5 Lessons Learned Thus Far in 2017

5 Lessons Learned from a Year of Setbacks and Stand-up Paddleboarding 

Almost exactly a year ago, I had, in my hands, a wonderful document marked by columns and rows, dates, to-dos and goals: Smart & Associate’s 2016 Strategic Plan. You might say I’m a bit of a ‘Type A.’ I like details and lists and progress. This strategic plan would make sure I had a smooth, successful year. Everything felt settled, optimistic, even. 

And then, just a few short months later, everything went sideways. 

As unexpected major events tend to do, it caught me off guard. After all, I had this strategic plan and I was supposed to be set for at least 12 months: There was no line for ‘staff going on emergency leave just before tax season.’ That was not in the plan. 

I had also just celebrated the 10th anniversary of Smart & Associates accounting services in Vernon. As some of you may remember, there was a party in a second-floor lounge downtown complete with beautiful appies, speeches, tears and hugs. Life was good. 

Two weeks later my receptionist/bookkeeper had to leave due to an emergency.  I found myself without a key staff member just before the start of our busy tax season.  I had to make a call: wait to see if she could return to work or make the decision to get a temporary stand-in ready. Once that decision was made and a great temp, Diana, was found, I knew what I had to do: scrap the strategic plan and get into survival mode. That’s what I did. 

Over the summer, I had time to rest and to reflect on what lessons I may have had to learn from unwanted and unplanned upheavals in one’s business plans.  It also happens that I’ve just come off the heels of stand-up paddleboarding lessons, and as I sat on that board (rather than stand, at first, and often dripping wet, because I’d fallen) on Kalamalka Lake, it occurred to me that there were a number of parallels between learning to paddle and learning to make it through the unexpected in business. 

1. Life jackets and strategic plans are good

I’m the kind of entrepreneur and person that appreciates safety measures. I’m willing to take risks if there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be OK because I’ve taken steps to protect myself. I loved zipping up my snug life jacket and donning that whistle every Tuesday night as much as I did clicking open that thoughtful strategic plan. 

Equip yourself with whatever equipment you can so that before and after the unexpected, you’ve got something solid holding you up. 

2. Don’t be a sitting duck

With Kerry off on emergency leave and I didn’t know when or if she’d be back, I had two choices. I could wait and hope the news was good, or I could be proactive, take control, and mitigate the likelihood of total disaster. Once I’d made the decision to hire a temp, I felt relieved that I wasn’t “a sitting duck.” 

In business, and in life, you often simply need to make a decision and act on it. 

3. When you hit a wave, or a bump, it’s best to just go with it

When you’re on an SUP and the waves come, and they will, you learn that you’ve got more control if the paddleboard faces the same direction as the waves. Go with them and harness that resistance. 

You can try to go around setbacks, or avoid them, or hit them head on, but if you go with them, you can move forward faster. 

 4. Let yourself fall

This sounds like a cliché, but I’m OK with that because it’s worth repeating, especially to you—you entrepreneurs and women like me who want everything to be perfect, especially as you face others. 

On the night of my first SUP lesson, I rested on my knees and paddled all the way to Pumphouse Park, a glorious, hidden little patch of grass edged by giant willow trees. I told myself that when I got there I would stand. When I got there, the park was busier than I had expected.  Not much privacy to learn how to stand up on this paddle board.  On my first attempt to stand, I wobbled, the board went one way. I went another…kirsplash… in front of everyone. 

I had to figure out how the heck I was going to get back up, swallow my wet pride and try again, in front of my new public audience.  On my 2nd try, I did get up, extremely wobbly legs but I had succeeded!! 

Falling feels as exhausting as it does exhilarating, and from it, we learn and we grow and we get better, more confident. 

5. Go to the water

In life and in business, we have busy seasons. We often have big setbacks in the midst of these busy seasons, and we go into survival mode, working 10-hour days six days a week like I did from February to April. We get through it. 

But when that period is over, carve out time to get away to the water or whatever helps you recharge your batteries and your passion for what you do. We all live in the Okanagan for reason, so make the activity you love a part of your recovery and a part of your strategic plan. 

So now it is September back to the autumn routines and the start of new school years and new strategic plans.  It will be interesting to see what unfolds in the planning, to prepare for the 2017 tax season and supporting you next spring.  Thank you for all your support over the last year, it certainly has been an interesting one!! 

PS-a special thank you to Natalie Appleton for being my writer for this blog.  I consider Natalie’s invoice as my “happy bill” I stress out at how to take all this info and wrap it up in a professional format.  Let me work on a tough reconciliation and then pay my happy bill.

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