Published in  
March 17, 2021

Small Business Showcase: people3

We were lucky to get to talk with founder & CEO, Dr. Candace Warner about the work that people3 does, as well as her advice regarding owning a small business. Dr. Candace Warner also shares advice that she wishes should could give her former self and the various barriers that they have faced as a small business.

At TKS, we value hard work and innovation. That is why we wanted to highlight a standout small business within our network! People3 is a wonderful small business that provides diversity and inclusion training and consulting. We were lucky to get to talk with founder & CEO, Dr. Candace Warner about the work that people3 does, as well as her advice regarding owning a small business.

In one sentence, what is your primary purpose as a business?

Our primary purpose as a business is to help people navigate people’s differences.

What problem(s) is people3 solving?

We help organizations develop consulting and training solutions to help them expand their inclusion initiatives, and leverage the diverse teams within their organization.

What barriers have you faced as a small business in your industry?

I would say the biggest barriers have been marketing and funding. When you first start a small business you struggle with how to fund it. I bootstrapped people3 from the beginning, so we have no debt and we are a profitable company with a high revenue, but it has not been without sacrifice. Sacrifice of saving money, sacrifice of putting paychecks into the business, going without, putting things off, spreading things out. Money is always an issue, right? Ha! Financing for small businesses is very difficult because when you are just starting out, it’s very difficult to get that. Marketing has also been a big learning curve for us--finding the right branding message and the right company and individuals to help guide you on that. And gaining credibility are real challenges for new and emerging small businesses. When you’re a small business you look for that one big client that’s going to make you famous in a way and give you the credibility so that you can leverage that experience for future clients.

In our specific industry of diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting, we have to stand out from the competition. There are lots of practitioners out there that use outdated concepts and materials and because they were few and far between, they could get away with it. With the DEI industry burgeoning as it is, you have to stand out--not only in your expertise, but your branding and approach.

What does your business bring to the table that others may not? What makes you unique?

Our biggest value add is that we customize everything to our client's organization and their specific industry, like health care or technology. We develop a relationship with the client and consider that relationship a partnership. We are not the type of company that wants to have a quick meeting, pull the content together, deliver it, and then quickly and move on. We are in continuous conversations with the client-- to understand their needs, their internal demographics, how to really customize the diversity and inclusion content in a way that makes sense, and resonate with their employees and with their clients. So we take the time to build the relationship and truly aim to be partners in our work with our clients.

What is the best piece of advice that you have received regarding your business?

Right now I have 2 answers for that. One is to put systems in place for every action that your business does--from content development to client interactions, even when you think you don’t need them. Truly think through your processes and build those systems out. Honestly, we built systems as we went along and for a while I was doing the work by myself so systems were less necessary. But as we've grown, getting a set of processes in place is absolutely necessary. Not having those systems in place has cost us time that we didn't have...but we are learning and growing from that.

The other piece of that is to trust your instincts, but trust your instincts with informed research. So if you asked 8  people an opinion on some aspect of your business and half of them say one thing and half of them say another, but your heart and your mind is going in another direction, you really have to evaluate that and determine what risk you’re willing to take. When I first started this business there were many uncertainties I had about simple things like the website and what to call the company, and I was  insecure about some of the decisions that I made. And in some of those cases, I went with other people's opinions, and then 6 months down the line - regretted it and knew that in my heart and in my mind, the best approach was the one that landed in my brain the first time. So there is a balance--balancing your own judgment and expertise and the opinions and advice of others. I am not  fan of “trust your instincts” in all cases because sometimes those "instincts" are wrong and you need data to drive the decision. But at the same time if you know your product, if you know your market, if you know your industry, sometimes the voices of others cloud your judgement on what you should really be doing. Trust that voice if it's driven by experience and data.

What advice would you give your younger self?

The advice I would give my younger much! Ha! Everything is a journey, everything is a path, and every hiccup in the journey is setting you up to learn and grow. I would also tell my younger self to have more confidence in the work that you do, and when you believe in something, you do the research, you do the hard work, then believe in yourself and all that is possible.

You have one recommendation to make to a workplace. What would it be?

Create an inclusive culture. And creating that culture starts with leadership.

Our number #1 recommendation to all workplace organizations that we are currently working with is that if you are thinking about expanding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives at your workplace, the first thing you have got to do is get the leadership on board, if they are not already (and hopefully they are). If the leadership is not on board you’re not going to get very far in any of those DEI efforts. Your leadership is going to drive the culture, your leadership is responsible for the culture, and if you are pursuing DEI efforts, you have to have the full enthusiasm and support of leadership. Otherwise your efforts are going to be performative and not get very far, which will leave your employees frustrated and ultimately not contribute to overall workplace inclusion.

For more information about the amazing work being done at people3, check out their website! At TKS, we are proud to highlight the work of small businesses within our network. We extends our thanks to Dr.Candace Warner and the team at people3.

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