Go Into Business For Yourself

Go Into Business For Yourself

Christina Cala

Devin Miller

The Inventive Journey

Podcast for Entrepreneurs

8/31/2020

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Go Into Business For Yourself

"I think the worst business decision I've ever made is to not go into business for myself. Because, you know, I was so miserable for so long & working for other people & not having things the way that I would do them. It was a big struggle." 

"So I think that the biggest part of the bad decisions that I'd made was that I didn't go into business for myself."

 


The Inventive Journey

Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.

ai generated transcription

that's a good question i think the worst business decision i've ever made is to not go into business for myself because you know i was so miserable for so long and working for other people and just not having things you know the way that i would do them and it was it was a big struggle so i think that the biggest part of of uh you know the the bad decisions that i made were because i didn't decide to go into business for myself hey everyone this is devon miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i am your host of the inventive journey um i am the serial entrepreneur that's also the founder and managing partner of miller ip law i love to explore the journeys of other people and how they uh got their startups and their small businesses going and today we have on a great host so it's her name is christina and uh she'll tell you a lot more about you herself but uh early on in her career she worked for several attorneys and hopefully she doesn't uh hold it against me i'm a also an attorney and it didn't take her too much but then uh she started or transitioned over and started working with the microsoft partners and i didn't even know what a microsoft partner was until we talked but it's a pretty interesting and now she's uh doing that as a way to do a startup in small business so welcome on to the podcast podcast christina thanks devin it's great to be here so yeah well we're glad to have you so maybe we'll turn over to you and i did a quick intro but uh we'll let you do a much better intro that i'm sure i could ever give and start to tell your journey sure yeah my name is christina calla my company is collaborate and i work directly with microsoft partners helping them navigate the microsoft ecosystem and access funding and resources help them unlock the the funding and the all the things that microsoft has for its partners been in it for about 20 years and i started out as a legal administrative assistant for an attorney and went to work for a couple other attorneys and then i decided well i wanted to change a pace so i went to work for a uh a technology i need to jump in right there yeah you went to work for attorneys and just at being an attorney myself did you come out being liking attorneys or don't and i did i i so i know there's some great attorneys out there and there are some that you walk away say bad i don't know never want to deal with them again so what was your experience with working with attorneys i think both but i mean i didn't i did not like working with them but i didn't like sitting behind a desk and being basically a secretary so i wanted something a little more challenging and um but yeah but the attorneys some were good some are bad that probably describes a legal field as a whole so like an attorney to get bad attorneys and step in the middle and they spend pretty much the spectrum yep uh so yeah so i went to work for a technology company and uh i was a secretary receptionist when i first joined and then they had a couple different companies one was a distributor that distributed embedded computing boards and so i worked there for a year and then those two people that ran that business the distributors distribution business uh didn't show up one day in fact they never came back again so they said hey christina tag you're it uh let's see what you can do with this company so that kind of got me into it and it got me into the embedded computing world which i really liked so we sold what did tag your it mean how did do they okay they had to keep that company running and i was the best option for them at the time okay so um you know i love challenges so i just jumped in i didn't know anything but i just jumped right in and said okay i can do this uh so our customers at that company were defense contractors so saic spay war lockheed martin north of bremen so it was a great place to get my feet wet when it came to technology hardware on the hardware side and i did that for about five years and got into sales of technology and then decided to move on and i wanted to see if i could really do sales again you know outside of that environment i thought that was a pretty safe environment so um i went to work for a company that sold hard to find computer components hard to find electronic components and uh that was like hardcore telemarketing you know sales i didn't know what i was getting into and i didn't like it but it really helped me hone my skills as far as sales goes um so i did that for a little while and then the market hit about 2008 it started crashing and i was working for a broker of those electronic components and so all of our customers said hey we can't buy from you anymore we're gonna have to purchase from tier one distributors so i figured well i gotta go get a real job now you know and so i was still on the hardware side i went to work for a company called a10 they did uh they manufactured pvm switches for uh for companies in the data center and so i went to work for them on the oem team liked it but decided i couldn't make much money and then got an opportunity to go switch to the services side and work for a data center and that was right about the time cloud was starting so it was a really great opportunity for me to learn the cloud and they were they were great to hire me because i really didn't have any experience with selling services whatsoever so i did that for a while and then went on to work for a couple managed service providers um and then that's where i got into the microsoft ecosystem and started working directly with microsoft partners so fast forward to today where i realized that most of the microsoft partners that were large always were able to access this funding that microsoft has for its partners i'll jump in real quick just to give everybody so and i didn't know and i mentioned so what is a microsoft partner kind of you know you got you say you went to work with the kind of microsoft partner center what is a microsoft partner i know you give a very brief over maybe