Linda Murray Bullard is the owner and Chief Business Strategist of LSMB Business Solutions, in Chattanooga, TN. She is an award-winning author of "The Well Ran Dry: Memoirs of a Motherless Child." Linda's master’s in business administration was earned at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Her undergraduate degree is from Bryan College in Dayton, TN. After losing her 26-year career, she opened LSMB Business Solutions to repurpose the skill sets she acquired.
Today, she's affectionately known as "The Business Plug." She is a business consultant who specifically works with new and struggling small business owners. She has provided presentations of her signature, Power of Choice presentation in Africa and Barbados. She’s the mother of three adult sons, six grandchildren and one great grandson.
Thank you for sharing your story with us. What is your professional background? How did you end up with this career?
Thank you so much for this opportunity to share my story.
In January 2013, after spending 26-years working from an entry level position to management, I lost my position at a prominent health insurance company. I decided to open LSMB Business Solutions offering business plans and resumes. On that job, I learned how to respond to requests for proposals, so I later added grant writing to my offerings. A couple of months after being laid off the first time, I was hired to work at a major hospital. I worked there for six years, and upon being laid off again, I dedicated myself to working at my company full time.
I have three business administration degrees. I love business. I’ve worked in various jobs since 1974 when I gave birth to my oldest son. In 1986, I began my career in Corporate America. After getting laid off in 2013, I decided to create a business that helped small businesses gain the support I saw in Corporate. I feel like my work history has prepared me for what I planned to do. In working for my business, I get to talk to people from all walks of life. It truly is as if my entire work life led up to the moment I started the business.
None of the information or the lessons learned doing the jobs I’ve held have gone to waste. My first job was as a maid at the Howard Johnson’s hotel. I have worked as a waitress at a landmark destination. In addition, I’ve worked as a babysitter, a short-order cook, in manufacturing, as a parking garage attendant, and in Corporate America since. In my longest lasting employment with one company, I worked in thirteen positions throughout the company. On average, every three years, I would get a new position. My clients are either working in one of the many positions I’ve held, or they are starting a business and hiring in the various industries of my past.
How did you begin your remote work journey?
I’ve always had a virtual office for my business, even when I was working full time for someone else and part time in the business. Prior to CoVid, I was working about 15% of the time out of my home, meeting people online. The other 85% of the time I was meeting business owners and prospective clients in coffee houses and sandwich shops. I loved getting out and meeting people all over town. I had designated Starbucks and Panera Bread locations strategically near where my clients lived. Business is always better when done over a meal.
In September 2021, I found myself stricken by CoVid's Delta variant. I was tested on September 21. When I received the positive results back on September 23, my doctor instructed me to report to the emergency room as soon as possible. Within minutes of arriving at the emergency room, I collapsed and flat lined. I had to be resuscitated. I do not recall having difficulty breathing, but I do remember having a fever and feeling extremely tired. Fifteen days later, awakening from a medically induced coma while on the ventilator, I learned that my extremities no longer worked properly. I could not walk. I could barely talk. I had a stroke and there was a blood clot in my left lung. All my muscles had atrophied. I was in bad shape, but I didn’t feel like it would be my permanent condition. My lungs hurt and my body was filled with mucus. It would take 10 days of strong antibiotics and steroids for me to start coming back toward restored health. The doctors were amazed that I was recovering so fast.
What is ironic is my illness came very close to my family history repeating itself. My mother, Willie Sue Murray died on Christmas Day from the Hong Kong Flu pandemic of 1968 at the age of 33. I had just turned 9 years old twenty days prior to her dying. I am the youngest of the six underage children she left behind.
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When I awakened from the coma, I was in a semi vegetated state in the CoVid intensive care unit of the hospital. I later learned I was the oldest living patient to successfully come off the ventilator. I was 61 years old at the time. Various medical staff who had saved my life randomly came by to celebrate my survival. I stayed hospitalized for an additional ten days. Because I didn’t have insurance at the time, once released from the hospital I had to go to outpatient physical therapy to regain my muscles. My oldest son is a battalion chief at the local fire department. He and his siblings took care of me, including helping me to do exercises until the physical therapy sessions could be arranged.
Today, I work 95% out of my home because I do not trust nor believe people take the pandemic seriously enough. I am still vulnerable although I had two of the three recommended vaccines. I cannot afford to go through another severe medical episode. My medical team told me it could take at least a year before I fully recover from the last bout.
Where do you see yourself in the next year? What tips do you have for others who are working remotely?
