December 21, 2023

Episode 112: Lori Winkler – BlueSky Commerce

Lori Winkler was born and raised in Northwest Indiana (Dyer) and moved to Columbus, Ohio, after getting married. She and her husband, Aaron, who met at St. Joseph’s College, moved to Indianapolis in 1998 to be close to his family.

Lori started as a 4th Grade Teacher in Inner City Chicago before her marriage and move. She then became a Community Educator for a Healthcare Company, which fueled her passion for sales. Lori then grew her career as a sales consultant and trainer for Caskey Achievement Strategies, in Carmel, IN. Helping hundreds of Indianapolis executives and sales teams was a passion. Through this work, she realized the need for sales and marketing alignment. She then joined Sanders Group – a marketing agency in downtown Indianapolis where she was the VP of sales and strategy and moved into the CEO role.

Her entrepreneurial drive continued to pull at her. It led her to start her agency, WDM Creative, in 2010, where she grew and positioned the company for acquisition in 2019 by BlueSky Commerce. Today, Lori leads the Experience and Marketing Agency for BlueSky Commerce, an e-commerce and business consultancy serving global customers with their digital transformation.

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you’re listening to the self-made is a myth make a difference together show with your host coach Tim campsa where we talk with successful business owners to hear the stories of their Journeys in building their successful businesses and more importantly we recognize the folks who helped them Excel because we know that achieving business success is not something we can do on our [Music] own hello everyone this is coach Tim Campell and I’m very excited to have a fellow business owner from Indiana with us today my guest serves on the board of directors for Forum Credit Union where she has the opportunity to help contribute to causes that make a difference in the world like hunger and children’s grief in her downtime seems like a theme here she volunteers to help uh guide Charities on how to fundraise and she is most proud of the fact that while starting her business she also served on uh the board of Brooks place for grieving young children and in that role um she ended up saving the the the foundation because um they were uh they just were going out of money and she donated her own money and then made some significant changes and helped them fundra and then even served as the uh interim executive director for eight months while again starting her own business so we’re going to learn a little bit more about that here in a minute it’s my pleasure to welcome Lori to the show today hello Lori hello I’m so glad to be here thanks for having me wow so you had a lot going on well before we get into that I want you to um introduce yourself to the audience um tell us a little bit of your personal story like where you were born and live and about your family sure well uh Lori Winkler and currently I serve as Chief experience officer slash I help run some of the business for Blue Sky Commerce um I grew up in Dyer Indiana so the region um I don’t know some people think that’s good or bad um but had a great family actually I still really love going back to Dyer it’s a great place I was lucky to live there we were 15 miles from Chicago so um it was interesting actually moving to Indianapolis because I was so used to Chicago in Central Time um and still have a lot of family back there so you’re still juggling the whole hour difference um but uh grew up uh had really supportive family family and uh went to St Joe’s College uh first I went to Purdue and then I uh stayed out a year to think about why I was in college and then went to St Joseph’s College where I was lucky enough to meet my husband and I kind of feel like that all turned out okay and uh and then moved to Indianapolis after a short stent of living in Columbus Ohio after getting married so that’s that’s kind of me in a nutshell and so tell us a little bit more about how juggling that starting a business and saving a a nonprofit yes well you know I don’t know some people think it’s Brave some think it’s stupid um but going back to Growing Up um I actually uh when I was eight my father passed away he died suddenly he went to uh help he was totally fine healthwise uh technically and went to go help some friends of the family family uh move that morning and never came home and so and I’ll kind of speak to that maybe a little later about how that helped me later in life with business um but you know it really it back then people didn’t talk about grief it was kind of like let’s just move on he’s not here anymore and we have to keep going and good bad or indiff there was like this as an eight-year-old you’re thinking man this is I’m weird now and and I always thought I’m going to go I even at a young age I think I still had this entrepreneurial thing I’m GNA go start some kind of organization where other kids can be around kids who experience something similar and so when I moved to Indie um I realized there was such a place and I didn’t have to start it I just needed to get involved with it which was Brooks place and when I got involved it was probably three four months after I started my business wdm and uh and I saw their financials which looked about as Bleak as my financials frankly at that point and I thought what did I get myself into and uh but I was so passionate about it at the time that I just did not want it to fail and we were at the point where we had to close and uh so I just kind