Megan: Hey guys, welcome back for another episode of She Boss. I am so happy to be here today with Leigh Christian, who if some of you guys don’t know, if you’re in North Alabama or in the southeast, I’m sure you know who she is. She’s a pretty amazing, phenomenal women with a ton of accomplishments that I have just learned a lot more about today than I knew prior to. So I’m so excited for you guys to get an in depth look into all things Lee. So thank you so much for joining us.
Leigh: I’m so excited. Thank you for having me.
Megan: Absolutely, so before we kind of dive into your story a little bit as we were talking before this, I want you to just kind of set the stage a little bit and give us a little bit of background about you and how you came to be where you are today. Just a little bit of history about you.
Leigh: Sure, so I am from this area. And I pretty much lived in this area most of my life. My dad, when I was in high school, he actually moved to Mississippi, so we moved there. So I did go to high school in a different area. But overall, I’ve lived in this area and I love it. I live in Madison so I’m a pretty big Madison proponent.
Megan: Me too, I love Madison.
Leigh: And so that’s kind of where I have been most of my life and I love this area. I love seeing how it’s grown over the last few years and so I want to make a difference. And so all my life I’ve really tried to do things that I can make a difference. I started out when I was in high school, I became a big sister. And so I’ve been involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I love that I have always been involved in the community. And so when you said a lot of people know me, it probably is true because I’ve served on a lot of different boards. I’ve been part of the Land Trust Board. I helped Helpline turn into Crisis Services. I helped The Women’s Business Centre that started. I was part of the steering committee before we even became an organization. And I’ve been involved in this organization, which now is The Catalyst. And I’m even working here and I never even dreamed that I would be working here at The Catalyst. And I’ve been part of many other organizations- The Women’s Economic Development Council. Well, I’m not one of the founders, I was part of the very first board and I was the first secretary. So I did a lot of the work and helped build the membership and lots of things. And so I’ve been so fortunate.
Megan: One thing that you’ve become known for is sort of the ‘go to’ for all things small business, entrepreneurs getting into the government contracting world. For those of you that don’t know, in Huntsville, we have a massive government contracting presence here, if you will. And I would love to hear your thoughts on that too, as far as where that’s come over the last couple of years. But you’re such a great resource to helping other individuals maneuver through the phase of life that is business and this ‘govcon and all of that. So talk a little bit about your journey in that regard. Like what what is it that drove you to get to that point, because not everybody has this list of accolades, and I’ve done these things and served on these 12 boards. And that’s a lot.
Leigh: So my first job was at JC Penney’s and I worked on the floor, and I was helping people. And that’s when I learned that I really just loved helping people. I hated the retail hours. So I got into banking. Well, I’m the kind of person I started as a teller. And almost immediately, I was like, “I need to learn how to do the other jobs”. And so I always learned and I rose pretty quickly, and I became a regional vice president, for South Trust bank. And then I moved to AmSouth bank. And so I served a lot of people in North Alabama, was over the branches and worked with all of them. And I started learning about small business and those kinds of things and I loved helping them. And just so many small businesses, they don’t know how to even start, and they don’t understand the importance of a banking relationship or having an accountant or an insurance agent. And so I would spend lots of time when I was a banker, I would spend lots of time working with small business. And that’s kind of how I began my career. And so when I was about to become forty years old, I decided it was time for a career change.
Megan: At forty?
Leigh: And so I decided that- we live in a community of government contractors and so I decided to start my own business. I ended a great career in banking, and I went to UAH and took a class in government contracting. I did great, I got my professional credentials, I had no clue what it really meant.
And I just started going to events. And I would hear all these words and all these acronyms, and I still didn’t really get it. But after a few times of going, I started picking up things. So I was self-taught in that regard. I started picking up clients, and I would do business development for them because really, business development and banking is almost the same. It’s a little different language and those kinds of things. But you know it’s all about relationships.
And so I feel like what really helped me was building those relationships. And so I became pretty successful. I helped companies win government contracts, but I learned and that’s one thing that I really want to share and I want to encourage everybody that’s listening, is always learn, listen to podcasts, attend those meetings, connect with people, ask people to be your mentors. And I’ve been so fortunate with all of that. And I’ve taken that ‘Strength Finders’, I don’t know if you read the book.
