Thank you for tuning into episode 98 of the podcast. My guest is Rhodes Perry, whose life’s work has been focused on improving the lives of LGBTQ people. Rhodes has worn many hats over his successful career, developing his own niche and brand with his consulting firm. He shared details of his journey and how he eventually found his niche and now works to equip business leaders with the skills they need to innovate solutions for LGBTQ diversity and inclusion workforce. Have a listen and leave your comments below!
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Jenn T Grace: You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, episode 98.
Introduction: Welcome to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast; the podcast dedicated to helping LGBTQ professionals and business owners grow their business and careers through the power of leveraging their LGBTQ identities in their personal brand. You’ll learn how to market your products and services both broadly, and within the LGBTQ community. You’ll hear from incredible guests who are leveraging the power of their identity for good, as well as those who haven’t yet started, and everyone in between. And now your host. She teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn – with two N’s – T Grace.
Jenn T Grace: Hello and welcome to episode 98 of the podcast. I am your host, Jenn Grace, and as this is airing we are right around Thanksgiving time here in the US. And we’re at the end of November of 2016, and I’m shocked really at how fast this year has actually flown by. I feel like the first part of the year felt kind of slow and sloggish, and now- I don’t know, since September it’s just really whizzing by. So I’m excited to be in episode number 98, and it has been multiple years in the making to get here, so this podcast will be turning four at the I guess beginning of January in 2017, it’ll be four years that I have been doing this which seems a little bit crazy, but all good nonetheless. I have been keeping up with the promise of having interview, after interview, after interview, and today is no different. And the interview I have today for you is with Rhodes Perry of Rhodes Perry Consulting, and we had just a really kind of awesome conversation about personal branding; shocking since that is indeed the title of the podcast. It was really just kind of being an LGBT advocate, and a change maker, and a change agent, and really how that can be something that you can utilize as a benefit to yourself as you grow a business, or continue to grow your career in whatever avenue that might look like.
So rather than blabber on unnecessarily, I’m just going to dive right into the interview with Rhodes. I really think you’re going to love it, and if you would like an introduction to him personally, feel free to reach out to me via LinkedIn, on Facebook, Twitter, go to my website, contact me however it is easiest for you to just reach out and get in touch with me. That would be awesome and I would love to put you in touch with him. So without further ado, please enjoy this interview.
Okay so let’s just start off with telling the listeners just a little bit about who you are, what you do, how you came to be in your business as it looks today.
Rhodes Perry: Sure. So my name is Rhodes Perry and I’m an LGBT strategy assistance guru. Basically what that means is I’m a management consultant, coach and speaker, and I work largely with clients who are in executive, HR, or diversity positions. And I really help clients transform their organizations into ones where LGBTQ people know that they’re valued, and they know that they belong in the workplace. And I work all across the country, most of my clients are based in New York City. I’m actually living on the west coast so I also have a number of clients in the Bay area. And I’ve been fortunate, and much of the work that I do is informed by my time working in the LGBTQ movement as an advocate and building alliances with other social justice leaders. And I center a lot of that work around improving the lives for LGBTQ people and really focusing on raising awareness around the specific needs of transgender and gender nonconforming people, and as an advocate I help secure a number of victories, most importantly allowing same sex couples to marry. I also helped increase the number of states that prohibit LGBT workplace discrimination. And one thing that I’m really, really proud of during my time in the LGBT movement was starting the conversations with the Department of Education and protecting transgender and gender nonconforming students, which now if your listeners are aware of, there’s federal guidance that basically mandates that most schools- schools receiving public dollars protect transgender and gender nonconforming students while there’s a number of states that are putting forth lawsuits to protest that. And that work really inspired me to take the jump to work for government in an executive type position to take policies that have been passed at the state and local level, and take a look at them and implement them. So I had the opportunity most recently to work for New York City. I helped the systems that focus on foster care and juvenile justice look at these policies and from soup to nuts really take the spirit of these policies and develop a plan to basically implement them, to bring them into life, and to really make sure that staff are set up for success in understanding how to respect their LGBTQ peers as employees, but also to deliver services that are respectful for LGBTQ people that are dependent on them. So that’s just a little bit about kind of my background and how it led me to recognize that there’s a huge need for supporting many of these systems that aren’t necessarily Fortune 500 companies which are absolutely ahead of the curve, at least in terms of developing policies and having staff to drive and implement them. But in smaller businesses, a lot of startups, and especially in government settings there’s- I would say that actually looking at policies but in particular laws in states that mandate protecting LGBTQ, both employees and then folks dependent on receiving government services. There’s not a lot guidance and there’s definitely not a lot of support in making sure that these systems are compliant with the law. And so my business really helps fill in these gaps, and it’s a lot of fun to really inspire people that want to do the right thing, just aren’t sure where to start. I’m getting them started but also making sure that these policies are being implemented and sustainable over the long term.
