As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Tiphani Montgomery.
Tiphani Montgomery is a pioneer in online and social entrepreneurship, the founder and CEO of the acclaimed Millions Conference and a seven-time bestselling author who specializes in business development for emerging entrepreneurs.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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?
Of course! As a teen mom, I was counted out by a lot of people early in life because I was taking a nontraditional path but within that I also realized that entrepreneurship was something I wanted to pursue. It allowed me to create success on my own terms and not let the obstacles I faced stop me from realizing my goals.
I actually started out my career as an author by self-publishing a book and direct selling it. I grew traction and buzz that led to a publisher offering me a book deal. After successfully producing seven bestselling books, I wanted a new challenge so I taught myself to code and built a website and online training system to teach aspiring authors how to publish their books. This led me further into online entrepreneurship where I was able to establish several million-dollar+ businesses and brought me to where I am today as a speaker, social media influencer and business coach. I get to teach people how to become online entrepreneurs, which is really rewarding because it can dramatically change a person’s life — like it did for me.
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?
Well, I remember when I was testing out an online broadcast platform (you have to remember this was more than 10 years ago before people were big on online training) and I wanted to check everything the night before I was going live to make sure everything worked. Well, I started getting flooded with emails from people saying they could see me in my bathrobe and headscarf! LOL…From that day forward, whenever I tested something, I made sure I looked presentable while doing it just in case!
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?
Absolutely! I will never forget my first customer who purchased my first book. She was very encouraging and asked me to sign her book because she told me that one day I would be famous. Her “yes” encouraged me through hearing plenty of “no’s”.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
When I began Millions Conference as well as Kingdom Entrepreneur University, it was founded in my Christian faith. I wanted to show aspiring entrepreneurs that you can build a successful business while maintaining your integrity and basing your business on good values. I think keeping true to this purpose is really how I was able to build a loyal following and community of customers that has sustained and even grown during the pandemic.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
Like many meeting and event planners, COVID-19 caused plans for my annual Millions Conference to change this year. When I made the decision to host the event virtually, 60 days from the event, we had to adjust quickly. With an in-person event, everyone has a very defined role; when it is online, everyone doesn’t necessarily have the same role. I focused on communicating transparently on what our plans and needs were to protect team culture. Everyone was included. And I believe that helped the team feel secure in their value and worth despite the uncertainty of the climate COVID created.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I’ve never felt like I’ve had the option to give up. I like what I do. It’s fun and it helps people change their lives for the better.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
I think it’s important to be able to drive the boat in fog so to speak. And to do so, you have to know and study the sea before you get in the boat. Great leaders are able to adjust and make quick decisions when challenging times occur because they have been paying attention and planning for what could happen and how they might adjust if the way things have always been suddenly looks different.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
Planning for uncertainty and having a disruption strategy and then being able to effectively communicate that strategy or how the company plans to adjust goes a long way to create stability and put your team at ease during uncertain times. It engages your team toward a new goal, rather than focusing on the crisis at hand, and motivates them to be a part of a solution.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Directly, honestly, compassionately, and transparently. There is no easy way to communicate difficult news so respecting your team members and customers in the process goes a long way to maintain relationships.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
The future is always unpredictable. That’s why I think it is important to prepare and strategize for things that can happen and create alternative business models that are crisis-proof in as many ways as possible. Being flexible and able to adjust at a moment’s notice rather than trying to control things you can’t control is a better way to lead.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Yes! Don’t get stuck on how things have always worked. Leave room open for things to change drastically or immediately. A company should always be actively looking for ways to pivot as times change.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
- Not pivoting. Plan for disruption to happen even when things are going well!
- For entrepreneurs, not having the confidence to charge what they are worth. Don’t assume every customer or every market is struggling during difficult times.
- Not having consistent content creation. Social media is too FREE to not be using it to grow your business, reputation and platform.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Being that my business is already online, it has been an advantage. I am selling a solution by teaching people how to convert their businesses from brick and mortar to virtual. So for me, I focus on:
- Staying connected to your audience
- Using social media and live video to create engagement. (This caused my audience to grow during the pandemic when everyone was sheltering in place).
- Continuing to sell and make offers. Not every customer is impacted by difficult times in the same way and you can’t assume “no one is going to buy”… I always give someone something to buy.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Listen — It’s important to understand that you don’t know everything and it’s OK to listen to your team and others you trust to fill in the gaps where needed. Early into the pandemic, I had a close friend who helped me come to the conclusion that I should host the event virtually and it turned out to be a great success and even grew my audience and platform during what has been a very challenging time for many people.
- Pivot when needed — In my career, I have always tried to be a step ahead of the trends or markets at risk of being disrupted. I was a seven-time bestselling author and could have kept going on that path because it was working for me. But I saw the potential of the emerging online world at the time and pivoted. Being early in the online training arena helped me establish a reputation of leadership. And, now, when so many businesses are shifting to online because they are being forced to, my brand is well-positioned to serve this need.
- Be decisive — As a leader, you have to make decisions. I know so many business owners who have stumbled during uncertain times simply because they stayed in a “I don’t know what to do” state too long.
- Remain confident — As a teen mom, I had a challenging start to my career. There were many people in my life that doubted the accomplishments I set out to achieve. But being a leader means remaining confident when the whole world is behind you and when it seems like no one is. When a company is facing challenging times, it’s no different. At the root it involves believing in your brand and how you are able to adjust even if the world as you know it suddenly shifts.
- Be Transparent — Honesty and integrity go a long way to building mutual respect in relationships, whether it is your team or customers. When we decided to move Millions Conference virtual due to COVID-19, that meant that I needed a smaller production team and had to communicate that directly to my staff. But, being transparent and honest as well as compassionate allowed me to facilitate a culture of inclusion even though economically some team members were no longer needed.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have so many favorite quotes but the first one that comes to mind is: “Selling is a numbers game” …Meaning, don’t take rejection personal, just focus on the numbers. Maybe the first 12 people you encounter say no, but the 13th says yes. My goal is to be encouraged by the 13th and not distracted by the 12.
How can our readers further follow your work?
All of my social channels and information is listed on my website: www.tiphanimontgomery.com