As a 14 year old, Diana rode 75 minutes on a public bus to her first job so that she wouldn’t be distracted by friends. Now as the Director of a the Small Business Development Center she helps entrepreneurs realize that they can be entrepreneurs.
- Coconino County Small Business Development Center
- The Do Good, Be Good Facebook Page
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- The Do Good, Be Good Website
For the full transcript of this episode, read on below:
00:00 Diana White: I have that presence. If something is happening in the room and they’re looking for a leader, somebody to… “What do we do next? They look at me and I’m like, “I’m eating a muffin, why are you looking at me?”
00:19 Speaker 2: This is Do Good Be Good, the show about helpful people and the challenges they face in trying to do good. Your host is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom, a career do-gooder, who also loves craft beer and a good hard tackle in rugby. Sharon speaks to everyday people about why they do good and what it means to be good.
00:39 Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom: Welcome back, I’m your host, Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom. Today’s guest is Diana White. Diana is the director of the Small Business Development Center here in Coconino County, Arizona. I know Diana because I actually hired her as a business coach before she had that job, and we just crossed paths all the time ’cause she’s involved throughout the Flagstaff Community. Diana and I speak about her career in retail before she joined the Small Business Development Center. What was your very first job?
01:10 DW: I was a part-time cashier at a drug store in Queens, New York called Genovese Drugs. And I was 14 years old, and my mother had to sign working papers for me because I was too young to work on my own, but I just wanted to get a job.
01:28 ST: How long were you there?
01:29 DW: I was there for about maybe a year, and then my mom made me quit the job because it was a bit of travel from Queens to The Bronx where I grew up, where we lived. And one night, I missed the bus and I ended up coming home extremely late and she was very worried, so she made me quit the job.
01:50 ST: So you were at a convenient store that was not convenient to your house?
01:54 DW: Exactly, [chuckle] exactly.
01:57 ST: So how did you end up at that one instead of a closer retail location?
02:02 DW: It’s funny, I picked it because I didn’t want to be in my neighborhood. It’s a large neighborhood, but when you live there it becomes very small, you get to know everyone. And I didn’t wanna be in a situation where I was working, and I was distracted by friends or my mother’s church group that would come in and just stand there and agile me and say, “Look at the little baby working,” that kind of thing. So I said, “How far away can I get so that I can just do this job, learn what I need to get done, earn my money and not have those distractions?” So I picked Queens.
02:39 ST: That’s smart actually, that makes a lot of sense.
02:42 DW: One of the other reasons too, is I’ve always been an avid reader, always. And so, believe it or not, the bus ride was enough time for me to get a good amount of reading in. And so that was crucial for me. So like, “Oh I’ve got an hour and 15 minutes, I can read like three chapters.” And then from there, I got my seasonal job with Barnes & Noble booksellers. And that really started my trajectory in book sales and customer service.
03:13 ST: Anything in particular you remember learning from that first job?
03:16 DW: Oh my goodness. One of the first things that I learned is that it has nothing to do with me. As a teenager, you’re so email, you take everything personally. Everything is about you. And for me, I really had to get a thicker skin, I had to realize that if somebody came in and they bought something and they’re bringing it back because it didn’t work and they’re yelling at you, and they want their refund, you didn’t make the product, it has nothing to do with you, you just need to make it right for them. And then when I left that and I went into books, it was a totally different avenue. Then it became self-development. I always joke about this because I have no idea why I didn’t get fired or how I got away with this, but I would work in the bookstore, and I worked in Manhattan. And people would come in and I was always so curious, everyone was so different. One person looked affluent, the other one looked like they just had an everyday job. The grandmother that would come in want a book list for the grandchildren for Christmas.
04:23 DW: And I would ask, I was always a curious child, so I would ask, “Well what do you do? Why are you interested in this book?” And, “What does this mean to you?” Now to my managers, it looked like I was giving the best customer service ever because I was just chatting away. And I learned so much, I learned about money, I learned about what real estate means, and if you buy real estate, how well that will help you set a foundation financially. I learned about child-rearing through people coming into the bookstore and just giving me tips on different books to read. I had a lady come in and she was looking for books for her grandchildren, and I just noticed that she held herself differently. And her diamond sparkled a little bit shinier than the other diamonds that I’ve seen that are not real. [chuckle] And I just… For me, it seemed like, okay, she was understatedly wealthy.