just uh dive into that just a little bit deeper so people can get a grasp what that is sure so typically a microsoft partner is anybody who resells anything microsoft so i work uh basically with managed service providers so companies that um manage their clients it environments completely whether it's in the cloud or whether it's on premise but they also manage the environment they deploy microsoft office uh microsoft teams whatever the case may be that the the company needs so that's kind of like you know if i have for a larger company that has the it guy that runs the whole co or has it outsourced for that they'll come in whether it's setting up a database or setting up a cloud system and that you're paying that third party but that third party or your in-house it guy will use microsoft and so those become kind of microsoft partners and then you're go you're you working at the partner center support them or help them and to interact with microsoft is that about right or did i completely slaughter it well no no it's okay so not really a microsoft partner center so to speak to go work in but there's microsoft partners so if you are if you're in it and you're selling microsoft products you sign up to be a microsoft partner and in doing that you can get um you know different incentives and different things that microsoft has to help its partners grow uh their businesses so that's really so i work directly with the partners um with their own companies but work directly with them as far as what they're doing with microsoft okay appreciate the clarification thank you no so didn't mean to interrupt your journey so go ahead so you started working with microsoft or doing the microsoft partner thing helping them and then back yeah i noticed that the larger partners obviously had um a dedicated person on staff to navigate the microsoft ecosystem and to help them get the marketing funds that microsoft earmarked for partners and it's you know microsoft doesn't make it easy to make you jump through some hoops too um before you know to get qualified for the the different programs and then i realized that the small and medium-sized partners kind of left behind because and they were leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table every single year and simply because they didn't have the resource of um dedicated resource to be able to help them access this funding so i saw a really great opportunity to help these small and medium-sized uh partners be able to level the playing field and get them the funding that the larger partners are getting oh cool so you basically you you get to walk in the door and basically go to the smaller media says hey i could get you a free buddy or i could help you get more money is that a that's a great deal i don't know i i'd hire you if i if i needed microsoft so well you know it's money for them to reinvest into their business right what's nice is the way the way the program works i i can set it up to where the money that they get can cover my fees so it really it becomes a partner so there's no reason for them to not do it no that's a great deal yeah so then so you decided hey i can see kind of that niche or that gap in the marketplace to where you know big companies it sounds like have dedicated people they can do it on their own small and medium size or and do you go all the way down to startups or kind of is there is there a cutoff or how does that work as far as i don't know who qualifies for microsoft partners so do you have to be a certain size and you can't work with so many startups or how does that work you could be anybody you can be just a microsoft network partner you don't have to resell anything right so but i typically will work with uh managed service providers that that want to grow so a smaller partner that is really happy where they're at or it's a lifestyle company i don't i can't really help them right but a company that really wants to grow and invest in their growth and invest in uh myself and and help let me help them build that that um foundation that they can you know use to to to to grow their business basically and use the funding that microsoft has for them so um it's you know businesses want to grow but they can be small it could be a two-man shop but as long as they want to grow and increase their business then i'm all about it okay cool hey and that's a lot on the almost on the legal side you're describing what i do with the legal side the trademarks in the sense and that's a little bit and not to divert away from your story but that's kind of where i got in i work for a lot of large firms you know large law firms and top ones across the country and i see that they kind of always focus on the large clients right so the ones that bring in a lot of money they can give a lot of billable hours and you kind of almost in a different area of the industry you had small startups and small businesses and that that never really got the same playing field or the same you know type of service and level of service that the big companies did so that's a lot what miller ip allowed and almost in the same kind of things what you're outlining saying hey we'd like to help those startups and small businesses they're oftentimes the ones that are the most fun to work with have them a lot to offer and they are often times neglected so i think that's just an interesting parallel kind of between what you're doing with the helping them with the microsoft and microsoft partners versus what we're doing in the legal industry so kudos to you i like that i like that vertical i like working with those people so that's great well yeah and so you know what i left out was that you know before i started this business you know i was i worked for one msp after another and then worked for a couple other companies it was just it was i was miserable it was horrible because it just wasn't a good fit i didn't want to just do sales um it just it was just really unhappy and so it was interesting how things just kind of came together and in the midst of covid i had this opportunity and just moment where i said wait a minute these partners are leaving all this money on the table and they could probably really use it right about now to have a separate stream of income or funding to come and they can help them you know infuse it back into their business and and right now is a really good time [Music] well cool and so if i were to jump into that because i think when we talked before it was you'd you've only you started it almost in the midst of kobe decided you're going to go out and do this and it was what three or four weeks in uh when you hit covert or remind me the timing of you know when you decided to