Tina Corner is accustomed to change and flexibility, having held senior executive leadership positions in every size company from startups to multi-billion-dollar global organizations.
In 2005 she founded Maryland’s first The Alternative Board (TAB) franchise, an organization that provides peer advisory boards and coaching services for business owners, CEOs and presidents. For good measure, she developed it into the fastest growing TAB franchise in the country. Her Annapolis-based E-Exchange consulting firm is also focused on providing peer advisory and business coaching services to privately held companies.
Corner serves on the board of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce. Her accolades include being named one of Maryland’s Top 100 women by The Daily Record, a Smart CEO Brava! Award and the 2011 CBED Distinguished Business Award.
Since July 2011, Corner has served as president of a new entity called Intellectual Innovations LLC, which she formed in partnership with Larry Linne of Windsor, Colo. She recently discussed her entrepreneurial life with Maryland Entrepreneur Quarterly.
What are the highlights of your entrepreneurial career?
I started two new Profit and Loss divisions in a global telecom company, and was later part of an Internet startup that sold and later went public. I started a new franchise — The Alternative Board — in 2005, and I’m now involved in a new company called Intellectual Innovations.
What did you learn as an entrepreneur, and how did entrepreneurship affect your personal growth?
I’ve learned to concentrate less on risk and more on opportunity. It has affected me by always having a Plan B and Plan C when Plan A might not work out. When building something, you don’t have a lot of resources, time or money initially, and being sure your initiatives have a return on investment is important when things don’t always go how you envisioned them.
Where do you find your motivation to persevere or to pursue the next idea?
From the customer. If you listen to the customers, they give you the ideas and then the expectation for you to fulfill them. That drives perseverance.
How does someone know when he or she is ready for entrepreneurship? Is anyone actually ever “ready” to be an entrepreneur?
I don’t think you “get ready” to be an entrepreneur. I believe you have a dream, a vision, and you just set out to make it happen. Risk can’t be something that you fret over; you just figure out how to make it happen. Failure is not an option.
Tell us about your Intellectual Innovations partnership.
Larry Linne and I formed a partnership in July of 2011 to offer the Noise Reduction System program developed from the book he authored: Make the Noise Go Away. We sell to licensed facilitators nationally and internationally. The program teaches key executives who report to the CEO how to remove or reduce the “noise” from the owner’s head. We teach 25 tools over a 10-month, two-hour-a-month program.
The results are amazing, and classes are not just open to companies, but are now being offered in higher education institutions like [Louisiana State University] as well. This is a great tool for entrepreneurs who don’t like or have time to develop their direct reports to deal with execution of their ideas and putting key processes in place for developing the foundation of the business, so the entrepreneur can concentrate on doing what they do best.
How do you recommend going about forming partnerships and finding the right partner?
I am a big advocate for partnerships, as they can exponentially expand your capabilities and growth. You cannot do it alone, and the right partnership provides positive leverage and a win-win for all involved.
How you find a good partnership is: Keep your eyes and ears open to those individuals who have similar values and business ethics, and where your businesses can create 1 + 1 = 3 [synergies]. How they are formed depends on how formal an arrangement needs to be. That depends on how integral your partnership is to each other and the risk or expectations required for success. The more formal means the need for greater expectations from each other.
Are you working with any young entrepreneurs at The Alternative Board who are showing great promise early on? How do you recognize when someone has what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
There are many exciting young entrepreneurs here in our backyard. They are easy to spot: They attract talent, have high energy, absorb all the knowledge they can garner from other CEOs; they have a can-do attitude, have capacity to personally grow and are not afraid.
What is your philosophy when it comes to entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is like the debate about leadership: Are you born or are you made? My philosophy is you are born with certain characteristics that lend themselves to being a great leader or entrepreneur and they are developed. You will either like being an entrepreneur or you won’t. It isn’t taught. But of course, that’s my perspective only.
What aspect of entrepreneurship doesn’t get enough coverage or recognition? Why do you think this gets overlooked?
How lonely of a journey it is for an entrepreneur. It is anything but glamorous, with a lot of risk and required internal conviction that your vision can become real even though others may not see it yet. It gets overlooked because most entrepreneurs are optimists and have to be. If you think about the lonesome journey aspect, it can scare the heck out of you. So you don’t talk about it.