It’s been a year since my husband finished business school, yet somehow it all seems so vivid. The binders and textbooks. The late nights and networking socials. Quite a bit of it rubbed off on me. So much so that half way into his second year, I decided to start my own business. It still seems kind of ironic. But I guess it all made me think: what does doing “business” really mean?
I once had this image of confining grey suits –everyone marching in unison – focusing only on money. And that I was sure wasn’t me! But then I saw it from a slightly different angle. I thought about the leadership aspect – the innovation – the beauty of defining a vision. Then it didn’t all seem so distant. Think about it for a second. What if you saw your life and career as a business? What if you were the CEO – the executive in charge of your choices? You develop your very own vision. You build a network you inspire to support you. You take steps that determine your success. You find "consultants" when you need new solutions. How often do we do that? How often do we put ourselves in the driver’s seat (that whole "I'm not a businessman - I'm a business...man" - or woman as it may be :)? I mean, we accept a job offer. We do "other duties as assigned". But how often do we set our own agenda? I’m not talking about ways to manipulate people, but a clear vision of what we want to achieve. Are you looking to learn something? Are you hoping to make a connection? Maybe you’re just curious and want to challenge yourself. Regardless of your goals or intentions, do you see yourself as a strong leader? How much influence do you have in your life? What actions are you taking everyday...and towards what purpose?
Let’s take it to a whole other level. Let’s talk about the money for a second. Regardless of the value you place on it, we all need it to make certain things happen. So let’s consider what you’re worth. I’m not talking dollars and cents…at least not yet. I’m talking more about your performance currency. I’m talking about the talents that you have and ways those talents have impacted other people. Ways those talents can help build new connections or networks or opportunities (for yourself and for other people). Think about it like a resume. In each relationship – in each encounter – in each job you’ve ever had - what have you brought to the table? What new need did you strive to fulfill? What improvement were you able to make? What new things were you able to learn? Think about your life as a career – what’s different because you have been here? How can you grow and expand in the future? Starting to get the picture? All those things – whether successes or failures help to determine your stock value… But let me digress for a second, because I don’t want to be misunderstood. I’m not just talking about huge gestures or things that got you recognition. I’m talking about any action that demonstrates your best self – consoling a friend, setting a good example, creating a solution that served other people. All those things make you indispensible. They are your value proposition. They become like a part of your brand. “Oh Mary, yeah she’s amazing. I mean you can always rely on her. She’s one of the most creative people I know. She's always coming up with terrific ideas.” Think about what kind of message YOU send. Do you seek out and embrace opportunities? Do you change things you think could be better? I’ll be honest; at times I lose my way – especially in building my business. Other people seem more qualified or reputable. Their message seems deeper and more effective than mine, and that’s when I jump in the back seat. But the thing is – when I do that – that’s when I get really stressed out. I kick myself and then I get frustrated. How could I sell myself short when I really could have done something big?
Ask yourself that sometimes. Do I really see myself as a leader? Do I trust that I can make choices or do I look for my choices to be made for me? It’s ok to have teachers and mentors and guides, but you can decide what connects with your values. You can decide what you’re going to do with the gifts you’ve been given. You can be a leader in your life. You can become your own business - create your own empire. However you run it. Whatever values or culture you adopt. Whatever resources you pull in. You decide the message you send to the world. You have the choice to get back in the driver’s seat or to let someone else lead your life for you.