Lessons From Another Year in Business

I have a memory of a school Parent’s Evening.

As a sometime teacher’s pet, my innate need to please made me a bit of a suck-up, constantly seeking approval. I was often the first with a hand up in class – Hermione, but without the grades!

As B grade average student in every subject, I didn’t shine at anything, but, as a lover of books and writing, I had an affinity for English.

During this particular Parent’s Evening, I reddened with embarrassment when dad commented to the English teacher that,

“Amy is a bugger for never asking for help. She thinks she can just do it all herself and is too proud to admit when she can’t. I know she’s an A grade in English, she just needs to get over herself.”

At 15, I was mortified for being called out for my own shit by my dad, of all people – ‘what did he know, he was just boring old dad, he didn’t really know me?’

He did though!

Beyond my teenage bravado and hormone-fuelled ego, deep down, I knew he had me pegged! Smart man (and perceptive), my dad!

Times Change

Being almost triple that age now, and you would have thought I’d have learned those lessons!

I’m getting better. I have never been one of those people who always has to be right – I know a lot of the time I’m not. But I do have a certain stubborn pride, I hate admitting defeat and sometimes that means I don’t ask for help when I need it.

Admitting Vulnerability

This is the part where I admit that it’s been a tough second half to 2019.

That, as we approach the New Year, I’m looking ahead with a certain pragmatic optimism, because I’m ready for a change.

Lessons To Learn

I’ve learned a lot about myself in these past few months.

For someone who enjoys public speaking and gets a real buzz out of lighting up a room with ideas and energy when facilitating a workshop – I am naturally introverted.

I put all of myself into my workshops then need at least a day to fully decompress on my own afterwards.

A quiet few months on the work front has, however, given me too much time and space to crawl into myself and overthink, and question, and doubt, and talk myself in and out of things.

Whirling around in my stubborn little circles, in my busy little brain!

Generally, I’m of a jolly and positive disposition – but even though I’d not seen her, and from 2 counties away, my sister told our dad she was worried I was getting depressed.

My brother, Lewis, said it to me over a beer in Bristol.

Dad’s solution was to buy me lunch and listen to my stream of consciousness (he’s good like that, poor old put-upon dad!).

Reaching Out To Others

Looking back, it was a taster retreat with Caroline Sharley, then a Kinetic Divination with Donna Marie, in the summer – those interventions helped kick start my business rethink.

The countless conversations with business friends that I’ve made through the Women Mean Biz and We Mean Biz network.

Lunches with dad.

Beers and coffees with Lewis.

Signing up to webinars.

Reading loads of blogs.

Having lengthy calls with fellow business owners who have been so generous with their time and support.

And, of course, the unending patience, love and support of my husband.

I genuinely believe, it was all those small hands helping (some bigger hands than others) that have carried me through.

An Ongoing Journey

I’m still on the journey, and I still have a way to go. There is a lot of figuring out still to do before I have clarity about the direction of my business from 2020 onwards.

The lessons are finally sinking in.

It’s OK to ask for help.

In fact, it’s more than OK, it’s exactly what needs to happen.

Handshake. How helpful is too helpful? Cultivate positive relationships

The lessons…

We All Need Each Other

This isn’t a pity piece or a cry for help. It’s simply an acknowledgement that we need people around us.

We can’t do it on our own, especially when we are self-employed. And when we are self-employed, getting help doesn’t have to mean paying thousands to consultants to ‘fix problems’ in your business or buying expensive courses with lofty promises.

Sometimes, we just want to talk, and be heard – without being sold to!

Often, it’s the small conversations, the nuggets of wisdom, the words of encouragement, the practical and actionable tips, tools and suggestions we need.

A good day.

Getting a round of applause at the end of a workshop.

A call with a client where you both end up crying with laughter.

The generosity of another business leader on a call, who isn’t there to flog you something, but simply wants to help.

So, my key piece of advice from my lessons in the latter part of 2019

Just ask.

There’s no such thing as a silly question.

Don’t be too afraid of being ‘judged’ to reach out to your network.

Yes, for practical professional changes in your business, you will need to pay for help, but that’s rarely the first step.

The first step is to talk. Be honest. Be open. Be OK with being vulnerable.

Talk first, harness the strength you need from the people around you, then make an informed choice about where to invest in yourself and your business.

And just so you know, I’m here too, even if all you need is to talk it through.

Just ask!

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