The great thing about using the first half of the week and the early mornings to get the nuts and bolts of your to-do list done, is that you might just end up on Friday with some time for the stuff that matters, like building and maintaining important relationships.
On a beautiful late Friday morning this February (2019), I did just that. Hopped in a cab and went to visit Sue’s office – Sookio. A great digital agency based in the heart of Cambridge.
Sue gave me a tour of the super-quirky, beautifully decorated office and introduced me to all the staff and contractors working with her. What an amazing group of people.
We sat down, had no agenda whatsoever and just… chatted. WTF?! No business? No. No partnership discussion? Nah. Referrals? Nope… just a chat. And it was lovely. I had the time to truly listen and Sue seemed to be in the same frame of mind.
As you often do when you truly listen, I walked away having learnt quite a few things. Here the 4 that stuck:
1. Subtle confidence
Sue is amazing. Talking about women in business, she shared that she’s really not into the whole campaign about women in business. She feels so confident about the fact that women can and should be in business just as much as anyone else, men, women, trans or fucking aliens (my words not Sue’s) that campaigning isn’t something she’s interested in. Nothing wrong with those who do campaign if that is something close to their heart. But many campaign just because they belong to the group being campaigned for, and therefore feel they should; Sue isn’t one of those. Think about just how powerful that is. She’s so comfortable in the position that her gender holds in business that she has no need to forcefully ‘campaign’ about it. That is true power. I love that.
2. Failure should not be celebrated
Like me, Sue doesn’t celebrate failure. I have mentioned my sentiment about failure almost timidly, thinking that maybe Sue might feel differently. My take on it is that nobody should celebrate failure – did a LinkedIn post about it a few months back. One must accept failure as part of the journey because anyone with some brains knows that whenever you try to build something remarkable, you will crash and fall face first, a few times, probably many times.
You must accept it so that:
- You can prepare for it and not be shocked or overwhelmed when it happens
- You can budget for it so it doesn’t drain your cash flow
- You normalise talking about it so your team is not terrified of making mistakes
- You build resilience, much like a scientist carrying out an experiment, fully expecting failure and happy to get right back to the drawing board
- You recognise it and therefore are more likely to stop/fix it before it becomes monumental to the point where it cripples the business
But you don’t fucking celebrate it. What does that even mean? Does anyone actually stop, open a cake or a bottle of bubbly with silly hats on and sings ‘happy fucking failure’? Do they call for a staff meeting and truly celebrate the failure? It kills me.
Sue feels like I do: do your best to avoid it but be fully accepting of it when it happens. Learn and move on. Don’t let it throw you or upset you. Get back and get better. Tell your team that they might fail and that it will be okay. It’s part of winning.
3. We are all scared
We’re all scared! Sue is truly talented. She knows her stuff. She knows what she’s doing and her business shows it. But before she took over the lease of this new cool office, 18 (or so) months ago, she was shit scared of the step. She confessed that before she forced herself to move out of the co-working space she previously was working from, it was hard to make decisions. Making the scary decision to take on a full lease, decorate and be responsible for an entire office, helped her decision-making muscles. She has grown her business by herself, she hired her staff and she was alone having to make those decisions. It was hard. It’s hard when you don’t have anyone to lean on sometimes. I think, and Sue also said, that it’s always challenging, it never stops, it’s just that the challenges change. She’s now working through letting go of some of the things she’s always done herself but now recognise that she can no longer afford to do. She needs to delegate, hire and train others to do that. She knows that and, whilst that’s a positive step forward, it can still be hard to actually do it. Hiring and training take both time and money.
At Genie Goals, we are a bit further in the journey and it’s still hard to make some decisions. It’s still hard to hire for certain roles and, whilst being bigger helps in some ways, psychologically, we still undergo the pressure and stress of making these decisions.
So, it looks like it’s always going to be hard and the magic is not in learning to make it easy but to embrace the challenge. In other, cheesier words: it’s not about looking for the sun, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.
4. Do what you love
I wrote about this extensively in my book, THE AGENCY (plug!). The concept of always looking to tap into your passions and embed those in everything you do. Finding one sole passion is both overrated and useless. People are passionate about different things and one should nurture all of these.
I am passionate about writing, I am passionate about inspiring others, I am passionate about seeing stuff and staff grow, I am passionate about learning, I am passionate about science. So I try to embed these things into my weekly tasks.
Sue is clearly passionate about every single aspect of that they built and are building at Sookio. Her eyes lit up talking about her staff, the decor, her clients, the services they offer and all that they do. But she’s also clearly passionate about life and meeting others. The way she greeted me, the way she talked about other people and the way she talked to her staff, illustrated clearly that Sue injects passion in all those things she loves. And it’s lovely to see.
Life’s too short to be stuck doing things we don’t feel passionate about in a way that isn’t passionate. What’s the point?
Make time to have a chat with people… no agenda, no motives… just a chat. you might just learn something.
Thank you Sue.