#30: Expert Interview with Kathy Borkoski [Podcast] Skip to the content

#30: Storytelling with Kathy Borkoski [Podcast]

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AUDIO TITLE:  Episode #30 – Kathy Borkoski Interview

Jenn T Grace:

You are listening to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast, Episode 30.

Intro:

Welcome to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast where you’ll learn how to do business with and market to the LGBT community in an authentic and transparent way. We’re talking about the $790 billion lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community. We’ll help you grow your business, gain market share and impact your bottom line. And now your host – she’s an entrepreneur, a marketing maven and an advocate for the LGBT business community. Jenn, with two N’s, T. Grace.

Jenn T Grace:

Well hello and welcome to episode number thirty of the podcast. I am your host, Jenn Grace, and as always I’m very excited that you are taking the time out of your day today to just sit and- or run, or drive, whatever you happen to be doing and learn more about how to authentically market to the gay community, how to communicate effectively with the gay community, and all of those other great things that hopefully this podcast is helping you learn.

So today’s episode I have a guest, Kathy Borkoski, and I am super excited to have her on here. She is a connection of a past guest of ours which was Kristen Kavanaugh, who I believe was episode number 28 of the podcast. Let me check before I say anything- nope actually it was episode 26. So I’m excited to have her on the show today, and she really is kind of a true definition of an entrepreneur so it’s pretty exciting to have her on here. But before- as always I get into the meat of the episode, I have a couple of announcements to share.

So as always my first announcement is the date of my next webinar. So the webinar is titled, ‘Increasing Your LGBT Market Share through Authentic Communications,’ and the next time we will be doing that is on March 19th at 11:00 AM Eastern Standard Time. So if you are interested in checking out that next webinar, which I would love to see you there, please head on over to my website which is www.JennTGrace.com/webinars.

So as you may know by now, it is about an hour long and I have about 40 to 45 minutes or so of presentation and then I leave about 15 minutes of Q&A open at the end. So if you have any questions as it relates to something that you learned on the webinar, or if it’s something that’s completely random and out of the blue, there’s no problem, feel free to bring it on over because ultimately your questions help fuel this podcast and my blog posts. Because the more questions that I get from people, I’m guessing- you know nine out of ten times if you have that question there’s probably at least another hundred people, if not 1,000 people who have the exact same question. So the more I can learn from you, the more I can educate others. So that’s definitely a big perk, I believe, in attending the live Q&A session of the webinar. And if March 19th does not work well for you, I also have one coming up on April 22nd. So as you may know, these webinars are monthly, so if you’re listening to this and it happens to be December of 2014, there’s probably going to be a webinar coming up in January, 2015. So no matter where you are listening to this, there’s likely a webinar to be had. So I definitely encourage you to check that out.

And then the other thing that I want to put out to you is that I would love for you to hop on over to the website and sign up for the Gay Marketing Insider. That is my monthly mailing, and I honestly deliver- or I feel I truly, honestly deliver just some quality content delivered right to your inbox, so that way you don’t have to worry about coming back to the website and checking to see what’s new. So for those of you who may be new to the podcast, I do post to my blog twice a week; so every Tuesday I write about something communications related, some sort of question about you know, ‘Is it okay to do this? Or is it inappropriate to ask this question?’ Or those types of things. And then on Fridays I talk specifically about marketing tactics, and stuff that’s happening in the news, and things that you can learn from that, and all that kind of great stuff.

Additionally I have this podcast that comes out every other Thursday, so there’s always, always, always a lot of information on my website. So if you want to just have that kind of brought to you rather than having to go find it, feel free to hop on over to www.JennTGrace.com/podcastlist and that will just let me know that you went on over and subscribed via having listened to this podcast.

So those are my recent business things that I wanted to bring up, and what I realized that I haven’t done in a while is do the personal Win of the Week. And I was doing that for quite some time, and I don’t know why buy somehow I’ve gotten off the rails and not done that in a while. So what I do want to share with you today- and for long time listeners of this, you’ve probably heard me talking about my marathon training on and off in the podcast for a while, but I’m happy to report that I finally was able to sign up for my first half marathon, which is the Disney Wine and Dine half marathon in Disney in Orlando, Florida. I believe it’s the second weekend in November. So right now as I’m recording this, it is the first week in March so I have a long time to train for this half marathon. But it’s been an interesting journey so far, and I think that there’s probably going to be a lot of blog posts that end up coming out of the things that I’m learning as I’m training for a half marathon this year, and hopefully a full marathon in 2015. So as it stands right now, just the thought of running thirteen miles which is probably just under three hours’ worth of running, it seems a little bit scary, a little bit daunting, but I’m going to continue to talk about it here so that way at least I’m getting your support because there are so many awesome listeners out there, which I absolutely love- I seriously love you guys. I love when I get an email with somebody commenting on how they tried to implement something that we talked about on the podcast, and how it worked. I love just hearing from fellow entrepreneurs and business owners across the country. So if you haven’t reached out to me yet, please, please do. And as of late I’ve had a lot of people reaching out to me who are part of the LGBT community. So for a while I was really under the impression that I had more allies listening to this show than I had actual LGBT folks. But really, based on the interactions I’m having lately, it seems like there’s a pretty good mix of both of you. So I’m really excited about that because there is just a lot of information to learn about the- just the whole realm of marketing to the LGBT community. So like I said, I’m just thrilled to have you here, thrilled to have your support, and I will continue to keep you updated on my marathon related progress. And right now as of March, the plan is to get past the finish line without having to be picked up by one of the cars that picks up the slow people. So that’s my only goal, and fingers crossed I can actually make that happen.

So without further ado, I think we should just dive into the interview with Kathy, and once we wrap up with that I will have a couple of other announcements on the tail end of the interview, so I would highly recommend sticking around all the way through. Alright here we are, and let’s talk with Kathy.

We are talking to Kathy Borkoski today who in my opinion is the true definition of an entrepreneur. So she focuses on designing and creating solutions to problems that business owners face, and other folks might face, and we connected because I was researching proposal software for a client of mine, and a previous podcast guest, Kristen Kavanaugh, happened to say, “You have to talk to Kathy.” So after- she and I had a great conversation and we’re kind of all over the map in terms of things that we were talking about, about business and entrepreneurial things, and LGBT. I just thought it would be great to have her on the show today to share a little bit about her story.

