Dr. Reggie R. Lewis, founder and owner of Fusion Consulting Associates, LLC., formally launched her consulting business 12 years ago. However, she's been in consulting, in some form or fashion, her entire adult life. "My initial goal was to go to law school and become an attorney," she said. "I bought my first home as a sophomore in college. Although a huge feat for a college kid, the responsibility of a mortgage presented a challenge when I began to explore potential law schools. First year law students were discouraged from working for obvious reasons. This was a luxury I couldn’t afford. While it was indeed disappointing at the time, changing the course to obtain a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in Conflict Analysis and Resolution has been equally as gratifying. Before I graduated from undergrad, a family friend recommended I become a teacher. After some consideration, I decided to give it a shot."
Lewis ended up being more than just your average teacher. She taught fifth grade dropout prevention and worked with kids that were in foster care, adopted and/or abused. Although challenging and draining, she developed a great rapport with the kids and honed her 'consulting' skills along the way.
Lewis explained, "They couldn't keep a teacher in that classroom. I connected with them and stuck it out. I was able to reach them, but it was very heavy for me. After a year, I went back into the private sector. I then received a call to work at the high school level with at risk kids. I ended up staying in education for seven plus years, but I was always doing some government and business consulting on the side. Through it all, I still wasn't fully passionate about it. I thought to myself, 'I can be safe with this job or take a leap'. I remember praying to God to get that one project to allow me to jump out onto the stage and pursue my consulting business on a full-time basis. I remember hearing a voice telling me to leave, but I was terrified. My bank account didn't reflect the numbers that I needed to feel secure enough to leave my day job. Then one day I thought, there's no time better than the present and I made the jump."
Everyone around Lewis thought she was crazy for leaving a full-time steady job, but she knew it felt right. She wasn't living up to her full potential. A few weeks after leaving, her fears where a bit settled when she received a phone call from her brother. "He said, 'I believe in you and your potential', and he gave me a $10K check to help with the transition of leaving a guaranteed paycheck to pursue my dreams." Lewis admitted that it hasn't all been peaches and cream, but that she now knows what it means to be happy with your work.
Lewis loves being able to solve her client’s issues. She's very analytical and loves being able to identify challenges, find solutions and be a part of the solution. She's always been a go-to person. "My friends and family think I'm a genius, but I'm really just resourceful," she said with a laugh. She loves consulting because it affords her the opportunity to learn about a lot of different industries and apply her skills to unique challenges.
Lewis provides solutions to help clients cohesively blend their strategic vision into their day-to-day operations. She explained why this is important, "Even if you have a great mission and vision, things can and will take a turn. To optimize the potential of your company, you should continuously revisit those operational checkpoints. Organizations typically think they need to look at external options to grow, but there are lots of opportunities within. Look at your internal systems and human capital for opportunities to improve. Know where you are, where you're going and how to get there. Internal issues can impede that."
The consulting world is a crowded space, but Lewis has worked hard to set herself apart. She insists on a customized approach so it's not a one size fits all. She's adamant about learning everything about the client and where they want to go as a way to provide truly customized solutions. She goes 150% with every single client. She routinely follows up and provides continuous assistance along the way.
Lewis shared a recent success story. "I do a lot in government contracting and working with clients to help them win state, local and federal contracts," she said. "I had one client going after a particular government contract for quite some time with no success. For nearly 20 years he attempted to do so on his own to no avail, fortunately for him his luck changed when he began working with our firm. To strengthen his position for the opportunity, we conducted a needs analysis and identified critical areas like finances and human capital he needed to adjust to land some of these bigger projects. We put these elements in place and he ended up winning the multi-million dollar project as the Prime contractor as oppose to the subcontractor position he had grown accustom to over the years."
By all accounts, Lewis has built a successful consulting business that she can be proud of, but, like most entrepreneurs, she had her fair share of early challenges. "I had to get out of my own head and that state of paralysis," she said. "I had to realize that I had the potential. I didn't give myself as much credit as I should have. Life happens and you defer dreams. I had to embrace that this is where my heart was. I also had to learn to not allow my clients to dictate my actions. It's important to generate revenue as quickly as possible, but taking every project that came my way wasn't the best use of my resources. There's a big difference between following the trend and being pulled in different directions just to generate revenue. I had to learn that it's okay to say no. There’s a delicate balance between being assertive but not overly aggressive. Pricing was also a challenge. I initially based my prices on what I thought my clients could afford. That was a big mistake. It took a while for me to master the art of pricing my services and securing clients that valued my expertise and were willing to pay. Thank God, I finally got it."
Lewis' future plans include diversifying her reach and offerings. She currently has a tech project underway and is entering the digital space to increase her brand awareness. "I haven't done a great job with promoting my company through social media," she said. "I'm now realizing that it's impossible to grow to the next level without being actively engaged in social media. I need to embrace it. I also want to continue doing speaking engagements in the organizational development and federal contracting world. I'm currently on a panel teaching people to know when to grow, hold or fold their businesses and how to develop proven strategies to win more government contracts. I’m learning to embrace the many public speaking opportunities and new ventures I’m being offered unlike before. This year I committed to stepping out of my way and saying “yes” more when pushed out of my comfort zone. I’m proud to say, the results have been incredibly rewarding.”
Lewis offers up some great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. "Trust your instinct," she said. "If it's in your heart and your mind, jump out and do it. If you don't jump, it might lead to hurt and resentment. Be tenacious and passionate. Passion will give you staying power when things get tough. You will face moments of adversity. You have to be intentional about what it is that you want to do. Don't allow your dreams to subside. Also, understand your market and build valuable relationships. People need to understand that you're a person of integrity and that it's not just about giving them a business card. It's about really getting to know people. Your name speaks louder than any dollar value. Be intentional about helping people and take time to be a good person. It's also important to utilize available business resources and to be deliberate about your business development. Lastly, don't underestimate the value of sweat equity. You get out of your business what you put into it."