Megan: I have the book.
Leigh: And so several of my strengths, the first one is being positive. And so I try to be positive all the time. Attitude is one of my favorite words.
Megan: Can you share with us the fun fact?
Leigh: Back then, with a word of attitude, if you take each letter in the word of attitude and you assign it in the alphabet where it falls, like A is one, B is two, if you add up the letters of attitude, it equals 100. And that word has always just been special to me, because you choose what you want to do and how you want to be and how things affect you. And attitude is so important to me. I just did a podcast earlier today. And it’s very important that people really understand their attitude can change their whole aspect in life. Yeah, whether it’s going to get a government contract, whether it’s applying for a job or anything, having that attitude, and the confidence is so important. And in my role at The Catalyst, I try to instill that in people that they need to treat themselves like they belong. And have a story I tell pretty often that I went to this company, and I was the only young female at this company. And we were having our first management meeting. And here I am, the only female, a lot of the people that were there were generals and colonels and military background. And one of them looked at me and asked me to go get some coffee. And it was a really big moment for me. And I said, “Well, I don’t drink coffee, but do you need me to get coffee for you?” And he realized he had put me into that demeaning role. And he said, “I will never ask you that again. I’m so sorry. I did that”.
But for me, that was a learning a learning moment. I treated myself like I belonged at that table. And that almost that was like a life changing moment for me. And so I think everybody needs to know, they need to treat themselves like they belong. And like, they have a place and they have a say. And even in government contracting, because that’s, that’s my world. That’s what I teach a lot of, if you’re meeting with a government client, or meeting with somebody at like you belong, because you do. And if you treat yourself and you’re not in that attitude, they’re going to treat you the same way.
Megan: Right, well, and it’s interesting, and I share this with my kids even if it’s a little bit different than some of the clients that you work with but you have a choice of how to react to a scenario. And a lot of that boils down to your attitude and to your outlook on life. And you can choose to handle things in a negative way or you can choose to be the bigger person and handle things in a positive way, and you have that choice. Other people don’t have to dictate that for you. And I think oftentimes, we fall into that mindset of, well, you just do what other people sort of lead you to do as opposed to doing something that you feel very competent in.
Leigh: Right, and you know, I work with a lot of small business and that is my passion. And I hope that every day I can make a small business, I can work with them and I can give them confidence and encouragement and inspiration and hopefully a lot of information to be able to take and really utilize it. I just got an email this morning, I taught a class last night in Government Contracting 101 and the lady said, “Thank you for making me not feel like a dummy. I feel so much better”. She’s trying to get her certification which to the small disadvantaged business certification, and she said it’s so overwhelming.
Megan: Yeah. Especially in the government contracting world where there’s a 25 page book on just the acronyms that you need to use. You know, I supported the army for a couple of years. And it was a joke, but it was on the very first day, it’s here you go, you know, I think they had an acronym for the word acronym. I mean, it was just insane. It could be very overwhelming.
Leigh: It can be.
Megan: So I’m curious because you’ve had so much experience in so many different things, honestly, especially with some of the boards that you were a founding member on and really see things go from just a whiteboard session come to fruition, and now you have this beautiful facility, we’ll just use The Catalyst as an example. And for those that don’t know, The Catalyst Centre for Business and Entrepreneurship is a phenomenal organization here in North Alabama, that helps support small businesses and those who want to start a business. But in addition, they have this whole government contracting arm as well, which you lead. And, you know, I personally have been a client of The Catalyst and it’s been amazing. And now I’m on the flip side and do some of the coaching, which is amazing. But there’s a lot, especially with what’s gone over the last year, I think there’s a lot of question to some people on whether or not they have the gumption and what it takes to go down that path and start their own business. So what’s a piece of advice that you would give for someone sitting in that position? And then I also want to ask you too, what’s one of the biggest challenges that you see that entrepreneurs or small business owners face that that that you’d have advice for?
Leigh: So I think a lot of people really get to decide what are they getting into business for? And I feel like if they’re just doing it for themselves, I don’t know if that’s the right reason.
