Entrepreneur Spotlight: Valorie Burton, Founder of Inspire Incorporated
Valorie Burton was 24 years old when she started her first business, a PR firm. It’s been more than a decade since she founded Inspire Incorporated, a company that aims to equip business leaders with the tools to live happier, more successful, fulfilling and enriching lives. Through the company’s Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute Division, Burton offers coaching certification training to nearly 100 coaches a year; she also offers one-on-one coaching sessions for busy executives. Some of her clients include McDonald’s, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). This University of Pennsylvania graduate also appears weekly as the expert on CNN’s “Reclaim Your Career” segment. Other media outlets Burton has appeared on include Oprah Radio, ABC Radio Network, TD Jake’s “The Potter’s House” and ABC’s Family Channel. From 2001 to 2003, Burton served on the Governor’s Commission for Women in Texas. Burton is also the author of the books Successful Women Think Differently, Where Will You Go From Here, What’s Really Holding You Back, Why Not You, How Did I Get So Busy, and Rich Minds/Rich Rewards.
MN: When and why did you found Inspire Incorporated?
VB: I went into business for myself in 1997, founding a public relations. Four years later, I founded Inspire Incorporated. I launched the Coaching and Positive Psychology (CaPP) Institute in 2009, as a division of Inspire Inc., to address the training needs of organizations. In the current economy, many companies and organizations are dealing with a lot of change. Large amounts of change affect employees. Even the most resilient people get tired of change: layoffs, taking on more work, etc. For this reason, one of our training programs revolves around resilience. For example, organizations and professionals can receive training on how to deal with and overcome unexpected change. Another piece of training provided through Inspired Inc.’s CaPP division deals with personal and executive coaches. There haven’t been a lot of programs that teach an academic foundation around what makes people happier, more resilient and prepared to perform better. When I created the coaching programs I also noticed that many coaches lacked a research foundation. What I mean by this is, just because someone is great at being a coach doesn’t mean that they know how to market and build a business. Inspire Inc. and CaPP fill that need.
MN: Was gaining access to capital a challenge for you? If so, how did you face and overcome this challenge, and how much capital did you initially invest in your business?
VB: Inspire Inc. launched as an offshoot of my writing and speaking endeavors. After I sold my PR business, I used some of that money to start Inspire Inc. in 2001. I also made sure that I didn’t have a lot of expenses when I started my business. It’s important to remember that when businesses first start, money may not come in as quickly or as regularly as it did when you worked for someone else.
MN: Tell us about the coach certification process at CaPP. What types of training and certification examinations do you provide?
VB: Through CaPP, we’ve been training coaches for about two years. As part of our certification process, coaches go through an in-person and online training process. After finishing a certain number of training hours, coaching client hours they then complete a written and oral exam to complete their certification. Coaches certified through CaPP also complete written exams in business development and positive psychology. We train about 100 coaches a year. We conduct in-person and online programs twice a year.
MN: What was your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur during the formative years of your business? What is your biggest challenge today and what strategies do you use to overcome those challenges?
VB: In the beginning I didn’t know how long it would take to ramp up business, particularly as a writer. I thought my business would be fully ramped up in six months. Keep in mind that I had begun writing and speaking before launched Inspire Inc. full-time. I was overly optimistic in terms of how long it would take to see my marketing efforts manifest into revenue. What I thought would take six months probably took the first few years of the business. Today the challenge is maintaining clarity about the business vision because there are always multiple opportunities to do something else that might be related to but not precisely what we do at Inspire Inc. This is so important – when you see opportunities – ask yourself if the opportunity is right for your business. As yourself if the opportunity is it at the core of your business’ mission.