Happy birthday, LT Coaching and Consulting, LLC!
Whew, all! It’s been one year since the official launch of my business as a full-time venture. It’s hard to believe this post here about my excitement, fears, worries, and anticipation was just 12 months ago. I have had the opportunity to provide over 140 different workshops, lectures, dialogue groups, and presentations this past year. While I continued to stay very involved in the education space, I had the opportunity to work with a global non-profit, a major news corporation, town and local government, health related advocacy groups, and corporate organizations. I am grateful to have developed the skills to move from space to space and truly support folks in meaningful ways as a strategic partner. I was also very fortunate to work individually with coaching clients who truly changed their lives, relationships, careers, and goals.
And, through all of this, I was much more present with my own family. Even though I traveled quite a bit, I was home for my children, attended those middle-of-the-day school presentations, and did my fair share of driving them to and from social events. Because I was around more, my relationship deepened with each of my children in ways that I couldn’t have imagined.
While difficult moments rarely reveal promise, I am also grateful for the timing of my launch. This past year, my partner Jorge earned the Writer-In-Residence spot with the Associates of the Boston Public Library, which meant he was working his regular day job and then going to the library until about 9pm. I’m not entirely sure how we would have supported this incredible opportunity if I didn’t have the flexibility to be home. (Note: Stay tuned for Jorge’s book Bottled to be coming out soon!)
Through all of this, I am immensely grateful for the support I had during this year from friends, colleagues and strangers. Knowing that what I had was special, I hope that some of these reflections resonate with you and support you if you are headed towards making the transition of running your own business.
Liza’s Top 7 Reflections from Year 1
MAKE THE DECISION TO DO IT. In all transparency, I had spent years growing my consulting business. But, because I was also working full time, my consulting work always hit a ceiling. I never really knew the potential I had in owning my own business because I always had the safety net of a full-time job. But, once I decided that I was going to go all-in, I was able to really focus on growing that business without the distractions. Ask yourself: Is my desire to have a safety net actually keeping me from knowing my potential?
IDENTIFY A FEW PEOPLE WHO YOU CAN BE SO VERY HONEST WITH. I have two people who I have had very honest conversations with about all aspects of this work. We agreed that we will always work in the best interest of each other, and therefore we talk openly about our businesses. One of my people is a White woman. The other is a Black man. We talk about what it means to do this work as women and/or as people of color. The advice and experiences are different. We openly disclose how much we make per event. We openly disclose what our partnerships look like. We openly disclose how to get better. I trust them with every question I have, and I always give them a straight up answer in return. Ask yourself: How can talking about things like money, opportunities, and challenges be helpful in growing my business?
KNOW HOW TO HANDLE THOSE WHO WANT TO COMPETE WITH YOU. One of my biggest fears about starting my own business was the competition. I’m not a competitive person, and I am far too trusting most times. So, I was worried that this space would be one where people tried to cut in on people’s work. As I figured out who those folks were, I decided not to build relationships with them because, honestly, there are way MORE people who aren’t like that. There are more people who want to collaborate, to support me/you, and to see that this work is greater than us all. Those are the folks who I build relationships with. I’ve learned that my positive and collaborative attitude stands the test of time, and I just kind of let the others fall away. Cheer others on. Celebrate others. Be kind to people who are sharing this space with you. You are not competing with them. You are here to make the world better. Ask yourself: How do I want to feel when I’m with others who do the same or similar work as I do?
YOU HAVE TO SPEND SOME MONEY TO MAKE SOME MONEY. Alas, it was a sad day when I had to register for my own conferences and not have a professional development fund (aka “someone else paying for it”) to tap into. I wondered if I should still go. I wondered if I could afford to go. But, then, for real, I had to reframe my thinking here. Especially when you own your own business, you’ve GOT to do professional development. I went to the same conferences that I usually attended, but this time I paid attention to different things. I networked in ways that I wouldn’t have in the past. I made myself visible in ways that my introverted self wouldn’t have done. And, truth, I enjoyed it! I took my own advice, moved beyond my comfort zone, and realized that I kind of liked this new phase. So, this year, I continued to go to all the conferences I had attended back when I had sponsorship. And, I’m doing it again this year. I definitely had to spend my own money, but I saw that come back to me in the end. Ask yourself: What opportunities exist for my own professional development as I start my own business?
CELEBRATE YOUR MILESTONES. At first, my milestone was to get to the number of consulting days that I had when I was working full time: 20 days. I hit those 20 days and celebrated. Then, I set a milestone of making 1/2 of my salary. And, I celebrated that. I celebrated my first big contract. Then, I celebrated my first big contract outside of education. I celebrated my first “someone who booked me who wasn’t already a friend or colleague” (aka a total stranger who had heard about me!). I celebrated hitting my full former salary. And, i kept celebrating. Ask yourself: What do you hope to experience in your first year of business?
LEARN TO TALK ABOUT YOURSELF AND WHAT YOU DO, QUICKLY. Whew. I had to really work on this one. When I was 17 and getting ready to interview with colleges, my high school principal, who knew that I had trouble talking about myself, told me, “Liza, it’s never bragging if it’s true.” So, I just told the truth. I told people what I did, what I’m good at, what I think I’m the best at, and what I can offer. It took a while to stop feeling like “sales” but it did eventually become more natural. When you own your own business, no one’s advertising for you. You have to do it yourself. Be strategic. Ask yourself: How might I frame what I do as a benefit to others as opposed to simply a benefit for me?
ALWAYS GIVE CREDIT TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE HELPED YOU. Better said, “Don’t steal shit.” I talk a great deal about giving credit to folks, providing proper citation, and really protecting the integrity of people’s labor. In my space of diversity and inclusion work, that labor is often provided by people of color. Stop stealing their labor. Be the professional who always gives props, gives credit, and lifts up other people. Ask to use people’s slides or materials. Have integrity in this work. Ask yourself: How might I benefit from connecting with folks whose work I admire or have used in the past?
“YOUR PLAYING SMALL DOESN’T SERVE THE WORLD.” - Marianne Williamson Now is your time to shine. Now is your time to dream bigger and better than you had imagined. Don’t play small. You can’t afford it (legit, I’m talking like real money right now… I could not afford to play small!). And, you don’t need to.
As people met up with me this year, they always commented on how happy I looked. Well, it’s because this past year, I really believe I was living my best life. My best life. I was experiencing real happiness. Don’t get me wrong, it was tough work. I had to work hard to cultivate networks, to overcome fears, to detach my self-worth from my paycheck. I had to budget differently. I had to prioritize differently. I had to do things like spreadsheets, budgets, contracts, business insurance, and all of that administrative mess that I really hadn’t confronted before last year. But, it was always worth it.
My deepest gratitude to my crew of folks who stood by me in all of this. Thank you for your referrals, for your business, for your emotional support, and for believing in me even when I second guessed this all along the way.
Celebrating this 1 year anniversary and looking forward to many more!
Peace and gratitude,