This year I started a Business. “Big deal” you say; hundreds, nay thousands of new business get started each year in this country, yet only a few ever make it past the “getting started” stage. According to AngelList platform, which helps start-ups raise money from investors and recruit talent, there were 17,621 start-up companies in the US in 2016. Forbes reports that of those, 90% will fail. That’s not only heart-breaking, it’s downright depressing, when you think about all the time, money, energy and plain elbow grease which were expended by people who had ideas and dreams which took off with great fanfare, but in short order crashed to the ground like so many airplanes shot out of the sky in old WWII newsreels.
How’m I doing? I’m struggling, but I’m not giving up yet. See, I spent the last 8 years of my life working in a job that I became really comfortable in and passionate about. I even invested myself into areas I would never have dreamed of a few years earlier, just so I could be the best at my job, because I thought I’d retire from that job in another 20 years.
Then, things changed. Oh, I didn’t leave that job; the job left me. Not only that, it did me the disservice of not really providing me with a specific reason for being let go, when clearly just days before I got “the call”, I was praised by my supervisor for a job well done – repeatedly – and was even sent to a conference of peers in my industry to become even better at what I was doing. And then it was no more.
After scrambling through the holidays of 2016 to find some substantive work, I wrestled with finding a way to continue doing work that I enjoyed, harnessing the tools I developed in Association Management as a membership coordinator when a peer suggested I should just go into business as an independent contractor using all I’d learned at my last job to help multiple organizations in areas where they were needing to fill a void, to make their organization better, to reach their clients or members or customers more effectively. So I started Associated Project Management, and began marketing myself and my services to various organization and individuals in an effort to work at the work I enjoy, while helping others meet the vision of their work.
My friend Mo Bunnell, who founded the Bunnell Idea Group (BIG) in Atlanta, recently shared an article on doing our best work, which inspired me at a time when I was beginning to think I had bitten off more than I could chew with independent contracting.
What matters the most? Doing work that we can be proud of. Trying our hardest. That’s what matters. Doing our best work is one of the hardest things in life we must do.
It’s a constant struggle to do our best work. Life has a way of pulling us from it.
Once I was about to make a bad move on one of the most important projects of my life. As our team was starting work on our book proposal, we got connected to Amy Hiett, the COO of a company called The Table Group. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re the consulting and training arm of best-selling author Patrick Lencioni and his organizational health concepts. They do exceptional work.
We felt fortunate that Amy would take our call. My colleague Darla and I prepared as you’d expect, using our GrowBIG® Dynamic Meeting Prep process. Darla and I were ready, called in early, and were excited to learn from Amy when she popped on the bridge line, right on time.
We started with some pleasantries and got to business. “We want to write a best-selling book,” we told her. “And since you’ve done that multiple times with Pat, we want to pick your brain on how you did it.”
Instead of giving us the checklist we hoped for, or the secrets to success when writing a New York Times best-seller, Amy threw us for a loop. She asked, “Why do you want to write a best- selling book?”
I initially thought that was obvious, but after 15 minutes of back and forth, Amy enlightened us. She taught us that trying to write a best-selling book would push us to write a bad book, one that wouldn’t be authentic. Instead, she gave us very strong advice I’ll never forget: Write a book you can be proud of.
Before the call with Amy, we were aiming to please people who pick the best-selling lists: people we don’t know using a process few understand. We were more worried about selling and marketing than creating a great product that could enrich lives. Amy’s advice was to write an insightful book based on our unique ideas, our processes, showcasing our clients’ amazing success.
Creating something we could be proud of pulled the control back to us. It took away the worry. Oddly, it made the project easier to figure out, and more fun to create. We just had to please ourselves.
After we finished the call with Amy, Darla and I called each other to debrief. Wow! That was a trip to the mountain top. That was wisdom. In thirty minutes, Amy changed our entire direction, our entire approach, our entire attitude about writing a book.
I now try to consistently apply the lesson we learned from Amy to the rest of my life. I think of three questions: Did I choose to do the most important thing, instead of letting the less important thing choose me?
For that task, was I fully present, giving my all into making the product, the interaction, or the experience truly exceptional?
Did I do this until the task was completed, ignoring the many distractions of today’s world?
We have opportunities to impact people every day. We’re designers of experiences all day long: a client interaction, a hard workout, an end of day review with my wife before dinner. They are worth our attention, focus, and best effort.
Mo finished his article by saying that doing your best work is difficult. The world pulls us to the less important. It tries to distract us. And, when it’s over, the world responds with its grade, including many things outside of our control.
What was the grade? What did the client think? How many “likes” did we get?
But only one grade matters:
Did I do something I can be proud of?
My goal is to always do my best work, whether for me, or for you. Let me be that additional team member, the extra player in the game that makes the difference in the outcome, the added cog to the machine that pushes your organization forward. See what I have to offer to you by giving me a call and discussing that area of projects that never seem to get off the ground, or get back-burnered while something more pressing needs completing, yet still needs to be done. It’s what I do. It’s my best work.
Bunnell Idea Group (BIG) is a global business development consulting firm. Their trademarked GrowBIG® Integrated System is helping companies grow their business faster, in the right way. Our business development system helps professionals get focused and efficient in business development.
For more information, visit https://www.bunnellideagroup.com/
Andrew is a very creative person with experience in marketing at his most recent position at IIAG, where his duties encompassed marketing membership services and resources to some 4,300 individual members in 550+ organizations for the association, and marketing for several previous positions and entrepenureal ventures.
Through his Independent Business – Association Project Management-APM -Andrew McElhannon can offer your organization assistance in getting these very important projects completed so you can better focus on your members.
Please reach out to him to set an appointment to discuss what challenges his business can help you overcome.