So just a quick background I’m just going to do super high level here, is that she is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and served eight years in active duty and now she is in the US Navy Reserve. And she additionally is the Vice President of a- I’m not even entirely sure what your company does, it seems to be around proposal-related things so we can get into that shortly. But she’s also just really- has an entrepreneurial spirit and drive, and like I said at the top is just kind of interested in focusing on ways to help entrepreneurs fix their problems and all that kind of great stuff. So I think it’s going to be a great interview today, so thank you Kathy for joining the show.

Kathy Borkoski:

Thanks Jenn.

Jenn T Grace:

So I would like to just ask you in your own words if you could just share a little bit more about you and your story, and kind of what your path looked like that led you to where you are today.

Kathy Borkoski:

So I have an interesting sort of background, but the biggest thing that I tell folks that I talk to is your background- you can pull so many different skills and strengths that you have into whatever you’re currently doing and most people don’t ever think about. So for example I graduated the Naval Academy in 2001, and what I learned at the Academy was 100% leadership. I mean it’s a pressure cooker of leadership; how to get folks to do things that they don’t really want to do, and get them to do it well. So that was an interesting sort of strength-building exercise. And then when I graduated I was really lucky after years of hard work to get selected as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officer for the Navy, and what that is in sort of layman’s terms is a technician. So I went to Navy diving school, I was a hard hat Navy diver for two years, and then I went to Explosive Ordnance Disposal School where I learned literally how to disarm bombs. And then when I served for three years on active duty as an EOD Officer, I had the chance to deploy to some pretty scary places which all just sort of helped me grow and learn more about what that leadership that I learned at the Naval Academy looked like in practice. And another thing I learned, especially as an EOD Officer, is how important a consistent process is, and then how important it is also to overlay out of the box thinking because with two bombs being alike, you attack each one starting out with the same process and you modify it as needed. And it was so interesting to find that once I was out in the civilian world, how much that is reflected in business in general. The more you have a consistent process, the easier the faster you can make things happen. And then you have to be flexible, the market is not going to sit there and wait for you to decide a process that works for it, you’re going to have to innovate and come up with new things to keep yourself out there sort of in the forefront. And then interestingly as soon as I got out of the Navy I didn’t really know what to do with my life, like all kids coming out of college I just delayed that decision for me for eight years. So I became stunt double for two years and while I was there, I went from literally knowing absolutely nothing about being a stunt double except that it sounded awesome, to getting to- I was in a couple of smaller movies, a couple of TV shows that folks know about and I just had a blast, but it was 100% networking and just hustle. And I never really knew what networking was before I started doing stunts. And then I kind of figured it out, right? Networking in its like most simple state is purely developing trust with people, and I had to develop trust with these stunt coordinators, these people that were out there, because I wasn’t asking them at the end of the day to hire me to do their taxes, that are something relatively benign. I was asking them to hire me and trust me with their life. Or for me to put my life in their hands, because I mean some of the stunts I’ve done include anything from like diving stuff, motorcycle riding, falls off of high things and you have to truly trust the team of professionals you’re working with. And so after two years of doing that I decided to settle down a bit and I found through networking, my current employer, Jeff Everage, was trying new proposals. And I was shocked how much responding to government proposals is 100% leadership and a pressure cooker, you have to get results fast, you have to talk to a million people, and so I was able to apply all the different sort of like strengths and the things that I’d learned throughout my taking the different careers and experiences, and make the proposal process a lot smoother and in the end produce a better result.

Jenn T Grace:

Wow, that’s interesting and before we hit record I had mentioned it seems a little seemingly random but the way you describe it, it all kind of makes sense. And it’s interesting how you can go from- or I would imagine that the skills that you learned being a bomb technician, I feel like any business scenario to you- you know calculating the market, seeing what it’s going to do, not waiting around for it; none of that probably compares to any type of anxiety or what you had to do when a bomb technician- it’s life or death. So I feel like that probably brings a really interesting perspective to everything that it is that you do, no?

Kathy Borkoski:

Absolutely, and one other thing that sort of being a bomb technician brings out is how much you just have to notice your surroundings. So in business we forget a lot that part of selling to a customer or breaking into a new market is really noticing number one, what are their problems? And number two, what solutions are they actively looking for? So that you can then position your product or service, whatever that is, to specifically, very directly answer those sort of questions. So when I do proposals, when I’m selling to a new client, a lot of folks will talk through their feature list. So I send out meeting invites, I do this type of stuff, that’s the worst way to sell. The best way I sell is I talk immediately to their stress. Like, “Hey, feeling overwhelmed right now? Don’t really know where to start? Don’t know how to get your people moving in the right direction? Well I can help you solve that problem. And that’s a prime sort of bomb technician thing because if you don’t notice things, if you don’t notice your surroundings- I mean every piece of your surrounding down to over there. Why is there some dude standing in that window looking at me? I mean it’s all about noticing.

Jenn T Grace:

That is really interesting. So right out of the gate in just your opening couple of statements you brought up really interesting points. So just noticing your surroundings, but then also how you really simplified the concept of networking to really just be building trust with people. And ultimately at the end of the day, like you said, that’s exactly what it is. And since this show is about gay business and gay marketing and marketing to the LGBT community, I would say that 90% of the battle in marketing to the LGBT community is exactly that. It’s just learning how to build trust with people. And I would imagine that your really keen understanding of that has definitely helped you in business so far.