Megan: It can’t be for money only, money can’t be driver.
Leigh: Or for good hours or being their own boss, that is really a myth.
Megan: Yeah, it is. And I love that experience with the Madison CEO Program. So many of the students are like, “Oh, I just want to have a foosball table in my office and have a Slurpee machine and have my own hours”. And it’s like, that’s not how it works. Sorry to burst your bubble.
Leigh: That is not how it works. But you know, when somebody goes into business sure, they need to follow their passion, I love that. But they need to know why they’re doing it. And they need to know their purpose. And they need to know that whatever they’re doing, they’re going to be better at something, or they’re going to be more efficient, better cost, better opportunities, those things. And a lot of times people just aren’t thinking about what is it that’s going to make my business better? You know, that may start a boutique. Well, what’s going to be different? And why would people come to you over somebody else? And I think that’s a big part of what people are not thinking about when they start their business.
Megan: Yeah, answering the ‘so what’
Leigh: Yes, so that’s what I really encourage small business to think about is what your unique discriminator is? Why would somebody come to you? You know, what is that thing that makes you special? And if you don’t have that, you need to figure out what is going to be that?
Megan: Yeah. And what would be your advice on how to go about figuring that out, if you’re just sort of stuck, you know?
Leigh: So of course, I would recommend coming to see a coach at The Catalyst. And also, I did an exercise one time, and it was when I was trying to start my own business. And I was trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do. And I had a coach, and they suggested that I write down everything that I did, everything.
Megan: Whether you like it or not?
Leigh: Yes, and whether I’m giving money to somebody, everything that I did, and I did, and I made this huge list. And then they told me to write why I was doing each thing and when I started narrowing that down, it gave me such insight, because almost everything that I did was about helping other people.
Megan: Gotcha, common thread kind of things.
Leigh: Yeah. And that was a great exercise because it really helped me focus a little more. So then I kind of narrowed it down and I was like, “I really like helping small business”. And that was not what I originally was thinking. I thought I wanted to be a life coach and really help individuals and not do a lot of that. But when I started really narrowing down everything and looking at the ‘why’ and I grouped everything together. It was about helping small businesses. And so that helped me kind of decide that’s what I wanted today. And so I wanted to help small businesses with their marketing plans, with a business plan, business development, those kinds of things. And if you really look back a lot of the things that I did, The Catalyst that helped small business, Women’s Economic Development Council, really, it’s about driving economic impact. All at the end, I started thinking about it, and I’m like, “Oh, my goodness, this is really what my calling is”. And that’s not what I had thought it was going to be in the beginning. But having it all written down on paper, and writing the ‘why’ it really did help. So, recommend that for small business.
Megan: I would imagine too that, I know a lot of people are a big fan of this, I personally am not, but journaling, and really kind of writing things down and pouring your thoughts out in a way that to get it out of your head and put it in a visual place where you can be able to see it. And I would imagine that that exercise really has some validation to wow, kind of bringing something to light that you didn’t even know is truly there.
Leigh: Exactly, I knew it was helping people. You know, I have a passion for nonprofits and doing that. So I always thought that was kind of what I was supposed to do. And I’m also very spiritual person. So I thought maybe doing something in ministry or something. But when I started writing it all down on paper, it was all about small biz. I mean, it really narrowed it down. And so that was a great exercise for me.
Megan: Yeah, I love that.
Leigh: And so I did. I started my business and actually, one of my clients was The Catalyst and I worked with them. And I helped write grants and do some things and a lot of coaching and stuff. But we wrote a grant and we didn’t have a project manager and so we use my resume, because it was a perfect fit. And then we won it and it was a really sizable grant. And so I said, “Okay, I’ll do it for a year.” And here we are, it’s been two years, we’re on our third year of our grant. And I love what I do. And I think I found my calling. I still have my business and do a little bit on the side. I don’t work with our current clients at The Catalyst but I do have my own client base that I work with. And I love being able to help people at The Catalyst. We have the best small businesses in the world and I’m lucky enough to work with companies all over the United States.
