Nora: I’m really excited to introduce my guest today. She is the CEO of Making People Priority Consulting Group. Over the past 30 years she has worked with some major companies. Her experience in training and development is extensive. You are going to love to hear her story. In addition to designing curriculum, she develops resources for churches, non profit groups, does a lot of great training and develops with material. She has authored many books, I think it says 30 here somewhere. Welcome Stella Payton to our podcast. I’m so excited to have you share your story.
Stella: Thank you so much for having me. I am always honored when people want to hear what makes you – you. I think our story really helps to create and design who we are in the long run. I’m truly honored and thank you for having me.
Nora: Wonderful. Please start sharing your story when you were a very young single.
Stella: I think for the sake of having a chronology. I’ll break the story up into two big chunks.
The first chunk really stems from years ago when I was in my late 20’s or early 30’s. My son was born when I was 30 so a lot of the story that I am going to share initially started in that time frame. It’s really about how we don’t always get to choose your path. Sometimes your path chooses you. I think in my case, my path chose me. I have always loved teaching, training, and facilitation. Once I learned what that meant so in my early years as a young adult just out of college I did a lot of work in human resources, training and development. I was a recruiter, I did almost all of the compensation and benefits and did all of the pieces of HR that a person who aspires to work in that field does. Like most people, life happens so when I was in my late 20’s I had an unplanned pregnancy and I at that point decided it was a very difficult time for me but I decided not to have an abortion and I had my son. I had worked for a number of companies so I had a little bit of money saved so I set that money aside and I lived off a little and when my money ran out my son was a little older I started looking for work and couldn’t find anything. Nobody would hire me. It was like, I was even looking for $8/hr admin jobs ….. whatever just anything, anything. I was even turned down for an $8/hr admin job so you can imagine where my self esteem was, it was in the tank especially after working with really cool companies like Apple Computer, Silicon Graphics, just really great companies across silicon valley. When I couldn’t find anything and my money ran out, and then a series of other unfortunate events occurred…..somebody stole my car and ran it into a tree, I ended up getting evicted from my apartment but in the middle of this, I hear this voice somewhere in my universal mind, some people call it God, whatever you ascribe to it, this voice told me that “you should start a business”. I’m thinking, I can’t start a business ….. I don’t even have a decent car. Again, it was very persistent. “you need to start a business, start your own consulting firm”. At that point, being a person of reasonable faith I guess, I started thinking about it and praying about it and I did. I went home ….I’ve always been a proponent of doing the best you can with what you have right now. At that point, all I had in hand was a pencil and 5:20 notepad so I started writing outlines and said “well if I had my own consulting company and could teach my own content, what would I teach? So I started outlining my ideas for curriculum.
At that point I was on welfare, I think my child support was $490/mo and I had just been evicted from my old apartment so I hurried up and ran to get another apartment before the eviction hit my credit score. We managed. I think it was from small miracles. That to me was a small miracle because at that point the only child support check I ever got came the week the first month’s rent was due on the new place. It came that week. We were able to secure the place and got moved. Not long after that I had connected with a really amazing guy who was with the Nation of Islam, he was Muslim but he was an amazing person and just extremely helpful for me. He began to coach me in the principles of business. One of the things I learned his name was Muhammad. One of the things that Muhammad taught me was that you can never be moved by the presence or absence of money. You have to learn to act the same way if money is there or isn’t. If you train yourself to do that, then you will be consistent in your business behavior. There have been times when I’ve had hundreds of thousands of dollars in my account and there have been times when I was in the negative.
Muhammad told me of a show he did called “On the Positive Side”. He said “you call in and hear this show” so I did and that night I was listening to his show “On the Positive Side”. He happened to be talking about something I was passionate about on customer service so as I’m listening to it again that same little voice that told me a few months earlier to start my own business said “call in and give them your philosophy of service” so I did. I called in and talked for about five minutes and game them my philosophy of service and as a result I get a call after the show from a store that wanted me to come to a presentation for their customer service training at the store. So I ended up going to that presentation and at that point I only had one reference point of how to charge and I ended up charging $200.00 for that 30 minute presentation. That same voice that told me to start a business and then call the show, said use that money as seed for the future. So I took the whole $200.00 check and I gave it away. Not knowing that within a week I would get a phone call from the regional manager of that store and they hired me to do that same presentation 22 times.