Kathy Borkoski:

Absolutely and so specifically for sort of marketing to the gay community, I can tell you what works for me. It’s not the companies that are standing up, they’re shouting about how, ‘Oh we’re so gay friendly. We’re great, we’re wonderful.’ It’s not even necessarily the company that just has one gay ad. It’s the companies- there’s a car commercial right now. It’s the companies that say, ‘Look we understand about 10% of Americans are gay, and so we’re going to show you pictures of all these kind of normal families.’ And then you realize the new normal isn’t the traditional white family. It’s interracial couples, it’s- yeah it’s a couple of gay or lesbian couples, but then there’s also all these other different couples. It’s the companies that they basically- ‘I understand that you’re just a sub-set of the population, but you still have like needs and concerns just that are exactly the same as almost everyone else’s.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s exactly it, and I actually teach specifically that type of principle to the clients that work with because at the end of the day, we’re talking about what I have dubbed inclusion-based marketing. So instead of going out of your way to create an entirely separate LGBT, ‘we’re gay-friendly’ marketing campaign, that to me is a waste of money, it’s a waste of time and at the end of the day the consumers that are going to see that are going to know that that’s a completely different campaign than everything else you’re doing. When really what they should be doing is the commercial that you were just talking about which I think might be Chevy. And it’s a great commercial like you’re describing, where it just has everybody included. The United States is a melting pot of different types of origins and races and ethnicities and sexualities and all that stuff. So to me it’s about being inclusion-based where you’re just including LGBT people into everything else that you’re doing; and that’s definitely going to get my attention. It certainly got your attention, and I’m sure it’s getting a lot of other LGBT people’s attention.

Kathy Borkoski:

Exactly, I completely agree with that.

Jenn T Grace:

So we’re definitely going to go down the road of talking a little bit more about what- what your ideas are in terms of being able to market to the LGBT community. But before we do that, I want to get into a little bit more about you. So what I like to normally do is start off the top of the interview with some sort of just kind of a fun fact or maybe something that’s just really random about yourself that very people know or would expect to know from you.

Kathy Borkoski:

I like to think a fun fact is probably just that I’m hilarious. I mean it comes off pretty well with folks who are talking to me, but I really enjoy connecting with people, and part of connecting with people is making them laugh, making them comfortable. So if you ever do interact with me, like I’m sure you’ll get a lot of good professional wonderful interaction, but be prepared to also be entertained.

Jenn T Grace:

That is seriously the name of my game, and the way I operate which is probably why I think when we first had that conversation after we were talking business about proposals and proposal software, that we just kind of went on eight different tangents of conversation and it was really engaging. And to me if you can entertain me, like you have an instant win. Like I don’t know what it is. And of course you have to have your business knowledge and intelligence and all that kind of stuff to back it up. But somebody who can entertain me, I- those are the types of people that I personally gravitate towards. And I think it really does serve a lot of people well in business, so that’s awesome that you recognize that that’s one of your strengths, and also like kind of one of those random fun facts, that’s pretty cool.

Kathy Borkoski:

Well it’s interesting, so when you talk about networking you talk about building trust. A lot of folks think, ‘Okay I’m business networking so I’m going in with the intent to 100% close this deal the first time I ever meet you.’ And that’s not going to happen. It’s like expecting to sleep with someone on the first date every time. So instead, if you go in looking only to put the person at ease, and just start the spark of a relationship then humor is a really good tool to use in that situation.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, it kind of- it makes you less threatening I think. And especially if it’s natural humor. If you’re just trying too hard, you’re just going to look obnoxious. But I think if it’s just your natural nature, then you may as well go with it. And I know that for me, I was- I was the Executive Director of the local LGBT Chamber of Commerce here in Connecticut for about four years or so, and I feel like when I first started off that position, I felt very like rigid. Like I had to fit a mold of what I thought an Executive Director should be, or should look like, or should act like. And you know being a little bit seemingly- I don’t know, I feel like I was uptight at the time. And then my natural demeanor is just really kind of a dry sarcasm, and it comes out no matter what I’m doing. So over time I realized like, ‘Why am I kind of trying to shove down this part of me, and just try to fit this corporate type of mold that wasn’t really me?’ And then when I really kind of made that connection it just- I feel like it changed everything. Like the types of relationships that I was able to have, the new ways of connecting with people, and ultimately like we’re talking about just being able to build that trust with people on a different level.

Kathy Borkoski:

Absolutely, you bring up a really good point that being yourself, whatever that is; whether that’s funny, whether that’s not funny, whether that’s serious. Whatever yourself is, always comes off ten times more genuine than whatever you’re trying to do.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s exactly it. And that’s what I actually preach a lot about to clients of mine, is that you really- especially when it comes to working with the LGBT community, is that you have to be authentic and you have to be genuine. And it’s a hell of a lot easier to just be yourself, and not have to try to worry about putting up a facade and be far more successful in reaching the LGBT community because you don’t have to worry about the community kind of like seeing you and being- either being jaded from past experiences, or just kind of viewing you as, ‘Well who’s this fake person trying to basically get a piece of the marketing dollar from me?’ Like that just doesn’t- that doesn’t resonate even moreso with the LGBT community than I think a lot of other markets.

Kathy Borkoski:

I agree completely.

Jenn T Grace:

So let’s talk about if you had any type of ‘ah-ha’ moment, or some sort of realization in your life, in whether you were younger, a little bit older, whenever it may have happened to be that what you’re doing in life just kind of fits and it’s what you’re supposed to be doing. Have you had that type of ‘ah-ha’ moment?

Kathy Borkoski:

I’ve not had a specific ‘ah-ha’ moment, but I have recently been thinking a lot about like why I’m doing what I’m doing. And it all comes down to I want to be able to support my wife in the best way that I can. I want to be able to support our family. And for me what that looks like, what I had to interpret that into for my business life, is I have to be willing to continue to drive forward, put myself out there, take great big strategies of like basically when I was in the Navy they told me exactly what I was going to be doing for each year of my Navy life, and I didn’t have to get roles, they gave me my role, and now that I’m out I had recently to develop a strategy that said, ‘What is my goal?’ And then I added on top of that sort of ways to take consistent actions so that I can build towards something. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be a thing. Like I don’t have to be like, ‘Yes, I’m doing exactly what I love.’ But instead I am doing many different things that are going to get me to my end goal faster than if I were just to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really- that’s a really interesting dynamic to think, even how- and I’m sure military, going through the Naval Academy, having all four years just basically mapped out and you have little to no say in what those four years are going to consist of. Is in a way similar to college because a lot of what you’re doing in college you don’t really have any control over. But at the end of the day, to be kind of stuck in that place where you have no say, to then kind of come out on the other side and be like, ‘Alright now I need to figure out my goals and figure out planning.’ Was that process a little bit difficult for you to go from having really rigid, defined things that you were required to do, to then kind of have your autonomy to decide what that was going to look like, especially as it related to your career?

