At the end of 2020, Audacia Strategies passed a big milestone for a small business. We celebrated five years in business. As the CEO, I’m simultaneously thrilled and anxious to see what the future holds.
As we grow, I’m doing all I can to make sure Audacia remains true to our guiding purpose: helping companies achieve their boldest initiatives and transformational vision. Here are a few of our steadfast guardrails:
- Vision, conviction, and clarity have been the core of our business since day one.
- We hold the line when it comes to our business values and we walk our talk.
- We start with clarity about who we are — we support organizations taking the biggest steps and we enable our clients’ bold visions.
After all, if you’re going to start a business and turn down a regular salary and steady hours, there had better be a bigger purpose — a bigger prize — on the horizon. This remains my philosophy of business ownership.
All that being said, we faced our first real test of our mission and values in 2021. So in the spirit of audacious transparency, I wanted to share what we learned.
Growth! Scaling! Excitement!
In a previous blog article, we discussed keeping tabs on our underlying messages. While it’s easy to get caught up in the big, surface level messages we want to share with our audiences, if those messages aren’t grounded in our core values, it’s easy to get off course.
Not only does this happen with corporate messaging, it also happens with the way we run our businesses. And I think one of the biggest reasons businesses fail is because they lose sight of their core values or make too many compromises in the name of scaling.
Now here we are, five years in and Audacia Strategies has served a variety of clients in industries from specialty chemicals to cyber security to government IT. We are growing quickly, but the “Founder fear” is always there. Could it all disappear? (Hint: It won’t. But fear isn’t rational.)
And this brings us to the story of our biggest test yet. We were approached by a politically-motivated, third-party to support a coal-based chemical firm in need of crisis communications support and management.
My gut reaction: This is not in our lane. It’s not where we want to be and it’s not who we want to work with. Just as quickly, though, the fear sneaks in: “What if it all goes away? What about growth, scaling, excitement? We should at least take the call. So we took the call and started putting together a team. Then, a team member with many years of experience in this industry came back to us and said, “I just can’t do this.” She was right. We stepped back and referred the work to a large firm with deep resources, deep pockets, and a very broad client set.
Today, I’m confident that decision was for the best. I’m relieved not to have pursued the business or expended the energy. When making the decision, though, I was flooded with so many emotions (fear, panic, relief, shame, disappointment). Brene Brown would have a field day here! I’m still working through the experience.
Even while I continue dealing with the emotional fallout from this near miss, as a team, we’re seeing many positive outcomes.
Since stepping away from that opportunity, we have moved planned new offering(s) forward significantly (coming soon!). We’ve been able to expand our support to current clients and their transformations are taking flight.
Also, we’ve had some really fun, fulfilling, and meaningful new opportunities walk through the door (although nothing simply walks through the door in entrepreneurial life — it’s all based on the work you put in and forgot about or wrote off days, weeks, and years earlier)
In addition, saying “no” to the opportunity that wasn’t right for us, means we can direct our energy toward what feels right. And this experience reminds me that focusing on our missions and values yields work that doesn’t feel “purely transactional,” but that feels purposeful. It almost seems like the universe is rewarding us for making a good decision.
And it’s a good reminder that taking work solely to chase the goal of scaling and growth comes with an opportunity cost. Clearly, we saved ourselves from going down the wrong path. It scares me, though, to think about how close we came. I don’t think we are alone in this challenge. In fact, I see it with our clients all the time and that’s why I want to share our experience.
Still Learning and Listening
It’s too soon to claim that we’ve learned any transformational lessons from this experience. We’re still integrating, but I want to share my initial thoughts while they are fresh.
1. I’m grateful to work with folks who are willing to say, “I can’t do this” and lend a hand to help reframe and refocus priorities.
2. We’re learning Tony Robbins’ lesson first-hand: “where energy goes, focus flows.” It has been amazing to see what has appeared once we refocused on our vision.
3. We’ve recommitted to the work. We have our eyes on our page. This is our journey and it just doesn’t matter what others are doing as long as we are true to our vision/values and our clients are achieving their vision(s).
4. This is why I started Audacia Strategies. I’m reminded of the beauty of building a business with shared team values at the core. If we “have” to take on work that is outside our values, then why do this hard work at all? It’s like working for someone else and building their dream.
Audacia Strategies has emerged from this experience stronger and more committed to our mission, vision, and values than ever before. We appreciate the nudge to recommit to walking our talk and this conviction is something we are proud to bring to our clients. After all, every business faces similar challenges. And every business needs to recommit to their priorities on a daily basis.
As always, we’re grateful for the chance to learn, listen, and yes…make a mistake. We’re even more grateful for the near miss and the lessons learned.
Ready to let your your vision, conviction, and clarity guide your next business transformation? Contact us to schedule time to chat!
Photo credit: Jacob Lund from the Noun Project