Do You Know Your Worth – Denise Liebetrau

In this week’s episode, we have Denise Liebetrau. Denise is the founder and principal HR consultant of Prosper Consulting LLC. She helps employers with hr and compensation issues. She grew up on a farm in Kansas and got her degree at Kansas State University. She moved to Colorado last 1998 and loved it here since then. Her journey from corporate to being an entrepreneur started when she was laid-off. She said that her biggest investment was when she decided to take a mastermind on how to define your niche, how to do the marketing, and the sales components related to running a small business. This helped her develop the skills needed for her to run her own business. She also joined Denver Women’s Group who supports fellow business owners who are experts in finance, marketing, and many others.

Denise’s website:



Katie Brinkley 0:02

Hi friends. I’m Katie Brinkley and you’re listening to Rocky Mountain marketing. This podcast is all about helping Colorado based small business owners, entrepreneurs, realtors and professionals discover the strategies and systems that take their marketing to all new heights. Let’s dive into today’s episode. Welcome back to Rocky Mountain marketing. My guest today is Denise Leiva trout, Denise maximizes profit and impact for employers as a trusted adviser on HR and compensation issues. She also coaches high performers so that they get paid what they’re worth, and have careers aligned to their values. As a speaker and a trainer. She focuses on topics like how to have a difficult conversation, maximizing paid through effective negotiation, leading yourself first by mastering emotional intelligence and the art of influence and executive presence. Denise, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Denise Liebetrau 0:58

Thanks so much for having me.

Katie Brinkley 1:01

So I’d like to connect our audience a little bit with with where you are, and a little bit of your background. Before we dive into all the fun questions. Tell us a little bit about your life growing up. Where’d you grow up? And what was how was your upbringing?

Denise Liebetrau 1:13

Oh, sure. I grew up on a farm in Kansas, very small mill, not very small. But small town less than 5000 people had a big focus on family, big focus on faith, big focus on the weather as it relates to whether or not the crops would grow. And yeah, and then looking back, it was kind of ideal, like, in terms of a childhood, I went to college at Kansas State University, which was not that far away from the small farming community that I grew up in. And then from there, went live in the big city went to live in Seattle, Washington. Oh, wow. Yeah, I know, right? followed the man that ended up being my husband out there. And actually, that was where I got a job after I graduated my MBA, and then from there, loved Seattle until I didn’t, in which case, I did some research and found out whereas there 300 plus days of sunshine a year and ended up out here in Denver, Colorado. Yeah. So

Katie Brinkley 2:12

When did you when you move out here to Colorado, before

Denise Liebetrau 2:15

the mad rush before the rush here in the last few years in 1998. I moved here in Colorado.

Katie Brinkley 2:23

Awesome. Yeah. And I’m a Denver native. So I’m very unfortunate. I’ve I had a short stint as a flight attendant. But I’ve seen a lot of the country that I really, I can’t imagine living anywhere else, Colorado is a fantastic place to call home.

Denise Liebetrau 2:39

I agree. I agree. It’s I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s wonderful.

Katie Brinkley 2:43

It really is. And that is one of the things that I think a lot of people, especially us here in Colorado is, you know, you said she moved out here before the rest of the fields like the world got caught on to what an amazing place it is to to live, what made you decide to kind of stay and start your career in your own business out here.

Denise Liebetrau 3:02

You know, I had roots out here i in terms of my home, and my kids are going to school out here. And so when I started my business a few years ago, it just made logical sense to do it here. I’ve got a very broad network of business associates, former colleagues and have got connections within the business community here. So it just felt like it was the right spot. And it has certainly been the right spot for me to to start a business. I think Denver boulder area has got a very strong, vibrant small and midsize business community, which are my target market. And I love it.

