Former dancer Dawn Hendricks turns a startup into a $15M enterprise
Dawn Hendricks took a leap of faith and it paid off — literally. The CEO of FM Talent Source LLC, a strategic business solutions enterprise, was a single mom who struggled between following her passion for business or staying at her place of employment, just 14 years ago. She co-founded FM Talent with Omari Franklin in 2004. The company started as a staffing firm and today is a $15M enterprise.
Hendricks provides tips about starting a business and getting properly certified. “I was scared initially like most people are. Since the fear of the unknown will always be there, you can’t use fear as a determining factor for pursuing your business idea.” She suggests entrepreneurs start slow and set small goals daily or weekly so they do not lose momentum. “Start working your business on the side while you have other income. This will allow you to establish a client base, which sometimes can be a slow process.”
FM Talent has hired hundreds of people locally and nationally throughout the past 14 years. The firm currently has just shy of 200 employees working in 12 states across the country.
Read what she has to say about being a Black woman in leadership and more.
What is your superpower?
I am a chameleon. I am someone who can be what I need to be in that moment I need to be it. As a CEO, I wear many hats. I’m a mentor, counselor, leader, disciplinarian, coach and etc. To be effective, I had to learn how to successfully navigate between each. When and how I wear each hat really depends on what is going on in the company. I’m constantly forced to think on my feet and I’ve learned to do so successfully to guide the company and team through the many opportunities and obstacles we face.
What skills or qualities do you possess that make you unique as a leader?
The qualities that make me a unique leader are — accountability, commitment and passion, decisiveness and charisma. I believe accountability is key. It is very important for me as the CEO to maintain accountability with my clients, employees and partners. My actions set the tone and ultimately define the company’s success. If I hold my team accountable, I too must remain accountable to them. Commitment and passion go hand in hand, my goal is to add value in every aspect of my life and in every way I can. I want to motivate and inspire those around me. Decisiveness — this comes pretty easy. I am a strong type A personality and I am very clear on who I am, where I’m going and how I’ll get there. I believe this particular trait in leadership is necessary. You have to be able to make quick and firm decisions — despite not knowing all of the facts. Finally charisma. This is my gift. God has blessed me with a personality that draws people in. In my ability to display my confidence I am able to embolden others to also find that confidence within.
What qualities or values do you deem indispensable in your business partners or collaborators?
Integrity is a core attribute required when I engage in partnerships and collaborations. It is imperative there is a level of mutual trust established and maintained in these types of relationships. Early in my career as a leader at FM Talent, I had a very disappointing experience with a partner [who] didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. As I now engage in new partner relationships, I ensure that FM Talent does what we have committed to and conversely. I hold my partners to that same standard.
What are your thoughts on taking risks?
Taking risks is a requirement for business leaders. It is imperative to, however, take calculated risks. I try to gather as many facts as possible to help influence my decision and run through a host of what-if scenarios, but at the end of the day, I allow my intuition to guide me. It is my decision making go-to. if I don’t have peace about a decision, regardless of the data or what my advisors say. I don’t do it.
What three success habits do you implement into your daily routine to maintain your success, sanity, and peace of mind?
I pray constantly. My faith is what grounds me and gives me the strength to persevere and remain balanced. If I didn’t have the intimate relationship I have with the Lord, I could not accomplish a fraction of the things I do. Exercise is another key piece of my routine. I am a Pilates fanatic. I have been practicing for 10 years. As a former dancer, I get a great deal of peace out of movement. It reduces stress and gives me mental clarity. And, it makes me feel good. Finally, reading is so critically important. I love reading. I read the newspaper daily (Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal), I always have my kindle by my side and because I spend so much time on the road driving daily, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts — we have all heard knowledge is power and that couldn’t be a truer statement. Reading helps with your critical thinking, increases your vocabulary and makes you a more interesting. Currently, I’m re-reading Untethered Soul and What the CEO Wants You to Know. These three things are crucial to me maintaining my center of gravity in life’s fast-moving, ever-changing environment.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I love Oprah. Oprah has overcome extraordinary circumstances to become the first Black billionaire. She is a pioneer and a trailblazer. She has remained true to herself. I love the fact that she is multi-dimensional. She’s not just a talks show host. She owns a network, is an actress, owns a magazine, she’s a philanthropist and has an unyielding commitment to helping others. I applaud her for the work she’s done and I look at her life as an example of the unlimited possibilities that exist in this world.
Fun fact: I have always dreamt of being interviewed by Oprah.
If you could have any person in the world become your mentor, who would it be and why?
Janice Howroyd is the founder and CEO of the $1.1B (net sales) Act-1 Staffing and Consulting firm. The agency has 17,000 clients and 2,600 employees in 19 countries. She is the first African American woman to run a company that generates $1B in revenue. She has also successfully implemented other brands such as Agile 1, A-Check Global and AppleOne. Janice is in the same industry I am in and has accomplished exactly what I aspire to do. I believe a mentor should be someone that can provide subject matter expertise, guidance and can challenge my thinking. Janice is down to earth and someone that I know I could learn a lot from. She is dynamic and fearless. She is someone [who] appears to be fun and approachable but about business.