I envision myself working from home either for myself or a company. My illness caused a financial setback. Therefore, I’m open to doing whichever helps me to restore my way of life. I want to regain my health and my confidence so I can travel outside of the state again.
I suggest people who work remotely understand it is important for them to force themselves to go outside. At least once a week I go for a drive, pick up groceries or go to a doctor’s visit. And, while I’m out, I take a walk or visit family and friends. Sometimes I overdo it and must rest the next day, but it feels good to go outside even though I control who and how many people I interact with. We still need to do our best to stay balanced.
What is your self-care routine and how do you find time to integrate it into your daily life?
Getting exercise is important. “Keep it moving before you lose it!” is what I now believe, based on my previous condition. Some days, I dance to get my heart rate up slightly. I love being able to dance again! Other days, I perform the exercises my wonderful physical therapists gave me. Since the illness, I’ve lost approximately 40 pounds. Twelve of those pounds I’ve lost twice.Reducing my weight and eventually getting off the diabetic and high blood pressure drugs, which were both worsened by my illness, are long-term goals of mine.
Putting yourself first is important to your overall wellness. Given this, what are your best holistic wellness tips?
My best holistic wellness tips include drinking plenty of water. I drink two gallons per day, otherwise my body is sluggish and feels heavy. Also, getting the proper amount of sleep is very important. Studies say our bodies heal as we rest. I am very serious about taking my naps. My circle of influence is full of advocates.
In addition, take vitamins and supplements to ensure you are feeding your immune system. I’ve learned just how important it is to have my immunity as strong as possible.
What was the toughest challenge you faced during your career?
One of the toughest challenges I’ve faced lately is reestablishing my connections and working to build collaborations with the city’s existing ecosystem. Being a minority woman, I’ve had locals in the ecosystem promise to get back with me about collaboration opportunities, only to have them not follow up nor answer my calls when I attempted to follow up.
Although those incidents sting; they also have made me stronger and more creative. I began to expand my reach outside of the city and it has been well received. Years of working as an analyst with tight deadlines have taught me that when I cannot go through, it is okay to go around.
How did you get through that period? What advice for people dealing with similar difficulties?
I feel like I am just coming out of that period in the last couple of weeks. I have had some exceptionally good leads who are more positive. It is imperative for me to keep moving and not get discouraged because some people do not want to collaborate with me. In this business you must know how to create your own table if you are not invited to have a seat at other people’s tables.
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My advice is to shake it off and learn how to create the situation you want to see offered. What we do to make lives better is bigger and more important to the underserved clients we are dedicated to servicing than who we work with.
Mental health and feeling good are crucial to maximizing performance. How do you prioritize your mental health?
Mental healthiness is the most overlooked component of self-care. When you are alone most of the time, you can get depressed and feel down. However, opening the window coverings, and if it is warm, raising the windows to allow the sunshine in or taking a walk outside can break up some of those feelings. On some days it is the mere acts of getting showered and dressed enough to help change your mood.
I have affirmations on my walls throughout the house. Many of us get depressed. It is just another part of life. Enduring depression does not make you a bad person. It is ok to go there, but it is not okay to stay there. Seek professional help if you feel like it is becoming harder to bounce back. Mental healthcare is wealth care.
Before the pandemic hit, you may have worked in an office or corporate setting, but what do you foresee happening now? How do you see companies allowing employees to work post-pandemic?
I believe the pandemic has taught us that some jobs can happen without large buildings or restricted work areas. The freedom to work anywhere has made us more productive and able to regain our relationships with our families. I foresee having optional schedules where we check in a few days a month but work from home or outside of the office.
It reduces overhead costs and allows employers to transfer that savings to the employees whose utilities will rise due to them being home more often.
If you could have lunch with one person in the world, who would it be and why?
I would really love to have lunch with Iyanla Vanzant. My friends say we have something in common in our demeanor and how we love others. I would like to have lunch with her to learn how she became who she is today and to compare notes on how we plan to move forward in the future.
If you could inspire a movement, what would it be and why?
My movement would be “The Power of Choice” living life with intentionality. I would teach it to teens and reinforce it with adults. Sometimes we lose sight of the power in our responses. We go along just to get along. And, when we do, a piece of our potential quietly dies until we are so disconnected from who we are and how we think that we become muted and unrecognizable.
The Power of Choice movement would help us to regain our dreams and to begin actively living them out loud. I’ve been working on it one person at a time, but to become a movement means happier, healthier, and more fulfilled people of all ages. I believe nothing happens coincidentally. I use my life experiences to teach others about the awesomeness of resilience and determination.
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