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Ep.08 // Cate Heaman

CEO of Prelude Solutions

Everybody gets knocked down in life. Sometimes our little pit stops along the journey are the places we get the most knowledge and experience. You don’t always know how experiences are going to lead to the next opportunity in your future. That is evident in the story of Cate Heaman the CEO of Prelude Solutions. She is the kind of person who doesn’t just take the bull by the horns she tames that bull and rides like a champion. Her tenacity is evident in any conversation you have with her. But Cate also knows that sometimes we all get lucky. Whether reclaiming her job after getting fired or re-building her business after a bad professional break-up, Cate Heaman is a fighter. On today’s episode you’ll learn what it took for her to become who she was MADE To Be.

Listen Now 23:38

What we cover:

  • Sometimes You Get A Little Lucky
  • Growing a Company to 45 Employees and $12 Million
  • Getting Over A Bad Business Break-Up
  • Taking Responsibility for Business Results
  • Overcoming Daily Self-Doubt
  • Rebuilding Teenage Life After Parental Divorce
  • Racing Mountain Bikes & Running Marathons
  • The Immeasurable Value of Being Certified Women-Owned

I was racing mountain bikes. I was doing marathons if I was always competitive, and it wasn't getting that competitive challenge. in, in, in my work I every day, you know, job and I said, you know what I've got, I've got to do something different.

About Cate

Proud CEO of a woman owned business, demonstrating 20 years of experience in the telecommunications industry. Strong education and professional skills in enterprise bill auditing and optimization, VoIP strategies (UCaaS, CCaaS), cloud transformation and planning expert, proven expertise in Avaya/Cisco and Microsoft Products. Unparalleled sales skills with a brilliance for connecting people and a continuing desire to give back to the community.

Connect with Cate Heaman on LinkedIn

Learn more about Prelude Solutions

Read the Transcript

KRISTEN BERMAN (HOST):      Today, I have Cate Heaman, she is the CEO of Prelude Solutions, and Prelude Solutions optimizes communications platforms, and they are also a certified women business enterprise. So Cate, thank you so much for being on Made To Be today.

CATE HEAMAN (PRELUDE SOLUTIONS):      Thank you. Thank you for having me. My pleasure.

KRISTEN:       And what is Prelude Solutions, if you can just say, give a little bit of a just a quick elevator pitch of what your company does and who they do it for?

CATE:      What would you like to go into organizations and we analyze everything an organization has, from a voice, a data, a network, a mobile and a cable perspective, as far as services go, right, as well as how those services mesh with a platform, and then we find savings according to their invoices, their contracts, their customer service records, and also their service agreements. And what we’re finding is roughly 33% savings just in that audit alone. So you know, we’re making the CFO happy, right there.

KRISTEN:       How did you get into communications platforms and started providing the service for people?

CATE:       Yeah, I worked for a competitive local exchange carrier in 1998. Okay, and what I did there is I literally schlept local, long distance, internet, up and down the eastern corridor. And I was there for seven and a half years. And what happened was, every time that I would input a new customer you had to implement, put them on board them, put through their services, we’d have to go out on site with their first invoice and present that invoice for them to really like say, Okay, here’s your first invoice, you know, welcome to this new company. And inevitably, that invoice would be incorrect every time even though I would implement it the information or a client care would do so. And by by doing that, I’ve realized, you know, what, there is a business here. So after seven and a half years of working there, I said, You know what, I think I’m going to go off and start my own business being a consultant going in and auditing organizations for exactly this. You’re looking at their local or long distance or internet, pull their customer service records, find out where are the misspellings? Or what happened.

KRISTEN:       So Cate, after seven and a half years of being sick and tired of continuous errors, how did you make the transition to seeing you know what, there’s a business opportunity, and I’m going to make that happen?

CATE:       Well, you know, what, I was lucky enough to meet another individual who had had that same vision. So her and I actually started off in the playroom of her home, it was this vision. And you know, we just made it happen. It was just her and I and you know, we started earning business based on auditing. And that’s how it just, it just started. And you know, before you knew it, we had eight consultants and we were writing RFPs, doing project management finding, you know, audits and erroneous charges, and our customer start getting larger and larger. And we had to bring on more people. And after about two years, we wrote the RFP for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and redid the project management for it. And that’s when we expanded that current business to hardware and software and we merged with another individual. So then there were three owners of that first company.

KRISTEN:       And what were some of the challenges getting that off the ground starting in the playroom of your partner’s house

CATE:       Right.

KRISTEN:       What was that like?