Nora: And you just started. You sat at your kitchen table with a paper and pencil. Something very simple. My precious friend reading this story, pay attention to this! : )
Stella: Back then they had typewriters or what do you call them, word processors but this was in the dinosaur age so most people don’t have an idea of what a word processor or typewriter was. That’s where it started…..you do the best you can with what you have right now. That eventually led me to landing my first major contract with the City of Los Angeles. That contract was for $17,000.00. Shortly after that I got another one for $20,000. Then I got hired by Turbo Tax so I traveled around the country and did training for them during tax season and it took off from there.
That’s part one and then I went on and moved back east, the other was all on the West coast. I started investing in real estate and buying rental properties and went from there. I continued to do my business, I continued to consult and travel around the country and in a nut shell, that’s how it all started..
The second part of my life really stems from restarting because. I’ve been through several life changes that many women experience. I went through a divorce, and as a result of the divorce I lost not everything but a lot. At my peak my ex-husband and I had about 17 pieces of real estate. We had a 10 unit apartment complex, we had multiple rental houses, we had done quite well. And yet as the result of the divorce, most of that went away and I had come away with three pieces of property, my home and two rental properties and honestly I’m still contending for some of that but you rebuild. Each time you rebuild you have the knowledge that you didn’t have before so it gets easier and harder at the same time. It’s easier because you know more but it gets harder because you don’t have as much energy as you did when you were younger but you do have the wisdom that you didn’t have when you were younger.
Nora: We could use enough of that wisdom. I love how you sat down at a table with paper and pencil writing your curriculum. You just did it. Were you scared when you did that? Tell me about what you were feeling and thinking when you did that first presentation.
Stella: The first one that I did that I got the $200 for was actually filling in for a friend of mine who was in the Nation of Islam. Mind you my background was Christian. One thing that I think is important for people to understand is that many of the people who will help you grow and help you step into your destiny, won’t look like you, they won’t act like you, they won’t be the same face as you, they may be a different race from you. But people overall are really good. My experience has been that at the core of all of us, we really want the same thing so I learned to embrace people who had a different background from me. I’ve had some friends who are Catholic. If we approach people with the understanding that we really all want the same thing and that we all really care about the same thing, it makes it so much easier to navigate life and business.
Nora: I’m finding that people want to help and there’s nothing wrong with asking for help which I’m guessing that when you met this gentleman that did the coaching, there must have been an exchange where you asked for help or there are times when people will offer help. Don’t be too shy to say yes because sometimes we think that “oh I don’t deserve it” or “now I’m obligated to them” but have eyes and ears open for those who are willing to offer help and for those who you can ask for help from. We always want to go to the people that are where we want to end up and that is what this podcast is for
Stella: Exactly. I understand now that the first part of my story was 30 years ago but I understand now why Muhammad helped me because people of leaders are people of legacy and they really understand that you can’t take that knowledge with you. The knowledge you gain and you acquire in your life is only valuable to you while you use it and to others when you give it away . The more of that insight that you share and you give away, you’re really creating a legacy that lives after you are long gone. Muhammad is long gone, he’s been deceased for a number of years but his legacy is still alive. Every time I tell the story, every time I share what he did and how he helped me grow, his legacy continues to perpetuate and it will still change lives. I embrace the understanding that the more you acquire, the more you give away, the more you grow, the more you get to give it away. You really are working to give it away.
Nora: In the giving away you usually get more than you give away. There’s something very satisfying about giving and helping others. You reap what you sow, what goes around comes around. I’ve said that before to my listeners. I’ve said to them to help people right now, even when you are struggling yourself. If you are not sure where to start with a new way of income, if you help people in different ways, then what you need comes to you.
Nora: That’s great you did that one presentation and then you got the opportunity to get a contract with the City of LA. Tell me about that process to help our reader with a little more detail so she can be aware of how something like that works. What you want to do is grow your business and talents. How did that come about?
