Allison Seabeck is the Executive Director of the Warehouse Business Accelerator and a LoCo Think Tank Facilitator for the Next Level Catalyst Chapter. This month, she received the honor of the 2023 Biz West’s Women of Distinction Award and none of us are surprised, though we are quite proud of her. She has a warm and welcoming demeanor and is as easy to talk to as she is smart.
Allison treated me to a tour of the Warehouse on a Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, their cafe was closed but I plan to be back sometime soon as it’s now open to the public. We settled into her office for our chat.
Thanks for the wonderful tour. I'm inspired by what I've seen and you must be too. How many companies do you currently have in the space?
There are 13 different companies here in the Innovation Hub and each company is working on something interesting, fascinating and potentially groundbreaking. We also provide mentorship and scale-up advisory services for six other companies that aren't physically located here.
We’d like to invite our readers to check it out for themselves at the Innovation Showcase Demo Day coming right up on August 30th. Tell us about that.
We'll have 10 members of our ecosystem pitch or demonstrate what they're working on.
The audience will be filled with potential investors, partners, vendors, service providers, people that can connect with them - resources that the participants need to get to the next level. Each business will pitch about what they're working on and what they need help with. Andpeople in the audience will be able to hear that need and, if they can't meet it directly, they may have someone in their extended network that they could introduce.
Tell us more about your Accelerator program.
It’s a mentorship program called the Acceleration Roadmap. We work with each business to identify the top one, two, or three barriers that are preventing them from scaling right now. What are those pinch points, those constraints, keeping them from being able to move to the next level of their business?
We provide education and connections to folks who have solved similar problems before or have subject matter expertise, as well as connections to resources in the broader Colorado ecosystem that may help members overcome their specific barriers. Every quarter we re-evaluate what the new barriers are and what priorities are the focus in growing your business.
Our network of subject matter experts are folks that we've met in the community, through the manufacturing sector partnership, the Small Business Development Center, and even LoCo Think Tank.
Let’s focus a little more specifically on Loco Think Tank and your chapter. Can you talk about what kind of impact you'd like to have on your “LoCommunity” (LoCo Think Tank members)?
I was really inspired at the recent Next Level Summit (for LoCo Next Level chapter members). The challenge presented there was that we, ourselves, are the most important person we have to lead. We need to develop ourselves and absolutely cannot do that in isolation by ourselves. I’d like to have the opportunity to share with more leaders the value of surrounding yourself with people who think strategically and can help you lead yourself. People who can provide you with accountability in the very best sense of that word; challenge your thinking and help you grow. That's key. That’s what I hope that we can do more of through the LoCommunity.
Can you describe your current group? Give us some examples of how a chapter meeting works.
Our group has a diverse set of businesses, but all of them are over 5 million in revenue, and everyone at the table has a key strategic role in the business, as well as a mindset of wanting to learn and grow .
We do a mixture of education and issue processing using the “Lo-Collaborative process” to
identify a problem, a challenge, an opportunity and get insight from other people who might see it a different way. That helps you determine the path that you're going to take forward.
We process challenges around people, challenges around expansion opportunities, challenges around the core value proposition of the business, and challenges around meeting the expectations of our market and our customers. The people in our group have visibility across the organization.
We look at how they can step into their ownership of the role of a strategic leader and add value to the business. Having different perspectives in the room helps them learn how to do that better. It’s really valuable.
On that note, I know that you want to grow your group. What kinds of folks would be the perfect fit right now for the makeup that you have?
If you are in a role in the business where you have stepped into senior leadership, or you've been in senior leadership for quite some time, or you may become part of the succession plan of the organization, we would love to have you. If your organization has 20 to 30 employees or more, you would be a fit for our Next Level Catalysts. We have companies with over 200 employees. We're talking about businesses where people challenges are front and center because of the size of the business. (Note: there is also a Catalyst group for smaller sized companies).
It's less important which specific piece of the business you may have come up through and more important that you're bringing: your core strategic thinking and leadership abilities to move the entire organization forward.
Lets shift gears a bit to talk about the recent honor that you've earned: one of the 2023 Biz West Women of Distinction. Congratulations!
I like to give themes to each month and this one is Authentic August. Can you share a little of how living as your authentic self led to becoming a Woman of Distinction?
The thing that comes to mind is something I shared at the awards ceremony: Five and a half years ago, I was the President of a business located in Northern Colorado, but my network was very much elsewhere. One of the things that was weighing on my mind, as I was deciding what the next phase looked like, was that I wasn't connected to the community where I lived.That was a pain point for me. I wanted to be able to connect with the place where I am and to be able to know people in the community who are doing great things that are helping this community. It was a tough decision, but that was one of the reasons why ultimately I resigned from that role.
And five and a half years later, I looked out on the group that was gathered at the Biz West Women of Distinction event. I had gone from knowing six or seven people, to seeing those faces in the room and realizing that over 50 of them were people I've worked with. Not just casually, but have worked on projects with, and have engaged with in nonprofits and economic development and the business support.
For me, that's something important to who I am - to be connected with the place where I live in that way. You know, I wouldn't necessarily have had those relationships if I hadn't made that difficult decision to move in a different direction in my career.
Have you always held that value within yourself of connecting with others around you deeply, helping them, or is that something that emerged more recently?
