I had the pleasure of interviewing Cyndee Harrison, who recently launched Synaptic, a business consultancy that helps entrepreneurial leaders address their most common challenges–people, systems, and marketing.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Sure! My superpower is taking complex issues and breaking them down into smaller, more bite-sized pieces. This has helped me become successful as a trainer as well as a marketer.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
Launching Synaptic is a culmination of my last 20 years of training and experience, not only in Marketing but also in Operations and People Development. I’m confident in the training and initiatives that I’ve put together and I’m passionate about them.
Still, I think it’s always a little tricky to promote yourself since most of us suffer from imposter syndrome and have those moments of questioning why anyone in their right mind would listen to us. And so, it’s felt great to have so many people — some of whom I haven’t heard from in ages — who have stepped forward with words of encouragement and support. It’s been very humbling to realize the impact that I’ve made with different clients or projects or jobs that I’ve had along the way. So it’s been sincerely heartwarming to reconnect.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I don’t know if it’s funny to anyone else, but I always find myself kinda chuckling when I hear one of my advisors telling me to refine my message or be more succinct. Over the years, I’ve coached dozens of clients on the importance of doing exactly that and boiling their messaging down, and yet it’s a real ongoing struggle for me. I think that there are a lot of entrepreneurs who run into this sort of thing in their own businesses, feeling like the cobbler’s children who have no shoes.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The marketplace is flooded with solutions that are aimed at entrepreneurial leaders. Business owners have countless books to read or webinars to watch or conferences to attend. But bringing that back to their brick-and-mortar business and successfully executing new strategies throughout the organization can be challenging and lonely work. The Synaptic Approach is different because we walk through new initiatives with every level of the organization. We not only work with the business owners and leaders but with front-line employees. This approach keeps everyone focused and accountable and it’s why I am comfortable guaranteeing my work — because this is how long-term success if built, from the ground up. It’s something that I’m really proud of.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
One of my favorite mantras is ‘Everything is Temporary’. I think that fatigue is a natural byproduct of passion. Being an entrepreneur can be exhausting, no question. Focusing on the long-term objective rather than short-term “over-this-ness” can help prevent fatigue from evolving into full-blown burnout.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There have been so many people who have helped me along the way, it’s difficult to pin down just one. I’m lucky to have a lot of people in my life who are very entrepreneurial-minded and hardworking, particularly my family. When I think of one person of influence, I would have to say that my last job involved a lot of exposure to new things because it was such a unique situation.
I worked for a family-owned business, a pawnshop, that was the subject of a really successful reality television show. I’m lucky that my boss, a fourth-generation pawnbroker, was really generous in letting me take on new challenges and try some pretty remarkable things such as dozens of national and international media tours, a Financial Literacy Class for our customers and a Workforce Diversity project that provided meaningful employment to individuals on the Autism spectrum. As a result, I ended up traveling all around the world as well as all over the country not only on media events but also working with other business owners. Ironically, it helped me have the confidence to launch out on my own.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As I look back over my career, I’ve been a part of some pretty cool things that brought significant change into the world. I briefly mentioned a couple of them before, like the Financial Literacy Course and Workforce Diversity. But there’s one that is remarkable to me just because I could have never anticipated its outcomes.
The economic downturn that began in 2008 impacted donations to arts and cultural organizations across the country and Metro Detroit was particularly hard hit. I was managing communications for the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan at the time and it was our job to help these hard hit organizations not only survive but thrive.
We knew that one of the key things that these nonprofits needed to ensure their survivability was an online presence, so we launched a one-day online giving challenge using a pretty significant grant as a matching fund. The caveat was that in order to be eligible to participate, these organizations were required to have an online presence, something that most of them sorely lacked.
