Monthly Archives: March 2013

An Action Plan

So in my last post I spoke about making decisions and about opportunities showing up. This amounts to nothing if you don’t have a plan in place and action said plan (something I was learning day-to-day in my gig in change/project management). I put myself on action plan for my own life. I knew I needed to plan my exodus from corporate life but there were some things I had to consider. At the time I was living in my first piece on the real estate ladder-a condo I had owned for 5 years. I loved my little condo, the community in the building and the maintenance free existence. That said, if I was going to plan a new career as an entrepreneur a lot of my ‘work time’ would be spent at home. Part of the reason I loved my little space is that I was not in it a lot of the time (long hours spent at the office), the thought of living/working in a small (565 sq ft) space with no outdoor space started to get suffocating so I made another decision in addition to changing careers–I decided to buy real estate. Make a decision to leave your lucrative career AND buy a house with a bigger mortgage? Are you crazy? Yeah…not a lot of people thought that call was ‘brave’ rather….crazy, naive, doomed etc. (Insert your comment here) The thing is this…big banks don’t like giving mortgages to people with their own business unless they are already successful or have a whole lot of money in the bank! That was not me. So I put my action plan into place which involved 3 major pieces of the puzzle in the summer of 2011.

1) Arbonne: This is my network marketing business. I’ll be talking about this a lot on this blog because there are lots of misconceptions about networking marketing (is that a pyramid scheme?) and most people in my city/network have never heard of Arbonne. Arbonnie? What’s that? I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again (many times) Arbonne is a Swiss, vegan certified health and wellness company. They’ve been around for over 30 years, and some impressive folks at the helm (see past posts or google them). My old friend who I annually surf with down south is a driven, focused, successful corporate communications background businesswoman. When she told me she had started her own business on the side and told me about the company I decided in August of 2011 to start my own health and wellness business under her (and our up line’s) guidance. Expect to hear lots about my Arbonne journey in this blog. The highs and lows of building your own network marketing business and all the things I’ve learned about myself since I joined. One thing I’ll say about them for now: I needed Arbonne to get me on track for my own personal development and I will always be grateful to Ellen (my sponsor) and the Arbonne community I’m now a part of for that. They are a class act, and I’m loving that I’m a part of this organization. I launched and ran my business on the side while still working full-time at my old corporate gig for almost a year….a very low risk way to venture into entrepreneur land….something I highly recommend if you’re thinking about it. There will be lots more on this theme in this blog too. (clearly I have a lot to say) Having this business up and running for 9 months before my departure from my corp job gave me a sense of where the business could take me and help me project whether or not I could make a living doing this full-time.

2) ‘Get my house in order’: Cuz when you’re planning to walk away from a big salary why wouldn’t you? 😉 I hired a real estate agent in the summer of 2011 and the long search for a new home for me would begin. I had a limited budget and was stubbornly committed to keeping my search area to my beloved neighborhood. (A rather expensive neighbourhood and I’m the sole income earner in my household of one) This would prove to be a long search….to the tune of 6 months. It was a slow time in real estate but I had a patient agent who very quickly assessed what I was looking for (thank you Emily) and only brought me to see houses that I would seriously consider. As a woman with a busy career AND  side business now I didn’t have time to screw around looking at 50 houses a week. I actually bid on 2 houses and lost throughout the process. Have you ever lost a bid? It’s heart breaking! I was lucky to have a friend who came with me to many of the houses, inspect them and talk me through the decision-making process as well as talk me off the cliff when I lost bids (Thank you Graham). I have an old friend who also happens to be my mortgage broker help me through the process of figuring out what I could afford/what I could live with etc….he suffered many long conversations with me about ‘okay, how much more can I get? Is that reasonable?’ (Richard, extra thanks as you probably half that fall on the phone with me..xo) They say when you meet the right person you just know…I’ve heard the same about a house. I saw the open house listing for a cute little semi with 2 decks off the back, a garden, just over 1000 sq ft (so bigger then where I was but manageable for just me) move in ready and in my beloved neighbourhood. My agent and friend who been accompanying me on my house visits couldn’t join me that rainy November day when I went to the open house. The house was awash in earth tones (I’m not an earth tone kind of girl) and it wasn’t set up the way I would but I knew from the minute I walked in I was home. I was in the house less than 10 min, I could telling the selling agent was trying to keep me at the front door to ‘sell’ me more on the house….I left and called my agent the next day: I told her to bid. We bid 2 days later (the first day they accepted bids) and we won. I was at dinner with my mortgage broker and his partner when I was waiting for the call and I wasn’t that nervous because I knew in my gut it was my house to have. I moved into the house 3 months later….after having the entire house painted white (good-bye earth tones) to further bring out my old beat up dark hard wood floors, and spending most of Dec/Jan planning & shopping for the extra pieces I would need to furnish the new place. I worked like a mad woman but by the end of Feb it looked like I had lived there for a year already. I was home.

