Kathryn Fortin

Very often, as leaders and business owners, we work ourselves to the bone, and we do so with no or little help. We feel the need to get everything done ourselves, or at least watch very closely what the team is doing. And when that happens, naturally, we feel completely exhausted and it can result in not understanding how to move forward. So we feel stuck.

Our guest today is Kathryn Fortin, Director & Lead Solutions Architect at Fortech Solutions, a unique group of business systems experts specialized in assisting organizations with workflow management, process improvement, training programs, and much more.

In this new episode of The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast, Kathryn comes to me with a couple of challenges. One of those challenges is that she’s having a hard time generating leads for her business. I suggest that she creates structures and systems that can help her. I also invite Kathryn to try the exercise of being her own client and to look at her business as a problem that she gets to solve. That way she’ll be able to have the full picture of what needs to happen next and how to keep growing her business.

Another challenge is that she feels perpetually tired. The real reason for that is because she’s felt the need to micromanage everything -which she doesn’t like doing-. And the solution to that is really simple. I tell Kathryn that she needs to find the right people to work on her team, so that she can offload some of the things on her plate that don't energize her, and which will allow her to do other things that make her feel alive and excited again.

Do you have a challenge you’d like to discuss? Reach out! If there's any issue you want to talk about here on the podcast or privately, please send me an email:


Episode Transcript

[00:00:05] Kim Ades:
Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching™ and you have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast, where we welcome leaders from all over the world to come onto the podcast and get coached live and in-person.  

Today it is my pleasure to welcome a guest named Kathryn Fortin, and she comes to us from a company called Fortech Solutions.  

Kathryn, welcome.  

[00:00:32] Kathryn Fortin:
Thank you. I'm glad to be here.  

[00:00:34] Kim Ades:
So where are you in the world and what does Fortech Solutions do?  

[00:00:40] Kathryn Fortin:
I am in Northern California, right outside of the San Francisco East Bay, is where I'm at. And we help companies and organizations create better training, so training is accessible and engaging for all types of learners, not just visual and auditory, but even kinetic or kinsietic learners as well.  

So since everybody learns differently, it's very important to be able to make sure that your training reaches all of those people.  

[00:01:15] Kim Ades:
And I'm assuming that right now, that need is higher than ever. Given the fact that people are far away, how are you implementing new cool, modern, innovative methods of training and learning virtually?  

[00:01:30] Kathryn Fortin:
It's definitely needed. Sadly what we've seen, especially in school districts is, you know, they've just dropped their instructors or teachers, faculty into... "here, use Zoom", but without any additional tools or training on how to actually engage during instruction over... remotely.  

But the groups that we have been working with, we have designed everything from bringing the job site to the virtual classrooms, so we've recreated buildings to walk, building inspectors and contractors through... and painting contractors through how to inspect a building or learn how to do estimates and first responder training on safety in a hospital and such. 

[00:02:29] Kim Ades:
Wow. Very interesting. And so how long have you been in this business for?  

[00:02:36] Kathryn Fortin:
I have been in the ed tech arena for 12 years. Before that it was... Trying to count here... 20 years doing product and project management in the IT space. But one of my passions was making sure that everybody knew how to manage their system at the level that they wanted to. 

I had a pet peeve against computer consultants that would go in and hold onto knowledge, so they couldn't be let go or fired, and I would come in saying "I'll give you the hit by the bus book. I'll train you on everything you want to know whatever level that is", and so training has always been a very important piece of what's important to me.  

On top of that I'm dyslexic and didn't know I was until my third year of college when I started failing. And that's when I learned I actually had a learning disability.  

[00:03:44] Kim Ades:
And how was that addressed? Or was it like... how did you manage?  

[00:03:48] Kathryn Fortin:
Well, somehow I worked the system and made it through to my third year. 

[00:03:54] Kim Ades:

[00:03:55] Kathryn Fortin:
But during the third year I found out I was reading at a seventh grade level. 

[00:04:02] Kim Ades:

[00:04:03] Kathryn Fortin:
And they said if they had to put a label on it, it would be a dyslexia. And then I started working with disabled student services and they retrained me on how to take notes and what I needed to do to combat the disability to learn a little differently, to retain the information.  

[00:04:25] Kim Ades:
It's amazing that they caught it in third year university and not like in first year of high school. 

