Accountability matters. Connections matter. Having someone to listen and give feedback on your crazy ideas is just….well…priceless. As a small business owner, you need good connections to keep your business current, keep you inspired, and keep you from losing your mind. To best navigate through this thing called entrepreneurship, it helps to have people in your own industry to brainstorm with you, share their own experiences, and ask the important business questions. You also need people outside your industry to keep you from being myopic and too focused on “how it’s always done” in your area of expertise. You also need those with a killer margarita recipe, who can open a bottle of Veuve Cliquot on a moment’s notice, and who can tell you all those people out there are just assholes. This, my dears, is your de facto Board of Directors.
During the COVID 19 crisis, I had daily (and sometime hourly) calls and texts with my tribe – my people – my compatriots in what I now call Travel Crisis Management (where I now have an unofficial, real-life Ph.D.). They were my lifeline. We strategized, we cried, we ranted, we brainstormed, and at times sent WTF-SOS texts at dawn when the news came out. During those first weeks of COVID, we were barraged with so many changing facets of the travel world….rumors, diverging perspectives, new developments, supplier policies, updated supplier policies, updated updated updated supplier policies, insurance issues, clients worried about their trips, clients worried about their money…..I’ll not lie: it was a LOT. If it wasn’t for my Board of Directors, I would have packed up and moved to Tahiti. Oh wait, I could no longer entertain thoughts of getting out of Dodge, because Dodge along with the rest of the world was under lockdown….so being a woman of action, I opened a large bottle of The Chicken Rosé and said Vielle Fermé take me away!
When I was newly divorced many years ago, I changed my zip code; moving from our large farm out in the country to the northern suburb of Indianapolis. As I networked for my business, I realized I needed more than just sales contacts, I needed a tribe. In my long marriage, I found that I was an island. I worked hard, I volunteered, and I was raising my kiddos. When I unpacked my last box and got settled in my new digs, I decided that a change needed to happen inside me. A new friend of mine and I discussed getting all the fabulous women we knew together for dinner. We kept realizing we each knew some great women and we wanted to connect them all.
We had our first dinner at an Italian restaurant where we each went around and shared an amazing thing that happened to us that week, and also a challenging thing that happened to us. That night over many bottles of Chianti and house made pasta, The Fabulous Women of the Board of Directors was born. It was a life changer for me. I was better when I was vulnerable. I was better when I did not hide my challenges, my mistakes, my speed bumps. When I shared my crazy thoughts, I realized that my dreams didn’t have to stay up in the clouds–I could dare to move them from fluffy ideas to become a part of my vibrant yellow brick road.
Your Board of Directors does not have to be a static group. When I moved to The ATL five years ago and changed my travel agency affiliation, I needed to create a new Board of Directors who could speak into my life in its current season. Like the song we sung in Brownies when I was six: Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold, making a new tribe does not eliminate the old one. Sometimes we need different people to speak into our lives regularly because we are in a different season, a different location, a different mindset.
During COVID, those touch points with my Board of Directors, my people, my tribe took me out of my head, which was focused on my never ending and overwhelming To-Do List, and onto how I would emerge from the COVID ashes. How do I need to change my business model? What are the weaknesses in my processes? How do I become more financially secure? Who is the next person I can go to up the chain of command to fight for my clients’ refund or cancel terms? In the midst of crisis, how do I dare dream big dreams of my business? My castle is under siege — do I peer out the window of the turret at the tip top of the castle waiving my kerchief begging for someone to rescue me, or do I don warrior’s garb like Eowyn, dive in the trenches, and dream of a day when things are not so dark where I can again thrive.
So fellow entrepreneurs – search out high-quality people to be your personal Board of Directors. You may not know them, yet. Find them, be open to serendipity, take a chance, invite them to coffee, invest in their lives and let them invest in you. Look for creative thinkers, empathetic souls, doers, cheerleaders, smarties, the life of the party–you need them all in your life! Get out of your myopic way of thinking. Get out of your home office–even for a zoom call from your sunroom with someone who fills your tank. You are more than a balance sheet. You are more than your book of business. You are strong. You are kind. You are worthy of a Board of Directors.
Next: Punt or Pivot: How to Respond to A Business Crisis
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