After Stan Kimer retired from IBM 10 years ago, with 31 years tenure at the company, he formed a diversity training and consulting firm. Called Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer, the Raleigh, NC, business hummed along nicely for a while, until Covid hit, and demand almost totally dried up. Then came the murder of George Floyd and the national racial reckoning that followed, and quite suddenly the phone started ringing off the hook—and continues to do so today. “I went from almost nothing to operating more than full-time,” he says.
Becoming an Entrepreneur
As part of his benefits package, Kimer had access to a year of career transition coaching that was available to retirees. He decided to make the most of the service and work with a coach on a plan he’d long pondered—becoming an entrepreneur. “Working at IBM, I was a little fish in a huge pond,” he says. “I viewed this opportunity as challenge to myself.”
During those three decades at IBM, Kimer had done a variety of jobs, from marketing brand manager to director of sales operations. But one of his gigs was a four-year stint as corporate diversity manager for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender diversity. He’d found it particularly rewarding. “It was the most fun I ever had in a job,” he says. That, he decided, would be the remit of his new company.
So he set out his shingle, planning to work part time. Little by little, Kimer added to his expertise, what he calls “my portfolio of diversity knowledge.” He helped one company with its first employee to go through a gender transition. He worked with another on diversity training. He developed workshops on unconscious bias.
Going Beyond Statements
The business grew steadily until March, 2020, when it fell off a proverbial cliff. Then came the killing of George Floyd. “All of a sudden there was immense interest from companies in DEI training and strategy,” he says. “I had clients who realized they couldn’t just issue a statement. They had to start changing their own internal practices.” That interest has only increased since then, with the 2021 murders in Atlanta of eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent, and last May’s attack at a Buffalo, NY, grocery store in a mostly Black neighborhood, during which 10 people were killed and three wounded, among other tragedies.
He’s also added more services, like helping companies launch employee resource groups and diversity councils. The latter are groups of 15 or so employees who volunteer to help drive a company’s diversity strategy. And he’s working on setting up inclusive recruiting programs.
About ten years ago, on a trip to Kenya, Kimer learned about the struggles of the people of Mtito Andei, Kenya, and the Kamba tribe, who faced high rates of poverty and HIV infection. With that in mind, he donated seed money to build the Kimer Kamba Cultural Center, which provides vocational training, HIV prevention education and help with boosting economic growth through cultural tourism.
Then there’s the figure skating. About seven years ago, at age 59, Kimer took up the sport. He recently won a gold medal in the bronze level for skaters age 66 and older at the U.S. Adult National Championships. He says he’s amassed three clients through contacts he’s made at skating events.