Jenn T Grace: Okay I feel like you’ve said so much already, so in thinking about you as just kind of an individual contributor in so many ways to policy and advocacy, and just kind of your career, and now founding your business; do you think that some people are naturally born to play an advocacy type of role? Or do you think that it’s something that you have to consciously recognize of ‘this is something that I really want to pursue and I’m going to kind of dedicate myself to doing it.’ Because I think that there might be a couple of schools of thought to that, so I’m just curious how your path kind of came about to recognizing that your voice is really an important voice to be heard to eventually get to the place now where you’re kind of filling those gaps in the marketplace.
Rhodes Perry: Yeah, I think that’s a great question, and I don’t know if it’s being an advocate or just a change maker. Maybe those are one in the same, but really I think when I look back on my career, most of my work has been entrepreneurial in nature, and that seems to have been coupled with being an advocate, and just trying to- whether it was working for government and trying to improve either employees treating each other with respect, and letting each other know that they value one another, or looking at the service delivery side of things and just kind of saying, ‘We could be doing better, especially when looking at serving LGBTQ populations.’ I see a lot of opportunities. In the past I certainly tried to take advantage of those opportunities and help those systems. But I think part of myself is identifying as an advocate absolutely, but looking at my business now it’s really taking some of those skills and thinking about people that want to do the right thing, they want to be able to retain discerning LGBTQ talent, they want to be able to develop products that will appeal to LGBTQ markets. It’s looking at those folks who definitely want to be identifying as- or they don’t identify as an advocate most likely, they definitely don’t want to be seen as pushing an agenda, but they need help in making a business case, or they know it’s the right thing to do and they need some support around how to approach their leadership to get buy-in and to both do the right thing, but also to help their businesses out in performing better and having a competitive edge. And so I don’t know if that answered your question necessarily but that’s kind of how I see my role right now, is that I absolutely gained some skills as an advocate and I’m trying to translate those for businesses that are interested in having that competitive edge.
Jenn T Grace: And from a personal brand standpoint- so many of the things that you were talking about in your kind of opening introduction of who you are in terms of different types of- whether it’s the Department of Education, or whether it’s working with the city of New York, or wherever it might be; in those settings you were still yourself, right? So you’re still Rhodes Perry and people know you as your name. Did you consciously think about the advocacy work or change making work, however we’re calling it because I think it is all kind of the same as you alluded to, did you look at that as you were doing those individual things in thinking about like, ‘Okay here’s just another kind of notch in my belt of things that I can do and things that make me a strong leader and a strong thought leader in this particular space.’ And then as you kind of created your company, and calling it Rhodes Perry Consulting, obviously you’re putting a big stake in the ground of this consulting is based on you as an individual. Was that kind of a conscious thought process? Did you model it after others that you kind of saw in the marketplace? What was just kind of going through your mind? And the reason why I’m asking is just thinking about people who might be in similar situations right now where they’re thinking, ‘Really this whole personal branding thing here, there’s something to it and I should probably be pursuing this.’ And I’m just trying to give them some guidance from people like yourself who’ve already done it.
