In strategic consulting, where the path to success can be intricate and elusive, Christie J. Lawler stands as a guiding force, illuminating the way forward as the Founder of CJL Consulting.
Christie leverages her vast experience and holistic perspective to guide organizations toward growth and prosperity. With a keen understanding of market dynamics, consumer behavior, and industry trends, she crafts tailored strategies that propel businesses forward in a competitive landscape.
We caught up with Christie and discussed her plans for her company.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Briefly describe your career path as a staunch woman leader until your current position. What were the challenges that you had to overcome to scale your progress?
I was one of those kids that always had a plan and knew exactly what I wanted to pursue as a career field for as long as I can remember. And I did use my undergrad degree for a few years after graduating college. And then, I was offered the opportunity to change paths completely.
My career has taken many different turns, and every time I was at a fork in the road, I took much time to weigh my options. I’ve been in my current industry for 30 years, but in so many different roles, I have never done the same thing twice. And I love that about my journey. I have never once found myself bored in any job. I also have never stopped learning, so I consider myself very lucky to be able to report that I love my career, honestly.
I overcame multiple challenges, just like everyone does. I don’t feel like the obstacles I faced are unique, but we all have similar experiences on our paths in the industry, and only the names and faces are different when it all comes down to it.
Tell us more about your company and its mission and vision.
I run a beverage marketing and consulting agency. I started this company while finishing my MBA to stay engaged in my career path while completing my studies. The program was hard, and I was constantly traveling, pulling 60- to 80-hour work weeks, and was emotionally and mentally fried. I knew I couldn’t give up on my educational dream, so I had to pivot on my path. I started my consulting agency to focus on my education and career while not burning out mentally. But it didn’t immediately take off, so while consulting; I went back to work as a freelance journalist to help meet my looming student debt. I was relatively young and terrified by my choices, but I followed my gut and checked that one big box in my life – finishing my advanced degree.
Our mission as a company is to foster personal growth and professional development – and that ethos stems from my experience where I was forced to choose between the two. I loved my job, but my personal goals wouldn’t go away because of a paycheck – even though I desperately needed that income. Because of my difficult position, I don’t want anyone to give up their future goals for their job – especially if that job happens to be at my company. It is incredibly important that life comes first – no matter what that looks like so that work is something you want to do – instead of having to do.
This is also part of the inspiration for launching our non-profit arm in 2018. Which has since grown from 25 Mentor Members to nearly 150 female powerhouses across our business. The WITI Group (“WITI” stands for Women In The Industry) is a 501(c)(3) organization that promotes the future female leaders of our industry through mentorship, financial and emotional support, and scholarships. Every year we host an annual leadership conference and a public fundraiser. However, this year we are launching our first national cocktail/mixology/bartending competition – The WITI Cocktail Quest – open to all U.S. residents. Very exciting growth for all of us!
What methodologies do you implement that contribute to new growth opportunities?
As basic as this may sound…it’s the Golden Rule. Treat others as you want to be treated. Lead with kindness and empathy, and everything else seems to fall into place. Plus – and this is not just personally speaking, but statistically – happiness and peace breed productivity.
I am certainly not without flaws, and I have misstepped as often as I have succeeded in this regard. My heart is always in the right place, so I try to make amends immediately when I make a mistake or unintentionally hurt feelings. It’s a growth process. I am forever on a journey to be better.
Please share your learning of the business world.
I am still learning every day. And I prefer it that way. I learn from everyone around me, either by accident or by choice. I learn from my children constantly. I work in relationships, providing an incredible constant opportunity for growth and understanding. I know with absolute certainty that there will always be something new to learn. Just in the past few years, I have had to learn how to manage and design a website, build an e-commerce portal, and build my consumer brand. It’s been a wild adventure, but I love teaching myself new skills. There is also the added benefit of being more self-reliant when I have curated a unique skill set.
What strategies do you implement to promote gender diversity for various leadership positions at your company?
We are a certified woman-owned small business, and our entire team is female. We’re small and nimble, and creative. We get stuff done and don’t hire for DEI; we hire for attitude and enthusiasm. We find the right humans, and then we all work to build each other.
What values do you incorporate to enhance the work culture of your company?
Personal life first. That’s it. We have a crazy work schedule that doesn’t fit a mold. So yes, we get our massages at 2 pm on a Tuesday and take calls from the nail or hair salon. I check emails between innings at my kids’ baseball games. And we have unlimited paid time off. That last one sounds crazy – but we have one rule as a company: Show up and don’t miss your deadlines.
That’s all that matters. We can work anytime, anywhere, as long as the job gets done – you do you! I spend a significant amount of time on vacation with
my family. When we are all home, there is so much to do between school, sports, activities, and my work schedule that we don’t get enough quality family togetherness time. So, we take our kids on vacation as often as possible so that we all can reconnect without the day-to-day distractions of regular life. Plus, I am showing my kids the world, which is the best way to foster their sense of adventure, curiosity, and understanding of the world around them.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for your company?
I plan to work every day for the rest of my life. When you love what you do…it rarely feels like work. I channel Betty White…I want to work forever, make an impact, leave a legacy of love and laughter, and do my part to improve the world.
What advice would you give the next generation of women leaders willing to venture into modern business?
Trust your gut! That tiny nagging voice that tells you “no” or “yes” is your internal map telling you where to go. Follow it, and one day, they will stop asking you “why” you did something, and instead, the question turns to “How did you do that?”