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  • Writer's pictureSusan Tatum

Building a Support Community for Independent Consultants



Steven Urban helps individuals enhance self-awareness and resilience. Following a corporate burnout, he founded Build Your Alliance. Our conversation emphasizes support networks like Steven’s "Circle of Sages" and reconnecting with old connections during transitions. He guides us in building support communities.


Notes from the Show

Steven Urban is passionate about helping people turn the dial up on self-awareness so they can see how resourceful, creative, and whole they truly are. He is the Founder and CEO of Build Your Alliance, which he created when he left his corporate position after a major panic attack on a work trip.


During our conversation, Steven shares the signs of stress, burnout, and loss of boundaries in his corporate position. This time in his life allowed him to step back, refine his strengths and values, and work in a way that brought him joy. The focus of our conversation comes from Steven’s support network, his “Circle of Sages,” in which he connected with valued mentors to lean on for perspectives and wisdom outside his own.


We also talk about those “friend of a friend” connections and how we often lose sight of or don't touch back on connections we already have, but there is a lot of value and opportunity for both sides when it comes to rekindling previous connections.


Transitions of any kind, including those involving moving from corporate to independent consulting, can be isolating, confusing, and anger. There are so many human emotions. Listeners are encouraged to seek out those connections to build their support community, and if you need help along the way, check out the work that Steven is doing to help structure that support.


What's Inside:

  • Transitioning from corporate to independent consulting.

  • What is Steven’s “Circle of Sages” and how can listeners create their own?

  • Calling on your friend of a friend and rekindling past connections for a stronger support community.

  • Finding balance in work and life to reduce stress and burnout.


Mentioned in this Episode:


Transcribed by AI Susan Tatum 0:38

Hello, everybody, welcome back to stop the noise. I'm your host, Susan Tatum. And today, I'm very excited to be talking with Steven Urban. Steven spent 15 plus years of working his way up to become a managing partner at Accenture. And now he is founder and CEO of build Your Alliance. And we have got a really good topic today. So I'm very excited about this. And welcome, Steven,


Steven Urban 1:04

thank you for having me, I'm really excited to be here.


Susan Tatum 1:06

Awesome. So what we're going to talk about is building your own support community to help as you as you exit the corporate world and start doing your own thing. But before we get into that, tell us a bit about your time that you spent at Accenture and how that experience has moulded what you're doing now, how it affected how you're thinking about work life balance, and I know you've focused on self awareness with your company. So tell us a little bit about the work you're doing. And then how you got to where you are now.


Steven Urban 1:40

Yeah, so I think you know, really where I'm concentrating today is helping the individual and teams really get in tune to who they are, their values, their strengths, how they utilise that to really fulfil their purpose, where they want to go in life. And really put all of that into utilising that alliance of those tools within themselves to really get there, right. A lot of times, we just unconsciously do things, but we don't know why. And having the ability to articulate what exactly it is with inside of us that we can utilise those tools. Giving it a name and a meaning then gives us the opportunity to advocate for ourselves. And then when we can advocate we can better navigate in any situation that's thrown at us. So that's kind of the principles of what I've really put together at Build Your Alliance and helping individuals and teams really go through that process so they can navigate better.


Susan Tatum 2:34

Okay, so how did you get to where you had this focus on?


Steven Urban 2:37

Yeah. So you, you had alluded to the fact that I had been at Accenture for 15 plus years, and it was actually almost closer to 20. And I, you know, started off right out of college and worked my way up and was really focusing in on the type of consulting I was in was called talent and organisation. So it was a lot of leadership development, change management, communication, training, typically around a large system transformation or company transformation. So I got a lot of experience working with people from, you know, entry level all the way up to the C suite. Because when you go through a major transformation, it impacts everybody. And so being an architect, you know, working my way up from being you know, an analyst or consultant and just getting a small piece of the pie to being the architect as the leader and thinking, Okay, how are we going to really build this programme that is going to impact all these people, so they can move through the stages of change, and be able to be successful on the other side. And that was a lot of relationship building. It was a lot of truly understanding how this was going to impact somebody, you know, when you go through a major change like that. And I know it's kind of awkward to say sometimes in the work situation, but there's grief, there's, you know, there's this scared moment of unravelling. I've known for many years, what is the other side going to look like? Am I gonna fit? Am I going to be a successful Can I operate? Is there going to be as much trust and so you're really dealing with all these human emotions when you're going through that. So I really got to see a lot about people during that time. And it started to create this framework in my mind of how I can help people outside of just these corporate projects.


