Every month we feature the work of one of our members, who range from business owners to artists to nonprofit leaders. This month we sat down with the wonderful Margaret Groves, Founder & Principal Consultant at Engineered Process Improvement.
Tell us how the venture got started. What compelled you to create it?
In 2013, a friend asked me to leave Boeing, the Original Gangster, to join his light electric vehicle startup. And when it ended in 2016, I was strongly resistant to re-entering the “real” world. I wondered if there was a market in Tacoma for small businesses who needed consulting but didn’t know it. Turns out: there is!
Who are your customers/community and how do they find you? What lessons have you learned building a customer base/community?
Word of mouth and cold calls. (Respect the hustle.) My main customers are e-retailers and light machinists; I have experience in both, and both allow for personal influence at key points/decision making nodes.
I’ve learned that reputation, especially in a small town, is everything. If you promise something, follow through. Send that email.
Tell us about one of the biggest obstacles you have faced in your work and how you overcame it:
Following from the previous answer: it’s very easy to get overwhelmed when you’re a business of one. You want to promise your clients the moon, so you do, but then you start dropping things because there’s really only twenty-four hours in the day, and you can only abstain from sleeping or eating for two days at the most. That was a huge problem for me at first. I’ve learned now that it’s important to UNDER promise. Whatever my time estimate is for a project, I consider doubling it. I’m clear with my customers about how much I can do and how long it will take, and if I go over, I accept the mistake and try to learn from it.
Where do you see the work/venture five years from now?
Tacoma is going through a major growth period and I would love for my consulting firm to play a role! It would be wonderful to have personally shepherded a successful startup with Tacoma roots.
What do you love about Tacoma?
I love that Tacoma is so accessible! My first startup was in Pioneer Square in 2013, and at that time, Pioneer Square had been “about to make it” for a decade with no actual positive change in sight. Clubs were closing left and right. The BIA took a chance and spent the money to fund several business development staff full time. Today’s wild success in Pioneer Square was nowhere near as sure an outcome then. Tacoma has that same potential and that same energy. Anything is possible.
What is your favorite book?
Two classic books inspired me: A Wrinkle in Time, and Jurassic Park. Both, for me, illuminated ways the human mind might push the boundaries of what we know to be “real” and “not real”. That core idea helped me re-examine my assumptions, even as a young pre-teen, and therefore opened so many subsequent doors.
What made you choose Union Club? What has your experience been like and who would you recommend it for?
Where else can I work in front of a fireplace where Eleanor Roosevelt once sat? It’s the kind of opportunity we never get in Tacoma. I would recommend it for anyone who needs a beautiful place to work even twice a month. And I think that covers almost everyone in Tacoma.