A story never told...
I have not told this story to anyone, even my closest friends, so this is a bit of a stretch into the vulnerability matrix, even for me.
This is a story about how I started a business that did not turn out so well, even though everyone thinks it did.
I was running a 50-million dollar business, which I had founded and scaled, life was decent, kids were healthy, marriage happy. Then I was diagnosed with cancer. But this story is not about the cancer (we can talk about that another day), this story is about what happened when I handed over my CEO hat because I could not run that business while trying to get well and recover at the same time.
Sitting still getting well was not working for me either, so I decided I would start on a business I had been thinking about for three years. I had been doing research on the side, listening to and reading about anything in this new field of interest. I had a passion for it and I just could not put the idea to rest. Now was the time to act. So I did.
I started a subscription toy business sending monthly play kits to parents (eventually around the globe) to help them engage their kids in educational free play, proven to bolster problem solving, confidence and neural adaptivity throughout a lifetime. Plus it helped create stress-free Saturdays for parents who wanted their kids to do something together than watch TV but they did not know what to do with them. I made parenting easy, interactive and intentional -- all around play.
The business hit the market just at the start of the subscription curve and it went very well out of the gates. All systems go, great feedback, word of mouth referrals -- business blast off.
Two years into it and I am selling the business. Not because the business is failing but because it is failing me.
The reason it is failing -- I never set it up to succeed.
Yes, it returns a profitable bottom line. Yes, sales continue to grow. Yes, I have copycats who prove that the model is worth replicating. All arrows point to success, except the two that matter most to me:
1- Does this business deliver the kind of returns I want for the investment of my time?
2- Does this business apply my gifts in a way that allow me to pursue my passions?
I have a business that is successful (a few actually, but this particular one is the most successful). It delivers richly for the investment of my time and allows me to apply my gifts in a way that free up time and resources for me to indulge in my passions as often as I want. It is my speaking, mentoring and coaching business -- it was built to succeed.
This business differs from the toy business because I set it up deliberately, with intention, insight and a process of thought that started with what I really wanted to build for my whole life....personally and professionally. What kind of business and life did I want and ever as important, how was I positioned to make it happen? I set it up with mastery of the business arts, not just my MBA.
The toy business was built around an idea and a hole in the market, it was that simple, and in the end, a failure because I had not considered specifically what it was I wanted to build, what was going to keep me engaged in this business over time and ultimately I know that a business' success is fundamentally tied to the founder and CEO's interest in giving it everything they have to make it work. Frankly, I'm not willing to give that business everything I have, and I wish I had known this sooner. I never created a plan -- I just saw an opportunity and acted.
I wish I had invested the time to systematically assess what it was I wanted to create rather than to jump on my idea and run with it simply because I needed a distraction from my cancer diagnosis. Although this is difficult to say -- the toy business is not a failure, it was the fact that I was running away from something and not running toward something that made this business fail me. I was running away from my cancer diagnosis instead of toward a business and life I wanted to create.
Even as I write this my heart aches and I want to whisper in the ear of my former self, so scared and searching for a way to move forward. I wish I could tell her to first define what success will be for her, what she really wants her ideal business and life to look like, who she wants to serve in her business, what is it that will keep her going when the challenging days come and that will keep her striving when she accomplishes her dreams faster than she had planned. I wish I could simply tell myself that getting what you want is fine but wanting what you get is something much more rich, it is divine. I've done both and know the difference.
As we enter this time of year when so many of us are setting goals for the year ahead and aligning our intentions with action, I simply wanted to share this story with you because to me, it is important not only to get what you want but to want what you have. And if you don't have both, do get very deliberate in the decisions you make which will help you to both, get what you want and want what you get in 2015.
With the gentle nudge of someone who understands, and who's been there too, I encourage you to take your first step today, no matter how small.
Yours in encouragement unto that rich successful life defined by you,
P.S. If you found a bit of yourself in the story I shared today; if you know there is something more in this life for you; if there is a business and life you envision but want a guide to help you each step of the way; if you have a fledgling business you want to get on track; if you believe that you could do it if someone showed you how; if you, like me, are most interested in a life where you have what you want and want what you have, no matter how big your dreams may be, I want to share with you how I've built mine and live it each day. Click here to allow me to be your guide and show you how.