By Tana M. Session
In 2015, Tana M. Session was three years away from turning 50 years old. One morning, while she was preparing to go to work as a Human Resources executive, she made a decision that she didn’t want to wake up at 50 years old hating her life.
Tana told her husband and fortunately, he supported her in her passion to discover her purpose and her “why.” She took a three-month leave of absence from work and never looked back.
Today, Tana is an award-winning international speaker, best-selling author, and a certified career and life coach. From being born into the New York City foster care system and reuniting with her biological family at 3.5 years of age to using her own stories and experiences in coaching people how to operate in their purpose, truly, Tana is a living example of what it means to be ambitious.
Today, we welcome Tana to The After Six Club’s Ambitious Tribe.
When I left my corporate Human Resources executive job, I knew I wanted to do work that was fulfilling and would help me to become part of the solution and no longer part of the problem. I took the components of Human Resources I liked, along with my experience and training as a certified coach, and created a business using the best of both worlds. I was determined to create a business that did not feel like work—one that I would enjoy doing every day. I’m happy to say mission accomplished!
TanaMSession.com is focused on strategic Career and Life Coaching and Business Consulting, primarily in Human Resources, as well as speaking internationally on various motivational and/or inspiration and business topics. I am also a best-selling author and a contributing writer for a couple of websites focused mainly on women empowerment.
Since I am the face behind the business, I created a DBA using my name for branding purposes. I use the same name on all of my social media platforms for consumer ease and branding consistency. I’m pleased to say I work out of my home, but my business is global. I have spoken internationally and have serviced clients virtually from around the world.
What do you believe makes your business stand out?
I believe my business stands out from other coaches and/or speakers in that I come from very humble beginnings and have been able to build a successful career and business. I have learned how to own my power, truth, healing, worth, and destiny, and use my adversities as fuel and not excuses to propel me to success. I share my proven strategies with my clients and audiences whenever I am booked to speak at events.
I believe my candor, authenticity, and transparency set me apart. People have responded very positively about these over the years. I enjoy meeting my social media followers in person because one of the first things they will say to me is that I am the same person “in person” as I am on social media. I do not use filters on my pictures or my voice.
Is it always necessary to be passionate about what your business is about in order for it to succeed?
If you are not passionate about your business, you cannot expect anyone else to be. I feel it is absolutely necessary to remain passionate about the work and the service you provide. If you lose that passion, then it is time to step back and refocus to find out what really sets your heart on fire. Do not enter a field or industry because you see someone else doing it successfully. We are all born with a destiny and a purpose. Once you have identified it for your own life, the passion will come naturally.
How did you obtain capital? Were there investors?
I used a combination of savings and credit cards to get my business off the ground. I also did Human Resources consulting to “keep the lights on” while I built my business and developed my strategy.
I tell everyone who is considering leaving their jobs to start a business to have a solid plan in place first and do not make an emotional decision based on a moment in time. Be strategic and move in silence, because not everyone will understand your “why.” I also like the keep this quote in mind at all times: “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
How did you build your customer base? What form of marketing has been most effective for you so far?
I initially built my customer base through a free newsletter opt-in. I have since included an opt-in sheet at each of my speaking engagements. I also add people to my distribution list when we meet at networking events, but I always ask for their permission first. Offering free products and webinars have also been beneficial in adding to my database.
How do you generate new ideas for your business’ growth?
I am constantly inspired by leaders in my industry. Therefore, I look to see what they are doing in the marketplace, including how they are promoting new programs and/or products, to see if I am influenced in some way to create new programs and products specifically for my clients. My litmus test is if I am inspired or interested in their program, then my ideal client will probably be, too.
What kind of company culture are you implementing? What are your core values?
As a solopreneur (solo entrepreneur), I look to represent a culture of inclusion and authenticity through my brand. My core values are founded on loving what you do in everything you do so you can service your clients during the highest times of need. My goal is to make my clients’ lives easier by supporting them and standing in the gap for them as they make their way through their healing.
How do you deal with major mishaps? What would you say is one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
Fortunately, I have not experienced any real mishaps in my business. However, when I was in corporate America and experienced mishaps or mistakes, I immediately owned the mistake and remained solutions-based to ensure the same mistake did not happen again. At the end of the day, it is all about ownership and accountability.
What skills do you believe are necessary in handling a business?
Based on my experience over the past four years as a full-time entrepreneur, the skills I have found necessary to build and handle a business are as follows: (1) patience, (2) having a mindset shift from “sales” to “service”, and (3) not being discouraged by the word “no.”
