The idea of being your own boss, starting and running your own company is filled with excitement and hope. There are many images of #bossbabes and CEO’s being the fearless leader with a strong pose, ruling the world. They make it look so easy, as if you have success at your fingertips. Those images suggest that female CEO’s can easily maintain their figure, style, looks, and relationships all with a glamorous air of you’ve got your stuff together. Well, I found out that it truly was not like that and yet not many are willing to share honestly and authentically what it can sometimes truly be like.
Here are five things I wish I knew:
1. Longer and harder than anticipated. With the media coverage of glamorous and gloriously successful entrepreneurs, starting your own company sounds like a breeze. Come on, how hard can it be when you’ve juggled multiple projects and worked for larger companies under strict deadlines from senior executives, right? Well, yes, it is harder than what appears from those that already have had success. It takes time, takes effort, patience and persistence—something that is not always highlighted in the stories of success. I wish someone had told me, take your projected business plan and timelines and double that! That’s a bit of realism that would be good medicine to swallow.
2. Struggle for health and wellness is very real and you must listen to your body. I wish someone would have told me how hard it is to maintain health and wellness. It is something we take for granted. I thought sure, I eat healthy (and still do), work out regularly (not anymore) so how hard could it be? Well, it turns out…VERY HARD. The amount of stress you will undergo, with the emotional ups and downs will put menopause to shame. I used to do CrossFit 4/5 times a week, dead-lifting and back-squatting over 300 lbs. Now, I barely can lift 10 lbs without feeling it!! Not only that, the constant cortisol elevation of my body just due to the stress is enough to spiral your hormones out of whack. It does not help when the pressure to hustle all the time is feeding into every entrepreneur. My advice is to listen to your body or you will burn out!! It is not about the hustle but about working smarter and find great, trustworthy people to surround yourself with. The hustle is worthless if you decrease your lifespan through decreased health—both physically and mentally. Get your sleep! That email can wait.
3. Make sure you have your personal relationships strong and ready for the bumpy journey ahead. Set your personal life up for success before you even enter this game. You think you have a great supportive family until you start a business—this will test all your relationships! It’ll affect your love life, your parents, kids, and friends. Set your personal foundations on solid footing and communicate often and effectively with those closest to you about the adventure you are about to take. It is a journey and it is an adventure. Have them join you in it, be a part of your dream and your vision. Listen to their needs, even though you’ll feel like the baby craving all the attention most of the time. Share with them that you might be going on an up and down ride, but you are still there for them and love them, and especially need their love and support to help you through it.
4. Keep your boundaries, your morals, your professionalism very clear and on point. Your clients, your coworkers, your team will all encroach and test your boundaries and morals—and they don’t mean it negatively. Learn to say no and establish your boundaries of how you work and how you want the culture of your organization to be. I personally had to separate phone lines and make it clear that anything after hours will not be responded to until the next day unless it was an absolute emergency. Again, this goes back to point 2 and 3 above, or else your foundations and structures will crumble.
5. It just isn’t that pretty all the time. Let’s be real, there is beauty in the journey of entrepreneurship and being the CEO, but there will be many times you are just a hot mess with tears, Kleenex box, and mascara running down your face. Being a CEO is a real test of your professional and personal leadership skills. Yes, its business, but it is also personal. You will care about your team and your clients like you do your family. You will care about your vision and mission as you do about your dreams. You have to do the internal work to pull everything together and showcase the business with heart and soul because after all, that’s why you did it and that’s why people want your company.
Step up, Step In, and take it Steady!
~Shatha Barbour, CEO Hera Hub Phoenix