Today marks 35 years on this bright blue ball we call Earth.
In an indulgent act of true self care, I'm treating myself to the day off. My out of office says that I'll respond to emails tomorrow when I am older, and potentially wiser too.
Truth be told, some serious childhood medical issues meant that this (nor any) birthdays were guaranteed, so I make sure to treat each one as special. I don't have enough words to express my gratitude for every single candle.
Yet this birthday has had me in a pensive mood lately, especially as this business continues to grow and change. Whether we like or not the personal and the professional do blend (and yes, we've all seen the LinkedIn backlash that can happen), especially as entrepreneurs. Who we are and our lived experience is so closely tied to our business - the two can never be entirely separate.
Thus, here are a few things I've picked up over the years that likely wouldn't hurt for every business owner's toolkit. They all take practice, and I make more mistakes than anyone, but these are the guideposts that I've at least been trying to follow so far.
Lead with kindness
Nothing goes further in life than kindness, especially as an entrepreneur. We may do great work, but we're dependent on our clients' kindness - the ones who hire us, the ones who keep coming back, and especially the ones who tell others about our work.
Kindness goes beyond that though - it's how we engage with each other, as well. It's about how we support our colleagues, our industry, our business community, and the community at large. It's about how we give back, not just to get our name out there but because it's the right thing to do. It's about how we give our time to those who ask for our advice or help. It's about how we give time back to our friends, family, or even ourselves when we power down.
Kindness is like a boomerang - keep putting it out there, and it keeps on coming back to you.
This can be a hard one, especially when you're a Gemini like me who loves jumping in with your own take. Yet when you lose your fear of silence, it's amazing what can actually come out of those pauses. When given the opportunity, people will say exactly what they want and need to say.
Listen to your clients when they tell you what they want. Ask questions, and then keep listening for the answers. Not every client experience may be smooth sailing, but people are always happier when they feel that they've been heard. Also, listen to feedback, even if it's critical. Take it in, and give it some serious consideration. You may not agree, and you may not act on it, but it may open your eyes to a whole new way of looking at things.
This one is obviously a passion of mine given all of my posts on networking, but I stand by it. A colleague asked me yesterday whether I was still doing business development or was simply busy enough with referrals. I said that both are often true, and that's okay! Referrals are the lifeblood of so many businesses, but without continuing to meet new people, they can eventually dry up!
Even if you're swamped, take what time you can to keep meeting new people. Attend a networking event, or even just an event in your local community. Say yes to that party invite, or drop into that gathering that you know is happening. Check in with colleagues in your industry, and find even brief pockets of time to catch each other up on things. The best that can happen is you might get a new client. The worst that can happen is you might make a new friend.
Keep showing your face, and keep showing up. It's hard to send someone business if you don't know (or worse - completely forget) that they're out there!
Try something new
There's a great axiom about 'do one thing and do it well,' and that works for some businesses, but it can make most of us look as stale as an old loaf of bread. Even those companies keep finding new ways to innovate, or launching new products. Coca Cola has countless flavour varieties, even after the 'New Coke' of the 80s failed. Crayola may make their standard colours forever, but even they keep adding new ones, along with markers and other products.
Last year I tried something new by developing my first course. This year I'll be launching my first podcast (along with my awesome colleague - more to come on that!), and maybe a few other things as well. Keep innovating in your business, and thinking even a little outside the box. Some ideas will work, and some may not, but you truly never know until you try.
Blaze a trail
In the legal world, the path to success traditionally has been a line as straight as any ruler. In entrepreneurship though, that line looks a lot more like a zig-zag or a squiggle.
There is no one right way to be a business owner, and there is no one 'right way' to run your business! It's your business! Sure we all look at industry trends and others' successes for inspiration, but who says that we all need to follow that same path? Some of history's most successful entrepreneurs got there from doing things that the rest of the world thought was crazy.
I wouldn't be here today if I'd kept following that straight line. So go ahead, make a curve, blaze a new trail. May it be the best decision that you've ever made.
And, with that, I'm off for my obnoxiously festive free Starbucks.
Enjoy the day!