Rabiah Sutton is an American best-selling author, speaker and entrepreneur, but above all else she is a female boss disrupting the status quo in the entrepreneurship and influencer industry. Sutton represents thousands of clients and leads them to achieve high-growth. Amongst her peers and clients, Sutton is described as having the “Midas Touch” as many of the strategies employed by her firm achieve critical growth and produce significant results for her clients’ business ventures.
Always a visionary, Sutton is a devoted professional with a mindset geared toward helping her clients attain massive success. Sutton has extensive connections in technology circles and is laser-focused on building the next big brand. Over the years, she has amassed a solid contact list of friends, partners, confidants, mentors, and mentees from the C-Level to administrative staff. As a financial influencer with a popular podcast, Sutton discusses her process extensively as well as the challenges and risks inherent in business, the simplicity of getting started and how to live life wide open to possibility. She also mentors aspiring entrepreneurs, many of whom are women. Sutton uses strategy, connections and her personal philosophy of focusing 99% on the solution and 1% on the problem to help her own businesses and her clients’ businesses grow.
After completing her M.B.A at the prestigious John Hopkin’s University, Sutton left her corporate position in 2010 to found FWDthink, an award-winning, multi-million dollar company specializing in information technology services. This industry leader is now focused on using her expertise as a growth strategist to help individuals and businesses achieve their goals through her personalized coaching platforms and her signature “9-5 to CEO” online course. Noting a lack of female representation among prominent entrepreneurial influencers, Sutton is seeking to fill that gap through her own podcast and sharing her tips and strategies with her following on social media.
In an interview with Sutton in she describes her approach to business, illustrates how her approach has achieved results for her clients and predicts how businesses can not only survive, but thrive during and after the coronavirus crisis.
Q: Describe your approach to growing business for your clients?
Rabiah Sutton: Our business is about three things: relationships, solving problems and leverage. My clients expect my team and I to help them identify what they either cannot see for themselves or opportunities for which they lack either the right contacts or enough leverage to execute and they need a third-party to strategize and facilitate on their behalf. Our approach is quite simple: we focus 99% on the solution and 1% on the problem.
Q: Describe your philosophy of focusing 99% on the solution and 1% on the problem and how you developed that?
Rabiah Sutton: The philosophy really means that we take the opposite approach of conventional wisdom, which primarily has been to focus on the problem over and over again and assume that the solution will come. This is backwards. It doesn’t work and frankly, it takes a negative toll on your team.
Instead, we acknowledge the problem, thank the universe for the opportunity to solve it and flip our brains to coming up with solutions. When I was at my last corporate gig, I was part of a very large technology implementation internally. There were probably 200 people from different departments trying to solve one problem. We spent so many months and many millions of dollars focusing on the problem that by the time we got to the solution, much of the team had turned-over. The employees that were left were so ingrained in the mindset of “that’s the way it’s always been done” that they couldn’t flip the switch in their brains.
At the height of my frustration during this project, my husband Jason gave me a leadership book called “Leadership Made Simple,” by Doug Krug and Ed Oakley. The book was only 81 pages and it underlined a few ideas that I totally embraced and implemented in my business soon thereafter: 1) the answers are always in the room 2) most people are backward thinkers and focused on the problems 3) to be successful, you need to be a forward thinker that is focused on solutions.
Q: How has it worked for you and your clients?
Rabiah Sutton: This concept of focusing on solutions is the basis with which I approach every aspect of my life and all of the companies with which I associate. This approach has worked for our internal growth and for our clients’ needs as we routinely provide solutions and strategies that are way outside-of-the-boxes that our clients are used to. Pursoma, one of our most recent clients, is a beauty wellness brand that makes all natural detox remedies to ease stress and anxiety through self-care rituals, using bathing and body care practices.
After spending time with Shannon Vaughn, the CEO of Pursoma, at an event hosted by a fashion icon, Donna Karan, and listening to the growth strategies of the company as well as learning of their desire to reach the masses beyond the high-end boutiques and stores in which Pursoma was already being carried, we provided the company with a plan to offer curated subscription boxes by theme and co-branded boxes from celebrities and influencers. This model brings the company an influx of cash and consistency and it also gives them opportunities to cross-market using a theme (Ex: Mother’s Day). Subscription boxes are scheduled to be deployed later this year. We also provided support throughout Pursoma’s recent initiative to join BeautyUnited founded by BeautyCon founder Moj Mahdara, which has a bilateral mission: First, to support the Frontline Responders Fund, which transports medical supplies to the front-line responders by encouraging individual donations with a goal of $10 million; second, the 40 Beauty brands involved, including Pursoma are donating personal-care supplies to front-line health-care workers.
Q: Say someting about FWDthink, specifically how you approach training and certifying organizations?
Rabiah Sutton: We provide training in the areas of IT process, so PMP, CSM and CSPO as well as soft skills subjects such as leadership development, emotional intelligence and acquisitions topics, specifically tailored for federal government around acquisitions and procurement.
We have a proprietary board game, “Winning The Training Game,” that we use to train groups in complicated or technical material. It’s an oversized board game in which ideally there are four teams of three players with 12 total players. It’s a lot of fun and instruction is delivered using the team’s knowledge so no one person is singled out. I partnered with the manufacturer and created two new versions: Contract Management and Agile.
We also don’t provide training without coaching, as we’ve found that sticking someone is a training session for 5-7 days and then putting them back in their organic environment does nothing to help them retain the training they just learned from our methods. However, if they have access to a coach, whether in-person or virtual, they can continue learning, asking questions and clarifying their real life situations in real-time.
Q: Lastly, how do you envision businesses moving forward during and after this unprecedented coronavirus crisis?
Rabiah Sutton: Of the businesses that survive COVID-19, there will be two primary growth strategies 1) slow and steady with a focus on getting back to pre-crisis levels financially and operationally and a hyper focus on savings and emergency funds and 2) creating opportunities and innovating, which are likely the same strategies being used now to either survive or thrive.
In other words, the same companies that are focused on finding ways to not only survive during the pandemic but to also thrive by innovating, pivoting and adding new products/services to their line cards are going to be lit up and ready to take advantage of the new normal when this thing is over. They will continue to innovate, pivot and grow.
Conversely, if your focus throughout the isolation is to survive that tells me your risk-tolerance is likely low and when the crisis is over, that won’t change. You’ll be focused on continuing to survive and it may be a long while before growth is your priority. For me, we are focused on thriving and very interested in the lasting effects the crisis will have on day-to-day operations, communication and expectations of employees and employers.
Rabiah Sutton is the founder and CEO of FWDthink, an award-winning consulting and advisory services firm that specializes in performance improvement and strategic planning for government contractors. She is an expert business strategist and coach who holds a M.B.A from John Hopkin’s University and a B.A. from American University. For more information, please visit http://www.fwdthink.com.
Disclaimer: The views, suggestions and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Forbes India journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.