About Cindy

About Cindy Lu

How I went from a corporate suit to a start-up entrepreneur and never looked back…

I was 24 years old and working as a risk management analyst in Chicagoland when I took the leap from corporate anonymity to building a thriving consulting practice in corporate risk management.

At that time, I didn’t know the first thing about building a business, so this was truly a leap of faith. A close mentor had impressed upon me power of focus and niche. I was scared to death to focus — to say “no” to some engagements and really narrow in on the specialty work I loved — but my fear of stagnating and wallowing in corporate America was even greater than my fear of not making rent. So, I focused … and became the go-to person that Chicagoland risk managers called for project resources and supplemental staff.

By focusing in and developing a highly specific industry service, I carved out a one-of-a-kind niche and became memorable. In just three years, my little start-up grew to 30 consultants working with blue chip clients like Sears (number one public company at the time), Motorola, Sante Fe-Southern Pacific, Baxter, and many more.

I was memorable … but what I didn’t know kept me small.

Even though I’d quickly become known in the Chicago region, my business reached a point where it wasn’t growing like I wanted it to. I didn’t realize it then, but the culprit was haphazard business development activities. I had focused on building my niche — but not on a structured, strategic activity plan for getting new business. The dial wasn’t moving.

So, when I got the call to merge my business into an organization where I would learn from those who had built much larger businesses, I jumped at the chance. I rolled my firm into an emerging, fast-growth start-up, Parson Group in Chicago. Parson was a $5 million operation when I joined it, and together we jumped to $70 million in less than 5 years. Inc. magazine ranked us the number one fastest growing company on its Inc. 500 list.

Amid this frenzy of growth, I learned that sales should be on purpose and that measured activity helps predict revenue. It was a new discipline for me, but I picked it up quickly and immediately netted returns in a robust pipeline, tripling my division's revenue in one year. But the real bonus? By focusing our sales activities, we were able to chase down great projects that attracted talented people. That made us an employer of choice in the risk and insurance community. And when you have tremendous talent behind a focused sales plan, the sky’s the limit.

Now it was time to start my own business again with all I had learned

On the heels of Parson’s success, I was ready to take my newly cultivated sales skills and build another business. I co-founded the Novo Group, an executive recruitment outsourcing firm, shortly after the events of September 11, 2001. As the economy started rebounding, companies began hiring again. But we didn’t just want their one-off recruiting jobs, we wanted to outsource their entire professional-level hiring function.

This was particularly challenging because most companies didn’t ’t see that their recruiting processes were broken. We couldn’t fix their problem by just filling a position — we had to make them see the root cause of their problem first. This is where consultative selling is critical.

The trick? Asking questions — questions that lead prospects and clients to a problem they didn't even know they had. We grew Novo by combining the disciplines of focus and activity with great questioning techniques.

And we grew it fast. Plus, we created a dynamic workplace. The awards prove it:

·    Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce's "Future 50" for companies seeing extraordinary growth (three years in a row)

·    MetroParent magazine Family Friendly Award

·    Milwaukee Business Journal's Best Places to Work

·    Inc. magazine’s Inc. 5000 list (ranked #43 in human resources)

·    Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility

Now, I do only the work I love.

I use the consultative selling skills I finely honed over the years to do the things I’m most passionate about. Today, I run mastermind round tables for human resources executives. I also teach consultants and business owners how to build a robust pipeline of work so that they can pick and choose the best projects — and do the work they love, too.

Best of all, I have the freedom to spend time with my family, squeeze in those workouts, and summer on the coast.

If you are a consultant and ready to build a pipeline for work you love, click here to sign up for a free course to learn the road map to a stress free business development process.

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