Stella: One of the things that I learned early on is that everything that you want is on the other side of a relationship One of the things I learned to do is connect with people who are different from me and who don’t look like me. In the course of doing that I ran into the Director of an organization who was looking for a resource to help students get hired. They were inner city students mind you. The time that I created this curriculum was about four years after the Los Angeles riots so much of South Central had been burned or destroyed in those riots and at this point in time a lot of that had been rebuilt. There were stores that were coming into the neighborhood, new businesses were coming into the neighborhood. One of the organizations that served the youth population was an organization called Community Build. Community Build was trying to find someone who could help our students become more business savvy to help them get hired. When they were describing I just sat there …… I believe very strongly that God, the Universe or whatever you call the source from which you draw knowledge from …. I believe I had a divine idea to call it the Customer Service Academy. When they described to me what they were looking for I said what you need is a Customer Service Academy and that phrase resonated with them. They said “oh wow” because this was an organization that serves in cultivating youth and young adults ages 16-24.
They said yes that is what we want, what does that look like? Can you write up something ?so I went home and wrote up a proposal….I had no idea of what to charge. After I wrote it up I turned it over and said this is everything that we offer but you’ll have to tell me what your budget is because you can’t have all of this. Basically I was saying, I have no idea what to charge but you have to tell me what your budget is and we can scale this to meet your budget. Honestly I didn’t know what to do, I had no idea what to charge, I had no idea what my programs were worth so I did a little homework and I was able to break up the content into measurable pieces then I assigned a price to each section. Then I just kind of let them pick what they wanted. When they got through picking it came to $17,000.00.
Nora: That’s great and I heard from somebody else, another expert who was asked to speak at an event and was advised by another previous speaker to ask them what their budget is because you might give an amount less than their budget
Stella: I said yes these are all the things we offer and that was really smart of them even with speaking because I learned to do something else. I told them I scale my presentation to accommodate my clients needs and their budget so you tell me what your needs are, what your outcomes are, what your budget is and I can tell you how close I can get to that based on your comp projections and that worked really well.
It has served me well over the years.
Nora: Thank you for sharing more detail because that is what I want our reader to know because she probably wondered how you went from earning the $200 to $17,000. I love what you said…..”Everything you want is on the other side of a relationship.” That is a lovely statement. I wrote that down for myself. It’s true, everything happens with people. It’s always a team, nobody does anything by themselves. Bill Gates doesn’t, Warren Buffet doesn’t, no one. We have teams and people that we work with. There is always somebody that we can mentor, somebody that can mentor us. That is exactly how it works. You talked about some of the mentors that you had. Ok, you did that with the $17,000 contract so let’s go on from there.
Stella: At that point I had developed a curriculum called the Customer Service Academy and we trained students ages 16-24. In a nutshell what we would do is we would bring about 100 kids together and we would give them 20 hours of service training over five nights. At the end of their week of training we would have an interview night and we would bring 10-15 employers on site and the employers would come and each student would interview 3-5 times. Because every student, for example one of our best employers, over the years was Home Depot. Every student would be eligible for a job at Home Depot. We might have a Burger King, KFC, Shoe Carnival so we would layer the types of employers so that if that student didn’t get hired by El Polo Loco, then maybe they got a job at Burger King or maybe if they didn’t get hired at Home Depot, they got the job at Ross Dress For Less. Our placement rate for the City of Los Angeles was every constituent that the City of LA program sent through our training, 100% of them were hired every time.
It was a divinely inspired idea and I think most ideas that change the world or impact the culture come from a divine mind.
Nora: Yes, that’s true. Be open to that and to be listening to God. I do believe in God, He is so gracious, and I know that you do, too. He gives ideas. He is the master creator and he created us to be creative. He creates through us.
Stella: Yes he does, that’s how the Customer Service Program came about. That program ran on the West Coast from about 1997 to about 2005 then we did several other versions over the years. I believe there is a dire need for service mindsets and culture today. I’m just not convinced that the corporate environment still values service in the same way that consumers need to experience it.
Nora: As consumers we want that and sometimes demand that. In a way how service has been in the history of our Country has been pretty extraordinary. I’ve traveled to other countries and it’s not quite like ours with service. When it’s a caring kind of service you need to be listening if you really want to meet that person’s needs. You’re sincere, you want to meet that program’s need whatever the demand is when things start to turn, things begin to happen and success comes along.