of rallied The Troop among other people who were equally as passionate and uh in a very short time we just kind of like the business that I was starting you have to set a strategy you have to understand where you need to go and you have to do a lot of uncomfortable things in a very short amount of time to help you get there and and so we did and and part of that just included making some uncomfortable changes and um because of those changes I had to fill in as inter director and so I managed that pretty much full-time at the same time I was managing my company so I I love your heart and and thank you for sharing the backstories that makes a whole lot more sense now in terms of uh investing so much time back into helping others so um on a on a funnier note maybe is there a funny story that your family likes to tell about you that you’d be willing share with us today oh there’s so many um many maybe I don’t want to share but it’s funny when I was somewhere in my early coach when I had a coach one of the exercises was to go ask my family about potentially something that you did when you were young that connects you to what you’re doing today and to know that you’re doing maybe exactly what you were gifted to do and um oh my mom right away was like oh this is an easy one she’s like you used to you were probably four or five years old and you would go around and dig holes up in the neighbor’s backyard and you fill that little baggies with the dirt from the the holes that you built and then you would turn around and go to their front door and be like ring the doorbell and be like you know noticed you have a problem in your backyard and I saw this hole I happen to be selling some dirt for like a a dollar which was kind of a big deal at that time and uh and they would pay it and she’s like so it just kind of hit like you were problem maybe a problem Creator but problem Sol you’re a salesperson you were you know a consultant and an entrepreneur all wrapped in one and and so she’s like you’re exactly where you need to be that’s awesome so um I want to learn a little bit more about you and becoming a business owner and that little story just gives some insight here so tell us um I know you’ve you’ve had a a business you’re now part of another business so how did the how’ the business come about or and more importantly like at what point did you have the confidence that you could run your own business yeah great question um so you know original I started out out of college um as a psychologist and fourth grade teacher um those were my degrees and um after living with my mom and making $117,000 I thought this isn’t going to cut it um and so I you know through that I had a gentleman take a after a couple of jobs inance um I had a gentleman take a risk on me at a very early age to train and coach uh sales training to Executives of Enterprise level companies um and I really really got behind the whole sales psychology methodology and then um what I saw was ultimately I don’t know like sales is one way marketing is a different way and so I went into more of the marketing area to try and align it more with sales and so I worked for probably one of the largest Midwest agencies at agencies um as a VP of sales and strategy and um and I really appreciate the gentleman who owned the business um ultimately he promoted me and I think I was 29 to CEO and it was a very large agency and uh they needed to make some changes and so I work worked through a lot of those and through that I think it gave me the confidence and I just saw what I liked and what I didn’t and I saw maybe a need that necessarily wouldn’t fit where we were heading and so at that point I decided that you know what if I can run this I’m certain I can run my own and so that’s where I branched off and started my own agency wdm and uh had that for roughly 10 years uh where we provided really full service marketing agency but we kind of niched in that nonprofit space uh so we could not compete with millions of others but we could get really really good with where we were um had some expertise and really sales and marketing was an area I think that a lot of nonprofits struggle with because they don’t view their business as that yeah and so we were kind of help helping them take the similar digital and marketing strategies uh and being able to implement those for them and through that uh over the years as we grew um it became evident I had uh where I’m at now Blue Sky Commerce I had uh friendship with uh the owner and of Blue Sky Commerce and through the years we had talked he you know talked about boy we’d really like to add this to our um company and would that be a consideration and eventually it made sense and so uh I ended up uh they ended up buying acquiring us and um so now I serve as cxo at Blue Sky fantastic isn’t it interesting you mentioned that um nonprofits don’t think the same way I I have that same uh question from folks when they’re exploring our business and well we’re not a we’re not for profit is the things that you’re gonna you know teach us going to apply like well yeah you still have to make money right you just happen to give it away right all the all the principles of running a business still apply to a nonprofit that’s exactly right and it’s even harder for nonprofits um and I’d love that to change but people scrutinize them on overhead and you know things that if you’re starting a business a for-profit nobody’s saying don’t invest in people don’t invest in technology don’t invest in sales and definitely don’t invest in marketing those are all the Lynch pins