Ownr Success Stories: AKP Solutions
Management consulting firm AKP Solutions has one goal in mind: help businesses succeed. In this interview with Ownr, founder Alexandra Kapelos-Peters illustrates how she measures success and shares her experienced advice to new entrepreneurs wanting to start their own business.
Introduce us to AKP Solutions.
Alexandra: AKP Solutions is a management consulting firm helping businesses plan, grow, adapt, and succeed through the effective use of people, processes, and technology. We’re passionate about helping entrepreneurs, startups, and small and mid-sized businesses grow, as well as working with larger, established teams and organizations to optimize their management and business operations.
Whether focused on IT, marketing, finance, HR, admin, operations, or PMO, we help businesses translate their vision, goals, and ideas into actionable plans. Our motto is “let’s get it done” because we are proud to inspire action and get results.
What inspired you to set up AKP Solutions?
Alexandra: Growing up, my mom was self-employed, also a management consultant. As a kid, I always struggled to understand and to explain what she did. I was dragged to meetings and conferences across the country and often complained about acting as Courier to deliver proposals, as Tech Support to troubleshoot computer problems, or as Scribe for interview notes. I developed a bitterness for self-employment: it seemed like a lot of hard, underappreciated work with unstable reward. I vowed to avoid these burdens and jumped at traditional, 9-to-5 corporate office employment as soon as it was offered to me. But alongside these “safe” corporate roles, I always took on side projects.
As much as I had wanted to resist a life of self-employment, I realized that I’m more like my mom than I imagined and that I had a taste for entrepreneurship that couldn’t be avoided.
After ~15 years of working on a freelance basis along with full-time roles and contracts, I came to realize that the most exciting and interesting work came from variety. Rather than working for a single employer, with a single team, on a single product or project, through my own business I could work on a range of diverse projects, across brands, products, regions, and industries.
What do you love about being your own boss? What keeps you motivated?
Alexandra: Having a flexible schedule and being in control of my own time is certainly a huge benefit, but what I appreciate most is the ability to choose what work I’ll take on. This ensures variety; I’m never bored, and I’m always learning.
I usually like a challenge: something that I may not have done before that forces me to learn new skills or tackle new experiences. Although it’s sometimes nice to just do something well and enjoy the feeling of seeing one’s work put to use and appreciated.
What’s great about entrepreneurship is the sense of ownership and accountability. The maxims “work hard, play hard” and “you get what you give” is true: it’s easy to stay motivated once you realize that your efforts contribute directly to your future happiness and success.
What has been your biggest success or earliest win?
Alexandra: My biggest wins since incorporating were when people in my network contacted me out to see if I would work with them. That was both flattering and reassuring.
Now I measure my success by the number of clients who return and the number of former colleagues and employers who reach out to work together again.
It’s a cliché but it’s also true: there is nothing more rewarding than sharing in my clients’ success, hearing that they’ve been promoted or otherwise successful in achieving their goals because of work I’ve done for them.
What do you remember about the initial days of AKP Solutions? When did you register your business with Ownr? Anything you can share about your experience of using Ownr to set up?
Alexandra: Around the same time that I was incorporating AKP Solutions, I was also incorporating another company (a specialty medical communications consultancy, Stratenym).
Going through the experience in parallel was interesting: while the steps required were similar—from the registration process to branding, tax, legal and financial set-up—the process with Ownr was significantly faster. I was up and running and ready to take on new business almost overnight.
What’s the hardest part of running a business of this nature? Is there anything you wish you knew before you started? Anything you would approach differently?
Alexandra: The challenge of management consulting is trying to get to know as much as possible about your clients and their business, including the market, competitors, and challenges, as quickly as possible. You need to understand their situation to offer relevant and actionable solutions, but at the same time, there’s usually an urgency and need for immediate action. It can be difficult to find a balance between these conflicting pressures.
As for most new businesses, the other big challenge is the unpredictability of sales and work. I begin most months worried that I’ll have nothing to do, and yet somehow usually end up playing Tetris with my calendar to ensure that everything gets done. Entrepreneurship is not for the risk-averse or faint of heart: you have to be prepared for the rollercoaster.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Alexandra: No two days are alike, and that’s how I prefer it!
As a remote consultant with global clients, most days feature some combination of in-person, telephone, and web-based meetings. I often have 7 am meetings with India, 9 am with Germany, 10 am with the UK, afternoons in local Eastern regions, and finish in the evening with teams in Mountain or Pacific time. Staying on top of calendars is half the battle!
In the work itself, there is great variety. I’ll do whatever my clients need to get done, because they may lack the time or experience to execute on their own.
This includes crafting business plans and presentations, creating financial forecasts, documenting processes, evaluating and implementing software, developing training materials, reviewing organizational structures and roles, recruiting and onboarding new hires, creating project and business templates, defining product roadmaps, performing customer interviews and tests, producing reports and analyses, and even writing scripts to automate processes like assigning tasks or sending emails.
Every mandate brings a new challenge and this is what makes each day so exciting.
Are there any tips you’d like to share with other entrepreneurs starting their business journey?
Alexandra: Don’t get distracted by the fun stuff like naming your company, the logo and tagline, etc. You need to have a solid and thoughtful vision and strategy. Who are your customers? How will you help them? What problems are you solving? What makes your business different from, or better than, others?
Create a budget and be realistic about your planning. You probably won’t sell $1M right away or win every proposal you submit. How will you fund your first months and years of operation?
Determine your key metrics: how will you measure success? In profits, staff turnover, recurring sales? How will you know if things aren’t working out?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. Most people will be flattered that you respect their input and, once involved, they will be even more motivated to help you succeed.
Conversely, don’t take advantage of your contacts or under-appreciate their contributions. If you are lucky to know talented folks with useful skills, respect their time and expertise when asking for favours. What you think to be simple or quick may be more time-consuming than you imagine.
Support other entrepreneurs. Dog-eat-dog, no longer: there’s more than enough business to go around. You’ll get further ahead by sharing and collaborating and fostering positive relationships.
Be fair, honest, ethical and make good on your word. They say there’s only one shot at a first impression, and this is even more true for your new business. Work hard. Do a great job. Prove yourself. And then, hopefully, reap the rewards down the line once you have developed a reputation as trustworthy and reliable.
Where can people learn more about AKP Solutions?
Ready to start your business? Ownr is here to help! If you have questions about how to register or incorporate your business, give us a call at 1-800-766-6302, Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm EST, or email us firstname.lastname@example.org.