Friday, May 29, 2015

Yes, we soared… to giddy heights

It is a bit like a wedding really.  You work all year planning an event, and whoosh, in a few quick hours it is over.
I always need a few days to step back and reflect on the conference.

As I read through the evaluation forms, Sam Horn’s presentation was the highlight of the day by a long shot, followed of course by the firemen.

What an entrance my MC Liz Radzick made, complete with pink boa being carried in on a stretcher by four hunky firemen, followed by the dancing gals. I don’t know how she comes up with these ideas, and of course she never shares them with me. It’s always a surprise. So I have to say, I’m just a tad worried about what she will do next year.

Sam was so approachable, telling memorable stories to illustrate her points, so everyone came away with concrete tools.  She also hung around to work with people one-on-one after her talk was over. Everyone at the conference got a copy of her book and I highly recommend reading it.  If you want to know more, check out my book review for Actionable Books.

One of the challenges as an event planner is last-minute cancellation and we had our share for this conference, with three speakers having to cancel last minute – all for good reasons – but which left me scrambling.  Momentarily.  This is when the power of your network comes through, and I am most appreciative to the women who came to my rescue – Krista Wright, Michele Bailey and Jackie Dinsmore.  Ladies, I owe you one.

And the panel was amazing.  Each woman shared her story with real honesty and it was clear there is no magic formula to success as each took a different path to get there, but each showed the tenacity you require to stay the course.  Perhaps one of the great one-liners came from Julie Cole when she said when life hands you lemons, make a gin and tonic!

This year we added two awards to the event, which for me, was special.  I felt like a little kid bursting to share a secret. We had ten nominees for the Woman of Inspiration Award – each worthy of recognition – but it was Colleen Saunders who won over both the members and the judges with her courage in taking back her life after her husband committed suicide and her willingness to share that horrific time with other families and mental health workers so the pain was eased for them, as much as it could after such a tragic occurrence.

But we also wanted to honour a long time friend and member of Company of Women – Donna Messer – who had sadly died in April and so a special tribute was played in her memory and we presented an award to a woman who, like Donna, is constantly helping others and linking them to people they need to meet, and that was Linda Sztanko.

For me it was a long, full day and I suspect for the women attending it was too – with 24 speakers sharing their stories and expertise, two heart-touching award presentations and then let’s not forget… the firemen.   What more could a gal ask for? 

Yes, well that’s my challenge for the 10th Journey 2 Success conference in 2016.  The good news is that I have a year to plot.   Thank you everyone for making this year’s event happen.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Getting off the busy bus

What was I thinking??? Well clearly I wasn’t.  Thinking that is.  My conference is the big event of the year for us.  It takes a great deal of planning and the week before is just crazy tying up all the details and dealing with last minute registrations, of which there are often many.

So knowing this, why, but why, did I schedule a hectic week for myself the week following the conference, with two events back to back.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  I knew I would be tired – that’s British understatement at its best here.  Exhausted more like.  Plus we usually find we have to market an event for at least a month in advance and we hadn’t even started.

Now I could have hung in there and tried to make it work, but here I am getting wiser – I cancelled them.  I suspect only those in our immediate team even noticed.  And that’s my point sometimes we soldier on, when we don’t have to.  We think we are letting people and ourselves down if we say no, decline an opportunity or choose not to forge ahead.

But reality is – unless it’s some earth-shattering program (like above said conference) no one notices or cares.  Only you care and I think we need to care less what people think, and care more about our own health (and sanity).

So – note to self – stop … and smell the coffee.  Preferably in PJs.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

You've made THE decision... now what?