Stella: We get to choose. One of the things we taught in the academy was that business isn’t something you do, it’s something you are. I think that Customer Service is the fundamental principle behind all entrepreneurship. If you don’t establish that mindset not as something you think and actions you take but as a lifestyle that you manifest. You will never succeed as an entrepreneur.
Nora: Yes, that’s key. Service is not what you do but something that you are.
Stella: Service is not what you do but something that you are. That’s the motto of the Customer Service Academy.
Nora: That’s a great motto, I love it. Having been in the service industry myself, that is really true. I noticed when I was serving my clients and did things that they didn’t expect how much it blessed them and when you do serve your clients that way, more business comes to you because referrals are some of the best kinds of business you can get. I always say wonderful people refer wonderful people to you.
Stella: Exactly. The only other thing that is viable is what you do today establishes the foundation of how you live later on. I am 57 years old now so I have lived a lot of life. I’ve done a lot of things and I look at many of the choices I made 10-15 years ago and the quality of life I get to live now is because of different choices I made back then and I really encourage people ….. entrepreneurship is awesome. I love business and I love investing, I love money and growing the money. But at the same time you have to have a plan of what your life and your finances are going to look like. If you don’t visualize that now, when you hit a snag like a divorce or a major downturn in the economy or you suffer business losses, there are those who fare well in those difficult seasons and there are those who bottom out and they crash and burn. To keep from crashing and burning, look at your whole life. Entrepreneurship and starting your own business is great and use that to launch from. What do I mean about all that? Have income streams. Your money should come into your house not just from your business, not just from one direction but it should come from multiple directions. McDonald’s is not in the business of selling hamburgers, McDonald’s is in the business of real estate because every McDonald’s restaurant is in prime real estate in every city that you go into. You have to think of your own life with that same mindset. So as I’m building a business, how am I expanding my financial portfolio beyond my business assets. What do I have in my mutual funds, what am I saving, how many income streams do I have? Do I have real estate, do I have business, do I have investments? Try to have a little of everything. Try to expand. I believe firmly that you should have no less than three income streams and as many as 12. If you look at examples of people aspire to great wealth, that’s what they do. That gives you the cushion so that when something happens like a life crisis, you don’t have just one boat or one oar, you have several to get you back to shore.
Nora: That’s very good advice and actually it’s very realistic. We’ve kind of been raised to only think to just get a job, and not think of what do we do with our money. How we budget our money, what can we live without and there are lots of ways to make money. I agree with you having multiple ways of income as the economy changes or different things change there may be one or more that rise to the top of what is meeting our needs. I love that, tell us more about that.
Stella: There’s actually a really cool proverb in the Bible in the book of Proverbs in Chapter 31. There is a character that I think is not a real person. It’s a character, but it’s about a lady who they call the Virtuous Woman many of religious circles gave her that title. But I actually like the term Kiel. The word Kiel is a Hebrew word it actually is a word that means courage, warfare, valor, wealth, resource. It ‘s description captures the essence of a person who builds multiple income streams and so in this passage in Proverbs 31, one of the phrases that it describes about this woman is that she considers a field and bought it. Ok, so she considers a field means she looked at a piece of land and thought hmmmm what can I do with this land ok? So she bought the land with the intention of creating an income stream then it says “with the land she planted a vineyard” so first of all she had real estate and investments, she bought the land then she planted a vineyard so that means she now has grapes and she can make wine. If you look at each one of these you see that she is creating business economy with each of these ventures.
With the vineyard you have to have somebody to pick the grapes, to mash the grapes, to make the wine so she’s creating jobs, she’s building a business and later in the Chapter it says she made girdles and sold them in the marketplace. A girdle is like an underskirt, it’s a part of an outfit that was worn in ancient days so she made them and she sold them in the marketplace. That’s fashion merchandising and manufacturing so when you look at historic books and you look at all of these examples, you see the understanding that wealth is built on the back of this country . When you look historically in England at the turn of the century there were land owners and in order for the land owners to thrive, they had to do something with the land. They had to have sheep, they had to have cattle, they had to have the wool that the people wore. So, think in terms of what can I do with my own unique gifts and talent to create money that comes into my home through multiple channels. That’s how you really create wealth.