Katie Brinkley 3:36

So talk to us a little bit about why you decided to start your own company. I mean, like, it can always be a little overwhelming, a little intimidating and kind of that I don’t know, it seems more comforting just to have that corporate job. What made you decide to start your own company

Denise Liebetrau 3:50

I had been unhappy in, in the role I was in and I had tried to convert it into something that wasn’t just singularly focused on compensation within a fortune 500 firm and was not successful. And so when I got laid off with a severance package, I was like, You know what, if I’m going to start a business now would be the time to do it. And so I decided to go ahead and jump off the cliff so to speak, the big question I always get is, you know, how do you afford health care? How do you afford to, you know, how did you do it, and I’m a widow, so I don’t have a second income in my household. And so that was the that’s the other people secret people want to ask and I will tell you one of the best investments I ever did when I started my businesses, I took a mastermind program to learn how to define my niche and to learn how to do the marketing and the sales components related to running a small business. And I’m so grateful I did and I hired a business coach at one point and had other mastermind programs I got involved in in those types of programs helped give me the skills that even though I had an MBA and fortunately Under background and an experience of more than 25 years, I just didn’t have the small business experience that I needed in order to be successful. And the other thing that I think helped me a lot is that I put myself in some very strong female entrepreneurial groups here in the Denver market that were incredibly supportive, filled with women who were experts in finance and marketing and other areas, and I got to learn from their expertise. And things have been good ever since.

Katie Brinkley 5:31

I love that you touched on the fact that, you know, again, I had an MBA, I worked with Fortune 500 companies, but there was still a lot about running a business, I didn’t know. And honestly, I mean that that was where I was, I mean, I was going to be a reporter. So I took a ton of journalism classes, took marketing classes, but I didn’t know a lot of the stuff about actually running a business. And if it wasn’t for people giving me the gift of their time, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without their help. And that’s honestly, that’s where this podcast came into play. Because I wanted to pay it forward and have people listening be like, Oh, well, I could get some great marketing tips from the show, or I could learn other people’s mistakes that they made and this or that, I know that I don’t make them. So I mean, what if you were to be giving some some free advice right now to somebody who’s thinking about starting their own business? Or is as an aspiring business owner? What is the single single biggest piece of advice that you’d give him or her as their journey starts?

Denise Liebetrau 6:26

Well, I’m curious about how your advice would compare to mine, my advice would be start a side gig, don’t get a job. Don’t just leap in, start a side gig and slowly start testing the market with what you have to deliver in terms of a deliverable in terms of a product or a service and see what takes I think that for me was important to do to see whether the market respond to who are your ideal clients that you like working with. And then as you test the market, and grow and learn how to, I always tell people, the riches are in the niches, you can’t be everything to everyone, you have to be memorable. And because of my background, and 25 plus years of HR and compensation benefits, experience, I’m really great at knowing how to help employers pay their employees the right way. Not ever pay them that pay him competitively so they can get the right talent on their teams. And I’m really great at helping individuals who are high achievers get paid with their work. Once I learned how to talk about myself in that way, and how to niche down. Then it was about how do I use social media? How do I develop marketing tactics that get me in front of the right folks? And then how do I actually close and make the sale? Right, you can talk to a lot of people, but if you can’t close a sale and actually get money in the door, you’re in trouble. So yeah, that would be my my advice, start a side gig and test the market until it grows to the point that you can cover your expenses, and then save as much money as you possibly can prior to jumping off the cliff and starting your business. Because there there’s a cycle up and down as you start until you get revenue streams that come in consistently.

Katie Brinkley 8:03

Yeah, I mean, I think that that is a great, great bit of advice. And I I’ve known that I’ve convinced a number of people that had corporate jobs into diving into the world of entrepreneurship. And they all basically did exactly what you said, you’re like, Okay, well, I’ll just started on the side until I kind of have my base going. And I have enough reviews or testimonials that I could put out there. And I think it’s really smart. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that that luxury. My position was eliminated in the middle of a merger. So I kind of had to backpedal my way into entrepreneurship. But again, I wouldn’t change it for anything because it I think it made me a much harder worker and allowed me to really see if what I had was a good idea. And so yeah, I think that there’s everyone will find their own path. But if you can just start it on the side, I think it makes it a lot less scary having to just dive in. Without anything.