Susan Tatum 4:24

I think you just described the transition from working in the corporate world to being on your own I mean all those things you mentioned pain, scared, excited.


Steven Urban 4:37

Yeah, you go through all those emotions when you make the transition from corporate America to an entrepreneur or a solopreneur.


Susan Tatum 4:43

Yeah, so what made you or what drove you to leave Accenture?


Steven Urban 4:48

You know, part of it was when you are working in especially a consulting company. It's an upper out model, right like you are constantly having to work to achieve to get to the next level if you're not making it to that level by a certain amount of time, then you're kind of timing out. And they'll say goodbye. So it wasn't March, you know, over those years of you know, every time you get a promotion, your clock starts over. So you don't really get a chance to sit back and relax, because you've got to, you're moving to that next Achievement Goal, the next promotion. And, you know, I learned a lot from being around a lot of amazing people. But what I started to find was this constant need to move up didn't allow me to really sit in some of these pockets and be with myself and to learn and to have time for me. And and I got to the point where I could check off the box. Yes, I'm a managing director. And I did you know, the things that I wanted in this corporate career, but there was a lot that was still missing for me, the more time to connect with people to really explore how can we make this better, instead of being on a project timeline, it was just starting to get to this point where I could feel this poll, and I need to do something deeper, I need to do more connection, and not just be on a corporate project timeline anymore.


Susan Tatum 6:09

Yeah, yeah. Not to mention a little bit of burnout.


Steven Urban 6:12

Oh, there was a major a major burnout in 2019. And I had to really reset my body told me like you've done too much, and had a massive panic attack, and said, you know, what, I had got the help that I needed from a personal therapist, that was amazing. And then I eventually got my own coat. So I had both of those that I was operating with, to really understand my values and what was being rubbed the wrong way. And the situation that I was in and that I was ignoring, until my body finally told me, whoa, there's a lot going on here that you've ignored. And you can't ignore that any.


Susan Tatum 6:53

So I'm going to ask you a question that we haven't talked about before, that it just popped into my mind, if looking back on it. What was happening? Like, if you could do it again, that would have been a warning sign before you got to the point where you had to just like, totally, almost kill yourself. What could you have seen?


Steven Urban 7:13

Oh, I mean, there's a lot there is not fully disconnecting when you go on a vacation, you know, it's like, you know, here I was two weeks in Europe thinking I'm going to be able to like fully decompress, but you're constantly checking your phone, because people are sending messages still, and like, Oh, this is going sideways, what should we do. And so you still feel like you have to be involved and you fully can't disconnect. Well, when you can't ever disconnect from that mindset, and all the, you know, trials and tribulations that are happening at work every day, you never fully get to relax. And I was never fully disconnecting. Even when I was on a way on a cruise in the middle of the ocean, I was finding ways to get on the internet and and check back in. And I wish I would have set more boundaries earlier and said, This is my time, you all figure it out. And when I come back, if there's an issue, we'll just work through it. And and I can be back and present at that time. But I wasn't I was never turning off the work.


Susan Tatum 8:09

Well, it sounds like that the environment that you were in didn't really encourage you're doing that.


Steven Urban 8:15

It didn't. But you know, after the the panic attack and taking the time, I did start setting boundaries. And I was like, You know what I'm I'm at a place in my career where I'm making decent money. And if I don't continue, because even when you make managing director, there's still new levels that you can move up to. When I finally started saying no to things. It's like, you know, I'm already working 60 80 hours this week, I can't take on anything else. And I'm not going to take on anything else. And I really that was one of the things that I worked on with my therapist was being okay saying no. And when I started to do that, I started to have more time for myself. And I would turn my phone off at a certain point and say, Okay, I'm not going to respond at 9, 10, 11 o'clock at night, unless we're going live. And I'm meant to be on, you know, a call on those types of things that are scheduled. But there can't be anything in the middle of a random project at 9:30 at night that is so important that I've got to work until three o'clock in the morning. We'll figure it out at eight when I get back online.