It was one of the first endeavors of its kind in the world and we raised almost $5M in a single day, all in online gifts, surpassing our original goal by almost $2M. I still get goosebumps when I think of this, because it started with a few of us huddling around a table helping these organizations launch their first Facebook pages or websites and it ended up contributing to their survivability in ways that remain important to this day.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite quotes is “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” by poet Mary Oliver. It’s a simple reminder that we really only get one chance to design a life that we will be content to look back upon someday. I do my best to remember how wild and precious each and every day really is.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1-FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN ATTAIN: When I was first exploring the possibility of launching a business consultancy, I found that there are a LOT of gurus out there whose webinars and emails promise untold fortunes and followers when you follow their approach. When I applied their revenue goals to my own work, however, I ended up with the feeling that I was falling short even though I was successful by any measure of a business launch. Therefore, I had to take a look back and re-examine the goals and success measures that I had set for myself and align them with my mission which is what I would advise others to do from day one.
2-WE LIVE IN A GOLDEN AGE—AS LONG AS YOU SEE IT FOR WHAT IT IS: Never before in history have we had the access to information, communications, and connectedness that we now enjoy. This shows no signs of stopping or slowing down, but that doesn’t mean that we need to abandon the personal interactions that make us human. So keep posting, keep growing your online reach … but keep on showing up too. Keep lunching and coffee-ing and mentoring and volunteering and networking and writing personal notes. Because we can’t know what’s next, be we do know this — our ability to connect to one another shouldn’t depend exclusively on any one channel or medium. My business launch really only felt real when I started kicking myself off of my laptop and showing up at networking events and reaching out to set in-person meetings with people that I know.
3-NOISE ISN’T KNOWLEDGE: Before I started researching my launch, I don’t think I fully appreciated how much the term ‘entrepreneur’ has morphed over the past few years. I have a personal friend who went on a nutritional program a couple years ago who now sells these products for the company. She not only considers herself an entrepreneur, but also an influencer in the personal nutrition space, largely based on the quantity of content that she posts to her social media profiles about the topic. I also have countless other connections who promote themselves as beauty industry influencers because they post videos of makeup tutorials. All of us enjoy feeling like our opinions and viewpoints matter and we all do have a level of influence over others, but we need to stop kidding ourselves. Not everyone should be an influencer.
4-ACTION WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE PRODUCES FAILURE: About 15 years ago, I launched a business that was remarkably successful. My success in executing gave me a really false sense of confidence in my own ability to do everything involved in running a business. As a result, I attempted to handle my own bookkeeping and accounting. And I ended up in a big mess. Luckily, I had good resources to help me clean it up, but it was long, painful, and expensive. I’d had the best of intentions and certainly wanted what was best for this company that I owned, but I unintentionally derailed the success of the business. Similarly, there are well-intentioned and highly motivated employees who make critical errors in business every single day because they’re tasked with doing things for which they have a skills gap. Motivation and mindset are never enough. When you don’t know what you’re doing, stop and ask and get help.
5-BE NICE TO YOURSELF: I’m my own harshest critic which is something that I think is pretty common to entrepreneurs. This time around, though, I’m taking some steps back to remind myself that I’m doing my very best every day—days that I knock it out of the park or days that I strike out swinging—and I am making a more conscious effort to stop myself when I hear negative self-talk bouncing around in my head.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It sounds sappy, but I wish that there was more of an emphasis placed on the importance of self-awareness in our society. When we each understand our own needs, desires, strengths, and shortcomings, I think it makes us more empathetic to others. We start to see the need for surrounding ourselves with others who can offset our weaknesses.
We live in a world where there’s so little privacy, even for those of us who aren’t famous or well-known. This connectedness can breed judgment and toxicity, whereas it would be really nice if we could reverse that and instead begin to look at one another and seeing our imperfections and faults as opportunities to relate to one another and support one another.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I love connecting on Linkedin and I’m pretty easy to find because I spell my name so oddly (Cyndee Harrison).
My Synaptic channels are all listed at http://www.synapticapproach.com and I’d love to hear feedback from your readers!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!