A phrase that always stuck with me was “there are no business problems – there are personal problems that people bring into their businesses.”
So many of us create and build in this life through our adaptations. Business especially so. It can tie into so many things for us. We can see it as an extension of our ability to create and provide for ourselves and the people we love. It can be an expression to us of our skills and worth.
Of course, the more emotional weight we place on a business, the more convoluted it can get for us when we need to make clear – and sometimes challenging – decisions.
I found that to be the case for me in different points of my ‘business career.’ I started marketing in 2009, working as a freelance copywriter. Over my career, I developed roles as a brand consultant, conversion rate optimization provider, email strategist, and then eventually a “I’ll run your business for you do-it-all” marketer. Then in 2015, everything changed – I experienced a shift that felt like I experienced the world in a completely different way.
Things seemed very clear for me at the start of 2016. I stepped away from marketing to share expanded perspective and reflections on reality.
At the start of 2018 found myself drawn back into a path of business (read: life smacked me in the face with it.) It was an interesting transition for me, as up until that point, I presumed I’d only be a wandering mystic for the rest of my life.
Over the last two and a half years, I stepped into a role of working with my business partner Josh Bretag to grow and scale our performance marketing agency.
I love our agency and our team, Cubatica. I love the people, the culture, and the different people we work with. I love the different challenges that come with scaling and grow businesses into multimillion dollar companies through media buying and business strategies.
Right now, I’m enjoying the creative expression of building out our own business properties as we embrace our new native traffic arm of the business.
Today, I found myself reflecting on the last few years, the lessons I’ve learned as I’ve walked this path – scaling this business, the personal challenges I’ve had, and the space I am allowing for who I am becoming now.
Here’s some perspectives and lessons about life, connecting with people, the challenges of co-creating, and building a business that resonates with the kind of world you want to live in:
The less I think about who I am, the more I can live my best life being ME. When I concern myself with the definitions of what I am, I can get too wrapped up in whether or not I’m living up to those definitions. The freest I have felt is when I’m not concerned about WHO I am, and instead focused on where my energy wants to go moment to moment. Then, my life can paint a clear picture – I don’t even have to sweat the details. 🙂 That being said, I also discovered it’s fine to give yourself a definition while understanding that it’s not something you have to identify with. It’s just one sign post that people can interact with you on.
Treat your team with respect, no matter their role. Every single person in your team is a vital part of the whole. I have noticed some companies who treat people with less dignity if they feel the role is replaceable. I have found every person has a zone of genius. It doesn’t matter whether they’re entering data, running accounts, or brokering deals – all parts come together to create that whole. When we celebrate people, and appreciate the work they do, there is more cohesion in the team, a happier work environment, and a better life for all of us.
By that token, treat clients with respect. If you’ve worked with clients, you know this one can be tough. I don’t want to wax poetic here. People can range from amazing to work with, to being incredibly difficult and challenging to work with. There are times I’ve worked with a client so intense, I chose to step away from the keyboard. I’m not saying we are perfect and never have steam to let out – but I do strive even within my own self to focus on the understanding that everyone is trying their best – and to approach these challenging situations from a place of love and understanding. Working with a variety of people has helped me approach relationships in general from a place of curiosity, inquisitiveness, and openness – and has helped my interpersonal skills.
Set clear boundaries for what you will and will not accept into your life – This goes for your clients, for your team, and for yourself. Treating your team with respect and your clients with respect rides on the back of treating yourself with respect. You do that by being clear on what your boundaries are, and what you will and will not entertain in your day to day experience. Pick clients who will listen to your boundaries, clearly communicate with you and your team, respect timeframes, and come from a place of curiosity – not blame. Pick teammates who take personal responsibility for their actions, who speak up, and do what they say they’ll do.
Be curious – not blaming. Human beings are… human beings. We may all strive to be our most awesome selves, but if you work with someone every day, you’re going to see all kinds of sides of them. Explore any rough experiences with curiosity. More times than not, that space will really allow a person to reflect.
Encourage honesty, and empower those you work with – We’ve had amazing people come into our team – some stay and grow with us, some leave on to new ventures that they grew themselves. It’s always hard to see that happen – but there’s a beauty to it too. By encouraging the growth of the whole AND the individual, everyone can flourish in their own way, and their own time. Sometimes, that growth comes back to help everyone in new and unexpected ways.
Give everyone the space they need to work from their zone of genius – I think our business and education systems as a whole could use an overhaul. Businesses are ecosystems. Organic and ebbing and flowing. Our ability to define parameters and expectations, while being gentle and allowing for growth gives the people who are working inside of it the space they need to tap into their genius. It takes patience, trust, and a willingness to not do things perfectly.
Letting go of a need for control – This was actually a challenging one for me: I discovered that I liked control, in very subtle ways. Go figure, the woman who wants to understand how reality works likes control. 🙂 Funny enough, life doesn’t respond the way we’d like to our desire to control – but it does respond to us working in sync with it – and knowing the balance of when to lead, and when to let go. Similarly, in order to work with a whole team effectively, I need to consider the whole. When I’m leading Cubatica, this isn’t the Danielle show. I must be willing to step back and consider the benefits for the whole.
Own your mistakes, and don’t punish the mistakes of others – One thing I love about our team is we’re willing to own up when we make mistakes. No one throws anyone under the bus. We work together to see where the challenges are and come up with solutions together. This starts with leadership. As leaders, we must own our mistakes.
The business isn’t here to serve you alone – it’s here to serve us all (including you) – This might be an interesting one for many to digest – I will share this thought regardless. Many of us create businesses and things with an idea that they will serve us as individuals, maybe provide for our families or a select few team members. But I find this to be a very narrow view of any creation – and if anything, it limits the scope of what can be. As I said, I’ve come to see businesses like an ecosystem. I believe and perceive that businesses could be much more than ‘revenue generating machines’ when we run them with a true sense of community. The world we would create with such businesses would be beyond anything we could imagine. However, the first step is for each of us to stand firmly in our own personal integrity – all changes are inner to outer – and begin within ourselves. We must connect first to our own natural values, and stand in them. One good place to start is to ask “What do I truly want?” then explore.
Be a kind and loving leader to yourself – Perhaps this is obvious, or maybe it’s not. But how you lead yourself will affect the whole. Be kind to you. Lead yourself with the same no bullshit grace and dignity you would lead anyone else – and that you would want to be lead with.
With that, I take a moment to thank you for sharing this moment to reflect with me.
I hope these reflections serve you well in your journey. What perspective if any resonated with you the most? I would love to hear. 🙂