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Tinu Abayomi-Paul: business leader showcase

By getting to know how business leaders tick, we may groom our own leadership paths. Today, we chat with Tinu Abayomi-Paul who has owned a successful web visibility company for over 14 years.

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Tinu Abayomi-Paul

Tinu Abayomi-Paul

Business leader showcase

This East Coast gal is stuck on West Coast time, and once dreamed of being called the Honorable Abayomi-Paul. Tinu Abayomi-Paul is the Owner of Leveraged Promotions, established in 1998, and today spends time telling AG readers what her days look like, what keeps her up at night, and things that only people very close to her would know.

We often revere leaders, but often for their current work, without knowing where they came from, but by knowing what makes people tick, we can not only better connect with one another, but we stand to gain by being able to identify with traits shared with various leaders as a means of inspiring our own leadership paths.

Below is an unedited interview with Abayomi-Paul, in her own words:

Tell us about yourself and your work.

There arel all kinds of fancy words and phrases used to describe what I do but it boils down to this: I help businesses get more customers via the web, which includes mobile.

I’ve been doing this since 1998, at first working just with friends’ sites or organizations that weren’t pursuing a profit. At one point I owned the third most popular poetry site in the world, after poetry.com and Def Poetry Jam. It was called Fireseek, then later Urban Poetic. We had a partnership with About.com which included advertising. At the time I had a full time job, and that advertising got me the equivalent of an extra paycheck after I shared it with my partner.

Due to some health concerns and losing my job, I started thinking about how great it would be to help other people do what I did with the poetry site. At first it started out as helping other people get an extra paycheck a month. Then in 2004, I made more in one day than I did in a month at my temp job. The place I was working for went back on a promise to give me time off for my sister’s wedding. I quit and never looked back. I taught myself everything I could about promoting a business via the web – while promoting my business via the web. I tested things, then sold the knowledge or did the same for other companies.

Walk us through a typical day in your life.

My days living in Las Vegas, where I started my business, have spoiled me – my body won’t switch back from West coast time no matter what I do. I typically get up around 9 am East coast time unless I have something pressing to do. I start the day with research – what has happened with Google, social media, marketing, or PR since I went to bed? Have my colleagues written anything that would inspire me to debate or creation?

Then I share what I’ve discovered, do some commenting. Then I write. Articles, blog posts, work on books I’m writing, ghostwriting sometimes. About once a week I incorporate the creation of audio and video content – new habit I’m forming. By this time it’s midday.

At this point I check in with all my teams to make sure all the client projects are going well. Then I double-check my email, text, social media and phone messages to make sure I haven’t missed any fires that need to be put out.

After lunch is when I have the majority of my meetings. I find myself mentally sharper as the day goes on, even though I tend to get physically tired faster if I don’t pace myself.

I try to wrap it up by 6 pm, but I fail about 40% of the time, so my day often ends around 8, much as it pains me to admit.

What did you do before your current career?

I was in IT, mostly Help Desk. My last long-term job was with the MGM Mirage. They have this cool command center wall – you know how in the movies, NASA has this wall full of screens with lots of different information? It was like that. Before I moved to Vegas, I worked on the Help Desk at the IMF. I was working the swing shift with the Mission Travelers. People would go to remote areas where sometimes there was only dial-up access, so we couldn’t connect to a person’s computer like we could if they were in the building. Nor could we have come drop off their computers. So we would have to visualize the problem and give them oral instructions for how to fix things.

It was ideal for me because I have a kind of photographic memory. It’s not like on TV – it’s more like if I’ve seen something recently and enough times, I can remember something I’ve seen like I’m still looking at it. Like I can be in the supermarket, and look at the last time I saw the refrigerator to know if we have something.

What is something unique that you do to balance work and life?

I meditate and read affirmations. It reduces stress and helps me focus. I used to do it daily, and that what when I was most successful with the least effort. Working my way back to that.

What keeps you up at night?

I don’t have payroll, because I hire other companies instead of other people. It’s cleaner until I need permanent people. But making sure I have enough work to keep working with the same teams keeps me up at night. I am also almost at the point where I need a permanent assistant. So I worry about finding room for that in the budget on a consistent basis, someone trainable but who already has the basic skills I need. I was burned once by someone who was a sharp self-starter, but turned out to be untrustworthy.