Kathy Borkoski:

Oh absolutely. So I got out in 2008, off active duty in 2008, and two years from that point I was- my goal was becoming a stunt double. And then now that I’m in the professional world, my goals changed drastically. But I never really sat down and thought about what those goals should be, I just kind of let action take me. And in the last year- so I’ve really been focusing on, ‘Okay what’s my strategy so that I can apply the correct action, to drive me in the direction I want to go?’ And that’s been the hardest and definitely the most rewarding thing I’ve done as far as career goes.

Jenn T Grace:

So was it a process of listening to kind of what your gut was telling you and intuition in terms of letting that navigate you?

Kathy Borkoski:

Not really for me. Like I’m sure some people have very good guts and that kind of thing. But for me it’s about- I’m in a business professional’s course. It’s a two year course, it’s put on by the Aggie Network, and their big focus is mindset shifting to go from thinking, ‘task, task, task,’ to like, ‘okay what’s your strategy in life,’ that type of thing. And that has been absolutely enormous as far as like impact on how I operate, especially in the business world.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really interesting. And I guess this question goes along these same lines of what keeps you motivated and what inspires you to continue doing what you’re doing all the time?

Kathy Borkoski:

This is going to sound cheesy, but I just love efficiencies. Like weird stuff. Like when I was a Navy diver we’d be on the dive site and we’d have to bring all this heavy equipment from our, its like 100 yards. And most guys are like, “Ugh, it’s eight trips for eight of us, we just have to carry the heavy things back and forth, it will take thirty minutes.” And I was always like, “Wait, wait, wait. I’m going to go get that cart that’s way over there, we’re going to put all this stuff on here, figure out how to load, it’s going to be one trip, we’re going to be done in ten minutes.” So for me, solving problems and finding efficiencies is just fun.

Jenn T Grace:

I- you are a girl after my own heart, that is seriously what I love doing. And I- it’s hilarious that you say that because it’s so, I feel, like infrequent that I meet people that are so process-oriented and efficiency focused. Because I- that is like every job I’ve ever done, and I’ve had a very wide array of career paths and different types of jobs that have no connection to one another whatsoever. And every single one that I can think of, I would go into the scenario and I’m like, “Why the hell are we moving-” Like so for example, I worked in a factory for a while making expansion tanks for hot water heaters, and that was fun. As a nineteen year old girl in a factory full of like older, forties and fifty year old men. And you know when I was nineteen, being forty or fifty seemed so far off, but clearly now that’s not the case any longer. But we would be doing processes in terms of like the factory line, and people would be standing in one position and then having to move their body like seven or eight different times when if they just kind of re-shifted where the screws and where the glue and all that kind of stuff were laid out, they could have done it in two. And it’s like how is it that a nineteen year old comes into a factory and changes the process of almost every single thing on the line, and no one else notices before. Like it’s those types of things that I love doing because it’s problem solving, but I’m also baffled at the same time how other people have completely overlooked these types of things.

Kathy Borkoski:

Yes exactly. Because it’s not easy to apply sort of like thinking or- I mean why would you when you’ve done something the same constantly? Like it’s hard to even see that there are efficiencies out there to be gained. But I’ve definitely found that every time I come into a new team, especially for proposals, they’re like, “No we do it this way,” and I’m like, “Well that wastes a lot of time. And by the way every extra minute we spend is like a couple hundred bucks, what are you doing?”

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah.

Kathy Borkoski:

It’s easy when you are coming from the outside into a new situation like that, to give them just a couple of very specific things that can make the entire process run a lot smoother and a lot faster.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah definitely, especially when it comes down to like people and manpower and skillsets and trying to match the right people- like I’m working with a client right now that I’m just really kind of a behind-the-scenes person for them. And I focus almost exclusively on their process, and how to get more out of the people that they have. And one of the things that baffles me is you know, why does it take five people to put together this proposal when four out of the five hate working on proposals, when you could just take the two people who really enjoy it and put them in that, and they’re going to be a lot more happy doing it because it’s something that they love and it’s not that emotional time drain, it’s not that mental energy that people are expending when they’re doing something that they don’t really enjoy doing. So that’s I feel like another component of efficiency is just trying to get matching people with the right skills in the right positions. And I’m sure you do a lot of that, especially with proposals.

Kathy Borkoski:

And the other part of that is also getting it so that the folks that- I mean who likes to kill their weekend and not going to their kid’s birthday because they have to write a proposal, right? But if I can design sort of an outline or template or flow for the document, and I can make it so that you’re pretty much only going to have to write this once. And that goes off a lot better. Whereas most of the time in proposals, the reason people hate them, is they write it, they get it trashed, it gets handed back to them and they’re back at square one. And they have to rewrite the whole thing. And it’s just different.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, well I’m sure we could go offline and have many, many conversations about inefficiencies around us. Alright I’m just going to pause us just for a second while we listen to one of the sponsors of this podcast, www.MentalCompass.com. Take it away, Mike.

Alright thank you Mike, now let’s get back into our interview with Kathy. So let’s- so this kind of flows into this as well. So what is the best piece of business advice, or maybe it’s just a piece of advice, not necessarily business, that you have been given that maybe is one of those things that’s kind of a guiding principle for you as you operate through your day?

Kathy Borkoski:

That would probably have to be- and I’m going to butcher what exactly was said but it was funny because it was actually just said yesterday over some delicious breakfast and restaurant menu. But essentially you can have the best idea in the world, but if you don’t take action and you don’t implement it, it’s nothing.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s a good one. And it kind of goes back to what you were talking about before in terms of your goal setting process whatever- you know however that actually shapes out, but just kind of focusing on an end result and being able to accomplish it because you have at least in your mind what you’re working towards. So yeah, that’s a really good point. You know if it’s just an idea, that’s all it is, is an idea. And doesn’t matter how great it is, no one cares if you’re not doing anything about it.

