HOMETOWN: Delmar, NY until 6th grade, then Plattsburgh, NY
FAMILY: High school sweetheart-turned-husband Rob; adult children Beck, Anna, and Reinhart
EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science in Health from SUNY Cortland
OCCUPATION: New York State contract counselor, Mediator at the Rural Law Center
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Adult Sunday school teacher, First Presbyterian Church
Sally Meisenheimer spent the first season of her adult life as a military wife. Her early history fits the profile — moving seven times in 11 years, raising three children and tirelessly adapting her professional contributions in impressive ways to fit the needs of each new community. In 1993, the young family moved back to Plattsburgh to settle down after spending time abroad in Germany where Meisenheimer was a stay at home mom. She began piecing a career together at that time, looking for human services related roles to continue to pursue her passion for helping people live their best lives.
She eventually found her professional home as a contract counselor offering vocational rehabilitation services through a state agency called ACCES/VR and she has been there for over 22 years. “I was the first person in the North Country region to do privatized contract work for this state agency,” she proudly shared. Along the way she added a new part-time role as a mediator at the Rural Law Center. I like working with conflict, and I wanted to have that skill,” she explained. She was not looking for work when she started training to become a mediator and become certified to volunteer at the courts doing small claims. Her good work was noticed, and she was offered a paid position, which she accepted for the satisfaction of the work. “I already had a job and did not need another, but I like the work,” she commented.
After attaining a certain mid-life birthday milestone, Meisenheimer recognized her children were grown and launched, and she needed to find something purposeful to do with the next phase of her life. Since then she has had a hand in starting some very public and influential projects centered around personal development, self-reflection and healing. She partnered with fellow life coach Michele Armani to form Style & Substance and write a regular advice column. “We have clients, we coach people and help them get their lives back on track,” Meisenheimer clarified. She is also co-organizer of the Vinspire monthly talk series and a key contributor to the annual Evening of Healing event.
Following are excerpts from Strictly Business’ interview with Sally Meisenheimer.
SB: What did your experience as a military wife teach you?
SM: We lived in Germany for three and a half years. Rob went to the first Gulf War, and for that time we did not know if he would come back. Being an officer’s wife was a tremendous experience as a woman. I learned about sisterhood and support. You don’t have to know some- body forever to be helpful and supportive to them. People just showed up to help when you needed it. I learned a lot about showing up in a relationship.
SB: What important lessons did you learn early in your career?SM: I learned that I like freedom and I like to be able to be creative and not do things the way they have always been done. I like to help people to be successful. I like getting to know people and really figuring out what makes them tick. I like a deep connection with people.
SB: Who was your most influential mentor?
SM: My best mentor was my mother. My mom died when she was 51 and I was 23. She was the valedictorian of her college class but never really worked because that was not what women did at the time. She made my father a better guy. She was vibrant and funny and didn’t take herself too seriously. She wasn’t showy, she just did things because they were the right thing to do and didn’t need any recognition. I think that is where a lot of my personality comes through. I like people to know who I am and to be a part of the community but I do not need to be an important person.
SB: What does success look like for you?
SM: It is a countenance and a way of being. Having vibrancy, good nature and a positive, helpful attitude. I love the game of making money but I am not overly impressed by people who want to impress me.
SB: Who inspires you?
SM: Regular, everyday people. My clients, my co-workers, my family. my friends. My pets are inspiring to me. They are funny and so real. I think there is inspiration in everybody. I am a pretty deep observer.
SB: How do you feel you have inspired or mentored others?
SM: I hope that my sense of humor, innate curiosity and true interest in people allows them to feel a sense of belonging and importance when they interact with me. My personal motto is, ‘Your success is my success,’ and I always try to let people see their own capabilities.
SB: What habits do you have that contribute to your success?
SM: Laughing, finding and sharing the humor in things with people. Being brave and asking people things that maybe no one else is paying attention to. I tell people things that they might find hard to hear but could be holding them back from their success. Some people are afraid to tell others important things that could help them because they are afraid of hurting their feelings.
SB: What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
SM: When I was young my mother stressed to me that I should get my education first, and then after I got married, to move far, far away. She thought that would make a stronger relationship, where no one on the outside could influence it so that it will be purely our own.
SB: What advice would you offer to someone starting his or her business career?
SM: I think there is a lot of pressure these days that once you have a Bachelor’s degree you have to make a bunch of money right away in order to be successful.
Don’t be too picky. Put yourself out there and try new things. Get in somewhere and see what you enjoy, knowing you can grow from there. Hard work and a positive attitude will pay off.
SB: You write a regular advice column, what have you learned from responding to people?
SM: Problems are universal. Getting to know people and sharing issues is important and helps you realize that everybody has them.
Writing the column has helped me come up with creative solutions that can be applied broadly. The goal of the column is not to answer a specific question, it is more about sharing an answer that anybody could apply to some aspect of their lives.
SB: What is one thing no one would guess about you?
SM: I am a rescuer of dogs running in busy streets. I have made five successful rescues already and I am ready for more. I also hope to own a goat someday – maybe two goats….and a donkey and some chickens.
SB: How would you like to be remembered?
SM: I want to be remembered as someone who created relationships that are long lasting and fulfilling, as someone who people can trust and turn to for comfort and support. I would like people to have a warm feeling about me. This makes me cry, but I like it when I meet friends of my children who tell me how much they admire our family from their interactions with my kids. My family is so important to me. If we did nothing else right, we nailed that. Our family is awesome.