This year was chock full of lessons learned for me as an entrepreneur.  I think if I were to assign a theme to my 2010 it would be “The Year of Focus” along with a heavy dose of mentoring.  While there are principles of entrepreneurship that I know on an intellectual level, my experience this past year was that it’s always important in the hustle and bustle of growing a business and managing work/life that you take time to pause, reel it all in, and bring back focus.  Here are some of the major learnings for me in 2010:

Public Speaking and playing to my strengths

When I was a kid, I dreamed about being a TV news anchor.  I loved public speaking and even won a few regional public speaking contests in elementary school.  Not only did I feel like I was in my element when I was on stage, but people told me I was good.  In adolescence and early adulthood I all but abandoned my love….and I always felt that something was not quite right.  At the time, I couldn’t put a finger on it.  When I started teaching in Adult Education, I felt a renewed sense of purpose and although I felt the pressure of always needing to be “on”, it was kind of a rush.  Now that I am a business owner and a lot of my time is spent on 1:1 coaching, again I  somewhat dropped in the number of presentations/workshops I was delivering because I was so immersed in the coaching.  This year, I made it my mission to do more public speaking through my business and I’ve regained my state of flow.  I feel a state of equilibrium now that more of my strengths and interests are at play.  I now know that I need to schedule regular speaking opportunities into my calendar, not just because it’s good for my business but also because I honour myself in doing so.

Get. OUT!

When my youngest was only in school half days I found it very difficult to leave my home office to network, build new relationships, and nurture existing ones.  Technology has been wonderful for me as a business owner as it has allowed me to do so much virtually – however, it can also leave you feeling very isolated and out-of-the-loop.  Once all my kids were in school full-time I made it my mission to arrange regular coffee meetups with Twitter pals and fellow business owners, and it has done me a world of good on so many levels.  I feel more energized and inspired after engaging with people face-to-face and it has increased professional opportunities as well.

Learning when to just say “no”

This is a classic challenge for many women and I am no exception!  I’ve become pretty good at saying NO in my personal life (and trust me, this was a monumental feat in itself!), but I have to say it’s much harder to do in business.  It’s very scary to turn down opportunities, but I realize now that when they are not aligned with your overall professional and business goals they can do more harm than good.  For me, it was a matter of reminding myself of why I became and entrepreneur, which for the most part was to choose what I want to be involved with based on my values and passions and relinquishing the rest.  This is a reason why an advisory board is such a great idea (see below).  They always help to bring you back to focus when you seem to going astray.

Creating my “advisory board”

While this is still a work-in-progress for me, Kathy Korman Frey from the Hot Mommas Project speaks a lot about the importance of having a personal advisory board.  She even goes on to say, based on research, that the magic number is 5 for women.  Towards the latter part of this year, I made a conscious effort to connect with my board of advisors – all of whom are incredibly brilliant and compassionate.  The value of this cannot be underestimated.  It allows you to get out of your own headspace ever now and again and tap into fresh thinking and perspectives.  Since these advisors are people who know you quite well, they tend to pick up on subtle behavioural warning signs and patterns that others who don’t know you wouldn’t catch.  For example, I was going to take on a project this past year that I initially thought was a good idea.  I mean, it was going to make me money, so on the surface it looked great.  However, one of my advisors knew enough about me and the type of project to ask me questions like, “Remember 2 years ago when you had taken on project x and how miserable you were for doing so?  There are several elements of this potential project that seem very similar and I think you should reconsider”.

Ask and you will receive

As a personal brand strategist, one of the core activities I engage in with my clients is having them complete a 360 feedback assessment.  I reminded myself this year, however, that getting feedback isn’t just a one-time gig and should be requested as issues arise.  There were different points throughout the year when I made a move I was unsure of or wanted more clarity on how I was doing with a particular venture to the point where the not-knowing was driving me bonkers.  I decided to just flat out ask for feedback and advice, and what I got in return were some truly unbelievable mentoring moments.  People are quite willing to share experiences and guidance, but if you don’t ask you’ll never benefit from it.

Bringing back focus and the tools I used to help me do that were a significant part of 2010 for me and I’m looking forward to continuing to practice them in this new year.  So how about you?  What were some of your professional lessons-learned this year?   

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