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I've said it before. And I will say it again. I never know where these interviews are going to go. They take twists and turns. They start out one way. They end up another. I never know, as is the case with this next interview with Justin DeLoatch-Klag, he is the founder of a company called DLM tutoring. And his story is inspirational. I hope you will listen. We jumped around a few different topics, involving starting a business during COVID, involving racial injustice and what it's like being a black business leader in the community and also his story and why he developed this business in the first place. You'll get a lot out of this. I want you to pay attention, while we jump around those different topics, there's one common theme throughout all of them. And we summarize that at the end.
His story at the end that he shares is fantastic and it summarizes the whole idea of what he's about and what we all need to be about. I hope you'll pay attention. Listen up to what he says during his story and what we say after that story. It will bring some insights into how you can reshape and unlock the potential of you and your people. Let's go.
Everybody, we are here today with Justin DeLoatch-Klag. He is the CEO of DLM Tutoring & Development. This is a brand new business, a year and a half in. Justin, year and a half in. You had no idea this COVID thing was going to happen. You had no idea the racial injustice stuff was going to happen. It has just reshaped everything for 2020, right?
You as a new business owner, what are your thoughts going into 2020? What are your thoughts now having experienced, we're almost three quarters of the way through 2020.
Yeah. Well, first of all I just want to say thank you, Skot for having me. And I kind of went into 2020 expecting big things. You know, 2020 was really supposed to be a year of incredible growth. I had spent a lot of time in 2019, working on developing DLM Tutoring & Development, making sure that we did all of the sort of legal things, the paperwork things, and then starting to establish clients and working with organizations here in Colorado. And then 2020 comes. And I'm thinking that this is going to be a snowball effect that we're going to continue with this sort of trajectory. Then of course March hits, and everything grinds to a complete halt. All of my contracts disappeared and suddenly I was just kind of sitting in the house swirling my thumbs, wondering if I've made a horrible mistake by leaving public life and going into this private venture. Having said that though, 2020 has been a rough ride for many of us.
And I was actually really fortunate that my private clients are the ones who kind of helped me to continue to stay afloat for a little while until things got started up with the new school year. With the happening of the new school year things have gotten much better, but in terms of what we were planning to do. The expansion that we were planning for the DLM Tutoring, that just kind of evaporated for this year.
So how have you shifted? You went into 2020 thinking, "This was going to be something different then what it's probably become." What have you done to adapt to these new challenges of COVID and your business? Right, there's different things that we're thinking about. I always talk to people about re-strategizing, rethinking, using this time to step back and re ... You can't just sit on your hands and let COVID happen to you. Be intentional, be empowered to do something. How did you reshape what you were doing?
So for me, I'm the type of person that when I get stressed out for right or wrong, better or worse, when I get stressed, I often just start working more. It's something that makes me feel like I have control over a situation. Makes me feel that, like you said, I can be empowered and I can push things in a certain direction. With something as big as a global pandemic it's really hard to feel like you have agency. However, I remind myself of a very important idea, which is locus of control. I can only control certain things. And then there are going to be other things that are just out of my control. And I just have to decide how I'm going to respond to those things. And so for me my original shift was to start focusing on the summer with the hope that we would be able to open up, things of that nature. But also planning for the possibility that we wouldn't be able to be in person.
So our company shifted, we had been thinking about having an in-person summer camp for teenagers who were ready to build a business. So to do like a teen entrepreneur bootcamp. Well, unfortunately with everything that happened, that wasn't possible for in-person and with the contracts that I had already lined up and the people that I had worked with just wasn't able to be a possibility anymore. So I kind of had to pump the brakes on that and shifted toward working on my professional development aspect. Now the online tutoring has three parts of its business. One is the tutoring aspect, which is in the name. I tutor private clients. Also, along with that tutoring, we have sponsors who sponsor sessions for families who can't afford to pay. Additionally we do supplemental services for schools. So we'll go into a school. I work with the school district and provide additional tutoring resources and educational resources to students.
