When I first became a parent nearly five years ago, it seemed people couldn’t help but bestow on me all manner of advice. Among the words of wisdom sent my way, one insight stood out: “the days are long, but the years are short”, meaning through the inevitable ups, downs and in-betweens, I should try to enjoy it all. These words ring true to me both as a parent and as an entrepreneur with the other “baby” in my life, our now two-year-old communications agency, Felicity.
I first started Felicity to provide an opportunity for talented communicators to do the work we love, in a way we love, by forming a flexible, seamlessly-integrated team. Together, we would strive to be the best business partner for our clients by delivering exceptional service and best-in-class strategic thinking without traditional agency constraints.
2013 saw both our team and our client partnerships grow by leaps and bounds, reinforcing the fact that what we’re building is a compelling alternative to the traditional agency business model. Our rapid growth and success was dependent largely on my role as both the leader and “doer-in-chief”. While I suppose this is typical for many entrepreneurs in the initial phases of starting a company, it is not a sustainable structure for the long-term health of the business.
At our Urban Retreat in the Spring, and again at our “Social Social” in the Fall, our team enthusiastically discussed the vision for Felicity. Our “whole-person culture”, which starts with flexible and manageable workloads, plays a central role to the work-life balance opportunities found within our company; however, even though I felt confident in how these possibilities were being realized by the team, I still found myself burning the candle at both ends.
While business continued to grow and thrive, other aspects of my life were also preparing to expand. With great excitement, Brian and I learned we would be welcoming our third child toward the end of the year.
So with this baby “deadline” on the horizon, it was time to actually walk the walk of that “whole-person culture” for myself and ultimately for our company. How could I ensure Felicity would continue on our path of growth, while being able to enjoy this special time with my newly-expanded family?
As Ed Batista writes in his recent Harvard Business Review blog post, “instead of simply doing more, sustaining our success as leaders requires us to redefine how we add value.” In hindsight, that’s exactly how I prepared for this huge change that was about to take place in my life. Here are the three steps I took to drill down how to add the most value, in my dual roles of business owner and parent:
- Spend my time like I spend my money: where it counts. Since starting Felicity, I had been endeavouring to carry out most functions within our business, from managing our social media presence to accounting to internal communications. But was I doing them as efficiently and effectively as they could be done? Absolutely not! Clients tell us they love that we custom-build their Felicity teams with the right talent. So I put this formula to work by harnessing the talents of our amazing team members within our own business.
- Separate the urgent from the important. When you have your own business – and when you have kids – there is ALWAYS something to do. But how much of that to-do list can be classified truly important? Viewed through this lens, where you add value and what to begin doing (as well as when) becomes abundantly clear.
- The only way to take a step forward is to take a step back. As a parent, I’ve come to realize one of the most important things you can do for your kids is to set them up for success and then watch as they figure out how to go about achieving it. Be it holding their hands and letting go as they take their first steps, to dropping them off for the first day of school, it’s these moments of inflection that provide the building blocks for growth. It’s only been a month or so since our daughter arrived, but I can already tell that taking a step back from the nitty-gritty has fueled a more sustainable and scalable direction for the growth of the business. And by letting go, our team members have in turns achieved success beyond anything I could have imagined.
As we approach the new year with the new addition to our family, and a new and better modus operandi at Felicity, I’m filled with excitement about what’s in store for the days and the years to come, and am looking forward to continuing this journey with you.