The Speed of Twenty Years
In the blur of travel, multiple projects, and life in general, I recently realized something that was right in front of me but didn’t notice. It started from a basic question asked of me by a fellow passenger on plane ride back from Baltimore. “How long have you been in business?” I thought about it for a minute. Let’s see, I started in 1997 and….oh wow….it’s been twenty years. Wait, twenty? Twenty years? Wow. I really had never thought about it and it totally crept up on me.
In 1997, I did something I had never done in my entire career. I quit an extremely stressful job without another one lined up. Thanks to my husband, I had the luxury of being able to take a badly needed time-out. I took 6 months off to figure out what came next. To say I was burned out would be an understatement. For the first 3 months I just went to the gym and slept a lot. The last 3 months I worked with a career coach and had many job interviews. But I was not interested in any of the opportunities. Several people began suggesting to me that consulting would be a good fit for me – but I couldn’t see it. Who would hire me if I didn’t have a company attached to me? It really made me think about my identity and how it was so attached to my career. Was my identity owned by the company I kept? Or could I claim it and make my own way?
Striking a Bargain
After a lot of thought and many conversations, I struck a bargain with myself. I would try consulting for one year with a goal of matching my salary. If I didn’t succeed, I would go find a job. I never even considered what would happen if I was successful. Funny to think about that now. Year one went quickly and I surpassed my goal! So, I gave myself another year. That year was even better – so I did it for a third year. Again, a great experience. At that point, I realized I had a business here if I wanted it. And so I changed my entire career orientation permanently – and twenty years literally FLEW BY.
Needless to say, I have not even planned how I will celebrate this milestone. I’m still marveling that I have done this work for so long on my own. I need to figure out a way to celebrate for sure. I also want to share some things I’ve learned along the way that have been pivotal for my growth both personally and professionally. Each quarter of my 20th year, I will share them with you.
First Quarter Theme: THANKS
Thanks to the people who really helped me see what was possible. Because I didn’t see it at all.
Thanks to Nancy Haynes, a former co-worker who told me something that has been true for every one of these 20 years. “You will be the best and worst boss you have ever had.” She was and is so right! She has just started a new career and vocation herself – and it is going to be amazing.
Thanks to Nancy Hegarty, another former co-worker who told me that consulting would be a good fit given how I had operated at work on the different projects I got involved with in addition to my regular responsibilities. She helped me understand what skills I had that would make a good consultant. My respect for her allowed me to trust her judgement, even though I was not sure I could do it.
Thanks to my mother, who taught me about ‘re-careering” – a woman who had multiple careers, all of them successful. At the time I was considering my options for work, she was a career counselor (career #3 I think), working with a couple of people who were building very successful consulting practices after many years working in corporate. She shared what they were doing and how creative and lucrative it could be. I could have both? She tempted me to take a risk because she had done so herself over and over.
Thanks to Jim Ballway, a consultant I had hired a few times to do some work for me when I was employed. I took him to lunch to pick his brain about consulting and he advised me to keep my costs low, and “whatever you do, don’t rent office space until you have to. Stay in your house as long as you can.” Great advice – and he was right. In twenty years, I only had an external office for about a year – and it was a waste of money!
Thanks to Kathy McAllister, one of my first big clients and collaborators. She taught me the power of socializing ideas in advance of rolling things out, and refining and re-refining (and re-refining) output to get it just right. It used to drive me a little crazy, but the results were always great. I wanted to get the work done quickly and then show it – but the power of having people bought in beforehand was really important. Thanks, Kathy for teaching me that valuable lesson.
Thanks to Joan Groleau who hired me after sitting in one training class, and has since worked with me at 5 different companies. She has been the most creative client/partner I have ever had the privilege of working with. With her knack of having vision just before a need presents itself, we’ve been able to create some amazing outcomes over the years. She helped my business be better and more creative than I could have ever imagined without her.
So that’s my first take on twenty years of Knowledgence. This year I am finishing up writing a book which will be out in the spring. Who would have thought this is where I’d be? Not me! But the best is yet to come, and I feel that anything is possible. What a gift all of my clients over the years have given me. Next quarter I will share some specific things I learned on some key projects that may help you in your own endeavors. Thank you. That’s what I want to say most of all. Thank all of you.
President, Knowledgence Associates