[00:04:31] Kathryn Fortin:
I think, you know, the public school systems, especially in rural areas, just push people through the system. And I was just one of those kids, unfortunately.  

[00:04:44] Kim Ades:
Interesting. So where are you now in terms of... what's going on? What is the challenge you want to share with us on today's podcast?  

[00:04:53] Kathryn Fortin:
I've been at... My business has organically grown after I was laid off and the company I was working for was bought out. 

[00:05:05] Kim Ades:

[00:05:05] Kathryn Fortin:
And the President of that company continued to give me clients and refer me, and I hadn't planned on owning my own business, let alone having a team, but that is where I'm at now. And I've been kind of stuck at this plateau of making six figures, but not getting past that number.  

You know, I'm bouncing around a 10-15% margin of an area that I've been stuck out for three or four years. And then trying to decide if this was still my passion or can I redefine what I'm doing to redirect my passion. 

[00:05:57] Kim Ades:
Okay. So... I'm going to ask you a funny question. And in a way it's a bit, you know, funny because I'm supposed to have the answers for you, but I'm going to ask you it anyway. Why do you think that you have been hovering right under the level that you want to surpass? Six figures, but not higher. Why are you hovering there? What do you think is getting in your way?  

[00:06:26] Kathryn Fortin:
I think there's too many directions. Like, we offer a lot of tools and solutions that all tie together, but maybe we're marketing too much.  

[00:06:45] Kim Ades:
Marketing too much or marketing too many options?  

[00:06:48] Kathryn Fortin:
Too many options. That's what I meant. But on top of that, I've never had to actually go out and market. A hundred percent of our clients have either been word of mouth referrals, or they've seen me speak at conferences, which obviously got shut down last year.  

[00:07:06] Kim Ades:
Okay. So it sounds like what you're really saying is you don't have a plan for lead generation and you're unable to forecast what's going to come in over time.  

[00:07:21] Kathryn Fortin:
Yes. For new, I mean, I can forecast what's going on right now and...  

[00:07:26] Kim Ades:
Yeah. But you don't have a strategy for incoming business.  

[00:07:32] Kathryn Fortin:

[00:07:32] Kim Ades:
Like, how do we go out and get incoming business?  

[00:07:35] Kathryn Fortin:
No, we don't.  

[00:07:37] Kim Ades:
Okay. And I want to kind of make a distinction or explore whether or not that lack of strategy, that kind of hovering state causes a little... you know, a lack of engagement or rather a lack of satisfaction on your part, making you question everything. 'Cause there something else I want to do.  

So, is it that? Or is it that you just want to do something else, possibly?  

[00:08:06] Kathryn Fortin:
That's a good question. I think what I'm really good at is the coming up with solutions, asking non-technical stakeholders, what they're trying to solve and coming up with a way to solve it. It's usually not as expensive as they anticipated and usually very different. Like, I'll re utilize software that's already in the industry for something else, but it would work perfectly for what they're trying to do.  

[00:08:44] Kim Ades:
Okay. So you like the problem solving aspects? 

[00:08:47] Kathryn Fortin:

[00:08:47] Kim Ades:
What part don't you like?  

[00:08:50] Kathryn Fortin:
Payroll, accounting. [Laughs] The, I guess, management... the hand... Yeah, the client management is fine, but the making sure everybody's doing what they're supposed to be doing.  

[00:09:13] Kim Ades:
You don't like micromanaging.  

[00:09:17] Kathryn Fortin:
I do not like micromanaging. 

[00:09:19] Kim Ades:
Okay. So, here's what I think and what I see. And I'm guessing, and I'm just going to test it out with you for a moment. 

If I said that there's a way for you to stop micromanaging, and there's a way for you to exceed your hovering state, right? Your six-figure hover, that you could blow past that, would that re inspire you, and re-engage you? Would you say "okay. How? Tell me. I want to know, I'll do it"? Or would you say "I still want to do something else"? 

[00:09:50] Kathryn Fortin:
I guess it depends.  

[00:09:54] Kim Ades:
Depends on what?  

[00:09:55] Kathryn Fortin:
It depends on what it would be to get there. Because money isn't necessarily my drive. 