If you could spend one day in the life of another industry leader, who would it be?

Toni Morrison. She was an editor for a long time, then started writing at 45. She later won a Pulitzer Price and a Nobel Peace Price. At heart, I’m a writer, I think what we read fuels who we are. So I’d love to see how her mind works from the inside.

What tools can you not live without?

I’d throw my phone in a lake if I could. I hate texting, and I want my phone to do less, not more. answer calls consistently and stfu. But my work and my life need to be mobile. Not to mention the fact that I’m addicted to mobile apps.

So I’d have to say my iPad. A very close second would be Jungle Disk – a product by Rackspace that, in conjunction with Amazon s3, gives my company network drives. I also adore LastPass. I kill PC laptops in six months on average, so instead of constantly losing everything, I just save it all to the cloud. I back stuff up to a brick too but with a network drive you don’t have to go through the restore process.

If you could start your current career over, what would you do differently?

I would have skipped directly to owning a company that builds useful or fun software, and focused on creating content for the people who liked the software my company built. I thought I had to be able to code and all that. And I had a serious problem, which I’m currently still getting over, with thinking I had to do everything 1- myself and 2- perfectly. Now i know it’s more important to be timely, and that I can correct as I go. The grammar police and the haters will find something wrong with what you’re doing no matter what.

I’d be making mobile apps and web apps for business now. I still will but it would have been nice to have been doing this from the beginning.

At age 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As my mother constantly reminds me, I wanted to get a PhD like my father, and also be a judge. I fantasized about being called the Honorable Dr. Abayomi-Paul. I will likely still get a doctorate, but I eventually realized that my dream was to go to law school, not to be a lawyer. And I decided I’d wait until I could afford to go without getting deeper into school loan debt, and if I still wanted to do it, I would.

Tell us something about you that people wouldn’t believe unless they knew you.

I’m much quieter in person than my long, rambly writing would have you believe. MUCH.

What inspirational quote has stuck with you the longest?

I’m paraphrasing what I was told is Emerson, but I can’t remember what essay this quote is in, nor have I had much luck Googling it.

“Your attitude towards a given situation is more important than the facts that actually prevail.”

I’ve found that to be universally true. Most of think our thoughts and emotions are just electrical impulses that happen to us, that we’re enslaved to them. In life I’ve learned that your thoughts are a choice that you can make conscious, and that we can control a great deal of our emotions. Some of my early close friends think it odd the way I often deal with conflict, because they grew up with me being confrontational, even when the situation didn’t necessarily call for it.

But around college, I began to realize that if my TRUE goal is to resolve a conflict, and not just to win an argument or stress myself, then what’s the point of arguing over stupid things? It’s not like your anger can Do anything. It’s not like worry makes things better. It’s not as if your tears have curative powers. I’m not dead inside or anything – I still have so-called negative emotions. But now, instead of something bothering me for weeks or months, I have learned to shift my focus so it only affects me for minutes or hours.

Most incredibly, it’s what frees up my energy for achieving what I want to in life. Drop as much of your baggage as you can – no one helps you carry it.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Tinu

    June 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    @shashib Thanks Shashi. 🙂

  2. AmyVernon

    June 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    I haven’t known Tinu that long, so it was really great to learn more about her background. That said, I’m not the slightest bit surprised at all the awesomeness she’s done. I’m so glad you profiled her – she’s someone who really gets “it,” whatever “it” that may be at the time. She’s also the hardest working woman in show business, someone I truly look up to and admire.

    • Tinu

      June 28, 2012 at 4:56 pm

       @AmyVernon Thank you so much Amy. I’ve been in meetings for the past few hours but I tell you, I’ve been on a (natural!) high all day at being featured in AG Beat. Really, since I was asked. It’s so humbling, and such an honor. Looking forward to getting to know you better, FW. 😉

  3. Tinu

    June 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    @kamichat Thank you, Kami and of course @AGBeat. Wonderful day because of this.

    • AGBeat

      June 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      @Tinu @kamichat #lovingit

  4. Tinu

    June 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    @AnneWeiskopf Thanks Anne. 🙂 Miss you.

    • AnneWeiskopf

      June 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      @tinu Miss you too. Hope to be up for air soon. xoxo

  5. Tinu

    June 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    @dyhatchett Glad you liked it, Danielle. Thanks for spreading the word.

