Photo Courtesy of Heather Monahan
Self 14 May 2018
Confidence is such a funny thing; you can have it in one area in your life and not in another. You can also have confidence at certain times in your life and then lose it. But one thing is for sure, confidence can be elusive at the times when you need it most. That moment for me was when I was fired from my C-suite position.
After 14 years climbing the corporate ladder at the same company, I had broken the glass ceiling, was recognized as one of the most influential women in radio, headlined countless conferences and had been promoted numerous times. To say that I was in shock the day another woman looked me in the eye and told me my position was eliminated is an understatement. At that moment, I really needed my confidence, but sadly it wasn't there. What was there, thankfully, is a lifetime of experience learning how to build my confidence muscle back up when it had been depleted. I got to work quickly on my 30-day plan to rebuild my confidence in order to put myself in a position to handle this new challenge with the right mindset.
Heather Monahan's book cover for "Confidence Creator"
Over those 30 days, I saw amazing support from my loved ones and network of contacts. I reached out to others for help, and they showed up. I saw terrific opportunities present themselves to me. I had started to rebuild my confidence and shift my perspective. As that change occurred, it became clear to me that I wanted to write a book. Now that may not seem like a big deal to you, but it certainly was to me. While I have always been a public speaker, a mentor and a leader in business I have never been nor have I been viewed as an “author." That seismic shift to be willing to see myself in different areas and not in the one box I had always been in was scary. Would I be good at it? Would I even be able to get it done? To start something new, you need to be willing to be a beginner and take the risk associated with doing something new which can be petrifying. So many ideas flood your mind, but the biggest is what if I fail. To push beyond that feeling and get started, I needed to remember all that I had accomplished in my life, past challenges I had overcome and how I had been a beginner at everything at one point and figured it out. I decided I was going to figure this one out too. That is when I decided I was going to write my book.
Once you decide to take a risk and try something new, you need to figure out how to do it. I had no idea how to write a book so in my standard operating procedure, I googled it. I really did. I googled how to write a book and found an outline and a webinar. The basic takeaway for me was to just start writing. To stop overthinking and worrying about what I was going to write about or what I would call the book or if anyone would like it and instead I set up space at my desk, cleared everything else off and just started writing. Since the thing on the top of my mind was getting fired, I decided to start there. Each day I would sit and write whatever it was that came to my mind. Over the next two weeks, it became clear that I was writing a book about my life, my experiences and how each one of them taught me how to build confidence. Again, I did not know this when I started but through the process of doing it, I figured this out. This strategy has worked with so many different experiences and I am always reminded that taking action and taking steps will help you to figure out where you are supposed to be going.
After writing for a couple of months, I realized I was going to need to tap a professional to let me know if what I had was good enough, needed to be modified or needed to be trashed. With no experience in writing a book, I didn't have a benchmark to compare it to. That is when I started surfing the net looking for an editor. As always the simple process of taking action led me to one. When I told my fiancé how much the editor was, he called a friend in the book business who recommended someone else, that is when I found my editor. While I wasn't entirely sure that he was the right editor for me, I felt we had a fair agreement, and he really seemed to care, I sent him everything that I had written.
Heather Monahan interview with BOLD.
Photo Courtesy of BOLD
Having an expert on board was a game changer. He immediately taught me the need to re-organize and categorize my stories and always take in different ways to benefit the reader. He showed me where I was redundant and where I need to fill out more detail.
Working with an expert allows you to leapfrog the process and this was a wise investment. We are working together back and forth on email and before I knew it things were beginning to look like a book. I will never forget the first time he emailed me over a rough draft manuscript of my book. We had been going back and forth on word docs with each chapter. Unbeknownst to me, my editor had put each document into a rough draft manuscript and the first time I saw it I cried.
Even though I had been working on this for months that was the moment I realized I was really going to be publishing a book. Every step forward takes you closer to reaching and realizing your goal, and each of those steps helps you to overcome the fear. This doesn't mean that the fear of failing or not finishing or anything else wasn't there because it was, it just means that the further you go and the more milestones you reach the closer you get to the train has already left the station so I better just let go of second guessing myself.
Heather Monahan #Bossinheels - Behind the Scenes.
Photo Courtesy of Heather Monahan
During this time I was working with my editor, I began to have conversations with others with experience in the book business, and everyone told me I needed a publisher. My fiancé knew a book agent, so I called the guy to get the inside scoop.
He said to me that without being a previously published author or without having a significant social media following or another type of large reach, platforms like tv shows or movies, there really wasn't much of a shot of getting a publisher to take me on. His suggestion was to write a book proposal and start cold calling publishers and pitching my concept. I worked on this for about a week until I realized that book proposals are a lot of work and I was basically finished with my book, and then the final straw, which was finding out the publishers would want 12-18 months to bring my book to life. That was it for me, the pivot began, and I started working on self-publishing. One thing I was clear on was I wanted my book to come out now. The timing was really important to me, and I wasn't going to risk waiting.
As per my usual, I began googling self-publishing and setting up calls with companies that guide you to self-publish. I quickly found a number of different solutions based upon the investment you wanted to make. I found a company that was willing to offer me products a la carte and I chose them since I already had my manuscript finished and edited. From that point, you would think things would move quickly but they didn't.
There is the typesetting, the fonts, the copyright and everything else that moves painfully slow in the publishing process. Even though I selected the name Confidence Creator and the cover image before I even went to the self-publishing company, we still had to go through different iterations on the cover before we found the final version. The process was much longer than I would have liked and like anything there were times that deadlines were missed and I was frustrated. There were also lots of mind-blowing moments like the day I picked my final cover and the day the final locked PDF manuscript was sent to me or the day I held my first proof copy. This week I received cases of my book to my house and I stood over them and cried. The act of holding something that was just an idea months ago is beyond surreal and gratifying. The feeling of pride and accomplishment that goes along with taking a risk and doing something new is overwhelming once the task is completed. Still not knowing what the world will think of my book, I stand here today realizing that no matter what anyone else thinks I love my book and this is already a major win for me. My confidence is at an all-time high and my ability to take risks on has never been greater. Now, I am a proud author who will no longer be put in a box. I have successfully torn down the walls that I had previously allowed to limit me. Standing here now there is only one thing I can think of and that is what I will create next!
3 Min Read
"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.