When I started my business five years ago, I didn't have a clear map of where I was headed. I knew where I was leaving – the uncertain world of journalism that was changing at a rapid (and often unpaid) clip. I knew I had filed for divorce and had three small children, the youngest of whom was just one year old. I knew I would keep the house as it had appraised dangerously low and I knew I would have to pay a nanny to be with my little one until he was old enough for preschool. What I didn't know, after ten years of freelancing for publications local and distant, was how I'd keep a steady stream of income rolling in.
And so I hatched an idea – a way to work with businesses that had money to pay me – and use my communication skills to benefit everyone involved. Somehow, I landed my first client, Hiller's Markets
, and began a journey that quickly morphed into a full-scale marketing, public relations and business development company.
I operated on instinct, never looking too far ahead or voicing the what-ifs that plagued my sleepless nights. I did the work in front of me and went to yoga when the kids were with their father and hoped that we'd all be ok. I founded my business on a belief that if you build strategic relationships, you will grow your business.
And when people told me that was a stupid idea, I stubbornly soldiered on, believing that what my gut told me held some shred of truth.
It did, and it all worked out OK. So much so that five years later, I've moved from the home office to a recently renovated pay-the-lease office in Southfield, and have two part-timers and one full-timer working for me.
And all these clients who are driven by a desire to make the world better, one client at a time.
What I didn't see five years ago when I was setting out on the entrepreneur's path was that if you're working for the money, you'll always struggle. But if you're working to contribute, to be of service, to build community and to care about others, you'll always have more than enough.
Entrepreneurship is a perspectives game. It's an exercise in defining your very being, in understanding why you're standing on level ground, what your role is in the fast-paced scheme of life.
It's not just I-have-a-great-idea or I-am-so-much-smarter-than-the-rest. It's constantly focusing on a goal of helping, of building, of contributing. And that is a very different ride.
There was a time when I swore off wearing pants and tank tops for religiously-sanctioned modest attire, ate only kosher food and covered my curly hair with hats. I did so to belong to a religious community I was part of for ten years. I checked every observance off the list – muttered prayers before and after every meal, refrained from working on the Sabbath, had three kids in four years.
But something was missing.
In some weird way, I became my most spiritual through my work. I spent ten years living a religious lifestyle but in that time, I worried more about surface concerns than anything with depth. When I took off the hats and reclaimed my clothing, people in that community stopped being my friends – and I started seeing the world differently.
You can follow all the rules, satisfy the concerns and judgments of others, but that doesn't mean your life will amount to anything meaningful. For that to happen, you have to peel away the outer layers and really hunker down into the depths of your soul to KNOW what it is you're meant to do, in your own unique way.
How many business people look at their work this way? We live in a society where it's either punch-a-clock-to-collect-a-paycheck or it's gimme-gimme-gimme until you have more than anyone else. More awards, more money, more fame, more notoriety.
I'm happy to say that the clients I attract are those who care deeply. They take skills and degrees and put them to work on behalf of helping heal the world. That may sound hokey, but it's absolutely true. My clients are different kinds of business owners. They see the world differently. They have become my teachers.
The CEO of one client, Woodward Asset Capital
, explained the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement like this: The vision is the private mandate that's etched into the glass of the window above your desk. As every project and task arrives, you check in with that etching to make sure it's in the purview of what you intend to do. The mission is for the public domain to consume, it's the face you put to the world.
When you work with a higher purpose driving your every step, you're sure to succeed because your job is not simply to do work and get paid. It's to raise the conversation to a higher level. Enhance the vibration of society at-large.
Here's what I've learned in my five years of entrepreneurship: it's not about me. It never was.