Last night I gave my first official keynote speech to a room full of University of British Columbia 3rd and 4th year engineers, computer scientists, international trade majors and entrepreneurs. There were also about 30 other CEO delegates who attended, and it was wonderful to see these incredibly smart, ambitious and curious young innovators mingle and discuss possibilities in the world of business, robotics, social services, human evolution and more.
One of the joys I have, is speaking to rooms full of students like this, from all walks of life. I love seeing the spark in their eyes, the look of wonder or appreciation or intrigue on their faces. I can see, as I speak, light bulbs going off, and the connection of whatever story I’m telling to something impacting their life in that moment. Sometimes people cry. Sometimes people laugh. Always it’s rewarding.
The theme of my talk last night was grit. I told them what it was like growing up in a one income family in the beginning. My dad stayed home and took care of us the first few years while my mom worked hard to make sure we had food on the table and a roof over our heads. I told them about what it felt like struggling to get good grades and feel valued or hopeful of my future based on what my scorecard told me I was worth.
I told them about starting my first business and working 100 hour weeks, sleeping 4 hours a night, while six months pregnant, and sharing one plate of food with Iain because we couldn’t afford to buy two meals for dinner.
I told them about fighting for my first company when I realized too late that I chose the wrong business partner, only to end up in the hospital three times with the doctor telling me I’d have to pick between my business or my baby, because I was going to lose one of them. I told them about the feeling of having to walk away the next day with only $1 left in my pocket, and starting AIM from scratch, because loosing my baby over the other business wasn’t even a choice.
I told them about working 73 days in a row before closing our first client, taking only three weeks off when Kai was born, and only five days off when Hailey was born. I told them about struggling through failures, doubts, debts, losses, sleepless nights, blood, sweat and tears, and that at times in those early days, if all of this was going to have a happy ending.
But then I told them about hope. About perseverance. I told them about grit, about the power of having a strong vision and purpose, and the conviction to see it through. I told them about you! About how surrounding yourself with the best people who are aligned with values and vision, makes all the difference in the world.
There are people counting on us: our children, our clients and partners, and we’ve committed to them to always do our best, and to strive to add meaning to their lives, and in business, to their results.
Our happy ending so far? We have been recognized as BC’s Best Company of the Year, ranked on the Top 100 female entrepreneurs in Canada and listed as one of Canada’s fastest growing companies over the past five years. We have gone from a two person team working from home, to a 30 person global company with offices on three continents. We have grown from servicing one small startup, to being trusted and looked to for help by billion dollar companies.
Best of all, we are continuing to grow as a team, in our results, in our skill sets, collaboration and experience with our clients and each other. We are learning, and growing as people, and we are getting that bit closer to achieving our standard of excellence, and be best in class.
I am excited about 2017. We have a clear vision of what we are going to accomplish in our growth, and how we are going to get there. We are going to eat this elephant one bite at a time, and together, we will make it happen. From where we started, we have already eaten 10 elephants, so we know we can do it.
As Benjamin Franklin said “Energy and persistence conquer all things.”
It’s an honor to be working with each of you. Thank you for being part of my life, and the story I get to tell others in moments like these.
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From one of the entrepreneurs who attended the Keynote: “Thank you for your message at the UBC gathering last night, and revealing your pay it forward heart. I really appreciate your DIGG philosophy, will integrate it into what we do. Someone I look up to said you can’t truly offer hope unless you have the presence of hope. Thank you for all you have gone through, you encouraged me.”