Today is our daughter’s 25th birthday. Quite a milestone. She has grown up to be a happy person, a successful nurse, and continues to be a bright, shining star in our lives. Every year for the last 24 years I’ve been telling her “the story of her birth” on the night before her birthday. This year, we celebrated with an evening out with her husband and in-laws, so I spared her the embarrassment. On the way home from dinner, as I was pondering the significance of 25 years and all the joy she has brought to us during that time, I started to reflect on how much my life has changed over those years.
The evening that my water broke, 25 years ago, I was working in my first “real” job after college at an electronics contract manufacturer. I was managing a small inside sales department and enjoying learning how to be a leader. I couldn’t have guessed that this job would be my first in a string of four companies that I’d be working for over the course of 10 years – each time progressing into more responsibility and greater challenges. When I finally ended up at my “dream job” I was director of marketing communications for a global team at a Boulder software company. I loved this job and the people I worked with, but my entire life changed with one phone call.
The phone call came from the director of operations at the first company I had worked for. He had moved to a $40M private company in Denver, was their COO, and he wanted me to come and be their VP of sales and marketing. It was an incredible opportunity which I explored with him and his staff for about four months. While the opportunity and the pay was amazing and career-altering, my gut told me that it wasn’t the right move. By then, we also had a son who was five years old and our daughter was now seven. With two small kids, a husband who was also burning the candle at both ends, combined with the extended travel time to this job in Denver, and no doubt, more hours, I knew it wasn’t the right fit.
So, I took a leap.
While thanking the COO for the amazing offer, I told him that my next step along my career path would be to do some marketing consulting. Secretly, I thought that was realistically 5 or 10 years down the road, but he offered me a consulting position on the spot. I was going to consult with them for 20 hours per week making the same 6-figure salary as my full-time director position at the software company. It was a fun 5 years, and we grew the company to $90M before it was acquired by a competitor. During that time, I had the luxury of taking on additional clients, and 5280 Accelerator was born.
It has been 17 years now, and I’ve never looked back.
Running my own company has been an exhilarating ride. As a small business owner, you make all of the decisions. You are responsible for the good, the bad, and the ugly. You are the operations department, the HR department, the marketing department, and sometimes IT.
In those years, I’ve learned many things about myself, about business, and about people in general. The three greatest takeaways that I like to share, and keep reminding myself of, are:
Ask for what you want – like in the case of my job offer 18 years ago. If I hadn’t turned down what was being presented to me, I would never have had so much time with my kids or time to build an amazing business of my own.
Just do it – People often spend so much time thinking and planning that they never get to the doing part. Momentum is a great thing. Once you start, it gets easier to keep moving.
Stay balanced – This has at times been a hard one for me, but I think I’ve finally learned that life isn’t all about work. As my coach says, when I’m having fun, it shines though to my life and my business.
These are the lessons I’m passionate about bringing to the small business owners I work with in our 90-Day Agile Accelerator program and to the companies we do marketing work for. The joy is in the journey, and if we can help one company get their message on point so they can grow, or one business owner to have the guts to ask for what they want, it’s all worth it.
So, as I wish my daughter a happy 25th, I’ll remind her that this is just the beginning of a fun, beautiful life, and to soak it all in. Ask for what you want. Go ahead and take the risk. Stay balanced along the way. And in 25 more years, just imagine what you will have accomplished!