Carolyn Sullivan, president & CEO, New Chapter Coaching
Years lived in Columbia/Mid-Missouri:
I moved from Boston to Columbia when my partner accepted a job at the University of Missouri. We thought we’d be here for a year, but we fell in love with this community, and here we are nearly 20 years later.
I grew up in Holmdel, New Jersey, 30 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean.
Bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Mount Holyoke College and juris doctorate from Suffolk University Law School.
Favorite volunteer/community activity:
The most impactful volunteering I ever did was for Missouri Mission of Mercy, a large-scale dental clinic that provides free oral health care to patients of all ages who cannot afford or access care.
I’ve taken two big risks in my life. The first was when I left my legal career and the firm where I’d earned partnership to make a difference in the nonprofit sector. The second big risk I took was when I started my own business at the height of the recession.
A favorite recent project:
I was recently hired by a nonprofit to navigate the departure of a beloved, longtime CEO and search for her successor. They hired an extremely competent executive and were able to continue — without any interruption caused by the executive transition — to deliver critical basic needs to a marginalized part of our population.
A Columbia businessperson I admire and why:
Karen Miller, who served as county commissioner for over two decades. Karen focused on doing what was right rather than what was popular. I admire Karen’s commitment to promoting, supporting, and connecting women in leadership roles. And I admire how Karen supports our nonprofit sector, hosting “parties with a purpose” to help them raise the funds they need to succeed.
Why I’m passionate about my job:
I want to live in a country and community where everyone is thriving, not just a small percentage of the population. I don’t want to live in a community where seniors live in isolation, children go to school hungry, or veterans live on the street. Government can’t achieve these social equity goals on its own; it needs the help of our nonprofit sector. When New Chapter Coaching supports the work of nonprofits in Mid-Missouri and beyond, we’re investing in the health and wealth of our communities and their people.
If I weren’t doing this for a living, I would:
Probably be a social worker. Social workers are some of my favorite people and that career came up repeatedly in career assessments when I was younger.
The next challenge facing my industry:
Nonprofits face increasing pressures to do more and more with less and less. Every leader has a long wish list: develop a thoughtful plan for their future, enhance their own leadership, improve team dynamics. But most leaders feel like they don’t have either the time or money they need to achieve their goals. Recruiting folks for our nonprofit roundtables, we often hear leaders say they can’t afford to spend even three hours a month on strengthening themselves and their organization. Our job is to convince these leaders their organization’s future depends on them making these investments.
My next professional goal:
We now provide nonprofit consulting, coaching, and training services in eight different states. My next goal is to build the infrastructure and curricula — particularly engaging and effective online learning — to serve more nonprofits across the country.
Biggest lesson learned in business:
During my 35 years in business, I’ve learned that everything begins and ends with trust. Trust is an amazing accelerator of business relationships and growth. I attribute my success to trust in myself, in others, and in my ability to cultivate trust-based relationships.
My work ethic. When I take on a commitment, I’m wired to give it my all. A project for a recent client presented more challenges than any we’d ever undertaken, including board dysfunction and expectations that far exceeded the contract. To make matters worse, about halfway through the project, I learned a few members of the nonprofit didn’t want to work with my company because I’m openly gay. As you might imagine, I was tempted to quit just about every time I worked on the project, but I didn’t. I set personal feelings aside and delivered the highest quality service I could.
There’s a fine line between a strong work ethic and workaholism. I love what I do, so it’s not uncommon for me to work past what I know is the bedtime that will enable me to do my best work the following day.
What I do for fun:
Most of my free time is spent with my 92-year-old mother. Because of her age and dementia, I choose to spend much of my recreational time with mom.
My spouse, Elisa Glick, is the love of my life. We’ve been together for more than 25 years and married last October. We live with two pooches: Cleo, our 70-pound lap dog, and Samantha, my mom’s 8-pound watch dog.
Favorite place in Columbia:
While some folks flock to coffee shops to escape their office and get work done, I prefer the third floor reading room at the library.
Accomplishment I’m most proud of:
Starting my business when the financial market had just crashed. I had no clients or partners, only a dream to help improve lives and transform communities by strengthening nonprofits.
Most people don’t know that I:
Sometimes people think I’m all work and no play, in part because I wear a suit (and bow tie!) nearly every workday. But what people don’t know — or often see — is that I have a lighter, more relaxed side. I love to laugh, be silly, and have fun. Just ask me about the ugly Christmas sweater I made. Co-workers have told me it’s hideous, but I break it out every year to make people smile and to remind me not to take myself too seriously.