Denise Liebetrau 8:54

Yeah, I didn’t start mine on the side. And I wish I would have I wish I would have started a years ahead of time, because it’s, it’s been fantastic. And I was kind of thrown into the fire much like you in terms of a layoff. And then I just had to have to start now I could have, you know, gone and look for another job and then started as a side gig. But I was also at the point in my career, where I wanted to leave a legacy. And I wanted to do more than just what I had been doing broadened my expertise. And so I’ve done that while running my business. I do coaching with individuals as it relates to emotional intelligence and executive presence, because those are two points. differentiators that help people earn more money and tend to be things that people don’t do well at a certain point in their career if they’re not continuing to make progress. So had I stayed in the corporate world, I would have stayed in my little sandbox, and I’m not very good about doing that.

Katie Brinkley 9:46

Well, man, you just asked you answer that next question. I was going to ask you so perfectly. My next question was going to be if you could go back and do anything differently, what would you change? So

Denise Liebetrau 9:57

the side gig thing I you know, it is Easy to start something, you can put stuff on Upwork or fiber or talk to friends do things on the side. And the technology we have access to in terms of our fingertips as it relates to using social media and other marketing tactics. It’s so easy to start a website, you can just start so quickly, and I just think people should branch out a little bit and test the waters.

Katie Brinkley 10:21

Now, I want to talk a little bit about your business, because I think it’s really unique. And I think it really is a perfect solution for a lot of small business owners. Talk to us a little bit about what your company does.

Denise Liebetrau 10:33

Sure, for business owners who have employees, I’m the person that oftentimes will help you convert your contractors to employees, I’ll help you make sure you’re paying them what you should be paying them that you’ve got all the right language in your hiring letters. And when you get enough folks need an employee handbook, I help with those kinds of things as well. I love getting to listen to business owners and have them talk about what it is that is important to them, and what are their business goals and then helping make sure that their talent is aligned to achieve those goals. And so that a lot of times deals with incentives, right? So are you going to pay a bonus to people based on the profit you bring in? Are you going to pay a bonus based on other metrics, like EBITDA, or something related to customer service, so I love getting to help owners with things like that. I think the other thing that I will often do as I will talk to solo entrepreneurs and people who have small businesses about how are they charging for their products or services? are they charging enough in order to actually have a viable business? I think that was a lesson for me as well. Many times we undervalue ourselves. And I’ll point out that I do a lot of speaking to women’s groups, but many of my clients are men, but I do a lot of marketing to women, I think women in particular, will undervalue themselves as solo entrepreneurs. And so I like to have conversations with folks in that space to encourage them to not just look at their competition, but I have some methodology that I use to help them price their services.

Katie Brinkley 12:10

You know, I think that is, it is a such a need, especially as solopreneurs, it can be, you don’t really know what to charge. And so you kind of just guessed, like, like, I guess it’s good to be a good rate and kind of kind of do some market research. But it can be hard trying to find your prices. So I love that you offer that option. And in coaching, because again, as you’re when you’re first getting started, it can be kind of hard trying to pick out what your rate should be.

Denise Liebetrau 12:37

It can be it can be very difficult to know what it is to what you should be charging. I know when I first started, I look back. And I think I was so cheap when I first started. And I did a lot of pro bono stuff, frankly, because I wanted testimonials. Right? Exactly. Right. And and there are tactics, I mean, you can’t go out of the gate and charge, you know, when you’re brand new at something, the rate that somebody who’s been doing it for 10 years charges, right, because you don’t have the same methodology and the same outcomes that you can deliver as somebody who’s been doing it for a long time. But there are ways to charge appropriately for the value you deliver. I’ll give you your your podcast listeners one bit of advice. One of the things I did prior to starting my business was I talked to every consultant I could find who’d been running their business for five plus years, and I would take them to lunch prior to COVID. Right? And ask him this question. I’d say so what do you wish, you know, you knew in the first year of business that you know, now, and they’d be like, Oh, so many things. And then I would just write and write and write. And one of the the books that I was suggested I was told to read was million dollar consulting by Alan Weiss. And I think it’s a good primer in terms of how do you document and respond to RFPs? How do you write proposals? How do you do retainer fees? How do you do value based project based pricing. So if that there’s a freebie for your folks, I would also say I have a document if somebody wants to send me an email that gives you free resources to look up and see how much you should be paid. And there’s more than 10 resources on that document. So happy to share that with your audience as well.

