The following is Vicki’s story of starting this business, originally as Suiter Financial Systems in 1990, and then the change to Suiter Business Builders in 2014. This is her personal journey from “accidental entrepreneur” to successful business consultant, coach and international speaker.
In 1990, I started my business as a ‘stop gap’ measure. If I had a list of things to do, being an entrepreneur was not on it.
Months earlier, I was pregnant and happily working 60-hour weeks as the controller for a national training company. Then, in January 1990, my son Taylor was born and everything changed. After holding him in my arms that first day, I couldn’t imagine not being home with him as much as possible. So, while it wasn’t what I had planned, I gave notice and left my job. I told myself I could always go back when I was ready.
Soon, I realized that it really wasn’t financially feasible for our family to get along without my income, but I still wasn’t willing to go back to work. I had to figure out something fast. My then-husband was a painting contractor, and I knew that contractors needed help in the area of finance, so I figured that was a great place to apply my skills. In June 1990, I took on my first client as an outside controller. I helped her automate her books, set up an operating budget, and start tracking the results of her design build business. Without planning, and before I knew it, I was running my own business. Suiter Financial Systems (our former name – keep reading) had been born.
That first client quickly grew into ten clients. Still working from home, I hired someone to come in and help with Taylor during the day. When he turned three, we put him in preschool, and I reached another decision point: Would I go back to work, or continue to build my own business? After much soul searching, it became clear to me that I never wanted to go back to work for someone else. Yes, I was working an insane number of hours – mostly late at night after my son went to bed – but I loved every minute of what I was doing. That is when I knew I was going to be an entrepreneur.
A couple years later, business was booming, but something else was bothering me. While I had taken accounting classes in college and many continuing education courses over the years, I had never completed my Bachelor’s degree. I decided I needed to go back to college, which meant hiring someone to help me run my business.
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy – everything I did for clients, including the financial analysis and review work — was in my head. The more I thought about it, the more impossible it seemed. How could I get someone else to be me? I couldn’t figure it out, so I asked myself the question, “If you HAD to stay home with Taylor, and you HAD to bring in money, how could you keep your business running WITHOUT you meeting clients and doing the work?”
Suddenly, the answer was obvious. I needed to get “client stuff” out of my head. I had to write down exactly what I did and identify the skills someone needed to do that work in my place. Then, I had to create systems, so they could do the work and report the results to me. That is exactly what I did.
First, I wrote out what I did for clients. Then, I wrote a job description that included the skills and qualifications someone would need to do that job. I placed an ad and several interviews later, I hired my first employee. While it took us a while to smooth out the kinks, we eventually worked out a good rhythm. My clients were happy, and I worked fewer hours!
In January 1995, I went back to school, taking classes two nights a week and two Saturdays a month, with many hours of homework in between. Two-and-a-half years later, I graduated magna cum laude from Dominican University.
Amazingly, in that two-and-a-half years, I worked an average of just 30 hours a week and made more money than I had in any of the prior four years. I realized that working harder is not always fruitful, that hiring the right person and creating good feedback systems can be the key to freedom! This was the first of many breakthroughs I have had in my business. These realizations have helped me lead my clients to make the same breakthroughs in their businesses.
Going back to college inspired a desire in me to learn what I’d never known before. I wanted to be challenged, and I wanted to expand the breadth and depth of the work I did with my clients. In the years that followed, I became a certified trainer and learned how to present and teach in front of large groups of people.
One of the things I knew from my earlier career in the training company was that how we think as human beings has as much effect on our success as what we do. I knew there was more I could bring to clients in helping them see this, so in 2000 I become a Certified Business Coach.
In 2003, wanting to get an even deeper understanding of how I could help my clients (and myself) go beyond our self-imposed limitations to creating success, I stared a three year course of study in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). NLP is about the ability to discover and change the ways we communicate (internally with ourselves and externally with others) in order to achieve our specific and desired outcomes.
At that point, the focus of my work with clients and my teaching made a dramatic shift, and finance was no longer the primary emphasis. I started speaking to clients about improving company culture, enhancing communication, creating alignment with teams, and becoming effective leaders.
As my company grew, and my interests deepened, I began speaking on a variety of topics across the country. Meanwhile, I was still calling my business Suiter Financial Systems.
By 2014, everything seemed to be fine until one day it wasn’t. I looked at my website and saw that the business it described was no longer the business I was running. People who knew me or who were referred by clients didn’t have an issue with it, but I knew I had to start introducing myself differently. And not just on the website – I needed to change my business name, too.
Like many of the steps I’ve taken in my career, making this decision was a big one. Changing my business identity was unsettling, and it took some time before I was sure I was ready to take it on.
This past April, I began considering new names, playing with words, and thinking about what I actually do with clients today. The new name needed to speak to the nature of the work I do and the people I work with. Plus, I wanted to keep some continuity with the old name and not lose 25 years of name recognition. After what seemed like endless lists and hours of possibilities, I was able to eliminate all the names but one: Suiter Business Builders.
Suiter – To maintain continuity with the old name and allow continued name recognition
Business – To acknowledge the clients I work with
Builders – To say what I do–help people build businesses that have sustainable success. Also, a large number of my clients are in the contracting industry!
When I put it all together, I loved the cadence of the name, and it just felt “right.”
My tag line — Strategies to Succeed — is the essence of what I provide clients and audiences –strategies and thinking to support their growth and success. The two together, Suiter Business Builders – Strategies to Succeed says exactly who I am, what I do, and the benefit of working with me.
As I made this transition, I saw both myself and my business coming into an even more exciting stage of growth and development, and looked forward to continuing to serve our clients for the next two plus decades!
I’m excited about the next chapter and look forward to helping you nurture, develop, and grow your business.
Wishing you much success,
Suiter Business Builders
Giving you Strategies to Succeed!