Rhodes Perry: Yeah I think that that’s a great question. I think that why I chose my business name to be my name in terms of personal branding is so much of my past work has been about building relationships, building coalition, and building trust. And I think that my work in the past speaks for itself, and the folks that I had the pleasure of working with really benefited from what they learned. In starting my business many of my clients are those folks that I have worked with in the past, and so that’s just a huge benefit for me. Also as I was making the jump I knew I wanted to focus in on equity in diversity and inclusion work, and I wasn’t quite sure that time- how that could continue to evolve. In just this past week I had my first business anniversary so I’ve been in business for a year, and even over that period of time a lot of things have changed, but my name and my brand have absolutely attracted my dream clients I guess to work with who were specifically looking for support on doing the right thing, and either wanting to develop a policy, more taking a policy and actually implementing it and sustaining it over time, that that’s really where I see a niche in providing this kind of mentorship, and accountability even more so than delivering skills. Because a lot of the folks that I do work with I’ve known for some time, they have the skills to do this work, they really need that kind of support and role modeling, but especially just kind of knowing the work that they need to do, but basically being held accountable, and having those kind of frequent check-ins. So I think that thinking about maybe starting their own businesses, I think it’s always good to- if you’re not sure on a killer name that will be super clear on what you do, starting out with your own name and you can always kind of build off and build a ‘doing business as’ name later on down the road when things become a little bit more clear with who your niche market is, and what specifically you are doing.
Jenn T Grace: And your website URL is Rhodes Perry, so I think that there’s a lot to be said about just having your name rather than having the consulting on it because if at any point in time you chose to pivot and go in a different direction, then the URL always remains the same, and for the most part our names don’t change. For the most part.
Rhodes Perry: Right, for the most part.
Jenn T Grace: Of course there’s exceptions.
Rhodes Perry: For your viewers, I am transgender and that’s something that I talk about openly with my clients because a lot of the work that we’re focusing on right now is how to support transgender and gender diverse employees, or people that businesses might be serving. So that’s something that I am open about, and so I have changed my name, but that was a long time ago. But yes, there are times where if you are someone who’s transitioning, or maybe you’re thinking about getting married, maybe before you buy your URL, if you are planning to change your name, maybe hold off on that before you do.
Jenn T Grace: I ended up buying all- everything I could before I got married, and thought that I was going to change my name, and then I was like I wasn’t sure, and then I was going to hyphenate, so I ended up with probably 25 URLs that all cost like $10 a piece, and then eventually over time I’m like, ‘Alright I’m just going to stick with the one.’ And then just as a random side note is that the reason why it’s just not www.JennGrace.com is because there’s a photographer I believe who has that- or a videographer who has that already. So I was like, ‘Well I’m just going to have to put the T in there reluctantly.’ But it is what it is and at least I know that I’m not changing my name anytime soon so it does allow for that kind of pivot as we were talking about, because you never know- especially as entrepreneurs and I think as the landscape- especially as it relates to LGBTQ, the landscape is always changing, and we really have no idea what- we could predict, but we really have no idea what’s on the horizon and how that is going to impact what type of consulting we’re doing, or coaching, or what topics we’re speaking on, and I think that that’s kind of a- to some degree a fool proof way of just kind of protecting your brand over the long haul.
Rhodes Perry: Absolutely.
Jenn T Grace: So in looking at just kind of the many facets of what you’re doing. I was poking around on your website before, and I’m curious on a couple of things. Like the first thing I’m thinking of is how people find you, and then recognize that they need your help, especially as like the individual change maker. Because there are opportunities- like you were saying, the Fortune companies are definitely ahead of the game in so many ways, but at the same time they’re so not ahead of anything in terms of just- kind of like the changing landscape of business. So it takes- they’re like moving a Titanic versus I think entrepreneurship where you’re kind of navigating a speed boat on a day-to-day basis. But how do you get in front of those individual people who really need your help, and they’re really going to be that internal champion, and that internal voice that’s really going to make change in their respective industry, or organization, or wherever it happens to be?