  6. Tinu

    June 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    @AmyVernon Thanks wifey. 🙂 You’re the best.

  7. maddiegrant

    June 28, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    What an awesome interview!  Tinu you are an inspiring woman!

    • Tinu

      June 28, 2012 at 4:56 pm

       @maddiegrant Thanks Maddie. Means a lot coming from you. 

  8. ginidietrich

    June 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    It’s so funny how we attract friends who are so much like ourselves. I had no idea about some of these things about Tinu, but now it makes perfect sense I love her as much as I do. I have the same sort of photographic memory she describes (drives my friends and family nuts), I also wanted to go to law school, but not be a lawyer, and I’m an introvert.
     
    This is a really, really good interview, Lani. I learned so much about my friend!

    • Tinu

      June 28, 2012 at 4:58 pm

       @ginidietrich NO WAY. Well. I knew about the introvert part but… NO WAY! Wow, this is incredible. You know, I didn’t Used to attract friends like myself. I used to attract people who needed to be taken care of in some way. Don’t know if I had some kind of martyr complex or what. But that’s besides the point – the point is, I made and am making a conscious decision to move more towards successful people I admire like you and the other ladies in this thread. It blows my mind to find that I’m on the right path. Can’t wait to talk more about our similarities!

      • ginidietrich

        June 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm

         @Tinu You’re TOTALLY on the right path. And we have an awesome photo together – one of my favorites, by far.

        • Tinu

          June 28, 2012 at 6:45 pm

           @ginidietrich I freaking love that picture. 🙂 We look happy and amazing.

  9. jasonkonopinski

    June 28, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Hey! I know her. 🙂
     
    Fantastic interview indeed. 

    • Tinu

      June 28, 2012 at 5:00 pm

       @jasonkonopinski Jason! Hey. Thanks for reading this. Wasn’t sure how folks would take this, as it petrifies me to open up, truth be told. Your supportive comment is more helpful than you know.

  10. OSoyombo

    June 28, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    @ginidietrich she’s Nigerian too !

  11. Tinu

    June 28, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    @PivotPointCom Thank you ladies. 🙂

  12. Tinu

    June 28, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    @ginidietrich Now that’s high praise coming from you. Thank you SO much. 🙂

    • ginidietrich

      June 28, 2012 at 5:09 pm

      @Tinu LOVED that interview!

  13. Shonali

    June 28, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    I consider you a good friend, @Tinu , but I learned so much about you from this that I didn’t know before…! So cool. And I can absolutely vouch for you being much quieter in person. On the other hand, it’s not that much different, because if people read below (ot between) the lines of what you write, they are able to see the deep thought… and that’s what I see when I see you IRL. Which is why I SO much love spending time with you IRL (never enough).
    I wanted to be a lawyer too, at one point… did I ever tell you that? I still think I’d make a terrific lawyer (and, perhaps, why I make a good PR person – at the risk of sounding arrogant – because I weigh all sides of a situation).
    This was just a terrific interview, Lani!

    • Tinu

      June 29, 2012 at 12:28 am

       @Shonali Wow. I can’t wait until next week. 😉 It’s absolutely wonderful to know you in life. No, I didn’t know you wanted to be a lawyer. And the best thing about this interview is what I’m learning about the people all around me. 🙂 

  14. Tinu

    June 29, 2012 at 12:33 am

     @laniar This comment is addressed directly to you, Lani. Thank you so much for the opportunity to be showcased. I can’t tell you how much I swelled up with pride and then blushed with humility and then rose with pride again, over and over today. You know, I’m one of those people who will look at several thousand positive experiences and focus on the one bad thing that happened, if left to my own devices. And today was one of those days where I felt like I disappointed someone who I was trying to help. Tried to make it better, but they were pretty much done with me. (And I later realized – the crazy thing is that they were mad at me for doing as they asked!  So the real issue was the consequences of making bad decisions. anyway…)So I was feeling inadequate and then pissed at myself for not knowing that I should have walked away from that situation a lot earlier than I did. Normally, like I said in the article, I would let something like that go rather quickly. But this was one of those cases where the incident dragged out over the entire day.  So every time I got over it, there it was again. However, I had this to focus on. I don’t do what I do for recognition or even acknowledgement… but when it comes it sure does my heart good. Thank you so much. 