And then the last thing is professional development, professional development was an area that I'll have different professional development trainings available. But this summer, specifically around racial unrest, was the transition that I made to anti-racist pedagogy as a training resource. So the summer I actually took the time that I had by myself to retool, to reorganize myself, to restructure a bit. I focused on anti-racist teaching practices and promoting that as a professional development aspect in order to support other teachers along this very, very complicated time. So yeah, I mean, that's a little bit about how I've adjusted to this, but it's one of those things that I feel like you have to be flexible and you have to also kind of believe that you're going to be able to find your way through this, have the confidence that you can find your way through this. And that's what I've done.
That is awesome. Because I doubt, I'm not sure, you tell me if I'm wrong. That in January 1st 2020 you were not thinking, "Oh, I'm going to have a professional development course all about racial justice, racial inequality," right? Racial tolerance.
No, no. So yeah. And back then my focus up until this point had been squarely on culturally relevant pedagogy and culturally relevant pedagogy is an idea or a construct where there are three components, academic achievement, cultural competence, and sociopolitical consciousness. And so these are things that we try to instill in students. And so I've been working for years on culturally relevant pedagogy and then with everything that has come up with the advent of racial unrest in this country and how just toxic things have gotten over the last few months, that shift really needed to happen to be a much stronger force of not just being culturally relevant pedagogy, but being anti-racist pedagogy.
So good, that is, that's what I'm talking about. That's where you can be a victim of COVID or you can take your own life and make it what it needs to be, your own business and make it what it needs to be. Look at the opportunities COVID has created for you, right? Yes, you can sit there and whine and cry about, "Oh, now we can't do this.Now we can't do that. Now we can't do that."
Instead, you are not letting that prohibition, what we call a prohibition, an outside force become an inhibition, meaning that prohibition isn't causing your own mind to say, "That's it, I'm done. I can't do this." You've said, "Okay, how am I going to work around this? This is just a hurdle. This is a barrier, I got to work around this issue. And how can I re strategize or repackage what I'm doing?" Which is so smart and what I wish so many people would do in this time. So as a black business leader, during a time of racial and civil unrest in our country, what's it like building a business for you at this time and in the current climate that we exist?
Yeah. It's, complicated, right? It's very complicated. I think, especially when you're thinking about like the public [inaudible 00:11:20] and what people think of as the experience of a black person in this country, and then you compare that to your actual experience. Those things often don't match up very well. And so for instance, for me there are a lot of companies out there that are advertising that they are black owned and it is a big part of their push. And especially with the advent of racial unrest, like there are a lot of people out there that are looking to support black businesses. However, as a business leader, I can't just think about my own personal identity, but I need to think about the company and the organization that I'm trying to build up and where I'm going with this organization. And so because of that I'd have to be very strategic and very smart about whether I'm going to label my company as a black owned business.
This then gets into conversations around, well, my company get blackballed because it's labeled a black owned business and will there be certain places that my company doesn't get listed because of that? Now yes, there is also the opportunity for the black economy to support my business furthermore. But my goal has never been about a racial support, but it has been about the support for students and particularly students who don't necessarily have all of the resources that many people do to be successful in education.
So for me, it's one of those things where, "Yes, I am a black business owner and I'm very proud of that fact." I'm from Baltimore city. I have worked very hard to get to the point where I can open up my business, and so I'm very proud of that. But then I also have to be very honest and realistic that advertising in that way in certain spaces may block me out of opportunities. And so it becomes one of these complicated calculations that I have to do every time that I decide to create a new advertisement or to work with a new organization or to try a different aspect of the company. All of that has to be considered through this lens of how will it be received racially, which is feels unfair and so many ways. But then at the same time, these are my circumstances. And so I simply have to roll with it if I want DLM Tutoring to serve its purpose.