Kathy Borkoski:

And a lot of folks are scared to start because they’re like, ‘Well what about failure?’ Who cares about failure? Everybody fails, you need to be smart about, like I mean don’t drive your car over the cliff. But if it’s something that you think is viable and benefits the world, you, whatever, whoever your target is to help out with this idea. You- if you never take action then you’ll never know whether you would have succeeded or failed and I feel like that’s ten times more frustrating than failing.

Jenn T Grace:

I would totally agree with that. And I think it takes a certain amount of time for people to come to the conclusion that it’s okay to fail. And I know that even for myself it took a while to kind of- because I’m a really just a competitive person in general whether it’s in any type of athletic endeavor or if it’s just in business, I’m just really naturally competitive. And for me, failure kind of at one point was just not an option in my mind. And when I started to really kind of- like going back to that authenticity piece and being genuine that we were talking about before, it’s kind of like well now that I’m just being true to myself, if I have a failure, I’m going to be the first one to own it and just kind of figure out what I can learn from that lesson and move on, instead of trying to just pretend it didn’t happen or not talk about it because at the end of the day, failures I think usually are the best lessons to be had because unless you kind of hit that rock bottom for that particular moment or that period in time, as it relates to that failure, then think about the things you can learn from that.

Kathy Borkoski:

Absolutely. And that’s another thing, people look at failures as a single thing is a failure. Well it’s not completely. It’s actually- so let’s take Olympians for example, right? Like we watch these guys, they’re amazing, you’ve got the silver medal, you must feel terrible. Really? Well you’re seeing a teeny tiny little mess-up or something that ended up with that silver, right? You don’t see the four years of loving every second of what they’re doing. Practicing and learning and just enjoying the ride that it is, and then yes it culminates in a very- you’re on a world stage showing what you can do, right? But at the same time, that ride, that journey is what folks overlook. And for me, I’ve had plenty of failures, you look at that one point of failure but what about the fact that I’ve learned how to do web design, or web development, or I’ve learned how network my face off for stunts, you know what I mean? Like there’s so many good things that come out of every failure and it’s worth it.

Jenn T Grace:

I love that you just brought up enjoying the journey because I have decided- so I went on a weight loss journey starting in like August of 2012. And I just had a really shitty experience with one of my clients at the time and I was like, “You know what, I don’t know why I just feel like really gross.” And somehow that feeling gross mentally just kind of morphed into worrying about how I felt physically. So once I lost my 45 pound goal I was like, “Well now what the hell am I going to do with myself,” because I’m so naturally competitive so I’m like, “You know what? I’m just going to train for a marathon.” And so now that I’m in the marathon training mode, to me it really has nothing to do with the end goal of running the marathon. Like that obviously is the goal that I’m going towards, but I think in my case it’s just enjoying that experience and enjoying the journey and enjoying those tiny little wins that happen to go throughout the week of, ‘Oh I managed to run an extra five minutes today, or I went an extra two miles,’ whatever that really seemingly small win is, because that’s really I think where you learn the most either about yourself- and even if we applied this to a business setting where you’re working on a really large task or really large project; at the end of the day, it’s all those little things that you’re learning that kind of add up to that bigger sum of that win at the end of it. Or you know, even if it’s a failure. Those little tiny failures, how are you learning from those?

Kathy Borkoski:

Exactly, yeah being present, I used to think it was sort of like a hokey airy, fairy sort of statement. But recently I’ve read a couple really good books actually on this subject, and it just shows you even if you are older, if you do have a really great strategy in place, if you don’t enjoy the ride when you hit the goal, it’s not going to mean a quarter of what it could to you.

Jenn T Grace:

Do you happen to know what those books are off the top of your head for anyone listening who might want to check them out?

Kathy Borkoski:

Yes so I read ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle.

Jenn T Grace:

Well I can definitely catch up with you after and we can make sure that I include them in the blog post that goes with this interview so anyone who’s listening to this who’s excited and wants to check it out, I’ll make sure that I have those linked up in the notes. So this has been a great conversation so far, and I kind of want to just shift gears a little bit to talk more about the LGBT piece of things. So for somebody who’s listening to this interview right now, the majority- I used to say the majority of my listeners were actually allies to the community, but I did a recent polling of a handful of folks, and it seems to be that there’s probably like a 50/50 split. So there’s a lot of LGBT people who are business owners who just want to hear more from other LGBT people in business to find out what they’re doing that’s successful. But then there’s a whole host of people who are listening to find out how they can be more authentic and be more genuine in their marketing approaches to the LGBT community. So the first question that I have for you is for someone who is listening to this, and maybe they are just starting out and just starting to kind of test the waters of what they can do for the LGBT community from their business perspective. Can you think of anything in particular that would be a piece of advice that you would give them that you think might make them a little more successful on that journey?

Kathy Borkoski:

I would have to say that that’s purely acceptance, and not like you should go tell people, “I accept you for who you are, it does not bother me.” I really hate it when people qualify that like, “Well it doesn’t bother me.” I’m like, “I didn’t ask you if it bothers you. I am living my life, you’re living your life, let’s not judge each other.”

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah.

Kathy Borkoski:

But it’s the acceptance, it’s the no matter who you hire be they gay or straight, everyone gets the same healthcare plans, everyone- the fact that you have a healthcare plan that specifically caters to lesbians and gays. Or you have policies that truly only depend on the delivery of the person is doing, how they’re doing. Like if anything comes in where you’re like starting to judge people either on being lesbian or gay, or any other discriminator, I mean it’s- discrimination is discrimination. I would highly recommend not doing that.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, that’s kind of a good- definitely a good first step, I totally agree with you on that one because ultimately- and this is where I think the difference between someone who’s really doing it for the right reasons versus somebody who just kind of wants to capture the ‘gay dollar,’ as I air quote the ‘gay dollar.’ You know at the end of the day, if you have discriminating policies in your workplace or in your business, then you’re basically a fraud in my opinion anyway, because you can’t be marketing to the community saying, “We’re accepting, we’re open to all walks of life,” and then also be behind the scenes discriminating all walks of life that don’t happen to be what they believe are people who shouldn’t be discriminated against; and ultimately that’s just terrible for business. So I think that’s definitely a great point. So let me ask you how do you feel- and you know sometimes people are thrown off by this question. But do you feel that you’ve been able to leverage your status in particular as an LGBT person in business? Or in your career?

