Shifting from being on the verge of burnout to launching her own successful operations team and business, Lenica Stephen, the Founder and CEO of IBOSS, shares her inspiring journey from leaving the comforts of a corporate career to stepping into the challenging world of entrepreneurship!
With her work at IBOSS, Lenica offers a unique perspective on how operations serve as the critical backbone of businesses. She also walks through her expert strategies for improving operations for business expansion that have proven successful in her own journey.
In this episode, Lenica and I also discuss the importance of finding a supportive community of business owners and the advantages of not going it alone in business.
This episode wraps up with Lenica addressing the power of networking even when it seems challenging, harnessing the potential of social media to find clients, and sharing how she has leveraged the influence of referrals and relationships to grow her business.
About Lenica Stephen and Interactive Business Optimization Services (IBOSS) Inc.
Lenica Stephen is the Founder ad CEO of Interactive Business Optimization Services (IBOSS) Inc., an Operations Consulting Management Agency, who partners and consults with E-Commerce business owners on the strategies, team growth and operational efficiencies to implement or enhance in their business to effectively scale and grow in line with their vision.
She has a passion for keeping her clients in their zone of genius while being their strategic partner and by working with business owners to take their business ideas from conception to implementation while ensuring these initiatives are aligned with their growth strategy.
Lenica and her team believe in the importance of having a good support system whether in business or in personal life. Lenica’s vision is for IBOSS Inc. to be the chosen authority in providing strategic partnership and business operations services who provides an environment of support and empowerment that will lead clients to outrageous levels of success.
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Read The Full Transcript From This Episode (click to expand and read the full interview)
- Sonja Crystal Williams: 0:11
Hi everyone, welcome to 10 Minute Marketing. I am your host, Sonja Crystal Williams. So today I have the founder and CEO of Interactive Business Optimization Services, IBOSS, Lenica Stephen, joining us. She is an operations consultant. She runs an agency and a team that specializes in working with e-commerce businesses and partnering with them strategically to look for ways to improve their operations and enhance their business growth so that they can scale. So thank you so much for being here, Lenica. Thank you so much. So I want to start by digging in and really just talking a little bit more about how you even got into this space. So let’s start there.
Lenica Stephen: 0:56
Ah, okay, that’s always an interesting story. So I am what some people have dubbed a former corporate recovering corporate employee, left my role as a project manager in 2018. What prompted that was I was coming at a point of getting to the edge of it physically, mentally, almost like burnout and I initially started with needing a break and started helping, seeing like people I knew had who had small businesses and started helping them on the side, like kind of like with like admin stuff and all that and just many projects, and just realizing I really love this and I love being able to help small and medium businesses because it’s to me a different vibe than corporate a bit. And so, looking at my skills that I’ve grown over those you know, 13-15 plus years and helping small businesses, I started to go, okay, well, why not IBOSS? Because I had named the business because it was on the side. When I looked at returning to work full time and then I essentially, you know, gave myself some time to ramp up and I made the decision to move over to helping small and medium businesses on my and starting my own small business. And what made me get to go into operations is when I was helping with projects and the like, I realized that operations is a foundational base that a lot of people didn’t necessarily have or were knowledgeable about because they were so busy doing their product or their service and bringing in the sales and doing their marketing. That that to me. Once that’s in place, or at least getting there it helps with the growth and the sustainability of the business. So I really really became passionate about making sure that these small businesses can be sustainable as they’re bringing in the business through. You know the great marketing and sales that they’d be doing. So that’s what’s kept me in the operation space and and that’s where I’ve grown over the past five years.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 2:55
Wow, very cool five-year journey and in your journey of how you got there, on a few of these episodes I hear those similar journeys like that burnout from being you know in that corporate world and then beginning to ship for you as you started to make that ship. Just curious from a personal standpoint like how did that impact? Like your entire life and well-being as you started making that ship into running your business.