    • laniar

      June 29, 2012 at 12:41 am

       @Tinu I typically reserve my highest regards for people like you that are so hard on themselves, wear their heart on their sleeve, and lose sleep over things never being good enough. It’s tough, but it’s that drive that separates people like you, and you are so very highly admired for your endlessly positive traits. This was a fun interview!!

      • Tinu

        June 29, 2012 at 12:53 am

         @laniar Thank you. That really means a lot. 🙂

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Business Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs: You’re unemployable in your own company, must define your role

(ENTREPRENEURS) Once you’ve built a successful business, it’s time to reexamine your role and determine where you fit in best.

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startup optimize to key metric

In my experience, most entrepreneurs are “accidental entrepreneurs.” They happened to be good at something, or they had a unique one-time opportunity to provide a product or service to the market. Then years later, they wake up one day and realize that they’re running a big business.

As an entrepreneur, one of the unintended consequences of building a business is that you become essentially unemployable within your own organization. After living the life of freedom, flexibility and responsibility of being a business owner, it’s difficult to go back to a “nine-to-five” job. This is why many entrepreneurs don’t enjoy staying with their businesses after they’ve sold to other organizations. Within months, they are frustrated that they’re no longer in control and the new owners are (in their opinion) making poor choices.

I see many situations where entrepreneurs are bad employees in their own organization. In fact, they may be the worst team members in the organization by having inconsistent schedules or poor communication skills and/or by inserting themselves into areas that aren’t useful. They can also have too much freedom and flexibility. And while most entrepreneurs insist on clearly defined roles, expectations and goals for all of their employees, they don’t always take the time to define their own roles, expectations and goals.

So why do entrepreneurs become bad employees?

I believe that it’s because they don’t have someone holding them accountable. Think about it: Who do they report to? They’re the owners. Part of the definition of “owner” is being accountable for everything but not accountable to anyone. Having a board of directors, a peer group or a business coach can provide some accountability for them, but another solution is to clarify their roles in the company and then abide by those definitions.

If you find yourself “unemployable” in your business, it’s time to define your role. It starts with outlining your main focus. Do you concentrate more on day-to-day execution or strategic, long-term decisions? Do you consider yourself an owner-operator or an investor?

Most entrepreneurs start as an owner-operator and put in countless hours of sweat equity doing whatever needs to be done to build the business. But over time they reinvest earnings in the business and hire a management team so they can step back and take on a more strategic role. Sometimes it’s not clear when the entrepreneur makes that transition, which can lead to challenges for the entire team.

Focus: Strategic Overview

If your main role is in dealing with long-term, strategic decisions, then it’s important for you to communicate that to the team. Clearly delegate tactical roles and responsibilities to the leadership team.

I’ve seen many instances where owners do more harm than good by haphazardly injecting themselves into tactical decisions that should be handled by the leadership team. Instead of jumping in when they see something they disagree with, I encourage owners to actively “coach” their leadership team to be better leaders. The approach of micromanaging every decision of others will frustrate everyone and lead to an underperforming organization.

I have one client that decided his role was to build strategic relationships and work on a new service offering. He was confident that his leadership team could handle the day-to-day operations of the business. Over time he discovered that being in the office every day was actually a distraction for him and his team. So, he moved his office out of the building.

To maintain his ownership responsibilities to the company, he scheduled one afternoon a week to physically be in the office. Team members knew they could schedule time with him during that weekly window when he temporarily set up office space in a conference room. Not having a permanent office in the building also sent a message to the team that he was not responsible for day-to-day decisions. Sometimes not having an office in the building is better than the team seeing the owner’s office empty on a regular basis.

Focus: Day-to-Day Execution

If you decide that your role is in the day-to-day execution of the business, then clearly define your role in the same way you would define any other team member role. Are you in charge of marketing? Sales? Finance? Operations? Technology? R&D? Or, some combination of multiple roles? Take the time to outline your responsibilities and communicate them to the team.

Just as you define your role, also define what you are NOT going to do and who is responsible for those areas. After all, sectioning off some tactical work does not abdicate you from long-term decision-making. You must set aside time to make the long-term, strategic decisions of the company.

Being an entrepreneur sounds glamorous to those that haven’t done it, but ultimately, the owner is accountable for everything that happens in their organization. It can be quite sobering. And while some entrepreneurs have a delusional belief that they can do everything in a company, it’s not a path to long-term success.

