November 13th marks the one year anniversary for Maggie's Misc Events, and as that date quickly approaches I find myself reflecting on the wealth of knowledge I have gained over the last year. I have been very fortunate to work in an industry that is both collaborative and challenging and have learned a lot of knowledge simply by asking questions, doing research, taking risks, and putting myself out there. I am a doer you see; procrastination and putting things off makes me uneasy. Sure I dream like everyone else does, but I typically lean more toward "making things happen" versus "dreaming about them". As I have walked out this journey, I have learned to move past perfectionist tendencies, accept a certain amount of failure, and embrace that part of the fun is in not having all the answers. Putting yourself out there and taking risks is a quality that is both advantageous and challenging for a business owner. It takes a certain amount of maturity to learn how to use both your strengths and weaknesses to your advantage. I am still learning. Today, however, I would like to share some of what I've learned over the past year in hopes that no matter what trade, career, ministry, role, or life stage you may find yourself in that you might find encouragement and hope along the way.
Don't Believe the Hype
In our success driven, career focused, and popularity obsessed culture owning a business and being a leader can seem glamorous from a distance. Don't believe the hype. In the past year I have surpassed my booking/client goal by four, have been published on three blogs and found out yesterday that I will be published on a fourth in January, have been asked to be a part of workshop, and have been able to take care of some long overdue debt. And yes, while it took hard work and dedication to make these things happen, it also took integrity, surrender, and failure. I have had to surrender my business to Jesus countless times along the way, realize that everything I have is His anyways, and check my motives when they get out of whack. Careers and work can and do provide a certain amount of joy in our day to day lives and I am so blown away that God has chosen to bless me with a career that is also a passion. But for me they are not my true source of joy at all. My true source of joy is the beautiful relationship I have with Jesus as He pursues me and brings me into greater places of intimacy all the time. I have had to learn the hard way along this road that success, popularity, and "status" bring only momentary and fleeting happiness at best. There is no security in these things; in fact quite the opposite is true. You never know when they can be taken from you. The only thing in my life I have found to be steady, fulfilling, and completely true is Jesus and Jesus alone. Everything else pales in comparison. Humans were not created to pursue things that feed themselves. Success, status, and money lies.
What If I Fail?
I see it this way: if I'm meant to succeed at something, I will and if I'm not, I won't and will probably learn something along the way (this does not erase the accountability and responsibility I have in making or not making it happen). Fear and waiting for perfection can paralyze you. Granted, there is enormous benefit in planning, being patient, and thinking strategically (things I have had to work on) but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the fear of failure. The fear of failure will keep you from even getting started. I read once that one thing almost all successful business owners have in common is a lack of the fear of failure. Failure in life is inevitable and unavoidable and I have found in my own life that I often gain more on the other side of my failures and valleys than standing on the highest mountaintop. One of my favorites quotes of all times is from C.S. Lewis. "Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny." I think the same can be true about failures. It's all in how you use and let them define you.
Put Yourself Out There
Early on I reached out to and met up with as many people as I could. Every person I meet in life has something to offer and chances are they have wisdom and knowledge that I don't have. Therefore, I have been like a sponge this past year, soaking up as much as I can. I have sought after advice, tips, knowledge, and lessons from others that have gone before me. Not every person I reached out to wrote back, not every person wanted to share with me. But you know what? A lot of them did. Additionally, referrals and word of mouth are still the number one way professionals get clients in this industry, so putting yourself out there and networking as much possible helps you gain greater reach and exposure and over time the effect becomes exponential. So if you are just starting out and feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, then keep persevering through the rejection and uncertainty. We all move at different paces and are not going to arrive at the destination at the same time.
The Customer is Key
Weddings are a creative and competitive market and thus there is a lot of pressure to keep up with the latest styles and trends. It seems in almost every conversation I have with other professionals in this industry or in nearly every networking or educational meeting, the topic of social media comes up. Most people I know are struggling with how to make it work for their business. Social media allows potential clients to see and keep up with a businesses' portfolio and get a better understanding of their brand aesthetic. Plus, social media can help extend a businesses reach further than just utilizing traditional means of marketing. However, I think too much emphasis can be placed on social media at times. Excellent customer service should still be the number one pillar on which businesses are built. Even in our technological age, customer service goes a long way. Excellent customer service can get you referrals, client retention, and high customer satisfaction. It doesn't matter if you have a million followers, the prettiest feed, or lots of comments, if your customer service is terrible, then your business will suffer. I have found that if my focus shifts too much on social media, then I need to put it back in it's proper place, take a break, and focus my energy and effort back where it needs to be: my clients. They come first and need to know that.
Remember your mission statement
When I get overwhelmed, tired, or just down right discouraged, I remind myself of why I got started on this journey in the first place. I began this business with the desire to bless others. Granted, I am only human so nothing I ever set out to do in life will be completely void of selfish ambitions, but alas I am a work in progress. However, I did want to use this business to be an inspiration to others, as a way to give back of my resources, and to remind couples of the importance of marriage. I felt that God had called me to step into this role that would ultimately teach me how to love others and how to walk out that calling (a calling that all of humanity shares). However, along the way I have let insecurity, comparison, or selfish ambition get me off track at times. I have gotten stuck in the not-beneficial-at-all-thinking of "I have nothing to offer" or "What can I say or do that's not already been said or done?" Lately, I have been reminded, however, that each and every single person on this planet is unique with a different calling, purpose, skill set, talents, and abilities. As I ask for more of Jesus, reach new levels of intimacy in our relationship, and gain a better understanding of my identity in Him, I am able to fight off the lies of my insecurities with greater gusto. Further, the closer I get to my Creator and the more I allow Him to change and shape me, the easier it is for Him to work in and through me. Don't forget what you set out to do. Remind yourself over and over and over along the way.
Being a business owner has taught me a lot more about myself and my faith than I initially anticipated. It has challenged me, helped me grow, brought me joy, and brought me closer to God. I am enjoying watching Him work in my life as I set out to surrender to His love. One of my favorite versus in the Bible says, "The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." (2 Chronicles 16:9 NLT). I love that! Let me be one of those people! And whether you are a business owner of not, we are all trying to find our way and purpose during this crazy little thing called life. Don't get discouraged, keep persevering, embrace failure, think of others, and put yourself out there. There is much to be gained when you lose yourself in the right things.
Thanks for stopping by,
Photos by: Annamarie Akins Photography