I met Nancy at an HR Benefits Conference in Seattle. She introduced herself after the meeting. At the age of 60 Nancy started her own business, in a field completely different than the nursing career she had as a younger adult. Now, the rest of the story, as told to Age is an Attitude (AiaA) on November 3, 2016:
AiaA: Hi Nancy. Just for the record, how old are you?
Nancy Kasmar: 62
AiaA: What is the Cliff Note background on your life, prior to starting your own business?
Nancy Kasmar: At age 7 I decided I would become a nurse. When I got out of high school, I immediately went to Nursing School. I was in nursing school and/or a nurse and then a nurse practitioner until I was 42. Then at 42 I left nursing and had a 10-year gap. I tried some other jobs and businesses and they didn’t work out. Then at age 52 I took up a whole new career and it became my life's passion.
AiaA: Tell us more about that.
Nancy Kasmar: A friend of mine called me and said, "You know, I know you're not doing anything now. Will you come and work for my company?" I said, "sure".
I became the receptionist. In the next year I went to the President and said “You need an HR manager because your finance manager is doing it right now and she hates it. I think I might be pretty good at that.” After 3 months he said “Don’t ever leave. This is exactly what you should be doing.”
Then at the age of 59 I hit a mini-roadblock. The PTSD I’d had since childhood kicked into high gear and I was diagnosed with chronic leukemia. At the age of 59 I had chemotherapy to hopefully put me into remission from my leukemia and it worked.
2 1/2 years ago I started my own company. We are successful beyond our wildest dreams. And it’s fun. We now have four employees and five contractors who work with us.
AiaA: What was the tipping point that had you decide to start your own business?
Nancy Kasmar: It became really clear to me with some of the troubles at my previous employer that I probably was better off making my own decisions. I'd tried it before and hadn't been successful. I had some cash reserves and looked at the market potential. I discussed it with my husband and he said “Go for it.”
AiaA: What was the darkest hour for you in the pursuit of your new business?
Nancy Kasmar: It was when we first started the business. “How will we convince people that we know what we're talking about?” The money was just trickling in. Then six months into the business we landed a big contract – and never looked back.
AiaA: What made you stick with it through that tough period?
Nancy Kasmar: We both really, really believe in our approach to compensation and what we're doing and that it's the right thing. Around that time, we decided to redesign our website. The redesign of the website really reaffirmed the values that we have in our approach to compensation. We were clear after that even if it didn't work, this was the way to do it and we just have to show everybody that it was the right way. Like, a month after the website launched, we landed our big client.
AiaA: What's been the most gratifying aspect of this new business experience for you?
Nancy Kasmar: When my clients tell me how happy they are that they get to do the right thing for their employees. That they look at the results and they understand that what we're doing will align with their company values but it will also give the employees what they need. Everybody wins with the approach that we have.
AiaA: Do you have a favorite quote of any kind?
Nancy Kasmar: Yes – by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe: “…the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.”
AiaA: What advice would you give a young adult today?
Nancy Kasmar: Believe in yourself. Believe that you can do it. Don't listen to anybody that says "no" and trust your gut. Always, always, always, my gut has always ... when I truly listen, it's always the right path. Find a mentor, find somebody who believes in you and helps you listen to your gut and encourages you when you have trouble listening to it yourself.