Susan Tatum 9:16

Yeah, if any of our listeners that are still in that situation, I hope that they're, they're taking that to heart.


Steven Urban 9:22

burnout is such a huge thing right now and especially during the pandemic when we blurred the lines of being at home versus being at work, and then it's easy to work to be fully present and all aspects of your personal life because of being remote and doing those things and I know companies have started making some people come back in but we still have a large hybrid contingent of workers out there that when do you set the boundary and say it's now personal time and it's not work time and I'm not giving that to you right now. I need to be with my family. I need to be with myself. Like sometimes it's just about you and regenerating your battery and finding joy so that you can fill that back up?


Susan Tatum 10:00

Well, and that's certainly true if you happen to have leaned towards the introverted side of things of just just I know I need I need time alone to recharge.


Steven Urban 10:12

Oh, I'm a massive extrovert. And I still need that, right? I mean, if you look at my disk, I am all the way on the outside of the circle on an eye, right? I am my Clifton Strengths number one is woo Winning Others Over and number two is communication. I am I love being around people. However, it doesn't mean that I need to be around people doing work all the time, I need other ways to you know, recharge. And that's doesn't mean I always have to be in complex work situation to fill that battery, it's actually depleting it after a while.


Susan Tatum 10:46

Now, that makes sense. Well, so on the topic or the talking about having people around you. And I know that you have created some of your own support groups. And I think, you know, this is something that I hear over and over again, in speaking with people that are have have come out of the corporate world, and they're starting these independent consulting firms. And they, they don't have the structure, but they also just don't have the support around them. So tell us about your is it circle of sages?


Steven Urban 11:18

Yeah


Susan Tatum 11:19

love that name.


Steven Urban 11:20

So it was something that actually worked on and came up with my notes that I still have today, for myself. But look, when you move from being especially in a large corporation, like Accenture, it's a machine that has marketing, it has you know, HR has all these things like even as a managing director, I could move to different departments to get certain things done the sales team, when you move to a solopreneur and you start a new company, it's like, accounting becomes a responsibility. Marketing becomes a responsibility, you know, client, uh, you know, going after client leads, and sales becomes a responsibility, all these things happen. But I had to like, sit down and say, Okay, what am I really good at? What am where do I need a little bit of help, and just being honest, because that's not my forte, or my string. And I started before, and I, you know, when I was setting the foundation of this organisation that I was creating together and putting it out there, I was like, Okay, I don't want to spend a lot of time doing accounting. So I'm gonna go and do, you know, offset that and find somebody that can do that part. But then I started looking at who do I want kind of above me to be kind of mentors and guides, and certain areas that I can take it to a certain level, but I might have questions. And I don't have like an internal team, you know, working with me right now as I'm growing. And hopefully, that's the where we're heading. But so I instead of calling it my board of directors, there were three very powerful women in my life that I really looked to as mentors at different parts of my career or personal life. And I said, Hey, each one of you brings a completely different perspective, whether that be really business savvy, design savvy, or being an entrepreneur savvy. And are you created all these different businesses? Would you mind being informal group of mentors, and I called them my circle of sages, this wisdom that I could call upon either collectively or individually, at certain times and say, Okay, I'm ready to like, take this to the next level, here's what I'm thinking, I want to run it by, I need you to poke holes with your wisdom, you know, where we elevate where we do things differently. So I'm not alone in this whole endeavour of Build your Alliances, but I needed to make sure that I had those connections, because one of my values is collaboration and connection. If you put me in a room by myself as an individual contributor, and say, go do all that, and I never get to connect with anybody, I'm slowly going to wilt like the flower in the garden, right. And so I need to make sure that I still have some of these natural connections I would have had in a corporate job. And so I had to create that, basically.


Susan Tatum 14:02

So did these three stages that you started off with? Did they know each other?


Steven Urban 14:05

No.


Susan Tatum 14:06

So tell me, like, tactically? How did you go about doing this?