[00:10:06] Kim Ades:
No, I understand. Here's what I suspect, and you can correct me if I'm wrong. Like, you kind of fell into your business. You're not necessarily... I don't think you've ever thought of yourself as an entrepreneur. 

[00:10:21] Kathryn Fortin:
I've thought of myself as an entrepreneur, but not with an entire team.  

[00:10:29] Kim Ades:
Right. Say more about that. What do you mean by not with an entire team?  

[00:10:34] Kathryn Fortin:
Like, each person on the team has a specific niche and depending on the project or the client, some of those people are on it and some of those are not, depending on what their niche expertise is. 

[00:10:48] Kim Ades:
So when you say "I see myself as an entrepreneur, but not with the entire team", what does that mean?  

[00:10:55] Kathryn Fortin:
I think it's easier to market myself and my set of skills and pick up contracts and projects and high-level solution architecture projects.  

[00:11:08] Kim Ades:
So you see yourself as a practitioner, as opposed to a company owner?  

[00:11:14] Kathryn Fortin:
Yeah... Well... No, not necessarily. I don't know.  

[00:11:17] Kim Ades:
Well, but that's how you're talking and that's how you've spoken since the beginning of our conversation, which was kind of like "I fell into this. You know, it kinda sorta happened. I was let go and then, so I started getting work and it kind of fell into my lap and none of it was deliberate". If that makes any sense. 

[00:11:34] Kathryn Fortin:
That's correct.  

[00:11:36] Kim Ades:
Okay. And so, what you're seeing in terms of your revenues is exactly that, it's a result of no deliberation. And remarkably you're doing fairly. Right? Like, it's amazing. You're doing great. So imagine if you decided to be deliberate about your revenues.  

If you said, "okay, what we're going to do is we're going to create a system" and you're good at creating systems, "we're going to create a system for the establishment of deliberate cash flows, of deliberate ongoing sales".  

Now you said, you know, "we got clients when people hear me speak, but now there's COVID and so that's not happening". I don't know. I'm speaking more now that COVID hit than ever before. That's me, right?  

But the question is that if you know-- and it's just one example, just a single example, that if you know that speaking brings in clients, then are you deliberately planning your speaking engagements so that every month, let's say you do two or three speaking engagements consistently. Is that happening? 

[00:12:35] Kathryn Fortin:
I'm trying to get back to that, 'cause that's where.  

[00:12:38] Kim Ades:
Right. And so, what I see that is possible for you, because you are a problem-solver and I can give you a million ideas to how to do this, but I don't think that's what you need. I think what you need is to say "yes, I can figure out this problem and think of this as a business. As opposed to just me being a sole practitioner.  

And I can create structures that drive in new leads on a regular basis so that I can start forecasting what new business I'm going to bring in the door". Be it from speaking, be it from any specific targeted deliberate marketing that you do.  

And what I mean by deliberate marketing, I mean, like, let's create a flow where people know how to get in and what happens next, next, next. Right? So "this is my entry point and the moment I'm in, here's what's going to happen when I'm done with that process. Here's the next phase". So it sounds like they can come in at any place, there's a million entry points, and there's no ladder up to greater and greater and greater involvement or engagement with you. 

And so for me, when I listen to you, there are two things that really need to happen. Thing number one is create a flow for clients to come in and continue to get engaged. So first they start with this process, we do a needs assessment, and then we create a plan for their training. I don't know, I'm making it up, completely making it up. Right?  

But step one, step two, step three, step four. And here are the costs. And at the beginning, it's really low risk, really low costs, really easy to get engaged. And as they gradually get more involved, perhaps the cost goes up. But, you know, they're more and more comfortable because they trust you more and more, and they live with you for a long term. 

But the second piece of it is to create a system for an expectation of what's going to lead to greater and greater leads for you. So whether it's "okay, we have to submit" I'm making up numbers, "20 speaking engagement proposals a month, so that way we know we're going to get three of those, and if we get three of those on a monthly basis, we know that from those three, we're going to get five leads, et cetera". Right?  

We're doing the math, it's a math problem. And so what you haven't done and say, "this is my business. I'm going to be deliberately growing it. I'm going to create systems, not only for helping my clients, which I'm really good at, but I'm going to be the client. Right? And I'm going to look at my business as a problem that I get to solve". 

[00:15:10] Kathryn Fortin:
Okay. That's an interesting way to look at it.  