Lenica Stephen: 3:23
Hmm, it was how did I make the shit? Okay, well, how did I first make the shift? I had to what I’ll say have a conversation myself. Yeah, I kind of had to go okay, like, this is a different world. But initially, actually, entrepreneurship was always a dream of mine. It was always in the I believe it was always in my blueprint and all my in my DNA, because I knew the word from like the ages seven and I just knew it fit. But then I went the corporate path because that was the thing to do. Yeah so I realized that my entrepreneur owning a business was always a someday, not a day in. I didn’t have a one-day, like you know, and so when I made that decision to actually give this business ago, it took, it brought up a lot of personal like development stuff, like I learned a lot about myself and I’m still learning a lot about myself in this journey, just in a lot of different ways personal and business. And so the shift I had to make was realizing I got to do for myself, but not necessarily by myself. So I got mentors, I got, I went into community, you know, joined masterminds. I kind of like needed to be around people that were in this environment. So that helped a lot. Like soaking up the environment of other business owners, whether they are five, ten steps ahead of me, the same level, you know, just being in though in the in community of some sort, was amazing. And then knowing that I realizing that I didn’t know everything. So having to seek mentorship and talk to people that have been there in whatever expertise they’re in or just as a general business person, was really, really helpful for me.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 5:09
Aside, that’s huge, yeah, because I think a lot of business owners kind of will start a business and then be on this island, you know, feeling like they have to do all. So it’s very powerful the statement you just made like right, I’m in business for myself, I don’t have to be by myself, and you went out and sought the resources to help grow you and nurture and facilitate, especially for something that’s new. So let’s, let’s check back to talking about the operational side of things, because and in particularly with e-commerce businesses, with that being a focus of yours like tell for those of us that are not in the operations world, and plain language like what does that look like when you’re engaged with a client in terms of the kind of things that you are helping them scale or figure out when it comes time for sustainable growth?
Lenica Stephen: 6:03
Particularly for e-commerce, because they’re focusing on building, developing or buying their product and then marketing it to the world. Essentially, they’ll come a time where the I guess what the good problem is that maybe through their marketing and sales effort, that business is rolling. You know, product sales are coming and what have you. So then the question is if you’re marketing and your sales is working, that means you’ll get sales, which ultimately leaves the money on profit. Now the questions become do you have team, or do you have enough team or the right team or support in order to sustain the growth that’s coming? You know, have you thought about if you have enough product, looking at the sales that you have, do you have the necessary efficiencies in your business to be able to get that product out to your customers in time through quality? You know what they have, what they need. That’s a big one too. It’s because more and more often it’s inventory management, order fulfillment are the two biggest things that a lot of businesses are concerned about, and making sure that that’s there’s a way to make sure that that’s efficient and and sustainable is the thing, because if you’re used to making a product that takes five days and now you’re getting sales that people are wanting it? Do you have sustainability to make it over five days? Or do you have to now change how you create the product, where you source the product? All those things are not coming into play because you know you want the client experience to be great or even better. Because now you’re getting all this notoriety because of, maybe, the marketing and sales that you’ve done in the front end. Now we’re looking at the back end to make sure that you have the support and more often than not I would say you’re being able to do it alone is very, almost impossible, and that’s for any business owner, regardless of the business you have. So having the support whether that means that someone that’s always on your team or having the expert to kind of look at the thing and say okay, you need to look at your fulfillment, you need to look at you know your stuff, because it could come to a point where your success can crush you. Okay, if you’re not careful right. And you know like success is a good problem to have, but if you’re not careful and not ready for it, it could fall under the weight of it.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 8:25
Yeah, it’s like you have to get through the growing pains of having a business and making it through that awkward stage to be able to grow up and carry on. So, yeah, you hear about businesses not being able to sustain and it sounds like it’s for that very reason. You just said.
Lenica Stephen: 8:42
Yeah, so it’s like, once all this great stuff in the front end is working, are you ready for the beautiful storm that’ll come in a way to grow your business.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 8:55
Right, or the big orders. I think about what I’ve watched Shark Tank in the past and how they talk about that as part of the formula. When the retail-based businesses come on, can you handle the growth? You know, or have you been able to handle the growth, or they need money because they hit that wall and it’s time to figure out the next steps to be able to handle the growth.
Lenica Stephen: 9:14
So that makes a lot of good sense.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 9:15
Yes, very, very much so. Wow, so all right, so that’s what you’re doing when you’re providing that service, you and your team, to these types of businesses. Now let’s think about on the flip side, as you’ve been on this five-year journey, even in growing your own business and I would imagine there have been, you know and I know I’ve run a business for a while the ups and downs of having a business and then, on your end, figuring out what is that formula that leads to people beginning to see me more. What is part of the formula to you know, turning a follower, you know, or someone on my email list, into an actual client. So, out of curiosity, Lenica, like, what are some of the things that you think have helped you along the way with just making IBOSS more known?
