Happy Anniversary, VanInk

11947719_10208021571484213_2041455284202126055_oA year of reflection…

It hardly seems possible that I’m working to compose this blog as a reflection of my first official year in business as an entrepreneur. My decision to leave the comforts of a long and fulfilling career in “corporate” America was never taken lightly. There was a confluence of factors that seemed to be pointing me in a new direction, but the risk was intimidating. You can analyze a decision from every angle, but you sometimes just don’t know until you close your eyes, hold your breath, put your faith in others (looking at you, God and family), and above all else believe that all things are possible.

This post is meant to share some of my lessons learned (or at least reinforced) during Year One.

The gift/curse of an empty inbox.

Know this: starting a business from scratch, in a practical sense, is nothing like starting a new job. There is no new business culture to learn; there is no orientation that lays it all out. When you start a business on day one you have no clients, no to-do lists, no deadlines. And while I spent years dreaming about an empty inbox, it was not dreamlike bliss that I felt when I was staring at a completely empty screen.

What could have been a lonely and ego deflating endeavor was instead a time to reconnect with colleagues, stretch to meet new challenges and truly understand what my business could be. I’m pleased to say that this phase did not last long, and I appreciate a full inbox more than I ever have before.

Your skills and perspectives provide great value to business clients.

In building my career I spent years forming relationships, acquiring and fine tuning my skill set, and just doing the work that was required. I valued every piece of feedback, as it helped me improve along the way. Whether formal classroom education or through a professional mentor relationship; I’m grateful for every piece of advice that helped me develop over a 20-year career. As a self-employed consultant, I needed to harness the collective results of my career into a narrative – my own story, if you will – to help potential clients understand how I could help them. The knowledge is there, but the ability to talk about myself in those terms was a new (and sometimes uncomfortable) place to be.

Finding my own voice in this process has been one of the most rewarding outcomes and I wake up every day eager to add another chapter.

Never stop challenging yourself.

There are so many milestones in life that will change your worldview, challenge your beliefs and (hopefully) make you stronger in the end. I felt this way when I got married, had my children, changed jobs, moved. These are all important factors that can have great impact. I have grown both personally and professionally over the course of the last year. Learning to navigate a new world was scary, but there is no question it was worth it. The confidence and experience I’ve gained over the past year reaffirms that my decision was right for me.

Never stop loving the work.

I have spent the last year falling even more in love with storytelling and I feel so blessed to do what I love in a way that provides value to my clients. Someone told me before I started my business that most people work just as hard, if not harder when in business for themselves. That has proved to be true, but for me, it has been a labor of love. Being able to share my work with my family, to have flexibility, to develop new relationships and look more intentionally at the lessons of life has been a gift.

Simply believing that all things are possible does not mean they come easy.

It is true that I have more sleepless nights worrying about things that never would have crossed my mind before. I love to tell stories, but that does not mean I love writing proposals to place a financial value on that work or slogging through accounting spreadsheeets and back office necessities, but that comes with the territory and I’m learning. With each new challenge faced, I’m appreciating this journey more and more. Easy is great every so often, but I find that most of the good stuff happens when your limits have been tested and you’ve come out on the other side.

Growth in life is never confined to only one area.

I remember naively telling my husband that our crazy life would need to be settled and stable for me to feel good about starting a business. That sentiment almost seems laughable to me now. First of all, with a pre-teen and newly minted teenager in my house life is never settled and stable. I think my chauffer duties (which is all they think they need from me anyway) increased ten-fold. As with every family, there were heartbreaks, celebrations, setbacks, new opportunities and many, many challenges. My reflection is about the last year in business, but it seems impossible to talk about my life over the last year in only business terms. We are so much more than what we do for a living and it’s the patchwork of family and friends that add the color. It’s been a colorful year…I could give Crayola a run for its money.

Thank you is never enough.

There are so many people in my life that I’m blessed to know, trust, love and like a lot. This story, my story, is incomplete without recognizing that they play a role in everything. Whether you let me pick your brain endlessly; listen to my stories; offer advice or well wishes; refer or give me business; provide love and support; or any of the other countless ways you add color I am grateful from the bottom of my heart.

One year down…with many more to come.

Happy Anniversary, VanInk