year end self review

year in review: lessons in entrepreneurship, health & life

An entrepreneur who started her business just before the global COVID-19 pandemic hit explores business ownership lessons and what really matters.

About a year ago, the company I worked for notified us that a bigger firm was buying us. The chilling and abrupt sentence accompanied this, “There will be job loss.” I remember thinking, “Yeah, but not ME. I built this department. My team crushes everyone else in our category.” It only took about eight weeks for the truth to sink in. I was marketing leadership, yet I was toast. It really was only up to me how I wanted to go out. I decided to invest in myself and work with a remarkable life coach, Julie Brendich of Harmony & Success. The truth is I had no idea how to go about the decisions I was about to make. I had this blessing of time—a full year or more—to decide what I wanted my life to look like. I had many ideas, but I needed to deal with the fact that my dream job was being taken from me. Without that corporate ladder to climb, I didn’t really know who I was. Together with Julie, I worked through the choices ahead, for the first time in my life, intentionally designing what my life should be.

New job or business of my own?

In January of 2020, I got the LLC for my content marketing consultant business. Not knowing exactly the direction I wanted to take the business, I pressed forward, knowing that one way or another, entrepreneurship was part of my future. One of the areas that Julie and I worked on was whether I wanted a fancy new job or to take on entrepreneurship full time. Throughout our exercises, it became clear as day that I was utterly unwilling to let go of the idea of running my own business. It was non-negotiable. I had signed several clients quickly—all entrepreneurs struggling to find their voices as consultants and professional service providers—and I got more joy working with them than I ever did in a corporate job. That was the first surprise. The next surprise came from talking to the companies that knew I would soon be on the market and wanted to talk to me. Headhunters for corporations with big budgets that wanted me to relocate. Growing startups in my town with new VP positions for someone who could help them grow. I had to talk myself into even going to these interviews because my gut was not having any of it. A title and hitting the next rung suddenly didn’t matter to me anymore. That was a first. The one full-time job that appealed to me was with a boutique creative agency owned by a remarkable woman I had known for years. She invited me to coffee the very week that my company’s acquisition was announced. We talked about the agency and the work they did with changemakers—nonprofits, community banks, mission-driven companies—and how her whole reason for being was to put the megaphone in front of the good guys.

The title and hitting the next rung suddenly didn’t matter to me anymore. That was a first.

Their creative team is stunningly talented, and the work they do has a genuine impact. What they needed now was my brand of content strategy and digital marketing. And best of all, they were willing to wait for me until my current company acquisition was complete so I could see my team through the transition. How could I not want to be part of it? So, the day job vs. entrepreneurship question for me was not an either/or proposition when it came down to it. It was a both/and situation. I needed to run a stellar creative team. And I needed to grow this business of my own, helping entrepreneurs find their voices. I needed to choose both.

Full steam ahead

The fun thing about starting a business in January of 2020 is that I didn’t have to wait long for my first major challenge. By the end of February, it became clear that COVID-19 wasn’t just going to pass by. By the first week of March, my corporate job sent us all to work from home indefinitely. And with my workload ever lessening as we stopped creating new projects in preparation for the acquisition, I was gifted with time at home to grow my own business.

As it happens, the pandemic didn’t hurt my ability to grow. On the contrary, it provided me with a massive pool of new entrepreneurs at a loss of creating their own digital presence. I invested in a business coach and learning new skills. The major takeaway from this whole ordeal? If you want to learn more than you’ve ever learned in your life, and learn it fast, start a business. Between February and April, I created an online course, built a website, set up my funnels, learned Facebook ads, and created an email automation system. I even learned how to sell high-ticket offers on a Zoom call and about many other things I can’t think of right now.

Not everything matters. Focus on the few actions that will give you the best results.

Entrepreneurship is the ultimate zone of discomfort. You know your area of expertise well, of course. But when you get started, you truly don’t know shit about how to run a business. Taxes, infrastructure, tech stack, contracts, payment and refunds: everything is new. Everything is scary. And everything you learn grows you like crazy.

So here I was with everything to learn, a heap of new clients, and a stack of things to accomplish so I could grow, scale, and keep creating this thing I was becoming so proud of. AND I didn’t have the boundaries of a traditional 9-5 in-office setting to hem me in. So I accomplished a lot.  I also worked constantly. My sleep suffered because I was so jacked up with new ideas. I was doing everything by myself—all the time. My diet was terrible, and I felt like crap all the time. And then I started my new day job with the fabulous boutique agency. Things went from grind to double grind. I was still working with my coach, and we were able to disassemble this. I was doing the work I wanted to do, sure. But was THIS what I wanted my life to look like? A non-stop grind that was wrecking my health and straining my relationships.

Learning to ask for help

Through all the learning about a new entrepreneurship, it never occurred to me that I didn’t need to do everything myself – all the tech, admin, marketing, everything. I mean, it was my business, so wasn’t it my job to do everything? No. My job was to get my clients the transformation they needed and to find new clients. That’s it. So I found someone to handle my website and someone to handle my course portal. I found an awesome couple in New Zealand to deal with my funnels. I hired a full-time virtual assistant. I got someone to clean my house and do the yard work. And I finally found someone to handle my Facebook ads. The hardest part for me was that I actually knew how to do all these things. Overcoming the guilt of not doing these tasks myself and the belief that doing everything was some kind of badge of honor was a life-changing experience. 

Do I still do more than I should? Probably, but I do a lot less. The result has been that I can focus on what actually matters. My clients get more from me. My audience gets more of me. And the admin and tech is someone else’s problem.

Self-care matters

Unpopular opinion alert: I hate the term “self-care.” I always think of it as self-indulgent, navel-gazey nonsense that promotes facials and massage as a way to become a better person.  But I’ve accepted that real “self-care” is just giving my body and mind what they need. And I know now that my ability to give my clients what they need and grow my business creatively depends entirely on this kind of self-care. It’s about sleep. It’s about exercise. It’s about eating a high-protein, nutrient-rich diet. It’s about getting time to chill out with my kids and husband. It’s my meditation time. My performance suffers without this. So I have leaned on what I learned about getting help. I hired a virtual fitness and nutrition coach who completely changed the way I work out and eat. I joined a meditation and manifestation group and pushed myself into the realm of “woo woo” that I’ve never been comfortable with before. I take naps when I need to. I work out in the middle of the day. I pay myself first every day, doing what I need to do to make my mind and body strong so that I can give my business, my day job, and my family the best of me.

My job is to get my clients the transformation they needed. And to find new clients. That’s it.

The TLDR

If I had to sum up everything I have learned from losing my dream job, starting my own business, and finding a new dream job during a global pandemic, it would be this:

Not everything matters. Focus on the few actions that will give you the best results. For everything else? Hire it out. Or don’t do it. Not everything needs to get done. You need to take care of your body. You need to be there for your family. You need to take care of your clients. Everything else is extra freaking credit.

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