Lenica Stephen: 10:11
For me. The biggest one for me has been building relationships. It’s been like because when I first started I wasn’t going down the bigger path A couple of reasons because I felt like, oh, I don’t want to be like you know out there seeing. So I had a lot of. I was more comfortable at the time with one-on-one conversations, okay, building relationships, and I still am. I do love the one-on-ones, but I’m out doing more. But for me it was building relationship and it was more at the time. Interestingly enough, it is marketing, but I was more just wanting to connect people and just especially in the first few years, I’m like I just want to talk to people and let’s just swap, like exchange ideas and conversations and naturally because of that, people wanted to work with me because I was sharing myself and we were just I was giving them time and they were allowing me to get time to talk about myself or whatever challenge they had. So big for me was building relationship. And then through that I got to see the pattern of like what their challenges were, even though I kind of knew, but hearing it from them Was, was cool. So that now gave me what more material to be able to create things for them. You know, or when I’m talking from a marketing, wider audience perspective, I was able to talk more intelligently, I guess, because I’m not just going from my own guesses or like supposition to. I’ve talked to these people, I’ve worked with these people, these are the things that they’re saying is their challenge, so these are the things that is out there. So that’s where I started was just one-on-one relationship building, was I guess relationship marketing was my thing, it still is and then went out to doing speaking engagements as well, to talk to people and, yeah, that’s been my main pieces just one-on-one and and then just looking at the words I use and anything that I put out there because of having those conversations, Okay.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 12:16
So I’m hearing, like if we were to break this into marketing terms, and even for those of you listening, thinking about like, how do you present yourself, whether that’s in person or, as Lenica said, like you did the research first of all? In those relationships, in understanding some of the challenges that those business owners were faced with from an operation standpoint. And then you said you use the words so that that those messages, and I guess for you when, when you use those words and then it’s time to deliver them to people in an online setting like where, where the places is it? Hey, I use those words on my website or my email, or I have this really cool Instagram or LinkedIn Like where do you find yourself being able to now take that message and package it?
Lenica Stephen: 13:01
I’ve been. LinkedIn has been one that I’m really getting more into now personally. Um, I I’m starting to. I wasn’t not enjoying it, but I gave myself a complex about it, so to speak. Instagram was was one that I was using quite a bit as well, and then again I took that more into conversations that I was having. So when I went out into events, I was no longer shy about having bigger conversations because I’ve gotten a lot more like succinct and direct and understanding of the issue of their challenges or how I could bridge the conversation to start to learn more about that. So that was it for me. It’s more. I don’t consider myself a big social media person, but understanding what they could be talking about on there was huge for me. And then I went to events. Whether it’s virtual or in person, I was, I felt, better in the delivery of what I was saying.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 13:59
Yeah. So more confidence coming from a place of like, hey, I know this person or profile of who I’m really trying to speak to, and that gives you the confidence. And I think that’s a really great point because the idea and here’s another thing, to use the term like you were building relationships, you were relationship marketing. Some people say, hey, I was networking. That term networking can sound really scary Sometimes. I know, for me in the beginning it was. I was like I don’t, I don’t know how to do this, what am I supposed to do? What do I say to people when I go to this event? Yeah, but on the flip side, if you do kind of ease back a little bit, I, and get out of your own head and think of this, as this is just all about building relationships and what can I offer people, and that gives you a big opportunity.
Lenica Stephen: 14:46
Sonja Crystal Williams: 14:47
How have you found, when you are looking for those people to get in relationships with? How do you find those people, Whether it’s an in-person setting or whether it’s a virtual setting? How do you find the spaces to meet people that are potential clients for you?
Lenica Stephen: 15:06
Well, first few years it started with where I would be interested in going to, just like I started. These would be interested in where it was a multi what I’ll say faceted type of business owners, right, so not just people in my industry for operations, because they would more be connections, not clients. Now I’ve started I actually asked my clients where do they go? Now I have a client base. I’m like, ok, where are you guys, what kind of conferences are you looking at? Would this be interesting to you? And I’ve done that. And then I would be like, ok, got it. And so I understand that more. I’ve even gone down the just research. These are the where do e-commerce businesses hang out or conferences and things. So just went straight to the Google and did that. But then I asked I just asked where are they going, where are they hanging out, what kind of things would they be interested in attending? And understood that piece.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 16:08
So, showing up, where they’re likely to show up, I think this is such a simple approach that anyone can do, but it’s, to your point, like really approaching it mindfully and thinking about what do I want out of this and how do I find these people? And asking the right questions. I mean, that’s kind of what I’m hearing you say too. Just figuring out the right questions to ask your audience. That helps you package it. It also helps you figure out. This is where I need to position myself in the process.