Steven Urban 14:11

You know, I just I talked to them. You know, when I was I'd gone on trips with some of them individually. And it was just about explaining my vision, what it is that I wanted to do. And then they each individually, were like, wow, there's something special here. And have you thought about this, and I started seeing a natural connection that they cared about me as an individual, they cared about my success with the company. And so it was really kind of pulling on them. Most of the time. It's individual conversations, because they eat pool on a very different specific area in a very different talent, right? And we're working on how we bring them together as this continues to grow. So they have a more collective space. And so that's still something I'm working on and getting them together but like I've said they've, they've each played amazing roles in their professional careers. And then they bring such a different, unique perspective, that has taught me a lot, as I think about, you know, how I operate as a business owner.


Susan Tatum 15:17

So was there someone in there maybe it's your coach that was experienced in making a transition from that whole thing from the structured environment to the unstructured environment that helps you with that part of it.


Steven Urban 15:31

you know, part of it was is the coach, part of it is, is that I, you know, as going through the certifications that I've been getting over the last year, since I left Accenture, I'm meeting a lot of amazing people who are, you know, either at the same place, or a couple of steps ahead, and, you know, just, you know, experiences from other people, like, Oh, don't spend a whole lot of money here, you know, think about this, that can be a trap that you know, that you fall into, and you waste a lot of money to get little return. So I've got a lot of good little nuggets, you know, from different individuals along the way that have become good friends and the process and people that I can collaborate with and projects because that's the other thing that I tell, you know, other people that I'm talking to, as you might be a solopreneur, or an entrepreneur, but when you start creating those relationships, you can go after a business together, and you know, increase your foothold and your print on what you can do and accomplish. And so that's the other thing that I'm working on, as I'm creating these partnerships and alliances that allow me to work, you know, either as the prime or sub under, you know, somebody else or with somebody else. And it's creates money and opportunity, right? So did you start creating this network? And I've, again, been very fortunate to meet some pretty amazing people along the way that are either, you know, steps ahead of me, or are where I'm at, in being able to talk about like, oh, you started spending money on this? What are you getting in return, and really listening to that, because again, there's a lot of things that you hear out there, that they'll Oh, come spend 5000 on this, and you'll you know, get eight times return or whatever. And you find out that it's vapour and there's nothing there. So it's really being careful about where I put my money and my expenses up front and creating the business. And I think I've been very fortunate to listen to some wise people along the way.


Susan Tatum 17:26

So you if I heard you correctly, you said you met most of these folks going through some of your certification programmes that you were doing. So if you didn't have that, Steven, what like, what what advice could you give to somebody that's, that's listening, that doesn't, they're not getting certification, or they're not in that position. But I think what you're describing is really, really important.


Steven Urban 17:45

Yeah, I mean, I think too, I mean, whatever you're going into there still opportunities for education, there's still opportunities to to look at, you know, what am I good at? And what am I, you know, maybe a little bit more novice Stan, you know, yes, I was a managing director at Accenture and did some big things. But that doesn't mean I'm an expert in everything. And so being honest with yourself, and where do you need to have conversations, and that's where you start making connections. I think a lot of times I've seen or the stories that I've read or heard from other people, is when they make the jump, they think they can do everything. And what you'll find is you can burn out very quickly, too, and trying to do everything. So being honest with yourself, what am I good at? And what do I need to control in the situation? Where do I give the reins to somebody else, and that's a good use of money and spend because it allows me to concentrate on what I'm good at. And I'll get other people to do the other areas. And I think that's where you start to have conversations. I mean, one of the circle of sages has been an entrepreneur before, she pointed me in the direction of an accounting firm that helps and specialises with small businesses and entrepreneurs, they had a connection to a lawyer who does that. So got my LLC set up for me, I wouldn't have known where to go, right. But I started listening to people who have done it. And so they created a network very quickly. And now I've had other people use those same services, because I was seeing it worked for me and it wasn't that expensive. And I've had other friends and acquaintances, utilise them and start spreading that word if what they're looking for


Susan Tatum 19:22

you know, one piece of advice that I would give folks that I've noticed that we don't pay enough attention to our existing network. So there's, there's a whole bunch of people we haven't talked to in a while. And they would be more than willing to talk if you just reach out to them, and you'll be surprised at what you learn from them.