Megan: I was going to say so again, kind of going back to The Catalyst, and not that this segment is sponsored by The Catalyst but they are I mean, we’ve talked about them many times on this on this segment, or on She Boss, specifically, because they’re an integral part of our community. I don’t care who you are, but they are and they do amazing things. So if you’re contemplating starting a business, or just have questions, and you don’t know what you don’t know, I mean, they are such a great resource to be able to lean on. They introduced me when we were getting started to my accountant, who I’m not a numbers person. And that was the best decision ever. And she saved me so much money, and I will constantly say has kept me out of jail. So I’m very thankful. Because you don’t know what you don’t know when you’re getting started.
But one of the things that you pointed out earlier, too, is that you guys support, not just businesses in North Alabama, but nationwide, all over the place. So there’s uniqueness behind the strategy that you all have and the response rate from what you’re doing has been overwhelming. So talk a little bit about.
Leigh: That was kind of an unusual, not necessarily planned thing that happened.
Megan: That the best kind though, right?
Leigh: During the pandemic, we were very quick to- we had already been testing out Zoom before the pandemic. I did a few classes where we were live and on Zoom, so hybrid, so we’re way before the time.
Megan: People were coming to you like, “How do we figure out this whole thing?”
Leigh: Well, we have clients and they would say, “I want my cousin to hear” and so we started learning how to do that. So when the pandemic happened, it’s just like, we started doing things on Zoom. And people were like, “Can my cousin come in?” And so people started hearing about us. And then we are sponsored by SBA, the Small Business Administration, and they started telling people, and it just kind of overwhelmingly became huge.
Megan: I love that.
Leigh: And so it was, you know, we have clients all over and I love working with them. I called last night; we had Alaska, California, North Carolina.
Megan: That is so great.
Leigh: And so you know, and I’m like, I want to help the businesses in our community. And I love that and I want this community to thrive. But it’s also fun to learn about these other businesses because they don’t feel like they have people that can help them.
Megan: Yeah. Which was mind blowing to me to think that small businesses in Idaho or in California or in Alaska don’t have similar resources. Although I will say, the culture here and the vibe here in North Alabama is very different.
Leigh: Yeah, they always tell me that our classes are a little different. I think it’s different in a good way. I think it’s the hospitality that helps a little bit but I’ve lived and breathed a lot of the things and so I am very vulnerable and all my mistakes and all of the things that I didn’t know, especially in government contracting. I tell them, you know, “Hey, this is what I thought y’all”. And you know, I tell them about the first time I heard about a government contract and what I thought it was, and people like that openness. And so we try to find speakers all the time that understand.
Megan: And you can connect with
Leigh: And so we get nationally renowned speakers, I’m not afraid to ask anybody. And so we have the top podcasters. We have the top LinkedIn person. We have the top, you know, we ask
Megan: All they can say is no
Leigh: Right and they’re always kind of hesitant. I had this one speaker, and she wanted me to pay her a huge fee. And I said I don’t have that in my budget. Well, then within a year, she was begging me to speak.
Megan: How funny and that speaks volumes though, of what you guys are doing.
Leigh: I love what we do is just- we have the best support around us; people like you that teach workshops for us and share your stories. And it’s amazing. And we want to find those speakers. And if I have somebody that has an interesting topic, I want to put that in front of our small businesses.
Megan: Yeah, well, you know what they’ll respond to. So Leigh, you hit on a word that we’ve talked a little bit about during She Boss and I talked about a lot with my team, they’re probably sick of hearing it, but we do talk about it a lot. But you mentioned the term vulnerability and being vulnerable. And I think that as a woman, as a business leader, as a coach, as a mentor, as a partner, as a mom, as a grandma, you’re looking at pictures of Leigh’s grandson earlier. But being able to be vulnerable, I think, really cracks through this otherwise mold that I think could potentially be there where it makes it hard for people to really relate. And you don’t have that authentic exchange of dialogue that I think can be so powerful in so many ways. And we have found that, with She Boss, in particular, we look for women who can be that way. Because to me, that’s so admirable, because oftentimes you look at women and men for that matter, and just think, “Gosh, how do they you know, just like this fancy guy”. I don’t know. Like, it’s this persona that kind of comes across. But when you’re able to break that down and be honest and authentic and realistic about, “Hey, guess what? Starting a business, I’ll be honest, that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life”. And you know this, but I did that after I was laid off of my job. And I had just gone through a divorce. And I’m like, “Well, I have got nothing left to lose. So why not give it a shot?” And so I think it’s just a matter of being honest and realistic with yourself. And you can connect with people on such a deeper level in that way, I’m sure you’ve experienced that.