Lenica Stephen: 16:38
So I love that. Yeah, so you show up as an expert in those spaces too, right? Yeah, being a good listener, I think, has also been a great help. I mean, that’s what I would tell anybody. I find for me, listening more than talking was huge. People will say a lot more than you’re expecting, and then you could take that and then just take and use it how you need to.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 17:03
Yeah, people will give you a lot of information if you give them the opportunity to. Yeah, very much so, well, very cool. So I’m going to ask a few other questions. We’re going to go into our lightning round as we kind of start to wind down. So, for fun, just to get to know you a little bit better. Lenica, where do you like to vacation?
Lenica Stephen: 17:24
Ooh, anywhere with a beach. I don’t have a specific like. I’m originally born in the Caribbean and it’s not for that reason, but I just love warm and beach and water, so anywhere there’s sand and the sound of the ocean.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 17:40
Lenica Stephen: 17:40
That I love.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 17:42
I love it.
Lenica Stephen: 17:43
So that’s my spot. So point me in the direction of a beach and I’m good.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 17:50
We all have to find our ways to unwind as business owners. So, yes, vacation spots, beaches, all good things to do. Ok, and so you’ve been in business now for five years. Where do you feel like you can think of, like, these are some areas where I’ve had some big wins, whether that’s like with a particular client or within your own processes or systems? Where do you feel like you’ve had some wins?
Lenica Stephen: 18:17
Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm. Client base getting what I would consider a big client at the time, like a couple years ago we still work together to this day was one of the first bigger clients that made me really love working with e-commerce businesses, so that was a big win. And that was through actually a referral. So that’s been a big part of how I’ve gotten business too is through the connections, just getting to know people Even though they weren’t my clients. They just always kept my name at top of mind, so that’s been really helpful. And then another big win is bringing on my team members. I have three people right now on my team, bringing on a fourth as we speak, and it’s going to grow from there. So really really been a big help is having some of the team members I have on my team right now.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 19:11
Yeah, that is huge. And then on the flip side to that we also kind of experience again the downs or the areas of like gosh. I wish I would have done that differently or better. What would you say are things like where you’ve had some lessons learned along the way that other business owners would kind of want to think about?
Lenica Stephen: 19:31
Lessons. One thing I did I always say, is don’t go down comparison alley. Don’t compare yourself to, even if you’re in the exact same field, like yeah, you do refer like what’s other people in your industry or your exact type of role that it’s doing, but lean into you and your own strengths and where you want your vision for your business to grow, because I initially was growing the business in a way that other people that do what I do were doing and I was like that’s not really what I set out to do. So going down comparison alley led me in a funk for a bit. That was a big lesson and then it caused me to pivot when I really sat and thought what’s my vision? Not the vision for the industry or this role or somebody in operations. That’s been a big lesson for me. And then just don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 20:26
Lenica Stephen: 20:26
Sooner rather than later. Yeah, I’ve sometimes waited longer than I probably should have, just thinking I can handle it and get the expert help. Don’t think you can do it by yourself.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 20:39
Very cool. I think we’re going to stop right there. That’s just like sound advice that I hope everyone’s listening to, that you can walk away with. I picked up so many great things and some of the things that you said, but that’s a big one. Just don’t wait to ask for help. You don’t have to do this alone. So I want to thank you for being here, Lenica. How can people find out more IBOSS and and find you and stay in touch?
Lenica Stephen: 21:06
Yeah, sure, so you can reach me through. Just find me on LinkedIn, Lenica Stephen, the only one there that has that name, and also through Instagram @interactiveboss is the ID, and then my website is also interactiveboss. com. Those are the three places you can find me and I will engage and answer questions. They are very readily for anybody.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 21:29
Awesome. So I hope e-commerce businesses, you all are paying attention so you can reach out to Lenica and learn how to scale and grow with her as a strategic partner. Thanks again, Lenica, for being here, for everyone else, Until next time, thanks again. Thank you everybody. Thank you everybody.
- Sonja Crystal Williams: 0:11