As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful Service Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephynie Malik.
Fresh on the heels of a 25+ year successful career in which she was an award-winning CEO of a global consulting firm for over a decade, a serial entrepreneur that spearheaded multi-million dollar acquisitions and mergers while working with more than 11 start-ups globally, and a business transformation and crisis specialist, Stephynie Malik formed SMALIK Enterprises with one single goal in mind — to help others and promote change through her proven strategies and methodologies.
Stephynie founded SME with the same intention she had in mind when she started her first company MalikCo, a highly successful global technology consulting firm. The goal is to build a customer centric business consulting, executive coaching and crisis management services organization that changes the industry’s business model for service delivery and creating sustainable improvements to individual or organizational performance, productivity, and profitability globally.
Hailed as an expert negotiator and skilled crisis management consultant in the industry, Stephynie is helping top-notch athletes, executives and businesses take their careers and organizations to the next level while also resolving high conflict and crisis cases for individuals and companies globally.
In addition to bringing her wealth of knowledge, undeniable experience and proven track record of success to SMALIK Enterprises, she has also established a team of world class experts to ensure SME delivers the highest level of service and results to its clients globally
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Thank you so much for inviting me. I started in the workforce at age 15 when I became a legally emancipated minor. Over the next three years, I worked multiple jobs in several industries: retail, hospitality, and food service to pay my bills. I learned that I had a gift for connecting with customers, co-workers, and managers and learned how to “solution” customer problems and complaints quickly, empathetically, and completely.
I recognized a simple pattern, the more I delivered a great customer experience, the more revenue I could generate in tips. I knew what long hours and hard work looked and felt like at the end of the day. What I didn’t know was, just how valuable these skills would be as life progressed.
My first real “professional” job was a corporate entry-level sales position. My years of work experience enabled me to progress quickly and each new position gave me the knowledge, experience, and confidence to grow. When it was all said and done, I was leading high-value merger and acquisition teams and led 11 start-ups through the process of being acquired or completing an IPO.
All was well until the dotcom bubble burst in 2000. It was time to pivot.
The economic downturn of 2000 to 2002 in Silicon Valley meant it wasn’t a matter of if, but when my corporate job would disappear. I was a recently divorced, a working single Mom with bills to pay and a child to raise. My only real option was to launch my first company, which was a global consulting firm in November 2002. I received a $1,500.00 personal, had the help of an insanely talented consultant, a laptop and two phones. We billed and collected 2.5 million dollars in our first quarter in business. Eighteen years later, MalikoCo continues to thrive and survive.
In 2017 it was time to pivot again and I launched Stephynie Malik Enterprises (SME), a business consulting, executive transformation, and crisis management firm.
One of my passions and joys in life is service to others. SME is a vehicle through which I can leverage my many years of leadership, solutioning skills, and business acumen to help facilitate the personal and professional transformation of individuals and organizations who want to maximize their abilities and achieve their desired outcomes
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
The “AHA Moment” came on a flight when I shared my idea for MalikCo with an acquaintance who was also one of Oracle’s co-founders. He agreed that the client-consultant service model was in dire need of change and saw the “value” it would create for my clients. His thoughts aligned with those of other executives I had spoken with. This conversation confirmed that there was a definite market for a company like MalkCo. That was what I needed to hear, and 9 months later, I was a Founder and CEO of a global technology consulting company.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Online business is a new ballgame! There was that one time I lost 25 thousand dollars in 8 seconds. Does that qualify? Long story short, https://thriveglobal.com/stories/personal-behaviors-drive-our-personal-outcomes-with-stephynie-malik-and-fotis-georgiadis/
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
Team members and clients know what SME’s and my core values are because I publicize and promote them relentlessly. They are the cornerstone of how we organize and how we operate.
Internally, our values are an integral part of our training, strategy development, feedback, coaching, and performance evaluation process.
Externally, I promote them in every pitch, presentation, and client interaction I do.
I believe Stephen R. Covey said, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviors.” The only way I can know how well my intention and actions are aligned when representing our core values, is to ask others for feedback. If they aren’t aware of what my values are, what’s the point?
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
No, I actually have three. My team and I, improvise, adapt, and overcome when we encounter business challenges.