3) Now that the business was up and running and the house was on the books I called my old friend and told him it was time to do business with his new mobile marketing company. As it turned out the project he had in mind for me had the same timing as my preferred date for leaving my corporate role behind. The wheels were in motion.

Now came the part that gave me palpitations: putting a date in the calendar and working towards that. The friends and family who knew what I was planning were supportive but I know behind the scenes were worried or thought I was nuts. One conversation in particular stands out. My Mum was very worried about this decision now that I’d declared it, I’m her baby (I’m the youngest) now matter how old I am. She did (as she should) say to me “Do you think quitting is a good idea dear? You just bought a house and that’s a big mortgage”. I tried to put her mind at ease but she worries…she’s my mum and I love her for that. My Dad called me one night and also tried to talk me out of it (I’m guessing Mum put him up to it, although I know he was worried too..I am a Daddy’s girl after all, always was). I had a particularly depressing week at work and was beyond fed up so I responded in the most honest way I knew how…I said: “Dad, this job is sucking the life out of me bit by bit every day. I can’t live like this anymore”.  My Dad’s response? In his thick Glaswegian accent he said: “Well hen, you have to dae it then.” The subject was never brought up again. That’s my parents, I’m a lucky lady.

What’s next? A leap of faith and date on the calendar……gulp.

 

May 2011: A Decision

I’ve often heard that you have to decide before you do anything, decide how you want things to be then commit to action. Those comments never really resonated with me in the past if I’m being very honest. In my business there is a legendary woman named Debbie Neal (Google her: Millionaire Mom, Arbonne consultant extraordinaire) who always talks about this, she often starts her extremely inspiring public talks with the comment “Decide to be the bar for you and your team, decide to be successful. Excellence is not a skill, it’s a habit, it’s a decision you make every day to be better. ” I was about to learn how true these statements were. As I’ve already explained, I didn’t really thing about putting a plan in place for my life or even really give a lot of thought to how I wanted it to look. I wasn’t living by design….who would have thought a conversation with my boss and some templates on paper would change all that?

I took those career/life coach templates I talked about away with me as instructed by my coach. I went over to Scotland for a family wedding. A large chunk of the trip was spent out in the beautiful highlands of Scotland (put that on your bucket list if you’ve never been) staying with an Aunt & Uncle. I have an aunt who herself defies the laws of aging/society etc. She’s turning 74 this year, looks about 20 years younger and can do things people 40 years younger struggle with (ie: running half marathons with impressive finish times, hill walking, yoga, traveling etc), and her views of life have always been out of the box. This would explain why we’ve always gotten along. I lived with her and my uncle for a short time with I was 18 and in the years since we always have the best conversations–we keep in touch via email often now as she lives an ocean away. I think one of the reasons we get along is because she’s always ‘seen me’. What do I mean by that? She has always encouraged me to just be me, do what I want to do, not what I’m expected to do (that will be a theme in this blog….you’ve been warned). In fact one of the most hysterical quotes I have by her is this: “You know dear, I’ll always support any decision you make but you’ll never fulfill your full potential as a human being if you decide to get married”. I laughed my head off when she said that and when I tell people the response varies from hysterical laughter to crickets…..depends on the person really. Any-who, I do think that being around her, climbing my first Munro (any hill in Scotland over 3000 ft up) and just being away from the grind of my stressful career gave me the clear head to fill out the templates with complete honesty. I was also able to define what I wanted out of life and actually put it to paper…..something I think we’ve firmly established I didn’t do much of before.

So what were the results?

