CEO Profile with Debbie King: Leadership in Association Analytics
In this interview, Debbie King, founder and CEO of DSK Solutions, shares her insights about entrepreneurship, business leadership and creating a vision for growth.
Debbie King is a highly accomplished entrepreneur, technology visionary and passionate communicator. As the founder and CEO of DSK Solutions, she is at the forefront of the data analytics and business intelligence industry, providing solutions for some of the largest and most well known associations across the U.S.
Note: The following is an excerpt of highlights from the original interview transcript. To read the full-length version, please visit http://blog.wendtpartners.com/ceo-profile-with-debbie-king-leadership-in-association-analytics
WP: Tell us a little about yourself and your professional background.
DK: I went to George Mason University in Virginia, where I received a B.S. in Decision Science and Management Information Systems. I worked for seven years as Director of Information Technology at the National Institute for Governmental Purchasing (NIGP), a nonprofit association of government purchasing agencies. When I decided to found my own company, NIGP was my first client.
WP: What led you to pursue the entrepreneurial journey?
DK: My father and uncle were both entrepreneurs, so I grew up in an entrepreneurial family where the conversations at our dinner table weren't about the day's work or the latest water-cooler gossip -- they were about taxes, employees, sales goals and the challenges of managing people and leading a company. From the time I was about four years old, I realized I wanted to be like my dad. It helped that he told me I could do anything in life that I set my mind to, and that my parents instilled in me the values of hard work and self-reliance. For example, my parents didn't pay for my college education -- I worked through school, paying my own way. I am very glad for those kinds of experiences, as they force you to become focused on taking responsibility for your own life and future.
WP: You began your career working for a major association and becoming a leader. How did that experience guide you toward forming DSK Solutions?
DK: I knew that I wanted to build my own business, so the key was how to do it in a way that worked for me and for my employer at the time. I reached a pivotal point when I found myself working an 80 hour week, and I said to myself that if I am going to work this hard, I should be doing it for my own business. When I decided the time was right to strike out on my own, I spent two days writing a business plan. I then went to the CEO andand presented a business case for how the association would actually be better served by retaining me as a contractor rather than keeping me as a traditional employee.
The key value proposition was that they were paying me a director salary, but there were many tasks on my desk that were not necessary for a director-level executive to perform. So, I suggested that they retain me on contract for specifically the responsibilities that a director needs to manage, and have another internal employee perform the rest. I had that person ready and trained so the transition would be smooth as well. The association saved money because they paid me less as a contractor than they were paying me as an employee, but it was more to me because I was now being paid to perform about 20 hours per week of high-level work, rather than what had become 80 hours of work, much of which could be done by someone with less experience. The point is that I took the time to engineer and present a win-win business case so that everyone would benefit, not just me. I made it easy for the CEO to say “yes” because I considered my proposition from his point of view. I have a special appreciation for this forward-thinking CEO and in fact they are still my client to this day – 15 years later!