Aronson Consulting, LLC provides specialized planning, advising and coaching for women, and leadership and staff-development support for nonprofits and schools. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Founder Amanda Aronson to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey.
NAN PRICE: Have you always known you wanted to own your own business?
AMANDA ARONSON: I never had a specific desire to own my own business, per se, but I always wanted control over the work I did, how I did it, and when. I guess it’s not surprising that I ended up as a business owner, and looking back, I can see that I have always possessed an entrepreneurial mindset.
I paid my way through college by stringing together opportunities that enabled me to earn enough to get from one year to the next. A few times, when I needed to take breaks to save up my tuition, I tried to create opportunities where none existed and convince people to take a chance on me. The people who did were entrepreneurs. They created jobs for me and taught me about their industries. I was lucky for that diverse exposure and well mentored.
When I entered the workforce after college, I pursued traditional jobs but was drawn to roles where I could lead teams to launch new work or operationalize work that had been piloted. My teams and I carved our own paths, since there weren’t any to follow. I loved the freedom of that and the weight of the responsibility. Each time we were successful, it reinforced for me that I didn’t need to do things the traditional way. I just needed to focus on the mission of the work and consider the best way to support it.
After graduate school, I tried a traditional path with a traditional schedule, but it didn’t work with my life. I married an entrepreneur who traveled regularly to grow a healthcare emergency management business and we were starting a family. We really needed schedules that offered flexibility, so I shifted my work to freelance. Ten years later, it made sense to formalize that work, so I started Aronson Consulting, LLC. Consulting worked much better for my family and I loved the variety of work and constant learning.
NAN: How did you develop the business concept?
AMANDA: Early on, my work supported research, strategic planning, and project management at the organizational level, and I loved it. I had a unique niche, because I helped with both planning and implementation, so I was with many of my clients for years. They were planning for significant organizational change, so it was stimulating for me to have a role in their evolution.
As time went on, however, I began to notice a growing need for more support at the individual level—particularly as it pertained to women’s health and overall leadership development. My work is in the nonprofit and education industries, and those environments were beginning to change significantly and not for the better. Need was growing. Severity was growing. Resources were dwindling. Stress was mounting.
When the pandemic hit, I also noticed women around me starting to buckle from the stress of working and home schooling. Substance use among that demographic was rising steadily and the exodus of women from the workforce was beginning.
I was in public office at the time on the West Hartford Board of Education and began writing about my sobriety as a way to support parents. People appreciated that, because it’s something they really want to talk about. Once I opened the floodgates on that topic, it became clear from all the messages I got that women wanted discreet support with their health and wellness. They also wanted to try and figure out their next steps both personally and professionally.
My skill set and professional and personal experience aligned well with those needs, so in 2021 I shifted the focus of my work to personal and professional development support for individuals and teams. I still work with schools and nonprofits, but I do that through staff and leadership development.
NAN: What drives you?
AMANDA: Supporting people. Supported people create supported communities. I want to help strengthen people, so they can help strengthen society. I care very much about positioning people for impact.
NAN: You have a diverse background in leadership, education, and management. How has that shaped you and helped you in your current role?
AMANDA: Beginning my career in nonprofit and education hard wired me for mission-driven work. As far as leadership and management go, I’m nearly always in a position of leadership, but I don’t have a desire to be the top executive leader. I’m glad I had enough exposure on leadership teams to know at which level I contribute most effectively.
I like using my leadership skills in my own way to motivate teams or lead big work and I like to direct work, but leading people from the top perch with all the daily management requirements that come with that job are not where I’m best suited. As they say, “know thyself.” I know where my skills are and how to use them effectively, which helps me choose projects I’m well suited for.
NAN: Any advice for others?
AMANDA: My biggest piece of advice, which I had to learn the hard way, is to value your personal development as much as your professional development—and to make time for it. You can’t grow a business if you don’t take care of yourself and consider the path you’re on.
The more you develop personally, the more you learn and increase your capacity to develop professionally. They really go hand in hand. You can’t have much long-term professional success if your personal life is out of whack.
I also think it’s important to think for oneself. What do you think? For instance, when I give a speech, I don’t consider what I should say or what others typically say, I think deeply about what I want to say, what I have to say, or what I feel I can contribute that is uniquely mine.
It’s the same with our work. What do you have to offer? Maybe you have a different style of delivering it? Who says that can’t work? If something doesn’t work, you’ll get the feedback naturally and quickly, so then you’ll know and you can pivot and try something new.
Start with your own mind and perspective, though. What if yours is what will work for someone? There’s enough room in any given market for more than one provider or style, so just think for yourself and be open to the idea that you have something unique to offer. Understand best practices, but don’t feel bound by them if you have a fresh idea. Try it.