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By Josh Inocéncio
When Khaliah Guillory sets goals for herself, she doesn’t just write them on a notepad. She sends them out into the Universe. To her, this means speaking her goals aloud and sharing them with people around her, because she knows that verbalizing her dreams will empower her to turn them into reality. For years, this practice has continued to work for Guillory as she’s risen to leadership positions in the banking industry, founded her own company, and launched a foundation to combat ALS after the disease took her mother’s life nearly 15 years ago. As Guillory’s website notes, she has combated adversity and loss both personally and professionally, but she now uses that history to uplift others.
“I’m a ‘corpreneur.’ I’m a vice president of merchant services with a well-known bank here in town, but my side-hustle is KOG & Company, which is a public speaking and consulting firm,” she says. In her corporate career, Guillory is a strategy consultant in Houston, which involves developing innovative strategies to make payment processing simpler, allowing business customers to focus on running and growing their business.
“I flew out to our headquarters, and one of the major heads of the corporation leaned in after I sat down and said, ‘I have no idea why we pay all these keynote speakers so much money when we have you on payroll!’ And when I leaned back, I said, ‘You’re right!’”
Guillory has built on her experiences in corporate America to lay the groundwork for her KOG consulting venture that focuses on inspiring others in similar fields through speeches and one-on-one coaching.
“My whole goal is to inspire you to be Big. My belief is if I inspire you, you’re going to go back and have a meeting with someone today, and that contagious energy [will] inspire them,” Guillory muses. “And [eventually] we’ll look up, and the entire population will be inspired. I’m not saying this will end all the senseless killings, but hopefully people will be able to have courageous conversations and connect more.”
While discovering how to become “Big” is up to every individual, Guillory facilitates the growth process through three main speeches: “Who’s Your #1?,” “Diversity Deposits,” and “Mogul in Training.”
“Who’s Your #1?” focuses on identifying a person or community in your life that pushes you to grow and holds you accountable.
For the aspiring entrepreneurs out there, “Mogul in Training” uses a networking platform similar to Angie’s List to provide information about individuals with specific skill sets. Guillory is also developing webinars on how to create infrastructure for those seeking to start businesses. As Guillory says, “We’re going to give you the tools to build a house, and show you how to do it.”
Finally, Guillory’s “Diversity Deposits” speech draws from her experiences coming out as a lesbian in the workplace. “It’s been phenomenal at work [since I’ve come out.] When I was in the closet, I was a good leader. But now I’m a great leader because I’m comfortable in my own skin. And I think people appreciate that.”
Initially, Guillory was hesitant to come out of the closet in the mid-2000s because she did not want her sexuality to derail her recent promotion or future prospects. But when she had the opportunity to serve on a diversity council at work, her human-resources correspondent (who already knew she was a lesbian) encouraged her to be open with colleagues. She did—with no pushback from coworkers and no regrets.
Reflecting on how she shares this experience in her motivational speaking, Guillory notes that many people in her audience work with LGBT people who are still in the closet. “I try to encourage the folks who are contemplating coming out to do it. And I try to help [their straight colleagues] understand that their LGBT coworkers are trying to connect with them on a deeper level. That’s a gift.”
But coming out in corporate America isn’t the biggest challenge that has shaped Guillory’s entrepreneurial vision. As she writes on her website, Guillory’s drive to succeed comes from “adversity, love, loss, and diversity”—especially the loss of her mother to ALS in 2002, just over a year after the diagnosis.
“After my mom died, I went to a very dark place. A year of hell is probably the best way to put it,” recalls Guillory. “And one day I woke up and realized that she wouldn’t want me to do this. My mother worked way too hard and sacrificed way too much for me. At that moment I decided to change, because I’m the author of my life. If it’s in the Universe, the Universe is going to take care of me.”
Guillory has invested her dreams in the Universe ever since grappling with her mom’s death. And in addition to her career, she raises research funds for ALS.
As for her next steps, Guillory is encouraging others to put their goals out into the Universe, too. Those who venture on to her website can watch her “2017 Universe List” video that begins every page. One of her goals for the new year is to collaborate more with others more—something that this project offers.
“If I verbalize something and tell people about it, it has a likelihood of happening,” she says. “But you’ve got to work for it, and pursue it recklessly.”
To learn more about Khaliah Guillory, check out her website kogpassion.com or follow her on Instagram at @kogspeaks.
Josh Inocéncio is a playwright and freelance writer. A Houston-area native, he earned a master’s degree in theater studies at Florida State University and has produced his first play, Purple Eyes.