Kathy Borkoski:

Not directly. So I would say I leverage it in order to do something business. However I am leveraging my- basically my rank in the Navy Reserves. So I’m a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserves, and so I already get- just by nature of my position, a certain level of respect that other people would have to fight for. And so one thing I do in this situation is I’m very vocal about my personal life now. And not vocal like, “Hey guys, guess what?” It’s more like when people are talking about theirself, when you go around the room in a military class and everyone introduces themselves and they say, “Oh and I have a wife and kids, and blah, blah, blah.” I also in exactly the same tone, the same way, tell my story and I’ve found that by just being open with who I am, like yes I have a wife, she does this, I do this, we do this together. That it opens up the lines of communication to folks that- who previously would be like, “Wow, I didn’t even know I knew any gay people in the military, and you’re totally normal which is totally fine. I can maybe let down my guard about this whole topic a little bit.” So I’m essentially leveraging my professional status in order to help folks that are maybe in a position that can’t speak up, that can’t push that towards acceptance.

Jenn T Grace:

That is so admirable that that’s a way that you go about it. Because I think that that’s so incredibly important because there are so many people in the LGBT community who are in positions where they either can’t speak up for fear of being fired, because in 29 states in the United States you can be fired just for being LGBT. But then especially in a military setting. Even though don’t ask don’t tell is now something of the past, I would imagine there’s still probably a significant amount of fear of being vocal or coming out, depending on what branch of the military or what your position might be or your rank might be, et cetera. So I think that that’s so incredibly important for somebody who does have a higher rank to be able to kind of give that. Maybe it’s giving those folks kind of a safe space to be able to talk about it because you know, they have you to look up to. So I think that’s really- that’s pretty cool and very admirable that that’s what you’re up to.

Kathy Borkoski:

And what’s interesting- so folks are still worried about coming out. And anytime you tell somebody, “Oh yeah, I’m gay.” Or, “Oh my wife,” if you’re a female. Then you’re assuming that they’re judging you in some way. And the fact that that fear still exists, and the fact that people think that they can tell you, “I’m not judging you,” or whatever that is, that there’s still a gap, there’s still something there that says, “You’re not quite mainstream yet,” and I just want to help bridge that gap, that difference, as much as possible so that we can get to where I think we’re going faster.

Jenn T Grace:

And I think that what you’re talking about- and we may have had this conversation offline when we talked last, when we were talking about just making it a non-issue. And I know that I take every opportunity I can, whether I feel comfortable in the situation or not, to just nonchalantly talk about my wife. Because that is such an easy way to assert something into a conversation, but to do it in a really non-threatening way. Because most- you know nine out of ten times, people are not going to be threatened by you saying whatever it is, “Oh and my wife.” Or, “Oh my wife and children,” or whatever it happens to be. To me it seems like a really easy way to- I don’t want to say ‘normalize’ because I absolutely hate the word ‘normal.’ But it almost is kind of normalizing what LGBT looks like, and what LGBT families look like, and the diversity of them, into a scenario where you may have somebody who previously A) didn’t realize that you yourself were a lesbian, or I was a lesbian, but now that they’ve already built that trust, going back to something we were talking about earlier, for them now to know that that’s just kind of a one part of our identity; it makes it- I think so much more effective, but then also so much easier to have that conversation with. Would you agree with that?

Kathy Borkoski:

Absolutely. And the other thing you’re doing there, is you’re not asking them to accept you. So when people come out, they’re like, “I’m a lesbian. I’m gay.” You’re essentially asking the other person, “Will you accept me the way I am?” Whereas if you just put it in, “Look, I’m just telling you about my life, I’m not asking your acceptance, your approval, take it or leave it. If you want to walk away, I don’t care.” But it opens the dialogue without either party seeking approval.

Jenn T Grace:

That is so genius. I had not actually had that frame of mind before, but that makes perfect sense. And it actually leads directly into one of the questions that I wanted to ask you, is if you wanted to share with us a coming out story of your own, whether it’s something that’s happened in your career, or in a business setting at work, or maybe it was just something personal. And I think now that you’ve just kind of reframed the way to look at a coming out story, this should be interesting.

Kathy Borkoski:

So when my first real weekend after Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, I went into drill and there was a group of officers who were all hanging around, and my commanding officer walks up to the group and he’s chitchatting for a couple minutes, and then as the natural conversation goes he turns to me and was like, “Oh, how’s your girlfriend?” Which just told me, to him- like first of all everybody knows, I mean I’m wearing a ring and I’m not talking about a husband. And- or girlfriend or whatever it is. So I’m sharing without telling, so there’s definitely something missing. And then my CO, the guys around me, wanted to make it very clear to me that they- they liked me for who I was. Like it didn’t matter what my sexuality was, whatever all that other stuff is. Like they’re like, “No you’re valuable the way you are, and because it’s a part of you that’s totally fine, please continue.” And they just wanted to know about me. Like the biggest compliment ever is for somebody to ask you about yourself.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really interesting. And so for those who are listening who may have absolutely no idea what Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is, could you just give like a really brief- a brief overview of what it is and then how that had an impact on you personally?

Kathy Borkoski:

So Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a policy put in place in I think the nineties under the Clinton Administration. And it essentially said you can’t ask a person if they’re gay, they won’t tell you, and you also- and you’re not going to pursue getting them kicked out just because you think there’s a rumor that they might be gay. And what that looks like in practice is me coming into my desk space- or, sorry my detachment space, where my guys work there’s in EOD you have eight guys literally put each other’s lives in our hands, because we’re dealing explosives, or dealing with bombs, or dealing with very dangerous situations. And I walk in there, and they cannot ask me how my weekend was. Because they know who my weekend was spent with.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, and I would imagine that- and I know there’s studies as it relates to the workplace that when somebody is closeted at work, or just doesn’t feel safe to be able to come out at work, that they’re hiding a significant piece about who they are. Because it’s just a natural thing that occurs in a workplace where you have your water cooler talk, and you’re talking about what happened over the weekend. And for people who are so consciously trying to hide that piece of their identity by playing the pronoun game, and just avoiding having these conversations with people. But it actually makes them significantly less productive than their counterparts. So I would imagine that there’s probably a level of that that plays into it in a military setting as well.

