Indigo Triplett is the $18-million woman. The former U.S. Marine Corps field radio operator turned career transition guru has built a consulting powerhouse, Careers in Transition, Inc., which landed her a coveted spot on Inc. magazine’s Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies in America list. “When someone loses a job, the person is so devastated. But I have always seen that as a second chance to do exactly what you really want to do. We actually coach and counsel people on career options,” says the 49-year old native of Aurora, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.
“I grew up as a ‘union baby’ with both of my parents working in manufacturing and actively involved in the union. I always knew taking care of employees was important,” says Triplett, author of two highly successful books, Playing by the Unwritten Rules: Moving from the Middle to the Top and Playing by the Rules II: From a Job Defense to a Career Offense.
It was ultimately Triplett’s own firing from what she calls a “hostile” work environment that led her to answer the call of entrepreneurship. She also had a realization that her income potential would always be limited as an employee. “I knew I wanted more than that,” she says. And the timing was right. She hit her stride in the downsizing boom of the mid-1990s, literally going door-to-door inside business complexes and selling her career mobility services as an independent contractor. “I put in a lot of sweat equity. There were also no vacations, no brand-name clothes and sometimes, there was no cheese on the hamburger,” Triplett says, recalling the 18-hour workdays. She became the owner of a minority-certified business, which allowed her to tap into the lucrative world of federal contracts. Today, her company’s client roster includes government agencies, Fortune 500 companies and large nonprofit organizations that use Careers in Transition services to help attract, develop and retain employees as well as manage transitions. The company’s revenue has tripled over the last year, thanks to a recently signed $18-million government contract. She now has 35 employees, in addition to contract consultants.
Triplett attributes her success and personal wealth to several key elements, including two pieces of sage advice. “A mentor once told me, ‘If you are traveling for business, always travel in first class. First-class people do business with first-class people,’” she recalls. “I’ve gained so much advice and business by networking in first class.”
Her second piece of invaluable wisdom: “Another mentor said, ‘You need a good therapist to protect your mind, and a good tax attorney will protect your wealth.’ That is the best advice I’ve ever received,” says Triplett, who is now working on her Ph.D. in Values Driven Leadership and is a highly sought-after speaker on career mobility.
She now has another mission: “I want to create millionaires in my company. This is about creating wealth beyond oneself,” Triplett says.
Triplett’s strategies for entrepreneur and career success:
1 Transition from entrepreneur to a small-business owner. “You have to move from being in the business to working on the business. This allows you to become a small business that has employees instead of just an entrepreneur.”
2 Don’t be afraid to share and partner. “There’s a dangerous belief among many entrepreneurs that, ‘I can’t share with you because that will take from me.’ If you continue to work isolated, you won’t grow.” Triplett says she secured the recent $18-million contract by partnering on a $25-million deal.
3 Become a certified minority business. Visit your local Small Business Administration office and learn about the process. Join the National Minority Supplier Development Council and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. Visit the Federal Business Opportunity website (fbo.gov), on which every federal business opportunity is listed.
4 Have an advocate and a mentor. These are two distinct roles that people mistakenly confuse to their detriment. An advocate makes sure opportunities are happening for you. “An advocate chooses you,” Triplett says. A mentor teaches you how to move forward in your career. Never complain about your workplace to your advocate, she warns.