Rhodes Perry: I think that that’s a great question. A few ways. One, I’ve been fortunate, as I had mentioned just having a lot of rich relationships from previous jobs. So many of my clients come to me word of mouth, and looking at business models over the long term I’m looking at other ways to market as well. So I also get a lot of referrals through online advertising. I do basic Google Ads. But one of the main ways of actually reaching out to newer audiences is locally I go to a number of different chamber of commerces in the Portland metro area, and also in Seattle just to build my network here because I recently moved from New York City out to Portland as I was starting my business. And so that’s a really important way of just connecting with a number of businesses, but especially smaller businesses that haven’t necessarily been thinking about the culture of their organization, or just want to be more competitive in reaching out to discerning diversity candidates proudly. So those are some of the ways that I get my name out there. Also through collaboration. I’ve been working with a number of other diversity and inclusion leaders here in the Portland area, and just looking at different projects where we can collaborate. By doing that I’ve had the opportunity of establishing newer relationships, both with the county and city government here, but also with a number of larger businesses in the area. So that’s been helpful. But I do work across the country, so I try as often as possible to go to conferences, and when there’s an opportunity to speak just to share a little bit more about the work that I do. So those are just some of the few ways that I try to get out there.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah and so I feel like on your website you have supplier diversity highlighted as something that you are educating around and helping people with. It is something that I have certainly brought up many, many, many times in the past on this podcast, but never- maybe actually it was probably episode six or something, and we’re on- I think this is episode 98 probably. So it was a long time ago.
Rhodes Perry: Congratulations.
Jenn T Grace: Thank you, it’s been many years in the making. But one of the things that I feel like is a missed opportunity, and I’m sure from a supplier diversity standpoint you might be coming from a different direction, but as a diverse supplier yourself. Somebody listening to this, who the majority of listeners are part of the LGBTQ community in some form or another, what are they missing by not really kind of having an understanding of what supplier diversity is, and what that can mean to them as a business, but also for just kind of the community at large?
Rhodes Perry: Yeah I think- well one was supplier diversity, and one of the things that I do is educate my clients that I work with. So- and this is especially important for some of the county and local governments that I work with. So when folks are wanting to implement LGBT specific policies, they want to provide better services, one of the first questions that I ask is looking at contracts that they issue to diversity suppliers. So woman owned businesses, minority owned businesses, and sure enough with most government agencies they have set asides for those diverse suppliers. And so one of my first questions that I ask is encouraging them- well one, asking them if they know about the NGLCC, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce certification that certifies LGBT owned businesses, and almost 100% of the time most people aren’t aware of that, most of my clients are not aware of that certification so I do a little bit of education around that. And then I’ve had success in New York with some of the agencies there of doing set asides for LGBT certified businesses. So there’s education happening on that side with my clients, I also work volunteering for the chamber of commerce here, and just supporting some of the LGBT certified businesses, and those businesses that are owned by LGBT people but aren’t yet certified. And I explain a little bit about the work that I do largely with local and county government agencies around encouraging them to do these kind of set asides, also letting them know that many Fortune 500 companies have diverse supplier offices, staff that are looking specifically for LGBT owned businesses for a wide variety of services. Everything from printing, to professional services like I do, and just letting them know that one, the NGLCC is a great resource. They offer certification, they provide a ton of information to help you grow a business that’s thriving, and I think with that- I’ve at least encouraged a few to go through the certification process because it does give LGBT owned businesses a competitive advantage, and if you’re lucky enough to live in a state like Massachusetts and you do contracting work with state, there are set asides for those LGBT owned businesses, and I think that that’s a trend thanks to the great work that the NGLCC is doing that I think more and more states will be trying to either pass executive orders through the governor’s office, or legislation to actually provide the economic opportunities for LGBT owned businesses, which historically have been disadvantaged because of discrimination. So maybe that’s a little bit more than you wanted, but I know that you talk about this a lot. So did that answer your question?
