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15 Lessons Learned in 15 Years of Self-Employment

Today marks the 15th anniversary of Greenfield Services Inc., the company that my husband Heinz and I initially founded as ourticket to leave the corporate rat race.  It was just the two of us back in 1998, but today our company employs 15 people (who get the day off today because of Easter Monday!).  

We have worked with wonderful clients, employees, and partners, learning 15 precious lessons along the way:
  1. Entrepreneurship IS the Ultimate Freedom: Whenever I hear about corporate politics from some of my hotel friends I am so thankful that I chose the entrepreneurial route. Being an entrepreneur is hard work and there are rules to follow, but ultimately it is my choice if take a day off, invest in new software or hire more people.
  2. Turning Down Business is OK: Entrepreneurial freedom also means saying NO. Because the work isn’t the right fit, the time isn’t right or the relationship doesn’t feel good. It took me several years to learn this lesson because in the early days I was so afraid to run out of work! But I know now to stick to my strengths and follow my gut.
  3. Always be Prospecting: To be able to say no, you have to have enough business in your funnel. And that means consistently looking for new opportunities and developing relationships.
  4. Develop Confidence with a Positive Focus: Several years ago I took a program which I affectionately refer to as an “MBA for Entrepreneurs.” With The Strategic Coach I learned the concept of Positive Focus, which helps one focus on “wins” to build confidence. Now at every morning briefing all Greenfield team members share something positive so that they begin their day feeling happy and confident. 
  5. Keeping an Attitude of Gratitude: This is different from the positive focus. Being grateful also entails being thankful for the tough situations and the bad days. Because that’s when lessons are learned…
  6. Do What You Love (and are usually best at) & Delegate the Rest: Another lesson I learned with The Strategic Coach – the Unique Ability concept. And probably the single biggest reason why Heinz and I have a successful business and are still happily married… He’s good at what I’m not (like accounting) and vice-versa! 
  7. People Move On, and That’s OK: In the hotel sales world where I come from, when someone resigns they instantly become persona non grata… and often are walked out the door! I had to learn not to take a resignation personally. Someone who leaves an organization can be a wealth of information to help improve the operation. 
  8. No One Is Irreplaceable, Not Even You: As devastating as it may be if a key team player leaves, no one is indispensable. Not even the owner! Even if it’s just to cover for vacation time, have individual development plans and give the opportunity for people to step up. 
  9. Take Care Of Yourself First: A lesson I have been taught over and over again (yes, I’m a slow learner). If you’re not healthy, you’re useless to your business. Make sure you take time for YOU.
  10. Know Your Why: It’s one thing to be in business for yourself, but do you really know WHY, beyond just earning a living? The book Start With Why by Simon Sinek helped define my personal purpose and by default, my company’s purpose: To help our clients, our employees and our community GROW and PROSPER.
  11. Be Clear On What You Want: One of the most valuable lessons my friend and personal coach Betty Healey taught me was to listen to my own complaint (what I didn’t want) and FLIP IT to focus on what I wanted to attract. Because the Law of Strategic Attraction says you attract what you focus on…
  12. We All Have Blind Spots: Some of us are extroverts, others introverts; some feeling-based, others fact-based. We all process information and communicate differently. Being an effective leader means acknowledging shortcomings and ensuring proper team communication makes up for blind spots. My two favourite self-learning tools are: Kolbe and Lumina.
  13. Laugh: My personal nature is to joke around and be demonstrative. But I used to be afraid to be playful because I thought business leaders had to be serious. Wrong. Life is too short. Besides, laughter is a great stress-buster!
  14. There Is No Magic Bullet, But You Can FEEL Better: Owning and growing a business is very similar to gardening, one of my personal passions. And just like growing plants take time, there is no magic bullet, no magic fertilizer that will make everything instantly better. Except perhaps with how you choose to feel about things. 
  15. Change Is The Only Constant: Just when you think “OK, we’re all set,” something changes. Your key contact at an account is let go, budgets are cut, a supplier goes out of business. Change is the only constant, said Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, and that was over 2,500 years ago!

To all our clients and employees, present, past and future, THANK YOU.  It’s been a great journey so far.