jump in when you decided to really make it go this and do your own business and offer that versus when that timing hit yeah so cobia really started kind of march-ish when we had to stay at home um and i started my business actually technically late february but i really didn't start doing anything with it until probably beginning beginning of april maybe so yeah so it hasn't been that long but um you know and it was funny too because i was thinking about doing it but it really didn't end okay okay so how was that basically being in the midst of covid saying you know i'm now going i just finally you know if i were to put myself in that if i were to you know put myself in that situation i finally decided i'm gonna go start doing my own thing i've got my business plan i've got everything going in place ready to make the jump just made the jump right as you know a lot of people say the economy's crashing your joblessness and unemployment and everything else and so was it a scary time was it a good time was it encouraging because you said hey i can really help these businesses they were saying hey i wish i'd waited so how was that when you're kind of making that transit and you're still in that a little bit in that transition being a younger company but how did that how did that go for you how did that was it how does that as far as a point in time for you well honestly i didn't even think about it i didn't think about the the timing of the covet of me starting a business in the midst of it but the way things came together for me it was just everything was falling into place and i really honestly had this this this drive to help myself and help the partners as well okay so didn't really phase you in other words that's it well look at so i you know i like i love i love a challenge if i don't have a challenge then i get really really bored so this was like a perfect challenge for me because it's like hey it's making her break it now right and it's a scary place to be but um when you're confident what you're doing and you know you're providing a service that is that is needed like other companies then it was just all all falling together for me so they're cool all came together no that's that's like that's awesome so and even in even in a amidst a coven thing started to fall into place for you so that's awesome yeah so some people can take some people will take covet and say oh man well you know that there's no sales there's nothing happening economy is bad they can't grow their business or why they're not doing something productive or people can look at it as an opportunity to do whatever they you know whatever they feel is necessary or whatever they want to do so for me i just thought it was an opportunity to help the partners in a really positive way that could that i could really give back but i'm super passionate about helping partners so that's just kind of my thing that's awesome so if you do that and say okay now finally got made the jump even in the midst of covid got things going out things are starting to build up starting to help a lot of partners starting to get things going well where do you see things going in the next six months or a year you know just can keep growing as a you do a one-man person or you know one-woman show did you grow the business and have a whole bunch of you know other people that you bring on and train or how do you look at you know the next six months or a year for the business yeah that's a great question you know i'm right now having to consider how i'm going to scale this this company because i have a lot of opportunity and i don't really know where i want to take it but i do want to grow it and business has been coming to me so i've been very very fortunate that i haven't had to do anything to go look for business because there's such a big need so business is coming to me and i think that i'm really going to have to to scale it so i'm going to have to find other people to bring in and i think that's that's always a hard place to be in a little bit in the sense of when you're figuring out hey we need to go we need to expand and i cuz you know then you always get into now because you know for me it was you know when i went out on my own and started doing some of the things and i've been into startup business and small business for a while you know i i always had the expectation that everybody was going to work as hard as i would and everybody would care as much as i would and i quickly become disillusioned in the sense that you know why they're great employees out there and you know they're absolutely valuable no one cares about your business and works as hard as you do to make it a success and so i guess i wish you the the good road ahead or good luck in the road ahead in the sense of it so that's always the first challenge is that once you get things going and you now you want to have two or three or four of yourself to cover everything and it's always a great problem to have but it's still a problem trying to figure that out yeah the other the other thing that i have to make sure that um i do well that is um not trying to do everything myself right so i know for other companies when i you know i've had other friends i have mentors i have other partners that i work with you know to be able to give that up to build to grow the company is what it's going to be struggling with a little bit i think [Music] well that's the same or same dilemma journey that a lot of i think a lot of companies go through as you figure out how to expand so i think that's uh i wish you good luck on it so it'll be i'm sure it'll make for a fun journey so so then i one or one question i'd have and i think you mentioned before so if we just say hey you know somebody that is looking to get the money from the microsoft fund and for microsoft partners i think you mentioned that there was some timing or you know they refill the fund every so often and it takes a little while to get through the process so for those that may be interested or it would be an opportunity for them what advice would you give them or when is that timing or how's that process go or when should they engage you sure yeah so microsoft uh has a fiscal year that they go by and the fiscal year starts july 1st so july 1st is when they refill the funding buckets so there's 64 million dollars that they put in for their partners right now all the funding is closing until july but when i work with a partner it typically takes about three months max to get them through the process to where they can actually be qualified and become a microsoft supplier to be able to access and unlock the funding opportunities so you know there's a lot of work to be done