05:19 DW: And I asked her, “What do you do?” Just out of curiosity. And she goes, “I’m a socialite.” And I said, “What does that mean?” And she says, “Well, I don’t have what you would call a day-to-day job, but I have family money, and I joined organizations and I help where I can, and I help raise money if I need to.” And I said, “That’s very interesting. What does family money mean? What does that look like, where does it come from?” And I never forget, she told me, “My grandfather used to take me to the railroad, and we would watch the cars go by, and he would tell me, you own a little bit of that company, and you own a little bit of that company. And I didn’t understand what it meant as a child at the time, but as I grew older, I realized that he had bought me stock in these different companies, and just let them sit and grow. And when I grew up, that was my portfolio, that’s what I had to live off of.” I thought that was fascinating. And so I said, “Well, how can I do that? I have a child, I wanna start something early.” And she goes, “Well, if you don’t have enough money to go and buy stocks there are things called dividend reinvestment programs where you work directly with the company and you give them a little bit of money every month, and you buy fractions of shares. And if you do it consistently, you can build it over time.”
06:49 DW: And so I bought my daughter her first dividend reinvestment stock, it was Madison Gas and Electric because I figured Madison, Wisconsin will always need gas and electric. And it was eye-opening for me to have that conversation with her and know that what she was able to develop or what her family built for her is for anyone who has the knowledge and is willing to do the work and invest, it’s not just for an echelon or an elite. I’ll never forget that ever.
07:20 ST: That’s fascinating. I’m just fascinated by the idea that here you are. You were quite young at that time, right?
07:26 DW: 18, 19.
07:27 ST: Yeah. Yeah, so you’re a teenager. You’re at a Barnes and Noble. [chuckle] Something that most of us would think of as just a job, and you are looking at it so differently and you’re not intimidated by… It doesn’t sound like any of the people that you were talking to.
07:48 DW: So one thing that I’ve learned throughout my career and that I try to get across to all of the entrepreneurs and small business owners that come in, fundamental innocent curiosity is an icebreaker for anything, as long as you know how to approach the person. I’ve never been intimidated by someone who does something differently than me or makes more than me. I’ve just been curious, and I wanna know how did you get there, what is your story? And how can I correlate that to my life? And even at almost 50, I’m still doing that. You would think that I should be going through my midlife crisis, I shouldn’t be worried about developing and… No, but I’m still looking at people and saying, “How did you get where you are?” I look at my daughter and I say, “How did you figure out that Snapchat? [chuckle] Show me how.” But that’s that lifelong learner in me.
08:49 DW: When I teach my classes, first question I always ask is, define leadership. Define what a leader is. You can give attributes, you can actually describe a person, just yell stuff out. And inevitably, I’ll get a go-getter, self-starter, a person that takes charge, a natural born leader, confident person. And then I’ll go, “That’s great, that’s all good stuff.” I said, “But you know what else? An entrepreneur is a mom with five kids. An entrepreneur is a 10-year-old with a lemonade stand. An entrepreneur can have anxiety. An entrepreneur can have concerns about whether or not this idea is gonna fly. An entrepreneur can be in debt, who really is an entrepreneur? It’s all of you.”
09:38 DW: And then I’ll say, “Why did you take this class?” “Well, I took this class because I wanna start a business.” “But you just told me that you think the only people that can start businesses wear capes and fly and save people. If you know that you’re just a regular person that has a dream and an idea, why are you setting up this expectation that you don’t think you’re ever gonna reach, because Superman really doesn’t exist, right? Why are you doing that to yourself? You’re already setting yourselves up for failure mentally. Understand that an entrepreneur is just somebody with a good idea, filling a need and they’re trying to take it to the next level.
10:18 ST: To support this show, please consider buying a Do Good shirt or sweatshirt. We have them in a few different styles and you can find the details at the website. Dogoodbegoodshow.com or at the Facebook page, facebook.com/dogoodbegoodshow. Also what would be really helpful is if you could rate and review our show in your podcast app, and that will help other people find the show. Thank you again so much for your help and for listening. Now, back to the conversation.
10:52 DW: Still go into stores this day, and I’ll shop, and somebody will inevitably come up to me and say, “Do you know where such and such is?” I have that presence. If something is happening in the room and they’re looking for a leader, somebody to… “What do we do next?” They look at me and I’m like, “I’m eating a muffin, why are you looking at me?”
11:14 ST: Lovely. I’m eating a muffin… [chuckle] People are still coming to you.
11:19 DW: Those leadership qualities, once they’re turned on, once they’re tapped into, they’re hard to get rid of, and you can’t turn them off. It’s an aura that people will feel no matter what. And I think part of my growth was learning how to live in that skin, learning how to not get a big head about it and understand that I have this ability.
11:44 ST: I really resonate with that. And I also remember being in grad school and doing an exercise in which we had to pretend we were on a deserted desert island, we had been shipwrecked and we had to figure out which 10 items from the plane we would keep in order to survive.
12:07 ST: It’s a very dramatic situation which we were trying to figure out under the fluorescent lights of a classroom.
12:12 DW: Oh my goodness.
12:13 ST: They had cleverly had us first go through the exercise by ourself and prioritized the survival items individually. And then, we had the discussion as a group, and we had to come up with what we would prioritize. This exercise happened in Virginia, and I had been traveling to Arizona. I was dating a boy from Arizona who’s now my husband. And so…
12:40 DW: [chuckle] Glad that worked out.
