Every once in a while, you meet a really bright spark that you know will become (if they haven’t already) a really big bonfire…the kind everyone wants to warm up by over great conversation and maybe even some beers. I met such a spark on January 26, 2009. Her name is Carla Langhorst and she was the most welcome rush of warmth and energy in an otherwise cold and gray room (I do disdain networking functions…or at least…did back then…now I’ve found a way to make them fun). She introduced herself as a “self-employed consultant” and at the time, I didn’t realize that this was a big shift for her to introduce herself in that way. Over the past months, I have reveled in her progress, her success and her friendship. She is a woman to watch. Here’s why:

  • She is the wisest 29 year old I’ve ever met.
  • She just earned her MBA.
  • She just launched a book called “Will it Fly: And Idea Tester” which is an important read for anyone with a vision and an uncertainty about its viability (and invited me to speak at the launch party…told you she was cool).
  • She is hilarious.
  • She has a consulting business called Make it Fly that is simply bursting at the seams.
  • This month she launches a new site called: smallbusinesssolver.com which was created for small business owners who may not be able to afford a business consultant’s wages. It was also borne out of her connection with herself and her values. Smart, smart woman. She knew that as successful (and here, I mean bucks) as she will continue to be as a business advisor, that she was likely not going to be satisfied in the long term helping people with the same problems and the same answers. She likes greater variety and wanted a product that could reach everyone…not just those who can pay top dollar. The Small Business Solver is a program that represents tons of research and interviews with small business owners (yours truly included) to tap into what their needs are…and the solutions. Do check it out…even if you don’t sign up, you will learn some aspects about your business that you may not have considered.  She’s very very very generous that way.
  • She has great shoes.
  • She is a world traveler.
  • She is a natural and giving connector and if you ever get the chance to sit down with her and talk about life, love, success and all things glorious, you’ll feel grateful to have her at your table.

I wanted to write about her because you know how I love to talk about people who step into their greatness. I also like to write about people who are tapped into their values. And I wanted to post about her today (September 30, 2009) for two reason:

  1. I believe in helping to build the businesses of those I dig and smallbusinesssolver.com launches this month (October 15th, 2009). Yahoo!!!
  2. On this day last year, she almost died en route to Tibet...elevation sickness. Twelve hours away from a hospital, she went into a coma for 5 hours and when she awoke, the only person who spoke English told her that they didn’t think she’d walk for at least three days…what with her temperature of 106 degree temperature and all. Call me sentimental, but I thought that story bore telling.

Here’s some insight that she shared about herself in an e-terview.

You are someone that I admire...who do you admire and why?

I admire my best friend. She is a rock.  She is one of those people who knows herself, knows what she stands for, and lives up to it every single time.  She believes in being good.  She is rather quiet, but she shines because she is comfortable with herself and is extremely happy because of this. I think that it is probably easier to be happy when you are being true to who you are - and she pulls it off better than anyone.

You are an idea tester. What is the greatest idea that you've come across (perhaps one that you wish you had have come up with) and what might you have done differently?

The greatest idea?  It is so tough to judge as it depends on the criteria of a great idea. I generally judge ideas on how they fit the people who want to push them forward. Often an idea doesn't fit a person's salary expectations, the number of hours they want to work, or their own strengths.

But to just judge an idea on its own, you have to know what the criteria of best is.  If the criteria is money (which is the traditional view of a "good" idea), I would say that casinos are great. I wanted to own one since I was 10. How would I do it differently?  My casino would go after a different niche - women.  All of the men serving drinks would wear revealing clothing, and the night entertainment would be significantly different. Instead of free cigars, maybe free manicures.  I haven't narrowed in on a name, but maybe Cougar's Palace. If the criteria is giving back, a neat concept, cool technology, or promoting sustainability, the best idea would be completely different.  I think that to figure out what is the "best idea", people need to start with what is important to them. (ed note: DING DING DING!!!!!)

Was there a moment in your life that you can say "turned it around" for you (life, business or otherwise?)

No. There are many. I think that life is full of paradigm shifts.  The key is that each one should bring you to a new (and better) viewpoint.  Not to say that you can't take a step back every once and again.  I took a step back last week. But the key is to keep striving for the next viewpoint and turning bad times into learning points.  Everyone has good and bad moments, that's the charming part of life.

One paradigm shift that sticks out in my mind was when I first met you.  Everyone at the networking event didn't seem that interested in speaking to an unemployed graduate student.  I kept having playbacks in my mind of headhunters telling me how many companies were on hiring freezes and the job offers I was getting were 50% below the offers given before the economic downturn.  And the shift hit me.  I had been in sales, I believed in the product which was me, why not sell that and become self-employed? That's the exact moment you walked up to me and introduced yourself.  I responded, "I'm Carla, and I'm a self-employed consultant".

What is the one word that guides all that you do?

"Fun" was my first reaction.  I basically live each moment, and fully enjoy each moment.  I figure I only live once - and if that is the case, I should have no regrets.  But you really can't have fun, or at least appreciate it, without the other - connection with other people.  And I think the strongest connector is giving to others and caring about others. So I try to make sure that that is central in things I do.

What are you always giving away and what does that give you?

Anything I can really.  I make it a priority to do one good turn a day.  This can be as simple as smiling at a stranger, telling a woman on the street that she has excellent shoes, or something more involved such as pushing someone to a homeless shelter in a wheelchair for 2kms. I find that I give 30% of my time away to people.  In the end, most of my clients are a result of having done a good turn somewhere else in my life.  I think the important thing is not expecting that or taking it for granted.

Beyond the launch of smallbusinesssolver.com this month, what's next for Carla Langhorst?

I wonder that myself. I do have a dream to write a second book during a 3 month backpack tour of South America.  But that is 2 1/2 years out from now.  Right now I want to focus on smallbusinesssolver.com.  I want people to know about it as I think that it is going to help a lot of people out there, but I also want to make it better. I know that there is a ton of potential for this tool, and I want to get it there. Imagine if the percentage of small businesses that fail was reduced to 25% - how much more creative and competitive would Canada be?  How much better would the world be if a country with so much potential could flex its creativity muscles?  I think that I'm going to keep coming up with ways to do that.  Why not have a dream?

On her first day of MBA classes, the professor said: “Live like you’ll die tomorrow and learn like you’ll live forever”. Carla was listening…and so should we.

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