Purpose Before Profit: Jennifer Musser Of JLM & Associates Consulting On The Benefits Of Running A Purpose-Driven Business

"…Start with where you are. For example, start your business within your financial, time, and energy resources. Be ambitious while also being realistic…"

In today’s competitive business landscape, the race for profits often takes center stage. However, there are some leaders who also prioritize a mission-driven purpose. They use their business to make a positive social impact and recognize that success isn’t only about making money. In this interview series, we are talking with some of these distinct leaders and I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Musser.

With consulting experience at globally renowned firms such as PwC, Duff & Phelps (acquired by Kroll), and Kroll Zolfo Cooper (now owned by AlixPartners), coupled with corporate financial operations experience, Jennifer is adept at crafting and applying useful financial and operational tools to help companies develop a framework for growth. She achieved a bachelor’s degree in business administration (finance) from Villanova University and multiple certifications in business strategy. Jennifer is the founder of JLM & Associates Consulting, LLC where she uses her big company expertise to empower high-achieving business owners with financial and operational tools and support for growth with less stress. In addition to running her consulting business, Jennifer shares her business experience through content created for JLM & Associates Consulting’s Enlightened Leadership Blog.

Learn more about Jennifer’s company here: JLM & Associates Consulting (jlmaconsulting.com)

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

was raised in West Caldwell, New Jersey. Love, learning, and laughter sum up my “origin story” home life.

My parents were both public school educators. My mom was an elementary school teacher; my dad was a high school principal. They both genuinely loved their work and thrived helping students learn, progress, and grow. As a result, education was valued in our home, and I was raised to be a lifelong learner. My mom worked when I was young. So, I saw a mom dedicated to her family and career.

Family time was important. I grew up in the same town as my grandmothers. When I was young, my mom’s mother took care of me while my mom worked so my grandma and I shared a tremendous bond. I was also close to my dad’s mom. My dad’s mom loved animals; she had dogs, a cat, and a bunny. My parents also had dogs my entire life. So, I grew up loving animals. I also grew up with tasty food thanks to my mom who is a great cook. We ate dinner as a family as much as possible. This is when we talked about our days and upcoming plans. We also laughed a lot in our home — we still laugh a lot together. I love that.

I went to a public high school and Villanova University for my undergraduate degree. I majored in finance. Then, I was off to bright lights, big city, starting my first job at PwC in New York City.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

One eye-opening experience comes to mind. While negotiating a deal, it looked like a formal agreement was close to being reached. When I saw the agreement in writing, I had a strong feeling it wasn’t going to work out. However, I decided to see the lengthy process through. After having the agreement reviewed, I sent back a redlined version. The response from the other party was they weren’t expecting so many redlines, it’s how they do it, and let them know if I change my mind. It was clear they assumed I didn’t understand what I was reading, granting, or signing. They underestimated me. I remember smiling after I read their email reply because I uncovered more of my own strength; I had strength to draw a boundary, know my own worth, and walk away.

We often learn the most from our mistakes. Can you share one that you made that turned out to be one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?

I’ll share one that will resonate with many members of your audience taking care of what needs to get done, which is often too much.

During an intense phase of my corporate finance career, I was living and breathing work. Every second seemed to matter. Coworkers in my office, phone ringing, meetings to run, projects to lead, reports to produce, results to achieve, and like everyone else, a personal life to manage outside of work.

Well, one day, I was preparing graphics in a report while on a conference call late in the day (mistake number one), while frustrated thinking about even more to dos (mistake number two). I hit send while still on the phone call (mistake number three). One graph in the presentation was wrong. I fixed it. This happened two more times because I wasn’t focused on the task at hand. I went to the CEO in person to apologize, and candidly added “you must think I’m an idiot.” I offered the headline that I was multitasking. A faint smile showed through a not so happy facial expression. However, I learned a valuable lesson that day: Take a breath, recenter, and refocus.

Also, it’s okay to admit and apologize when we make mistakes. We’re all human.

As a successful leader, it’s clear that you uphold strong core values. I’m curious what are the most important principles you firmly stand by and refuse to compromise on. Can you share a few of them and explain why they hold such significance for you in your work and life?

We talked about some of my thoughts on family earlier, so I’ll move on to the others.

Candor — I am a straight to the point person, so I value candor. I prefer someone to tell me what is or what they want as opposed to trying to “sell” me what they want me to think. I also appreciate folks being direct without using phrases including “to be honest” because that leads me to wonder, “Are you not honest when you don’t say, ‘to be honest’”?

Work ethics — Work ethics are important to me because I saw my parents work hard. As an adult, I entered the work world a well manner professional mentally prepared to work hard to earn my way. Naturally, I didn’t fully appreciate the value of some of the teachings from my parents and teachers until I was an adult observing different environments and personalities around me. When you earn your way, you also own the mental horsepower and stamina you develop which becomes a game-changing differentiator.

