Kim Lysik Di Santi & Total Strategy
Entrepreneur Hits The Mother Lode!

Then at age 43, she found herself – unexpectedly – pregnant with her first child.

"My husband I had been planning to adopt when we found out we were expecting," Kim says. We were thrilled! But I had to plan for the arrival of my child without the benefit of a paid maternity leave, manage my clients while I was out of the office and look for reliable child care. So, I took a few deep breaths and did some self-coaching."

Kim turned this experience into a monthly column for The title of her column: The Mother Lode.


At age 10, Kim started babysitting. At 13, she had a paper route - the one girl with all of the boys. At 15, she worked at a fast food restaurant within walking distance of her house. But it was the Junior Class Candy sale at Fitzgerald Senior High School in Warren, Michigan, in 1978 that was her defining moment

The first prize was a stereo and Kim wanted to win. Not just any stereo, but a free stereo that she could keep in her room and not have to share with anyone else. Here was her strategy: she looked at the records to see which class member had signed out the most candy. She took out just a little bit more.

She committed to sell $853.56 worth of candy and won the competition. "I had no way to pay for that candy unless I sold it!"

Thirty years later, Kim remembers the figure of $853.56 that won her the stereo. It was a huge risk and she believed enough in herself to take that risk. She developed a winning strategy. In 1999, she founded an executive coaching business and she named it Total Strategy – no coincidence.

All of these jobs and the candy sale – a major job - served her well. She learned the value of money, how to make a budget and how to set a sales goal.


Fast forward to 1986. Kim, 23, was hired as the youngest Classified Advertising Manager for a Gannett newspaper at that time. This was her second job out of college. Anyone who has worked for Gannett knows how rigorous the budgeting process was then and probably continues to be.

In 1986, the budgeting tools were paper, sharp pencils with erasers, a calculator, green accounting ledger paper and plenty of coffee. Budgets needed to be done over and over, without the benefit of Excel.

Math was not Kim's best subject; however, the budget numbers were meaningful to her. Her performance as well as her annual bonus and promotion possibilities depended on her ability to master this skill. So, she chipped away, often in the wee hours of the night, erasing and writing over and over to get the budget, both the expense and revenue side, approved.

During this time, Kim's father started his own business. He was so excited that he passed his enthusiasm on to Kim, his eldest child. Her father told her that she would not always work for other people, that she would be self-employed because she was like him. He spoke from experience because in the mid-80s, at age 45, her dad started his own business. He sold it several years later and retired but continued to dabble in other entrepreneurial ventures.

Why did he feel that they were like each other? They were both risk takers, had their own ideas, which made following orders challenging (putting it nicely), had an inner vision about the businesses that they wanted to create and both felt that others just didn't "get it".

"I remember my father telling me about someone in his life that just didn't get his vision. I told him that not many people would understand. How I wish I could have that conversation with him again about my own business! "

Kim will not have the opportunity to have the discussion with her father. In late September 1999, when he was 59, Kim's father suffered a stroke. He died two days later.

"His death was the end of one chapter and the beginning of another for me. That 48 hours was the most intense time of my life," says Kim.

Her dad's parting gift to her was to motivate her to move forward in her own business. It was truly the ultimate sacrifice. Kim had left her job working as sales director for online directories with the Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive in 1998, and had begun to put the pieces in place to start her coaching practice. Fear contributed to several false starts.

"I didn't know how to step across my chasm of fear. I was doing pro bono work and just wasn't able to go that one step further into getting paying clients and propelling my passion into becoming a real business. How could I get to the next level? I knew in my heart that I could do this and I had the vision for what it looks like." she says.

As her father was moving from this world to the next, Kim felt he was whispering to her:

'What are you doing? Life is short! Quit goofing around and get moving!"

Kim signed up her first client the week that she returned home from Michigan.


Her father's death was the catalyst for another change in Kim's life. She decided she wanted to have a child. She was 38 and she had been married for five years. Her husband Rob was not prepared for this, but he went along.

For the next four years, Kim and Rob tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant. She had one miscarriage. They were looking into adopting when suddenly Kim started craving orange juice. "I don't drink orange juice. I don't like it!" she says. She went to the doctor and found out she was pregnant. Twelve weeks into the pregnancy - when she thought she was out of the woods - she developed placenta previa, a positioning of the placenta close to and blocking the cervix. This can lead to separation of the placenta and bleeding. After spending several days in the hospital, Kim was put on restricted activity for the remainder of the pregnancy.

"I barely went outside for six months," she says. "We broke out of the house to go out for dinner for our tenth anniversary. I didn't tell my doctor because I didn't want her to stop me!" The pregnancy ended successfully with the birth of her son Zachary on January 4, 2005.


"Then I faced the challenge of learning how to put my business into the container of my life, rather than letting my business be my life," Kim says. "Being an older mother, I need to have the strength and energy to move through the day!" She started taking better care of herself. She exercises regularly now. She makes sure to get adequate sleep. Also, Kim cut her coaching back to three days a week, leaving the other two days for administrative work and spending time with Zachary.

When Zachary turned four, Kim decided that she could expand again on her extracurricular activities. She accepted a position on the board of directors of the Washington, D.C., Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. She is doing more networking. She is writing her column, The Mother Lode. She is expanding her business, fulfilling her purpose.

Kim says to women entrepreneurs:

"Take the talent that is your gift and turn it into a business. You have to know with an unwavering confidence that this business endeavor is part of your life purpose. My purpose is to make a difference in the lives of people around me. My coaching business fits with my life purpose and role. If you are starting a company just for the money or because it sounded good for somebody else, walk away. You must have a passion for what you do, if you want your business to succeed."

Kim relied on intuition in finding the answer to both her professional and personal challenges. Would you feel comfortable making a decision by intuition?