Peoria Profile

Cindy Byrd: Image Potential
If your business needs a little fine-tuning when it comes to attracting and retaining customers and employees, Image Potential owner Cindy Byrd is the person to call. "Image Potential is committed to helping businesses and organizations create the right environment for positive, distinctive, and satisfying customer and employee experiences to emerge," she said.

Byrd, a central Illinois native with a master’s degree in marketing and management, officially established Image Potential in 2002, though she had been working with clients the year prior to her start-up. "The decision to start my own company came about for several reasons: the opportunity to work independently, to have a more flexible schedule, and to directly shape the future of the business. A more powerful reason for starting the business was very simply to make a positive difference in how people communicate and in how they treat each other-and, ultimately, to improve quality of life."

She said contributing to people’s quality of life is something she’s been interested in since she was a child. "I wanted to make a positive difference, enriching people’s lives through education and the arts. My passion is to help people learn and grow in their understanding of themselves and of others. With the business, I have the wonderful opportunity to combine three things I love: teaching, performing, and people. In my life I’ve learned the importance of seeking one’s true potential, and I’m passionate about helping others do the same. The words of Maya Angelou say it best for me: ’When you learn, teach; when you get, give.’"

Byrd said her company is different from many consulting firms because Image Potential is an affordable local resource. "Businesses of all sizes and types desire distinction and a positive image; however, many companies believe branding and related marketing efforts are an expensive undertaking, reserved only for the corporate arena. Especially for small to medium-sized businesses and not-for-profit organizations, Image Potential is a unique option because of my ability to provide affordable consulting services and then follow up with customized coaching and training programs to address needs identified during the consultation. In others words, I don’t simply tell a business what to do; I teach them how to learn and grow as appropriate to their needs across a broad range of topics that support identity and image management."

She accomplishes this through formats including one-on-one coaching; small-group workshops, presentations, and board retreats; and large-scale seminar and conference presentations.

Byrd said the appeal of identity and image management came about because of a long-held interest in advertising and marketing and a strong desire to be involved with customer service and leadership development. "The more I learned and experienced about business management and marketing concepts and the more I struggled to understand customer service issues, the more I wanted to integrate the two. I had thought for many years that people simply want to have positive and satisfying experiences on a consistent basis, whether as an employee or as a customer. Yet businesses struggle with this concept. They try initiative after initiative, run employees through customer service training, institute quality control measures, reformat ad campaigns, etc., yet people continue to have negative experiences. I wanted to place a new twist on the old saying ’image is everything,’ and, instead, promote a new perspective of ’image isn’t everything.’ It runs much deeper than putting your logo on shirts for your employees."

She said most of the clients who come to Image Potential for help are seeking advice about how to attract and retain customers and employees. "They want information about how to present themselves or their businesses most effectively, what it takes to be a ’good’ manager, or how to motivate their employees. They sometimes have a specific topic they’d like me to address through a presentation or a training program. Frequently requested topics include time management, creativity, teambuilding, and professional etiquette. I’m quick to delve deeper, however, when such requests are presented to determine objectives and look for any underlying issues. For example, if a client requests teambuilding, I spend time asking what’s going on in the organization, what other issues have led to the need for teambuilding, how morale is, and so on."

Byrd said another frequent request is for assistance with strategic planning. "I truly enjoy this because it allows me to help the business or organization achieve their goals by developing action plans grounded in the concepts of branding and image management. Spending time with a group in a retreat format provides opportunity to build from one concept to the next, so the learning is richer and more likely to encourage action."

In addition to running Image Potential, she also teaches at Illinois Central College and Robert Morris College. The message she brings to her students is also her primary advice for business owners: Display consistency, professionalism, and passion in your work. "Never stop learning-about yourself, your chosen field, and others. Pay attention to your most important business asset-your employees. Invest in their training and development on a regular basis. Get involved with professional organizations that support you as an individual and that relate to your business goals. Give of your time and talents through volunteer service. And stay focused on your dream."

Byrd said women, in general, are naturally more perceptive and intuitive when it comes to interpersonal communication, so she encourages women to use that to positively influence interactions and relationships. "However, we often fall prey to fear and self-doubt, which stifles our ability to speak up, be creative, and try new things. Two of the most important lessons I’ve learned are that you have to be willing to take risks in order to learn and grow and that mistakes must be viewed as opportunities to improve-not as failures.

She said the best part of her job is helping people maximize their potential by thinking differently to seeing the connections between ideas and concepts. "When I witness the success of a client because of my intervention, or when someone in the audience really connects with what I’m saying-that’s when I gain tremendous satisfaction in knowing I’m using my talents and abilities to help others achieve and be more." TPW