Man! It sure is crazy to think, that 6 years ago today I took the huge leap of faith to leave the corporate world for good and focus solely on the company I had been building “on the side”. I laugh every time I say, “on the side” (and yes, I use air quotes when I say it too!) I had been pouring my heart and soul into Antonia Christianson Events for 2 and a half years when my beloved and I finally decided that the time was right…and I could focus where my heart truly was, with my clients. The truth is, I loathed going to my corporate job. I was good at it, and I had incredible friends there. I had the most amazing boss and mentor, really, an awe-inspiring support system, but the daily tasks at hand were not where my true calling was. Sure, I was doing events (amongst a million other things), and I was getting paid for them (you know, someone signing the pay check that wasn’t named Antonia Christianson), but there wasn’t any heart to what I was doing. I felt as though what I was hired for, wasn’t what I was doing daily, I could see that upper management was wishy washy, and I knew that my talents could be suited best elsewhere. But here is the truth…I learned more from my boss as a human being every day, than I ever did in my actual position. I find myself quoting her often, and trying to emulate her with my staff. I’m not sure that I would have had the courage at 28 to leave my safety net if it wasn’t without her support.
I thought I would share a few pieces of wisdom from the awesome Sheila Smith that I live by daily…and might be beneficial to anyone else managing themselves or a team. Running a company, or just trying push past contentment in their daily life.
1. Family is THE most important thing. Chosen, or blood. They are always the most important.
2. You give back, with all of your heart. (I couldn’t be more proud of the community that raised me. For goodness sake, I can see my elementary school from the parking lot of my Coastal Virginia studio. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t run into a friend of my moms, an old pal from high school, or a colleague that I’ve had the blessing of working with for the last 16 years in the event world. To me, giving back to Coastal Virginia, and the people here is one of my most loved hobbies. I really got involved when working with Sheila, and I make it a point to continue to give back daily.)
3. If it isn’t done today, it will be there tomorrow. Yes, I said it! (That doesn’t mean I don’t work crazy hours, but, the truth is, you prioritize what needs to be done immediately and you get it done! Everything else, you work on, and when you are ready to finish work for the day, you close up shop, and the next day when you are back to the grind, you pick up exactly where you left off. The task that was left unfinished the day before, becomes the first one done today. It’s that easy.)
4. You separate business and pleasure, and you are honest and open. (This is a hard pill to swallow, when you are in the business of love, and heart. But it is something that I try to remind myself daily, and Sheila was awesome at it. I always felt as though I was given honest feedback that would help me grow. Sometimes that meant, being told that my idea wasn’t great, or that I could put my efforts towards another project…it was never in a negative way, but in a way to help me flourish and grow with the betterment of the company in mind as well. This is a little harder in the social event world, when most companies are small businesses, run by individuals who put their heart on the line, daily. This is the key, to me; When i’m in the ACE studio I am at work. I am here to work, and to help my clients, to work as a team with awesome event professionals, and while I do create strong bonds and relationships, those are work relationships. I can see those same event professionals in the community, for dinner, at my home, at play dates with my children, and at that time, those relationships are for pleasure. I pride myself in the distinct line, and while it isn’t always easy, it is usually best for our clients, and for being seen as a professional, and a trusted voice of experience in my field.)
5. You support the growth of your team, even if it means, you are no longer their coach. (Throughout the years of owning Antonia Christianson Events, I have had the honor of getting to know some amazing women as members of Team ACE. With all things in life, things can’t stay the same forever. There have been a handful of team members that have left our staff to move to new areas, and take on new positions. Of course, I don’t love losing the team that stands beside me daily, but as a business owner I can understand the need to continue to grow. Sheila knew that I couldn’t stay in my role as Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator forever, and I understand that Stephanie and Alexis, for instance, couldn’t stay as lead coordinators on my team forever. It’s not fair for me to ask them to, and as a boss it makes my incredibly proud, that I can say their careers started with my company, and they are now incredibly successful in their chosen fields.)