Wow, where did this year go? This one, I swear, went faster than the last! A couple of years back, I started writing about my yearly learnings from starting and running a business. At my company, EffectUX, this year was filled with highs and lows, as is often the way. While there were some disappointments such as a collaboration that we put a lot of effort into that didn’t pan out as we’d hoped, there were lots of highs that we are so grateful for! With 2019 rolling around, here some of my lessons from the past year that I’ll be carrying forward!

1: It’s all about patience, resilience, and belief.

The business owners’ journey is an emotional roller coaster on a daily basis, especially in the first few years. While there are many things that can keep you going, there are three that my business partner and I have found to be very helpful.

The first is patience. As much as you want the success to come tomorrow, the truth is, that for most businesses, it takes time to build your foundation, prove solutions, and build out your brand. Being patient, and setting your internal expectations of the journey, can help you tackle the first phases with much less stress! It can help you feel more patient with the journey when you celebrate your wins along the way. This is something that does not come easily to me, even though I know the importance of it. When someone congratulates me for something I have achieved, I usually respond with, “oh it was nothing” or “it was just […],” rather than simply saying “thank you”. I’m working on it–it’s one of my things for next year :) However, what I learned this year was that while it may not be the million-dollar win, if you are trending in the right direction, you will have meaningful achievements along the way that deserves a moment. If you find it hard to acknowledge your achievements or struggle to see things as an achievement, you can try writing them down. To begin, try with simply writing down three ways in which your business is in a better place now than it was on the 1st January 2018. Personally, ask yourself, what three things are you most proud of this year and why.

The next is resilience. There are a lot of people, highly talented, with a lot of good ideas. Not all of them will start a business or bring their ideas to fruition. Some will, and then along the way maybe find it is not for them. Being able to persevere through challenging times, of which there are plenty, keeps you going. This is not to say blindly keep going–you also have to know when to pivot and when something is not the great idea you thought it was. This is where being iterative and trying out ideas can help. Being able to process your emotions, see the bigger picture, not ruminate, be grateful, and see how every challenge truly does put you in a better place than before, makes it much easier to keep marching on.

And lastly, belief. You have to know, and really believe, why you are doing something and that you have something good. Something that makes people happier, faster, smarter, or better. Something that works. Something that people need or desire and will pay for. This is not lip service or blind belief. It is something deeper than that. It is an incredibly powerful driving force that keeps you steering towards the bigger picture, even through the choppiest of waters.

2: Know which part of what you do fuels you.

There are a lot of things you need to do when you own a business. Not all of them you will love. However, it is important to find the parts that energize you–as this fuels everything else.

For me this became clear, I discovered just how much I love playing a role in changing someone’s mindset or behaviors so that they can do what they need to do. Whether this is facilitating our signature experience design workshop and seeing those “ah-ha” moments happen, or through our EMQ program helping people understand what exactly is de-energizing them in life, it is in these moments that we can see it in their faces. We have changed the way they see the world and themselves. That is something that gets me up every day and excited about what we do.

Secondly, we have been applying our services to help power a more diverse pipeline by focusing on equipping people with the mindsets and behaviors needed to perform and feel their best. We saw a need to focus here as while companies are working on creating inclusive environments, there is a need to support people’s own growth, as a person. Helping women cultivate their voices, gain greater congruence in their lives, and take risks, quite simply, feels amazing. One of the moments that made my entire year, was getting a text from a woman, who was a Senior Manager at a Fortune 500 company who took part in our EMQ 30-Day Kickstart program, saying, “wanted to let you know I got my promotion today! I am so grateful for participating in the program, you have a large hand in this!” The truth is, it was all her. Her hard work, the value she brought to the table and her awareness to work on herself. However, playing even the tiniest role in bringing that to light, was quite possibly one of the most meaningful things of the year. It is these moments that fuel us as a company and as individuals. Knowing the parts of what you do, that positively energize you, will help you maximize your fuel. You can start by thinking about the tasks that you do, or outcomes you achieve, that make you feel that internal buzz of delight.