Leigh: Absolutely that’s another one of my words, I think is so important to let people know you’ve walked in their shoes, you’ve made those mistakes. You know, my feelings get hurt. You know, my health is not great, my appearance, I’m not proud of it right now and I wish I could change it. But you know what, I like me. And it doesn’t matter what everybody else says, because I’m proud of who I am and what I do. And I like myself, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Megan: No, of course not.
Leigh: And I think people need to feel more comfortable within their own shoes.
Megan: Yeah, let me ask you a question. Do you find yourself reflect reflecting a lot?
Leigh: I do.
Megan: Do you? I mean, again, I know this is not the driver behind what you do but looking at who Leigh Christian is on paper, I mean, the awards, the accolades, the recognitions, the accomplishments, just pop off the page. And you know, some people might think that you just have this ego and you’re the most down to earth person in the world. And I have to believe that that has something to do with you just being very humble.
Leigh: That doesn’t mean anything. The email that I made somebody not feel like a dummy, yeah, that’s me. Yeah. And I love the recognition in that regard. I love knowing I made an impact on somebody or that they feel like they couldn’t have made it through a time without me being a part of it.
Megan: But you know, it was a series of those that led to those big, you know what I mean?
Leigh: And those are really nice. Those are nice.
Megan: Kudos to people for taking time out of their day to give you that feedback, just to say, “You know what that was, that was a really great session. I appreciate your time. It was so informative.” You know what I mean, just taking that time out to do that.
Leigh: We have clients that do that, I don’t know, they just I love doing that.
Megan: And but you set them up to feel comfortable in order to do that, though.
Leigh: But see, that gives me energy. So I want to also encourage people follow your passion. And when you do, people, people often say, “You work too much.” People say that a lot. And I’m like, “I don’t feel like I’m working”.
Megan: Yeah, if you’re doing something that you love.
Leigh: Yeah, I do. I work on the weekends sometimes but I feel like I’m helping people. And it just gives me energy. And that’s how I’m energized. And so people need to find what is their job? Or what’s going to make them so passionate, they don’t feel like they are working. I can tell you do that, too.
Megan: I try. I mean, to me, and our team, everyone behind the camera knows this. But if we’re coming in every day, and we’re like, “Oh my gosh, I have to go do this thing. And I can’t stand it” we’re doing something wrong. And there’s always an element of your job, right that it’s like, “Okay, I could live without that today.”
Leigh: Right, that’s true. Not every day is perfect.
Megan: Oh, and that’s just part of it. But I’m also a true believer, that if you follow something that you are super passionate about, and you just love to do, success will just follow, it really will. And it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be the next billionaire doing what you do, but man, you’re sure going to be happy and your peace of mind, your health, your mental health is so important. And there’s no money that can fix that if it’s not fueled by other things. So I think that is so important. So there’s a lot of impacts that you’ve made personally, not only individually, but with the organizations that you’ve aligned yourself with, where business owners, mature businesses, for that matter, those interested in getting into the government contracting space, they’ve all benefited from. But one thing that came about over the last, you know, couple of years was the Madison CEO Program, too. So I love the fact that you guys have teamed up with local area high schools to offer a very similar workshop series, if you will, for some of these younger students. So tell me a little bit about that.
Leigh: So Madison CEO, CEO stands for Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities
Megan: Which I love, by the way, and I was like, “Is that always what it stood for?”
Leigh: We’re fortunate to you as a mentor, but I also helped found that I was the one of the founding board members on that and to be a part of that is just to join. This is an actual class that the students take every single day of the year.
