On Business and Freedom: An Interview with Ken and Craig Chalifour

By: - February 27, 2024

It was two weeks into my dream job and I realized this was not my dream.  As the woman who shared a cubicle space across from me continued to babble on about how busy she was and another woman popped over, yet again, to explain that I needed to attend another sheet cake function for a birthday, I came to the complete and total realization that I wanted my own business.  I wanted the freedom to be in charge of my own schedule, to make my own rules, and not be forced into the complete waste of time that I saw office chatter as being.

I had this dream of no longer being confined to an office, and having complete control over my own schedule.  It didn’t happen right away of course, but eventually I started out by going part-time with the CIA and working on my own little eBay business during the remainder of my time.  I soon realized that running your own small business is much more time intensive and, honestly, harder than working for someone else.  But it is so much more rewarding!

Years later, I have morphed my business mainly into writing my own books as well as a writing and editing service for clients who either don’t have the time to write, don’t like to write, or just plain can’t write.  But I have found myself frequently bogged down with the daily operations of running a business.  As a creative person, I want to create, and continue to build the business, but the day-to-day operations simply slow me down.  I recently had the pleasure of being introduced to Ken and Craig Chalifour of Chalifour Consulting Group.

The Chalifour Consulting Group is a full-service consulting agency for professionals and their businesses. They understand that many challenges arise in business. They determine what the root cause is and implement a cure, not a band-aid. New business methods and best practices are being developed and implemented every day, and the Chalifour Consulting Group’s goal is to ensure success for their clients by leading the charge with new business practices without reinventing the wheel.

Both Ken and Craig Chalifour began their careers in the sales industry. Each of them worked their way up the corporate ladder to owning and being high-level executives at their respective companies. The two have developed a love and great understanding of the business world through many trials and tribulations.

Craig Chalifour has extensive experience delivering exceptional results for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). His career spans roles such as director of business development, vice president of sales, director of corporate training and other leadership positions in the finance and insurance sector. Ken Chalifour has nearly three decades in business. He has a deep understanding of successful enterprise intricacies and the ability to start, scale, and redirect businesses. His experience ranges from construction, including designing and building a 100,000 square foot assisted living facility, as well as owning, operating, and selling multiple businesses, engaging in business acquisitions, holding board positions with non-profit organizations, and collaborating with the FBI on security matters. Ken has founded a successful marketing and web development company, cultivating an international client base and excelling in real estate development and construction. His skills encompass sales, negotiation, analysis, efficiency optimization, business process improvement, communication and generational management.

You can’t teach vision or talent. But you can be prepared. 

As having been groomed my entire young life to become a federal employee, then reaching that goal, I never really thought about what running a business actually entails. As such, I was glad to have the opportunity to interview Ken and Craig Chalifour. The following is what they shared with me.

In the business consulting world, what is the biggest problem most companies have? What do most of your clients seek you out for help with?

Our experience has shown that a few of the biggest challenges companies face is both personnel management and growth management.  Determining the right person for a specific roll is predicated on determining the strengths and weaknesses that a person possesses.  It is critical that a person is not occupying a role that they are not well suited for.  Leveraging a person’s strength not only benefits the success of a company, it also creates a culture of success for the individual and the company.  Managing growth is also critical because if you are not prepared to grow through a systematic approach then the product or service you offer becomes degraded.  Your reputation suffers and your customer base dwindles.

Talk a little about what services your business consulting firm offers.

As a full-service consulting firm, we work in the world of business startups and existing business growth management.  We work with people who have a strong desire to start a new business but don’t know what the path forward looks like.  We offer a strategic, step by step approach that outlines the necessary tasks that need to occur in order for the company to come to fruition.  For existing companies, we provide a proprietary process we call The Business Positioning System which involves a three-pronged approach to achieving long term, sustained success.  These steps are discovery, development and implementation.  Through this process, we help re-engineer a company from the ground up and help eliminate ambiguity, create a standard operating procedure and establish goals, milestones and triggers for expansion and growth.  I am a huge boat guy so I tend to use boat metaphors.  For existing businesses we often tell them that what we do is get in their boat, we find the biggest hole and we fill it.  We then find the next biggest hole and fill that.  We continue moving around until all the holes are filled.  Now the boat is sea worthy and won’t sink.  Next we make the boat bigger and stronger and upgrade the engine so that it is worthy of moving further out to sea and withstanding stronger storms while moving forward.

