Oh, how I hope this title doesn’t get me in trouble with animal lovers. For the record, we have a cat and a dog and love them both. I never, ever carry Millie by the tail.
When I started on my current journey, I planned to post updates and other thoughts regularly, and I specifically decided against a set calendar. I have kept that commitment since it’s been months since my last post. Those months have been full of great activity, and as we approach Thanksgiving in the United States, it is appropriate to say a word or two of thanks for everyone who has made this an exciting and rewarding journey.
I love quotes. Mark Twain said, “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”
I have found this to be spot on.
Starting a business has afforded me the opportunity to learn things and meet people that I would not trade for anything. I suppose that unlike Mr. Twain’s quote, I might have learned some of this by just enrolling in an executive MBA program and attending school while working full time too. I sincerely admire those who do that. I can’t see me surviving that! With so much ‘skin in the game’ though, I have had a different “cat by the tail” unlike the time commitment and sleep deprivation I imagine accompanies working full time and working on an MBA simultaneously.
So what have I learned? Here are just a few examples.
No way to avoid this one. Leaving a career after 28 years to do something else entirely can make one a wee bit anxious at times. But here’s the funny thing. One day when it seemed that the anxiety would cause my heart to jump out of my chest, I made a quick mental inventory of the things that were creating my anxiety. And, it turns out they were almost all things that would happen when I was successful! I was hardly anxious about anything not working out! When I realized this, I just laughed out loud at myself. Thankfully, I was alone in the car.
A lot of the anxiety is self-imposed from a simple erroneous thought that the current situation is permanent. We find permanence in statements that start with “I will never” and go on to end with “again.” But the simple fact is that very, very little in life is permanent. You know that great job (or lousy job) some of us have had? Is it always great? Was it always there? All those coworkers you love working with? They get new roles, promotions or move on. Companies reorganize, and jobs are gone or changed. So, when trying something new, like starting this company, I have often had to remind myself that if this doesn’t work out, I’ll find something else.
Hand-in-hand with permanence comes ‘pivot.’ Or, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade as they say.
A couple of times on this journey, I have run into a roadblock or two. They could be considered show stoppers. But, I can’t let them be. Sometimes they are opportunities I didn’t know I had. A former pastor of mine did a whole sermon series he called “Could be bad. Could be good.” that was full of examples where people had roadblocks, tragedies, setbacks, etc. but they turned out to be good things in the long run.
So I pivot. Through customer discovery, I learned that weed pressure is a major concern of potential customers. In looking for a solution to this problem, I connected with some specialists that I might not have met otherwise. I became aware of specialty crops like indigo, hemp, and Rhodiola rosea. I even had my first call with someone in Alaska who had heard about our concept planter and wanted to know more.
I am extremely thankful for the experiences on this journey. And for all the people I’ve met and for what they have shared with me. And, the wonderfully supportive community for entrepreneurs in East Tennessee.
Here’s wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!