This month marks my seventh anniversary as an entrepreneur. (And it’s a sweet coincidence that I write this on Labor Day.)
It was in 2009, four months after I gave birth to my second child that I decided to slowly build a creative studio/agency. It started as a three-man team: me, my husband Marc, and a freelance designer we hired over Starbucks coffee ☺
It wasn’t easy. I essentially held two jobs for a year: I was still Managing Editor of Preview Magazine then, so I would do that during the day and work on our little business venture at early morning and then again at night. It was only after a year later that I would quit my full-time job and focus on growing the company.
A lot of things have happened since. The business is not so little anymore, but it also isn’t that huge. (We prefer to keep it a boutique agency.) But we’ve managed to not just keep it alive but also grow it by hiring more people and adding services in our portfolio. (We also started this other thing, by the way.) I’ve also grown confident in the company’s ability to run on its own (well, not entirely on its own, but you know what I mean…) that I even decided to go back to my first love: magazine publishing.
So now—because I apparently don’t like things easy (ha!)—I’m back to where I was in 2009: juggling two jobs. It really is not easy, but if there’s anything I’ve learned in those many moments when I seriously questioned my sanity, it’s this: you can do almost anything when you will your mind to focus on what’s right in front of you.
Mindfulness is just one of the many things I’ve learned in my seven years as an entrepreneur/boss. Here are some more:
This is my version of the “golden rule” at work. It really is so simple but you’ll be amazed at how so many people forget either half of that statement from time to time—especially when it’s convenient for them.
By nice I don’t mean “soft.” I am firm. I can be very demanding at work, and I have almost zero tolerance for mediocrity or a lack of attention to detail. I expect great work… but I don’t beat it out of people! I always try to never be mean or demeaning.
Respect begets respect, plain and simple. Don’t be that a**ho** at work.
Always. I have this almost obsessive need to be fair at work, and I’m glad it has never backfired on me. It’s only rewarded me. By playing fair, I feel like I earn people’s trust, and that for me is so important. Knowing your people trust you makes it easier to make those tough calls (you know, the ones that make you look like the proverbial bad cop). You know they’ll probably hate the decision, but you can trust that they’ll understand (and believe) that the intention comes from a good, honest place.
This is something I tell people I work with. Own that project; own your position; own that task. Ownership gives them pride, but it also teaches them accountability.
As a boss, it is the biggest compliment to be called a mentor. Seek to teach others, but also don’t fail to learn from them. There’s always something to learn from everyone you work with. Never think that a person is too young / too junior / too inexperienced. You yourself haven’t experienced everything.
Encourage everyone to have a voice.
First, let me clarify: I have the great privilege of working with some of the best people in my industry. But I refuse to believe that anyone should be indispensable. That would be the death of a company. It’s like that saying: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Never invest in just one person in your company. Invest in everyone so that should someone leave—because someone always does, unfortunately—it never feels like the end of the world for you and the team.
And I most certainly don’t think I’m indispensable. That would be the death of my personal growth.
There was a time in my career when I felt absolutely overwhelmed. I just felt like I was being pulled in a hundred different directions. And then a wise person addressed my problem very simply: “Be mindful. Stay in the now.”
As moms, we’re trained multi-taskers, and mindfulness is something I had to work hard on. Being more mindful has helped me process things better, helped me make more intelligent decisions. It has allowed me to breathe and not worry too much. I’ve felt less consumed the minute I trained myself to be more mindful.
So now, every day for even just three minutes, I take a deep breath, clear my thoughts, and meditate. It really works to “recharge” your mind.
I’m all about managing emotions at work; I’m the first one to roll my eyes when an office drama unfolds. BUT, I also don’t believe in going through your work like a robot. You shouldn’t be afraid to feel happiness, delight, excitement, anger, frustration, and disappointment. And you can even express these feelings. What’s key is how you communicate an emotion.
The energy you put out is the energy you will get in return. That’s true in life and at work. Be empowered and empowering.
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