This year has been a huge year in which growth has happened in leaps and bounds for both myself and for She Takes on the World. These are a few of the major things that happened this year:
- Started the year as a freshly incorporated company, woohoo
- My book was born (after a 2 year gestation period!)
- I won a big pitch competition for tech start-ups, beating out a lot of male competitors
- WE Mastermind had a huge launch with our digital mastermind program for women entrepreneurs
- I hosted my first major live event, the WE Mastermind Retreat with Natalie Sisson –in the Caribbean no less
- I received a Distinguished Alumni Award at the University of Waterloo
- I had over 100 press features, including a couple magazine covers
- I raised angel funding to expand the mission and reach of She Takes on the World in 2013
I’ve learned more in the past 12 months than any other year since becoming an entrepreneur as an ambitious teenager. I put a huge emphasis on personal growth and development this year too, which I think has made a world of difference in my life.
I worked with top coaches and mentors who have helped me work through everything from getting rid of any remaining limiting beliefs holding me back to negotiating term sheets for a funding deal. I’ve also had the opportunity to continue meeting the women in business who have inspired me the most.
I have been very fortunate to be part of a mastermind group that has elevated my entrepreneurial smarts to new levels, and I spent a few months in an intense incubator to nurture and plan for the next stages of She Takes on the World. I have been pushed beyond limits, way outside my comfort zone, by people who believe very strongly in my potential. That process has completely transformed my life and how I’m looking at my company now, compared to a year ago.
I’ve picked out some of the main lessons and confessions from the past year, which will hopefully help you as you continue on your entrepreneurial journey. I’ve split the lessons into business and personal growth since I’ve spent equal amount of time working on revolutionizing both of those areas.
I Need Help
Those three words are really %$&#ing difficult for me to say. But I learned to say them this year, over and over and over again. I’m better for it too. We all need help from time to time as a variety of issues come up in our businesses and personal lives, and a solid support system of friends, mentors, and people you can really trust to have your back is a saving grace.
“It’s My Party, and I’ll Hug If I Want To”
Handshakes are cool, but hugs are the greatest way to greet someone and say bye when you know them. I usually don’t hug people for a first meeting, but by the third or fourth I usually feel I know someone well enough to hug instead. For my book launch events though, a lot of people were excited to be there, some had been following me online for awhile, and there were a lot of hugs going around instead of handshakes.
One woman (who I hadn’t hugged by the way!) didn’t like the hugging going on and scoffed, “Hugging is no way to build respect and a brand. I sure hope you’re not like this all the time!” To which I smiled and replied, “It’s my party and I’ll hug if I want to!” Maybe not the best response, but I don’t want to be told how to greet someone. I just do what feels right.
Legal Issues Are Going to Happen as You Grow
I had a crazy year legally speaking. My amazing lawyer who helped me incorporate She Takes on the World Inc. passed away suddenly in the spring. David, I miss you!
I raised funding which was legal-intensive, and it was also the first year I had to deal with someone threatening legal action. The latter was happening as I was dealing with the passing of my aunt, who died of cancer. It really took a toll emotionally, but it helped to have a lawyer assuring me that there was no case and I had nothing to worry about. He also helped with responses to emails and correspondence so that I didn’t respond from an emotional place.
All of these things taught me the value of having a great relationship with a lawyer or two. The last things I want to think about are legal issues, lawsuits, and 20+ page contracts, but it’s inevitable when you’re building a company. In fact, when I went to meet with my lawyer about the legal issue, his response was: “Congratulations Natalie, you’re not truly an entrepreneur until you have to deal with bullshit like this!” Having a lawyer I know I can trust and turn to seriously helps me sleep at night.
Check Your Emotions
This one sort of goes hand in hand with my lessons learned through legal issues. When you’re dealing with a crappy situation, which in my case was a potential lawsuit with someone who used to be a friend, it’s very easy to let emotions get the best of you. I was fortunate to have a mentor, lawyer, and business partner who reminded me not to respond from an emotional place.
It took a lot of meditation and hot yoga sessions, but I made it through and I have found other outlets for releasing emotions rather than letting them control how I respond to external circumstances.
Never Ignore Your Gut Feeling
I already knew this one but I experienced a lapse in judgment and decided that maybe my gut feeling not to do something was just because I was afraid my life was going to change. So I got to learn this lesson again and I feel it’s more deeply embedded in my soul now
Going for Coffee Wastes a Helluva Lot of Time
“I would love the opportunity to go for a quick coffee sometime” is a message I receive a lot. So it was no surprise that when I decided to investigate where I lose the most productivity time, the biggest time suck was saying yes to going for coffee with pretty much everyone who asked. Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting new people and helping people whenever I can but at this stage in my company’s growth I need every hour I can get my hands on. Moving forward, I’ll be guarding my time vigilantly which will mean having to say “no” more often.
LESSONS IN PERSONAL GROWTH
Saying “No” Doesn’t Make You Selfish
This ties into the last business lesson I shared. When I used to say “no” to people when they requested pretty much anything they requested of me, I would feel like the worst person in the world. I’ve done some serious internal work this year to let go of that and look at my time as being one of the most precious things in life.
There’s Only One Oprah
I was answering questions at an event I was speaking at and someone asked me, “Do you want to be Oprah in 20 years? I feel that’s the kind of ambition you have.” Before I blurted out “Who doesn’t want to be Oprah?!” I paused for a few seconds. Am I really ambitious? Yes. Do I want to reach millions of people around the world through my company? Yes. Do I want to do television? Yes. But do I want to be Oprah? No. No one can be Oprah. There’s only one Oprah, just like there’s only one ME baby! And I’m really happy being me.
Put Your Opinions Out There, Haters and All
I’m really passionate about women’s empowerment and making sure every girl in the world has an education and the opportunity to achieve her fullest potential. When I voice my opinions on the subject, the haters come out and the hate mail pours in.
I even received death threats when my TEDx Talk went live about women being the largest untapped block of human potential. I wish we lived in a world where people could respect other people’s opinions and views while engaging in healthy debate, but we don’t. When you put yourself out there, you’re going to get judged and people are going to try and put you down. But you have to put yourself out there anyway.
If this is something you have trouble with, pick up Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly.
Giving and Receiving Are the Same
A Course in Miracles has led to many personal growth breakthroughs for me and the way I see giving and receiving is one of those breakthroughs. Giving has always brought me great joy, whether it’s giving time, love, money, help, knowledge, you name it, but A Course in Miracles still shifted my perspective. In a nutshell, the Course says that to have something you must first give it. If you give something away, contrary to popular belief, you never have less of it. It’s a hard concept for many to grasp but it’s how I see things now.
Play By Your Own Rules
Rules have a place in our lives but as I’ve been stepping into my personal power I’ve also been creating my own set of rules along the way. Those rules will continue to evolve and guide the next year.
So what’s next in 2013? You’ll have to wait and see In the meantime, I want to hear from YOU. What was the biggest lesson you learned this year?
Disclosure: I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.