All entrepreneurs have to decide what their role should be in their organization – even if it means that they’re contributing to their “unemployable” status.

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Startups love pondering inclusion, yet half have no women in leadership

(STARTUPS) Tech startups are a huge part of discussing diversity and inclusion, but something as simple as hiring women in management somehow remains elusive.

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women in leadership lean out

According to the Silicon Valley Bank’s annual report, over half of startups have no women on their leadership team. None.

As hard as this fact is to believe, it is also hardly breaking news. Organizations who have surveyed startups and technology companies for the past several years have seen that long-standing trends that disadvantage women and other genders in the tech space are still at play.

Like many other gendered debates about the treatment of women and other minority workers, this problem is seemingly a Catch 22 or a chicken and egg situation. Critics will continue to argue that the reason ladies aren’t in leadership roles is because they don’t have innate leadership qualities or that once their non-male employees have proven themselves, then they will start getting the resources and promotions that they say that they desire.

Like many other myths about women in the workforce, these beliefs only serve to reinforce the status quo by transferring the responsibility for these frustrating conditions onto the marginalized party.

These beliefs are busted not only because they’re tired gender clichés, but because we have hard data that proves the financial and cultural benefit in long-term effects of women leadership in tech.

However, for all the discussion of diversity initiatives, the likelihood of traditional funding going to women-led startups is still small.

For now, startups with women in leadership roles were more likely to get their funding from investing teams that were also led by females. Wouldn’t it be great if other investors began to not only understand that in 2019 it’s imperative that a company’s leadership reflect the diversity of the employees that comprise it? That workers will be more motivated, feel more understood, and have greater buy-in when they identify with their management?

Empowering women is how more get involved in tech. Diversity of leadership helps organizations thrive. And if something as simple as binary gender diversity is such a tremendous challenge, all other diversity issues are still (unfortunately) a large mountain to climb.

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Business Entrepreneur

C. J. Walker: America’s first self-made millionaire was a black orphan

(ENTREPRENEUR) When you think of our nation’s first self-made millionaire, C. J. Walker is probably not the picture that may come to mind, but this generous genius made it to the top, breaking every glass ceiling possible.

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These days, it seems like Oprah gets all the bragging rights. I don’t think it’s quite fair that some car-gifting mogul gets to bask in the glory of a path that was paved a century ago. **No offense, O Great Winfrey. You’re cool, too. Please don’t take my Altima back.**

It’s time to pay our respects to the first female self-made millionaire in America. My friends, I’d like to introduce you to your new idol, Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C. J. Walker.

This gal had just about every card in the deck working against her. Both of her parents and all of her siblings before her were born into slavery. Her mother died when she was five, and her father passed the following year. Orphaned, she lived with her older sister until she married at age 14.

As if that wasn’t enough, a mere two years after her first child was born, Sarah’s husband died. I mean, she just couldn’t catch a break. Unfortunate event after unfortunate event. She then moved to St. Louis to live with her brothers, working as a washer woman for a mere dollar a day. Classic rags-to-riches stuff.

Her brothers worked at a local barber shop, and she wound up learning a thing or two about hair care while sharing a home with them. This planted the seed that would lead to her working with Annie Turnbo Malone, selling African American hair care products. As she learned more about hair, she must have realized she had a knack for it, because she decided to roll up her sleeves and put some indie elbow grease in.

After moving to Denver to work on her own products, she married Charles Walker, who provided the advertising know-how that would help her venture succeed. She adopted the name C. J. Walker and began traveling and training women in the fields of beauty and sales.

Eleven years later, in 1917, she called her first convention of so-called “beauty culturists” in Philadelphia. Here, she rewarded her top agents as well as those who were the most philanthropic towards local charities.

What I love about C. J. is that as her business grew, so did her awareness of the social climate around her. She never forgot where she came from, never hesitated to give back, and never gave up. She lectured on topics such as women’s independence, helping educate other black women in the ways of business.

Upon her death, it was determined that she was the wealthiest African-American woman in the country. In true C. J. style, she left two-thirds of her future profits to charity.

If I ever get mega-famous, I’m doing it the C. J. Walker way: Keep a level head, educate and help others, and put your community first.

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