Today, June 1, 2014, All Inclusive Marketing celebrates its five-year anniversary. We have had a lot of ups and downs over the past five years. But it is with immense gratitude and humility I reflect on some of the hard lessons I've learned along the way.
1. Your Power is in Your People
We've gone through many teammates trying to find the perfect fit for our company and culture. We want people who see our vision, live and breathe our mottos, deeply care about their impact with our team and clients, and put forward the heart and soul to see themselves and those around them succeed.
Investing in the right people was the first turning point for AIM that allowed us to grow into a global leader, and I'm exceedingly grateful for our team who strive to make AIM even more successful every day.
2. Zip it and Listen
One of the more humbling lessons I've learned over the past five years is both giving and receiving honest feedback. At AIM we encourage our team to constantly strive for greatness. We want them to achieve personal and professional growth. We give each other constructive feedback and work very closely as a team to vet everything we do to ensure only the best quality work is put forward.
Through that process, I have learned that I don't always have the right answer. However, by listening and understanding people's different communication styles and personality types, I can adjust how I behave and what I do to be a better leader and make better decisions with and for the team. It has ultimately produced better results and increased moral.
I work on this every day. Some days I'm better at it than others. And our entire team has the mentality of constant growth and improvement, which allows us to flourish together. For that I'm extremely grateful.
3. You Can’t do it Alone
There are things I'm very good at and much I bring to the table that makes me a strong, valuable player on our team. However, I’m lacking in other areas. Luckily, I’ve quickly found my strengths and weaknesses. I've learned that it’s okay to rely on others and delegate. In fact, it's essential if you're going to move forward as a leader in your space.
When I finally let go of the ropes and allow other people help me, they always managed to rise to the task. Giving them complete accountability for their areas of responsibility is empowering and that’s when AIM started to see its greatest success.
It's OK to rely on others to help you, which is why #1 is so essential when hiring the right team. By understanding your own key strengths and weaknesses you'll have a better time finding people who are exceptional at the things you're not so good at, making you that much stronger in the end.
4. Work, Life Balance is Essential to Business Success and Your Sanity
If you're burnt out, you're not much use. I've burned out a couple of times since starting this company. It happened once when I brought my infant to a big industry conference where I was speaking; we had a booth; I was live blogging sessions; and I was nursing my baby. This particular conference was my third that month. Another time I had 10 flights in 6 days between three countries and three speaking sessions at three conferences while raising two little kids. You do the math. It all added up to me in the emergency room getting X-rays for Pneumonia and subsequently being bed-ridden for two weeks.
Although it was a crazy time, I look back now and I'm still grateful I did it because it helped establish ourselves as industry leaders and close some higher profile clients that helped take our business to the next level. However, it's not something I would risk doing again, or even recommend to others.
Driving myself that hard is not worth my sanity, my health and wellbeing, my ability to enjoy time with my family and ensure I'm strong for my team. Life is short. I've learned to take better care of myself and lead my team through example, so they can find a better work/life balance too.
5. Never Give Up
Where there is a will, there's a way. Energy and persistence conquer all things. That's one of my favorite quotes from Benjamin Franklin.
I can't tell you the number of times my husband and partner, Iain, and I looked at each other and considered shutting down shop in the first two years and going back to work for someone else. It's certainly an easier path – a steady paycheck, benefits, paid vacation time, etc.
Being a business owner is not easy. However, the fire inside us would start burning and we always found a way to make our business work. We kept digging. Kept pushing. Kept fighting for the lives we wanted for each other and our family. And one day we turned a corner. And then another. And instead of taking two steps back and one step forward, we found ourselves taking one step forward, then another, then another, until we felt like we were spring-boarding ahead.
Life is not simple by any means. Whatever direction you chose to go, and whatever challenges you are having, others in a different city, life and situation also have their own challenges they are facing. The difference between those who succeed and those who don't is whether those people decided to quit or not.
So, if you love what you do and you believe in it, never give up. You will find a way, and in the end you will make it work. In our case, we're exceptionally blessed for how things have worked out. We continue to work hard every day on making our business a success, and are grateful for every opportunity that continues to come our way.