This has been one of the most challenging pieces to write because I want you to learn from my experiences; feel my authentic inner struggle; and touch the rawness of my vulnerability. Many professionals would shy away from sharing this sort of ‘news’–because, aside from relaying my own story, it now becomes content in the form of a magazine article. To that, if others shared similar at all, it would likely be well past the immediacy of the experience, and only when a subsequent ‘success story’ was signed, sealed and delivered.
However, I choose to live what I profess to my readers (walk the walk.) As such, I put fingers to keyboard during—and not after–a time of adversity: a period and circumstance that I am still in the midst of remedying ….or shall I say, transforming, into triumph.
I’ll preface my tale by stating that both the circumstances and feelings elicited— the good and the not-so-good–that I share are truly all part of the inevitable facets of existence. Among countless others, they comprise THE REALITY OF LIFE.
Approximately 8 months ago, I began to plan two very significant events: my 10 year anniversary as an entrepreneur and my 3rd Identity LIVE Conference. I set forth on these new projects pretty much alone, meaning without a partner to help plan and assist. To me, the idea of going it solo is significant because for the previous 2 conferences, I worked with a partner where we are able to fill the seats with 65 amazing women. I suppose I’d thrived–and reflected and accepted —enough in my 10 years that I gained sufficient confidence and experience to take on such grand tasks on my own.
What I’ve learned since then (well, am still learning) is that no matter how much we’ve gleaned and gained, the realities of life will always throw us curveballs and we always have much more to learn. Not only that, but in life and career, failure–or perceived failure —is always a possibility. It is one, however, that can often be re-purposed, turned upside down and into a victory. Note here that my fairy tale ending has not even played out completely. As you’ll find out, the pages that unfold in my current narrative will not be entirely determined for another 2 months from now. My confidence sure took a blow, but it takes much more to knock me down for the count….
Is This a Sign?
And, so I made the call to try to work alone on these 2 events with practical reasoning behind me. As much as I love to work with others, I recognized that event planning seems an arena in which I can work quickly solo, or maybe I need to be more patient. I believe self-awareness helps me to distinguish; and it’s a funny thing how I notice a difference between my business vs. my day-to-day personal life decision-making. Perhaps that speaks to having, even unwittingly, found a balance, a yin-yang harmony between that which I tackle professionally and personally.
A kind of epiphany came next in the form of the idea to combine both career milestones. Why not combine my 10 year anniversary with Identity Magazine with the conference to create a fantastic, multi-pronged celebration? An idea conceived with glee, however, how would I proceed next? I was soon introduced to a cruise planner, however proceeded with frustration and lack of attention, even on conference calls. Took weeks to continue in circles, so I quickly passed and said ‘no thank you’ to their services.
Don’t Take Anybody’s Word
Days later, I hosted one of my mastermind meetings at my house spending the day working with other business owners. Masterminds are great for brainstorming with other like-mind women, not to mention pushing each other when needed.
As we took turns sharing our business news and updates, I sprung my ideas regarding the cruise + anniversary + conference on our small group. The women present were all very excited about the concept and, without reservation, stated “I’d go”. After a bit more discussion, I was re-charged and decided that maybe I’d give the plan one more shot. I must note here that when I eventually forged ahead, only one of those ladies registered to attend this event.
The business lesson at this juncture was that we should never take anyone’s ‘word,’ unless it comes with a signature and deposit at the same time. LOL. I mean absolutely no disrespect to any of the lovely ladies involved: I ‘get’ that our circumstances are varied as are our schedules and they don’t owe me anything.
Even so, the overall plan in my mind was still a ‘go.’ Remember, never take anything personally and be understanding.
Shut the Front Door
Don’t you know, though, that there arose more huge developments literally hours later…That night I was on the phone with a woman who was interested in writing for Identity. When we began discussing our businesses, she just happened to mention that she was a cruise planner! ‘Is this really happening?’ I thought. Is this a sign? For sure, I have to go-go for it! So, our topic quickly shifted. We began planning a cruise. Since I had much of the research and inquiries completed, I simply described to her my vision of ‘Identity Live- Conference, Cruise and Celebration’ and all that I wanted and needed for the event. It took merely a day for Lisa (my now cruise manager) to collect ALL of the information and more. I can’t help but emphasize that this was the antithesis of what I experienced with the first cruise organizer, who was part of the reason I almost bailed on the entire idea!
