If recent news headlines have you wishing for a safe haven, please read this!! Many of the “safe” jobs, relationships and habits that we have are exactly the situations that we need to change. Complacency is a tempting habit and change is scary for most adults. However, as Robin Sharma, says,” In the new world of business, the riskiest place you can be is trying to do the same things in the same way as you’ve always done them. Few things are as foolish as hoping old behaviors will somehow present new results.” Why is that?
May I share a personal life lesson? In my early twenties I was offered a management position in a glamorous new hotel in the nation’s capital. With great excitement we worked as part of an opening team. It was common for me to put in 90 hours a week to hire, train and eventually manage what turned out to be the most successful restaurant in a world renowned hotel chain. We had many fun experiences but as time went on, the “boss” became increasingly loud and irate with staff and customers. He regularly got into confrontations with cooks, lounge staff and even guests. The atmosphere was tense and political when he was on the floor. The stress became so onerous that a number of my friends and colleagues left, one based on his doctor’s recommendation. When I was offered a new position 14 months later, I felt guilty leaving behind all those staff I was trying to support, but I fled!! I also promised myself that in future I would only do work I LOVED. Security was not a driving force because I felt that job security was gained by having a lot to offer. The changing world of restaurants taught me that the only security I had was in learning and developing me.
My next job was to develop a comprehensive, Monday to Friday course on all aspects of running a business. On the first day of this program to support start up entrepreneurs, I began with a question. I asked everyone in the room how much they loved their work and future business. I suggested that if they did not LOVE what they were about to do, often over long days and weeks; now was the time to reconsider. Many of the faces of those entrepreneurs seemed to say to me, “Easy for you to say!! My next comment was,”You may feel this is easy for me to say…IT IS, because that is what I do. I do work I love and my sincere wish for you is that you are passionate about the work you do. You are going to spend many hours and weeks and days starting and running your business. The passion you have will help you ride the waves!!!
As a manager who loved the hospitality business I always hoped to hire the top 5% performers. We were told to hire for attitude and train the skills and that was a key factor to our success. When I had a bus boy or server who seemed to have fun, cared for our customers and continually looked for better ways to do their job, I looked for ways to promote and support them!! All of my best servers or managers or busboys put their heart and soul into serving others. Mediocrity was hard to maintain in a restaurant because your tips reflected your service and your attitude.
In a restaurant you meet every type of person. When we were at our best, we enjoyed meeting museum curators, construction workers, famous people, politicians, mothers and children, every person who sat down with a menu. We were aware that we might be serving tired or lonely or hungry or sad or happy or busy people. We enjoyed meeting excited and enthusiastic people. We might have met you and your family. We had to be aware and we needed to care. We looked for ways to serve you that day. If you wanted to be alone we were quiet and unassuming. If you and your husband were having a night out and wanted to get to know us, we obliged.
What if every individual you encountered in a day were interested in providing you whatever you needed at that moment? What if they were all intuitive enough to sense your needs and sincerely cared about serving you to the best of their ability? How would your life change? How have you felt when you’ve been able to do that for other people? Do you feel you’ve made a difference? Has anyone ever appeared to help you when you needed it most and just as magically left without fanfare and you wished you’d had the presence of mind to say thank you? Have you been that person? It feels good to be a giver and a receiver in my experience!!
So, should we all go out and open restaurants? No, there are many ways to share our gifts and find fulfilling work. As an entrepreneur you can create a business that is valued enough by others that they are willing to pay you and that you are fortunate to be skilled at doing. How do you determine what that might be? You can hire a coach, talk to friends, do skills assessment, and talk to your family. All of these worked for our clients. AND, when that contract ended, I found myself where you may be right now. Wondering what to do next? Asking myself what did I love doing? What did others tell me I was good at? What did I feel I was good at? What gave me energy and sparked my imagination and enthusiasm? So I listened to former clients, colleagues and friends and in a few months, I began an exciting new chapter of my life as a coach, trainer, and speaker.
As I started Clarity coaching and facilitation, I was able to answer the question I asked all of the entrepreneurs and business leaders we coached and advised. Wendy, “Do you love what you do enough to prosper and flourish in good times and during recessions? Can you deal with long hours and administration while wearing many hats? Fortunately I can still answer YES to that question!! I love the challenge, the creativity, the learning and most of the time, the uncertainty!!
Jim Harris wrote a fabulous book called The Learning Paradox. In it he said that, “Job security is based on learning, changing and accepting uncertainty. Paradoxically these are what we as adults fear most! We have moved from a knowledge-based to a learning-based economy.” Well, I’ve spoken to more than 1600 entrepreneurs and we have all had to learn, change and accept uncertainty.”
What have I learned in those 10 years? Well, I’m trying to keep this article short but let me share one of the answers to that question. My clients and experiences have taught me that persistence is a key trait in a successful entrepreneur. Every trait including persistence has a dark side, so I have had to ask myself, if I am persisting in the right areas, for the right reasons at the right time, with the right people or do I need to reassess? As many of my clients have said, and I can now agree with feeling; owning your own business can be an emotional roller coaster.
The great news is that if you can develop a support system in the form of mentors, coaches or leaders who understand you and your business. It will make the whole journey more pleasurable and successful. I have been blessed to have some wonderful mentors and coaches who still continue to take an active interest in my business and my life. Now I have the honor and privilege of being able to offer that to entrepreneurs and leaders in many types of organizations. This complex and rapidly changing business world has taught me and others that we can make a difference no matter what our talents and abilities are. We all need good coaches and mentors.