To embrace and acknowledge the contributions to this country by our diverse population, and to honor and celebrate Black and Woman’s History Month, Peter Bonnell on the Dun & Bradstreet Emerging Business team conducted a series of interviews with minority and women business owners. The interviews can be found on Dun & Bradstreet B2B’s Minority-Owned and Women-Owned Business Resource pages.
Donna Miller is president and founder of C3Workplace, a provider of co-working office space, and administrative support and staffing services. She is a business and community leader, a speaker, an educator and an entrepreneur who is passionate about seeing small business thrive. For the past 20+ years C3Workplace has helped well over 2,000 companies to start and grow by providing office space, back office support and educational programs.
What ignited the spark in you to start a business? Were you trying to solve a problem or address an issue?
Very simply, I wanted to be the master of my own destiny, while being a very involved mom. When I opened my business, my children were 7 and 10. I needed to “create a job” where I made a solid income while having the flexibility to attend school meetings and plays and to be a mom without all the typical guilt.
I also felt the concept of a shared office facility providing space and support made perfect sense. Doctors and lawyers had been building practices based on this model forever – why not entrepreneurs and small businesses?
What was most instrumental, or a pivotal moment, to your business growth?
I don’t know if there was an actual moment, but a paradigm shift that started about 8-10 years ago was realizing that I wanted to strategically be a values-driven organization. I had unintentionally opened a value-driven organization – our original name was Above & Beyond, and our goal was to exceed client expectations while treating people like we want to be treated.
When we rebranded to C3Workplace 5 years ago, it was to integrate both the how and the why of what we do. The C3 stands for Connect, Collaborate, Community and that is at the core of all we do. It also reflects our deep belief that companies should be a force for good.
What are some of the more significant challenges you’ve experienced? Tell us about a business failure that led you to future success.
Oh, where do I start? Biggest failure: Micromanaging. Biggest success: Letting go to grow.
I now consider myself a “recovered micromanager.” When you start a business you do it all and the truth is, you are probably the best at it all…to start. But, that’s a merry-go-round that can be very hard to get off of and it can even result in total failure, or at least burn out.
I learned to empower my people, and I created a culture where it’s okay to take risks and make mistakes. It took quite a few years (and a fair amount of turnover), but we’ve got an amazing culture and I’m raising up leaders.
What are your strengths and weaknesses, and how do they impact your business? What are you proactively doing to address your weaknesses?
I am a highly creative problem solver who is able to connect the dots when other people can’t even see the dots. I adore what I do and that enthusiasm is contagious to the benefit of all.
That said, the ideas never stop and sometimes I overwhelm people. But I work to recognize that and use productivity and organizational tools to capture ideas versus verbalizing them all immediately.
What’s the marketing strategy that gave your business the biggest lift? What prompted you to implement it?
Strategic partnerships: Connect + Collaborate = (Bigger) Community. Get clear on what you stand for and who you serve; find partners who share your values and your target market. Then, combine forces and deliver over-the-top value. Why? It is completely aligned with my values and crazy smart.
What is your best piece of advice for prospective female entrepreneurs?
Sit at the right table (and make sure there are men there, too). Charge what you are worth because profit drives possibility and playing small serves no one.
What is a tool you wish you had available to you, or something you knew more about as a business owner?
I wish I knew more about how to create passive income. In a professional service firm, the majority of our revenue is tied to hourly billing, or value based billing. My next phase of success will be to create passive income. I’m not sure how, but that hasn’t stopped me before.
How do you feel your community impacts your business? How do you feel your business impacts your community?
We believe the power of collaboration defines community. We are helping our clients to connect within our growing community and we are modeling collaboration and watching collaboration fuel their success. We see that success spilling into our communities – It’s a win-win-win and that just rocks!
Like this interview? There’s more where this came from. Check out some of our other interviews with entrepreneurs:
- Enterprising Perfect Tux Owner Challenges The Formal Wear Industry Online
- Creating Value in the Small Business Payroll Industry
- Carolyn Williams-Francis – From Dreamer to Doer
- Entrepreneurship in Social Impact and Community Revitalization
- Innovating Romance in a Busy World – Luxury Romance Concierge
- Creation Speak – The Story of a Story Creator
- Celebrate Black History Month with Advice from Minority Business Owners
- Building a Business Out of Building Business Plans
Photo Credit: C3Workplace