In the pit of your stomach there is a heavy feeling. Why? Because you’ve just made a major decision, and you are now second-guessing yourself as to whether it was the right one.
You know what? That’s to be expected, especially if it is something you’ve labored over in your head for a long time. That feeling of doubt however can quickly fade into more questions, like what next? How do I actually implement what I have decided to do?
Small steps. One foot in front of the other. Everyone has their own strategy for moving forward. Some take the end goal and work back. What do I mean? Say you want to revamp a publication you produce by September. Make a list of all the components that have to be done for you to accomplish this. Then look at what comes first, and start building a plan. Using your end date, set deadlines for each task so you stay on target and move your project along. 
You may also need to recruit people to work on this project, so consider the skill sets required and look within and outside your network for who may fit the bill. Do you have a budget? What can you afford? Ask yourself these tough questions, before you make any financial decisions that could end up costing you more money than you have.
Or perhaps you are changing direction in your business, with a new focus and new customer base or changing your career. While it may seem like starting over again, and in some ways it is, you have more experience under your belt and doing your homework will kick-start your venture. And with careers, so often our skills are transferrable, so in reality, you are not starting from scratch. 
As you can maybe tell, I am a list maker and I try to approach big projects – be it business or personal – by breaking down the tasks into manageable bite-size pieces.   I also happen to work well to deadlines, so I prefer to set myself a timeline around which I can assign different tasks.
The above are concrete steps to move your plan forward, but what isn’t part of this equation is how to deal with the self-doubt and negative thoughts that will creep in uninvited as you try to make changes. And for some, this is a tougher hurdle to overcome. After all, your inner critic has likely been living inside your head for years – and this gremlin can be hard to squash or quieten down.
This is where having a support team of friends and colleagues comes in. You need to surround yourself with people who believe in you, who are your cheerleaders no matter what, but who will also share the hard truth when necessary. By taking small steps you can have sweet wins along the way and make sure to celebrate these successes as you step out of your comfort zone and take this bold step into your future. I make this sound simple, and I know it’s not – but you don’t want to let your self doubt hold you back. You deserve better.
Sometimes once those big decisions are made, you feel lighter, freer and more confident. Go with that feeling.. Hold that dream. Hold it tight. Like the beautiful kite dancing in the wind, the universe is telling you that you are on your way, soaring way beyond what you ever thought was possible.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Indecision is a decision

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”
 Marianne Williamson

Do you have friends who seem to over think stuff, instead of making an instant decision, they waffle to and fro, deciding on one course of action one day, and reversing it the next?

Why does that happen?  I believe several reasons come into play.  First there is just pure fear that you make the wrong choice and your life is changed forever. Now certainly with major life decisions, this may be true – e.g to stay in an unhappy marriage or to have children or not;  but most other decisions are reversible or can take you on a different path down the road.

Take young people and their career choices. Often they sweat bullets over the courses to take or career paths to follow, not realizing that in all likelihood they will have several different careers anyway.  I know have.  Often one seemed like a logical next step to my next position and there are some common threads, but my career has evolved and progressed (as it should).

One of the bigger challenges today is we have so many choices.  So how do you decide which is the best one for you?  When I am faced with a big decision, I still resort to the old pros and cons list, writing up what is in favour of one direction and what is against it.  Mind you, after doing that, and weighing up the consequences of what you decide to do, we often still go with our gut instinct.  But sometimes just asking yourself ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen?’ helps you strategize what you would do if that occurred and helps make the decision less scary.

Talking through your options with someone else helps too, particularly if they are objective and have no vested interest in you going one way or the other, but are just hearing the facts and perhaps pointing out their observations on the situation or asking probing questions.  By the end of the conversation, quite possibly you’ve reached your own conclusion.

Asking around and doing your homework can help inform your decision.  My daughter did that recently when she decided to go back to school.  She’s talked to professionals in the field she was proposing to enter, only to find that there were no jobs in what she wanted to do.  Wisely she went in another direction.

Sometimes the “universe” nudges you in the right direction.  But in this instance, you have to be alert and paying attention to the cues and clues coming your way.  Starting your own business is a huge decision, although one that perhaps some of us have just leapt into without much fore thought.

