Expert Advice Profile:
Lena L. West
Founder of the Influence Expansion Academy, www.InfluenceExpansion.com
Launch year: 1997
Describe your business in one sentence.
The Influence Expansion Academy is the only sliding fee-scale social media learning academy and mastermind created exclusively for women entrepreneurs.
What led you to launch your business?
When I was in high school, my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We lived hundreds of miles away from her and it was hard for my Mom to visit her as often as she would have liked due to her work schedule as an emergency room trauma medical specialist. In fact, my Mom would have dreams about visiting my grandmother and not being allowed in to see her – clearly her subconscious eating at her. I vowed then that I would only work for myself and I would only have a virtual company so both me and my team wouldn’t have to to choose between work and our families.
How’d you land your very first customer or client?
I found out about a consulting gig at a major corporation and I went for it. I was so inexperienced I just knew I blew it. They asked me all sorts of technical questions and didn’t even have my certification yet. But, apparently they liked something, they asked me when they could start working with me.
What’s the biggest struggle you’ve encountered in running your small business?
Getting the right team in place – which thankfully, now I have! You can’t underestimate the importance of having the right people to support you. When you’re worried if things are getting done or if they’re being done the right way, you can’t focus on the things that the business owner should be focused on. I used to think that my team had to like me. I now see that it’s not about being friends (although having a positive relationship with your team always helps), it’s about having the best possible support your budget can buy.
What has surprised you most about running your business?
How much people respect me when they find out that I’ve built my empire one brick at a time – with no funding, no loans and no credit cards. I mean, I know it’s a feat, but I’m always amazed at the reaction when I tell people how I built my business.
What one thing do you know now that you wish you would’ve known when you started?
Don’t focus on building a bigger business, focus on building a better business. Bigger comes with better.
How do you measure success?
Personal freedom, and in the words of Jim Jones, how often I get to walk around in slippers.
What’s your must-read online resource in your industry? Why?
I rarely tell what I read. But, I’ve heard the Small Biz Lady’s blog www.succeedasyuorownboss.com is totally worthwhile.
If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring business owners, I would shout:
Women entrepreneurs: stop settling for B.S. social media advice, stop saying you can’t afford it, stop letting people talk AT you about your marketing, stop saying you’re “dumb when it comes to technology”. Cut it out. Join the Influence Expansion Academy and prepare to get REAL results.