Interviewee Name: Diane Craig, President
Company Name: Corporate Class Inc.
To get the most from The Invisible Mentor Interview with Diane Craig, while you are reading it, answer the following questions:
- Are their similarities between Diane Craig and yourself?
- In what ways can you use the information?
- In what ways would you respond differently from the interviewee?
- What are your five takeaways from the interview?
- After reading the interview, what is one concrete action you can take?
Avil Beckford: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Diane Craig: I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve had my business for many years now. I love my work and I love life, I love my family and I enjoy people.
Avil Beckford: What’s a typical day like for you?
Diane Craig: When I get up I like some quiet time for meditation and prayer. I shower, have breakfast then go off to work. In the evenings I’m often out, whether with clients, attending events, having dinner with friends, or spending time with my husband. I’m quite active.
Avil Beckford: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
Diane Craig: For me, the most important thing is to surround myself with motivated people, people who have high energy who I can feed on and not be dragged down.
Avil Beckford: If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
Diane Craig: There are many things that I could do differently, there is no question about that, but in the end what would I do differently, I’m not sure because who I am today is shaped by what I’ve done before, and all of those mistakes that I have learned from. I would not have gotten to the next step had I not made those mistakes. So what would I so differently? I might have spent more time studying when I was younger. I have a college degree. I didn’t finish university, that’s something I would have done differently. I studied fashion design which was a 3-year college degree, but I started a communications degree in university and never finished it.
Avil Beckford: What’s the most important business or other discovery you’ve made in the past year?
Diane Craig: The biggest discovery is that I’m at a point in my life and business that I have the capability to produce passive income. There have been a lot of preparation, a lot of work has been done, and I have an arsenal of tools that could easily be turned into products, and I want to focus on that for the next couple of years.
Avil Beckford: What are the three threats to your business, your success, and how are you handling them?
- The biggest one is the economy. Our business is very affected by the economy because our clients are mainly corporate. The economy has been so unstable so I fear for that. I always worry about that although I’ve been in business so long that that there have been ups and down. The way I handle that is that when times are slow, I don’t get discouraged, I take advantage of the time to build new programs, expand on programs, do research that I didn’t have time to do, and continue to do business development. Even though it’s not the right time, you still have to connect with clients and prospects, so when times are good you do not have to chase anyone, and at the same time, they will remember you. I get calls from the people I kept in touch with when times were slow and they didn’t need my services then.
- My health would definitely be a threat to my business. I don’t anticipate anything but you never know.
- Another threat for anyone in business is if you stop being current in what you do and take things for granted.
Avil Beckford: What’s unique about the service that you provide?
Diane Craig: I’m in an industry where many people provide the same services that I do. What’s unique is that many image consultants have not had the kinds of opportunities that I’ve had over the years. I didn’t take an image consultant course as such, although at one point I took a week of training with Color Me Beautiful, but I was an instructor at a fashion designing school and from teaching full and part-time students for over five years, I got to do thousands of sittings. I learned about different body shapes, body proportions, and I had the opportunity to work with fabrics, and build garments where you could see that certain fabrics were not appropriate for a particular style, so I’ve had experience in that. When it comes to the image consulting part of the business it’s very natural for me. I also studied men’s tailoring and very few image consultants have such a strong background as I do in that area.
The other thing in Canada that has been very helpful is that I’m fully bilingual and can deliver in both French and English. For some companies that is a real plus because they do not have to hire two service providers for the same service.
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?
Diane Craig: There were challenges at a personal level that affected my business as well. The first one is my husband died when my children were seven and 12 and I had started my business the year before. All of a sudden I was faced with being a single mom with a brand new business, so that was very challenging. I had good staff, thank goodness for that because they were able to support me through the changes that were occurring in my business. The second big challenge occurred shortly after the passing of my husband. The business was back on its feet and my 11 year old daughter passed away in a school bus accident, so again that took a lot of wind out of my sail. What I learned – this is the second time I had a major event in my life – I grew from it, and the second time around I was able to turn it into a positive thing for other people. Many people who are touched by a special event will volunteer and put a lot of effort into special causes, which I did and turned out to be beneficial for other people. And of course it was therapy for me. But the biggest message for me was that the big plan I do not have it, and every day you just do the best that you can and be the best that you can be and know that ultimately it doesn’t all rest in your hands.
Avil Beckford: Tell me about your big break and who gave you.
Diane Craig: My big break was back in 1995, 1996, and the person who gave it to me was me. I had my business and we had an overrun of newsletters and in those days we mailed our newsletters. In my office late one night, I was sitting looking at these 300 extra copies that had been printed. I didn’t want to throw them out, and didn’t even know if I could afford to put the stamps on them, and then I started to think about what I could do, where could I send them, and I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, you know what, there are about 300 Members of Parliament.” It costs nothing to mail things to Members of Parliament, so I sent my newsletters there.
Before you know it, I became one of the favourite image consultants on Parliament Hill and I worked with several leaders of our country. That was an opportunity that was tremendous, and I started traveling across Canada meeting a lot of people and developed business at the corporate level as well because of all the connections I was able to make. I think that was my big break, and it came in the name of Preston Manning.
