20 Years Wiser: Critical Business Truths Experience Has Taught Me

Twenty years ago this month, I quit corporate – or opted out – as they called it back then. 

You know the drill – commuting from the burbs to NYC by train, working in cubicles on the 35th floor of a midtown building, surrounded by co-workers, and lots of buzzy publishing activity of a weekly magazine. 

I finally hit my wall of how much I could work full time and commute while having two very young boys at home more than an hour away. With barely three weeks of annual vacation and not much savings left after paying for all day childcare, I realized this was not the way I could operate to be of my highest value or have my highest impact. 

Below is the email that I sent out in October 2003…

While I didn’t exactly have a real plan I was fortunate enough to keep my professional head in the game with freelance work that sustained me and eventually evolved into the work that became Sheed Communications

I was also so lucky to get in early with social media platforms as they were just starting to take off. Learning lots of lessons through many gyrations of work, clients, and projects helped me to figure out what I really wanted to do, who I wanted to help and how I could help them. 

Here are 10 important things I have learned, need to remember, and perhaps you can appreciate: 

  1. You can’t do it alone and you shouldn’t do it alone. There have been amazing clients and collaborative project partners, coaches and groups upon whose shoulders I have been carried to where I am now. 
  2. Find your people. It’s really important to have a community to support you. There are several groups of people and professionals who have significantly impacted the trajectory of my work. 
  3. There is NO playbook! You and your work are distinctly different from anyone else, so there is no right or wrong way. Only your way. 
  4. It’s okay to take a different track and try new things – regularly. I now work on platforms that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Imagine if I stayed stuck in the world of press releases and media alerts? Always be curious!
  5. Marketing can be authentic. It doesn’t have to be sales-y and icky. It can be aligned with your values. Heck, as an extrovert, I consider going to events and meeting people as a marketing strategy – thank you very much.
  6. I’ll take quality over quantity any day. While many benchmark their success on the numbers of likes, follows, hits, impressions, clicks. Focus on making a difference or making a real connection with your work and content – not just ticking a box of social media postings. 
  7. Sometimes you are barely a step ahead of the people you are helping and advising but that’s okay; simply having your perspective and experience is of huge value to them.
  8. This is a long game – not a quick sprint. There is rarely an easy fix for building something valuable and meaningful. 
  9. There will always be more to do…so make sure you are focusing on the things that have the most impact or keep your vibes high and aligned with your values. 
  10. Putting yourself out there can be scary and vulnerable – but if you don’t do it – who else will? 

I feel fantastically blessed that I could “opt out” of the traditional workplace yet still keep up with consulting work that provided me with income and growth on a professional track. And I am truly thankful for so many wonderful people with whom I have met and worked. 

Finding your peers and peeps is critical. While I miss the camaraderie of an office and co-workers, there are now so many more opportunities for business owners and soloprenuers to meet, connect and learn from each other and build business than there were two decades ago. 

Yes, it can be overwhelming, and you can’t be everywhere and do everything BUT you can get clear on what works for you, your business and your life. 

Looking forward with an eye on the accelerating pace of change and technology in these ever-growing virtual, artificial, divisive and fractured times…..I’m doubling down on humans, connections and communities! They have served me well so far – and are guaranteed to be ever more important in the future! 

That’s my TedTalk – thanks for being here!

PS – I’d love to hear from you what critical business truths you have gained in your work? Let’s chat!