Megan: Their senior year of high school- senior and junior year
Leigh: Junior and senior years. And they actually go into businesses, and they learn about all the different businesses here in our community and different things. But they start their own business. First they do the first semester, they do a class business. So right now, this semester, they’re working on the class business, they have to buy business lessons they do it all. Second semester, they do their own business. And so I’ve mentored different people throughout that process. Some actually created the energy balls, and they were energy, food.
Megan: Oh, yeah, Belle, she interned with us this summer.
Leigh: And she had to learn about cottage license and learn about how to sell at a green farmers market and different things like that. So they really have to learn how to operate the business. Now, some of them are going to keep their businesses going. Yeah, some have decided, hey, that is not for me.
Megan: Yeah, but what a great dose of reality
Leigh: That’s right. And we match them with mentors. And it’s a great experience. But I tell you, being a mentor, I learned as much about things as probably they did. And I have to tell you, I had a young guy, and we were probably very different from each other but we bonded so well. And I had a big event, and he sent me a text, so I’m probably going to cry. He sent me a text that morning and said, and I didn’t think we had even bonded, and he said, “I sure hope your event goes really well.” And that melted my heart. I’m like, “I did make a difference. He is thinking of me.” I mean, right.
Megan: And again, he went out of his way to tell you.
Leigh: And how special that was and that was a monumental moment, because I wasn’t sure I was even getting through and we were connecting. And yeah, and then after that, of course, we really connected you know, and I’ve checked in on him in college and stuff.
Megan: That is so great.
Leigh: But for them to get that experience is just amazing.
Megan: What’s been your big takeaway with working with that demographic compared to a little bit of an older demographic who may be a little bit more experienced and have perspective? And what are some of the big things that you’ve noticed?
Leigh: I have to say, I always thought everybody kind of thought the same. I mean, this is how naive I am. I always thought everybody acted the thought the same way I did. And I’ve learned so much people don’t have as much drive, or people may not think of things or they wait to the last minute, and different things like that. So I’ve learned to really deal with different personalities and different generations. And I am really surprised.
I have a good friend. And I think you know her too, Kristen Scoggins, and she talks about the different generations, and I have to have conversations with her sometime. I’m like, “Can you help me understand how to deal with this kind of person?” I also have personality tests and stuff that I’ve tried to do with people so that I can understand how I can deal with somebody. I had somebody that I had a hard time working with. And we both did this personality test. And I realized, “Hey, I don’t need to throw all my brainstorming ideas. I’m overwhelming them. And they don’t need to tell me about all the details, because I don’t care about registration and all those kinds of things.” And so I’ve learned to maybe use some kind of tools like a personality test or something like that. And just to kind of talk things through. One thing Kristen told me is like a millennial, potentially; don’t manage every moment of their timeline. Tell them when their due date and she said it maybe the night before they stamp on that but they’ll get it done but if I’m trying to manage them and hold them accountable every second and micromanage them it’s not going to happen. So you have to learn those things so I’m always trying to read up about all those kind of things.
Megan: I think that’s such a key point of being able to have a successful and effective communication across the board and again our team is here, we talk a lot about it often, we can be in a relationship and if I don’t truly understand what your desires are and what’s driving you and how you’re motivated and how you are incentivized for certain things. I could be saying blue and you’re hearing red all day long and then we both walk away with two different directions which is not what we’re trying to achieve. Not only is that a great piece of advice for if you have kids who are in high school, I have a sixteen year old daughter and sometimes communication is hard. But it’s the same thing in the work environment, making sure that you understand each other‘s pain points and don’t walk into a scenario and manage everybody the same way because not everybody respond to same way. And so I think a personality test is something that I’ve gotten exposure to just in the last couple of years but man it would have helped me out there early in my career. Just to understand that not everybody thinks the same way I do and not everyone looks at the world with the same lens that I do, both in relationships and professional relationships. And having that kind of reality check a little bit, I think is so important so I’m really glad to hear you say that.
Leigh: And just even the introvert extrovert because I go to this women’s meeting, it’s the WEC, which is The Women’s Economics Council. I go when I’m so energized and so electrified and so inspired. And I had a friend and she was like, “I love going but it absolutely drains me” and I’m like, “How?” And she said, “When I walk in a room, I panic I don’t know where to go sit.” And she said, “I try to get there early.” This was so enlightening to me and I was like how could you not feel like I do and that’s just been recently. And I’m like, “Wow people really feel that way?” And so you really have to understand other people‘s point of view and that was life-changing for me because I was like, “How could you not feel that way?”