I hope that's been a part of who I am. One of the things I'm most proud of about the company that I was in previously was that we were listed as one of the top places to work in the country for consulting companies. It was all about the culture and the connections and the relationships we were building in that business. But we were not connected to the greater community.
I felt that that was something that was missing. I grew up as part of a close-knit community where people just helped each other and you learned. You’d share exciting stories with the people in your neighborhood, your community, who had traveled to amazing places or had met interesting people who they introduced to you.
That kind of community - that collective effort to better the place where we live, and to bring in knowledge and share it - has just been a part of my life.
Is that part of what led you to Loco Think Tank? Because we share a lot of those values. How did you find Loco originally?
One of the things at the heart of my story is that I had the opportunity to take over leading an organization that I had grown up in to some extent. I became a leader of an organization that I had previously been an entry level employee in. I went through a process of building a leadership team with peers, taking over for the founder and becoming part of the succession plan for the business.
And I didn't have an outlet and a place to learn information from the outside, or I didn't go seek it at least. Everything I knew was grounded in that company. I would have very much craved and valued a place to learn with other people in other businesses who could give some insight to how things work, not just in isolation within our business.
I was first introduced to Curt because he was on the list of organizations in the business support network that I should know when I took this role at the Warehouse. He had also known my predecessor. So we scheduled a happy hour together to get to know each other when I was coming into this role. He had invited me to become a facilitator before, but it wasn’t until he launched the Next Level Catalyst chapter (for key employees) that it felt like the right fit.
To me that was a personal opportunity to give back to a very personal place that I had been: Moving into the leadership of an organization. Not necessarily being the owner in that moment, but starting to think more like an owner and taking on those expectations and obligations, both from the founder of the company and also from myself, to move into a more strategic role. The opportunity to lead the Next Level Catalysts was a personal connection for me.
Right fit, right time for you to give back. I have to say, I was really impressed when I heard that part of your story. And I was imagining what that would have taken to start at the entry level and then to end up being president of the company! Do you ever look back and think, how did I do that?
Yeah, every day. But you know, we just make the next best decision about the opportunities that are in front of us and pursue with as much excellence as we have the capability to use.
Did you ever have those moments of self doubt? Like, Oh my gosh, I don't know if I can do this.
I should have had more (laughing). Part of it was just being able to see what problem needed to be solved next - let's roll up our sleeves! I have a relationship with someone who's struggling or challenged with a particular area and I need to help them enhance, evolve or change. Let's now tackle that.
Did I have imposter syndrome? Like, yes, almost every day. And also, I wasn't thinking about it at the time because it was just: here’s the next thing we need to do. This is the next challenge we need to tackle. This is the next initiative that is going to make things better for our customers and for our team.
That sounds like a key point: you didn't put yourself and your own ambitions first. You weren't going in there thinking, I'm going to climb the ladder right to the top.
I had no stated interest in business, and no expectation that I would have within me the ability to lead a business. That wasn't part of my dream, that wasn't part of my plan. It was really important to me to make sure I wasn’t pursuing a specific role for the sake of having that role or that title. It was more about just giving it a shot.
It's okay if you don't know what you're gonna be when you grow up. It's okay if you don't know exactly what that career path is going to look like because some of the most fascinating and fulfilling steps on the career journey are the ones that I didn't know were even an option to pursue until they were in front of me and then it just made sense.
For those who may be aspiring “Women of Distinction” out there, what words of wisdom do you have?
Frankly, I have no idea. I can't describe or articulate what I did in any specific case… but what I do know is that the other people I've seen get this honor over the years are people I admire, respect, enjoy working with, and have great confidence in. Because they're identifying challenges in the community and pursuing a solution, right?
The other thing I said in the ceremony was that I'm grateful to the people who opened a door, invited me to the table to join a conversation, offered an opportunity, asked for my opinion, gave me advice, or... commented on things that they saw in me that I maybe didn't recognize.
To build the next generation of leaders of distinction, we need to remember to open the door and invite people to the table. Tell them what it is we see in them that we value and ask for their insight. This will give them the confidence to step out and solve the problems that they see in the community and to be part of the work that we're doing.
I'm seeing a theme throughout this conversation that relates to authenticity: it really has a lot to do with taking the focus off of yourself. Just bring what you're bringing, but remember to look outside of yourself to the community to see how you can open that door.
When you're being authentic and confident in yourself, you're able to look outward and be really present with other people. And it’s then that you see the opportunities in the community and the connections that could be made.
When you're nervous, anxious and unsure of yourself… that focus and energy is moving inward and it's not opening up to the pathways of connection with other people.
It's not something I do right - all or most of the time - but it feels better as a human to be able to be outward-focused. And, as you said, if you have that confidence, then you can be outward focused.
And I think it can work the other way too. If you train yourself to be looking for the best in other people and giving them a path to be their authentic best self, that can also build your own confidence.
Thank you! I'm learning today. This was a wonderful conversation and thank you for spending the time with me.
Thanks for sharing. Yeah, you're welcome.
To get connected with the Warehouse Business Accelerator, visit WarehouseInnovation.com. And be sure to visit the Warehouse Innovation Showcase Demo Day on Wednesday, August 30th, 1-5pm. This is a free event, reserve your spot here.
If you are interested in joining Allison’s Next Level Catalyst chapter, learn more and apply here.