Katie Brinkley 14:18

Absolutely, yeah, we’ll be sure to add that into the show notes. Because I think that that would be really, really helpful. And I mean, I you’re doing so much for not only the business owners that need some help with their HR, but for the little guy that’s trying to kind of figure their way out and find the right pricing and find their way here into the entrepreneur world. Tell us about a recent success story that you’ve had.

Denise Liebetrau 14:42

Yeah, I’ll tell you a recent success story. A couple that actually I’m very pleased with. I’m working with two clients right now that I worked with them the first year of my business and been in business for four years and both of these gentlemen came back and one sent me his girlfriend a few weeks ago and I helped her negotiate a job offer as a new hire. And then he is negotiating a new higher offer. So I’ve been helping him. So this is second time I’ve helped him. And he sent me many other clients. And the other gentleman is been working with a startup firm for about a year. And we have been working on a PowerPoint presentation talking about the results he’s delivered. That all said, the additional headcount he needs in order for them to meet the business goals that his part of business needs to achieve. And we are working on getting him a pay increase, it needs to go to the board for approval, but we’re working on a pay increase as well. So I’m very proud of that, because both of them were repeat clients, and getting to help them navigate their careers. I’ve also been blessed with the ability to be able to articulate for, for folks, things like long term incentives are sometimes difficult for people to know how to utilize in a negotiation. So I’ll give you an example. Coca Cola, had a layoff here last year, and laid off a fair number of people in one part of their business. And I got one of their folks as a client a few years ago, and McKenzie sent more than six people to me in this organization that had been laid off. I’ve helped all of them land at other companies, they’ve landed at Amazon, they’ve landed at Moet Hennessy, they’ve landed at some other big names. And some of them have gotten not just great base pay increases, but also sign on bonuses and $50,000. So it’s really powerful. If you have a negotiator, and someone like me, who has insight into how decisions are made by HR and business leaders in terms of offers as new hires, or even promotions. It’s powerful to have somebody like me as an HR insider, on your side of the fence whispering in your ear and helping you write scripts and emails and things as it relates to negotiations. I’ve not met anyone who feels 100% confident in their own negotiation ability, especially as it relates to pay, it’s a very emotional topic. And especially for yourself, instead have an outsider who has a more objective opinion and can help kind of craft your arguments and your statements in a way that is powerful and assertive, but not too much is a good thing.

Katie Brinkley 17:16

So lately, so I mean, we heard how you kind of keep these people in, you know, the power of the word of mouth and power of providing great service has allowed you to not only do business with someone more than once, but now they’ve referred you to their friends and family. You so what are you using right now? What marketing do you use that you found to be a success to get your business out there to get your name out there? What marketing tactic has worked for you?

Denise Liebetrau 17:43

So I think one of the most important things I did early on when I started my business was I started speaking and I have to admit to you, I’m an introvert I am I am, give me a quiet little corner and let me work. Give me a spreadsheet. And let me do some research and summarize it and some off to business leaders. But once I started speaking on some key topics, to the right types of audiences was a great way for me to get known. And I was memorable. And then the other thing was reaching out to people I had worked with in the past and getting referrals from folks. And then finally social media has been really helpful as well. I get compliments when I see people in person and they say, you know, I love your social media posts. They’re so uplifting and positive. And so I have people who give me compliments on that as well. So I think it’s it’s speaking it’s referrals, and it’s social media that have been the most beneficial as it relates to marketing tactics.

