Kesi Stribling: Being a Veteran Entrepreneur and Running a Business With Your Family

by DC Startup Week Team

Have you ever wondered what it was like to start a business with your family? This week we interviewed Kesi Stribling, founder of KSG Consulting, a veteran-entpreneur who started her consulting business over a decade ago. KSG works with clients to improve, grow, and sustain their organizations and gets them on the right track to thrive.

1. What do you love most about the DC Startup Community?

I love that the DC Startup Community has such a diverse abundance of resources that support

startups from inception to evolution. From advice related to formally establishing the business,

engaging employees, financial management, and scaling products and services, the DC Startup

Community is an inclusive group of knowledgeable go-getters whose energy and passion always inspire me. It is such a nurturing group of people.

2. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business.

KSG Strategic Consulting (KSGSC) works with clients to improve, grow, and sustain their organizations through advisement, coaching, and implementation. In addition, we provide advisement on marketing and outreach to the Federal Government and corporate entities, staff and leadership development, and cultivating strategic alliances and partnerships.

I’m a proud graduate of Howard University, who enjoys volunteering and serving others. A current volunteer with Junior Achievement of Greater Washington and a Nominating Partner for the Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) Program, I enjoy singing, writing lyrics, playing a mean game of UNO.

3. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

In a way, I’ve had entrepreneurial spirit since I was a child, but did not identify my interest and

enthusiasm as such until a decade or so ago. For example, when I was in elementary school, I used to coerce my mother to play “Store” with me. After selecting key household items, corralling an old adding machine, and getting the Monopoly money ready, I would ask her to buy items that I would ring up and package. Without realizing it, I was nurturing what would become a permanent career path for me.

Flash forward to 2001, I temporarily left DC to care for a family member who had Alzheimer’s, and my days were devoted to her needs. Just months after relocating, she passed away and I had no game plan for what my next steps would be. After a few months, I decided to take the three areas of services I provided and enjoyed in my former career, including time spent as senior staff for an international nonprofit in DC, and start KSG Strategic Consulting. They continue to be our main services.

4. If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give yourself when you first started your business?

If anything, I would have told myself that no matter how hard and smart you work, everything is based on timing. Coupling preparedness with timing should guide short and long-term decision- making and, done right, results in identifying the right opportunities, best strategic alliances and

partners to engage, when to accelerate processes, and when to turn down opportunities. Acting in haste, which often means ignoring timing, often leads to setbacks, frustration, and wasted effort.

I would have also told myself to implement a practice we now have in place from the beginning of the business: Establish a firm timeframe for the number of times (and hours spent) meeting with and cultivating potential clients and stick to it. Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rule; but our approach is drastically different from our process early in the business and this approach has worked well.

5. How has the startup scene changed since you launched your company?

The Startup Community is extraordinarily different than when I first started KSGSC. There are more resources that support new ventures – from crowdfunding to the level of social media engagement today that supports sales pipelines – and help promote sustainability. Events, such as DC Startup Week, provide a forum for information sharing and building networks more quickly than when I started almost 20 years ago. In addition, DC Government has dedicated offices, initiatives, and programs designed for new businesses, which either didn’t exist or have been completely revamped.

6.  What advice do you have for entrepreneurs launching a company with their family members?

KSGSC is a family business, with two relatives engaged in two different functions of the company. Two other family members also volunteer during our social responsibility programs, the Wealth Wellness Summit for college students and Career Exploration Series for middle and high school students.

My advice is to minimize emotionally driven decision making. For example, don’t assign a family

member to a dreaded task because of a tiff you had during dinner the evening before; but, be as

neutral and strategic in the decision-making process, including staffing assignments. In addition,

create formal roles for everyone working for the business, including family members, with clear

responsibilities, outcomes, and performance measurements.

Finally, even startups should invest time and resources in creating a succession plan from the

beginning. Quick business growth and revenue, illness, retirement, and death can send businesses into a tail spin. Mapping the strategy for what should happen when unanticipated or unavoidable events occur can help the company weather the storm and remain in business and cultivate great leadership that successfully navigates the company through change.

7. How much would you say networking has contributed to the longevity of your business?

Strategic networking has had an invaluable and tremendous impact on KSGSC. Like most businesses, the majority of our corporate and nonprofit work comes from authentic interactions with decision-makers and people who refer us to those at their organizations, who are able to secure services.

I’m a “people person,” who enjoys learning about others, whether or not we pursue business

together. So, my approach to networking is learning more about others and exploring common

interests and experiences. Following up with those I meet though email, hand-written notes, and

LinkedIn in a timely fashion and sharing resources I know would be helpful with them has created unexpected work opportunities and lasting relationships.

Thank you for sharing your insights with us, Kesi! Running a successful business for 10+ years is no easy feat, we look forward to hearing more about KSGSC successes!