Suzen Fromstein is a marketing content creator and speechwriter. In her book, Suits and Ladders: Ten Proven Ways to Keep Your Job Safe, she interviewed 102 mid-to-senior level managers (51 men and 51 women) and consolidated their wisdom into one informative, entertaining survival guide. Her second book was Inform, Influence and Entertain Like a Pro: The Seven Deadly Sins of Public Speaking and How to Avoid Them.
Prior to embarking upon her speaking and writing career, she was the Director of Communications at The Investment Funds Institute of Canada (IFIC), the mutual fund industry’s trade association. She also taught business presentations skills at a Toronto community college.
Before entering corporate life, Suzen owned and operated The Write Connections Inc. and worked with such organizations as ABN Amro, Colliers International, BMW Canada, Desjardins Financial Security, Fidelity Investments and The Canadian Marketing Association.
What is the key takeaway from Suits and Ladders?
Suzen Fromstein: You only have one task, and one task only: to help your boss or clients be happy, and keep them safe. Giving advice to a B2B entrepreneur, I would say ‘self awareness’ and ‘emotional intelligence’ are the two other biggest challenges.
By way of example, I’d had run my own business, The Write Connections, for 15 years. When my relationship split up, I had to find a job because I had no longer had the security of a partner.
Although I wanted the money and security, I hadn’t retrained my brain to act like an employee. Had I more self-awareness, I would have saved myself trouble, and learned that my client or boss makes the rules, and I have to follow.
It didn’t matter that I was good at what I did. Being good at what you do isn’t everything to surviving the corporate jungle. Believe it or not, I couldn’t figure it out, which is what prompted me to write Suits and Ladders. When I began writing it, I thought: ‘I can’t be the only person on the planet who is good at what they do, but crashing and burning their way through good positions.’
51 men and 51 women interviewed for Suits and Ladders, and what was the most surprising discovery among them?
Suzen Fromstein: Contrary to my expectations, I thought there would be male and female differences. There was not. At least not significantly so.
What was a big revelation for you?
Suzen Fromstein: The networking piece was also a big revelation to me. You have to always be on the hunt for the next client, project or assignment. I hadn’t realized what, statistically, I needed to do.
The stat I found that blew my mind. B2B businesspeople need to have outside coffees with someone two hours a day, with someone they don’t know, or do not know well. That is equally relevant whether president, senior managers, chairman, or the most junior person.
You have to be doing this if you’re looking for new networks or new business. I was too busy delivering on projects to network to realize this until I researched it.
You need to develop a sincere, authentic relationship with new contacts constantly. Besides meeting strangers, attending events, get out there and spend more time with people.
What’s the secret sauce to finding meaning in work?
Suzen Fromstein: If all you want to do is make others happy, you will be an unhappy entrepreneur. If you’re working on deadline, breaking yourself, you have to love what you’re doing, and do it to fulfill yourself.
A cardinal mistake entrepreneurs make?
Suzen Fromstein: Many people assume they’ll be forgiven as soon as they say ‘sorry.’ They assume that other people will understand.
In business, they won’t – though they may if you have an existing relationship with them.
We cut our personal relationships some slack, but often people don’t give strangers slack. You can’t just say ‘sorry’. You have to make it good, make it right again. For example, the next order you might give them for free. It’s that simple. That is, if you want to keep that client.
How can a B2B entrepreneur stay competitive?
Suzen Fromstein:It would be a great thing for us entrepreneurs to get paid what we’re worth. Sometimes you just have to be willing to compromise fees, especially in an extremely competitive sector.
I have a client now that pays less than they would have ten years ago. So now I have ten years more experience, and in principle I should be making more money. But because of budget cutbacks and competition, I’ve had to be more flexible.
This is a business decision people have to make now and again. It might benefit you when the client agrees to offer consistent work.
What’s something an entrepreneur isn’t thinking of, but should?
Suzen Fromstein: Take a chance, do something different. If a client asks you to do something outside your bubble of expertise, sometimes it’s worth it to stretch your abilities.
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