for making a successful business yeah and so nonprofits have an even harder time because the things that make something grow and work are the very Investments that I think sometimes they ch alled with making um and so you know we felt like we were really good at helping them find the money and people would always say that they’d be like why would you work with nonprofits they have no money I’m like they’re the only ones who can go out and find it and I’m really good at helping them get money yeah to invest in marketing and sales um and so it it was a great fit for us that’s awesome Lori so tell us a little bit more about the company um your company now I know you’ve got some Partners there and you talked about the the merger or the acquisition so what’s the name what do you guys do how do you help people sure so blue sky Commerce we’re located in Noblesville Indiana I’ve been in business for six over 16 years um and really specialize in E Ecommerce consultancy and technology and interestingly enough I mean we have I don’t know that I would have ever uh when Eric waren who’s one of the c or he’s co but one of the owners uh when he came to me and had said you know Lori I think we’d love to have your your business I mean basically and I have so much respect for the two of Eric Warren and Todd Irwin who are the owners I don’t think I would have ever considered it had it not been these two gentlemen because they are wonderful people um I knew they were great business owners I knew they had a great strategy and um and so blue sky wanted to typically where they built their Foundation was really helping uh with system integration for e-commerce platforms very large Enterprise companies and they’re a global company uh serving Enterprise level uh companies where they’re looking to either uh migrate to a new e-commerce platform or Implement a standalone platform for the first time uh blue sky was the team to do it and they were know nationally to do it they’re probably uh what I would say is the Pioneers in the e-commerce space okay and then as Ecommerce has evolved part of the goal was to provide more of a 360 kind of a holistic approach to e-commerce and not just look at the technology and the platform and the website if you will it’s look at the customer look at what the customer needs are look at what the strategy behind the e-commerce business is from end to end and from supply chain to ordering to um really resources that you would need uh to really have a successful e-commerce solution uh and so that’s where Blue Sky continue to evolve and expand and recently we actually are launching uh two different uh uh Solutions basically one is our own starter store uh e-commerce is kind of a big expensive implementation frankly and the customers are evolving so quickly the needs shopping I mean we all see it um the demands are big and so having um expensive clunky and time consuming inefficiencies and trying to make changes on a site are no longer acceptable so our team who I literally believe are the smartest people out there um they they develop their own solution to make it straight out of the box production ready get it implemented and you’re ready to go for your e-commerce um wow Solution that’s amazing so um for everyone listening make sure to check them out go to the link in the the description attached to this video and uh go uh visit Lori on LinkedIn and let her know that you watched her interview hey Lori share a story where someone pushed you or inspired you that you could do it and even though maybe you didn’t think that you could and the impact that that person had yep um so it kind of dates back a while ago but um and it goes back to so when I talk about my family um I have a very very very very intelligent successful family which is wonderful uh at the time when growing up I was kind of the C student social Sal salesperson and they were the A+ A++ students and so over the years it was kind of like what’s wrong wrong with her you know and not that anybody projected that it was me thinking that and that kind of got in the way of My Success I think um and it it still Crepes up in a little bit of a way um you know do I it do I have what it takes and can I really pull this off and and so I had gone and and seen someone and a coach and they had said to me they said Lori you know pull out a piece of paper please and and Dr eugent was his name and he said if you could pull out a piece of paper I’d like you to say um answer this question are you gonna continue letting everyone else Write Your Story or today are you gonna start writing your own oh wow and are you gonna start and start so put together a forward I want you to write a forward of your book and it’s going to going to talk about what you’re capable what you did and what you’re capable of doing and that really was a GameChanger for me and it’s still I still when I get those kind of inward thoughts about like can I do this or yes you know maybe I shouldn’t be in this role or what have you you know I I go back to that and I pull that out that forward out and I read it and I realize I’ve kind of accomplished a lot of it and so yeah you know just just that alone I think has been probably the most impactful um influence for me it’s it’s powerful our our brain is so incredibly powerful that we we end up attracting whatever it is that we think so if we have those self-limiting beliefs then that’s ends up being what we manifest if we switch those I love the forward idea or or affirmation statements is enough another term for it right if we say this is who I am and this is what’s