Following a successful 30-year corporate IT career, capped by a doctorate degree in Business Administration, Elizabeth Kerns combined her passion for business and IT with a growing desire to achieve her dreams and launched Elan Advisory in June 2017. Kerns shared the story behind her journey, including the source of her inspiration and what she hopes to accomplish in this new chapter of her life.
"I grew up in Wisconsin, but quickly departed the Midwest after college for warmer weather and sunshine," she said. "I spent the next 20 years in the Asia Pacific region working for Mobil Oil in Guam, Micronesia, Philippines and Singapore, and for professional service firms in Hawaii. It was a great adventure, but after 20 years, I realized that life is about relationships and family. That's when I moved to Florida to reunite with my family and was fortunate to be able to continue my IT career as CIO of a major hospital and healthcare organization in central Florida."
Kerns continued, "Five years ago, I started my doctorate degree program. Suddenly I was surrounded by incredibly bright and innovative faculty and classmates who inspired me to think about how I was spending my time. It made me question whether or not I was contributing to the world and achieving my dreams or just collecting a paycheck. That stoked a fire in me. I enjoyed leading others, but I always dreamed of having my own business."
Kerns seriously considered many different businesses, including a coffee shop and a gift a boutique, before ultimately deciding to follow her heart and focus on 'practicality'. She wanted a business where she was an expert with the opportunity to share that knowledge with the next generation of business leaders. Because of her passion for IT and her love of the fast-changing pace of the industry, it made sense to focus on a business in this space.
"Half way through my doctorate program, and after watching other classmates start businesses, I realized that I could definitely do it. I decided that when I graduated, I would set in motion a plan to leave my corporate career and start my own business. However, it didn't exactly go as planned. I got too anxious and, before I even graduated, I transitioned out of my hospital CIO role. Even though I wasn't completely prepared, I couldn't wait any longer. I was excited to take the leap."
Elan Advisory focuses on three IT areas: Leadership, Assessments and Business Support. With services that include IT strategic planning, interim leadership, project implementation, assessments of IT staff and infrastructure, technology selections, vendor contracting, and others, Kerns has quickly built a solid reputation by delivering quality results to healthcare companies, small businesses and non-profit government organizations.
"Even though I didn't have a perfectly clear vision when I first launched the business, I was fortunate that my previous employer retained me as a consultant," Kerns said. "This gave me time to develop my brand and to work on my 'elevator pitch'. I also identified a gap that I could fill in the industry. Most healthcare provider organizations, as well as other businesses, are rapidly adopting technology that needs to be optimized and there are limited skills and resources available to help. With emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, telemedicine and cybersecurity, these organizations often need additional help and guidance."
Utilizing her vast network of corporate connections, Kerns has organically grown her business from referrals, with many as repeat clients. The satisfaction she gets from running her own business and making an impact on her terms is perhaps the most gratifying part.
"I loved my corporate career and I learned tremendously from it," Kerns said. "However, this is a new kind of fulfillment. I get to spend more time studying the industry and thinking about creative solutions to the complex problems. Also, the freedom of not having to be at work at a certain time gives me a better work life balance. This flexibility gives me more time to spend with family and also allows me to keep up with the rapidly changing IT industry."
Looking ahead, Kerns is focused on continuing to serve her current client base and welcoming new ones. She's committed to sustainable growth, but understands the importance of preparing for a possible increase in demand. To that end, she's building a small bench of bright and trusted colleagues to call on if she needs additional resources. In the coming year, she'll also look to increase her web and social media presence.
What advice does Kerns have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "I almost talked myself out of this adventure because of fear, outside influences and all sorts of obstacles," she said. "We just celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and one of his quotes is, 'Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase'. This is a great message. If you have a dream of being a business owner or have an idea to solve a problem, then set a goal, clear your mind of self-doubt and embrace the challenge. And always remember, it’s never too late to start, as this quote conveys, “Never too young to start an empire. Never too old to chase a new dream'. "