Avil Beckford: Describe one of your biggest failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success?
Diane Craig: I’ve had many failures. The biggest one would be going into a partnership. The partnership was a failure, but what was good about it was the reason why today I have an office downtown Toronto at Bay-Bloor. The failure in fact was a client who decided to go into business. The person was based in Toronto, and my base was in Ottawa even though I had clients in Toronto. After spending two-and-a-half with that person, I got to know Toronto and it gave me the opportunity to develop new connections and extend my business. I learned many things from that partner. In the end the partnership failed, but I had been able to sell 50 percent of my company and when we decided to end the relationship, I was able to keep my company because all we did was share the copyright of our training materials. That was a great learning experience – the partnership didn’t work but it was a stepping stone to me becoming a lot more successful.
Avil Beckford: What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?
Diane Craig: That was a very big decision for me to move to Toronto because my roots were not here. I didn’t have the network that I had in Ottawa, and it was a little scary so it was definitely a really big decision and it changed my life. Another big decision I had to make was when my daughter died I was asked to donate her organs and that decision unknown to me, within half an hour after I had made that decision, I was still in the hospital receiving calls from the media because I had a lot of friends in the media, and they wanted to help and start a campaign on organ donation and from there we built a foundation. It was a tough decision at the beginning, but it impacted my life because today, 12 years later, I’m still very involved with organ donation. Today, I sit on the board of Children Gift of Life Network, which is the organization that looks after all organ donations for Ontario.
Avil Beckford: What are three events that helped to shape your life?
Diane Craig: I learned a lot from my husband when we were first married because he was an entrepreneur and I learned about business from him. I’m not sure if I would have had the entrepreneurial mind that I have today had it not been for what I learned from him. Just a year before he passed away, I had gone into business for myself and he is the one who pushed it. I was not totally sold on the idea, so his encouragement in doing this prepared me for what I didn’t know was going to happen a year later. So the three events that shaped my life would be:
- The passing of my husband.
- The passing of my daughter.
- Opening a new office in Toronto.
Avil Beckford: What’s an accomplishment that you are proudest of?
Diane Craig: I think I have been able to make a lot of difference in people’s lives at many levels, and certainly organ donation is a big one. We talk about working with people from inside out, I really did that. When my daughter died I started to think that executive image was so superficial and yet I was reminded by a therapist that I was actually helping a lot of people. I started to think that I have always worked on the outside, and now I’ve able to help people on the inside if not spiritually, emotionally. I was able to meet the woman who received my daughter’s heart and lungs. She was dying and only had about a week left to live, and 12 years later she is still living.
The accomplishment was to start a foundation, create awareness about organ donation, and being able to keep it going. I received the Meritorious Service Medal by the Governor General Adrienne Clarkson in 2004 for those efforts.
Avil Beckford: How did mentors influence your life?
Diane Craig: The mentor I had, my husband, was a brilliant man. He influenced my life in the sense that I may not have gone into my own business if it had not been for his advice, counselling and support. I probably would still be a teacher at a fashion designing school. We have different mentors who come into our lives, and they are at many levels. One mentor convinced me to triple my prices, and I was in shock, and I realized it didn’t make any difference to people because I was undervalued. That was a big stepping stone. The other one was a business coach I had who helped me to work on my business, instead of in my business, so after working with him, and following his suggestions, I was able to not only sell 50 percent of my company, I also sold the franchise, another part of my business to someone else. I basically took one business and sell three businesses out it. That was pretty exciting, so had it not been for that business coach, it might have happened at some point but certainly not as early or as fast.
Avil Beckford: What’s one core message you received from your mentors?
Diane Craig: The biggest message is that you need to have a vision. You need to look at the top of the business and see what’s going on. Just going in every day and being busy, and not taking the time to step back and see what’s happening and where you want to see it in five years from now. Unless you can do that, you’re going to be stuck because time is going to pass you by and you’re just going to be busy. I remember the saying, “You’re busy, but are you making money?” I think being busy all the time, yes you’re going to be making a little bit of money, but you have to look at yourself and look at the focus and where you are taking your business, what’s going to generate larger revenues.
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?
Diane Craig: It doesn’t matter which business you’re in, in many ways, people are fooled because they have the technical skills, they think that they’re going to be able to make it to the top. They have to nurture the interpersonal skills as well as their technical skills because in the end, we all compete with people who have similar experiences, similar backgrounds and products so why would they choose you. Why would they choose to do business with you? Why would they choose to have a relationship with you, whether it’s at the personal or professional level? Your interpersonal skills are really important, and you have to own them because I have this saying that, “You can fake it until you make but know that you’ll soon be discovered.” You can look at Conrad Black, all those guys who have taken a fall from very high. If you are not sincere, honest and have integrity, you will be discovered. As much as I’m in the image business, I can tell you that image is not a substitute for your credentials, which is the price to entry for so many things, and after that you have to be consistent and measure up to the image that you project.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Many readers read this blog from other sites, so why don’t you pop over to The Invisible Mentor and subscribe (top on the right hand side) by email or RSS Feed.