Katie Brinkley 18:37

On you know, Denise, I think that’s a really good point. Because you said, you know, like, oh, people will tell me how much they like my social media posts. And while we can get so wrapped up in the vanity metrics of likes and followers, there’s a lot of people out there that are seeing your posts, but they just might not be engaging with them. So absolutely, continue posting. And I love that you talked about that, because you never know who’s listening or who’s watching or who’s reading what you have to say. And they’re all taking they’re taking it all in and you never know when they that person could end up becoming coming out from the what you think is the woodwork becoming a new client.

Denise Liebetrau 19:12

Yeah, and and it doesn’t get the weirdest things right, y’all go to a speaking event, I’ll talk to 2030 people and, and maybe I won’t get a single one of those to convert, but maybe their boyfriend or their husband or their father or their roommate, or they’ll pass my name and contact information on to somebody else. And boom, I also get additional speaking engagements like that, too. So you just never know I think if you just show up as your best self and provide value and listen and articulate what you do well, it’s not always easy, but the momentum build is important because as time progresses, if you do that, you’ll continue to get great clients and build a business.

Katie Brinkley 19:53

That’s so true. And I think that you never know who’s listening and who could again be passing along your information to somebody else, and have them turned into a client one day. Now we talked a little bit about how you’ve been in the corporate world, how you’ve transitioned into your to owning your own business. Tell us a little bit about why you stuck with running your own business. Why did you decide to stay an entrepreneur and not go back to the corporate world? I know that a lot of entrepreneurs do it, because it’s the freedom of the lifestyle, you know, you can work from anywhere you make your own hours, how has that played out into your story and approach to running your business?

Denise Liebetrau 20:29

I wanted that certainly, I will say that when I worked in the corporate world, I was working really long hours. I mean, like, ridiculous. And as a single mom, as a widow, my kids did not get the best me, frankly, and my health wasn’t as good as it should have been. And I wanted to build a business that I enjoyed, and that I wanted to get up and do every day, I frankly, just got tired of doing somebody else’s to do list, I wanted my now, I won’t say that I don’t work long hours, I still work long hours sometimes. But if I want to take a nap in the afternoon, and I don’t have any meetings and anything really pressing, I can take a nap in the afternoon. If I want to go for a long hike with my kids, or if I want to, particularly now that kids are back to school, if I need to pick up my kids from school, or if I want to attend a sports event or some other event that my kids are involved in, I can go do that without having to ask someone else for time off. And I like that, I will say there is one of the best pieces of advice I got from someone when I was interviewing other consultants prior to starting my business. One bit of advice I had was, you know, if you ever want to go on a personal development journey, start a business. Because if you aren’t making your sales, if you aren’t having fun, whatever fallen you there’s no one to blame, but you and you have to deal with your own BS, if you’re getting in your own way, and you aren’t taking action on the right things and prioritize in the right way you won’t make the revenue numbers for the month, right? So you have to be very focused, it’s a different way of thinking, when I get out of bed in the morning, now it’s alright, what are the things I need to do to drive revenue today, it’s not the busy work that I always called it, you know, when I was in the corporate world working for big companies, you’d sit in meetings all day, but I can tell you, some of those meetings I did not need to be sitting in I didn’t need to be involved in some of those things. And I just felt like I was wasting a ton of time in terms of actually being productive on things that matter to the business. Well, now what I spend time on matters to my business. And so you get real, real good clarity really quickly, and what are you spending time on? And what should you spend time on when you run your business?

Katie Brinkley 22:38

You know, I, I love that. And it’s so true. Like, I think back to my blog, there’s so many meetings, I sat in on it. I had, there’s no reason for me to be there. You talked a lot actually about the mindset of an entrepreneur, what mindset practices or books or what has helped you have that mindset of forward to be a successful entrepreneur. Because mindset is everything.

