in certain ways. The same thing with regard to helping to build boards of directors, we would do customize searches and make sure that the Board of Directors are well-rounded, not only have the legal required skill sets but also the complementary culture and fit of the organization’s mission.
Each of the questions that we ask new clients to bring them on board is a combination of finding out what’s in their head, and their mission, but also what is in their heart, and what they truly want to accomplish. We subscribe to a very high standards and code of ethics, and that code of ethics says we’re going to coach and support the client’s vision, and if we can no longer help the client we will refer them to someone who can help them or stop coaching or consulting with them.
Avil Beckford: What do you observe most people in your field doing badly that you think you do well?
We work with clients examining their mission and learning what their key objectives are, their short-term and long-term vision for their organization or for their career or for a personal transition that they are trying to work through. I think we are especially good at helping them crystallize their thoughts about their ideal vision, how it is in alignment not just from a business perspective, but from a moral, personal, and ethical perspective about who they are, what they want to accomplish and the impacts they want to make in their business or their philanthropy. I think that we do that really well, and we’re able to do it a little bit faster because of our experience. I’ve got both wonderfully educated and experienced people with PhDs who work with us. I have Dr. Adele Scheele who can work with us. She’s got a doctorate in change management and she’s written a number of books called Skills for Success or Making College Payoff.
I also have former CEOs, CFOs and other extraordinary business professionals who have been there and done that. So we deploy these resources for the benefit of our clients and then that helps them to get to where they want to go faster with a lot more effectiveness rather than learning through trial and error, which we’ve all had to do, but hopefully we can reduce the trials and cut out most of the errors.
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 grew a business to become a really large employer in the state of California. At one point we had over 1,100 employees and our firm CT Engineering and PDQ Personnel Services helped launch 250,000 people going to work, so that was quite a big challenge.
So growing that business, watching it grow, serving very prestigious companies, like the Children’s Hospital, University of Southern California, the Automobile Club, local governments, national accounts like AT&T, and the US Small Business Administration, we had to learn how to adapt our services and customer related relationships to each of these clients. And each of these clients have different needs, different business strategies, and business objectives, and so each of these key clients needed to have a trained team to be able to support them.
Over the 90s and the beginning of this century after Y2K, through 2001 to 2006 we had to grow the company in spite of a very challenging insurance climate, and many changes in state and federal regulations. I made a decision in 2004 that I wanted to prepare the company for sale and in 2005 we were putting in place decisions and people to understand our national marketplace a little bit better and then in 2006 I sold the company.
That was a major, major accomplishment, that was a major challenge, and I’m very fortunate that our timing was just terrific. The market was growing but it was just ready to turn around. A lot of companies knew that but we started transaction in November 2006, the top of the market was December 2006, and 2007 to mid- 2010 as you know the economy went south. That was a big challenge and a big accomplishment to position the company and sell the assets to a firm that could take advantage of the national client base that we built, and within that client base serving companies like AT&T, IBM, Harvard University and University of Southern California. We had a very prestigious client list. They were able to leverage some of those client relationships that we had. As far as we know they are still servicing many of those clients today.
Avil Beckford: Tell me about your big break and who gave you.
Thirty years ago, one of our neighbours in business brought us a request for proposal to do business with the local government and they said they were not going to bid on the small contract, and asked us we would like to bid on it, that was a big break for us. That got us started with government contracting and opened up a new world of a certain type of customer, which over the years I did many millions of dollars worth of business with the government – the city, county, state, national government.
Avil Beckford: Describe one of your biggest failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success?
In the early years of growing our company we had to get through a couple of recessions and I remember the recession of 1982, but in 83 and 84 there was a comeback but I wasn’t an experienced CEO then. I was really just by the boot strap sort of entrepreneur. As our company began to rebound from the economy, we ran out of cash. That was a huge personal embarrassment and a big failure.
I literally had to call my management staff in. As I remember, this was in 1983, and I had to tell them that I did not have enough money to make payroll next week. I expected the money in but it wasn’t going to be in on time to make payroll and that was a failure in planning, and a matter of me being inexperienced. As it turned out I was able to talk to my employees, and we also went and had a meeting with our banker and we were able to establish a line of credit.
Through that very embarrassing financial situation, it created a learning opportunity for me and my team, to learn to be better planners. We now understand the power of planning, cash flow forecasting, and also never under estimate the value off good credit and good banking relations. And that’s made a difference for me in the past 30 years of having good credit and working hard and having positive banking relations. I also do a better job of planning cash flow forecasts.
Avil Beckford: What has been your biggest disappointment in your life – and what are you doing to prevent its reoccurrence?
The biggest disappointment I had in my life was letting myself get 90 pounds overweight. I saw photographs of myself and I really didn’t like what I saw. I realized that I had put my health in jeopardy. I hadn’t taken the time to learn the things that I had to do to get in shape and to keep my body strong and my brain active to deal with stress, and my sugar addiction.
I wasn’t a sugar addict but ate too much and I used eating as stress reduction and as a result I sort of got on a vicious cycle in regards to that, so that I would say that was my biggest personal disappointment.
