I’m buzzing with excitement today. I’m celebrating four years of successfully running Farmer’s Daughter Consulting.
When I started this venture on July 21, 2014, I was hopeful and optimistic, but I wasn’t convinced I would have much success.
My very first day in business yielded calls asking if I could do X, Y, or Z. I was thrilled that people wanted to hire me. But I was anxious when a friend said at that time, “You have a lot of magic dusk on right now after being with the CIA for seven years. Over time, business development will get harder and harder.”
Those words of caution have stuck with me and often prompted me to lean in and work harder. But that advice wasn’t the only advice I listened to. Today, I want to share important lessons imparted by mentors, colleagues, and friends to whom I owe immense thanks and gratitude.
Lesson #1: “Running your own business is hard.”
My dear friend and mentor Barb Pyper of An Apple A Day, LLC, said this to me many times during my first few years in business. She’s someone who’s always willing to take my calls, or to call me back quickly, when I need advice or a moment to rant.
Barb’s frank discussions of how hard it is to run a business never made me feel defeated. Rather, this insight made me realize quickly that if I wanted to be successful, I’d need to work hard. Really hard.
Nothing comes easily in consulting, but if you do good work, you get rewarded by getting more work, either from existing clients or new clients who’ve gotten feedback on your skills and attitude.
Barb, thanks for being honest with me and for all you do to support me.
Lesson #2: “It’s okay to be a T-rex once in a while.”
My outrageously funny, inspiring friend Julie Meyer, founder of Eat Well Global, offered to do a Skype call with me during my first month in business to share insights and advice. I remember telling her I was so stressed about everything on my plate but also stressed my plate might be empty in a few months. She said, “It’s okay to be a T-rex once in a while,” and went on to show me how when she’s panicked for a moment, she’ll dance around her office, flailing teeny-tiny T-rex-like arms while turning in circles.
Julie’s T-rex dance made me laugh out loud that day—it still does every time I think of it. Julie went on to say, “But after a few moments of dancing, you’re much better off sitting down and planning your next move versus continuing to panic.” That advice has allowed me to panic—or wallow—as needed, but to then put pen to paper to figure out how to reduce the stress, develop new business, or simple get existing client work done.
Julie, thanks for giving me that powerful mental image and practical advice.
Lesson #3: “It’s okay to take conference calls in bed.”
My former California Walnut Commission colleague and dear friend Carol Berg Sloan gave me this advice after I complained to her about clients not understanding time zones and how upset I was over early morning Monday conference calls. Carol sighed and said, “I’ve been consulting for 25 years. I manage this kind of drama by taking the calls in bed. I get my coffee, grab my cell phone, get back into bed, and do the call. It’s okay to take conference calls in bed. You’re the boss. You can decide how to run your life and your business.”
Carol told me this during my second year in business. Up until that time, I’d been nervous about managing my time, still adhering to a “butt in seat” by 8:30 a.m. routine, taking a short lunch break, and working until 5:30 p.m. Believe me, my schedule has relaxed a bit.
I now go to the gym at 3 p.m. when it’s empty and my body is most in need of movement. I take most Friday afternoons off during the summer months. And if I need a day to get a pedicure, do some shopping, or meet a girlfriend for lunch, I no longer worry about the old 8:30-5:30 schedule I’d worked for 20 years while being someone’s employee.
Carol, thanks for this awesome insight and for always making me laugh when we chat!
Lesson #4: “Stop doing. Just be still for a moment. Just breathe.”
This advice comes weekly from my gentle yoga instructor Tallie Wood-Miller as we wind down our class, go into “Savasana” or the corpse pose, and focus on breathing and fully relaxing.
I’ve noticed over the course of the past four years that I do my best work for clients when I allow myself to slow down and really focus. But this is hard. Running a business often means running at a frenetic pace to keep up with everything. “Argh! I’ve got a call in 10 minutes! Eek! I forgot to run payroll! Wow! My article is due today!” The list goes on and on.
One of my new habits at conferences is to try to sit and truly listen to speakers, keeping my cell phone in my purse and my eyes on the stage. Doing so often helps me generate new ideas for projects…and it allows me to breathe. Deeply. For a few moments.
Tallie, thanks for your positive words, encouragement, and style of yoga instruction that suits me so well.
There are many other people to whom I owe thanks and gratitude. As Barb Pyper says, “This is hard,” but I”m blessed with so many people who make running this business a bit easier for me. Thank you!