CATE:       It was nose to the grind, working every day, as hard as you know, as hard as you can, right? So I was we were doing the audit. And there was even a funny story where in order to get we only had like one printer, and we only have one network cable, and we’d have to like plug into I’d have to send it to her. She should print it from her printer. Oh, is this crazy? Like, but that’s what you did. Right? And then, you know, soon I literally probably after three months, we were already paying for office space. But we grew that company to 45 people and 12 million.

KRISTEN:       Wow, wow.

CATE:       Yeah. Remember, doesn’t matter if profit matters. You know, 45 salaries of engineers and technicians and, and vehicles and warehousing, you know, you can do the math.

KRISTEN:       Now, what was it like in in that growth period? I mean, that happened over how many years and and what was one of the biggest challenges of your growth?

CATE:       Um, so you know what? There were there were a couple big challenges in the growth period. So you’ve got to you got to realize that you had three personalities and three business partners coming together in 2008. When we brought on the hardware, software, and then the hardware software that we brought on, we became a Nortel partner and Nortel, shortly after we became a partner, went bankrupt. Yep. So right after we joined this partnership we’ve got now 16 people right you know, a new office space, you know, new partners so you got new personalities and then bam, your largest product line goes really goes bankrupt. And then their largest competitor Avaya buys Nortel, which like some people would have literally sawed off their left arm if they were a Nortel user to go Avaya because they were like archenemies, you know, never know, it was a very hard adoption. So it was not an easy start in 2008. And then right around 2011, the original business partner no longer wanted to be part of the three of us. So we went through a very contentious partner breakup. And our agreement at the time was 33 and a third, 33 and a third, and 33 and a third. And it was actually written that way, too. So it was our agreement was written for three people. So when that person left, the agreement was not rewritten. And it ended up with a 50/50 agreement between the partner that was there and myself. And that was a male partner. So we were in a 50/50 agreement, and then we go into the tragedy of 2013. For every business, you know, hung on with its with its nails, and it’s your life to get through the recession. We did it we got through the recession, everything happening at once partner divorce of three recession, 2011-2012, going right into that, and then having to in 2013, be faced with just one business partner, and myself and going into the next chapter of that business.

KRISTEN:       You’re going through all these challenges, you’ve got this breakup amongst the business partners. Now you are pushing through the recession. Staying strong. But now you’re in a business with a male counterpart. So the two of you are making decisions, when in the past you had been a female dominant company, right? What what shifted amongst the organization at that time?

CATE:       There were many shifts. To be very honest. So you know, in this partnership, I ended up taking the reins, if you will, because there were many times where I would you just kindly asked to have something done so many times where you just stop asking, and they don’t, it just doesn’t get done. So you know, I had I had a running a running, ticking tock of like, Okay, if I ask eight times, will he do it 9, 10, and then a roll. And then I had to do it myself. And it was a passive aggressive type of situation. And that way, you know, it was it was a constant situation. And then I actually my son was born in November of 2013. And we had just right before that, in the September of that year, on a very large county bid, which is about over a little over 3 million. And so the timing of that, you know, managing that and getting that, you know, to start into project management and implementation was all coming to, you know, at the beginning of that, and right in November, Nash was born. And then I realized that while I was off on quote, unquote, maternity leave, the business could not function. Without me, it was paralyzed. And then I realized, while I was, you know, working every day, while I should not have been that the business was really being run by me at every part of it, whether it was operations, sales, project management, finance, everything was really being run by me. So that being said, I, I thought it was only appropriate to say, you know, this should be a Women-Owned business. It was my business in the first place you came in three years afterwards, I really would like to give you a proposal where, you know, I own a little more shares, if you will, so that we can be women owned, and, you know, really have that opportunity to take advantage of that diversity and inclusion and being Women-Owned. And the answer was no, the answer was no. And the answer was no. And it was no, and it was no. And I obviously sought legal advice. And we, and so did he, and we ended up that the agreement did not allow for me to get out, or for me to earn any more points unless he agreed to it. And it was a very, very bad situation. He did not agree to the buyout, and just, you know, sunk his feet in and didn’t move. It was it was a very bad situation. You know, when I finally said enough’s enough, you know, I know at this point, I have a two and a half year old, who, you know, I haven’t really been present for, the people are suffering at the company, that’s not fair. And you know, everything suffering, everybody was suffering. And I knew that I could do it again. I took five employees and my consulting business, and I sold off the hardware software. And that’s how, you know, I came to where we are today, which is Prelude Solutions.

KRISTEN:       It’s so great that you are really candid about what happened. How did you get through that?