Jenn T Grace: Yeah, yeah and it kind of leads into my next question a little bit. So we met through a mutual friend, and Jill Nelson has been a guest on this show as well, and I don’t remember it but I will put it in the show notes of what episode that actually was. But we met at the NGLCC national conference in Palm Springs just a couple months ago, and one of the things that I wonder from your perspective is being an LGBT certified business, there’s a lot of advantages to that from a business development standpoint. But in your perspective, how or how not do you feel like it maybe it is helping or not, just from a personal branding standpoint to be able to say that you are a- because you can say that you’re an LGBTQ owned business, and that’s got its benefits in and of itself for people who want to work within the community, but having that additional credibility of saying that you are a certified LGBTQ owned business. Where or how are you kind of using that, leveraging it? Is it part of your kind of daily conversation with people? I know that you’re part of the local chamber so that kind of adds like another element to it. But just from a branding standpoint is it helping you in terms of attracting the right type of clients?
Rhodes Perry: Yes, I think for the nature of the work that I do it absolutely helps me, it brings more credibility to the work that I do, it opens up a number of new doors that I wouldn’t necessarily have had access to. Because of the work that the NGLCC is doing and continues to do, they’re really expanding their reach, and I think for corporations that are aware of the certification, and for some of the government agencies that I work with, they’re becoming more aware of it, maybe more because I’m constantly talking about it. But it is helpful. I would say though that if I were in a different industry- I grew up in the state of Florida, so if I was in a different industry and I still lived in the state of Florida, I think that there’s still a long way to go. One in having this be an advantage, because stigma and discrimination still exist, there’s a lot of education that professionals like myself have to continue doing to break down some of those barriers. And so I’m aware and I’m conscious that it’s not always an advantage for every business owner, and that there could be challenges with that. One of the things that did give me hope and inspiration though is that when we were at the conference in Palm Springs, which was wonderful and it was great meeting you there, is- and I can’t remember the business owners’ names, but they are from Georgia and they were honored- I think they were the premier business at the conference, they’re a pet store, right? And so they’re in Georgia which as a state- it’s a state that lacks a number of protections for LGBT folks. They’re very out about who they are, it’s a gay couple, and they’re having a really positive and profound impact on the community just for holding that space, and they give back to the community, I think that they give back to a youth LGBT youth center there. So I digress a little bit but I do think that even when you are in a state or even a region of the country that might not be so LGBTQ friendly, there’s still a power to certification, and being an LGBT owned business, and showing the possibilities for other emerging LGBT entrepreneurs that being out can be an advantage, and that there’s strength in numbers. So I’m a huge proponent of the certification, but I do recognize that there can be or still are limitations to it as well.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah, absolutely. So I was looking it up while you were talking, it’s Tailspin and they are in Savannah, so they’re even in a more conservative area than maybe Atlanta would be. So yeah, and they were awarded an SBA award for like the best small business owner or something like that. So I think that you bring up a good point of depending on where we are geographically. So I’m in a really progressive state being in Connecticut, you’re in a complete- especially going from like New York to Portland, I feel like there’s so much differences even though New York is fairly progressive I would say. But how do we make it attainable? Because I have listeners in all fifty states, I have listeners in many different countries; how do we make it something that feels attainable to the person who might be in Savannah, or might be in Little Rock, who maybe they feel like they’re alone, or they don’t have a chamber of commerce that’s really kind of focused on business impact, but maybe they have a pride center that they can go and be involved in. Is there something that you would say as kind of a natural step that they could take to just kind of finding their community of people that are looking to build companies and businesses even if that formal structure doesn’t exist?