Steven Urban 19:41

100% and I would say, you know, going into all of this I had like the list of people on my head who I thought would be Oh, they'd be great for this type of conversation or learning this and some of those turned out to be true. Some of the was fell to the wayside and they weren't the people that I needed. And then there's been all I mean, one instance was a person from high school who I've not talked to, since high school saw one of my post and connected me with an organisation that they worked with saw that what I was doing for a guest speaker role. And, and it was like that came out of the blue like, right, it wasn't somebody that I had been keeping up with. But now we've had a couple of conversations ended up realising that we had similar backgrounds from college education, and passions. And so now there's a new opportunity, you know, brewing there of a door that I didn't even think about opening


Susan Tatum 20:35

you know, somebody just told me about a book called friend of a friend have you,


Steven Urban 20:38

I have not heard about that.


Susan Tatum 20:40

I'm almost done with it. And I cannot Burkus, I think I'll put it in the show notes. But he went back and did looked at all of the research that had been done on networks. And what he found was that, you know, we tend to think of are the people that we're actively involved with all the time as being the most important ones in the and the highest value, but the value really lies in people that we used, yeah, that people that we used to know well and talk to maybe maybe former people that we worked with, your friend from high school, there's already a bit of a trust, and they know you factor, and they've gone in different paths in different directions than we have. And then to pull them back in is there there's just an enormous amount of value that lies there that we're not getting into


Steven Urban 21:28

one, you know, I think about two, there were amazing clients that I have in the middle of my career at Accenture that I had amazing relationship with, you know, while working together, and then you know, we just went off into different parts of our world and got busy. And some of those are starting to come back. Because they've seen me in front of room, they've seen me being a keynote mic in front of their big networks and everything. So they know how I can be in when it comes to a professional setting and my capabilities. And so it's like, how am I talking to them again, and saying, you know, I'm no longer part of the big machine, the expensive machine, I can do things that are very different price, and more intimate with a smaller group of people. And, and that's been very interesting for people. They're like, Oh, my gosh, that's right. Like, yes, I'd love to have you come back in and do something there. I mean, I've had clients that I worked with in Australia that are reaching out to me to do virtual sessions with, you know, their companies that they're now working with that in there all over the world. And that was the fortunate part for me being at Accenture as I got to work with people all over. And and so it's rekindling those connections. And it's really surprising, like you said, if they might say, like, I don't have anything right now, but I trust you. So here's my friend, and they're going through something and what you're talking about what really helped them? Can I connect you two together? And so it's a friend of a friend, like this concept of this book? I would have never even know, like, I would have known that door was there unless I had the conversation.


Susan Tatum 22:58

That's true. I'm gonna circle back because I made a note here. And it's a little bit off topic. But when you were talking about the importance of building these people around you, the people that you met, in your in the certification, I think one other thing that's important to mention, and I'm interested in how it's affected you, I found that as I met people that I could refer, I could refer people to as I was meeting other people, that is a very helpful situation to be in. But the other thing that it did for me was it allowed me to turn down business that wasn't a really good fit for me, because I could give them somewhere else to go. You're nodding your head.


Steven Urban 23:38

yeah, I'll one. I mean, you're hitting on something really big and important, is these connections are not all about me, me, me, right? Like, oh, what can you do for me? It's, you know, collaboration and connection of, like I said, and is one of my two values or two of my values. And but it's also if I'm not the right fit for something they're looking for, but I've met someone else along the way, I've connected the two of them, right? And there's an appreciation there and it comes back. Right? I do truly feel like when you do things for others, you help the community, it does come back full circle eventually. And there's goodness that's there, because they'll remember that. And and I know that people have done that for me as well, like, oh, you know, we're, we're not going to be a good fit because of where we're at in our transition or what we're doing for what you provide. But I'll keep you in mind, but I know somebody else that is looking for that.


Susan Tatum 24:31

Yeah, that's true, you know. And when you can say no to somebody, I'm not the right person for you, or we're not the right team for you. But let me introduce you to somebody that is instant trust.


Steven Urban 24:43

100% right, because then they're like, Wow, you could have just said yes. And we could have had, you know, work that just really didn't fulfil anything that we needed. But you said I'm not the right fit, therefore your character, they see the trueness of who you are. And like you said it immediately built trust


Susan Tatum 25:00

So you will refer to yourself as a futurist the first time we talked


Steven Urban 25:06

Yeah, one of my


Susan Tatum 25:08

Okay, what's in the future for Build your Alliance? Where are you going?