Hired the Wrong Type of Vendor
At this point I realized that I actually did need more help with this enormous endeavor if it was to be what I hoped. An event team could really help me organize and be 100% on top of all the to-dos that needed to be done. So I emailed the potential event planning organization I was interviewing to discuss matters further. I must have misunderstood because what I believed I’d hired them for, I wasn’t getting. This would be another instance for which I take responsibility for not asking more questions and voicing my thoughts and concerns earlier on. I was too passive because, to be frank, I struggle with confrontation–something to work on for sure.
Thousands later, I had to part ways with that vendor. Therein sat another great lesson: Make it a point to understand the contracts that you read and sign. Know exactly what you need and make that list clear, know who you’re hiring, from the recommendation/referral standpoint to understanding exactly the role of each person you employ. While I take responsibility for this error, I honestly thought I had a handle on what the vendors role was. On hindsight, I should have asked, made additional inquires and maybe even get another individual to eyeball the paperwork or discuss the plan…Beforehand.
Despite my ability to adapt, at the time, I felt like a failure. I felt guilty. I felt horrible also because the entire scenario involved uncomfortable conversations. In the end, though, I had to go with my gut, which was telling me I hired the wrong type of event planner. I needed to fix it. And I did.
Another Bad Decision. I’m Such a Sucker at Times
I follow many, many experts on Blab and Periscope, websites that broadcast discussions with industry leaders live–LOVE learning from that platform. I reached out to a fellow leader I’d follow to inquire about a strategy session and I booked. This $500 (60 min) session was chaotic from the get-go. My esteemed connection spent much of the time walking around, putting me on hold to speak to other people and when she finally dedicated her attention (for less than the 1 hour I paid,) they simply shared everything I already knew from having watched her on Periscope. I felt like even more of a sucker when I agreed to pay an additional $150 to edit one of my social media profiles. Ugh. It was such a quick session and seemed as if it happened within minutes…Another instance where I should have spoken up (sooner) and rectified a situation that was not beneficial because I already was taught that information from their live show…again, I own my mistake.
A Moment of Perspective, Collaboration and Awesomeness!
Believe it or not, during the hectic and frustrating learning experience, there were MANY amazing happenings throughout this timeframe: Women were signing up for the conference/cruise and we gained great supporters–including a Ford dealership sponsorship AND car giveaway! Yes, indeed, that was A.W.E.S.O.M.E. Plus, during this period, we had assembled even more phenomenal sponsors, speakers, and committed guests–so, so very exciting and I felt blessed.
The game wasn’t over and the next lesson mid-way: Amid bad decisions and some disorganization, there was much to highlight Identity Magazine itself AND the 10-year anniversary celebration.
We were in the homestretch: It was during the final 4 weeks when we needed to sell the remaining tickets, that the national news released information about the Zika Virus outbreak. Add on top of that, the same cruise ship we were to sail on come May, had not perfectly weathered a hurricane that also became a newsworthy event. I began receiving emails from the women who registered for the Identity Live Conference and Cruise who were seriously concerned about these two disasters.
With all going on, the limited timeframe landed in my lap, since I had a strict looming deadline to cancel the entire cruise and still receive a full refund for my business, and more importantly, the women committed to attending. I was really struggling and torn with indecision. Should I pull out or move forward? Up until the point I had to choose, I barely slept and ate so much comfort food I think I put on about 7lbs–yup, side note: sometimes I’m an emotional eater.
Final Decision. Real Reflection Time.
I reflected on all that I’d gleaned from the mentors, coaches, and leaders who I follow. Common advice is to return to my “WHY.” What is/was the purpose of this event? Therefore, I needed to remove the following from the equation: my pride, ego and heart set on going on this cruise adventure. I needed to come back and ask WHY and then WHAT would be the BEST BUSINESS DECISION for all involved. And that is just what I had to sit with and meditate on.
The final decision came last week. That was to cancel the CRUISE. Considering all of the moving parts, my speakers and sponsors deserved a larger audience because our goal was to celebrate close to 100 women. It’s not just about me , my wants, and my money spent. I had monetary sponsors, a car giveaway and more to consider. I truly realized then that I had to make my conference and anniversary event as grand as I could with the time and resources I still had.