[00:15:15] Kim Ades:
Right, because you have the answers. If you look back at where did all our clients come from, there's a lot of indicators of success. The problem is that very often, a lot of entrepreneurs don't tap into those indicators of success and they keep trying new things. 

But if you look back and say, "okay, our last 20 clients came from here, here, here, and here. What systems can we build to support the increase of those kinds of customers coming in the door?" It becomes a lot less hard, a lot less difficult.  

So in my case, I know my clients come from several sources, podcasts that I do, these podcasts... So podcasts where I'm a guest, podcasts where I invite people onto the podcast and they get exposed to us and our coaching, I do a lot of speaking engagements, and we get a lot of referrals from our past clients. But those are our four primary sources of leads.  

And now we're working on a fifth, which is ads, digital ads, which historically have always failed for us and we're trying to learn how to do them better. But now we know, and so we're not all over the place. We're very specific and deliberate about everything we do.  

And for you, you know, it's a matter of "okay, so how do I just structure this?" And actually that's really within your wheelhouse, it sounds like. 

[00:16:46] Kathryn Fortin:
It should be. [Laughs]  

[00:16:48] Kim Ades:
Well, but it is, that's the key, right? You're doing it for all of your clients. So the question is how do I do it for myself here? Right? And so my question for you is, does this conversation make you want to go back and try that on? Or does this conversation make you say, "geez, I don't want to do that, I want to go do something else"?  

And I think that's important, because it sounds like you're at a place in your life where you're evaluating "what comes next for me".  

[00:17:21] Kathryn Fortin:
Yeah, I definitely am. And you know, I don't... You know, when you're in your 20s there's a lot more energy to get a whole lot more done, while when you're over 50 there's not, but you have more experience and expertise. So it's shifting towards experience instead of energy.  

[00:17:47] Kim Ades:
Yes. And, you know, you said something before, you said "I don't want to do payroll accounting and micromanagement". And so the question becomes, so don't do it. If you were to decide not to do it, what do you need in place to release that from your list of responsibilities? And if you did release that, would you feel better about your work?  

[00:18:09] Kathryn Fortin:
I have been doing some of that. I've hired a bookkeeping company and my business project manager, business manager is back from maternity leave and it's finally starting to ramp up her hours again.  

[00:18:30] Kim Ades:
Perfect. So that's the other piece is, you know, always looking at the things that you can offload, but also looking at the things where you're getting the most joy, the most inspiration, the most satisfaction, and handing those along to other people. Because the more space you create, the more energy you get.  

And, you know, it sounds like what you're saying is "a lot of the things that are on my plate are not energizing". And so, to me, that's a signal that says "let's look at all the things I'm doing and let's decide what I still want to do and what I'm, you know, really determined to give up". Right? And that kind of thinking allows you to grow as a business.  

[00:19:18] Kathryn Fortin:

[00:19:20] Kim Ades:
I hope that was helpful.  

[00:19:22] Kathryn Fortin:
I think it was. That's a very interesting way to look at it.  

[00:19:26] Kim Ades:
Good. I'm glad. For those of you who are listening, a lot of times when we're in our businesses, when working, we're working hard, we have a lot of responsibility on our plates. We get tired sometimes, especially when we're a woman and we're 50 years old! 

[00:19:41] Kathryn Fortin:

[00:19:42] Kim Ades:
That would be me. Right? And so, we want to think about what we want to do next, and sometimes decide to move away from what we're doing into new things, but sometimes it means looking at what we're doing and how we're doing it and making some small tweaks. 

Number one is being really deliberate about what we want to achieve and creating systems to achieve those things. And number two is by offloading a lot of the tasks that someone else could easily do, and bringing in the right talent to take over those tasks, where we are ready to give it up and say "I'm done with that". 

So I hope that was valuable for you, Kathryn. I hope it was valuable for our listeners.

For those of you who are listening, if you have a challenge that you want to share on the podcast, please reach out to me. I'd love to have you on as a guest.  

My email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com.  

If you have a challenge that you want to discuss, but maybe not so much on a podcast, please reach out to me as well. 

My email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com.  

Kathryn, thank you so much for being my guest today.  

[00:20:51] Kathryn Fortin:
Thank you so much. I appreciate this. It's been great to be your guest.

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