Steven Urban 25:12

Oh, you know, this is the thing that I tell people as a futuristic is one of my as my number three strength and means that I can paint a vision of where I see the possibility of things going. But one of the reasons why I keep people close to me is I want to make sure that I'm not just a kite flying out there, but I have a tail that they can pull me back down every now and then. So I have many licensees of where oh right, I have many visions of where build your alliances can go, but when I'm being realistic of okay, you know, those are all great, but where can you you know, keep making the incremental steps and going, ultimately, you know, I would love to have a lot of corporate clients that allow me and eventually my team and I do have a bent of a network that they're willing to, like jump in at any time that are certified in the same areas that I am in. So when we do land, a bigger thing that goes beyond myself, I'm ready to like, pull on the army, and he goes through the work. But I would love to have a lot of corporate clients that are allowing us to really come in and do two things, I have a passion for helping people who are new to management, you know, transitioning from that individual contributor, you've done a really good job becoming an expert in a certain area. And what corporate America says is, at a certain point, you've got to move into a management role. And where I see a lot of companies and I've worked with hundreds of clients globally across the world, is there's not a whole lot of attention to preparing people from moving from that individual contributor to that manager role. And, and it's like, well, you are so good at being an individual contributor, you're just going to be great at being a manager. Yeah, and it's a completely different mindset, it's a completely different world, some people are naturally inclined to be a good leader, and they'll figure it out. And they do a great job. But statistics out there showed that 60% of people fail in leadership, within the first two years, I'm moving from individual contributor to management. And there's a lot of people who suffer because of that, not only the individual who's trying to be a great leader, but that can't figure it out with the teams that are underneath them. So it's really spending that time and teaching some of the basics and giving them the basic tools that they need in order to be successful, and to have a great team underneath them. And they're nurturing and growing the people, the individual contributors that are reporting into them. So that's like a unique niche that I'm really passionate about. But then how did that person continue to grow in their career, and really focusing in on that leadership when you get to higher levels and you really have an influence over the company. Are you using your powers for good? Are you using your.... And you know, I just wrote an article the other day on LinkedIn about toxic behaviours and being a target of toxic behaviours at work. And that's another phenomenon that happens at such a large rates and can lead to depression, anxiety, burnout, and other things when you have a toxic leader on a team. So it's really working with these corporations on how are you building the art from the time they move from into individual contributor to you know, timing out at the top of their career as a leader and ensuring that they're doing the right things?


Susan Tatum 28:28

Well, I have show confidence that you're going to make this happen with your with your circle of sages and the other folks that you've built around you and your visions yourself, Steven, this has been a great conversation for the folks that want to follow up with you. And you know, just learn more about what you're doing or follow you or whatever, what's the best way for them to do that?


Steven Urban 28:57

Yeah, so the website is www.buildyouralliance.com There's a lot of great stuff there. They can follow me on LinkedIn, as well. I posts a lot of articles. You know, personally, as the founder and CEO of the company. I've had a lot of people connect with me through there and ask questions. And you know, I'm always honoured you know, when someone wants to have a conversation, and just pick my brain or ask about opportunities, and I'll make the time.


Susan Tatum 29:24

Awesome. And that's Steven with a V. For those of you who are


Steven Urban 29:29

Steven with a V and last name Urban, U-R-B as in boy, A-N. And so it's in they'll see me and the Build Your Alliance stuff on there, but happy to connect. There's a lot of opportunity in this space, and a lot of great conversations that can happen. When we talk about you know what happens to teams when there's no trust. Well, that happens when you know leaders are not fulfilling that responsibility. And people can make changes, even the person that might be lost and a little bit of toxic behaviour. When they really start to focus on you know, the impact of what they're doing. I've seen people turn it around, some of them don't. And that's where the company needs to make a decision about, are they a right fit, but given the opportunity, people can change. It's takes work because they can easily revert back to old habits. But if they really are passionate about I don't want to be this way, and I didn't realise I was that way. And once it becomes to the surface, there are some people who have remorse and who want to change and be better leaders. And I've seen that happen.


Susan Tatum 30:29

Cool. All right. Well, thank you so much. This has been wonderfully enlightening.


Steven Urban 30:33

Well, thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to be on.


Susan Tatum 30:37

Have a great day, Steven.


Steven Urban 30:38

You too.





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