The Solution. One thing you need to have when canceling an event.
Of the many things I’ve learned as a businesswoman is never to hand over bad news without simultaneously delivering good news: AKA a solution to the ‘problem’ at hand. This is especially the case when calling every single guest who had placed deposits on a whirlwind cruise and workshop, and sitting in the position of reliving their disappointed reactions over and over. I had to have a solution–something just as exciting and unique as a cruise.
I must add that it’s here that I feel gratitude for my own relationship building abilities. (Insert pat on own back. Lol.) Thanks to my good rapport and asking for help, I am lucky to be in touch with a dear friend and colleague.
Welllll, she happens to be the owner of the #1 weddings and events venue in my area. And don’t you know that when I told her about the cruise cancellation, she offered to host our conference at her venue, Stroudsmoor Country Inn: We have renamed the event, ‘The Retreat.’
It’s somewhere between coincidental and ironic too that this same woman was on board the same cruise ship that sailed through the hurricane last month. It’s not a surprise that she’s thrilled I was bringing the celebration to land!
Second Solution. Be Strategic
At this point, we were down to 3 months until the BIG event. I’d hoped to keep the date as originally planned in May, 2016, partly because those who were already registered would be able to attend. Nevertheless, I’d need help to re-group/re-plan quickly. I’d need another team of amazing women who were up for hosting a truly unique experience. So I tapped into my rolodex, remembering new friends who expressed interest prior in planning a retreat. That could certainly make for just an exceptional conference experience.
Good News #2. Retreat Bound
These new colleagues accepted my offer and we are super stoked on the transformation into this novel form of celebration. Once the new details were in place, I called every registered guest, speaker, and sponsor to inform and then excite them about this transition. We had a version #2 of Identity LIVE and it was time for some new enthusiasm. You see, even when those chips seem to fall, I always attempt to look for the bright side: In this case that side was truly sparkling, only in part because the cost to all involved was nicely reduced from that of a super cruise.
Granted, I was still hesitant, fearful to forge ahead with all of the necessary plans still to come. I dreaded the phone calls especially because for a while I was still heartbroken and disappointed in myself and was still breaking what was partly ‘bad’ news to those who were psyched about the cruise.. But this is part of business, right? This is a REALITY OF LIFE . Therefore, this is when you put on your big girl suit –well I don’t particularly care for suits–so your big girl dress, and dial the numbers on that phone.
Heading Toward the Fairy Tale Ending
I was so surprised to hear how excited everyone reacted, even with the news that the cruise was no longer in the plans. What a moment of relief. The understanding and compassion I received from women who marked their calendars and paid cold hard cash for an imagined fantabulous cruise, simply melted my heart. We women are true supporters of one another, and I’m grateful to experience it on the receiving end!
So now you’ve read a veritable blow-by-blow account: Real life trials and tribulations, but more important, a ‘tale’ that will further play out as I move forward (yay!) to plan and rally for the 3rd Identity Live conference, This year’s theme: THE RETREAT: The Time to Celebrate You: Envision. Explore. Evolve.– MAY, 2016!
I probably omitted numerous emotions that I experienced (gratitude, respect, fear, stress, joy, happiness, excitement, supported, validated, heart borken, worried, vulnerable…) and difficult to articulate. I might not have had the capacity to include even more details —especially the myriad more positives that have unfurled as these days progress. All this as I successfully transform some harsh’ realities (including admittedly poor decision making months ago) into a multi-fold event that will knock all of our socks off and hence, create a fantastic reality to come!
I hope you’ll all stay tuned and join us on that triumphant day!
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the above article. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
1. What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?
Wow, I’ve grown so much in the recent months and have had such amazing wins in life and biz and some very low moments. I’ve had to accept, own, and embrace these experiences in order to see the beauty, the lessons, the bright side, and the wins.
2. What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?
I appreciate every single woman who has been part of the growth of this conference and I appreciate the supporters and YOU for reading this very long article 🙂
3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?
In this instance, my biggest achievement, not quitting. Finding a solution and getting it in place asap.
4. We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth–we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are–your Identity?
Oh, I’m sure you can pick mine out from this article…. ? 🙂
5. “I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!) Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
I LOVE, love, love my strength, courage, openness, and willing to share and be vulnerable in order to inspire, support, validate, and motivate others.