What is the biggest mistake you see most new companies make?

Most companies start a business because they are good at something.  Many of these people and companies lack the foresight and planning at inception which causes challenges as the company grows.  They seldom have growth strategies in place which perpetuates a “put the biggest fire out first” mentality.  This prohibits the ownership from working on expansion, management, training and all the necessary components required to grow and scale.

Since 2020 do you see an increase in people wanting to start their own businesses and work for themselves?

Yes, business ownership is something we see increasing dramatically.

Do you have one particular industry where you see most clients coming from? Or is it all over the map?

No, not a specific industry.  We see people wanting to break away from an existing job because they are proficient at what they are doing and feel like they can be more successful on their own in their own business. 

How do you see the business environment in the US going in the next five years? How has it been in the past few years?

Predicting the exact trajectory of the business environment in the US over the next five years is challenging due to various factors such as economic cycles, political changes, and unforeseen events. However, based on recent trends, it’s likely that the business environment will continue to be dynamic and influenced by factors like technological advancements, globalization, and shifts in consumer behavior. In the past few years, the US business environment has seen steady growth, driven by factors like low unemployment rates, tax reforms, and expansionary fiscal policies. However, challenges such as trade tensions, geopolitical uncertainties, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have also posed significant hurdles. Moving forward, adaptability, innovation, and resilience will be key for businesses to thrive in an evolving landscape.

How do you manage to not only run a business but to promote your business or service? How do you get people interested in your business or service?  Do you have any tips?

One of the most efficient factors in promoting our business is through reviews.  We are extremely proud of the fact that we have many reviews and every one of them is a five star review.  When people conduct a search for a business consultant anywhere in the country, Chalifour Consulting comes up with rave reviews.  This speaks to our ability to provide excellent value to our clients and that is exhibited through these reviews.  Most people who reach out to us to inquire about our services often comment that they found us through a search and they are very impressed with what others are saying about us. 

How do you find the time to do all of the things required for your business? Do you have any time management tips?

Time management is extremely important, but systems and processes facilitate time management techniques.  Becoming more efficient through established procedures removes all ambiguity and allows us to accomplish tasks that directly impact our client base without the confusion.  Software is highly leveraged which allows an organized approach to conducting business.  Customer relationship management, accounting, communication, both internally and externally, financial/accounting, design and marketing are all areas where software is utilized to provide efficient protocols for accomplishing tasks in an expeditious manner.

Do you have any tips for people who may want to get their children into their family business?

Chalifour Consulting is a unified team of professionals that come together to improve our client’s condition, whatever that condition may be.  We are a partnership between father and son.  Our accountant is my wife of thirty-five years and our creative director is my daughter.  Creating a family business is extremely rewarding but caution must prevail when disagreements ensue.  It’s important to separate the family emotions and recognize that decisions must be made and agreement on those decisions is not always present.  Separating business and personal is somewhat of a challenge but all parties must recognize that personal feelings must take a back seat.

Do you use any motivational tools to keep you going?

We do a lot of reading and studying not only industry standard material, but we are also very in tune with what trends and tactics are emerging.  We follow social media influencers and stay up to date on business related changes such as taxes, accounting, marketing and anything that would pertain to business stability and growth.

What makes you happy and/or content?

Working with my family is unbelievably rewarding.  It is also extremely rewarding working with people and companies where we improve their condition, overcome challenges and create a strategic path forward where success is imminent. 

What is your number one tip for productivity?

Remove ambiguity.  Ambiguity breeds mediocrity.  If a clearly defined action is not in place then there is far too much room for interpretation.  If there is too much interpretation there is no solidarity or congruency which then leads to chaos and putting out fires.