Rhodes Perry: Yeah I think that that’s a great question, and the first thing that came to mind is an online organization. Though they are based in San Francisco you probably know of them StartOut. So they provide- they’re in the process of launching a virtual space for LGBT entrepreneurs to connect, and that certainly isn’t a silver bullet in solving the kind of actual face-to-face connections that folks in certain parts of the country may be desiring just because they feel isolated. But I do think that at least online it’s an excellent resource to start and just kind of building connection, talking about some of the challenges that they may be experiencing because of where they live. And chances are they may be- I grew up in Palm Bay, Florida so they can be in Palm Bay, Florida and maybe they’re connecting with someone in Missoula, Montana which is actually a pretty progressive place. But they’re able to span the distance and just have the commonalities of talking about some of the challenges of being in a less progressive part of the country, and kind of weighing the benefits and the costs of whether it’s getting certified as an LGBT owned business, or if they’re providing a service, and it’s a place where people are actually going to a physical brick and mortar location, do you put a rainbow flag on the front of your door? These are things that I think as LGBT owned business owners we have to consider, but I do think StartOut is a good place to start.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah I feel like that’s definitely some good feedback and tips there. So going back to kind of looking at the national landscape, since you do have experience kind of looking from a very high top down level, from a national perspective, in looking at the different fights for equality that are occurring kind of all over the place, I do find it shocking especially when I run into an LGBT person who isn’t aware of just the level of discrimination that’s just completely justified and fine by people in terms of workplace discriminations. So if we look at different states and different cities even within states. So you have Massachusetts where they’re including LGBT suppliers in government contracting, which is the only state still, right? I think they’re working on it in New York but it’s not there yet. So that’s happening in Massachusetts but then meanwhile you hear from people in Nashville who are still being fired because they came out, and this is somebody that I absolutely should have her on the show at some point, Lisa Howe who received an award at the NGLCC conference in August, and was commenting on how the second she came out after being an NCAA coach for like sixteen years, they fired her promptly thereafter. So- and that wasn’t that long ago, that was only a couple of years ago. So if we’re looking at the differences in each individual state, if somebody’s just trying to figure out how can I make a name for myself because they want to grow their personal brand, they want to maybe establish a business, and make that kind of natural leap that seems very natural that you made in terms of like doing all this great work in different types of pockets and then you kind of created a company around it. Is there any kind of words of wisdom that you can provide them that would vary because if you’re in California the fight there is way different than Tennessee versus Connecticut. Like I think of Connecticut being the second state with marriage equality in 2008, and I remember going to NGLCC conferences in 2009 and 2010 and talking to people who were in far less progressive areas thinking, ‘Marriage equality is so not even on our radar. We are focused on economic opportunities because we don’t have to focus on our basic rights to get married.’ So what might be just a- I don’t know, some advice or something that you might have learned along the way to kind of provide inspiration to people regardless of where in the US that they might fall, and how non-progressive or progressive that area might be.
Rhodes Perry: Yeah I think that if folks are interested in starting a business, if they have the entrepreneurial spirit and they’re LGBT, absolutely look into it and take action because by simply holding space, by creating your own business, you are creating economic opportunities for many people, and especially our own communities, our own LGBTQ communities. And I think that so many of us have had experiences of discrimination, or at least perhaps being treated differently as employees in the workplace, and knowing that if we had the opportunity of having our own businesses, or when we are creating our own businesses, or even for many of your listeners in our own businesses, that we have values that are embracing a spirit where we want everyone to bring their whole selves to work. And I think that because of the economic disparities that still exist for LGBTQ communities, one of the most powerful things we can do is if we have the ability to start our own businesses, and prioritize looking at folks within our own LGBTQ communities who have historically been disadvantaged and trying to prioritize ways of bringing job opportunities to folks in our own communities. I just think it’s a real game changer for us to look at this aspect of the next era of the LGBT movement, and I think entrepreneurship should be a part of it. In my past I worked with a lot of LGBTQ youth, and so many young people that I had the pleasure of working with are entrepreneurial in spirit. Every day is a day of surviving and just to- we prioritize ways of translating those skills into skills where young people can at one point be their own bosses, I mean again I just think it’s a real game changer and we should be examining aggressively ways to add this as a part of the work that the LGBT movement continues to do for the next era. Because I think just looking back over the past twenty years we have as a movement accomplished so much and so quickly, and yet I still look at the work that so many national and state and local LGBT groups are doing, and it’s almost as looking at the young people who are protesting and resisting police at Stonewall, so many of those challenges still exist today when you look at family acceptance, or just trying to get an education in school, and dealing with things around bullying. We still have a long way to go and I think that the work that we do as business owners can help absolutely extend economic opportunities to more folks within the LGBT community.