Denise Liebetrau 23:03

It is everything. I didn’t have experience with coaching until prior to starting my own business. And I had experience with an online coaching program and then got involved with a coaching program and lost some significant amount of weight and then became a weight loss coach for that program for a period of time. And I learned the value of of mindset. When I started my business, I understood what the word scarcity and abundance meant. But I didn’t understand it in the context of running your own business until I was faced with a decision. early on about working with a client I I thought I really wanted the business. And I didn’t get the business and it would have made my year. And in hindsight, it was a good thing because I said yes to other business after that, that gave me some additional contacts, some additional expertise, and some things that really have helped me going forward. So when one sale doesn’t happen, like I want, like, I’ll give you an example, I had done a bid for a company in Germany here recently, and I didn’t get didn’t get the business and they decided to go a whole different direction. I don’t know which direction they decide to go. But it wasn’t the direction I had pitched. So that’s fine. And I didn’t really even bother because I was like, You know what, that’s fine. I’m sure something else will come my way. And you know what a couple other clients have come my way and more than made up for what that one client would have given me and so I think you just have to trust the process in terms of delivering things of value in being visible to the right potential clients and recognize that even there’s something that you may really want to come your way if it doesn’t, that’s okay. Something else will come your way and it applies to you as somebody in a job search it applies to you. If you’re an entrepreneur and thinking about sales it applies to you if you’re in the dating world right even personally, you know what that person didn’t work out that’s fine. I’m sure somebody else’s that are out there and, and they’ll find me so you have to also I think so step into that space of gratitude I talk about with my clients many times bookending your day. So I have a gratitude practice I do in the morning, where I write down three things that I’m grateful for. And then the evening, I write down three things that I had successes in for the day. And they can be small things, they don’t have to be big. But just staying focused on being intentional is really, really helpful. I think also being in touch with your feelings and your needs and self care, when I worked in the corporate role, they didn’t do a great job of taking care of myself. And self care is really critical. Because as a solo entrepreneur, or small business owner, if you don’t take care of yourself, if before you have a full fledged team that can run the business without you. You have to take care of yourself and your health. And that’s a really critical component of my day as well in terms of making sure I’m eating healthy food and getting activity and managing my mental health as well. So those would be the the tips I would have on that.

Katie Brinkley 25:56

I love it. And I think that, you know, I come from a background of sports, and I never realized how much mindset went into, you know, being playing being an athlete and playing sports until now that I’m an adult. I’m like, man, you know, when they were saying like, Katie, you guys gotta believe in yourself, believe it, you’re gonna hit the balls. That’s all mindset stuff. And so, now that I’m older, like they’ve been trying to teach me mindset for years, I just now, you know, finally picked up on it. Well, before we finish up, is there anything that I didn’t ask you about during today’s discussion that you think is important for our audience to hear?

Denise Liebetrau 26:31

Now, just just I would say, you know, reach out to Katie, if you need help with marketing tactics, I think Katie does a good job in terms of helping her clients, but also, belief in yourself, no one’s gonna believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. And mindset is super, very critical. And so don’t don’t when that imposter syndrome and self doubt creeps up, know that that creeps up for everybody take action anyway, you’re never going to get rid of that. You just have to keep stepping into the things that scare you in the things that you’re uncertain of, and just keep taking action along the way. learn lessons, and as long as you apply the lessons that you’ve learned, you’ll continue to make progress.

Katie Brinkley 27:10

I love that. Yes, you’re right. We all we it’s great to hear we all deal with imposter syndrome. And, you know, I do believe that a lot of the times we are our own biggest hurdle. Denise, this has been such a great conversation. I’ve really enjoyed having you on the show. Where can our listeners learn more about you? Or where can they connect with you offline?

Denise Liebetrau 27:32

Sure, you can go to my website, it’s prosper here. LSP er consulting To find me on social media, just click on the link that says social. And you’ll get to see all of the areas that I’m out on social media, and you can follow me there. And if you or any of your friends or family need any assistance related to what I deliver, just reach out and let me know.

Katie Brinkley 27:54

This has been such a great conversation again, I really appreciate you coming on the show today. Thank you so much for joining me.

Denise Liebetrau 28:01

Thank you.

Katie Brinkley 28:05

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Rocky Mountain marketing. As always, I’d love to hear from you. You can visit my website at Connect with me on LinkedIn or check me out on Instagram. Let’s keep taking your marketing to new heights.