Determination — When I am determined, nothing or no one stops me. I execute my vision and see it through. This serves me well in professional and personal aspects of my life. However, it can be exhausting at times because I keep going and going.

Self-Improvement — There is always more to do and to learn; there are always more ways to expand and grow; there are always more ways to dig deeper within yourself. My curiosity goes hand in hand with self-improvement. I live my life knowing I am never “done.”

Trustworthiness and dependability — I found out the hard way that some folks can’t be trusted. So, I don’t feel compelled to work for or with those types; I’m also not friends with folks I can’t trust. I feel similar about dependability.

Happiness — I want to be happy. I want the loved ones who I treasure the most to be happy. It’s important to me that I laugh multiple times per day; it’s good for the soul. When you are happy, it is easier to be kind to others and to yourself from your heart.

What inspired you to start a purpose-driven business rather than a traditional for-profit enterprise? Can you share a personal story or experience that led you to prioritize social impact in your business?

I wanted to put my talents and big business experiences to use for smaller companies.

During my global consulting career, some large companies could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a project without blinking an eye. During my corporate financial operations career, departments and projects were run by teams of employees who could collaborate with experienced colleagues from other departments including human resources, technology, legal, procurement, and marketing, and even tap into external expertise in exchange for consulting fees.

I considered all this when I started my business. Although smaller businesses don’t have these kinds of resources, they still have sizeable business problems to solve and growth goals to achieve. I decided to utilize my abundant knowledge and skills to help businesses thrive without the hefty price tag.

Can you help articulate a few of the benefits of leading a purpose-driven business rather than a standard “plain vanilla” business?

Plain vanilla isn’t my thing, unless we are talking about ice cream, in which case I like the vanilla bean variety.

Okay, laughing aside, here are the real benefits I have felt:

Purpose can be quite inspiring, interesting, and innovating.

Purpose gets you out of bed easily in the morning even when you’re tired; it gives you a physical, mental, and emotional boost.

Purpose unites you with other like-minded folks who understand what you’re setting out to do.

Plus, when you lead with purpose, you can bring that purpose to wherever you go.

How has your company’s mission or purpose affected its overall success? Can you explain the methods or metrics you use to evaluate the impact of this purpose-driven strategy on your organization?

Success comes when you feel connected to what you do. The overall purpose that guides me is to empower business owners with financial and operational tools and support.

My corresponding mission is to provide clients with personable and seamless consulting experiences while enabling faster and stronger business and financial performance — with less stress. Faster because a good consultant is talented at streamlining with speed. Stronger because a good consultant knows how to alleviate pain points and build the muscles of a company. Less stress because I want to be the consultant that helps my clients breathe rather than feel more overwhelmed or angst. I know what it’s like to dread the consultant who walks into your office; I never want to be that person.

Each project has relevant metrics that can be tracked including certain margins, ratios, growth rates, and more. I call that the project success factors. I like to tell stories with data.

As for the success of my business right now, I’m focused on the methods I use to amplify what I do. For example, how I’m tapping into my audience, how I’m expanding my reach, how folks are finding me, and how I’m building relationships.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you realized that leading your purpose-driven company was actually making a significant impact? Can you share a specific example or story that deeply resonated with you personally?

During one of my first strategy sessions with a business owner, I saw their own light bulb moment happen in real time while we were working through a business issue. In less than ninety minutes, I helped the business owner digest, learn, and formulate the next steps to move forward. As a result, I became more energized about my commitment to help business owners.

After more moments like this, I realized that I absolutely love conducting strategy sessions for business owners because something gets uncovered, resolved, or planned while we are together. It’s a rewarding experience to see how I help a business owner learn and grow.

Have you ever faced a situation where your commitment to your purpose and creating a positive social impact clashed with the profitability in your business? Have you ever been challenged by anyone on your team or have to make a tough decision that had a significant impact on finances? If so, how did you address and reconcile this conflict?

Yes. When I started my business, it was important to me to embed a way to use my expertise while giving back. I’ve been involved in volunteer efforts since I was in high school; it’s just part of who I am. So, I decided to offer pro bono services as part of my company’s Small Business Progression Program. I manage this by screening the small businesses that apply for pro bono services and limiting the time and services provided.

A few external folks told me that I should not “give away” services or “work for free.” Since this was my give back business decision for my company, I don’t feel a need to justify my decision. I am doing what feels right to me to contribute to the small business community.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs who wish to start a purpose-driven business?

What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Highly Successful Purpose-Driven Business.”

For budding entrepreneurs starting a purpose-driven business, my advice is to be patient and resilient. You have visions that you can execute in time if you stay focused and diligent. Not everything will go as planned or as you like, and there will be folks who criticize, complain, or copy. Keep going.

I like this one. Okay, here are my 5 Things:

1. Start with where you are. For example, start your business within your financial, time, and energy resources. Be ambitious while also being realistic.

