Charlene Freeman has been the President and CEO of Inventory Management Analysis Limited (IMA Ltd.) since 2012. After realizing that she wanted to take her career into the business space, she started from the bottom at IMA Ltd. and worked her way up through the company as a data cleanser and catalog manager. IMA Ltd. now leads the pack in data cleansing and governance and maintains relationships with some of the world's most recognized brands, including several Fortune 500 and Global 2000 corporations from over 50 countries. Charlene exemplifies persistence and hard work, making her an extremely valuable resource to those trying to make an impact in the world.
What originally led you down the path of self-employment?
I worked in the family company since it started in 1989 as a 15-year-old in high school. I went away to school with no plans of being in the family business, as to be more in line with helping others. After school, I had my fourth and final child and came back to the company as I started to realize that business was actually something I wanted to do.
I started at the bottom. The deal with my parents was that, even though I had worked there part-time from the time they began, I needed to start at the very basic, entry level position and work my way up. Working for my parents had its challenges as I am sure anyone working for their parents would tell you. There was no special treatment, in fact I believe I had to work harder than anyone else as that is what was expected and probably is the reason that I work so hard today. I purchased the company from them in 2012 when they were ready to retire.
What does your average day look like?
On the average day I am usually at the office between 3:30 and 4:30am, as I find I get more done if I get here really early. I have just always been a morning person, it is what has always worked for me. I’ve been trying to do a better job at leaving earlier in the day so that I can be home more with the family in the evenings, but often work until 8 or 9PM. I usually work from home on the weekends which is a lot nicer so I can be around the family, so I’m happy that balance has improved.
To what extent do you think hard work plays a role in being successful?
I think that anybody can get lucky, but I think that consistent hard work is the most important thing if you want to be successful. The quote ‘the harder I work, the luckier I get’ is something I think is very true, you create your own luck in life and it is the hard work that gets you there.
Is there something from your past that, in hindsight, you noticed played a factor in you becoming self-employed?
If I look back to when I was a teenager when I was working for my parents, I liked the whole analytical way of thinking more than I thought I would. I always thought I wanted to work with people, and I still do, so I think I can do that through the business on a different level.
What’s your biggest fear when it comes to running your business and how do you deal with that?
My biggest fear in business has always been not being able to make payroll, not getting new clients, and not being able to sustain everything for long periods of time. I bought the company 7 years ago when my Dad was the only salesperson, so now we have two people dedicated to that. But that stress isn’t just my family, it’s everybody else’s family who is here. The only way to fight that fear is to stay grounded, keep working hard, and make sure that I do whatever I can to get the projects done on time and keep business growing.
What advice would you give to someone that has big dreams for themselves, specifically in terms of their mindset?
Be persistent, determined and have the courage to follow your gut, which isn’t always easy. Having a positive attitude and identifying your own path I believe is key to success. People need to change the way they think in regard to social norms and what is expected of them, especially after high school. If that means not going to school, then that means not going to school and taking a different path. You don’t always have to do what you are expected to do because many people have talents and abilities that are outside of school. As always, work hard, be persistent, never give up, and never let anybody tell you that you can’t do something.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Patrick MacDougall and I am a licensed REALTOR® based out of Tillsonburg, Ontario. I service the Oxford, Norfolk, and Elgin County areas and work everyday to bring as much value to others as I possibly can.