Building a business is messy.
Many women don’t do messy well and that limits their business success.
I heard these honest and unpleasant words spoken by a woman who had great success and a large income in the competitive, complicated, and male dominated insurance and securities industries.
Those words have stayed with me over the years and have helped me immensely.
Today they were etched in my mind when I was mentally celebrating the good news that my Colorado friend, Mary Claire (MCF), has expanded her limousine service by acquiring another firm. This greatly increases her business and income potential, but also brings added work and risk.
It only took me one trip with her to downtown Denver and a visit to the public utilities commission to learn that transportation businesses serving the public are messy to begin with. There are lots of rules, laws and regulations along with equipment to purchase and maintain; drivers to hire, train and yes—fire. Customer service is very face-to-face or tablet- to- tablet. Failing to pick up a client as scheduled can mean someone misses a flight, is late to an important meeting, and many things you and I can’t even imagine. Then there is weather and traffic; unpredictable at best.
Limo businesses in her market are predominately owned by men. MCF hasn’t let that stand in her way; she named her company Red Boots and wears red cowboy boots. Not many guys would have the courage to do that!
MCF always thought the perfect job would be driving people around, talking to them, and making money doing it. She would probably do it for free if she could. Personally, I find that just a little weird, I try to avoid traffic whenever possible and building customer relationships at the same time is not in my skill set. She is just incredible. If my car breaks down, it is a crisis. If the mountain roads are covered with snow and ice, I hibernate. For her, these things are just another business challenge.
If you would meet her today and talk about her business life, you would assume this all just happened and success comes easily. Not true.
When she started the limo business she had just left behind a career in commercial real estate management and investing, left the second husband, left the big house on the golf course, given up the Mercedes, and pretty much left a lot of the past behind. Not easy. She moved into an apartment and started driving a taxi. Figuring that was a good experience, but not profitable enough she started Red Boots Limousine which is a black car business. Black cars are most often seen at airports and Denver International Airport is her second home. Clients are driven to various places and in Colorado that includes mountain driving. Along the way she also became a Cross Fit athlete, ran a triathlon and learned to surf. I was on the beach watching her learn to surf. Not for everyone! MCF founded Fit Frog Foundation (a non-profit which promotes fitness and nutrition for women in crisis),became a grandmother, and met people who share her driving dream, even if it involves work!
Was this all a straight shot to where Red Boots is today? I don’t think so. I remember MCF being so busy that she drove us to lunch one day in the Town car and I was in the passenger’s seat interviewing her and dragging information out of her brain so we could do a little business planning. She talked, I wrote. What we did in 30 minutes would have taken others hours or days. Messy? Yes. Productive and also fun? Absolutely.
I’m going to go back and look at those planning charts and see how close we came to getting her team and Red Boots to those goals as a result of that frantic planning session. She planned, then worked, evolved, took risks, and acted. Pretty impressive and often messily organized.
Congratulations MCF! You are an inspiration to all of us and of course, the best limo driver I’ve ever traveled with.