Megan: But I think what’s great about your mindset on that is how you took that exchange and really thought through it because you’re taking what’s my otherwise may just be a very simple exchange of dialogue and not thinking twice about it but tying it back to perspective and outlook and how you can have more impactful relationships by knowing these things going into conversations. Obviously that translates to work environments as well which is so important and that can often times gets overlooked especially when you’re bummed down with stress and deadlines and trying to juggle it all, it’s really hard. So I have a question for you because I feel as though of any of these phenomenal women that we’ve had a chance to interview through She Boss which we launched last year during Covid, as you know, you individually sort of tie a nice bow on everything that we have done because you represent so many different industries and initiatives that have truly impacted the world of the woman in my eyes. Honestly and truly I’m being with that. So I would like to just get your thoughts on being in Huntsville and being in North Alabama though we are surrounded by so many amazing women and so I would like to hear from your perspective what you think that colorful array of individuals has helped our community become what it is today.
Leigh: So one of my phrases or quotes that I say is, “Always surround yourself with good people”. And so I just think building that core friendship groups and people that you want to be around I mean there’s no stopping you and don’t be afraid to share your ideas with other people because somebody else may have something that might spark something out and really that’s how all of these different things that I’ve been a part of have started. It was just an idea and then take action on it and I think that’s where a lot of people that have these ideas but they don’t pursue it any further and so try to get people to be around you that want to go and explore the next option and you never know what you can achieve and don’t be afraid just because you’ve never done it. I mean think about this community especially we send people to the moon. Of course don’t we know that we are afraid, but we sit here in all the things have been accomplished by the community and we especially as women, we don’t need to sit back we need to really think what can we do? What impact can we make? And you know just a little step can lead to something beautiful that you might not ever expect. I never dreamed I’ll work for The Catalyst. I never dreamed we’ll be touching small businesses across the world and to sit back and think that I was a little part of that.
Megan: Gosh and making such a big difference on so many different levels
Leigh: But everybody has that ability to have that impact and so many people want to sit back and be negative but boy if I could just spin that energy into something positive and really just took a step forward, I mean every idea could be great if they would just share it with others and brainstorm, find ways to make things happen.
Megan: Yeah I love that I love that. So in closing I have a question for you so as you mentioned before, I don’t want to say you’re a workaholic because it’s not work for you, you just go and do your thing at your own peace. When you’re not helping other businesses and pushing other businesses forward and you’re not helping women, what is Leigh doing on the weekend?
Leigh: I work for fun. I don’t feel like it’s work but I’m a very bad ass person in my life also. I am very active in my church. I am very active with my family. Never once did I miss any of my activities for my daughter. I was always the PTA mom I was always the volunteer for whatever.
Megan: I can see that.
Leigh: I never missed a cheer practice, cheer competition so people may not realize that I do all these other things because it does seem like I work a lot. I get worked done. There’s a funny thing people always say, “Do you have helps helping you behind the scenes?” My boss tells me that all the time. I’m a very organized person and I learned some tricks many years ago, an email hits my inbox and it goes out of my inbox into a file or if it’s in my inbox, I still have something to do.
Megan: I will never show you what my inbox looks like.
Leigh: I have conversations with people all the time telling you, I am very organized because of that.
Megan: But that I think investing time and learning a practice makes your life so much more efficient.
Leigh: I’m telling you.
Megan: Still give me just a quick 30 seconds, I send you an email maybe it’s a question on scheduling or something.
Leigh: I will respond right then because once I’ve responded I’ve done my part. Now you may respond back to me but I have handled that email. I have a folder, it’ll have your name on it or it’ll have client name on it or it’ll have whatever project that is, and it goes out of my inbox. Every week my inbox is cleaned out.
Megan: I don’t even know I can’t even imagine what that looks like.
Leigh: I’m sitting here thinking like I probably have about 20, 30 emails right now and I will handle them probably before I go get in in my car before I leave here.