Jenn T Grace: So in looking at kind of a what’s next, or what’s on the horizon for you personally and for your business, like especially since you’re just celebrating your first year which is so exciting. If you looked at what you were expecting to accomplish in your first year versus what you did accomplish and what you hope to accomplish in the next couple of years, how does that all kind of line up with what your vision was when you set out to do this?
Rhodes Perry: Yeah I surprised myself in the first year. I’ve met many of my goals in terms of working with a number of clients that I didn’t imagine working with, at least in my first year. So I’m happy with that. I really do over the next few years want to pivot more into offering services online, and so I’m starting to do that now with webinars, and I’m looking at next year having more of a master class available for executive HR diversity professionals that are doing the work but need additional support. And so I’m just looking at ways right now of creating more virtual communities, and I’m most excited about that just because there’s only one of me and there’s only so many hours of the day that I can make available for clients, and so I think this is another opportunity of just expanding my platform and really helping those folks that they already understand the importance of doing this work and they need that additional support. So I think that that’s going to be- at least for my business, a real game changer and so I’m excited about that. And I also think making more time in my schedule to speak and go out to a number of different communities, especially- I’m really excited about going to more colleges and universities over the next year and talking more about entrepreneurship for LGBTQ folks, and I’m very, very excited about that.
Jenn T Grace: That’s awesome. I feel like the sky is the limit. I would love for you to reference back to this a year from now. Like throw it on your calendar and say a year from now to come back and listen to this, because my question is what do you perceive- and I don’t want to deflate us at all, but in thinking about all of what you’re setting out to accomplish, and I think that this is a question that the listeners are interested in, is what do you see as the potential kind of big hurdle, or some kind of road block that you feel like there’s a chance that you’re going to have to overcome in order to get to that next stage of what you’re hoping to accomplish? Because I would imagine that there’s probably a lot of similarity with what you think yours is and those who are listening. It makes us all human.
Rhodes Perry: Yeah I think that a road block for me is I get excited by all of the opportunities, and I think as entrepreneurs we want to do all of the things all of the time. And so one just for me is finding my ‘no’ when it could be working with another great client, but to build in the time to- like I said, like really trying to expand more of my virtual presence. That takes time on the front end to do that, and so I think the biggest challenge is to kind of build in the time where I could be working with more clients right now doing that one-on-one engagement, but trying to just find my ‘no’ sometimes so that I can have that space to imagine and dream how to grow my business in a way that can help more people. And I think that having talked with other entrepreneurs early on in the journey, I know that that’s a challenge for many of us, and so maybe offline we can talk more about how you kind of navigated that as well, because I know that you’re doing such awesome work for so many folks trying to do a better job with marketing to LGBT people, and so I would love to chat with you about that.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah I feel like it’s an ever evolving thing that everyone goes through, and if I look at- go back and listen to the first episode of this podcast which was in January of 2013 I think, it is a very, very different animal. And they’re all available for people to listen to and laugh because it just takes time to kind of refine your message, and really I think learning to say no is probably one of the hardest things, especially as very stereotypically ADHD type of entrepreneurs where we’re all chasing shiny objects every day, and especially when we’re all coming from a place of truly trying to serve and really trying to help as many people as we can. I think that’s where it becomes difficult to say no, because if you’re looking at it from a purely dollars and cents standpoint of ‘I have a threshold that I need to make $10,000 to go speak here, and if they don’t meet it, then I don’t do it.’ That is not how at least the people that are on my show, and myself included, that’s not how we operate. It’s a matter of like, ‘How can we accommodate? How can we make sure they still hear our message? How can we-‘ and then it just- it’s a struggle and I think that we all kind of go through it even if it does look more polished on the outside. I think most of us are still kind of struggling with that day-to-day behind the scenes. At least for me anyway.