  • The clear message from all the tests, templates and conversations was that I should be in the health and wellness field (no surprise to anyone who knows me well)
  • A role out of the confines of the 9 to 5 corp structure, something with more flexibility would be a better fit for me.
  • Something where I get to physically move as opposed to sitting at a desk all day.
  • Working with people was key
  • Doing something on my own (entrepreneur) was a better fit for me..Not being tied to one geographical area was a clear desire (see point 2)

I didn’t really know what to do with these results (the only advice the career coach had given was “research the health and wellness industry”…gee, thanks.), but I did know this, it was time to make a decision and put a plan into place. I decided (pretty much when I got to the top of my first Munro ever with my Aunt) that I wanted a different life. I wanted out of the corporate grind, I wanted to get into my own venture, I wanted something under the health and wellness umbrella and I wanted to work with people/help people to do the same. I decided then when I got home I would start looking into how to make this all happen.

A funny thing happens when you decide, things have a funny way of falling into place. While I was away cousin of mine (who made a similar leap in her own life-expect more on her in future posts) had been told me this while we were at our cousin’s wedding. I told her what I was thinking and her response was “It’s done, I can see it in your face, don’t worry about how it’s going to happen–it will”. Was she ever right, after I got home the opportunities I would end up pursuing presented themselves to me…….

1) An old friend who I took and annual surfing trip with contacted me about her new home based business. It was with a company I’d never heard of but they were a health and wellness company, Swiss, vegan certified, with some very impressive people at the helm. This company is Arbonne (Pure, safe, beneficial–google them). They have a product line of over 450 items spanning from skin care, baby care, cosmetics and a whole wellness line of protein shakes, vitamins etc. The company is headed up by a woman named Kay Napier who had an impressive career with P & G and McDonald’s and the head of research & development is Dr. Peter Matravers, the man behind the Aveda brand. The company is a networking marketing/direct sell business, and it was an industry I knew little about other than other brands from that area (Pampered Chef, Avon etc). I had preconceived ideas (is that a pyramid?) but I learned quickly it was a low risk/high return, perfectly timed (network marketing is predicted to produce the next round of billionaires for a variety of reason I won’t go into right now), incredibly ethical and it fit right on it to my desire to get into the health and wellness industry.  I started by business (on the side of my corp career at the time) in the fall of 2011.

2) Another old friend (ironically this one hired me into the corporation I was working for!) contacted me while I was away about a side project of his. A mobile marketing company that was still very small but had a couple high-profile clients–including a competitor of the retailer I worked for. They had a need for someone who had business experience to client manage/project mange. They had no real office, work from home was the reality and it would be as flexible as I needed it to be. The only catch was that they couldn’t pay me much so I’d need other streams of income….see point 1! We met as soon as I came home to start talking about timing and how we’d make it work….I didn’t actually start with them until July 2012 as I still had my corp full-time gig but the decision was made that I work with them in May 2011.

3) My yoga teacher/mentor was doing his first ‘intensive’ (teacher training) at his studio (my local studio that I practiced at regularly). It would be a month-long on top of my regular long hours at my corp gig but it was the first step towards entering the realm of teaching….I signed up as soon as I got back from Scotland.

This all happened within weeks of me landing back on Canadian soil (really). I had no idea whatsoever at the top of that mountain how I’d change the course of my life, I just knew I wanted to change it. I made a decision. Someone listened, the opportunities presented themselves to me right away…what was the difference? This time, I was ready for it, looking for it, and able to recognize the opportunity when it came in front of me. All because I finally made a decision…step one.

Okay, decision made, opportunities in place, now what? Action. A plan needed to be put in place and executed upon…sound familiar? (go back to my first post) This is ironically exactly what I was getting paid to do for a corporate initiative in my day job! They say God/the universe has a sense of humour…yes, it certainly does! I had just spent a year planning and monitoring the execution of a major project, now it was time to apply those skills to a new project..a new life for me.

Spring 2011 vs 2013: A Lesson in Planning

So my last post talked about spring 2009 and how a package/getting laid off by my company actually turned out to be the best thing that ever happened…eventually. Am I saying I was philosophical, seeing the silver lining, happy when that package was put in front of me? No. I had some sleepless nights, I cried on the phone to my mum, cried with some friends over wine (its rejection, even though I didn’t love the job I was still being turfed–it hits the ego), worried about how I’d paid my bills etc. I even mentally prepared myself for moving back in with my parents….yeah…that’s sexy: a 36 (at the time) year old woman living with her parents in the ‘burbs. At least I know I’d be well fed! I was definitely not seeing my turn of events as a good thing but I try to make the best of my new situation-which was a one year contract.