Kathy Borkoski:

Absolutely. And another aspect of sort of that trust, that water cooler, is as an officer I’m practically required to check in with my guys to make sure their family life is doing okay. If we’re going on a deployment I have to make sure, “Okay your wife and kids, do they have the command support?” There’s a lot of structure in place for families of military people. So the other sort of side of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is I deployed to Iraq for a year and my girlfriend at the time could reach absolutely nobody in my command. And then to put insult to injury, my command wanted to give me a huge airport like send-off essentially for this one year deployment to a very dangerous place, and because of that send-off, my girlfriend couldn’t come with me.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, that’s so- I feel like it’s so heart-breaking and so not okay. So it’s- what has your experience been now- and I know that you just had a really good example of a coming out story that involved it. But in general, has- from what you can tell, has the lifting of that ban really been effective in practice? Just in from what you’ve seen?

Kathy Borkoski:

In my experience, yes, but I mean I’m also in the Reserves, I don’t interact daily with the active duty military, and I’m also a woman which is another sort of softener. I have no data on this, but I feel like it almost has to be harder for gay men in the military, especially in the sort of Special Forces unit that I was in. And then I mean that’s- I’ve heard of difficult situations in the Marines and people are much more hesitant to come out there, so there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, I would imagine. And I don’t want to draw comparison between the military and athletics, but even if you think of female athletes who come out versus male athletes who come out; there’s a very, very big difference between the genders as that relates. Like with women it’s not nearly as much of an issue as it is for a man.

Kathy Borkoski:

Oh exactly, yeah I would say that’s a very, very close.

Jenn T Grace:

And it’s almost- and I don’t know if it’s just because I am a woman, and this is just my experience personally, but I just feel like in general, it seems like it’s a lot easier for women to come out than it is men. Just a general across the board assumption here. And I don’t know if it’s because the stories that I’ve been talking to, or the people that I’m talking to a lot of times are women and they have really positive stories, and I’m just not hearing the negative ones. Or if it actually may have some basis to it; I’m not really sure.

Kathy Borkoski:

Well we’re not fighting cultural stereotypes, cultural norms; to be a woman there’s a little bit more latitude in there. Like you don’t have to be the homemaker, you can be a strong woman and that is 100% acceptable in our society. So to be a lesbian isn’t that far off. Whereas to be a gay man, that totally sort of undermines that macho man, we won the west through strong men being macho. And you know I’m going way over as far as like sort of stereotyping and that type of thing goes. But there is truth to the cultural norms and expectations for the different genders.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really interesting, and I know there’s a lot of studies and stuff around the gender expectations and all that stuff that I’m sure we could get into a complete rabbit hole on.

Kathy Borkoski:

It’d be totally okay if your little girl played with GI Joe, but if your son picks up Barbies, yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

It is so interesting how that’s the case. And so I can share just a random personal story that I have a son and a daughter. And so our daughter’s seven and our son is five. And she’s all obsessed with the Disney princesses because everybody is obsessed with those damn Disney princesses which in my opinion, they are not good role models. Like they’re just- there’s nothing- there’s no positivity from what I can see from the Disney princesses. But alas, all of her friends like them, so of course she does too. And so our son who’s five, he definitely has his sensitive side to him. But he’s also like your typical five year old boy, where he is just rough and brutal, he likes his trucks, he likes toys, he likes Army men; he’s just your typical, average five year old. And the other day he came down the stairs wearing some Disney princess tiara, some earrings, he had a skirt on, he was trying to walk in heels, and he’s carrying like a Tonka truck at the same time. And I thought it was hilarious, I thought it was adorable, so of course I call my wife and I’m like, “Oh my God you have to come see him because he looks hilariously ridiculous right now.” And we don’t- we’ve never made a big deal to him specifically like, “You can’t do that. You can’t play with your sister’s stuff,” and we would never say the same for her, even though like you just said it’s definitely different for girls versus boys. But I can see in so many scenarios, and even just experiencing like going to their soccer games or teeball games, where there’s so many parents that if their boys exhibit any level of femininity, anything whatsoever, then it’s like immediately- I don’t want to say a deal breaker because that’s like a little bit too dramatic. But there’s like a significant issue that these parents have with their children, allowing their boys to have any ounce of femininity. And to me it makes no sense whatsoever. And I don’t know if that’s just because he happens to be being raised in a lesbian household, so of course that’s going to automatically make the dynamic a little bit different and for both of us to not care about this, but it just seems like we would be in a much healthier society if parents allowed their boys to play with the Barbies if that’s what they wanted to do.

Kathy Borkoski:

Yeah, I definitely agree.

Jenn T Grace:

I feel like it’s frustrating and I’m sure it’s going to be one of those frustrating points as a parent moving forward, I can’t imagine. Because I have no filter most of the time and I have an inability to keep my mouth shut when I see injustice happening, even if it is with five year old boys playing with girls’ stuff. But I’m sure that’s going to be a reoccurring topic of my- as my children grow.

Kathy Borkoski:

Well there’s also a point overlooked in that. So people get- or some parents will get angry if their son is playing with Barbies or dolls or something along those lines. But their son is also training to be a parent. He’s training to be a father down the line. And those sort of like- that’s how you learn things, you play first. And so if we completely say, “You can’t do this, that’s bad,” then what does that do to him down the line when he has his own baby?

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah it’s interesting how there’s still- like even if you just look at the cultural perception of stay-at-home dads versus stay-at-home moms. Like there still seems to be some sort of like just strange perception of what a stay-at-home dad is, and I feel like there should be no stigma associated with that. But yet it’s still so- I don’t want to say ‘taboo,’ because we’re not quite- it’s not quite taboo anymore. But it’s definitely still not as popular as of course being a stay-at-home mother is going to be. And it’s interesting to see how, you know I would wonder if there’s some kind of- I love research. I would wonder if there’s some kind of research over the fathers who are stay-at-home fathers, if they- what their upbringing was and maybe if they were more- if it were more acceptable and more embraced for them to have those play type of roles where they were learning how to be parents. I wonder if something like that exists. Oh the randomness, okay. So what- and this is completely going off topic, I feel like I need to move this question in my lineup going forward. But is there some sort of book or a program or some kind of tool- or just really anything that you’ve used that just kind of helps you- helped you streamline or just transformed the way that you go about your business?

