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My Career Journal Part 2 - Reconciling Success and Failure

020 My Career Journal Part 2 – Reconciling Success and Failure

Introduction

This is not a crisis.

I’m not sitting here holding my head in shame. 

I decided to make a pivot, based on my best assessment of all the information before me. This is normal. It happens every day, to entrepreneurs, and business people everywhere. 

We need to normalise pivoting.

Why is the idea of getting back into employment so taboo for entrepreneurs?

And why do friends and family have so much riding on binary outcomes of failure and success?

If you want to see into the window of the souls of the people around you, become an entrepreneur. 

Let’s dig into this a bit, as I believe it affects everyone, and prevents people from not starting great ideas, and also not knowing when to stop an idea not worth developing further.

Katherine Ann Byam is a  best-selling author, sustainability activist, coach and consultant for business resilience and sustainable change, partnering with leaders committed to a shared future for the planet.”  

A professional with 20+years change leadership experience in the FTSE Top 10, she started her consulting firm in 2019 to support sustainable development within SMEs. Katherine holds an MBA with distinction, specialising in Innovation Management as well as certificates in ESG, digital strategy, and sustainability management from established universities. She’s also a Fellow of the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants.  

She’s the host of the internationally acclaimed Where Ideas Launch – Sustainable Innovation Podcast, ranked among the top 5% globally, achieving the top spot in 5 countries, and the top 10 in 19 separate charts.  

As a sought-after leadership and career transition coach and keynote speaker, she facilitates workshops and learning sessions for communities within global brands such as Amazon, Women Tech Global, ACCA, Stryker, Speak Up, Mind Channel and more. 

She loves spending her spare time in nature, walking the western and southern coasts of the UK, France, and Tobago, or on the Northern and eastern coasts of Trinidad with her partner Christophe.

Links

Links and Resources

For access to my social media links and services click here. 

Show Notes

My Career Journal, part 2.

Failure and Success are not outcomes on some binary scale. It’s way more complex than that. Even within my business, I find myself navigating this conversation often, as so many people latch their value systems squarely on to what makes money, as opposed to what makes impact. 

When you move to evaluating what you do to scores of impact, you see each life that you touch as unique, valuable and worthy of being helped. Once you shrink your view to income, you can only see numbers on a spreadsheet, and if they are not enough, they don’t pay the bills.

Certainly both are important, as we live in a capitalist society where we are individually expected to earn enough by any legal means necessary in order to achieve our goals. When you wish to walk the path of ethics, fairness, equity, inclusion, other parameters enter the mix, that allows you to see beyond your own ego, or a financial metric.

Financially, my business had one great year, July 2021-to July 2022. By all accounts, I should carry on in it. Surely if I’ve figured out how to make it profitable I can do it again right? 

Yet, no business is that simple, and no path is fixed. Taking the time to reflect on where we are, the impact I personally want to have, my partners well being as well, the decision to take a different course is the best fit for me right now.

This is not a source of shame for me; I’ve had people write to me concerned and worried, but there’s no need for that, although I receive your love with grace. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, the hours spent, the relationships built, the people I’ve helped, and of the decision to turn another page.

I don’t share a closed view about the “perceptions of failure” when deciding if a path continues to be right for me or not. I think I gave this path enough time, all the time I felt I could give it, and now it’s time to turn a new corner.

In the last 3.5 years, I’ve seen businesses start that never should have.

I’ve seen businesses succeed at the first try; though these have been rare. 

I’ve seen others pivot and succeed.

The most frequent thing I’ve seen is businesses remain the same and not thrive, and also pivot and not thrive. 

The longer you stick around in business the more you learn, but you also need the bandwidth to accommodate all that learning.

The reasons are varied, but in my experiences, the best indicator of financial success is not in a specific product or service as much as it is finding the right combination of market to service fit, where you are offering something unique to that population, and or, a benefactor, someone with an engaged following who gives you that overwhelmingly positive endorsement over time, that hoists you up to the stratosphere, particularly when backed by a solid marketing and PR plan behind that.

The mainstream advice sold to many entrepreneurs however is the romance of the american dream. Following businesses that have made millions, and believing that by being a follower you’ll make those millions too. There are no secrets to success other than doing the work to understand product market fit, and getting endorsed by the right brands, and or influencers in your space, and backing that up with great plans. That’s it, but that’s also hard painstaking work the less novel your idea is.

More important than all of this though, is having a purpose and a why that stretches beyond profit. The landscape of business is changing, while traditionalists still want to carry on with business as usual. The game of abundance is up. We are now in the era of the energy wars, the resource wars, the ideology wars, the wars of dominance, and in this type of climate, without changing our economics, we are playing only win-lose and lose-lose games.

If we want to turn the tide, we need to start at home. We need to start with the individual choices we make, acting as part of a community that means something to us. We need to take action, protest, voice the changes we want to see, we need to vote with our wallets, and with our hands when the time comes, and we need to hold our elected officials to account when they are not heeding to their promises or what we need in our communities.

With these huge tectonic plates in motion, the business you create today needs to be solving these problems clearly, uniquely, and they need to find ways to build momentum for change, incorporate social justice, manage risks, and be economically feasible all at once. 

A lot more pragmatism is needed in the way we approach business not just as startups but as big corporations. We all know that ESG isn’t the only answer, but it’s certainly part of the answer, and we need to work as much together not just as nations but as a collective to mitigate the risks. This is a tall order.

Not every business owner will have an idea that grows into a healthy business. In fact, most startups fail, the success rate is less than 10%. 

Yet this is the most important statement I have to make. Your business failing to make enough money is not an indication that you are a failure; it’s an indication that your business failed to raise enough income. What’s imperative is to listen, learn and adjust, even if that means making a larger pivot than you were expecting to, or to change course, and tools completely.

Most people will never even take the risk, and therefore miss out on a heck of a lot of valuable learning and personal and professional growth. I am nowhere near the person I was at the end of 2018 early 2019 when I was burnt out and needed the pain I was inflicting on myself by staying stuck where I was to stop. 

Today I know so much more on a much deeper level, that guides my decision making, values, and helps me navigate with so much more clarity, situations I would previously have been uncomfortable with.

Furthermore, workplaces have changed. Returning to the workplace to me is an opportunity to add value with all the growth I’ve achieved and impact more people, but I also have the opportunity to continue a much scaled down version of my own business more for my pleasure and social impact drive, than for economics. And that means I can do that work even better than when my income depends on it in my view. 

I’ve been doing alot of listening and a lot of research of late. 

I have a great social impact idea that I’m currently pursuing with a team of amazing volunteers that I will be launching soon, but that idea is now my side gig; while finding a suitable job that gives me the reach and impact I desire at scale has become my primary focus.

There are a few compelling reasons for this decision to pivot.

  1. The economic pressure on my small business and the resources needed to see it thrive I don’t currently have.
  2. Organisations today have had an entire pandemic to learn and grow from, and many have done that learning.
  3. GenZ is paving the way for change for everyone by not accepting the status quo, and demanding more purpose than we ever have.
  4. My personal growth has been tremendous, allowing me to thrive even more and inspire change even in the toughest environments.
  5. I know a lot more about what good corporate governance looks and behaves like, and how I need to operate to achieve my goals in these spaces.

I’m putting all that I’ve learnt to test in my job application process. 

Tune in to the next episode, Where I will give you the backstory of how I prepared myself to make this change.