Again, looking at circumstances, looking at what, if you call them restrictions that the world is putting upon you, or opportunities, it's all how you look at what's there, right? As an owner. Now, this is an interesting perspective because as a white business owner, I don't sit there and mull over in my mind, "Should I label my business as a white owned business or not?" I've never had that thought, ever.
And it's just something that our country has brought to the forefront of awareness, right? I hear a lot when we talk about culture, not only are our nation, our humanity as culture, but workplace culture, a big opportunity is listening. And there's a really interesting ... That's been around for a long time, right? If people would just start listening to their employees, listen to their employees, invest in their employees, hear what they say, and then turn around and create programs that are empowering those employees.
Then we would be so much healthier, but now we're having that dialogue as a culture of the United States, right? And of the world. And hey, if we would just listen a little bit more, that's great. But at some point we need to take action. And now you said something I'm going to bridge over to another topic that we talked about in that, where you said you came from a past culture where they rewarded people with trinkets, with talk, with all these other things, but never really created circumstances in order to help that come to pass. So expand on that a little bit for the audience. Tell us about that story.
So for me, I've started out working in corporate America as my very first career. I worked in human resources for a very successful then private company. And what I noticed as I worked really hard to go up through the ranks and to, get promotions and things like that. I learned more and more about how the company actually operated the amount of money that the company is bringing in, budgets, all of that sort of thing. And so as I learned more of that information and then thought back to my own sort of self-investment and the company's investment in me, I realize that there is this big gap. It's really easy to take people out for a team building activity, right? Those are very important and they help to build culture for sure. But when that team building activity ends with, "Well, thanks for your work, I'll see you back tomorrow, bright and early so that we can continue to just keep pushing on."
Well, then that team-building activity didn't really amount to very much. We got to hang out, but we didn't really get anything tangible that causes us to reinvest in that organization. For me, that's what I call the trinket. I call, even bonus structures are often trinkets and you're getting the small amount based on these really stringent guidelines that don't necessarily affect you. Well, what if we decided that we were going to have employees, actually partners in in the company if employees were voting members of the company. What if they had to say and the direction or the initiatives that the company chose and got to reap some of the rewards of that? Well, now we're starting actually do more than trinkets. Now we're doing more than just a silly prescriptive bonus structure or going for outings or getting a plaque.
Now we're actually starting to talk about your true investment, being a part of this organization and having a stake in this organization. And I think that's one of the things that a lot of organizations are missing out on. Your employees should have a stake in your company. And it is your responsibility as an organizational leader to listen to those employees and bring them into the fold so that it's not just you at the top running everything, but it's also the people that you bring in so that they feel connected and they feel a part and they feel invested in the success of the company. Just like the company is invested in their own success as a person.
We have a shift happening a lot in the workforce. We've gone from this, give me a good paycheck. There's a very hierarchal system in the corporate world. You know positional power is very important. And while that still somewhat exists now. We see a shift happening of, "Hold on. I know that you are the president of this company. I know that you are the manager that I'm supposed to report to you." But do I respect you? Are you authentic? Do I trust you that you're there for my best possible good. Do I think you're investing in me? Am I in line with the vision? Am I aligned with the vision of the company? Do I believe what you believe enough to want to give up a huge chunk of my life for you? And if I see a disconnect there I'm out.
When before it was like, "Oh, here, we'll just give you more money." And while sometimes the more money is enticing, people now more than ever are willing to work for a cause more than they are the paycheck somewhat, right? There's some degree there. And so what are you doing now? You're starting to hire people. You're starting to bring on staff members and launched the business full-blown. What are some of the things you're thinking about as you start to build your team?
So, one of the things that's really important to me is that money does talk, right? Like money is important. And so I don't want to discount the importance of money just for the cause. And so at least for my company, my focus is this is going to sound crazy to most people, especially to most business owners, but my tutors, well, they get 66% of the profits from a session. So I'm basically not keeping much of that money. I'm basically keeping the money that I need to continue to operate the company. And so while to many people that seems like that's a crazy amount of money to be giving to an employee, but that's the employee who's making it possible for me to be able to have this company, right? Like that person is very integral to what I'm doing and what I'm able to grow and to expand.