Where do most of your clients come from, are they mostly in New Hampshire? How is the business environment there? 

We have clients in forty-eight states and four countries.  Interestingly, we only have two clients in NH.  Most of our business comes from web searches and word of mouth. 

Are your clients mostly small start-up companies or big businesses or a mix?  Tell me a little about your average client.

Our clients range in size from small one person startups to twenty million dollar a year contractors.  We find that the trades (contractors, plumbers, electricians, etc.) tend to be a niche that we are extremely familiar with.  We have worked in virtually every industry and market and find that our average client, regardless of the industry, tends to be the person who is very good at something, starts a business and then recognizes that their growth is out of control and needs help.

What is your ultimate vision for this company in particular?

Truthfully, to help as many people and businesses succeed.

I read that you have collaborated with the FBI. How did you get into that?

I was asked to be on the board of directors for a company called InfraGard.  InfraGard is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and members of the private sector for the protection of U.S. critical infrastructure. Through seamless collaboration, InfraGard connects owners and operators within critical infrastructure to the FBI, to provide education, information sharing, networking, and workshops on emerging technologies and threats. InfraGard’s membership is dedicated to contributing industry-specific insight and advancing national security.  It was fascinating and extremely insightful.

Ken: How is working with your son? Do you have any challenges you can discuss and how do you deal with them?

Working with Craig is truly a blessing for so many reasons.  Craig and I have developed an insane energy.  We are intensely aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we play to the strengths and build on the weaknesses.  Craig and I have flipped homes and have worked on countless construction projects prior to starting this company and have learned a long time ago how each other thinks and anticipate each other’s moves and thoughts.  Craig has amazing vision and always seems to be three to four moves/thoughts ahead of me.  I have learned to embrace that vision as a tool rather than a deficiency in me.  We both have a very protective nature and want the best for each other.  Our work ethic is matched by each other, and I can’t imagine two people that work better together, especially a father and son duo. We have absolutely had some blow out screaming arguments but we ALWAYS remember that we love each other and want what’s best for each other and our common goal is to be successful at helping people and companies achieve their goals.

Craig: How is working with your dad? Do you have any challenges you can discuss and how do you deal with them.

Working with family can be tough sometimes, but it also has its perks. In my opinion, partnerships in business are always challenging, whether you’re working with family or not. I often advise clients about this. When family is involved, decisions can get emotional, which isn’t usually the case in other partnerships. Figuring out how to separate family matters from business decisions can be hard at first, but it’s important to get the hang of it to make things work smoothly. The process of working with my father is very rewarding and I would not want to be in business with anyone else – our skills complement each other very well and that has been incredibly beneficial.

What has been your biggest challenge in this consulting business endeavor? How did you overcome it?

We are first and foremost in the relationship business.  It is important that we know our clients and how they think and operate.  Becoming aligned with our clients as a business consultant and advisor requires a certain amount of “tough love”.  We develop strategic plans, a path forward, goals and milestones, agendas, tasks and value statements.  It is up to the client to be actionable with these directives.  Many times, our clients are so involved with their company that they can’t find the time to execute those things that will free up time.  We often tell our clients that in order to make more money and be more profitable, you need to make more time and in order to make more time, you must be more efficient.  When working with a client and through our discovery process, we uncover areas of inefficiency that are desperate for change.  We are taking an outside-in look at their business.  We see things as clear as day that need to change, but because the client is so close to the day-to-day operations they may resist or not find the time to complete tasks.  We always say that if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always have what you’ve always had.  We strive to break our clients from that mindset and give them the ability to see what we see.

Owning and operating a business can be extremely rewarding for so many reasons.  If done properly, a business can be lucrative and create freedom.  It must be done correctly by integrating efficient systems and processes.  A business is an asset that can increase in value and provide long term benefits such as a sale or a legacy to family or employees.  We love working with people and businesses to help make that happen.

 

If you would like to learn more about Ken and Craig Chalifour and Chalifour Consulting Group, please visit www.chalifourconsulting.com .

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