When I see some of those photographs of myself over 250 pounds, I was not someone physically that I was proud of, but I did go to a couple of professionals. I hired a personal trainer, and I went to a doctor who coached me through that transition process. Breaking a sugar addiction is a lot like breaking any other addiction and you need to make a plan, a coping strategy and run with that. In my I case to do five small meals a day and I needed to start eating breakfast. I needed to make sure that I scheduled exercise in every single day of my workweek.
That’s really been a big change for me, and I wrote a book about it. I wrote a book called How I Lost It because so many people asked me how I lost it, that was a question I was hearing every single day, and it was also a little bit of an insurance policy for myself to make sure that I stayed focused, never falling off the wagon for more than a day or two and becoming the victim of sugar addiction.
Avil Beckford: What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?
It’s in regard to personnel. Having to let employees go, and one particular employee that I had let go 10 years ago. He was a top producer, a very successful salesperson, however he had so many complaints against him as a person and there was a great deal of concern from the top management team that he was not living and working according to our company’s code of ethics, and our mission to be a staffing partner to America’s finest employers.
I remember we had so much angst about this since if this guy went we could potentially lose some larger accounts. But if we kept him we could potentially be in conflict, or hypocritical with our mission and I didn’t want to lose my soul. So that was a tough decision to let him go but we decided to bite the bullet and it turned out in the end it was a very good decision.
We didn’t lose any business over it, and the clients knew that he was a problem, but no one wanted to say anything because everybody knew he was a big bread winner. Eventually we replaced all that business and in the end we were really glad that we got rid of somebody who was compromising our company’s values and our company’s integrity and I think that’s so important today. Right now people are on treadmills, they’re desperate for money, they’re desperate to keep their paycheck, they’re desperate to keep their companies open, and they lie, cheat and steal to do it, and I would rather lose my company than lie, cheat or steal.
Avil Beckford: What are three events that helped to shape your life?
- I married my husband 25 years ago and that’s definitely made an impact on my life, he’s a wonderful man.
- We have a blended family. I have three sons from a former marriage so having my children, those are separate events.
- Four years ago, I launched an international women’s festival and that was a wonderful experience and series of celebrations. We have empowered women all over the world to celebrate International Women’s Day. By creating InternationalWomensFestival.org, we’ve helped to create a venue where non-profits come together with leading communities, citizens, and businesses, and lots of women owned businesses and celebrate the accomplishments and potential of women throughout the world. We do that every March around International Women’s Day, and it’s lots of fun. International Women’s Festival has expanded to other countries. There have been conferences in Bermuda, Ireland, the Cayman Islands. They are looking at the possibility of doing some in the Dominican Republic. It’s just really wonderful to see how the celebration for International Women’s Day has spread, and more and more people are aware that March 8 is an international holiday to celebrate accomplishments and the potential of women.
Avil Beckford: What’s an accomplishment that you are proudest of?
I am proud of being a successful businesswoman. Just recently I received a wonderful award from Soroptimist International, their Ruby Award named after one of their founders. It’s given to women who have made an outstanding contribution to their community and who do good work. When they gave it to me this weekend they said “She didn’t just give a person a fish, she taught them how to fish.” And that was certainly one of my proudest accomplishments being recognized by men and women of high standing in the community is something that’s really very special to me.
A few weeks ago I received the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award from the Santa Barbara chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners and that was especially heartfelt for me because I have been active with the Women’s Business Owners Association throughout the country and around the world for over 20 years. About five years ago I helped to get the Santa Barbara chapter started and so they began their very first awards program this year and I was one of the people they honoured along with a couple of my clients who were also extraordinarily successful entrepreneurs.
Avil Beckford: How did mentors influence your life?
Mentors had a big influence on my life. I had them from the time I was very small with my father being a very successful business person, and my mother being a wonderful homemaker, and active community volunteer. They mentored me, and taught me the value in volunteer work, always trying to line your head and your heart and making sure that your values are not compromised by making a living.
I had other business mentors, from early bosses and friends who helped and advised me on buying real estate. When I married my husband 25 years ago he was more experienced than I in different kinds of businesses and so he helped to mentor me in regard to some of the systems he used when he worked for multinational corporations so I’ve been very fortunate to receive many coaching opportunities and mentors along the way.
One of my mentors was, Tom McKernan, Chief Executive Officer of the automobile club of Southern California. He is extraordinary company, an extraordinary executive who is committed to professional integrity to providing good services for their members around the world. At the automobile club they sell insurance, do roadside assistance and other things. He was very active in the chamber of commerce at the state level and in Los Angeles.
Tom nominated me to the Board of Directors for both the state Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and after a few years I got on the executive committee. Eventually I became the chairman for the LA area of the Chamber of Commerce. That was a great experience for me and I really enjoyed it. I loved representing the city of Los Angeles and the business community. In fact, in 2006 the Los Angeles Business Journal had a big lunch where they were honouring women of achievement and I was named CEO of the year by them.
Avil Beckford: What’s one core message you received from your mentors?
Nothing is more valuable than integrity.
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?
Look inside your own heart and head for your passions and try to work in your area of passions as often as possible. You will be more impactful and you will provide a better service for yourself and other people that you work with when you’re working and doing the things that you feel very strongly about. Don’t ever compromise honesty and integrity for money it’s never worth it.
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