And so I feel like that needs to be paid in line with that. Additionally though, the cause is important. And so DLM Tutoring & Development started as an organization that is specifically targeted to provide high quality education to people who don't normally can't afford it. And so if you're a family, like I grew up and you have a student who is struggling in school, and that information is really difficult to come by and you can't figure out why that student is struggling. Well, many people might think, "Oh, I'll go and get private tutoring." Most people are probably going to think, "I can't afford to send my child to private tutoring." And so for me, when I bring in people into the organization, I want them to also understand that we're providing a service to a group of people that don't often get the resources that they need.
And so, because of that, our mission and our focus and the way in which we organize. The fact that we have sponsors that can help pay for families who can't afford. All of these things are things that help to motivate people to want to be invested in wanting to continue to grow and expand DLM Tutoring, because it means that we're going to be able to provide more and more resources and support and education to students and families who can afford those things. So money is very important, right? And so I show that by giving them the majority of the money from their sessions, but I also want them to be aligned and on the same page that we're here to help, we're here to serve. And we are here to make sure that every student, every child in this country is able to have the same opportunities, no matter what background they come from, no matter what resources, money that they have. So that's kind of the marriage that we look at and hiring here at DLM Tutoring.
Brilliant. You grew up feeling like the public school system failed you. You had a learning disability, and that has definitely shaped who you are now. That has definitely had an impact on who you are and what you're trying to accomplish now with DLM. Tell me about that. What is the impact that it's had on your drive to create DLM?
So, Skot, if you will allow me, I'm going to tell a little bit of a story before I answer that question.
When I was in seventh grade, I was asked to come to the front of the class to write a sentence. It was my English class, and to write a sentence in a certain structure. Well then there was feedback time. And so the teacher asks, "Does anybody have any questions?" Me being a fairly shy kid was already kind of like full of anxiety, standing in front of the classroom having to do this. But then one question came, and that question was, "I don't understand, or I'd like to understand how you spelled cousin wrong?" And that one comment led to uproarious laughter in the classroom with me standing in the front as the butt of the joke.
That was the first time that I felt stupid. After that, many times after that I had had people call me stupid and judge me for not being able to perform at the levels that other people could perform in the class. And so, as I went on and left middle school, I went to high school with a different perspective. I went to high school saying, "I don't want to be called stupid. I don't want to be called dumb." And so I really kind of focused and tried my hardest in order to work and became successful in high school. But what I didn't know until I became an adult was that I had ADHD the entire time. And none of my teachers recognized it. None of my family members recognized it, and nobody did anything to support it. And so I was kind of left on my own devices to figure out how I was going to navigate school.
It led to a lot of stress. It led to a lot of family frustration. My mother became very frustrated with me and not understanding why I wasn't performing well or understanding certain concepts or things of that nature. And it kind of just became this self-imploding sort of system of like I just kind of felt everybody was telling me that I couldn't, or that I wasn't good enough, or that I wasn't strong enough. Those feelings to this day really stick with me and they still hurt. And because of that I started DLM Tutoring. I started because I didn't want other students to feel the same sort of shame and the same sort of feelings of stupidity that I felt going through school because my brain operated differently and nobody took the time to figure out what was going on.
So here at DLM Tutoring that's what we do. We take the time to learn about a student, not just as an academic person who's going to get this question right or wrong. But also what are some of the things that are leading you to this point? How do you feel on a day-to-day basis? How, what gifts do you have that you're not using to your full ability? I now know that ADHD is a gift. I feel very fortunate to have it. And I know that many business leaders have ADHD. However, that's the societal stigma that's attached to ADHD. And I really, really started DLM Tutoring to focus on that little black boy from Baltimore City in that middle school class who felt stupid and felt like nobody there was helping him to clarify what was going on or trying to understand, but more just laughing at it.