going to happen then we just attract Law of Attraction says that we’re going to manifest the things that we believe so what a what an incredible experience I love that idea of writing the forward yeah it really I I encourage everybody to do it I think it go goes back to once you put pen of paper and and it just becomes reality so and it’s so easy to get stuck in our own head with you know imposter syndrome or self-limiting beliefs or doubts or fears or or or right that we do need a go-to to be able to overcome that absolutely absolutely and I truly am grateful for him that’s amazing what’s been the biggest learning that you’ve had as a business owner oh I think uh for me it’s you you know it’s an old saying but the only thing constant is change yeah and uh and I think you can definitely depend on that in business and and I think being agile and and and looking at the um headwinds that are inevitably out there and and knowing that you have to kind of stay on the offense yeah um and not get complacent no matter how you know well you’re doing it’s it’s important to always kind of look at the Forefront I maybe that comes from my dad having died and that like instantly seeing change and you know you have to deal with it yeah um change is hard I mean it’s it’s hard and I think as a business owner you set that trajectory and then it’s it’s hard to shift yeah as quick as maybe you need to especially if you don’t have the resources or funding and I think that’s that’s the one thing it it taught me was to manage to the change yeah and be open to the change and um I think the other thing is is people I go back to people um people are your greatest asset and your greatest liability indeed so understanding I think that’s the thing that might wear most business owners out is you know you can have all the skill sets in the world and it doesn’t whether it’s people being your employees or people being your clients or Partners um again just like we talked about everybody has their own mindset and they’re in a different space and being able to um to to mobilize people in a way that really works for you um I think is is something that you you learn and you continue learning along the way of having your own business I think those two ideas tie together in that that you know most of us prefer to not change right we don’t want the uncertainty and the what’s going to happen so we have we prefer our comfort zone I I call it the caveman effect right way back when evolutionarily you step out of the cave you get eaten so now we’re just conditioned to want to stay in our comfort zone but so so do our employees and so the the change that you were talking about right we’re we’re everything we want in life and everything we want in our business is on the other side of our comfort zone and so we have to be willing to change and we have to find the right ways to to enable our team to be willing to change because if we don’t change eventually you know the business is going to die because everybody is around us is changing and we’ve seen examples of that with Kodak right and and that yeah and and truthfully um when I I don’t know if that’s maybe a specialty of mine that over the years the change management but even where I had been promoted to CEO of the uh agency that I spoke about before starting my own um you know they they heavy video production and video it was right when video shifted to digital versus tapes and and uh you know things that were important before were no longer important speed was important cost was important and now you could do it digitally uh you weren’t paying millions of dollars for cameras and and things like that and and you know there came a point truly where when I was at BP level you know I went to the owner and I said the Titanic you know we’re on the Titanic and there’s an iceberg ahead and and so we may right now it’s our time to shift and avoid it and and I think that was the hard part is is we weren’t shifting fast enough and that was ultimately part of the also the reason where you know I decided to leave and that wasn’t a knock on them it was just they had so much invested I mean I think people think change is easy but they had so much invested financially um that even to make that change was such a a big hairy audacious right you know yeah not even goal and and sometimes it’s it’s it may be too late in some cases so I I think that’s that’s the big thing for me is always always weighing out the risk versus the reward of change and and knowing that you have to make some risky moves um including the move I even made with blue sky um it it that was that was a change that was a huge change I had to totally get emotionally okay yeah okay with but I knew it was a better move for our team it gave them much greater opportunities for growth in a much quicker trajectory for for that um and and I just felt like it was the right thing to do for people not even me necessarily so Lor going to put you on the spot here a little bit if I was to ask you to pick three people in your business owner Journey that you’re most grateful for them being there to help with your growth who are those three people and how they help you oh geez that is so hard because there’s so many um I’m I’m grateful to because there’s so many um I would say one was uh the well I’ll kind of couple them the owner of the previous agency before I started and even the gentleman that I did sales training with I think they gave gave me really foundational tools and skill sets that allowed me to have the confidence to start my own business and I I think you know it’s