Nora: That’s wonderful great advice. The nice thing with social media is that women that might need some money now probably have a kitchen and food so you can go on social media and say “hey I have this meal and I can deliver it to”. There are things that you can start from where you are and build that and having another stream of passive income is how one becomes financially free.
Stella: And don’t be afraid to start small either. I love the story of Marie Callender. Marie was working in a diner in a little diner dive and the guy was going out of business because he wasn’t selling anything so she goes to him because this is her only job, her only income and if he goes out of business she’s unemployed with no way to provide for her family so she says can I bring some pies, I make really good pies and maybe we can sell some pies and maybe that’ll help business so she brings the pies the first day and they sell out then the next day people are coming in asking for the pie so she brings more pies so at the end of it all she ends up buying the place and just sells pies.
Famous Amos sold the chocolate chip cookie so at the end of the day whether you’re Mrs. Field or Famous Amos, or whether you’re Marie Callender, you’ve got something too. Everybody has something and you have to find out what it is that you want to contribute but don’t be afraid to start where you are. 35:09 None of those people started out big and famous. Marie started out with one pie, Mrs. Field started with a batch of cookies and Famous Amos started with a batch of cookies so whatever you have start doing it and if it’s real and it’s alive and it’s something that people will want, it’ll take off. It will become more.
Nora: That’s right, it is done incrementally, everything is done by steps and moment by moment. There were times when I went through some hard times after my divorce that I thought….Ok, it’s just going to be an hour at a time, folks. When you look at the chicken business, Colonel Sanders, Church’s, Chick-fil-A, they make billions of dollars just from chicken. A simple food source. These are the things that all of us have. You might have something in your closet right now that you can sell on Ebay if you need some quick money and even that can lead to something else.
Nora: So these are all great ideas and I love what you talked about in Proverbs 31. I consider the Book of Proverbs from the Bible a good business book because it does talk about wisdom, it talks about integrity because you just can’t get far in life without having integrity and true care and concern and being diligent in what you do. It all will make for greater success and you feel better about yourself when you know that you’re your best when nobody is looking. You feel better about yourself. It gives you more confidence rather than “man I know I’m cheating this person” but that takes away your own confidence, You’ll have confidence in yourself when you know you did everything the honest way, you put your heart into it and you did the best you can and nothing is permanent. There are a lot of chances that we have, there are a lot of ways that we can start over if something doesn’t work out.
Is there anything you want to share as we close this wonderful podcast episode? You have been marvelous with what you’ve shared Stella. I was so excited to have you on this episode because your story is pretty spectacular yet in many ways it was something that started with a pad and pencil.
Stella: Yes a pencil and pad and it’s still being written. If there’s anything I could add to what I’ve already said, just do you. Find some of you that you want to share with people and just do it. I believe that your gift should feed you and if you’re doing something that expresses who you are, whatever it its, the beauty of life is that there are still things being invented, there are ideas in the universe waiting for somebody to think long enough to snag one and pull it into the natural realm of where we live. Everything that we have ….. there was a day there were no cell phones, there was a day when there were no coca cola didn’t exist. Somebody had to think of al of this stuff so spend time meditating and just explore what else can you do, what do you have, and don’t be afraid to try, don’t be afraid to fail. I can’t tell you how many times I created a program and threw it out there and nobody liked it. Then there were times I created a program and threw it out there and everybody thought this was the greatest thing since sliced bread! So it really depends but you HAVE to try.
Nora: No one starts being a master, no one is born being a master. We don’t start there. Stella, if somebody wanted to reach you, how would they reach you. Do you have a website?
Stella: I do, I have a website www.StellaPayton.com and I also have a Facebook group for anyone that’s interested in joining is welcome to connect called the Chayil Circle and it’s actually a group for entrepreneurs. People who are really early entrepreneurs who are wanting to step into the business world but haven’t established how they’re going to do that. It’s on Facebook and you can connect with us, it’s by invitation to join and we’d love to have you. I also have a YouTube channel it is Stella Payton on YouTube.
Nora: That’s wonderful and that’s where I first heard your story was on YouTube. It was powerful. I just Googled Stella Payton and that’s how I found you.
Stella: Thank you for having me and at the end of the day, remember, you have a voice that somebody needs to hear
Nora: Thank you, Stella!