CATE:       You know what, I think I was almost like a zombie. Honestly, like I was putting one foot in front of the other, but I just kept on like doing that I had to do it, it was brushing myself off every day and getting back in there and doing it. It was constant. And then I had to, if you would give it up, I was doubtful. I was insecure, I was, you know, I was hurt, you know, I just lost something that I built for 11 and a half years, I was like, Okay, I can do this again, I can get up and I could do this again. But it wasn’t easy. You know, there were days where I had to fake it. And I started just getting back out there and making it happen. And, you know, that’s, that’s how 2017 just said, you know, what, if you fail, you fail, but at least you’ve got to give it your all, because you’ve done it before. And that’s and that’s how it started.

KRISTEN:       What was that personally over the last couple of years and building Prelude? How, how has your personal support system been there for you?

CATE:       It’s been a rock. It’s been a, you know, because good, bad, you know, indifferent days, right? I was up and down. And, you know, personally, obviously, you know, my husband, knowing that I could rely on Eric to be there for Nash, take care of Nash, and that support system was in place. That was helpful.

KRISTEN:       What was it like being a lone CEO, the lone partner of this new entity, and having all of those decisions, you were the only person to make the decisions now.

CATE:       You know, that’s where the self doubt came in. You know, I was like, Can I really do this by myself? I would say that there were days when I was doubting myself, and even if I would say, paralyzed, you know, like, I’m like, well, okay, now, what do I do? Am I doing this right? And then I would just trudge through and do it. And I had some really good mentors, along my, my beginnings, so that was very helpful.

KRISTEN:       What has made you so resilient?

CATE:       You know, I think that’s my upbringing, you know, if you’re really going to get into that, because, you know, you can’t, you don’t have this attitude, or you can be, I would say, knocked down so many times where, you know, you can get back up again, so it’s that constant ability to, okay. So, you know, my mother has been married and divorced twice, I’ve been a teenager going through a parental divorce, um, you know, had to move out of a beautiful home with an in-ground pool. And, you know, all my friends to a completely different place. You know, where I had to start over again, right? all over again, reinvent myself.

KRISTEN:       What were some things that you remember, that was either inspirational or words of encouragement at that time? When your parents were going through that divorce? And when you were going through this starting over phase, was there anything that you remember that stands out that got you through that?

CATE:       There were a number of things so I have a very loving and caring grandparents and stepfather and father that were all very supportive, and, and actually an aunt and uncle too. So there, I was surrounded by loving people. Okay, but I also threw myself into sports at the time. So I was captain of the track team, you know, ran every I went to states for the 800. So I was a runner. I was, you know, again, making sure that I was measuring myself up always against, you know, my community, right, whether it’s the track community, I wanted to be the best 800 runner in the 400 and the relay, okay. Whatever it is to to make the team win. We were very good.

KRISTEN:       What did you think you were going to do when you went into college and all this is going on in your life?

CATE:       Okay. Yeah, that’s a good question. When I went into college, I went in thinking that I was going to be a psychologist. So I went in industrial psychology in business. And I really thought that that’s, you know, that’s where my calling was, and I did you know, mind body and soul papers. You know, I was I had some great mentors at at Wilkes University. And right when I graduated, my undergraduate I had a job right away being a counselor and workers comp so I got it, you know, I got a taste for Okay, you know, go into counseling. I was one of the counselors that got most most people back to work. So that was a that was my claim to fame. I think I have 21 people back to work one year, which is amazing, by the way, but it was a good time, you know, and then immediately started my Master’s in community counseling and human relations. So I continued in that field for six years, you know, between because I wanted to get my masters. It was 1998 when I said, You know what, there’s something if I can get 21 people back to work, I should be in sales.

KRISTEN:       So you saw how strong you were within the counseling community, even if it was in workers comp, that you thought, you know what, let me let me shift the skill and the sales instead.

CATE:       Yes, I did. Sales is where I belong.

KRISTEN:       How did you know? Did somebody tell you? You know what, you might be great at sales? Or did you see somebody and say, You know what, that’s a better fit.

CATE:       I just, I just knew it. I just knew it. You know what I mean? I was like, so at the time I was, I was a still a very athletic. So I was racing mountain bikes. I was doing marathons if I was always competitive, and it wasn’t getting that competitive challenge. in, in, in my work I every day, you know, job and I said, you know what I’ve got, I’ve got to do something different. So that’s why I made that switch to sales, because of course, then I can be competitive all day long.

KRISTEN:       It seems like you got a you found a solid personality match for you professionally, that you weren’t getting?

CATE:       Yep, I did? I did. Yeah.

KRISTEN:       And so when you first got into sales, was that, were you instantly like this? Is it or were there still those doubts of maybe I didn’t make this?