very rare that and I’ll take the gentleman from the agency um Mike Sanders he’s great guy and to think about it I think I was 28 at the time and he had a staff that had started the company 20 years earlier with him he had put his Blood Sweat and Tears very successful agency and for him to take a 20 year 28 year old out of anybody 28 29 year old and say I’m making you CEO yeah that’s a huge I mean that’s I don’t even think I realized it then but when I had to you know when you say things like who really made an impact he believed in me and he I think it was that confidence that I got um and and and his belief of handing over a company um that I think helped me then realize and then his support when I started my own recognizing that I kind of had a different passion um that’s a that’s a key person for sure and then I would say um I had joined a CEO group at wdm and I had a facilitator at the time Janette shop who was wonderful um and like any business you need that you need that coach you need that Confidant you need that person who can help guide you and help you step out of the weeds and and continue to focus on the strategy not just the daytoday and and when times were tough Etc that person was Janette was always there and still is to the Stak um and then I would say the other person is my brother actually uh he owned a business or still owns a business very successful and when I started wdm my original agency um you know it was like a year in and I’m like man I’ve spent kind of a lot of money and is this work it’s kind of slow moving and and probably because I was doing interim director role at the same time and I was like I was like is this gonna work and he said Lori you got to quit focusing on all this outside noise you just have to and I don’t even mean that I’m part that but part my own head part all the like what if this happens what if this happens why isn’t this happening fast enough and he said give this what’s the worst that’s going to happen you’re gonna go find a job somewhere else and you’re gonna be fine and and honestly this was a game-changing moment for for the business it really was because he said let’s put it down on paper three months you’re going to give it three months what activities are you g to do just focus on the activities you’re fine if it fails just focus yeah and literally I probably landed half a million dollars in less than three months of new work wow and to that work yeah and that kind of really and then we never stopped growing from there and so I think it was a good reminder to you know stay focused and and don’t try and be all things to everybody get get what you need to done and and the others things will take care of themselves so wow what a what a great piece of advice for all of us listening let’s jot that down for ourselves too it’s so simple I mean it was so simple but but it really I feel like that’s what did it for me um and so that is that is a huge and I think I’d be a little remiss if I didn’t do the cliche uh shout out to the husband the spouse Aon because you know I know that’s a fourth person but it’s kind of the most important because I think anybody watching this who’s a business owner and has started their own business it is tough like your it’s man-made and nobody’s gifting anything you get a lot of noise uh around you know that oh you must just make millions of dollars and never have to work the stressor nights the checks you’re writing out um he it takes somebody really special to support you doing that and and to um to guide you and comfort all along the way without saying hey you know what’s are we going to be okay kind of thing um and he he’s a finance guy and he likes he likes no risk at all so um I have to really shout out to him because because he had to probably suffer a little bit sure um in the time commitment and everything else that it takes to get that off the ground so that’s awesome last question here Lori as you think about the next three to five years what’s the biggest challenge that you see that you’re going to face in hitting the company’s goals and who are the types of people you’re going to need to solve those yeah you know in this business of e-commerce technology uh marketing um it’s you know what do you look at in the next three to five weeks sometimes because it changes so quickly and I think being able to adapt quickly um and and look at you know it’s really it I think you have to kind of look at the landscape of who’s going to be the NextGen um skill sets that we need you’ve got AI I mean when the work that we do that’s a huge piece you know that as far as technology and shopping and customer expectations I mean the technolog is coming out so rapidly uh to address needs of individuals and then you’ve got just all of the expectations I think that people have of of their experience thanks to Amazon um and we continue to have these we have to be at the Forefront of product development and so I think that’s one of the key areas is is we have to lead in that area instead of waiting for other people to develop these products and then have us Implement them we have to be the drivers in that situation so it’s going to take a different business model it’s going to take different types of people it’s it really does require us to rethink kind of how we um how we grow and build the people that we have um and also how we reward them you know it’s a totally different situation when you’re developing new products and Innovative products s um we need to make sure that we keep the best talent find the best talent and I think that’s always going to be