As I’ve stated, networking, building relationships is a skill that comes easily to me. Due to these skills and the boss I moved under doing some networking of his own on my behalf-an opportunity came up for a role on a large corporate project with a Vice President I had known for years (she also happened to be my neighbour and fellow yogi..see above: networking). It (again) wasn’t my first choice for a role due to the nature of the work (project management, keeping records, measurement, change management) but I recognized it would give me a lot of opportunity due to its very high-profile nature and the work that needed to be done. It was actually well suited to my personality because the best way to describe my role (and I take this quote from my VP): My role was “to baby sit executives”. Really. The work involved a mass IT implementation, process change, and changed roles & responsibilities for teams across the organization. I was to work with senior leaders to ensure their teams were doing the groundwork of process change etc in preparation for the IT solution when it went live. I committed to my VP that I would give 2 years to the project….that was June 2010.  After that I met my new boss, the Associate Vice President (AVP)….Ilana. Some people come into your life and you don’t know it at the time, but they (often without meaning to) change your course/direction. Ilana would be that person for me.

Ilana is a force to be reckoned with. People say I have tons of energy, I get tired just listening to Ilana’s schedule: Mother of 3, senior leader at one of the largest retailers in the country, wife, friend, daughter, and still gets involved in her kid’s schools…I don’t know when she sleeps. Yet at the office, you’d never know she’s tired….how could a tired person crank the radio at 5pm and happily sing along while prepping a presentation for the new day? That was my boss. I liked her right away but more importantly I respected her.  The first year we ran the project, got the framework in place, worked with external consultants and she pushed me to strive for more both at work and my personal life (my dating adventures became our most hysterical conversations). In the spring of 2011 Ilana sat me down for my performance assessment and as his her nature she probed me on what I wanted to do…not just with my next ‘job’ but my life. It was a difficult conversation but she didn’t shy away from asking the tough questions. I had no answers. So she encouraged me to contact our EPA (Employee Assistance Program) and get a career coach. She’s a smart lady, I know she had my best interests at heart: I listened. I made the call and got a coach.

Have you ever used a career coach? There are lots of them out there and and my feeling is this: you need to be a) ready, b) do the work in order for the experience to actually mean something for you. He was a great coach and I’d highly recommend him but I’d also say he was very honest in level setting expectations with me. He made it clear I’d have to do the work and commit to this process to see results. So with both his help and Ilana’s encouragement…I booked a couple sessions, started my personality test and was given my homework of ‘the templates’. What are these? Well, they were just little pieces of paper…but it was the process of filling these out that helped me define what I wanted and figure out a game plan. I never had one of those before…a plan. A lot of people have thoughts about when they wanted to be married, have kids, have a house, have their dream car etc. I’m not one of those people. Beyond finishing university, get a job I hadn’t really given a lot of thought to bigger goals. I live my life very differently now.  The famous quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. I set the odd goal but never thought about how I’d get there so you know what usually happened? I never achieved the goal! The role I had under Ilana was all about a project plan, setting dates, committing to those dates, measuring whether or not you hit said dates…..notice something? The very role I was given was almost mirroring what I was about to set out to do….actually set a plan/some goals in place for my own life! Yeah, I know, this shouldn’t be earth shattering but for me it was. For someone who is seemingly intelligent (I did graduate from one of the best post secondary institutions in this country), could climb a corporate ladder and managed to buy property by myself I somehow never thought about long-term planning/what bigger goals I wanted to hit. My financial advisor always found my laissez-faire attitude amusing but even he was pushing me to think bigger picture: what do you want to see with your money in 10 years etc? The universe puts the signs out there…some of us just need to be hit over the head repeatedly……it would seem, I am one of those people.

So what of those templates? Well the career coach told me to take them away with me (I was about to fly to Scotland for a family wedding). Good old-fashioned hard copy paper with a pen. So I did. I was out of the country with my extended family and friends for 2 1/2 weeks. Away from the pressures of work etc. He told me I’d be more likely to answer honestly, be true to me that way…he was right. The results of those templates and personality test lead to a decision. A decision is the first step in setting some goals and plan….and (to my surprise) can lead to a rather quick results in the bigger scheme of things.