But even when you’ve made that leap of faith, how do you decide what aspect of your business to pursue?  I think initially you need to pursue a range of activities, because you don’t really know which will pay off and the bills still have to be paid.  But down the road, hopefully it will come clearer.

When I ran newbie groups for new entrepreneurs, so often what they started off with when they joined the group, was not what they ended up doing by the end of the six months. 

Why?  Because as the time unfolded and they got clearer on their business vision, and from a practical point of view, what the marketplace was telling them, they would realize that they needed to fine tune what they were doing.  Yes, you do better when you focus, but you have to be sure that where you are spending your energies and time will in fact pay off for you – both personally and professionally.  If you don’t like or love that aspect of your business, it may not work for you.

When I started Company of Women I really wanted to do conferences – it was an aspect of my previous work life that I enjoyed, and was good at too.  But early on it became really clear to me that to offer a conference out of the blue without building a solid base was not going to happen or be successful.   It was four years in before I offered my first conference, because by then Company of Women had a following and I had a “roster” of great speakers from which to draw on.

In fact my first Company of Women conference I did in partnership with someone else. While the conference was successful, the partnership was a disaster but I learned that I didn’t need to have a partner to bolster me and I could do it alone, and the next year we had our first Journey 2 Success conference.  Mistakes are lessons.

All of which means you don’t give up on your dream, you just build in integral steps to get you there.

I’ve found that once I’ve made a major decision, it wasn’t as scary as I thought and I start to ask myself what took me so long?  When you step outside your unhappiness, you find that there is a life and it is there for the taking.  It is just getting over that first hurdle of making a move and once you’ve jumped that… you can win. You can get ahead.

Indecision in itself is a decision.  It is deciding not to change the status quo, not to rock the boat and to stay within your existing cocoon, but like the caterpillar, you can choose to grow and evolve and become the beautiful butterfly soaring to great heights.  

Friday, May 01, 2015

Take one bold step into your future

 There’s no such thing as standing still. The real question in today’s economy is what direction we’re heading. We’re either pushing forward or drifting backward. I choose going forward. What about you?”

Michael Hyatt

And I ask you the same question.  Our conference this year has the theme of Think BIG. Shine. Soar. We want to help women entrepreneurs take their business to the next level.

Statistics show that while more and more women are starting their own business ventures, they are not growing as fast as their male counterparts.

So we want to give you the confidence, tools and connections to make that happen. 

       Part of gaining the confidence, is having the clarity to know what you actually want to do.  Easier said than done as many of us struggle with our direction and where we want to take our business. Shannon Tobin will be explaining how clarity is power. 

       Having role models who have paved the way and who will honestly share their trials and triumphs, gives us the confidence and faith that we can do it too. Hear from our panel of award winning entrepreneurs who will be sharing their stories.   

       And then once we have convinced ourselves, how do we sell and intrigue others to buy into our offering. Tick. We have TEDx speaker and author Sam Horn with us to share the strategies she’s used in working with clients, and which are detailed in her new book – Got your Attention?  How to create intrigue and connect with anyone. It was a coup to get her.   

       Gaining the business tools to grow is also part of the expansion plan, and with 18 experts sharing their expertise, you get the chance to learn first hand what you need to know on topics from social media, franchising, marketing to legal or HR advice.   

       Last but not least, we will be celebrating our peers who have given back and made a difference in the lives of others, as well as networking and partying. A great way to end such a vital day.

In fact, to make sure you take action on the takeaways from the conference, we have a second day planned with meditation, action plans, focus, so you leave and go home with all the key components in place to make it happen.

In his blog, Hyatt actually listed seven ways to stay current and relevant, and attending conferences and meeting new people were high on his list.

Sometimes we need to get out of our day-to-day routine to focus on our business, instead of always working in it.  Invest in yourself. Plan to attend Think BIG. Shine. Soar. on May 26 at the Oakville Conference Centre.   There’s even free child care.  So no excuse.

See you there.