from when we first start working until they can actually access the funding but it's all to be based on you know building that foundation so they can grow and so when we turn the sales machine on we can go right and so they'll be they'll be growing their business and receiving funding all at the same time okay cool anytime's a good time to engage me all right well that's great so well cool well as we kind of hit towards the end of the podcast i always hit two questions that we kind of hit on one is there so i'll hit on those now so the first question is is what was the worst business decision you ever made you know that's a good question i think the worst business decision i've ever made is to not go into business for myself because you know i was so miserable for so long and working for other people and just not having things you know the way that i would do them and it was it was a big struggle so i think that the biggest part of of uh you know the the bad decisions that i made were because i didn't decide to go into business for myself and i think that's one that you know they and i always have to laugh because you know done several these are done a lot of the episodes and talked with a lot of different inventors and everybody has a different journey right and yet there's always i'd almost say that's one of the top things that people always wish they'd done or more quickly is hey you know i now that i'm doing my own business and see what you know that i can be do better at it than i can be might control my own destiny a lot of times it's more profitable you can do better and it has a better sort of income and all the freedoms and the things that you're wanting to say i wish i'd done this x amount of time earlier and i wish i'd only known her i wish i'd made had a bit more courage so i think that that one is certainly something that is a common note and i think something that people can always learn from is hey if you're wanting to get into this they're always going to be starting a business during coveter or doing you know any reason you can always make up a reason as to why it's not a good time or why it shouldn't make sense and yet until you do it you're not you're never going to start and there's never a perfect time and so getting into it and getting it or getting it going is always a i think the better the better decision and if you fail fail gloriously and then learn from your mistakes and pick up and go back at it exactly no exactly i mean and sometimes you know your biggest failures your biggest successes follow your biggest failures so so okay now i'm going to jump to my second question which is so if you're getting someone that was uh and and you're kind of in this room yourself so you can speak to it starting out as a small business or starting out as a you know getting into a startup wanting to get in there just starting out kind of in that realm what would be your number one piece of advice having just surrounding yourself with the right people that you can reach out to that will support you and that believe in you no i think finding a mentor certainly something and i think that whether it's you know and i'd almost put it out there sometimes the men the better mentors or someone i guess you can go either way sometimes you know if you have a a friend or a colleague or someone that you have a good relationship with you can lean on and then they get support that's a great can make for a great mentor and sometimes mentors maybe people that are in the industry you don't know very well but are willing to you know help out the up-and-coming person or the new people in the business and so i think that there are a lot of different mentors you can find but the commonality is mentors can be that person that as you're going through the ups and downs as you're finding people to work you know finding out what works and what doesn't work and going through a bit of the the roller coaster and whatnot then you can have someone there to help you and support you and to give you ideas and bounce the ideas off of so i think that's a great uh a great uh great piece of advice yeah and i i i put my my uh my mentors to the test right so i'm calling at 10 30 11 30 at night but you know that's it's the relationship so i think that above all else building good relationships with whoever it is that you're you're in a relationship with is super super important and if it's a business relationship you need to get to know the people outside of business so that you can really have that strong relationship that'll last so i think that's huge too cool no i think that's great advice so as we wrap up before we do i want to make sure that if people want to get in touch with you if they're microsoft you know wanting to get into microsoft or are engaged and looking to fight or ways to get involved with and access to the fun or anything else if they want to get reach out and get involved with you and connect with you what's the best way to get your connect up with you um they can either email me at christina collaborate dot com but collaborate spelled a little different so it's c-a-l-a go to my website which is www.collaborate.com and it's c-a-l-a-thin b-o-r-a-t-e dot com it's a little play on my last name there with the collaborate all right well that'll make it all the more catchy and they'll remember you as well as uh where to go so great well i will uh also make sure to click or keep that in the show notes so that people can easily find you and for anybody that's looking to uh par or get with microsoft to access that funds or to get into that that industry of the business um certainly i think you're it would be a great resource so thank you again for coming on to the podcast it was fun to have you on and hear a bit about your journey and what you're doing and wish you well for the the next the next as you keep ramping things up and keep growing things and going through all of that fun growing pains as well so good luck with that um for anybody else that would like to apply to be on the inventive journey um love to have you on as a guest you can just go to inventivejourney.com to apply for the podcast and for those of you that may be needing help with the patents or trademarks or anything else with your startups protect and grow your startups and small businesses certainly feel free to reach out to uh reach out to us at miller p law as we'd love to help thank you again for coming on the podcast it was fun to hear about your journey and i wish you a successful journey as you can continue to go ahead thank you devin so much thanks you English (auto-generated) All Conversation Recently uploaded

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