#SWAAYthenarrative

Getting Your Spark Back: 4 Quick Tricks For Career Fulfillment

4 Min Read
Career

Are you one of the lucky people who wakes up every morning eager to get out of bed? Or do you linger under the covers, dreading the day in front of you? Do you envy people who get up at 5:30 am, meditate for 20 minutes, go to the gym, then power through a productive day, accomplishing their goals? Are those people just lucky to be extremely passionate about their work and lives? Or do they have a special formula that enables them to be extremely efficient?

Many people grapple with this question. I am a staunch believer that we are each in control of our destiny and that we must take responsibility for our own happiness. Of course, there are external factors we cannot control that can create obstacles to success, but think of all the entrepreneurs and women in business who – against all odds – overcame challenges and excelled to either build great businesses or become CEOs. I believe we should maximize what we have – not focus on what we don't have, or blame external circumstances.

A sponsor can help open many doors for your business. Remember: no one is an island.

This starts by leading a life of gratitude. Be thankful for where you are, today – for your health, your family, the wave of your two-year-old child, the tulips that come out in the spring, and the scent of the earth after it rains. Gratitude leads to happiness, and happiness leads to increased positive outcomes. I discovered this truth after I read Shawn Achor's The Happiness Advantage. He recommends doing the following five things every day for 21 days:

1. Meditate for two minutes.

2. Exercise for 15 minutes.

3. Write down three things you are thankful for.

4. Spend two minutes writing about a positive experience.

5. Do one kind act for someone else (this could be anything from an encouraging email to simply holding open the door for someone).

I tried this exercise for 21 days and was lifted out of my fog of inertia and compelled to pursue other activities. But is happiness the only thing that separates those who achieve their dreams from those who don't? Happiness creates an enabling environment for more positive things to come. With an optimistic mind, you start to see that your life does not have to move along by default. Instead, you can steer your own direction with a clear set of goals. Too often our dreams diminish as we age and the responsibilities of adult life take over. So how do you keep those dreams alive? In my recently published eBook, Guide for Ladies Who Relaunch, I lay out 7 Ps for a Successful Career Pivot. I will discuss three of those 7 Ps below:

Purpose

First, decide what you really want in life. This step is by far the most important and is often influenced by fear, lack of belief in oneself, other people's expectations, or financial and lifestyle considerations. It is important to take time to figure out where you get your spark – that thing that will get you out of bed in the mornings, excited to start your day. And while you may not be able to plunge into creating that dream business or job right away, perhaps there are smalls steps toward reaching your goal that you can take every day. Often career pivots take place gradually.

I believe we should maximize what we have – not focus on what we don't have, or blame external circumstances.

Personal Branding

People buy into the leader, before they buy into the vision - John Maxwell

Personal branding defines you and includes your skills, your values, your social media presence, your network, and the industry you belong to. If you haven't yet been decisive about your personal brand, once you have found your purpose, join relevant groups on LinkedIn, comment on posts in your field of interest, or start a blog. Having a strong personal brand will help you in your conversations as you try to make a career pivot in the corporate world or launch a new business.

Panel of advisors

We all need a support group with whom we meet regularly to discuss our goals, exchange ideas, and help us to expand our network. This group champions your dreams and encourages you to move forward. Many of us already have such a group, although we may not call it a panel of advisors. This group may include friends, family, and professional connections. For female entrepreneurs, I recommend regularly connecting with other more successful entrepreneurs in your field. Ideally, this panel includes someone who is several steps ahead of you in your dream field and who can mentor you. Many individuals also have sponsors – an individual willing to bat for you in a new role or in a new business and whose reputation will help you. For example, if you are starting a technology company, a sponsor may help you source investors, identify a co-founder, and source new board members. A sponsor can help open many doors for your business. Remember: no one is an island.

Gratitude leads to happiness, and happiness leads to increased positive outcomes.

And of course, mentor and sponsor relationships should be reciprocal, so you should give a lot in return.

Making a career change can be a daunting task, especially when you think about how you are going to get from point A to point Z. But when you break it down into smaller steps, you can get there. First, lead a life of gratitude, and happiness will then follow. And once you are in a positive frame of mind, define your purpose, your personal brand, and build your panel of advisors.

So if you are still thinking of a career change, Nike had the right idea: Just Do It!

This article was originally published June 13, 2017.

3 Min Read
Business

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.