Megan: That’s impressive.
Leigh: I have learned to be responsive. Why I let it sit there? I mean I’m the kind of person there are nothing outstanding or pending messages, they are all handled. If you can do it, you’ll be so on top of things.
Megan: I think it’ll just make me feel mentally like I’ve lost about 10 pounds just because it’s just sitting out there.
Leigh: But why do you let it keep sitting there?
Megan: I don’t know
Megan: I try to go back and do the filing system because I agree with you. I definitely use the folder system of filing but I also use my inbox sometimes as my to-do list which is probably not the healthiest approach.
Leigh: I do that but I have several things in mine that is all about grants reports and stuff and I know when they are due.
Megan: They need to stay, they have a reason to stay.
Leigh: But everything else is cleared up, I respond to clients and I take care of it. I learned that kind of in banking but I’ve kind of always done it but we had something called the sun down room and before the sun went down you handled everything in your inbox.
Megan: Oh my gosh
Leigh: I just always try to do that and I will tell you how much difference it can make and how much more you can accomplish because you’ve already taken care of it, you don’t have that in your mind, it’s not stressing you out. You’ll be doing so much.
Megan: The sundown rule, I’m going to write that down. What’s one routine that you cannot do without besides the sundown rule?
Leigh: So I do devotion before I get out of bed. I usually listen to podcasts while I’m getting dressed. I am very efficient with my time. I am working and listening and eating I don’t make extra trips, I plan out exactly what I need to do. I just try to be really efficient and so that’s very important to me and it just helps me be more effective.
Megan: Yeah and more impactful with everything that you do. So last question for you what is one of the biggest things that has you most excited that’s coming down or that’s occurring in your life over the next year?
Leigh: So I’m a grandmother so that’s always exciting and we do a lot of things for Halloween and so. My grandson we happen to dress him every day in October and that’s pretty exciting
Megan: And which really happens, I saw the picture.
Leigh: And we have a big Toy Story Halloween planned and all characters, so that’s one thing. Here at The Catalyst we are just going crazy. I do have an event in October which I think this will be later so I wouldn’t talk about it but it’s for historical black colleges and universities I’m really excited about the impact. We also have some big events coming up with the Missile Defense Agency and we’ll be doing those in December and just our workshops that we have on a regular basis, every one of them is great and I love our workshops, you’re going to be teaching one next year.
Megan: Sign me up
Leigh: I’m excited about that we really try to make a huge impact with every workshop we have. We do the workshops on Tuesday and Thursdays from 3-5 and I encourage people to look at our calendar.
Megan: It’s insane.
Leigh: And we have a great week line up, it’s called the ‘Forget me Factor’ and it’s judgment and we actually have somebody that’s going to be talking about how your decision making process work and so I’m so excited about that one coming up.
Megan: So how can people get registered for those? Do they have to be a member?
Leigh: No, we don’t have memberships or anything like that. At The Catalyst, our programs are free and I would say priceless and so just go to the website and look under event registration and you’ll see a list of all of the different events we have coming up. We always do Ladies every year which is a great women’s conference. We have a small business innovation research workshop summit is during Innovation Huntsville week, so lots things coming up.
Megan: That’s exciting.
Leigh: And I love doing all of those because any way that we can help small businesses learn and to prosper is just really important to me.
Megan: Yeah that is awesome, so I think whether or not you’re contemplating starting a business, have begun starting a business or even if you’re in business and you need to get a refresher course on some perspective, and learning some new things definitely The Catalyst is a great resource for sure. Leigh, thank you so much for carving out time today.
Leigh: Thank you it’s been so much fun.
Megan: I feel so honored because of how efficient you are with your time that we are able to sit down and do this. And again I mean it when I say I think you are just the epitome of the She Boss here in North Alabama and have done so many amazing things for this community so thank you so much for your impact and everything that you’ve done.
Leigh: Thank you so much. Aww you are going to make me cry.
Megan: Oh save that for off camera
Leigh: To be even considered in the list of people that you had just really makes a difference, so thank you.
Megan: Thank you. We’ll see you guys next time.