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Consultants focus on rich

John Seelmeyer

“The rich,” F. Scott Fitzgerald was misquoted as telling Ernest Hemingway, “are different than you and me.”

Liz Christoffersen and her team at Reno-based Empower Consulting Group have found success as they work with a growing number of clients around the world who want to learn how to sell to those people who are different than you and me.

And the answer is entirely not the one famously provided by Hemingway: “They have more money.”

Instead, Christoffersen and her fellow principals in the firm Pete Christoffersen and Tony and Barbara Young tell their clients in fields such as luxury real estate that the very wealthy make their buying decisions differently than other consumers.

Decisions aren’t made over the kitchen table. Instead, they are likely to involve a web of advisors and a careful due diligence.

And the values that the very wealthy seek from their purchases exclusivity, the possible creation of a legacy often are different than the value sought by other consumers.

“It’s very much about the service experience,” says Christoffersen, the company’s founder and chief executive officer.

Since its founding in 2005, Empower Consulting has advised major real estate developers such as Four Seasons, Intrawest and Westin/Starwood, and the firm’s professionals are on the phone at all hours of the day and night as they work with executives around the world.

“Our customers are not struggling,” says Christoffersen. “Our customers are already successful and want to become more so.”

The firm’s counsel has been so good that it was named “Most Valued Partner” last autumn by the Who’s Who of Luxury Real Estate, a network of 120,000 real estate brokers.

But Empower Consulting is not a firm that drops in, runs a half-day seminar and jets out.

“We are not engaging with clients unless we are engaged all the way through the change process,” says Young.

And in most cases, that process includes a combination of strategic planning with leadership development and coaching a combination that can take months to implement.

It’s also a process that doesn’t lend itself to a go-go pace.

“We’re very much focused on slow growth,” says Christoffersen.

Even at a slow pace, however, the company’s leadership team projects that Empower Consulting will grow methodically to $10 million sales within five years.

A good chunk of that growth is expected to come from Europe and other international markets. Young and his wife, Barbara, who is the company’s vice president of client engagement, have long experience in international sales and management.

A simple question from Christoffersen’s husband in 2005 “What do you really want to do?” led the creation of Empower Consulting Group.

She’d come to Reno to work as chief operating officer of Dickson Realty and had helped develop strategy at resort developer Intrawest before deciding to strike out on her own.


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