Rhodes Perry: Yeah absolutely.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah and I think the audience kind of needs to hear these things and just kind of hear of the struggles that lie ahead as they’re kind of figuring out what their voice is, and what platform they should be on, and how they should go about growing their personal brand because I think that personal branding, it’s been around forever, but I feel like it just becomes more and more important in this day in age, even more so as an LGBTQ person because there’s so much more at stake, and I think that all of us whether we want to or not, we’re all kind of representing the community in our way. So if you do something stupid, or I do something stupid, suddenly it’s the LGBTQ community that’s stupid because of something ridiculous that you or I may have done. Even though that is so not what it should be, ultimately unfortunately that is just kind of the reality of it. So we all kind of have to navigate that tricky landscape as well.
Rhodes Perry: Right, absolutely.
Jenn T Grace: Oh good stuff. So if you could go back in time and maybe give yourself one piece of advice. Not necessarily the audience as a whole, but just really thinking of yourself. Is there kind of something that you would say or do that you think might have shortcutted some of the challenges that you’ve unnecessarily faced?
Rhodes Perry: Yeah I think absolutely for me is- for my younger self to trust myself, to trust my entrepreneurial spirit. In looking back I’m glad that I had all of the experiences that I had leading up to the point of starting my own business, I think if I trusted myself and knew what was on the other side of having my own business, I probably would have done it maybe ten years earlier. You know? And it was really a fear of what the ‘no’ was, and I think going to college kind of slowed down the process of having my own business, because I actually- I had my own business before I went off to college, and then it just was the programming of getting a good job, and contributing to the workforce, and I didn’t realize that I could be doing that as a business owner. So I don’t know if that resonates with any of your listeners, but I definitely- I think for myself could have used that kind of pep talk maybe a decade ago.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah I would imagine that hits home for many people.
Rhodes Perry: Yeah.
Jenn T Grace: So in kind of parting here, anything that you would like to share in terms of how people can get in touch with you, how they might work with you, just kind of any number of ways just to make sure that we get a good kind of plug here for people to contact you.
Rhodes Perry: Yeah thank you. Well my website is www.RhodesPerry.com so there’s the personal branding there. And on December 1st I’m offering a webinar for my target audience which is executive HR and diversity professionals on setting vision for- a diversity and inclusion vision that’s inclusive of LGBT employees and folks that are served by businesses or government agencies. So that’s December 1st and if you go to my website, on my blog there’s more information on how to register for that, and you can also just contact me at Rhodes@rhodesperry.com and I can share more information that way. And I also offer a free quarterly newsletter that just kind of keeps people in the know of what I’m up to, I offer a ton of free information there on just strategies on how to engage LGBT employees, how to develop an LGBT policy, how to sustain change over time; all of that stuff is included in my quarterly newsletters. And I just love to hear from folks, so if people have questions I’m available to just provide value and help people kind of get started on that path of building more inclusive workplaces.
Jenn T Grace: That is awesome. And so for anyone listening, this is episode 98. I’m pretty sure I screwed it up earlier when we were talking, so you can go to the website at www.JennTGrace.com/98 and that will get you a transcript for today’s interview, and then all of the links that Rhodes was just talking about. And I feel like it might be important to note that Rhodes is spelled R-H-O-D-E-S, not like Roads like a road. Just because I feel like- I want to make sure it’s clear and people can find you, so that’s good. Awesome.
Rhodes Perry: Thank you so much, thank you for having me on the show.
Jenn T Grace: You are very welcome, it was a pleasure chatting with you.
Thank you for listening to today’s podcast. If there are any links from today’s show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/thepodcast. And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.