12:41 ST: Yeah, it worked out well. [chuckle] So I was telling my group as we discussed, what was necessary to survive in the desert. I was saying, “Well, I’ve been to the desert.” [chuckle] And I was explaining to them, hyponatremia, and the importance of the fact that if you actually drink too much water while you are in the hot desert without having enough salt, then you could have hyponatremia and you could die.
13:11 DW: Very true.
13:12 ST: And salt was one of the possible answers on our quiz. So I was talking about how important salt was. Meanwhile, we had this lovely woman in our group, who was using much more rational logic to talk about basic survival needs that we would have in the desert before we ever had the issue of hyponatremia. And unfortunately, for our group, I was very influential, and the group all decided to change their answers, and make their answers more similar to what I had originally ranked. The fun thing about this exercise was that we got actual results at the end. We had a score, a numerical score of what the correct answers were supposed to be according to a survival expert. And so then we could rate our groups’ score as well as our individual scores. Which allowed us to then compare and find out, “Did we get better once we were in the group? Or did we get worse?”
14:16 DW: And?
14:17 ST: And my group, almost universally, got worse. I got slightly better because my scores were so terrible. [laughter] My original individual ranking of these survival items, that working with the group helped me a little bit, and yet I pulled everybody else down to my level. And it was fascinating, it was a really stark example for me and a really helpful lesson in the fact that whether I intend to be or not, I am very influential.
14:52 DW: You are, and many people are, and sometimes you see it and it’s led for good, and sometimes just as with what happened with you, you see it and it’s led in a different direction. I am usually the person, and I don’t think I’ve always been this way, so definitely cultivated over time, but I am the person that when I get into the group, instead of pleading my case or getting people to follow what I think, I’m the first one to say, “What is your expertise? What is your expertise? What is your expertise? Okay, you’re in charge of this. You figure out this, you figure out that.”
15:37 DW: Someone once said, “I strive to hire some of the laziest programmers, because I know that if there’s a shortcut to get the job done the right way, they’re gonna be the ones to find it.” I am delegation queen. I don’t think that it is important for me to spend my time and energy in proving to you that I’m an expert in something when there’s an expert in the room. Let them be an expert in what they do ’cause I could be an expert in pulling everybody together. I’ve been told, I won’t believe this, but I’ve been told I’m pretty blunt. [chuckle] So I will also be very comfortable in telling you that, “Let’s have a moment here, you think you’re an expert, but what we’re hearing, maybe not so much. So let’s see how we can redirect those efforts and get you where you are an expert.”
16:32 DW: But yeah, that’s probably how I would have handled that situation if I would even have been inclined to partake in that exercise. [laughter] ‘Cause sometimes I just… Some of the exercises that we did I was like, “Oh, this is a waste of my time, I’m gonna go read a book.”
16:49 ST: I did have that takeaway from that exercise, ’cause at first I wanted to push back and be like, “Well, y’all needed to do a better job of advocating your case.” And then I thought, “No, part of being a leader is recognizing when it’s in everyone’s best interest for me to spend more time listening and to giving other people the floor and figuring out who’s expertise we have in the room and giving them the mic, knowing when to step back, knowing when to delegate.”
17:17 DW: But I still say the salt was really important. [laughter] I still do, yes.
17:23 ST: Yeah, I just had someone talk about hyponatremia the other day and I thought…
17:28 DW: If only they had been in my group. [laughter] Yeah?
17:33 ST: Yeah. The show is called, Do Good Be Good, what does it mean to you to be good?
17:38 DW: I will tell you what it means to me to be good, and then I will say, don’t ask my mom, ’cause she’s gonna say something different. So what it means to me to do good and be good, is just, be authentic and do things from your heart and do things and treat people the way you would want it served back to you. When you do those things, you kinda stay on a good moral path which in turn… I’m a firm believer in energy. It brings good energy back to you. Now, do you slip every once in a while? Do you get mad because somebody took too long to make your latte and you’ve got an appointment to go to? Yeah, sometimes that happens. But for the most part, if you live your life of just everything happens for a reason, and I’m gonna start counting my blessings instead of counting all the bad stuff, your blessings get bigger, and then you’re able to give that to other people and pay it forward.
18:50 ST: I’m so grateful Diana was willing to come in and share her story with you. On next week’s episode, I will speak to Rand Jenkins, the founder of Mountain Mojo marketing group, you won’t wanna miss it. So subscribe to this podcast in your podcast player, whether that’s Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Google Music, wherever you get your podcasts. Music in this episode is bathed in fine dust by Andy G. Cohen, released under a Creative Commons Attribution International License, and discovered in the Free Music Archive. Until next week, this is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom signing off.