March marked Magnet Consulting’s sixth year in business. Nicole and I are beyond proud of that and above all, grateful for all of you and the support you’ve shown us. Thank you.
It’s been a journey. Fortunately one that we are continuing, happily, on. (Yes, there were days…)
We decided to commemorate this tip over the half decade mark with an update to our brand identity so that it accurately reflects who we are now and where we’re headed. While we could talk about that for a good long time, we thought a look at the changes we’ve gone through and a quick, virtual walk down memory lane sounded more interesting.
Q. When was Magnet Consulting founded?
Q. Who founded Magnet Consulting?
Q. Why did you start Magnet Consulting?
We had worked for large consulting firms and in large organizations. We were at at an automotive startup that was closing and knew we wanted to return to our love of consulting, but we’d gotten bitten by the bug of the startup culture, so we couldn’t go back to a large firm. We knew we could provide the same services we had before, but without all the overhead and bureaucracy that goes with a large firm. Plus, honestly, we knew we could say no to projects we didn’t want to do. And it’s true, we do say no when it feels like the right answer – either we don’t believe real change would happen as a result of our working together or we felt like the company’s values don’t align with ours. It’s rare, but it happens. We don’t like to waste time or money – client’s or our own.
Q. Where did Magnet Consulting start?
Depending on what you count as starting, we either started in the building we were helping to close for the defunct auto manufacturer or in the Rochester Hills Library (where we got our name and logo) or in our living rooms. We opened our first office in 2015 and then added a second space dedicated to team development, called The Mettle Foundry, a year later.
Q: When did you hire your first employee? How many do you have now?
We hired Joanne, the goddess who is the glue who holds our office together, in 2014, I think. We currently have 5 employees on payroll and use a business model of independent contractors to scale up for larger projects. We have a group of about 20 fantastic contractors as part of the Magnet family.
Q: Can you say who your first client was? Explain the process of getting there.
Our first client was a large, Tier 1 automotive supplier. We did a leadership development program with them for emerging leaders. We got the opportunity to bid on that work as a result of our pretty extensive network in the automotive industry. The HR VP and director had both known our work from previous lives, and to their credit, weren’t afraid to use a new firm, knowing it was staffed by people who were anything but new to the field of leadership development.
Q: What have you learned since starting?
How much we love working for ourselves! We’ve also learned that we d
on’t love sounding like salespeople. We know part of running a business is getting out there and telling the world what you do and how it’s good for their business, but we hate the thought of anyone thinking we are selling something just for the sake of selling it. It probably sounds hokey, but we know what we do adds value in organizations and we just want as many organizations as possible to experience that difference. Not saying we’d work for free, but we don’t do what we do only for commercial reasons.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish as a business in the next 5 years?
We currently work with clients across the country, with a decent focus here in Michigan. We’d like to add another market—the Dallas market—as a serious hub for Magnet, including having a physical presence there. In addition, we would like to do what we encourage our clients to do—grow leadership internally. Many of our clients talk about͞ “Sandy and Nicole” and yet they’re thrilled when they work with other Magnet consultants. We need to move beyond their thinking that it’s just about the two of us. (Hence this sharp rebrand)
Q: What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?
- Network and network some more!
- Don’t get so busy in delivering a project that you don’t have time to keep your sales pipeline going. Be disciplined about setting aside time and resources to grow the business, rather than focusing only on delivering the business.
- Stay true to your own values, even if that means turning down a project. You may lose a little revenue in the short term, but your reputation and your sense of self will stay intact.
Q: What advice have you found to be most beneficial on your journey as the Co-Founders of Magnet?
Early on, we met with a leader of another consulting firm in basically the same space as us. She was very generous with time and advice and with subcontracting early on when we needed work. She told us she worked from an abundance mentality, that we could both be successful in the same space because there was so much work to do. We feel the same way and always tell others about Lisa’s generosity. She also gave us practical advice—when someone offers to pick up the check in your first twelve months,just say ok and thank you. Pay it forward later. Be practical about expenses and where you are as a business, and then remember to be generous to someone else later.
Q: Any funny memories?
Our very first networking meeting (before Lisa’s advice!) we met an established gentleman from an established business adjacent to ours. This was a guy responsible for getting business in recruiting from companies, so to us it seemed like not a far reach that his clients might potentially become our clients one day. He ordered an appetizer, Chilean sea bass, and dessert. At that point, we were playing credit card roulette, and we just tried to keep our poker faces as he consumed the most expensive meal possible. Of course, we got no business leads from him.
Q: Have there been any scary moments?
Scary like, “how are we going to pay our bills” scary? Yes, I can think of two. One was in our first year, about six months in, right before my birthday and we only had one client and they had a change in leadership. Both of our husbands were saying things like, “how long are you going to try this? When are you going to apply for a real job?” That was kind of scary and stressful. There was one other time when we had done a great deal of work, relying on a number of contractors. Our client was very delinquent in paying us, but we felt strongly that we needed to pay our contractors on time, despite the fact that the client hadn’t paid us. That was a scary moment. Besides money scares, when we won our most involved and largest project to date, there was a tiny moment of “OMG, they actually picked us. This isn’t a plan on paper anymore; we have to deliver this.” But of course we did.
Q: What are you most proud of?
To start, we’re in business in year seven, when so many skeptical people said, “you know…most business fail in the first five years.” Beyond that and more to the work that we do, we are most proud when people tell us, “you really made a difference in how I lead.”
Q: How many logo revisions have you had?
Two revisions. Our first logo was a basic magnetic field that we paid a local college design student to create. At the time, we were focused on the literalness of Magnet analogies and the fact that clients describe us as a force that held their work teams together, like a magnetic field. Our second logo came when we got our office building and it also had a magnet in it, but it was more involved with images of people also. Although we liked that logo well enough, we knew that with the rebrand we wanted to do overall this year, that a likely logo update would make sense. I mean, you don’t re-do your kitchen and leave your old towels. If you’re revamping, do it completely.
We love it! We feel strongly that even when something feels good and comfortable, it should be updated. That’s how we felt about our most old logo–we liked it a lot, but heck, we are about telling people change and forward progress are good. We couldn’t get complacent in a certain look. We don’t want people with 80’s feathered hair and big bangs, so we don’t want to keep a symbol from our past just because we like it. (We loved 80’s hair for the record, but we’ve moved on.)
This time around, rather than just focusing on the logo, we worked with a consultant whose focus is on branding overall. She pushed us beyond the logo, thinking about how our clients felt about us, what the experience was like working with us, what our prospects should feel about us in order to hire us, and what steps we needed to take to bridge the gaps those workshops and exercises uncovered in our old identity.
The result was this updated look – which keeps our signature purple and our casual, “roll up our sleeves”, straight-shooting style. We wanted a look that combined that attitude with our experience and credentials. We got something that we feel really does that. It lets people know, from the outset, that this experience will be different, but it will be effective because they’re hiring experienced, credentialed experts in the field. The line under “Consulting” in the logo is meant to emulate someone decisively choosing Magnet Consulting. As if they’re in a meeting and laying out all of their options on a big flip chart with a marker, and they underline their choice with confidence and authority. That choice is us.
We’ve gotten mixed responses, as you always do with a logo design. Some people gush over it, some people feel nostalgic for the older versions, some people didn’t recognize us.
I think that when you look at our new identity and consider how it embodies that list – we came pretty close to nailing it this time around.
(Also, big thanks to Carly Wujcik at WURCK for helping us bring this all to life.)