Stand Out Business | Tara Charlton
I have the wonderful opportunity to meet and photograph all kinds of amazing human beings.
While they are in studio, it is a privilege to learn about their businesses, or the work they do, their family, their interests, and hear a little bit about their story.
Tara Charlton, as she described herself on her website is "Your resident nerd & marketing strategy expert", and the Founder of Stand Out Business.
Tara's experience and expertise is in growth strategy and top level marketing strategy, providing strategic direction to companies and subcontractors. Her greatest strength is taking the many great ideas of owners and visionaries, prioritizing them, and creating a clear and approachable action plan. This ensure their goals are achieved in as little times as possible and at the lowest possible cost.
What inspired you to develop your idea?
My background is in high-level marketing strategy. When working with a local consulting group I found that what I consider Marketing (Product, Price, Promotion, and Distribution strategy) is actually the perfect fit for business planning and development. Typically people think of sales, advertising, social media, etc. (parts of Promotion Strategy) when they think of marketing. So basically, I took what I had been doing all along and reframed it from Marketing Strategy to Business Consulting and BOOM, a consultant was born.
After years of helping other small businesses launch and grow, I started wondering why I wasn’t doing it for myself. Being a know-it-all, I also knew I could create a different business model for a consultancy that would be my perfect recipe for success, allowing me to do my best work. I left the consulting group I was with and launched Stand Out Business. Now, I’ve shifted from agency model thinking and have squashed the idea that you’ll find higher quality services by going to larger city centers. After getting closely acquainted with local businesses, I realized that we have SO MUCH incredible local talent and that if we all work together to do only what we do best, it’s a win for the client and our local economy as a whole.
How have your priorities changed from when you first started?
My idea of success used to be climbing my way to the top of a large organization, getting the clout and fancy job title, and having those above me recognize my great work. Now, my idea of success is building my own company that makes an impact on local businesses and the local economy. I’m just fine with patting myself on the back.
Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you were first starting out?
No! I didn’t always have the perfect position to grow my skills and it definitely wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows but I worked in lots of towns and cities across Canada and learned so much from each success, failure, and person I met along the way. If I had done it differently, maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now. Although, I do regularly get made fun of for moving back to “Onterrible” from BC haha.
What challenges did you have to overcome at the beginning of your journey?
Imposter syndrome for one. I struggled with going out on my own and still struggle with confidently pitching for projects where I know I’m very qualified; I get it in my head that someone probably does it better. I almost always find out after that it wasn’t true and I could have knocked it out of the park. I’ve lost some opportunities this way for sure. Luckily, I have a mentor and other people in my professional circle that help give me perspective.
How do you define success?
I kind of answered this above but I also decided that I’m a work-to-live person not live-to-work. Yes, I’m a capitalist but success to me is not only business-based, although I would have said something different 10 years ago. I’ll never feel like I’ve “made it” but I’ll be happy with my ongoing success if I can take vacations and spend quality time with my family, have the time to enjoy living in Muskoka, Ontario, stay healthy by having the time to make it a priority … I could go on forever. Success to me is making an impact and using my career to fuel my personal life and goals.
What is keeping you up at night?
My kids, the unimportant things I forgot to do like empty the dishwasher, wondering how many emails I have flagged as “important” but haven’t properly responded to yet, having an incredible idea for someone’s marketing strategy while I don’t have a computer in front of me, re-running conversations I’ve had that day in my head that others probable never thought about after the fact … the usual haha!
Describe some of your key routines or habits that you have to keep you going?
I schedule, organize, template, use processes, plan, etc. more than your average bear. I’m in business planning so I’m sure you could have guessed. I’ve also been working with a nutrition coach so slamming a min of 30 grams of protein at each meal/snack has been difficult but it becoming habit. In the warmer seasons, I either run or hike daily; I find it’s the best way to process my thoughts and clear my head. The runner’s high is real too!
Do you, and/or, how do you find time to develop your creative process?
I am always creating and perfecting templates. Every job I do I either improve an existing template while I’m doing it or create a new one. I have tons. This makes me confident going into every project knowing that I’m using everything I know and all of my experience to make this the best one yet. I can’t set aside time to do it separately so I have to do it as I go. I’m finally almost done a strategic business plan guide and fillable form … months later than expected … and it wouldn’t even be close to being done if I wasn’t being nudged by my technical designer. I’m terrible at setting aside time to work on MY stuff and not my clients’. And I consider templates, processes & solutions “creative”. They’re all totally unique and take as much creative development and process as anything else that is stereotypically creative, trust me!
What are some hard choices that you had to make to get where you are?
Leaving a job with lots of opportunity, good pay, security, and support was HARD. It was a big risk and was way out of my comfort zone. But, big (calculated) risk, big reward right?
What book and/or podcast are you enjoying right now?
I only read text books and similar. Yes, I’m really boring but I like them. Right now that’s “Free PR: How to Get Chased By The Press Without Hiring a PR Firm” by Cameron Herold and Adrian Salamunovic (Lioncrest) who I met at a networking event in Ottawa and was inspired by.
Podcasts, in order:
- Because News – CBC Radio
- The Dollop – Dave Anthony & Gareth Reyolds (American history done by comedians. Hilarious. Can’t make that shit up haha)
- My Favourite Murder – Karen Killgariff and Georgia Hardstark (Also comedians. Sometimes dark, sometimes funny)
- Sleep With Me – if you cant fall asleep, this one is AMAZING. No overly calm soothing voice, just talking nonsense until you fall asleep. Highly recommend.
What is one thing people would never guess about you?
Getting real and a little outside of my comfort zone here: I have Bipolar Disorder (BPD) Most of the time when people find out they say “OMG I had no idea”. Maybe they’re just being nice because “OMG that makes sense” would be rude haha. I’m starting to be more comfortable speaking openly about mental illness. Up until a year ago, I was very concerned that clients would see me as a liability or would be concerned about my quality and timely delivery of work. Now I am confident that my work speaks for itself and that my BPD isn’t a disadvantage. I’m an outside the box thinker who is also extremely analytical; you don’t get dichotomies like that every day.
My message: mental illness looks different in each individual so don’t make any assumptions! Don’t shy away from hiring someone with special circumstances and challenges in general. Lots of the time (like in my case) we feel we have something to prove, and will try and do even better because of it.
What is one thing you wish people knew about you?
I’m transparent to a fault, so if you know me well, I’m sure you know lots. For those I may have just met, know I’m genuinely as excited about and invested in your business as I let on. I recently missed about 30 mins of a birthday party talking to someone I just met about their bakery and I loved every minute of it. I love all types of people and what makes them unique, and the same goes for businesses. Corner me at an event with your stories about the boring parts of your business that your spouse and friends are really sick of hearing about; I love it.
Where to find Tara:
Peter Istvan Photography
Peter is a professional headshot photographer. Available in studio, or on location. Serving Parry Sound, Muskoka, Sudbury, North Bay, Barrie, Toronto, and surrounding areas.