Dana Blankenship worked in the change management practice at Accenture for nearly 15 years until she and her husband left their jobs to better care for their oldest daughter, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
Blankenship started her own consulting firm a couple of years later.
“I started out taking a gig at Frito Lay for a consultant who used to work for me,” she said. “Then another consultant who worked for me gave me a (second) gig, and it was bigger than I could do alone, so I asked some others to join me.”
The 55-year-old owner and CEO of Blankenship Change Consulting will be among six women recognized for leadership and service at the Texas Women’s Foundation’s annual leadership forum and awards dinner April 30.
Her firm, founded in 2005 and certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, helps organizations with change management, communication, organization design and development, training design and development, and creative services. Clients include Neiman Marcus, 7-Eleven, and Southwest Airlines.
She has lived in the area for 20 years and sent two daughters to the Episcopal School of Dallas.
Below is an extended conversation with Blankenship.
People Newspapers: What impact do you hope your work has on your community?
Dana Blankenship: About 90% of my consulting team is from the Dallas area, so we are very focused on serving businesses with their headquarters here in DFW. I strive to give women exciting career opportunities while allowing them to still achieve their desired balance between work and family/personal life. I am proud to have encouraged women to return to the workforce who had left because they didn’t see a place for them in traditional consulting as they started having families.
PN: Why was it important for you to have your business certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council? How does that help your business?
DB: Several of my clients greatly value this certification. They use this certification to help ensure they have a diverse portfolio of suppliers. One of my clients highly encouraged me to seek out this certification about five years ago because they valued it so much.
PN: What do you feel is your biggest success?
DB: Creating a space where women can be uniquely themselves and be surrounded with support and encouragement. We have created a culture that allows women to drive and to thrive. What makes me happiest is seeing women grow their confidence and self-esteem as they find their sweet spot and their people. It changes their outlook, their relationships, and even their posture and countenance. Seeing that evolution is so rewarding. The other thing I love is seeing our clients get promoted. We have had the privilege of supporting so many wonderful clients and seeing them get rewarded feels like our own reward. None of us are looking for a promotion, so we get our joy in seeing their promotions.
We have to find better ways to keep women engaged in the workforce so they are on the slates for key roles…When women tap out to raise families full time, it is often difficult to re-engage at the same level they left at. That’s not a show stopper for a rewarding career, it just means the path is a little different than (than for) those who didn’t take a break from the workforce. Our firm has been remarkably successful in reengaging women who had left the workforce, so it is definitely possible.
PN: As a consultant who works in organization design, career model development, and executive coaching, what’s the most important career advice you’d give other women?
DB: I have two daughters entering the workforce, so I am full of advice. Also, at 55, it is easier to reflect on life’s lessons and give wiser advice. Here are a few things I think are important:
I can analyze most anything with a Venn diagram or a matrix! My favorite Venn diagram is the circle of influence and the circle of concern. Where the two things overlap, that is where you put your energy. If you have concern, but zero influence, then you need to let it go and move on to something you have the power to influence. I use this to know when and where to focus my time and energy.
Seek out feedback and work on what you find out. Sometimes it is hard to hear what people have to say, but it is the best path to growth. Growing up in big firm consulting, you are bombarded by daily or even hourly feedback…But it is definitely the quickest way to develop your skills. You don’t know what you don’t know unless someone has the courage to share it with you.
Find your people – those who you respect and trust, those you can learn from and who are willing to teach you, those who want to see you succeed – and invest in them. Trust your instincts on people.
Hold your head high and don’t let other people intimidate you. Go into every conversation and every meeting confident that you are there because you have something to offer.
PN: What factors have been the most important to your success as a CEO?
DB: I select clients and team members that I like as people. I spend most of my time serving my team and my clients – so I want to like them and enjoy my time with them. I treat both like my family. I find it a challenge to try to turn every client into a friend. Most people enjoy having a friend even if they would rather not work with a consultant.
Another differentiator of our firm is that we are not just chasing a buck. If we have clients that are not respectful and kind, we gracefully finish the engagement and choose not to re-engage. I like the freedom that comes from selecting clients that have similar values as ours and not feeling pressured to sell whatever I could to whoever. I also never sell a project that I wouldn’t personally want to be a part of. We very carefully select clients. I do understand this is a privilege.
PN: There are comparatively few female CEOs, particularly of Fortune 500 companies. What do you think can be done to bridge the gap?
DB: Finding good mentors and coaches is essential to helping everyone develop the skills to advance their careers. No one can do it alone. Women have had a harder time finding people who look like them at the levels they aspire to be. I see my female clients who are in senior positions working so hard to develop others and pull them along, show them what made them successful, and help them overcome obstacles.
Women sometimes self-select out of high-powered roles due to social or family pressures. We need more female role models to show different ways to have a career and a life outside of work. I am very fortunate to have a husband that views us as equals in our careers, in parenting, and in managing our household and lives. He is completely confident having a wife that colors outside of the lines, which I pretty much have for our 35 years together!
PN: What’s a fun fact about you?
DB: I love to travel and have been to 52 countries. In October I will get (to) three more and will be caught up with my age – 55 countries and 55 years.
My husband and I are both adopted and we have a crazy family tree of families that raised us and birth families. Last year, a new birth brother found me that I didn’t even know existed and I now have two precious nieces who are 7 and 8.
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