Kathy Borkoski:

So there’s definitely the course I was talking about before that I’m currently in. But what that’s done is I’m now reading lots and lots of books. And rather than just reading them which is what I was doing before, I’m also thinking about, ‘Okay what actions can I take coming out of this?’ So for instance a really good book I read recently was called ‘The Ultimate Sales Machine,’ it was phenomenal. And the biggest thing that he kind of pushes is how to sell, but how to implement the selling within your company. Because ultimately we’re all selling; like even if you’re just like, “No I’m just doing a good job. I’m doing what my employer told me to do.” Well by doing a good job, you’re selling your own employment back to your employer essentially. They’re like, “Yes I will keep you, I will not fire you, you’re doing great.” So we’re all selling at all times, it’s just a matter of thinking about it more specifically.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really interesting. And I think that that’s important, and I know that a lot of people just kind of read books for the sake of reading them and then they don’t actually execute. And this happens with taking online courses, going for seminars; you know like you can learn all- similar to one of your other points. But you know you can learn everything in the world, but if you’re not actually putting any of it into execution, then it’s just like the idea, it’s just an idea.

Kathy Borkoski:

Exactly and I think folks- when- like this is how I used to do it. When I used to read a book, the author would talk at me, and I forgot that I could engage in that conversation with them, didn’t really think about, ‘Well do I agree with that? Are we coming from the same background? Do- if I implement what this author is saying, do I think I would get the same results?” And so at the end of each of the books that I read I kind of sit down and reflect about it. ‘Okay so what are three things that I can do to implement what this book is talking about, which will affect my business in a positive way?’ Because otherwise I might as well just read Harry Potter.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah. That’s such a good point, that’s really interesting. So this has been I think a pretty- a pretty fabulous interview. I appreciate all the time that you’ve taken, and chatting with us, and I’m hoping that the folks who are listening to this are walking away with some sort of tangible advice similar to the book that they can execute on, you know? Just take one of these themes that we’ve talked about and implement it in their business. So for anyone who may be looking for more information about you, or wanting to get in touch with you, how would you recommend that they go about doing that?

Kathy Borkoski:

They can reach me through my website which is just www.KathyBorkoski.com, my personal site. Or they can reach me through our business site which is www.TridentProposals.com.

Jenn T Grace:

Awesome, well thank you so much for taking the time out of your day today. Is there anything else that you would like to plug or let anyone know?

Kathy Borkoski:

No, this has been great but if anybody has any specific questions about either proposals or business in general, I’m always available.

Jenn T Grace:

Awesome, thank you so much and we’ll definitely stay in touch.’

Kathy Borkoski:

Great, thanks Jenn. Bye.

Jenn T Grace:

Okay, I hope you enjoyed that interview with Kathy just as much as I enjoyed recording it with her. She was awesome to have on the show and I hope that you really sincerely enjoyed it. And of course if you have any questions as it relates to anything that we talked about, feel free to either reach out to me or reach out to her directly.

So before I wrap up, I just want to mention the other sponsor of this podcast, which is Teazled, which is an LGBT greeting card company whose driving motivation is to pioneer traditional greeting cards for the nontraditional family so they also can celebrate those meaningful moments. And in addition to the 200 plus every day cards they have, holiday cards, all that fun stuff, they’re also offering customized business to business cards, and business to consumer cards. So I am really excited, I’ve talked about Teazled for the last couple of episodes now. They are all very dear friends of mine, the whole team there, and honestly there’s just something really amazing in getting a greeting card that is specific to you and your family. So if you haven’t had an opportunity to check them out yet, I highly encourage you to do so. And you can do that by heading over to the website at www.JennTGrace.com/cards. So please feel free to go on over there and of course if you do any shopping which I hope you do, please, please mention that I sent you over there.

So that wraps up episode number thirty. So before I let you entirely go, I just want to rattle off the most recent post from my blog. So I know that you listen to this every two weeks or so. A lot happens within two weeks’ time, especially in the LGBT community in this current day landscape where things are rapidly changing on such a fast, fast moving basis. So I’m just going to read off the titles of the most recent posts that I have put on the website, so if any of those pique your interest, I highly encourage you to head on over to www.JennTGrace.com and right there on the right hand side of the website you’ll see recent posts.

So on February 18th we talked about ‘Are You Non-Verbally Stereotyping in Your Gay Marketing?’ On February 20th I launched a podcast, episode number 29 which was the ‘Top Eight LGBT News Stories of February, and Why They Matter.’ That was a really good podcast, so if you missed that one I encourage you to definitely go back and check it out. Also on February 21st I did ‘So What is Inclusion-Based Marketing?’ That’s an interesting one and it’s something I talk about quite frequently. And February 25th was ‘Are Your LGBT Communications Unknowingly Insulting and Derogatory? Find Out by Reading This.’ Then on February 28th I included a post that was actually requested of me from Facebook, which was ‘What’s the Business Impact of Ridiculous Proposed Laws Like Arizona’s Senate Bill 1062?’ So if you are not familiar with what that bill was, how it would have impacted business, et cetera, I definitely recommend checking that out. And then finally on March 4th I wrote The Hidden Implications of LGBT Terms, And Why You May Want to Avoid Them.’

So those are essentially six recent posts that have happened since the last time I hit record on this podcast. So if any of those pique your interest, head on over to the website. Of course I love to see you either here listening, or there reading. And of course I always want you to feel comfortable to reach out to me. I know a lot of people say, “Oh yeah reach out to me,” and then no one ever actually responds back, but I will promise you that you will receive a response from me, no matter what it is. If you send me a really long email, those are the ones that end up taking me a couple of days to respond to, because I want to be really thoughtful and really careful with how I respond. So if you do do that, I would immensely appreciate it, and of course I love hearing from you.

So thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to the podcast. I hope to hear from you and see you in episode number 31. Thanks so much and I’ll talk to you soon.

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published 100+ books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

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