That’s the new entry……

Spring 2009 vs 2013: Perspective

Today is the first day of spring and since I’ve been delinquent on getting this blog up and running I figure today is a good day to start. A new season, the days are getting longer, people are coming out from a long winter of staying inside, eating too much, wearing a ton of layers…everyone is ready to shake it off and get out there. Well….except where I am today….it’s currently snowing, -8C and windy for the first day of spring here. I like to think of it as a good sign, get the last blast of winter out-of-the-way now and move on to a nice spring (at least that is my thought!). I also think it’s a good segue for this post: My journey into this new realm of entrepreneur world started in the spring of 2009, and wow….have things ever changed for me since then?

Here’s a little story about how the worst thing to happen to me (I thought) turned out to be the best thing to happen in terms of my career. 

For everyone working everyday in their day-to-day job/career/9 to 5 grind what is the worst thing you could imagine happening to you? Usually the answer in these times is ‘loosing my job’, especially since the crash of 2008 when we saw the market implode in front of all of us. I had a relatively stable progressive career for a major Canadian retailer and through my first 9 years with the company I moved up on a pretty regular basis with progressively more senior roles. I went from being someone who didn’t want/know how to play the corporate ‘game’ (aka: say what they want to hear, network your heart out and say yes) to someone who got pretty good at it. I was rewarded for my behaviour with progression in my career which resulted in a healthy salary, which enabled me to travel, buy expensive clothes/shoes and buy myself into the real estate ladder in my dream neighborhood (a condo in 2006). Things were running pretty good…I wasn’t particularly challenged or thrilled with my middle management job but I had a great social life outside of the company, like the team I worked with and the bills were getting paid. I didn’t necessarily have a 5 or 10 year plan, I was just going through the motions of life I suppose.

A funny thing happened in the spring of 2009 that wasn’t so funny: I got laid off. Well, technically I got a package put in front of me, thanked for my 9 years of service and told I had 2 weeks to find a new job. Thanks for coming out. Lots of people dread it, think they know what it feels like but I can tell you that until it happens to you it’s a whole different story. It’s rejection on a whole new level! You immediately jump to “how will I pay my mortgage, bills, buy groceries?” You may know in your gut that you’ll find another role, all will be okay but that sinking feeling when you’re told “you have no role with this company as of March 31” is not something I’d wish on anyone. My boss at the time who had to deliver the news is a very lovely man and I could tell how hard it was for him to tell me, made worse a few days later when I almost cried on him in the mailroom. (Note: never cry at the office! Awkward to say the least!)

Luckily thanks to my years of getting good at the corporate game, being a natural/born networker (I have always maintained a wide network of friends from school, co-workers, team sports, neighbours etc) and years of experience in retail, a senior leader from another team had brokered a ‘off the record’ deal with my current boss to bring me to another team. Formally they had to go through HR red tape (post the role, interview me blah, blah, blah) but the job was mine for the taking. It wasn’t just any job either, it was a one year contract (which was good because it was with a team I had tons of experience with but didn’t really want to go back to so the limited commitment was great), it was a step up (aka: raise) and it meant I got more vacation time and an extra bonus. Awesome. Despite all of these benefits the real benefit was this: I made a decision that spring of 2009…I was never going to let someone else decide my fate. I was never going to put myself in a position where someone else had the kind of power to not only threaten my ability to pay my bills/live but tell me what my next step was going to be if I wanted to pay said bills. I guess you could say this was my ‘TSN Turning Point’.

The next year in the new role was challenging but a couple great things happened. A) I got to work with 2 people who would become very good friends (my boss, and a fellow manager), the 3 of us got into a habit of drinks or dinner after work every couple of months where the lines of our corporate roles were removed and the conversations were always interesting. It’s a tradition we continue to this day. There’s nothing like a great conversation with like-minded people, and if the conversation gets challenging over differing view points–even better! B) This job put in the right spot/right time for my next role…and my next role would put me in front of the person who would drive me to move into this new life.

It’s a journey, and often while you’re in something you don’t see it but what you’re doing right now may not be the best role, life changing etc…but keep in mind it could be a piece of the puzzle to get you to the right spot/person/opportunity you’ve been looking for. That was spring 2009 for me. It wasn’t the life changer role, but it was a step towards it. So on this first day of spring, looking back at that horrible day when I got packaged out….I’m actually very grateful. Sounds strange to say this now, but getting laid off/packaged out has turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.

Next up…spring 2011 vs 2013.