Amidst these very tumultuous and challenging times across the globe, it has become increasingly difficult to find reasons to celebrate and give thanks. I have lots of reason to give thanks this week. Three years ago I said goodbye to my corporate HR career and put out my Breaking Glass sign. The main drivers were to create more balance in my life by spending more time with my family as well as continue to do the work I love to do, just perhaps a little differently than over my 25-year HR career. It was a scary change to make after having a very successful in-house HR career and not having any clients lined up to kick off my consulting business, but it just felt like the right time. Shortly after making the jump, I found myself an unplanned empty nester, in the truest sense of the term – my daughter moved back to our home town of Halifax to attend University that fall (that was planned!) but my husband unexpectedly left our marriage at the same time. That left me wondering if I should abandon my dream and go back to the corporate environment given the uncertainty and the need to pay my bills. However, I was committed to and excited about Breaking Glass and decided that this was what I was meant to do, so I decided to stick with it! But it was scary.
My first three years as Principal of Breaking Glass have been amazing. I learned a lot about myself, about being an entrepreneur, and about other people throughout this journey. I thought I’d share a few of those learnings:
- It’s ok to not know what you’re doing all the time. When I received the first request from a prospective client for a proposal, I said with my outside voice, “Sure I’ll get you something by tomorrow”, but my inside voice said “I have no idea how to write a proposal or what to charge”. There are so many resources out there that helped me set up my business, create a website and make many more decisions along the way. Both online resources and even more valuable, friends, peers and colleagues that were happy to share their experiences and tools. I went from being the one everyone counted on to have the answers, to accepting I won’t know all the answers and became more comfortable reaching out for help. So, it’s ok to not have all the answers.
- Networking is not a bad word. I used to always hear the term networking when people were in transition and looking for work and often wondered if they were really networking or trying to sound busy. I realize I love networking as it gives me the opportunity to reconnect with friends, colleagues and business partners that normally I’d be too busy to reach out to. The three degrees of separation is amazing – everyone is so willing to meet for a coffee, give you ideas, and introduce you to others in their network that they think might be helpful. I cannot say thank you enough to everyone I’ve connected with who took time out of their busy day to meet with me. After three years in business, I’ve yet had to do any marketing or cold calling, as all of my business has come from my network. So, networking works!
- Be true to your mission, values and trust your gut. I learned this as I incorporated as some of my mentors and colleagues advised me against naming my company Breaking Glass. They felt people will automatically default to the assumption of “breaking the glass ceiling” and pigeon hole what my business represents. For my entire HR career, I found myself always offering the same advice to HR practitioners and business leaders – sometimes you have to break some glass in order to affect change. It therefore felt natural that Breaking Glass would be my company name. Granted I may need to explain that sometimes, but when I do, I get a very positive and encouraging response. With that, the intent of Breaking Glass was always to partner with CEO’s, Presidents and business leaders to help them find the courage to make the tough decisions in order to drive the change they are seeking in their business. I wanted to be able to focus and specialize in this executive level HR partnership and leave the specialized, more tactical (yet no less important) work to those functional experts such as payroll, health and safety, and even recruiting. And that’s exactly what I’ve been able to do. So, know what you want to be known for and stick to it. Trust your gut.
- Believe in yourself. As I grew in my career, I often received feedback that I was not “a typical HR practitioner” for many reasons. My decision-making, my style, my approach, my business acumen, and even my sense of humor seemed to stand out amongst other HR practitioners. I’m not sure I understood that or more importantly realized that could become a competitive advantage when I embarked on my own HR consulting business. I continue to hear how unique I am and I actually now believe that! As a result, I’ve gained the confidence to believe I can do this and make a difference in the working lives of so many people. I also know there is still much I don’t know and I will never hesitate to reach out for help, or bring in subject matter experts who may know more than I do in particular areas to provide my clients the best counsel they deserve. So, believe in your uniqueness and accept your weaknesses.
I’ve had my share of ups and downs in the past three years, however, when I hung up the “corporate” hat and put on the “entrepreneurial” one three years ago, I have never looked back. I have also never been happier. I have appreciated the lessons I’ve learned, and most importantly I have appreciated the support from so many friends and colleagues, old and new.
As so many businesses are gravely affected by the recent pandemic, I too am not immune to those affects. I’m choosing to take this opportunity to pay it forward – offering support to as many businesses as I can who may not have the HR support to help them navigate through these difficult times or just need another perspective. We are all in this together. While I’ve learned to accept a level of uncertainty in my three-year journey so far, one thing is for certain – this crisis will pass. If I can do anything to help now or in the future, please don’t hesitate to connect with me.
Thank you – please stay safe and be well.