Q&A: Sue Schweim Tellier
Editor’s note: Each Q&A in the Influential Women enewsletter will feature a woman from the region who’s influential, a rising face in her industry or doing interesting work. Submit tips on potential Q&A subjects to tgortsema at grbj dot com.
A specialist in business to government, or B2G, marketing, Sue Schweim Tellier works with small businesses to effectively identify and communicate their differentiators through targeted bid responses.
After working in government and nonprofit marketing for almost 20 years, Tellier and her husband started Grand Rapids-based JetCo Solutions in 2007.
With a proven model for helping small companies win government contracts, Tellier’s team at JetCo has helped clients win more than 275 contracts valued at almost $3 billion.
Biggest career break?
My career turning point was running supplier diversity for the state of Michigan. I wasn’t terribly excited about accepting the job, because the idea of marketing procurement sounded so horribly boring. It turned out to be a great challenge. I truly had the best job in state government, because I got to help small, under-represented potential contractors explore a new revenue stream in an efficient, targeted way (Spoiler alert: I still get to do this, but now I do it as a small business owner.).
It’s not a singular moment, but more a series of them. I married into a great military family almost 10 years ago, and I have the honor of being stepmom to an amazing 17-year-old. Watching him mature into a strong, witty, sometimes sarcastic, funny, interesting, respectful man makes my heart swell.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
I was fired from a nonprofit and didn’t get along well with the CEO (I really didn’t like him at all.). But he gave me two morsels of guidance. First, I should play nicer in the sandbox, tone down my impatience and be more tolerant of slow-paced mediocrity. Second, the difference between a response and a reaction is time. I completely ignored the first one and try to diligently follow the second.
How did you make your first dollar?
I was a waitress at Guernsey Farm Dairy in Northville. It was actually a great first job, despite the horrible brown polyester dress and apron I had to wear. I loved restaurant work and stayed with it — mostly as a bartender — until I was in my mid 20s and had my student loans paid off. To this day, successful restaurant employees earn my respect. And if we are reviewing resumes for a position, they typically earn an interview.
Wedding ring. Jon Tellier changed my life.
It might sound cheesy, but I have my dream job. Honestly. We pick clients carefully, and our clients are small companies with massive capabilities and passionate people. Our employees are brilliant, funny, professionals who know how to win. I can’t imagine a better gig.
If I were president for a day, I would . . . ?
Reform federal procurement
Last book you’ve read?
I have a bad habit of reading multiple small business books at the same time. I recently finished re-reading “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber and reading “Let my People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman” by Yvon Chouinard.
Last thing you Googled?
VOIP phone systems (Sounds boring, but we’re growing, and we need better phones.)
Your worst habit?
I have many bad habits, so I asked my husband. Apparently, I’m still impatient, intolerant of mediocrity and I have no filter.
To unwind, I like to . . . ?
Parking myself on Lake Michigan, listening to waves with a stack of books and our strategic plan. Also, there is wine involved.
Duck, ideally seared breast meat with a savory sauce, paired with Quintessa (one of my favorite California reds)
Person you most admire?
I’ll have to answer this with people, not one person. My sister, Dawn Hammel, is mentally tough and driven. She inspires me. My mom, Karen Schweim, has a crazy strong work ethic and is the kindest person ever. My husband, Jon, is a badass Army Ranger with no fear. And I have deep admiration for a handful of women in my professional network — they know who they are — who are supportive, brilliant, hardworking and unapologetically in charge.