32: The Year I learned That Bigger Isn’t Always Better. (Hey Now — I’m talking about work, get your mind out of the gutter!)
Full disclosure: I’m one of those millennial types. A boss lady CEO in a “do gooder” work environment. I barely hit five feet but I pack a real punch. People think I’m fearless but truthfully, I have nothing to lose so… why not?
I turned 32 eating pasta in an old school italian restaurant with two older business mentor guys in suits who told me that to really succeed, I have to be a better CEO so I can work ON the business, not IN the business. They weren’t wrong… I needed to learn to say no, didn’t delegate enough and let clients walk all over me. I ate my plate of spaghetti and said YES to a new focus: being a badass CEO.
For some context here: I run a full service real estate company — I can buy, sell, renovate, rent, etc… all the things. It is chaotic to say the least. We do things with a community focus: everything we do has thoughtfulness and compassion involved. My average rent is somewhere around $725 for a fully renovated apartment. My staff is nearly half women and in addition to that, has many people of color — something you don’t see in our world often. When I turned 32, we were a solid team of 14. Fast forward to today, we are 20.
So what makes a badass CEO? Two things: Being your best self and working ON the business.
I decided to give myself a routine: Nothing in my life was a routine — nothing. I decided to start the 5am morning routine. I have to say — it is everything. I cured my allergies because I committed to a teaspoon of honey when I woke up. I figured out how much sleep is right for me. I paid off a student loan to incentize my world. I committed to a reusable mug and water jug. Committed to an awesome backpack that holds those liquids and matches every outfit so I don’t have to change purses and bags often. Reduced my closet to a capsule wardrobe and made my entire closet for the week on Sunday evenings. Became an expert packer. Worked on positive projects in the AM and reactive stuff during the day. Found time to launch a website for my business, add hours in the day for work and watch the sun rise.
Working on the business: I set a goal to expand the business by adding new buildings and clients. Everything I set out the first half the year was an important foundation piece to the goal — build up my personal credit, nail solid end of year numbers so banks would be willing to lend and begin to expand clients. Fire clients who don’t pay.. add ones that do. I threw a party to celebrate our years (6!) to gain confidence in the community. The second half was all about growth — buy a few key properties and expand the client base.
Did I accomplish all of the goals? Hell yes I did. (Ahem…remember the fearless comment above?!) Added projects. Added clients. Added buildings. Added staff. Added investors. Added layers. Added… headaches?
Yes, headaches. Expansion is painful. My staff is stressed. We took on clients who don’t see eye to eye on our mission despite me saying it over and over again. After reviewing numbers and comparing numbers to headaches…I really feel that bigger is not always better. We added staff and clients that make zero financial sense. Could we add processes and refine? Sure. Always! But is it worth it? No. The reality is this: It is the vision and mission that matters the most and the quest for bigger is stealing the limited fucks I (and my staff) have to give. At the end of the day, I want to give those fucks to people who want and appreciate them.
So here I am on the last day of being 32 and I am thankful for what I accomplished last year. I set major goals and nailed them! My staff made leaps and I”m proud of them. I’m wiser for what I experienced and learned a lot about what I want and don’t want. Was it a mistake listening to the guys over pasta? No way. They were right in many respects but under estimating the value of purpose is something lots of older generations do to us weirdo do gooder millennial types.
Most importantly, now as I sit and pick goals for the next year (while eating freshly popped popcorn in my own home!), I know that 33 will be the year I chose quality over quantity.