Personal and professional success begins with how one responds to the challenges and barriers that have potential to derail them from achieving their dreams and goals. Quitting isn’t an option. You find a way to figure it out and get the outcome you want. Period.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
There were many tough days when I launched my first company in 2002 and I thought about giving up daily. Maybe even hourly. Although, getting inspiration and drive wasn’t difficult at all. When you’re as young as I was, on your own and with a little one to feed, you have to make things happen as failure just isn’t an option. Ever since I was on my own, I’ve never had a Plan B and the only option I had was to be successful one way or the other. Plan A. was the only plan.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
Things are good; despite the chaos and disruption the COVID pandemic’s response has wreaked on the business world. My vision and values have given me a level of success beyond my expectations. Being off the road for an extended time has been a blessing in many ways. More time with family, more time for reflection and more time for talking to my team, clients and friends has been a blessing. I have much to be grateful for. The road was definitely long and hard; however, I truly believe that success will come to those who don’t compromise their core values despite the challenges they may face.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
Experience has taught me that the principles and processes of running a business are simple conceptually. The gap; however, between failure and success all comes down to how you lead and execute.
One- Allies and Enemies
Your team and clients have a choice. They can be your best allies or your worst enemies. Your behaviors drive their outcomes. The quality of the connections you make with your team and clients will decide which side they will choose to take. Your outlook and behaviors matter.
Two-Use Your Touchpoints to Inspire Hearts and Engage Minds
Every interaction you have with your team members or clients is an opportunity to inspire hearts and engage minds. Each meeting, feedback session, call, text, email, or hallway encounter is an opportunity to say hello, show appreciation, express gratitude, ask questions, and solicit feedback.
It only takes a few seconds and a few words to make someone feel valued, respected, and grateful “the boss” or service provider cares about them as a person.
The littlest of things can make the biggest difference in building an engaging company culture or delivering an exceptional client experience.
Three- Change Your Perspective to Change Your Outcomes
The title Founder or CEO is a label. Your label doesn’t make you a leader; your behaviors do.
My approach to leadership is simple. I never forgot what it was like to be at the bottom of the totem pole, make endless cold calls, and achieve unrealistic quotas while working for many poor managers who thought of themselves as “great leaders.”
Ask your team members a very simple question, “What is it like to be led by me?”
Some may be hesitant or fearful of answering honestly. This gives you an immediate clue you might need to change your behaviors. Others will be more than happy to offer their perspective. Either way, you get information that can change your perspective, and they feel valued and respected that you asked.
Four-Hire for Attitude and Train for Skills
“ You don’t hire for skills. You hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.”…Herb Kelleher
Herb Kelleher was the co-founder and CEO of Southwest Airlines. Southwest has long been a model of an exceptional service-based company. They built their culture on the simple premise that treating employees well creates “happy” customers, leading to great financial results.
Attitude is a reflection of emotional intelligence skills. Self-awareness, the ability to listen and respond with empathy, self-regulate one’s behavior, and connect to others “socially” in the workplace are essential to delivering an exceptional customer experience.
Our training, coaching and development, performance assessment, and client feedback processes focus on EQ behaviors. Equipping our team with the skills, resources and tools to excel sets them and our clients up for success. It’s a win-win situation for all parties.
Five- Question Strategically and Listen Empathetically
The best source of information on how you and your company are doing is your team members and clients.
A strategic question is as simple as asking, “how can I improve?” “what do you think? or “how can we improve our partnership?” They open the door to a conversation.
Empathic listening is listening with a willingness to understand the information, situation, or problem being discussed. If someone delivers bad news, do you listen and let the person know you appreciate and need information or feedback? Do you respond before the person speaking is finished? Are you present and paying attention to the person speaking to you?
Listening intently, fiercely, and aggressively is an essential leadership skill.
Implementing these 5 pillars will ensure that employees get served by their leader and feel respected, valued and most importantly listened to. In turn, they will most surely extend that same level of appreciation, engagement and gratitude to your client base. The key to a successful service based organization is serving from within.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have had many people in my life who have helped motivate, educate, and inspire me to succeed and excel. At the top of that list is my daughter. She was born when I was 22, and we were on our own after my divorce at 23. I had no idea what this person held for me in my future. She tells me these days that I shaped her and gave her so many gifts. She has no idea that she was my teacher. She taught me unconditional love, preparation, kindness, and giving without expectations of receiving. She taught me to prioritize how and when to pivot, not to sweat the small stuff, how to slow down and smell the roses, and taught me how to laugh. My success isn’t a “me” thing. It was and is a “WE” thing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I am a huge advocate of the need for deep education reform, from pre-K to college.
Organizations like the Kahn Academy and Acton Academy are pioneering new ways to identify and close skill gaps, tailor customized learning solutions for their students, or change curriculums and delivery methods to focus on critical thinking and analytical skills.
I would love to be a leader in this much-needed revolution.
How can our readers follow you on social media?