Name: Lori Volkman
Business Name/Occupation: CEO of Trajectory Communications
When did you know starting a business was right for you? Tell us about your business: I had a first career as a lawyer and hit burnout. I knew I wanted to do something more. When my husband was mobilized for 15 months, I had the chance to help start the Military Spouse JD Network as their first Communications Director. That began a three-year glideslope into what is now a full time business. I provide consulting and strategic communications to energy, tech, and healthcare companies who are struggling to hire enough of the right talent, and I help CEO's turn their HR divisions into profit centers.
What is the most amazing thing you have experienced in business?: I was fortunate to have a great business mentor and magnetic mastermind group. Realizing that I could change the face of military and veteran hiring initiatives and employ other military family members empowered and inspired me to keep moving forward. When I made the shift from freelancer to true CEO, everything changed.
What is the most disheartening thing you have encountered in your career as a military spouse?: The spirit of competitiveness is great. I'm a lawyer and I relish that kind of challenge. But when it reaches the point of tearing each other down to build yourself up, that has sometimes been a hurdle for me. I suppose it exists in any environment, not just military spouse communities. However, I've learned that when you're the first down a trail, you should expect some arrows in the back when it comes to business. I work toward collaborating whenever possible, and making sure people understand that I believe there's enough work out there for all of us. We each have our own unique talents to provide to the world.
What advice would you give a military spouse, interested in starting their own business?: Decide before you start how much time and money you have to invest, and spend a short amount of time setting up shop. So many people get bogged down in things like websites and business cards and logos and branding, when the real way to get yourself out there is to take your message to the masses and gauge a response. Keep tweaking it until you get the message and product or service that resonates with your ideal customers, and then go for it! I know plenty of successful businesses that launched with nothing more than a LinkedIn page!
What is the most challenging thing about being a military spouse and business owner? What is the most rewarding thing?: The most challenging thing is the need to remain viable and connected when you're a portable business owner. That's becoming more and more possible with today's expectations around technology, so I think it's a new era for military spouse businesses. The most rewarding thing for me personally has been the knowledge that there are so many great unemployed and underemployed military spouses out there who need work - and being able to hire them and refer them to other employers.
How did it feel when you made your first sale?: My first sale was to a great military spouse who is still a client. I will always remember how grateful I was that someone was willing to take the first chance on me, and I return the favor to other military spouse businesses whenever I can.
What is one obstacle you have faced as a business owner, or on a personal level, as a military spouse, that you would have never expected?: The obstacle of feeling alone was the first I encountered as a business owner. I knew it would come, but it arrived more quickly than I expected. After an entire first career working in an office environment, working at home was a big change. Now I have regular Skype meetings with my own team members, and take at least one day a week to meet with local business owners or friends in a professional setting, and it's a great balance for me.
What is one business goal you hope to accomplish by the end of this year?: By the end of 2015 I'd like to make the shift from working with a mix of small business and corporate clients to working solely with corporate clients.
As a military spouse, or business owner, I know one thing for certain. It is . . .: that the community of military families are like no other on Earth when it comes to support and strength. I'd put our "family" up against any group of professionals!
What strengths do you possess, that you did not know you had, until you became an entrepreneur?: I realized after a quick rundown of jobs I'd have to do as a business owner that there were a lot of hats I'd have to wear. But I was surprised to find that I was great at sales - more than I ever imagined - mostly because I truly believed in the services I was offering and how they could help my clients make more money. Now I outsource finances and admin work to focus on sales more and more, and it's growing my business every day.
My biggest fear is . . . : My biggest fear is building a business that sucks the life out of me the way my first career did. I balance this by starting early and quitting each day at 3pm so that I can spend time with my kids. It helps me remember why I started this work to begin with.
My greatest accomplishment is . . .: My greatest accomplishment is that I created something. I created a business that pays myself and other people, and will grow into something I can sell someday. I created it from scratch, and from an idea, with the help of lots of great mentors. That is an amazing concept!
When I grow up I want to be . . . : When I grow up, I want to be the owner of a beach house in Coronado, California. I just saw one listed for $19.7 million. Is that too much to ask? :)
In 2050 I hope military spouses are/can/have/achieve . . .: By 2050 I hope military spouses gain the recognition and respect they deserve, without being perceived as dependents who marry service members for their benefits. I can't hazard a guess as to how many ignorant civilians believe this notion, but I know the perception is growing due to horrible online service member forums. The only way we can do something about it is through our actions, not our words, and the increased business and job opportunities for military spouses is a great start.
Why do military spouses make great entrepreneurs?: I don't think you can categorically say that military spouses make better entrepreneurs than the average person. But I can tell you that for military spouses who chose to start their own business, their DNA tends to be hard-wired for overcoming adversity. Entrepreneurism is a roller-coaster ride of emotions and finances. Being able to persevere is mandatory for successful businesses.
What is your legacy?: The legacy I'd like to leave is being known as a leader in the military spouse community during this era of newfound professional careers for military spouses, and to have my name associated with the great group of mentors who paved the way for success for our military families. I'd like to create a business that lives on beyond my lifetime, and I'd like my children to know what's possible, so that they can share that possibility with future generations.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TrajectoryCommunications