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CEO by day and Artist by night, Michelle Carlen is in Alignment!

Tell us about who you are and a little bit about your background?

I am a Southern California native, born and raised in Pasadena. I grew up with one brother in the same house where my parents still reside today. As a child, my academic and social environment was shaped around an intimate community experience. I attended a small private school with just 100 students in the entire K -12 grades. After high school, I went to work where my mother had previously been a travel agent at a local travel company. My early exposure in the hospitality and travel industry was confirming travel reservations as an office assistant and working as a server in restaurants. One day my boss at the travel company encouraged me to apply for an entry-level sales job at the Pasadena Convention Visitors Bureau. I took his advice because he felt I had an opportunity to advance my career through this transition. I did all this while I was attending Cal Poly Pomona where I later graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. I spent my career representing various destinations from San Diego, to Orange County and up through the Central Coast of California. My work was focused on business- to -business sales and marketing strategies to attract businesses to hold events and conventions, as well as drive, hotel stays to the destinations, I represented through business development and marketing. Over the course of two decades, I utilized my business skillset to really help the organizations I worked for to find better ways to manage resources, adjust strategies and tactics, create a more positive work environment, and mentor and training of staff. Along the way, I served industry colleagues as an advisor (by virtue of them asking me for help) to support them with career transitions and resume writing.

Tell us about your business. What services do you offer?

I formed my business, Alignment Advising, a business and professional development consulting practice based on my desire to leverage my skills of working with organizations and individuals to adjust and pivot into reaching their “alignment”. When we are in alignment, things flow, and we are better able to reach our goals and ultimately our potential and success. My company provides sales, marketing, and operational tools and process optimization support for businesses to navigate and overcome challenges and creating a better workplace culture, freeing up their energy and resources to attain goals. I also work with individuals to understand their professional goals in their careers. Whether they seek to be a better leader in their current workplace, or they wish to transition to a new job or even industry. I guide them in this process to help them uncover and gain direction, clarity, and confidence to take the next steps.

The services I provide are in a consultative and advisory role to guide one down a forward-moving path. Each client’s needs are different and upon initial consultation, I focus on what areas we can shine a light on and adjust.

When did you decide to start your own business and why?

For several years I have dreamt of owning my own business. It wasn’t clear to me exactly what I would do, but I knew I would be helping others in some way through the business environment and supporting positive growth from an organizational perspective, but also a personal one. I had started saving money to quit my last full-time position. Shortly thereafter, I found myself at a major crossroad. In this dilemma, I had made the right decision to uphold ethical business practices, but ultimately lost my job in doing so. This motivated me, even more, to see how I could help others who face difficult situations in the workplace and professional setbacks. I chose the time given as an opportunity for introspection on how I could reach others and bring them my skills and experience in growing companies, but also creating company cultures that value best business practices and the development of talent of their employees. I started with a few part-time clients and eventually went through a formal process of forming my business in December 2019.

What would you say is the secret to a successful business?

The secret to a successful business is all in how you define success. I like taking time to have perspective, evaluating where I am during each step in the process. Knowing how you define success can help you set up benchmarks, long-term goals, and vision. I personally define success through quantitative and qualitative metrics that are focused from the business environment of which I am operating. I believe in giving 100% to my efforts and only I know if I am really doing that.

Have you ever felt like you wanted to give up?

No, I have not ever felt I wanted to give up. However, there have been downtimes where I felt that negativity was taking over. So, I decided to focus my energy on how I can do better the next time and quit giving energy to any doubts. In doing so, the doubt has gone away, and more positive energy has ensued making me much more productive but also realistic about celebrating small wins along the way to my long-term goals.

was the biggest challenge that you have experienced owning your own business?

I believe my greatest challenge probably lies ahead as I continue to grow my business. Just like many of my clients, the biggest challenge is overcoming the fear of change and the unknown. I have had fears of going out on my own but ultimately decided to take the plunge and am now thrilled I did.

Have you ever experienced negativity from those closest to you? family or friends? How would you encourage those who are experiencing negativity to power through?

Yes, all the time. Sometimes it is because our family and/or friends are concerned for our success and do not want to see us fail or endure heartbreak

For the most part, I set their opinions aside and focus on what I believe will serve the purpose God has for me. (1 Kings 11:38 NKJV)

If you are experiencing negativity it is to show you your own insecurities. Acknowledge them, but do not allow them to overcome you. Choose to overcome them by pursuing what you really are passionate about. Only you can make that decision for yourself. No one else is walking in your shoes.

What are your future goals regarding your business?

I have so many goals, I think I need to start narrowing them down into a few buckets. My ultimate desire is to help as many organizations and individuals as possible to help them find their alignment.

I also plan to write a book focused on my own lessons in hopes that it will inspire others to pursue their passions, dreams and for them to never give up on finding that they deserve the best.

What advice would you give new business owners?

ALWAYS be open, even if you feel you know how to open or run your business. Being open to meeting new networks of people, or learning new things related or unrelated to your field opens up possibilities you never thought of or knew of. I recommend joining an association or group that is like minded that can help you advance yourself. Always “count the cost” of what it is you are undertaking so that you don’t overcommit yourself ahead of time. Ultimately, being willing to get outside your comfort zone as that is where real growth happens.

Are there any success quotes you have adapted that you now live by that you want to share to encourage others?

There are a few. I’ve also started to develop my own quotes as I go on my own journey. Here’s a few of my favorites:

"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." ~ Maya Angelou

“Patience, it’s required”. ~ Anonymous

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to change you into something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Choose the present moment to make small consistent steps towards your goals, ultimately making way for the realization of your dreams”. ~ Michelle Carlen

“Don’t live in chains when you have the key to set yourself free”. ~ Michelle Carlen

Additional Info:

Please also consider reading some of my blogs to give you added perspective.

Here is my art website too for you to enjoy!

Interview by: Samuel Thompson

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