What would you say are some dos and don’ts in starting one?
Some dos for starting a business is to do your research and hire an industry leader as a coach. A good coach can help shave so much time off of your business launch and start-up initiatives. Some of the don’ts of starting a business is do not compare your journey with someone else’s, especially not on social media. Stay focused on your “why” and provide the best service and/or product to your clients. Remember this quote from Benjamin Franklin: “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Operational excellence and consistency are key.
Was there ever a time you felt afraid that this might not work? How did you manage this fear?
As a new entrepreneur, it is always scary when business is slow and there is no other income coming in. However, learning the ebbs and flows of your business is key to help sustain you during the slow periods. Also, maintaining a good pipeline of prospects or potential clients during the busy season is key.
Describe a typical day for you.
I always start my day off with meditation, prayer, journaling, and mapping out my goals for the day. I then review my calendar to confirm what is booked for the day. I work out three to four days a week. Starting on January 1, 2019, I now place my mobile phone away from my nightstand and do not look at it until after I have finished my morning ritual, including going to the gym. This new practice has been so refreshing. Through this practice, I have gained control of my morning and do not let the world in until I am ready.
How many hours of work a day do you put in? How many days per week?
My typical workday averages 10 hours. Depending on what is going on during the week, I try to take at least one day off per week, where I have no agenda and no appointments on my calendar. I use that day to hang out with friends, go on a date night with my husband, or just take a nap and catch up on recorded shows or Netflix specials.
What is your greatest fear?
I do not operate out of fear. I have learned that only danger is real. Fear and worry are like sitting in a rocking chair. They both give you something to do, but they do not move you forward.
What sacrifices have you had to make to get here?
Some sacrifices I have made during my entrepreneur journey have been staying focused and not letting others distract me. This means turning down offers to hang out or go to different events. I have also watched less television and used that time to put into my business.
What can you consider is your greatest success?
My greatest success has been the success of my clients. Seeing them propel to their next level of success based on the work we did together is what motivates me to wake up each day and do it all over again.
What would you say is the secret to success?
The secret to my success has been consistency and authenticity. People want to do business with people they feel they know, like and trust. I build my business on this foundation every day.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
My favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur is the ability to work with people I want to work with and decline working with people I do not want to work with. I did not have this same level of freedom in corporate America. Another favorite aspect of entrepreneurship is the flexibility to work when and where I want to on almost any given day.
What motivates you? Who has been your greatest inspiration?
I am completely motivated by the success of my clients. As an example, one of my clients was able to leave a company she worked at for over 20 years and became the COO of a non-profit, increasing her income by almost $100,000. When we started working together, she was miserable, hated her job, knew she was underpaid and thought she had no choice but to stay there and retire since she had been there for so long. Our work together over a six-month period proved her wrong, and she is forever grateful. She did the work, I just stood by her on her journey to reinvention and transformation.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
In 10 years, I plan on being retired. My goal is to retire in the next five years.
Do you consider yourself an ambitious person?
I am very ambitious. I was ambitious in school and excelled in each grade and throughout college. My ambition also helped me build a career in Human Resources from an administrative assistant to a Vice President/Chief Human Resources Officer in seven years, tripling my income.
Do you think being ambitious helps you in business? How?
I have applied the same level of ambition mentioned above to my business. As a solopreneur, I do not have anyone on staff to help with the day-to-day operations, but I do outsource when it makes sense. But I have to remain ambitious and focused to ensure I accomplish my goals and elevate my company year-over-year. Ambition is the key to success because you have to remain self-motivated every single day.
What piece of advice can you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
The best piece of advice I can give to aspiring entrepreneurs is to know your “why”. When you know that, the “how” will come naturally. You will not have to force it and your passion will drive you every day. Also, get aligned with a good business coach, someone who can help shorten your ramp-up time and provide resources to help you excel in business faster and easier. If you are not willing to invest in yourself, do not expect anyone else to either.
Edits: Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla | Image Credit: Tana M. Session
Tana M. Session is an award-winning international speaker, bestselling author, and certified career/life coach. She is the author of three books, including the #1 best-seller Get Your Career Life in Order, and has written articles for various publications, including Forbes.com, Recruiter.com, and BlackEnterprise.com. Tana conducts group and private VIP coaching sessions, and live seminars based on her program, Stop Being the Best Kept Secret.