CATE:       Yeah, no, no, no, no, it wasn’t. I literally, it’s a great story. Anthony Carlosa, who was my boss, and he’ll tell you the story too. And he fired me. He fired me. He said, You’re not doing you know what? You go home, you’re fired. And I went home, I was fired. Do you know I came back the next day. And I said, I’m not fired. That’s it. I’m not fired. I said no, you can’t fire me. I said, here’s what I’ll do. Give me my job right back. This is what I’m going to do. This is my plan, and I’m going to make it and within two years, I made manager major markets. So it worked. But yeah, I literally in the middle of my sales career was fired. And it was because I wasn’t doing what I said I was going to do it. It was my own. It was my own fault. I deserved it, Kristen. I deserve to get fired. Because I was at a sour attitude. I was just not not in a good spot. I don’t know really specifically what it was, but I was goofing off.

KRISTEN:       And and that night when you were fired. Did you go home and right out this whole plan?

CATE:       No, no no, I licked my wounds. broke out. Yeah, licked my wounds then I woke up and I said, Oh, wait a second. I’m not fired. Fired, are you kidding me. I think I put the plan together that day, it might have been like that, like, the end of that day is I called and I said, Oh, yeah, we need to meet the next day, whatever it was. So yeah,

KRISTEN:       A true salesperson.

CATE:       Yeah, exactly. I was like, Wait a second, that it’s not gonna happen.

KRISTEN:       You’re definitely somebody who goes after what they want, and you will not stop until you get it.

CATE:       That’s, that’s, that’s true. That’s true. And I think, you know, I, but I think I’ve learned that there is there is a way to get what you want, meaning, you know, you’ve got to do things the right way. Right. So I’ve done I’ve done things the wrong way. And I you know, I think things could have been done, you know, but they are what they are at this point, you know what I mean? And if I don’t learn and take advantage of, you know, my shortcomings, if you will, or my failures, then I’m never going to to be you know, no, I’m never going to grow you know, and I’ll and I don’t want to make the same mistake twice, right? So, you know, you can you can learn or you can, you know, not learn right, I guess there’s really there’s no there’s no wisdom in that statement, by the way at all.

KRISTEN:       You can learn or you can not learn.

CATE:       There you have it.

KRISTEN:       Simple as that.
What are some ways that you either stay mindful or maybe there’s some monthly or quarterly or even daily rituals that you might do to make sure that you keep yourself in check that you are focusing on those priorities and not slipping into any of those habits that you don’t want?

CATE:       You know, I’m I’m still very much a look at your day. See what you need to prioritize what what has to get done on that day. I mean, I have three different color coded lists. color code or right, love the colors and then from a personal perspective, that work life balance, you know, that’s it’s that making sure that that balance that is balanced out physically as well. I keep, I stay in shape that helps me mentally that’s my, that’s my mental stability is constantly making sure that you know, I’m doing something physically.

KRISTEN:       That’s great as a business owner, being able to take that time for yourself and being a mom, being a wife, being able to take that time for yourself to give you like you said that that sort of mental stability and physical stability at the same time.

CATE:       Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

KRISTEN:       That’s great. Any, any last words of wisdom that you want to leave women with whether they’re looking to advance in their current company, or they’re looking to make a jump into entrepreneurship?

CATE:      First of all, if they are a Women-Owned business to support the culture at WBENC is excellent the support that you get for toward, you know, having that certification, and being able to leverage that amongst the Fortune 500 and 1000s is, is abundant. I would also say that, believe in yourself, because when it seems like you really don’t want to put one foot in front of the other, if you just put the foot in front, and then put the next foot in front, and then put the next foot in front and just continue to do the right thing, things will happen, things will happen. So that’s what I would leave you with.

KRISTEN:      Great, Cate Heaman, from Prelude Solutions. Thank you so much for being on Made To Be, this has been fantastic, and I really appreciate your time.

CATE:      Thank you so much.

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Episode Credits:

Produced by: Philly Made Creative

Host/Producer: Kristen Berman

Producer/Sound Engineer/Music Supervisor/Editor: Kristen Berman

Kristen Berman

Kristen Berman

Kristen Berman is a Creative Designer & Producer with over 10 years of experience leading projects that span across advertising, branding, marketing, and media production. She co-founded Philly Made Creative in 2014 and holds a B.A. in Communication Studies from Rowan University. Her work has elevated businesses in a variety of industries such as manufacturing, construction, food service, and education. She is also the host and producer of the podcast, Made To Be, and has interviewed extraordinary women at companies such as Campbell’s Soup, Ford, and Intel. Kristen encourages women, no matter their path in life, to achieve their dreams.