a challenge um moving forward and I think we’re going to need partners and relationships with schools with college we’re GNA have to help develop the kids early on and um and we’re going to need a lot of a lot of expertise coaching and and we need I’ll say this to anybody in three three to five years it’s always scary to look out at that no matter what I think everybody needs the Dr gent or the influencers because the one thing you cannot go at it alone and you’re going to need bright people and coaches and people who are going to help you stay ahead of the trends and know how to shift and move um to be able to deliver and and because of that speed that agility I think having those sounding boards are is going to be critical for us yeah isn’t it the pace of change is so incredibly fast now that you almost don’t even have time to second guess yourself right so and and being at the top being an owner is can be pretty lonely when we’re an employee we always had a manager to go to and you know bounce ideas off of as a business owner we don’t right it’s like okay I guess I’m just stuck in my own head and my own thoughts and that’s never a good thing right yeah that’s exactly it I mean I don’t even have as much of the burden as I had with wdm right but it’s ingrained in me I think to just stress about things all the time I better and different but but you do because she I feel like any business my my belief is you don’t become an entrepreneur because you want to make Bunches of money you become an entrepreneur because you believe you want to help people and you know you can help them how whatever you’re providing you believe you can make a better life for people and it’s either you know the people that buy from you or your employees but that is a tremendous burden that you also are lucky enough to have yeah because you know that that is it is difficult ult um to do and so I do I am a firm believer of you know in the next three to five years we have to surround at Blue Sky we have to surround ourselves with as many people who will give us advice will share input and and will help us lead and continue to grow and be agile that we possibly can so well Lori it sounds like you’ve been blessed with some pretty incredible people in your journey that have help helped you along the way if they were all here on the show today what would you want to say to them oh jeez don’t make me cry um no it’s I’m very grateful I say thank you I mean it goes back to U people want to help people and and I can’t thank people enough the only thing I would say is uh their kindness knowledge and time that they spent with me will is most certainly reciprocated because I am focused on doing the same back and helping others so um it’s it’s kind of a pay forward situation and I’m grateful for that I love that you said that because I a number of folks I talked to are worried about asking others for help or reaching out to folks and asking for coffee and so just share a little bit more about that PID forward idea why why why don’t you’re a bus person you’ve got lots on your plate why are you okay with giving your time to to other business owners who are looking for advice I just know how important it is um because I was lucky enough to receive it um and I don’t I it’s funny because I I think I was naive back in my 20s right um or dumb or I don’t know I had just started calling business owners and asking them and I think Lori today would have more reservations about that but I was just like whatever I’m G to call the president of Lily I’m GNA call the you know it just I don’t even think it phased me and I wanted to learn right so but what was so interesting is they all met with me I and they all were like yes I will take an hour out of my time and then the minute I would meet with them they’d be like you have to meet Joe and I’m gonna hook you up with so and so and I mean it just really what set you know I can’t even think one it was it was 50 70 people who met with me in like twoyear time that’s awesome and to me that’s they were all eager to do it they all wanted to help and that was the one thing that I saw consistent is they appreciated they actually appreciate it because I think people are afraid to ask them and and as an owner I people are afraid well oh they don’t have time for me or they no they they actually they get where they’re at because you know they’re they’re they want to help people and so for me it’s a no-brainer um because I had they had as much fun as I did and honestly I have as much fun talking to other people who own their business or you know who reach out it’s it’s actually helping me at the same time I mean so I think that’s really the the beauty of it we’re kind of we’re all in the same club right um it’s the club that’s Lon but it’s the club that TR what what the challenges are and and I think there’s power kind of like the peer-to-peer grief group there’s power in peer-to-peer entrepreneurial groups so absolutely well Lori it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today thank you so much for being on the show yes you as well thank you for having me and I would welcome any anybody who wants to reach out I you know I’d love to to talk thanks for listening to the self-made is a myth show with your host coach Tim campaw please help spread this Movement by liking and subscribing to our show and following us on Facebook and Linkedin or wherever you listen to your favorite podcast to join our movement go go to bead okay folks that’s a wrap please pay it forward and be sure to tune in next time to the self-made is a myth podcast