2. Start with who you are. At the point where you set out to start your own business, your personality is developed. If you choose to, you’re going to grow, stretch, and evolve. However, you have likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, successes, and failures. For example, I embark on a new project with a plan and perspective; I meet deadlines, I produce quality. Therefore, I enjoy working with others who also value those things.

3. Value yourself. When you are at the helm of your own business, you can choose to stay true to your values, desires, and needs. No one can do that for you. The more you value yourself, the more others will value you. It’s all circular.

4. Learn from folks more experienced than you. As a business leader, you need to keep learning. One essential way to do so is to tap into the right resources for what you’re setting out to accomplish. For example, when you’re working on a project with elements that require specialized skill sets, you don’t need to fill all the roles yourself. Find the expert skills you need, and you will yield amazing results more so than if you try to stumble through it all yourself.

5. Keep going, even when you feel scared. I’ve learned through my own experiences that the times I feel discomfort and have the thoughts, “How am I going to do this?” or “Am I ready for this?” are tremendous growth periods during which I accomplish more than I set out to do.

I’m interested in how you instill a strong sense of connection with your team. How do you nurture a culture where everyone feels connected to your mission? Could you share an example or story that showcases how your purpose has positively influenced or motivated people on your team to contribute?

I build my team by optimizing talent. I want the right person in the right role to achieve the best business results. I’ve learned how to spot quality work, professionalism, transparency, and dependability. I collaborate with talented colleagues who care about what they do because it is what they enjoy doing. I find folks are motivated when they feel respected, valued, and engaged. For example, they send me their work before the deadline, bring me innovative ideas, and educate me in their area of work. We also teach each other. I try to articulate what I’m trying to achieve, why, when, and how. In turn, I’ve learned a bit about areas outside of my expertise including graphic design, marketing, media, and photography from working on projects with teams I’ve pulled together. As a result, we feel connected to each other’s work because we value it — and each other.

Imagine we’re sitting down together two years from now, looking back at your company’s last 24 months. What specific accomplishments would have to happen for you to be happy with your progress?

I continue to utilize my voice to share experiences, insights, and actionable advice through my customized services, speaking, and writing. I keep expanding my reach and build an engaged community to share tips and news to help boost businesses. For example, I commence a group offering to enable me to serve more business owners while helping them build connections with each other.

I receive authentic, meaningful feedback from my audience, readers, clients, and colleagues to help me provide the most stellar services possible. Feedback feeds future results so this is important to me. I will be happiest if folks feel I have served and guided them well.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Based on my experiences, I’d inspire a movement called “Slow down for self-awareness.” Every single one of us regardless of age, gender, or profession could benefit from it in our personal and professional lives.

Sometimes, we lack self-awareness because we are stressed, tired, or just having a difficult day; it’s an occasional thing. However, some folks do not have a good sense of self-awareness any day of the week.

At this point in my life, I’m realizing it doesn’t matter how intelligent or business savvy someone is — or thinks they are. If someone lacks self-awareness, it can derail relationships and results. We can help ourselves and each other.

These are my three steps to “Slow down for self-awareness”:

  1. Slow down. We can think more clearly about what we are saying and doing (or not saying and doing) if we slow down. For example, it’s not a clever idea to send a terse text message or email when we’re rushing around on a day that isn’t going so well. Life isn’t a race; everything is not a competition.
  2. See what you need to see (even if you don’t want to). This one is challenging because it requires us to look at ourselves closely. For example, ask these questions:
  • Do you hold yourself accountable?
  • Do you take ownership of your actions?
  • Do you blame everyone else?
  • Do you talk more than listen?
  • Do you pick up on what someone is communicating to you?
  • Do others find your snarky comments offensive?
  • Do you watch your tone?
  • Do you make it all about you?
  • Do you take more than you give?
  • Do you treat others with respect?
  • Do you treat others how you want to be treated?

You can ask yourself anything. The key is to ask yourself some tough questions and answer them.

As part of this step, you could ask those closest to you about what you need to improve. And don’t be mad or defensive when they provide feedback.

3. Be kinder. If we become more self-aware, we will elevate our behaviors, improve relationships, and treat others better. However, it all starts with each of us. Be kind, be a giver, be present.

How can our readers further follow your work or your company online?

I’d love to connect with your readers! Subscribe to our exclusive email list to receive valuable news, business tips, and exclusive offers to boost your business. Visit JLMAConsulting.com, go to the bottom of any page, and sign up.

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This was great. Thanks for taking time for us to learn more about you and your business. We wish you continued success!

Thank you; appreciate your interest in what I do.

This article was originally featured on Authority Magazine

Do you run a company that puts purpose before profit? What is your cause and how can other Lenovo Pro Community members help benefit your organization?

Do you have a story about a time that you put morals above profit in your own career?

Share your stories below!


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