Dude, you're going to make me cry. Like that's awesome. What I am hearing from everything we're talking about today, whether it is you starting a business during COVID. Whether it is the racial injustice that's happening in the country and being a black leader and a business owner, whether it is a kid that grew up with a learning disability.
What I hear from you, which everybody needs to understand and take with them today is that you make, you reap the opportunities, right? You make your own path, you make your own future. There are things that are going to beat you down. And there are things that are going to try to defeat you. And there are, but in order to unlock what we are and who we are, we need to reshape that thinking. ADHD is a gift. I have never heard somebody say that before. That is what I'm talking about. When we reshape the dialogue that's happening and learn how that can be an opportunity when we reshape the dialogue of COVID and learn that that can be an opportunity when we've reshaped the dialogue of racial injustice and say, "What's the opportunity?" That is when big things happen.
Yeah. And can I just jump in really quickly? Because I think, I theme of my life that I feel is important to everything that you just said is perseverance. It's this idea that I'm going to be met with challenges over and over and over and over again. And as my mother said, life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you respond to it. It is so much more about you being able to say, 'Here's the challenge that's in front of me."
And I'm going to push through this. Not because I am being told to push through this. Not because somebody else is motivating me, but because I genuinely believe that I have the ability to move forward and to do better. And so that's that idea of perseverance, that idea of persistence and continuing to fight is what I also like to instill in my students. You may not feel successful right now. You may not feel successful yet, but if you persevere, if you work at it, you can get there. Now that's not to say of course that things are rosy and easy and blah, blah, blah. I have a lot of difficulties in my life. And there are days that I truly wake up and I say, "Not today, not today." I just, I can't do it today. But the story as a whole is about perseverance.
Inspirational discussion. This has been awesome. And this is part of the reason why I do these, is because I learn so much from other people in their life experiences that I don't have. What can you offer our audience? Is there some way that you want to point them to find out more about you, resources you can provide?
Yeah. So I'm available on all of the normal social media places or at DLM Tutoring. So you can find us on Facebook at DLM Tutoring. You can find us on Instagram and Twitter. You can also find us on LinkedIn as DLMtutoringanddevelopmentLLC. And then finally probably the best place to go, because it has a lot of different resources would be to our YouTube channel. So go to youtube.com, type in DLM Tutoring. And you will find our YouTube page, which has lots of free resources for families to be able to learn and use. And then last thing that I'll say is if you ever feel like you need additional help, you need something re-explained in a different way. I'll make a video for you. So, that's why I love my YouTube channel so much though. Yeah, definitely also feel free to email me. We can be emailed their email@example.com. Again, that's firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just your email address talks about your purpose, which is awesome. Well done. Thanks a lot, Justin. You've been awesome. [crosstalk 00:32:57] I really appreciate you. All right, take it easy, man.
Thanks Skot. Bye-bye.
Justin has just helped me understand a little bit more about how I should be thinking about life and business. Perseverance, we hear a lot about that. We hear that word a lot. Are we really implementing that? Are we feeling defeated? Are we taking the bull by the horns? Are we taking our own future? Are we in control of our own future? What are we doing to shape what we're doing, who we are, who we want to be? Are we sitting by and letting things happen to us? Are we being intentional and empowering ourselves as well as other people around us. We have to make sure number one that we are healthy on the inside. Make sure we know who we are, who we want to be.
Therefore, we can multiply that help to other people around us. I feel like that is what Justin is trying to do. He is there shaping his own life and now he is trying to multiply and shape others, in that journey. Please take that with you today. I hope that this has helped you in some way, shape or form. If you want to find more of these interviews, please go to my YouTube channel. You can subscribe there and you'll be alerted when there's new interviews that are posted there. You can also find them on my blog at skotwaldron.com and yeah, follow me there. I would love to have you. My email list is there too. I've got some free resources that can help you in your own journey. Thank you. It's been another session of Unlocked and we will see you next time.
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