3: Know what to say no to, and then say it.

This is critical. Each year I feel we have been learning to focus more and more in terms of our business solutions and services. However, we also have a soft spot for really wanting to help people with their businesses. We have a knack for making experience strategy really clear and tactical and when people would tell us their vision for their idea or company, we would naturally find ourselves saying yes to numerous projects in which we saw our methodology could help them.

Helping people is really important and gives us joy. However, this is a balance. We looked back at the time spent and realized that we had to figure out how to balance a desire to help people, without it being detrimental to our own business growth. After attending a panel, where a researcher from Stanford discussed findings showing that the most successful entrepreneurs spent time helping others with clear boundaries on their time, we decided to implement some boundaries for ourselves. For example, how much time we dedicate to the “helping people with their business” projects and to make sure that any partnerships are aligned with our goals and are reciprocal in efforts. We have been doing this for the last couple of months and it has made such a difference to how we balance our time. We still get to help people and we also realize when a potential partnership may not be aligned much earlier in the process. Being able to identify what you need to say no to, and actually saying it, will enable you to be more productive and spend time on the “yeses”.

4: Use your mission to help you focus efforts.

For a while, it felt like we were working in an orbit. Everything was definitely related, but I wasn’t 100% sure on the core. We were using our success modeling process in a variety of ways, spanning from the meeting experience to the restaurant experience, from high-performance cultures to wellbeing. While we operated in many verticals, one thing was always constant, we were applying our methodology to expedite the pace of sustained change for transformative goals.

While at EffectUX we help customers through their experience strategy all the time, the time had come where we needed to really get concrete on what we were doing and where we were going for ourselves. So we decided to spend some time–without distractions–thinking about what we were doing and why. It was then that the journey all made sense. It was my eureka moment. I realized everything that had happened up until this point brought us here. I had started out in A.I., loving data and algorithms. Then I moved into Experience Design because I loved psychology and human behavior. I then met my business partner who can operationalize quite literally anything. Now, I realized that it all came full circle with EffectUX in a couple of ways. We apply the techniques learned from the A.I. world to create better measurement systems. We do this by creating a model of the ecosystem in which a goal is most likely to naturally occur, looking across what needs to be physically present in the environment, the mindsets needed, and the behaviors.

This realization led us to see, with clarity, our purpose. We exist to bring more positivity to the world. Whether it is enabling companies to provide experiences that evoke positive emotions for their customers, fostering engaged and productive cultures for their employees, optimizing processes to save people time that they can better use elsewhere, or developing the mindsets and behaviors that help people perform and feel their best–we are passionate about using our methodology to create a happier, less stressed, more productive world.

And there it was. This glaring, guiding force that is helping us create even more focus on what we do. We are using this as a compass to help select projects, partners, and define services and strategy. What we learned, was that sometimes, it takes just spending some time without the hecticness of moving from task to task, to quiet the mind…and things will become clear. It is a worthwhile exercise to spend a few moments and think about why you do what you do, as this will help all the other pieces fall into place.

5: Find time for you.

There is always something that you can be doing. Ideas that you have, people to reach out to, proposals to write…and the list continues. Not to mention all of life’s happenings, that you simply cannot predict! So, one learning that will certainly be moving forward into next year is continuing to find daily “minutes that matter”. Little, easy-to-fit-in moments that keep me balanced and performing as I need to, in a way that works for me. When it comes to being happy and healthy, it is about figuring out what works for you personally, your goals, your needs and your life.

In Summary…

To wrap it up, it has been a great year, filled with learnings, experiences, and growth. To kick off 2019, be sure to spend a little dedicated time, without distraction, to look back at your year and ask yourself:

  • What were you most proud of? Acknowledge it and feel good about it!
  • How are you in a better place (professionally, personally, as a person), than you were on January 1st, 2018?
  • What were your top three learnings from 2018?
  • What are your top three goals for 2019?
  • What concrete actions will you commit to in 2019 to be happier, healthier, and move towards your desired future?

I am so excited for what next year will bring and wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2019!